At last week’s Manjushri class we had David Lai sharing an interactive session with everyone on what it means to be lazy in a Buddhist sense. It’s appalling to know how damaging this laziness is. We all know very well what laziness is because every one of us can relate to it one way or another, but why are we talking about it? Laziness is an obstacle that hinders our spiritual growth. It is one of the things that causes us to break our vows even though we don’t engage in negative actions like killing, stealing or lying. Ultimately, laziness is a thief that steals our potential towards spiritual growth.
According to Buddha, there are three forms of laziness. An example of the first type of laziness is when we would rather stay at home to sleep instead of attending Dharma classes; it is an unwillingness to do anything. The second form of laziness comes from a mind of thinking that we cannot change because it is too difficult, we feel unworthy, we push away responsibility because we feel we cannot do it and we create excuses for not doing what we are supposed to do.
Finally, the third form of laziness is when we get caught up in worldly affairs alone – family, friends and other commitments. It is not that we should not focus on these things but we must realize that there is a lot more to life than this. We tend to have a wrong focus as we have been brought up to think that having good grades, a job, house, car, family and children are the only measures of success. It is a challenge for people who are interested in religion or Dharma, especially in a world that does not support spirituality, to pursue their spiritual practice. If someone was to practise spirituality and is true to themselves, they would stand out like a white crow among all the black crows.
One of the participants in the class asked if relaxing was a form of laziness. At times, after we have worked very hard, we do need to take a break. However, some people tend to take a break that extends to a long-term vacation! Everyone has a different mindset when it comes to work and play so we need to check our own minds and motivation at all times. Rinpoche has written an insightful post on work and play in his blog. This thoroughly explores what it means to enjoy our work and make the most out of it so we can integrate both work and play into our lives harmoniously.
So how do we counter this laziness? There are two ways. Firstly, by remembering the kindness of others – our parents who have nurtured us, friends who are with us through thick and thin, colleagues who have been kind to us. We need to ask ourselves how much have we done to repay their kindness, and to push ourselves to think of them to counter self-absorption and laziness.
Secondly, best way to counter laziness is to think about our mortality, our impending death. We will automatically remember people’s kindness and nothing seems to matter anymore – the grudges, the constant battles to win an argument are not important anymore. Our great jobs, our cars, relationships and everything we hold dear do not last.
There are many causes of laziness: being inert in life when life seems too comfortable to change, choosing to remain in a comfort zone as we are often spoilt for choice in life and don’t wish to push ourselves. It may be shocking to hear that even workaholics can be lazy in the way that they do not want to get out of their little comfort zone of just doing what they like doing. This is why, in a Buddhist context, laziness is often described as a thief as it stops us from gaining many positive, wholesome qualities – effort, care, kindness – that can bring tremendous benefit not only to ourselves but more importantly, to others.
So when we integrate Dharma into our life, family or work, we challenge our comfort zones and are thus able to progress to be a better person through spiritual growth. We only restrict ourselves when we say we can’t do something.