The Relationship Between Joy & Discipline–The Allegory of the Dirty Window

This is an allegory I got the idea for (and am now unpacking) a few years ago that was inspired by a talk that Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche gave at the dathun in 2008 at SMC and also by the Dorje Dradul’s description of the six realms in Cutting Through Spiritual Materialsm. It is dedicated specifically to the Shambhala Warriors who recently completed the Perky level of Shambhala Training in St. Petersburg, FL, and generally to all of the brave warriors on this amazing journey.

Picture yourself in an enclosed room with no doors. There is a large window on one side of the room. The window is thickly caked with a tremendous amount of dirt and grime. This dirt represents your obscurations– the three kleshas of passion, aggression, and ignorance (or grasping, aversion, and indifference).

Our practice (study, contemplation, and meditation) is represented by our efforts to clean this grotesque window. With the discipline of our practice, we scrub and scrub this window day after day, week after week, and so on. Finally, after much effort a tiny pin-hole of light comes through the window from the other side.

This light represents awakenment– the fruits of our labor. It is fresh, spacious, healing, invigorating, and uplifting. Seeing this small glimpse of light fills us with joy. The joy we experience upon feeling this small ray of light inspires us to apply further discipline to our practice– to clean more of the window — to let more of the light of liberation to shine through.

In this way our discipline is the catalyst for joy which is the catalyst for applying more discipline, and so this cycle continues.

Some days, however, we sit on the floor of our room and let our discipline slide. We feel lazy or tired, or seek the comfort in the safety of our darkened room that we have grown accustomed to over our entire lives. When we do this, the dirt and grime on the window again covers up the small light that we had worked so hard to let through.

At some point, we remember and long for the joy we once experienced through applying the discipline of our practice and again we begin to scrub the dirt from the window. We remember the teachings and the examples of the warriors who have wiped their windows clean in the past. Those warriors dedicated their lives to cleaning their windows, showing us that it could be done, and showing us the joy that awaits us as our innate basic goodness– our true nature.

We find that our allegiance begins to shift. The discipline of our practice is not a burden, it is not something imposed upon us, but a good and healthy endeavor that leads to the diminishing of our suffering.

As we begin to clean a bigger and bigger section of our window, our joy increases, our devotion to our teachers grows, and we begin to feel compelled to show others that they too can clean the adventitious stains that are veiling the brilliance of their basic goodness.

At this stage when we forget our reminders to practice, and the dirt begins to grow over our clean patches of window, we remember more quickly what we need to do. We again apply the discipline of our cleaning, methodically and consistently scrubbing away the dirt, and bit-by-bit let more and more of the sunlight through the window.

In this way, the light is never again completely blocked out. Our efforts and ability to clean wax and wane throughout our lives, but slowly the patch of clean window continues to grow and grow.

This is the relationship between discipline and joy.


5 thoughts on “The Relationship Between Joy & Discipline–The Allegory of the Dirty Window

  1. May all sentient beings continue to clean their dirty windows until the light of the great eastern sun shines fully brilliantly on each and every one!

  2. I’m always so happy to have another metaphor to use ……… I like this ‘cleaning the window’. We can all relate to it

  3. Pingback: Why is the absence of frivolity so important? | Selected Topics

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