I draw from the wells of Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun, in the lineage of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the renowned Tibetan meditation master. She says that in Tibetan there is a word that points to the real cause of aggression, the real cause also of craving. It points to the familiar experience that is the root of all conflict, all cruelty, oppression and greed. The word is "shenpa," a translation of attachment but this does not adequately express the full meaning. She thinks of shenpa as “getting hooked.” Another translation or definition for shenpa is the word “charge” that is the charge behind our thoughts, words and actions, the charge behind what we like and what we don’t like. An attachment is a sensation and getting hooked is a charge enticed by baiting imaging the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
The cash on delivery system has become archaic and obsolete. It is relegated to a primitive system of economy. Shenpa, or the charge system, has gained roots in the American economy for most purchases are now on charge inviting the use of plastic money issued by charge companies. Legal currency as a medium of exchange is rarely used by the convenient use of charge cards or personal checks in the buy and sell business. In other words, charge cards are now a substitute for the dollar. With charge cards we are getting hooked with APR’s, annual fees, service fees, prepayment fees, late fees and adjustable rates which are all a cut and dry semblance of shenpa. This semblance of shenpa in our economic system stems from a consequential debtor-creditor relationship that lasts for as long as we live.
As with the lending business where the borrower gets hooked up in shenpa, there also exists a debtor-creditor relationship. Both buyer and borrower are charged by sellers and lenders. Necessity needs no law and as a customer out to buy or borrow we are lured by baits and gimmicks of all sorts. Promotions, gifts, sweepstakes, buy one get one free, sales and discounts, bait and switch, money back guarantees and satisfaction guaranteed fill our mailboxes almost every day. Bait is something as food in luring especially to a hook or trap. It is a poisonous material placed where it will be by harmful and objectionable animals. In bait and switch, a customer is attracted by the advertisement of a low-priced item to bring the customer inside the store but is then encouraged to buy high-priced items. It is also the ploy of offering a person something desirable to gain political support then thwarting expectations with something less desirable.
A hook is better understood to mean a curved or bent device for catching, holding or pulling something intended to attract and ensnare. Selling institutions, retail and wholesale, are out to get buyers hooked up to bait and gimmicks, to sell what consumers need and what consumers want by the use of borrowed money in charge cards. Lending institutions such as banks and charge companies are out to get borrowers hooked up to a debtor-creditor relationship in loan agreements and charge cards. Selling and lending institutions are big-time hookers. Selling institutions have the goods and supplies we need in order to live, lending institutions have the money we need in order to buy. We need them more than they need us for they have everything it takes for us to live. It is not our satisfaction but the satisfaction of sellers and lenders that is guaranteed by biting the hook. It is the customer, the consumer, the buyer and the debtor that go into the frying pan by biting the hook.
The word shenpa is multi-dimensional as it is not merely limited to getting hooked. It is also a charge that arouses our feeling of craving, of conflict, cruelty and aggression. Here is an everyday illustration. Someone speaks badly of you and he criticizes your kind of work, your appearance or your child. In a moment like this I don’t think you would feel good. It has a familiar smell, a familiar taste. And once you begin to feel bad with a familiar smell, a familiar taste, you feel like this experience has been happening forever. That sticky feeling is a charge, the shenpa. The charge comes along with a very seductive urge to do something. Someone says a harsh word and immediately you can feel a shift in your feelings and that shift is a charge, the shenpa.
That swift shift in our feelings is a tightening that rapidly spirals into blaming the person or wanting revenge. At the spur of the moment we instinctively find ourselves prone to biting the hook. Then we speak or act unaware that the charge behind our word, utterance or action, the lightning behind the urge, behind the storyline or action is what Buddhists call shenpa. It is a sensation that we can easily recognize for anger is one letter short of danger especially when the mouth runs faster than the brain. Someone looks at us in certain way or we hear a certain song or walk into a certain room and boom. We are hooked or find ourselves biting the hook. Biting the hook is a quality of experience that is not easy to discover but that everyone knows well. It is the experience of getting provoked, the experience of being humiliated, the experience of being annoyed or irritated.
On the contrary, being hooked is the experience of being urged, the experience of being lured, the experience of being decoyed, the experience of being tempted and being carried away which are generally irresistible. Fishermen and miners abound everywhere looking for someone to hook up by biting the hook. We need to learn how to interrupt the chain reaction of habitual responses that otherwise rule our lives. I know that it is not easy to resist the lure of glitter even as we know that not all that glitters is gold. Lenders and sellers are skilled at satisfying our desires with things that nourish an urge to have more than what we need. We don’t mind biting the hook of lenders and sellers to feed our appetite for self-indulgence. The social value of comfort and convenience in measuring the standard of living constrained prodigals to live beyond their means by biting the bait on the hook.
Peace of mind does not come from biting the hook of lenders and sellers. It does not come from having comfort and convenience which are the bait on the hook. Everyone seems to be looking for someone to do business with and how to get someone to bite the hook which all starts with sales talk. It is easy to be carried away with sales talk, sweet talk, shop talk, glib talk, and puffing and bluffing which are too good to be true. There are many ways of catching fish and this is just as true as there are many ways of getting us hooked. In sales talk, dishonesty is the general rule and honesty is the exception. Caveat emptor, meaning let the buyer beware, warns us to think before we leap, to make sure we don’t get hooked up by biting the hook.
Cold water will put out hot fire. Those who are calm, cool and collected are better heard in their mild message than the hot voices of the multitude. The capacity to be attached to the causes of a problem and the sobriety to remain calm under pressure, to be detached from riotous emotions is a sign that not biting the hook is the better part of discretion. To remain calm, cool and collected despite public indignation due to a litany of grievances is the composure of someone who is not biting the hook of a bandwagon mentality. There is nothing wrong with being hooked up to peaceful assemblies, strikes, demonstrations and protests in public places. In a nutshell, for as long as we are in want and in need, we will always be hooked up to buying and borrowing from lenders and sellers by biting the hook.
“Do you know that what a man can do, a woman can do better?” The lady at the podium said it loud and clear. She surveyed the audience with a captivating, charismatic smile. There was an equal representation of the sexes. The women clapped cheerfully. The men could only smile, while a few shook their heads disapprovingly....
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