Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Friday, July 16, 2010

What Others Think Buddha Would Do (or Have Us Do) About Procrastination

As promised in yesterday's post, on What Would Buddha Do About Procrastination?, today's post shares some of what I learned poking around on the internet in pursuit of greater understanding of where Buddhists stand on procrastination.  Problem or not?  If a problem, what to do about it?  

I have only scratched the surface at this point, given the 2,010,000 results turned up by my Google search, but my first impressions are that it is an old consideration in this ancient tradition; that as with most subjects taken up by this archaic and multi-form system of thought, positions, including the outright contradictory, abound; and that the question, if not necessarily the problematizing, is "appropriately" Buddhist.  (Whew!)

Five Nuggets Culled from my Web Search for Buddhism and Procrastination:

1.  A very cool cartoon, on Cartoonstock's website, showing a smiling old man on a mountain top, perusing what appears to be a pamphlet entitled "Zen and the Art of Procrastination." 

2.  HuggieSunrise's article on "How to Stop Procrastinating with the Help of Meditation," on Helium's website.

3.  From The Golden Rules of Buddhism - part II, compiled (but not uploaded) in the late nineteenth century by H.S. Olcott: 
Procrastination is[moral] defilement, continued procrastination is defilement. By non procrastination [punctuality] and knowledge, root out your darts [of sin]. 

(Utthana Sutta, v. 4) [This source is believed to be one of the oldest in the written Buddhist cannon.]

4.  An article entitled "Mindful Living, the Procrastination Ninja Way," at Elephant, in which Ricardo das Neves puts a Buddhist spin on the idea I first encountered as John Perry's "structured procrastination," complete with instructions for maintaining an alternative to do list.

5.  And this from Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, the North American seat of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa, head of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. 
The fourth obstruction is the habit of laziness. Because of this negative pattern we put off doing our practice until the next day or the day after that or maybe next month or next year, and so on. We just keep procrastinating, and end up not getting anything accomplished. In this way, laziness can have a very undermining effect on our practice, and discipline as well as mindfulness is needed to combat it.
So in this lineage at least, procrastinating about meditation is clearly a problem.

For the time being, I am going to put off (but not procrastinate) further inquiry in this area, so that I can proceed on today's to-do list, alternative and otherwise.  Namaste.

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