Little pre-Buddha prince tires of his riches and goes out into the world in search of wisdom. He encounters an old person, a sick person, and a corpse. He concludes that life is all about suffering. Then he meditates under a tree for a long time until his little line eyes become open dots of enlightenment.

1. No killing. 2. No stealing purses or anything else that's not granted freely. 3. No harsh speech and no lying. (Here the little fool claims not to have stolen the purse we just saw him steal). 4. Don't be sexually devious. 5. Avoid intoxication.

Were there a No Lululemon or No Patagonia Precept, most people would have flunked the retreat.

Roadblocks to enlightenment:
1. Clinging: Attachment to material goods, dreams, or ideas of self as a princess bride.
2. Aversion: See our small friend shun enlightenment.
3. Restlessness: Waaaah.
4. Sloth and Torpor: You try to meditate and you fall asleep. (It happens.)
5. Doubt: An embedded element of 1-4, and a product of them alike...that is, if you're buying any of it.

Do not get hung up on these unpredictable, ever-changing states of being. Just look at the emotional whipsaw the emoji are being dragged through. (Double hands for praise, as in "Praise The Lord!" Emoji markets up! Emoji markets down!) No matter how cute the face of shame or pleasure may be, it is not desirable. Move on. It will.

The Eightfold Path. These are the steps toward enlightenment, clockwise from the top: wise vision, wise thought, wise speech. Pretty straightforward. Then things get a little more abstract. The suitcase at 4:00ish is wise livelihood: how you make your living. (Perhaps it involves spending a lot of time in the company of emoji.) Despite the OTB racehorse you see (not often evoked as a means to enlightenment), the symbols at the bottom actually stand for wise actions. The face just left of them--remember how Buddha looked under the tree--represents wise mindfulness, which means meditation. The Rosy the Riveter arm is for wise effort, and the man with the sweat exploding off of his head is for wise concentration. The flowers are for decoration.


Emoji Major No. 6: A Buddhist Education

This week, Zoe Mendelson—just back from a five-day silent meditation retreat—enters the emoji zendo.

I recently completed a five-day silent mediation retreat.

Here are a few things I learned during that time of introspection: in northern California, as opposed to in Midtown Manhattan, you can spend 15 minutes ordering food from a pick-up window and nobody will bat an eye; rich white Buddhists wear a lot of Patagonia and Lululemon; it’s incredibly hard not to think about stuff; Buddhism involves lot of lists.

The retreat was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. All you do pretty much from 5:30 in the morning until 9:30 at night is sit still and be quiet or walk back and forth and be quiet. You get a nightly dharma talk, but the main point is to try not to think. But inevitably you do think, because that’s what brains do.

And what was I thinking about? Impermanence? No. Equanimity? No. Lunch? Yes, sometimes, but not nearly as often as I was thinking about how to emoji the dharma:

Distracted as I may have been, I'm not scoffing. When you get past the expensive outerwear, the whole experience—including the lists—is a good one, especially for an anxiety-driven, phone-addicted, foot-tapping New Yorker.

So welcome to the emoji zendo. The slide show above illustrates a few of my favorite stories and/or lists from the dharma. Note: The Four Noble Truths is the most important list but one I did not emoji, as it would have had to be a whole post on its own.

What you will find emojied here are:

1. The story of the enlightenment of the Buddha (not a list)

2. The Five Precepts, which are like the Buddhist Ten Commandments

3. The Five Hindrances, which are the things that get in the way of meditation

4. The Eight Worldly Winds, which are the states of being in life one should not get too hung up on, because they change unpredictably (yes, like the winds)

5. The Eightfold Path, which describes the necessary steps to escape suffering and reach enlightenment

I mean no disrespect by acting them out in emoji, including little bags of cash and beer mugs and guns in such close proximity to the Buddha—quite the opposite.

As I launched this column with the violence of Breaking Bad, I thought a small emoji peace offering might be in order (not to sound too Lululemon about it). Then there was the attachment to material goods, aka, Jay Z's "Picasso Baby." I will leave it up to you whether or not you want to reflect on them without speaking, and if commenting or ordering your lunch online counts as silent meditation.

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