A Mind Like a Pure, Flowing River
Recognizing the power of our minds means that even as unfortunate or terrible things happen to us, we can receive them in a more spacious and ultimately more enlightened way. The Buddha taught his students to develop a power of love so strong that the mind becomes like space that cannot be tainted. If someone throws paint, it is not the air that will change color. Space will not hold the paint; it will not grasp it in any way. Only the walls, the barriers to space, can be affected by the paint. The Buddha taught his students to develop a power of love so strong that their minds become like a pure, flowing river that cannot be burned. No matter what kind of material is thrown into it, it will not burn. Many experiences--good, bad, and indifferent--are thrown into the flowing river of our lives, but we are not burned, owing to the power of the love in our hearts.
-- Sharon Salzberg, in Lovingkindness
The near-enemy of love is attachment. Attachment masquerades as love. It says, "I will love you if you will love me back." It is a kind of "businessman's" love. So we think, "I will love this person as long as he doesn't change. I will love that thing if it will be the way I want it." But this isn't love at all--it is attachment. There is a big difference between love, which allows and honors and appreciates, and attachment, which grasps and demands and aims to possess. When attachment becomes confused with love, it actually separates us from another person. We feel we need this other person in order to be happy. This quality of attachment also leads us to offer love only toward certain people, excluding others.
--Joseph Goldstein, in Seeking the Heart of Wisdom
The person that desires to have only pleasure and refuses pain expends an enormous amount of energy resisting life--and at the same time misses out enormously. He or she is on a self-defeating mission in any case, for just as we evade certain forms of suffering we inevitably fall victim to others. Underlying our glitzy modern consumer culture there is a deep spiritual undernourishment and malaise that manifests all kinds of symptoms: nervous disorders, loneliness, alienation, purposelessness. . . So blanking out, running away, burying our heads in sand or videotape will take us nowhere in the long run. If we really want to solve our problems--and the world's problems, for they stem from the same roots--we must open up and accept the reality of suffering with full awareness, as it strikes us, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, in the here-now. Then, strange as it may seem, we reap vast rewards. For suffering has its positive side. From it we derive the experience of depth, of the fullness of our humanity. This puts us fully in touch with other people and the rest of the Universe.
John Snelling, in Elements of Buddhism
Freeing the Energy of Compassion
Wisdom replaces ignorance in our minds when we realize that happiness does not lie in the accumulation of more and more pleasant feelings, that gratifying craving does not bring us a feeling of wholeness or completeness. It simply leads to more craving and more aversion. When we realize in our own experience that happiness comes not from reaching out but from letting go, not from seeking pleasurable experience but from opening in the moment to what is true, this transformation of understanding then frees the energy of compassion within us. Our minds are no longer bound up in pushing away pain or holding on to pleasure. Compassion becomes the natural response of an open heart.
To embrace a life in this worldly existence we must accept what comes to us and what is taken away...money and possessions can make the existence more comfortable, but like a castle made of sand; if we are to grip our possessions too tight; it all disappears and the fortune is taken from us. A life of good intentions and compassion for what one has and does not have, is a life that is fruitful in more ways than simply on a monetary level.
Love, Live, and Embrace with Compassion.
Don't Just do something, Sit there!
Sitting is essentially a simplified space. Our daily life is in constant movement: lots of things going on, lots of people talking, lots of events taking place. In the middle of that, it's very difficult to sense that we are in our life. When we simplify the situation, when we take away the externals and remove ourselves from the ringing phone, the television, the people who visit us, the dog who needs a walk, we get a chance--which is absolutely the most valuable thing there is--to face ourselves.
Meditation is not about some state, but about the meditator. It's not about some activity or about fixing something. It's about ourselves. If we don't simplify the situation the chance of taking a good look at ourselves is very small--because what we tend to look at isn't ourselves but everything else.
To sit in silence is the essence of existence, a time for us to look internally and reflect on our lives...a time to bring the whirling day in samsara to a slower pace.
Don't just do something, sit there.
Life - Teacher
There is only one teacher. What is that teacher? Life itself. And of course each one of us is a manifestation of life; we couldn't be anything else. Now life happens to be both a severe and an endlessly kind teacher. It's the only authority that you need to trust. And this teacher, this authority, is everywhere. You don't have to go to some special place to find this incomparable teacher, you don't have to have some especially quiet or ideal situation.
Life itself is the teacher of all who are willing to listen and learn. I am asked often about my travels and how I can manage to travel and live as I do...I constantly remind people that we are all graced with a birth and a guide or multiples of guides that work with us in this life to make it more fruitful. Call it intuition, call it a guide, but whatever you call it...you must listen and let this take you through life. I would not be here right now if I was not connected to the path I should be walking.
Life is a journey to be made with feet touching the earth, ears gracing the heavenly sounds, eyes to express the soul, and hands to raise up to the heavens and egknowledge your blessed existence...live life and make a difference.
Love and Fear
Life is lived with love and fear. Through developing stages of our lives we progress and digress between these two. Fear arises and the need to control the situation is paramount...we protect ourselves from what the fear is and create power struggles, a lack of fun and joy, pain, and distance while eroding our self-esteem and becoming tense, unhappy, unloved, and imprisoned in our fears.
The solution to life and living is LOVE...embrace thy neighbour with the intent to learn. Be open to being affected by others...in knowing the truth of oneself and others... LOVE is the aim to resolve conflict, deepen intimacy, and feel fun and joy through presonal freedom and a sense of peacefulness.
We need more LOVE in these times of this world, love and kindness are the keys to a more fulfilled life...for a time to egknowledge others and embrace the differences through learning.
Fear leads to alienation and a loss of focus on the goal to enlightenment and true self-knowing...to LOVE is to LEARN. Rise above the ashes as a phoenix and let LOVE lead the way to the glory of today.
Dhammapada - Sayings of the Buddha
33. The mind is wavering and restless, difficult to guard and restrain: let the wise man straighten his mind as a maker of arrows makes his arrows straight.
34. Like a fish which is thrown on dry land, taken from his home in the waters, the mind strives and struggles to get free from the power of Death.
35. The mind is fickle and flighty, it flies after fancies wherever it likes: it is difficult indeed to restrain. But it is a great good to control the mind; a mind self-controlled is a source of great joy.
-- the Buddha, in the Dhammapada
And of course I am not, but the last thing I want to know is that.
I am impermanence itself in a rapidly changing human form that appears solid. I fear to see what I am: an ever-changing energy field...
So good practice is about fear. Fear takes the form of constantly thinking, speculating, analyzing, fantasizing. With all that activity we create a cloud cover to keep ourselves safe in make-believe practice. True practice is not safe; it's anything but safe. But we don't like that, so we obsess with our feverish efforts to achieve our version of the personal dream. Such obessive practice is itself just another cloud between ourselves and reality.
The only thing that matters is seeing with an impersonal searchlight: seeing things as they are. When the personal barrier drops away, why do we have to call it anything? We just live our lives. And when we die, we just die. No problem anywhere.
-- Charlotte Joko Beck, in Everyday Zen. visit www.tricycle.com
Mahabodhi Temple - Bodhgaya, India
This writing was recently entered into a CBC contest and I thought it would be nice to share with everyone here.
Approaching the town is like a passing through time, the pastures give rise to a waterway that once was. Buddha would have came down from the cave he was meditating in for six years, just in the distance it can be seen…a white temple marks its location.
Bodhgaya is a collection of buildings with a monolithic temple as the “core” of this town and the heart of the world…the location where Buddha obtained enlightenment under the bodhi tree.
Time is immemorial, it stands still, a testament to prayers and mantras that have been chanted and stored in its every crevice…a veil of universal proportions consumes your every thought, until it is only you and the love of prayer reverberating your being. Time is nothing; the only indication is the movement of the sun and the change of hues and shafts of light that illuminate various parts of the temple grounds.
The realization cannot be missed by any; we sit here, one and all…in divine oneness.
The temple pulses, the tree drops its leaves to offer pieces of itself for worship…devotees scurry about picking every last leaf off the ground Others sit eagerly watching a branch, hoping to dart out and catch a leaf before it hits the ground.
Honour, love, respect, compassion, and devotion. The Buddha watches on. I am home.
Compassion and the Individual
Whether people are beautiful and friendly or unattractive and disruptive, ultimately they are human beings, just like oneself. Like oneself, they want happiness and do not want suffering. Furthermore, their right to overcome suffering and be happy is equal to one's own. ...When you recognize that all beings are equal in both their desire for happiness and their right to obtain it, you automatically feel empathy and closeness for them.
Through accustoming your mind to this sense of universal altruism, you develop a feeling of responsibility for others: the wish to help them actively overcome their problems. Nor is this wish selective; it applies equally to all. - The Dalai Lama
The 5 elements.
All elements arise in ones meditative practice at varying intensities and at varying advancements of the meditative experience.
EARTH: a stiffness arises in the meditative posture...form is not to exist, pain is perceived to arise, the awareness that the mind defines the pain and posture as the existence and embodiment of "I". Commonly discomfort is said to be the deterrent of many that wish to meditate longer...length is not important, but the quality of the time spent in meditation DOES matter...saying this though; it is important to not stop at the MOMENT that the pain arises...realize the pain, focus, understand the chaotic mind as a key to overcoming the pain, embrace the Natural Mind and see the pain fade.
WIND: meditators may experience swaying and rocking, convulsions...depending on the dominant element of the meditator they may find that one of these elements is more pronounced. Do not be alarmed, try to find centre and return to stability...but do not stop the meditation in a panic that this rocking, twitching, swaying is wrong. It is perfectly normal.
FIRE: the pain in the body turns to fire, numbing of limbs and toes, the fire leads some meditators into a change of posture and extreme discomfort...all elements are a direct relation to the mind and whether it is at ease or in "story telling mode"...when the mind becomes active in preoccupations (ie. what will I eat for dinner after this? what time is my favorite show on? what time is it? oh, I forgot to pay that bill? so on and so on) it reacts by enlivening an element and to force you out of posture and realization of the Natural Mind.
WATER: crying, sweating, runny nose, complete "liquid flush" of the body are common for many meditators...especially ones with strong water signs...the flushing of the system in this way is said to be the shakti (life force) of the body acting in a purifying manner, forcing impurities out through this method. I call tears "the ashes of ego" ... in tears we are able to purify and relieve more of the ego that tries to define us and occupy the minutes, hours, days, and lives that we live...to cry is to embrace the beauty in everything and the understanding that our lives are to be lived for others, and in return lived together in embrace with love.
Natural Mind vs Ego Mind
The battle is waged over the Natural Mind (the sublime light mind, embraced in the infinite emptiness, the unabiding, the absence of time and space, the utter void of any reasoning, the awareness of this moment unlike all others, the same as all others, now) VS. The Ego Mind...the definitive, ever categorizing, analyzing, pretending, story-telling, consumed, false...but true to those who believe that this is who they are.
For one to get beyond the illusion is to embrace the moment as it is, ever-present; sublime, there is nothing to be done, nothing missing, no pre-concieved ideals, no you, no me, no identity, no pretention.
To embrace this emptiness is to understand the non-duality of all forms, light IS dark, yin IS yang, male IS female, form IS emptiness, and emptiness IS form.
There is a great source on the internet organized by followers of the Theravada school of Buddhism called www.buddhanet.net and has been a priceless resource for me over the last couple of years. Please donate to this and other organizations that help spread the Dharma. With love and compassion we can heal the world...it is true, it is not cliche...it is not something to be said to warm the hearts of others...it is the truth...we CAN make the world see the love in all...with respect and dignity, through the light of compassion; we embrace the essence of existence and know to that we can work together as one.
Below are downloadable links to two Vietnamese chants that I have used for some time now and often play to set the stage for my mala work...a truly loving form that the waves of these chants take as you open your heart and let the natural mind free.
Heaven and Hell
I once heard a story about a visit to heaven and hell. In both places the visitor saw many people seated at a table on which many delicious foods were laid out. In both places chopsticks over a meter long were tied to their right hands, while their left hands were tied to their chairs.
In hell, however much they stretched out their arms, the chopsticks were too long for them to get food into their mouths. They grew impatient and got their hands and chopsticks tangled with one another's. The delicacies were scattered here and there.
In heaven, on the other hand, people happily used the long chopsticks to pick out someone else's favorite food and feed it to him, and in turn they were being fed by others. They all enjoyed their meal in harmony.
--Shundo Aoyama, Zen Seeds
** I am often asked the belief of heaven and hell and what the worst thing that a being can be reincarnated as...it is the "Hungry Ghost", nothing more is needed to explain the anguish.
The act of Giving and the Cultivation of Loving-Kindness
A single act of giving has a value beyond what we can imagine. So much of the spiritual path is expressed and realized in giving: love, compassion, sympathetic joy, equanimity; letting go of grasping, aversion, and delusion. To give is powerful. That is why the Buddha said that if we knew as he did, the power of giving, we would not let a single meal pass without sharing some of it.
Sharing food is a metaphor for all giving. When we offer someone food, we are not just giving that person something to eat; we are giving far more. We give strength, health, beauty, clarity of mind, and even life, because none of those things would be possible without food. So when we feed another, this is what we are offering: the substance of life itself.
How to become a Buddhist.
If one desires to become a Buddhist, there is no initiation ceremony (or baptism) which one has to undergo....If one understands the Buddha's teaching, and if one is convinced that his teaching is the right Path and if one tries to follow it, then one is a Buddhist.
But according to the unbroken age-old tradition in Buddhist countries, one is considered a Buddhist if one takes the Buddha, the Dhamma (the Teaching) and the Sangha (the community of Buddhists)--generally called "the Triple-Gem"--as one's refuges, and undertakes to observe the Five Precepts--the minimum moral obligations of a lay Buddhist:
(1) not to destroy life, (2) not to steal, (3) not to commit adultery, (4) not to tell lies, (5) not to take intoxicating drinks....
There are no external rites or ceremonies which a Buddhist has to perform. Buddhism is a way of life, and what is essential is following the Noble Eightfold Path.
--Walpola Rahula in What the Buddha Taught from Everyday Mind.
Three Turnings of the Dharma Wheel
(Photo taken at Sarnath, India...the location of Buddhas first sermon and the First Turn or Cycle of the Dharma Wheel) I am often asked about the Yanas (or Vehicles/Paths) of Buddhism, more often though when talking about Buddhism with people, even fellow practicing Buddhists, they are unaware of the meaning or even that there is a difference in the paths chosen. Here I will talk of the Three Vehicles or Paths (yanas) that a practioner can follow on his/her path to acheiving enlightenment.
The First Turning of the Dharma Wheel (known as the Traditional Way of the Elders, called Theravada, and inaccurately sometimes referred to as Hinayana) includes the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, the Three Marks or Characteristics of Existence (impermanence, not-self, and suffering), and interdependent co-origination (how everything comes about through cause and effect). This often is described as the Way of individual liberation, purification, and highly positive behaviour. It is known as the Arhant's (or saint's) Way. This Theravadin Way stresses insight, purification, morality, restraint, nonharming, renunciation, and simplicity. Ancient scriptures say that on this path one will reach liberation within seven lifetimes after the initial enlightenment experience.
The Second Turning or Cycle of the Dharma Wheel (known as Mahayana) emphasizes sunyata, which means infinite emptiness and radiant openness. This is the heroic Bodhisattva's way of universal enlightenment; this path emphasizes the union of wisdom and compassion and unselfish attitudes. The Mahayana stresses compassion, the wisdom of emptiness, openness, altruism, and fearless courage. This path can culminate in full enlightenment within a few lifetimes.
The Third Turning or Cycle of the Dharma Wheel (known as Vajrayana) emphasizes innate Buddha-nature - spontaneous, fertile, and luminous. It elucidates non-dual tantra, unveiling the utter inseperability of nirvana and samsara, the sacred and the mundane, or heaven and earth. The Vajrayana stresses transformation, energy, empowerment, and dynamic skillful means. In this path, enlightenment has often been achieved within a single lifetime.
Historically the Southern schools in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia stressed the classical Hinayana and Theravada; the Northern schools in Nepal, Sikkim, Tibet, Mongolia, Korea, China, and Japan emphasized the Mahayana and Tantric Vajrayana.
According to various lineages of Tibet, a secret Fourth Turning or Cycle of the Dharma Wheel is taught. This is the consummate and ultimate Buddhist teaching known in Tibet as Dzogchen (pronounced Zol-Chin). Considered the most direct non-dual approach to awakening the Buddha within, Dzogchen stresses non-duality, ecstatic spontaneity, and the natural great perfection of things just the way they are. Dzogchen masters teach that one can achieve enlightenment in this very lifetime, even in as few as three to seven years through assidious practice.
Interestingly enough, as the turning progresses the path to enlightenment is shorter...here it has to be said that also from Hinayana through to Dzogchen...at first it is easy to teach but hard for the student to realize, to Dzogchen that is hard to teach but once realized easy to embrace. For people interested in Buddhism they will become drawn to a path that feels right for them...this is not a competition to see who gets there first, taking a Dzogchen path is not favoured over Hinayana or Theravada...PLUS! very important! These paths are SERIOUS, if practiced incorrectly it is said that a person can to damage to past karmas and end this life in lower realms.
I have met many people that have been drawn into Buddhism with their first serious experience being Vipassana (insight meditation) but through a Theravadin school (most popular). Aspects of the meditation retreat are different depending on what Yana is related to the school...the end goal is different for different yanas, and the way to get their is also. I urge people to explore the Yanas if interested in Buddhism to find a clearer path for oneself. The Yana for you will be obvious when found. Enjoy the journey!
Whatever we do
With the proper understanding of transformation, whatever we do, twenty-four hours a day, can bring us closer to our goal of totality and self-fulfillment. All our actions; walking, eating, and even urinating!can be brought into our spiritual path. Even our sleep, which is usually spent in the darkness of unconsciousness or in the chaos of dreams, can be turned into the clear-light experience of subtle, penetrating wisdom. ---- Lama Thubten Yeshe in Introduction to Tantra.
The act of sitting meditation is a window into the light but is not the ONLY method of embodying grace...our daily lives have countless opportunities for us to share and be open to knowledge...sitting meditation helps the practitioner understand themselves and their purpose, with this understanding one can go out into the world and make every minute part of the spiritual path.
Dharma and the Dollar
Awakening entails economic pursuits that foster self-respect and self-reliance and that serve to integrate, rather than disperse, the energies of the local community. From the perspective of the Dharma, economic goals include not only production and profit, but also their human and environmental impact. The conservation of material resources, their humane use, and their equitable distribution are taken as preeminent concerns.
--Joanna Macy in Mindfulness and Meaningful Work by Claude Whitmyer (from Tricycle.com)
There is a way to make money with a heart, it stems from your intentions regarding the money you make...what will you do with this money? who ELSE will benefit? what can you do in your community to disperse the funds? Modern day success is all too often the pursuit of the almighty dollar and a detachment to those around us...if you are making money than you are blessed with a vehicle of change (if used properly). Let's continue to feed a positive machine and do with money what is needed...to be a service to others and to enable people in poor situations to rise above the difficulties.
A new breed of business is happening, a time when we are more aware of the harms and benefits of this world...let's work together to make a better place. With love.
Think of Non-Thinking
From Tricycle.com Daily Dharma.
When you have a problem, think about it. Then think about it some more. And then think about it still more and after you've thought all you can think about it, then think non-thinking. When you touch the origin of thinking, this is non-thinking. Our practice is neither about thinking nor non-thinking. Let go of your cherished opinions and cultivate the mind of "not knowing" and the True Dharma will appear.
--Gerry Shishin Wick in The Book of Equanimity
from More Daily Wisdom, edited by Josh Bartok, Wisdom Publications.
The Four Noble Truths and Walking the Eightfold Path
How joyful to look upon the Awakened and to keep company with the wise. Follow then the shining ones, the wise, the awakened, the loving, for they know how to work and forbear. But if you cannot find friend or master to go with you, travel on alone - like a king who has given away his kingdom, like an elephant in the forest. -- From the Dhammapada (Sayings of the Buddha).
The Four Noble Truths are the core of the Buddhist Dharma. A brief explanation is as follows: The First Noble Truth: life is difficult, Second: Life is difficult because of attachment, because we crave satisfaction in ways that are inherently dissatisfying. Third: The possibility of liberation from difficulties exists for everyone. Fourth: The way to realize this liberation and enlightenment is by leading a compassionate life of virtue, wisdom, and meditation. These three spiritual trainings comprise the teachings of the Eighfold Path to Enlightenment.
EIGHTFOLD PATH: is divided into three parts (wisdom training, ethics training, and meditation training).
Step 1: Right View
Step 2: Right Intentions
Step 3: Right Speech
Step 4: Right Action
Step 5: Right Livelihood
Step 6: Right Effort
Step 7: Right Mindfulness
Step 8: Right Concentration
Tricycle's Daily Dharma
Tricycle's Daily Dharma: May 14, 2006
"Exactly As I Am"
The Buddhist path is designed to reveal deeper levels of reality. We live in a pluralistic society. We live in a racist society, a homophobic and sexist society; in addition, Buddhists of every color, each gender, and all sexual orientations embrace the sectarian prejudices that developed in Asia. We live in a society that is pleading for us to put our shoulders to the wheel.
We are also, each and every one of us, whole and perfect as is, interrelated, essentially non-separated, and equal. This, too, must be realized. If we forsake the inside for the outside, it is not just Buddhism that is diminished but the horizons for true social transformation as well.
Tricycle.com is a quarterly magazine that focuses on the Buddhist community and aspects of study as well as global issues affecting the world. I recommend reading an issue or two or subscribing in some fashion.
The significance of the Lotus Flower
The lotus flower symbolizes spiritual knowledge and power. The lotus grows out of mud, unfolds into a beautiful flower, lives in water all the time but is never wetted by it. This conveys the idea that a spiritual aspirant, while living in the world, should remain unaffected by the worldly attractions and should work towards spiritual unfoldment.