Where Science and Enlightenment Collide

Archive for May, 2014

Perfect Be-ings.

Screen-Shot-2013-03-11-at-9.40.26-AMToday, as I was once again strolling through the social networking gardens of the interwebs (I love that imagery) I saw a posting about one of the authors and founder of the Buddhist tradition of Shambhala, Chögyam Trungpa.  It really got the synapses firing it went like this:

Always like Chogyam Trungpa! Personally he was kind of a flake, but as a teacher he had few equals.

That was when the creative juices started flowing! This is my expanded thought on the matter:

Chögyam Trungpa was a man of unorthodox life style, even for a Buddhist, after being exiled from Tibet, he began to explore the world and teach to whomever would listen. Getting caught up with the lifestyle of the 60’s, Chögyam Trungpa embraced the traditions he was seeing in the youth at the time, maybe to connect better with them, maybe out of his own desires, I do not suppose we will ever truly know. My feelings on the matter is that even though he may have come off as a “flake” perhaps instead of judging the man for his personality, perhaps we should see the lessons in his life. It ms my feeling that Chögyam Trungpa showed us that we, as a whole, have become to attached to our ideas of what a teacher should be. We have drawn a line and created a new illusion that only a perfect being can teach us other imperfect beings how to seek enlightenment. This separation not only sets us up for a crisis of faith should our teachers not live up to the now defied title of teacher, it also makes us blind to the lessons we can learn from the every day teachers we encounter from every day ordinary people.

If you seek only to learn from perfect be-ings you miss the perfect do-ings of ordinary people. Embrace the lessons you are taught, do not elevate an imperfect person above yourself or not only do you fuel the ego’s need to create an us (or me) vs them, you can never truly be free of the chains the ego places on your mind.

“Monks, these two are fools. Which two? The one who doesn’t see his transgression as a transgression, and the one who doesn’t rightfully pardon another who has confessed his transgression. These two are fools.” -Buddha

“Everything is naturally perfect just as it is.”
–H.H. Dilgo Khyentse

Advertisements

What is Ujjayi Pranayama?

Abs-breathMy favorite Pranayama, or breathing, that I learned in my yoga practice, which I incorporate into my daily meditation, is the Ujjayi breath, or as my Yoga instructor liked to call it “Darth Vader” breath!

More popularly the term Ujjayi Pranayama is known as ‘Ocean Breath’ or ‘Victorious Breath’. This is system of yoga that frees your body from toxins and helps you take sufficient amount of oxygen to build vitality in the body. It is one of the most popular methods of yoga used to cure all threat related problems. For patients of Thyroid it is extremely beneficial. Ujjayi pranayama removes phlegm, provides endurance and has toning effect on the the entire system. It is ideal for persons suffering from high blood pressure and coronary trouble.
What is the technique?

Ujjayi breath is also known as a diaphragmatic breath. In a normal breathing, diaphragm flexes but not the rib cage. While in this form of deep breathing you inhale more oxygen. Lower belly should expand while you are practicing Ujjai yoga and this also activates the first and second chakras. After that the breath should rise to the lower rib cage where it activates the third and fourth chakra. And in the final stage the air moves to the upper chest and throat and it comes out of the body from the nose..Ujjayi stretches the breath, warms it before entering into the lungs and this warmth unlocks the powerful healing process.

Air can absorb certain things and it has also force and power to carry things such as dust particles and even heavier things. When external pressure is applied the inner penetration increases which gives inner massage to the internal organs.

The most important aspect of Ujjayi Pranayama is the sound.Other styles of yoga practice emphasize a loud Ujjayi sound. In other popular form of yoga Svaroopa yoga slowing and quieting of the breath as described in the Vijnana Bhairava is regarded very important.
Practicing Ujjayi Pranayama: Ujjayi technique for beginners

First of all your mind and body should be relaxed and sit in a comfortable position. Then take a long making the breath longer and thinner. At last you should exhale very slowly. Repeat this process three times daily. This is quite a simple process and is more suitable for beginners. Beginners should exhale with both nostrils. After few days they should start Jalandhar Bandha and Kumbhaka. It should be performed under supervision of experienced yoga teacher. In order to be a really practice Ujjayi yoga three more steps are added. Read this line carefully:

-Once you breathing inside process is over with contraction in the throat then to touch your chin to the upper side of chest (Jalandhar Bandha).

Hold the breath inside for maximum 10 seconds. This is very similar to Kumbhak
Exhale out slowly with left nostril, by closing right nostril with your right hand thumb. Exhale must be done by left nostril only. This is complete process of Ujjayi.
It should be practiced for 3 times at the start of the process as your practice increases the frequency can be increased an it can be done 11 times Another popular form is ‘Pratiloma Ujjayi’.

Benefits of Ujjayi Pranayama

It has tremendous healing effect ohm Thyroid related problem and also controls snoring. It is very useful for other throat related problem such as Tonsil. Patients have also relief in Asthama and cold. The warmth of the head is reduced, and lung diseases like asthma, tuberculosis etc. is cured. It enhances the capacity of digestive systems, respiratory systems etc.

Ujjayi breathing is a breathing technique in which both inhalation and exhalation are done through the nose. A Breathing technique is called Pranayama in Yogic terms and this particular technique is also called “the ocean breath”. Unlike other yogic breathing techniques, Ujjayi pranayama is done in association with other yoga poses.


Contrasting Buddhism and Christianity

Buddhism, historically speaking got its start around 500 BC (depending on which tradition you follow) so it was already well established for a few years when Jesus first appeared on the earth.  Now much like early Christianity most of the lessons were passed down through word of mouth for a few hundred years before being committed to text, but because of trade with the old spice routes, there were quite a number of practicing Buddhists in the area around the time of Jesus’s life.

At first glance, Buddhism and Christianity would appear to have little in common. One is non-theistic for instance, the other, theistic. But the sayings of Jesus and the Buddha, whose teachings gave rise to the two religions are another matter. They have much in common in the realms of ethical behavior, discipleship, compassion, materialism and the inner life. The following are some examples.

Reprinted from “Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings” edited by Marcus Borg, published by Ulysses Press

Jesus: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31
Buddha: “Consider others as yourself.” Dhammapada 10:1

Jesus: “If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also.” Luke 6:29
Buddha: “If anyone should give you a blow with his hand, with a stick, or with a knife, you should abandon any desires and utter no evil words.” Majjhima Nikaya 21:6

Jesus: “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” Matthew 25:45
Buddha: “If you do not tend to one another, then who is there to tend you? Whoever would tend me, he should tend the sick.” Vinaya, Mahavagga 8:26.3

Jesus: “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword.” Matthew 26:52
Buddha: “Abandoning the taking of life, the ascetic Gautama dwells refraining from taking life, without stick or sword.” Digha Nikaya 1:1.8

Jesus: “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.” Mark 8:35
Buddha: “With the relinquishing of all thought and egotism, the enlightened one is liberated through not clinging.” Majjhima Nikaya 72:15

Jesus: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20
Buddha: “Teach the dharma which is lovely at the beginning, lovely in the middle, lovely at the end. Explain with the spirit and the letter in the fashion of Brahma. In this way you will be completely fulfilled and wholly pure.” Vinaya Mahavagga 1:11.1

It would seem that no matter the teacher, there are some lessons that are quite universal in nature.


Types of Meditation

shilouette_of_man_meditating_on_the_beach There are different types of meditation help keep your body and mind healthy. Meditative practices have existed for centuries and since the last couple of decades, the use of meditation has increased due to the rise of interest about the teaching of the eastern cultures and the stress and anxiety of modern life.

Beside a practice for spiritual growth or a way to enlightenment, people also use meditation with specific purposes such as:

 

  • meditation for anxiety
  • meditation for pain relief

The different types of meditation techniques that have evolved from Hinduism, Christianity, and Buddhism can be classified under five categories:

  • Concentration
  • Reflective Meditation
  • Mindfulness Meditation
  • Heart-Centered Meditation
  • Creative Meditation

Concentration Meditation

Concentration is at the heart of all the types of meditation, but in some techniques, focus is predominantly on building concentration. Why is concentration so important?

This is because in order to gain the fruits of meditation, you need to train the mind to concentrate and focus on an object or nothingness, that is to cut all distractions. This allows your mind to be calm and awaken beyond thought elaboration and even beyond your sense of self. Once you hold this view of awareness, you can use it for your wellness and for the greater good. It is more correct to say that it affects positively all the beings, yourself included.

There are several types of meditation techniques in concentration meditation category that can help you overcome distractions within and outside your mind and sustain mental focus. The different types of techniques that will help you gain concentration include:

  • Zen meditation
  • Transcendental Meditation
  • Om meditation
  • Shine Meditation or Samadhi
  • Chakra Meditation

Reflective Meditation

Reflective meditation is also known as analytical meditation and refers to disciplined thinking. In order to successfully practice reflective meditation, you will need to choose a question, theme, or topic and focus your analysis or reflection upon it. Initially, your thoughts may wander to other topics but then you need to train your mind to come back to the topic in question. In order to do this, you need to learn concentration meditation first.

As you practice this every day, your mind will be more in control and not wander off. It is one of the most important types of meditation and is considered to have a calming effect on the mind. It stimulates transformative power and provides you with great conviction and strength to change the course of your life.

There are different types of questions or reflective ideas that you can focus on, such as:

  • Who am I?
  • What is the true purpose of my life?
  • What is my role in this universe?
  • How can I help remove the sufferings of others?

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is one the most powerful and alternative meditation techniques, which lays emphasis on cultivating a highly receptive mindful attention toward any action or objects within your sphere of influence.

Mindfulness meditation is one of the important meditation types that helps you learn a simple thing: to pay attention or be “mindful”. This type of meditation is known to provide pain relief and help for those suffering from anxiety and depression. There are different types of techniques in this category that you can practice, like:

  • Vipassana meditation
  • Deep breathing meditation
  • Body scan meditation
  • Visualization meditation
  • Mindful breathing
  • Mindful eating
  • Sitting Meditation
  • Walking Meditation

Heart-Centered Meditation

Heart-centered meditation will help you release all your fears and sadness and bathe in the radiance of loving kindness and compassion. It is also known as the heart chakra meditation. Practicing this meditation over a period of time will help you to heal your heart and that of others.

This meditation technique helps in opening the heart chakra and removes any negative energy that exists. In order to practice this meditation technique, choose a quiet place, set the right posture and focus on the heart area while inhaling and exhaling slowly but smoothly. You can also connect your heart to the heart of a teacher or a person you feel that is compassionate. This is considered as one of the important types of meditation techniques.
Creative Meditation or Visualization

A different type of meditation technique, this form of meditation will enable you to consciously cultivate as well as strengthen different qualities of your mind. It focuses on strengthening qualities, such as appreciation, joy, compassion, patience, empathy, love, gratitude, compassion, humility, fearlessness, and tenderness, among others.


The Four Noble Truths

After his attainment of full enlightenment, the Buddha’s first teaching was on the Four Noble Truths. In it the Buddha explains the mental and physical evolution of the mundane world and the same cycle in reverse. He gave this teaching to his first five monk-disciples at the Deer Park, now known as Saranath, near Varanasi in India. The Buddha said, “Oh Bhikshus, there are four noble truths. They are the noble truths of suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the path to the cessation of suffering.”

According to Buddhism, we living beings are trapped in the cycle of existence known as samsara. In samsara, we wander aimlessly and experience unbearable suffering—day and night, year after year, life after life—because of the tight grip of our grasping at self. In order to heal this disease-like condition, first we have to find its cause, and then we apply the medicine-like path of training to restore our original good health, which is enlightenment. This healing process is described in the Buddhist formula of the Four Noble Truths. In the Uttaratantra, an important Mahayana text on buddhanature, it is said:

As it is necessary to diagnose the sickness, to abandon its causes,
To attain the happiness of good health and to apply medicine for it;
The suffering and its cause as well as its cessation and the path of (cessation)
Should be recognized, abandoned, attained, and applied.

The Character of the World: The Noble Truth of Suffering

What is the noble truth of suffering? It is the suffering of birth, the suffering of old age, the suffering of sickness, the suffering of death, the suffering of separation from loved ones, the suffering of facing unwanted phenomena, and the suffering of not getting what one is seeking. In brief, every aspect of the five aggregates is suffering.
—The Buddha

For us, deep down in our mind, there is a habit that keeps us from seeing, let alone accepting, our own true character: the suffering, changing, impermanent and dying character of our life. Our culture also prevents us from seeing the true nature of the world, which is ultimate peace and enlightenment. For us, our true nature is unknown and unseen, and we are comfortable keeping it that way without exploring it. For us, suffering is negative and we try our best to avoid seeing it, even though we are constantly experiencing it.

Buddhism first asks us not only to see the momentary and suffering character of the world, but also to have tolerance in accepting suffering as natural and not negative. Only then will we be able to work toward the solution. To the extent that we recognize the character of worldly pleasures as suffering, transitory and illusory, the grip of our grasping at self will loosen and the craving and afflictions of our mind will subside spontaneously. The ability to see the sufferings of the world without being overwhelmed by them will only come through proper understanding, determination, and strength of heart.

However, Buddhism also believes that, while the true character of the samsaric world is suffering, how the suffering character of phenomena affects us depends on our way of perceiving and feeling it. For people of unvirtuous emotions and habits it causes unhappiness, while for virtuous ones it causes happiness. For the realized ones, all is one in perfection.

According to Buddhist scriptures, there are three root sufferings of living beings: ordinary suffering, suffering produced by change, and the pervasive suffering of conditioning.

The first two root sufferings are gross sufferings and are easier to understand than the pervasive suffering of conditioning, which requires a deeper appreciation of the philosophical view of Buddhism. This is a suffering that is not necessarily a feeling of unhappiness as such, but the character of being contaminated, conditioned, changing and dependent. This unhappiness arises from the fact that our world and we ourselves are the creation of ignorance and emotional afflictions rooted in grasping at the self. Just as oil will saturate a cotton cloth and water will be absorbed by a plant, this character of suffering pervades all mundane phenomena, which spring from the seed cause of grasping at the self.

When a severely ill person gets a little relief, he goes through an experience of great peace and happiness, but if we compare that with the happiness of a healthy person, it is seen as unhappiness. If a hungry person gets a good meal he feels happy, but that experience is a lesser happiness than that of a person who has the contentment of both mental and physical well being. Most of the time, when we think we are happy it is not true. We are actually suffering. It is a fact.

After happiness comes suffering.
After suffering arises happiness.
For beings happiness and suffering
Revolve like a wheel.
—Nagarjuna

According to Buddhism, there are eight major sufferings particular to human beings. Having the three root sufferings as the basis, we human beings go through the cycle of our life with eight types of suffering from which no ordinary person can ever escape. They are the four major experiences of suffering of human life: the suffering in the process of taking birth, of old age, of sickness, and of dying and death.

They are accompanied by four secondary sufferings of human life: the sufferings of worry about facing harsh situations, about separation from loved ones and desirable things, about not achieving what one wishes, and about encountering unwanted situations.

Karma and Emotional Afflictions: The Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering

What is the noble truth of the source of suffering? It is craving [which produces] re-existence [as a being in samsara], and which is accompanied by passionate desire, and which is total delight with [or attachment to] this and that.
—The Buddha

The cause of suffering in samsara, the mundane world, is karma, which is rooted in craving and grasping at self and which flourishes through emotional afflictions with their habitual traces. Through the cycle of karma arise both the various appearances of the external world and the internal life of beings with their various experiences. Karma is the law whereby an action has the intrinsic potential to cause its own commensurate effect. The seeds of karma are held in the universal ground of the mind and are experienced when they ripen.

There are different ways of looking at the formation of karma, although the principle remains the same. Thoughts are the actions of the mind and they trigger the actions of the body and speech. These are the three “doors,” or means of action. Through them the karma of mind, body and speech are formulated. The three doors are mind (or the consciousnesses) with its mental events; the body with its physical faculties; and speech with its designations, verbal expressions and communications. Every action we perform with our mind, or with body or speech inspired by mind, formulates and produces a commensurate effect on our future.

Grasping at self is as harmful as an evil monster and we are responsible for maintaining it. How is it that we can knowingly torture ourselves? Shantideva writes:

All the violence, fear and suffering
That exists in this world
Comes from grasping at self.
What is the use of this great monster for you?
If you do not let the self go,
There will be no end to suffering.
Just as, if you do not release a flame from your hand,
You can’t stop it burning your hand.

The cause of our being trapped in the cycle of samsara is not the phenomena and situations that appear before us. It is the way we deal with them and let them control us due to our own mental and emotional afflictions, such as grasping, discriminating and craving, which together can be termed attachment. Tilopa instructs his disciple Naropa:

Appearances [of phenomena] do not bind you [to samsara] but attachment [to them] does. So, Naropa, cut off attachment.

Buddhahood: The Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering

What is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering? It is the total abandonment, renunciation, purification and exhaustion of the craving [which produces] the re-existence, and which is accompanied by passionate desire, and which is total delight in this and that. It is the complete freedom from, cessation of, pacification of and termination of desire.
—The Buddha

In Buddhism, there are two major schools: Theravada and Mahayana. According to Theravada, the orthodox Buddhist tradition, the absolute goal of Buddhist training is the attainment of nirvana, or cessation. It is the cessation of both suffering and the cause of suffering, like the flame of a lamp gone out when the oil is exhausted. Nirvana is generally described in negative terms, as uncompounded, unconditioned, absence of passion, cessation and extinction of craving for the aggregates. However, nirvana is not negative in the sense of negative and positive, since they are relative and within the realm of duality. Nirvana is beyond the realm of duality and relativity. Then why is it described in negative terms?

If nirvana is described in affirming or positive terms, since we are using conventional words connected with certain conceptual views, we will probably grasp a concept associated with them and reaffirm our usual conceptualization, and that will be wrong. If we describe nirvana in such terms as uncompounded and the cessation of passion, which are beyond the ordinary norm, there will be less danger of misleading people, and they might pause and think more. Nevertheless, the meaning of nirvana is something that can be experienced by realizing it, but which can never be described by words or judged by dualistic concepts.

According to Mahayana, the ultimate goal, the cessation of suffering, is termed buddhahood, the fully enlightened state. Buddhahood is explained as being endowed with the prosperity of three bodies (Skt.: kayas) and two wisdoms. Here the goal is described in positive terms so that people can gain an idea of what it is and be inspired by it, even though buddhahood cannot really be described in either positive or negative terms, as it is beyond the realm of conventional expression and conceptions.

Here it is important to remember that buddhahood is the nature we all possess. The Buddha bodies and wisdoms are present as the power and the virtues of all of us, if we allow our wisdom eyes to open. So we all have the potential to become a Buddha. Buddhahood is not the creation of the path of training or the effect of a cause. By waking us up, the path frees us from nightmarish, illusory mundane concepts, emotions and their results, namely suffering, and helps us to uncover what we are and what we always have with us.

According to Mahayanists, pursuing various trainings for realizing buddhahood, the true nature of our own mind, is the path. Through this path we reach the perfection of training, which is the realization of the ultimate nature and the cessation of the cycle of samsara. It is not that we are achieving something new or that we are returning to a previous state. It is awakening or realizing what actually we have always been by uncovering the layer of conceptual and emotional traces. So samsara and nirvana are the two different faces of the same mind. Venerable Walpola Rahula writes:
Nirvana is not the result of this path. We may get to the mountain along a path, but the mountain is not the result, not an effect of the path. We may see a light, but the light is not the result of your eyesight.

The true nature of the mind, which is also the true nature of the universe, is also termed the absolute truth, the buddhanature, and voidness. It is voidness, as there is nothing that can be seen, felt or described in any dualistic context. It is self-appearing clarity, since all phenomena naturally arise with total openness, great peace, infinite joy and all-knowing wisdom—the prosperity of the Buddha qualities, without limitations.

The minds of beings in their true nature are oneness and sameness in being absolutely pure, totally peaceful, universally pervading, spontaneously accomplished, and simultaneously all-knowing. This buddhanature is free from extremes of both nihilism and eternalism, as it is free from any quality that possesses the character of separate or dualistic distinctions. It transcends all the extremes of existence or non-existence, right or wrong and good or evil. It is infinitely and limitlessly rich with the spontaneously present and naturally manifesting Buddha qualities, such as the bodies, wisdoms and enlightened activities, which are free from conditions and are self-arisen self-power.

When we see and perfect the realization of our true nature, all the appearances of the world before us will become a buddhafield. Spontaneously the enlightened wisdom within us and self-appearing phenomena will become one in the great peace and joy of buddhahood. Thereafter, nothing will ever alter the perfected realization, the attainment of buddhahood.

Buddhism: The Noble Truth of the Path to the Cessation of Suffering

What is the path that leads to the cessation of suffering? It is the Noble Eightfold Path, which consists of right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right contemplation.
—The Buddha

In Buddhism there are hundreds of different paths of training to reach the fully enlightened state, buddhahood. But whatever technique of training is given in the teachings, it has to be based on the view of the “four emblems” of Buddhism. If the teaching is based on and propagates these principles, whatever techniques are presented, it is the teaching of Buddhism.

The view of the “four emblems” of Buddhism is: all compounded phenomena are impermanent; all contaminated things are miserable; all phenomena are selfless (voidness); and nirvana, the goal, is peace.

Although numerous disciplines are taught in Buddhism to suit the different natures and abilities of people, they are classified into three main “vehicles” (Skt.: yanas), or schools.

The Theravada Path

The unique characteristic of training in Theravada Buddhism is the aspiration to obtain liberation from cyclic existence. This vehicle relies on the three divisions of scripture known as “the three baskets.” These are: vinaya, the code of moral discipline for the monks, nuns and lay devotees; sutra, the discourses on various spiritual trainings; and abhidharma, the scriptures on wisdom, philosophy and psychology. Its main training is centered on the Eightfold Noble Path: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. The final goal of attainment is arhathood, which is the cessation of sorrow and its cause.

One of the main emphases of Theravadins is on physical discipline, such as living in solitude and leading a celibate life in order to avoid the circumstances that cause emotional afflictions and evil deeds to arise in one’s mind. They protect themselves from the poisonous-tree-like sources of emotional afflictions by avoiding them. They shield the candle-flame-like mind by maintaining shell-like physical disciplines.
The common disciplines of lay followers are observation of the five precepts and the ten virtuous deeds. The five precepts are: refraining from killing, stealing, adultery, telling lies and taking intoxicating substances. The ten virtuous deeds are: for the body, refraining from killing, stealing and adultery; for speech, refraining from telling lies, divisive talk, harsh words, and senseless gossip; and for the mind, refraining from covetousness, harmful intent and wrong view.

For monks and nuns there are hundreds of precepts to be maintained, but whether a layperson or a monastic, if we refrain from committing such negative deeds, our every action will become positive and meritorious. The result will be peace, joy and enlightenment for oneself and others.
Theravadins also emphasize living with the Four Principles of Asceticism: not to scold others although you have been scolded by them, not to get angry at others although others are angry with you, not to reveal others’ faults although your own faults have been revealed by others, and not to beat others although you have been beaten by them.

The Mahayana Path

The unique character of Mahayana training is its emphasis on developing great compassion—the aspiration and dedication to take responsibility for others’ happiness and to lead all beings to the attainment of buddhahood without the slightest self-interest. The scriptures followed by the trainees are the Mahayana sutras, taught by the Buddha and other Buddhist masters.

While the Mahayanists use physical discipline, their main emphasis is on the training of the mind. By training the pilot-like mind on the right path, they bring the vehicle-like speech and body onto the right path. They do not try to avoid the sources of emotional afflictions but destroy them by using antidotes such as compassion for anger, knowledge of the impermanent character of phenomena for attachment, and the wisdom of realizing the nature of phenomena as the union of voidness and interdependent arising for ignorance. They are like those who protect themselves and others from the poisonous trees by destroying them. The goal of their attainment is buddhahood for all beings with three Buddha-bodies and five Buddha wisdoms.

There are eighty major trainings that lead to buddhahood.
The most important training of this school, however, is in the two ways of developing the enlightened mind. The first is to develop the “aspiring enlightened mind.” In this training one generates love, compassion, joy and equanimity toward all beings by seeing and understanding them as one’s mother. One generates the attitude of taking responsibility for serving all beings without any discrimination, selfish intention or expectation of rewards.

The second training is to put the “enlightened mind into practice” by following the six perfections (Skt. paramitas). They are:
* the giving of material gifts, dharma teachings and protection from fear;

* the discipline of abstaining from committing even the smallest evil deeds, performing all kinds of dharma all the time, and serving all beings with the
four means of bringing others to dharma;

* the patience of tolerating people who harm us, the willingness to endure sacrifices for dharma practice, and the courage to maintain the profound meanings of dharma:

* the diligence of wearing the armor of commitment to dharma, dedicating one’s life to practice and never being content with one’s exertion;

* the contemplation at three successive levels: with attachment to experiences of bliss, clarity and voidness; without attachment to these experiences, but still viewing voidness as an antidote; and remaining in the absorption of the ultimate nature without relying on voidness as the antidote, and

* the wisdom of studying the words and meanings of dharma from a master, pondering the teachings which one has learned, meditating on the meaning of the dharma, and realizing the ultimate meaning.

The master Milarepa sings of the essential and profound meaning of the six perfections, applying them in meditation:

Apart from renunciation of grasping at self
There is no separate giving.
Beyond renunciation of deceiving
There is no separate discipline.
Apart from fearlessness in the true meaning
There is no separate patience.
Apart from being inseparable from the meditation
There is no separate diligence.
Apart from dwelling in the natural state,
There is no separate contemplation.
Apart from realization of the ultimate meaning,
There is no separate wisdom.

In every act of spiritual training, all the six perfections can be practiced simultaneously. For example, when we are giving a gift, the aspect of giving with a generous mind is the giving. Giving the best and useful material with proper conduct is discipline. Not being irritated by being asked for more or by the hardship of providing the gift is patience. Giving consistently while ignoring difficulties and exhaustion is diligence. Concentrating on the giving without distraction is contemplation. Giving without grasping at the self of giving, giver and the objects of giving is wisdom.

The Tantric Path

The unique character of the training of tantric Buddhism is pure perception. In it one sees and actualizes all as the buddha-realms. One sees, believes and experiences that all appearances are the Buddhas and their pure land, all sounds are the pure sound or speech of the Buddhas, and all thoughts are the wisdom mind of the Buddhas.

In tantric, or Vajrayana, Buddhism the followers do not avoid or subdue emotional afflictions or negative energies and situations. Instead the emphasis is on accepting and transforming them as the fuel of the wisdom energy. These followers are like those who skillfully transform the poisonous tree into medicinal substances, which they use for good health and energy.
At the beginning of the tantric path, when the disciple is ready, the master initiates him or her into the training. At the time of initiation, the disciples experience the true nature, or at least glimpse the wisdom of their mind and the wisdom energies of their consciousnesses, mental events and physical elements.

After that the disciple goes through the training of the “two stages.” In the development stage, one sees, visualizes and actualizes the universe as the Buddhas and their pure lands. In the perfection stage, by using the powers of the channels, energies and essence of one’s vajra-body, one attains and perfects the union of great bliss and voidness. As the goal of attainment, one achieves the omnipresent buddhahood and serves all who are ready to receive the benefits.


The Twitterverse

image

Yesterday, one of the Twitter account that follow which posts Buddhist quotes asked a question to its followers: “would Buddhist in America be surprised if they knew they have only read a fraction of Buddhist texts?”

I was actually surprised by this question, it may just be that tone of voice its difficult to determine in text format, but it seems to me that the question was meant to convey the poster’s frustration with American Buddhist not living up to the standard of the poster.

I simply reminded the poster of the Dhammpada twin verses 20

Verse 20. Practice Ensures Fulfillment

Though few of the sacred texts he chant
in Dhamma does his practice run,
clear of delusion, lust and hate,
wisdom perfected, with heart well-freed.

Explanation: A true seeker of truth through he may speak only little of the Buddha’s word. He may not be able to recite extensively from religious texts. But, if he belongs to the teaching of the Buddha assiduously, lives in accordance with the teaching of the Buddha, if he has got rid of passion, ill-will and delusion, he has well penetrated experience and is free from clinging to worldly things, he is a partaker of the life of a renunciate.

They never responded to my reply, to which of course makes me giggle to think about lol!  We must remember, not let our egos elevate us above others, or we risk our own salvation as well as those who wish to follow our example.

Even the Buddha himself knew intent of heart played a strong part in reaching enlightenment, not the knowledge of Sutras

“Let me ask you Subhuti? If a person filled over ten thousand galaxies with the seven treasures for the purpose of compassion, charity, and giving alms, would this person not gain great merit and spread much happiness?”

“Yes, Most Honored One. This person would gain great merit and spread much happiness, even though, in truth, this person does not have a separate existence to which merit could accrue. Why? Because this person’s merit is characterized with the quality of not being merit.”

The Buddha continued, “Then suppose another person understood only four lines of this Sutra, but nevertheless took it upon themselves to explain these lines to someone else. This person’s merit would be even greater than the other person’s. Why? Because all Buddhas and all the teachings and values of the highest, most fulfilled, most awakened minds arise from the teachings in this Sutra. And yet, even as I speak, Subhuti, I must take back my words as soon as they are uttered, for there are no Buddhas and there are no teachings.”

-Diamond Sutra 8th Chapter

Namaste


What does it mean, to avoid idle chatter?

right-speach-smSpeak only the speech that neither torments self nor does harm to others. That speech is truly well spoken. Speak only endearing speech, speech that is welcomed. Speech when it brings no evil to others is pleasant.
– Snp 3.03

He avoids idle chatter and abstains from it. He speaks at the right time, in accordance with facts, speaks what is useful, speaks of the Dhamma and the discipline; his speech is like a treasure, uttered at the right moment, accompanied by reason, moderate and full of sense.
– AN 10:176

Idle chatter is pointless talk, speech that lacks purpose or depth. Such speech communicates nothing of value, but only stirs up the defilements in one’s own mind and in others. The Buddha advises that idle talk should be curbed and speech restricted as much as possible to matters of genuine importance. In the case of a monk, the typical subject of the passage just quoted, his words should be selective and concerned primarily with the Dhamma. Lay persons will have more need for affectionate small talk with friends and family, polite conversation with acquaintances, and talk in connection with their line of work. But even then they should be mindful not to let the conversation stray into pastures where the restless mind, always eager for something sweet or spicy to feed on, might find the chance to indulge its defiling propensities.
For the Householder or Layperson, the rules are a bit more relaxed, however it does not mean that we should also not strive to at least attempt to follow monastic vows.  The vows of the house holder are as follows:

The Five Precepts

The five precepts are the basis of Buddhist morality. To take Pancha Sila, that is, to vow to live according to the following rules of conduct, is a set of vows a lay-person may take on, to try and live by, to the best of their understanding. So here goes: Pancha ( = five ) Sila ( = discipline ), the Five Precepts:

  1. Do not take life
  2. Do not take what is not given
  3. Do not distort facts
  4. Refrain from misuse of the senses
  5. Refrain from self-intoxication through alcohol or drugs

These vows can be taken as promises to yourself and Buddha, but also as a spiritual practice. In the first case they’re generally not very extensive: most of us won’t murder anyone, vow or no. But as a spiritual practice not taking life can include becoming a vegetarian, avoiding the killing of insects etc.

1. Do not take life

This obviously includes killing, both people and animals. In the extreme it would include killing plants and insects. Though it is perhaps possible to avoid killing these latter, in practice every act of eating makes us co-responsible for killing plants. This can’t be avoided. Still, this rule is the basis of the vegetarianism of many Buddhists. Because although those who eat meat often don’t kill animals themselves, they are helping make it financially and socially acceptable for butchers to kill animals.
As recorded in the Pali scriptures, the Buddha did not prohibit consumption of meat, even by monks. In fact, he explicitly rejected a suggestion from Devadatta to do so. In modern Theravada societies, a bhikkhu who adheres to vegetarianism to impress others with his superior spirituality may be committing an infringement of the monastic rules.

On the other hand, the Buddha categorically prohibited consumption of the flesh of any animal that was “seen, heard or suspected” to have been killed specifically for the benefit of monks (Jivaka Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya 55). This rule technically applies only to monastics, but it can be used as a reasonable guide by devout lay people.

To understand this “middle path” approach to meat-eating, we have to remember that there were no “Buddhists” in Shakyamuni’s time. There were only mendicants of various kinds (including the Buddha’s disciples), plus lay people who gave them alms out of respect without necessarily worrying about the brand name of the teachings.

It is my opinion that when it comes to the eating of meat, that it be left up to the conscience of the layperson, and not condemned either way by either person. After all Yoga Yama study teaches us that not everyone’s truth is the same as another’s.

2. Do not take what is not given

This rule is usually translated as: don’t steal. But in fact this goes a bit further. To not take what is not given, really means only taking that where explicitly somebody says: this is yours. Taking money from a wallet that somebody left on the train is clearly not acceptable if you read this rule of conduct.

3. Do not distort fact

This one is usually translated as: don’t lie. Again: it wider than that. Sometimes the use of words can make something seem acceptable, when it could also have been said very differently and be totally unacceptable. This would not be a lie, but it would be a distortion of fact.

4. Refrain from misuse of the senses

The senses in Buddhist and Hindu philosophy include not only the five generally thought of: touch, hearing, seeing, smelling and tasting, but also the mind: thinking. This means overindulgence in touching (for instance sex), hearing ( overindulging in listening to music for instance), seeing (too much focus on beauty or ugliness around us), smelling and tasting (overindulgence in food preparation for instance). Lay people aren’t expected to refrain from sex, yet they are expected to refrain from overdoing it. Sex should not be used as a tool of manipulation either, it is the unity of two energies combining into harmony, a spiritual connection between two individuals, it should not be used for selfish endeavors.

The the last sense which can be overindulged is thinking or thought, or use of the mind. One often meets people who think so much, they forget to practice. Or they out-think any morality one can come up with. The mind is a highly deceptive tool and overuse makes it overly powerful over us. When thoughts start seeming real, and control ones life, beyond what is reasonable, it is perhaps time to consider whether perhaps one has overindulged in thinking.

5. Refrain from self-intoxication through alcohol or drugs

This sila is very relevant in our present day world. It has to do with the previous one, in the sense that people seem to use alcohol as a way of making life more interesting, less mundane. The sensual experiences of daily life don’t seem enough and fun can only be had, social contacts can only be made (in certain circles), under the influence.

Being reasonable

Even for those who take Pansil, or in other words: vow to live by these rules, it is up them to decide where to draw the line. Some Buddhists eat meat, others feel that should be avoided. Many Buddhists drink coffee, even though it could be construed to change consciousness and therefore fall under the heading of self-intoxication. Still, every honest Buddhist will try to live by these rules to the best of their understanding and ability. Living by these rules is not so much something to be proud of, as it is a reminder of what hasn’t yet been accomplished. Self-righteousness exists in any religious group, but should obviously be avoided. Most people will realize the fact that these rules of conduct are only outward, and though important in their own way, don’t signify inner wisdom or enlightenment. Since becoming wise (in Southern Buddhism: an Arhat, in Northern Buddhism: a Buddha), is the only object of Buddhism – anything else ought to be merely a stepping stone.

 

Remember brothers and sisters, the flesh is transitory, impermanent, and a tool for the spiritual journey, speech is also a tool of communication, one of many extensions of the flesh that encompasses our spiritual selves, and should be at least guarded and tempered with compassion.  Treat each thought as if it were a potential sermon, you may never know what lessons can be gleamed from the words you speak, or the even the thoughts you post.

Namaste!


Greed, a distraction from our spiritual journey

la-la-he-greed13-jpg-20130704Greed is the worst kind of poverty, the desire for more and more means you never have the time to be content. Material wealth only breeds a life of suffering.  Let us take eating for example, a thing we all do, when we eat a good meal we are pleased by it, but if pleasure was the true nature of the act of eating, then no matter how much we ate, the act would only increase said pleasure.  Instead when we have eaten too much we find that we are in pain and suffer.  In contrast if we do not eat at all we suffer from hunger and starvation.

The healthier approach is daily examination, we must determine our true motivations for our desires, do we wish to obtain merely to increase our lives of decadent pleasures? Only through diligent self reflection and examination can we see the origin of our daily suffering, once the source has been discovered can we aid in its cessation.

Material excess only causes us to become distracted from who we truly are, universal manifestations on a spiritual journey. We must help others, or at least live in a way which will cause no harm, because we are all connected, the perception that we are all separate is because we rely on the limited senses to which we are manifested. Our own two eyes are limited to the spectrum between infrared and ultraviolet, we cannot perceive the others but it does not mean they do not exist, such is the same for what connects us all together. When we take in excess we cause only the other extensions of universal selves to suffer.

You may ask yourself, “Wouldn’t life be boring without attachment?” No. In fact it’s attachment that makes us restless and prevents us from enjoying things.

Hundreds of stupid flies gather
On a piece of rotten meat,
Enjoying, they think, a delicious feast.
This image fits with the song
Of the myriads of foolish living beings
Who seek happiness in superficial pleasures;
In countless ways they try,
Yet I have never seen them satisfied.
7th Dalai Lama from ‘Songs of spiritual change’ translated by Glenn Mullin

In the Four Noble Truths, Buddha himself explained that one of the primary causes of suffering is attachment. He meant more than just attachment to material things; he meant attachment to ideas, people, emotions, beliefs, and much more. But let’s focus on just worldly material possessions for today.

In the East, historically, it has been tradition for householders to support wandering monks, mendicants, ascetics, and other traveling “holy men.” It was completely possible for these men to survive owning nothing but the clothes on their backs, and in some regions, even clothing was an option. With modern society in the East, and even more-so in Western countries, this lifestyle just doesn’t work well anymore. Generally speaking, we don’t look at “homeless people” as holy men; often it’s quite the opposite. Clearly, for most of us, we need to find some kind of middle way between being totally homeless and property-less and blatant greedy materialism.

There’s nothing wrong with having a job, driving a car, wearing decent clothes, and owning a few “toys.” The trick is not to get too attached to them. How would you react if somehow you lost it all tomorrow?


Embodiment of Altruistic Love

Altruism2In this world
Hate never yet dispelled hate.
Only love dispels hate.
This is the law,
Ancient and inexhaustible.

There is also a heaven upon earth in our own breasts. Do not seek it without, but within your heart ; then you will not come into heaven for the first time when you die, but remain in it always.

Whatever a monk keeps pursuing with his thinking and pondering, that becomes the inclination of his awareness. The mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow.

~

Altruism or selflessness is the principle or practice of concern for the welfare of others. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures and a core aspect of various religious traditions and secular world views, though the concept of “others” toward whom concern should be directed can vary among cultures and religions. Altruism or selflessness is the opposite of selfishness.
Altruism can be distinguished from feelings of loyalty. Pure altruism consists of sacrificing something for someone other than the self (e.g. sacrificing time, energy or possessions) with no expectation of any compensation or benefits, either direct, or indirect (e.g., receiving recognition for the act of giving).

Much debate exists as to whether “true” altruism is possible. The theory of psychological egoism suggests that no act of sharing, helping or sacrificing can be described as truly altruistic, as the actor may receive an intrinsic reward in the form of personal gratification. The validity of this argument depends on whether intrinsic rewards qualify as “benefits.”

The term altruism may also refer to an ethical doctrine that claims that individuals are morally obliged to benefit others. Used in this sense, it is usually contrasted with egoism, which is defined as acting to the benefit of one’s self.

Altruism figures prominently in Buddhism. Love and compassion are components of all forms of Buddhism, and are focused on all beings equally: love is the wish that all beings be happy, and compassion is the wish that all beings be free from suffering.

“Many illnesses can be cured by the one medicine of love and compassion. These qualities are the ultimate source of human happiness, and the need for them lies at the very core of our being”
~Dalai Lama.

Since “all beings” includes the individual, love and compassion in Buddhism are outside the opposition between self and other. It is even said that the distinction between self and other is part of the root cause of our suffering. In practical terms, however, since most of us are spontaneously self-centered, Buddhism encourages us to focus love and compassion on others, and thus can be characterized as “altruistic.” Many would agree with the Dalai Lama that Buddhism as a religion is kindness toward others.

So love each other selflessly and we shall heal the world, shift the paradigm and evolve into your own Nirvana.


Anger, nasty business!

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Rajagaha in the Bamboo Grove, the Squirrels’ Sanctuary. Then the brahman Akkosaka Bharadvaja heard that a brahman of the Bharadvaja clan had gone forth from the home life into homelessness in the presence of the Blessed One. Angered & displeased, he went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, insulted & cursed him with rude, harsh words.

When this was said, the Blessed One said to him: “What do you think, brahman: Do friends & colleagues, relatives & kinsmen come to you as guests?”

“Yes, Master Gotama, sometimes friends & colleagues, relatives & kinsmen come to me as guests.”

“And what do you think: Do you serve them with staple & non-staple foods & delicacies?”

“Yes, sometimes I serve them with staple & non-staple foods & delicacies.”

“And if they don’t accept them, to whom do those foods belong?”

“If they don’t accept them, Master Gotama, those foods are all mine.”

“In the same way, brahman, that with which you have insulted me, who is not insulting; that with which you have taunted me, who is not taunting; that with which you have berated me, who is not berating: that I don’t accept from you. It’s all yours, brahman. It’s all yours.

“Whoever returns insult to one who is insulting, returns taunts to one who is taunting, returns a berating to one who is berating, is said to be eating together, sharing company, with that person. But I am neither eating together nor sharing your company, brahman. It’s all yours. It’s all yours.”

225. Those sages inoffensive
in body e’er restrained
go unto the Deathless State
where gone they grieve no more.

226. For the ever-vigilant
who train by day and night
upon Nibbana e’er intent
pollutions fade away.

Explanation: Those harmless sages, perpetually restrained in body, reach the place of deathlessness, where they do not grieve. Of those who are perpetually wakeful – alert, mindful and vigilant – who are given to discipline themselves and studying day and night, intent upon the attainment of Nibbana, the taints and cankers get extinguished, their passions will come to an end.