Where Science and Enlightenment Collide

Archive for July, 2014

Dealing with the Ego Self

ch900226.giflet’s face it, sometimes our “Ego Selves” can be like down right spoiled children, perhaps this is what they mean by letting out your inner child, I suppose it depends on your own mental perspective. But don’t people meditate to get rid of their egos? No, not quite that would be a bit like saying “If I jog, I’d be a better person” or even “If it weren’t for my wife, I would have a perfect marriage.”

The point of meditation is not to toss our egos away, that would be much like trying to live after removing your head from your shoulders, it just wouldn’t turn out all that great!  Meditation is about making friends with our true selves, to start being compassionate, gentle and goodhearted towards ourselves.

You may ask “Isn’t that serving your ego?” On the contrary, it is being open with who you are and accepting things as they are.  Through meditation we can have an inner conversation with ourselves, instead of bottling things up.  Mediation allows us to find the wisdom that is all mixed up in what is though of as our own neurosis or madness. It is exploring humanity itself, and all of creation that is manifest in our own form.  The “Ego Self” is like a child, do not abandon it, instead raise it!

Namaste!


More On No Self

barred_spiral_galaxy-313956-400-400A discussion on Facebook has brought me once more to thoughts on the self as it pertains to a separate soul.  The thought might come up in some of you, that if there is no soul what about rebirth and the story of the Buddha, who once became enlightened, saw detailed knowledge of His past lives. He was able to recollect the conditions in which He had been born in His past lives. He was able to remember what His names had been, what His occupations had been and so on. If there is no self or soul how can one be reborn?

If you remember in There is no Spoon, I brought up that the teaching may be interpreted as there is to self that is separate from the universe, and what we understand as ourselves, is not separate from our bodies that our identity that we know as you or I are dependant on this human form.

But if our concept of a soul (the concept for those of us who may have been brought up Christian) does not exist in the way we imagine or have been taught then how is it we are tied to the cycle of rebirth?

Picture in your mind a spiral galaxy when viewed from a distance, a galaxy is made up of billions of stars. When viewed from a distance it also appears as if the light from each star is connected together as one source, especially at the core where the stars are all gathered together. When viewed close up the stars appear as separate, but we also know they are a part of a larger whole galaxy. What is reborn, what was reborn in the Buddha is a cluster of energy that we think of as the soul, when it enters a body a new self is made a new identity that is no longer just the body or just a soul but a combined self. This self, however is also not separate from the universe, the energy or soul that goes from life to life is also tethered to the universe itself, it is an extension of the universe. Like a spiral galaxy we are all united in a spinning cosmic wheel of consciousness, when viewed close up, there is the illusion of separateness, when viewed from a distance as a whole we recognize we are all one.

This of course is simply my theory and my truth, it may not be your truth and I understand and honour that. I do not ask yourself to accept my truth as your own, I am merely expressing my understanding with you.

When things seem bleak and dark remember, the universe is filled with light… we just don’t often see it! -JF

Namaste!


Road to Shambhala Part Duce – Slaying The Dragon

Chinese-Dragon-Yin-Yang-T-shirt-PrintOK so maybe this part of the road isn’t so original, in fact this part is also referred quite popularly in Chinese Buddhism as “Taming The Ox” But for my purposes I like to think of it more as Slaying the Dragon, not because I think a dragon is cooler (though common, of course they are) but rather like most modern men of today’s technocracy, we all grow up with fewer and fewer of our passage rites when pertains to becoming a man.  As primitive as the thought may seem to a modern civilization, in part it has to do with establishing our identity to ourselves when it comes to how we view the world. But I digress.

Putting this thought train back on topic the “Slaying of the Dragon” is s metaphor for the progressive stages of realization that you will encounter during your quest for enlightenment and raising your ego (a topic for another day).   This metaphor is important for applying inner understanding to our daily life.

  1. Searching for the Dragon: You realize that happiness is conditional and based on your aspirations matching your life, and that when they do not coincide you are suffering, and that what you are truly seeing ins contentment – peace with the world as it is.
  2. Discovering the Footprints: You realize the journey to the center takes place within your own mind.
  3. Spotting the Dragon: through inner reflection you see how you have unconsciously labelled yourself, and how profoundly this self image as affected the quality of your life.
  4. Pursuing the Dragon: You begin to resolve your past issues (as I write this I am somewhere between this and the next) and start to face your fears head on when it comes to the future!
  5. Taming the Dragon: You learn how to maintain a mindful awareness of thoughts that arise in your mind, thoughts that are holding you back from following your path.
  6. Riding the Dragon: You learn to live in the now!
  7. The Dragon Transcends: You start to live in harmony with the natural rhythm of your life, accepting things as they are.
  8. The self and the Dragon Transcended: You start to see who you really are, beyond that of the labels you have given yourself, like the onion you peel back the layers of false identity to find your true self.
  9. Reaching the Source: You reach the center of your being, your mental and spiritual conflicts finally come to and end.
  10. In the world: You learn how to allow your newly found inner-self and true nature become manifest in the world and share in the joy of what you have come to understand with others.

That last and final stage was where I was the day before my surgery, so close was I to reaching enlightenment I could feel the calmness of it all. I had accepted my fate, if I was not going to come back, that was going to be ok. Alas coming out of the surgery was a different story. Quickly my ego stepped into high gear and pulled me back down to somewhere between 4 and 5. But that happens, and it’s ok! This may happen to you too, and it may happen a few times, and as long as we keep trying and never give up we have never truly failed in our journey!

 

Namaste!


Road to Shambhala (more than just a song)

There are many legends of a mystical place in Buddhist literature about Shambhala, although there have been several historical accounts of expeditions seeking this mythical kingdom, no one has yet to glimpse where it could be. What is Shambhala?  Shambhala is the place where special spiritual teachings are kept and where the forces that will overcome these invaders will emerge. In a sense, it’s a pure realm; but it’s a pure realm within the human realm. The people who live there are humans; they’re not something beyond the human level. But the question is: Is it actually a physical place that you could actually go to? And if we look in the Buddhist version of the history, nobody ever got there who tried to get there, and so the conclusion that most people come to is that it is some sort of spiritual realm rather than an actual physical location on this planet. Perhaps, just perhaps Shambhala is Nirvana.

How do we reach Nirvana, by becoming enlightened of course, but how do we go about doing that?

First we should define enlightenment. Let us say for the sake of this lesson there are two main characteristics of the human mind along a continuum.  On one end of the scale we have “psychotic” which are people who have lost touch with consensual reality and live in a world of their own.  At the other end of the continuum we have individuals we refer to as “enlightened”.  Fully enlightened beings have perfect mental health and experience a profound sense of well-being.  They have resolved all the issues of their past, have no fears for the future, and are living their lives in the present moment. Pretty much the majority of us, myself included, fall somewhere along the middle of this continuum trying to find ways to reach the goal of inner peace.

But how do we get there? By simply training the mind, over time, much like an athlete trains their body, there is no magical moment of awakening, it is simply a gradual process over time.

In the next blog I shall go more in depth the path one takes to train the mind towards inner peace and enlightenment.


Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Denounces The Dalai Lama

ghanasaraMaybe this isn’t truly something that should be posted here, or maybe it is a good example of how even our leaders can stumble when it comes to the Dharma, however this has weighed on my mind all week.

Last Tuesday, a Sri Lankan Buddhist monk leading an anti-Muslim campaign has accused the Dalai Lama of being influenced by “Muslim extremists” and said the Tibetan spiritual leader could not be accepted as a world Buddhist leader.

Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, the secretary general of the Sri Lankan Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), spoke out on Tuesday after the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader called on monks in Myanmar and Sri Lanka to end violence towards Muslims in their countries.

Clashes broke out in two Sri Lankan towns with large Muslim populations in June during a BBS-led protest.

Reacting to the Dalai Lama’s comments made in India, Gnanasara told reporters: “Like Pope for Christians, he is considered as the leader for all Buddhists by the West. But we don’t accept him as the leader of the Buddhists.”

Although I do not know the full situation that goes on in Sri Lanka, I do know the Dalai Lama and his heart.  When he asked Buddhists in Sri Lanka to end the violence against Muslims in the country he was within the teachings of the Dharma and the Buddha, and this was the motivation behind his bequest.

“These are the four resolves: the resolve for wisdom, the resolve for truth, the resolve for generosity, and the resolve for peace. One should not neglect wisdom, should preserve truth, should cultivate generosity, and should train in peace.” — Buddha

~

“To kill a living being means to inflict upon him the greatest of all sufferings or evils, for inasmuch as life is the greatest good, so the greatest suffering, or the greatest evil, that can befall one, is to be deprived of life.” – Sangharakshita, The Ten Pillars of Buddhism.

~

All
tremble at the rod,
all
are fearful of death.
Drawing the parallel to
yourself,
neither kill nor get others to kill.
All
tremble at the rod,
all
hold their life dear.
Drawing the parallel to
yourself,
neither kill nor get others to kill.

Whoever takes a rod
to harm living beings desiring ease,
when he himself is looking for ease,
will meet with no ease after death.

Whoever doesn’t take a rod
to harm living beings desiring ease,
when he himself is looking for ease,
will meet with ease after death.

Speak harshly to no one,
or the words will be thrown
right back at you.
Contentious talk is painful,
for you get struck by rods in return.

If, like a flattened metal pot
you don’t resound,
you’ve attained an Unbinding;
in you there’s found
no contention.

[Dhammapada 129-134]

If I could get Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara a message it would be this: “Stop it sir! you have let your ego blind you, and turn you away from the middle way. Your behaviour borders on that of a child, now go apologize to His Holiness, it does not matter if you think he is the leader of all Buddhists, all who follow Buddhism already know this. What you have done is unbecoming of a spiritual leader now march mister!”

Maybe it is just the dad in me, who knows!

Namaste


Dealing with Divorce

broken heartSeems to be the season for it, oddly enough I did not think there would be a season for divorce, but perhaps that is the hopeless romantic in me. Seeing dear friends dealing with going through divorce makes my heart go out to them being a product of a broken home as well as going through my own broken marriage. These events have inspired me to ponder and research, what are the views on marriage and divorce when it comes to Buddhist teachings and how can we deal with the pains of divorce.

Firstly let us look at Marriage according to Buddhism. Buddhism takes a quite liberal view when it comes to marriage, there are no laws or rules when it comes to marriage, nothing to prohibit one from being married, and nothing that says you must be a bachelor either. The concept of Marriage in Buddhism is a construct of man, a contract between individuals to co-habitate with one another as a family. Despite what other religions may believe, or what Disney tries to sell us, marriage is a social convention, an institution created by man for the well-being and happiness of man (in the board term not the gender term), to differentiate human society from animal life and to maintain order and harmony in the process of procreation. While an enlightened more evolved view of procreation than that of the animal kingdom it is not a holly sacrament.

Separation or divorce is not prohibited in Buddhism though the necessity would scarcely arise if the Buddha’s injunctions were strictly followed. Men and women must have the liberty to separate if they really cannot agree with each other. Separation is preferable to avoid miserable family life for a long period of time. The Buddha further advises old men not to have young wives as the old and young are unlikely to be compatible, which can create undue problems, disharmony and downfall.

How can we deal with divorce? It is a very emotionally charged time in our lives but what can we do to ease our suffering? Firstly and I cannot stress this enough, one should never look at divorce as one failed, no one is the “bad guy”, merely that like all things this has fallen into impermanence, and what was a journey for more than one person for a while has once more become a solitary adventure!

When divorce strikes, the past, present, and future are all changed and can even be distorted. Everything you thought you knew to be true is now in question, any plans you may have made will now have to change, our image of the future has now become distorted. In the face of this change you may find yourself trying to grasp at what you know and once had, trying to rekindle who you were before getting married, your previous identity. but according to the Buddha these attachments create suffering. Learning to release your attachments to any particular outcomes in the past, present, or future will lead to a more peaceful existence.

Here are some of the Buddha’s teachings that may help you through your time of strife and turmoil.

Compassion
The Buddha recognizes that while it might be relatively easy to generate compassion for friends and loved ones, it is extremely difficult to have compassion for someone we dislike, especially if we feel betrayed. While the tendency might be to avoid this person (most likely an ex), the Buddha would see this person as the heart of his spiritual practice, a challenge to develop positive qualities, they can be our greatest teacher. Compassion can be seen as the inverse of anger; it keeps the heart open when it wants to close off with fear or even hate. Compassion is fostered by remaining connected, no matter how painful it may be. Maintaining compassion through divorce is a feat, but it will ensure that your loving nature remains intact.

“Pain is inevitable in life, but suffering is optional.” —The Buddha

Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the capacity to remain in the present moment. Like in all things you will want to meditate, although this will seem very difficult when so many thoughts are going through your head, finding a center in the storm will help focus you and keep you from doing or saying things you may regret later. Stepping back like you were a third party observer of events provides the greatest opportunity for acting with complete integrity and honour.

Impermanence
In Buddhism, impermanence is referred to as Anicca— the truth of impermanence. It is the belief that all of our experiences are constantly changing, and that nothing is permanent, not even marriage or the feelings one has when you first stepped into the contract. One of the greatest causes of pain during divorce is the feeling that things will never be the same, but the positive side of that statement is also true, while the marriage was also impermanent the pain and sorrow, the loss you feel is also impermanent.

If all parties feel that the relationship has reached the point to where there is no way to repair it, I would recommend considering a legal separation, after all you wouldn’t want to regret doing something permanent just because you are temporarily out of sorts, some time apart may do some good, or it may only strengthen the notion that things truly are over.

Finally do not be to quick to date again, you may find some people will come out of the woodwork as it were, saying how sorry they are that you are going through so much pain but how they have thought how the person you were with was not right for you, and how it would have been different if it were them. If these people have your true feelings in mind, if they are thinking of you instead of the fantasy they have worked up in their heads they will be willing to wait for you to heal, For you to discover who you are outside your identity of the married you, and for you to learn from any mistakes so you can start anew with your best foot forward.

“The past will let go of you if you let go of the past.”
― Timber Hawkeye, Buddhist Boot Camp

Namaste!


Be the crazy

smileys_by_zahw Timber Hawkeye, author of The Buddhist Boot Camp, posted something to his Facebook profile the other day that got the creative juices flowing for this Blog.

The quote goes as follows: “No one can drive you crazy unless you give them the keys.” My comment on the matter was a saying I have used quite often “No one can drive you crazy if you are already there.” This was a response I would always tell my mother when she would claim we were driving her crazy, to state simply we could not drive her crazy, she already was!

Let’s think on that for a moment however, first I know it is a commentary on not allowing people to take control over your emotions, I have always been an advocate of not allowing unworthy people that much control over one’s life. When I thought on my own however it sent me in a new tangent. What if crazy was just who we are, what if crazy is the person we hide beneath our masks to make us seem normal, to have us fit in!

Perhaps it would be easier to maintain control, maintain the ability to not let people disrupt our chi as it were, if we were more ready and willing to show off who we really are. So if you are a little odd or strange deep down, if you want to wear neon stripped socks under your business suit, own it, own your crazy!

Namaste


A Sang-what?

A Sangha!
world-classrooomAlthough it tickles my fancy to consider myself as the “Monk without a ‘Master'” I would not go as far as to say that I do not have a Sangha.

But what is a Sangha, A Sangha (Pali: सङ्घ saṅgha; Sanskrit: संघ saṃgha; Chinese: 僧伽; pinyin: Sēngjiā; Tibetan: དགེ་འདུན་ dge ‘dun) is a word in Pali and Sanskrit meaning “association”, “assembly,” “company” or “community” and most commonly refers in Buddhism to the monastic community of ordained Buddhist monks or nuns. This community is traditionally referred to as the bhikkhu-sangha or bhikkhuni-sangha. As a separate category, those who have attained any of the four stages of enlightenment, whether or not they are members of the bhikkhu-sangha or bhikkhuni-sangha, are referred to as the ariya-sangha or “noble Sangha”.

The Sangha also includes laymen and laywomen who are personally dedicated to the discipline of Dharma-Vinaya. This use of the word “Sangha” is only sometimes found in the Pali texts.

My view is an even broader term. Each person in our Sangha is someone we are supposed to seek refuge under, for help and guidance. My view is much like that of Craig Harper who said “The world is my classroom, each day a new lesson, and every person I meet is my teacher.” the guidance I find is in the world, whether the lessons are good or bad is dependant on judgement, instead I see them is what to do and what not to do based on Karmic results, and try my best to keep my emotions and judgements free and out of the situations I face. So I encourage each of you, step out into your Sangha, care for it, nurture it, and learn from it. Together we can enlighten the world.


The Meaning of Life?

cimg2984It is my belief that there is no one answer to that question.  The truth to the answer is codependent on the person asking the question.  As The Buddha said “Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.”  Each of us finds our own meaning, our own purpose and mission in life.  How do we find out what that is? By Simply asking ourselves these questions and doing our best to meditate on them and answering them as honestly as possible.

 

 

 

 

  1. What are your talents?
  2. What are you passionate about (some times our passions are different from our talents)
  3. What would you like to change in the world? (be the change!)
  4. Combine your answers to articulate your positive purpose (how can you use 1 and 2 to make 3 happen?)
  5. Think and talk about your purpose (share your goals earnestly and concisely with friends and family, impress upon them the importance of your goal in your life, they will always be your greatest supporters)

Remember to be flexible, do not become too attached to your plan of action or suffering may arise.  Following these can lead you to realizing dreams, and set you on the path to following the 8 fold path when it comes to Right Livelihood.

Namaste


No suffering?

treewomanSome might believe that when you reach enlightenment you gain a peace mind and a cessation of suffering, nope, not quite!  Actually once you reach supreme enlightenment you are who you were before, but rather awakened.  You still feel happy, sad, and frustrated, but when you do feel those emotions you do not become attached to them. Right now, like me you are probably prone to getting lost into your own emotions.  If you suffer the loss of a family member you grieve greatly for it, if you suffer an unexpected break up in a relationship it can be devastating. But when you have reached enlightenment you still feel those emotions but you do not let them control you, instead you control them to the point to where you can acknowledge them, accept them, then send them on their way.

The end of suffering comes once you have reached enlightenment then pass away from this world, leaving behind the laws of karma and finally reach Nirvana.

 

“I gained nothing at all from Supreme Enlightenment, and for that very reason it is called Supreme Enlightenment.” -Buddha