Posted by: Upāsaka | 10/01/2014

Judgement

In the last week we have discovered that one of our in-laws has recently started to carry on extra-marital affairs both as a way to assuage their pain and to make an exit from the relationship. It has been messy and hurtful and the rest of the family has been hooked in and asked for opens and advice from the betrayed party. I can’t tell if the worst part is that there are children involved or that the cheater has shown no remorse or understanding of the damage they have done. And yet, is it really up to me to judge?

Clearly I would not now do such a thing as the pain and suffering for everyone would be too much to bear but in my youth I was a faithless cheater and womanizer. I have no high ground on which to stand so it’s best if I immediately eschew such thinking. At best I can remind myself of the fact that the cheater wants happiness, not suffering and just how mistaken they are in their approach. May all beings be free of pain and suffering.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 10/01/2014

Wrong Livelihood | Abhaya-cariya

The training rule to refrain from wrong livelihood has given me much to consider over the years since I began to practice more seriously. In essence, this prefept is nothing more than the expression of the five basic precepts in a work environment. Don’t butcher, don’t steal, don’t facilitate sexual misconduct, don’t lie and don’t sell intoxicants. And while the list may seem simple at first (I’m not going to start pimping any time soon) it’s never as clear as it appears.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/29/2014

Reset

My visit to my father’s had the consequence of completely throwing me off of my normal rhythm and, whereas some people thrive on spontaneity, I am not one of them. Still it is always interesting and informative to see just how quickly the imprints of one’s practice fade away when the supporting conditions are removed. In my case I lapse very quickly into irritation and anger although there were a number of small but surprising victories that serve as proof that my efforts are not all in vain.

One thing that I took away from the difficult days at my father’s was the benefit of spending all or part of a sesson cultivating the brahmaviharas for one person in particular and allowing oneself to be guided by the heart in formulating the particular practice rather than a flow chart in the mind. I believe I have made mention of this before but I find the opening so natural and the results so good that I believe I will try to make this a regular part of my practice from now on.

So, now that I have returned le me make the most of these precious conditions to mold the heart into the shape of wisdom before it’s too late.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/26/2014

My Father

We’re visiting my father for the weekend and, as is the case for most of us, these visits are often fraught with emotional peril and dissonance. My relationship with my father has never been particularly close or warm but I long ago cried that one out and came to terms with it. However, for the last decade and a half I have watched my father’s health steadily decline while his choices and behaviors have gotten progressively worse. So it is that when we come to visit his house he spends most of the day chain-smoking and, once cocktail hour arrives, downing vodkas on the rocks despite the fact that he is a man with heart problems and who is slowly going blind.

I’m not sure what the “appropriate” reaction might be but I am always filled with a sense of despair and my heart breaks for what must be a lonely  and misery-filled existence. So, this morning, I woke as he was going to bed and spent a half an hour in meditation contemplating his suffering and radiating metta and karuna to him. I was amazed by how quickly my heart opened and at the intensity of the feelings of love and sympathy but maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by the strength of one’s love for one’s parents.

So, what’s the point of all this? Why document this? I’m not sure, really. Initially I wanted to say that, despite my own perception of the situation, it is quite possible that my father isn’t suffering as much as I think he is; that I can’t know his thoughts and feelings with certainty so perhaps I’m painting a darker picture than is necessary. But, I don’t quite feel that way anymore. Still, I am powerless to do much more than send metta and karuna and to let him know, in whatever ways are possible, that he isn’t alone and here are people who love him.

May my parents receive the merits of my practice, may the devas protect them and may the always meet with the teachings of the Buddhas in this and all subsequent lives.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/25/2014

Free of Intoxicants | Abhaya-cariya

I undertake the training rule to refrain from drink and drugs which cloud the mind.

There was a time when I would have scoffed at even the mere idea of refraining from intoxicants. Even after I had been introduced to the Dharma (it was the Bodhicaryavatara that truly put the hooks into me in the beginning) I kept on for years drinking and drugging simply because the pain was so great and my faith, though growing, was yet small. But were it not for the Dhamma I am sure I would be dead or in prison now. Sila saved my life.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/23/2014

Not Raising One’s Voice | Abhaya-cariya

I undertake the training rule never to raise my voice in anger or irritation.

I specifically added this rule to the list because I found it to be something I was conditioned to do. For whatever reason my kamma is such that I resort to screaming when I find my children aren’t doing what they’re supposed to. Not only does this not work very well but it also paves the way for worse things.

So if I am able to become aware of what I’m doing before it’s too late I can short circuit the whole chain of events. Funny how in taking care of oneself one takes care of all others.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/22/2014

Using Good Words | Abhaya-cariya

I undertake the training rule to never disparage or deride but to use my words only to encourage and uplift.

Sometimes I feel as if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew with the formulation of these rules but then again the point really is to stretch myself. If these rules were so easy to follow there wouldn’t be any development of character so even in failing there is yet much gained.

So how often my words encouraging and uplifting? How often are they negative and derisive? I can think of forms of recent examples of the former and not even one occasion when my words uplifted or encouraged. May I take my life,  speech and actions seriously looking that my barbed words will act as hooks dragging me down to hell.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/21/2014

Giving One’s Word | Abhaya-cariya

I undertake the training rule to regard my word as a sacred oath; not to give it lightly but, once given, strive to honor it under all circumstances.

In my almost 40 years of life I feel that my track record of holding to my word is, at best, shoddy. I have always been good at keeping my word when it has come to work obligations but when it has come to things like calling friends or meeting up…well, let’s just say I have been known to flake out.  Why this is I’m not certain but it seems that, when money is not involved, I let things slide even though it is these relationships that should take primacy.

As such, I will undertake to honor my word when it is given and refrain from giving it when I do not feel capable of following through. May I watch my speech closely and may I train my moth, heart and mind n line with the Dhamma.

 

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/19/2014

Idle Chatter | Abhaya-cariya

I undertake the training rule to refrain from useless or meaningless conversation.

When it comes right down to it I have to admit that almost everything I say could be considered idle chatter. Nowhere is this more true than at work where I feel the need to be the funny man, offering commentary on everything and everyone. This is likely exacerbated by the fact that I’m boss so rather than being put in my place I meet with laughter and approval.

In some ways I feel that I am perhaps being a bit harsh but that is really the crux of it isn’t it? When it comes down to it I just don’t know the impact I’m having on others so tbe smartest thing to do may just be to keep my trap shut except when necessary.

Which brings me to my final worry: even if I am strong enough to keep a lid on useless speech won’t I alienate everyone by not engaging in my usual, “friendly” banter? I have an inkling that if I could just practice all of these training rules regarding speech that wouldn’t be a problem at all since what words I did say would be pleasing to the ear and useful. May I redouble my efforts and learn to train my mind through my mouth.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/18/2014

Avoiding Harsh Speech | Abhaya-cariya

I undertake the training rule to refrain from using harsh or abusive speech.

I still feel somewhat shaken from yesterday’s bout of rage but it serves as a great teaching for me about the true danger of anger. It had become crystal clear that once the genie is out of the bottle it is difficult to put it back. Worse yet, until it is reigned in, it contaminates every perception, every thought. May I keep a closer watch on the mind and not allow it to tread that path again.

In a very real way, refraining from harsh and abusive speech addresses the same concern albeit on a more surface level.

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