Posted by: Upāsaka | 07/23/2014

Unchallenged Aversion

Over the past few months I have noticed that my practice has skewed much more towards the brahmaviharas and in a very specific way. Perhaps as a result of the influence of the book by Jeffrey Hopkins I read (A Truthful Heart) the technique I used to cultivate th brahmaviharas changed from one which used metta as the key and progressed through groups of people to one which used karuna for a specific person a way to gain entry. It really seems to me that Hopkins’ admonition to use one’s imagination to visualize compassion inducing situations is what caused the shift in my own approach.

Although I am having difficulty articulating it, I feel that my method has changed fundamentally from a hammer only approach (that is, a one technique only method) to one where I will use whatever tools are necessary to open the door of my heart. I think an example is really the best way to explain what I mean.

This morning, after reiting the refuges and precepts before my altar, I sat down and readied myself for meditation. As always I made a quick check with myself to clarify my intention and, as I had decided to cultivate the heart, I posed a silent question to myself asking if there was any ill will towards anyone in the heart or mind. Not surprisingly there was and so I set my timer and began.

For whatever reason the usual method wasn’t working to elicit a ender heart so even though I could see the truth that this person wanted happiness and not suffering just like myself it was as if I were a block of wood. My next thought was to try to imagine hellish situations that the person could find themself in as a key. This worked somewhat but I was concerned that there was some small part of myself relishing the suffering I imagined. At this I saw that I was holding onto the aversion and to let it go I would need to forgive and so I spent the next while offering forgiveness to the person, to myself and the reflecting on my wish to be free from aversion.

And that was the key. Forgiveness was the key that opened my heart on this day and allowed the warnth and tenderness of metta and karuna to flow forth. Is it always this way? No, not always but by experimenting and not allowing ill-will to inhabit my mind unchallenged I am finding my days much easier and my heart much lighter. May you be happy!

Posted by: Upāsaka | 07/23/2014

Gradual Realization

203. Just as the great ocean slopes away gradually, tends downwards gradually without any abrupt precipice, even so this Dhamma and discipline is a gradual doing, a gradual training, a gradual practice; there is no sudden penetration of knowledge.

Udana 54

Posted by: Upāsaka | 07/21/2014

The Inevitable

Worry. Worry about business. Finances. Family. Worry about the myriad things that occupy our minds day in and day out that strips us of peace of mind and weakens us in the face of adversity. This is where I find myself today but I am wise to its tricks even if that simple recognition only slightly modulates its intensity. What does help in times like this is to contextualize the worry by recalling that it doesn’t exist in a vacuum and that it won’t last forever. Specifically, the recollection of death, my own death, helps to take the sting out of gain and loss and reorients me to the Dhamma. Success in business may not be within my control but my actions here and now are (largely).

Recollecting death and the other reflections is not a panacea but surely it keeps one focused on what wil lead tot he end of suffering. Yes, this life is difficult and tied up with suffering but how much more so would it be without the light of the Dhamma?    

Posted by: Upāsaka | 07/20/2014

Don’t Give Up

201. I have learned two things: not to be content with good states one has already developed, and not to give up trying. Without giving up, I keep trying and think: “Gladly would I have my skin, bones and sinews wither and my flesh and blood dry up, if only I can struggle until I win that which can be won by human effort.” It was by earnest endeavour that I won enlightenment and the highest freedom from bonds.

Anguttara Nikaya I.49

I have been feling somewhat down and dejected lately because I haven’t been living up to my expectations for practicing while my family is away. When I firat conceived of the summer Dharma tour I seem to have forgotten that most of my time alone was smack in the middle of Ramadhan which leaves me often without much energy for practices after work. I feel lke I have been hard on myself but, then again, the Lord Buddha didn’t go give himself too much slack either and he definitely didn’t give up. So, regardless of whether I’m being too hard on myself or not enough I can at least make the resolve not to quit and to practice everyday in whatever way I can.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 07/19/2014

The Perfect Mate

200. Once, while the Lord was staying among the Bhaggis on the Crocodile Hill in the Deer Park at Bhesakala Grove, the good man Nakulapita lay sick, ailing and grievously ill. And his wife Nakulamata said to him: “I beg you, good man, do not die worried, for the Lord has said that fate of the worried is not good. Maybe you think: ‘Alas, when I am gone, my wife will be unable to support the children or keep the household together.’ But do not think like that, for I am skilled in spinning cotton and carding wool, and I will manage to support the children and keep the household together after you are gone.”
“Or maybe you think: ‘My wife will take another husband after I am gone.’ But do not think like that, for you and I know that for sixteen years we have lived as householders in the holy life.
“Or maybe you think: ‘My wife, after I am gone, will have no desire to see the Lord or to see the monks.’ But do not think like that, for my desire to see them shall be even greater.
“Or maybe you think: ‘My wife will not keep the virtues in full.’ But do not think like that, for as long as the Lord has female disciples dressed in white, living at home and keeping the virtues in full, I shall be one. And if any doubt it, let them ask the Lord.
“Or maybe you think: ‘After I am gone, my wife will not have a calm mind.’ But do not think like that, for as long as the Lord has female disciples dressed in white, living at home, who gain that state, I shall be one. And if any doubt it, let them ask the Lord.
“Or maybe you think: ‘My wife will not win a firm foundation, a firm foothold in this Dhamma and discipline. She will not win comfort, dissolve doubt, be free from uncertainty, become confident, self-reliant, and live by the Teacher’s words.’ But do not think like that, either. For as long as the Lord has female disciples dressed in white, living at home, who win a firm foundation, a firm foothold, who have won comfort, dissolved doubt, who are free from uncertainty, who have become confident, self-reliant and live by the Teacher’s words, I shall be one. And if any doubt it, let them go and ask the Lord.”
Now, while Nakulapita was being counselled thus by his wife, even as he lay there his sickness subsided and he recovered. And not long after, he got up, and leaning on a stick, Nakulapita went to visit the Lord and told him what had happened. And the Lord said: “It has been a gain; you have greatly gained from having Nakulamata as your counsellor and teacher, full of compassion for you, and desiring your welfare.

Anguttara Nikaya III.295

I had intended to write about something else altogether this morning but when I read these words I couldn’t help but share. May we all seek to transform our marriages and relationships into Dhamma practice and thereby truly honor the ones we love.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 07/18/2014

Metta and Karuna

199. The noble quality of love should be thought about thus: “One concerned only with his own welfare, without concern for the welfare of others, cannot achieve success in this world or happiness in the next.
How then can one wishing to help all beings but not having loved himself succeed in attaining Nirvana? And if you wish to lead all beings to the supramundane state of Nirvana, you should begin by wishing for their mundane welfare here and now.”
One should think: “I cannot provide for the welfare and happiness of others merely by wishing it. Let me make an effort to accomplish it.” One should think: “Now I support them by promoting their welfare and happiness, and later they will be my companions in sharing the Dhamma.”
Then one should think: “Without these beings, I could not accumulate the requisites of enlightenment. Because they are the reason for practising and perfecting all the Buddha-qualities, these beings are for me the highest field of merit, the incomparable basis for planting wholesome roots, and thus the ultimate object of reverence.” So one should arouse an especially strong inclination towards promoting the welfare of all beings.
And why should love be developed towards all beings? Because it is the foundation of compassion. For when one delights in providing for the welfare and happiness of other beings with an unbounded heart, the desire to remove their afflictions and suffering becomes strongly and firmly established. And compassion is the pre-eminent quality in Buddhahood; it is its basis, its foundation, its root, its head and its chief.

Cariyapitaka Atthakata 292

Posted by: Upāsaka | 07/17/2014

Moods

Last night and, in fact, most of yesterday I found myself at the lowest point I have been at in some time. I cannot be completely certain but I believe much of it may have had a physiological cause because my mood brightened considerably and my energy level shot up as soon as I had broken fast. Why, then, do I insist on going forward with this fast especially when my observance is always incomplete (i.e., it’s missing the key component of salat)? I’m honestly not too sure how to answer that but I believe it has something to do with wanting to finish what I have started and not to let my moods and whims determine my course. And yet I will be gla d when Ramadhan ends.

For now I suppose I need to make peace with the situation and realize that, having made certain decisions in my past there is now no easy, feel-good way out. This is, I believe, what they call kamma.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 07/16/2014

Despair

Today has been quite rough; probably the hardest since Ramadhan began in fact. I have next to no energy and I cannkt seem to bring light into the mind. I have found myself wishing for Eid to come and have been particularly down on myself for it and for my myriad other failings. At least there is the comfort of anicca if nothing else.   

Posted by: Upāsaka | 07/15/2014

Petionary Prayers

Let me begin by saying that I realize just how strange the title of this post may seem on a Buddhist blog (especially one with an overtly Theravadin bent). Yet, that is the least of my concerns today. For a variety of reasons I feel the need to speak about a subject that I have shied away away from explicitly discussing due to my own sense of shame and the idea that a good Buddhist or spiritual practicioner should have already dealt with these particular demons. Oh, and the fact that my mother reads this blog. Sorry mom but you now have fair warning.

Dithering aside, the topic of today’s post is lust. This is an epecially thorny topic for a married, precept observing Buddhist male but I imagine it is pretty much the same foe anyone of any gender attempting to live a life of purity and restraint. When I was young and first began to dabble with sex I developed some very bad habits. Promiscuity, infidelity and all manner of unskillful sexual escapades that, even if they didn’t violate the third prece t (kamesu micchacara) left indelible, unwholesome kammic imprints on this personality.

Suffice it to say that I have come a long way (I will leave out the especially sordid and depraved details of college debauchery simply because I am so ashamed and I see no reason to include them here) and have been a faithful husband for almost a decade. And yet there is the pull of the feminine form, present in vivo and in every conceivable form of media that seems constantly to call to my animal nature. I have tried var up us techniques such as asubha contemplation and the recollection of death with so e success but at times I almost feel as if I will lose my gril and slip under. Obviously with my family away for so long I am in an especially vulnerable position. So we come tot the title of today’s post.

This morning as I meditated all manner of horrifying sexual imagery kept arising and, even though I was resolute and kept at it, the thoughts still didn’t abate as I showered and got ready. As I left the building, mind ztill aflame, my hand caught hold of my wrist mala and I began to internally repeat “May I be delivered from lust” with each bead. Now, I won’t claim to have been so sophisticated that I was doing so with any esoteric interpretation of my activity. At first this was not a case of skillful means but was truly a call for help. And yet as I continued I began to feel that repeating the words helped to formulate and reaffirm my intention to wok to be free of lust even if no one else could deliver me.

I would love to hear from companions on the path how you deal with this aspect of your life or if it is an issue at all. Feel free to email me if you don’t feel ckmfortable replying to the post (I mean, it has taken me forever to even write this). Thank you all for your kindness and support over the years and may we all put an end to suffering.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 07/14/2014

Faith and the Attainment of Truth

240. Bharadvaja asked the Lord: “What, good Gotama, is of great help in the attainment of truth? We are asking about the thing that is of great help in the attaining of truth.”
“Striving, Bharadvaja, is of great help in the attainment of truth, for if one did not strive one would not attain truth. But if one did strive one would attain truth.”
“But what is of great help to striving?”
“Weighing things up is of great help in the attainment of striving, for if one did not weigh things up one would not strive. But if one did weigh things up one would strive.”
“But what is of great help in weighing things up?”
“Making an effort is of great help in weighing things up, for if one did not make an effort one would not weigh things up. But if one did make an effort one would weigh things up.”
“But what is of great help in making an effort?”
“Desire is of great help in making an effort, for if one did not desire one would not make an effort. But if one desire one would make an effort.”
“But what is of great help in generating desire?”
“Approving of things is of great help in generating desire, for if one did not approve of things one would not generate desire. But when one approves of things one generates desire.”
“But what is of great help in approving of things?”
“Testing the meaning is of great help in approving of things, for if one did not test the meaning one would not approve of things. But if one did test the meaning one would approve of things.”
“But what is of great help in testing the meaning?”
“Remembering the Dhamma is of great help in testing the meaning, for if one did not remember the Dhamma one could not test the meaning. But if one did remember the Dhamma one could test the meaning.”
“But what is of great help in remembering the Dhamma?”
“Hearing the Dhamma is of great help in remembering the Dhamma, for if one did not hear the Dhamma one could not remember it. But if one did hear one could remember the Dhamma.”
“But what is of great help in hearing the Dhamma?”
“Lending an ear is of great help in hearing the Dhamma. But if one did lend an ear one could hear the Dhamma.”
“But what is of great help in lending an ear?”
“Drawing close is of great help in lending an ear, for if one did not draw close one could not lend an ear. But if one did draw close one could lend an ear.”
“But what is of great help in drawing close?”
“Visiting is of great help in drawing close, for if one did not visit one could not draw close. But if one did visit one could draw close.”
“Then, what is of great help in visiting?”
“Faith is of great help in visiting, for if one did not have faith one would not visit. But if one did have faith one would visit.”

Majjhima Nikaya

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