Posted by: Upāsaka | 04/23/2014

Return

Transitions are always challenging in terms of maintaining my formal practice and this homecoming was no different. We got back to our apartment at 1:30am and I had to be up and out the door for work by 8am. I tried to plan for a formal sit so I woke up around 6:30am but my daughter came looking for breakfast about a half an hour later. So, I pretty much figured practice for the day was shot.

As I made my way through the day I was able to catch a few breaths here and there and to reflect on compassion for the passersby on the trains and sidewalks of my commute. Work passed by in a heedless, sleep-deprived blur and my return commute to pick up the cat from our friend’s apartment seemed to pass as if in a dream. Finally, after making dinner and going through the rites and rituals of bedtime I fell asleep with the kids.

That may have been all had I not woken up to find my wife still away at an appointment but I was fortunate enough to have a strong impulse to sit, if only for ten minutes and feel the breath. After the first sit I felt inspired to sit and reflect on the equality between myself and a person in my life who has been causing me consternation for another ten minutes with surprisingly good results. Funny how the practice works isn’t it.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 04/21/2014

Appreciating One’s Circumstance

Flying home tonight and, as usual, there is the attendant anxiety about flying along with a desire to get back into the thick of it and “fix” all of the problems that have occurred in my absence. I have taken the opportunity to practice more since I have been here and am grateful for that. I am also grateful for having been able to see my children enjoy themselves. And, yet, there is a sense of dissatisfaction and dis-ease that hangs over all of it. How does one avert to contentment and reflect on the preciousness of one’s circumstance in such a situation? How do I begin to be at home in any moment rather than always readying myself to jump to the next branch?

Posted by: Upāsaka | 04/20/2014

Buddha Vacana ~ Removing Blemishes from the Mind

110. One may not be skilled in the habit of other’s thoughts but at least one can make this resolve: “I will be skilled in the habit of my own thoughts.” This is how you should train yourself, and this is how it is done. A woman, a man or a youth fond of self-adornment, examining his reflection in a bright, clear mirror or a bowl of clear water might see a blemish or pimple and try to remove it. And when he no longer sees it there, he is pleased and satisfied and thinks: “It is an advantage to be clean.”
In the same way, one’s introspection is most fruitful in good states when one thinks: “Am I usually greedy or hateful, overcome by sloth and torpor, with excited mind or filled with doubt or anger, or am I not? Do I usually live with soiled thoughts, or clean thoughts? With body passionate or not, sluggish or full of energy, uncontrolled or well controlled?”
If on self-examination one finds that he does live with these evil unprofitable states, then he must put forth extra desire, effort, endeavour, exertion, energy, awareness and attention to abandon them.
And if on self-examination he finds that he does not live with the evil unprofitable states, he should make an effort to establish those profitable states and further destroy the defilements.

Anguttara Nikaya V.91

May we purify our minds and begin anew on this Easter Sunday!

Posted by: Upāsaka | 04/19/2014

Suffering in Relationship

Is it possible to return time and again to the fundamental truth that our partners, children, parents want happiness and do not want suffering and thereby recalibrate our aversive reactivity? Is it possible to reflect on their kindness in the midst of an inferno of anger and resentment? Can we remember that all of the difficult beings we encounter have been our mothers and cared for us when no one else would?

It seems to me that we can from the limited experience I have with these reflections and, despite still being a worldling who constantly falls short of my aims, I have found that I am ever more able to return from the brink of despair more quickly and with a less turbid heart. They say the truth of a teaching is to be measured by its ability to purify the mind and heart and it seems that these teachings are true enough judging by the changes I have been experiencing. May we all work to end suffering wherever it may be found.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 04/18/2014

Testing My Practice

Family life can be hard; so hard in fact that the Buddha advised serious practitioners of the Dhamma to leave the home life and take up the life of a wandering mendicant. And yet, for myself at least, the life of a householder seems to offer up ample opportunity for me to practice the perfections. Still, all is not as rosy as it sounds and I have been struggling at times to keep my cool but there really is no better gauge of my progress in the Dhamma.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 04/17/2014

Open Awareness

The type of meditation that I have encountered and been taught in various Zen and Tibetan lineages seems to me to be fundamentally different than the type of meditation taught in the Thai Forest tradition with which I have the most familiarity. Still, as I continue to explore other ways to open my heart and increase my heedfulness in daily life I am coming to appreciate not only the limits of such techniques but their benefits as well. it is s yet too early for me to comment intelligently on shine of the the Kagyu traditon or the shikantaza of Soto Zen but it certainly seems that my exploration of these approaches has increased my own zeal for and renewed my interst in the Dhamma which is certainly a good thing.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 04/16/2014

Rejoicing in the Happiness of Others

Mudita, or sympathetic joy, has always been the hardest of the brahma viharas for me to understand let alone practice. However, as a result of the practices outlined in the book a Truthful Heart, I have found a way in. Simply by averting to the fact that I often meet the good fortune of others with a sour heart I have been able to become sensitive to the possibility of mudita, of rejoicing in the happiness of others.

This vacation has provided me with ample opportunity to dwell on the happiness of those closest to me: my children. What a surprise it is to realize how hard-hearted I have been even to them and how little I have rejoiced in their happiness. And why? No idea really but I do know that this is where my work is to be done and that if I am unable to really feel mudita for those who are closest to me it is a joke to even pretend I can extend to anyone else. If nothing else I know now where to begin and this is no small victory.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 04/14/2014

Buddha Vacana ~ Vacation Dhamma

104. There are these six dangers associated with idleness. Thinking: “It’s too cold,” one does not work. Thinking: “It’s too hot,” one does not work. Thinking: “It’s too early,” one does not work. Thinking: “It’s too late,” one does not work. Thinking: “I am too hungry,” one does not work. Thinking: “I am too full,” one does not work.

Digha Nikaya III.184

I must admit that being on vacation in a place like Jamaica makes it rather difficult to maintain a clear focus on the Dhamma but I found today’s verses particularly helpful. May they be as equally helpful to you.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 04/12/2014

A Truthful Heart

I have been reading a book by Jeffrey Hopkins which focuses on the heart practices of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism and have been thoroughly impressed with the presentation and effectiveness of them. In so many ways nothing truly new or different has been added by Hopkins but the emphasis on generating the feelings of metta, karuna and mudita are such that it seems like a new practice altogether.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 04/11/2014

Patience and Compassion

101. One’s patience should be strengthened by thinking: “Those who have no patience are afflicted in this world and do actions that lead to affliction in the next life.”
One should think: “Although this suffering arises because of the wrong deeds of others, my body is the field for that suffering, and the actions which brought it into being are mine.”
One should think: “If there were no wrongdoers, how could I bring patience to perfection?”
One should think: “Although he is a wrongdoer now, in the past he may have been my benefactor.”
One should think: “A wrongdoer is at the same time a benefactor because through him patience can be practised.”
One should think: “All beings are like my own children and who would get angry over the misdeeds of one’s own children?”
One should think: “He does me wrong because of some fault in myself; I should strive to remove this.”

Cariyapitaka Atthakata 290

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