Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/23/2016

Profound Knowledge

266. I do not say that the attainment of profound knowledge comes straight away; on the contrary, it comes by a gradual training, a gradual doing, a gradual practice.

Majjhima Nikaya I.479

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Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/22/2016

Better than Gratitude

I have always been drawn to spiritual admonishments to “Be grateful to everyone” and “Be grateful for everything” the like and still an to a large degree. But, when I break it down, it can sometimes seem hard to view everything that happens as a drop in the endless shower if blessings, especially in a universe that seems to be devoid of a creator.  Intuitively, I appreciate the advice but I’ve never been able to work with it well as a result of the cognitive dissonance.  

Reading the book by Thubten Zopa shut transforming adversity into the path has given me the idea that there may be a more useful way to approach life and its problems. By seeing problems as opportunities for training the heart it’s possible to view every suffering as a blessing. in fact, without problems it wouldn’t even be possible to practice the Perfections-which is another reason the Tibetans so often describe the deva-loka as realms to avoid being reborn in. 

So, it seems, appreciating the advantages of suffering and adversity is a much more powerful and authentic way of living in samsara. Obviously, to make the practice work one has to have the will and the presence of mind to extract the juice of wisdom from life’s bitter fruit but that’s why Right Effort is a factor of the Path. May we make the wine of liberation from the grapes of our suffering . 

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/21/2016

Dealing with Anger

The first step is to become aware when your mind is becoming disturbed, when you are feeling threatened or angry. As soon as anger begins to arise, you need to recognize it. Once you are aware of it, you then consciously and systematically recollect its shortcomings: Anger never brings the slightest benefit or happiness to you or to others; anger brings only harm, making you unhappy, disturbed, even vengeful and vicious. When you allow yourself to be controlled by anger, that anger deeply affects your mind; it leaves an imprint on your mind, and the next time you meet similar conditions, anger easily arises again out of habit. 

Transforming Problems into Happiness

Thubten Zopa

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/20/2016

Who Will Attain Enlightenment 

263. “If, with full comprehension, the good Gotama teaches Dhamma to his disciples for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and despair, for the ending of grief and dejection, for reaching the method, for the attaining of Nirvana, then will the whole world attain it, or half of it, or a third?”
At these words, the Lord was silent. Then Ananda thought: “This person must not be allowed to think that the Lord cannot answer this all-important question.” So Ananda said: “I will give you a simile. Imagine a walled town with strong foundations and towers and a single gate, and at that gate a watcher, shrewd and alert, who lets in known people and keeps out strangers. As he patrols the walls, he sees there is not a hole in the wall big enough for even a cat to slip through. And he would know that whatever creatures big or small enter or leave the town, they all do so by the gate. ”
“In the same way, as to that question of yours, that is not important to the Lord. What he says is this: whoever has escaped, is escaping or will escape from the world, they will do it by abandoning the five hindrances, those defilements of the mind that weaken wisdom; they will do it with mind well established in the four foundations of mindfulness, and by developing the seven factors of enlightenment.”

Anguttara Nikaya V.194

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Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/19/2016

Cherishing Others

1. May I always cherish all beings 

With the resolve to accomplish for them 

The highest good that is more precious

Than any wish-fulfilling jewel.

When I have been able to put this into practice the results have been outstanding. But, when I an overtaken by selfish desires, resentment and laziness it can seem almost impossible to cherish any one at all, let alone more than mysel. May I overcome my preoccupation with short term, sensual gains and devote myself wholly to the practice. 

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/17/2016

Abhaya-cariya Aspirations

Image result for abhaya

As some of you may know, I have a personal set of aspirations that I try to live up to in addition to the precepts. I’ve come to call them “abhaya-cariya” aspirations because my feeling is that, if I align my behavior with them,  I will have nothing to fear at death. So, working with them over the past few months I’ve pared them down to 12 to make daily recitation easier. Additionally, I’ve removed aspirations that didn’t seem to have a direct impact on my daily life.

So, without further ado, here is the latest revision:

  1. May I embrace failure fully and not shrink away from its teachings.
  2. May I practice moderation in eating, never eating to fullness and take only two meals a day.
  3. May I welcome adversity with joy, recognizing it as an unparalleled means for training the heart.
  4. May I give by my own hand once a day as a practice of generosity, renunciation and compassion.
  5. May I refrain from intentionally exposing myself to any media that inflame lust, hatred or delusion.
  6. May I practice humility and modesty, concealing my virtues and practices from others.
  7. May I seek out and wholeheartedly engage with situations and people that I find difficult and troublesome.
  8. May I give the credit and dedicate the merit to others for any good deed done.
  9. May I immediately forgive any harm done to me and ask forgiveness of those I have harmed.
  10. May I avoid even the appearance of impropriety, refraining from intentionally being alone with any person of the opposite sex who is not my partner.
  11. May I completely accept all criticism, knowing it is the result of my past kamma.
  12. May I not complain about or find fault with any situation or person.
Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/15/2016

Fear of Want

From time to time, the spectre of want and ruin raises its head as it is now and I immediately feel the contraction in my chest, the creeping coldness in my limbs and the urge to turn away and forget. One day I know everything will finally go so do I want the days in between to amount to little more than a miserly defense of what gains I’ve got?

As I sat in meditation this morning the though arose that I should train myself to give every time I feel that I might act on the fear of want and scarcity. I hope that by training the heart this way I can come to let go more easily of the things that have never been mine to begin with and perfect nekkhama and dana parami as well. 

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/13/2016

Mahasamaya Sutta

Thanissaro Bhikkhu has talked about how his teacher got in the habit of reciting the Mahasamaya Sutta which recounts the names of the devas who came to visit the Lord Buddha on a certain occasion. His teacher related that the devas like to hear the sutta recited because they, like the rest of us unenlightened folk, always enjoy a good shout out. I’m at a point in my practice where I would like some help but have next to time time to get out and the idea of connecting with spiritually advanced beings who might be able to help is certainly enticing.

As such, I intend to add the Mahasamaya to my evening chanting and hope to petition the devas to aid me in the development of wisdom and compassion.

Mahasmaya Sutta recited by Mahamevnawa monks

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/12/2016

Haughtiness & Conceit

Strange how these things creep up on you but all morning long I have been aware of aversive thoughts towards others accompanied by a sense of haughtiness and pride.

Naturally, as someone who is ostensibly committed to the eradication of the defilements I’ve been disturbed by these thoughts. And yet, I know I can’t simply push them away and naively hope they don’t come back. These defilements have been with me from time immemorial and wishing them away just won’t suffice.

May I offer myself compassion and forgiveness, understanding that beings with clouded vision act in ignorance in our attempts to free ourselves from suffering. May I stand under this suffering and comprehend it and thereby grow in wisdom.

Post Scriptum:

Thank you to everyone who sticks with me despite the repeated auto-correct atrocities perpetrated by my “smart” phone.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/11/2016

Meditate Like You’re Dying

They say that learning to let go in meditation is the best way to train for death. And, even though I completely believe it, I seem to quickly lose the thread and forget this teaching more often than I would like to admit. 

This morning I decided to experiment with this teaching during my formal practice and imagined that I was dying and that I had no controlv over any of the perceptions coming into consciousness. It was an interesting experiment and one which certainly increased my ardency and commitment so was well worth it. More than anything, imagining that iv was dying help to clear away much of the chaff and I was able to attend to what was important: calming the heart. 

May we all prepare well for death!

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