Posted by: Upāsaka | 05/29/2016

Turbid State of Mind

149. Imagine a pool of turbid, stirred up and muddied water. Then, a man with a vision might stand upon the bank. He could not see the oysters, the shells, the pebbles and gravel on the bottom or the fish moving about. And why? Because of the turbid state of the water.
In the same way, it is impossible for one with a turbid mind to understand either his own benefit or the benefit of others, or to realize higher states. And why? Because of the turbid state of the mind. Now, imagine a pool of clear, tranquil and unstirred water. A man with vision might stand on the bank. He could see the oysters, the shells, the pebbles and gravel on the bottom, and the fish that move about. And why? Because of the untroubled state of the water.
In the same way, it is possible for one with a tranquil mind to understand his own benefit and the benefit of others, and to realize higher states. And why? Because of the untroubled state of his mind.

Anguttara Nikaya I.9

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Posted by: Upāsaka | 05/27/2016

Radical Responsibility

As I have been working with various brahmavihara practices and my own personal at of aspirations I have found my home life to be especially fruitful ground. The last few days in particular have been rough due to being tired from work and stress on my wife at home.

Throughout it all I have been successful in remembering to return to the practice as soon as possible despite the habitual feelings of hopelessness that inevitably accompany such failings. As a result I have thus far managed to avoid the snowball effect that had always thrown me off the path in the past.

One thing that I think has both been invaluable and incredibly difficult is the practice of accepting responsibility for everything that happens. To put it another way, accepting my role in every interaction of which I’m a part. My wife couldn’t be upset with me if I weren’t there and, even more importantly, my feelings of resentment wouldn’t exist of I had practiced well enough to have overcome them.

In short, my life is a problem of my own making so why try to shift the blame? To whom should I complain? If I’m serious about getting out of this them is time I took my life into my hands and accepted full responsibility for it.

I almost feel silly trying to explain my rationale for this aspiration but it serves a purpose so I’ll try.

Although I’m not now in a position where I’m worried about breaking the third precept and haven’t been for some time, situations change constantly and I simply want to avoid putting myself in any potentially dangerous circumstance. That, and the fact that I want to maintain the honor and dignity of my family. If I frequently put myself in a place where I’m spending time alone with a woman more of less of my same age not only is it more likely that an attraction will develop but that people will suspect one.

I see that in writing this I’m giving voice to values that may not seem to jive with modern, Western sensibilities but just look at how much infidelity and promiscuity there is in the media and in our personal lives. It makes you wonder if we all shouldn’t tread more carefully and give the attractions between people their due instead of seeing sexual attraction as a playground and sex as a form of entertainment. Crazy, I know.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 05/25/2016

For the Good of the Many

145. The Brahmin Sangarava said to the Lord: “Good Gotama, we Brahmins perform the sacrifice and encourage others to do so. Whoever does this creates great good that affects many people. But he who goes forth from home into homeless life helps only himself, calms only himself, leads only himself to Nirvana. Such a person is, I say, practising something that creates good for himself only.”
And the lord said: “Well, Brahmin, I will ask you a question; answer as you think fit. Let us say a Tathagata arises in the world, a Noble One, a fully enlightened Buddha, with perfect knowledge and conduct, happily attained, a knower of the worlds, a guide unsurpassed for men to be tamed, a teacher of gods and men, a Buddha, the Lord. And then he says: ‘Come! By my own powers of realization I have come to great happiness as a result of this practice, this way. Come you also! By your own powers of realization you too will come to great happiness as a result of this practice, this way.” Thus this teacher teaches Dhamma to many hundreds, many thousands, many hundreds of thousands of such people. Now Brahmin, since this is so, is this going forth into the homeless life a practice that benefits only one person or many people?”
“Good Gotama, it is a practice that benefits many people.”

Anguttara Nikaya I.168

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Posted by: Upāsaka | 05/24/2016

Putting the Brakes on a Bad Day

I have been finding lots of great opportunities to work with quotidian adversity as a way to cultivate the paramis in every situation with which I’m faced. The idea of meeting every experience with a lion’s roar, of refusing to find into fear of anxiety and to cultivate an attitude of good cheer had been incredibly energizing but, since this is samsara, none of that is permanent.

Today I woke up feeling a little odd, my formal meditation was filled with apocalyptic images and wanderings and the morning to on a sour tone. I was fortunate enough to get vote these adversities as stepping stones and guide posts so I was not completely overwhelmed.

I paused to breathe while seated on the train with my kids , took stock and realized I want in imminent danger and cracked open Gyatrul Rinpoche’s book to a page where he was talking about checking ones motivation at all times. I realized my motivation I changed from seeking to practice for the benefit of myself and others to getting to do away with these uncomfortably feelings. Simply realizing this and reaffirming my commitment to the Path was enough to put the brakes on and turn it around.

May we take the sufferings of life as lessons along the Path and not squander this short life.

Let me start by acknowledging how hypocritical voicing such an aspiration may seem on a blog dedicated to sharing my practice. I hope that, because I try to keep my identity hidden,  you’ll forgive me and focus on the practical aspects rather than than personal ones.

I have found in the past that I am all too eager to present my practice portfolio when questioned as of it are an objective proof of its efficacy. I used to be proid to say that I am for this much time on the mat, I do this much walking meditation, etc. In fact, I used to use an app that not only timed my meditation but would then share it. And for what? I think, largely, to feel like an experienced practicioner instead of the hack I often seem to myself.

At present, all of this is still a work in progress but I just don’t see the use of value in sharing measurable details about my practice work anyone who I’m not looking to as a teacher on the path. Humility of a virtue praised by the wise and, even if my mind doesn’t yet comprehend its full meaning, I hope that practice and habit will deepen my understanding.

This is a tough one, especially in work situations where I’m faced with having to critically examine the quality of an employee’s work. What does it mean to say that I make the firm aspiration to speak well of others, dwelling on their good qualities in such a case?

Perhaps it means to forgive the forgivable, to accentuate the positive while being clear headed and straightforward about our expectations. Maybe it means not engaging in derisive conservation with my business partner about the idiosyncrasies of our employees. Clearly there’s much work to be done with Right Speech and I undertake to practice it as well as I am able.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 05/20/2016

Happy Vesak – Giving

140. Vacchagotta said to the Lord: “I have heard it said that you, good Gotama, say that charity should only be given to you, not to others, to your followers, not to the followers of other teachers. Those who say this, are they representing your opinion without distorting it? Do they speak according to your teaching? For indeed, good Gotama, I am anxious not to misrepresent you.”
The Lord said: “Vaccha, those who say this are not of my opinion, they misrepresent me by saying what is not true. Truly, whoever discourages another from giving charity hinders in three ways. What three? He hinders the giver from acquiring good, he hinders the receiver from getting the charity, and he has already ruined himself through his meanness.”

Anguttara Nikaya I.161

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Posted by: Upāsaka | 05/19/2016

Thanking Your Critics

Many of us have the kamma to be surrounded by close friends and even life partners who can seem like our harshest critics (well, after ourselves of course).  For years I have tried to come up with ways of skillfully dealing with these people and have had some success. Yet, rereading the Simile of the Saw and taking to heart my own aspirations vis a vis Abhaya cariya practice I realized that I can and must do more.

I have to rouse right effort to check aversion as it arises and one way of doing this is to put my critic to work for me. Honestly, sometimes I go also on myself but my closest critic rarely seems to. I can reflect on whether or not she would view my reaction to anything she says or does as being in line with our running contrary to my precepts and aspirations. If it does then I am in debt to her for pointing it out and helping to train me to be a better person.

For the first time I have been able to feel real gratitude for this kind of critic and that’s no small victory. I am deeply flawed and, though just as deserving of care and concern as anyone else, I have much work to do if I don’t want to die having squandered this precious opportunity.

May we be grateful for unrelenting critics for forcing us to practice when we are too lazy to rely on ourselves.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 05/18/2016

The Parable of the Saw

“Monks, even if bandits were to savagely sever you, limb by limb, with a double-handled saw, even then, whoever of you harbors ill will at heart would not be upholding my Teaching. Monks, even in such a situation you should train yourselves thus: ‘Neither shall our minds be affected by this, nor for this matter shall we give vent to evil words, but we shall remain full of concern and pity, with a mind of love, and we shall not give in to hatred. On the contrary, we shall live projecting thoughts of universal love to those very persons, making them as well as the whole world the object of our thoughts of universal love — thoughts that have grown great, exalted and measureless. We shall dwell radiating these thoughts which are void of hostility and ill will.’ It is in this way, monks, that you should train yourselves.

“Monks, if you should keep this instruction on the Parable of the Saw constantly in mind, do you see any mode of speech, subtle or gross, that you could not endure?”

“No, Lord.”

“Therefore, monks, you should keep this instruction on the Parable of the Saw constantly in mind. That will conduce to your well-being and happiness for long indeed.”

That is what the Blessed One said. Delighted, those monks acclaimed the Teaching of the Blessed One.

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