Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/27/2015

Turn All Mishaps into the Path

The exhortation to use all mishaps and unpleasantness as aides to the development of the path had been on my mind of late. Of course we all know that everything is teaching us Dhamma if we are available to the present but how often do we participate in the moment in that way? I know that i often get stuck in deeply worn grooves of unskilfull behavior and, rather than vowing difficulties as an opportunity to practice new skills or refine the paramis, i get lost in aversion and self-pity.

Take today for example: i woke up, checked work emails and orders, meditated and got myself out the door. And yet everything this morning seemed lackluster and coveted by a haze of fatigue. I felt the initial twinge of panic, scared that i had pushed the practice too hard and was feeling a backlash but then i recalled the slogan. Even this can be practice. Especially this should be practice. When things are going well the practice seems to move of its own accord but is it really practice at that point? It seems that that practice is actually more a reaping of the benefits of the work done at times like this. So,  may i tale joy in the Dhamma and be grateful that every moment of my life now offers me a chance to make progress towards the goal while purifying my heart.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/26/2015

Anointing the Mind with Love

238. As a mongoose approaches a snake to seize it only after having supplied his own body with medicine, so too, the meditator, the earnest student of meditation, on approaching this world is abounding as it is in anger and malice, plagued by quarrels, strife, contention and hatred, must anoint his mind with the medicine of love.

Milindapanha 394

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Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/25/2015

Metta for Mom

Throughout the Canon and the works and Teachings of various traditions the ideal of the mother is held in the highest esteem and offered as an example of true, selfless love. In Islam, for example, it is recorded in one of the hadith that the Prophet Muhammad declared that heaven was like being at the feet of one’s mother. And,  in the Karaniya Metta Sutta, the Lord Buddha exhorts us to protect the immeasurable mind of love as a mother would her only child. Now, i am fain to make crass generalizations about our culture and society, but how many of us can say that we really understand what a mother’s love really is and what it entails (you mothers have an unfair advantage here)? For how many of us is spending time with one’s mother comparable to spending time in paradise?

So, this morning, as i began sending metta to my own mother i began to realize that i was just going through the motions and that perhaps my mother deserved a little more than a cursory radiation of loving-kindness. As a result, i spent some time reflecting on the sacrifices all human mothers make for their children; the passions of childbirth; the seemingly unbending sacrifices of their time and energy. And,  i realized that as a first born son, i had never given much thought to it before, almost as if i deserved it.

I’m not quite sure where I’m going with this but suffice it to say that spending time cultivating metta, karuna, mudita and upekkha for my mother had been a thoroughly worthwhile experience. Perhaps more than anything else it is the feeling of connection and deep,  visceral feeling of gratitude that had been the most poignant and meaningful result of this morning’s practice.

May all mothers everywhere be well, happy and peaceful! May their sacrifices not go unnoticed and may the ever grow in the Dhamma!

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/24/2015

Mudita Practice

I have been working with tonglen and metta bhavana for the past week or so and have noticed that i have been experiencing what might best be called compassion fatigue over the last two days. I have become pretty familiar with the feeling of a dry, unworkable heart so when i became aware that this was happening with the tonglen practice i switched to metta and proceeded through the rounds until i came to a point where the heart felt supple enough to give it another go.

Unsurprisingly the feeling of hardness and constriction returned rather quickly but it suddenly occurred to me that the absence of suitable subjects for compassion simultaneously meant that i had a wealth of people in my mind for whom i could cultivate mudita. And, even though the mind was tiring as i approached the forty minute mark, the fact is that sourcing to sympathetic joy worked amazingly well to brighten the mind and open the heart.

It appears to me that the morei practice,  the more willing i must be to listen to the heart and to experiment in order to discover the appropriate response to each moment. May your good fortune not come to an end!

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/24/2015

Praise, Blame and the Triple Gem

235. “If anyone should criticize me, the Dhamma or the Sangha, you should not on that account be angry, resentful or upset. For if you were, that would hinder you, and you would be unable to know whether they said right or wrong. Would you?”
“No, Lord.”
“So, if others criticize me, the Dhamma or the Sangha, then simply explain what is incorrect, saying: ‘that is incorrect, that is not right, that is not our way, we do not do that.’ But also, if others should praise me, the Dhamma or the Sangha, you should not on that account be pleased, joyful or puffed up. For if you were, that would hinder you. So, if others praise me, the Dhamma or the Sangha, then simply explain what is correct, saying: “That is correct, that is right, that is our way, that is what we do.”

Digha Nikaya I.3

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Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/22/2015

Happy Uposatha – It’s My Fault

Today is an Uposatha day and I’m lucky enough to be able to observe it. If you have seen the last few posts you know I’ve become fascinated with lojong practice and tonglen again simply due to its apparent power to reshape ones relationship to others and especially for its ability to transform my interactions with my immediate family.

You see, my home life is far from what i would call idyllic and often far from what i would consider the ideal for a Dhamma-farer. As a result, i have become increasingly concerned with bringing my behavior and comportment in line with the Dhamma at home add much as anywhere else and have determined that i will only consider my practice successful when i find myself treating my wife and children with the same metta, karuna, mudita and upekkha that i ape to bring to all of my other relationships.

Why is this so hard? Why should they’re be such a chasm between my life as a practitioner outside of the home and while in the role of a father and husband? I don’t know why but i seem to have made the mistake of seeing these as two, mutually exclusive domains and it’s a mistake that i intend to correct as soon as possible. It’s precisely here that i have found the lojong Teachings to be so helpful and the slogan to “Drive all blames into one” to be especially helpful. By accepting fault for anything my wife or children choose to lay on my shoulders i can at once defuse the situation and remain in a heart space where compassion able loving-kindness are yet possible.


Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/21/2015

Driving All Blames Into One

Due to my “rediscovery” of tonglen I have, upon the advice of fellow practitioners, also taken a closer look at the lojong teachings. To be honest, things like resting in the alaya (store-house consciousness) or in the four dharmas (the dharmakaya, nirmanakaya, sambhogakaya and nirvanakaya) don’t make much sense to me but that may be a result of inadequate instruction as much as it is my own, conditioned preference for Theravadan abhidhamma. However, on the whole, the lojong teachings impress me with their utility and ability to take the problems of relational living and turn them into a path of compassionate heart training.

Now, if I were simply inspired by the slogans it would still be worthwhile, I think, to write about them, but even as I put them imperfectly into practice I find that I reap great benefit almost immediately. This is especially true in regard to the slogan “Drive all blames into one” which, as I understand it, means that you accept responsibility for any blame any one wants to place on you. For a long time I just couldn’t see how this worked, was fair or was even a good thing to practice. However, over time I have come to see how liberating it can be. Really, when it comes down to it, who else are we to blame for samsara? And, furthermore, even if we are conventionally not to blame, what does fighting about it do? Is not the highest of the brahma-viharas equanimity? For these reasons I have become more and more encouraged to explore the lojong teachings ever more deeply to help me become not solely a kinder and compassionate person but a better husband, father, friend and colleague.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/20/2015

Concern with One’s Own Good

232. How is one concerned with his own good and the good of others? Concerning this, one is concerned with the restraint of greed, hatred and delusion himself, and he incites others to the same restraint.

Anguttara Nikaya II.95

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Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/19/2015

Three Types of Sick Persons

231. There are these three types of sick person to be found in the world. What three?
There is the sick person who, whether he obtains the proper diet, proper medicines, proper nursing or not, will not recover from his illness.
Again, there is the sick person who, whether he obtains the proper diet, proper medicines, the proper nursing or not, will recover from his sickness anyway.
And again, there is the sick person who will recover from his illness only if he gets the proper diet, medicines and nursing.
It is for this last type that proper diet, medicine and nursing should be prescribed, but the others should be looked after also.
Now, there are three types of person in the world who can be compared to the three types of sick person. What three?
There is the person who, whether he gets the chance of seeing the Tathagata and learning the Dhamma and discipline or not, will not enter the perfection of things that are skillful.
Again, there is the person who, whether he gets a chance of seeing the Tathagata and learning the Dhamma and discipline or not, will enter the perfection of things that are skillful.
And again, there is the person who will enter into the perfection of things that are skillful only if he gets the chance of seeing the Tathagata and learning the Dhamma and discipline.
It is on account of this last person that the Dhamma is proclaimed, but it should be taught to others also.

Anguttara Nikaya I.121

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Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/16/2015

Dana Parami – Giving Away Something Precious

I have been thinking a lot recently about dana parami, especially because I have had to suspend my daily giving practice while away on vacation: there simply aren’t many needy people here in this Costa Rican resort town. I’m not sure why the idea has re-occurred to me but I have been reflecting on the practice of offering something that is precious to you to someone as an act both of dana and renunciation. I recall a Dhamma talk given by Ajahn Achalo on the subject of offering whatever you hold most precious to someone you think would appreciate the gift and how liberating and joy-producing the act can be.

Honestly, at this point I’m a little terrified and I can feel my chest contracting as I build up to it but, really, how can I not continue? I will be giving away my treasured 36-bead, sandalwood wrist mala that I use everyday. I intend to give it to the friend of ours who has been house and cat sitting for us while we have been here. Fortunately, I can feel some joy welling up at the thought so I know it will not be a sacrifice that I cannot bear.

So, I would like to invite any of you who might be reading this to join me in giving away that one thing you find most precious in your life to someone you think would appreciate it. If you’re up to it, please share what you’re gifting and to whom and thank you all for your practice! Sukhi hotu!

 

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