Posted by: Upāsaka | 03/27/2015

Happy Uposatha – Priorities

It seems to me that the more I explore other lineages, traditions and iterations of the Buddhadhamma, the more I recognize that I have already found something that works for me. This is not to say that there is no use in other traditions out that I should stop exploring and learning about them but rather that I should use what short life I have less to make a refuge for myself before this body and mind are swept away by aging, sickness and death.

Surely, the lineage that I have the most affinity for isn’t perfect. It is as rife with humans as any other but, whether it’s due to long affiliation or something more, I truly have one spiritual home and I feel the need to begin to show it and those who make possible the care and respect they deserve. Sure, I have had fantasized of being a cleric since I was very young (perhaps from the age of five) but what is more important? A vestment, a title or true peace?

Posted by: Upāsaka | 03/26/2015

Buddho and Anapanasati

I have, much to my surprise, been able to stay with buddho and the breath since having made the resolve to do so. Yet, despite this, I am often wracked by doubt if I have chosen the “right technique.” And, of course, the mind went on a veritable escapade of proliferation as I listen to Tan Ajahn Thanissaro and my teacher Peter speak about the benefits and steps of anapanasati. Seeing the danger I made a little deal with myself: when sitting I will stick to buddho for the first twenty minutes and then follow the steps of anapanasati as laid out in the suttas.

This morning was my secondre attempt at dividing the session in this way and the results were encouraging. After the twenty minutes mark, buddho was still there but it receded into the background as I paid more attention to the breath sensations in the body. Later, as my energy waned and the cat relentlessly attempted to wake my sleeping family, I brought buddho back to the fore.

So what can I say? It seems that I can stay more easily with the breath when it is coordinated with buddho so I certainly don’t intend to give up the technique for at least a year. In the meantime I will speak to as many teachers and Ajahns as I can to clear up my doubts.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 03/25/2015

Seeing the Buddha, Seeing the Dhamma

84. Venerable Vakkali was staying at the Potters’ Shed and was suffering from a disease, sick and afflicted. Then he called his attendant and said: “Friend, go to the Lord; in my name worship his feet, tell him I am suffering from a disease and suggest that it would be good if he, out of compassion, were to come and visit me.”
So the attendant went to the Lord and did what he was asked. In silence the Lord consented, and dressing himself and taking his robe and bowl, set out. Now Vakkali saw the Lord coming from a distance and struggled to rise from his bed. But the Lord saw him and said: “Enough, Vakkali. Remain in your bed. There are seats made ready. I will sit there.” Having seated himself, the Lord addressed Vakkali and said: “I hope you are bearing up. I hope you are enduring. Are the pains decreasing or abating? Do they seem to be decreasing or abating?”
“No, Lord. I am not bearing up or enduring, the pains do not decrease, neither do they grow.”
“Then have you any doubt or remorse?”
“Indeed, Lord, I have no doubt or remorse.”
“Have you anything concerning virtue to reproach yourself about?”
“No, Lord, I have nothing to reproach myself about.”
“Then you must have some worry, something to regret?”
“Concerning that, for a long time I have been wanting to see the Lord but I have not had the strength of body to do so.”
“Hush, Vakkali. Why do you want to see this dirty body of mine? He who sees the Dhamma sees me and he who sees me sees the Dhamma. Truly, seeing the Dhamma, one sees me and seeing me, one sees the Dhamma.”

Samyutta Nikaya III.118

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Posted by: Upāsaka | 03/24/2015

Dana

The gift of food can seem like such a simple thing at times that I am often inclined to overlook its importance. Today, however, provided me with the perfect opportunity to really feel the impact of generosity as my family and I were lucky enough to offer the day’s meal to Venerable Ajahn Thanissaro.

It is not the first time I have done so but today’s dana really had an effect upon me, so much so that I’m struggling to find the words. Just reflecting on the fact that the food we provided well help to give him the strength to teach tonight and that we are now, in some way, intimately a part of a larger family of beings reading the Path of the Lord Buddha. I don’t often think of myself as overly sentimental but today is a day I will treasure for the rest of my life and a gem I will reflect upon as I one day last dying. Sukhita hontu!

Posted by: Upāsaka | 03/23/2015

Virtue – The Supreme Perfume

82. Here in the world
One should train carefully in virtue,
For virtue when cultivated
Brings success near at hand.

The careful one should guard virtue,
Desiring the three types of happiness –
The praise of others, wealth,
And heaven after death.

The virtuous one makes many friends
Because of self-restraint,
But the immoral one, practising evil,
Is estranged from his friends.

The immoral one gains only ill-repute
And bad reputation,
The virtuous gains reputation,
Fame and praise.

Virtue is the foundation, the forerunner,
The origin of all that is good and beautiful,
And therefore one should purify one’s virtue.

Virtue is the control, the restraint
And the delighting of the mind,
And thus the place where all the Buddhas cross over.
Therefore, one should purify one’s virtue.

Virtue is a mighty power,
Virtue is a sharp weapon,
Virtue is the supreme adornment,
Virtue is a wonderful armour.

Virtue is a sturdy bridge,
Virtue is an unsurpassed perfume,
Virtue is the best ointment,
Sending fragrance in all directions.

Virtue is the foremost provision,
Virtue is food for the journey,
Virtue is the best vehicle
For going in any direction.

Therigatha 608-616

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Posted by: Upāsaka | 03/20/2015

Seeing the Benefits, Taking Joy

One thing that I have never yet done enough of in this life is to see the benefits of the practice and to take joy in the results. For to long I have relied on sheer, blind will power to push myself through experience, techniques and trials and I have relied little reward from it. Granted, I have learned much about Right Effort, persistence and the application of energy but I have missed so many opportunities to cultivate a real and sustaining joy in the Dhamma.

Last night, during the class, it became clear to me when a fellow student shared his experience of the Uposatha that I had been practicing like a mindless automaton yet again. I had missed the point, been heedless and simply press my board to the grind in order to “get it done.” Surely there is a time for such exertion but on a day dedicated to cultivating wakefulness alarm bells should have been sounding in my heart and mind.

Still, thanks to the sharing in class, I was able to come back and bring heedfulness to bear. Doing so I realized that my faltering practice of buddho was actually bringing good result in formal meditation and that there were more moments of stillness amidst the intense storms of suffering that I could use as touchstones throughout the day. May I not forget to see the benefits of the practice and take a moment to appreciate them whenever possible. 

Posted by: Upāsaka | 03/19/2015

Happy Uposatha – Making an Effort

Someone yesterday I realized that I was spending so much of my time devoted to things other than the practice that it would be foolish to expect any great results (and, yes, I am practicing for the result of ending dukkha).

Looking at my life it may not seem that I have an abundance of time to do much beyond work and child-rearing and that may be true in some sense.  And yet those moments when I do have time, such as a train ride or a half an hour before bed are usually spent doing anything but the practice. I can hear the familiar voices now reassuring me that I’m too tired and I already meditated enough today. But I’d it true and does it help?

How can I expect to make progress without really putting in the effort? Obviously there is a need for rest but I feel that I have been making choices that don’t lead to lasting happiness or development a little too often. May I learn to strive out of love and compassion for myself. Happy Uposatha!

Posted by: Upāsaka | 03/18/2015

How to Meditate with Buddho – Phra Ajahn Thate

When you meditate on buddho, be patient. Don’t be in a hurry. Be confident in your meditation word and use mindfulness to keep the mind with its buddho. Your confidence is what will make the mind firm and unwavering, able to let go of all its doubts and uncertainties. The mind will gather in on its meditation word, and mindfulness will keep it solely with buddho at all times. Whether you sit, stand, walk, lie down, or whatever work you do, mindfulness will be alert to nothing but buddho. If your mindfulness is still weak, and your techniques still few, you have to hold on to buddho as your foundation. Otherwise your meditation won’t progress; or even if it does progress, it won’t have any foundation.

For concentration to be strong, the mind has to be resolute. When mindfulness is strong and the mind resolute, you decide that this is what you want: “If I can’t catch hold ofbuddho, or see buddho in my heart, or get the mind to stay put solely with buddho, I won’t get up from my meditation. Even if my life will end, I don’t care.” When you do this, the mind will gather into one faster than you realize it. The meditation wordbuddho, or whatever it is that may have been bothering or perplexing you, will vanish in the flash of an eye. Even your body, which you’ve been attached to for so long, won’t appear to you. All that remains is the heart — simple awareness — cool, calm, and at ease.

Phra Ajaan Thate Desaransi

Posted by: Upāsaka | 03/17/2015

The Wish to Be Happy

Two of my most influential teachers have often equated the wish to be happy with metta and for a long time I don’t think I understood the connection. I mean, what did wanting to be happy have to do with metta, in a real sense. And, although I still have some doubt regarding this teaching I saw, quite clearly, the movement towards pleasure as an expression of the desire to be happy. Granted, this is most often a movement towards an unskillful form of sense pleasure but the kernel of self-love is there albeit in need of education and guidance. Su, my question is: can I begin to see my desire to be happy as a cue to develop skillful forms of pleasure as well as the basis for relating to others rather than as yet one more example of a way in which I have failed myself, society, the Dhamma and the Buddha?

Posted by: Upāsaka | 03/16/2015

An Accidental Gift

It seems that I lost my wrist mala this weekend and, like it or not, I tend to get very attached to them. Last night I searched and then searched again in pockets, bags and books and crannies hoping to find out but can’t up with nothing. Normally I would briefly struggle with the loud and then quickly but a replacement even though I have a few others I could use instead. Of course I would convince myself that it was money well spent because it’s ostensibly for the Dhamma. And yet they’re is always this niggling feeling that I’m spending money that I could put to better use since I already have at least two other malas I could use. Small stuff, to be sure but drop by drop a bucket is filled.

So it came to me this morning that, rather than seeing it as simply a loss why not rejoice that whoever may find it could possibly be inspired to learn more about it and possibly find the Dhamma. And, even if the result is not so grandiose why not not give it freely to whoever may find it, wishing them well and registering all the merit made with it through the hours it was used? And, if it happens to be returned to me as overturn happens in the cases, I will give it freely to the next person I think would want it having already made a gift of it in my heart.

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