This last weekend was very tough for me and, in many ways, my practice completely fell apart. Between driving for long hours in bad conditions and not being able to fulfill my obligations at work for to technical difficulties encountered during our two day trip to New Hampshire I completely lost my cool and any semblance of equanimity. As yet I am still not clear hour to resolve the issue of bringing the practice to bear on these real life situations that see seem to be so unmanageable and intractable despite the hope and inkling that patience and persistence will win the day. May I practice with patient persistence and make acc end to such suffering.
60. Arise! Sit up!
Of what use are your dreams?
How can you who are sick
And pierced with the arrow of grief
Continue to sleep?
Arise! Sit up!
Train yourself to win peace.
Let not the king of death,
Knowing you to be lazy,
Trick you into his realm.
Cross over this attachment,
Tied to which both gods and men are trapped.
Do not let this chance slip by,
Because for those who do,
There is only hell.
Dusty is indolence.
Dust comes in its wake.
With knowledge and vigilance,
Draw out the arrow of suffering from yourself.
Sutta Nipata 331-334
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59. Of little importance is the loss of such things as wealth. But a terrible thing it is to lose wisdom.
Of little importance is the gaining of such things as wealth. Great is the importance of gaining wisdom.
Anguttara Nikaya I.15
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Skillful speech is so important to the Path that it not only takes its place as the fourth precept in the panca sila but it also constitutes the fourth factor of the Eightfold Path. Although I saw samma vaca for along time as little more than a commitment to telling the truth we see, time and again in the suttas, that Right Speech extends to other forms of verbal action. In fact, the Eight Lifetime precepts which I recite every morning attest to the further division of samma vaca into the absence of false speech, divisive speech, harsh speech and idle chatter. Despite the fact that I have been faithfully reciting these words for years it seems to me that I have been merely paying them lip service.
Last night, during the class I help manage, the then was on Sila and we were asked to take on one of the precepts as our project for the next six months. Almost immediately I realized that I needed to work on idle chatter in particular and Right Speech in general. So, for the next several months I will work with this precept and recount my experience here from time to time. Sukhi hotu!
Today is an Uposatha day and I decided almost immediately upon waking that I would only be observing partially today. If it’s not obvious, I have an ingrown aversion to doing things only “half way” and this is especially so when it comes to the practice. Still, I don’t believe that the point of the practice, of all Dhamma practice, is to punish ourselves by not living up to its mandates in idealized form. Rather, might it not be more skillful to take joy in those parts of the observance I feel ready to take up today and make a resolution to do more as time and energy allow? From what little I know about the Dhamma, such an idea certainly seems to be in accord with it.
So, this morning I took only the third Uposatha precept and will keep that in purity until sunrise tomorrow. May I practice with compassion and ardour so as not to waste this precious life I have stumbled into.
Even when someone I have helped,
Or in whom I have placed great hopes
Mistreats me very unjustly,
I will view that person as a true spiritual teacher.
For better or worse, my life had lately given me ample opportunities to work with the verse above. In light of yesterday’s post and others before it I know I should be grateful for the chance to practice and am inclining my heart there (there is now at least a grain of gratitude too build upon). Nonetheless, it is still difficult at times to see the negative reactions, words and behaviors of someone you are close to as a result of your own failings and, ultimately, their own attempt to manage suffering. In all such situations compassion should be the first resort when it is often completely forgotten.
Perhaps the thing that had helped the most is the notion that, if one can wait ninety seconds for an angry thought to pass out becomes possible not to act on it. Unfortunately I don’t have the source with me at present but I will try to find the study and post it. Still, from my own experimentation, this money second refractory proof has proven absolutely essential in practicing forbearance and compassion. Where I find myself today it is impossible to move immediately to compassion without feeling some kind of anger that must be restrained but the realization that I need only wait a minute and a half before the situation becomes workable had been tremendously helpful.
I have been reading a book lately which discusses just how talent and skills are developed as part of my training as a postulant for the Order of Pragmatic Buddhism and have been struck by the rule that mistakes have in building or skills. The notion of bhavana as a skill to be developed I’d one that I have often encountered in the writings of Ven. Ajahn Thanissaro so this reading seems especially a propos as I suppose it should be as it is part of our required reading. Despite the fact that I am less than a third of the way through the book, the notion that the “bad” sits and difficult patches are the places where progress is made I’d both comforting and inspiring. I have even begun to wonder how I might challenge myself in the practice so that it develops rather than stagnates. It is truly a new way of being my practice and the path because where I live shied away from difficulty and cling to comfort I now know that if I wish to make real progress I need to push myself just a little more every day and dispense completely with complacency. Sukhita hontu!
This vacation has opened my eyes to the kindness of others. Whether it is the offer of shelter, food or one of a myriad other kindnesses, myself and my family have been the recipients of so much in the last week. And, truth be told, it is always lie this: the kindness of a clerk, a bus driver, a nurse or a cab driver make possible the life we live and yet we rarely notice. May I begin to repay some of this income kindness today and everyday to come.
Recently, I have been doing a lot out reading and pondering on the Teachings and I realize just how little I understand. Where I one thought that I had a good grasp on the teaching of kamma I now think of it as only the most rough and cursory concept possible. So what had happened? Has my practice matured into what one Zen matter regretted to as “don’t know mind? ”
Frankly, the notion of ignorance, moha or delusion being a desirable state is one which doesn’t sit well with me so I turns to take the more orthodox Theravada position that uncertainty in this regard is not a result of one’s development on the path. But, where does this faith come from? How can I be so sure that I am following the best possible course when I don’t understand the stepsthat comprise it?
My only answer is to potent to the real changes in my own behavior as peo positions that the Theravada tradition and the teachings of the Buddha it had cariya faith are true in the sense that they are effective and produce the results to which they lay claim. So, under such circumstances the great I can do is to try my best to deepen myunderstanding and practice the Teachingsto the best of my ability, looking full well just how easily I can fall into error.
51. “Is it possible, Lord, to see the visible results of generosity?”
And the Lord said: “Yes, it is possible to see the visible results of generosity.
The giver, the generous one, is liked and dear to many. This is a visible result of generosity.
The good and wise follow him. This is a visible result of generosity.
A good reputation concerning him spreads about. This also is a visible result of generosity.
Again, in whatever company he enters, be it nobles, Brahmins, householders or recluses, he enters with confidence and is untroubled. This is a visible result of giving.
And finally, the giver, the generous one, after death is reborn in heaven. This is a result to be seen hereafter.
Anguttara Nikaya III.38
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