Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Psychology of Metta

This is taken from "Metta: The Philosophy and Practice of Universal Love" by Acharya Buddharakkhita. It is excellent and covers the history, meaning and application of Metta, the practice of Loving Kindness. It has nothing to do with religion or doctrine and everything to do with softening one's heart and loving the world. You can read the entire piece by going to this link: Metta

I found section 5, "The Psychology of Metta" to be wonderful. If this broadens your understanding of Metta or if you know nothing of the practice but gain some insight into it from this posting that fills my heart! May you all be safe and protected. May you be peaceful and happy. May you be healthy and strong. May you experience ease of well being and except all the conditions of the world with wonder and joy.

Happy New Year!


The Psychology of Metta

The Pali commentaries explain:
 One loves all beings:
 (a) by the non-harassment of all beings and thus avoids harassment;
(b) by being inoffensive (to all beings) and thus avoids offensiveness;
(c) by not torturing (all beings) and thus avoids torturing;
(d) by the non-destruction (of all life) and thus avoids destructiveness;
(e) by being non-vexing (to all beings) and thus avoids vexing;
(f) by projecting the thought, "May all beings be friendly and not hostile";
(g) by projecting the thought," May all beings be happy and not unhappy";
(h) by projecting the thought, "May all beings enjoy well-being and not be distressed."
In these eight ways one loves all beings; therefore, it is called universal love. And since one conceives (within) this quality (of love), it is of the mind. And since this mind is free from all thoughts of ill-will, the aggregate of love, mind and freedom is defined asuniversal love leading to freedom of mind.
From the above passage it will be seen that metta implies the "outgrowing" of negative traits by actively putting into practice the correlative positive virtues. It is only when one actively practices non-harassment towards all beings that one can outgrow the tendency to harass others. Similarly, it is with the other qualities of inoffensiveness, non-tormenting, non-destroying and non-vexing in deed, word and thought that one can outgrow the negative traits of being offensive, of tormenting others, of destructiveness and of vexatiousness. Over and above such positive conduct and principled way of life, one further cultivates the mind through that specific technique of meditation called metta-bhavana, which generates powerful thoughts of spiritualized love that grow boundless, making consciousness itself infinite and universal.
Thoughts that wish all beings to be friendly and never hostile, happy and never unhappy, to enjoy well-being and never be distressed, imply not only sublimity and boundlessness, but also utter freedom of mind. Hence the appropriateness of the expression "universal love leading to freedom of mind."
As for the meanings of the five aspects opposed by metta, harassment is the desire to oppress or damage; offensiveness is the tendency to hurt or injure; torturing is a synonym of the sadistic tendency to torment, subjecting others to pain or misery; destructiveness is to put an end to or to finish, the trait of the extremist and the iconoclast; vexing is to tax, trouble or cause others worry and strain. Each of these tendencies is rooted in antipathy and malevolence, and provides a contrast with metta, both as a mode of conduct and as a psychological state or attitude of mind.
The substitution of a negative trait by the opposed positive course implies a very developed and mature approach to life. The ability to remain non-harassing, inoffensive, non-torturing, non-destructive and non-vexing means a very refined, beautiful and loving mode of behavior in a world where interaction between human beings creates so much tension and misery.
According to the Visuddhimagga, metta is a "solvent" that "melts" not only one's own psychic pollutants of anger, resentment and offensiveness, but also those of others. Since it takes the approach of friendship, even the hostile one turns into a friend.
Metta is characterized as that which "promotes welfare." Its function is to "prefer well-being" rather than ill. It manifests as a force that "removes annoyance" and its proximate cause is the tendency to see the good side of things and beings and never the faults. Metta succeeds when it loves, and it fails when it degenerates into worldly affection.
It will be clear from this analysis that only when one tends to see the good in people, and prefers the welfare of others, and accordingly is inoffensive (to remove any annoyance or hurt) and actively promotes well-being, does metta function as a solvent. It is said that the ultimate purpose of metta is to attain transcendental insight, and if that is not possible, it will at least effect a rebirth in the sublime sphere of the Brahma world, apart from bringing inner peace and a healthy state of mind here and now. Hence the Buddha's assurance in theMetta Sutta:
 Holding no more to wrong beliefs,
With virtue and vision of the ultimate,
And having overcome all sensual desire,
Never in a womb is he born again.
Love wards off ill-will, which is the most damaging of emotions. Hence it is said: "For this is the escape from ill-will, friends, that is to say, the freedom of mind wrought by universal love" (Digha Nikaya, III. 234).
In the practice of metta it is important to understand the emotions which nullify metta either by being similar or being dissimilar. The Visuddhimagga calls them "the two enemies — the near and the remote." Greed, lust, worldly affection, sensuality — all these are said to be the "near enemies" because they are similar in tendencies. The lustful also sees the "good side" or "beauty," and therefore gets involved. Love should be protected from it lest the masquerades of these emotions deceive the meditator.
Ill-will, anger and hatred, being dissimilar emotions, therefore constitute the "remote enemy." The remote enemy can easily be distinguished so one need not be afraid of it, but one should overcome it by projecting a higher force, that of love. But one has to be wary of the near enemy because it creates self-deception, which is the worst thing that can happen to an individual.
It is said that metta begins only when there is zeal in the form of a desire to act. Having commenced through earnest effort, it can be continued only when the five mental hindrances — sensual desire, ill-will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, and doubt — are put down. Metta reaches consummation with the attainment of absorption (jhana).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Power of We

Today was a beautiful, crisp winter day and I decided to go for a run. As many of you know from this column I usually combine some type of mantra or chant with my running, making it kind of a running meditation, in line with walking meditation. I will usually focus on either the breath or a chant/mantra "Namo Amituofo" or "Om Mani Padme Hum" or "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo." You get the picture. As I ran, I felt the wonderful cold air pass through my lips and fill my lungs...while meditating I was filled with Life...My goal, you see, was not to be filled with anything but it just happened...A new perfect mantra or chant appeared in my mind...WE..."We" you ask? Yup! "We!" We came naturally into my Soul, my Psyche, my Spirit, my Breathing...

Meister Eckhart said "The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God's eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love." 

Whether you believe in God or not is not the point...I believe in Life, Spirit....I call it the Divine. In Buddhism we say in greeting one another "Namaste" which means, "I bow to the Divine in you." I try to do that all the time because Divine IS IN YOU. If you have life in you, you have Divine in you. The Divine has been present in you BEFORE you were born. All life, everything has Divine in it. Love, peace, pain, emptiness, joy, sadness, growth are all part of the Divine. Because I am in the heart of the Ultimate Mind, the Divine, the Power, the Great Spirit, the Breath, Thought...whatever you want to call It, the Divine naturally is in my heart. If you are alive, conscious, breathing, you are part of real Life...the Divine. You are part of It and It is part of you. I am part of It, It is part of me. We are all related! "The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God's eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love." All life is Divine, trees, animals, the Buddha (all Buddhas), all spiritual masters, Jesus, my mother who passed away when I was a child....WE...

"We" kept repeating over and over in my head...through my heart. "We" is the Light that filled my being as I ran, it was the air that I breathed, it was the sun on my was everyone that passed me in cars as I ran, birds flying above...You see, "We" encompasses everything. God is We. You are We, Life is We, I am We. I bow to the Divine in you because we share the Divine...we are Divine together. You are as much a part of me as my breath, my soul. "We" unites everything and makes it possible to understand how simple it is to love one another, how to appreciate how very precious life is...We is...Everything! I am comforted saying it over and over in my mind....I feel you, I feel Life, I feel Love...We are We!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Do Buddhists Believe in God?

This is a fantastic talk given by Kusala Bhikshu to students at a high school in Los Angeles. Bhikshu explains in a simple way and dispels sone common beliefs....

Do Buddhists Believe in God?
by Kusala Bhikshu

Why is it... The Buddha never talked about the One God of the desert, the Judeo-Christian God? Does this mean that all Buddhists are atheists and don’t believe in God? Did the Buddha believe in God?

These are some of the questions I would like to try and answer today.

The Buddha was born 500 years before Christ, in what is now Nepal. His dad was a king, his mom was a queen, and his dad wanted him to take over the family business (the kingdom) when he got older.

The kind of world the Buddha was born into was magical. Everything seemed to be alive. The trees, mountains, lakes, and sky were living and breathing with a variety of gods in charge. If you needed rain you asked one god, if you needed it to stop raining you asked another. The priests of India did all the religious work, and got paid for it.

In India at the time of the Buddha you became a priest if you were born into the right family, and not because of the school you went to, or the grades you got.

There were other kinds of religious people as well.

Mendicants were men who left their family, friends, and jobs to find the answers to life. They did not live in homes or apartments, but lived under trees and in caves, and would practice meditation all day long. They wanted to really be uncomfortable, so they could understand what suffering was all about.

Many kinds of meditation were practiced by these mendicants. In Tranquility Meditation for instance, you think about just one thing, like looking at a candle or saying a word over and over. When the mind becomes focused in oneness, you experience a great peacefulness.

Even if the mendicants were sitting in the rain on a cold day, they were still content. They found in their meditation practice the essence of happiness.

Renunciation is when you give up all the things that make your life pleasant. Sometimes the people with money and power in India would buy a lot of stuff to make themselves happy and their lives more comfortable, thinking that happiness and comfort depended on what they owned.

When the mendicants could see their own suffering clearly, after many years of renunciation, they understood that happiness was not dependent on the things they owned, but the kind of life they lived.

Even all the gods in India could not end the suffering of one human being.

At the age of 29, the Buddha stopped praying to the gods to end his suffering and the suffering of others. He left his family and friends, went to the edge of the forest, took off all his clothes and jewelry, covered his naked body with rags of cloth, cut off his hair and started to meditate.

He became a mendicant, and It took him six years of hard work and much suffering, but in the end he was able to stop his suffering forever (Nirvana) and help others stop their suffering as well.

Did the Buddha believe in God, the One God of the desert, the God of the Christians, Jews and Muslims?

Well... No... He didn't... Monotheism (only one God) was a foreign concept to the Buddha, his world was filled with many gods. The creator god Brahma being the most important one.

At the time of the Buddha, the only people practicing the religion of the One God of the desert, were the Jews. Remember, it was still 500 years before Christ came into the world.

The Buddha never left India. The Buddha walked from village to village... In his entire lifetime he never went any further than 200 miles from his birthplace.

The Buddha never met a Jew... And because of this, he never said anything about the One God of the desert.

There is also nothing in the teachings of the Buddha that suggest how to find God or worship the god's of India, although the Buddha himself was a theist (believed in gods), his teachings are non-theistic.

The Buddha was more concerned with the human condition: Birth, Sickness, Old age, and Death. The Buddhist path is about coming to a place of acceptance with these painful aspects of life, and not suffering through them.

Please be clear on this point... The Buddha is not thought of as a god in Buddhism and is not prayed to. He is looked up to and respected as a great teacher, in the same way we respect Abraham Lincoln as a great president.

He was a human being who found his perfection in Nirvana. Because of his Nirvana, the Buddha was perfectly moral, perfectly ethical, and ended his suffering forever.

Does that mean that every Buddhist in the world is an atheist?

No!!! I have met a lot of Buddhists who believe in God. I have met a lot of Buddhists who don’t believe in God... And a lot of Buddhists just don’t know.

All three points of view are OK if you’re Buddhist because suffering is more important than God in Buddhism.

Sometimes a student will ask me how everything in this world got started... "If you don’t have God in Buddhism then who or what caused the universe?"

When the Buddha was asked how the world started, he kept silent. In the religion of Buddhism we don’t have a first cause, instead we have a never ending circle of birth and death. In this world and in all worlds, there are many beginnings and ends. The model of life used in Buddhism has no starting place... It just keeps going and going.

Now having said that... If you’re a Buddhist it’s OK to believe God was the first cause... It really doesn't go against the teachings of the Buddha, his focus was on suffering... It's also OK to believe science has the answer… Like the big bang theory, etc... Some Buddhist’s don’t even care how it all started, and that’s fine too. Knowing how the world started is not going to end your suffering, it’s just going to give you more stuff to think about.

I hope you can see that God is not what Buddhism is about... Suffering is... And if you want to believe in God, as some Buddhists do, I suppose it's OK. But, Buddhist's don't believe God can end suffering. Only the teaching's of the Buddha can help us end suffering through wisdom and the activity of compassion.

In his whole life and in all his teachings the Buddha never said anything about the One God of the desert.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Reflection on Enlightenment

Prajnatara T Bryant holds a B.A. in Psychology, an M.A. in Religious Anthropology, certification in Spiritual Direction and Adult Education, and has extensive training in Buddhist spirituality, psychotherapy and meditation instruction. She has worked in the areas of counselling, meditation instruction and pastoral ministry in university, hospital and community settings for over 25 years. She currently works part-time as a psychological counsellor at King’s University College, UWO, is the founder of Mosaic Retreats and is a Gankonin (ordained Buddhist Minister) with the Amida Buddha Order, England.
Pranjnatara Bryant is a wonderful friend and my teacher. I asked her if she would consider contributing to the Italian Buddhist and she graciously accepted. I am very fortunate and humbled. She will be a guest contributor from time to time so my excitement is grand! Keep her and our sangha, The Amida Mosaic Sangha in your kind thoughts and meditations!
Namo Amida Bu,


There are many interpretations as to what enlightenment means and what the experience of the Buddha was on the day he declared as the earth was his witness that he was indeed free to love!  Today, we tend to gravitate to the notion that enlightenment is some far off state to be worked at and perchance accomplished after a life time or many life times of heroic effort.  The Buddha felt similarly and spent a great deal of time and energy engaged in rigorous spiritual practice and study before he finally came to rest at the foot of the bodhi tree.

Rest, a spiritual practice aligned with  purity of heart, is what we do when we surrender, or more to the point, give up grasping toward some perfected and exalted state. Rest, Thomas Merton tells us, is a kind of simple "no-whereness and no-mindedness that has lost all preoccupation with a false or limited self."   In other words, to rest is to be at peace in the possession of the sublime "Nothing".  It is a radical yes to the presence of Loveand a dramatic shedding of the need to know, hold on to, or possess.

In these days of darkness, we are invited to rest in that which is unknown.  Like the Buddha, we too may be exhausted from a life of too much, too many and too often.  This may be our season to seek out a bodhi tree of our own.
May the deepening 
Darkness gently draw you into the silence ofLove.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Meditation for Beginners: 20 Practical Tips for Quieting the Mind

Meditation for Beginners: 20 Practical Tips for Quieting the Mind

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Todd Goldfarb at the We The Change blog.
Meditation is the art of focusing 100% of your attention in one area. The practice comes with a myriad of well-publicized health benefits including increased concentration, decreased anxiety, and a general feeling of happiness.
Although a great number of people try meditation at some point in their lives, a small percentage actually stick with it for the long-term. This is unfortunate, and a possible reason is that many beginners do not begin with a mindset needed to make the practice sustainable.
The purpose of this article is to provide 20 practical recommendations to help beginners get past the initial hurdles and integrate meditation over the long term:
1) Make it a formal practice. You will only get to the next level in meditation by setting aside specific time (preferably two times a day) to be still.
2) Start with the breath. Breathing deep slows the heart rate, relaxes the muscles, focuses the mind and is an ideal way to begin practice.

3) Stretch first. Stretching loosens the muscles and tendons allowing you to sit (or lie) more comfortably. Additionally, stretching starts the process of “going inward” and brings added attention to the body.
4) Meditate with Purpose. Beginners must understand that meditation is an ACTIVE process. The art of focusing your attention to a single point is hard work, and you have to be purposefully engaged!
5) Notice frustration creep up on you. This is very common for beginners as we think “hey, what am I doing here” or “why can’t I just quiet my damn mind already”. When this happens, really focus in on your breath and let the frustrated feelings go.
6) Experiment. Although many of us think of effective meditation as a Yogi sitting cross-legged beneath a Bonzi tree, beginners should be more experimental and try different types of meditation. Try sitting, lying, eyes open, eyes closed, etc.
7) Feel your body parts. A great practice for beginning meditators is to take notice of the body when a meditative state starts to take hold. Once the mind quiets, put all your attention to the feet and then slowly move your way up the body (include your internal organs). This is very healthy and an indicator that you are on the right path.
8) Pick a specific room in your home to meditate. Make sure it is not the same room where you do work, exercise, or sleep. Place candles and other spiritual paraphernalia in the room to help you feel at ease.
9) Read a book (or two) on meditation. Preferably an instructional guide AND one that describes the benefits of deep meditative states. This will get you motivated. John Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Are is terrific for beginners.
10) Commit for the long haul. Meditation is a life-long practice, and you will benefit most by NOT examining the results of your daily practice. Just do the best you can every day, and then let it go!
11) Listen to instructional tapes and CDs.
12) Generate moments of awareness during the day. Finding your breath and “being present” while not in formal practice is a wonderful way to evolve your meditation habits.
13) Make sure you will not be disturbed. One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is not insuring peaceful practice conditions. If you have it in the back of your mind that the phone might ring, your kids might wake, or your coffee pot might whistle than you will not be able to attain a state of deep relaxation.
14) Notice small adjustments. For beginning meditators, the slightest physical movements can transform a meditative practice from one of frustration to one of renewal. These adjustments may be barely noticeable to an observer, but they can mean everything for your practice.
15) Use a candle. Meditating with eyes closed can be challenging for a beginner. Lighting a candle and using it as your point of focus allows you to strengthen your attention with a visual cue. This can be very powerful.
16) Do NOT Stress. This may be the most important tip for beginners, and the hardest to implement. No matter what happens during your meditation practice, do not stress about it. This includes being nervous before meditating and angry afterwards. Meditation is what it is, and just do the best you can at the time.
17) Do it together. Meditating with a partner or loved one can have many wonderful benefits, and can improve your practice. However, it is necessary to make sure that you set agreed-upon ground rules before you begin!
18) Meditate early in the morning. Without a doubt, early morning is an ideal
time to practice: it is quieter, your mind is not filled with the usual clutter, and there is less chance you will be disturbed. Make it a habit to get up half an hour earlier to meditate.
19) Be Grateful at the end. Once your practice is through, spend 2-3 minutes feeling appreciative of the opportunity to practice and your mind’s ability to focus.
20) Notice when your interest in meditation begins to wane. Meditation is
hard work, and you will inevitably come to a point where it seemingly does not fit into the picture anymore. THIS is when you need your practice the most and I recommend you go back to the book(s) or the CD’s you listened to and become re-invigorated with the practice. Chances are that losing the ability to focus on meditation is parallel with your inability to focus in other areas of your life!
Meditation is an absolutely wonderful practice, but can be very difficult in the beginning. Use the tips described in this article to get your practice to the next level!
Read more about personal development from Todd Goldfarb on his blog, We The Change.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


This was written by Adam Miller at Progressive Buddhism. It really makes sense and deserves a read....I hope you like it as much as I did...

I want to hew close to the bone of life. I want to press myself right up against the grain of its pulse. I want to
tongue life's live nerve.
s is fine-grained. It's going to require a shift in scale. I'm
going to have stop living life in chunks of weeks and months, even in
terms of hours and days. This is too far from the action, six st
eps too
removed. I'm going to have to live life at the scale of minutes and
seconds - at the scale of fractions of seconds if I'm able.

going to have
to practice. This is hard to do. I'm going to have bring
myself back - again, again, again - to that which i
s so common, so
ordinary, so insignificant as to flit by at life's own breakneck pace.
I'm going to have to practice a finely-grained humility that is so
modest as to r
egister whatever is given at however small a scale as
worth my attention.

The modesty of the scale is hard to swallow. I had bigger plans in mind for myself. I was going to be a contender.

A breath? Really? An itch in my big toe? Really? A breeze tickling the rim of my ear? A brush of a kiss from wife's chapped lip?

Why not? What was I hoping for?
the modesty of pressing your full attention into the pressure and
resistance of a single deep breath. The whole thing is right here,
presented in flagrante, on a manageable scale.

and despair? Cupped in ignorance (or mystery, if you'd prefer), the
whole drama unfolds with transparent subtlety on the scale of seconds.
Hours, days, years, are hard to get your head around. But seconds . . .
Here, the breath ebbs and flows. Hope is inhaled. You're getting what
you hoped for, you're getting what you hoped for, you're getting what
you hoped for . . . full. Despair is exhaled, exhaled, exhaled. Before
your lungs are empty you know you'll have to start again.

and despa
ir do what they do. They come and they go. They ebb and they
flow. They rise and they fall. See it on the scale of seconds. See
their most ordinary face. Hope and despair on the scale of hours and
days and years is just more of the same. But now you've seen what they
are. How they work. How they come and go.

Don't be done with either of them. Let them do what they do. Rest in
them. Rest in their push and pull, and something else will happen: a
great peace and compassion will arise. A tenderness and sensitivity
enabled by immense modesty will take hold.

on the drama of hope/despair/ignorance - a drama available in microcosm
in each moment - I can look with compassion on how the whole thing
plays out, on how the same drama repeats itself in m
y hours, weeks, and
years. I can look with compassion on my vanity, my weakness, my fear
and, without excusing or fleeing them, name them for what they are and
watch, then, as their grip loosens. They just are what they are:
ordinary. I don't need to worry. The worry, spacing me from life, is
what wrings the life out of life's passing.

Change scale. You're trying to work with an out-sized canvas. It feels like you can't manage a project on such a scale because you can't.

The meek shall inherit the earth.
Thank you from the Progressive Buddhism bloggers

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Five Mindfulness Trainings

The 5 Mindfulness Trainings

Where did the Mindfulness Trainings come from? They had to come from somewhere. There are three major causes and conditions that permitted their emergence. The first is the awakened mind of the Buddha; the second is the great skill of the Buddha as a teacher; the third is Thich Nhat Hanh’s insightful rewording of the Five Wonderful Precepts of the Buddha. In a language that would appeal to the consciousness of the 21st century, the Buddha’s mindfulness trainings were renewed, in tune with modern historical, socio-economic and cultural developments. So when we study and penetrate deeply into the mindfulness trainings we touch all three conditions, in particular the awakened mind of the Buddha. At the same time we also touch our potential to be similarly awakened.

The First Mindfulness Training

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivate compassion and learn ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.

The Second Mindfulness Training

Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to cultivate loving kindness and learn ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am committed to practice generosity by sharing my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.

The Third Mindfulness Training

Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.

The Fourth Mindfulness Training

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

The Fifth Mindfulness Training

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I am committed to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Fourteen Precepts of Engaged Buddhism

I absolutely LOVE Hanh's Fourteen Precepts of Engaged Buddhism. If I could completely I would be an enlightened soul. I hope you like them!



By Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh (From the book Interbeing)

Thich Nhat Hanh 1
Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth.

Do not think the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice nonattachment from views in order to be open to receive others' viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout your entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times.

Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education. However, through compassionate dialogue, help others renounce fanaticism and narrow-mindedness.

Do not avoid suffering or close your eyes before suffering. Do not lose awareness of the existence of suffering in the life of the world. Find ways to be with those who are suffering, including personal contact, visits, images and sounds. By such means, awaken yourself and others to the reality of suffering in the world.

Do not accumulate wealth while millions are hungry. Do not take as the aim of your life fame, profit, wealth, or sensual pleasure. Live simply and share time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need.

Do not maintain anger or hatred. Learn to penetrate and transform them when they are still seeds in your consciousness. As soon as they arise, turn your attention to your breath in order to see and understand the nature of your hatred.

Do not lose yourself in dispersion and in your surroundings. Practice mindful breathing to come back to what is happening in the present moment. Be in touch with what is wondrous, refreshing, and healing both inside and around you. Plant seeds of joy, peace, and understanding in yourself in order to facilitate the work of transformation in the depths of your consciousness.

Do not utter words that can create discord and cause the community to break. Make every effort to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

Do not say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest or to impress people. Do not utter words that cause division and hatred. Do not spread news that you do not know to be certain. Do not criticize or condemn things of which you are not sure. Always speak truthfully and constructively. Have the courage to speak out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may threaten your own safety.

Do not use the Buddhist community for personal gain or profit, or transform your community into a political party. A religious community, however, should take a clear stand against oppression and injustice and should strive to change the situation without engaging in partisan conflicts.

Do not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature. Do not invest in companies that deprive others of their chance to live. Select a vocation that helps realise your ideal of compassion.

Do not kill. Do not let others kill. Find whatever means possible to protect life and prevent war.

Possess nothing that should belong to others. Respect the property of others, but prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.

Do not mistreat your body. Learn to handle it with respect. Do not look on your body as only an instrument. Preserve vital energies (sexual, breath, spirit) for the realisation of the Way. (For brothers and sisters who are not monks and nuns:) Sexual expression should not take place without love and commitment. In sexual relations, be aware of future suffering that may be caused. To preserve the happiness of others, respect the rights and commitments of others. Be fully aware of the responsibility of bringing new lives into the world. Meditate on the world into which you are bringing new beings.

From the book 'Interbeing': Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism, revised edition: Oct. l993 by Thich Nhat Hanh, published by Parallax Press, Berkeley, California

Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk, poet, peace activist, and the author of Being Peace, The Miracle of Mindfulness, and many other books. He lives in a monastic community in south-western France called Plum Village, where he teaches, writes, gardens, and works to help refugees world-wide. He conducts retreats throughout the world on the art of mindful living, and has conducted special retreats for American Vietnam War veterans, psychotherapists, artists, environmental activists and children.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

#3 of the Eightfold Path

I have found a beautiful interpretation of the Eightfold Path. Number Three, Right Speech struck me as especially poignant. Maybe it's just where I'm at today. In any case, I find it beautiful.

3. Right Speech

We are often judged by our words. Long after we leave this world, our words shall remain. Words can often be sharper than the blade of the sword, bringing harm to the spirit of a person which can cause wounds that are deeper and last longer than that of a dagger. Therefore, we must choose our words carefully. The Buddha realized 4 methods of speech that bring peace to our lives and the lives of those who surround us.

Words of Honesty: Speaking without truth can be a means to our end and to the end of others. Therefore, honesty is always the best policy.

Words of Kindness: Speaking words of kindness, we will never be the cause that divides hearts or puts brother against brother. We become peacemakers. Our words are cherished and valued and shall bring peacefulness to ourselves and to those surrounding us.

Words that are Nurturing: Words that comfort rather than harm the heart, shall travel to the heart, and bring long lasting peace.

Words that are Worthy: Speaking only what is worthy and valuable for the moment, our words will always be found sweet to the ears of others and shall always be considered in a peaceful manner. Words of gossip, untruth, and selfishness do not return to us with peace. The worth of our words is measured by how much they improve the silence.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Notes on Gassho and Bowing

I found this helpful if you do not know the significance or even the meaning of Gassho or bowing, this article will help you immensely.

Notes on Gassho and Bowing
By Taizan Maezumi Roshi with John Daishin Buksbazen

Visitors to the Zen Center often ask about the gassho and about bowing. What, they inquire, is the meaning of these gestures? Why are they done? And why is it necessary to do them so precisely and uniformly? These questions deserve careful consideration.

Although we are Zen Buddhists, it should be noted that the gassho and the bow are common to all sects of Buddhism, both Mahayana and Theravada. These two gestures date from the earliest days of Buddhism, or even earlier than that, and they have moved from India throughout the Orient, finally arriving recently in the Western world.

When Shakyamuni Buddha's enlightenment occurred, he went to see five of his former comrades with whom he had practiced various austerities and spiritual disciplines prior to his enlightenment. These five men, who were very devout monks, felt that their companion had gone astray when he abandoned their customary practices. "Come," they said to each other, "Let's not pay any attention to poor Gautama, he no longer is one of us." They were dismayed to find that he had seemingly stopped his spiritual practices, going so far as to even drink milk and take a bath (two forbidden acts according to their tradition). They could not understand why he seemed only to sit quietly, doing nothing of any value.
But when the Buddha approached them, it is reported that these five monks were so struck by the transformation of their former friend, by his serenity and the radiance of his personality, that they spontaneously placed their palms together and greeted him with deep bows. Perhaps it is a little misleading to say that they greeted HIM. More accurately, it should be said that they were bowing not to their old friend Gautama, but rather to the Buddha
-- the Enlightened One.

What the Buddha had experienced was the Supreme Great Enlightenment (in Sanskrit, anuttara samyak sambodhi): the direct and conscious realization of the oneness of the whole universe, and of his own unity with all things. This is what enlightenment means. This very realization is actually in itself the act of being the Buddha. And it was to this enlightened state that the five monks bowed.

When the Buddha was enlightened, the first thing he said was: "Wonder of wonders! All sentient beings have the same (enlightened) nature!" What this implies is that in bowing to the Buddha, the monks were actually bowing to themselves, and to all beings. These monks were recognizing the great unity which their former companion had directly and profoundly experienced.

Let us examine the gassho and the bow more closely.

The word GASSHO literally means "To place the two palms together". Of all the mudras (symbolic hand-gestures or positions) we use, it is perhaps the most fundamental, for it arises directly from the depths of enlightenment. Its uses are many, but most commonly it is employed to express respect, to prevent scattering of the mind, to unify all polarities (such as left and right, passive and dominant, etc.) and to express the One Mind -- the total unity of Being.

Although there are many types of gassho, in the Soto sect we are primarily concerned with these four:

1. THE FIRM GASSHO. The most formal of the gasshos, this is the one most commonly used in our daily practice. It is the gassho we use upon entering the zendo, and upon taking our seats. We also use it at least sixteen times in the course of a formal meal, and during all services. It is made by placing the hands together, palm to palm in front of the face. The fingers are placed together, and are straight rather than bent, while the palms are slightly pressed together so that they meet. The elbows are held somewhat out from the body, although the forearms are not quite parallel with the floor. There is about one fist's distance between the tip of the nose and the hands. Fingertips are at about the same height from the floor as the top of the nose. This gassho has the effect of helping to establish an alert and reverential state of mind.

2. THE GASSHO OF NO-MIND. This is the next most commonly used gassho. It is basically used in greeting one another or our teachers. In this position, the hands are held a little more loosely together, with a slight space between the palms, although the fingers still touch. The elevation of the elbows from the floor is not so great as in the Firm Gassho; forearms should be at approximately a 45-degree angle to the floor. This gassho has the effect of deepening one's state of samadhi.

3. THE LOTUS GASSHO. This gassho is used primarily by officiating priests on special ceremonial occasions. It is made like the GASSHO OF NO-MIND, except that the tips of the middle fingers are held one inch apart. Its name derives from the resemblance of this hand position to the shape of a just-opening lotus bud.

4. THE DIAMOND GASSHO. This gassho is also known as the GASSHO OF BEING ONE WITH LIFE. Like the LOTUS GASSHO, it is used by officiants in services. Although the hands and arms are in basically the same position as in the GASSHO OF NO-MIND, the DIAMOND GASSHO is made with the fingers of each hand extended and interlocking, and with the right thumb on top of the left.

In each of these gasshos, we keep the eyes focused upon the tips of our middle fingers. But regardless of the style or variety of the gassho, and in whatever setting it is being used, the fundamental point of the gassho is to be one with the Three Treasures: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

Of course, we can look at the Three Treasures from many perspectives, and with varying degrees of depth and clarity. At perhaps the most superficial level, the Three Treasures are seen as external objects of supreme reverence for all Buddhists. Unfortunately, in this view, the Three Treasures tend to be perceived as something other than oneself. But as our vision opens up, we experience that each of us is, in fact, the Buddha.
We see clearly that everything we encounter in the world is none other than the Dharma -- the functioning of underlying enlightenment.
And, realizing the oneness of all beings, we come to realize that the Sangha -- the all-embracing brotherhood of practice -- is simply all composite things, including each of us.

Having this awareness we become -- or rather, we ARE -- one with the Three Treasures.

So, joining our hands palm to palm, we simultaneously create and express the absolute, the oneness which goes beyond all dichotomies. It is from this perspective that we make the gassho, and that we bow.

It is no ordinary person who bows; it is the Three Treasures recognizing itself in all things. If anyone thinks of himself as "just ordinary", he is, in effect, defaming the Three Treasures. And as we place our palms together we unite wisdom and samadhi, knowledge and truth, enlightenment and delusion.


Dogen Zenji once said: "As long as there is true bowing, the Buddha Way will not deteriorate."

In bowing, we totally pay respect to the all-pervading virtue of wisdom, which is the Buddha.

In making the bow, we should move neither hastily nor sluggishly but simply maintain a reverent mind and humble attitude.
When we bow too fast, the bow is then too casual a thing; perhaps we are even hurrying to get it over and done with. This is frequently the result of a lack of reverence.
On the other hand, if our bow is too slow, then it becomes a rather pompous display; we may have gotten too attached to the feeling of bowing, or our own (real or imagined) gracefulness of movement. This is to have lost the humble attitude which a true bow requires.

When we bow, it is always accompanied by gassho, although the gassho itself may not always be accompanied by bowing. As with the gassho, there are numerous varieties and styles of bowing, but here we will deal only with the two main kinds of bow which we use in our daily practice.

1. THE STANDING BOW. This bow is used upon entering the zendo, and in greeting one another and our teachers. The body is erect, with the weight distributed evenly and the feet parallel to each other. The appropriate gassho is made (see above). As the bow is made, he body bends at the waist, so that the torso forms an angle with the legs of approximately 45 degrees. The hands (in gassho) do not move relative to the face, but remain in position and move only with the whole body.

2. THE DEEP BOW (FULL PROSTRATION). This bow is most often used at the beginning and end of services, and upon entering and leaving dokusan. It is somewhat more formal than the standing bow, and requires a continuous concentration during its execution so that it is not sloppily done.

The bow itself begins in the same way as the STANDING BOW, but once the body is bent slightly from the waist, the knees ben and one assumes a kneeling position. From the kneeling position, the movement of the torso continues, with the hands separating and moving, palms upward, into a position parallel with the forehead. As the bowing movement progresses, the backs of the hands come to rest just above the floor and the forehead is lowered until it rests upon the floor between the hands. At this point, the body is touching the floor at knees, elbows, hands, and forehead. The hands are then slowly raised, palms upward, to a point just above the ears. Then the hands slowly return to the floor. This action is a symbolic placing of the Buddha's feet above one's head as an act of reverence and humility.

There should be no sharp, abrupt movements of the hands or arms, no bending of the wrists or curling of the fingers when executing this gesture. When the hands have been raised and lowered, the body then straightens as the person bowing gets to his feet once again and ends in gassho, just as he began. In kneeling, actually the knees do not touch the ground simultaneously, but in sequence; first, the right and then the left knee touches the ground. The same is true for the right and left hands and right and left elbows, in that sequence. In practice, however, the interval between right and left sides touching the ground may be so minute as to be unnoticeable.

In bowing, movement should not be jerky or disjointed, but should flow smoothly and continuously without either disruption or arrested motion.

Master Obaku, the teacher of Master Rinzai, was famous for his frequent admonition to his students. "Don't expect anything from the Three Treasures." Time after time he was heard to say this. One day, however, Master Obaku was observed in the act of bowing, and was challenged about his practice.
"You always tell your students not to expect anything from the Three Treasures," said the questioner, "and yet you have been making deep bows." In fact, he had been bowing so frequently and for so long that a large callus had formed on his forehead at the point where it touched the hard floor. When asked how he explained this, Master Obaku replied, "I don't expect. I just bow."

This is the state of being one with the Three Treasures. Let us just make gassho. Let us just bow.

[from ON ZEN PRACTICE, Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi and Bernard Tetsugen Glassman, ed., pp 54-61. 1976. ISBN: 0-916820-04-1.]
Reproduced in GASSO vol 1 no 1 (ISSN: 1072-2971) with permission of the Zen Center of Los Angeles, 927 South Normandie Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90006. All rights reserved.