Wednesday, March 31, 2010
I thought this article to be so poignant and worth the read...I hope you like Arvind Devalia's article as much as I did.
The Ultimate Minimalist: 5 Powerful Lessons You Can Learn From Gandhi
Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Arvind Devalia, author of Get the Life you Love, and blogger at Make It Happen.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Yesterday I had lunch with a wonderful Buddhist friend at my favorite diner. The conversation was great and the vegetarian cuisine out of this world (as it always is at Amy's Place on Buffalo, New York)! Being present doesn't just mean floating in the present moment. I can "be" in the moment, dwell if you will, and REALLY notice the moment. Appreciating the present, smelling the flowers along the way.
When I do that I am able to focus and concentrate on the "stuff of life." It feels great to breathe, take note of my surroundings, be grateful....and smile!
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Sometimes, just sometimes, during mindful meditation, my mind will wander from concentrating on the breath. What does that mean to me? It certainly sets me back into a position to get clouded and, invariably, suffer if I don't gently reign it in. Meditation has been practiced in one way or another for thousands of years. I suspect every practitioner throughout the ages have experienced what I have been experiencing lately.
[Posted with iBlogger from my iPhone]
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Sentient Beings Are Numberless. I Vow To Save ... T-shirt from Zazzle.com
The other day I was driving down a side street in South Buffalo, New York. It reminded me of my childhood....The sun was shining, a cool breeze and kids playing a pick up game of street hockey. What is wonderful is seeing the gang of kids so excited about having a ball in the street. Like the old days when a car comes down the street the kids will move the goal (net) to the side. That's when I saw him....a boy in a wheelchair. You would think he would be down or feel left out because all his chums were in the street doing something he couldn't come close to doing....Not so! I looked and the lad in the chair was in goal! One could almost feel what he felt...Here's the deal. In no way did that boy present himself as handicapped and none of his cadre of hockey players treated him any different,
As a Buddhist I must be alert to others feelings. I must act out of compassion with loving kindness, generosity and wisdom. Seeing this young man play goal in a wheelchair only confirmed that I follow the mind...The mind does not follow me. Positive action and "right" living should come as natural as our little goalie was in the net. Meditation will always help this. Being in the present, focusing on the breath and having an active meditation practice leads me down the path of natural living. Natural in the sense that what I do is based in solid compassion and flows into this world as easily as water softly lapping against smooth stones.
He shoots...He scores!
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Finding Inner Peace and Fulfillment
His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama
Nottingham, England, 24 May 2008
Transcribed, translated in parts, and lightly edited
by Alexander Berzin
With clarifications indicated in violet between square brackets
The Importance of Investigating the Reality of a Situation
Inner peace is related to mental calmness. Physical experience doesn’t necessarily determine our mental peace. If we have mental peace, then the physical level is not so important.
Now, do we develop inner peace through prayer? No, not really. Through physical training? No. Just through gaining knowledge? No. Through deadening our feeling? No. But when facing any difficult situation, if, on the basis of full awareness of the benefits and harms of any possible action and its consequences, we face that situation, then our mind is not disturbed and that’s real inner peace.
Compassion and having a realistic approach, then, are extremely important. When unexpected consequences arise and they bring about a great deal of fear, this was due to our being unrealistic. We didn’t really look at all the consequences and so there was a lack of awareness and understanding. Our fear came from a lack of proper investigation, so we need to look from all four directions and up and down to get a full picture. There’s always a gap between reality and appearance, therefore we have to investigate from all directions.
Just looking at something, it’s not possible to see whether something is positive or negative. But, when we [investigate it thoroughly and] realize the truth about something, only then we can evaluate if it’s positive or negative. So, we need rational evaluation of our situations. If we start to investigate with desire, “I want this outcome, that outcome,” then our investigation is biased. The Nalanda tradition from India says that we need always to be skeptical and investigate objectively all fields, including religion.
The Importance of Opening Our Minds to Others
Now as for lack of peace of mind and dissatisfaction, they come about from having an extreme self-centered motivation. An individual has the right to overcome suffering and to achieve happiness. But if we think of only ourselves, the mind becomes very negative. Then a small problem appears huge and we become unbalanced. When we think of others as being as dear as ourselves, the mind is open and wider. Then, as a result, even a serious problem appears not so significant. So, there’s a big difference in emotion depending on the scope of how we look at things: from our own perspective or from the perspective of everyone.
Therefore, there are two elements that are important for peace of mind. The first is awareness of reality. If we approach things realistically, there will be no unexpected consequences. The second is compassion, which opens our so-called “inner door.” Fear and suspicion cuts us off from others.
Being Unconcerned about Our External Appearance
[Another thing that makes us lose peace of mind is worry about our external appearance.] When I first visited Beijing, for example, I had no experience. I was a bit nervous and I had some anxiety. But then I saw that some people, if they’re very concerned about their appearance, their face becomes very red when something wrong happens. But if they are open and don’t care if something goes wrong, then there is no problem.
For example, in 1954, when I was in Beijing, the Indian Ambassador came to see me in my room. The Chinese made huge preparations with flowers, fruit and so on, and they insisted that we have a Chinese interpreter. So it went from Tibetan to Chinese to English, although some of my officials knew English. At one point, the pile of fruit toppled over and then the Chinese officials, who had been very stuffy and formal before, got down on their hands and knees and crawled on the floor. If they didn’t care before about their appearance, it would have been no problem. But it was very embarrassing for them.
In Mexico City once, at an interfaith meeting, there was one Japanese priest. He had a rosary of beads in his hand and the string broke. He kept on thumbing his finger through the rosary even though the beads were all over the floor. He was too embarrassed to pick them up. He was uncomfortable because of being so concerning about his appearance.
Anyway, compassion, altruism, truthfulness, honesty – these are very important for bringing about inner calm, not concern about your external appearance. I never say that I am something special, but from my own experience I have no feeling of worry about how to behave in front of thousands of people. I talk to thousands of people at lectures such as this and for me it’s like speaking to just a few people. If some mistake happens, I’ll forget about it, no problems. If others make mistakes too, I just laugh.
Now as for inner transformations, an inner transformation is speaking about an emotional level. There’s one category of inner transformation that comes about naturally through age and another that can come about through external circumstances. These types of transformation come about automatically. Others come about through effort and this is the main one that we want to bring about: inner transformation according to our wishes. This is the main meaning.
Now here, we are not talking about our next life, salvation, or heaven, but how to maintain this life in a more happy and calm way despite difficulties and problems. For this, the major factors that we have to deal with include anger, hatred, fear, jealousy, suspicion, loneliness, stress, and so on. All of these are related to our basic mental attitude. They come about from being too much self-centered. For us, when we experience these things, the self is of topmost importance and this brings about jealousy. From cherishing ourselves, then, the slightest irritation brings about anger, and anger brings about fear. We don’t care about others; we only care about ourselves. And we think that others also only care about themselves and that they certainly don’t care about us. Because of that, we feel lonely. We think, “I can’t rely on others,” and so we get suspicious of those in front of us, those to the side, and, even more, those behind us.
Basically, when we think about it, human nature is such that everybody appreciates friendliness. If we extend friendship, most people will relate positively. As for these negative emotions that bring anxiety and so on, we need some countermeasures to oppose them. For example, if we are too hot, we reduce the temperature, or if we want to remove darkness, there’s no other way than bringing light. This is true on a physical level. Change can come about due to applying a contradictory force – that’s due to nature. But this is true not only on a physical level, but also on a mental level. So we need to counter our viewpoint or perspective with an opposite one [such as opposing self-centeredness and suspicion with concern for others and friendliness.]
Take the example of a yellow flower. If I say, “It’s white,” due to some cause and then later consider it yellow, these are two contrary perspectives. They can’t be held simultaneously. As soon as there’s a perception of yellow, the perception of white immediately disappears. They are directly opposite to each other. So, one method of bringing about inner change is to produce an opposite state of mind.
Another cause of difficulty can be mere ignorance. The counterforce for that is study, analysis, and investigation. This is because ignorance is based on not seeing reality. Therefore, the counteracting force for ignorance is analysis. Similarly, the counteracting force of self-cherishing is concern for others and this constitutes the training of the mind [or cleansing of our attitudes.]
As for how to train our minds [or cleanse our attitudes,] the question is whether this needs to be related to religion or spirituality, and I think it basically has nothing to do with religion.
As for spirituality, well, there are two types: one with religion and faith and one without them. The one without them is what I call “secular ethics.” “Secular” doesn’t mean a rejection of religion, but rather an equal attitude toward all religions and respect for all of them. For example, the Indian constitution has respect for all religions; it’s a secular constitution. Therefore, even though the Parsees or Zoroastrian community is very small in India – there’s only a hundred thousand members compared to the over billion people in India – yet they have an equal position in the military and in the political sphere.
When we talk about the secular ethics, this also implies ethics for nonbelievers. We can extend our ethics and respect even to animals on the basis of secular ethics. And, also, another part of secular spirituality or ethics is to take care of the environment. So, secularly, we need to cultivate our mind; we need to cultivate secular ethics. Six billion people on this planet need to do that. Religious systems can help make that universal cultivation of secular ethics grow stronger– they are an additional method to help with that growth. They are certainly not intended to reduce it.
And so, when we speak about secular ethics, we have a nonsectarian attitude. If any religious person following any type of religion works to further secular ethics, then they’re really a religious practitioner. If they don’t, then even if they go to a church or a mosque or a synagogue, I doubt if they’re really a sincere religious practitioner.
Monday, March 15, 2010
- Sri Chinmoy
[Posted with iBlogger from my iPhone]
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
But beneath Nhat Hanh's serene demeanor is a courageous warrior. The 83-year-old native of Vietnam, who joined the monastery when he was 16, valiantly opposed his own government during the Vietnam War. Even as he embraced the contemplative life of a monk, the war confronted him with a choice: Should he remain hidden away in the monastery tending to matters of the spirit, or go out and help the villagers who were suffering? Nhat Hanh's decision to do both is what gave birth to "Engaged Buddhism"—a movement that involves peaceful activism for the purpose of social reform. It's also what led Martin Luther King Jr. to nominate him for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1967.
As part of his denunciation of the violence inflicted on his countrymen, Nhat Hanh founded a relief organization that rebuilt bombed Vietnamese villages, set up schools and medical centers, and resettled homeless families. Nhat Hanh also created a Buddhist university, a publishing house, and a peace activist magazine—all of which led the Vietnamese government to forbid him, in 1966, to return home after he'd left the country on a peace mission. He remained in exile for 39 years.
Before his exile, Nhat Hanh had spent time in the West (studying at Princeton and teaching at Columbia University in the early 1960s), and it was to the West that he now returned. Seeing an opportunity to spread Buddhist thought and encourage peaceful activism, he led the Buddhist Peace Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks in 1969, established the Unified Buddhist Church in France, and went on to write more than 100 books, including the 1995 best-seller Living Buddha, Living Christ —a volume that never leaves my nightstand.
Nhat Hanh eventually settled in Southern France and founded Plum Village, the Buddhist meditation practice center and monastery where he still lives. Thousands of people travel there each year to join him in exploring the tenets of Buddhism—including mindfulness (intentionally tuning in to the present moment), the development of a practice (a regular activity, such as mindful walking, that redirects you toward right thinking), and enlightenment (the liberation from suffering that comes when you wake up to the true nature of reality). These principles were introduced to the world more than 2,000 years ago by Siddhartha Gautama, or the Buddha, the Indian-born prince who left a life of ease and indulgence in order to seek enlightenment—and founded a religion along the way.
Thich Nhat Hanh—or, as his students call him, Thây, the Vietnamese word for "teacher"—brings along a group of Plum Village monks and nuns to listen in on our conversation. In some spiritual traditions, there is a concept called "holding the space"—or showing up as a compassionate listener. Thây's friends are the space holders who have traveled with him from France, and as we take a photograph together just before our chat, they usher in a peaceful mood by collectively singing a Buddhist song: "We are all the leaves of one tree; we are all the waves of one sea; the time has come for all to live as one."
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Occasionally people comment that they visited a dharma center -- or were reading Buddhist blogs -- and were disappointed that Buddhists were not perfectly agreeable and free of conflict. I've also heard people say they won't work with a teacher because even highly regarded teachers have been caught being less than perfect -- drinking too much, having affairs, etc.
To the first complaint, I'd say -- get real. Nobody achieves perfection of character by walking through a door. People go into practice dragging all of their pain and fear and anger and issues with them. Why should that be less true for others than for you?
If you are looking for a happy place where everyone else has achieved Perfection of Niceness and charitably overlooks how screwed up you are, you will be looking for a long time. On the other hand, when you're open to helping other people with their pain and fear and anger and issues, a dharma center might be just the place for you.
That said, I know some Buddhist communities are more nurturing than others. So if you've really tried to be part of Buddhist community and it isn't working out, this is not necessarily your fault. I think the quality of the community is just as important as the quality of the teacher, and not all teachers are skillful at growing harmonious communities.
The teacher issue is a little more difficult. We like to think that enlightenment is like an on/off switch, and once it's turned on that individual will be infinitely compassionate and wise and free of quirks. However, after long years of observing teachers I'd say "enlightenment" is more like a "dimmer" switch that allows a room to become brighter (or dimmer) by degrees. But no matter how bright the room gets, there is always room on the dial to brighten it a little more. The practice never ends.
The next question might be, is "enlightenment" just a sham, then? No, but I'd say it's probably the case that enlightenment isn't what most of us think it is. In Mahayana, it's understood that we are all "Buddha nature." So, we are all already enlightened, and we are all perfect and complete just as we are.
At the same time, to one degree or another we all have issues and sometimes behave badly. Practice is about bringing that into harmony and allowing the perfection to manifest and be active in the world. That's how I understand it, anyway, but please note that I'm not a teacher.
However, just because a teacher has not reached some arbitrary state of Absolute Bodhi Perfection doesn't mean he or she can't help you. The purpose of a teacher is not to somehow "infect" you with enlightenment, but to guide you and show you where you are sticking. Frankly, to do that, a teacher doesn't have to be perfectly awake, assuming there is such a thing, just more awake than you are.
The alternative to any teacher, good or bad, is your own ego. Egos make the worst teachers.
Yes, there have been some episodes in which teachers with the proper institutional "cred" turned out to be harming students more than helping them. There have been some well-known teachers whose behavior was bad enough to warrant public criticism and even dismissal.
I don't think there are any hard and fast rules about when to be forgiving of a teacher's quirks, and when to walk away. Ultimately you do have to trust yourself. That's part of the process.
Within the Zen tradition, I'd say to be very wary of any teacher who expects to be worshiped and considered infallible by the students. In a healthy situation, there is a sense of mutual respect and trust between students and teachers, and a sense that everyone is working together to support each other's practice.