Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Buddha and Eckhart: On Nothingness

Japanese philosopher Ueda Shizeru

"According to Meister Eckhart, God gives birth to his Son in the solitary soul. 'The Father begets me as his Son, as his very same Son. Whatever God works is one. Thus he begets me as his Son without any distinction.' The 'birth of God in the soul,' spoken of here in the language of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, is the leap to realization of his own authentic life that man experiences in 'solitariness' with the surrender of the ego."(The Buddha Eye: An Anthology of the Kyoto School, edited by Frederick Frank., p.157)

The above quotation, along with the others in this article, are taken from the essay '"Nothingness" in Meister Eckhart and Zen Buddhism' by Ueda Shizuteru, a member of the Kyoto School of Buddhist philosophy and professor emeritus of the Department of Religion in Kyoto University. As with other Buddhist scholars, including the famous D. T. Suzuki, Ueda had a intense interest in the writings of Meister Eckhart, the Medieval Dominican priest. Not surprising, really, when we examine some of the parallels between Eckhart and the teachings of the Buddha. Take the above quote, for example. Ueda extracts the essential similarity between Buddhism and Eckhartian theology; both involve the giving up of the sense of being a separate self or ego, which dies into the greater reality which the Buddha named Nirvana and Eckhart called God. It is worth noting that in the above words Eckhart apparently equates the awakened 'soul' (or 'mind') with that of Christ, when he emphasizes that the Son begat in him is "his very same Son."

"'The Father begets me as his Son without any distinction.' This means that the absolute event of salvation touches each and every individual in its full originality, without first passing through a mediator. This being the case, Eckhart stands very close to Mahayana Buddhism, the philosophical-religious base of Zen Buddhism. According to Mahayana teaching, the very same awakening to the very same truth transforms each and every individual into the very same Buddha - that is, it makes each individual the same 'Awakened One' that it made of the historical Buddha, Gautama."
(Ibid. pp.157-158)
Ueda's excellent insight that Eckhart's view (or experience) of the Son is "without any distinction" parallels the Mahayana Buddhist belief that every 'Awakened One' is the Buddha is well worth reflecting upon. For, whereas in conventional Christian thought, Jesus is God's only begotten Son, and we are separate from Christ and God, even at the deepest level of being, Eckhart insists that if we practice correctly, we can merge into God, and are his Son just as Jesus was/is. The implications of this conclusion are most dramatic when we consider how it would affect one's relationship with the local cleric or preacher, unless a dignified silence was maintained. Imagine declaring to a Christian congregation, "I am the Son - and so are you!" This identification with being God's Son is mirrored in the Zen experience of being Buddha, that is to say, discovering that the essence of being is Buddha. (It's certainly not the case that one's ego is the Son or the Buddha, but that which lies beyond the sense of being an individual entity.

In essence, this realization that we are all Buddha is the case with Theravada Buddhism also, as the Buddha is considered the first Arahant (in this age), and that everyone that achieves full awakening is also an arahant. ('Arahant' is a term that denotes an enlightened person in the Theravada tradition, and is the ideal in that form of Buddhism. It is superseded by the notion of the Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism, but that's a discussion for another time…maybe!) In Theravada Buddhism, the title 'Buddha' is reserved for the historical Shakyamuni Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, and his predecessors that all discovered the Buddhist truths independently and then established Buddhism in eras when it had disappeared. Despite these sectarian differences in semantics, in the light of the central truth of enlightenment or salvation as understood by the Buddha and Eckhart, we can say that Arahant, Buddha, and Son are all descriptions of those who have been 'saved' from life's sufferings.

"So far the similarity is only of a general nature. A more deep-reaching spiritual kinship appears when Eckhart speaks of a 'breakthrough to the nothingness of the godhead.' 'The soul is not content with being a Son of God.' 'The soul wants to penetrate to the simple ground of God, to the silent desert where not a trace of distinction is to be seen, neither Father nor Son nor Holy Spirit.' By carrying out in radical fashion his Neoplatonically laden understanding of 'being one,' Eckhart transfers the essence or ground of God back beyond the divine God to the simple modeless, formless, unthinkable, and unspeakable purity that he calls, in distinction to God, 'godhead,' and that he describes as a nothingness."
(Ibid. p.158)
This "simple, modeless, formless, unthinkable, and unspeakable purity" that Eckhart calls "godhead" comes very close to the Buddha's description of nirvana as "the Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated and and Unformed" (From Udana VIII.3 in the Tipitaka) If the godless is formless, then its not the gendered god envisaged by most Christians, sat atop a throne with a long beard and flowing robes. This "silent desert" without "a trace of distinction" is not, as Eckhart clearly states, the Holy Trinity nor any one of its Persons, but is "a nothingness." As with Buddhist explanations of nirvana, the idea of nothingness can be easily misunderstood. As the forest monk Ajahn Sumedho has suggested, by writing the word as "no-thingness" we emphasize that it is not a thing, rather than point to nothing. In a similar effort, the term "No-thing" has often been used in the pages of 'Buddha Space,' under the influence of the British philosopher Douglas Harding. (Links to the Forest Sangha, of which Ajahn Sumedho is a senior member, and the Headless Way website, which based on Harding's teachings, can be found to the right of this webpage.) Ueda has further insights into Eckhart's concept of nothingness that may interest us:

"For Eckhart, the nothingness of the godhead is, in a non-objective manner, the soul's very own ground. Hence the soul, in order to return to its original ground, must break through God and out into the nothingness of the godhead. In so doing the soul must 'take leave of God' and 'become void of God.' This is accomplished only if the soul lets go of itself as what has been united with God. This what Eckhart understands by extreme 'solitariness,' the 'fundamental death.'"
(Ibid. p.158)
For the Christian word 'soul' Buddhists (and nonreligious types) can substitute the term 'mind.' Doing so, we can better relate to Eckhart's assertion that "the nothingness of the godhead is…the soul's very ground." In other words, these minds and bodies which are created things in a world of things are not self; indeed, there is no such individual, separate self. At heart, the "original ground" of our being, is this nothingness that is "void of God." Reading Eckhart's words carefully, it would seem that to achieve this realization, we need to practice meditation or silent prayer, and allow the soul (or mind) to let go of its self-identification which has surrendered to the idea of God (or Buddha) and rest in the godhead that is nothingness. This is because self is an entity, God is an entity, Buddha is an entity, and no-thingness is beyond all entities or things. Put another way, in Eckhart's view, surrendering to God is an important stage to full salvation (or enlightenment), but to achieve the latter we must let go of everything, dying as a separate self into the nothingness of what he calls the godhead.

"In Eckhart's thought it is the category of 'substance' that is,in the last analysis, definitive. But concomitant with this arrival at, and insistence on, the imageless and formless nature of substance pure and simple, Eckhart advances a radical de-imaging of the soul which is consummated in and as a ceaseless 'letting go.' This 'letting go' accords his teaching its extremely dynamic quality, corresponding to the dynamic of the Zen coincidence of negation and affirmation - except that in Zen, where we see a radical execution of the Mahayana Buddhist thinking on relatedness, the scope of coincidence is wider than it is in Eckhart."(Ibid. p.160)

Ueda's philosophical language can be somewhat baffling at first - at least to this mind, it can - and so we need to decipher it to appreciate it basic meaning. By "substance," Ueda refers to that same nothingness that we have been discussing, and which is also known as 'the ground of being' elsewhere. By "a ceaseless 'letting go,'" Eckhart and Ueda refer to the process of realizing the truth of not-self. We can observe the world, the body, and even the mind (or 'soul') and see that none of them constitute a self, and in this realization we get to the heart of the religious life as envisaged by both the Buddha and Meister Eckhart. This "de-imaging" is the act of letting go with mindfulness, as in meditation and deep prayer. By the "coincidence of negation and affirmation," Ueda alludes to the Zen tradition of the koan that leads to an alogical experience of life, where we hear 'the sound of one hand clapping' and where opposites merge into a single, interrelated and interdependent understanding of existence. Ueda, as an advocate of Zen Buddhism proposes that it has a broader significance than Eckhart's theology of nothingness, which is an issue that the current author is unqualified to comment on.

In this article, along with several others (which can be linked to by clicking on 'Buddha & Eckhart' in the Buddha Space Reflection Series on the right of this webpage), the striking similarities between some of the Buddha's teachings and those of Meister Eckhart have been shown to be well worth reflecting upon for the open-minded Buddhist - not to mention the open-minded Christian! Whether or not you agree with the claims of Eckhart or this blog author, it is hoped that the material printed here has been interesting to you and has perhaps touched your beliefs or practices, or both. Reaching out to other traditions than our own can be of much benefit if done with kindness and consideration. It is not the claim of this author or others such as Ueda Shizuteru featured herein that the Buddha and Meister Eckhart experienced and taught exactly the same (No-)thing. There are notable coincidences within their respective teachings however, that glisten with the merest of polishings, and it is in this spirit that the Buddha & Eckhart Reflections have been offered. May all beings be happy!

Please click on the following link to go to 'Buddha Space,' the origin of this article:http://buddhaspace.blogspot.com/

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving! Gratitude edition of the Everyday Meditator

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Let's really communicate

Let's really communicate! Reach out!

Loving Kindness is Not Weakness by Bodhipaksa at Wildmind.org

Lovingkindness is not weakness

Recently I received a few questions about the relationship between lovingkindness and “toughness.”
1. When practicing lovingkindness, how do you respond if people around you warm to you, but misconstrue your kindness and friendliness, and then become disappointed that you don’t want a “relationship” with them?
Well, that’s an interesting question. I suppose the short answer is “kindly.”
It’s great if people are noticing you becoming friendlier and are responding. But these things can be complicated, especially when people have strong emotional needs (because they’re lonely, for example) or where friendliness is being interpreted as an overture to romantic involvement.
And sometimes we may need to look at the signals we’re giving out. Are we just being friendly, or is there an element of flirtatiousness? It’s hard to say from the inside, sometimes, because we’re often not aware of all our motivations and habits. It may take a lot of internal scrutiny and perhaps feedback from friends before we can sort that out.
But assuming that you’re just being friendly, we just need to be kind and clear and to set appropriate boundaries. So you could thank the other person for their interest and say, kindly, that unfortunately you don’t have time in your social calendar to have coffee with them, or that you’re not interested in dating at the moment, or whatever seems appropriate for the circumstances.
Some people are not good at taking rejection, so the other person may be hurt or angry or become more persistent, so you may have to be very firm. But it’s still best to be gracious.
2. When practicing lovingkindness but still having to be part of the world work-wise, how do you reconcile others’ expectations that you must be “tough” to negotiate deals etc, that kind, gentle people are “pushovers” and should be taken advantage of, or treated with toughness?
There does seem to be a common assumption that if you’re friendly you can’t also be tough or firm, but that’s of course not the case. Sometimes you have to make hard decisions. Recently I had to lay someone off because of a financial crunch at work, which was a tough decision to make. But it needed to be done. I tried to do it as kindly as possible, and to give as much background information as possible so that she’d understand why I was doing what I was doing. The response was quite amazing: my former co-worker, when she heard about the financial difficulties we were going though said, “That’s terrible. What can I do to help?” This is not a testament to my communication skills and is more to do with the other person’s own kindness, but it shows that even a lay-off can be an affair free of bitterness.
Some business-people are tough to the point of being positively inhuman, because they are unable to empathize with others. One study reckoned that one in 25 business leaders may be psychopaths. In the long-term, business leaders like that are hugely destructive. They can make life hell for the people they work for. They can destroy trust with their own customers. They can bring their own companies down (Enron, anyone?). They can destroy entire economies.
There’s even a case for saying that corporations, which typically take returns to shareholders as the only meaningful benchmark of success, disregarding the welfare of their workers, clients, and the world generally, have psychopathic tendencies.
On the other hand, studies have shown that effective leaders are empathetic. One study showed that the most effective managers “consistently used the following four competencies: empathy, conflict management, influence and self-awareness.”
Being empathetic and kind is one set of skills. Being clear and tough is another. Having just one set of these skills makes you ineffective. But it’s possible to have both.
3. This all kind of rolls up to how much is it my responsibility to change my own behaviours based on what I perceive others expect of me? I know some people who do this unconsciously, and others who don’t do it at all a they have no consciousness of others perceptions. But once you are aware, how much is it my responsibility to change myself, and how much should I be “true to myself” and expect others to change around me – even knowing it may not get the response I seek?

Check out The Heart’s Wisdom: Cultivating Compassion (MP3 download), a guided meditation by Bodhipaksa
If we confuse being kind with “getting people to like us” then we won’t be true to ourselves, and we’ll suffer. Being kind simply means recognizing that other people wish to be happy and don’t want to suffer. Being unkind means wanting others to suffer or not to experience happiness. Now we can be kind and still take actions that lead to other people being unhappy (you might need to lay someone off, and they probably won’t be happy about it) but it’s not our aimto make the other person unhappy, so we’re not being unkind. We recognize that the decisions we’re making are likely to evoke unhappiness, and so we try to take that into account in our speech and in other actions we take.
And being kind doesn’t mean negating your own well-being. If other people have expectations of you, you need to ask whether those expectations are right and reasonable. Your question’s rather abstract, so I’ve no idea what kind of expectations people have of you, or in what way they might want you to change. If they want you to fit in with some well-established and effective way of doing things, then yes, I think it’s reasonable for you to change to accommodate that. If they expect you to lose your sense of right and wrong, then you need to take a stand.
When we’re “being true to ourselves” we’re always being selective. In my opinion, we’re most true to ourselves when we’re true to the wisest and kindest parts of ourselves, rather than to the most rigid, grasping, or harsh parts. There’s inevitably conflict between these two sides. Pick a side.
But it’s a complex thing, this being human. Complex and difficult. There is a need for give and take, for compromise, for making concessions. But there’s also a need to be firm to your core values. If people don’t respect that, then sometimes the kindest thing you can do — for yourself — is to get the hell out of Dodge.

Do you like this article? Please share!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cultivate a Compassionate Mind

book coverThe fundamental teaching of the Buddha is that we should view others as being more important than we are. Of course, you cannot completely ignore yourself. But neither can you neglect the welfare of other people and other sentient beings, particularly when there is a clash of interest between your own welfare and the welfare of other people. At such a time you should consider other people’s welfare as more important than your own personal well-being. Compare yourself to the rest of sentient beings. All other sentient beings are countless, while you are just one person. Your suffering and happiness may be very important, but it is just the suffering and happiness of one individual, whereas the happiness and suffering of all other sentient beings is immeasurable and countless. So, it is the way of the wise to sacrifice one for the benefit of the majority and it is the way of the foolish to sacrifice the majority on behalf of just one single individual. Even from the point of view of your personal well-being, you must cultivate a compassionate mind—that is that source of happiness in your life.

From Stages of Meditation, pages 71–72

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Radiant Awareness Living Through Us by Tara Brach

This is a wonderful article by the incredible Tara Brach

Sometimes you hear a voice through the door calling you, as fish out of water hear the waves, or a hunting falcon hears the drum’s ‘Come Back, Come Back’. This turning toward what you deeply love saves you … —Rumi

 Soon after his enlightenment, the Buddha set out to share his teachings with others. People were struck by his extraordinary radiance and peaceful presence. One man asked him who he was. “Are you a celestial being or a god?” “No,” responded the Buddha. “Are you a saint or sage?” Again the Buddha responded, “No.” “Are you some kind of magician or wizard?” “No,” said the Buddha. “Well then, what are you?” The Buddha replied, “I am awake.”

 I often share this story because it is a reminder that what might seem like an extraordinary occurrence — spiritual awakening — is a built-in human capacity. Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha’s birth name) was a human being, not a deity. When Buddhists take refuge in the historical Buddha, whose name literally means “one who is awake,” they are drawing on the inspiration of a fellow human who was able to realize his inner freedom. Like us, Siddhartha experienced bodily pain and disease, and, like us, he encountered inner distress and conflict. For those who follow the Buddha, reflecting on his courageous investigation of reality, and his awakening to a timeless and compassionate presence, brings confidence that this same potential lies within each of us. In a similar way we might reflect on Jesus or on teachers and healers from other traditions. Any spiritually mature, openhearted human being helps us trust that we too can awaken.

You may have already touched upon this outer refuge with a caring and wise teacher or mentor. My eighty-six-year-old aunt, a specialist in childhood blood diseases, traces her love of nature and her determination to be a doctor to a science class in junior high school. Very few women entered medical school at that time, but her teacher, a woman of passionate intellect, conveyed a pivotal message: “Trust your intelligence and let your curiosity shine!” An African American friend who leads corporate diversity trainings found refuge and inspiration in his minister, a leader in the civil rights movement and an exemplar of generosity, humor, and wisdom.

 I found refuge in my first meditation teacher, Stephen: His great love of meditating, and his own unfolding clarity and kindness, helped awaken my devotion to the spiritual path. We respond to our mentors because they speak to qualities of heart and mind, qualities of awareness, that are already within us. Their gift is that they remind us of what is possible and call it forth. Much in the same way, we are drawn to spiritual figures that help connect us with our inner goodness.

About ten years ago I began experimenting with a simple self-guided meditation. I would call on the presence of the divine mother (the sacred feminine) and over the next minute or so, I would begin to sense a radiant openness surrounding me. As I imagined the mind of this awakened being, I could sense vastness and lucidity. If you like Tara’s teaching, check out her audio titles in our meditation supplies store Then, as I imagined the heart of the divine mother, that openness filled with warmth and sensitivity. Finally, I’d direct my attention inward, to see how that tender, radiant, all-inclusive awareness was living inside me. I’d feel my body, heart, and mind light up as if the sunlit sky was suffusing every cell of my body and shining through the spaces between the cells. I’ve come to see that through this meditation, I was exploring the movement from outer refuge to inner refuge.By regularly contacting these facets of sacred presence within me, I was deepening my faith in my own essential being. Realizing who we are fulfills our human potential. We intuit that we are more mysterious and vast than the small self we experience through our stories and changing emotions. As we learn to attend directly to our own awareness, we discover the timeless and wakeful space of our true nature. This is the great gift of following a spiritual path: coming to trust that you can find a way to the true refuge of your own loving awareness, your own perfect Buddha nature. You realize that you can start right where you are, in the midst of your life, and find peace in any circumstance. Even at those moments when the ground shakes terribly beneath you—when there’s a loss that will alter your life forever—you can still trust that you willfind your way home. This is possible because you’ve touched the timeless love and awareness that are intrinsic to who you already are.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Six Paramitas

Buddhism teaches that there are six virtues known as the paramitas through which practitioners acquire merit and progress toward nirvana.

These are:

✹(Dana) Engage in charitable giving

✹(Sila) Conduct yourself ethically, with integrity

✹(Ksanti) Practice patience

✹(Virya) Express your devotion with energy and vigor

✹(Dhyana) Practice meditation

✹(Prajna) Cultivate wisdom.

The Noble Eightfold Path

The Noble 8-Fold Path.

1. Right UnderstandingRight Understanding is clear knowledge of the Four Noble Truths, encompassing Anicca (Impermanence), Anatta (Insubstantiality) and Dukkha (Insatisfactoriness).

2. Right ThoughtsWith clear knowledge, clear thinking follows suit. This is known as initial application (of knowledge).

Thoughts mould a person’s nature and direct their course and direction of action. Unwholesome thoughts will debase and erode a person’s character over time, while wholesome thoughts will lift him/her higher and higher up.

In particular, Right Thoughts are:

1. Renunciation (Nekkhamma) of worldly pleasures, and selflessness (altruism). This is opposed to insatiable desires and selfishness.2. Loving-kindness (Metta) or good will towards people, including yourself; which is opposed to hatred, ill-will, aversion, dislike, detest and spite.3. Harmlessness (Avihimsa) or compassion, as opposed to cruelty and callousness.

3. Right SpeechVerbal expression and communication need to match Right Thoughts. For instance, you are cursing and swearing, or being harsh and abusive, your thoughts will certainly match your speech, and vice versa.

The specifics are:

Firstly, avoid speaking lies, slander, harsh words, and indulging in frivolous chatter (gossips, idle talk etc.)

Secondly, as mentioned earlier, a harmless mind that generates loving-kindness cannot be giving vent to harsh speech, which first debases the speaker, then hurts the listener(s).Last but not least, what is spoken should not only be true, but also sweet and gentle. If your comment is true, but hurtful and unnecessary / unconstructive; then just keep your noble silence.

4. Right ActionWith good thoughts and wholesome speech, naturally, your actions have to be compatible. In particular, abstinence from killing, stealing and sexual misconduct (rape / molestation / deception / abuse). These three unwholesome (aka evil) deeds are caused by craving and anger, coupled to ignorance.

With the gradual elimination of these kammic causes (evil mental / verbal / physical actions) from your mind and body, blameworthy / bad tendencies will find no outlet nor route to express themselves.

5. Right LivelihoodAny attempt at purifying thoughts, words and actions would be severely hindered by five kinds of trade / business / job, detailed as follows:

1. Weapons (Arms)2. Human slavery3. Breeding of animals for slaughter / slaughtering animals per se4. Illegal drugs (narcotics), alcohol, cigarettes and the like5. Poisons

Hypocritical conduct is cited as wrong livelihood for monks.

6. Right EffortTo do anything in life requires determination, persistence and energy. The sustained, lifelong practice of the Noble Eightfold Path, to lead a pure and spiritual life, basically requires Right Effort.

7. Right MindfulnessThe practice of Right Mindfulness, in particular, requires Right Effort. It is the constant watching / observation of your own body and actions, feelings, thoughts and mental objects (your imagination / images in your mind).

This self-observation is useful in two major ways:

• It complements Vipassana (Insight) Meditation. As a subset to insight, it helps you gain better understanding of yourself, the ever-changing (impermanent) nature of your own mind and body.• It enables you to check any subconscious or careless mental / verbal / physical actions that are negative or bad.

8. Right MeditationSimply put, Right Meditation is deep concentration or total focus. The purpose is to train your mind to obey you and not the other way round.

When you start practising meditation, you will be shocked that your mind controls you, and how unruly it is, like a three-year child. All sorts of thoughts will go and on in your mind…

Initially, it will be like wrestling with a bull, or trying to ride a wild horse without getting thrown off. But, with persistence, strength and determination, you will gradually find it easier and easier to focus your mind.

Once you have succeeded in focusing your mind on a point, you can direct it / wield it, like a laser pointer. So, where do you point your laser-sharp and mirror-clear mind at? The answer is – the Five Aggregates that make up ‘you’.

When your body and mind are pure in conduct (Morality), and your mind is 100% concentrated (Samatha), the wisdom (Panna) you have about the emptiness of the Five Aggregates will enable a sudden flash of insight (Vipassana), and Enlightenment (Bodhi) occurs.………..Nibbana!

Of course, the actual ‘doing’ is a lot harder than described......^^

To conclude, here’s a convenient way to memorise all eight points of the Noble Eightfold Path: UT SAL EMM

Figure Legend: The Noble Eightfold Path. The practices can be broadly grouped under morality, concentration and wisdom.

Initial knowledge (Wisdom) guide moral conduct (Morality). Purified mind and body through morality assist concentration (Samatha). Using concentration, the Five Aggregates can be analysed thoroughly (Wisdom again). Finally, with the realisation - that the ‘self’ is actually a composition of factors streaming along and intrinsically ‘empty’ – the actual breakthrough to Enlightenment (Bodhi) is achieved.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

Take a Moment to Look at Anger

Take a short time today and in silence concentrate on anger...when it arises in your life where does it come from? How does it make you feel? How can you get to the root of it to see why you are truly angry at that moment. Breathe. Step back. Teach yourself to pause when you get angry and follow your breath for even a little while. Truly realize that you are not your anger...you are not your emotions. If that is the case then why do we let anger and other emotions rule our lives?

Friday, August 17, 2012

What is Satsang?

The following is taken from endless-satsang.com

What is Satsang

Satsang is a Sanskrit word that means "gathering together for truth" or, simply, "being with the truth." Truth is what is real, what exists. So all there is, is Truth. Whenever something increases your experience of the Truth, it opens your Heart and quiets your mind. Conversely, whenever something, such as a thought, fear, or judgement, limits or narrows your experience of the Truth, the Heart contracts and the mind gets busier. We are all equally endowed with this capacity to discriminate and experience the Truth. Thus, the true teacher, or sat guru, is within you, and satsang, or being with the Truth, is endless. You have always been here in the embrace of your true nature as aware, loving space. You have always been in satsang. 

Truth is too simple for words
Before thought gets tangled up in nouns and verbs
There is a wordless sound
A deep breathless sigh
Of overwhelming relief
To find the end of fiction
In this ordinary
Yet extraordinary moment
When words are recognized
As everything else
(From "Gifts With No Giver" a book of non dual satsang poetry by Nirmala)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What Do I Radiate?

What Do I Radiate?

Recently I read some postings on a popular social network and it got me wondering....what do I project to the world? Everything I say and do puts out an imprint into this life...Kind of like a fingerprint, a "Bodyprint" if you like, that all the world can see. It is certainly karma but do we really think about that? I know I lose sight of that sometimes.

Meditation helps me find the "Still Point" and adds clarity. In meditation I can see how I am projecting myself to the world. Social networking has become woven into the fabric of life as we know it and it makes it easy to communicate in many ways. It also makes it easy to put out a myriad of views of my actions...If I go online and state a negative point of view about a person, group of people, situation...even myself, I put out negative karma. I create the condition for negativity to come back to me. It is simple cause and effect.

Now I'm not saying social networking is bad. Not at all. I am just using that as an example because it is so very easy to use and so much a part of many people's lives. The example I used simply falls into Right Speech which is one of the Noble Eightfold Path taught by the Buddha to relieve suffering and become awake. I must be constantly vigilant in looking at my actions. Is what I'm saying or doing helpful? Does it cause pain or radiate negativity? 

Meditation is not just "sitting." It is active, alive, moving (even though we are still). Within that awesome "living" practice we can gain insight into our actions and walk a path that leads to a happier existence for ourselves and all beings. What I radiate has an immense and pronounced effect on the world...that is sometimes easy to forget. Being mindful brings reality into focus. It helps us see life as it really is and, occasionally, gives us the opportunity to clean house, be fresh and hit the "reset" button!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Slowing Down

I asked a remarkable woman I know who follows the Dharma path to write some words about her lovely childhood in Sicily. Margaret Pinzone shows, very simply, that being present, slowing down and having an uncluttered life are a beautiful recipe for awakening.

Slowing Down
By Margaret Pinzone

As I read an article about " slowing down," in the Everyday Meditator a few days ago, I was reminded of my own childhood in a small mountain village in Sicily. There was plenty of work to do, we raised our own livestock right inside our homes, grew our own vegetables, and since commodities were too expensive or nonexistent, we had to pitch in with a multitude of house chores. There were no toys to speak of, which meant we had to learn to be creative, and get along with others if we wanted them to play with us. Life was centered around the family..Grandparents lived with us until they passed on, and the lessons of love and devotion they taught us were invaluable. There was a deep sense of trust in the community; no one stole from anyone, keys were left on house doors, crime was unheard of. If we had extra food, mom would pack it up and give it to less fortunate neighbors. Selflessness and compassion were fibers in our daily lives. 
And it occurred to me that for so many years, I have longed not for the village itself, but for the closeness I felt with the Divine...when life was much simpler.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

5 Obstacles to Meditation and How to Overcome Them

This was written by King Sidharth for Meditation Rocks. It really is excellent! 

5 Obstacles to Meditation and How to Overcome Them 

When idea of writing this post came to my mind. I thought, “Boy, this is gonna be an endless list” but it was not. Obstacles might seem too big or too many to start with. Once you genuinely start doing it, all obstacles are lost. Here are 5 of my all time favorites:

But How? 

This is so human, we want to know ‘how to do it’ before we could actually do it, otherwise sounds illogical to us. But I don’t remember how I breathe or how heart beats, but still I am breathing and my heart is beating. Meditation is natural, it comes from inside. For starters, to make it easier for you, sit with eyes closed, relaxed body and focus on your breathe. Feel yourself breathing in and out. Methods like Zen Meditation etc. are some developed ways of meditation which can enhance your own or can help you reach a specific state of mind. But the way you meditate is as personal to you as the way you walk, talk, breathe and live.

Finding Time 

This was my favourite excuse. I have school, friends, homework, parents and yes the movies I always wanted to watch (this was the biggest one) and why not, if meditation is all about good, then (I thought) watching movies will do me more good. But little did I know what good it could do. I kept on writing ‘Meditation’ in my to-do list, sometimes I did sit down (only to get up getting bored – we will cover this in next heading). Finally I stopped putting it on list, and stopped bothering myself and found myself sitting in solitude, silence, closed eyes, clam mind and deep silence. I was meditating. I stopped thinking of it as a task, and it happened. Try breathing intentionally, you can’t do it for long – you will get bored. Most important things in life like breathing, heart-beat are natural and happen automatically. So is with meditation, let it happen to you. Don’t force it and all time will come.

Boredom--Oops! I Slept! 

I try to motivate my friends to meditate, and most of them try (Yeah! I have good friends). Many of them complain about getting bored and many of them say that they dozed off to sleep. And guess what? It’s a good sign! It might seem boring in beginning, stay on the line… you are headed in right direction. In time you will find, in this boredom, the treasure – yourself. Put on some light instrumental music (not Bon Jovi!) on very low volume to help a bit. Emotional Storm As soon as he closed his eyes, all his extreme good or bad moments replayed in his mind. Emotions started to surface and soon it was a storm. This is story of my friend who was going through a lot in life and whenever he meditated, often cried or laughed loudly. Are you experiencing something similar? Does your mind suddenly becomes an emotional chaos and you just want to leave the world? If this happens during meditations, it’s good. Meditation is providing a safe outlet to all that emotional energy. Let it flow out… in time you will learn to direct your emotions, in the direction you want!

Can’t Focus/Can’t Concentrate 

Once in a month I make a group of people who are interesting in exploring meditation and invite them to a park or garden. We sit there and talk about meditation and then, obviously, meditate. Having learners by your side helps a lot when you yourself are learning; schools also function on same principle (don’t they?) This time a friend’s friend got excited and joined us. He was so excited that when all of them were meditating (and I was guiding if you are wondering) he kept on popping up with questions. It happens to the best of us. Sit in meditation and mind starts making grocery list, or the important phone call we always forgot to make and we almost forgot about the assignment which is due tomorrow. The biggest mistake people make here is to get frustrated, blame themselves for not having being able to concentrate or simply give up. Think of your mind as a little kid whom you take out with you (walking on road) that child is excited and wants to get in middle of road. The child doesn’t know where to go and what to do, but you know. So you lovingly and patiently hold his hands and tell him, “Not that way dear; come this way (we have cookies!).” Do same with mind. Remember to be patient and loving, “Not that way dear; come this way (we have abundance… of cookies!)”. Dare you shout on a child, and he will tell you what hell (frustration) is same is true for your mind.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Everyday Meditator for Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sabbe Satta Sukhi Hontu Groove

One of the new mantras I have created as part of my Buddha Grooves series. Sabbe Satta Sukhi Hontu, “May all beings be happy!” This is especially good for metta practice. These mantras are contemporary versions of ancient chants. They are meant to be felt, lived....a still point.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Ego is Not Your Friend!

Here is the latest video posting from The Italian Buddhist: Urban Buddhism. It is all about how cunning and powerful our egos are...


Friday, April 20, 2012

Advice For the World

It took this remarkable woman just 58 seconds to sum up the greatest lesson in the world...

The Everyday Meditator for Friday, April 20, 2012

Read Today's The Everyday Meditator, Friday, April 20, 2012 on http://paper.li/f-1332863479

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Monday, April 9, 2012

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Italian Buddhist: Easter and What it is to Be One.

Here is the latest video posting from The Italian Buddhist...I discuss not just the passion of Christ but the oneness we all share...whatsoever we do to the least of our brothers that we do unto ourselves...

Friday, April 6, 2012

Today’s Everyday Meditator Friday, April 6, 2012

Here is today’s Everyday Meditator. The newspaper published by the Italian Buddhist. The paper deals with all aspects of meditation and provides insight and knowledge for the beginner and the experienced alike. It is not bound by any doctrine or religion. The publication contains articles and mixed media from across the Internet (blog posts, articles, FaceBook, Twitter, video, recorded guided meditations).

The Everyday Meditator Friday, April 6, 2012

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Here is today’s Everyday Meditator. The newspaper published by the Italian Buddhist. The paper deals with all aspects of meditation and provides insight and knowledge for the beginner and the experienced alike. It is not bound by any doctrine or religion. The publication contains articles and mixed media from across the Internet (blog posts, articles, FaceBook, Twitter, video, recorded guided meditations).

The Everyday Meditator, April 5, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Everyday Meditator Wednesday, April 4 2012

Here is today’s Everyday Meditator. The newspaper published by the Italian Buddhist. The paper deals with all aspects of meditation and provides insight and knowledge for the beginner and the experienced alike. It is not bound by any doctrine or religion. The publication contains articles and mixed media from across the Internet (blog posts, articles, FaceBook, Twitter, video, recorded guided meditations).

Enjoy! The Everyday Meditator: Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Something To Think About

This is a fantastic excerpt from the Existential Buddhist:

"When we say that skillful actions promote happiness, we are not just talking about the happiness of the individual. In Buddhism the individual and others in the community have equal claims to happiness. Buddhism is, as Shohaku Okumura has observed, neither individualist nor collectivist, but represents a middle-way between these dialectical opposites. This is, in part, a consequence of the Buddhist emphasis on emptiness, the interdependence of all things. It is also due to the Buddhist view of the absolute truth of the oneness of all things balanced against the relative truth of our individual uniqueness. Skillful actions promote the happiness of the individual and the community synchronistically."

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Desiderata

The Desiderata is a 1927 prose poem by American writer Max Ehrmann. It became very popular for a while in the United States. I find it beautiful that such advice was given in 1927...

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Eight Verses of Thought Transformation

The Eight Verses of Thought Transformation, a text by the Kadampa geshe Langri Tangpa, explains the Paramitayana practice of method and wisdom: the first seven verses deal with method—loving kindness, bodhicitta—and the eighth deals with wisdom. It is a tremendous way to lead one's life.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tonglen and How to Do It

I found this amazing article on one of my favorite practices, the beautiful art of “taking and giving”, Tonglen. This article explains in detail what the practice is and is extremely helpful. Pay close attention to the section entitled “Suggestions For the Practice of Tonglen.” This practice is another aspect of loving kindness and helps cultivate bodhicitta - the awakened heart of compassion and wisdom...

All-Embracing Compassion:
The Heart-Practice of Tonglen

As human beings, we have a very interesting habit of resisting what is unpleasant and seeking what is pleasurable. We resist, avoid, and deny suffering and we continually grasp at pleasure. If we observe our behavior, it is easy to see that we habitually resist and avoid people, situations, and feelings we consider to be painful, unpleasant, or uncomfortable, and we are naturally attracted to people, situations, and feelings we consider pleasant, comfortable, and gratifying. According to Buddhist teachings, this behavior is a symptom of fundamental ignorance and is influenced by the defilements of greed (attachment), hatred (aversion), and delusion (misperception of reality). To break the spell of this dualistic perception, to dissolve the barriers in our hearts that keep us feeling separate from others, and to cultivate a deep compassion for all living beings, including ourselves, we need to meet and embrace reality in a radically new way. To accomplish this, we can use the precious heart-practice of Tonglen.
Tonglen is a Tibetan word which means sending and taking. This practice originated in India and came to Tibet in the eleventh century. With the practice of Tonglen, we work directly with our habitual tendency to avoid suffering and attach ourselves to pleasure. Using this powerful and highly effective practice, we learn to embrace our life experiences with more openness, compassion, inclusiveness, and understanding, rather than denial, aversion, and resistance. When we encounter fear, pain, hurt, anger, jealousy, loneliness, or suffering, be it our own or others, we breathe in with the desire to completely embrace this experience; to feel it, accept it, and own it, free of any resistance. 

In this way of practice, in this way of being, we transform our tendency to close down and shut out life's unpleasant experiences. In accordance with Buddha's First Noble Truth, we acknowledge, touch, and embrace our personal and collective suffering. We do not run away. We do not turn the other way. Touching and understanding suffering is the first step toward true transformation. Rather than avoiding suffering, we develop a more tolerant and compassionate relationship with it. We learn to meet and embrace reality—naked, open, and fearless.
Although the idea of developing a relationship with suffering may sound somewhat morbid, we must remember the teachings of the Second and Third Noble Truths as well: when we touch and embrace suffering, we can finally understand what causes it. When we understand the cause of suffering, we can eliminate it and be liberated. There is an end to suffering, however, we must learn how to meet it in a new way. Tonglen practice can help us accomplish this shift of awareness, this training of the mind.

A New Way to Embrace Our Life Experience

It is obvious that Tonglen practice is completely contrary to the ways in which we usually hold our personality (ego) together. Each of us have our defensive ego strategies for coping with the pain, hurt, disappointment, and suffering we encounter in life. We armor, protect, and separate ourselves from our inner and outer experiences in numerous ways that we are not even conscious of. In truth, Tonglen practice does indeed go against our habitual tendency of always wanting things to be pleasant, of wanting life on our own terms, of wanting everything to work out for ourselves no matter what happens to others. This practice dissolves and transforms the armor of our self-protection; the psychological strategies and defenses we create to keep ourselves separate from our own suffering and the suffering we encounter in the world. Tonglen practice gradually wears away our habitual grasping at a false sense of self (self-grasping/ego fixation/identification with the personality).

Tonglen effectively reverses our usual pattern of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure. In this process, we finally liberate ourselves from a very ancient prison of selfishness. With this radical shift of awareness, this new way of embracing our life experience, our heart becomes more tender, open, sensitive, and aware. We naturally feel more alive; more loving and caring, both for ourselves and others. By practicing Tonglen, we connect with a less defended and more open, spacious dimension of our being. The all-embracing compassion of our true nature begins to shine through and we are introduced to a far more intimate and grander view of reality. With this sublime heart of love, liberated from attachment, aversion, and indifference, we gradually recognize and feel the absolute interdependence and preciousness of all living beings. This is true intimacy with life. This is the cultivation of bodhicitta—the awakened heart of compassion and wisdom.

Hearing and Feeling the Cries of the World

Breathing in, we allow ourselves to feel the inevitable suffering that occurs in this life. Our heart's natural response to this suffering, while breathing out, is compassion. We breathe in the pain and suffering of this world like a dark cloud, letting it pass through our hearts. Rather than bracing ourselves against this pain and suffering, we can let it strengthen our sense of belonging and interdependence within the larger web of being. Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezig) is the Bodhisattva of Universal Compassion. His name means "One Who Hears the Cries of the World." Long ago he vowed not to return to nirvana until all living beings had been liberated from suffering. Avalokiteshvara listens to and feels the pain and suffering of the world. He breathes in, receiving the cries and anguish of the world and responds with the greatest care and compassion. In Buddhism, the traditional vow made by the Bodhisattva is to alleviate the suffering of all sentient beings. 

The path of the Bodhisattva is to remember our belonging and connection with all of life. When we know in our hearts that we are connected to the insects, animals, trees, the earth, and every living being, we do not cause harm or suffering to any of these parts of ourselves. Rather, we become sensitive and attuned to the cries of the world, and we learn to respond with wisdom and deep compassion. We develop the wish to free all beings from their suffering and its causes; we desire, more than anything, to bring them happiness and peace. Indeed, the practice of Tonglen is an excellent way for us to train our heart and mind so we too can develop universal compassion and help alleviate the suffering of all living beings.

Suggestions for the Practice of Tonglen
Use what seems like poison as medicine. Use your
personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings.

In Tonglen practice, through our compassion, we take on (embrace without resistance) the various sufferings of all beings: their fear, hurt, frustration, pain, anger, guilt, bitterness, loneliness, doubt, rage, and so forth. In return, we give them our loving-kindness, happiness, peace of mind, well-being, healing, and fulfillment.
1) Sit quietly, calm the mind, and center yourself. Reflect on the immense suffering that all beings everywhere experience. Allow their suffering to open your heart and awaken your compassion. You may also choose to invoke the presence of all the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and enlightened beings, so that through their inspiration and blessing, compassion may be born in your heart. In this way, you are resting in bodhicitta—the enlightened nature of the mind. Bodhicitta, is an inexhaustible source of purity, generosity, and compassion.
2) Imagine in front of you, as clearly as possible, someone you care for who is suffering. Although this may be more challenging, you may also imagine someone you feel indifferent toward, someone you consider to be an enemy, or those who have hurt you or others. Open yourself to this person's suffering. Allow yourself to feel connected with him or her, aware of their difficulties, pain, and distress. Then, as you feel your heart opening in compassion toward the person, imagine that all of his or her suffering comes out and gathers itself into a mass of hot, black, grimy smoke.
3) Now, visualize breathing in this mass of black smoke, seeing it dissolve into the very core of your self-grasping (ego) at your heart center. There in your heart, it completely destroys all traces of fear and selfishness (self-cherishing) and purifies all of your negative karma.
4) Imagine, now that your fear, self-centeredness and negative karma has been completely destroyed, your enlightened heart (bodhicitta) is fully revealed. As you breathe out, imagine you are sending out the radiance of loving-kindness, compassion, peace, happiness, and well-being to this person. See this brilliant radiance purifying all of their negative karma. Send out any feelings that encourage healing, relaxation, and openness.
5) Continue this "giving and receiving" with each breath for as long as you wish. At the end of your practice, generate a firm inner conviction that this person has been freed of suffering and negative karma and is filled with peace, happiness and well-being. You may also wish to dedicate the merit and virtue of your practice to the benefit of all sentient beings.

Another Excellent Form of Tonglen

Clearly imagine a situation where you have acted badly, one about which you feel shameful or guilty, and which may be difficult to even think about. Then, as you breathe in, opening your heart, accept total responsibility for your actions in that particular situation. Do not judge or try to justify your behavior. Simply acknowledge exactly what you have done wrong and wholeheartedly ask for forgiveness. Now, as you breathe out, send the compassionate radiance of reconciliation, forgiveness, harmony, healing, and understanding. Breathe in the pain and the blame, and breathe out the undoing of harm. Breathe in taking full responsibility, breathe out the compassionate radiance of healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation. This exercise is especially powerful. It may give you the courage to go see the person(s) whom you have wronged and the strength and willingness to talk to them directly and actually ask for forgiveness from the depths of your heart.

Tonglen is a Practice and a Way of Life

Traditionally, we begin by doing Tonglen for someone we care about. However, we can use this practice at any time, either for ourselves or others. Tonglen can be done for those who are ill, those who are dying or have just died, or for those that are in pain of any kind. Tonglen can be done either as a formal meditation practice or right on the spot at any time. For example, if we encounter someone in pain, right on the spot we can begin to breathe in their pain and send out some relief. At any time, when we encounter our own emotional discomfort or suffering, or that of others, we open our heart and fully embrace what we are encountering on our in-breath. Breathing out, we offer the heartfelt radiance of acceptance, loving-kindness, and compassion. This is a practice and a way of life.

Practicing Tonglen on one friend in pain helps us begin the process of gradually widening the circle of our compassion. From there, we can learn to take on the suffering and purify the karma of all beings; giving others our happiness, well-being, joy, and peace of mind. Tonglen practice can extend indefinitely, and gradually, over time, our compassion will expand. We will find that we have a greater ability to be loving and present for ourselves and for others in even the most difficult situations. This is the wonderful goal of Tonglen practice, the path of the compassionate Bodhisattva.