Collectedness | 2 . 12 . 19

HandsHoldingFlower

 

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Informing the Whole Committee

– Thanissaro Bhikhu

One of the strangest things about the mind is that it talks to itself. You’d think that if the mind were a single thing, it wouldn’t have to talk to itself. Everything it knows, it would know, without having to communicate. But the fact is there are a lot of different power centers or knowing centers here in the mind. It’s like a committee, and the different members have to send messages to one another. They have to inform one another of what’s going on. Sometimes one part of the mind will know something, and another part won’t know. Part of the reason for this is that we actually build walls inside the mind. In some cases the walls are necessary in order to function. When you’re paying attention to a particular task, you have to blot out everything not related to that task.
Sometimes the walls are very, very impenetrable, sometimes they’re not. They’re more permeable. In other words, you’re working on a task but there’s the possibility that if some emergency comes up, you can get a message through so that you can drop the task and turn to whatever else is more pressing. Say you’re focused on reading a book, but there’s a sudden sharp pain in your stomach. Okay, the message can get through so that you can stop reading and focus attention on the pain. Which means that there’s part of the mind that’s still surveying the body to make sure nothing really painful or horrible is happening, while another part of the mind focuses on reading the book.
But the walls can also be problematic. This is one of the reasons why we have our problems with the mind. It’s not thoroughly informed. You can make up your mind to stick with the meditation. You can make up your mind to do something that’s really truly going to lead to true happiness. But soon afterwards, you find yourself off wandering looking at something else. So this multiplicity of the mind can be a real problem.
Still, it’s also part of the solution. In fact, it’s what makes the solution to the problem possible. If the mind were a totally monolithic thing, if your sense of self were monolithic, you’d play right into the hands of that question of “How is it possible for something that’s so unskillful and so ignorant to gain knowledge?” If the mind were a single thing, if your sense of self were a single thing, it couldn’t change itself. That’s the basic premise of the old issue of self power versus other power. The idea being that if the self is so screwed up, if your ego is so screwed up, you need some help from outside. It’s only through surrendering yourself to some outside power that you’ll be able to find true happiness, or to save yourself from yourself.
This is the basic premise in a lot of the Mahayana, in the Pure Land schools. You need the saving grace of Amitabha or some Buddha outside to come and save you, because your ego is so corrupt that it can’t possibly abandon its corruption. Any of the forms of religion that require you to focus on an outside power to come in to save you have as their premise the idea that your self is a single solid thing that’s corrupt and can’t possibly save itself. That’s where the question of self power and other power gets born. 
But the fact is that your self, your mind, your ego, is not a single thing. There are lots of different selves, lots of different minds, lots of different egos going on here. This committee going on here: It’s because it’s a committee that you can change yourself. One member of the committee can look at another member of the committee and say, “Your policy isn’t working, your strategy isn’t working. You’ve got to change.” Because there is no one, overarching sense of self, the different members of the committee have learned that they’ve got to listen to one another. The people in whom the different members of the committee don’t listen to each other—they get schizoid. The normally functioning human being has different parts of the mind and they listen to one another, and they know they have to listen to one another in order to function. This is what makes the practice possible. The difficulty simply is in taking the side of the mind that wants to practice, that wants to meditate, that wants to stay focused on the breath, and giving that member of the committee strength so it starts having influence over other members of the committee, so they all can sit down together. 
So when someone asks me what kind of Buddhism I am practicing here, is it the “other power” kind or the “self power” kind, the answer is, “Neither.” It’s the “committee power” kind. You can apply this point immediately as you focus on the breath. There will be part of the mind that’s intent on actually doing the work, focusing on the breath. And you notice there is another part of the mind that’s watching, that can be alert both to the breath and to the conscious effort to stay focused. So learn to make use of that observer. That’s the observer that allows for alertness, get all these different parts working together, the intention to stay with the breath, the ability to remember that intention, then the part of the mind that watches. 
Once you’ve got those three parts working together, then there is going to be progress. They help one another along. And the more they learn to cooperate, then the more they are going to be able to get other parts of the mind in this together. So more and more members of the committee sit down and participate. You notice when the Buddha describes the process of meditation, it’s not one quality acting alone that’s going to make all the difference. He never said all you need is mindfulness, or all you need is concentration. It’s always clusters of factors. It’s in the clustering that we gain strength in the practice. 
So don’t be surprised when you find that there are lots of different voices in the mind, or there’s parts of the mind that know, and other parts that don’t know what’s going on. That’s to be taken for granted. And he said that’s part of the problem, but it’s also part of the solution. Once you understand what the actual problem is, then you can work on gathering more and more members of the mind. The part that wants immediate gratification, well, you give a little something to that by making the breath comfortable. The part that gets easily bored, you give something to that by asking yourself questions about the breath, exploring this whole issue of the breath energy in the body. The part that wants to talk, well, you give something to talk about, talk about the breath. If you’re skillful, you can give all these different voices, all these different urges some form of gratification so they’re willing to pitch in with the effort. And as with any task, the more people you have working on the task, the quicker it gets done. 
So think of this as a group effort. You keep surveying to see which parts of the mind are not getting in on the effort. You can see what you can do to get their cooperation. Because it is this way, bit by bit by bit, we get more skillful in this whole issue of trying to find a way out of suffering. We catch ourselves in different ways of creating suffering, and learn to convert the various tendencies of the mind to this one goal so that when there is a state of oneness in the mind, it’s one in a good way, it’s one on the path. And then when it’s one, you can really teach it. This is why concentration comes before discernment. And there is an element of discernment that is needed for the concentration itself. But the discernment that’s actually going to break through the mind’s misunderstandings has to be based on getting as many members of the mind in on the message. I mean you can read a book and learn all about the basic teachings. And then as you put the book down, you find that you forget about them. Or even if you remember them, you start acting in other ways. You go back to your old habits. It’s because not all the mind was there.
You want to bring your full attention to the breath. You want to bring your full attention to this issue of getting the mind gathered in a comfortable place. And the more the different factions, the more the different committee members are there, then when the message comes and they’re all in a mood to listen, that’s when it has a very pervasive effect on the mind. In many cases the insights that really make a difference in the mind are not anything new, nothing you’ve never heard before. It’s simply that not everybody was there to listen, not everybody was there to see the truth of that particular insight. Once you’ve got the whole mind gathered together, then one single message can seep through everything. 
This is why as we are meditating, it’s not just a matter of getting the mind focused, the body’s got to be involved as well. That image in the Canon of taking the sense of ease and pleasure that come from the concentration, that come from a comfortable breath and allowing it to permeate throughout the body, working it, kneading it throughout the body, so that every part has a sense of belonging to the concentration, that’s really important. Without that the messages don’t get thoroughly transmitted. Some parts of the mind will hold back. But when everyone’s working together, when everyone’s feeling a sense of ease, gratification and fullness, then they all hear the lesson. They are all happy to hear the lesson because they can see how true it is. This particular insight that you gain really does make a difference, really does cut through ignorance, really does cut through this problem of random members of the committee causing problems. 
Try to get everybody involved, try to get everybody to cooperate, so that the committee as a whole gets free from suffering.

Mind Like Calm Water | 2 . 5 . 19

DewDropReflection

 

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The shimmering reflections of consciousness

-Andrew OlendzkiWinter 2010

Andrew Olendzki is the senior scholar at the Integrated Dharma Institute and is a visiting assistant professor of religion at Wesleyan University.

“The mind is luminous, but is polluted by the toxins that are dumped into it.” This is a translation, updated for our times, of a well-known passage found in the early discourses of the Buddha (Anguttara Nikaya 1.49). It has been interpreted by some people to suggest a transpersonal consciousness—a consciouness that is outside the consciousness arising each moment in a person’s experience—somehow outside the experience of sense object impinging upon a sense organ. But that is not the sense in the early Buddhist literature. Rather we find the image of a pool of water that, when still, can clearly reflect the nature of whatever impinges upon it. Consciousness is not a force larger than ourselves but a process taking place within ourselves. This process has no individualizing characteristics beyond the basic function of “knowing” an object. Mind is thus neither the source of light, like a shining sun, nor the reflected light of something greater, like the moon. Mind is instead a shimmering pool of contingent potential, capable of reflecting sun, moon, and any other object that happens to dance upon its surface. Its function is more important than its essence. The mind is influenced significantly by the qualities of what gets stirred into its naturally pristine waters.

The diversity of experience comes not from consciousness itself but from the other four aggregates (form, feeling, percepton, volition) in the mix. There is an apparently infinite array of physical and mental objects; the interpretation of these by means of the symbolic language of perception; their texturing with varying shades of pleasant and unpleasant feeling tones; and both the active intentions and passive dispositions that respond each moment to the impingement of these objects with the enactment of karma. In this sense, consciousness itself is like a mirror whose only function is to reflect whatever it encounters—the content of experience is provided by other mental processes. In particular it is the karma formations of the sankhara aggregate that color the experience of an object with mental states and emotional responses. Whenever we see, hear, smell, taste, touch, or think of an object, we do so with a particular attitude or emotion that gets stirred in like an additive to consciousness. These can be either wholesome or unwholesome— healthy or toxic—and can thus either clarify or contaminate the mind’s ability to know itself and its environment.

The image of polluted water is elaborated upon in the Numerical Discourses (Anguttara Nikaya 5.193). “Suppose there is a bowl of water,” says the sutta, going on to describe the water as impinged upon in some way by an external factor that pollutes its depths or agitates its surface. Under such circumstances, “If a man with good sight were to examine his own facial reflection in it, he would neither know nor see it as it really is.” The text goes through a list of mental states called the five hindrances, showing how each one of them can be seen to obscure the natural luminosity and reflective ability of the mind.

Sense desire, the subtle inclination of the mind toward alluring objects, is said to be like a bowl of water “mixed with lac, turmeric, blue or crimson dye.” The pellucid quality of the mind is ruined by dumping such distorting and obscuring substances into its clear waters.

Ill will, the equally subtle inclination of the mind away from all disturbing or unpleasing objects, is said to be like “water being heated over a fire, bubbling and boiling.” Even in English we refer to this sense of anger and hatred as fires that heat the mind up with destructive emotions. Boiling furiously, the mirroring potential of the mind is lost.

Sloth and torpor, those mental factors contributing to sluggishness, sleepiness, or laziness of mind, are likened to “water covered over with water plants and algae.” Such growths take root in indolence and a lack of diligence, and so encumber the mind that its surface becomes obscured.

Restlessness and remorse, their opposite qualities, are identified with “water stirred by the wind, rippling, swirling, churned into wavelets.” When the mind is agitated by gales of anxiety, hyperactivity, multitasking, or incessant internal chattering, it is no longer capable of seeing things as they are.

Doubt is the hindrance that causes us to lack confidence, questioning ourselves, our actions, our teachers, and almost everything else. It is said to be similar to “water that is turbid, unsettled, muddy, or placed in the dark.” Here too, the conditions for the mind’s natural reflectivity are hampered so much that it can no longer function.

Such a model of the mind encourages us always to take on the dual projects of tranquilization and purification. Meditation can be understood as an enterprise of quieting the mind, in order to allow its surface to settle into a reflective plane. But the quality of the water itself also needs attention. This involves, among other things, examining its depths for the presence of toxins, neutralizing these contaminants at every opportunity, and developing diligent moral habits to ensure that new pollutants are dumped into the mind as little as possible. Fortunately, the texts also offer a set of antidotes for each of these poisons, so pouring in such dispersants as non-attachment, lovingkindness, energy, tranquility, and confidence, is sure to have a wholesome, purifying effect.

It can be exceedingly difficult to entirely shut off the source of toxic influxes into the mind, especially those that flow in from the deepest reaches of the psyche. This is finally accomplished only by an arahant or a buddha. Yet there are plenty of ways in which we can stem the flow, working each moment to calm the waters, siphon out the debris, and catch glimpses of what the world looks like when the mind is able to let it all come and go without attachment, appropriation, or interference. Everything becomes clear and luminous when we settle the waters.
_____________________________________

35. Dharmapada

– Buddha

Wonderful indeed it is to tame the mind.
A challenge to subdue—ever swift, seizing whatever it desires.
A tamed mind brings happiness.

Grounding in Wellbeing | 1 . 29 . 19

roots

 

 

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Anchored by Skillful Roots

by Thanissaro Bhikhu (adpated)

 

From all accounts, the world is going to go through a bad period: war, economic problems, insecurity of all kinds. Of course we’ve never really been all that secure. But apparently our insecurity is going to become much more obvious. It’s like a big storm coming through. When you know a storm is coming through, you’ve got to do what you can to hunker down, to withstand it, so that you don’t get blown away and the things around you don’t come crashing down on top of you. In a similar way, when life doesn’t go as you like, it’s like a storm coming onto the mind, and you need to develop your powers of resilience. If you compare your mind to a tree, you want to have deep roots, widespread roots, healthy roots, the kinds of roots that will keep the tree from getting blown over and killed.

Traditionally, the Buddha talked about roots for the mind. There are unskillful roots and skillful roots. The unskillful roots are greed, anger, and delusion. The skillful ones are lack of greed, lack of anger, lack of delusion. Unskillful roots are like rotten roots. They don’t hold your tree up and they don’t give you much nourishment. So those are not the roots you want to depend on. The roots you want to send out are roots based on non-greed, of non-anger, non-delusion. To cultivate skillful roots and starve unskillful roots we can practice this way:

generosity nourishes the roots of non-greed,

precepts (virtue) nourish the roots of non-anger,

meditation nourishes the roots of non-delusion.

These are the activities that we have to engage in order to prepare, in order to withstand the storm—not just before the storm hits, but all the way throughout the storm. Being generous, observing the precepts, and meditating keep us strong, keep us from getting blown away. If your survival is accomplished without generosity, without virtue, without meditation, it’s not worth much. It’s not the sort of survival that keeps you healthy and well-nourished. It’s by nourishing the skillful roots that the health of the mind survives. It is nourished with its inner sense of well-being, truthfulness, self-honesty. You look at your behavior and there’s nothing you have to hide from yourself.

Generosity

Practicing generosity is like sending good roots out, spreading abroad in all directions, so that you’re survival is not just for your own sake, but it helps other people well.

Virtue

The same with the precepts (virtue): If you’re very selective about who you’ll treat kindly and who you won’t treat kindly, or there are circumstances under which you’re going to hold by the precepts, and other circumstances under which you’re not going to hold by the precepts, your roots cover a very limited range. But if you decide that under no circumstances are you going to break the five precepts, the Buddha says that you’re giving unlimited safety to unlimited numbers of beings. In return you get a share in that unlimited safety as well. So again your survival is not just a selfish thing. It’s not based on the kind of roots that are going to rot or dry out, or get pulled up easily, get blown away. These are healthy roots that spread out and keep you secure in the storm.

Meditation

As for the deepest roots you need, those come from meditation. These are the roots that grow deep down in the mind. It’s through the meditation that you realize how your true well-being doesn’t have to depend on situations outside because you’ve found a source inside. Your tap root has gotten down that far. It’s tapped into something unconditioned.

When you’ve got a taproot that goes way down into the mind—in terms of concentration, in terms of discernment—you find a source inside that’s constant and nourishing. That’s the source that can sustain your well-being so that it doesn’t have to depend on anything else. In other words, your goodness doesn’t have to depend on outside conditions.

When in meditation and the mind finally settles down, you find that it’s like an onion: There are layers and layers and layers to its concentration. You peal them away, one by one. You don’t have to be in a great hurry to do this. Be gentle and spacious.

As you settle, the superficial layers of the onion begin to fall away. You get to deeper ones, and deeper ones, not because you’re jumping from one spot to another, but because you’re really staying right here, getting more and more solid right here. Then, after a while, there comes a point where the activities of observing the breath can be put aside because the breath has gotten as good as it can be. From there you work deeper and deeper, just by staying here, and settling in with more and more solidly. The whole body is saturated with the breath energy and is still. Your brain is using less and less oxygen all the time, so the need to keep pumping things in and out gets less and less. That way you eventually get to the point where the breath can seem to stop.

When this happens, you can see the mind clearly, because the movements of the mind become more obvious. You can start peeling away layers here as well. You get deeper and deeper inside, until ultimately you find, after the final peeling away—of the peeler—that’s when things open up to a new dimension.

The tap root has hit something that’s totally different from anything else it has nourished by before. But even if you don’t get that far, the sense of ease that comes from a concentrated mind, if you tend to it well, can give you the nourishment and well-being needed to sustain you. So if the wind blows outside, when the rain falls, when storms come, you’ve got something deep and solid that is the basis for the goodness of the mind, the well-being of the mind, the deep internal sense of calm you can depend on.

Through generosity, virtue and meditation your roots are deep, your roots are spread wide, and they’re healthy roots, nourishing roots. Those are the roots that enable you to weather the storm, because the worst thing that can get blown away is your goodness of mind, the well-being of the mind.

So have a very clear sense of where your true roots are, the roots that are going to keep you firmly anchored. The roots that are going to continue to nourish you no matter what the windstorms are. The roots that make it worthwhile to survive, to keep going. Survival in the sense of the goodness of the mind: That’s your primary survival.

So when you have a clear sense of what it means to survive in the true sense, and what the roots are that are going to sustain you, then you can access the resolve to face adversity. We always talk about the practice as one of letting go, letting go. Well, you do let go of the unskillful roots. But you hold on to your skillful roots, because they keep the vital connection to your inner unconditioned well-being alive.

_______________________________________

Nourishing the Roots

– Buddha

For one who is virtuous, endowed with virtue, no deliberate volition need be exerted: “Let freedom from remorse arise in me.” This is the natural law, that freedom from remorse arises in one who is virtuous, endowed with virtue.

For one who is free from remorse, no deliberate volition need be exerted: “Let gladness arise in me.” This is the natural law…

For one who is gladdened, no deliberate volition need be exerted: “Let rapture arise in me.” This is the natural law…

For one filled with rapture, no deliberate volition need be exerted: “Let my body become tranquil.” This is the natural law…

For one tranquil in body, no deliberate volition need be exerted: “May I experience bliss.” This is the natural law, bhikkhus, that one tranquil in body experiences bliss.

For one who is blissful, no deliberate volition need be exerted: “Let my mind become concentrated.” This is the natural law…

For one who is concentrated, no deliberate volition need be exerted: “May I know and see things as they really are.” This is the natural law…

For one knowing and seeing things as they really are, no deliberate volition need be exerted: “May I become disenchanted.This is the natural law…

For one who has become disenchanted no deliberate volition need be exerted: “May I realize the knowledge and vision of deliverance.” This is the natural law…

Thus, one stage flows into the succeeding stage, one stage comes to fulfillment in the succeeding stage, for crossing over from the hither shore to the beyond.

Limitless Thoughts of Wellbeing | 1. 22 . 19

radiatinglove

 

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Adapted from: Limitless Thoughts

by Thanissaro Bhikhu

 

During loving kindness meditation, we radiate goodwill: goodwill for ourselves, goodwill for the people around us. And we can take this further. We can try to develop a contunal attitude that arises from the loving kindness meditation. Keeping in mind the wish for your own true happiness and wishing for the true happiness of the people around us. Loving Kindness is one of those thoughts that doesn’t need to have a limit. However much true happiness you gain, you’re not taking anything else away from anyone else. However much they gain, they’re not taking anything away from you. It’s good to be able to put the mind in an unlimited state by thinking of unlimited things like that.

The Buddha talks about greed, anger, and delusion as things that make a limit. As long as we allow greed, anger, and delusion to hold sway over our minds, we’re limiting ourselves. Then there’s a whole question of self identification: That too is a limit. The Buddha says that whatever you identify as your self, that’s a limit on you. We counteract these limited contactions with limitless thoughts of inclusion and loving kindness. In other words, while your mind is dwelling on the idea of goodwill for yourself, goodwill for other people, You are creating a wholesome state. You’re not creating any opening for the limitations of greed or anger to come in to the mind. That way you help to open things up, open up the windows in your head, let the air come in. That puts you in the right frame of mind for meditation, focusing on your object of meditation.

One may forget that what determines the pain and pleasure in the mind, the stress and ease in the mind, the sorrow and happiness in the mind, comes from our perceptions and interpretations. It doesn’t come from things. So as we’re meditating, we’re learning how to focus on our minds to see what we’re doing, to see where there are slips in our awareness, lapses in our mindfulness that allow us to do things that are not in our best interest. This is why meditation focuses so much on developing continual mindfulness and alertness. These are the two most helpful qualities in the mind. Mindfulness simply means keeping something in mind. Alertness means noticing what you’re doing, and what’s happening around you. We already have these qualities to a certain extent, but we’ve never fully developed them to see how far they can take us. So as we’re meditating, that’s what we’re doing: developing these two most helpful qualities in our mind. Keep the object of meditation in mind. And watch the minds movement. Alert sensitivity requires being fully present, and also being very open to noticing what’s coming in through your senses.

When you’re not really paying that much attention to the present moment, there are lots of distractions arising, and they fragment your attention. But the more fully you can immerse yourself in the object of meditation, the less room there is for unwholesome states to arise. The mind becomes more fully here so that you can observe it, so that you begin to watch it in action.

The Buddha’s approach to dealing with the untamed and distracted mind is not so much tracing things back to what you did as a child, as is done in psychotherapy. BUddha tells you to focus more on looking at your habitual patterns as they arise, as they keep coming back again and again and again. You don’t have to ask, “What happened when I was a child, why did this happen?” You just have to look at what you’re doing, to see the unnecessary suffering you’re causing yourself. Or you can keep an eye out for any lack of openness and honesty in the mind: What’s that doing to the mind? Do you want to do that? Do you continue wanting to do that as you see the stress that it’s causing?

Sometimes this may seem threatening, opening up these unwholesome patterns of behavior, but as meditating, staying with the object of meditation, making it very comfortable, you’re also developing an attitude of gentleness, being gentle, not forcing it too much, just allowing yourself to feel really good and uplifted. The gentler you are inmeditation, the more collected the mind gets. The more collected the mind is, the more you can really look into what’s going on, with a gentleness that doesn’t scare these things away, and a clarity that doesn’t get swayed by distraction. That way you don’t have to be afraid of the things that get come up. You don’t have to rejectl. You can acknowledge, yes, there is that the mind.

The world tells us that things that are happening and other people are on the other side of the world are the most important thing going on. But you don’t have to believe that, because your world is being shaped by your what you pay attention to right now. You want to understand this process of attention and intentions. What does it mean for the mind to act? What’s the difference between a simple event in the mind, the appearance of a feeling, and an action, the intention? How are intentions formed? What goes into that process? What kind of perceptions, what kind of questions do you ask yourself? What kind of connection in the mind and the body drives your decisions? Often you’ll catch yourself doing something, and you’ll say, “Wait a minute, what did that come from?” The decision seemed to be made by itself, and little tiny things triggered it. That’s what you’ve got to look into, so that you can be more sensitive and actually see the trigger. Often the trigger, on closer inspection, will seem have to produced an over sized response. Why on earth did that trigger spark that intention,
spark that action?

This is probably one of the scariest things about our own minds: Our minds are shaping our lives, and yet we don’t know how and why they’re doing it. As meditators, we’re putting ourselves in a better position to see the how and the why, and gain more insight about and more control over those actions. But before you can see the movements of the mind, you have to be very still.

Cultivating this stillness in meditation is a very immediate way of showing goodwill to yourself and other—because it is both a wholesome and nurturing state to abide in and a way of developing skillful means to spread loving kindness in your daily life.

Dhammapada

– Buddha

 

1. Mind precedes all mental states.
Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought.
If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts suffering follows one like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox.

2. Mind precedes all mental states.
Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought.
If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts happiness follows one like his never-departing shadow.

3. “He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me.”
Those who harbor such thoughts do not still their hatred.

4. “He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me.”
Those who do not harbor such thoughts still their hatred.

5. Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world.
By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased.
This is a law eternal.

Loving-Kindness Sutta & Method | 1 . 15 . 19

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Metta Sutta

– The Buddha | Verses 1, 2 of 10

 

1. One who seeks to promote one’s welfare,
Who seeks good and has obtained peace,
Should be able, honest and upright,
Gentle in speech, meek and not proud.

2. Contented, one ought to be easy to support,
Not over-busy, and simple in living.
Tranquil in senses, let one be prudent,
And not brazen, nor fawning on families.

3. Also, one must refrain from any action
That gives the wise reason to reprove.
Then let one cultivate the thought:
May all beings be happy!
May they be joyous and live in safety.
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Traditional Method of Lovingkindness Practice

– Acharya Buddharakkhita

1. Sit down in a comfortable posture in a quiet place — a meditation room, a quietplave, nature, or any other place providing privacy and silence. Keeping the eyes closed, repeat the word “metta” a few times and mentally conjure up its significance — love as the opposite of hatred, resentment, malevolence, impatience, pride and arrogance, and as a profound feeling of good will, sympathy and kindness promoting the happiness and well-being of others.

2. Now visualize your own face in a happy and radiant mood. Visualize seeing your face in the mirror, and recall yourself in a happy mood. Wrap yourself in this uplifted mood during meditation. A person in an uplifted mood cannot become angry or harbor negative thoughts and feelings. Having visualized yourself in a happy frame of mind, now charge yourself with the thought;

“May I be free from hostility, free from affliction, free from distress; may I live happily.”

As you suffuse yourself in this way with the positive thought-force of love, you become like a filled vessel, its contents ready to overflow in all directions.

3. Next, visualize your meditation teacher, or choose some other person who has been helpful to you or a person you admire. See that perspn in a happy frame of mind and project the thought: “May this person be free from hostility, free from affliction, free from distress; may he live happily.”

Then think of other people who are to be revered, and who are also living — role models, teachers, parents and elders, and intensely radiate towards each one of them the thought of metta:

“May they be free from hostility, free from affliction, free from distress; may they live happily.”

The visualization must be clear and the thought-radiation must be “willed” in a focused heart felt way. If the visualization is hurried or the wishing is performed in a perfunctory or mechanical way, the practice will be of little diluted, for then it will be merely an intellectual exercise of thinking about metta. One must clearly understand that to think about metta is one thing, and to do metta, to actively project the will-force of loving-kindness, is quite another.

4. Having radiated thoughts of metta in the order already mentioned — oneself, the meditation teacher and other revered persons — one should now visualize, one by one, one’s dear ones perhaps beginning with the members of one’s family if that is appropriate, suffusing each one with abundant rays of loving-kindness.

5. Next, one should visualize neutral people, people for whom one has neither like nor dislike, such as one’s neighbors, colleagues in one’s place of work, bare acquaintances, and so on.

6. Having radiated loving thoughts on those in the neutral circle, one should now visualize persons for whom one has dislike, hostility or prejudice, even those with whom one may have had a temporary misunderstanding. As one visualizes disliked persons, to each one mentally repeat:

“I have no hostility towards him/her, may he/she also not have any hostility towards me. May he/she be happy!”

Thus, as one visualizes the persons of the different circles, one “breaks the barrier” caused by likes and dislikes, attachment and hatred. When one is able to regard an enemy without ill-will and with the same amount of goodwill that one has for a very dear friend, metta then acquires a sublime impartiality, elevating the mind upward and outward as if in a spiral movement of ever-widening circles until it becomes all-embracing.

Visualization: “calling to mind” or visualizing certain objects, such as a person, a certain area or a direction or a category of beings. In other words it means imagining the people towards whom thoughts of love are to be projected or spread.

Radiation: The projection of certain thoughts promoting the well-being of those persons towards whom one’s mind is directed.

A metta-thought is a powerful thought-force. It can actually effect what has been willed. For wishing well-being is willing and thus is creative action. In fact, all that humans have created in different fields is the result of what we have willed, whether it is a city or a hydro-electric project, a rocket going to the moon, a weapon of destruction, or an artistic or literary masterpiece.

Radiation of thoughts of metta, too, is the development of a willpower that can effect whatever is willed. It is not a rare experience to see diseases cured or misfortunes warded off, even from a great distance, by the application of the thought-force of metta. But this thought-force has to be generated from the heart in an authentic, intentional and focused way.

It is only when one is free from hostility, affliction and distress that one “lives happily,” and can conduct oneself with ease and happiness. Thus all these terms are interconnected.

The order of these visualizations, one after the other, by taking the path of least resistance, in a graduated sequence, progressively the circle widens as does the mind itself. One must start the meditation on metta by visualizing oneself, and thereafter a person for whom one has reverence, then one’s dear ones, then neutral people, then hostile persons. As one radiates thoughts of love in this order, the mind breaks all barriers between oneself, a revered one, a dear one, a neutral one and a hostile one. Everyone comes to be looked upon as accessable and included in the healing wish of loving-kindness.

In the Visuddhimagga, Acariya Buddhaghosa gives a very apt analogy for the breaking of the barriers:

“Suppose bandits were to come to the meditator who is sitting in a place with a respected, a dear, a neutral, and a hostile or wicked person and demand, ‘Friend, we want one of you for the purpose of offering human sacrifice.’ If the meditator were to think, ‘Let him take this one or that one,’ he has not broken down the barriers. And even if he were to think, ‘Let none of these be taken, but let them take me,’ even then he has not broken down the barriers since he seeks his own harm, and metta meditation signifies the well-being of all. But when he does not see the need for anyone to be given to the bandits and impartially projects the thought of love towards all, including the bandits, it is then that he would break down the barriers.”
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Metta Sutta (continued)

– The Buddha | Verses 4, 10 of 10

4. Whatever living creatures there be,
Without exception, weak or strong,
Long, huge or middle-sized,
Or short, minute or bulky,

5. Whether visible or invisible,
And those living far or near,
The born and those seeking birth,
May all beings be happy!

6. Let none deceive or decry
another anywhere;
Let none wish others harm
In resentment or in hate.

7. Just as with one’s own life
A parent shields from hurt
a child, an only child,
Let all-embracing thoughts
For all beings be yours.

8. Cultivate an all-embracing mind of love
For all throughout the universe,
In all its height, depth and breadth —
Love that is untroubled
And beyond hatred or enmity.

9. As you stand, walk, sit or lie,
So long as you are awake,
Pursue this awareness with gratitude,
An infinite good will toward the entire world

10. Holding no more to wrong beliefs,
With virtue and endowed with insight,
And freed from sense appetites,
Freed from duality of birth and death,
one is not, to this world, born again.

Being Peace | 1 . 8 . 19

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Thich Nhat Hanh on Being Peace

My desire for achievement has led to much suffering. No matter what I do, it never feels like it’s enough. How can I make peace with myself?

The quality of your action depends on the quality of your being. Suppose you’re eager to offer happiness, to make someone happy. That’s a good thing to do. But if you’re not happy, then you can’t do that. In order to make another person happy, you have to be happy yourself. So there’s a link between doing and being. If you don’t succeed in being, you can’t succeed in doing. If you don’t feel that you’re on the right path, happiness isn’t possible. This is true for everyone; if you don’t know where you’re going, you suffer. It’s very important to realize your path and see your true way.

Happiness means feeling you are on the right path every moment. You don’t need to arrive at the end of the path in order to be happy. The right path refers to the very concrete ways you live your life in every moment. In Buddhism, we speak of the Noble Eightfold Path: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. It’s possible for us to live the Noble Eightfold Path every moment of our daily lives. That not only makes us happy, it makes people around us happy. If you practice the path, you become very pleasant, very fresh, and very compassionate.

Look at the tree in the front yard. The tree doesn’t seem to be doing anything. It stands there, vigorous, fresh, and beautiful, and everyone profits from it. That’s the miracle of being. If a tree were less than a tree, all of us would be in trouble. But if a tree is just a real tree, then there’s hope and joy. That’s why if you can be yourself, that is already action. Action is based on nonaction; action is being.

I am busy from early in the morning until late at night. I am rarely alone. Where can I find a time and place to contemplate in silence?

Silence is something that comes from your heart, not from outside. Silence doesn’t mean not talking and not doing things; it means that you are not disturbed inside. If you’re truly silent, then no matter what situation you find yourself in you can enjoy the silence. There are moments when you think you’re silent and all around is silent, but talking is going on all the time inside your head. That’s not silence. The practice is how to find silence in all the activities you do.

Let us change our way of thinking and our way of looking. We have to realize that silence comes from our heart and not from the absence of talk. Sitting down to eat your lunch may be an opportunity for you to enjoy silence; though others may be speaking, it’s possible for you to be very silent inside. The Buddha was surrounded by thousands of monks. Although he walked, sat, and ate among the monks and the nuns, he always dwelled in his silence. The Buddha made it very clear that to be alone, to be quiet, does not mean you have to go into the forest. You can live in the sangha, you can be in the marketplace, yet you still enjoy the silence and the solitude. Being alone does not mean there is no one around you.

Being alone means you are established firmly in the here and the now and you become aware of what is happening in the present moment. You use your mindfulness to become aware of every feeling, every perception you have. You’re aware of what’s happening around you in the sangha, but you’re always with yourself, you don’t lose yourself. That’s the Buddha’s definition of the ideal practice of solitude: not to be caught in the past or carried away by the future, but always to be here, body and mind united, aware of what is happening in the present moment. That is real solitude.

 

Metta: The Practice of Universal Love

– Acharya Buddharakkhita

The Pali Canon commentaries explain:

How does one love 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 as universal 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.”

Being Healing Light | 12 . 18 . 2018

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Healing Light | A Meditation

-Tulku Thondup Rinpoche

Always when we call upon light, or any other means of healing, we need to visualize an image or presence, to feel its positive qualities, and to embrace its power to heal. Be creative in imagining light in a way that works for you. As you practice, you may find that your ability to meditate upon light deepens and strengthens.

You might find it helpful to imagine light showering down upon you, suffusing and radiating your mind and body with its healing warmth, bringing openness and relaxation to everything it touches. Perhaps the light takes the form of rainbow-colored beams. Feel that it is filling your mind and body completely, bringing bliss, peace and health that instantly warms and heals problem areas, or melts them into light and peace. Every part of your body, down to the last cell, is effortlessly filled with light. Then feel that your body is transformed into a body of light, or perhaps a glowing, warm flame if that image is helpful.

At times, you may feel the need for emotional security and protection. Then you could imagine light as an aura or tent around your body, or light that is like a protective eggshell. Such images should make you feel relaxed and open, even while protected but not cut off.

Meditations on light can be used to heal specific problems, or they can help generally to make us feel more open and spacious. As we meditate on light, we can imagine the light as expanding beyond our bodies and shining forth without end. We can see the whole world as touched, suffused and transformed into pure and peaceful light. If we meditate on light in a very open way, we realize that light is infinite, without borders or the limits of time and space.

According to our needs, we can see healing light in a variety of forms. If you have a difficult emotion that seems lodged in some particular area, like your chest or throat, you could place your hand there in a healing and caring way. Just by gently touching, rubbing or massaging the area as you breathe in a very relaxed way, you can ease your problem. In addition, you could visualize healing light in multiple colors coming from your hand. 

A contemporary Christian mystic, Omraam Michael Aivanhov, advises:

“When you are in great pain, ask the light to help you. Imagine that from your fingers emanate rays of light of every color and train these rays on the painful area. You will soon feel a gradual release from the pain.”

If a sense of flying or floating arrises and makes you uncomfortable, ground yourself by imagining that while the healing light is pure, clear and healing, your feet are connected to and supported by the earth. 

We can incorporate an awareness of light and energy into every part of our lives. This awareness can turn our ordinary lives into a cycle of healing.

A good practice for anyone, no matter what his or her temperament or skill at meditation, is deep appreciation of the light of nature—the sunshine, the subtle shifts of light during the day and at different seasons of the year, the beautiful sunsets, the moonlight and starlight, the soft glow of an overcast day.

We could also cultivate an awareness of pure, absolute light in our everyday world, at least conceptually. As we move through our daily routine, any awareness of universal light can give us confidence and strength. So when you sit, don’t just sit like a piece of rock. Sit in a relaxed but alert way, with a feeling that celebrates light and energy, as if you were a candle flame radiating light.

When you think, do not think with a confused, grasping or contracted mind. Be aware that the light of the mind can inspire the clarity of openness and spacious balance.

When you talk, speak with a voice that is neither harsh nor weak. Like light and energy, your voice can be strong, clear and soothing.

Light is not only within us, but everywhere around us. Even though the absolute light of oneness is beyond concepts or images, we can feel or imagine light in its relative form as subtly visible in the air around us and in our everyday surroundings. All of your movements and thoughts can be in communion with the luminous nature of existence. The smallest movement, even a movement of your finger can be the play, enjoyment and celebration of light and energy.

We will recognize whether a particular way of using light meditation is suitable for our personality and capabilities. Some of us might have difficulty being in touch with some of our feelings, and we may not be ready for this kind of daily life practice. If there is tightness or contraction or a manic giddy feeling, this indicates the practice is not appropriate. 

If the question comes up “is right for me” or am I doing it “the right way.” Always, we should do what makes us feel relaxed and open; this is our guide.

__________

“One candle lights another and can light thousands of other candles-

the life of the candle will not be shortened when shared.

And just so, one heart illuminates another heart and can illuminate thousands of other hearts.”

_________

May you be beam brightly in love and light in this holiday season!