Tuesday Reading Material

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

worldinhands

Click Here to Access PDF: lovingkindnesssutta_method

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.
________________________________________

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.”
_____________

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

webwithdrops

 

Click here to acces PDF: beingpeace1_8_19

 

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

Dec_18_2018

 

Click here for access to PDF: BeinghealingLight12_18_18

 

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!

Flow of Giving Naturally | 12 . 11 . 18

Bud

 

Click Here for Access to PDF: FlowOfGivingNaturally12_11_18

Giving

– Judy Lief, Jan Chozen Bays, Norman Fischer

The practice of generosity may seem simple—it is learning how to give—but it is the ground that allows discipline, patience, exertion, meditation, and wisdom to flourish. It establishes the basic attitude of magnanimity that is the defining characteristic of the path of the bodhisattva.

The word magnanimous, like the Sanskrit term mahatma, means “greatness of soul.” With magnanimity you are not pinched in your outlook or heart, but rather you have a quality of richness and spaciousness. There is room for everyone.

I once visited a temple that claimed to have one thousand Buddha statues. Among all of those buddhas, the one that most invoked the feeling of generosity for me was a statue of a very chubby Buddha embracing piles of children who were tumbling all over him. Laughing with delight, he maintained a sense of peace in the midst of their chaos. Instead of shooing the children away because he had more important things to do, he gathered them in with a big hug. He radiated love and happiness and acceptance.

That kind of effortless bounty is what generosity is all about, but to get there a little effort and reflection may be in order. To cultivate generosity it is necessary to understand the mental obstacles that cause us to hold back.

One obstacle is self-doubt. We may have an impoverished sense of our own capacities and doubt that we have all that much to offer. Another obstacle is stinginess. We may have a lot of resources, but no matter how wealthy we are, deep down we are afraid of letting go of even a small portion.

Generosity is based on interconnection, on looking outside oneself, noticing where there is a need and responding to it. So a third obstacle is self-absorption, being oblivious to what is going on around you. Generosity has the power to cut through such obstacles and it is available to us all.

The sense of richness that allows generosity to flourish isn’t dependent on external factors like wealth or social status. (In fact, studies have shown that the wealthiest Americans’ level of philanthropy is less than half that of the poorest Americans.) No matter how poor or rich we may be, we all have something to offer. And when we let go of our clinging and extend our hand to others, we find that we ourselves are blessed. Our pinched state of mind, which was so alienating and unpleasant, suddenly relaxes and we are brought into a larger and more inspired sense of the world and our own capacities. Instead of feeling that something is being taken away from us, we find that the more we give, the wealthier we feel.

___

The Buddha said, “If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving and sharing…even if it were their last bite…they would not eat without having shared, if there were someone to receive their gift.”

But we cannot force ourselves to be generous. True generosity comes from a deeper place than acquiescence to the Buddha’s admonition. Generosity, like all aspects of our enlightened nature, lies partially dormant within us. It has been obscured by the inevitable wounds, duties, and worries of our busy human lives.

When we meditate and quiet the mind, we get a deeper look at the true nature of our life and see that it is interconnected. This uncovers in us a well of gratitude. Can we open the mind’s awareness and investigate what we’re being given right now?

We notice our breath. What in the breath is given to us? We are given the air and the body that breathes. We cannot make air. We cannot build and manage our minutely complex body ourselves. We notice the pressure of the cushion under our seat. We are given its firm support. We notice the touch of clothing on our skin. We see the people who planted, weeded, and harvested the cotton, who wove the cloth, who cut and sewed, packaged and shipped, who drove the trucks, who opened the fitting-room doors, who took our payment. We realize that the life energy of many people covers and warms us in the form of this shirt, this pair of pants.

We are not self-made. We are made of the raw ingredients of sunlight, soil, and water, shaped into the flesh of plants and animals, shaped into our life. Our life is one big gift, given by countless beings. When we truly see this, gratitude naturally arises, as does the question, “How can I repay the many beings who are continually giving to me?”

The greatest gift is the gift of dharma, the gift of relief from suffering. Who would not receive this gift gladly? We give this gift first to ourselves, studying and practicing it, transforming our own suffering into a greater measure of ease and happiness. As we do this, we naturally pass this gift along to others in our lives. It could be a smile for the grocery-store checkout lady still reeling from an angry customer’s words, a nutrition bar and a look into the eyes of the homeless man asking for recognition on the corner at the stoplight, a hug for our child distressed by bullying.

We naturally know what to give. We don’t have to work to produce generosity. We just have to embrace our practice fully. True and accurate generosity is the natural outcome.

____

“May we with all beings realize the emptiness of the three wheels, giver, receiver, and gift.”

Zen practitioners chant these words before eating a meal. They remind us that the food about to be eaten has not been earned; it’s a gift. But this gift is not to be understood in the usual way. “The emptiness of the three wheels” means that this giving isn’t a beneficent act one performs for another, an act you can take credit for or feel worthy or unworthy of. A Zen practitioner about to eat a meal remembers that giving is life—that everything is giving, everything is given. There are no separate givers, receivers, or gifts. All of life is always giving and receiving at the same time. This is our practice and our joy. So we practice giving—both receiving and giving gifts—in this spirit.

Some gifts we see as gifts (the birthday or holiday gift) and others we usually don’t see as gifts (the gift of sunlight, the gift of breath). The practice of giving extends to all forms of giving.

Traditionally, there are three things to give: material gifts, the gift of dharma, and the gift of freedom. But really there are many more things to give: the gift of listening, the gift of love, the gift of creation, attention, and effort. To make a poem or a painting is to practice giving, as is cooking a meal, cleaning a room, putting a single flower in a vase. In his fascicle “Four Methods of Guidance for Bodhisattvas,” Dogen writes that to launch a boat, build a bridge, and earn a living are acts of giving. To be willing to be born—and to die—is to practice giving.

I usually think of four simple ways to practice giving: giving yourself to yourself (that is, to be generous in your attitude toward yourself); giving materially to others (giving money or other material gifts to those in need and to those not in need); giving fully and without reservation the gift of your presence and respect; and giving yourself completely in your meditation practice.

There are six paramitas or perfections of wsidom that define the Buddhist Mahayana path:

giving,

ethical conduct,

energy,

patience,

meditation,

and wisdom.

It is no wonder that giving is the first of these. The more you study it, the more it seems that giving is the whole of the Buddha way.

Giving & Receiving | 12 . 4 . 18

Dec_4_2018

 

Click here for access to PDF: Giving&Receiving 12_4_18

 

Developing Generosity

-Marcia Rose

(Founder of Taos Mountain Sangha Meditation Center, Taos, NM)

The Buddha taught: “If you knew as I know the benefit of generosity, you would not let an opportunity go by without sharing.” The Buddha taught and lived what is really a “way of life”: giving and receiving—the practice of dana. The cultivation of generosity offers the possibility of purifying and transforming greed, clinging, and self-centeredness, as well as the fear that is linked to these energies of attachment. A practice of giving is the foundation of Buddhist spiritual development. Generosity is the ground of compassion; it is a prerequisite to the realization of liberation.

The Tibetans have a practice to cultivate generosity. They take an ordinary everyday object such as a potato or a turnip, and hold it in one hand and pass it to the other hand, back and forth, until it becomes easy. They then move on to objects of seemingly greater value, such as a mound of precious jewels or rice. This “giving” from hand to hand ultimately becomes a symbolic relinquishment of everything—our outer material attachments and our inner attachments of habits, preferences, ideas, beliefs—a symbolic “letting go” of all the ways that we create a “self” over and over again. In our Vipassana practice, this is really what we are doing, but without the props. We learn to give and to receive, letting go of control, receiving what is given—receiving each moment of our lives just as it is, with the trust that it is just right, just enough for our spiritual growth to unfold from.

As our dana practice deepens, we begin to know more directly the ephemeral nature of all things. What can we really possess, after all? Our realization that there is actually nothing that can be held on to can become a powerful factor in cultivating our inner wealth of generosity, which is a wealth that can never be depleted, a gift that can forever be given, a seamless circle that feeds itself. As the Buddha tells us, “The greatest gift is the act of giving itself.”

The Buddha taught “kingly or queenly giving,” which means giving the best of what we have, instinctively and graciously, even if none remains for ourselves. We are only temporary caretakers of all that is provided; essentially, we own nothing. As this understanding takes root in us, there is no getting, possessing, and giving; there is just the spaciousness that allows all things to remain in the natural flow of life.

Someone once asked Gandhi, “Why do you give so much? Why do you serve all these people?” Surprisingly, Gandhi answered, “I don’t give to anyone. I do it all for myself.” The aim and the fruit of our dana practice is twofold: we give to help and free others, and we give to help and free ourselves.

Here are some questions we can ask ourselves to help determine if we are giving and receiving with mindfulness:

• What is happening in my body when I give?

• What is happening in my mind?

• Is there a sense of ease, openness, and nonsentimental lovingkindness and compassion in my heart, body, and mind?

• Is there a feeling of depletion, weakness, fear, anger, or confusion—a contraction of my heart, body, and mind?

• Can I go beneath my stories, ideals, and beliefs about how I want the exchange to be or not to be, or how I believe it is “supposed to be” or “not supposed to be”?

• Can I mindfully recognize when I am caught in stories, beliefs, or wishful or aversive thoughts in relation to generosity?

Mindful attention can also help us to know more clearly how much to give in particular situations—or whether or not it’s appropriate to give at all. Here are some questions to consider:

• Am I giving beyond what is appropriate, or giving beyond what may be healthy for myself emotionally and/or physically?

• Are my heart, body, and mind relaxed, open, and joyful when I feel I’ve given “just enough,” or do I experience anguish and contraction of the heart, body, and mind in giving “too much”?

• Am I aware of when the most generous act might be to step back and simply let people take care of themselves, to let go and allow a particular situation to “just be” and work itself out?

Using these questions as guidelines, we can begin to understand the “middle way” of the Buddha’s teaching of dana. Mindfulness is what allows insight to arise in a perfectly natural way and what allows us, in turn, to let go—to recognize ourselves as aspects of the natural flow of life, and in this recognition to give and receive effortlessly in healthy and wise ways.

______________________________________

Giving with Integrity

Buddha: Pali Canon 

 

These five are a person of integrity’s gifts. Which five? 

– A person of integrity gives a gift with a sense of conviction. 

– A person of integrity gives a gift attentively. 

– A person of integrity gives a gift in season. 

– A person of integrity gives a gift with an empathetic heart. 

– A person of integrity gives a gift without adversely affecting himself or others.

-— AN 5.148

 

“The donor, before giving, is glad; while giving, his/her mind is inspired; and after giving, is gratified. These are the three factors of the donor…

— AN 6.37

 

Train in three acts of merit 

that bring long-lasting bliss: 

develop giving,

live a life in tune,

develop a mind of good-will

Developing these three things

that bring about bliss, resulting in the wise 

reappearing in a world of pure bliss.

— Iti 3.11; Iti 51

Distraction Practice | 11 . 27 . 18

DistractionPractice

Click here for access to PDF: DistractionPractice11_27_18

 

The Dharma of Distraction

-Judy Lief

 

Distractions are everywhere, all the time. Little screens, middling screens, gigantic screens. Instead of Plato’s cave, we each create our own little cave and live in a world of flickering images devoid of real substance. We literally screen off our actual world, with all its ruggedness and rawness, and fit whatever is happening into a virtual world of sound, pictures, and videos we carry in our pockets.

We are so easily distracted, we complain to ourselves. But what is really behind all this distractedness? It is easy to think the relentless external stimuli are the problem, but what we are surrounded by are just phenomena, nothing more. The objects of our world are just there, innocently, just being what they are. Noises are just noises, sights are just sights, objects are just objects, smartphones are just smartphones, computers are just computers, thoughts are just thoughts.

Monkey Mind

The fact is that distractions may never fully disappear. You may run away to a cave and stay there all alone, but distractions will follow you wherever you go. You can’t get rid of distractions, but through meditation practice, you can change how you react to them. 

Distractions pull us off course. The word “distraction” means to be pulled away. When you are distracted, it feels as if something outside of you has captured your attention. Distraction is also referred to as desultoriness, from the Latin root meaning “skipping around.” So another aspect of distraction is to be scatterbrained, mentally jumpy. 

It’s easy to think external stimuli are the problem. But noises are just noises, sights are just sights, smartphones are just smartphones.

Mindfulness meditation helps us develop a more calm and stable mind. It gives us greater focus and concentration and is an effective way of overcoming ordinary distractedness. However, in terms of the spiritual path, this pragmatic application of meditation practice is only a start.

It is important to realize that in the buddhadharma, the point of working with your distractedness or wandering mind is not just to be more focused on whatever you are doing. Although that is extremely useful, it is only the first step. Getting a better handle on your mind so you are not tossed about by distractedness is not the ultimate goal.

Basically, we tend to like spiritual practices that are not too threatening, practices that confirm what we are doing and help us do it better. Instead of looking into our fundamental being, we prefer to relate to meditation as a self-improvement exercise, like going to the gym and working out. We can enjoy becoming more mentally and physically fit. This is great, but it does not address the depths of what distraction is really about.

What really fuels our distractedness? What is behind this ongoing restlessness? Embarking on the dharmic path requires that we develop the courage to look beyond our distractedness to it’s source. It requires us to question the source, the arising and the cessation of distractions. On this path we need to peel away, layer by layer, every level of distraction until we reach a kind of ground zero.

Entertainment Mind

According to Buddhist psychology, distraction is classified, along with such things as laziness and inattentiveness, as one of the twenty destabilizing factors of the mind. In Sanskrit this factor is called vikshepa. It arises when the natural flow of sense perceptions is joined with and tainted by our emotions. In other words, distraction is fueled by the usual suspects: grasping, rejecting, and denial. So distraction is not just some mental tic. It is highly emotional.

Although vikshepa is often translated as “distraction” or “mental wandering,” it refers more specifically to the wandering mind being drawn to objects that cause it to lose its ability to remain one-pointedly focused on virtue. So this term points to a specific kind of distraction—distraction from keeping your attention on what matters, on what is genuine and virtuous.

We don’t just react to things outside us — we ourselves are continually creating distractions. We cook them up and keep them going. They are our companions, our pets.

The approach of learning how to pull our mind back when it wanders is a reactive one: we are learning how to respond to distractions. But as we get a little better at responding to external distractions, we discover an even more gigantic mountain of internal distractedness. We begin to notice how it is not just a matter of reacting to something outside us—we ourselves are continually creating distractions. 

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche called our continual inner distractedness “subconscious gossip,” a kind of ongoing drone of thought fragments and opinions. As a corollary, he talked about what he called “entertainment mind.” This entertainment mind needs to be fed constantly. If there are no immediate distractions, it will manufacture new distractions on the spot. So we are engaged in a continuous distraction project, keeping the distractions and entertainments flowing without interruption. There is an air of desperation about both of these self-created rivers of distractedness.

Distraction is fueled by our constant struggle to secure ourselves in relationship to others and to the environment. That project in turn is fueled by our likes and dislikes, our mind is pulled this way and that. To relate to this level of distractedness, we need not only to pull back the wandering mind but also to lessen its fuel supply: the push and pull of grasping and aversion.

Wisdom Mind

Working with distractions is a long-term project. We may begin with a romantic idea of embarking on the spiritual journey. But as we stick with the practice, that romanticism fades away and we are left with a gradual wearing-down process. We find we have less and less wiggle room. It is a shock to realize that we cannot just take our good old self and improve it, but that we have to start over completely. It’s like a major liquidation sale. All our distractions and delusions—everything’s gotta go.

When this happens, we begin to relax. Although at first the idea of abandoning our smoke screen of distractions is threatening, even terrifying, if we stay with that experience even a little, the smoke begins to clear and we can start to see in a completely new way.

Christian mystics say that you need to go through a dark night of the soul before entering into the presence of God. It is like the analogy of the light at the end of the tunnel. No dark night, no union with God; no tunnel, no light. Trungpa Rinpoche also talked about the importance of this stage of development. He taught that when students have become completely frustrated—when their practice has brought them to the point of giving up hope and thinking of abandoning the whole path—that is precisely the point where the real journey of awakening begins. It is there that the teachings can begin to take hold, not as ego’s accoutrement nor as a surface adornment but as a deep-rooted transformative energy reaching right down to our bones.

What lies behind these endless distractions is the boundless space of awakened mind.

We can learn a lot by observing how we oscillate between distraction or entertainment and boredom. Boredom has an edge to it. We feel our ground slipping away; we struggle to find some way to secure ourselves. There is too much space; we need to fill it. There is nothing happening; we need to do something. It is too quiet; something must be wrong.

Paying attention to these kinds of responses to boredom is extremely valuable. It is a great practice. And when you feel that you absolutely must do something about it, stay with the boredom a bit longer! Let yourself feel bored completely. In this way you might be able to get a glimpse of what Trungpa Rinpoche called “cool boredom,” an experience refreshingly free of grasping, pretense, and struggle. In cool boredom, you can finally let go of the burden of trying to be someone. You can have a break from the project of “I.”

Going further, we need to address an even more fundamental level of distractedness. According to the Vajrayana teachings, what we are fundamentally distracting ourselves from is awakening. We are habitually distracting ourselves from the challenge of confronting our own wisdom. We distract ourselves from the intensity of the present moment, the immediacy of the teachings, and our own genuineness. As soon as we have even a little glimpse of this potential, we panic and scramble to get away. 

Throughout our practice, we are working with distractions at many levels. The very moment a distraction arises, there also arises a chance to break through to what lies behind it. And what lies behind these endless distractions is the boundless space of awakened mind.

Thanks & Giving | 11 . 20 . 18

Nov_20_2018

Click here for access to PDF: Thanks & Giving 11.20.18

Gratitude

– Phillip Moffet

Gratitude is the sweetest of all the practices for living the dharma in daily life and the most easily cultivated, requiring the least sacrifice for what is gained in return. It is a very powerful form of mindfulness practice, particularly for thoses who have depressive or self-defeating feelings, those who have access to wonder as an ecstatic state, and those with a reactive personality who habitually notice everything that’s wrong in a situation.

The Buddha taught that every human birth is precious and worthy of gratitude. In one of his well-known analogies, he said that receiving a human birth is more rare than the chance that a blind turtle floating in the ocean would stick its head through a small hoop. He would often instruct a monk to take his ground cloth into the forest, sit at the base of a tree, and begin “gladdening the heart” by reflecting on the series of fortunate circumstances that had given the monk the motivation and ability to seek freedom through understanding the dharma.

Practicing mindfulness of gratitude consistently leads to a direct experience of being connected to life and the realization that there is a larger context in which your personal story is unfolding. Being relieved of the endless wants and worries of your life’s drama, even temporarily, is liberating.

Cultivating thankfulness for being part of life blossoms into a feeling of being blessed, not in the sense of winning the lottery, but in a more refined appreciation for the interdependent nature of life. It also elicits feelings of generosity, which create further joy. Gratitude can soften a heart that has become too guarded, and it builds the capacity for forgiveness, which creates the clarity of mind that is ideal for spiritual development.

_________________________________________

The Joy of Giving

Generosity & The “Instant Karma” It Generates

-Gil Fronsdal

“If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving and sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of selfishness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared, if there were someone to receive their gift.

– Buddha (Itivuttaka 26)

The practice of giving, or dana in Pali, has a preeminent place in the teachings of the Buddha. When he taught a graduated series of practices for people to engage in as they progress along the path, he always started by talking about the importance and benefits of the practice of generosity. Based on that foundation, he talked about the importance and benefits of the practice of ethics. Then he discussed the practices of calming the mind, and after that he described the insight practices, which, supported by a calm and stable mind, lead to enlightenment. Once a person had awakened, the Buddha often instructed him or her to go out to benefit others, to be of service. Service can be seen as an act of generosity, so the Buddhist path begins and ends with this virtue. 

Dana refers to the act of giving and to the donation itself. The Buddha used the word cage to refer to the inner virtue of generosity that ensures that dana is connected to the Path. This use of cage is particularly significant because it also means “relinquishment” or “renunciation.” An act of generosity entails giving more than is required, customary, or expected relative to one’s resources and circumstances. Certainly it involves relinquishment of stinginess, clinging, and greed. In addition, generosity entails relinquishing some aspects of one’s self-interest, and thus is a giving of one’s self. The Buddha stressed that the spiritual efficacy of a gift is dependent not on the amount given but rather on the attitude with which it is given. A small donation that stretches a person of little means is considered of greater spiritual consequence than a large but personally insignificant donation from a wealthy person.

For laypeople, the Buddha considered the morally just acquisition of wealth and financial security to be a skillful source of happiness. However, he did not consider wealth to be an end in itself. Its value lay in the uses to which it was put. The Buddha likened a person who enjoyed wealth without sharing it with others to someone digging his own grave. The Buddha also compared the person who righteously earns wealth and gives it to the needy to a person with two eyes. The stingy person was compared to someone with only one eye.

The Buddha understood giving to be a powerful source of merit with long-term benefits both in this life and in lives to come. While the teachings on merit do not carry much meaning for many Western dharma practitioners, these teachings suggest unseen pathways by which consequences of our actions return to us.

One way that the giver sees his or her generosity return is found in “instant karma,” the Buddhist idea that acts that you do have direct consequences on the state of your mind and heart, even as you do them. The consequences of giving are quite wonderful in the present moment; if we are present for them, we can receive these wonderful consequences during the act of giving.

The Buddha emphasized the joy of giving. Dana is not meant to be obligatory or done reluctantly. Rather, dana should be performed when the giver is “delighted before, during, and after giving.”

At its most basic level, dana in the Buddhist tradition means giving freely without expecting anything in return. The act of giving is purely out of compassion or goodwill, or the desire for someone else’s well-being. Perhaps dana is more about how we are than what we do. Through generosity, we cultivate a generous spirit. Generosity of spirit will usually lead to generosity of action, but being a generous person is more important than any particular act of giving. After all, it is possible to give without its being a generous act.

Although giving for the purposes of helping others is an important part of the motivation and joy of giving, the Buddha considered giving for the purpose of attaining nibbana as the highest motivation. For this purpose, “one gives gifts to adorn and beautify the mind.” Among these adornments are nonclinging, lovingkindness, and concern for the well-being of others.

______________________________________

Source of All Blessings Prayer Meditation

– Rabbi Warren Stone

 

Source of All Blessings

I am Grateful

for My life

for the Blessings

of

My breath

the beating of My heart

Source of All Blessings

I am Grateful

for Beloved Ones who

share life with me

those in our world beside me

and those in worlds beyond my knowing

Source of All Blessings

I am Grateful

to share life with our Human Family

Jewish, Christian, Moslem, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh

May we walk gently upon our Earth

Source of All Blessings

I am Grateful

to be one with All Creation

the flight of birdwings

the swirling of oceans deep

the runnings of wilderness creatures

the sway of forests green

Source of All Blessing

I am Grateful

to be part of the spiraling

of all space and time

beyond my imagination

Yes and again Yes I am grateful

to always be here

where else could I go?

For all this and more

I am Grateful