Let no one deceive another or despise anyone anywhere, or through anger or resistance wish for another to suffer.

12 November 2009

The end of craving

"Through countless births in the cycle of existence I have run in vain 
seeking the builder of this house and again and again I faced the suffering of new birth. Oh, housebuilder! Now you are seen! You shall not build again a house for me. All your beams are broken, the ridgepole is shattered. Mind has become free from conditioning; the end of craving has been reached."
These words of the Buddha on reaching enlightenment are beautiful in the original Pali. When understood, they resonate also in English. The house is the body, composed of mind and matter and the source of suffering. The house-builder is not a god or a prime mover in the universe, but rather the accumulated conditions of unsatisfactoriness that prompt suffering. The beams are the passions that bring craving and aversion, hence leading on to suffering. "Association with the loathed is suffering; disassociation from the loved is suffering," as Buddha Gotama said in his first discourse. In other words, we crave to get away from what we don't want; we equally crave to be closer to what we want. Both conditions bring suffering. The ridgepole is ignorance of this contradictory state of mind. These contradictory cravings, pursued in ignorance, build conditioned states- sankharas -that swell up and blossom unexpectedly like ugly flowers, giving off the perfume of hate, greed, envy, jealousy, pride, fear and infatuation. We are each the house-builders of our own suffering. Once this is seen through the experience of observation, guided by the eight-fold path, the mind has the possibility of becoming freed from clinging, freed from suffering. Sankharas continue to arise in every being, even in Buddhas, but seen for what they truly are, as transient states that arise and pass like the breath, they become nothing more than tea leaves floating to the surface of the cup. They can be removed without effort. Like the leaves that made the tea, they have served their purpose. Like the leaves that made the tea, they did not begin as impurities, but as actions taken, as inclinations followed, as desires unrestrained. Take the time to learn more about this as if the matter were urgent. Dhamma will always exist. However, the right conditions for taking this sweet medicine may soon change, perhaps not for the better. Bhavatu sabbe mangalam!

05 November 2009

Free the thinker from the thought

Thoughts come in the shape of things, people, birds, animals. Thoughts bring friends: ideas, beliefs, hopes, doubts, fears, desires, anger, envy, greed, infatuation, pride, worry. Welcome them as food for thought, as lonely, tired strangers returning home. Free the thinker from the thought. The thing freed was never bound to begin with.Release the words that form the thoughts that words are anything at all, other than fleeting sparks from fires, drops of rain, dust rising from an untrammeled road.

03 November 2009

The view

Hesperus, evening star,
you bring all things homeward
which the shining dawn dispersed,
You bring the sheep, you bring the goats,
you bring the child home to its mother.

—  Sappho

The dawning of dhamma - 1

Before Vipassana - departure from helplessness.

I awoke on 7 October 2007 full of familiar despair and suffering, but also fully aware of the selfish contradiction of this condition. After all, my suffering was relative and hardly anything substantial when compared to the suffering of others. Yet the suffering was real. I could feel its presence. It was physical, persistent, ephemeral. I decided to read a book on Tibetan Buddhism and meditation, The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying, by Sogyal Rinpoche. This book had found its way into my book collection by chance and like a geological feature, a diamond, or a fossil, it had worked its way through the strata of my collection to finally sit on the surface, to be noticed and dug out, dusted off and put to use. I found it very moving in its description of the fragility of life and the need to prepare for death. I also found it partly obscure and tentative in its analysis of what it was to explore these things. However, it did make clear this was not an intellectual exercise. Action was needed if anything at all was to be gained from its pages. I decided at once to follow the description given in the book of a method for open-eyed meditation. At one o’clock in the afternoon I sat down on a cushion on a mat on the floor of the spare bedroom of my flat and lit a stick of incense, ready and resolved to sit as long as it took for the incense to burn away. There it was. With such a simple gesture my meditation practice had begun, or so it seemed.