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

11 November 2010

This is Buddhism

What is a Buddhist? A Buddhist is someone who seeks to show unconditional loving kindness, personally, to every being everywhere, in such a way that this is not noticed, yet it is clearly understood and gratefully received, without the need for any return. This is surely unattainable, impossible. But this is what we should do! Even though it is impossible, our true nature says we could do it, so we try. This is Buddhism. However, this is not idealism, being kind for the sake of others; or being merely positive for the sake of self-interest, for looking good, for impressing anyone. That is easy. That is not Buddhism. So doing what is merely possible is not the dhamma way. Yet, doing what is impossible is also not the dhamma way. Little by little is the dhamma way. The effort made. Now. Now. Now. That is the way. 
Anyone who has been lucky enough to experience a Vipassana retreat will smile when I say: “Start again! Start again!” For all others to understand, these are the words Goenkaji uses to introduce many meditation sessions. These words echo around in the mind,during and after a retreat, like a Vipassana mantra, at times even more vividly than the Pali chants. 
What does it mean? Start what again? Meditation, yes. But meditation is the possible. Sit, watch the breath, watch sensations. Be silent for ten days. This is easy. 
More to the point of what-a-Buddhist-is, is making the effort to “start again.” This is hard, but not impossible. What is impossible, is that once the effort is made, it will fail. Before there is a “start again,” there is doubt. Once you “start again,” there is none. The effort is the effect. The attempt is the outcome. All of this is sounding very Zen. This word “Zen” has come to mean enigmatic, contradictory. Put it aside. Put aside Vipassana. Put aside Dhamma. Put aside Buddhist. 
The true human heart is like a leaf on a still day. It is unstirred by wind, by events. Yet when the wind blows, when there is tension, turbulence and agitation, the leaf trembles and bends. When it rains the leaf becomes soaked, when the sun shines, the leaf dries out. When all that turbulence ceases, the leaf again becomes still. 

If, to be a Buddhist, means to be kind to others, it means, before anything else, being kind to yourself. It is important to be a friend to your natural heart, not an opponent. You are included in the statement above of what it is to be a Buddhist. Being kind to “every being everywhere” must start with the one closest. So give away tension and agitation. 

To help you do this, to help you to start again, say these words of the Buddha to yourself, to your heart: “This is for your well-being; this is for your happiness.” To make this real, take a deliberate long breath, hold it for a few beats. Then breathe out slowly, and hold for a few beats. Then let the breath go its own way. It will settle back into its natural, unruffled state. Now you are ready to start again.

02 November 2010

All the time in the world

There is all the time in the world.
Then there is none.   - Mike Ladd.

The Buddha-dhamma pulses with life. Even the distance of 2,500 years has not obscured the way for the earnest seeker. The path is clearly marked. Why delay any longer? - Bhikku Sobin S. Namto.

The most common product of the human mind is the excuse. Note these familiar phrases: “I'll do it later.” “Can't you see I'm busy?” “I have other responsibilities.” “There are so many distractions.” “I never have time.” “I have bills to pay.” “As soon as I come back from my holiday.” “I'd like to, but...” 
The Buddha constantly beseeched his followers to act promptly and seek liberation for themselves. He pointed out there are many secluded places, such as the roots of trees and empty buildings, where it would be possible to meditate with diligence, and he urged all on the path to seek out this seclusion as a matter of urgency. Immediately the excuses arise: “What kind of tree?” “What if the owner of the building comes back?” “Can't I just do it here, in my comfortable room?” 
Of course, the place doesn't matter. Even in the Buddha's era, it never did. In one playful sutta, reluctant monks are fretting over dangers. "What if we are bothered by the heat, the cold, the rain? What about insects, snakes or wild animals? What if we are attacked by robbers? What if there is a famine and the villagers turn on us and refuse to give us alms?"
The Buddha's answer to each of these fears is the same: if that is the case, you had better get on with the task. Act now, when things are calm, when there are no immediate dangers, so that if such trivial things arise, they won't be of any concern. Even his final words were filled with this sense of compassionate urgency: “Behold now, seekers. I urge you to keep in mind that all formations are vanishing from moment to moment. So strive on with diligence.” 
He knew very well that even a small drop of insight will relieve the thirst of unsatisfactoriness and stave off fear and pain. But he also knew that liberation, the unbinding from stress, can only be obtained through persistent, sincere action. Better some small effort now, rather than large amounts of later regret.
The teachings of the Buddha are not a form of gospel; in and of themselves they are not sacred. They are meant to be assessed first-hand, then, most importantly, put into practice. Only then can one find out if they yield results. It is the truth towards which the words in the Tipitaka point that ultimately matters, not the words themselves.
(Photograph is of cave temple in Laos.)

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