Dealing with Jealousy
We all experience disturbing emotions (nyon-mongs, Skt. klesha, afflictive emotions) - states of mind that when we develop them cause us to lose our mental peace and incapacitate us so that we lose self-control. Common examples are greed, attachment, hostility, anger, and jealousy. They trigger various mental urges (karma) to arise, usually ones that lead to destructive behavior. The urges may be to act destructively toward others or to act in some self-destructive way. The result is that we create problems and suffering for others and, inevitably, for ourselves.
There is a vast range of disturbing emotions. Each culture mentally draws some arbitrary line around a set of common emotional experiences that most people in its society experience, decides on some defining characteristics that describe it as a category, and then give the category a name. Of course, each culture chooses different sets of common emotional experiences, different defining characteristics to describe them, and, in this way, makes up different categories of disturbing emotions.
Categories of disturbing emotions specified by different cultures usually do not exactly overlap, because the definitions of the emotions are slightly different. For example, Sanskrit and Tibetan each have one word for "jealousy" (phrag-dog, Skt. irshya), while most Western languages have two. English has "jealousy" and "envy," while German has "Eifersucht" and "Neid." The distinction between the two English terms is not precisely the same as that drawn between the two German words, and the Sanskrit and Tibetan do not correspond exactly to any of the terms in either language. If, as Westerners, we experience emotional problems in this general category, designated by the categories formulated by our own cultures and languages, and we wish to learn Buddhist methods for overcoming them, we may need to analyze and deconstruct our emotions, as we conceptualize them, into a combination of several disturbing emotions as defined in Buddhism.
"Jealousy" as Defined by Buddhism and "Envy" as Defined in English
The Buddhist abhidharma texts classify "jealousy" (phrag-dog) as a part of hostility. They define it as "a disturbing emotion that focuses on other peoples' accomplishments - such as their good qualities, possessions, or success - and is the inability to bear their accomplishments, due to excessive attachment to our own gain or to the respect we receive."
Attachment, here, means that we are focused on some area of life in which others have accomplished more than we have, and we exaggerate its positive aspects. In our minds, we make this area one of the most important aspects of life and base our sense of self-worth on it. Implicit is an inordinate preoccupation with and attachment to "me." Thus, we are jealous because we are "attached to our own gain or to the respect we receive" in terms of this area. For example, we may fixate on the amount of money we have or on how good-looking we are. As an aspect of hostility, jealousy adds to this attachment a strong element of resentment at what others have achieved in this area. It is the opposite of rejoicing and feeling happy at what they have accomplished.
In English, one of the definitions of jealousy is "hostility toward someone believed to enjoy an advantage." It has only part of the Buddhist definition; it omits the factor of attachment to the area in which the other person has the advantage. The definition only implies that the advantage may be true or not, but does not question the actual importance of the area or the preoccupation with "me."
Furthermore, jealousy, as defined in Buddhism, covers part, but not all of the English word envy. Envy adds a little more. It adds what Buddhism calls "covetousness" (brnab-sems). Covetousness is "the inordinate desire for something that someone else possesses." Thus, the definition of "envy" in English, is "a painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by someone else, joined with the desire to enjoy the same advantage." In other words, in addition to the inability to bear others' accomplishments in an area of life that, as Buddhism points out, we exaggerate the importance of, envy is the wish to have these accomplishments ourselves. We might be poor or lacking in this area, or we may already have an adequate or even above average measure of it. If we are envious and want even more, our covetousness has grown into greed. Often, although not necessarily, envy entails the further wish for others to be deprived of what they have achieved, so that we can have it instead. In this case, there is an ever further ingredient to the emotion, spite.
Envy, as a combination of jealousy and covetousness, leads to competitiveness. Thus, Trungpa Rinpoche discussed jealousy as the disturbing emotion that drives us to become highly competitive and to work fanatically to outdo others or ourselves. It is connected with forceful action - the so-called "karma family." Because of being jealous and envious of what others have accomplished, we push ourselves or we push others under us to do more and more, like with extreme competition in business or sports. Thus, Buddhism uses the horse to represent jealousy. It races against other horses because of jealousy. It cannot bear that another horse is running faster.
[See: Five Buddha-Family Traits in Daily Life: Gelug Anuttarayoga Tantra and Karma Kagyu Mahamudra Presentations.]
Jealousy and Competitiveness
It is true that, in Buddhism, jealousy is closely related to competitiveness, although the former does not necessarily lead to the latter. Someone could be jealous of others, and with low self-esteem, not even try to compete. Similarly, being competitive does not necessarily entail jealousy. Some people like to compete in sports simply for fun, to enjoy themselves and the company of others, without ever wishing to keep score.
Buddhism connects jealousy and competition differently. For example, in Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior (sPyod-'jug, Skt. Bodhicharya-avatara), Shantideva puts together in one discussion jealousy toward those in higher position, competitiveness with equals, and arrogance toward those who are lower in status. His discussion is within the context of learning to view all beings as equal.
The problem Buddhism is addressing here is the feeling that "I" am special, which underlies all three disturbing emotions. For example, if we think and feel that "I" am the only one who can do a specific task well or correctly, like teaching our friend to drive a car, we become jealous if anyone else teaches him or her. That does not necessarily lead to competitiveness. If, on the other hand, we think and feel that "I" am the only one who deserves to do a specific thing, such as get ahead in life, and we are envious if someone else succeeds, we become competitive. We have to outdo the other person, even if we are already moderately successful. In both examples, underlying jealousy and envy is a strong feeling of "me" and a strong preoccupation with us alone. We do not consider others in the same way as we do ourselves. We consider ourselves special.
The remedy Buddhism offers to the problems and unhappiness caused by these types of jealousy, envy, competitiveness, and arrogance is to treat the underlying fallacy concerning "me" and "you." We need to realize and view everyone as equal. Everyone has the same basic abilities, in the sense that everyone has Buddha-nature. Everyone has the same wish to be happy and to succeed, and not to be unhappy or to fail. And everyone has the same right to be happy and to succeed and the same right not to be unhappy or to fail. There is nothing special about "me" in these regards. Buddhism also teaches love - the wish for everyone, equally, to be happy.
When we learn to view everyone as equal, in terms of Buddha-nature and love, then we are open to see how to relate to someone who has either succeeded more than we have or who has succeeded when we have not. We rejoice in his or her success, since we want everyone to be happy. We try to help our equals also succeed, rather than competing with them and trying to outdo them. Toward those who are less successful than we are, we try to help them do well, rather than gloat and arrogantly feel better than they are.
Cultural Reinforcement of Jealousy and Competitiveness
These suggested Buddhist methods are extremely advanced and particularly difficult to apply when our automatically arising jealousy and competitiveness are reinforced, strengthened and even rewarded by certain Western cultural values. After all, almost all children automatically like to win and cry when they lose. But, on top of that, many Western cultures teach capitalism as the naturally best form of a democratic society. Underlying it is the theory of the survival of the fittest, which sets competition as the basic driving force of life, rather than, for instance, love and affection. Further, Western cultures reinforce the importance of success and winning with an obsession with competitive sports, and their glorification of the best athletes and the richest people in the world.
In addition, the whole political system of democracy and voting entails competition - offering and then selling ourselves as candidates, by publicizing how much better we are than our rivals for office. As commonly practiced in the West, campaigning adds to this an intense effort to find out every possible weak point in the rival candidates, even in terms of their private lives, and inflating them out of proportion and widely publicizing them in order to discredit him or her. Many people even view such type of behavior, based on jealousy and competition, as praiseworthy and just.
Tibetan society, on the other hand, frowns on anyone who depreciates others and claims he or she is better than they are. These are considered negative character traits. In fact, the first root bodhisattva vow is never to praise ourselves and belittle others to people in positions lower than ourselves - which would include, here, advertising such words to the voting public. The motivation is specified as desire for profit, praise, love, respect, and so on from the persons addressed, and jealousy of the persons belittled. It makes no difference whether what we say is true or false. In contrast, when speaking about ourselves, extreme modesty and saying "I have no good qualities; I don't know anything" is considered praiseworthy. Thus, democracy and campaigning for votes are totally alien and do not work in Tibetan society if practiced in the usual Western form.
Even just to say that we want to run for office is taken as a suspicious sign of arrogance and of a nonaltruistic motive. The only possible compromise may be for representatives of the candidates - and never the nominees themselves - merely to speak to others about their candidates' good qualities and accomplishments, without comparing them to those of the rivals for the office or saying anything bad about them. This, however, is hardly ever done. Usually, candidates who are well known, such as from noble families or incarnate lamas, are nominated, without even asking them if they wish to run. If they say they do not wish to run for office, this is taken as a sign of modesty, since immediately to say "yes" indicates arrogance and greed for power. It is almost impossible for someone nominated to refuse. Voting is then done, without campaigning. People usually vote for the candidate who is most well known.
Thus, the Buddhist method of rejoicing in the victories of others - and the even stronger one of giving the victory to others and accepting defeat for ourselves - may not be the most suitable first remedy to try for Westerners who are strongly convinced of the virtues of capitalism and of the Western electoral system of campaigning. As Westerners, we might need first to reevaluate the validity of our cultural values and deal with the doctrinally based forms of jealousy and competition that arise from accepting those values, before addressing the automatically arising forms.
An example that may help us to see the relativity of Western culturally based jealousy and competitiveness is an Indian market. In India, there are cloth markets, jewelry markets, vegetable markets, and so on. Each has row after row of stalls and shops, right next to each other, all selling almost exactly the same goods. Most of the shopkeepers are friends with each other and often sit drinking tea together outside their shops. Their attitude is that it is up to their karma whether or not their shops do well.
Jealousy in the Western Sense
While the discussion of jealousy in Buddhism primarily addresses, although does not overlap with, the disturbing emotion of what English defines as "envy," English specifies another similar disturbing emotion that it calls "jealousy." For most Westerners, this type of jealousy gives them even more suffering than the types that Buddhism discusses.
Rather than focus on what another has person received that we have not, this form of jealousy focuses on someone who gives something to someone else, rather than to us. Thus, in English, the first definition of jealousy we find in the dictionary is "an intolerance of rivalry or of unfaithfulness." For example, we feel jealous if our partners flirt with other men or women or spend a lot of time with others. Even a dog feels this type of jealousy when a new baby arrives in the house. Thus, like jealousy in Buddhism, it has elements of resentment and hostility. But, in addition, it has strong elements of insecurity and mistrust.
If we are insecure, then when a friend or partner is with someone else, we are jealous. This is because we are unsure of our self-worth, insecure of the other person's love for "me," and thus we do not trust our friend. We fear that "I" will be abandoned.
To deal with this type of jealousy, we also need to learn the equality of everyone. But here, our problem is not doctrinally based on cultural values, so perhaps it is easier to go directly to trying the Buddhist insight. The heart has the capacity to love everyone - this is an aspect of Buddha-nature. Reaffirming this fact is a way to overcome jealousy. In other words, everyone's heart has that capacity, including our friend or lover. If they are so closed that they have no room in their hearts for me, we can develop compassion for them. They do not realize their Buddha-nature capacities and, consequently, are depriving themselves of some of the greatest joys in life.
We ourselves need to become open to everyone. With open hearts, we can have love for friend, partner, child, pet, parents, country, our people, Nature, God, hobby, job, etc. There is room in our hearts for love for all of them. Love is not exclusive. We are perfectly capable of dealing with and relating to all these objects of our love, expressing our feelings in manners appropriate to each object. We do not express our love and affection to our dogs in the same way as we express it to our wives or husbands, or to our parents. We do not have sexual relations with all of them.
The issues of monogamy and sexual unfaithfulness are extremely complex and bring in many further issues. They are not the topics here. In any case, if our sexual partners, especially our marital spouses and especially when we have young children together, are unfaithful or spend a great deal of time with others, jealousy, resentment, and possessiveness are never helpful emotional responses. We need to deal with the situation in a more sober manner. Yelling at our partners or trying to make them fell guilty can hardly ever succeed in making them love us.
Also, these disturbing emotional responses are, in part, culturally influenced. For example, a traditional Japanese or Indian wife does not expect her husband to spend his social time with her after work, rather than to follow the norms of his society and go out with his male friends. Thus, in most cases, she will be content to lead her social life with her women friends, separately from that of her husband.
Further, when we think that love and having a close friendship can be only with one person exclusively, and if he or she has a friendship with someone else, there is no room for "me," this is jealousy. It is based on the feeling of a solid "me" who must be special, and a solid "you" who is so special that we want only this person's love. Even if there are many others who love us and whom we love, we tend to ignore that fact and think, "That doesn't count."
Continually opening our hearts to as many others as possible and acknowledging the love that others - friends, relatives, pets, and so on - have for us now, have had in the past, and will have in the future helps us to feel more emotionally secure. This, in turn, helps us to overcome any fixation we may have on anyone being a special object of love, not even ourselves.
Omniscience and all-loving both imply having everyone in our minds and hearts. Nevertheless, when a Buddha is focused on or with one person, he or she is 100% concentrated on that person. Therefore, having love for everyone does not mean that love for each individual is diluted. Therefore, we need not fear that if we open our hearts to many people, our personal relations will be less intense or fulfilling. We may be less clinging and less dependent on any one relation to be all-satisfying, and we may spend less time with each individual, but each is a full involvement. The same is true in terms of others' love for us when we are jealous that it will be diluted because they also love someone else.
Also, it is an unrealistic expectation that any one person will be our special perfect match, like our "other half," who will complement us in all ways and with whom we can share every aspect of our lives. Such an expectation is based on the ancient Greek myth told by Plato that originally we were all wholes, who then were split in two. Somewhere "out there" is our other half; and true love is when we find and reunite with our other halves. Although this myth has become the foundation for Western romanticism, it does not refer to reality. To believe in it, like believing in the beautiful prince who will come to rescue us on a white horse, is an acquired, culturally specific phenomenon.
The Deceptive Appearances Underlying Jealousy and Envy
As we have seen, jealousy is the inability to bear someone else's achievement in an area that we exaggerate the importance of, for instance his or her financial success. Envious of it, we wish that we could achieve it instead. We also have seen the variation of this, which occurs when someone receives something from someone, such as love or affection. We wish that we could receive it instead.
This disturbing emotion derives from two deceptive appearances that, because of confusion and just not knowing how things exist, our minds create and project. The first is the dualistic appearance of (1) a seemingly concrete "me" who inherently deserves to achieve or receive something, but did not, and (2) a seemingly concrete "you" who inherently did not deserve to get it. Unconsciously, we feel that the world owes us something and it is unfair when others get it instead. We divide the world into two solid categories: "losers" and "winners," and imagine that people truly exist and are findable inside the boxes of these seemingly solid true categories. Then we put ourselves in the solid permanent category of "loser" and we put the other person in the solid permanent category of "winner." We might even put everyone in the winners' box, except ourselves. Not only do we feel resentment, we feel doomed. This leads to fixation on the painful thought, "poor me."
Naivety about behavioral cause and effect usually accompanies jealousy and envy. For example, we do not understand and even deny that the person who received a promotion or affection did anything to earn or deserve it. Moreover, we feel that we should get it without having to do anything to bring it about. Alternatively, we feel that we did do a lot, but still did not get the reward. Our minds thus create a second deceptive appearance and project it. Our confused minds make things appear to happen for no reason at all, or for only one reason: what we alone did.
Deconstructing Deceptive Appearances
We need to deconstruct these two deceptive appearances. Our cultures might have taught us that the driving principle inherent in the world of living beings is competition: the drive to win, survival of the fittest. But that premise might not be true. Nevertheless, if we have accepted it, we then believe that the world is inherently divided, by its very nature, into an absolute dichotomy of winners and losers. Consequently, we perceive the world in the fixed conceptual categories of winners and losers, and of course view ourselves with the same conceptual framework.
Although these concepts of winners, losers, and competition may be useful for describing evolution, we need to realize that they are only arbitrary mental constructions. "Winner" and "loser" are only mental labels. They are convenient mental categories used to describe certain events, such as coming in first in a race, getting a promotion at work instead of someone else getting it, or losing a client or student to someone else. We could just as easily divide people into the categories of "nice persons" and "not nice persons," depending on how we define "nice."
When we see that all such dualistic sets of categories are merely mentally constructed, we start to realize that there is nothing inherent on the side of "me" or "you" that locks us into solid categories. It is not that we are basically losers, inherently, and, in thinking of ourselves as losers, we have finally discovered the truth - the real "me" is a loser. Poor "me." Rather, we have many other qualities besides losing a client to someone else, so why dwell on that one as if that were the real "me."
Furthermore, it is only because of our limited minds and preoccupation with thinking "poor 'me'" and "you bastard 'you,'" that it seems like success and failure, gain and loss, happen for no reasons at all, or for irrelevant reasons. That is why we think that what happened to us was unfair. What happens in the universe, however, happens because of a huge network of cause and effect. So many things affect what happens to us and to others, it is beyond our imaginations to include every factor.
When we deconstruct these two deceptive appearances (winners and losers, and things happening for no good reason) and stop projecting them, we relax our feelings of injustice. Beneath our jealousy is merely awareness of what has been accomplished, what has happened. We lost a client to someone else and now someone else has this client. This makes us aware of a goal to achieve. If we do not begrudge someone else for achieving or receiving it, we can perhaps learn how the person accomplished the feat. This enables us to see how to accomplish it ourselves. We only feel jealous because of overlaying this awareness with dualistic appearances and concrete identities.
Thus, Buddhism offers a variety of methods to deal with the disturbing emotions of jealousy and envy, whether we define them in the Buddhist manner or in Western ways. When we are troubled with a disturbing emotion in these general categories, the challenge is to recognize correctly the defining characteristics and our cultural backgrounds. When, through meditation practice, we have trained ourselves in a variety of methods, we can choose an appropriate one to help us work through any emotional difficulties we may be experiencing.
Equalizing and Exchanging Our Attitudes about Self and Others
Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche
translated by Alexander Berzin
Dharamsala, India, June 4, 1983
There are two traditions for how to develop bodhichitta, a heart fully dedicated to others and to attaining enlightenment in order to benefit them as much as is possible - the seven-part cause and effect tradition and the tradition of equalizing and exchanging our attitudes toward self and others. Each has a separate or distinct way of developing equanimity beforehand as a preliminary. Although each has the same name, equanimity, the type of equanimity developed is different.
1. The equanimity that comes before recognizing everyone as having been our mothers in the seven-part cause and effect meditation involves visualizing a friend, an enemy, and a stranger and is the equanimity with which we stop having feelings of attachment and repulsion. One of its names, in fact, is "the mere equanimity with which we stop having attachment and repulsion toward friends, enemies, and strangers." The word mere here implies that a second method exists that entails something further.
Another name for this first type of equanimity is "the mere equanimity that is the way of developing equanimity in common with the shravakas and the pratyekabuddas." Shravakas (listeners) and pratyekabuddhas (self-evolvers) are two types of practitioners of the Hinayana (Modest Vehicle) of the Buddha's teachings. Here, mere implies that with this type of equanimity, we do not have and are not involved with a dedicated heart of bodhichitta.
2. The equanimity that we develop as a preliminary for equalizing and exchanging our attitudes toward self and others is not merely the above type of equanimity. It is the equanimity with which we have no feelings of close or far in the thoughts or actions involved in our benefiting and helping all limited beings and eliminating their problems. This is the especially distinguished, uncommon Mahayana (Vast Vehicle) way of developing equanimity.
If we ask what is the way of developing the equanimity that comes before recognizing everyone as having been our mothers in the seven-part cause and effect method, it involves the following steps.
Visualization of Three Persons
First, we visualize three persons: a totally nasty and unpleasant person whom we dislike or whom we consider our enemy, a very dearly cherished loved one or friend, and a stranger or someone in between toward whom we have neither of these feelings. We visualize all three of them together.
What kind of attitude ordinarily arises when we subsequently focus on each in turn? A feeling of unpleasantness, uneasiness, and repulsion arises with respect to the person we dislike. A feeling of attraction and attachment arises toward the dearly cherished friend. A feeling of indifference, wanting neither to help nor to harm, arises toward the one who is neither, since we find the stranger neither attractive nor repulsive.
Stopping Repulsion from Someone We Dislike
[For ease of discussion in English, suppose all three people we visualize are women.] First, we work with the person we dislike, the one whom we might even consider an enemy.
1. We let the feeling of finding her unpleasant and repulsive arise. When it has arisen clearly,
2. We notice that a further feeling arises, namely that it would be nice if something bad happened to her, or if she experienced something she did not want to happen.
3. We then examine the reasons for these bad feelings and wishes to arise. Usually we discover that it is because she hurt us, did us some harm, or did or said something nasty to us or to our friends. That is why we want something bad to happen to her or for her not to get what she wants.
4. Now, we think about that reason for wanting something bad to happen to this woman we dislike so much and we check to see if it really is a good reason. We consider as follows:
" In past lives, this so-called enemy has been my mother and father many times, as well as my relative and friend. She has helped me very much, uncountable times.
" In this life, it is not certain what will happen. She can become of great help and a good friend later in this life. Such things are very possible.
" In any case, she and I will have infinite future lives and it is completely certain that she will at some time be my mother or father. As such, she will help me a great deal, and I shall have to place all my hopes on her. Therefore, in the past, present, and future, since she has, is, and will help me in countless ways, she is ultimately a good friend. This is decided for sure. Because of that if, for some small reason such as she hurt me a little in this life, I consider her an enemy and wish her ill, that will not do at all.
1. We think of some examples. For instance, suppose a bank official or some wealthy person with the power to give me a lot of money and who had the desire and intention to do so, and had done so a little bit in the past, were to lose his temper and become angry one day and slap me in the face. If I were to become angry and hold on to my rage, it might cause him to lose his intention to give me any more money. There would even be the danger that he would change his mind and decide to give the money to someone else. On the other hand, if I were to bear the slap, keep my eyes down, and my mouth shut, he would become even more pleased with me later that I did not become upset. Maybe, he might even want to give me more than he originally intended. If, however, I were to become angry and make a big scene, then it would be like the Tibetan saying, "You have food in your mouth and your tongue kicks it out."
2. Therefore, I have to consider the long run with this person I dislike, and the same is true with respect to all limited beings. Their help to me in the long run is a hundred percent certain. Therefore, it is totally inappropriate for me to hold on to my anger for some slight, trivial harm that anyone might do.
3. Next, we consider how a scorpion, wild animal, or ghost, at the slightest poke or provocation immediately strikes back. Then, considering ourselves, we see how improper it is to act like such creatures. In this way, we defuse our anger. We need to think that no matter what harm this person does to me, I shall not lose my temper and become angry, otherwise I am no better than a wild animal or a scorpion.
4. In conclusion, we put all of this in the form of a syllogism of logic. I shall stop getting angry at others for the reason that they have done me some harm, because
" in past lives, they have been my parents;
" later in this life, there is no certainty that they will not become my dearest friends;
" in the future, they will at some time or other be reborn as my parents and help me a great deal, so in the three times they have been helpful to me;
" and if I get angry in return, then I am no better than a wild animal. Therefore, I shall stop getting angry for the small harm they may do to me in this life.
Stopping Attachment for Someone We Like
1. We focus on our friend or loved one in the group of enemy, friend, and stranger that we initially visualized.
2. We let our feeling of attraction and attachment arise toward her.
3. Letting ourselves feel even stronger how much we want to be with this person, we then
4. Examine our reasons for having such infatuation and attachment. It is because she gave me some small help in this life, did something nice for me, made me feel good, or something like that, and so I feel drawn to her and am attached.
5. Now, we examine whether this is a proper reason for having such a feeling. It is also not a good reason, because
" undoubtedly in past lives, she has been my enemy, hurt me, and even eaten my flesh and drunk my blood.
" Later on in this life, there is no certainty that she will not become my worst enemy.
" In future lives, it is decided for sure that she will hurt me or will do something really nasty to me at some time.
1. If, for the small reason of her doing something nice, but trivial, for me in this life, I become infatuated and attached to her, then I am no better than the men who are enticed by the songs of siren cannibal women. These sirens take on a pretty appearance, lure men with their ways, and then later gobble them up.
2. In this way, we decide never to become attached to anyone for some small nice thing he or she does for us in this life.
Stopping Indifference toward Someone Neutral
Thirdly, we follow the same procedure with the person who is in between - the stranger who is neither a friend nor an enemy.
1. We focus on such a person from our visualization,
2. Let ourselves feel nothing, neither the wish to harm nor to help, neither to get rid of nor to be with this person,
3. and feel further the intention to ignore her.
4. We examine our reason for feeling this way. It is because she has not done anything either to help or to hurt me, and so I have no relation with her.
5. When we examine further whether this is a valid reason to feel this way, we see that she is not ultimately a stranger, because in countless previous lives, later in this life, and in future lives she will be close, she will be a friend, and so on.
In this way, we will be able to stop all feelings of anger, attachment, or indifference toward enemies, friends, and strangers. This is the way to develop the mere equanimity that is in common with that of the shravakas and pratyekabuddhas and which is developed as a preliminary to recognizing everyone as having been our mothers in the seven-part cause and effect method for developing a dedicated heart of bodhichitta.
Distinguished Mahayana Equanimity
The way to develop equanimity in terms of equalizing and exchanging our attitudes with respect to self and others is divided into two:
1. the way to actualize the equanimity that depends on the relative point of view,
2. the way to actualize the equanimity that depends on the deepest point of view.
The way that depends on the relative point of view is divided into two:
1. the way to actualize the equanimity that depends on our own points of view,
2. the way to actualize the equanimity that depends on the points of view of others.
The Way to Actualize the Equanimity that Depends on Our Own Points of View
This involves three points.
1. Since all limited beings have been our parents, relatives, and friends in countless lives, it is improper to feel that some are close and others far, that this one is a friend and that one an enemy, to welcome some and to reject others. We need to think that, after all, if I have not seen my mother in ten minutes, ten years, or ten lives, she is still my mother.
2. It is possible, however, that just as these beings have helped me, sometimes they have also harmed me. Compared to the number of times they have helped me and the amount they have helped me, however, the harm they have done is trivial. Therefore, it is improper to welcome one as close and reject another as distant.
3. We shall definitely die, but the time of our death is completely uncertain. Suppose, for example, we were sentenced to be executed tomorrow. It would be absurd to use our last day to become angry and hurt someone. By choosing something trivial, we would be missing our chance to do anything positive and meaningful with our last day. For example, once there was a high official who became furious with someone and thought to punish him severely the next day. He spent all that day planning it out and then the next morning, before he could do anything, he himself died suddenly. His anger was completely absurd. The same is true if the other person were to be condemned to die the next day. It would be pointless to hurt him today.
The Way to Actualize the Equanimity that Depends on the Points of View of Others
This is also divided into three points.
1. We need to consider, as for myself, I do not want to suffer, even in my dreams, and no matter how much happiness I have, I never feel it is enough. The same is true with absolutely everyone else. All limited beings, from a tiny bug upwards, wish to be happy and never to suffer or to have any problems. Therefore, it is improper to reject some and to welcome others.
2. Suppose ten beggars came to my door. It is totally improper and unfair to give food to just some and not to the rest. They all are equal in their hunger and need for food. Likewise, as for happiness untainted with confusion - well, who has that? But even happiness that is tainted by confusion - all limited beings lack a sufficient supply. It is something that everyone has keen interest in finding. Therefore, it is improper to reject some as far and welcome others as close.
3. As another example, suppose there were ten sick people. They are all equal in being miserable and pathetic. Therefore, it is unfair to favor some, to treat only them, and to forget about the others. Likewise, all limited beings are equally miserable with their specific individual troubles and with the general problems of uncontrollably recurring existence or samsara. Because of that, it is unfair and improper to reject some as far and welcome others as close.
The Way to Actualize the Equanimity that Depends on the Deepest Point of View
This also involves three rounds of thought.
1. We think about how, because of our confusion, we label someone who helps us or is nice to us as a true friend and someone who hurts us as a true enemy. However, if they were established as truly existing in the ways that we label them to be, then the Tathagata (Accordingly Transformed) Buddha himself would need to have seen them like that as well. But, he never did. As Dharmakirti has said in A Commentary on (Dignaga's "Compendium of) Validly Cognizing Minds" (Pramanavarittika), "The Buddha is the same toward someone applying scented water to one side of his body and someone else slicing him with a sword on the other."
We can also see this impartiality in the example of how Buddha treated his cousin, Devadatta, who was always trying to harm him out of jealousy. Therefore, we too need to avoid being partisan and taking sides with people out of thinking with confusion that they exist truly in the categories in which we label them. No one exists that way. We need to work on stopping our grasping for true existence. This grasping comes from our confused minds making things appear to us in ways that are not true.
2. Furthermore, if limited beings were established as truly existing in the categories of friend and enemy, just as we grasp at them to be, they would always have to remain like that. Consider, for instance, a watch that we feel always has the correct time. Just as it is possible for its condition some time to change and for it to run slow, so likewise the status of others does not remain fixed, but can also change. If we think about the teachings concerning the fact that there is no certainty in the uncontrollably recurring situations of samsara, it helps here, as with the example of the son eating his father, hitting his mother, and cradling his enemy. This example comes in the instructions for developing an intermediate level motivation in the graded stages of the path to enlightenment (lamrim).
Once, the arya (highly realized being) Katyayana came to a house where the father had been reborn as a fish in the pond and his son was eating him. The son then hit the dog, which had been his mother, with the fish bones of his father and cradled the child in his arms who had been his enemy. Katyayana laughed at the absurdity of such changes in the status of beings wandering in samsara. Thus, we need to stop holding on to or grasping at people to exist in the fixed and permanent categories of friend or enemy, and then on that basis, welcoming the one and rejecting the other.
3. In A Compendium of Trainings (Shikshasamuccaya), Shantideva has explained how self and others depend on each another. Like the example of far and near mountains, they depend on or are relative designations to one another. When we are on the close mountain, the other seems to be the far one and this one the near. When we go to the other side, this one becomes the far mountain and that one the near. Likewise, we are not established as existing as "self" from our own sides, because when we look at ourselves from the point of view of someone else, we become the "other". Similarly, friend and enemy are just different ways of looking at or regarding a person. Someone can be both one person's friend and another's enemy. Like the near and far mountains, it is all relative to our points of view.
The Five Decisions
From having thought like this about the above five points, we need to make five decisions.
I Shall Stop Being Partisan
Whether we look from the relative or deepest point of view, there is no reason for considering some people or beings as close and others as far. Therefore, we need to make a firm decision: I shall stop being partisan. I shall rid myself of feelings of partiality with which I reject some and welcome others. Because hostility and attachment harm me both in this and future lives, both temporarily and ultimately, in both the short and the long runs, they have no benefits. They are the roots for hundreds of kinds of suffering. They are like guards that keeping me circling in the prison of my uncontrollably recurring problems of samsara.
Think of the example of those who stayed behind in Tibet after the uprising in 1959. Those who were attached to their monasteries, wealth, possessions, homes, relatives, friends, and so on, could not bear to leave them behind. Consequently, they were interred in prisons or concentration camps for twenty or more years, because of their attachment. Such feelings of partiality are the slaughterers who lead us into the fires of the joyless hell-realms. They are the festering demons inside us that prevent us from sleeping at night. We must root them out by all means.
On the other hand, an equal attitude toward everyone, with which we wish all limited beings to be happy and to be parted from their problems and sufferings, is important from any point of view, both temporarily and ultimately. It is the main thoroughfare traveled by all Buddhas and bodhisattvas to reach their attainments. It is the intention and innermost wish of all the Buddhas of the three times. Therefore, we need to think that no matter what harm or help any limited beings do to me from their sides, from my side I have no alternative. I shall not get angry or be attached. I shall not consider some as distant and others as close. There can be no way or method to handle situations other than that. I am definitely decided. I shall have an equal attitude in terms of how I think and act toward everybody, since everyone wants to be happy and never to suffer. This is what I shall make as much effort as possible to do. O spiritual mentor, please inspire me to do this as best as is possible. These are the thoughts we need to have when we recite the first of the five stanzas in An Offering Ceremony for the Spiritual Masters (Lama Chopa, Guru Puja) that are associated with this practice:
Inspire us to increase others' comfort and joy,
By thinking that others and we are no different:
No one wishes even the slightest suffering,
Nor is ever content with the happiness he or she has.
Thus, with this first verse we pray to develop an equal attitude of having no feelings of close or far in our thoughts or actions with respect to bringing about the happiness and eliminating the suffering equally of everyone. Such an attitude of equality fulfills the definition of the type of equanimity or equalized attitude with which we concern ourselves here. We make the firm decision to develop and achieve that attitude, in the same way as when we see some wonderful article in a store and decide to buy it.
I Shall Rid Myself of Self-Cherishing
Next, we think about the faults of having a self-cherishing attitude. Because of the selfish concern of a self-cherishing attitude, we act destructively, commit the ten negative actions, and consequently bring ourselves hellish rebirths. From there, all the way up to an arhat's (liberated being's) not attaining enlightenment - such selfish concern causes the loss of all happiness and peace. Although bodhisattvas are close to enlightenment, some are closer than are others. The differences among them come from the amount of self-cherishing they still have. From disputes in countries to discord between spiritual masters and disciples, within families, or among friends - all come from self-cherishing. Therefore, we need to think that if I do not get rid of this festering mess of selfishness and self-cherishing inside me, there is no way that I shall ever enjoy any happiness. Thus, I shall never let myself come under the sway of self-cherishing. O spiritual mentor, please inspire me to rid myself of all selfish concern. These are the thoughts with the second verse:
Inspire us to see that this chronic disease of self-cherishing
Is the cause giving rise to our unsought suffering,
And thus, begrudging it as what is to blame,
To destroy the monstrous demon of selfishness.
Thus, with the second verse, we make the firm decision to rid ourselves of our self-cherishing attitudes of selfish concern.
I Shall Make Cherishing Others My Main Practice
Next, we think about the benefits and good qualities that follow from cherishing others. In this life, all happiness and everything going well; in future lives, birth as humans or gods; and in general, all happiness up to the attainment of enlightenment come from cherishing others. We need to think a great deal about this in terms of many examples. For instance, a well-liked official's popularity is due to his cherishing and being concerned with others. Our ethical self-discipline of restraining from taking the life of another or from stealing derives from our cherishing of others, and this is what can bring us rebirth as humans.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, for example, always thinks about the welfare of everyone everywhere, and all his good qualities come from this cherishing of others. The bodhisattva Togmey-zangpo could not be harmed by Kama, the god of desire, who set out to cause him interference. This great Tibetan practitioner was the type of person who, if an insect flew into a flame, would break into tears. He was sincerely concerned about all others and so even ghosts and such interferers could not bring themselves to harm him. This was because, as the spirits themselves said, he has thoughts only of benefiting and cherishing us.
In one of Buddha's previous lives when he was born as an Indra, a king of the gods, there was a war between the gods and the anti-gods. The anti-gods were winning and so Indra fled in his chariot. He came to a spot on the road where many pigeons had congregated, and feared that he would run some of them over, he halted his chariot. Seeing this, the anti-gods thought he had stopped his chariot to turn back and attack them, and so they fled. If we analyze this, we see that their flight was due to Indra's attitude of cherishing others. In such ways as these, we need to think about the advantages of cherishing others from many points of view.
When a magistrate or any official sits very elegantly in an office, his position and everything about it are due to the existence of others. In this example, the kindness of others consists simply in the fact that they exist. If no people existed other than himself, he could not be a magistrate. He would have nothing to do. Moreover, even if people exist, if no one ever came to him, this magistrate would just sit back and do nothing. On the other hand, if many people came before him, looking to him to settle their affairs, then in dependence upon them, he would sit up nicely and serve them. The same is true for a lama. In dependence on others, he sits nicely and teaches. His entire position is due to there being others for him to help. He teaches Dharma to benefit them and thus his help comes from his depending on others, such as through his remembering their kindness.
Likewise, it is through love and compassion, from cherishing others, that we can quickly become enlightened. For instance, if an enemy hurts us and we develop patience, and thereby we come closer to enlightenment, this has come about due to our cherishing of the other. Thus, since limited beings are the basis and root of all happiness and welfare, barring none, we need to decide that regardless of what they might do or how they might harm me, I shall always cherish others. Other beings are like my spiritual mentors, Buddhas, or precious gems in that I shall cherish them, feel a loss if anything were to go wrong with them, and never reject them, no matter what. I shall always have a kind and warm heart toward them. Please, inspire me, O my spiritual mentor, never to be parted for even a moment from such a heart and feeling for others. This is the meaning of the third verse:
Inspire us to see that the mind that cherishes our mothers
and would secure them in bliss
Is the gateway leading to infinite virtues,
And thus to cherish these wandering beings more than our lives,
Even should they loom up as our enemies.
In this way, we decide to take as our central focus the practice of cherishing others.
I Definitely Am Capable of Exchanging My Attitudes Regarding Self and Others
By relying on the gateway of thinking about the many faults of cherishing ourselves and about the many qualities of cherishing others, when we feel that we must change our values of whom we cherish, and then we wonder whether we really can change them, we definitely can. We can change our attitudes because before he became enlightened, the Buddha was just like us. He too was similarly wandering from rebirth to rebirth in the uncontrollably recurring situations and problems of samsara. Nevertheless, the Able Buddha exchanged his attitudes about whom he cherished. By holding fast to cherishing others, he reached the summit of being able to fulfill his own and others' aims.
In contrast, we have cherished only ourselves and ignored all others. Putting aside accomplishing anything of benefit to others, we have not accomplished even the slightest benefit for ourselves. Cherishing ourselves and ignoring others have made us totally helpless, unable to accomplish anything of real significance. We cannot develop a true renunciation or determination to be free from our problems. We cannot even prevent ourselves from falling to one of the worst states of rebirth. In these ways, we think about the faults of cherishing ourselves and about the benefits of cherishing others. If Buddha was able to change his attitude and he started out like us, we can change our attitude as well.
Not only that, but with enough familiarity, it is even possible to cherish the bodies of others the same as we would take care of our own. After all, we took drops of sperm and egg from other people's bodies, namely our parents, and now we cherish them as our own bodies. Originally, they were not ours. Therefore, we need to think it is not impossible to change my attitude. I can exchange the attitudes I have toward self and others. Therefore, however I think about it, it will not do unless I exchange the attitudes I hold toward self and others. It is something that I can do, not something I cannot do. Therefore, inspire me, O my spiritual mentor, to do it. This is the thrust of the fourth stanza.
In brief, inspire us to develop the minds that understand
the distinctions between
The faults of infantile beings slaving for their selfish ends alone
And the virtues of the Kings of Sages working solely for the sake of others,
And thus, to be able to equalize and exchange our attitudes
concerning others and ourselves.
Thus, the decision we make here is that we definitely can exchange our attitudes concerning the cherishing of self and others.
I Shall Definitely Exchange My Attitudes Regarding Self and Others
Again, we think about the faults of self-cherishing and the benefits of cherishing others, but this time we do it in an alternating fashion, mixing the two together. In other words, we go through the ten destructive and the ten constructive actions, one by one in turn from each list alternatively, and see their results in terms of self-cherishing and cherishing others. For instance, if I cherish myself I will not hesitate to take the lives of others. As a result, I will be reborn in a joyless hell realm and even when born later as a human, I will have a short life full of sickness. On the other hand, if I cherish others, I will stop taking the lives of others and, as a result, I will be reborn in a better state, have a long life, and so on. Then, we repeat the same procedure with stealing and refraining from stealing, indulging in inappropriate sexual behavior and refraining from such action, and so on. In short, as the fifth stanza says:
Since cherishing ourselves is the doorway to all torment,
While cherishing our mothers is the foundation for everything good,
Inspire us to make our core practice
The yoga of exchanging others for ourselves.
The fifth decision, then, is that I definitely shall exchange my attitudes toward self and others. This does not mean, of course, to decide that now I am you and you are me. Rather, it means to exchange the points of view with respect to whom we cherish. Instead of cherishing ourselves and ignoring others, now we shall ignore our selfish concerns and cherish everyone else. If we fail to do this, there is no way we can attain anything. But if we make this exchange in our attitudes, then on that basis we can go on to train with the visualizations of giving away our happiness to others and taking on their sufferings, as a way to develop sincere caring love and compassionate sympathy. On that basis, we will be able to develop the exceptional resolve to alleviate the problems and sufferings of everyone and bring them happiness, and the dedicated heart of bodhichitta with which we strive for enlightenment in order to be able to do so as much as is possible.
The source for these teachings is Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior (Bodhicharyavatara) by Shantideva, the teachings of the Kadampa masters, and of course An Offering Ceremony to the Spiritual Masters by the First Panchen Lama. They appear in this form with numbered sections in The Collected Works of Kyabjey Trijang Dorjechang, the Late Junior Tutor of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. However, to be too interested in the outline and the numbers within it is like when we have a plate of seven momos (dumplings) in front of us and instead of eating them, we want someone to attest to how many there are, what the source was for their shape, and so on. Just sit down and eat!
Static and Nonstatic Phenomena
Freiburg, Germany, March 15, 2002
According to the Buddhist analysis, existent phenomena (yod-pa) comprise everything validly knowable. If something exists, it is validly knowable and, in fact, the existence of something can only be established in relation to its being validly knowable. Otherwise, we cannot even discuss an item or consider whether it is existent or not.
What exists and can be known, however, may be either the establishment of something (an affirmation) (sgrub-pa), such as a table, or the absence of something (a nullification) (dgag-pa), such as the absence of a table.
Anything that cannot be validly known does not exist. "Prince" or "Princess Charming" on a white horse, for example, does not exist. Something representing "Prince Charming" or "Princess Charming" can be known, such as a fairy tale story, a cartoon image, or merely the words "Prince" or "Princess" and "Charming." However, an actual Prince or Princess Charming cannot be validly known, since there is no such thing.
Although there are no such things as nonexistent phenomena (Prince or Princess Charming), yet the nonexistence of something (the nonexistence of a Prince or Princess Charming) is a validly knowable nullification and is therefore an existent phenomenon. Thus, no matter how much we may seek the perfect partner, we will never find a Prince or Princess Charming. With deep understanding of reality, we may come to know there is no such thing and accept our partners as they are.
Existent, validly knowable phenomena include both static (rtag-pa) and nonstatic (mi-rtag-pa) phenomena, usually translated as permanent and impermanent phenomena. The distinction between the two, however, is drawn not in terms of how long a phenomenon exists. Rather, it is drawn in terms of whether or not the phenomenon changes from moment to moment while it exists, no matter for how long that might be.
Static phenomena include facts about something. These facts are abstractions imputed about something and they only exist and can be known so long as the basis for their imputation last. When the basis for imputing a static fact ceases to exist, the static fact about it no longer exists and is no longer the case. Moreover, so long as a static fact exists and is the case, it does not change or do anything.
An example is a voidness - an absence of something existing in an impossible way. An impossible way for something to exist might be, for example, in a vacuum, all by itself, totally independently of anything else, as if with solid lines around it as in a coloring book. The absence of a table, for instance, existing with a solid line around it exists only so long as the table exists. When the table no longer exists, we can no longer cognize or speak about the absence of it existing with a solid line around it. We can only speak of the absence of a solid line around the past table, but not around the present table, because there is no present table. On the other hand, the absence of anything knowable existing with a solid line around it exists forever, because knowable phenomena exist with no beginning and no end.
A more down-to-earth example is the absence of my partner existing as Prince or Princess Charming. That is an impossible way of existing, because there is no such manner of existence. This fact is true about my partner for as long as my partner exists. It is never going to change. Therefore, there is no hope that my partner will change some time in the future and become Prince or Princess Charming. Moreover, it was never the case that he or she existed as Prince or Princess Charming before meeting me, but now has changed into the Monster. Further, the absence of all people existing as Prince or Princess Charming is a static fact that is true and is the case forever. No one will ever exist as the Prince or Princess; therefore, it is best to give up false hopes and expectations of ever meeting someone who exists as that.
The static fact of the absolute absence of anyone existing as Prince or Princess Charming is a neutral fact, neither good nor bad. Therefore, there is no need to become upset about it. We need to accept it, whether we like it or not. Moreover, the fact itself cannot do anything; it cannot produce any effect. However, knowing and accepting the fact can do something: it can help us avoid frustration and problems. Confusion about it can also do something: it can cause us to create problems in our relationships. Therefore, it is important to learn and try to remain mindful of the facts of reality.
Four Types of Nonstatic Phenomena
Nonstatic phenomena are those things that
" arise from or are supported by causes and conditions,
" change from moment to moment,
" produce effects.
There are four types of nonstatic phenomena. Those that
1. have a beginning and an end - such as our gross bodies, a relationship with someone, or an episode of anger;
2. have no beginning and no end - such as our mental continuums;
3. have no beginning, but have an end - such as the presence of unawareness (ignorance, confusion) accompanying our mental continuums;
4. have a beginning, but no end - such as the death of a loved one, or the functioning of our mental continuums as omniscient minds of Buddhas.
Nonstatic phenomena that have a beginning and an end undergo both gross and subtle impermanence.
Gross impermanence is the final destruction of something. For example, a relationship with someone will have an end. Such things last only so long as the causes and conditions that support and give rise to them are gathered together and continue. Once the supporting causes and conditions are gone, these things come to an end.
If we fail to accept this fact, we delude ourselves and suffer greatly. We cling to a relationship or to our youthful vigor, for example, as if they could last forever, and our attachment and confusion cause enormous pain when these things inevitably end. If we accept the fact of gross impermanence, we are able to enjoy a relationship or our youthful vigor for as long as they last.
It is like the example of a beautiful wild bird that comes to our window. The bird will of course fly away, and if we grasp at it and try to catch it, it will either fly away sooner or die in captivity. If we accept that it will inevitably leave, we enjoy the moment. We may be sad when the bird flies away, but the sadness does not overwhelm us. It too will pass.
Subtle impermanence is not merely the moment to moment changing of a nonstatic phenomenon that has a beginning and an end. It is not merely the fact that the phenomenon is drawing closer each moment to its ultimate end, like a time bomb. It is also the fact that the cause for the phenomenon's final disintegration or end is its coming into being, its arising.
For example, the fact that we enter a relationship with someone and start living together is the cause for it eventually to end. An argument or death is only the circumstance for it to end, but not the deepest cause. This does not mean that the relationship cannot grow and develop into something beautiful. It does not mean that is doomed, and so we cannot enjoy it while it lasts. Rather, it means that we do not blame the other person or ourselves for making the relationship end. Of course, it will end, simply because it began.
Moreover, each moment of living together is one moment closer to the arrangement ending. This aspect of subtle impermanence is not so obvious. Thus, although we might understand and accept gross impermanence - that some day we shall part our ways - still we might think that while we are living together, our situation is remaining stable and static. Under such a delusion, we are caught by surprise when gross impermanence strikes and our living together comes to an end. With awareness of subtle impermanence, we appreciate more the fragility of the situation and cherish it more deeply.
The Problem of Change
The so-called "worldly happiness" - the usual happiness with which we are all familiar - is problematic. Every small period of it ends; we never know when that will happen; the experience of it doesn't rid us of all our suffering and problems; and we have no way to know how we will feel next. Thus, in a relationship with someone, we need to be realistic about the happiness that we experience and not inflate it into something impossible. The nature of samsara, and thus the nature of any relationship, is that it goes up and down.
Nonstatic Phenomena with No Beginning and No End
Our individual mental continuums, which are the continuities of our individual subjective experiencing of things, have no beginning and no end. They are eternal; they last forever. It is illogical for them to have an absolute beginning at which they arise
1. from no cause,
2. from causes that are of a different category of phenomena, such as physical matter,
3. from another being's subjective mental activity, or
4. from the power of a creator.
Similarly, it is illogical for them to have an absolute end, without generating, by the laws of behavioral cause and effect, a next moment of continuity.
Consider the case of the continuity of our living together with someone. Living together with someone has a beginning, because the causes and conditions for its arising - each party being a certain age, being in the same location, having certain emotional needs, and so on - come together at a specific moment. The circumstances and conditions for our living together to begin were not gathered together before. Because the conditions for it arising come together newly at some moment and are not naturally together, the conditions will fall apart at some later moment. At that moment, the continuity of our living together will end.
The situation is quite different with the continuity of our individual subjective experiencing of things. Although our experiencing of something specific, such as of a specific event, arises newly when that event occurs, our experiencing things in general is not created newly at any specific moment. It is the characteristic feature of our mental continuums and is always together with our continuums, regardless of the causes and conditions affecting the contents of what we experience at any given moment. Thus, a continuity of experiencing is not coming closer each moment to its ultimate end.
In summary, the fundamental nature of experiencing things does not change; nevertheless, experiencing itself changes from moment to moment. This is because experiencing must have contents and, because the contents change each moment and because experiencing arises dependently on contents as its condition, the experiencing also changes from moment to moment. Nevertheless, the continuity of individual subjective experiencing of things does not undergo gross impermanence. It will not come to a final end. Although it changes from moment to moment, it also does not undergo subtle impermanence - either in the sense of it approaching closer, every moment, to its final demise or in the sense of its arising being the cause of its ending.
Even if we do not think in terms of past and future lives, still, if we realize that the continuity of our individual, subjective experiencing of things goes on in this life, we do not suffer so greatly when something within our lives comes to an end, such as living with someone. We understand that life goes on, experience continues, without a break, and so new relationships can arise in the future.
Nonstatic Phenomena with No Beginning, but with an End
The unawareness (of how everything actually exists) that accompanies a continuum of individual, subjective experiencing of things has no beginning, as is the case with the continuum itself. However, unlike that continuum, it can have an end. Thus, it can undergo gross impermanence. The unawareness, however, does not undergo subtle impermanence. Because it has no absolute beginning, it is not slowly falling apart and approaching closer, each moment, to its ultimate end.
Unawareness and awareness are mutually exclusive. In the same moment, we cannot both know and not know how everything exists, nor can we know how everything exists both correctly and incorrectly. Moreover, correct understanding can be validated. It withstands the force of analysis, whereas unawareness or confusion falls apart the closer we scrutinize it. Therefore, unawareness can come to an end because it can be replaced by awareness.
Moreover, once the continuity of correct understanding can be maintained without a break, unawareness ends forever. As the great Indian Buddhist master Shantideva explained, unawareness is not like an external enemy. Once it is definitively banished from the mental continuum, it cannot go anywhere. When we turn on the light in a room, the darkness doesn't go somewhere and hide.
In terms of a relationship, then, the unawareness that no one exists as a Prince or Princess Charming, which accompanies our interaction with a partner either consciously or unconsciously, will not weaken and go away by itself. With correct understanding, however, that there is no such thing as a partner who exists in this impossible manner, the unawareness can come to an end.
Nonstatic Phenomena with a Beginning, but No End
The continuity of an individual's correct understanding of everything (the functioning of an individual mental continuum as the omniscient awareness of a Buddha) has a beginning, but no end. It begins with the attainment of enlightenment, and continues forever. The first moment of the continuity, however, is not created anew from the gathering of causes and conditions that were not previously together. The situation resembles that of a mirror covered with dirt.
A mirror covered with dirt does not function to reflect objects. The removal of the dirt marks the beginning of the mirror reflecting, but it does not create the mirror functioning to reflect. The functioning of the mirror is a natural characteristic of the mirror. It was simply blocked by the dirt.
Similarly, unawareness blocks the functioning of our mental continuums as omniscient awarenesses reflecting everything. The removal of the unawareness signals the start of our continuums functioning omnisciently, but does not create that functioning. Reflecting everything, as a mirror does, is a natural feature of our mental continuums.
Therefore, although an omniscient awareness changes from moment to moment as its focus and contents change, it undergoes neither gross nor subtle impermanence. This is because, although its functioning omnisciently has a beginning, its functioning is not created by causes and conditions coming together anew. Knowing this helps us to gain the self-esteem and self-confidence that allows us to work on removing our confusion in a healthy manner.
In terms of a relationship, our mental continuums, like mirrors or cameras, have always taken in the factual information of the other person - how he or she has looked, acted, and spoken. The removal of our confusion and projections does not create that camera-like ability. It was already there and will continue forever.
By Ding Ying, Selected From Beijing Review, Dec 21, 2004
It was a cold November afternoon in Beijing. A senior lama was surrounded by scores of people in a small hall. They expressed their great respect by presenting him with white hada, long silk scarves used as a greeting gift among Tibetan and Mongolian ethnic groups. This was not a Buddhist ceremony, but a Tibetan medicine lecture by Venerable Lama Zhaxi Rinpoche, hosted by the Buddhist Association of Beijing.
Zhaxi Lungdor Dainqu Gyamco Rinpoche (photo, left), was born in 1936, the Year of Fire Mouse of Tibetan calendar, in a village near Tar Monastery in Qinghai. The monastery, one of the famous Tibetan monasteries in the country, is located in Huangzhong County, Qinghai Province's capital Xining, and was built in 1577 in memory of Master Zongkapa, founder of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism.
When he was three years old, Zhaxi Rinpoche was recognized as the reincarnation of the previous Zhaxi Lama, who passed away in 1934. In 1943, the seven-year-old Zhaxi Rinpoche formally entered the monastery. Rinpoche is the title given to venerable lamas who are recognized from a previous incarnation.
After 15 years studying Tibetan language and sutras, Zhaxi Rinpoche, began his medical study. "I wanted to do something down-to-earth for my people," he recalls.
"Being a Buddhist, I may not have to understand ordinary people"s joy and happiness, but firstly I must know their pain and sorrow. I feel I have the responsibility to heal their pain, not only by spiritual healing, but also in the way of medical treatment," he explained.
By studying traditional Tibetan medical classics, such as the Four-Volume Medical Tantras, and after decades of medical practice, Zhaxi Rinpoche became a well-known Tibetan doctor. Between 1965 and 1980, he was often found collecting herbs in the hills around the monastery, which he would later use to make medicine for people suffering from various diseases in the area. In 1980, he built the Kumbum Tibetan Medicine Hospital of Tar Monastery, and during his tenure as the hospital"s president, it became known as one of the leading Tibetan medicine research centers in China.
Tibetan medicine is a holistic healing system in which the human body is considered based on the five elements of space, air, fire, water and earth. These are manifested in the human body by the three factors or the "three humors," wind, bile and phlegm, which govern the functions of the body. In Tibetan these are known as lung, chipa and paigen. Each of these three is considered to be a sort of energy or force, which circulates through the centers of the body. "To cure the disease, we doctors need to rebalance these three factors," explained Zhaxi Rinpoche.
One of the outstanding characteristics of Tibetan medicine is its connection with Buddhist tenets. Zhaxi Rinpoche said, "Lung is like a wind, concentrating at the lower portion of the body, while chipa affects middle, and paigen the upper part of the body. As people get older, lung in the body increases. When people pass away in old age, we say that the wind inside them has blown away." He believes the secret of a longer and healthier life is to live by the principle of moderation. "For example," he explained, "if one drinks or eats too much, he will suffer from liver disease, stomachache and even heart disease. On the contrary, if he eats or drinks too little, he might be in danger of malnutrition. Anyway, people cannot do anything without proper self control, and being excessive is against nature."
Making Diagnosis: Traditional Tibetan healing involves mind, body and spirit
Zhaxi Rinpoche leads a very simple life. Every morning, he gets up at 5:30. After a short sutra chant and meditation, he eats a simple breakfast of zanba, a bowl of fried barley flour, and a bowl of water. This is followed by sutra chants. "I usually recite one sutra 1,000 or 2,000 times every day, a habit I have had for many years," he noted.
The other important part of his daily routine is teaching disciples. Being an eminent and learned Rinpoche, both on Buddhist sutras and medical research, he always has a lot of followers, both from within China and foreign countries. Presently he teaches two or three disciples every year. His senior student Sanggyi, a 16-year-old from one of Mongolia"s ethnic groups, has been studying with him for five years, beginning his study of Tibetan medicine two years ago. Talking about Sanggyi brings great joy to Zhaxi Rinpoche and he sounds more like a grandfather than a venerated lama. "Sanggyi is a very clever and docile. He is working very hard on medicine study and when I treat patients, he is always watching. I hope he will be a good doctor."
As a famous research unit on Tibetan medicine, Tar Monastery has opened Tibetan medical clinics throughout the country, including Beijing. Every year, senior lama doctors from the monastery"s Kumbum Tibetan Hospital pay regular visits in these clinics, as part of their medical practice. During his duty in the clinic in Beijing, Zhaxi Rinpoche diagnoses and give treatments to about 200 patients, most of them are from out of town and have been attracted by his reputation. For a 68-year-old, it is a very long and exhausting workday. But he never refuses any patient who comes and asks for his help. "I am just an ordinary doctor, and my responsibility is to reduce their pain," he said.
Because of geographic and climatic reasons, Tibetan medicine is particularly effective in treating chronic diseases, such as heart and cardiovascular diseases, hepatitis and apoplexy. Since 1988, Zhaxi Rinpoche"s hospital has carried out thorough research on traditional Tibetan prescriptions, and successfully produced them commercially. Feedback has shown the medicine is working effectively on both Chinese and foreign patients.
"Today, our Tibetan medicine is made up from many resources, some from India and Nepal, some from Han Chinese medicine and the rest gathered from our Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau," he said.
Traditional Tibetan medicines are divided into four categories: Liquid medicine, medicine powder, pills and plasters. "In recent years, most Tibetan medicines are made into pills, because the patients want a better taste and convenience. But such a reform reduced the efficiency of medicines, because pills cannot be the best medicine for all diseases. So, I suggested that we should resume some of our traditional treatments, for example, using phlebotomy on treating apoplexy," he added.
Another worry for him is that mass production might damage the environment of the plateau. "It usually takes nature decades of years to cultivate some medical plants, which grow only on the plateau. But industrial production causes an excessive consumption of these material, including plants, animals and minerals," he stressed. "The best way to protect the environment is to find substitutions in a precondition of assuring the medicine"s qualities."
On medical research, Zhaxi Rinpoche has an open mind. As he speaks fluent Tibetan, Mongolian and Chinese, he keeps up to date with other medical developments, like works on Han Chinese medicines and Western medical theory. "Other medical systems also have their advantages and specialties. As long as it can cure disease and reduce people"s pains, it is good," he concluded.
features Jun 02, 2003
Antibacterial qualities of tea
Not only did researchers at Sheffield University recently identify the benefits of green tea for the prevention of osteoarthritis, now researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have identified that as well as inhibiting the growth of pathogens in the mouth, black tea and its polyphenols may benefit human oral health by suppressing the bad-smelling compounds that these pathogens produce.
And, according to research by US microbiologist, Milton Schiffenbauer, of the independent Pace University, green tea is better at fighting viruses. "Our research shows tea extracts can destroy the organism that causes disease,' he told a conference in Washington DC. "If we can stimulate the immune system and at the same time we are destroying the organisms, then it makes sense to drink more tea."
Probiotic supplements in pregnancy
Researchers have found that women taking probiotic supplements during pregnancy can protect their children from eczema for up to four years. The study found that women and babies taking the supplements reduced the risk of eczema by 40 percent in at-risk four-year-olds. There was also the suggestion of a reduction in asthma rates.
The study, carried out in Finland and published in The Lancet in the UK, studied 132 children who had taken part in an earlier probiotics investigation. Their mothers were given capsules of a probiotic or a placebo for four weeks before giving birth. After birth, capsules were given to the breast-feeding mother or the child for six months. Of 53 children exposed to lactobacillus 14 had developed eczema after four years, compared with 25 of 54 who did not get the supplement. Concentrations of exhaled nitric oxide, a marker for the lung inflammation associated with asthma, were significantly higher in children not exposed to the lactobacillus.
Back pain - all in the mind?
Researchers at the Metropolitan University in Manchester, UK have been studying the treatment of patients with chronic lower back pain, at the North Manchester General Hospital. Here they found that patients benefited from a combination of exercise and psychological support. The researchers suggest psychological support could reduce the number of people being put onto waiting lists for scans and conventional therapy.
Researchers evaluated the hospital's programme which has been running since 1999, and which has treated more than 250 people. The hospital's eight-week scheme encourages people to exercise, and also addresses their concerns about their back pain.
Patients are exposed to actions they may have a fear of, to break their pattern of avoidance and inactivity which can lead to further back problems. They found that psychological factors such as depression, fear and low confidence were more important in prolonging patients' conditions than their physical incapacity.
One woman in her 40s had been off work for two years and had a fear of carrying office files, so doctors taught her the fear was irrational and showed her how to lift objects without anxiety about her back. She has now been able to go back to work.
US scientists have proved that Buddhists really do hold the key to happiness. Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has shown that in experienced Buddhists, the brain's 'happiness centre' is constantly alive with electrical signals. The positive effects are seen all the time, not only during meditation, which suggests that the Buddhist way of life may affect the way their brains work. These findings may eventually allow researchers to develop meditation techniques as treatments for depressive illnesses.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison study team scanned the brains of people who had been practising Buddhists for several years, looking particularly at areas important for emotion, mood and temperament. They found that the left side - the happiness centre - was consistently and highly active in Buddhists.
I became a Buddhist
- Jigme Kunzang
When I was growing up, I
spent a good deal of my time reading about the occult, witchcraft and magic. I
always harbored the dream that someday I would be initiated into a coven of Witches.
I actually was initiated about ten years ago here in California. For about ten
years, I was relatively content with the Craft as my primary spiritual identification.
About two or so years ago, this began to change.
Just about four years ago, I became seriously involved with a man who was to become my life partner and spouse. He was, as was I, an initiate of the Craft, but was also a Vajrayana Buddhist, and had studied under both Nyingma and Kagyu masters. I stayed clear of Buddhism, having always thought that it was a negative path that sought to renounce the world and to retreat from worldly pleasures. What I had learned of the meditative techniques of Vajrayana (Tibetan) Buddhism captivated my imagination, but I didn't think this was sufficient reason to embrace that path.
I understood that one of the entryways into the Buddhist path was the taking of refuge declaiming that one renounced worldly happiness and took refuge from the world in the figure of the Buddha, His teachings and specifically the Buddhist congregation. I had felt that as long as this rite was so firmly delimited to a Buddhist scope, I couldn't enter into it with good conscience, since I didn't feel a resignation about worldly concerns (in fact, I was rather optimistic generally) nor did I feel that The Buddha's teachings were alone sufficient for my own spiritual explorations (being interested in magick, etc.).
Meanwhile, my life in the Craft was becoming less satisfying for me. I cannot attribute it to my relationship, since my partner was also in the Craft and we had ample chance to practice our spirituality both together and separately. I guess it was more due to changes within myself than to anything external, even if the constant ego battles, infighting and bickering that goes on in Craft traditional communities was beginning to wear on me. My partner, Michael, was a quiet Buddhist, and wasn't really all that interested in proselytizing, a trait I tend to admire in people of any faith.
Finally, my partner brought up in a conversation an upcoming empowerment (wang) to be held by the lineage holder of the Shangpa Kagyupas, Bokar Rinpoche, together with the Yangsi Kalu Rinpoche (the young reincarnation of the previous Khyab Je Kalu Rinpoche). He asked if I wanted to attend with him. This necessitated that I think through my misgivings about Taking Refuge, a rite that up till that point I had been unwilling to consider, and which would be a prerequisite for receiving empowerment from a Lama.
Buddha, I was beginning to understand, was that potential for enlightened intent and behavior inherent in all of us, that guiding principle that allows us to learn and accumulate wisdom. Dharma was in fact all teachings that helped one to attain some level of spiritual realization. And my Sangha was all of the human community in its striving for peace and harmony. Finally, looking at the broader interpretations of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha in this way, I was able to genuinely take refuge, and participated in the wangkur, on this particular evening to a practice of Vajrakilaya according to the teachings of Sangthik Nyingpo. I was unaware of the changes this event was to bring about in my life.
I began to actively seek out chances to practice, to attend teachings and empowerments, and to meet other practitioners. Some of my former friends have found my increased interest in Buddhist practice less interesting, and no longer remain as close. On the other hand, I have chosen to reduce contact with other acquaintances with whom my friendships were already tenuous. Others of my Craft friends have expressed an openess and curiousity about Buddhism that has been really heartwarming. My body has undergone changes, and I've now stopped drinking alcohol, a task I had been attempting unsuccessfully for the previous ten years. I enjoy practice, and find that it is affecting my entire life -- life is becoming a meditation.
One lesson that frequently comes up in teachings is the idea of faith in the lama and faith in the path. I guess I'm not a very good Buddhist, since so little of my practice is based on faith at all. Rather, I find myself experimenting a lot, while I try to suspend any disbelief or judgement. This gives me the chance to learn about a technique or teaching first, and acquire faith in it only after trying and proving it. Thus far, this has been a most rewarding way of working in the Vajrayana and I believe that it has resulted in much swifter changes in my life than I might have otherwise experienced.
I crave self-control. I often consider myself a weak personality, lazy and essentially powerless to change those things about myself that I detest. The mind training of Buddhism lets me know that my feelings are empty of any inherent existence, and that the real issue is how I *think* about myself. If I believe myself incapable of change, I am incapable of change. If I change my mind, purify it of its negative karma and introduce the idea of capability, then I am on the road to healing myself of my own self-imposed paralysis.
All phenomena arise from a cause, That cause the tatagata has taught. That which stops the cause the tatagata has explained. Do no nonvirtue, Practice virtue thoroughly. Completely tame your own mind. This is the Buddhas teaching. PHAT!
Nowadays, I remain active in a practice of sorcery, of mind-changing, of Vajrayana meditation. I am a much more discerning practitioner, I feel, for having come into contact with the Mahayana, and my subtle body is being trained in a new way of being. In a way, I have found a more authentic "Witchcraft" in my practice of Vajrayana than I ever did before, and I see the two as intricately intertwined, and both informing each other. I feel more whole in my spirituality than I can remember being before, and encourage questioning perhaps more than I did previously. Now as I enter my third year practicing the Vajrayana path, I still may not have any ultimate answers, but I'm much more comfortable asking the questions.
Blessings, Jigme Kunzang (Tom Johnson)
Clarification on what "witchcraft" is:
Witchcraft is a magico-spiritual tradition that survives in many parts of the world, but the type I practice is primarily from northwestern Europe (Britain, Scandinavia, Northwest continent). It is rather like shamanism, so I tend to call it shamanistic, rather than shamanic, which *is* shamanism. Most Witches I know tend to look to pre-Christian imagery for their liturgies, and some also call themselves "pagan," "heathen," or "wiccan." It has always interested me that so much of a pre-Christian spiritual aesthetic has survived throughout Europe, in spite of the all-pervasiveness of the Church. The Witchcraft Traditions seeks to recreate a religio-magico-mystical spiritual practice based on those survivals.
The aim of Witches vary with the Witch, and with the tradition to which they belong. The tradition I follow places a very heavy emphasis on the kind of purification of socially normalized obscurations that Vajrayana also seeks to purify one of. And in that a practice of Vajrayana has been more effective in performing that purification than Witchcraft ever was, I can say that I've found more and better of what I was looking for when I began Dharma practice. For example, in Vajrayana, we have a practice of purification in the meditation on Vajrasattva in which karmic seeds are purified, ripened as it were, and one can use these extraordinary means to purify karma from past lifetimes in this single lifetime. It's difficult sometimes, but helpful in the long run. I have found the same to be true in some of the practices of Witchcraft as well.
Just to clarify some often encountered misconceptions, Witchcraft is *NOT* satanism or evil magic. There are some satanists who call what they do Witchcraft, and there are Witches who *do* perform evil magic, but the *system itself* is not defined that way -- rather, it is a system that is neither good nor bad, and depends entirely upon the practitioner as to its ethical content. I have always tried to temper *my* Craft with Compassion.
Witchcraft uses a type of utterance called a charm or spell, and this is not unlike the mantra of Vajrayana, which is, as Ngagpa Chogyam has said, an "Awareness Spell." Strange phenomena have been attributed to the utterance of charms as well as to mantra recitation. Words are powerful, and the more so when supported by empowerment and lineal transmission.
Witchcraft includes ritual performance, and uses mudra in its ritual, much like the tantric sadhakas, ngakpas, or yogis. It sees the mind in a similar fashion, and has a dual understanding of method/wisdom, just as Vajrayana does. It has an idea of three souls or spirit parts -- Unihipili, Uhane and Aumakua -- just as Vajrayana has the Nirmanakaya, Sambhogakaya and Dharmakaya. It posits a subtle structure of the body as well as a more dense physical manifestation.
The only difference is I think in intent -- Witchcraft does not seek to escape Samsara, the endless cycle of repeating obscurations, whereas this is paramount in the Dharma. In this, the Dharma is more powerful than any other path to me. It helps me live a life devoted to the wellbeing of all those around me, and simultaneously works to free me of my veils and obscurations, making me happier in the long run.
So you see, in spite of the similarities, I still see Dharma as a superior path -- it contains all of the truths of Witchcraft, while its intent and its aim are both vastly superior and informed with compassion and wisdom. I do not doubt that there are those who are solely Witches who are also engaged in the process of meditation, and seeking wisdom and enlightenment, but they are few and far between. In the Dharma, that is one of the foundations.
to be with a Dying Person
by Renuka Potter
Although we seldom seek to be with someone who is dying, helping somebody to die well is one of the most generous and courageous acts of love that we can perform. Let me tell you some of the ways I have found to be with people who are dying.
My first experience of death was with my father, who died of a massive heart attack in 1991. For almost a week the hospital staff had sought to resuscitate Dad. I had been there for about 36 hours of this when Mum and I, growing concerned that the resuscitation process was simply increasing his trauma, approached one of the doctors. We discovered that he had been about to approach us to explain that Dad's heart seemed irrevocably damaged by his ordeal and that perhaps it was now time to let him die in peace. We accepted this option gratefully, and the doctor found my Dad a bed in another ward. While nurses came every two hours to turn Dad and give him more morphine, we took over his care, gathering by the side of his bed, talking and even singing.
After about 30 hours of this, my cousin and I were alone with Dad and his breathing was showing obvious signs that he was close to death. I was sitting on the edge of the bed holding his hand and encouraging him to relax and let go. I told him what I felt was likely to be ahead in terms of lights and guides and that there was nothing to fear. Time and again I thought the breath just taken would be his last, but he always started breathing again. I had an image of my Dad as a little boy trying his hardest to do the right thing so as not to attract attention and so I said to him: "you can make as much noise as you like."
His next breath was really big and noisy and I watched as his airways filled with phlegm. I was looking directly into his eyes while sitting on the bed. I felt a flicker of fear from him, but knew that as long as I could keep fear at bay, so could he. So, I drew upon my inner courage and kept my gaze steady and my feeling positive. I saw the light in his eyes slowly become smaller and smaller until it was a tiny dot. Then it disappeared altogether and my Dad was gone - painlessly, without effort and very intimate.
During those last few minutes with my Dad, I felt awe that I was able to be involved so closely in someone's dying moments, even to share these moments in some way. I felt energised by the process, but it also felt like it was an experience I could tell only a few people about - after all, hadn't my suggestion that Dad make more noise lead to his dying then and there? I started feeling guilty and doubted that what I had done was OK, feeling selfish. Some of my friends had done absolutely everything humanly possible to keep their parents alive, and yet I had encouraged my father to let go of life. I had something to think about.
Already a psychologist with 25 years of daily meditation practice, I started to read the little there was available on the subject of dying. I remember what a welcome relief it was to read Sogyal Rinpoche's Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, and I began to think that this was an area in which I'd like to specialise. I read the transpersonal psychology literature - such authors as Stanislav Grof, Ken Wilbur, Marie-Louise Von Franz, Rudolph Steiner - more deeply. To gain hands-on experience, I trained as a volunteer hospice worker and came to know more people who were dying.
Over the years, I have become close to many people in their dying days. It has felt like a wonderful privilege to come into their lives at a time when their perspective on life is changing. Ordinarily we know we are going to die some day, but we always live as though this day will be a very long time in the future. When doctors tell their patients that they will be dying within the next six months or sooner (this is the criterion for inclusion in the program at the hospice I work through), it changes their relationship to their mortality. Often this is very scary. No one likes to think of death waiting for them round the corner, and most people are reluctant to talk about death and our relationship to this journey out of this reality we share.
Talking to people about this taboo subject can be a time of wonderful intimacy. It tends to open up topics of conversation such as values and beliefs, regrets and forgiveness. It often awakens in people a desire to tell the story of their life. All these conversations can be very healing for someone facing death, and often it's easier to talk in these ways to people like me, who are not part of their network of family or friends. People close to the person are often too personally affected by the likely impact of their friend or relative's death to be able to provide the sort of reflective surface a person can benefit most from at this crucial time. Sometimes it's necessary for the dying person to work through feelings that are not very positive before they can see how much someone close to them actually means to them, and it's helpful to work through the ambivalence before talking to that person face to face.
One of the women I came to know was convinced that she was still in love with someone with whom she had an affair years earlier, rather than her husband who was now taking such good care of her. Often a person's deep feelings of unworthiness can make them feel guilty for receiving loving care from someone when they feel they don't deserve it. This woman showed me photos of her earlier lover and told me stories of this time in her life that had been so difficult for all involved. Through talking it over with me, she was able to come to a position from which she could understand and forgive herself. This forgiveness allowed her to open up, accept her husband's loving care, and feel fortunate to be with a man who loved her so. They shared precious final days together in a state of deep appreciation, and they both told me separately how lucky they were to have this time together.
It is usual for a person at the end of their life to be anxious about the dying process. Their anxieties may take the form of fear of death itself, guilt that they have not done enough to prevent their death at this time, shame that people will know about their failure to recover, as well as denial, anger and bargaining (as outlined by Kubler-Ross). These feelings can cause a lot of pain, even though the person may realise they are irrational, especially when someone has been putting a lot of effort on their behalf to stem the course of their disease. Often they can talk about these things, especially if they are not part of a spiritual or religious community to very few people. I worked with one young couple with young children who had been to see every healer they could find in an effort to combat her cancer. It was unsuccessful, however, and their lack of success confused them. They saw it as not having done enough and as divine punishment, a phrase that I see as a contradiction in terms, for the divine is only supportive in my view.
If a person wishes to talk about their fear of death, then I usually tell them about features of the near-death experience, which appear to be so widespread and are very reassuring. I make no claims about correctness, but just mention the features that seem appropriate. Things like having an opportunity to see back over their life (a life review), feeling themselves going down a tunnel and maybe being drawn towards a light. I usually say that a relative who has died before them may meet them and/or they may be met by someone who represents spiritual attainment to them, and that these beings are there to help them. I also tell them that they may find that they are surrounded by love and light.
When I first visit a person who is dying, I always ask what they would like me to do. One way I find very helpful in relating to people who are dying is through gentle massage. No training is necessary for the type of massage I do. Most people would call it gentle stroking or even holding hands. The important ingredient seems to be touch, as many people who are dying have little opportunity to touch others and be touched by them. One man who was quite disfigured by his disease with ugly scarring and hard, alien growths, found that having me gently touch his wounds or press firmly where he felt restricted, helped him come closer to accepting his body as it was. Many people find touch soothing and relaxing, and touching relieves the anxiety that many people feel when told that they have a terminal disease. Many people fall asleep with gentle touch on their hands, feet or head, and I always feel gratified by this response and continue, assuming they are benefiting in unconscious ways. After all, the body works very efficiently when we are able to get out of its way.
I usually offer to take people through the process of deep relaxation, too. If the person wants this, I always go through the same process each time so that people can learn how to do it themselves. I start with the toes, going up the legs into the body, up to the shoulders, to the hands, up the arms to the neck and into the head. A systematic approach helps people learn how to do it themselves, so that if they are lying in bed awake at anytime, they can go through the routine themselves and at least feel they are relaxing and resting efficiently.
When fully relaxed, I guide the person into meditation. This can be any kind of healing meditation, or deep concentration within. I find imagery helps to let a person drop into a deep state, like imagining their awareness starting on the surface of a lake and dropping slowly like a flat stone down to the bottom of the lake. Then the person can be encouraged to take their consciousness to any part of their body that needs healing and spread healing through light or love. Alternatively, I may guide them into an inner space from where they receive guidance as to how to help the healing process. Sometimes the inner space yields presents or loved ones. The important ingredient seems to be that the person feels deeply relaxed, alert and comfortable.
One great being, when asked by a dying person how to prepare, said: "Die a little every day." If the person I'm with is comfortable with this idea, I talk about some of the different ways we have of letting go. We can let go of our good and bad memories of our early life. We can let go memories of people we rarely see. We can let go our memories of places we are unlikely to see again, or unfulfilled desires. This can be done very slowly - just "a little every day". Looking deeper, we can become aware of emotional unfinished business and try to come to terms with it through acknowledgment and expressions of the feelings involved, and allow integration to occur. We can examine any regrets and disappointments and hold these gently in our awareness until we can heal. Holding things in our awareness allows our deeper parts, which know what to do, to work on them.
All this work is deep and the person themselves should only work on a little at a time. They can choose whatever comes up for them at the time. If you are working with them on this, encourage a positive perspective, help them construct a narrative of their life that shows how their experiences have resulted in their growth or expansion. Mental concepts of what is right and wrong, good and bad, as well as the possibility of judgement arise at this time. Allow the person to feel their fear, regret, anger, guilt and shame or whatever, but point out that this idea of judgement is a concept we've been brought up with that may not be true. Great beings tell us that God/consciousness is love and supports whatever we do. We can know more about the effects of what we've done without undergoing direct punishment, without there being a vengeful God.
If the person is very close to death, I tend to simply touch them very softly and gently, speak very little, if at all, and concentrate on generating love in my heart and having it extend out to surround the dying person with love. Love and fearlessness are the most helpful feelings at this important time. When we feel love and concentrate on that feeling (I usually feel love for the beings of light who I'm sure flock to the side of dying ones to guide them through the experience) then we keep fear at bay. I have only once been with a person as they died (my father) but I have been with several people in the last few hours of their life and feel convinced that the practice of love at this time could transform their dying experience from fear to love.
Through being with someone before they die, we can help them reach the unconscious parts of themselves that already know how to die. With an attitude of confidence in them, humility before the mystery that is death, and love for the dying person and their family, we can help instil an atmosphere of strength and dignity into the dying process. We can help people call on the wisdom they have accumulated in their lives and put it to good use through powerful engagement with the great transformation that is death.
Renuka Potter is a Transpersonal Psychologist with a practice in Box Hill and Clifton Hill, Victoria. She is a trained spiritual development counsellor, a spiritual healer and does Body Transformation.
views on marriage
In Buddhism, marriage is regarded as entirely a personal, individual concern and not as a religious duty. Marriage is a social convention, an institution created by man for the well-being and happiness of man, to differentiate human society from animal life and to maintain order and harmony in the process of procreation. Even though the Buddhist texts are silent on the subject of monogamy or polygamy, the Buddhist laity is advised to limit themselves to one wife. The Buddha did not lay rules on married life but gave necessary advice on how to live a happy married life. There are ample inferences in His sermons that it is wise and advisable to be faithful to one wife and not to be sensual and to run after other women. The Buddha realized that one of the main causes of man's downfall is his involvement with other women (Parabhava Sutta). Men must realize the difficulties, the trials and tribulations that he has to undergo just to maintain a wife and a family. These would be magnified many times when faced with calamities. Knowing the frailties of human nature, the Buddha did, in one of His precepts, advise His followers to refrain from committing adultery or sexual misconduct.
The Buddhist views on marriage are very liberal: in Buddhism, marriage is regarded entirely as personal and individual concern, and not as a religious duty. There are no religious laws in Buddhism compelling a person to be married, to remain as a bachelor or to lead a life of total chastity. It is not laid down anywhere that Buddhists must produce children or regulate the number of children that they produce. Buddhism allows each individual the freedom to decide for himself all the issues pertaining to marriage. It might be asked why Buddhist monks do not marry, since there are no laws for or against marriage. The reason is obviously that to be of service to mankind, the monks have chosen a way of life which includes celibacy. Those who renounce the worldly life keep away from married life voluntarily to avoid various worldly commitments in order to maintain peace of mind and to dedicate their lives solely to serve others in the attainment of spiritual emancipation. Although Buddhist monks do not solemnize a marriage ceremony, they do perform religious services in order to bless the couples.
Separation or divorce is not prohibited in Buddhism though the necessity would scarcely arise if the Buddha's injunctions were strictly followed. Men and women must have the liberty to separate if they really cannot agree with each other. Separation is preferable to avoid miserable family life for a long period of time. The Buddha further advises old men not to have young wives as the old and young are unlikely to be compatible, which can create undue problems, disharmony and downfall (Parabhava Sutta).
From: 'What Buddhists Believe' by Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera
in daily life
Morelia, Mexico, June 6, 2000
Dharma as Preventive Measures
I have been asked to speak about the practice of Dharma in daily life. We need to know what we mean by Dharma. Dharma is a Sanskrit word that literally means "a preventive measure." It is something that we do in order to avoid problems. To have any interest in practicing the Dharma, we need to see that there are problems in life. That actually takes a lot of courage. Many people do not take themselves or their lives seriously. They work very hard all day long and then distract themselves with entertainment and so on in the evenings because they are tired. They don't really look inwardly to the problems in their lives. Even if they do look at their problems, they do not really want to acknowledge that their lives are not satisfactory because it would be too depressing. It takes courage to really check the quality of our lives and to admit honestly when we find it unsatisfactory.
Unsatisfactory Situations and Their Causes
Of course, there are levels of unsatisfactoriness. We could say, "Sometimes I have bad moods and sometimes things go well, but that's okay. That's life." If we are content with that, fine. If we have some hope that we can make things a little bit better, it leads us to look for a way to do so. In order to find methods to improve the quality of our lives we need to identify the source of our problems. Most people look externally for the source of their problems. "I am having difficulty in my relationship with you because of you! You are not acting the way I would like you to act." We may also blame our difficulties on the political or economic situation. According to some schools of psychology, we can look to traumatic events in our childhood as what led us to have the problems that we have. It is very easy to blame our unhappiness on others. Placing the blame on other people or social or economic factors does not really lead to a solution. If we have this conceptual framework, we might be forgiving and it may have some benefit, but most people find that only doing this much has not relieved them of their psychological problems and unhappiness.
Buddhism says that although other people, society, and so on contribute to our problems, they are not really the deepest source of them. To discover the deepest source of our difficulties we need to look within. After all, if we feel unhappy in life, it is a response to our situation. Different people respond to the same situation differently. Even if we just look at ourselves, we find that we respond differently to difficulties from one day to the next. If the source of the problem were just the external situation, we should respond in the same way all the time, but we do not. There are factors that affect how we respond, such as having a good day at work, but these are only superficial contributing factors. They do not go deeply enough.
If we look, we start to see that our attitudes toward life, ourselves, and our situations contribute very much to how we feel. For example, we don't feel sorry for ourselves all the time, like when we are having a good day; but when we are not having a good day, the feeling of self-pity recurs. The basic attitudes that we have toward life very much shape how we experience life. If we examine more deeply, we find that our attitudes are based on confusion.
Confusion as the Source of Problems
If we explore confusion, we see that one aspect of it is confusion about behavioral cause and effect. We are confused about what to do or say and about what will happen as a result. We can be very confused about what type of job to get, whether to get married, whether to have children, etc. If we get into a relationship with a person, what will the result be? We do not know. Our ideas of what will follow from our choices are really just fantasies. We might think that if we get into a deep relationship with a certain person, we will live happily ever after, like in a fairy tale. If we are upset in a situation, we think that yelling will make it better. We have a very confused idea about how the other person is going to respond to what we do. We think that if we yell and speak our minds, we will feel better and everything will be all right, but everything will not be all right. We want to know what will happen. We desperately look at astrology or throw coins for The Book of Changes, the I Ching. Why do we do things like that? We want to be in control of what happens.
Buddhism says that a deeper level of confusion is confusion about how we and others exist and about how the world exists. We are confused about the whole issue of control. We think that it is possible to be totally in control of what happens to us. Because of that, we get frustrated. It is not possible to always be in control. That is not reality. Reality is very complex. Many things influence what happens, not just what we do. It is not that we are totally out of control or manipulated by external forces either. We contribute to what happens, but we are not the sole factor that determines what happens.
Because of our confusion and insecurity, we often act destructively without even knowing that it is destructive behavior. This is because we are under the influence of disturbing emotions, disturbing attitudes, and the compulsive impulses that come up from our habits. Not only do we act destructively toward others; we primarily act in self-destructive ways. In other words, we create more problems for ourselves. If we want fewer problems or liberation from our problems, or even further, the ability to help others to get out of their problems as well, we need to acknowledge the source of our limitations.
Ridding Ourselves of Confusion
Let us say that we can recognize that the source of our problems is confusion. This is not too difficult. Many people reach the point of saying, "I am really confused. I am messed up." Then what? Before we go and spend money on this course or that retreat, we need to consider very seriously whether we really are convinced that it is possible to get rid of our confusion. If we don't think it is possible to get of confusion, what are we trying to do? If we go only with the hope that it may be possible to get rid of our confusion, it is not very stable. It is wishful thinking.
We might think that freedom could come about in several ways. We might think that somebody will save us. It could be a higher, divine figure, such as God, and so we become born-again believers. Alternatively, we may look to a spiritual teacher, a partner, or someone else to save us from our confusion. In such situations, it is easy to become dependent on the other person and to behave immaturely. We are often so desperate to find someone to save us that we are indiscriminate in whom we turn to. We might choose someone who is not free from confusion himself or herself and who, because of his or her own disturbing emotions and attitudes, takes advantage of our naïve dependence. This is not a stable way to proceed. We cannot look to a spiritual teacher or a relationship to clear up all our confusion. We have to clear up our own confusion.
A relationship with a spiritual teacher or with a partner can provide helpful circumstances, but only when the relationship is a healthy one. When it is unhealthy, it just makes it worse. It leads to more confusion. In the beginning, we can be in a deep state of denial, thinking that the teacher is perfect, the partner is perfect, but eventually our naiveté wears off. When we start to see the weaknesses in the other person and that the other person is not going to save us from all our confusion, we crash. We feel betrayed. Our faith and our trust have been betrayed. That is a terrible feeling! It is very important to try to avoid that from the beginning. We need to practice the Dharma, preventive measures. We need to understand what is possible and what is not. What can a spiritual teacher do and what can a spiritual teacher not do? We take preventive measures to avoid crashing.
We need to develop a state of mind that is free of confusion. The opposite of confusion, understanding, will prevent confusion from arising. Our work in the Dharma is to be introspective and attentive to our attitudes, our disturbing emotions, and our impulsive, compulsive, or neurotic behavior. That means being willing to see things in ourselves that are not so nice, things we would rather deny. When we notice things that are causing our problems or are symptoms of our problems, we need to apply opponents to overcome them. All of this is based on study and meditation. We have to learn to identify disturbing emotions and attitudes and where they come from.
Meditation means that we practice applying the various opponents in a controlled situation so that we become familiar with how to apply them and can then do so in real life. For example, if we get angry with others when they don't act the way we would like them to, in meditation we think of these situations and try to look at them from a different point of view. The other person is acting in disagreeable ways for many different reasons. He or she is not necessarily acting out of spite because he or she doesn't love us. In meditation, we try to dissolve such attitudes: "My friend doesn't love me anymore because he or she didn't call me."
If we can practice going through this type of situation with a state of mind that is more relaxed, understanding, and patient, then if the person doesn't call us for a week we don't get so upset. When we start to get upset, we remember that this person is probably very busy and it is egocentric to think that we are the most important person in his or her life. This helps us to cool our emotional upset.
Dharma Is a Full-time Occupation
Dharma practice is not a hobby. It is not something that we do as a sport or for relaxation. We do not just go to a Dharma center to be part of a group or to be in a social atmosphere. It may be very nice to go there, but that is not the purpose. Also, we don't go to a Dharma center like a addict getting a fix - a fix of inspiration from a charismatic, entertaining teacher who makes us feel good. If we do, we go home, soon feel blah, and then we need another fix. Dharma is not a drug. Teachers are not drugs. Dharma practice is a full-time job. We are talking about working on our attitudes toward everything in our lives. If we are working on developing love for all sentient beings, for example, we need to apply it in our families. Many people sit in their rooms meditating on love, but cannot get along with their parents or their partners. This is sad.
In trying to apply the Dharma to our real life situations at home and at work, we need to avoid extremes. One pole of the extreme is putting the whole blame on others. The other extreme is putting the entire blame on ourselves. What happens in life is very complex. Both sides contribute: others contribute; we contribute. We can try to get others to change their behavior and attitudes, but I am sure we all know from personal experience it is not very easy - especially if we come on in a self-righteous, holy way and accuse the other of being a sinner. It is much easier to try to change ourselves. Although we can make suggestions to others, if they are receptive and if they will not become more aggressive because of our suggestions, but the major work is on ourselves.
In working on ourselves, we have to watch for another pair of extremes: being totally preoccupied with our feelings and not being aware of them at all. The first is narcissistic preoccupation. We are only concerned about what we feel. We tend to ignore what others are feeling. We tend to think that what we feel is far more important than what other people are feeling. On the other hand, we may be totally out of touch with our feelings or feel nothing at all, as if our emotions were shot with Novocain. Avoiding these extremes requires a delicate balance. It is not so easy.
If we are always watching ourselves it creates an imagined duality - ourselves and what we are feeling or doing - and so we are not really into relating to someone or being with somebody. The real art is to relate and act in a natural and sincere way, while part of our attention is on our motivation and so on. We need to try to do this, however, without having it be such a fractured way of acting that we are not present with the other person. I should also point out that if we are checking our motivation and feelings during the process of relating to someone, sometimes it is helpful to tell the person. However, it is very narcissistic to feel that we have to tell the person. Often, other people are not interested in what we are feeling. It is very self-important to feel that they want to know. When we notice that we are starting to act selfishly, we can just stop it. We don't have to announce it.
Another set of two extremes is that we are all bad or all good. If we put too much emphasis on our difficulties, our problems, and our disturbing emotions, we could start to feel that we are bad persons. That very easily degenerates into guilt. "I should practice. If I don't, I am a bad person." This is a very neurotic basis for practice.
We also need to avoid the other extreme, which is putting too much emphasis on our positive sides. "We are all perfect. Just see your Buddha-natures. Everything is wonderful." This is very dangerous, because it can imply that we don't need to give up anything, we don't need to stop any negativities because all we need to do is see our Buddha-natures. "I am wonderful. I am perfect. I do not have to stop my negative behavior." We need a balance. If we are feeling too down on ourselves, we need to remind ourselves of our Buddha-natures; if we are feeling a little bit too blasé, we need to emphasize our negative sides.
Basically, we need to take responsibility ourselves: for our development and for getting rid of our problems. Of course, we need help. It is not easy to do this by ourselves. We can get help from spiritual teachers or from our spiritual community, people who are like-minded and who are working on themselves and not blaming each other for their problems. That is why in a partnership, it is important to share the same type of attitude, particularly that of not blaming the other for any problems that arise. If both partners are blaming each other, it does not work at all. If only one partner is working on himself or herself and the other is just blaming, it doesn't work either. If we are already in a relationship in which the other person is accusing, but we are looking into what we might be contributing, it does not mean that we need break off the relationship, but it is more difficult. We have to try to avoid being the martyr in this relationship. "I am enduring all of this! It is difficult!" The whole thing can be very neurotic.
The form of support that we can get from a spiritual teacher, from a like-minded spiritual community and friends is sometimes called "inspiration." The Buddhist teachings place a lot of emphasis on receiving inspiration from the Triple Gem, from teachers, and so on. The Tibetan word is "jinlab" (byin-rlabs), usually translated as "blessings," which is an inappropriate translation. We need inspiration. We need some sort of strength to go on.
The Dharma path is not an easy one. It is dealing with the ugliness of life. We need stable sources of inspiration. If the source of our inspiration is teachers telling fantastic stories of miracles and all these sorts of things - about themselves or about others in Buddhist history - it will not be a very stable source of inspiration. It certainly can be very exciting, but we have to examine how this is affecting us. In many people, it reinforces a fantasy world in which we are wishing for salvation through miracles. We imagine that some grand magician is going to save us with his or her miracle powers, or that we will suddenly be able to develop these miraculous things ourselves. We have to be very cautious with respect to these fantastic stories. They may inspire our faith and so on, and that can be helpful, but it is not a stable basis of inspiration. We need a stable basis.
A perfect example is that of the Buddha. Buddha did not try to "inspire" people or impress them by telling fantastic stories. He did not put on airs by going around and blessing people and stuff like that. The analogy that Buddha used, repeated throughout the Buddhist teachings, is that a Buddha is like the sun. The sun does not try to warm people. Naturally, from the way the sun is, it spontaneously brings warmth to everyone. Although we may get high from hearing a fantastic story or by being touched on the head with a statue or getting a red string to tie around our necks, it is not stable. A stable source of inspiration is the way the teacher spontaneously and naturally is as a person - his or her character, the way he or she is as a result of practicing the Dharma. This is what is inspiring, not some act that the person puts on to entertain us. Although this may not be as exciting as a fantastic story, it will give us a stable sense of inspiration.
As we progress, we can get inspiration ourselves from our own progress - not from gaining miraculous powers, but from how our characters slow change. The teachings always emphasize rejoicing in our own positive acts. It is very important to remember that progress is never linear. It does not just get better everyday. One of the characteristics of samsara is that our moods go up and down until we are completely free from samsara, which is an unbelievably advanced state. We must expect that we will sometimes feel happy and sometimes unhappy. We will sometimes be able to act in positive ways and other times our neurotic habits will be overpowering. It is going to be up and down. Miracles do not happen, usually.
The teachings on avoiding the eight worldly concerns emphasize not getting a swollen head if things go well and not becoming depressed if they do go well. That is life. We need to look at the long-term effects, not the short-term effects. If we have been practicing for five years, for example, compared to five years ago there is a lot of progress. Even though we sometimes get upset, if we find that we are able to handle situations with calmer, clearer minds and hearts, that indicates that we have made some progress. This is inspiring. It is not dramatic, although we would like it to be dramatic and we get high on dramatic shows. It is stable inspiration.
We need to be quite practical and down to earth. When we do purification practices, like Vajrasattva practice, it is important not to think of it as Saint Vajrasattva purifying us. It is not some external figure, a great saint who will save us and bless us with purification. That is not the process at all. Vajrasattva stands for the natural purity of the clear light mind, which is not inherently stained by confusion. Confusion can be removed. It is by recognizing the natural purity of the mind through our own efforts that we can let go of guilt, negative potentials, and so on. That enables the purification process to work.
Further, in doing all these practices and trying to put Dharma into our daily lives, we need to recognize and acknowledge the level we are on. It is crucial not to be pretentious or to feel that we must be at a higher level than we are on now.
Approaching Dharma from a Catholic Background
Most of us here come from a Catholic background. As we approach the Dharma and start to study, we do not need to feel that we need to give up Catholicism and convert to Buddhism. However, it is important not to mix the two practices. We don't do three prostrations to the altar before sitting down in a church. Likewise, when we do a Buddhist practice, we don't visualize the Virgin Mary, we visualize Buddha-figures. We practice each individually. When we go to church, we just go to church; when we do a Buddhist meditation, we do a Buddhist meditation. There are many common features, such as the emphasis on love, helping others, and so on. There is no conflict on the basic level. If we practice love, charity, and helping others, we are both a good Catholic and a good Buddhist. Eventually, however, we will have to make a choice, but that is only when we are ready to put our full effort into making tremendous spiritual progress. If we are going to go to the top story of a building, we cannot go up two staircases at the same time. I think that is a very helpful image. If we are just functioning on the basic ground level, in the lobby, fine. We don't have to worry about it. We can benefit from both.
Avoiding Misplaced Loyalty
In applying Dharma to our lives, we have to be careful not to reject our native religions as bad or inferior. That is a big mistake. Then we could become a fanatic Buddhist and a fanatic anti-Catholic, for example. People do that with communism and democracy too. A psychological mechanism called misplaced loyalty takes over. There is a tendency to want to be loyal to our families, our backgrounds, and so on, so we want to be loyal to Catholicism although we have rejected it. If we are not loyal to our backgrounds and totally reject them as bad, we feel we are completely bad. Because this is extremely uncomfortable, we unconsciously feel the need to find something in our backgrounds to which we can be loyal.
The tendency is unconsciously to be loyal to certain less-beneficial aspects of our backgrounds. For example, we may reject Catholicism, but we bring a strong fear of hells into Buddhism. A friend of mine was very strongly Catholic, turned strongly to Buddhism, and then had an existential crisis. "I gave up Catholicism so now I will go to Catholic hell; but if I give up Buddhism and go back to Catholicism, I will go to Buddhist hell!" Although it might sound funny, it was really quite a serious problem to her.
We often unconsciously bring certain attitudes from Catholicism into our Buddhist practice. The most common ones are guilt and looking for miracles and for others to save us. If we don't practice, we feel that we should practice, and if we don't, we are guilty. These ideas are not at all helpful. We need to recognize when we are doing this. We need to look at our backgrounds and acknowledge the positive aspects so that we can be loyal to the positive rather than to the negative features. Rather than thinking, "I have inherited guilt and miracle-seeking," we can think, "I have inherited the Catholic tradition of love, charity, and helping the unfortunate."
We can do the same thing regarding our families. We might reject them and then be unconsciously loyal to their negative traditions, rather than consciously loyal to their positive ones. If we acknowledge, for example, that we are very grateful for the Catholic backgrounds they have given us, then we can go on our own paths without conflict about our past and without negative feelings constantly jeopardizing our progress.
It is important to try to understand the psychological validity of this. If we think of our past - our families, our religions of birth, or whatever - as negative, we tend to have negative attitudes toward ourselves. On the other hand, if we can acknowledge the positive things in our backgrounds and our past, we tend more to have positive attitudes toward ourselves. That helps us to be much more stable in our spiritual paths.
We need to proceed slowly, step-by-step. When we hear very advanced teachings, go to tantric empowerments, and so forth, although great masters of the past have said, "As soon as you hear a teaching, immediately put it into practice," we need to determine whether something is too advanced for us or if it is something that we can put into practice now. If it is too advanced, we have to discern the steps we will need to take to prepare ourselves to be able to put it into practice, and then follow those steps. In short, as one of my teachers, Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey, said, "If we practice fantasy methods, we get imaginary results; if we practice practical methods, we will get practical results."
to release stress and anger by healing the mind
by His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche
translated by Tashi Jamyangling
October 16, 2003
Ratnashri Meditation Center, Sweden
II would like to wish you all Tashi Delek, in Tibetan, that means wish you well, good evening and everything is included in that. We come from different places. Although we belong to different countries and different ethnicities, none of us has not been each other's parent before in former lives. This is the Buddhist's view. From the beginningless samsara, we have taken many, many life forms in the past. Therefore, it is not just lip service when I say Tashi Delek or wish everyone of you well.
I would like to begin this evening's topic by saying that on this planet, there are two systems. One is the secular system and the other is the spiritual system. Both systems are to benefit sentient beings because we human beings have intelligence and none of us desire pain and suffering. We all desire happiness and peace. These two systems are meant to benefit us towards that end. Of the two systems, the first one is the secular system. The secular system is in place because of human intelligence. Whether we are walking or sitting or whatever we are doing, the secular system is in place so that mankind will lead a decent life. All the civilization and all the organization everywhere are put together after tremendous sacrifice and efforts. For example, scientists have worked so hard to come to where we are right now. Statesmen and leaders have worked hard. Many people have made lots and lots of sacrifices to bring us to the level where we are right now. And today on this planet, we have many different kinds of secular systems. We have come a very, very long way in modernization and development. However, what we find as an end result is that none of these material progresses have made us completely satisfied or solved our problems. Therefore, we have a spiritual system which is beyond the materialistic system. Within this spiritual system, we also have many denominations and forms. Different religions have different teachings - some are very far-sighted and some are not so far-sighted. All these aim at eradicating pain and suffering. I am here to talk a little bit about Buddhism - the system put in place by Gautama Buddha.
Basically, Buddha teaches the two truths. Buddha teaches us how to find the root cause of pain and suffering. Buddha teaches us the nature of this pain and suffering. Buddha teaches us the essence of this pain and suffering. Buddha teaches us that unless we find out the root cause of pain and suffering in samsara, we will not be able to bring about the cessation of this pain and suffering. Buddha teaches us that all this pain and suffering come not from outside but from within. It comes from one's own state of mind. Therefore, Buddhism has to do with the inner mind
rather than the outer materialism. When we aspire to have peace and happiness, peace and happiness come from virtuous deeds. What is virtue? Virtue is love. What is love? Love is a mind set that is willing to benefit others rather than yourself. What is suffering? Suffering is self, selfishness. From where does this pain and suffering come? All this pain and suffering is due to these physical bodies of sentient beings who are born in the six realms of existences. The six realms of existences are the creation of one's own mind due to the six afflictive emotions. Once you release or unleash the six afflictive emotions, you create karma, a variety of karma. As a consequence of the creation of this variety of karma, one is born either as a human or any specie of the other five realms of existence. This takes us to the idea of cause and effect relationship.
Cause and effect or action and reaction is absolutely infallible. Because once you unleash the negative emotion like strong anger, what you have to face is one of the six realms of existence. When you have anger, it is negative from the beginning. When anger arises in one's mind stream, unhappiness starts. So from the very beginning, it is negative. When you unleash it, obviously, it is negative to whom-so-ever you show it, it is mutually destructive. Finally, it is negative at the end because you have to face the consequence of having unleashed that negative emotion. All together, there are 84 000 different kinds of afflictive emotions which can be categorized into five classifications - which are called five poisons. Five poisons can be grouped into three classes - which are called three poisons. Three poisons are really boiled down to one thing that is self-cherishing attachment and clinging. In order to dismantle this attachment and clinging, we ought to have the antidote weapon to fight it. The antidote to self-cherishing attachment and clinging is a mind set that is willing to benefit other beings. That mind set is the sublime Dharma or the teachings of the Buddha. When you think of the pain and suffering of others, you are sharing the pain and suffering of others. To liberate yourself from pain and suffering means that you want to free the mind from being bound into immobility. You are in that kind of bondage because at all times with we humans, something is always wrong with "I" or something is always wrong with "my" or "mine". So if you want to do away with that bondage, the only way to free yourself from that is to have the mind set that is willing to benefit others. When you do not understand this and when you do not have this altruistic mind, then it worse case scenario, there are cases of committing suicide. All because of far too much attachment to oneself. So Buddha taught us in order to free ourselves from this bondage, we have to benefit others. We need to have the willingness to benefit others. In order to do that, we need to understand that the root cause is the self-cherishing attachment and clinging. The root cause of suffering is attachment and aversion. We have a tendency to have attachment to the one who is close to us or to the things that appeal to us, but we are averse to those who are not our friends or things that do not appeal to us. If you have a mind set that is always willing to benefit others, you will not have this attachment or aversion. But if you then ask, would it be possible for me to generate the mind set that is willing to benefit others. For example, in the case of a stranger, the Buddhist view is that, from the beginningless time, we all have taken countless number life forms. Therefore, we all have been each other's parents. Friends, boyfriends, girlfriends and keeping that in view, we have every reason to be kind and gentle to each other. If one have belief in Buddha's view, then it is easy to generate love and kindness towards all sentient beings. Of course, in this very life, we have those who are very negative towards us. But if you understand that, in many life forms we all have been each other's parent, then you will understand that certain beings are negative to you or harsh to you cause pain and suffering to you because you yourself have caused pain and suffering to those who love you in former lives. Or you have an outstanding debt owing to those who have to close and dear to us in former lives. With that kind of view, you will have the willingness to benefit others. And when you have this willingness to benefit others, it will automatically do away with attachment and aversion which are responsible for the self-cherishing, clinging and attachment. If you do not understand this cause and effect relationship, even if you aspire to do virtuous deeds, it will not be possible. Even if you want to do something which is according to Dharma teachings, sometimes, it will not work out and when it does not work out, you will feel very dejected and sad about it. What you have to understand is, if you do not accomplish something, that is because of your past karma. Whatever kind of person you had been in former lives is reflected on who you are right now. If you conclude that, all the accomplishment will result from your diligent effort only, it will not work out like that at all because many things are predetermined because of past karma. There is no telling what you had been doing in former lives and if you are feeling rejected and going through a deep depression and feel sad, you should like at your own mind state. If you are poor, instead of feeling bad about it, you should understand that being poor is the result of some actions in the past. Perhaps, you have taken things from others that did not belong to you. If you are suffering from mental or physical pain, perhaps you have inflicted pain on others in former lives. But the real cause of pain and suffering is negative emotions like anger, hatred, jealousy etc. So, if you understand these things, then you will not be totally overwhelmed by the kind of predicament or challenges that you face in this life. And at the same time, you will know how to prevent this same occurrences for the rest of your life. The recognition of what you might have done in former lives and refraining from repetition of what you could have very well done by the five poisons. If you are facing challenges etc and if there is nothing you can do about it, think that this is a payment of outstanding debt that you owe in former lives. We have a mixture of pain and suffering on the one hand and happiness and peace on the other. Some people have this notion that, if one is blessed with prosperity, one would be necessarily happy. That does not happen. If you have tons of money for example, hundreds and hundreds of thousands, it is not necessarily going to bring you happiness and peace. Instead, it is going to bring you lots of pain and suffering. In your effort to make more money, there will be competition, jealousy and all kinds of negative emotions associated with this. Prosperity is not the solution to the problem of having pain and suffering. All the pain and suffering are within the mind. It is a matter of thinking, how you take it. If you think that you are the only one who is going through all this pain and suffering, what you are going through will be really hard to bear. On the other hand, if you say to yourself, "I am not the only person who is going through pain and suffering, but there are plenty of such people who are going through even worse than my pain and suffering", then immediately, you will feel that your own pain and suffering is not so great. You have to say to yourself, what I am facing is nothing compared with the pain and suffering of other beings. Understand that virtue brings about happiness and nonvirtue brings about pain and suffering.
Milarepa teaches us this way. Milarepa said that rich people have rich people's suffering and poor people have poor people's suffering. Have and have not both suffer. If you do not understand the nature of the mind, there is nothing but suffering. But if you do have an understanding of the nature of the mind, there is nothing but peace and happiness whether you are rich person or poor person or sick person or whatever. If you know how to cope with different situations, make an example of someone who is rich, who has a true understanding of the nature of mind. He would say, "I am blessed with prosperity. I am a very happy person. It has been the result of my virtuous deeds in former lives. It is a result of my having purified obscurations and accumulated merits. I further desire to reinforce and replenish my accumulation of merits by making offerings to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and by giving charity to sentient beings." He or she understands that prosperity like everything else is impermanent. He or she knows that there is a possibility that he or she could lose everything that he or she possesses. But if he or she does loss everything, it is because of karma, so there is no pain and suffering associated with that. A poor person who has the understanding of the nature of mind would say, "Yes, indeed I am poor but nonetheless I am a human being. I am not hungry and I am not cold. I have the Bodhicitta, the enlightened mind. I have the understanding of the cause and effect relationship." That person would happily recite the mantra OM MANI PADME HUNG. Such a person does not have a burden to carry. A sick person who has the understanding of the mind, he or she would say, "Yes, I am inflicted with this terrible disease, but it is because of my past karma. Once karma is created, it has ripen as it has ripen and I have to face the consequences and no one else would. Because I have to face the consequences sooner or later, it is far better to face it sooner than later. The fact that I am sick now is a repayment of my karmic debt." So, with that kind of mind set, the pain and suffering is gone. You can transform, it is just a matter of thinking. You can transform pain and suffering into peace and happiness. So one would say, "Yes, I am a human being. I know the cause and effect relationship. Therefore, I have the ability to transform pain and suffering into peace and happiness." You know that every single activity in samsara is a result of one's driving force of afflicted emotions. Whatever pain and suffering you are facing right now is because of the five poisons. Having recognized that, you will ensure that you will not repeat the same kind of mistakes. Loving kindness, compassion and treating all living beings as equal which calls for equanimity. And these are possible when you understand the nature of your mind and cause and effect relationship. When you have loving kindness and compassion in your heart, it is always good. It is good in the beginning when you generate it, it will give you a good feeling that is why it is good. When you show your love and compassion to others, express it when you are talking to others for example in a kind and gentle manner. It is good, mutually good. Result of course is good because it is positive, it is virtuous. At all times, try to have a kind heart. When you have a kind heart, it is the sublime Dharma. That is love. We talked about the two truths, relative truth and absolute truth. Up to this point, we have talked about the relative truth. By the practice of relative truth, by having the understanding of the cause and effect then you can definitely alleviate the pain and suffering of yourself and others. That is not the only truth. There is absolute true. When we talked about absolute truth, it is higher than what we have discussed as far. In the absolute truth, there is neither pain or suffering nor peace and happiness as such. It is because the true nature of the mind is beyond happiness and suffering, beyond attachment and aversion. True nature of mind does not have attachment. If you have attachment, then attachment is going to bring about pain and suffering. A state of mind which is completely free from or beyond anything that can be conceptualized is the true nature of the mind. In this state of the mind, you do not have to focus on the cause and effect relationship. And when one is in mediation, the true nature of mind, at that time you are completely free from both pain and pleasure. These are such some verbal teachings on happiness versus pain and suffering. But you really have to experience it yourself. If you experience it yourself, then you will understand what happiness is. In order to be able to experience real happiness, you have to experience real pain and suffering. If you have never experience winter then summer is nothing special. In Tibet, winter is extremely cold and harsh, therefore, when spring comes when the flower blooms, people feel so glad.
Questions: What is emptiness?
Rinpoche: It is the profound emptiness, emptiness as in all phenomena. The very cosmos as well as all sentient beings including human beings, the real experience and understanding that all of us are composite and not inherently or independently existing and therefore it is empty of an absolute identity. It is empty or devoid of an independent existence. If all phenomena do not have an independent existence to support itself, that is not so real. That is emptiness. It is not just that emptiness, but not having attachment because of that understanding. With complete clarity and yet we proceed on and do our day to day activities. When you have an experiential understanding, not academic understanding of profound emptiness, then you will see the futility of both pain as well as suffering because it does not have a reality.
Question: How to generate compassion?
Rinpoche: In order to generate compassion, first, you have to have loving kindness. Bodhicitta consists of loving kindness and compassion. In order to generate loving kindness and compassion, first you have to have the Buddhist view established, that is, all mother beings are sentient beings. When you see a tiny insect or a human being, both have been our parents. The famous Nymapa teacher would take groups of monks to a slaughter house and make the monks meditate and think of the animals being slaughtered as one's own parents. The teacher will ask the monks, "How do you feel?" Some of the monks would say, "I do not feel a thing." They do not feel that their own mother is being slaughtered. The teacher then said, "Now, try to mentally visualize that the head of your mother on the animal. The animal is now attached with the mother's head. The teacher asks again, "And now, what do you feel?" The monk replies, "Now, I do not like it very much." So, like this, it trains the mind the Buddhist view. Once the view is established, then wishing everything well to generate all sentient beings' loving kindness and compassion. Once you wish well and then you want to do something to actually help to alleviate the pain and suffering of all sentient beings, that is compassion. You do not only want to wish them well, but you would want to do everything you can to put an end to pain and suffering. That is how compassion is generated. Loving kindness and compassion complement each other. Like when you have a son or daughter always wishing him or her well and that is loving kindness. Whenever your son or daughter needs your help, actually giving that help is compassion. It is difficult to generate loving kindness and compassion. But you have to understand that without generating bodhicitta, loving kindness and compassion, there is absolutely no way to reach enlightenment. That is given. There is way to go around it. Without the two, loving kindness and compassion, it is totally and completely impossible to reach enlightenment. Yes, you can liberate yourself from your rebirth in samsara by doing other virtuous things but enlightenment, absolutely not. Because it is difficult, you have to train the mind to first wish everybody well and then gradually get a little bit deeper than that. And then actually applying that loving kindness and transforming it into compassion by thinking of all suffering sentient beings big and small, meditate three times during the day and three times during the night. Because back home in Tibet, just about the suffering of all sentient beings, one would meditate on for one hundred days. You have to be convinced of the fact that all sentient beings are your parents. If parents are not exactly the closest to you, then whoever is the closest to you, whoever you love the most, then all sentient beings have been like that in the former live times. If you did not generate loving kindness and compassion, you must see with certainty that loving kindness and compassion are absolutely indispensable. If you have anger and jealousy, for example, when you pass away from this life, this would be imprinted in the mind stream and the result is that you will be born surely either in the realm of hell or hungry ghost because of what is imprinted in your mind stream. If you have loving kindness and compassion imprinted on your mind stream, it is entirely different story. If you want to be reborn as a human being, loving kindness and compassion are indispensable. You must have loving kindness and compassion in your mind stream, otherwise, it is not possible to be reborn as a human being. When you generate loving kindness and compassion toward all sentient beings, you have to really start with whoever is closest to you. Loving kindness and compassion must start at home. Showing your loving kindness and compassion toward your family members and gradually extends to others. It is important to generate your loving kindness and compassion toward your mother and think of all the sacrifices she made. When you generate this kind of loving kindness and compassion, it is yours. You are not parting from it. Having loving kindness and compassion is like a wish-fulfilling jewel. It is your mother who have giving you birth, it is your mother who have given you love. Secondly, generate loving kindness and compassion toward your teacher. Without teacher's help, you will be ignorant and ignorant person cannot really fully enjoy peace and happiness. Teachers are extremely kind to all of us. Thirdly, generate loving kindness and compassion toward your nation, your government and all those who are responsible for bringing this country to the level that it is in t now. Without the nation, without the government, without the civilization, just imagine for a minute what it will be like. There will be thieves, robbers and muggers everywhere. The roads will not be as they are today. So one's nation is indeed important to oneself, whether or not one is going to have peace and happiness is also dependsupon what kind of nation and government you have. A good nation means happiness and a bad nation means suffering. We all need to have some kind of association with the country or government, without which we cannot really live. What if you live in a country just like a ghost town, therefore one should be grateful and express your gratitude to all those former statesmen who are responsible in building the nation. When you have this kind of appreciation, you will be able to generate loving kindness and compassion toward them. Always when you generate loving kindness, generate toward your mother, your teachers, toward the nation and government and gradually you can extend it to all of us on the planet and everybody in samsara etc. When you have loving kindness and show it to your parent, then that loving kindness and compassion that you show would be imprinted on your mind stream. This is something that you build on and it is something you carry forward. Besides, if you are kind, gentle and caring to your parents, when they are going to pass away, they are leaving everything they have to you. You can inherit it. If you are kind, gentle and showing your love and compassion toward your teachers, you will be able to get all their knowledge. When you show your love and compassion to your nation and government, when you abide by the law, pay your dues and pay your taxes and in your life, who know, you may even become a leader and that will amount to satisfaction, fulfillment and happiness. And when you pass away, you will carry forward of course love and kindness imprinted on your mind stream. Therefore, gradually, you will think of all mother sentient beings. When you have this kind of attitude, then you would become someone who could make an positive impact on all sentient beings and in your own country. Conversely, if you only focus on yourself, be selfish, over indulge in alcoholic beverages and abuse drug etc all because of self-centered and attachment and result would be self-destruction and you will be born as an animal. You should have that kind of attitude toward your nation and government. All the law and order is in place in order to serve its citizen. The good civilization, the law and order, the police, for example, think of all these qualities, not the faults, then you will be able to generate love and kindness. But if you do just the opposite, that is do everything against the rules, against the law, black marketing, breaking the law and one day, you will be caught. It is you who will be the loser, in this life as well as in the next because when you do these kind of activities, you have no loving kindness and compassion. Not only your nation, but your spouse, for example, whether husband or wife, always find qualities rather than faults. None of us are fully enlightened, all of us have faults. Do not dwell in the faults. Capitalize on the qualities. If you capitalize on the qualities, you will be able to generate love and kindness. Cast your mind back many years when you and your spouse have the most wonderful time, when you exchange love and kindness, relive those moments and if you did this, you will then live together till you die. In all likelihood, you will meet again in your next life. All because of love and kindness.
Rinpoche: Generating love and kindness is like a telephone call, the minute you generate love and compassion, then you are sending that to the other end whether it is an animal or a human being who pass away. Whenever you generate loving kindness and compassion, it will reach the other end. Loving kindness and compassion is the only thing that links beings together. If you are a lama who is asked to pray for a deceased person, if you do not loving kindness and compassion, no amount of prayer is going to have any effect at all. So when you generate loving kindness toward a deceased person or an animal, think of all sentient beings and send out your love and compassion to them. If you do that, the deceased will derive the benefit from it because loving kindness and compassion is the antidote of attachment. When you have loving kindness and compassion, it will benefit whosoever you are praying to. For example, when you hear the news of a major disaster, whether it is train-collision or something, immediately, you will feel it and when you feel that you are touched, you will have a genuine desire to send out your love and compassion. When you have a genuine desire to send out your love and compassion, it will benefit the one that is struck by the disaster. That is how all bodhisattvas benefit sentient beings. Bodhisattvas are the enlightened one with heroic mind. Heroic mind because they have love and kindness in abundance.
Question: Can you talk about compassion from the ultimate point of view?
Rinpoche: At the absolute level, this compassion is called untargeted compassion. That is to say, at the relative level, you need to see, to hear the news of the train disaster. It has to touch you and then you generate the loving kindness and compassion and think of what may have happened to those people. So there is subject and object. You have to have those people toward whom you are directing your compassion and your feeling. At the absolute level, you do not have subject and object. It is the union of emptiness and compassion. That compassion is all pervading compassion. It is at all times there, it pervades all. Dharmakaya state of Buddhahood is intangible, just like the space. From the Dharmakaya state, which is the untargeted compassion manifests as Sambogakaya and Nirmanakaya. These are possible only because of the untargeted compassion which pervades all.
Emergency Methods for Dealing with Fear
In Tibetan Buddhism, the female Buddha-figure Tara represents the aspect of a Buddha that protects us from fear. Tara actually represents the energy-winds of the body and the breath. When purified, she also represents the ability to act and to accomplish our aims. This symbolism suggests several emergency methods of working with the breath and with the subtle energies for handling fear.
The emergency methods derive from preparatory practices (preliminaries) that we do before meditating, studying, or listening to teachings. In and of themselves, these practices help to calm us down in emergencies, when we are extremely frightened or begin to panic. They also serve as the first steps to take before applying deeper methods.
1. Counting the cycles of breathing with eyes closed, taking as the cycle the in and out-breaths, and focusing on the sensation of the breath coming in, going down, the lower abdomen rising, then falling, and the breath going out.
2. Counting the cycles of breathing with eyes half-opened, loosely focused, looking down at the floor, taking as the cycle the out-breath, a pause, and the in-breath, with the same focus as above, and after a while, adding awareness of the sensation of our bottoms touching the chair or floor.
3. Reaffirming the motivation or goal of what we wish to achieve (becoming more calm) and why.
4. Imagining that the mind and energy come into focus like the lens of a camera.
5. Without counting the breath, focusing on the lower abdomen rising and falling while breathing and feeling that all the energies of the body are flowing harmoniously.
[See: Preliminaries for Meditation or Study: The Seven-Limb Practice.]
What Is Fear?
Fear is a physical and emotional uneasiness felt about something known or unknown, over which we feel we have no ability to control, handle, or bring to the result that we wish. We want to be rid of what we fear, and thus there is a strong repulsion. Even if the fear is a general anxiety, without a specific object that we fear, still there is a strong wish to be rid of an undefined "something."
Fear is not simply anger. Nevertheless, similar to anger, it entails an inflation of the negative qualities of the object we fear and an inflation of "me." Fear adds to anger the mental factor of distinguishing ('du-shes, recognition) that we cannot control or handle the situation. We then pay attention (yid-la byed-pa) to what we fear and to ourselves in terms of that way of distinguishing. That way of distinguishing and paying attention may be accurate or inaccurate.
Fear Is Accompanied by Unawareness
Fear is always accompanied by unawareness (ignorance, confusion) of some fact of reality - either not knowing it or knowing it in a manner that contradicts reality. Let us consider six possible variations.
(1) When we fear that we cannot control or handle a situation, our fear may be accompanied by unawareness of cause and effect and how things exist. The conceptualized objects (zhen-yul, implied object) of our fearful way of paying attention to ourselves and what we fear are
" a solidly existing "me" who, by its own power alone, should be able to control everything, such as our child not getting hurt,
" a solidly existing thing, existing on its own and not influenced by anything else, that we should be able to control by our own efforts alone, but we are unable to do so because of some personal inadequacy.
These are impossible ways of existing and impossible ways in which cause and effect work.
(2) When we are afraid that we cannot handle a situation, the accompanying unawareness may be of the nature of the mind and impermanence. We fear that we cannot handle our emotions or the loss of a loved one, we are unaware that our experiences of pain and sadness are merely the arising and cognizing of appearances. They are impermanent and will pass, like the pain of a dentist drilling out teeth.
(3) Our fear of being unable to handle a situation may be fear that we cannot handle it by ourselves. It may also entail the fear of being alone and loneliness. We think that we can find someone else who can alleviate the situation. The conceptualized objects here are
" a solidly existing "me" who is incompetent, inadequate, not good enough, and who can never learn,
" a solidly existent "someone else" who is better than me and who can save me.
This is another form of unawareness of how others and we exist and unawareness of cause and effect. It may be accurate that we do not have sufficient knowledge now to be able to handle something, such as our car breaking down, and someone else may have that knowledge and be able to help us. However, that does not mean that, through the workings of cause and effect, we cannot learn.
(4) When we are afraid of someone, for instance our employers, we are unaware of their conventional natures. Our employers are human beings, with feelings just as we have. They want to be happy, not unhappy, and want to be liked and not disliked. They have lives outside the office and these affect their moods. If we can relate to our employers in human terms, while remaining mindful of our respective positions, we will have less fear.
(5) Similarly, when we are afraid of snakes or insects, we are also unaware that they are sentient beings, just like ourselves, and want to be happy and not be unhappy. From a Buddhist point of view, we may be unaware of them as the current manifestation of an individual mental continuum that does not have an inherent identity as one species or another. We are unaware that they could even have been our mothers in previous lives.
(6) When we are afraid of failure or sickness, we are unaware of our conventional natures as limited samsaric beings. We are not perfect and of course we will make mistakes and sometimes fail or fall sick. "What do you expect from samsara?"
From a Buddhist perspective, to feel safe does not entail
" turning to an omnipotent being who will protect us, since omnipotence is impossible;
" even if a powerful being could help us in some way, needing to please that being or make an offering or sacrifice in order to receive protection or help;
" becoming omnipotent ourselves.
To feel safe, we need
1. to know what we fear and to recognize the confusion and unawareness underlying it;
2. to have a realistic idea of what it means to handle what we fear, especially in terms of ridding ourselves of the underlying confusion;
3. to evaluate our abilities to handle what we fear, both at the moment and in the long-run, without under or overestimating ourselves, and accepting the present stage of our development;
4. to implement what we can do now - if we are doing it, rejoice; and if we are not doing it, resolve to do it to the best of our present abilities and then actually try to do it;
5. if we cannot handle it completely now, to know how to develop to the point at which we can handle it completely;
6. to aim and work for reaching that stage of development;
7. to feel that we are going in a safe direction.
The above seven steps describe what Buddhism calls "taking safe direction" (taking refuge). It is not a passive state, but an active one of putting a safe direction in our lives - the direction of working, in a realistic manner, on ridding ourselves of our fears. Consequently, we feel safe and protected because we know that we are going in the positive and correct direction in life that will enable us eventually to be rid of all problems and difficulties.
A Realistic View of How to Handle Frightening Situations
We need to remember
" Whatever happens to our loved ones or us is the ripening of a huge network of individual karmic forces, as well as historical, social, and economic forces. Accidents and other unwished for things will happen and we cannot protect our loved ones from them, no matter how careful we may be and how much we advise them to be careful. All we can do is try to give sound advice and wish them well.
" To overcome accidents and fear, we need to gain nonconceptual cognition of voidness. Remaining totally absorbed in voidness, however, is not like sticking our heads in a hole in the ground. It is not running away from fear, but is a method for eliminating the unawareness and confusion that cause our karma to ripen into unwished for things and that cause us to have fear.
" In working with the nonconceptual cognition of voidness to purify ourselves of our karma, we will still experience accidents and fear all the way up to the stage of liberation from samsara (arhatship). This is because the nature of samsara is that it goes up and down. Progress is not linear; sometimes things go well and sometimes they do not.
" Even once we attain liberation as an arhat, we will still experience accidents and things that we do not want to happen. However, we will experience them without pain or suffering and, because we are free from all disturbing emotions and attitudes, without fear. It is only at the stage of arhatship that we can fully handle all our fears in the deepest manner.
" Only when we reach enlightenment do we no longer experience accidents or anything unwished for happening. Only a Buddha is fearless in proclaiming
" his or her own realizations, of all good qualities and skills,
" his or her own true stoppings of all obscurations preventing liberation and enlightenment,
" the obscurations that others need to rid themselves of to attain liberation and enlightenment,
" the opponent forces that others need to rely upon to rid themselves of them.
Provisional Methods for Dealing with Fear
1. Reaffirm going in a safe direction of life, through the seven steps outlined above.
2. When facing a frightening situation, such as a test for cancer, imagine the worst scene happening and imagine what would happen then and how we would handle it. This helps to dispel the fear of the unknown.
3. Before undertaking something, such as reaching the airport on time to catch a plane, have several solutions prepared so that if one fails, we are not left with the frightening scenario of having no other way to achieve our goal.
4. As Shantideva taught, if there is a frightening situation and we can do something about it, why worry, just do it. If there is nothing we can do, then why worry, it won't help.
5. Since we will experience fear and unhappiness all the way to liberation, we need to focus on our minds as being as deep and vast as the ocean and, when fear or unhappiness arises, let it pass like a swell on the ocean. The swell does not disturb the calm and quiet depths of the ocean.
6. If we have built up sufficient positive karmic force (merit) from our constructive actions, we can be confident of continuing with a precious human body in future lives. The best protection from fear is our own positive karma, although we need to bear in mind that the nature of samsara is that it goes up and down.
7. In the face of a frightening situation, we may commission or perform ourselves a ritual requesting the aid of a Dharma-protector or a Buddha-figure such as Tara or the Medicine Buddha. Such figures are not omnipotent beings who can save us. We request and open ourselves to their enlightening influence ('phrin-las), so that it may act as a circumstance to ripen the karmic forces from our previously committed constructive actions that might not otherwise have ripened. A more secure effect is for their enlightening influence to act as a circumstance to ripen into trivial inconveniences the karmic forces from our previously committed destructive actions that might otherwise have ripened into serious obstacles preventing success. Thus, instead of being frightened of difficulties, we welcome them as "burning off" negative karmic forces.
8. Reaffirm our Buddha-natures. We have the basis levels of deep awareness to understand difficult and frightening situations (mirror-like deep awareness), to recognize the patterns (equalizing deep awareness), to appreciate the individuality of the situation (individualizing deep awareness), and to know how to act (which may include realizing there is nothing we can do) (accomplishing deep awareness). We also have the basis level of energy actually to act.
9. Reaffirm that having Buddha-nature means that we have the basis for all good qualities complete within us. In Western psychological terms, these qualities may be conscious or unconscious (we may be mindful of them or not, and they may be developed to different degrees). Often, we project the unconscious qualities as a "shadow." Because the unconscious is the unknown, the tension of being unaware of it manifests as fear of the unknown and thus fear of our unknown unconscious qualities. Thus, we may identify with our conscious intellectual side and ignore or deny our unknown, unconscious, emotional feeling side. We may project the emotional feeling side as a shadow and be frightened of others who are very emotional. We may be afraid of our own emotional side and have anxiety about being out of touch with our feelings. If we identify with our conscious emotional feeling side and deny our unconscious intellectual side, we may project the intellectual side as a shadow and be intimidated by those who are intellectual. We may be afraid to try to understand anything and feel anxiety about being intellectually dull. Thus, we need to reaffirm both sides as complete within us, as aspects of our Buddha-natures. We may visualize the two sides embracing each other in the form of a couple, as in a tantra visualization, and feel that we are the complete couple ourselves, not just one member of the pair.
10. Reaffirm another aspect of our Buddha-natures, namely that the nature of the mind is naturally free of all fears and so experiencing fear is merely a fleeting superficial event.
11. Reaffirm yet another aspect of Buddha-nature, namely that we can be inspired by others to have the courage to face frightening situations.
not others with that which pains yourself
ONENESS: Great Principles Shared by All Religions
by Jeffrey Moses
million worldwide followers
By Tonia Shoumatoff Tonia is a Writer, Producer and Media Specialist. She has served as a Communication Director for a range of non-profit organizations.
Tonia lives in Wassaic, NY.
"If your mind and heart are filled with love and compassion for all sentient beings you don't have time to indulge in selfish thought or feelings of depression. I see this as the ultimate method for realizing no self. No-self makes one compassionate toward others and compassion toward others negates self." - Evelyn Ruut, Dharma Practitioner
"Are you a good Christian? Then you're a good Buddhist." --Thich Nat Han
"Human life, lasting an instant, like a dream--it might be happy, it might be sad. Not wishing for joy, not avoiding sadness, may I truly practice the sublime teachings." ---His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche
The word for Buddhist in Tibetan is "nagpa" which means someone who looks inward. All Buddhist practices help the individual to work with unraveling negative repetitive patterns of behavior and thinking that causes difficulty and conflicts. Many people think that Buddhism is depressing because it addresses the issues around suffering and most people find it quite painful to look at the root causes of their mental and physical malaise. But Buddhist thought presents practical advice for dealing with the fundamental truths of our existence. By carefully looking at which attitudes and behaviors bring more suffering into our lives, Buddhism presents helpful methods for actually getting to the root of suffering and overcoming it. These techniques are not austere but gradual and balanced so that the individual can eventually achieve inner and outer harmony and can generate aspirations for the universal well being for all that lives.
A Buddhist friend of mine, Evelyn Ruut, recently responded to a question about whether Buddhism could offer any help in combating depression: "There are a good many Buddhist practices that I know of which seem to have a good effect on depression. I for one would recommend some of the visualized practices such as that of Chenresig, or Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Why Chenresig? Because, in particular, this practice removes the focus from oneself. You are visualizing and sending out great compassionate love and imagining that you are giving all living beings what they need. It is very hard to remain self-focused and dwell upon your own miseries when you are seeing to the happiness of all beings. This is a practiced, planned, specifically organized time when you take the focus off yourself.
This practice contains a good many other helpful things which can offset depression. First of all it is a purification, in which you literally make yourself empty of all your negative characteristics, everything that has depressed or stressed you, everything that makes you feel bad about yourself, literally seeing it all pouring out, and leaving you transparent like a rainbow. Just visualizing that helps you to forget that you are depressed.
Then you see the bodhisattva sending you kindness and loving compassion and you acknowledge it. Then after that, you, in turn, send that compassionate energy out to all living beings, and imagine that everyone is sending out whatever everyone needs to everyone else. It is actually a very wonderful mental exercise and what I am describing here is only the smallest part of it.
Just think that somewhere there are tiny babies who are hungry and wet, people who have no homes or food, animals who are chained up in cages, people in horrible, inhumane prisons. There are those dying in hospitals whose illnesses have no hope of cure. Victims of war who have lost their families. As part of your visualization you can picture all of these beings receiving food, shelter, healing, peace, whatever they need. You can be as specific as you want; after all it is your mind and your practice.
The most important thing is that at the end you dedicate any merit you may have gained from generating this attitude to all living beings, and prays for this to continue to happen. Also, for the rest of you day you envision that when people see or speak to you they are speaking to the little bit of Chenresig that you carry in your heart. When you are carrying that idea with you, you are also keeping that idea and the memory of the attitudes you generated during the practice alive in your heart and mind."
Buddhism is one of the world's major religions and was inspired by the enlightenment experience of the son of a king, Siddhartha Gautama, who lived on the border of Nepal and India from 557-477 BC At the age of 29, after having been immersed in luxury throughout his life and prevented from seeing the horrors of the real world by his overprotective father, he was devastated by seeing the ravaging effects of sickness, poverty and death. He then renounced his princely kingdom, became a wandering yogi and ascetic and dedicated his life to finding a way to eliminate suffering.
After spending six years in extreme asceticism he sat down under the famous Bodhi tree, conquered the maras (or human defilements of ignorance, anger, lust, greed, jealousy, ignorance, etc.) and discovered the "Middle Way," which found a place in the mind between extreme asceticism and extreme self-indulgence. He developed techniques, which demonstrated to his followers how to live a life of balance and compassion in the world.
There are many schools of Buddhism but the three major branches are Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana. Hinayana, literally the narrow path, puts an emphasis on the enlightenment and liberation of the individual through purification practices, meditation and applying the original teachings of the Buddha. To this branch belong the practitioners of the original Pali Canon, the teachings of the Buddha in its original language. Most of the members of this school of Buddhism reside in Thailand, Ceylon and Burma. This school puts an emphasis on following the original sutras or teaching of the Buddha and slowly purifying one's body, speech and mind. Theravadin Buddhism is part of this school, with an emphasis on monasticism. The individual or arhat presents the inspiring example of one who attains liberation from birth and death through his own personal efforts but is not necessarily imbued with the intention to help liberate other brings through his realization.
The Mahayana or "wide path" shifts the emphasis from personal liberation to the universal salvation of "all sentient beings." Perhaps a better way of putting it is that all beings already have Buddha nature and that it is just a question of shifting their awareness to their intrinsic Buddhahood. At any rate, the Mahayana schools gave birth to the concept of the Bodhisattva who declares his or her intention to benefit all beings through his spiritual practice and eventual enlightenment. By understanding that all beings have been one's mothers in a past life there is an essential feeling of connection and unity of all that lives within the fabric of life. Thus, the Bodhisattva realizes that if he attains Buddhahood for himself alone it would be limited without extending it to everyone.
The third branch of Buddhism, is Vajrayana, or the "Diamond Vehicle," which migrated from India to China, Tibet and Japan, uses esoteric yogi practices to attain enlightenment "in one lifetime." One Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche abbot of the Woodstock, NY Karmatriyana Dharmachakra Tibetan Buddhist monastery, said that the difference between the sutrayana (Hinayana) and the tantrayana traditions are that in one you are trying remove the mud around a gem in order to be able to reveal it and in the other you leave the mud there and just reach in and grab the gem. Tantric practice entails visualizations of oneself as a deity who is the embodiment of such enlightened qualities as compassion, wisdom, healing and so on. By meditating on the deity, you come to understand yourself as being the deity. You then understand the ultimate purity within yourself and that in fact there are no defilements to be removed. In Tantrayana everything is transformed into purpose, the outer realm is imagined as a pure heavenly realm, each being is seen as a buddha, each sound is mantra and every object is seen as if emanating the rainbow light of the sacred world. If you view all beings as being composed of the constituent elements of Buddhahood then there is no need to develop anger and you can develop effortless compassion.
These three paths or branches of Buddhism are not to be regarded as different or "better" than each other, they just represent varying interlocking levels or stages of development along the path, all necessary for the evolution of Buddhist spiritual development. Inspite of the many teachers, sects, and branches of Buddhism the ultimate emphasis in all of them is on the capacity of the individual to be able to work with his or her mind to achieve enlightenment. The Buddha said: "Be a lamp unto yourself" and did not require his followers to have faith in him as some kind of savior.
Each being is believed to have Buddhanature and the ability to attain nirvana or enlightenment through spiritual practice. Even though the Buddha is definitely venerated through art and images he is not worshipped as God or a Supreme Being but rather is seen as one of three sources of "refuge" from the tribulations of life in this world or samsara (the repetitive rounds of rebirth). The Buddha is understood to have been a man who through his own efforts became fully "awake" and was therefore able to guide others. The other two sources of refuge are the dharma or the teachings that guide one along the path, and the sangha, or the community of fellow Buddhist practitioners.
Another helpful tool for working with the mind is meditation. One form of meditation is Shinay or calming the mind. This is basically a meditation on the breath which allows the thoughts that arise in the mind to be observed without interacting with them which causes the mind to settle down so that the spaciousness or clarity of the mind can be experienced. One teacher said Shinay meditation is like placing a muddy glass of water on a table; eventually the silt settles to the bottom and the water becomes clear.
As the practitioner goes deeper in working with the mind he can work with what arises through Vipassana or Insight Meditation. When the practitioner starts to experience the nature of impermanence-- an understanding that everything is constantly arising and dissolving--the mind can start to soften and open rather than tighten and grasp. One starts to understand, as Jack Kornfeld says: "The thought of a friend is not the friend: it is a thought. How many life scenarios have we created, directed, and starred in and, for those moments, taken to be the experience itself?
We also may get carried away by the intense energy of our emotions, swept up in a typhoon of the mind and body. To be lost in emotions is to not be mindful of their energy; and when there is a strong identified involvement with them there is no space in the mind for seeing clearly what is happening."
As wisdom starts to replace suffering in the practitioner's life, compassion for others starts to arise and one desires to help others to be liberated from their suffering. Unless our hearts are open to feeling our own pain then we cannot be open to the suffering of others. As compassion becomes a sincere response the Buddhist can then start integrating spiritual practice and everyday life embarking upon paths that are of service to others. As patience, kindness, sensitivity, generosity, courage, integrity and perseverance arise then the practitioner can start truly being of benefit to others. When those who practice Buddhism start to let go of their egos and stop imposing their own personal agendas on the world they start to realize the true interdependency of all beings which allows an essential healing relationship with others and the very Earth itself to take place.
Many think that Buddhism is depressing because of the emphasis that it puts on suffering, but realistically acknowledging our suffering is the first step toward finding a way out of our tendency to cling to the false materialistic hopes and dreams propounded by our society that ultimately are ephemeral and leave us feeling disappointed, empty and unfulfilled.
The Four Noble Truths state the Buddha's understanding of our human situation:
1. Our existence is by its very nature filled with unhappiness; disease, decay, death and separation from what is desired causing continual pain and suffering (dukha).
2. This suffering is caused by selfish craving. The blind demandingness of our nature leads us to act in ways that cause suffering.
3. This craving or demandingness can be gotten rid of.
4. The way to bet rid of these cravings is to understand the nature of the mind and to practice dharma or "the true path" whose stages include: right view, right aspiration, right speech, right conduct, right mode of livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.
What the Buddha was telling the world here was that the mere fact of being born restricts us to finite conditions that cause problems and suffering. We only have to look at the news to be aware of the immensely painful events in the lives of those around us and to understand the misery that pervades existence. But the Buddha said that rather than be overwhelmed by our continual problems and often self-created suffering that we need to recognize the source of our sufferings: dualistic mind which causes us to cling to a false sense of separate self. This mind gives in to the delusion of self-interest, putting a priority of self over others and gives rise to the six "poisons"; ignorance, anger, attachment, greed, jealousy and pride which cause beings to become lost in the ocean of repeated rebirths into what is called "samsara."
But the good news is that every being also has the innate potential for Buddhahood or "basic goodness", and can achieve liberation from samsara. The process of achieving this liberation entails clearing away the obscurations of the mind and recognizing the absolute and omniscient nature of the mind which is beyond any concept of self or other. We can eliminate the capricious promptings of our minds by gradually reorganizing our lives along the lines of the eight-fold path, which re-orients the mind. The eight-fold path helps us understand the problem of life, accept a purpose or goal toward which we are working, and builds upon that by reinforcing moral conduct, careful use of words, ethically correct livelihood, spiritual practice, consciousness of ourselves and others and ultimately enables one to experience a sense of inner peace which emanates from the awareness of the oneness of all beings.
with the Soul
The EDGE Interview with H.H. Tulku Buddha Maitreya Rinpoche
by Douglas Crandall
His Holiness Tulku Buddha Maitreya Rinpoche was discovered and recognized beginning in 1984 by a series of Tibetan spiritual leaders as a Tulku, or a child born in perfection, divinely awakened and a living saint.
In 1998, His Holiness was enthroned in a formal recognition ceremony in Kathmandu, Nepal, as Maitreya, the Buddha of this age, by Ven. Khenpo Khyenrab Gyatso. In November 2000, he was enthroned at the Dema Monastery in Kham Tibet, recognized as the Western-born reincarnation of the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, Padmasambhava Guru Rinpoche, by the Buddhist Master His Holiness Dema Choktrul Rinpoche.
H.H. Tulku Buddha Maitreya Rinpoche has been identified and acknowledged by multiple leaders of Tibetan Buddhism as the reincarnation of Gautama Buddha, Tsong Khapa, Atisha, Jesus the Christ "St Issa" and the Western-born Buddha Maitreya, the Living Buddha. The focus of His Holiness' work in the West is fundraising to support the Living Masters of Loving Wisdom in the East to ensure their well-being and healthy living. His projects include building, restoring and supporting monasteries wordwide.
The Edge spoke with H.H. Buddha Maitreya Rinpoche by phone on the topic of our soul and how we might better connect with it.
It seems like more
and more people have a sense that something is lacking in their lives, and they
seem to be searching for a more definitive sense of self and purpose. It all comes
down to the age old questions, Who Am I and What am I doing here. How do we re-establish
a connection and loving relationship with ourselves, with the innermost part of
who we are?
His Holiness: I think most of it has to do with reality, that there's a lot of ability in people to be a little bit more psychic than they think. That they have a certain psychic energy that is more aligned to fear, and the way that they see life in a distrusting way. Or how they may trust the government, or how they may trust a relationship. That comes from a lot of competition and other things.
The process of humanity and our education and developing human rights and developing a little bit more ability to begin trusting people more and more than we ever did before is beginning to awaken people to a place to where they want to know more. Their heart is opening up more than what's known as the solar plexus or the energy of lower psychic energy -- or just negative thought forms and negative behavior.
It also includes wanting spiritual awakening within, and being able to sense that we're actually on the right path, doing the things we should be doing or able to actually express the virtues of love and receive love from other people. There's a shift that is waking people up just in the natural evolutionary course of things.
The best way to actually bring that about is to try and clean up what might be left over in a person's life that's actually holding a person down negatively. If a person cleans up negative connections, lets go of certain things in their life and allows it to grow a little bit more, that enhances a lot of the ability for that lower nature, that fear, that distrust to kind of be healed, to go away. Does that make sense?
Yes, it does.
His Holiness: So there's a lot to that, as far as just cleaning up your environment, cleaning up your relationships. The other thing is beginning to add meditation to a person's life. If you want to get to know yourself, the best way is to relax the mind and the emotions, and just take some time to get to know yourself through meditation.
Every time a person meditates, they need to focus on breathing as a beginning step. Breathe deeply down into the stomach and realize that the breath needs to go that far down and not just into the lungs. Then breathe out slowly so the breath has a complete release. When a person does that, they're actually opening up energy of the lower body and releasing it out the upper body, which is an old yogi technique of purifying doubt and negativity. It's always beneficial to meditate, and breathe and learn how to breathe correctly when you're meditating.
are people disconnected? And why have they chosen to be disconnected?
His Holiness: I think the biggest problem with the inability for people to relate properly is based on little innuendoes about the differences between men and women. Even today there are books that say men are from mars and women are from Venus. It's separative. There are cognitive ways of thinking that really are not true, but are based on just a general perception. And we grow up with other innuendos in relationships, that women are sugar and spice and everything nice, and boys are puppy dog tails and all the negative things.
There are implications about women having more compassion toward children, and if you talk about children, you talk about women; you don't necessarily apply a relationship to children and men. Those connotations have moved through humanity and into society and still exist, and it is a form of prejudice. And when you have a prejudice like that going on, even unconsciously, it makes it hard on a psychic level to experience an intuitive level of loving and draw people to you that complement you.
So we need to be much more aware of the things that we listen to and that we agree with. If you go into a mall and go to look for clothes for a man, you'll find them in one small little section, but if you want to find women's clothes, you'll find an enormous selection. That's because there's an emphasis on the illusion that women are much more interested in having all these fine things. But I know a lot of men who would love to have a lot more variety.
It seems like
it's marketed that way purposely to continue encouraging women to think they are
the ones who shop all the time.
His Holiness: That's right, it's an innuendo, and it is insinuating that men are this way. But we're not. Men are no less compassionate than women, they're no less sensitive than a woman, they have no less desire to communicate than a woman. But there are psychic underlying processes that tell men and women that they are not like the opposite sex, and those ideas hit the movies, the TV and became a part of the cultural understanding of how things are. You find that same thing in caste systems in India. Propaganda is run to control cultures that actually create separation in order to have a control over the relationships of the people.
You mentioned earlier
that we need to trust more in certain things. How can do that when we seem to
be inundated with distrustful messages. How can a person who is not used to meditating
and trusting the silence, learn to trust it? And to trust that inner voice as
opposed to trusting the voices from outside ourselves?
His Holiness: It is difficult. That's one of the reason's I offer tools for meditation, like an etheric weaver, or pyramid or magnetic mat. These tools are amplified by the blessings of Tibetan monks. When a person works with these tools and begins to meditate, it actually helps to connect them in to a place of meditation that is very difficult to do on their own when they're still connected at that lower psychic level, where there's negativity and their mind is wandering and all those different types of habits are still going through their body. By having this connection, it actually releases that connection and inspires the person in a telepathic way to meditate in a very high way, spontaneously.
in a sense, they wouldn't even be aware that they are letting go of those habits,
but they would be letting go of them?
His Holiness: That's right. Because it's all happening so spontaneously that it just begins to integrate. Because of the level of meditation they go into so quickly, they begin sensing and feeling the healing process, like electricity and warmth and all kinds of physical things that they feel. And they experience more emotional and mental spiritual clarity during the process of meditation. Normally, it would take years to attain such a meditative experience.
hustle and bustle of everyday life, how can a person maintain the connection with
His Holiness: I'd suggest taking refuge by going out into the forest every once in a while. Get away from city life, go off to the park, or go to the ocean. Make an environmental stress-free space in your own home that adds to more spiritual relaxation using different types of buddhas or whatever thing you want to put around to make it much more spiritual, much more awakening, much more healing.
Add those things into the cycle of your mind, so that you get out and go for a bike ride in the mountains, or you get out and release your stress -- not just every once in a while on vacation, but at least every couple of days.
Then add meditation to that, as much as you can. Every time you eat, meditate. Every time you have a break to do anything, just sit there and take those deep breaths, learn how to do that more often and it'll happen so quickly and spontaneously you'll gain benefits from just being a practitioner of the meditative skills.
humans and souls, Who are We?
His Holiness: There's a great big leap between the animal and the human being, and that's plagued man for quite a long time. Ever since we started developing with science and started having the mind to wonder about such a thing.
My belief system is that the human being is something that has jumped from a link of spiritual evolution, say the aboriginal man or the Neanderthal, where the mind was not so developed, senses were not developed, the ability of emotional control was not developed. At a certain point of time, once that development began to develop, a certain psychic level of development leaped forward into creating the next level of man, the next level of human beings. From that point on, we've been building monasteries, induced religions and ceremonies, and evolving very quickly.
And now here we are. Now we're at the point where those sensory abilities are actually integrating the personality of more intelligent, emotionally stable human being that can create the technologies and advance the world, and help with medicine and understand religion to a less fanatical point to where we're actually going to leap into another evolutionary jump that gives humanity longer lives and much more attuned realities of the next level of human nature.
we're on that road right now?
His Holiness: Right now we're in that period of integrating science, technologies and spirituality. A leap of reality is going to take place where metaphysical, spiritual and different miraculous events will take place due to a leap of faith. There will be an evolutionary jump in our DNA and our make-up as a whole.
a sense, the act of searching for who we are in itself is impelling us to find
His Holiness: That's right. By searching for who we are, we find out things that we don't like about "that" person, the one we don't really want to be, and we begin to be the person that we really are -- the person that we really are in our own true virtues. And as that develops, so too do we begin to integrate a higher quality of soul rather than the lesser quality of personality. It's an automatic integration of transforming personality into soul.
Is meditation enough?
WE ALL HAVE PRECONCEPTIONS, we all have points of view. Not only do we have ideas but we have opinions and countless judgments, especially about other people. We may hope to free ourselves from such a tangle, but usually what we find is that we just exchange one set of preconceptions for another.
The practice of mindfulness-awareness meditation does not take place in a vacuum. It happens within a certain context and point of view. In the Buddhist tradition, meditation is often presented in the context of view, meditation, and action. View is like the eyes, which provide vision and perspective; meditation is like the mind, with its openness and clarity; and action is like the limbs that enable us to move about in the world. Each of these three is essential, as a system of checks and balances. So we cultivate all three of them together in order to overcome the prejudice and narrow-mindedness of our visions, the restlessness of our minds, and the ineffectiveness of our actions.
IF WE DO NOT understand the view, the practice of meditation can be more of a trap than a means of freeing ourselves from deception. Without an understanding of non-theism and the motivation to benefit others, meditation practice can degenerate into self-absorption and escapism. Rather than loosening our ego-clinging, it may further perpetuate our ignorance and grasping. Rather than connecting us to our world, it may draw us away from it. Meditation practice can even be a tool of aggression, a way of clearing the mind before going out to commit our next murder. Meditation in and of itself is no magical cure-all. Proper understanding and proper motivation are important. The view informs the practice.
Likewise, meditation balances view. Meditation practice is a way of loosening our solidity. Without practice, even the most inspired view can become rigid ideology. The practice of meditation brings out the futility and limitations of holding any rigid view. We see the nature of our attachment to particular viewpoints, and the simplicity of letting such views dissolve. The irony is that the proper motivation and view are essential-and at the same time, it is also essential not to grasp any view.
Action, the third component, is a balance to both view and meditation. Meditation does not matter that much if it has no effect on the rest of our lives. Likewise, we could be filled with empty words that do not lead to any change whatsoever in our lives or our relationships with others. We need to act on our understanding and our awareness.
Action, like view and meditation, does not stand alone. Action without clarity of view is blundering and apt to cause more harm than good. And action without meditation tends to be speedy and complex, rather than spacious and simple. But if these three factors are in balance, clarity of view and meditative awareness permeate all our activities.
In the Buddhist path we are bringing together our actions, our view, and our practice. It is a balance of awareness, insight, and action, working harmoniously together. In that way our energy is no longer divided or scattered, and we are fully present in whatever we do. That is what it means to be a genuine human being.
In Buddhism, the point is not simply to be accomplished meditators but to change our whole approach to life. Meditation is not merely a useful technique or mental gymnastic; it is part of a balanced system designed to change the way we go about things at the most fundamental level. In this context, it is a way of exposing and uprooting the core problems of grasping and ego-clinging that separate us from one another and cause endless pain.
Within the Buddhist tradition there are many varieties of meditation and many differences of opinion as to what meditation is all about. Wherever it occurs, it is colored by one set of preconceptions or another. Nowadays, people pluck techniques such as meditation from their traditional contexts, mix and match practices from very different traditions, and apply them in new settings. Meditation practice is often presented in a secular way, free of religious trappings and increasingly separated from any spiritual dimension. In the United States, this tends to place it in the general category of self-help techniques. As a result, meditation has been demystified for many people, who see it as one aspect of a healthy lifestyle, like working out or eating healthy food.
Meditation is used as therapy, to calm people down, as healing to lower blood pressure, for instance, or deal with pain, and even as a way to get ahead in business, or win at sports. It is gradually becoming part of the mainstream. This is not unlike what has happened to the practice of yoga, once viewed as a sophisticated system of spiritual training, and now offered regularly as a class at neighborhood health clubs. The technique may be there, but without heart. There is a danger that the practice of meditation could be similarly reduced. The very technique designed to undermine the power of ego-fixation could become another feather in our ego-cap. But if we keep in mind the broader context of view, meditation, and action, we are constantly challenged to look at what we are doing and why. By doing so, we discover that there are no limitations to our practice apart from those that we ourselves impose.
Judy Lief is a senior student of the late Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who authorized her as a teacher in the Buddhist and Shambhala traditions. She has edited many of Trungpa Rinpoche's books, and is the author of Making Friends with Death.
Sweet Melody for Fortunate Ones
By the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, Ugyen Trinley Dorje
Om Swasti. The right-turning conch of pure compassion in body, speech, and mind
Pours forth a stream of good intentions that never change.
Thereby, may a sweet, resonant melody beyond compare, such music for the ears,
Open the lotus petals of virtue, excellence, and goodness.
It has the supreme name of the Wish Fulfilling Tree, the ambrosial one.
Musical tones of this stainless tree, granting every wish, are dulcet and pleasing.
Throughout its branches the gems of lasting happiness nestle among their leaves.
Sovereign in our realm, may the world be resplendent with the beauty of this tree.
Aspiration for Tibet
A chain of fragrant flowers, these snow mountains are tranquil and fresh.
In a healing land where white incense rises sweet,
May the gracious beauty of luminous moonbeams, light of the spiritual and temporal world,
Conquer all strife, the darkness of the shadow side.
Aspiration for the Dalai Lama
Inspiring festivals of merit in the Land of Snow,
You are the Supreme One holding a pure white lotus.
With the beauty of all good qualities, a treasure for eyes to behold,
May your life be long, steadfast as a diamond vajra
Aspiration for Culture and Knowledge
The most excellent virtue is the brilliant and calm flow of culture:
Those with fine minds play in a clear lotus lake;
Through this excellent path, a song line sweet like the pollen's honey,
May they sip the fragrant dew of glorious knowledge.
Aspiration for the World
Over the expanse of the treasured earth in this wide world,
May benefit for beings appear like infinite moons' reflections,
Whose refreshing presence brings lasting welfare and happiness
To open a lovely array of night-blooming lilies, sighs of peace and joy.
Descending from a canopy of white clouds, the gathering of two accumulations,
May these true words, like pearled drops of light or pouring rain,
Falling in a lovely park where fortunate disciples are free of bias,
Open the flowers of friendship so that well-being and joy blossom forth.
These words of aspiration, sprung from a sincere intention, were written down by Ugyen Trinley, the one who bears the noble name of the Karmapa, while he was escaping from Tibet. One night in the illusory appearance of a dream, on a lake bathed in clear moonlight and rippled with blooming lotus flowers serving as a seat for three Brahmins who appeared wearing pure white silk and playing a drum, guitar, flute and other instruments. Created in pleasing and lyric tones, their melodious song came to my ears, and so I composed this aspiration prayer with a one-pointed mind, filled with an intense and sincere intention to benefit all the people of Tibet. Within a beautiful and auspicious chain of mountains, this land of Tibet, may the sun rays of the supreme aspiration for awakening swiftly appear.
This song and the yig chung that follow it were written by the 17th Karmapa, Ugyen Trinley Dorje. Translated under the guidance of Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche by Michele Martin, © 2000; headings inserted based on commentary of Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche.
Sydney Morning Herald
wasn't until she was in her late 30s that Sherry Marshall met a
Tibetan lama. She wasn't looking for a guru, or for a spiritual path.
But the night she went to a Balmain dinner party and met His Holiness
Gyalwang Drukpa, one of the great teachers of the Tibetan lineage, the
effect was electric.
never met anybody who so absolutely embodied what they were talking
about," Marshall recalls.
and compassion was just beaming out of him. I couldn't take my
eyes off him all night."
admits, in retrospect, that it was odd that she'd never read
anything about Tibetan Buddhism and its compassion and compelling
philosophy of cause and effect (karma) training the mind. She was only
vaguely aware of the Dalai Lama, and had never heard about the healing
and inner transformation that are almost natural byproducts of a
is, after all, a psychotherapist, and had spent 15 years
working with people with emotional wounds and families crying out for
not a religious person, and when a lot of people said to me,
'Sherry, why have you got involved with Tibetan Buddhism?' the only
answer I could give them was that when you've met someone - an actual,
living person - who is so pure and radiates such love, it is impossible
to turn away."
don't have to meet a lama or even be interested in Buddhism to
appreciate the tremendous appeal of its philosophy, especially in the
a culture which so admires the man who pushes his way to the top, and
in which materialism and neuroticism are so prevalent, the quiet credos
of Tibetan Buddhism have been a clarion call to millions of Westerners.
Just under 2 per cent of the Australian population are Buddhists,
according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, but there is little
doubt the values and culture of Tibetan Buddhism are capturing
imaginations in the Western world.
Khyentse Rinpoche's filmmaking debut, The Cup - (he is also a
revered lama) - which follows the trials of a novice monk who is crazy
about soccer, follows a recent flowering of Buddhist-inspired films,
such as Seven Years in Tibet, The Little Buddha and Kundun.
January Hazel Hawke and her daughter Sue attended a weekend retreat
on the Central Coast with Sogyal Rinpoche, the Buddhist meditation
master who wrote the spiritual bestseller, The Tibetan Book of Living
of the philosophy's appeal is probably that it is led by the Dalai
Lama, who almost everyone in the world - apart perhaps from the Chinese
Government - would recognise as about as fine an example you can get of
what a human being can be like.
fact that you don't have to give yourself over to a deity but rather
use processes such as meditation to undertake inner transformation also
holds great appeal in the West.
Mackay is a very busy man. He's a dentist with two practices, and
confesses to being "pretty much an Australian male" in the sense that
he's usually uncomfortable expressing his feelings. Ask him about
Tibetan Buddhism, though and he'll tell you about some extraordinary
events that have occurred in his life as matter-of-factly as if he were
describing a new filling technique. Such as the time he was out jogging
in Centennial Park and saw 1,000 Buddhas in front of him.
was doing a practice where you visualise your teacher. I called out
to Rinpoche, asking, 'Please, tell me what to do', and he came to me in
a profound vision," he said.
was running and running, and then suddenly I wasn't there in the park
anymore. In front of me was Rinpoche and all these other great teachers
of Tibet with a golden light around them. I was asking him this burning
question. I really wanted to know the answer, but Rinpoche just looked
at me, a big smile on his face, and he said, 'It's not so serious.
Loosen up.' Something just clicked in me. It's true - I was making it
out to be life and death, and I'd blown it out of all proportion."
this aspect of being a Buddhist - opening your heart to a teacher,
as Mackay did - that is so often misinterpreted as giving yourself over
to a guru, he said. The teacher is merely a representation of the Buddha
nature in us all.
term 'devotion' can press buttons in people, particularly if you've
been brought up a Christian," Mackay said. "There is a fear of a loss of
self, a loss of identity ... almost intelligence. The word devotion
connotes something mind numbing, or dumb. You picture people prostrating
in front of their teachers.
vision that came to me in Centennial Park was not what being a
Buddhist is all about. To me, it was just a signpost that I was on the
right path. All I can say is there is a power there, an energy."
Watson, the co-producer of the film and one of Dzongsar Rinpoche's
students, says one of the greatest misconceptions about Buddhism is that
meditation acts as a "placebo" by inducing states of bliss, or rapture.
being blissed out is part of regular practice, the Buddhist
philosophy doesn't mean you can "hide out" emotionally. Sitting down on
your meditation cushion every morning usually results in practitioners
confronting the aspects of themselves that they most dislike. "A lot of
people thought once I got into Buddhism I should become a 'good person',
but it doesn't work that way. Often you become worse because you are
unravelling your psyche, and you start to see some of its ugly
tentacles," Watson said.
of the ways Buddhist teachers work with people is to tease them,
Watson said. Emotions inevitably rise.
you have an animal you want to catch and it lives in a comfortable
hole in the ground, what do you do? You have to get it to stick up its
head if you want to catch it. To get your ego to come out of its hiding
place, you have to tease it," he said.
"Then, if you are stable enough, you can put it to the death."
facing the aspects of behaviour that limit you can be
painful. "But that's what you find a teacher for," Watson said. "It's
like going to a dentist and asking to have a tooth extracted without
feeling any pain. Having your ego extracted is the same. You only get to
feel compassion for others when you understand your own psyche."
dedication to such a philosophy was born during his first meditation
retreat in northern NSW with Sogyal Rinpoche.
had been teaching solidly for five hours, mainly about
emptiness, when he felt the Earth spin on its axis.
had been teaching about emptiness for days and days, but my
mind was in a fog. Then suddenly I had this image of being in a long
corridor with a whole series of doors, and there was a cool, clear
breeze flowing right through my mind. It was like all the dullness of my
ordinary mind evaporated and was replaced by something spacious and ...
well, it blew my socks off," he says.
of the delights of The Cup is the way audiences get a voyeuristic
peep into the everyday lives of a group of young Tibetan monks. Tibetan
Buddhists are renowned for their light-heartedness. Here in the West, it
is this "everyday magic" as some people call it - the humorous way
Buddhism can be entwined in everyday life - which is so appealing
who spoke to Marshall in her book, Devotion, Following Tibetan
Masters, were keen to describe how Buddhism can transform humdrum
moments into something deeper - even driving through the city's gridlock
of traffic. Instead of blowing his horn and turning into a road nazi
when someone tried to run him off the road, for example, Rod Lee, a
former marketing executive and now stress management teacher, explained
how he realised that the man didn't really want to kill him.
made a mistake," Lee said in the book. "Instead of driving up
to him and shaking my fist angrily, I let the situation go. A kilometre
further on, we pulled up alongside each other at some lights. I just
looked across and he turned his head and waved his hand. From that act
of non-aggression came an act of compassion."
first life-changing meeting with a lama led to a lifelong
passion, which saw her later making a pilgrimage to a monastery in the
Himalayas. "I was so nervous."
she made her first steps up the mountain, monks in red robes came
running towards her. "It was wonderful. There I was in my jeans and
anorak, and all my doubts and scepticism, and they took care of me in
every way. I remember thinking, 'Here I am, in a monastery, in Tibet,
and I feel completely at home.'"
A Buddhist Perspective
by Carol S. Hyman
Recently I had the chance to put 25 years of Buddhist study and
practice to the test. After driving to Boston to attend the funeral of a friend, a dear man who died in the prime of life, I flew on to California because my mother was dying.
Regular contemplation of death is part of Buddhist training. Various schools of Buddhism take different approaches based on the Buddha's insights, among which one of the most fundamental is that existence is marked by impermanence: everything put together sooner or later comes apart, including our precious lives.
The word buddha means awakened one. One of the things the Buddha woke up to was the fact that most of us spend our lives trying to avoid reality--especially the grittier aspects of it such as sickness, old age and death-or manipulate it to get what we think we want, which often doesn't bring us the satisfaction we had hoped for anyway. The Buddha also woke up to his true nature, which is the same as that of every human being-open, compassionate, intelligent, self-existing energy-and saw that our sense of being separate from the world is an illusion. Having seen all this, the Buddha taught a technique, a tool for uncovering our basic nature, exploring experience and facing our lives. This tool is mindfulness/awareness meditation, and with it we can make a direct connection with the facts of life, including death.
Meditation is a practice in how to let go, first of our thoughts, emotions and opinions; later, as we settle down and are able to be simply present, we let go of each moment, constantly moving into the next. Paradoxically, such relaxation, rather than spacing us out, brings us more directly in contact with what actually is, which might be called nowness or being awake in the eternal present. For this reason, the symbol for meditation is an endless knot, also called the knot of eternity. Training in such a way is, in effect, training for the ultimate surrender human beings encounter, letting go of this body at the time of death.
My mother, having been raised a Southern Baptist, would certainly not have called herself a Buddhist. But she had to face her mortality more often than most of us ever will. Three heart attacks, two coronary by- pass operations, breast cancer, diabetes: these were some of the physical challenges she met with courage and grace. She also had, as a friend of mine put it in a eulogy poem about her, "the strength to raise three willful girls." This willful one, having given her a world of trouble, was delighted when she told me, after I had been practicing meditation for a number of years, that Buddhism seemed to be good for me. Could I recommend something she might read about it?
Wanting something that made Buddhist teachings seem applicable to life in America and not just some exotic foreign philosophy or religion, I suggested several books by Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, my teacher and the founder of Karme-Choling in Barnet. My mother read them, incorporated from them what made sense to her, and even did some meditation practice. In the end, she taught me more about letting go than I ever taught her.
When we die, according to Buddhist doctrine, the energy of our being continues, going into an intermediate state before reincarnating. If, during life, we have remained completely self-absorbed, caught up in our beliefs, concepts and habitual patterns, then according to the laws of cause and effect, or karma, we will be swept into a rebirth based on our karmic momentum.
But if we have learned to rest in nowness and have realized our true nature, which is awake, then what continues is awareness, and we have some choice about what happens. Just as, when meditating, one can experience the continuity of discontinuity, or impermanence, directly, so it is possible, if one is aware and present at the moment of death, to understand what is happening, to rest in that basic nature which is not different from that of the universe and thus short-circuit the karmic cycle. However, as Trungpa Rinpoche said in a 1972 seminar in Barnet, "The basic impact of the experience is the same whether you believe in reincarnation or not: it is the discontinuity of what you are doing." Life as we know it stops.
The Buddha's final instruction to his followers before he died was that they should diligently work out their own liberation. In the 2500 years since then, Buddhists have sought to follow that advice in ways as diverse as the cultures into which Buddhism has spread, such as India, China, Japan, Tibet, and Southeast Asia. Now these ancient teachings, transplanted again, flourish in the Northeast Kingdom; it was these teachings that I found myself remembering as I flew west.
It is hard to let go of what we love. It is hard to live with uncertainty.
Yet we have no real choice if we are to face reality, for we will inevitably let go of all that we love, including our bodies, and the time when that will happen is uncertain. Whether my mother believed in heaven or reincarnation, I do not know. What I do know is that she recognized what was happening to her and she was ready for it. Talking, on the day before she died, to my sister whose five month old baby was the joy of her last days, my mother said, "I kind of hoped we'd have a little more time, but I guess we just get greedy."
If we learn to let go into uncertainty, to trust that our basic nature and that of the world are not different, then the fact that things are not solid and fixed becomes, rather than a threat, a liberating opportunity. Then we are free to savor what life offers, to taste the texture of each moment fully, whether the moment is one of sadness or joy. There is a story of an awakened person who, chased off a cliff by a ravenous tiger, saved himself from immediately falling by clutching on to a cherry tree that had taken root on the side of the rocky precipice. Realizing the hopelessness of his situation, he picked a cherry and tasted it. "How sweet," he said, before he fell.
You weren't greedy, Mom. You just had an appetite for the sweetness life offers. And as I sat with my sisters around your chair in your living room watching you while your generous heart finally gave up beating, as we encouraged you to let go of your ravaged body and assured you we would all be fine, I found myself savoring the sweetness of that situation. It was then that I was grateful for my Buddhist training.
Text copyright © 1999 Carol S. Hyman
Buddha, Healer of Outer and Inner Sickness
Medicine Buddha is a fully enlightened being. To understand who he is, what his nature is, what his function is, and so on, we first need to understand what an enlightened being is. Generally, 'being' means any being who experiences feelings - pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. Thus we are beings, and animals are beings; but houses and plants are not beings because they do not experience any feelings. There are two types of being: sentient beings and enlightened beings. A sentient being, or living being, is a being whose mind is afflicted by the darkness of ignorance. An enlightened being is a being who is completely free from the darkness of ignorance.
Just as sentient beings have many different aspects, so do enlightened beings. Enlightened beings emanate countless different forms for the benefit of living beings. Sometimes they appear as Deities, sometimes as humans, sometimes as non-humans. Sometimes they appear as Buddhist Teachers, sometimes non-Buddhist Teachers, sometimes as crazy people or evil people, and sometimes even as inanimate objects. Emanations of enlightened beings pervade the whole world, but because our mind is covered by ignorance we do not recognize them. We cannot say who or what is an emanation of a Buddha.
Medicine Buddha is an enlightened being who has unbiased compassion for all living beings. He protects living beings from physical and mental sickness and other dangers and obstacles, and helps them to eradicate the three poisons - attachment, hatred, and ignorance - which are the source of all sickness and danger. He is a Buddha Doctor.
At one time Buddha Shakyamuni was staying at a place called Vaishali with thirty-six thousand Bodhisattva disciples. At that time, Manjushri was appearing as a Bodhisattva disciple. Through his compassion, Manjushri realized that in the future the Buddhadharma would degenerate, and the beings of this world would find it very difficult to practise pure Dharma and gain pure realizations. He understood that it would be very difficult for those beings to control their minds, and so they would naturally engage in negative actions such as killing, stealing, and holding wrong views. As a result they would experience horrific illnesses and unbearable mental pain. The world would be full of problems, dangers, and adversity. Finding the thought of all this suffering impossible to bear, Manjushri asked Buddha:
In the future when your Dharma and general spiritual practice are in decline, when the human beings in this world are spiritually impoverished, when their attachment, anger, and ignorance are so strong and difficult to control that they experience continual physical suffering, mental pain, fears, and dangers, and especially many incurable diseases, who will release them from this suffering and protect them from danger? Who will help them to overcome the three mental poisons?
In response to Bodhisattva Manjushri's question, Buddha expounded the Sutra of Eight Thousand Verses Principally Revealing the Instructions on Medicine Buddha. Many beings heard this teaching. In addition to the thirty-six thousand human Bodhisattva disciples, millions of other Bodhisattva disciples came from many Pure Lands, together with beings from other realms such as nagas and givers-of-harm, or yakshas. To this vast assembly of disciples Buddha explained all about Medicine Buddha - his special qualities, his Pure Land, and how in the future by relying upon this Buddha and just hearing his name, living beings could be cured of heavy mental and physical sickness, especially the sickness of delusions. He also explained how to make a connection with this Buddha, the benefits of relying upon him, and how to practise the Medicine Buddha instructions.
While Buddha was giving this teaching, Manjushri realized with his clairvoyance of knowing others' minds that some of the humans and gods in the audience were developing doubts, finding it difficult to believe the Buddha's explanation about the existence of Medicine Buddha. Therefore, again he rose from his seat, respectfully circumambulated Buddha three times, made three prostrations, and then with his left knee on the ground according to tradition, requested Buddha:
To remove doubts from the minds of disciples, please show clearly how this Buddha exists, where he exists, and what his good qualities are.
Buddha immediately entered into an absorption of concentration, and from his heart emanated light rays inviting the seven Medicine Buddhas to Vaishali so that everyone could see them. Medicine Buddha came with his two main disciples, Radiance of the Sun and Radiance of the Moon, as well as a vast retinue of thousands of other disciples. The other six Medicine Buddhas also came with their retinues. Everyone could see the seven Medicine Buddhas with their retinues directly, and their doubts were immediately dispelled. Buddha introduced each of the Buddhas, saying for example "This Buddha is Medicine Buddha. He comes from the eastern Pure Land called Lapis Jewel Land. This Buddha Land is the nature of wisdom with the aspect of lapis lazuli. The entire ground of that Pure Land is illuminated by this Buddha's light," and so on.
Buddha then gave instructions on how to recite the mantra for oneself and for others, for sick and dying people, and so forth, and how to perform many different healing rituals. Everyone rejoiced and developed deep, unchangeable faith. It is said that through hearing these instructions seven million non-human givers of harm gained a direct realization of ultimate truth and promised to help future followers who sincerely relied upon the practice of Medicine Buddha. Twelve chief givers-of-harm who were present later attained enlightenment, and are included within the fifty-one Deities of Medicine Buddha's mandala.
The practice of Medicine Buddha is a very powerful method for healing ourself and others, and for overcoming the inner sickness of attachment, hatred, and ignorance. If we rely upon Medicine Buddha with pure faith we shall definitely receive the blessings of these attainments.
Sana In Corpore Sano' - The Buddha Way - Sound Mind, Sound Body
In Roman times the Latin term "Mens Sana In Corpore Sano', which means a sound mind in a sound body, was well known and understood.
This implies the notion that a healthy mind is a function of a healthy body.
To a very large extent this notion is still predominant in western cultures, given the extraordinary emphasis given to sporting activities, physical fitness and body culture.
The reason for this is that in the process of identification with their body, people derive the notion of who they are.
In Buddha Dhamma the emphasis is shifted in favour of the mind, since the body is considered to be a tool of the mind.
The Buddha taught that if progress in 'mind cultivation' was to be achieved it is important to maintain a healthy body, without becoming fanatical about it.
In psychosomatic medicine there is a notion that the body reflects the state of your mind, which to a certain extent equals the Buddha's Teaching.
The Buddha taught that the mind is chief.
In Dr. W.F. Jayasuriya's Introduction to the Abhidhamma (The Psychology and Philosophy of Buddhism, 1976): mind is conceived of as being different from matter. At the same time it is superior to matter because you can control or determine features of the material body. (1)
He emphasised that modern psychosomatic medicine is based on this very concept of mental states, such as anxiety, causing physical disorders like gastric ulcers.
In Bhikku Khantipalo book's 'A Bag of Bones - A Miscellany On The Body', he introduces the anthology 'relating to the body in various ways' as:
'The body which is thought to be most obviously 'me', what I regard as the most tangible part of myself. Around it, therefore, are constructed many views, all of them distorted to some extent, which prevent insight arising into the body as it really is.' (2)
The image people hold of themselves as a person is essentially that of a body.
In today's western society the body has been increasingly venerated as a 'temple', the idea of which comes from the culturally ingrained notion that the body is a temple of the creator god.
Inherent in this notion is the idea that the body is a perfect machine.
However, when you strip from this notion its religious underpinnings you can see that a more accurate analysis reveals that the body cannot live up to the cultural expectation.
In reality the natural state of the body is to be unhealthy.
The level of sickness determines how much you can perform.
Let us compare then the performance of the human body with the most efficient engine in the world which happens to be the transformer having a 97% efficiency.
In contrast the human body is only .1% efficient (and this only when the body is in a high state of health). This comparison underlines the precarious nature of our existence.
In truth the state of health of the human body varies from instant to instant.
A popularly held belief maintains the view that the preservation of a youthful body will help achieve some sense of spiritual balance or well-being. This reinforces the false notion that blinds us to the reality that the body deteriorates and eventually dies - in Pali this is anicca or impermanence.
This is the cult of youth.
Some of the underlying elements of this popular western culture are its increasing affluence, longer life span and increasing number of older persons, who some how think they can stop the clock by seeking in retirement to recapture the vitality of their youth.
This attempt to recapture the lost vitality of their youth, is in many cases the only area where they can get a sense of engagement in a culture that has idealised this cult of youth, since it does not appear that there is an outlet for society to utilise their accumulated experience and knowledge.
Most of the established cultures of the world have placed high value on the older generations, the practice of which is still evident in eastern cultures.
However, in the last forty or fifty years there has been a shift away from holding our older generation in such a high regard, and while this trend has been particularly evident in English speaking countries, it is gradually creeping into non-English speaking nations.
In contrast to this, the Buddhist practice regarding older persons is one of venerating those who have kept up the cultivation of their mind throughout their lives according to the Buddha's teachings.
From the Buddhist viewpoint life can be broken into 3 parts:
--The first 30 years you live burning vast amounts of merit and making little.
--In the second 30 years you live starting to generate enough merit to match that being used, and
--If you are fortunate to live a third 30 years and have created the right causes you have the opportunity to create more merit than you have burnt.
The reason why older age is highly valued is because you can make more merit than you can consume.
Buddhist practitioners actively seek the advice and guidance of wise and Noble older persons, tapping into this wealth of knowledge and experience accumulated over the years.
The Buddha taught that there are 4 sure things in life:
1. You are born
2. You get sick
3. You get old
4. You die
In the Tibetan Buddhist Medicine and Psychiatry - The Diamond Healing author Terry Clifford notes "the Buddha himself described his role and his teachings in terms of a fundamental medical analogy that runs throughout all forms of Buddhism." (3)
In his own lifetime, the Buddha was known as "the great physician" since the purpose of his teaching is to cure suffering.
In the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, there are four basic motivations stated as necessary for the practice of Dharma. These are:
--To consider the teacher as a doctor
--To consider oneself as sick
--To consider the teaching as medicine
--To consider the practice of the teaching as treatment
These four motivations are the key attitudes you need to adopt if you are to cure the symptoms of this ill health, which is characterised by a runaway imagination.
Buddha Dhamma allows you to build a life which is not full of empty promises but is firmly built on reality.
The Buddha Path enables you to see clearly what is reality and what is a projection of your own mind - a fantasy.
At the level where this is functionally relevant to you it cannot be communicated by concepts, it can only be experienced and for that you need a Teacher.
In the Sutta 'The Lotus of the Good Law' the Buddha is regarded as a great physician; and all beings must be regarded as blinded by error, like the man born blind. (4)
The Buddha is the 'great physician' and teacher - the shower of the way.
His advice is to develop awareness in the present. It is with awareness that you can watch the mind and see what it is doing to create its own happiness or unhappiness. Which has an effect on the health of the body.
When pain in the body arises it is a response to a defilement in the mind. The reaction is the arising and grasping of an unwholesome cettasika.
When the body is tired it is important to rest.
Tiredness is a conditioned response from the mind to the body. The mind reacts through habit which are sankaras. Sankharas are one of the five groups of constituents making up a human being, and are the mental formations karmically determined and motivate behaviour.
He pointed out to his disciples 'Look and see for yourselves, can you find anything permanent? - investigate! Look into things. Be the one who observes, who is aware. Don't be the blind one, the one who just follows his or her habits', which Ajahn Sumedho described as winding up like a mechanical toy and then running down. (5)
The reality for so many people is that when they are young, they have the notion that their whole life is ahead of them and do not see or understand the need to cultivate their mind.
When they reach middle age or older, suddenly they look back at youth with nostalgia, a time when life was exciting and full of promises.
The reality is that life will not live up to those promises. This is the reason why youth is looked upon with nostalgia and regret by most people.
The problem with the culture of youth minutes is that it wrongly believes that life is anything but suffering or in Pali dukkha. When suffering arises the inexperienced believe that it can be subdued by looking to the next after next excitement.
Buddha Dhamma does not allow you to take refuge in such an escape mechanism because it gets you to face unequivocally the reality that life is suffering, and it shows a rational way out of it.
This rational way out of suffering is what is taught and practiced at the Buddhist Discussion Centre (Upwey) Ltd. At our Centre we learn how to cultivate a healthy mind while looking after the body.
One of our Centre's key priorities is the preservation of our body of knowledge, accumulated over many years, and we have identified the process of documentation as a key element in the preservation of our Buddhist Cultural heritage.
Our core values approach is more complex than popular culture because we have inserted columns and rows of determinants left blank in the popular versions of postindustrial culture.
These determinants include such actions as keeping refuge in Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha; holding sila or morality by keeping precepts; paying respect to the Sangha and Dhamma teachers; being of service to others and following the Noble Eightfold Path.
The logical outcome of the processes just outlined may be to have a good human birth in your next life.
We have identified the use of higher orders of thought as key factors required to enable us to skillfully operate in the complex and multi-layered facets of reality. These skills are increasingly needed in a Dhamma-ending age.
We have now moved on from first order thinking through 2nd, 3rd and 4th to 5th and progressively higher levels as our modus operandi. The Members who seek to maintain a first order level of thinking are finding the going hard because that is a mind that is confused and relies on habits, refusing to acknowledge or even know other modes of living or thinking.
In our operating model, 2nd, 3rd and 4th order thinking deals with a series of precepts and factors in a 500 year time line. To operate internationally, we must operate on 3rd order or better. Many of the World Fellowship of Buddhist Secretariats and delegates operate on 6th or 7th order thinking.
Since we are a Regional Center of the World Fellowship of Buddhists we have an added motivation for our Members to develop to an equivalent level of thinking in order to be able to lend a helping hand.
The first order thinking mind is inflexible and lacks a heart or consideration of others. It seeks only to deal with the current task and does this ineffectively. It is not conducive to developing perfection of energy.
The mind which knows Perfection of Energy, or in Pali Viriya Parami, knows how to look after the body.
Someone operating on higher orders of knowledge, particularly at 5th or above, can see how important it is to their own well-being to create the causes for long life and health by selflessly helping others.
have learned to guard themselves against the attacks coming from lower order thinking
In general, people who do not practise Buddha Dhamma hold the false belief that the body is the self, and this belief causes the body to become sick because of the inability to see that unwholesome states of mind arise only as a result of past kamma.
The theory of kamma espouses the notion that happiness and unhappiness in the present arise out of wholesome or unwholesome actions of body, speech and mind done in the past. Therefore they unskillfully link such states with the concomitant circumstances they happen to experience in the present.
Psychosomatic diseases which affect the body arise out of unwholesome mental states.
In 1967 Herbert Hyman, using a wide range of data from opinion polls and sociological surveys, argued that the value system of the lower classes created a "self imposed barrier to an improved position".
However, a sizeable minority of the working class did not share these limitations and identified more with the middle class, and as a result tended to have higher aspirations.
Speech patterns are an important medium of communication and learning. The English sociologist Basil Bernstein distinguished two forms of speech pattern which he termed elaborated code and the restricted code.
Members of the working class are limited to the use of restricted codes, whereas members of the middle class use both codes.
Those conversing in restricted codes do not make meaning explicit in speech due to the common conversant culture.
The meanings conveyed by the code are limited to a particular social group, they are bound to particular social context and are not readily available to outsiders.
At the Buddhist Discussion Centre (Upwey) Ltd we use the Oxford English Dictionary as the standard to convey meanings of concepts which are related in one form or another to the cultivation of the mind, or bhavana in Pali.
Self imposed cultural barriers or limitations of our Members which have tended to keep them functioning at 1st order thinking are being removed each for himself or herself in a systematic way.
We have earlier discussed the limitations of first order thinking and the inability to be taught the universality of suffering and what it takes to escape from it.
In Je Gampopa's classic handbook of Buddhism, 'Gems of Dhamma, Jewels of Freedom' (5) one section deals with the suffering of the higher states of existence which includes the human world. In this Je Gampopa notes that humans have eight principle sufferings, described in the Garbhavakranti Sutra they are:
"Likewise birth is suffering, ageing is suffering, sickness is suffering, death is suffering, to be separated from what one likes is suffering, to encounter what one dislikes is suffering, striving after and obtaining what one wants is suffering and also the difficulty involved in maintaining what one has is suffering".
Without the capacity for analytical reasoning, inherent in the processes of practicing Buddha Dhamma, people accept and follow uncritically the belief system which they have learnt from their parents or from the general culture they happen to live in.
At our Centre, our Members are encouraged to change their culture: that is implied in the lemma "Lifetimes of Learning". It is through scholarship practised in one lifetime that individuals can learn and do what is needed to overcome the limitations of earlier cultural conditioning.
For those without that have not been exposed to this type of practice, one outcome is they have maintained the nonacceptance that they are going to die, even though they might not deny it at an intellectual level. Inherent in this belief resides the view of the culture of youth and focus on the body, which can only produce suffering.
The Buddha says that no enemy can harm one so much as one's owns thoughts of craving thoughts of hate, thoughts of jealousy and so on....these all lead to suffering.
In Je Gampopa's explanation on the sufferings of ageing, he notes they are immeasurable and are summarised as tenfold. He explains as follows:
Sufferings are caused by one's marked change in physique, hair, skin, complexion, abilities and faculties, prestige, quality of life, good health, mental capacity and sufferings caused by reaching life's end when one's time is up.
He expands on each
of the ten sufferings, for example, there are the sufferings caused by marked
physical change - that the body which was previously strong and robust, holding
itself erect, changes and becomes bent, twisted and having to support itself with
The hair formally jet black changes to become white or one becomes bald, the skin once fine and smooth becomes coarse, lined and wrinkled.
The complexion once filled with brightness and luster like a freshly opened lotus, fades, becoming bluish or grayish like an old withered flower.
And with ageing comes the marked change of health, once stricken by the greatest of illnesses - old age itself - one suffers, for it brings on all the other diseases.
The idea of long life from a Buddhist perspective is not for long life itself but so that a person may practice during this human birth which is so rare.
In K. Sri Dhammananda's work titled "How to Overcome Your Difficulties "(1980) (7) he noted that the mind can influence the body profoundly. He describes this effect noting that if the mind is allowed to function in an unbridled manner and if it is allowed to play with unwholesome thoughts, it can cause disaster, it can even kill a being.
The reverse is also true - it can cure a sick body.
He said when the mind is concentrated on right thoughts with right effort and understanding, the effect it produced can be remarkable: it can liberate the human mind from countless lifetimes of suffering.
When a being has enough merit to be born as human, by necessity that being has to take the form of a human body, with which he or she is able to accumulate meritorious activities which are the fuel for the progress along the Buddha Path.
From the Discourse on Old Age the Buddha said:
Short indeed is this life-
within a hundred years one dies,
and if anyone lives longer
then he dies of decay
And yet even though human life is so short it provides a rare window of opportunities to practice for the benefit of self and others, seen and unseen, with the potential to end the cycle of suffering which has no beginning, but can have a conclusion.
In a discussion titled Insight Knowledge, Khantipalo explains that 'this my body consists of four great elements, is procreated by mother and father, is built up out of boiled rice and bread, is of the nature of impermanence, of being worn and rubbed away, of disillusioned and disintegration, and this my consciousness has that for it's support and is bound up with it.'
As we grow older, the earth element begins to dominate and the body starts to deteriorate leading towards death.
Meditating on the body is a good method in determining which element is dominating so balance can be restored.
Wise people create the correct causes for keeping their bodies healthy.
When the heat element is dominant, it is caused by one or more of the unwholesome minds (akusala cetasikas). These are:
1. Ignorance ( Moha)
2. Lack of moral shame (Ahirika)
3. Lack of fear of unwholesomeness (Anottappa)
4. Restlessness (Uddhacca)
5. Attachment (Lobha)
6. Wrong view (Ditthi)
7. Conceit (Mana)
8. Aversion (Dosa)
9. Envy (Issa)
10. Stinginess (Macchariya)
11. Regret (Kukkucca)
12. Sloth (Thina)
13. Torpor (Middha)
14. Doubt (Viccikiccha)
In contrast to the 14 unwholesome minds, here are 19 of the Wholesome Minds. These wholesome minds or (in Pali: kusala cetasikas) are thus described as they are common to all wholesome or kusala moments of consciousness.
1. Confidence (Saddha)
2. Mindfulness (Sati)
3. Moral shame (Hiri)
4. Fear of unwholesomeness (Ottappa)
5. Disinterestedness (Alobha)
6. Amity (Adosa)
7. Equanimity (Tatramajjhattata)
8. Composure of mental states (Kayapassadhi )
9 Composure of mind (Cittapassadhi)
10. Lightness of mental states (Kaya-Lahuta)
11. Lightness of mind (Citta-Lahuta)
12. Pliancy of mental states (Kaya- Muduta)
13. Pliancy of mind (Citta-Muduta)
14. Adaptability of mental states (Kaya- Kammannata)
15. Adaptability of mind states (Citta- Kammannata
16. Proficiency of mental states (Kaya-Pagunnata)
17. Proficiency of mind states (Citta-Pagunnata)
18. Rectitude of mental states (Kaya-Ujukata)
19. Rectitude of mind states (Citta-Ujukata)
Development along the Path is characterised by a progressive display of wholesome cetasikkas or mental states, as per the list just outlined, and systematically moves the person through the four foundations of mindfulness which are:
1. the effort to strengthen the wholesome states already arisen
2. the effort to bring forth the wholesome states which are yet to arise
3. the effort to stop the unwholesome states of mind already risen
4. the effort to prevent from arising the unwholesome states of mind yet to arise
This development enables a person to understand more clearly the nature of existence and impermanence or in Pali Anicca is one of the main tenets of Buddha Dhamma.
Anicca points to the essentially evanescent nature of human existence. This is in contrast to the feeling that we will live forever that is commonplace especially in the young. A young person takes for granted the energy that the youthful physical body normally has.
Whilst you are living, it is important to create the causes to be born as human next life with the conditions favorable to practice.
When you come close to dying, some of the most unwholesome cetasikkas which habitually rooted deep in the mind become concentrated at the point of death. This can results in the a person having a glimpse of their future birth in a lower state of existence, becoming terrorised and become a self fulfilling prophesy.
We practice in order to be able to produce wholesome minds at the moment of death.
Since this is difficult we need to practice wholeheartedly in this life.
The range of events constructed by a person's consciousness during one lifetime produce a constructed 'own-being'. If to this 'own-being' we impute an inherent fixed existence, then a constricting suffering-inducing effect is produced.
In other words the Buddha is saying that suffering is centered around this wrong notion that we exist inherently as a self.
While some will identify themselves with a body, as it is our materialistic belief system which has become the dominant driver of values in our main stream culture, others would identify this notion of self with the notion of an eternal being or creator god.
These views are regarded by Buddha as extreme and identified as two wrong views of nihilism and eternalism.
Vasubandhu was a great Abhidharmika.
Abhidhamma is the ancient Buddhist phenomenology of moment-events, and the reduction of psychological processes to such moments. (1) The five aggregates or 'five groups' are really all the changing states which 'make up' an 'individual', and there is no central entity underlying these aggregates.
translation of the Pali or Sanskrit words expressing the five groups should include
a consideration of the commonly accepted 'Western' notion of a healthy person
as an 'active individualist' whose achievements are constantly growing.
Effective translation should cover traditional 'Eastern' notions, which emphasize such terminal values, as, for example, Moral Self-restraint, which are not seen as order associated with progress and domination, but rather conservation of stability and inner control.
The intra personal confusion of
'Eastern' and 'Western' values may result in a conflict of values because there
is no superior stance available for sorting out the value conflicts.
There are no shortcuts to mental health because cultivation of wisdom is a slow process.
The aim of the one of our past
Bhavana Courses held at our Centre was to provide a superior stance to enable
persons to sort out intra personal value conflicts of the type described earlier.
In some sense, the Teachings might be classified as Abhidhamma based.
It is Dhamma Teachers who keep the memory of Lord Buddha alive and can make the Dhamma relevant to the students' lives.
The Students' own set of trusts and beliefs are the root causes of their suffering.
It is only in an environment of Metta or loving kindness and compassion that the Students are able to look at their root causes, enabling them to confront themselves without feeling under attack.
This is the skillful means of the Teachers.
This process was described effectively in a Dhamma talk given by Venerable Arcok Rinpoche at Melbourne University in 1989.
He taught that the Teachers or Bodhisattvas have great compassion, and through their Teaching, Practitioners can understand and develop compassion.
All people have some compassion and this is increased step-by-step until it extends to all beings in all realms.
When Practitioners have a base of great compassion, the six Paramitas (Perfections) of morality, generosity, patience, perseverance, concentration and wisdom can be practiced.
All six points should correspond with great compassion. Your practice will then be more helpful to beings who are suffering.
You will realise self-discipline.
When compassion increases, attachment and desire reduce little by little. His Holiness The Dalai Lama teaches with great compassion, not with attachment, and so the effect is greater.
The relationship of the Teacher and student is important. Rules of conduct have developed to maximise benefit of the Teachings.
It is normally difficult to calm the mind, but through concentration comes wisdom. Great patience and concentration which lead to wisdom are needed for your deeds to be more effective. With wisdom you will understand how to deal most effectively with situations in everyday life.
Teachers have great patience. Teachings are explained many times and repeated over and over. Teachers have great wisdom and use the text method for students to understand.
Students are taught how to develop compassion.
In the beginning students are taught to develop compassion for themselves, and then to develop compassion for others. They discover that when they have compassion for others, others will show compassion to them, and this creates goodwill towards neighbours.
Normally people don't compare which actions are more beneficial to others. Feelings don't usually follow reason, even if reasons are good, so when you can see what is more beneficial to others, love and compassion can be developed.
Feelings you don't like can arise, but these can be changed because of values and good qualities seen in other people.
How can we change feelings towards enemies?
If a patient did not want an operation which would cut the body, the doctor would explain the benefits, and after a time, the patient would accept the idea of the body being cut.
Feelings are not permanent and can be changed.
When a Practitioner has short periods of compassion, these can be extended for longer periods depending on practice and knowing the disadvantages of not practicing.
Compassion is defined as 'to care' or 'to protect others from harm'.
Action follows the feeling.
Compassion and wisdom are most important. When these are complete you will have all six points. Generosity comes first, but all six go together, and with this basis, the Bodhisattva Path can be practiced.
In another five day Bhavana Course held at our Centre in 1989, our resident Teacher and then President John D. Hughes focused students learning toward the development and cultivation of the seven factors of enlightenment (satta bojjhanga) in association with the Bojjhangaparitta (the Enlightenment-Factor's Protection).
The first part of the Teachings was to encourage Course Members to write their present organised beliefs, trusts and values which support their present goals. These frames of mind, when discovered, could be seen to help or hinder practice of the Buddha Dharma.
The cultivation of various enlightenment factors, strongly practiced, either prompted or unprompted, brings about the super-knowledges (abhinnya).
From this position, prescience arises which has the power to change former unwholesome (unwise) beliefs, trusts and values matrices. Prescience, a form of bodhi, could be described as a type of internal synergy: being free from any partiality or dualism; it "overcomes the extremes of emphasizing subject or object".
This mental quality is powerful enough to 'break' former misconceptions and incorrect beliefs, trusts and values, providing clear reasons for the wisdom of such an action.
Normally, this profound change of beliefs, trusts or values occurs within a second or two. It occurs with an experience of relief and gratitude that the former 'error of view' has been discovered and corrected.
New useful 'insights' are formed at this time. These can endure for many lifetimes on the matrix. By way of example, it might be mentioned the irony that many persons who had been practicing meditation for over a five to ten year period discovered (to their chagrin) their beliefs, trusts and value system matrix did not include meditation.
the appearance of the prescience mental factor, meditation entered their matrix
system of beliefs, trusts and values. Certain types of questions simply disappear
at that point and cease to be problems.
The Tranquillity factors include the wholesome factors of consciousness, described in Pali as kayapassaddhi and cittapassaddhi (which may be glossed as body and mind tranquillity).
By investigation, it becomes evident how these two factors (in the Buddha's Discourse, of the Seven Enlightenment Factors) could result in the curing of fever of Phra Moggallana and Phra Kassapa as described in the Bojjhangaparitta.
these rare-to-find circumstances; with the evocation of White Tara (by the internal
method of visualization), Members participated in a long life puja for the great
benefit of their Teacher John D. Hughes and many beings.
The doctrine of animism or anima mundi (Stahl 1720) is the notion that inanimate objects and natural phenomena have a 'soul' or 'spirit' apart from matter as the incorrect basis to seek "protection" from objects, such as, for example, "protection arrows".
A proper analysis at all levels would be lengthy; but the correct basis should be summarised by noting the effect on Mara. ASURAKAYA (Demons) should be distinguished from Mara. Mara, the Evil One, is referred to many times in Buddhist Scriptures.
According to Buddhist tradition he sought to deflect the Buddha from the attaining of Enlightenment. Mara is shown as entirely powerless to influence Buddha in any way.
Mara appears again and again in the course of Buddhist history, sometimes assuming human or animal forms in disguise. Mara is experienced directly by any Buddhist when engaged in advanced meditation.
Mara literally means 'the killer' or the death-agent.
Mara can be overcome by following the Buddhist Way.
Since "Maric attacks" are to be expected at some stage of a Buddhist Meditators Path, the question to be asked is what wholesome Buddhist Protection Methods are valid in view of the Buddha's Teaching on morality.
Our Teacher, John D. Hughes, has had the benefit of hearing many methods used by Noble Persons in many Countries and has been fortunate in accumulating many Blessings during this process.
Simply, it is a matter of employing skillful means to defeat Mara and to realise that powerful Protectors of the present Buddha-Sasana can help you.
According to T.O. Ling, the Pali word Sasana carries sense of both 'doctrine or teaching and also rule of life' .
The Dhammapada advises that entering the Eightfold Path 'will be the bewilderment of Mara' and that the meditative ones, who enter upon the Path 'are released from the bonds of Mara'. (2) Therefore, the first need is to develop Confidence (Saddha).
Confidence is one of the beautiful cetasikas (sobhanasadharana).
Regard Mara as your examiner.
If your Saddha is incorrect, it must fall to Mara.
Try again and again till you know, without doubt, that your saddha or confidence in Buddha is correct. It should not be based on some condition that is time dependent, which falls to pieces as a function of time. Saddha should not depend on other persons or particular locations.
Dhammo Sanantano is endowed with universal values and contains no self-contradiction.
Saddha views all worldly possessions, things, ideas and views, even if they seem useful in the world, as essentially fleeting and unreal (Asara) when judged from the standpoint of Ultimate Reality.
The Real (Sara) is the Noble Eightfold Path of Morality (Sila) Mental Concentration (Samadhi) and Wisdom (Panna) leading to Nibbana. The knowledge of Deliverance and the Realisation of the knowledge of Deliverance - these are real from the standpoint of Ultimate Truth. Saddha is concerned with the Real.
The Buddhist approach to the body is to firstly begin to understand it's nature. Through understanding it's nature the correct view of how to look after it follows.
The process which enables a clear understanding of body (rupa) to arise involves various Buddhist meditations (kayanupassana).
Of the forty different types of Buddhist Meditation eighteen involve meditation on our body. This is because we do not begin Buddhist practice with a clear view of our body. It takes a lot of practice to actually to see how it really is.
The view of our body which we have grown up with often involves an egotistical view of our athleticism, bodily beauty or lack of it.
So many sufferings arise in our life because of our incorrect view of our body.
The Buddha said "when an uninstructed ordinary person experiences painful bodily feeling, he or she grieves, is afflicted, laments, beats his or her breast, cries out load, and becomes distraught. So it is said the uninstructed ordinary person has not emerged from the bottomless abyss, has not obtained a firm foothold."
"But, Bhikkhus, when an instructed Noble Disciple experiences painful bodily feeling he (or she) does not grieve, is not afflicted, does not lament, nor beat his (or her) breast, nor cry out load, nor become distraught. So it is said, Bhikkhu, the instructed Noble Disciple has emerged from the bottomless abyss and has obtained a firm foothold."
The Buddhist Path teaches that the problems and fears and sufferings associated with our body "are not overcome by pretending they do not exist"'
From CliffordÅfs discussion on the medical analogy in Buddhism and the three jhanas, he notes the understanding of the Four Noble Truths. Buddha suggested a sequence of the disease and a prescription for its cure.
The cause of the disease is rooted in basic ignorance which produces hate and craving.
There are 84,000 defilements summarised by Buddha into the three poisons of hate, greed and ignorance.
The cure for this disease is the Eightfold Path which can be briefly expressed as the threefold training of morality, which cures greed, desire and lust and uses as a means of treatment, the meditation on revulsion, the ugliness and disgust towards the object of attraction.
Concentration reduces anger, hate and revulsion by the means of meditation on compassion.
Wisdom eliminates ignorance by meditation on dependent origination.
The most important of them is the development of wisdom because it cures the root poison of ignorance from which all other poisons arise.
Clifford concludes therefore that wisdom or prajna is considered to be the ultimate medicine that cures all disease and all suffering.
Over three years and three moons, from February 1999, our teacher is teaching the Prajna Paramitta each Tuesday evening. This teaching is one way of expressing the Bodhisattva Path which aims to develop wisdom by recognising the emptiness of self and others and to generate active love and compassion as an expression of that wisdom.
The Mahayana path as detailed in the Tibetan Buddhist Medicine and Psychiatry - The Diamond Healing, is grounded in awakening the "thought of enlightenment", the Bodhicitta, the aspirations to perfection for the sake of all beings, since Buddhahood, that is, the full enlightenment, is said to exist inherently in all sentient beings but to be obscured by their defilements.
The process of Buddhist practice also involves developing mindfulness of the body in each of the four basic postures; standing, sitting, walking, lying down.
You cannot exercise mindfulness without an object.
But mindfulness can also be mindfulness of the various activities of the mind.
It is mindfulness, ultimately, that is the key to a healthy mind and a healthy body.
MAY ALL BEINGS BE WELL AND HAPPY
This script was written and edited by Vince Cavuoto, Julian Bamford, Maria Pannozzo, Philip Svensson, Frank Carter, Evelin Halls, Lisa Nelson, Anita Svensson and Leanne Eames.
1. Jayasuriya Dr. W.F. " The Psychology and Philosophy of Buddhism - An Introduction to The Abhidhamma". Buddhist Missionary Society Publication, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 1976.
2. "Bag of Bones - a miscellany on the body" Compiled by Bhikkhu Khantipalo. Author's Introduction, The Wheel Publication No. 271/272. Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka 1980.
3. "Tibetan Buddhist Medicine and Psychiatry - The Diamond Healing" by Terry Clifford - published by Samuel Weiser incorporated - York Beach - 1984
4. Sutta "The Lotus of the Good Law"
5. Teachings of a Buddhist Monk - Ajahn Sumedho - 1999.
6. Reference from book: The Wisdoms Series No: 21 "How to Overcome Your Difficulties" By author K. Sri Dhammananda (1980)
7. "Gems of Dharma, Jewels of Freedom", by Je Gampopa, pulbished by Altea Publishing, Forres, Scotland, 1995.
?. Anguttara-nikaya. 1. 43, trans, Ven Nyanamoli.
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Buddhism Rissho Kosei Kai, Japan
Today, I am very honored to have this opportunity to present a Buddhist prayer as a source of peace at this international Meeting "War and Peace: Faiths and Cultures in Dialogue." I would like to express my gratitude to the people of Aachen and the Community of Saint Egidio for making this gathering possible.
Rissho Kosei-kai has participated in the annual Week of Prayer for World Peace for seventeen years. This event has been supported by thirty-seven religious organizations-Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist-and nonreligious groups. Last year, our prayer for this event incorporated the words from the Dhammapada that are emphasized by Rissho Kosei-kai's president, Reverend Nichiko Niwano: "Hatred is never conquered by hatred; hatred can only be conquered by nonhatred." Buddhist prayer embodies the noblest healing power, coming from the Buddha's heart and the wishes of all living beings. In Buddhism, we speak of prayer as the great vow of the Buddha. In the Lotus Sutra, a Mahayana Buddhist sutra of the greatest importance to us, the Buddha makes a vow of his wish that all living beings attain buddhahood, awakening to a state of perfect freedom and work for helping other beings. This wish is something that everyone possesses deep inside. Thus, the Buddha's vow is the same as the wish that springs forth from one's innermost being.
How, then, is the Buddha's vow related to peace? The Buddhist ideal state of perfect freedom, Nirvana, is interpreted as harmony or peace. In this sense, the Buddha makes a vow that all living beings shall live in a harmony. Reverend Nichiko Niwano says, "Harmony, or peace, is essential for human life. The existence of all life depends on the crucial notion of harmony. Harmony is a hope that all human beings hold deep in their hearts."
The Buddha vows to make all living beings become aware of the fact that all beings on earth are given life by the same great life-force. In other words, the Buddha wants us to awaken to the fact that each of us is "a child of life," who is supported in being alive, at this moment and in this place, by a single great life-force, even though we vary in race or religion. In this sense, all people are brothers and sisters; we are all one family. We are essentially interdependent in all dimensions of life.
The Buddha's great vow is expressed in chapter sixteen of the Lotus Sutra. The Buddha says:
"I, ever knowing all living beings,
Those who walk or walk not in the Way,
According to their needs for salvation
Expound their every Law,
Ever making this my thought:
"How shall I cause all living beings
To enter the Way supreme
And speedily accomplish their buddhahood?"
The Buddha constantly teaches us, leading us to become aware of our own buddha-nature. Even though we are not aware of the fact, the Buddha always keeps us in his mind, watches over us, and sends his message to us directly. We should humbly receive the voice of the Buddha in the midst of this troubled world. When we view the reality of the present world situation, we recognize our distance from the Buddha's vow. We ignore the sacredness of each life, though every person is "a child of life," and deny the single world of harmony on which all living beings essentially depend.
When we reflect upon this reality with the wisdom of religion, we are forced to bow our heads humbly before all gods and buddhas. As religious people, we come to repent our misdeeds, arrogance, and ignorance through reflecting on this miserable and inhuman reality. Thus, our prayer must begin with this repentance for being away from the gods' will and the buddhas' vow. We tend to be too arrogant to listen to the voices from the gods and buddhas in the place where we are. Once we reflect upon ourselves deeply with humility, we come to the awareness that we ourselves are really creating this evil that hinders peace.
Second, our payer must be our commitment to nonviolence. The model of nonviolent action is expressed in the story of Never-Despise Bodhisattva in the Lotus Sutra. It is a story of a previous life of the Buddha. There was a wandering religious practitioner known as Never-Despise. Whenever he encountered people, he paid them respect, saying "I deeply revere you, because you are all to become buddhas." Some people were irritated, and got angry and muddy-minded, reviled and abused him. Some people tried to beat him with clubs, sticks, potsherds, or stones. But while escaping to a distance, he still cried aloud, " I dare not despise you. You are all to become buddhas." Even though he was abused by others, he did not return the abuse. This bodhisattva devoted himself only to this practice of revering the buddha-nature in others, even under hostile conditions. Never-Despise Bodhisattva's way of life was the practice of revering, through nonviolent action, the child of life in others. In this sense, we pray for our commitment to nonviolence leading toward peace, saying, "I dare not despise you. You are all to become buddhas." This prayer means that each of us reveres others because they are all children of life and someday will be aware of the preciousness of all life. This is the way to attain peace. Reverend Nikkyo Niwano, the founder of Rissho Kosei-kai, saw Mahatma Gandhi as one who exemplified this spirit of keeping a gentle and forbearing heart for the sake of the truth. We, the followers of the Lotus Sutra, have a prayer that we may become Never-Despise Bodhisattvas as apostles of peacemaking.
Third, our prayer must be a prayer for overcoming of hatred and violence. With nonviolent attitudes, we should have reverence for our neighbors, even those who seem wicked, as in the case of enemies. I have already quoted the verse of the Dhammapada saying that hatred will cease only when we overcome hatred by nonhatred, or love. That is the way to cut off the chain of hatred. How do we overcome persecution and hostile actions toward us? It is easy to say, but difficult to practice. One of the ways for overcoming hatred really comes from deep and firm faith in the worldview that both self and others are children of life and interdependent, so acting in violence toward others is also acting against oneself. Another way of overcoming hatred comes from a Buddhist way of forgiveness by means of wiping away past bad karma. We must repent our hatred to the bottom of our hearts. In Buddhism, repentance is an act of expiating our sins and cleansing our minds and hearts. It can be construed as an action of repentance to the Buddha. A way to cut the chain of hatred among individuals, races, and nations is needed now in this troubled world. This is the most important vision that Buddhism can possibly contribute to this modern world.
It is of great importance that we religious people, coming together from different traditions and countries, repent our past misdeeds that have been contrary to the gods' will and the buddhas' vows, so that we can pray for peace together. We are standing this moment at a starting point to attaining real peace on earth.
Finally, I would like to close by expressing my gratitude for this opportunity to speak at this forum and by assuring you that we as religious workers will continue to pray for a more peaceful world to be realized in the eyes of the gods and buddhas.
Thank you very much.
Copyright© 1999-2003 Comunità di Sant'Egidio
Mustard Seeds and Tiger Whiskers: The Medicine of Emptiness
by Stephen Silverton : email@example.com
As psychotherapists we experience various pressures to arrive at theoretical clarity. Some of these come from external sources, and some from internal sources. As we engage with the capitalist consumer culture which forms the context for our work, those who fund psychotherapy increasingly demand SMART * objectives (and it is hard to set out where you are aiming to get to without also knowing something about how you are going to get there). Equally, regulatory pressures drive professionalisation, and with that a push towards the kind of status accorded the 'hard' sciences. There are also competitive pressures among psychotherapy 'brands', which create the need for distinctiveness in theory and practice. And then there is internal pressure: as we deal with the uncertainty, and anxiety, of helping complex human beings in difficult life situations, we need to form judgements about what their predicament is and how we might help them move through it.
Although some are tempted to resist engaging with the theoretical questions, on the grounds that the art of psychotherapy is a purely intuitive one, this is of course still a theory! As Hill (2002, pp 20-21) suggests, it is impossible to practice without some underlying theory, even if that theory is implicit:
Every clinical practice - of whatever school - has an attached theory. It is not possible to use a clinical technique without there first existing a specific theory that the clinician actively relies on, even if that theory is hidden, intuitive or unconscious. By analogy think of the English language, which you probably read and speak without having to consciously worry about our highly complex rules of grammar.[ ] Some clinicians try to hide away their theory so as to gain immunity from criticism. Others try to rely on their 'feelings' rather than 'theories' in their clinical work. This is a misguided and potentially problem making approach, and in any case, is itself a theory. It is a theory that says that 'your feelings inform your clinical interpretations and interventions'.
But the push for theoretical clarity brings with it the danger of dogma: if we hold too tightly to our theory, we may lose sight of what is in front of us as we try to fit the client into our pre-existing framework. The theory may start to dictate what we can observe, and how we can respond. This would then limit our capacity to be helpful, since every client, every life, is unique
In any case, most experienced practitioners have learned to be extremely humble about what can be known. As Jung says, 'One could as little catch the psyche in a theory as one could catch the world' (CW16, para 198)
Jung even goes so far as to suggest that theoretical 'clarity' is an actual hindrance to good psychotherapeutic work:
Generally speaking, the less the psychotherapist knows in advance, the better the chances for the treatment. Nothing is more deleterious than a routine understanding of everything (CW 16, para 195)
This paper suggests that Buddhist thought - in particular the concept of sunyata, usually translated as 'emptiness', but perhaps better rendered as 'the open potential of being'  - and practice may provide a path between naïve theoretical nihilism and a doctrinaire fixity of view, offering practitioners rigorous philosophical support for retaining open-mindedness about the client and his situation, whilst meditation practice resources the practice of such 'negative capability'. In this way of thinking and practising, theories about the client remain fluid and provisional. Their therapeutic function is not to 'explain', but to enable and sustain dialogue, both the inner dialogue of the therapist and the outer dialogue between therapist and client. As such, theory functions as a kind of placebo, which is part of all that which enables the therapeutic encounter. In more explicitly Jungian terms, we might say that theory forms part of the structure of the alchemical vessel of therapy.
The argument is illustrated with two tales of healing from the Buddhist tradition, those of the Mustard Seed and Tiger's Whisker. I suggest that the attitude which flows from this kind of thinking permits a wide variety of interventions on the part of the therapist. It is therefore an argument for an integrative approach, which preserves the place of mystery and grace at the heart of the change process, and which resists pressures to 'scientise' the art of psychotherapy.
Finally, Jung's writings on the theory and practice of psychotherapy and on Buddhist thought, suggest that this flexible and non-dogmatic attitude is one Jung himself favoured.
The ideas presented here have been strongly influenced by the work of Watson (1998), Batchelor (1983, 1990, 2004) Sills (1999) and Ekeland (1997). What follows is largely a response to their contributions, although any misunderstandings and misrepresentation are of course my own.
The Buddhist Way
For those without any background in Buddhist thought and practice, I would first like to sketch a brief outline of these.
'Balham, Gateway to the South' is the title of a famous Peter Sellers sketch in which the late comedian hymned the delights of that South London district with the words 'Balham, city of ever-changing lights. Red, amber, green, then red '.. I would like to begin this exploration of the Buddhist vision in what some might see as a similarly prosaic setting: Camberwell, South London, on a grey Sunday morning in January at about 8.30 a.m. I am in my car, waiting at traffic lights. The roads are quiet. My attention is caught by the sight of clouds blowing across the sky and the scene suddenly takes on a strange and unexpected beauty. The wisps of cloud cross the pale sky. The traffic lights go through their sequence. Cars stream across, rear lights glowing red in the greyness of the day. It is a kind of South London haiku.
It is easy to see impermanence - termed anicca in Pali, the earliest written language of the Buddhist canon and one of the three 'marks' of existence. Everywhere we look, we need only intend to become aware of change and we can find it. The sound of traffic outside my window, rising and falling as the vehicles approach and disappear. The feeling of my breath inflating my stomach; my heartbeat; the pulse in my left hand as it pauses above the keyboard.
Less easy to appreciate experientially is anatta - insubstantiality or selflessness, the second mark. At the traffic lights there was a sense of what Natalie Goldberg (1991)calls 'wild mind' , that all of us were participating in a larger dance, or exchange of meaning. The cold Sunday January morning, the quiet roads, the sets of traffic lights, the small queues and flows of traffic, the clouds across the sky - all 'interbeing', the word Thich Nhat Hahn (1988) uses to describe the web of relationship in which the entire universe is involved. I can only glimpse this experientially. I have to resort to conceptual thought and imagination to deepen my sense of it.
I know that every object no matter how apparently solid is in a process of change. My car - as I am sometimes only too aware - is rusting, has had many components replaced, is burning petrol and using oil. It is in fact in a process of interaction with the environment, which given another few years will see it making its final journey to the scrap yard and , hopefully, its parts recycled into other Peugeot 205s of 1990 vintage, and its metal perhaps smelted down and recycled into other objects. Though apparently solid and reassuringly permanent as it sits in the street outside my window, my car will occasionally and inconveniently remind me of its impermanence and the way it dynamically interacts with its environment. For example, breaking down because water has got inside its distributor cap.
In what sense then, ultimately, can my car said to exist as a separate object? Its components change. It cannot run without petrol and oil, which require more or less continual replenishment, as my credit card bills testify. The body is vulnerable to all kinds of change via the hazards of water, air, vandals, and other cars. The 'engine' is in fact a (to me) mysterious array of components, themselves combinations of sub-components, and all of these, too, are subject to more or less frequent obsolescence. The tyres, mirrors, exhaust, wipers, windows, seats all of it is impermanent. In fact, its materials are only temporarily shaped into the form 'car'. The closer I look, the less I am able to see any solid entity I can define as essentially 'the car'. In fact, painful as it is, I have to admit that 'my car' is no more than an fiction.
So from impermanence we can start to impute insubstantiality, lack of ultimate self-hood. Though we see and experience the world as consisting of separate and discrete entities this is true only on a relative basis. Looked at from a longer term perspective (or from far enough away in space) the perception of solid and separate entities is no more than a pragmatic device to get us through the day.
Anatta cuts the ground from under our cosy and habitual assumption of a self 'in here' looking out on a world 'out there'. The experience of a separate perceiver is in fact a kind of mirage created in the perceptual process. The colours I see look different depending on the light in which I see them. And of course certain light is invisible to the eye - infrared for example. Colour then, is contextually created, rather than an inherent property of the object. It depends on an interaction between the eye and the environment, which creates the 'perceptual situation'. Not just colour, but all perception, is like this. Bateson explains this with the metaphor of an electrical switch  . A switch is only 'visible' to the circuit as a difference. When in the 'on' position the circuit is complete and current flows all around it. When in the 'off' position the circuit is broken and no current flows. The switch is only 'perceived' in the act of switching. All our perception proceeds in the same way, is in fact perception of the 'news of difference'. A perfectly camouflaged object is not perceived.
So all perception is profoundly contextual and relational. The very perception of an 'I' is created by the dynamic interaction of the sensory apparatus, including the mind, with the environment. But here we run into the limitations of language and conceptual thought, because the very concept of environment implies something purely objective and somehow independent of the process of perception. In fact, as we have seen with colour, the I/ environment experience is an interactive process, recursive, and self-reinforcing, resulting from the complex web of relationship between knower and known, where each creates and re-creates the other precisely as 'knower' and 'known'. (This is explored in depth in Varela et al, 1991). Self and world, subject and object appear somehow 'solid', but this solidity is something we invest them with. In the words of Nagarjuna:
Just as due to error the eye perceives
A whirling firebrand as a wheel
So the senses apprehend
Present objects as if real
(Hopkins (ed and trans) 1975, p 164)
Our attempts to live our lives on the basis of the fiction of a permanent self are founded on an illusion, and leave us only with an anguished sense of hollowness and dissatisfaction. As long as we are stuck in this consciousness, we live like Tantalus and Sisyphus combined, eternally reaching for what is beyond our grasp, working forever to slake an unquenchable thirst. This what the Buddha called dukkha the third mark of existence. The word is often translated as 'suffering' but the etymology suggests the image of an 'ill fitting chariot wheel'. The sense is of an all-pervasive unsatisfactoriness stemming from a misalignment with reality. 
The Buddhist vision is not dryly philosophical in an abstract sense, but profoundly soteriological. That is, it provides a means not only for understanding our existential situation but for transforming our relationship to it, from one of anguish to one of liberation. In that sense it is not a theory, but a path, or 'way'. If we can let go of our need to grasp - to 'solve, satisfy and set unchangeably in order' (the phrase comes from Larkin's poem 'Love Songs in Age') the universe is revealed in its beauty - as Indra's Net of mutually reflecting jewels, or Blake's 'World in a grain of sand'  Beauty, mystery, wonder and the everyday are interweaved, as in the haiku.
The contention is that when we fully accept this reality, wisdom and compassion arise, with release from the anguished clinging to the fictitious notion of a self which characterises dukkha. The path of meditation, ethics and wisdom mapped out in the traditional teachings provides a set of principles and practises for transforming consciousness, eventually releasing us from the illusion of self/other duality in which we remain trapped. Meditation provides a method for quieting and clarifying the mind so that it may perceive the way things really are. In a traditional metaphor, the mind is a lake and the truth of interbeing is the moon above. When the surface of the lake is not blown around by thoughts and emotions, the water becomes less and less choppy, more and more still. This still surface can then reflect the moon more and more clearly. Actions of speech, body and mind which are more and more aligned with the reality of deep interconnection between all beings bring greater stillness to the mind, enabling clearer perception of the way things are. So meditation and ethics act in tandem to produce wisdom, and the three operate together in a kind of positive feedback loop.
This is the Path or Way leading towards wisdom or insight, a process of gradually deconstructing the fiction of a permanent, distinct and separate self and the fear and craving to which this illusion, and the need defensively to sustain it, give rise. As practitioners progress along the path they realise at deeper and deeper levels the true nature of self and world as sunyata - empty. This does not imply non existence (the nihilistic pole of the erroneous and habitual dualistic view) nor existence (the eternalist or substantialist pole at the other extreme of the duality) but tathagata, usually translated as 'suchness'. This has the sense of both uniqueness and relatedness. The consciousness which sees tathagata sees the wonder and mystery of all beings in their being here at all, in all the poignancy of their transience. As such, that consciousness is imbued with penetrating wisdom, profound compassion, a deep and unshakeable freedom and equanimity. This consciousness sees the 'Buddha nature' at the heart of all beings. All beings share in the universal process of coming into and out of form, and all have the potential to become as deeply conscious of the nature of this process as a Buddha, or fully awakened consciousness.
It is in this sense that the Buddhist path offers a 'medicine' of emptiness. Buddhist principles and practises can offer psychotherapists a potent resource to 'rest in emptiness', and so to create therapeutic relationship which becomes the vehicle for changes analogous to the liberation which is the fruition of the Buddhist path. As Gaye Watson suggests, the change which therapy aims at is different in quantity, not quality, to the goal of the Buddhist path. Whereas the latter aims at a total liberation from all attachment, the former aims at greater freedom and flexibility:
The healthier the human being, the more they are wholly available for free response[ ]. In terms of Buddhist epistemology [ ] ideal cognition means ideal and fresh cognition, free from subsequent conceptuality. In a somewhat similar way, the more areas of the personality are bound by rigid defensive and cognitive structures, the less is available for spontaneous and open response. The very work of psychotherapy is to bring awareness to these structures and in exploring them, loosening them, freeing the energy bound up therein, allowing moment to moment free response to events, in contrast to being confined within a pre-determined script written with fear or resentment or whatever, often relevant to a time now past. (1998, pp147-8)
As Watson suggests, the Buddhist concept of sunyata radically undercuts our habitual view of reality as substance, replacing it with 'reality as emptiness'. However, far from leaving us stranded on an existential 'road to nowhere', the medicine of this emptiness opens up a path, a possibility of recovering the potential for creative change. This path was always there, but may have become obscured by developmental factors, compounded by an ordinary daily living which entails 'a gradual thickening of the psyche's arteries as layers of patterned responses deposit themselves on the open potential of being' 
Two Tales of Healing
I would like to explore how the therapeutic relationship can promote the recovery of the open potential of being, and the role of the therapist and his theory within that, by examining two stories of healing. Here, then, are the stories.
The Mustard Seed 
Some 2500 years ago at the time of the Buddha in Savatthi in India, near where the Buddha had established himself with his followers, there lived a woman by the name of Kisa, or 'Skinny', Gotami. She was from a poor family and unable to raise much in the way of dowry for a potential husband. Eventually she did marry but even then her in-laws treated her with disdain, calling her a nobody's daughter. Then one day she bore a child and their attitude towards Kisa changed. And Kisa herself found a new joy in this child, whom she loved dearly. But one day when the child was just old enough to run about and play, he became ill. The illness worsened and Kisa Gotami could only watch with desperation as, despite all her efforts, he weakened and died. Hysterical with grief, she clung to the child's body and would not let her relatives take it away.
Taking the corpse on her hip she went from door to door in the village pleading for medicine for her child. 'Medicine? What's the use?', she was told, as people responded with bewilderment or confused embarrassment, or else tried to reason with her. But she could not accept that the child was dead. Eventually she came upon a man who saw that her mind was unbalanced with grief for the child. This man sent her to the Buddha, saying that he was reputed to have all kinds of powers, and maybe he would have some medicine for her child. With renewed hope she ran off to seek out the Buddha. Finding him, bedraggled and tearful, she stood before him and urged him to give her medicine for the child.
The Buddha looked kindly at Kisa Gotami and the dead child in her arms. 'Yes, I can help you', he said. 'But to make the medicine I will need a mustard seed'. Overjoyed, Kisa Gotami was about to run off to find one, knowing that this would be easy, since every home at that time had a pot of mustard seed in the kitchen. 'There is just one condition, though,' the Buddha added. 'It must come from a home where nobody has died'. Without giving this a second thought, Kisa Gotami ran off on her quest.
At the first house she asked for a seed and they were happy to give her one. But when she asked if anyone had died there, she heard that only last month they had lost a grandparent. At the second house, the third and the fourth, it was the same story. Everybody she met was happy to give her a mustard seed, but everybody had lost someone: a father, a mother, a sister, a brother, a beloved child - no family was untouched by death.
After just a few houses Kisa Gotami broke down and wept. She had accepted that her child was dead. Taking his body to the funeral ground, she bade him farewell, weeping with all her heart. After a time, she felt her natural being restoring itself. Breathing deeply, she thought of the Buddha and was deeply moved by the wisdom and compassion he had shown her. She realised that death comes to all, that she was not alone in her loss, and that the Buddha had sought to show her just this. She went to him.
'Did you find the mustard seed?' asked the Buddha.
'The work of the seed is already done', replied Kisa Gotami, and she asked the Buddha to accept her as his disciple. This he did and later, whilst meditating in the forest, she gained enlightenment.
The Tiger's Whisker 
A long time ago in what is now Korea, there lived a young woman called Yun Ok. One day she arrived at the door of a famous and venerable sage who lived as a hermit in his mountain hut. He was famous for his magic charms and potions.
Yun Ok entered and found the sage looking into the fire. Without raising his eyes from the fireplace, he asked her 'why are you here?'.
'Oh famous sage,' said Yun Ok, 'you must help me. I am desperate! Please make me a potion.'
'Yes, everybody wants potions. But can we cure a sick world with a potion?'
'Please Master, you must help me'.
'Well, what is your story?'
'My husband, who is very dear to me, recently came home from the wars where he was away fighting for three years. Since he has come back he is much changed. He hardly speaks to me, or to anyone at all. If I speak he does not seem to hear. When he talks at all, it is roughly. If I serve him food which is not to his liking he pushes it aside and angrily leaves the room. Sometimes I see him, when he should be out working in the rice fields, sitting on a rock just staring at the sea.'
'Yes, it is like that sometimes when young men return from the wars,' said the hermit. 'Go on'.
'There is no more to tell,' said the young woman. 'I want a potion to give to my husband to make him loving and gentle, like he used to be.'
'Ha, so simple is it?' replied the sage. 'Very well. Come back in three days and I will tell you what we shall need for such a potion'.
Yun Ok returned three days later. 'I have looked into it, said the sage. 'Your potion can be made but we need one vital ingredient: the whisker of a living tiger. Bring me this tiger's whisker and we will make the potion'.
'A tiger's whisker! But how can I possibly get it?', said Yun Ok, incredulous.
'If the potion is important enough, you will succeed,' replied the sage, and returned his gaze to the fireplace.
Yun Ok went home and thought carefully about how she would get the tiger's whisker. Then one night whilst her husband was asleep she left the house with a bowl of rice and meat sauce in her hand. She went to the place on the mountainside where a tiger was known to live and called to him, holding out the bowl of food. The tiger did not come.
The next night, she did the same thing. This time she approached a little nearer to the tiger's cave. Every night she went there, each time getting a few steps closer, until the tiger was accustomed to seeing her there.
One night, Yun Ok went to within a stone's throw of the tiger's cave. This time the tiger came a few steps toward her and stopped. The two of them stood looking at each other in the moonlight. The night after, the same thing happened. This time they were so close that Yun Ok could talk to the tiger in a soft, soothing voice. The following night, after looking for a long time into Yun Ok's eyes, the tiger ate the food that she had brought. It was now six months since she had first come to the tiger's cave. The next night, she found the tiger waiting for her. After he had eaten, she was able to stroke his head very gently with her hand. At last, one night, after softly stroking his head, Yun Ok spoke to the tiger.
'Oh tiger, generous animal, I must have one of your whiskers. Please do not be angry with me'.
And she snipped off one of his whiskers.
The tiger accepted this calmly and Yun Ok went back down the trail, now breaking into a run, the whisker clutched tightly in her hand.
The next morning, as the sun rose over the sea, she was at the door of the mountain sage. 'I have it! I have the tiger's whisker! Now you can make the potion for my husband to make him loving and gentle again.'
The sage took the whisker from her and examined it carefully to make sure that it was indeed the whisker of a living tiger. Satisfied that it was, he dropped it into the fire.
'Oh sir, what have you done?' cried Yun Ok.
'Tell me how you obtained it,' said the sage.
' Why, I went to the mountainside to where the tiger lives, taking a bowl of food with me. Each night I approached a little nearer to the tiger's cave, holding the bowl of food and calling out to him. I spoke gently and soothingly to him, to make sure he understood that I wished him only good. Each night I brought him food, knowing that he would not eat. But I did not give up. I came again and again, always speaking gently to him. Gradually I won the tiger's confidence. At last came a time when he would meet me on the trail and eat from the bowl I held in my hands. I stroked his head and he made happy sounds in his throat. Only after that did I take the whisker.'
'Yes,' said the hermit. 'You tamed the tiger. You won his confidence and love'.
'But it is all for nothing!' exclaimed Yun Ok. 'You have thrown the whisker into the fire'.
'I do not think it is all for nothing,' said the sage. 'The whisker is no longer needed. Let me ask you, Yun Ok: is a man more dangerous than a tiger? Is he less responsive to love and kindness? If you can win the trust of a wild tiger through gentleness and patience, surely you can do the same with your husband?'
At this Yun Ok was speechless. She stood there for a long time, reflecting on the sage's words. Then she started out back down the trail.
on the Stories The Placebo Effect and Emptiness
Not the least striking aspect of these stories about healing is that they both concern potions which are ineffective as potions. In fact, they do not get as far as coming into existence as potions because they do not get made in the first place: all the healing takes place in the quest for the missing ingredient. The potions act as non-ingested placebos! So, what is happening here?
Tor -Johan Ekeland (1997) has written perceptively of the placebo effect in psychotherapy. Ekeland borrows the terms pleroma and creatura from Bateson, who in turn borrowed them from Jung. He explains that pleroma refers to matter, the physical universe consisting of particles and energy, whilst creatura refers to the mental, the meaning system created by human beings.(1977, pp 82-83). Placebo is a phenomenon of creatura, the bodily reactions being effect rather than cause:
When taking a pill, the input is both the pill as chemistry (pleroma) and the pill as information (creatura). As chemistry the pill is digested through a metabolic process - biochemical communication. As a symbol the pill is taken perceptually and 'digested' as a mental process. The pill as a symbol is not in an inner way related to the pill's materiality, but to its meaning as creatura - in the same way as it is not the quality of material in a flag that creates the feeling of national pride. In the same way that the energy that the feeling of national pride demands is not in the flag, neither is the energy that produces the placebo effect in the pill itself. It is there already as potential in the body, released by something the body finds meaning in.(1977: 83)
In these 'cases', the potion is not even ingested. This is because the vital and missing ingredient is either not found at all, or found but now seen to be superfluous. It is superfluous because, as Kisa puts it, 'the work of the seed [or whisker, or pill] is already done'. But in what does this work consist? What actually happens?
Initially what happens is that there is an act of faith. The act of faith consists in going to the sage (or psychotherapist) in the first place. What animates both Kisa and Yun Ok is the belief that things can change, that 'It can be different'. What enables this is their trust in the sage, and this in turn is initially dependent on a trust in him at the level of pleroma, as a maker of magical potions. The sage is perfectly happy to go along with this, yet he already knows that the potion will be absolutely without healing potential on the level of pleroma. So in what does the sage trust? He trusts in his client's 'self-healing capacity', that 'potential in the body' to which Ekeland refers. And on what is that trust based? My contention is that it is based on the perception of Buddha nature. And what is Buddha nature? No nature! Yet this 'no nature' is not a collapse into nihilistic negation, but a groundedness in universal process, in the web of interbeing, in emptiness - 'the open potential of being'..
Emptiness, Therapeutic Presence and Negative Capability
In the words of the original text, The Buddha 'sees the promise' in Kisa Gotami, and the sage in the Tiger's Whisker trusts that Yun Ok's determination will be the decisive factor. If the sage sees the potential in his clients, this seeing comes out of his ability to rest in the open potential of being and to sense this in his clients. That is, his ability to sense the Buddha nature of the person before him comes from his capacity to be alive to and resonate with their being, his capacity for therapeutic 'presence'. As Ekeland reminds us, most research on outcomes in psychotherapy suggest that 'therapist variables, and relationship variables, are more important than therapy theory variables' ( Ekeland, 1997, p78). Jung himself asserted that
The great healing factor in psychotherapy is the doctor's personality, which is something not given at the start; it represents his performance at its highest and not a doctrinaire blueprint. (CW 16, para 198)
My sense of what Jung means here by 'the doctor's personality his performance at its highest' is the capacity of the practitioner to be alive to the open potential of being. Perhaps this is why it is 'something not given at the start; it represents his performance at its highest', and has nothing to do with any theoretical framework.
Another way of describing this capacity for openness, but from Western literature, is the phrase 'negative capability' The term comes from a letter by John Keats:
That is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries and doubts without any irritable reaxhing after fact or reason 
While Keats suggests that this ability distinguishes great creative artists like Shakespeare, it also succinctly describes that fundamentally alive and receptive frame of mind, centred in the present moment, which captures the therapist's 'performance at its highest.
In 'The Mustard Seed' the Buddha, 'seeing the promise' in Kisa gives her his instructions. The sense is that he not only takes in her life situation but her potential for wisdom, which in Buddhist terms is her potential to embrace the reality of emptiness. He does not try to reason her out of her current state of mind. Unlike the other people she has encountered as she goes through the village with the corpse on her hip begging for medicine for her child, who have responded with words like 'Medicine! What's the use?', the Buddha sees that in her current mental and emotional state she is unreceptive to the bald truth. He feels the anguish of her state of mind and meets her just where she is, offering the prospect of a cure through the mustard seed. But he knows that the quest he sends her on is bound to end in a disillusion, but in the positive sense of a dis-illusion which, paradoxically, will begin to effect the true healing she needs.
The Buddha's action has been all-important, although he has done nothing directly to alter Kisa's consciousness. What he has 'done' is to be absolutely present and responsive to her and her situation, responding to her just as she is, with just the perfect 'intervention' to catalyse this change in consciousness. It is informed by a genius of presence, wisdom and kindness which is both perfectly appropriate to her current emotional state yet also speaks to 'the promise in her'.
In 'The Tiger's Whisker' the 'client' is a young woman who 'presents' a relationship problem. Her husband has been traumatised by his war experiences. He is depressed and irritable, prone to angry outbursts and often unable to work. He is unrecognisable as the loving and gentle man she married and all her efforts to communicate with him meet with failure. She does not know what to do, or if she can go on for much longer. In her desperation, she seeks some kind of miraculous drug, some magic bullet of an anti-depressant which will bring back the man she married. We might say that she too is stuck with an impossible wish: that her husband be restored miraculously to his former self, as if his war experiences had not happened.
Our sage takes some time to reflect on her and her situation. We can imagine him listening carefully, then for three days just sitting with the case, waiting contemplatively ('gazing into the fire') until the right course presents itself. He knows from the start that no potion can work this magic. We might suppose that his contemplative holding of the case in his consciousness then leads to the inspired suggestion of the quest for the tiger's whisker. His reflection has led him to the intuition that only immense patience, kindness and love will heal the husband's war trauma sufficiently to enable him to love and trust again. The key will be the depth and extent of Yun Ok's love, expressed through immense patience and persistence. Since she has requested a potion she has no clue as yet that she must find these resources within herself. Her consciousness and her self-image must change to accommodate a new picture of her own courage, strength, resourcefulness and patience - her own capacity to respond.
But the sage knows that words alone will not effect this change in consciousness. Like the Buddha, this sage meets the client where she is, at her own level of consciousness. He initiates a quest for the potion's missing ingredient. And so Yun Ok seeks the tiger's whisker, taming him with precisely that enduring patience and love that will be required in her marriage. It is her quality of presence with the tiger which ends in her being able to take the whisker. Just as Yun Ok's presence, her quality of paying kind, patient attention, of waiting and waiting with no expectation ('Each night I brought him food, knowing that he would not eat. But I did not give up. I came again and again, always speaking gently to him.') is what tames the tiger, so she needs to bring these same qualities of presence to her relationship with her husband. And it is the sage's quality of meditatively waiting from which the 'intervention' of the quest springs forth in the first place.
Calculative Mind and Meditative Mind
Another way of defining therapeutic presence might be as the ability to meet 'calculative mind' with 'meditative mind'. The terms come from Heidegger and are discussed at greater length in both Batchelor (1990) and Watson (1998). The calculative attitude is the habitual approach we bring to problem solving, involving linear, conceptual thinking. This, of course, has its uses but has no creative element to it. A computer performs calculative 'thinking' brilliantly, but of course can only perform operations on the information already contained in it. Nothing new or surprising can emerge from calculation.
The same distinction is expressed pithically by DH Lawrence:
Thought, I love thought.
But not the jiggling and twisting of already existent ideas
I despise that self-important game.
Thought is the welling up of unknown life into consciousness,
Thought is the testing of statements on the touchstone of the conscience,
Thought is gazing on to the face of life, and reading what can be read,
Thought is pondering over experience, and coming to a conclusion.
Thought is not a trick, or an exercise, or a set of dodges,
Thought is a man in his wholeness wholly attending 
This is precisely the kind of attitude which informs meditative thinking, which relies on a broadening of attention so as to be receptive to how the whole situation touches the body-mind.
The hermit sage asks to hear Yun Ok's story, and while hearing it, continues to gaze into the fireplace. This is a beautiful symbol for the meditative attitude. As Batchelor points out, such an attitude might be better described with metaphors of listening rather than seeing:
If we draw an analogy with sense-consciousness, a meditative attitude listens rather than looks. Listening is more receptive than looking. In attuning our ears we sharpen our attention so that it opens up to the vast and subtle range of sounds that constantly surround and assail us. Even when we select and concentrate on a particular sound, we do so in such a away that the sound is allowed greater ease of access to enter us. Looking, however, is often characterised by a narrowing of the attention and an almost acquisitive focusing upon its object. It is not that the form of the object is being allowed to enter consciousness; rather, it is we who seize and invade it. (1990, pp 47-48) 
The sage does not look at Yun Ok whilst she talks. (Of course there are parallels with the classical psychoanalytical setting here.) He turns his gaze to the fire and enters a state of contemplation.
What Kisa and Yun Ok bring is not solvable through calculative thinking. They both have problems which require a change in consciousness, which can only come through a meditative attitude. This is perhaps true of all psychotherapy clients. Each one is wrestling with his own 'koan'. This word has been popularised in our culture and is often taken to mean a quaintly puzzling oriental riddle such as 'what is the sound of one hand clapping?'. Batchelor points out that the word comes from 'kung an', meaning 'public case'. Koans were instructive in the sense that they gave the student a feeling for the breakthrough made by previous students but these could only act as clues and cues for the kind of completely open, authentic, individual and spontaneous engagement with the question which each practitioner must make for himself. Each life situation, each moment, is unique and unrepeatable. No pre-figured or 'ready-made' formulaic, calculated approach will untangle the knot of each individual's own dilemma. What is required is un-knowing, a radical quest-ioning where the quest is everything and quest is pursued by staying very quiet and waiting, listening, with no expectations.
The breakthrough, if it is to come at all, must be won by the student herself, spontaneously, in the moment, by fully embracing the actuality of her life situation in its fullness and complexity as she meets it in the now. In therapy this may not be the sudden flash of sartori or Zen style enlightenment. It is more likely to be the analogous step or shift in the direction of 'freeing up'. By analogy, the therapist can perhaps do no more than provide the conditions for this forward movement.
In my experience, many clients begin with a calculative attitude. One of my own clients suggested to me in all seriousness that therapy should be like fixing a car. If the therapist cannot be like the mechanic then why should he get paid? In our culture, with its emphasis on targets and measurable outcomes, this attitude is pervasive. The therapist's art is then to find the equivalent of the mustard seed and tiger's whisker which will satisfy or distract the calculative ego while the real work of transformation happens at a deeper level and over a longer period, probably, than we might wish it to. This leaves scope for all kinds of approaches to be used, as long as they are informed by the presence which ensures these responses are appropriate to that client in that moment.
Form and Emptiness
The process of meeting calculative mind with the spacious, waiting, contemplative attitude which informs meditative presence is a way of meeting 'form' with 'emptiness'. These are really two aspects of one reality, form being the aspect of impermanence which emphasises the 'suchness' or 'isness' of phenomena, and 'emptiness' that which emphasises their transience and non-essentiality. In the words of the Heart Sutra, a key text of Mahayana Buddhism:
Form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form (Conze, E (trans), 1988)
In meditation, one cultivates an attitude which holds both of these aspects. John Welwood draws an analogy between psychotherapy as practised with this kind of presence and meditation practice:
In the therapy situation, the client's problems or emotions are like the thoughts that arise when you are sitting. You, the listener, provide the space which coming back to the breath allows in meditation. You have to fully respect and bow to the form - the client's real problem- listen to it and take it in. If you don't do that there isn't a connection between the two of you that can effect healing. The transformation that happens between two people in therapy is similar to what may take place inside a single person in meditation. In mindfulness practice, as painful thoughts and emotions arise, we note them, bow to them, acknowledge them, then let them go and come back to the breath, which is a concrete manifestation of open space. The process of going into and out of form in meditation is what allows transformation to take place the great challenge of working on oneself is in bringing our larger open awareness to bear on our frozen karmic structures and transforming them. That is the core of practice, I believe, in both psychotherapy and meditation. 
In these stories, the medicine that is promised is equivalent to meeting the form of the problem in the form it is originally presented by the client. But in the end this medicine turns out to be unnecessary because the original form of the problem has dissolved, as it were, into emptiness and a new perspective dawns, from which the original problem now appears misconceived.
What does this transformation which Welwood describes look and feel like? How would someone who has recovered the open potential of their own being feel and behave? Colloquially, it looks and feels like a 'loosening up', like a gaining of 'spaciousness' around archaic psychic and emotional patternings. The transformation can be described in terms of a move away from a literalistic, dualistic and predominantly 'masculine' attitude towards a more metaphorical, non-dual and androgynous one.
Going back to our stories, both Kisa and Yun Ok begin with the wish to find a cure from outside themselves for a situation which appears as an objective one. The 'I' 'in here' wants a potion to act on a piece of the world 'out there' and change it. The subject here is polarised from the object and both are reified. But the result of the quest in both cases is a bringing together of subject and object in inter-relationship. Kisa is changed by her quest, and in changing she comes into a new relationship with her reality. She accepts her loss and is able to begin mourning it, symbolised by her taking the child to the charnel ground. She is restored to the reality of process, and also finds a new relationship to that process wherein she starts to see herself as process, interconnected with the whole of life, which is the seed of her later enlightenment.
Yun Ok is also transformed by her quest, finding a new sense of empowerment and response-ability which connects her to the world in a much more creative and inter-active way, which renders the tiger whisker itself unnecessary. Before, both seekers are separate from the world. Afterwards, they are inter-connected with it in a way which is closer to the reality of non-duality of subject and object.
Another way of characterising this change in consciousness is to speak of it as a move from a literalistic perspective to a metaphorical one. My Collins English Dictionary defines the first three meanings of the word 'literal' as follows:
1. in exact accordance with or limited to the primary or explicit meaning of a word or text. 2. word for word. 3. dull, factual or prosaic.
root is the Latin littera, letter. This is a kind of consciousness that sees the
surface of things, which perceives the world in terms of separate and discrete
objects or persons, each sharply distinct one from the other. It is a perspective
limited to the 'primary and explicit', ignoring the deeper resonances of the implicit.
In contrast, for the word 'metaphor' we have:
a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action that it does not literally denote in order to imply a resemblance, for example he is a lion in battle.
The root is the Greek metapherein, to transfer. It is all about linkage, connection, three dimensions rather than two. Again this a potentially rich avenue of exploration, which can be only touched upon in the present discussion. Some of the many possible links which suggest themselves are Piaget's (1969) work on the development of thinking in children, Searles' writing on concrete and metaphorical thinking in relation to schizophrenia (1996), archetypal psychology with its emphasis on the imaginal (for example, Hillman, 1997), and theories of art therapy (see for example Levine (1992))
As Watson suggests, the realisation of sunyata entails a seeing through the metaphoricity of metaphor itself . Analogously, our potion seekers see through their own literalism, the kind of consciousness which sees only surfaces and discrete objects to gain a new perspective, one which has a far deeper appreciation of relationship and process.
Lastly, there is the perspective of masculine/feminine. In both the stories a female 'client' approaches a male sage for help. But the kind of consciousness that both approach with is 'masculine' in the sense that it is informed by a sense of separation and seeks mastery over events. The 'therapist' in both stories brings a 'female' consciousness to bear: open, receptive, spacious. They meet the clients' urge to fix the problem by doing something, but finally, as we have seen, what they offer is a meditative way of holding the problem which enables another kind of resolution. Their attitude and the 'therapeutic field' it helps to create is something like the Taoist bowl, the usefulness of which is the emptiness inside.
The outcome of these 'interventions', for both clients is a better balance of masculine and feminine. Kisa Gotami gains the beginning of an identity based not on the fragile foundation of her social role as a mother and wife, but on the open potential of her being, a step which will eventually lead to her towards enlightenment, which we can understand as an unrestricted embodying of this open dimension of being. Yun Ok leaves behind her sense of helplessness and starts to experience her own authority, heading back down the mountain trail to meet her husband with (we imagine) a new sense of her power to influence the relationship, and perhaps much more beyond this.
The re-initiation into presence (re-initiation because this was never lost, only obscured) which this change in consciousness promotes is beautifully described by Huntingdon:
The Madhyamika [Buddhist tradition] is radically deconstructive, pragmatic philosophy designed to be used for exposing, defusing and dismantling the reifying tendencies inherent in language and conceptual thought. All it does is dissolve the old questions which are seen to have been misguided from the start, leaving behind nothing other than a dramatic awareness of the living present - an epiphany of one's entire form of life. No form of conceptual diffusion remains, and no questions begging for answers that reinforce a deep-seated resistance to acceptance that this life, as it is now lived, is the only arbiter of truth and reality. 
Analogously, a psychotherapy which offers the 'medicine of emptiness' can help clients to free themselves of efforts to defend and sustain archaic identities and to re-ground themselves, through a process of healthy dis-illusion, in the community of interbeing - which, paradoxically, they never left. The experience is conveyed beautifully by these words of William Carlos Williams:
I have had my dream-like others-
and it has come to nothing, so that
I remain now carelessly
with feet planted on the ground
and look up at the sky-
feeling my clothes about me,
the weight of my body in my shoes,
the rim of my hat, air passing in and out
at my nose - and decide to dream no more. 
A Core of Mystery?
Of course the quest for new and better theories goes on. Indeed, I have spent the last many pages expounding my own variety! Here I am tempted to paraphrase the Zen master Shu - an, who counselled that 'When one happens on a [paper] of this kind, he is well advised to throw it away'.
In a culture of SMART objectives and cost-benefit analysis, the psychotherapy profession needs to engage in dialogue with the culture's collective 'calculative mind' and it is right that it does so. But perhaps we should do so whilst also knowing that we do not know. The two tales which I have recounted here may suggest a way of holding that paradox and at the same time of making room for a rich and diverse range of therapeutic interventions. Psychotherapists have many mustard seeds and tiger's whiskers to offer, whether of Cognitive- Behavioural, Experiential, Psychoanalytic, humanistic, Buddhist or other varieties. As we do so, however, we need to avoid that rationalistic pride which might take our medicine too literally, and give space to the possibility of a 'medicine of emptiness' which preserves the place of mystery and grace at the heart of healing. Such an approach would, I believe, have been favoured by Jung himself:
Theories are to be avoided, except as mere auxiliaries. As soon as a dogma is made of them, it is evident that an inner doubt is being stifled. Very many theories are needed before we can get even a rough picture of the psyche's complexity. It is therefore quite wrong when people accuse psychotherapists of being unable to reach agreement even on their own theories. Agreement could only spell one-sidedness and desiccation. One could as little catch the psyche in a theory as one could catch the world. Theories are not articles of faith, they are either instruments of knowledge and of therapy, or they are no good at all. (CW 16, para 198)
© Stephen Silverton 2004.
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VARELA, F., THOMPSON, E. & ROSCH, E. (1991) The Embodied Mind. MIT Press
WALDRON, WS (2002) The dependent arising of a cognitive unconscious in Buddhism and science, Contemporary Buddhism , Volume 3, No. 2, November 2002
WATSON, G (1998) The Resonance of Emptiness Curzon
WELWOOD, J (1984) Principles of inner work: psychological & spiritual, Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, Volume 16, No.1, 1984
WILLIAMS, WC (1921) Sour Grapes, The Four Seas Company
* Specific, Measurable, Realistic and Timebound
 See Watson (1998) for a very thorough discussion of Western understandings of 'sunyata'
 See Waldon, 2002, p141-160
 See Analyo, 2003, p244
 'Auguries of Innocence' in (ed) Erdman, 1997
 James Low, 'Buddhist Developmental Psychology', p120
 This version of the story comes from Saddhaloka (2001) and the original text from Rhys Davids (trans) 1980.
 This version of the tale is from Courlander (1995)
 Gittings (ed), 1970
 Thought' in Lawrence, DH, 1932
 Interestingly, the word 'theory' comes originally from the Greek theorein, 'to gaze upon'.
 Welwood, J 'Principles of Inner Work: Psychological and Spiritual' in Journal of Transpersonal Psychology. Vol 16, no.1 1984, quoted in Watson
 Huntingdon, CW 'The Emptiness of Emptiness', p136,quoted in Watson, 1998,
 'Thursday', in 'Sour Grapes', The Four Seas Company, 1921
The Way of Pain
By Howard Beckman
Excerpt from Halfway up the mountain: The Error of Premature Claims to enlightenment (pgs. 448-454) by Mariana Caplan
The Way of pain
The sanskrit word saha means "to endure, to go patiently through hardships without rebelling."1 The process of disillusionment is an unquestionably painful process at times. Genuine spiritual life has never been popular, and never will be, because most people are unwilling to open to and accept pain.
Reggie Ray says that the first time he ever heard his teacher talk, Trungpa Rinpoche spoke about suffering. "He was the first person I ever heard who acknowledged how bad things really are. And I thought to myself, 'That's it! That's what I want! I want to find out what is going on here and to explore it.'" According to Ray, their tradition places a great emphasis on the buddha's first noble truth that life is suffering not because anyone wants to suffer, but because suffering is what is true of life.
"Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding," writes Kahlil Gibran. It is quite conceivable that not only is pain a necessary aspect of the spiritual process, but that to consciously enter into and experience suffering is the doorway to a more profound understanding of reality, something to even be sought after.
"The thing that many people would consider to be pain," says Ray, "...the thing they want to get rid of, that's demonic, that's the devil, that's their downfall...that's actually the only way out. There's no other way out." He suggests that the quality most people think of as pain is actually heat, a heat that is not pleasant but that represents reality.
In any situation or any state of mind your are in, there is always a point of heat, and we experience that as pain. But actually it's just heat, and that's what Trungpa Rinpoche calls the 'Great Eastern sun'. It's the place where reality is coming up above the horizon where it is dawning, and that becomes our point of orientation. So I'm not saying to look for suffering, but i am saying that you have to look for the heat. There's a huge area of self-satisfaction and then there is an area where there is a crack in the door of ego. And there is a bright light coming in and it's very irritating and it's not pleasant, but that's what you have to look for. You are looking for it not because there is anything great about suffering, but because that's the way out.
I had a friend who was in a plane crash a number of years ago and she said that when the plane crashed it was pitch dark and the whole thing was on fire, and then somebody saw a crack of light and said, 'The light is over here!' and that is how they saved themselves, because somebody saw this light.
That's what we have to do. We have to look for the crack in the shell of ego where there's a bright light coming through. It is too bright and it's irritating and it's painful, but that's the way out.
The very thing that spiritual aspirants, as well as all other people, seek to avoid is the exit which they so desperately claim to want to locate. "If you sit with an open mind," says Ray, "all of your shit is basically going to come up. And then the idea is not to go get out your broom and sweep it away, but to actually live through it. You have to live through your pain."
This pain is so crucial to one's spiritual understanding that Ray goes so far as to say that if one is not in touch with it their practice should be to intentionally look for and relate to the pain in any situation.
If you're in an environment that is ninety-nine percent bliss and one percent pain, the pain actually represents reality to you. You need to look for it and need to find it. Most of the time, we're in so much pain that that's not an issue, but sometimes things go really, really well. In our tradition, we say that when you are in that kind of situation, you need to be aware of the whole situation and not fixate on the bliss or try to perpetuate it, but actually to relate to the pain in the bliss. It is said that there is no one-hundred percent happiness, that even in a so-called bliss state there is always a shadow. I know that anytime I've experienced something like that, that there is at least the fear of losing it somewhere on the periphery of that experience. In buddhism you have to pay a lot of attention to the shadows in any situation you're in - not because you're torturing yourself, but because that represents the earth, that's the ground. In our tradition, pain is the vanguard of enlightenment. pain is ego's response to Reality.
pain is not only the way out, but the way in and down. spiritual life can easily become imbalanced and fixated at a certain point if the bright aspect of truth or god is not balanced with its shadow aspect. St. John of the cross says that the principal value of the 'dark night of contemplation' is to know one's own misery, which brings balance and humility to the exalted states of communion and abundance.
This is the first and principal benefit caused by this arid and dark night of contemplation: the knowledge of oneself and of one's misery. For, besides the fact that all the favours which god grants to the soul are habitually granted to them enwrapped in this knowledge, these aridities and this emptiness of the faculties compared with the abundance which the soul experienced aforetime and the difficulty which it finds in good works, makes it recognize its own lowliness and misery, which in the time of its prosperity it was unable to see.
St. John of the cross, dark night of the soul, 76-77
In his writings, St. John of the cross eloquently describes how, once the student has experienced the sweetness and pleasures of meditation and prayer and found some degree of strength in their connection with god, "god desires to lead them further..wherein they can commune with Him more abundantly." He says that often when one is amidst the greatest pleasures, and when they believe that "the sun of divine favour is shining most brightly upon them," god sets them down into darkness and shuts the door to the "source of sweet spiritual water which they were tasting in god whensoever and so long as they desired."
For as I have said, god now sees that they have grown a little, and are becoming strong enough to set aside their swaddling clothes and be taken from the gentle breast; so He sets them down from His arms and teaches them to walk on their own feet which they feel to be very strange, for everything seems to be going wrong with them.
St. John of the cross, dark night of the soul, 62-63
The pain that god gives is His gift, and not His curse, as it is so often felt to be. The practitioner earns the privilege of being placed down from the safe arms of communion with god into unbuffered reality so that he or she can learn to be held and to move from within.
One cannot have a full spiritual life if one has not come to terms with one's pain. Life is painful anyway. pain can be temporarily evaded or drugged or resisted, but it cannot ultimately be avoided. There is pain in "neurotic suffering," which is the way we ordinarily think of pain, and there is also the pain of "suffering for god," or suffering with humanity. They are very different types of suffering, but both are suffering; and whereas neurotic suffering only perpetuates itself, suffering for god, or enlightened suffering, serves all of humanity.
In order to serve humanity, one must know humanity. Ray explains that students in their tradition are encouraged to explore great depths of suffering so they may know it as an important aspect of the totality of life. He shows how, through his teacher's example and guidance, he was shown the value of suffering.
You have the god realm, jealous god realm, human realm, animal realm, hungry ghost realm, and hell realm. The full range of possible human experience is included within those six realms. With Trungpa Rinpoche as a teacher, what we did was we explored the realms, and we're still exploring them. It's almost like he put a time bomb in us to explore those realms - all of them. Why? Because of the Boddhisattva vow to help sentient beings. We have to go through all of those experiences in order to be helpful to other people. If you can't be in a hell realm, if you've never been there, then you really can't help someone else who is there because you yourself are resistant to it. You are not willing to go there and so you can't be helpful. Trungpa Rinpoche was a very demanding teacher in that way. If you were looking for some kind of state of mind, or bliss state, or spiritual high, or charisma, or to be "zapped" in a certain way, he wasn't the teacher for you. Somebody once asked him, "Have you ever been in the hell realm?" "Of course," he said. "What did you do when you were there?" they asked him. "Tried to stay there," he told them. Now that is very different from the average guru, who is basically promising some kind of escape from reality.
Jai ram Smith says, "You can attain liberation, and you can live there for an almost indefinite period of time through the grace of that experience. You can earn that kind of karma. But sooner or later you have to come back to reality. So E.J. gold's work with us was to take us into the hell realms and the bardos, because if you can awaken in hell, then you can work anywhere."
traveling in the hell realms is certainly different from what the average guru promises, but most extraordinary teachers and practitioners do value the full spectrum of life, no matter what they call it, and encourage their students to do the same. Joan Halifax says that although divine mothers and saviors can be lovely and helpful, "that doesn't happen to be my job. I'm sort of a 'chop wood, carry water type.'" She then adds, "I like going to the hell realms. My job is the hell realms." Because Halifax has taken her decades of sadhana and brought them to high security penitentiaries in order to serve prisoners on death row, one can believe that she means what she says.
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee: So Few Things Really matter. It's such a relief. You know, so few things really matter - only to be with your Beloved, as He wills, not as you will. It's really all the grace of god, the experiences you are given. It's all because He wants to reveal a part of Himself, And sometimes you are allowed to witness a little bit of it, but mostly not. Mostly it would be too difficult. "There" there is so much love, so much intimacy, and then you wake up in the morning, and you have to go to work you have to do your everyday things, to look after the kids, to be on time. "there" there is no time. "There" everything is given, you don't have to work for anything.
It's often funny that when you get too far in that direction, the world comes and knocks on your door. suddenly you get a speeding ticket or something, just to bring you down. You are also an ordinary human being who has to accept that you live in this world with all of the limitations of this world. "There" you are so free, it is so limitless, and here if you get on an airplane you get jet lag, you have to rent a car, all of that business. It's not always easy.
If you're in an environment that is ninety-nine percent bliss and one percent pain, the pain actually represents reality to you. You need to look for it and need to find it. Most of the time, we're in so much pain that that's not an issue, but sometimes things go really, really well. In our tradition, we say that when you are in that kind of situation, you need to be aware of the whole situation and not fixate on the bliss or try to perpetuate it, but actually to relate to the pain in the bliss. It is said that there is no one-hundred percent happiness, that even in a so-called bliss state there is always a shadow. I know that anytime I've experienced something like that, that there is at least the fear of losing it somewhere on the periphery of that experience. In buddhism you have to pay a lot of attention to the shadows in any situation you're in - not because you're torturing yourself, but because that represents the earth, that's the ground. In our tradition, pain is the vanguard of enlightenment. pain is ego's response to Reality.
bahai Sahib: When you come to a spiritual teacher you have to be naked.
Annick D'Astier: There is an idea that with the spiritual life that there will be an increase in the amount of happy experiences and a decrease in the amount of unhappy experiences. The difference is in the way in which we live those experiences.
Chogyam Trungpa: Sudden enlightenment comes only with exhaustion.
Chuang-Tzu: All men know the utility of useful things; but they do not know the utility of futility.
of Gungtang Rinpoche's
Advice from an Experienced Old Man
(Nyams-myong rgan-po'i 'bel-gtam yid-'byung dmar-khrid)
Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey
written from notes taken by Alexander Berzin
from the oral translation by Sharpa Rinpoche
Dharamsala, India, September 5 - 12, 1975
[The paraphrase of the text is flush with the margin. Geshe Dhargyey's comments are indented
These teachings on suffering are from Advice of an Experienced Old Man by the precious master Gungtang Rinpoche (Gung-thang-bzang dKon- mchog bstan-pa'i sgron- me) (1762-1823). Containing many parables, they flow as a story in verse form, based on scripture. The main point of the teaching is to help us to develop renunciation and the determination to be free, and in general to lay the ground for bodhichitta to attain enlightenment for everyone's benefit.
Homage to the untainted Buddha who has abandoned the seeds of rebirth uncontrollably recurring from the force of karma and disturbing emotions and who, consequently, does not experience the sufferings of old age, sickness, and death.
In the middle of the vast, lonely, wild plain of samsara lives an old man visited by a young lad, proud of his youth and health. They have this discussion.
"Hey old man, why do you act, look, and speak differently from others?"
To that, the old man replies, "If you say I act, walk, move, and speak differently, do not feel you are flying in the sky above. Land back down on the same earth as me and listen to my words."
Some youth feel that old age is only for the aged and that it will never come to them. They are very arrogant and have no patience to have anything to do with old people.
The old man continues, "A few years ago, I was much stronger, more handsome, and more vigorous than you. I was not born the way I am now. If I ran, I could even catch up with flying horses."
old people speak like this. The present is never as good as the old days were.
"If I caught something, I could even catch bare-handedly yaks of the nomad lands. My body was so flexible, I could move like a bird in the sky. My body was so fit, I looked like a youthful god. I wore the brightest colored clothes and loads of ornaments of gold and silver, ate tons of delicious food and sweets, and rode mighty steeds. I hardly ever sat alone without playing, laughing, and enjoying myself. Hardly any happiness exis ts that I have not experienced.
"At that time, I never thought of the impermanence of my life or about my death. Nor did I expect to go through the suffering of old age as I am now."
Once there was a young person the region where I lived, who led a luxurious life and always indulged in pleasures. Slowly he became old, his body bent, his income decreased. He said to his friends, "I never thought old age would come so suddenly."
"Living with the distraction of involvement with friends, parties, and having a good time, old age sneaks up and overcomes you in the midst of the sound of your laughter."
Geshe Kamapa said, "We should be grateful that old age comes slowly. If it came all at once, it would be unbearable. If at thirty years old we went to sleep and woke up looking eighty, we could not bear seeing ourselves. We do not comprehend our own old age. How we grew old is a total mystery to us. When all of a sudden we realize our old age, it takes a while to accept it. Then it is too late. Although it is said that the practice of Dharma for a few hours before death is helpful, to engage in tantra we need a physically fit body. Therefore, it is important to start tantric practice while still young.
"When we become very old, we dislike our own selves when we look in a mirror. At that time, our bodies and minds become weak. Our bodies begin to degenerate from head to toe. Our heads are bent as if always receiving a vase initiation.
"The white hair on my head, with no black left, it is not a sign of purification. It is the arrow of frost from the mouth of the Lord of Death, which has landed on my head. The lines on my forehead are not the creases on a pudgy infant drinking milk from his mother. It is the count by messengers of the Lord of Death of how many years I have already lived. When I squint, it is not because smoke is in my eyes. It is a sign of being helpless with the degeneration of my sensory powers. When I try to make a big effort to hear with my hand by my ear, it is not because I am making a secret communication. It is a sign of the degeneration of my hearing.
"When I dribble and snot comes from my nose, it is not a pearl adornment on my face. It is a sign of the thawing of the ice of youthful vigor by the sunshine of old age. Loosing my teeth is not a sign of cutting a new set like a young child. It is a sign of the wearing out of the tools of eating which the Lord of Death is putting away. When much saliva comes out and I spit when I talk, it is not like sprinkling water on the earth to clean it. It is a sign of an end of all the words I shall say. When I speak incoherently and stumble over words, it is not that I am speaking a strange foreign language. It is a sign of my tongue being tired with a lifetime of idle chatter.
"When my appearance becomes ugly, it is not that I am trying to hide behind the mask of a monkey. It is a sign of the total degeneration of the body that I have borrowed. When my head shakes a lot, it is not that I am disagreeing with you. It is a sign of the overwhelming power of the stick of the Lord of Death that has hit my head. When I walk bent over, it is not that I am trying to find a needle I have lost. It is a clear indication of the degeneration of the element of earth in my body.
"When I get up rising on my hands and knees, I am not imitating a four- legged animal. It is because the support of my feet is no longer sufficient. When I sit down, it is like dropping a bag of something. It is not that I am angry with my friends. It is the loss of control of my body.
When I walk slowly, I am not trying to walk like a great statesman. It is because I have lost the complete sense of balance in my body. When my hands shake, it is not that I am waving my hands out of greed to get something. It is a sign of the fear of everything being taken away from me by the Lord of Death. When I can eat and drink only a little, it is not because I am miserly or stingy. It is a sign of the degeneration of the digestive heat at my navel. When I wear light clothes, it is not an attempt to imitate athletes. It is because the weakness of my body makes any clothes a burden to wear.
"When breathing is difficult and I get out of breath, it is not that I am healing someone by blowing a mantra. It is a sign of weakness and exhaustion of the energies in my body. When I do very little and have few activities, it is not from intentionally controlling my activities. It is because of the limit of what an old man can do. When I am very forgetful, it is not because I think others unimportant and look down on them. It is a sign of the degeneration of the consciousness of my memory.
"O young man, do not tease and make fun of me. What I experience now is not exclusive to me. Everyone experiences this. You wait and see; in three years, the first few messengers of old age will come to you. You will not believe or like what I say, but you will learn from experience. In this time of the five degenerations, you will be lucky to live to be as old as I am. Even if you live as long as I have, you will not be able to speak as much as I can."
The young man replies, "Instead of being able to live as long as you and become as ugly and ignored as you are and put in the ranks of dogs, it is better to die."
The old man laughs. "Young man, you are very ignorant and stupid to wish to live long and be happy, but not to have old age. Death may sound simple, but it is not that easy. To be able to die peacefully and happily, you need to be someone who has not accepted wrongly obtained offerings or broken the morality of the ten positive actions, and who has accumulated much listening to the Dharma, contemplation, and meditation. Then death is simple.
"I do not feel this way, however. I have no confidence of my having done anything constructive. I am afraid of death and am grateful for each day I can stay alive. My strong wish is to stay alive each day."
The young man changes his mind and says, "Old man, everything you say is true. What others have told me about the suffering of old age agrees with what I have seen in you. Your demonstration of old age to me has been very beneficial to my mind. I am amazed at the suffering of old age. O wise old man, if you have heard of any methods to escape old age, do not keep them a secret; share them with me and tell me the truth."
The old man pleasingly says, "There definitely is a method. If you know it, it is easy to follow. With little effort, we can quickly be liberated from this suffering. Although everyone who is born dies, very few die after growing old. Many die young without having the opportunity to reach old age. The methods are in Buddha's teachings. They contain many methods to gain liberation and enlightenment, in other words not to be reborn, get old, sicken, or die; but we have not practiced them."
Once in a monastery house there was a self-made lama. He was a junior member in the monastery, and most of the monks did not pay attention to him. They had a meeting to discuss the future of the house. He said to prepare ropes and sheets to bind corpses. Everyone said this was a bad omen and got angry with him. They then discussed what everyone should do to help the monastery. He said to meditate on impermanence. In saying this, he gave them a great teaching. Many later Dalai Lamas have praised him. To prepare for the future, one needs to prepare for death.
"Everyone wants immortality and the methods to attain it. But to be born and not to die is impossible. Even thousands of Fully Enlightened Beings, including Sakyamuni Buddha, have passed away. And as for the bodhisattvas and great gurus of the past, only their names remain. The same is evident in the history of the world. All great historical figures have died and only ruins are left. Thus, we must not forget the reality of our impending deaths. Even the great gurus of the present will pass away. Babies born today will all be dead in a hundred years. So how can you, young man, expect that you alone will live forever? Therefore, it is advisable to prepare yourself spiritually for death.
"A long lifespan cannot be bought with money or gained through physical comfort. If you have spiritual confidence and know what you want out of life, then the older you grow physically, the more happiness and youth of mind you will have. If you enjoy great physical comfort but have led an empty life, then the older you grow, the unhappier you become. You have to travel as a tourist to distract your mind from worrying about death. On the other hand, even if you have just a little spiritual confidence, the closer you approach death, the more you feel like a son returning to a happy home. You are not repelled by death, but look forward to continuing lives of happiness."
Once a great spiritual master said, "Because I have complete confidence in my future births; I have no worry. Death can come at any time, and I welcome it."
"Since the suffering of death is inevitable, we must do something about it. We cannot just sit and be depressed. As humans we have the wisdom to try many methods. Even Buddha cannot give you more explicit teachings, young man. I have spoken from my heart. Although this is my true heartfelt advice, do not rely only on my words alone; analyze them for yourself. Do practices concerning impermanence on your own. There is a proverb, 'Ask for the opinions of others, but make the decision yourself.' If you let many make decisions for you, many will give you different advice."
The young man says, "All you say is very true and beneficial. But, for the next few years I cannot do these things. I have other work to do. I have a large estate, wealth, and so on. I must do much business and tend to my property. After a few years I must meet you again, and then I shall do the practices."
The old man becomes very unhappy and says, "Everything you have told me now turns out to be empty words and meaningless. I have had the same thing, the wish to do something meaningful after a few years; but I never did anything and now have grown old. I know how vain what you say is. Things to do in a few years time will never end. You will always put them off. Things to do in a few years time are like an old man's beard; if you shave today, you will grow more tomorrow. After procrastinating until tomorrow and tomorrow, soon you will find your life is over. This procrastination of Dharma practice has fooled everyone. I have no confidence in you that you will ever practice Dharma. Therefore, it is a total waste for us to talk. Go back to your home and do whatever you want, and let me say some mani's (mantras)."
The young man becomes very surprised and feels a bit hurt. He says, "How can you even think of saying such things to me? Tell me, how quickly can material things be accomplished in this life?"
The old man laughs, "You ask me these questions, so I guess I have to answer how long it takes to accomplish anything. In the southern direction lives the Lord of Death who cares not at all whether you have finished your work or not. He does whatever he wants. If you can have friendly relations with him and get his permission to accomplish something in life, then you can relax. Otherwise, you can never relax. People die in the middle of a cup of tea, while food is on the table, while walking, before they can finish taking a whiff of snuff.
"This happens to everyone, even great masters. Many of their teachings are incomplete, because they died before they finished writing them. So when the Lord of Death comes, you cannot say, 'I have a big estate and much work to do.' You cannot boast of anything to him; you have to leave everything. In this respect we are completely powerless. We cannot determine out lifespan. Therefore, if you are able to do anything, start practicing now. That will be meaningful; otherwise, your estates alone are meaningless. But nowadays there are few people who tell the truth about what will benefit you. What is even more rare is someone who will listen to sincere advice."
The youth is deeply moved and, having built up great respect for the old man, takes a few steps back and prostrates to him. He says, "No other lamas surrounded by golden banners, Geshes, or yogis have more profound teachings that what you have said. You have the appearance of an ordinary old man, but you are actually a great spiritual friend. I give my word of honor to practice all you have said, to the best of my ability, and in the future, please give me more teachings."
old man agrees and accepts. He says, "I do not know much, but I have experienced
a great deal. I can teach you from that. The most difficult thing is to make a
beginning and establish yourself in the Dharma. To begin practicing Dharma after
you are already old is more difficult. Therefore, it is important to start at
a young age."
"When young, your memory is fresh; you have dynamic intelligence and the physical strength to build up positive force by prostrations. In terms of tantra, the strength and vigor of your energy channels are very good when young. If at a young age, you can break through the barrier of greed and attachment to material possessions and involve yourself in spiritual activities, it is very valuable. Once you have accepted the Dharma, understood its essential points, and gotten into its spirit, then everything you do, say, and think will be Dharma."
Milarepa and Ra Lotsawa said the same, "When I eat, walk, sit, or sleep - it is Dharma practice."
"There are no rigid rules in Dharma. So, try not to have too many thoughts or a fickle mind. Start now and keep up your interest in Dharma. Do not change your mind every minute. From this moment on, dedicate your life - body, speech, and mind - to Dharma practice."
Now the old man tells the youth what Dharma entails, "First, find a well-qualified spiritual mentor and devote yourself properly to him with your thoughts and actions. How much you can benefit others depends on finding a proper spiritual mentor and on your wholehearted committed relationship with him."
Atisha emphasized this point. He often related that he had an equally wholehearted commitment to all 155 of his gurus.
"Then, you need to observe your words of honor and vows to practice the ten constructive actions. Safeguard them as you would your eyes. Cut off your attachment to this life, like a wild elephant breaking a chain. Then accumulate listening, contemplation, and meditation, and do the three together. Support this all with the seven- limbed practice. This is way to build up positive force, to accumulate merit. Having done this, Buddhahood is at your fingertips."
The Fifth Dalai Lama said that if a qualified mentor guides a qualified disciple, Buddhahood can be shaped in one's own hands. Milarepa also said that if you have a qualified mentor and a qualified disciple practicing his qualified teachings, then Buddhahood is not outside you; it is within. One must always stress, however, that the guru must be properly qualified.
"This is happiness; this is joy. O dear son, if you practice in this way all your wishes will be fulfilled."
These teachings are very beneficial for taming the mind. They soften a tough mind. A proverb says, "Do not be like a leather bag for containing butter. Do not be like a pebble in a stream." A leather bag does not become soft no matter how much butter is inside. No matter how long a stone stays in a stream, it too does not become soft.
From that day on, the young man practiced pure Dharma unmixed with the eight worldly, childish feelings.
We need to try to do the same. The more teachings we have heard, the more we need to practice and cultivate ourselves through them, and not be like pebbles in a stream that never get soft.
The old man says, "I have heard these teachings from my spiritual mentors and they are also based on my own experience. May this benefit limitless sentient beings for the sake of their happiness."
The author ends: Although I have practiced little and lack Dharma experience, yet because of the diversity of sentient beings' dispositions, maybe these teachings will be of benefit to some. With the hope of benefiting the minds of limited beings, I have written this with sincerity and pure motivation. These teachings on impermanence are not just an interesting story I thought up to tell, but are based on The Four Hundred Stanzas by Aryadeva.
& Answers with Venerable Chanmyay Sayadaw in South Africa
Dhamma Talk with Q&A at the Lam Rim, Tibetan Buddhist Centre, Johannesburg, Sunday, 31st January 1999
Q. When suffering ends, do all emotions also fall away? Is there still a state of joy?
A. In accordance with Buddhist abhidhamma / Buddhist philosophy, there are two types of happiness. One is happiness which can be felt, although we say the other is happiness, it's not happiness, it's peace which cannot be felt but we get into it. Happiness which can be felt is called vedethasukkha. The happiness or peace which cannot be felt but can be experienced is called santisukkha, that's peacefulness. When the dukkha (suffering) ends there's no feeling of happiness sensation, happy feeling but we experience peace because there is no suffering at all. So when suffering ends, we experience peace, no emotional states, no feeling, no sensation but there's peace when suffering ends, that's called santisukkha.
Q. What happens when our physical body dies?
A. When the physical body dies there's the mental state that arises after the disappearance of the last consciousness of the previous life. After the disappearance of the last consciousness of the previous life another mental state arises in the next existence, though the body has died. We call that rebirth. The first consciousness of the next existence is related by cause and effect.
Q. In psychology, dreams are used to gain a fuller understanding of a person's being. Do dreams have a role in Buddhism?
A. In Buddhism, there's no role for dreams.
Q. Who am I? Please explain.
A. You are mental and physical phenomena.
Q. How does Sayadaw suggest to approach the spontaneous arising of colours and visualisations during meditation?
A. The colours are seen by the mind, a mental state which must be observed until that mind has disappeared. When you see colours, the consciousness of seeing is an absolute reality which must be realized , you must observe it, "seeing, seeing, seeing", until that colour has disappeared, then that consciousness of seeing has disappeared. Whatever you have in your mind while you are meditating must be observed until it has disappeared.
Q. Sayadaw suggested that we shouldn't analyse or think things through but the moment that we're trying to work out what we're doing, an emotion or an activity or whatever, you are actually analysing to an extent.
A. No need to analyse any emotional states or mental states because you know what your emotion is, you observe it but you don't have any word for the emotional state, just observe it, that's enough.
Q. Do you have any advice for people who understand the meditation technique but they also want to get some benefit from the meditation in their daily life at work, at home, with their families? How can they apply the meditation to their daily life?
A. They can have a general awareness of what they are doing. In a meditation retreat or meditation centre, you have to slow down your actions and movements so that you can be aware of each individual action very precisely. At home you need not slow down, you can do all actions and movements normally and steadily but you should be generally aware of what you are doing. I think that you may have, say, about thirty or forty minutes of time for meditation, then you walk ten minutes and sit thirty minutes. Walking first and sitting later. Every sitting should be preceded by walking meditation because in the walking meditation the object of meditation is very prominent to yor mind so you can concentrate better than in the sitting. So you walk first, then sit. Suppose you have one hour for meditation, then you should practise walking meditation for twenty minutes, another forty minutes, you sit.
Q. We practice Loving Kindness meditation towards all sentient beings. Are the algae in the swimming pool and the ticks on the dog sentient beings?
A. In Loving Kindness meditation, there are two types; one is specific loving kindness, the other is unspecific or general loving kindness. For specific loving kindness meditation, you have to choose a person or a group of persons and say, "May these beings be happy and peaceful", in that way you can concentrate on that person (or persons) to a certain extent. But for unspecific meditation you have to wish for the welfare of all living beings of the world then your mind is not well concentrated on all these beings but you have developed the spirit of loving kindness in you because you wish all these beings peace and happiness, then your mind becomes calm and concentrated to a certain extent. Specific loving kindness enables the meditator to concentrate better on the object of meditation than unspecific loving kindness. Any being which is regarded as living is included in unspecific Loving Kindness meditation.
Q. This meditation can remove our own suffering but how can we remove the suffering of others?
A. In Buddhism, no-one can do it for the other people. If he wants to be happy he must do it for himself. But we can help the other people to get rid of sufferingto a certain extent by advising them and giving them a hand but he must try himself to get rid of suffering. Now you see we came here to teach you how to meditate, vipassana meditation so that you can remove your suffering to a certain extent. So in this way, we are helping the other people to get rid of their suffering.
Q. Can prayers help these people?
A. Yes, there may be some help from the prayer of the other people because some people have faith. If they hear the other people praying they feel happy. In this way, the prayer of some people can help the other people to a certain extent.
Q. Does the practice of morality (keeping precepts), kind and compassionate living with good relationships lead to the reduction of suffering?
A. Yes. As you know, in Buddhism we have five precepts to observe, that's morality. When you observe the five precepts, you have to abstain from killing, taking what is not given, any kind of sexual misconduct, telling lies and any kind of intoxicants. If you refrain from harming any living beings, the other people are not hurt, then you can reduce their suffering by observing your precepts.
Q. Is the Sigolavada sutta of benefit to people today?
A. Yes, today too.
In Pretoria, being interviewed by Ms Ufreida Ho of The Star newspaper, Monday, 1st February 1999.
Q. Is meditation the easiest way to access Buddhist teachings?
A. Yes, I think so. The easiest way to approach Buddhism is through meditation.
Q. Can anybody do it?
A. Yes, anybody can do it, irrespective of race, religion or nationality.
Q. Do you see Buddhism as a religion or a way of life?
A. What do you mean by the word religion?
Q. Is it a fixed religion like Christianity or Judaism?
A. We don't believe in any God, in any divine power or cosmic consciousness but what we believe is in our own action, Kamma. So Buddhism is much more than a way of life, it's a way of liberation from suffering.
Q. Why do you think that the Western World has become so drawn to the Buddhist way of life?
A. I think, in the Western World, the people have had much material development which cannot satisfy their needs so they try to have their mind satisfied with their spiritual development or mental development. Buddhism teaches all the people to develop their mind into the liberation from all kinds of suffering. By practising Buddhism one can liberate one's mind from all kinds of suffering. So it means that if we practise meditation it enables the meditator to live in peace and happiness. That peace and happiness of the mind, I think, attracts the Western World to follow Buddhism.
Q. What are the first steps for the meditation?
A. To start the meditation, you have to train, you have to observe the precepts, so that you speech and deeds are purified. Purification of deeds and speech is the basic requirement for a meditator to start with it. That's why you have to observe the precepts. The Buddha laid down such precepts as five precepts, eight precepts, nine precepts and the two hundred and twenty seven precepts for bhikkhus. First of all, you have to observe these precepts so that you can purify your deeds and speech. Based on the purification of deeds and speech you practise either samatha meditation or vipassana meditation. We have in Buddhism two types of meditation, the first is samatha meditation the other is vipassana meditation. Samatha or serenity or tranquillity meditation is practised to attain a higher degree of concentration which makes your mind calm and peaceful, not to realise any mental or physical phenomena. Vipassana or insight or mindfulness meditation is practised to attain some degree of concentration as well as the realisation of the true nature of your bodily and mental phenomena. Through realisation of mental and physical phenomena in their true nature, you can remove some mental defilements or negative mental states which are the causes of suffering. In this way, you can attain the cessation of suffering then you can live in peace and happiness. Both meditations should be practised by a meditator based on the purification of deed and speech which can be gained by observing the precepts.
Q. The goal of meditation then would be to have that peacefulness or is the goal enlightenment?
A. The goal of peacefulness can be attained through enlightenment. Unless one is enlightened, he can't achieve the goal of peace, the goal of peace here means Nibbana - the cessation of all kinds of suffering. It can be attained through enlightenment. This enlightenment can be attained through the practise of this meditation, mindfulness meditation or vipassana meditation.
Q. How often would someone have to meditate? Is the meditation incorporated into your daily life?
A. Yes meditation can be incorporated into daily life. Meditation is not for a person who stays in a meditation retreat or meditation centre, it's for all the people at home, for daily life. This vipassana meditation is called mindfulness meditation too, that means that you are mindful of whatever arises in you body and mind as it really occurs. In other words, you are mindful of any activity of your mind and body as it is from moment to moment. So you can apply this mindfulness to your daily life, you should be mindful of whatever you are doing as it really occurs. That is meditation. In this way your mindfulness of all actions and movements becomes powerful, continuous and sustained and everything you do is done mindfully. Then there's no wrong doing, false acts or false speech because of mindfulness. But the benefit of mindfulness is not only that but to liberate your mind from all defilements and all suffering. But you have to practise it continuously and intensively at a meditation centre or meditation retreat to gain the benefit.
Q. How long would you be in a retreat for?
A. At least you should spend about one and a half months or two months to gain this remarkable benefit from this meditation. Seven or ten days is just the learning stage.
Q. So the meditation in that form is not something you can do at home, you have to be in a retreat?
A. First of all, you should practise at a retreat, say for about ten days or one month, so that you can get the correct practice. If you practise at home you may take the wrong path. If you practise at a meditation centre or meditation retreat, say for about ten days or one month, you know the correct path or correct way of practice.
Q. So there's not really an individual path to meditation?
A. There's an individual path, individually you can practise it.
Q. But there's a right way to do it, not an individual way?
A. It is individual work. So when you are at home and scrubbing the floors, you observe the movement of your hand, that's meditation, that's individual work. No-one need help you because you can do your observing of the movement of your hands, that's mindfulness meditation, individual work. You see, the principle of this mindfulness meditation is very easy; the principle is to see things as they really are. So you have to see any mental state arising as it is, you have to see any physical process that arises at that moment as it is, that's the principle, that's mindfulness meditation, very easy, very simple and very much effective.
Q. Do people actually come to the monastery?
A. Yes, people come to the monastery and enquire about meditation and the teaching of the Buddha. Recently we have built our meditation hall in Pietermaritzburg, anyone can come and practise meditation there.
Q. Is this your first trip
to South Africa?
A. This is the third trip. 1995, first trip, 1997, second trip, this is the third trip. In 1995, when I came here, I delivered some lectures on Buddhism, especially to the Burmese people and also to the South Africans in Ixopo and Durban. At that time, I told the Burmese people to try to establish a meditation centre here, so that anyone who takes interest in meditation in South Africa can meditate. The they bought a house on one acre, in 1997, we opened that meditation centre in Pietermaritzburg. You have the address, it's called, "Dhammodaya Myanmar Vihara". At that time also I delivered Dhamma talks (lectures on Buddhism) at Ixopo, Buddhist Retreat Centre and in Cape Town too. This time, very recently, I conducted a meditation retreat in Cape Town. Altogether twenty one meditators took part in that 10 days meditation retreat.
Q. Is it important to keep coming back to maintain that connection with your community?
A. Yes, so that I can inspire them to go on with their work of the propagation of the Buddha sasana. That's why I came here every second year. Every second year they invited me. But I've visited not only this country, I've visited about twenty eight countries form 1979 onward.
Are they countries in the Western World?
A. Yes, in Europe, the United States, Canada and Asia too, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Philipines, Malaysia, Thailand, almost all countries in Asia. I go abroad twice a year. Before I came here on this trip, I went to Thailand, Malaysia, Borneo, Sabah, Sarawak, conducting meditation retreats and after that I came here.
Q. Do you have a message for the South African Community?
A. Yes to abstain from evil, to do good and to purify their minds in any way.
Q. Are the needs
of South Africa quite different to the goals of other countries?
A. I don't think so, South Africa is not very different from the other countries.
In Pretoria, being interviewed by Ms Zelda Venter of the Pretoria News newspaper, Tuesday, 2nd February 1999.
Q. What is the purpose of your visit to South Africa?
A. The purpose of my visit to South Africa is to deliver Dhamma talks on Buddhism and to conduct meditation retreats. Also to ordain some Myanmar Doctors as bhikkhus (monks) and some children as lower ordination novices. I arrived here on the seventh of January and on the ninth of January we ordained eleven doctors as bhikkhus, that's higher ordination and one South African gentleman was also ordained. Then on the eleventh, we had the consecration of our Sima hall, ordination hall. If we want to ordain anyone as a bhikkhu, we must first consecrate the Sima hall and then anyone can be ordained as a bhikkhu in that ordination hall.
What is Sayadaw's message for the South African people at the public talks and
A. Happiness through right understanding.
Q. Is this your first time to South Africa?
A. This is the third time. 1995 was the first time, '97 second time.
Q. Do you like the
A. Yes, I like every country.
Do you think that the average South Africans understand meditation?
A. Yes, if they listen to the discourse on meditation they will be able to understand, I think. Because the discourse of the Buddha is not very difficult to understand.
Do you think that meditation could be of value to South Africans with all the
problems that we have here?
A. Yes it would be very valuable, not only to South Africans but all people in the world, if they practise this meditation.
Is it possible for South Africans to find inner peace with violence around them
wrote in Pretoria News Wednesday February 17 1999.
Visiting Buddhist monk says more should practise the art
A message of peace using meditation
Washing your hands could be meditation. You must just be aware of your every movements
Ven. Chanmyay Sayadaw Ujanakabhivamsa
South Africans should gain peace of mind through meditation. Only then would they be a happier, healthier and peaceful nation This is the message of visiting Buddhist master and monk Chanmyay Sayadaw, Ujanakabhivamsa to South Africans who have to face crime daily.
While adding that the need to bring serenity and calm to the mind was very important, Sayadaw stressed that Buddhism did not have to be as a religion.
Anyone, including Christians, could practise meditation. It was an open way of life without
any secrets and also a very practical way of life.
Sayadaw is an intentionally renowned meditation master who has been in a Buddhist monastery since childhood. He is also the abbot of the Chanmyay Yeiktha meditation centre in Yangon (Rangoon) and patron abbot of Myanmar Buddhist centres in London and in South Africa.
He hopes to give inspiration to South Africans on his visit here. As part of his programme in the country he also held a Dharma talk at the Theosophical Society in Pretoria. He was part of a nine day meditation programme held at Nan Hua Temple in Bronkhorstspruit that ended on February 13.
Sayadaw also paid a visit to, among others, a group of Burmese doctors in Pietermaritzburg who arrived in the country in 1996 as part of Health Minister Nkosazana Zuma's call for foreign doctors to help in South Africa.
The master explained that meditation was part of daily life.
"Washing your hands could be meditation. You must just be aware of your every movement," he said.
He explained that the core of Buddhism was to do good and to abstain from doing evil things.
Meditation could even, in certain instances, help cure physical illness, because some illness were caused by the mind, he said.
Meditation, he explained, could be practised by anyone provided they had the desire to meditate. Insight meditation, one of the two main types of meditation, was a simple technique that could be learned by any one.
A Dhamma talk with Q&A at the Johannesburg Theosophical Society, Tuesday, 2nd February 1999
Q. What are the benefits of meditation?
A. In the Maha Satipatthana Sutta, the Buddha pointed out the benefits of this meditation. In accordance with that discourse, the first benefit is the purification of being. That means, by means of this meditation you can purify your mind of all undesirable, negative mental states. When your mind is purified, you live in peace and happiness. The second and third benefits are the overcoming of sorrow and worry. If you feel sorrow, you can overcome it by means of this meditation because you have to be mindful of it, when you are mindful of the sorrow then gradually you come to realise the true nature of the sorrow, that sorrow has disappeared, in the same way, worry and so-on. Then the fourth and the fifth are the cessation of mental suffering and physical suffering. We call that grief and pain. The sixth is the attainment of enlightenment which is path knowledge magga-nyana in accordance with abhidhamma or Buddhism. The final benefit the experience of Nibbana the cessation of all kinds of suffering. These are the seven benefits that a Vipassana meditator can attain when he is able to practise fully.
Q. Have you or do you know of anybody who has reached these states of bliss or enlightenment through meditation?
A. Yes, some meditators have reached these stages of enlightenment when they have practised intensively say for about two or three months incessantly, continuously. We have to consult their experiences with what the scriptures said as to the quality of the meditator who has attained enlightenment. Then we can say he has attained such enlightenment.
Q. How do you discipline the mind while you're in pain, physical and emotional, to accept the pain the pain and the suffering?
A. Mindfulness of the pain is the best way of disciplining. When you are mindful of the pain whenever it arises, first of all the pain seems to be more severe gradually, when you are patient with it and observe it precisely then gradually the pain is decreasing, sometimes it disappears.
you be a practising Buddhist, be able to let go of suffering, surpass it and be
A. Yes, Buddhism is the way of overcoming suffering by being aware of it, by being mindful of it as it is, only when you are rightly able to understand suffering, you can get rid of it and experience the cessation of suffering.
Q. Why Buddhism in comparison to other faiths and religions?
A. We don't really know the definition of the word religion. If the definition of religion is believing in a God or creator, then Buddhism is not a religion. Buddhism offers a system or a way of life so that you can reach the cessation of suffering by practice.
Does Reiki fit in with Buddhism and where? Reiki is a way of healing?
A. That is not Buddhism.
Q. How did you
become a Buddhist and at what point were you able to say, "I'm a Buddhist"?
A. When you believe in the Buddha, his teaching and the order of Buddhist monks, you can be said to be a Buddhist.
What is the attitude towards donating organs or body parts, especially with regard
to allowing the body three hours or ten hours for the spirit / soul/ consciousness
A. Even the Buddha in his previous existences donated his body parts, his limbs, even he donated his eyes to some person who needs it. It should be encouraged.
Q. What is your response to conversion or interest or investigation of Buddhism?
A. We are not interested in conversion but we take interest in anyone who takes interest in Buddhist meditation.
Are there any hints as to how one To what extent is one supposed to be mindful
throughout the day?
A. If you want to be a successful meditator, you have to be mindful of any actions and movements throughout the day. In a meditation retreat in a meditation centre you have to do that. At home too, you are able to do that but then you need not slow down, you do all actions and movements normally and you should apply general awareness to what your doing. When you are generally aware of what you are doing, gradually that awareness becomes more and more sharper and sharper and more powerful. The it will give you concentration to a certain extent and some peace and happiness too.
Q. This was my first time to meditate and while I was meditating I was conscious of my hands, palms and after a while I felt that they were no longer there. Can you explain it?
A. You need not pay any attention to the disappearance of the hands. You should be mindful of the other mental or physical process which is predominant.
If one felt oneself lifting or departing from ones physical being during meditation,
is it something to be scared of or should it be controlled, or what should one
A. When you have two or three or more objects arising at the same moment, you should observe the most prominent object. So when you feel that your body is lifted, then if you know the mind is going, you should observe the mind that is wandering. If the feeling of the lifting is more predominant then that feeling must be observed. Whatever is the most predominant object must be observed. In accordance with the vipassana meditation, you must not control any mental states or physical processes. What you should do is just see it as it is that's all.
Q. When I was meditating, I was
sleepy so I laid down on my side and I had that floating experience and when I
became more mindful of it I became very scared. Can you explain it?
A. When your feel that the mind is drifting, that drifting mind must be observed until it has disappeared, when you observe it it will disappear. If the fear is more predominant it must be observed, "fear, fear, fear" until it has disappeared.
Q. Do you use mantras in the Theravadan
A. In Vipassana meditation, you need not have a mantra as the object of meditation, any mental states or physical processes that arise at any moment are the objects of meditation, you need not find any other object.
Q. How do you face fear and let go of it?
A. If you observe fear, then it will gradually disappear. When you do it practically, you'll know it through practice because the fear is overwhelmed by the mindfulness, the concentration, so the fear has disappeared. But you need to observe it, you need to note it attentively enough.
A Dhamma talk with Q&A at the Pretoria Theosophical Society, Thursday, 4th February 1999
Q. How to achieve balance between fulfilling one's duties and time for meditation?
A. This mindfulness meditation is not only for a meditator in a meditation retreat or at a meditation centre, it's for all people at home especially this mindfulness should be applied to what you are doing at home. You can do it because we have three aspects of practice; walking, sitting and awareness of daily activities or general activities. When you do your work at home, whatever you may do, you should be aware of what you are doing, generally not specifically, without noting, without labelling. Say, when you stretch out your arms to do something, you need not slow down, you do it normally, steadily but be generally aware of it without labelling or noting. When you get accustomed to doing that, it will give you some concentration and also you'll be happy with it. Suppose you walk to any destination, you should not think about any other things, you should observe the movement of the foot without labelling, being aware of each movement of the foot normally, steadily. Then your mind will be concentrated to a certain extent and you'll reach your destination without your knowledge, "Ah, I have arrived!". Because your mind is concentrated on the movement of the foot, you feel happy. First of all, you should train yourself at a meditation centre or at a retreat, say, for about a week or ten days so that you can correctly practise this type of meditation, after that you can apply it to your daily life.
How to achieve a balance between attachment and detachment?
A. Attachment and detachment cannot be balanced....but if you rightly understand your bodily and mental phenomena in their true nature, your attachment to your body and your attachment to any other person becomes gradually decreasing. You see, attachment is the cause of suffering. If you're attached to your car and it's stolen, then you're suffering, that attachment is the cause of your suffering. That's why the Buddha said in his four Noble Truths; the second Noble Truth is samuttaya sacca - the truth of the cause of suffering. It refers to attachment, desire, lust greed, craving, grasping, so attachment is the cause of suffering, the immediate cause of suffering, the Buddha said. When you rightly understand your bodily and mental phenomena in their true nature, that attachment will be decreasing gradually, then your suffering will also be decreasing.
Q. Please explain again how to identify the elements within the body.
A. When you are mindful of any phenomena which arises in your body, gradually you'll be able to identify these characteristics of the elements.
Q. Is it possible
to be attached to the concept of non-attachment?
A. It is impossible to be attached to the concept of non-attachment because in non-attachment there's no attachment at all just right understanding.
Ignorance is the cause of suffering. Are there things that should be ignored?
A. You are ignorant of your bodily and mental phenomena, it is very obvious that you are not able to rightly understand the true nature of your body and mind as they really occur, these are the objects of ignorance.