Posted in mindfulness

Bringing the Mind Here

One of the things we’re trying to do in our meditation practice is to bring our minds here, into the present moment. To do this we have to get a handle on our wandering thoughts.

So often in life we aren’t present. We’re daydreaming or ruminating or fantasizing. These things aren’t bad, but we’re missing things in the here and now.

The Buddha said, “Stopping is awakening,” and he was talking about stopping the way our wandering thoughts drag us around. Bodhidharma said, “Put down the myriad entangling conditions; let not one thought arise.” This means put down your crap. Stop seeing the world through the lens of your selfishness. Stop getting carried away all the time by wandering thoughts. Assert control of your mind. If we can do that, then we can awaken to our true nature.

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Posted in enlightenment

Waking Up

Awakening and freedom.

That’s what the path is all about. Enlightenment really just means awareness, seeing things as they really are. Reality unfiltered. The world as it is instead of as we think it is.

We come to enlightenment by freeing ourselves of the three poisons; greed, hatred, and delusion. We free ourselves by transforming these poisons. We transform them to virtue, meditation, and wisdom.

The truth is that enlightenment is simply not creating delusions. When we’re in delusion we think we have to escape it. When we dwell in awareness we realize these poisons, the things we cling to, are empty. By realizing things are empty we come to enlightenment.

But we can’t grasp it with the logical mind. We have to use intuition and direct experience. And you get there by realizing you’re already there.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

The Seven Factors Of Enlightenment

This is one of the oldest Buddhist teachings.

These are the seven things considered most important qualities in helping us on the path.

Buddhism is full of lists because lists are easy to remember. This is one of the most important lists and it’s emphasized in just about every Buddhist tradition. You’ll notice that some of these are related to one another, and that’s okay.

Mindfulness is an awareness to the reality of things. It is considered an antidote to delusion. It’s a clear and relaxed awareness of what’s going on around us. It involves being in the present moment instead of distracted remembering the past or thinking about the future.

Investigation involves investigating the Dharma for ourselves. The Buddha said, “Believe nothing no matter where you read it or who said it unless it agrees with your common sense and observation.” He was suggesting that we aren’t practicing the Dharma because he said so, but to see if it works for ourselves. The Buddha really wanted us to think.

Diligence represents not giving up. I tell people that the easiest thing in the world is not meditating. I’m at home early in the morning and no one is around and I have to make the choice to meditate. I could easily not do it and watch Netflix. In the modern world, we have millions of ways to distract and entertain ourselves. But I cultivate the quality of diligence. It means not giving up, pursuing the path with determination. When I was a kid I remember teachers talking about a quality called stick-to-it-iveness. I didn’t believe that was a word and I still don’t. But, that is the same thing as diligence.

Joy represents positive thinking. If you are excited about chanting a mantra or meditating, you are using the factor of joy. We aren’t practicing Buddhism because we think we are supposed to. We are practicing to transform ourselves, to transform our suffering and to bring some contentment to our lives. That is something to get excited about.

Tranquility refers to our ability to relax. This is important on the Buddhist path because if we have a lot of anxiety about the path, that can cause problems too. So, the cultivation of Tranquility represents our ability to manage our stress and anxiety. When we take a deep breath when we are upset or angry or nervous, we are engaging Tranquility.

Concentration is our ability to focus. When we count our breaths during meditation, that is Concentration. We are trying to keep our minds on our breathing. When we really strengthen our ability to concentrate, it gives us real insights into our lives. But, it is something we have to strengthen over time. Improving our concentration obviously helps us in a lot of other ways such as focusing on something we have to study for school or some new project at work.

Equanimity is probably the deepest one of the seven factors. It represents facing the difficulties of life without getting needlessly attached to them. When something bad happens and I get stressed out or angry about it, I am often making the situation a lot worse. If I face a problem with Equanimity, then I am not letting the problem be bigger than it is. We have a tendency in our lives to make things bigger than they are. Equanimity is our ability to resist that.

So, these are the Seven Factors of Awakening. My favorite is diligence. What’s yours?

Posted in Patheos, Uncategorized

Lotus

The Lotus flower is a beautiful plant. It lives in the water. It often comes out of water that’s muddy and unclean. But with great beauty, it blooms.

This is a common symbol in Buddhism. You can see it all over the place in Buddhist art. It’s really common for images of Bodhisattvas to be seen sitting on giant lotus flowers, and maybe holding small ones too.

One of the most well known mantras “OM MANI PADME HUM” means “the jewel in the lotus.” Chanting this mantra is declaring our own intent to attain Enlightenment.

Different colored lotus flowers are said to have different meanings in Buddhist symbolism. The blue lotus represents Prajnaparamita, the perfection of wisdom. The gold lotus represents the spiritual Enlightenment of all awakened beings. The pink lotus represents the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. The red lotus represents Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion and it’s said to represent our pure true nature. The white lotus represent purity, a state in which we aren’t afflicted by the three poisons: greed, hatred, and delusion. The purple lotus represents the mystical path.

There’s an additional layer of meaning. A lotus that is fully open represents full and complete Enlightenment. A lotus that’s closed represents the earliest stages on the path.

The lotus is significant because it’s beautiful and pure. But it came out of muddy water. Out of impurity comes purity.

We are the same. We come out of our messy human lives. We exist in a great deal of suffering, like the muddy water. Many of us have had horrendous circumstances in our lives. People we care about die. We struggle in daily life. And most of us have made decisions that are absolutely awful. (I know I have). We are mired in delusion and this is like the muddy water.

But, like the lotus, we can rise above it.

When we rise above the suffering of our lives, when we let go of the attachments that don’t serve us well, when we overcome the preconceptions that are harmful to our well being, we are rising out of the water. When we purify our minds, we are rising from the muddy water, beautiful and pure. And as we travel on the spiritual journey, our lotus blooms.

This is our spiritual journey. To come out of this delusion and bloom as pure and Enlightened beings is the essence of the Bodhisattva’s journey. We exist in the muddy water of suffering, but we are rising above the suffering in transforming ourselves. The lotus reminds us that even in the worst, most stained and deluded circumstances we can rise above things. We can transform ourselves.

But the truth is the lotus was pure the whole time, even before it bloomed, even before it rose above the water. It’s nature didn’t change. It’s purity simply emerged. We are the same way. Our Buddha nature is our true nature. Our Enlightenment is right here right now. We just have to emerge and bloom.

 

Lotus

Posted in zen

The Zen Method of Awakening

All things are connected and impermanent.

The world is a reflection of the mind and the Zen method is nothing other than an effort at an intuitive understanding of these facts. There is nothing else to it.

The mind realizes its own essence and in this way no longer perceives itself and the outer world as two separate and unconnected realities.

Zen masters of ancient times told their students to “lay it all down” and “have no concern for the world.” There are many stories of people becoming enlightened only from hearing a word or seeing an action at an appropriate moment, usually delivered by a master. But much of this activity is the result of a long-term meditation practice in which the practitioner has spent time building up their inner potential.

Experiences of awakening, the dropping away of body and mind, can occur during meditation, but it can also occur during ordinary life. In any case, this cannot happen without some cultivation of the ordinary mind.

The Zen method of awakening doesn’t engage the ordinary, intellectual, conscious flow of our minds. As our minds are deluded, delusions would get in the way. Instead, the Zen method seeks to engage the empty “mind ground” directly. All of our perceptions and thought patterns are products of the ordinary state of mind and we are seeking to disengage from them.

We are, instead, turning our gaze firmly within, away from externals, so that the essence of our true nature can be realized and integrated with, challenging our perception of duality and attaining realization that all things exist in a deep emptiness.

A Zen practitioner is considered a spiritual warrior who declares a firm intention to transcend our deluded nature now.

Seated meditation is an important practice that can be done anywhere.

A seated physical posture must be chosen that can be held for around 25 minutes. We must declare our dedicated intention to transcend both time and space. The illusion of time and space manifests in our minds as boredom and agitation. We must overcome these.

The practitioner must set the mind upon its true nature and not get distracted by anything while in the act of meditation. Over time, the spiritual sense of detachment spreads from existing during meditation to existing more and more often.

The body must sit on the floor in a way that is straight and upright. The legs should be arranged in a folded manner. The spine should be straight and the shoulders should not slump. The face should be relaxed and the eyes should be gently closed. The left hand should lie on top of the right hand in the lap, with the tips of each thumb touching. This posture is said to allow energy to flow without being hindered.

Breathing should be deep, with each breath entering and leaving through the nose.

Posture and position are used to guide us through the gate on our spiritual journey. Once the gate is entered, the meditation method is used to deliver us to our true nature.

At the beginning concentration is probably weak, but practice will strengthen it. The mind must be taught how to focus on a single point. This point, when turned inward, digs through our delusion. The simplest way this can be developed is by the practice of following the breath.

Inward and outward breathing must be followed in every moment and an awareness develops. The breath itself emerges and disappears but with practice we develop a perception of the spaces in between. Concentrating the mind on the breath focuses it inward, toward its own true nature.

The truth is our true nature is always present, but we can’t see it. So, this method removes the false barrier created by our delusion so that the emptiness that contains all things can be glimpsed.

Sometimes reliance on the breath is not always powerful enough. In ancient times, meditators would practice for a long time, but only meeting an enlightened master who could give some kind of demonstration or teaching could enlighten them. That said, the student must always have the potential built up. The teacher is only pointing at what is already there. Preparatory meditation was always essential to working with a teacher.

Zen practitioners can use many different meditation methods. Master Hsu Yun used the hua tou method, which is asking yourself over and over, “who am I?”

Some people like to meditate staring at a complicated mandala. And some like to chant, either vocally or in their minds. The outward form isn’t that important, although I have found following the breath to be the most effective method for me.

What’s important is that we should be disciplined and gather the mind to a focus so that effort can be applied with unceasing determination.

Posted in tattooed buddha, Uncategorized

Kensho: A Glimpse of Awakening

Kensho is something we talk about in the Zen tradition.

It represents the mystical experience, the experience of oneness, of seeing our true nature, emptiness, the absolute, whatever you want to call it.

Some lineages talk about it a lot and some talk about it a little. It’s important to not attach to these experiences. There are stories about people who thought they had attained Enlightenment and then made some bad decisions.

That’s why having a teacher is important, so the teacher can tell you, “Hey, slow down. Take it easy.” This is helpful if we’re attaching too much to these experiences. Or, at the very least, it is useful to find a supportive community. Finding a teacher isn’t always easy and for some of us it takes a very long time.

It’s been said that Kensho can be a big or small experience. In either case, it is an opening, a glimpse into Awakening. This is a temporary experience.

Dogen called it, “The dropping away of body and mind.”

Xu Yun said, “The mind came to a stop.”

Having had a Kensho experience doesn’t mean that one is fully Enlightened. It’s just a glimpse of the truth. Kensho has been compared to a psychedelic experience.

I didn’t really start having these experiences with any regularity until I started meditating every day. Some people say they never have them, even with really diligent practice.

The point is that we shouldn’t be attached to these experiences.

They are wondrous and can really help motivate us on the path, but if we think of them as special, we could have problems.

D.T. Suzuki also wrote in An Introduction to Zen Buddhism:

“When the mind has been so trained as to be able to realize a state of perfect void in which there is not a trace of consciousness left, even the sense of being unconscious having departed; in other words, when all forms of mental activity are swept away clean from the field of consciousness, leaving the mind like the sky devoid of every speck of cloud, a mere broad expense of blue, Dhyana is said to have reached its perfection.”

Some people think of Kensho as the end of the path, but that’s a mistake.

Really, it’s the beginning. It does change you in a very real way. I’ve been fundamentally changed by every such experience I’ve had. I wouldn’t say I’ve had Satori, or a full Enlightenment experience, but it’s because of Kensho that I believe Satori is attainable. Once you’ve had a Kensho experience you can’t lie to yourself like you did before when you’ve had  a glimpse at the true nature of things.

In the Platform Sutra Huineng said:

“If, for one thought-moment, there is abiding, then there will be abiding in all successive thoughts, and this is called clinging. If, in regard to all matters there is no abiding from thought-moment to thought-moment, then there is no clinging. Non-abiding is the basis.”

Kensho is a state of letting go, releasing who you think you are and dwelling in your true self.

After this break in thoughts is over, one tends to still not cling to thoughts for a while.

When we engage both concentration and insight practices, these experiences can arise naturally. They’re especially common when we are on retreat.

Every time we enter this space of Awakening it’s a deep and profound experience.

Every time, we dwell in Enlightenment, we bring a little more of it back with us

 

 

http://thetattooedbuddha.com/kensho-a-glimpse-into-awakening/

Posted in tattooed buddha, Uncategorized

First There is a Mountain…

river and mountains

A famous, historical Zen teacher named Qingyuan Weixin had a saying…

At the first level on the path he saw mountains as mountains and rivers as rivers.

On the second level of the path he saw that mountains are not mountains and rivers are not rivers.

And at a third level he saw once again mountains were mountains and rivers were rivers.

The singer Donovan Leitch was inspired by this story when he wrote the song “There is a Mountain,” with the seemingly nonsensical lyric, “First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.”

It seems like such a profound thing to say.

I think the first stage, when mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers, is the beginning of our practice; when we’ve started the journey to self-transformation. There are teachers to learn from and things to be learned—there is a mountain to climb.

Second, when mountains are not mountains and rivers are not rivers, is when we start to see things as they really are; when we start to see our true nature.

We see everything is made up of other things, nothing exists on its own. Those mountains are made up of rocks and trees and grass and so many other things. Everything is connected to everything else. When we become conscious that this applies to ourselves too, it is very important. We live in the delusion: we are separate from the world around us. This delusion causes us to suffer and has stopped us from understanding.

When we come to realize the oneness of things, we comprehend that we are Enlightened, and we have been the whole time.

It’s at the third stage, when mountains are once again mountains and rivers are once again rivers, that we really understand; we reconcile the paradox. This is where we learn to dwell in both the transcendent reality and the immanent one.

First stage our feet are firmly planted on the ground. Second stage we have our heads in the clouds. Third stage we learn how to do both.

This represents understanding, as the Heart Sutra says, “Form is Emptiness and Emptiness is Form.” When we have key insights into the nature of reality, we dwell in the world of Emptiness and the world of Form. We come to realize the truth, we’ve been doing that the whole time.

 

http://thetattooedbuddha.com/first-there-is-a-mountain-realizing-the-oneness-of-things/

Posted in enlightenment

What is Enlightenment?

Enlightenment

So, what is Enlightenment? Enlightenment is simply coming to an intuitive understanding of our true nature, the delusion of the self, the oneness of all things. When we can dwell in this experience, that is Enlightenment. In the Ch’an tradition we say that everyone is Enlightened already because this is our fundamental nature. We only don’t see it because it’s obscured by layers of delusion.

I think of Enlightenment as a transition from awareness of the self as a limited individual to awareness.

Posted in buddha

Wisdom

An Awakened Being is said to have deep wisdom. Wisdom is important in Buddhism. Wisdom is important but it’s viewed as highly as it was in ancient times. We think about getting wiser as we get older, but we often don’t think about wisdom beyond that.
Knowledge is appreciated a lot more than wisdom.

Knowledge is important. It has led to many great things in the world.
Wisdom is what can direct our knowledge and lead us to more balanced and fulfilled lives.

Buddhist teachings and techniques for increasing wisdom can help us a great deal.
When we are acting with wisdom, we aren’t being held back by our preconceived ideas. We are able to see what’s going on more clearly. We are better able to analyze the facts and determine the best course of action.
Wisdom is like a mirror that reflects reality clearly. What is reflected in this clear mirror is our interconnectedness. It helps us see through the delusion of separation.
An Awakened Being, or Buddha, is a person who intuitively understands this wisdom.

The concept Awakening is central to Buddhism.

Posted in tattooed buddha

Roadmap to Awakening: The 10 Perfections

The teaching of the Six Paramitas was created early in the history of Mahayana Buddhism.

Paramita is usually translated as “perfection” and that’s how I’m going to translate it. It doesn’t mean we do any of this perfectly (obviously) it just means that cultivating these virtues is very important. Later, four more were added to the list, making the total 10. These are virtues for us to practice in our spiritual journey.

The teaching of the Six Perfections can be found in a lot of places; the teaching of all 10 is a little more esoteric.

The Six Perfections are considered a complete road map to Awakening, but the additional items help us a little more in bringing us to the Bodhisattva path to Awakening, rather than the standard path. I’m going through them one by one. I think all of these virtues are important and deserve a lot of attention. I may at some point go into these in more detail. To me this list is the most fundamental spiritual teaching.

1. Dana Paramita: The Perfection of Generosity

The Perfection of Generosity is about more than simply giving things. It’s an expression of non-attachment to possessions, but it also represents other forms of giving, such as giving our time to others, helping them with difficult tasks, or just listening when someone needs to be heard.

2. Sila Paramita: The Perfection of Virtue

The Perfection of Virtue is not necessarily about living according to rules. We have plenty of rules in Buddhism. Living by rules is important, but more important, in this context, is the idea of living in harmony with others. We should strive to bring harmony to all of our relationships, whether personal or professional. If we set an example of virtue we can make the world a better place.

3. Ksanti Paramita: The Perfection of Patience

The Perfection of Patience represents not only patience with ourselves and others, but also tolerance and endurance. It represents our ability to “weather the storm”, to bear hardship without letting it get us down and, especially, to avoid lashing out at others because of our personal difficulties.

4. Virya Paramita: The Perfection of Diligence

The Perfection of Diligence is about tirelessly overcoming obstacles, walking the path even when it’s difficult and it would be simple to give up. Without diligence we might not have the determination necessary to continue to walk the path when things get difficult.

5. Dhyana Paramita: The Perfection of Concentration

The Perfection of Concentration represents those practices that are dedicated to helping us improve our ability to focus and concentrate. These include several meditation and mindfulness practices. We are cultivating our mental stability and our ability to contemplate things clearly without getting held back by distractions or preconceptions. We are training our minds so we can have focus, composure, and tranquility.

6. Prajna Paramita: The Perfection of Wisdom

The Perfection of Wisdom represents transcendental wisdom and insight. This is an understanding beyond words and concepts. This is the intuitive understanding of emptiness and the interconnectedness of all things, that transcends the ego, or small self, and is able to engage with the true self, the higher self. This is our intuition, our innate awareness that we are one with everything, that nothing is separate from us and nothing can be left out. When we act with this in mind, then we are dwelling in Enlightenment.

I’ll repeat, the first six are considered a complete map to Enlightenment. These additional four can be thought of a supplemental material.

7. Upaya Paramita: The Perfection of Skillful Means

The Perfection of Skillful Means represents teachings, activities, and tools that are used to help bring others to Awakening; one who is well versed in this is good at bringing wisdom to others and spreading the Dharma. This can be teaching others how to meditate, or leading chants, or just talking about the philosophy behind the journey to Enlightenment. This also can represent simply setting a good example for the way someone on the path should live.

8. Pranidhana Paramita: The Perfection of Vows

The Perfection of Vows represents dedicating ourselves to the Bodhisattva Path by taking vows and adhering to them. The Bodhisattva Vows are taken formally by those on the Bodhisattva path. They represent an expression of Bodhicitta, the desire to attain Enlightenment with the intent of helping others. There’s a short version of the Vows that is sometimes chanted at Zen temples. It goes like this:

Beings are numberless, I vow to save them
Desires are inexhaustible, I vow to end them
Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them
Buddha’s way is unsurpassable, I vow to become it.

9. Bala Paramita: The Perfection of Powers

The Perfection of Powers represents those natural abilities we gain as a result of our spiritual journey, such as increased concentration, awareness, patience, and compassion.

10. Jnana Paramita: The Perfection of Knowledge

The Perfection of Knowledge is the implementation of the wisdom we have gained on the path; the culmination of the path, where we integrate the teachings into our lives and use them in all of our actions and relationships. The Perfection of Wisdom represents our intuitive understanding of the nature of ourselves and reality. The Perfection of Knowledge represents bringing that understanding into our lives.

 

http://thetattooedbuddha.com/a-complete-road-map-to-awakening-the-10-perfections/