Posted in lojong

Lojong Point 5: Evaluation of Mind Training

This group of slogans is connected with the perfection of meditation. We are beginning to develop great awareness and mindfulness.

 

19. All Of The Teachings Are Really One

All of the teachings are rooted in taming the mind and managing the ego. That is the point of this slogan. We tame our wandering minds with mental discipline and we cultivate awareness to cut through our egoic minds. Then we start cultivating bodhicitta. But really these are tied together. We think of developing wisdom and compassion as separate, but they aren’t separate. Compassion develops from an understanding of Emptiness, because once we realize we have nothing to hold on to we aren’t trying to be against the world all the time. The one teaching is really opening up to the world instead of closing ourselves off.

 

20. Hold The Primary Witness

It’s said that in all situations there are two witnesses: other people’s point of view of you and your point of view of yourself. The primary witness is your insight. This slogan represents being true to yourself. Only you really know yourself and you know yourself at every moment. The only one who can judge how you are doing with your lojong practice, or with Buddhist practice in general, is yourself.

 

21. Maintain A Joyful Mind

This slogan means we want to maintain a sense of joyfulness and humor, in spite of all the little difficulties in life. We have the power to take unfortunate events as encouragement to our practice. We can maintain a sense of joy because we are on the path, because we are doing something to transform ourselves.

 

22. If You Can Practice Even While Distracted, Then You Are Well Trained

We have all kinds of distractions in life. The idea behind this slogan is that when situations come up that distract us, we should be able to bring awareness to them instead of getting frustrated. We can come to realize that we can practice in any situation, in spite of distractions and our wandering thoughts.

 

 

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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?

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Cultivating Joy

How do we transform our lives to bring us closer to equanimity and contentment?

Sometimes it’s hard to be joyful. We can’t be happy all the time. Life is full of suffering. But, real joy comes from a sense of contentment, from accepting our lives as they are in each moment.

When bad things happen, we sometimes stick to them like glue. One bad thing can happen during our day and we can hold onto it all day, even for several days. It can continue to affect us for a long time after the situation is over.

How do we commit to a joy practice?

We should set a daily intention and remind ourselves to be open to it.

We can start with a daily affirmation: “May I be filled with joy today.”

And then we can extend it to: “May all beings be filled with joy today.”

We talk a lot about compassion in Buddhist practice, but we may sometimes forget that in a Buddhist context compassion applies to how we view ourselves and our suffering too.

It’s not about creating feelings that aren’t there. It’s about appreciating the little things in our lives that are good and becoming content. It’s about accepting things as they are instead of attaching too strongly to our wish for them to be different. It is so easy in life to focus on the negative.

Sympathetic joy also helps.

It’s a feeling of joy we can experience when something good happens to another person. We have to set our intentions to do this as well. We can tend to be full of jealousy sometimes and this doesn’t serve us. If we can be joyful about good things happening to others, that increases our joy a great deal.

We can also cultivate gratitude. Spend some time thinking about what you’re grateful for each day. So much of our sadness is simply from not appreciating what we have already.

Posted in lists

The Four Immeasurables

The Four Brahmaviharas, or Divine Abodes, are often translated as ‘the immeasurables’ or ‘the ‘immeasurable minds’.

When these four qualities are cultivated they are said be a powerful antidote to negative mind states.

These teachings are found in several different Buddhist texts, including the Metta Sutra.

A very similar list is found in the non-Buddhist spiritual text “The Yoga Sutras” by Patanjali, which was written a few centuries after the rise of Buddhism.

The Brahmaviharas represent a method for engaging life in a positive and enlightened way, a way that helps us avoid suffering and encourages peace and happiness. They represent a way to overcome our ego.

They are:

Metta (lovingkindness): this is benevolence and kindness. It signifies wanting others to be happy and succeed. It’s often easy to wish for success for our friends and relatives, not to mention ourselves. But, in this case we’re trying to extend this to all beings.

Karuna (compassion): this is wanting others to be free from suffering. It’s easy to say we don’t want others to suffer, but it must be mentioned that this includes people we don’t like as well.

Mudita (empathetic joy): this is celebrating and being happy when others are successful. Congratulating people and telling them we’re happy for them is normal. It’s something we’re taught to do, I think.

Upekkha (equanimity): this is learning to weather the storm of life, learning how to accept loss and gain, success and failure. This might be the most difficult one. It’s certainly hard to keep an even mind when things aren’t going well. It can be so easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged.

In the Metta Sutra they’re listed this way:

May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes;
May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes;
May all sentient beings not be separated from sorrowless bliss;
May all sentient beings abide in equanimity, free of bias, attachment and anger.

In the Visuddhimagga (path of purification) written in the 5th century by Buddhaghosa, he explains the Brahmaviharas as things you take on for yourselves and then cultivate for others around and then spread out your view to encompass all beings.

you can listen to a guided meditation based on the four immeasurables here:

 


 

 

You can support independent Buddhist writing by joining a community of fellow learners/practitioners at  Patreon

 

*another version of this article appeared on Patheos

Posted in tattooed buddha

A Case for Positivity

The Case for Optimism.

“The old appeals to racial, sexual, religious chauvinism to rabid nationalist fervor are beginning not to work, a new consciousness is developing which sees the earth as a single organism and recognizes that an organism at war with itself is doomed.” ~ Carl Sagan

I want to take a minute to talk about slavery. But, I’m not talking about slavery in America. Slavery in America is something we learn about because the Civil War is a big part of American history. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

We don’t often learn about the rest of the history of slavery.

Slavery was a universal part of human culture until very recently; we don’t realize that because we don’t have a long term view. Slavery has been a universal part of the human paradigm for as long as there has been recorded history. Probably a lot longer than recorded history, given how long modern humans were around before writing was invented.

It was everywhere. The existence of slavery was just the way of things. It was as common in human culture as things like marriage. Some people were slaves. It was just the way of things, and then it was gone.

Now, why am I writing about slavery?

Because I don’t think it ended because of a few heroic people who fought to end it. That’s how it ended in America, but that’s because the people that wanted to abolish slavery were trying to catch up with other modern countries that had abolished it already.

Slavery ended because humanity got better.

In the same way the concept of women as property has ended in a lot of the world (but not all of it).

Now, we may say, “Sure, but there’s terrorism.” And that’s true. But 60 years ago we had world wars instead of terrorism.

People in my generation and the generations after have no concept of what a world war would be like because we haven’t had one. And I want to declare right now that we will never have one again.

I will say this as often and as loudly as a I can because people really have trouble believing it.

Things only get better.

It may seem like that’s not the case.

Not only does the media have a vested interest in showing the bad things in the world, but also the bad things often seem like what people are interested in talking about.

And sometimes that’s not bad. We should be aware of the bad things going on.

But we should also be aware of this: things only get better.

I’m not making this up. I have evidence for this. I’ll share two things with you.

One, the rate of violent crime is going down and has been for years. Not just America, but the whole world has been becoming less and less violent.

Don’t take my word for it; statistics back it up.

The psychologist Steven Pinker wrote a whole book about it called “The Better Angels of Our Nature”.

In the same way that humanity has moved away from slavery, humanity is moving away from using violence to solve problems.

I saw a pretty clear example of this in real time, I think.

President George W. Bush wanted to invade Iraq and he did. There was some public outcry and war protests, but they were ignored. Just as the unpopular war in Vietnam had raged decades earlier in spite of a lack of public support.

President Barack Obama wanted to invade Syria. There was some public outcry and he decided not to do it. It is, I think, the first time an American President decided not to go to war because the people didn’t want him to.

What a difference a few years makes.

Another example of how things are getting better is the Flynn Effect. The Flynn Effect tells us that human beings are getting smarter. Since the 1930s, IQ tests have had to be adjusted every year. IQ tests today can’t be scored in the same way as tests from 30 years ago. Why? Because almost everyone would score at a genius level. Everyone you meet probably has a higher IQ than their grandparents.

There is a lot of speculation about why this is.

Better nutrition, better education, more access to technology. These are things that could contribute. But it doesn’t matter why. What matters is this. We are getting smarter. This means we will only be more and more able to figure out how to solve problems.

Not to say that the trend is so powerful that I’m automatically smarter than someone who’s a few years older than me. That would be absurd. Only that this is an overall trend. People are getting smarter over time.

When we see how much technology has changed, some of this can be attributed to the overall increase in human intelligence.

The reason the Apple Watch wasn’t invented in the 1950s isn’t because no one could think of the idea. It’s because our brain power had to improve to the point where someone would know how to make it a reality.

Sometimes people think that kids today are dumber than kids in the past or have less of a grasp on ethical behavior. There’s not evidence for this. That’s just allowing delusional negative thinking to enter our minds and we should resist that.

I’ll get a little political here, and I hope that isn’t a problem for anyone.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

I believe that.

Racial equality isn’t perfect today, but it has made more progress than people in the 50s and 60s would have thought possible. It’s changed fast, from a long perspective.

So has tolerance. This is the generation that will finally give equality to our gay brothers and sisters. It’s coming and it can’t even be stopped now. Marriage Equality didn’t even seem possible 20 years ago, but now it’s inevitable.

And probably before too much longer, we’ll see more and more tolerance for transgendered people too.

Because things only get better.

And soon, our brothers and sisters won’t go to prison for possessing a plant that doesn’t kill anyone and isn’t dangerous. How many lives have been ruined because possessing marijuana has been treated like a serious crime? Like marriage equality, decriminalization didn’t seem possible 20 years ago. But now it’s inevitable.

Because things only get better.

These old paradigms that no longer serve us are going away.

The world is awakening. Enlightenment is coming to everyone.

I don’t know what’s coming next, but it’s a great time to be alive.

Remember when you think things are bad:

They only get better.

 

http://thetattooedbuddha.com/contrary-to-popular-belief-things-keep-getting-better/

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Joy

 

How do we cultivate joy?

How do we transform our lives to brings us closer to equanimity and contentment?

 

Sometimes it’s hard to be joyful. We can’t be happy all the time. Life is full of suffering. But, real joy comes from a sense of contentment, from accepting our lives as they are in each moment.

 

When bad things happen, we sometimes stick to them like glue. One bad thing can happen during our day and we can hold onto it all day, even for several days. It can continue to affect us for a long time after the situation is over.

 

How do we commit to a joy practice? We should set a daily intention and remind ourselves to be open to it.


We can start with a daily affirmation: “May I be filled with joy today”.

And then we can extend it to: “May all beings be filled with joy today.”

 

We talk a lot about compassion in Buddhist practice, but we may sometimes forget that in a Buddhist context compassion applies to how we view ourselves and our suffering too.

It’s not about creating feelings that aren’t there. It’s about appreciating the little things in our lives that are good and becoming content. It’s about accepting things as they are instead of attaching too strongly to our wish for them to be different. It is so easy in life to focus on the negative.

 

Sympathetic joy also helps. It’s a feeling of joy we can experience when something good happens to another person. We have to set our intentions to do this as well. We can tend to be full of jealousy sometimes and this doesn’t serve us. If we can be joyful about good things happening to others, that increases our joy a great deal.

 

We can also cultivate gratitude. Spend some time thinking about what you’re grateful for each day. So much of our sadness is simply from not appreciating what we have already.