Posted in lojong

Lojong Point 6: Disciplines of Mind Training

This group of slogans is connected with the perfection of wisdom, prajnaparamita. They are connected with sharpening our awareness to help us work with ourselves. Wisdom cuts through ignorance. We are cultivating a sense of awareness and mindfulness that will develop us on the bodhisattva path. It’s our sense of wisdom that allows us to carry these slogans through our lives. As we go forward with the slogans, you’ll notice they are increasingly more straightforward. The first 22 provided a solid foundation for us.

23. Always Abide By The Three Basic Principles

These are the three basic principles:

Keep the two vows: this refers to refuge and bodhisattva vows, keeping them completely.

Refrain from outrageous action: this means we aren’t using our practice as a means to gain attention. We aren’t trying to be martyrs here. We are just trying to be.

Develop patience: don’t be in a hurry to become something. People have a tendency to learn teachings like these and to want to become great saints or sages. We are just trying to be.

24. Change Your Attitude

The point of this slogan is to change our point of view. We want to change our attitude so that we focus on others before ourselves. This refers to our attempts to control others and to always cherish ourselves first. We want to tame our minds so we aren’t pushing people around all the time.

25. Don’t Talk About Injured Limbs

Injured limbs refers to someone else’s physical or psychological defects. It’s simply the realization that we don’t have a reason to point out the faults of others. We’re all human and we all have flaws.

26. Don’t Ponder Others

This is connected to number 25. Pondering others means picking on their shortcomings after they wrong us. We can obsess about it when someone does something wrong, or we can get on with our lives.

27. Work With The Greatest Defilements First

The defilements are the obstacles to our growth that are within us. Whatever our greatest defilement is would be the one we want to work on the most. Our greatest defilement could be anger, attachment, pride, jealousy, etc. Working with the greatest defilements means working with the most important problems that we have. The idea is that we are doing whatever work is hardest first, rather than avoiding our most difficult issues thinking we will deal with them later.

28. Abandon Any Hope Of Fruition

We don’t want to think of our lojong practice as goal oriented. Forget about the possibility of transforming yourself to the best person in the world because of your training. We aren’t practicing so that we can become masters and get some kind of fame and adoration. We are practicing just to practice.

29. Abandon Poisonous Food

If we are practicing as another way to feed our ego, giving up your ego to build your ego, then it’s like we are eating poisonous food. Thinking that you’re doing this so you can become the best meditator ever is a mistake. If the practice is motivated by a wish for personal achievement, then we are thinking of things in the wrong way.

30. Don’t Be So Predictable

The point of this slogan is to give up our history and the way we perceive ourselves. If I think of myself as someone with anger problems, then we something goes wrong I will probably react in anger. In this slogan we are trying to put that down. We are trying to not be so predictable all the time.

31. Don’t Malign Others

Saying bad things about others is often rooted in showing how great we are. We sometimes tend to think our virtues can only show if we tear others down.

32. Don’t Wait In Ambush

This means we don’t want to wait for someone to fall down so we can attack them. We don’t want to be opportunistic and attack others when they are most vulnerable. That would be a very negative action.

33. Don’t Bring Things To A Painful Point

Don’t blame all your problems and suffering on others. This slogan means that we should encourage others on the path, rather than humiliating them by placing blame.

34. Don’t Transfer The Ox’s Load To The Cow

This means don’t unload on everyone all the time. Transferring the load means not wanting to deal with anything on our own. We want to think about our problems honestly. We want to deal with our issues because no one else really can.

35. Don’t Try To Be The Fastest

We don’t want to view our practice as a race. That can happen sometimes. If we view our practice in that way, then it becomes a sort of game or competition. Don’t be in a hurry. Just be.

36. Don’t Act With A Twist

This is about dropping the attitude that we are going to get personal gain from the practice. Acting with a twist means volunteering for the worst in each situation with the knowledge that it makes you look the best. We need to strive to practice without having an ulterior motive.

37. Don’t Make Gods Into Demons

This refers to our tendency to dwell on the negative and go through life unhappy. Making gods into demons is turning the path into a burden, into something to complain about.

38. Don’t Seek Others’ Pain As Your Happiness

We shouldn’t build our happiness on the failures of others. We don’t want to hope for others to experience misfortune. It might come up that we benefit from the misfortune of someone else, but we don’t want to wish for that. A striking example is wishing for someone to die so that we can receive an inheritance. Everyone will agree that this is not okay, I’m sure. But we can apply this to all sorts of wishes we might have.

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Posted in rime center

Teaching the Diamond Sutra

In one week I’m going to start teaching the Diamond Sutra. It’s a six week class that will occur Wednesdays nights at the Rime Center from 7:45pm until 9:00pm. It starts on April 13th. You should come if you can. (a link to register for this class is posted at the bottom)

I’m so nervous and excited.

It all started a few months ago. Lama Matt told me he wanted me to start teaching classes at the Rime Center. What a wonderful opportunity. But, of course I wondered if I could handle it. (being the center of attention is really not my thing). Of course I said yes but it was big surprise.

He gave me a title, “Gegan” which means teacher. And he told me that I could teach anything I wanted.

I told him I would like to teach the Diamond Sutra.

The Diamond Sutra is probably my favorite Buddhist text. But it’s also a really hard text to teach. It’s a heavy text with a lot of wisdom for us to explore. If I had spent time thinking about it, I might have chosen something a little easier for my first class. But, It will be fine, I think. It does mean something that it’s a text that I love.

I spent time looking at different translations and Lama Matt did too. We agreed that the Thich Nhat Hanh translation was probably the most accessible.

So, I went to work. I took notes on every chapter and got myself prepared.

In preparing to teach this sutra I’ve learned more about it than I ever knew. And I’ve learned about myself. Maybe the best teachers are always students too. I love this sutra now more than ever and I hope that my students gain something approaching the same appreciation that I have for it.

The Diamond Sutra has changed my life. It can change yours too.

The Buddha doesn’t transform us. He invites us to transform ourselves. This sutra doesn’t give us anything, it cuts things away. The diamond cuts through our delusion and leaves only what’s real. When we put down all that we’re carrying, we discover emptiness, our true nature.

The Diamond Sutra describes the very foundation of the awakened life.

http://www.rimecenter.org/?p=628

Posted in bodhisattva, Mahayana, Uncategorized

The Six Paramitas

The most important teaching for walking the bodhisattva path is the six perfections. The six perfections free us from delusion and lead us to Awakening. This is, above all else, the path to awakening that I really connect with. If we practice the six perfections in our lives, then we can dwell in Enlightenment. This is, to me, the central point of Buddhism.
The six paramitas (usually translated as perfections) are a teaching of Mahayana Buddhism. They are said to be vehicles to take us from shore of sorrow to the shore of peace and joy. We are on the shore of suffering, anger, and depression and we want to cross over to the shore of well-being and transcendence. Practicing the Six Paramitas is said to help us unleash the joy within.
This six paramitas are: Generosity, Virtue, Patience, Diligence, Concentration, and Wisdom.

The Paramita of Generosity
People tend to think that this means just giving material things and that isn’t necessarily the case.
We can give all sorts of things. We can give our time, our patience, our love.
The best gift we can offer is our presence. To be there when someone needs us, to listen when someone needs to talk. When we give our presence to someone that wants it, we are practicing the perfection of generosity.
Because of our meditation practice, we can be more mindfully present. Listening instead of waiting to talk, paying attention when attention is needed.
We can also give stability. When our thoughts and feelings are unstable, we can cause all sorts of harm and unhappiness to ourselves and others.
We can also give peace. When we are peaceful and have a peaceful relationship to the world around us, it brings benefit to everyone.
We can also give space. Staying away when someone wants time alone is a form of giving.
We can also give understanding. When we pay attention to what others are going through we can better understand how to interact with them in ways that are helpful.
Generosity is a wonderful practice. The Buddha said when we are angry at someone we can practice generosity toward them as a way to soften our anger.

The Paramita of Virtue
The Second Paramita is something we cultivate in two ways.
One way is through mindfulness training and the second way is through precepts. I’m going to write about the five mindfulness trainings now and save the precepts for another time.
Practicing the Five Mindfulness Trainings is a good way to transform our behavior in a positive way. This is a teaching created by the Zen Monk Thich Nhat Hanh.
Some of these overlap with the precepts a little, so it would be repetitive to write about both here.
The Five Mindfulness Trainings
1) Protect other beings. This applies to humans as well as other animals and plants. We should protect and help whenever possible.
2) To prevent the exploitation of humans and other beings. The normal way of doing things is often to step on others in order to get ahead in life.
3) Be faithful in relationships.
4) Practice deep listening and loving speech
5) Be mindful about your consumption.

The Paramita of Patience

This represents our ability to receive and transform our suffering.
The Buddha compared acceptance to water. If you pour some salt into a glass of water it will have a big impact. If you pour it into a river it will have no impact at at all.
We are the same way.
If our ability to accept is small, then we will suffer a great deal even when very minor things happen, like someone saying an unkind word or annoying us.
But if our ability to accept is large, then such things won’t have quite the same impact on us. It is so easy to carry the weight of an unkind word or action with us.
This Paramita represents our ability to receive, accept, and transform any pain and suffering that comes our way. We often tend to make things worse for ourselves than they really need to be.

The Paramita of Diligence

This represents our motivation on the path.
This Paramita is our devotion to cultivating the other five. It’s the one that really keeps us inspired to continue rather than giving up.
We can recognize the things that cause suffering in ourselves and others and we should do what we can to lessen these things.
The Buddha sometimes described life in terms of watering seeds. The seeds of anger, jealousy, and despair exist in our minds and we should try to refrain from watering them if we can. This means trying to bring happiness to ourselves and others.
The Paramita of Diligence represents striving to water positive seeds in our minds instead.
It’s said to have three components:
1) courage: the development of character. The will to walk the path with a sense on conviction and also to motivate others by our desire to walk the path.
2) spiritual training: taking our practice in our own hands. This component represents expressing our commitment to practice, not just when we’re in meditation, but in our daily lives as well. Talking about Buddhist concepts is great, but we really need to put them into practice at home too. Learning about the Paramita of Generosity, for example, is good, but we also need to actually put it into practice and be generous.
3) benefiting others: the Buddhist path is helping us to lessen our suffering and clear away our delusion and that is great. But, another important aspect is our wish to not cause suffering for others. We call this the way of the Bodhisattva.

The Paramita of Meditation

Meditation in this sense consists of two aspects.
First is stopping. Our minds run through our whole lives, chasing one idea after another. Stopping means to stop in the present moment, to settle our monkey minds and be here now. Everything is in this moment. With this meditation practice we can calm our minds. We can practice mindful breathing, mindful walking, and mindful sitting. This is also the practice of concentration, so we can live deeply each moment of our lives, touching the deepest levels of our being.
The second aspect of meditation is looking deeply to see the true nature of things. This is where we really cultivate an understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

The Paramita of Wisdom

This is the highest form of understanding, free from concepts, ideas, and views. Prajna is the seed of Enlightenment within us. This is what carries us to Enlightenment.
There is a lot of Buddhist literature on the Paramita of Wisdom (prajnaparamita), including the Heart Sutra and the Diamond Sutra. I really recommend reading these.
What we can talk about is looking deeply at the nature of things. Waves have a beginning and an end. Some are big and some are small. But they’re all made of water. They all come from and return to the same ocean. And, more importantly, they’re never truly separate from the ocean.
If we look deeply at ourselves and the world around us, we can come to understand that we have the same nature as these waves. We share the same ground of being as all other beings.
The Paramita of Wisdom represents our understanding of the oneness of things and it’s really considered the most important of the six perfections.


 

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Posted in tattooed buddha, Uncategorized

The Heart Sutra: A Meditation Guide

 

The Prajnaparamita Hridyam Sutra is a short text; it is about the length of a page.

But it’s a very deep text. It’s title means The Great Heart of Transcendent Wisdom Sutra, but we usually just shorten it to Heart Sutra.

It’s part of the Prajnaparamita school of texts, along with the Diamond Sutra and a few others. These are called the ‘Perfection of Wisdom’ texts and they are considered by many to be the greatest works of the Mahayana.

Prajnaparamita means Transcendent Wisdom of the Other Shore. The Prajnaparamita School presented a new goal for Buddhist practice: achieving Buddhahood, rather than simply attaining Nirvana and escaping the wheel of birth and death. This is the ideal of the Bodhisattva instead of that of the Arhat. This is enlightenment in the midst of the world, rather than escaping it. Prajna is considered the highest virtue.

Prajna teachings are based on wisdom and emptiness.

This Sutra challenges us, in our meditation practice, to face duality, profound and relative truths, impermanence and emptiness.

It’s a beloved text and can be used as a guide of advanced meditation practices. It’s considered such an important sutra that it’s chanted in Zen temples every day all over the world.

It’s a dialogue, as a lot of sutras are. In this Sutra Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion is giving teachings to a monk named Shariputra.

Here is the text (1):

The noble Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva,
while practicing the deep practice of Prajnaparamita, looked upon the five skandhas
and seeing they were empty of self-existence,
said, “Here, Shariputra,
form is emptiness, emptiness is form;
emptiness is not separate from form,
form is not separate from emptiness; whatever is form is emptiness,
whatever is emptiness is form.
The same holds for sensation and perception,
memory and consciousness.
Here, Shariputra, all dharmas are defined by emptiness not birth or destruction, purity or defilement,
completeness or deficiency.
Therefore, Shariputra, in emptiness there is no form, no sensation, no perception, no memory and no
consciousness;
no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body and no mind; no shape, no sound, no smell, no taste, no feeling
and no thought;
no element of perception, from eye to conceptual
consciousness;
no causal link, from ignorance to old age and death,
and no end of causal link, from ignorance to old age and death; no suffering, no source, no relief, no path;
no knowledge, no attainment and no non-attainment. Therefore, Shariputra, without attainment,
bodhisattvas take refuge in Prajnaparamita
and live without walls of the mind.
Without walls of the mind and thus without fears,
they see through delusions and finally nirvana.
All buddhas past, present and future
also take refuge in Prajnaparamita
and realize unexcelled, perfect enlightenment.
You should therefore know the great mantra of Prajnaparamita, the mantra of great magic,
the unexcelled mantra,
the mantra equal to the unequalled,
which heals all suffering and is true, not false,
the mantra in Prajnaparamita spoken thus:
“Gate, gate, paragate, parasangate, bodhi svaha.”

 

Just meditation on this text can blow our minds wide open.

Form is emptiness, emptiness is form

This challenges our notion of duality. Our minds like to put things into nice neat little categories that don’t often match reality. This Sutra challenges the idea that even existence and non-existence are two separate and distinct things.

No attainment and nothing to attain

Buddhist sutras remind us over and over that we’re walking the path in order to penetrate our delusion, not to attain something. Enlightenment isn’t something we gain. It’s our true nature, we just have to uncover it.

But the text also tells us that these teachings can take us to enlightenment. It tells us to “take refuge in Prajnaparamita and live without walls of the mind.” Cultivating this transcendent wisdom is a path to enlightenment.

A lot is made of that last line, which is usually left untranslated because it’s a mantra and we usually chant mantras in the original language.

“Gate, gate, paragate, parasangate, Bodhi svaha.”

“Gone, gone, gone beyond, fully gone beyond, enlightened so be it.”

Footnote

  1. Porter, Bill. The Heart Sutra: Translation and Commentary. (Berkeley, California: Counterpoint Books, 2004)

 

Posted in diamond sutra

The Diamond Sutra: Chapter 1

This is what I heard.
At one time the Buddha was staying in the Jeta Grove, near the city of Sravasti.
With him there was a community of 1,250 followers.
One day early in the morning, the Buddha got dressed and went to the city with his followers to beg for food, which was the custom.
After returning and eating, he put away his bowl and robe, washed his feet and sat in the lotus position.

He became mindfully aware of his surroundings as many monks approached, bowed, and sat around him.

This might sound strange to us, but it isn’t. It was normal in that time and place for spiritual teachers to beg for their food, in the same way that many ministers and priests today are paid a salary from the donations from their congregations.
This is an introduction that will put the rest of the sutra in context for us.

Posted in diamond sutra

What is The Diamond Sutra?

The Diamond Sutra is one of the most well known and beloved Mahayana Buddhist texts. It is said that hearing just a few lines from it can stir the seed of Enlightenment that is within us.

The Diamond Sutra is a Mahayana Buddhist text from the Prajnaparamita or “Perfection of Wisdom” collection. The full Sanskrit title of this text is the Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra.

It’s sometimes called the Diamond Cutter of Wisdom or the Diamond Cutter Sutra. I prefer to call it simply the Diamond Sutra.

It’s importance to the Ch’an tradition can’t be overestimated. Huineng the 6th Patriarch attained Enlightenment almost exclusively because of what he learned from the Diamond Sutra.

It’s a series of dialogues between the Buddha and one of his students, a man named Subhuti, regarding the nature of perception. In it, the Buddha is trying to help Subhuti put down his limited preconceived notions about the nature of reality. The Buddha emphasizes that all forms, thoughts and conceptions are ultimately empty, he teaches that true enlightenment cannot be grasped through them, that we must challenge our preconceptions and subvert the dominant paradigm.

I’m going to write my own line by line commentary of the Diamond Sutra. I’m hoping it’s something I can add to each week, but we’ll see if I can find the time.

I am excited about it.

Posted in Uncategorized

my notes on the Heart Sutra

My Notes on the Heart Sutra

——This is the Heart Sutra (also called the Great Heart of Wisdom Sutra) with my own notes. I’ve taken it upon myself to teach children about this sutra as part of the Dharma School’s unit on Wisdom. Given that it’s a pretty deep philosophical text, this is an ambitious goal. Taking these notes is going to be immensely helpful to me in making sure I can explain the sutra in plain language that anyone can understand. There is certainly much deeper meaning to the text than I am presenting here. And I urge anyone reading this to study this sutra deeply. I read several commentaries on the Heart Sutra, looking for one that would not be excessively difficult to explain to children. I failed to find one, so I wrote my own.

I’m using the simplest translation of the text that I could find.——

Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, meditating deeply on Perfection of Wisdom, 

——Avalokiteshvara is sometimes called Chenrezig and sometimes called Kuan Yin. Bodhisattva means enlightenment being. Avalokiteshvara is essentially the personification of compassion. Bodhisattvas are archetypes. They aren’t considered to be objectively real.——-
 

saw clearly that the five aspects of human existence are empty, and so released himself from suffering.  Answering the monk Sariputra, he said this:

——the five aspects of human existence represent what’s called the five skandhas. Buddhism teaches that we are really only a collection of five or so things and don’t really have anything that could be considered our independent self, ie a soul. We are just a collection of things and can’t really be described as individuals in any meaningful way. If we have an intuitive understanding of this then it can free us from suffering. ——

Body is nothing more than emptiness, 
emptiness is nothing more than body. 
The body is exactly empty, 
and emptiness is exactly body.

The other four aspects of human existence — 
feeling, thought, will, and consciousness — 
are likewise nothing more than emptiness, 
and emptiness nothing more than they.

——This is a description of the Buddhist concept called emptiness. It is the philosophy that nothing really exists on it’s own. Everything is dependent on numerous other things, including us. We are all intimately connected and intertwined with the world around us.——

All things are empty: 
Nothing is born, nothing dies, 
nothing is pure, nothing is stained, 
nothing increases and nothing decreases.

——This is where things get a little deeper. How could it be said that nothing is born and nothing dies? This is a little hard to wrap our heads around. When he says that nothing is born, he isn’t denying reality. He is rather emphasizing the importance of moment to moment awareness. When we investigate deeply, we notice that nothing really has a beginning or ending. Everything is intimately connected and constantly changing. When does a flower begin? When it sprouts from the ground? When the seed enters the ground? Or perhaps when the sunshine travels to the earth and feeds the flower? It’s difficult to say because the flower is so connected to other things. It is the same with us and with everything else. We tend to think of things as having concrete endings and beginnings, but, of course, reality is a lot more fluid than that.——

So, in emptiness, there is no body, 
no feeling, no thought, 
no will, no consciousness. 
There are no eyes, no ears, 
no nose, no tongue, 
no body, no mind. 
There is no seeing, no hearing, 
no smelling, no tasting, 
no touching, no imagining. 
There is nothing seen, nor heard, 
nor smelled, nor tasted, 
nor touched, nor imagined.

There is no ignorance, 
and no end to ignorance. 
There is no old age and death, 
and no end to old age and death. 
There is no suffering, no cause of suffering, 
no end to suffering, no path to follow. 
There is no attainment of wisdom, 
and no wisdom to attain.

——This is a list of the numerous things that we often become attached to. It even includes Buddhist teachings, like suffering and the cause of suffering. Avalokiteshvara is being very clear in telling Sariputra (and by extension, us) that these things don’t have inherent existence, so becoming attached to them can only be counterproductive.——

The Bodhisattvas rely on the Perfection of Wisdom, 
and so with no delusions, 
they feel no fear, 
and have Nirvana here and now.

All the Buddhas, 
past, present, and future, 
rely on the Perfection of Wisdom, 
and live in full enlightenment.

——Once we recognize that things are empty of an inherent nature, then we recognize that all things are interconnected. Enlightenment is an intuitive understanding of the interconnectedness of all things. When we act with this understanding in mind, we are said to dwell in Nirvana. Deep down we are all enlightened already, we just have to clear our delusion and unleash our Buddha nature.——

The Perfection of Wisdom is the greatest mantra. 
It is the clearest mantra, 
the highest mantra, 
the mantra that removes all suffering.

This is truth that cannot be doubted. 
Say it so:

Gone, 
gone, 
gone over, 
gone fully over. 
Awakened! 
So be it!

——In teaching us the philosophies of both emptiness and interconnectedness, this sutra is supposed to be a great asset in our path to enlightenment.——