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.

Posted in buddhism

On The Practice of Taking Refuge

Taking refuge is central to Buddhist teachings and practice. It’s referred to as “entering the gate”.

When we come to understand that taking refuge means that we are working on ourselves, then we understand that it’s a process of changing the directions of our lives. We work on ourselves by doing the practices that the Buddha taught to help us overcome the poisons of greed, hatred, and delusion.

We call it “taking refuge” because it is an active practice. Refuge isn’t something that happens to us. It’s something we decide to do. We are actively dedicating ourselves to walk the path. We can’t have someone else walk it for us. It’s easy to study Buddhism and to debate minute aspects of Buddhist philosophy. When we take refuge we are resolving to walk the path with diligent effort. The Dharma is something we are learning about. But it’s also something we are becoming.

Central to taking refuge is seeing the direction our lives are heading in. Do we want to continue dwelling in delusion or do we want to take steps to see things as they really are, to dwell in our Buddha nature?

Posted in tattooed buddha

The Purpose of Buddhist Strings

author's own photo

I have three strings around my wrist.

There are two red ones and a yellow one. One of the red ones is looking a little worn. I’ve had it for a while. It’s something people notice sometimes.

Everyone knows I prefer the Zen tradition and strings aren’t part of that, but I have spent a great deal of time practicing in the Vajrayana tradition and it has meant a lot to me too. Each one has a different meaning.

The first red one was given to me by Lama Chuck Stanford when he gave me Refuge Vows and I officially became Buddhist. The second red one was given to me by Lama Chuck when I took Bodhisattva Vows, deepening my Buddhist commitment.

The yellow one was give to me by Lama Lena Feral, and it was blessed by her teacher Wangdor Rinpoche—a famous Vajrayana Buddhist teacher from Tibet who held several lineages.

But, what do these strings mean?

They are sometimes called blessing cords and sometimes called protection cords. They are used in several lineages of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism.

These cords are blessed and given by Lamas on important occasions, for example when one takes vows. Taking vows is a part of most branches of Buddhism, but taking vows doesn’t always involve receiving a string. One can also be given a string when one does an important retreat or receives teachings from a well known teacher, especially secret teachings. I was given my yellow string because I received teachings from Lama Lena.

In ancient times, people would just wear their cords until they fell apart. In the modern world they last much longer because we have synthetic material.

Legend has it that these cords can bring good luck or offer some kind of protection.

In the traditional practice the Lama ties a knot in the cord, blows a mantra into it, and makes a blessing. They say this allows you to take your teacher with you, even after they are long gone. Many religious traditions have this kind of process, where a teacher imbues an object with spiritual energy and blessings.

Now, I’ll be honest and tell you, I don’t believe these strings provide any sort of protection or good luck. I’m skeptical of such things. But I do think they serve a purpose.

They can be a reminder.

I have a string that reminds me that I took Refuge Vows. It reminds me that I am a Buddhist and I should live mindfully.

I have a string that reminds me that I took Bodhisattva Vows—that my purpose is to spread compassion and wisdom, to save as many beings and bring as many to Enlightenment as I can.

And I have a string that reminds me that I have received additional teachings. This one reminds me that there is always more to learn and there are always more steps to take.

I have three strings and I have seen people with more.

I think reminders have some value.


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Posted in buddha

On Taking Refuge in the Buddha

On Taking Refuge in the Buddha

“Whoever sees his true nature is a Buddha.”
-Bodhidharma

What does it mean when we say we are taking refuge in the Buddha?

For most of us Refuge Vows are taken fairly early in our practice. Does taking refuge mean that we’re asking the Buddha to do something for us? No. The Buddha was just a man. When we go for refuge in the Buddha, we are declaring that we want to follow his example. But, we are also taking refuge in the Buddha within, our true Enlightened self. The state of Awakening that is within us is what we are really taking refuge in.

When the Buddha saw his true nature he became Enlightened. This is a journey that we can take as well.

At our core, we are Enlightened, we just can’t see it because our minds are obscured by layers of delusion. But, deep down, the truth is there. Our journey involves penetrating through these layers of delusion to find our true nature, to know it intuitively.

Posted in altar sutra

The Altar Sutra: On Repentance

The Patriarch gave the following teaching:

Let’s purify our minds at all times, walk the path by our diligent effort, Awaken to our true nature, realize Enlightenment in our minds, and deliver ourselves by observing moral teachings.

There are five kinds of incense in the teachings.
The first is Sila Incense, which means that our minds are free from the taints of misdeeds: jealousy, avarice, anger, and hatred.

The second is Samadhi Incense, whiche means our minds aren’t disturbed in circumstances, whether positive or negative.

The third is Prajna Incense, which means our minds are free of impediments, that we look within for our true nature and refrain from doing evil deeds. That we treat others with respect.

The fourth is the Incense of Liberation, which means that our minds are in a free state, that we cling to nothing and don’t concern ourselves with duality.

The fifth is the Incense of Knowledge, which means we have learned about the Attainment of Liberation. When our minds don’t cling to duality then we attain this knowledge.

We should broaden our knowledge so we know our own minds, thoroughly understand the teachings of Buddhism, be kind to others, let go of the idea of ‘self’ and that of ‘being’ and realize that our true nature is oneness.
This fivefold incense burns within us.

Repeat what I say here:

‘May we, students, be always free from ignorance and delusion. We repent for all of our misdeeds committed because of ignorance and delusion. May we never commit such misdeeds again.

May we be free from the taints of arrogance and dishonesty. We repent for all of our arrogant and dishonest behavior.

May we be free from the taints of envy and jealousy. We repent for all jealous and envious behavior.

This is what we call formless repentance.

Having repented of our sins we will take the following four All-embracing Vows:
Living beings are numberless, I vow to save them all.

Confusions are countless, I vow to cut them all.
The Buddha’s teachings are limitless, I vow to penetrate them all.

The Buddha’s way is highest, I vow to achieve it.

These are called the Four Bodhisattva Vows. They are considered the fundamental vows of the Zen Buddhist path, expressing our resolution to attain Enlightenment in order to help all beings. These are chanted daily in Zen temples and are often chanted at the closing of different kinds of ceremonies.

With the aid of Right Views and Prajna the barriers raised by delusion can be broken. Then we can deliver ourselves by our own efforts to Enlightenment.

Now that we have taken these Four All-embracing vows, let me teach you the ‘Formless Threefold Guidance’:
We take Enlightenment as our guide, because it is the culmination of virtue and wisdom. We take the Dharma as our guide because it is the best way to get rid of desire and delusion. We take Purity as our guide because it is the noblest quality of beings.

These represent the Three Jewels.

The Buddha stands for Enlightenment
The Dharma stands for Devotion to the teachings
The Sangha stands for Purity.

Taking refuge in Enlightenment is the culmination of virtue and wisdom.
Taking refuge in Devotion to the teachings helps us become free of wrong views.
Taking refuge in Purity means that in any circumstance we are not contaminated by delusion.
Practicing the Threefold Guidance in this way really leads to taking refuge in our own Buddha nature.

Taking refuge in the Buddha within yourself doesn’t entail taking refuge in something outside ourselves.
Let us each take refuge in the Three Gems within our minds.

Posted in tattooed buddha

Going for Refuge: Initiation in the Buddhist Tradition.

Going for Refuge is an initiation in which one officially becomes a Buddhist.

It’s a rite of passage ceremony that marks a formal commitment. We don’t have to make this official commitment, of course, but it serves to solidify our sense of purpose. We go for refuge because we are determined to overcome our suffering and help others overcome their suffering.

Like any other rite of passage, it indicates that we are undergoing a transformation.

We’ve almost lost rites of passage in the modern world, but they were really important in traditional societies. The only rite of passage I can think of that’s normal in modern society is getting married, or, put another way, marriage vows.

For this reason, Going for Refuge is sometimes referred to as Taking Refuge Vows. This terminology, I think, is just to remind us that this is a big deal. Unlike marriage vows, though, when we take refuge, we aren’t making a promise to someone else. We’re really only making a promise to ourselves.

When we take refuge we acknowledge—in a formal way—that our goal is Awakening. When we take refuge we become as one with all of the Buddhist lineage that came before us, we become the Buddha’s sons and daughters.

When we go for refuge, we are taking refuge in three things, which are referred to as the Three Jewels. They’re called jewels because we are supposed to think of them as precious and valuable.

These are: The Buddha, The Dharma, and The Sangha.

The Buddha refers to the historical being—Siddhartha Gautama—who found Awakening and who exists as our example to follow. Sometimes when people first hear about Buddhism they think the Buddha is a god. This is not correct. He is our teacher, the one who’s example we follow.

Going for refuge in the Buddha also represents the ideal of Buddhahood. We see the Buddha as our example and we committed to achieving Awakening, just as he did, for the sake of all beings. The Buddha transcended his delusion and engaged with his true nature. We seek to do the same by following his example.

The Dharma is the roadmap to Awakening that the Buddha gave us. It represents his effort, and the efforts of other great Buddhist teachers after him, to put the teachings into words.

He gave us a list of instructions that he summed up as: “Learn to do good, cease to do evil, purify your heart.” A list of simple goals, but certainly something we can spend a lifetime trying to do. Going for refuge in the Dharma means using these teachings and methods to try to increase our mindfulness and kindness as much as we can.

The Sangha is the spiritual community. The Buddha once said that spiritual friendship is the most important aspect of the path. Engaging the practice with others means something to us. This is important because Buddhism isn’t simply a philosophy or belief system. It’s something we do, like having a buddy to go work out with, and having a community on the path with us helps. It’s not that we can’t practice alone, of course we can, it’s just like an uphill battle.

In a narrow sense a Sangha is any spiritual community that we join. In a broader sense, Sangha represents all Buddhists. In a even broader sense, I like to think we can included all like minded spiritual seekers as well, so to me Sangha can easily include some Taoists, Shamans, or Pagans.

So, when we take refuge in the three jewels we begin to transform immediately. By making this commitment we resolve to practice Buddhism, rather than just studying it or thinking about it.

So, how do you do it?

If you want a formal ceremony, you’ll need to find a qualified person to perform it. Search for Buddhist teachers in your community. Most communities have a few.

 

http://thetattooedbuddha.com/going-for-refuge-initiation-in-the-buddhist-tradition/