Good Friendship

Related imageIn whatsoever village or town householders dwell, they associate, converse, and engage in discussions with householders or householders’ offspring, whether young and highly cultured, or old and highly cultured, full of faith, full of virtue, full of generosity, full of wisdom.

They act in accordance with the faith of the faithful, with the virtue of the virtuous, with the generosity of the generous, and the wisdom of the wise.

This is called good friendship.

̶ Buddha Shakyamuni

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I Know

Image result for buddhaI know I will age; I cannot escape aging.

I know I will become ill; I cannot escape illness.

I know I will die; I cannot escape death.

In everything I love, there will be change and separation.

I own my acts: actions are my skin. Regardless of how many I perform, good or bad, I will own their effects.

— Buddha Shakyamuni

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30709004_963122987196129_7914225061110743040_nWe are surrounded by compassion and supported with kindness on every side. This is not wishful thinking or mundane piety. We took Refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha —unerring and permanent protection.

We can worry about the situations we encounter along the way all we want, but it is neither helpful nor necessary. All is for the best, if we bring it onto the path. The heart that wishes universal enlightenment is infallible.

As we develop certitude through our practice of calm abiding and insight, the various shards of the view that we now have will gradually coalesce into a stable —never static— View, like the proverbial pieces of a mosaic. As the View becomes wide and deep, we can observe the mental continuum and know the interdependence of all phenomena.

The one essential teaching of the Buddhas is that They are not unique, that there is a fundamental equality of all sentient beings. We are all free, all fully enlightened. Right now.

Amideva is the name we call ourselves, awakening to our true, perfectly enlightened nature. om amideva hrih

Rejoice! There is no fear. There is no (need to) hope.

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Image result for sakyamuniFrom attachment springs fear. For one who is wholly free from attachment there is no grief, whence then fear?

From lust springs grief, from lust springs fear. For one who is wholly free from lust there is no grief; whence then fear?

From craving springs grief, from craving springs fear. For one who is wholly free from craving there is no grief; whence then fear?

—Buddha Shakyamuni

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Whether we assign blame to others or ourselves, the negative emotion that accompanies blame is unskillful. Blame entails not only assigning responsibility for an unwelcome consequence, but also imputing malice or evil intent to the one performing the act.

The law of karma, as taught by the Buddha Shakyamuni, lies beyond all concepts of human morality, right and wrong, good and evil. It is merely the understanding that causes produce effects. Gravity does not intend for us to fall and hurt ourselves when we trip; fire does not intend to cause us pain when our skin is burned by a flame.

When water comes in contact with a surface, that surface becomes wet. We do not blame the water for making the surface wet –that is its nature. Similarly, when our wrong views (ignorance of the nature of self and all phenomena) and afflicted emotions (attachment, aversion, and indifference) lead us to act in unskillful ways, there is no question of guilt and blame.

The purpose of acknowledging the law of karma is instructive, not punitive. When we understand that there is a relationship of cause and effect between our actions and the consequences we experience, we are liberated from victimhood. We are no longer subject to a random universe where evil befalls us without rhyme or reason. We are free to make our own way.

We do not study the law of karma to learn the specific reasons ‘why’ something happens. That exercise is futile. We understand the law of karma in order to make the determination to place positive, skillful causes in the continuum of our experience from here onwards.

The law of karma, of cause and effect, is not meant to lead us to recrimination, guilt, and blame. On the contrary, it is the acceptance of our capacity to be free from suffering and the causes of suffering, and embrace happiness and the causes of happiness.

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Magical Thinking

Image result for harry potterSome people believe that rituals are efficacious in themselves ―that is, the words and actions that constitute the ritual are considered effective, independently of other causes and conditions, even in situations in which causes and conditions are unfavorable.

The careful pronunciation of mantras and the elaborate observance of certain procedures are believed to produce results. Rituals are operative if the forms are respected (ritual exactitude), independently of the qualities of the performer. Spells and incantations are considered efficacious (à la Harry Potter) if the correct substances are employed and the directions are followed without deviation. And for many, if you can visualize it, declare it, put it on a “vision board,” and affirm it, it must happen…

In Jonang Buddhism (maha madhyamaka), rituals have very little in common with these wrong views. Mantras have no intrinsic power, nor are there inherently sacred objects or procedures. Ritual is merely a vehicle for intentionIt is the mind of the practitioner that is transformed by ritual, and not the external world.

One thing is to use ritual properly as a skillful means to deepen and sustain intention, and quite another to believe in its independent efficacy, which is mere superstition and magical thinking.

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Related imageWe develop habitual tendencies through one or more lifetimes, predisposing us to manifest a habitual state of mind. With these tendencies established, we perceive an individual person, an object, or situation, and immediately generate a pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent feeling associated with the perception.

Because the nature of the mind is analytical, it proceeds to isolate the positive or negative qualities that we associate with the pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent feeling, thus exaggerating the positive or negative qualities and generating and fixating the disturbing emotion.

Although we think and feel that the emotions are somehow related to (or even caused by) particular people, objects, or situations, they are just internal mental events. They project our attention unto these externals, and as long as we comply, the emotions are sustained.

However, when we look at the emotion, it self-liberates, it ceases to have power. The ‘trick’ is precisely to change our focus of attention, to observe the emotion, instead of its object.

The instant we observe the emotion itself (and not its putative object), it becomes evident that it has no real basis. We have simply imputed it, projected it onto an external person, object, or situation. It is of our own making.

The more we practice observing our afflicted emotions, the less powerful they become, and the faster they retreat. If we can anthropomorphize emotions for a moment here, once their chicanery is revealed, they slink away in shame.

So, what are these emotions, if what we feel are just distorted, imputed projections? Just like cold does not exist from its own side (it is merely the absence of heat), these afflicted emotions are only absences of specific aspects of primordial wisdom.

Attachment is the absence of the wisdom of discernment; aversion is the absence of mirror-like wisdom; indifference is the absence of the wisdom of suchness; pride is the absence of the wisdom of equality; and envy is the absence of all-accomplishing wisdom.

When we directly observe afflicted emotions, since they are mere absences, their true basis shines through, if only briefly. That is why we can recognize them for what they are: emptinesses.

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