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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Emotions

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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Bereft of Compassion & Wisdom

Image result for shabkarBuddha Shakyamuni instructs us:

“What is right action? Abstaining from taking life, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from sexual misconduct. This is called right action.”

The exploitation of non-human animals violates these precepts of Right Conduct, whether through depriving them of freedom and life, appropriating their secretions and products, or artificially breeding them for our benefit.

Animal exploitation impedes spiritual cultivation. Shabkar Tsodruk Rangdol states categorically:

“Eating meat, at the cost of great suffering for animals, is unacceptable. If, bereft of compassion and wisdom, you eat meat, you have turned your back on liberation. The Buddha said, ‘The eating of meat annihilates the seed of compassion’.”

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No Before and After

Related imageThe very moment of remembering the Buddha is the very mo­ment of seeing the Buddha and the very mo­ment of becoming the Buddha.

The very moment of seeking birth in the Pure Land is the very moment of attaining birth in the Pure Land and the very moment of liberating all beings.

The three margins of time are all a single, identical time. There is no before and after.

— Jixing Chewu

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4 Clingings

Related imageThere are four kinds of clinging:

clinging to pleasure;

clinging to views;

clinging to rules and methods;

and clinging to “I am.”

—Buddha Shakyamuni

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3 Consequences

Image result for karmaOne action produces three consequences: the ripening result (the realm of rebirth); the result similar to the action (experienced in this and other lives); and the environmental result (the conditions in which we experience life).

In general, the motivation produces the ripening result; the actual deed produces the result similar to the action; and the conclusion of the act produces the environmental result.

For example, killing causes one to take rebirth in hellish realms; predisposes one to be killed by others in this and other lifetimes; and generates hostile and disagreeable environments.

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4 Foundations of Mindfulness

Related imageI dwell constantly contemplating upon the body only as a collection of parts, not as I, me, mine, or self.

I dwell constantly contemplating upon feelings only as passing reactions, not as I, me, mine, or self.

I dwell constantly contemplating upon the mind only as habitual and transient emotions, not as I, me, mine, or self.

I dwell constantly contemplating upon all phenomena only as mental elaborations, not as I, me, mine, or self.

—Bhikshu Anuruddha, Samyutta Nikāya

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