Powers

15826751_1409042935794123_4054181798682203805_nWhen a practitioner thoroughly trains and fully develops

Faith, which leads to stilling, which leads to enlightenment;

Effort, which leads to peace, which leads to awakening;

Mindfulness, which leads to harmony, which leads to safety;

Concentration, which leads to rest, which leads to cessation of suffering; and

Wisdom, which leads to ease, which leads to bliss,

Then he becomes well equipped with the five powers.

—Buddha Shakyamuni

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To Punish The Guilty

15078564_1125462877500741_5942620198067922327_nI want —I need— to assign blame. I reduce actions to labels. I opt for simple answers. I take sides. I demonize the other. I want to punish the guilty, I want justice.  I am right; they are wrong. Why can´t everyone else see what is clearly self-evident?

It is more complicated than that, and yet also more simple. By assigning blame here or there, I externalize responsibility. I avoid looking at what I and all sentient beings share: the wrong views of separation and supremacy, my innate self-grasping and self-cherishing, my delusion.

Yes, my perception of reality is self-evident to me; it is evident to this self. It is my perception.

“Perception is burning. Ideas are burning. Consciousness is burning. Contact is burning. And whatever there is that arises in dependence on perception —experienced as pleasure, pain or neither-pleasure-nor-pain— that too is burning. Burning with what? Burning with the fire of attachment, the fire of aversion, the fire of indifference.” —Buddha Shakyamuni, Adittapariyaya Sutta, SN 35.28

The fires of attachment, aversion, and indifference are the three killers. To fan these flames further can only increase our suffering. To extinguish these fires is the only solution.

“He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,”

—in those who harbor such thoughts, hatred will never cease.

“He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,”

—in those who do not harbor such thoughts, hatred will cease.

For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time:

hatred ceases by love, this is the law everlasting.

—Buddha Shakyamuni, Dhammapada

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Practice!

20160729_195722There is a time for searching and a time for finding; a time for learning new things, and a time for practicing what we already know. It may not be exciting, but it is beneficial.

Once we have the teaching, we can always deepen our understanding through further study, reflection, and meditation —but it will never be helpful if we do not integrate practice into everyday life.

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True Freedom

10296602_1124842834201255_9218801737194112640_n“I didn’t want to think it.” “I didn’t mean to say it.” “I didn’t intend to do it.” How many times have we said these or similar words to ourselves or others?

When we entertain unwelcome thoughts, utter words that should remain unspoken, or do what should be left undone, we have allowed our wrong views and afflicted emotions to drag us into committing unskillful acts.

When we act (in thought, word, or deed) impelled by attachment, aversion, or indifference, we are living by karma. We are slaves to physical, emotional, and mental tendencies that are, in turn, the product of our previous acts. We are indentured to the past. We are not actors, but re-actors, constantly forced by external circumstances to conduct ourselves in ways we may come to regret.

Some are of the opinion that making Vows restricts or negates freedom. However, the ‘freedom’ to be bound by desire, to be led here and there by the dictates of body and mind, is not freedom at all. It is abject submission to mere mood, habit, and circumstance.

The Bodhisattvas, on the way to enlightenment, refuse to succumb to the winds of karma. Bodhisattvas are guided by Vows: the intentional adoption of guidelines that align us with the Dharma and advance our spiritual cultivation.

To live by Vow —to decide for ourselves what thoughts we will entertain, what words we will speak, and what deeds we will perform— that is true freedom.

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The Winds of Impermanence

5bc2ec8bc05e151d8e68c7c20cae579fWill I die first, or will my neighbor?

Will it be today or tomorrow? We do not know.

Those we leave behind and those who go before us

are more numerous than the dewdrops

that rest briefly beneath the trees and on their leaf tips.

 

We may have radiant faces in the morning,

but in the evening be no more than white bones.

 

With the coming of the winds of impermanence,

both eyes are instantly closed,

and when a single breath is forever stilled,

the radiant face is drained of life,

and its vibrant glow is lost.

 

Although family and relatives may gather

and grieve broken-heartedly, it is to no avail.

As there is nothing else to be done,

the once-familiar form is taken to an outlying field,

and when it has vanished with the midnight smoke,

nothing is left but white bones.

 

This is indeed indescribably sad.

—Rennyo Shonin

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From Virtue

14355663_10210516193049889_8986535463716328711_nFrom virtue, non-remorse arises.

From non-remorse, gladness naturally arises,

leading naturally to joy,

leading naturally to serenity,

leading naturally to happiness,

leading naturally to a concentrated mind,

leading naturally to seeing things as they really are,

leading naturally to revulsion and dispassion for samsara,

leading naturally to knowledge and liberation.

Thus, the preceding states flow into the succeeding states;

and the succeeding states bring the preceding states to perfection,

going from the near shore to the far shore of Nirvana.

—Buddha Shakyamuni, AN 10.2

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Four Moments

13321887_1646373572353363_2366655697939062216_nOur society has progressively exiled the four defining moments of our life experience: birth, disease, aging, and death.

We are born, are ill, and die mostly in hospitals, and the old live in institutional ‘homes’ or artificial aging communities, separated from their families due to geography or the dominant culture of age segregation.

We value youth and the appearance of health above all else, and attempt to avoid at all costs all contact with whatever reminds us of the precariousness of our lives. Specifically, the fear of illness and death has led us to separate ourselves from these experiences, as if ignoring them will postpone them indefinitely, or prevent them altogether.

The Dharma, however, invites us to contemplate these four moments and integrate them in our experience, because without them our view of life is narrow and shallow. Maintaining close contact with sick friends and family members, and cultivating a relationship of gratitude with our dead, are essential practices on the Buddhist path.

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