Saturday, November 26, 2016

A work in progress

I generally give a lot of thought to the topics I post here before sharing those thoughts with the world. Be forewarned, that's not necessarily the case today. I'm here in rawness but I hope it's something that might make you think as you read, and that will help cement my own thoughts a bit more.

First of all, if you have ever faced a long setback in your meditation practice, if you have feared that perhaps the ability to meditate and look inwards and see the truth has disappeared and left you floundering, I am here to say, don't give up!  If it's something you care about deeply, desire strongly even while unable to make it happen, don't give up! I've recently begun meditating again after over 3 years of frustration. I had a block -- a bad block. I know where and when it happened, could pinpoint it to the day and hour. I know what seems to have caused it, but I don't know why it put a stop to my interest in and ability to meditate. I just know it did. I tried and tried, to no avail. But now, finally, that block seems to be gone. I'm creeping back into sitting on the cushion for long periods of time. Everything I knew is coming back. Slowly. So please, don't give up!

But here's what I sat down to say today, and I'm going to probably say it wrong. Please forgive me for that, in advance.  Looking inside again, at least in the Buddhist way of doing so, really wakes up the sensitivities to what's going on in one's own mind and how one relates to other people. It's so easy to blame other people for perceived faults and that's something I'm guilty of and have been guilty of for undoubtedly my entire life. But I'm just concerned with today, the present. The past is beyond change and the future is beyond control, so I'm looking at what's happening in my mind in the present. As I've often found when I do that, what I see isn't pretty.

Oh, for the most part I'm content enough with what is there. I've spent a lot of intense years in this practice looking honestly at the workings of this mind and making diligent effort to eradicate the unwholesome aspects and encourage the wholesome, positive aspects. I've made a lot of progress and I'm grateful for that. But what I've found over and over across the span of those years is that there are always new issues, new nuances that rise to the surface because our minds never stop coming up with thoughts. What I've learned is that if we want to walk seriously along this path we have to understand the concept of letting most of those thoughts go as quickly as they arise, because they are just random thoughts, products of the mind and not who we are deep down inside. If negative issues from your past continue to come to mind, letting go is essential. The more attention we pay to these kinds of thoughts, the more we'll see of them. Ignoring them works best.  At other times, though, we have to look more deeply. We have to be honest with ourselves, whether we like what we see or not. Mostly in cases like this, we won't like what we see at all, but that's how we grow, how we take another step down the path.

Without going into detail I'll just say that when we find ourselves looking at another person's perceived personality flaws, even if you've had this viewpoint for years, it doesn't hurt to look inside to see if we are not also 'guilty' of whatever it is that we see in that other person that we don't like. Suffice it to say that I've done that over the past few days and let me tell you, it's something of a shock to realize that yes, I am guilty of the same thing (although, I believe, to a lesser degree in this instance).

Such honesty is not easy, it's not fun. We'd rather look at our positive traits, look at how we want to perceive ourselves, how our egos want to perceive ourselves. But it's the negative (unwholesome) traits that trip us up in life and if we really want to grow, we need to look at them in all their ugliness, with all honesty, and then make the very necessary effort to change that thing within our own heart-mind. I've found that the hardest thing is opening ourselves to seeing the ugliness. Once seen, it's hard to un-see. At that point change -- deep and lasting change -- comes fairly easily. The ego takes a blow, yes, but it recovers. And once the ugliness is seen and replaced with something wholesome (perhaps compassion for the other person's suffering as well as compassion for your own suffering), I find that a dark spot I never knew existed ends up being replaced by lightness and yes, even a happier outlook on life in general. Permanently. A burden is lifted, but you have to see and experience the ugliness before that can happen. So don't be afraid to look at what's there, to ask questions such as 'am I guilty of the same thing I'm blaming the other person for doing'. Be honest. Be brutal. Be happier in the end.

Following right on the heels of that insight was yet another that concerns how I relate (or don't relate) to my neighbors in this building, this community, and indeed that spreads quickly to how I relate (or don't relate) to everyone I meet in this life. This one is still forming, still swirling around in the cesspool. But as unclear and dim as it is, I can clearly see that it's important. That this is yet another thing I have to face with truth and honesty and full understanding and that if I succeed in breaking through into the full truth of this one, something major is going to follow. I don't think it's going to be pretty and it certainly won't be fun, but the results should be worth the effort. I'll probably write more about this as it coalesces into something less subtle, more substantial.

The first insight, about being guilty of what I blame others for doing,  is still a work in process for me but I can see the picture clearly, know what has to be done, and know that it can be done. I've asked the question and seen the answer, have even accepted the answer as the truth. The healing will come.

The second is new territory, though I've faced many other 'new territories' in the past and know that they take longer to come together into something that can be worked with. I also know that it will come together and that it can be worked with. Right now, that's enough. Sea changes of this kind are bigger and deeper and cannot be rushed. There is much swirling around in this heart-mind today, and that's a good thing.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Where to go from here?

Like many of  you who might find your way here, I am still stunned by what a small percentage of hate-filled Americans elected to the presidency of this great country a few days ago. There is much to fear from the coming years, for many segments of our society, for many of our friends, relatives and neighbors. For ourselves.

For those of us who believe in and follow the wisdom of our great teacher, the Buddha, I hear the Buddha's teaching that hate is never healed by hate, but only through love. We all know this to be true. We see it clearly in our own lives.  I took a long walk early this morning, through quiet neighborhoods and alongside wetlands teeming with birds and hidden wildlife, and allowed my mind to look at these questions and truths, but finding few answers other than to do what I've been taught these dozen years: Stay in the present, accept the reality, don't get lost in fear or hatred or anger. Fight back against the evil, peacefully and with love for all.

During that walk words of the great Ajahn Chah also came to mind: Give  up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are.  We all know this -- now is the time to put it into serious practice.

I have few words. My mind is still reeling. But I offer the words of others who are much more learned, much wiser than I. First, I offer the words of the venerable Bikkhuni Ayya Tathaloka which can be read here. I can't find a link that takes you to the actual article, so you will need to scroll down the list of topics to Nov 10, entitled: The election, the Dhamma, & our hearts and path.

And from another excellent monastic, the venerable Bikkhu Bodhi, here.

May we all be safe, may we all heal, may love conquer hate.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Metta Day

Or, Valentine's wishes for Buddhists. May all beings be happy and peaceful, may they be liberated from the bonds of craving and aversion, may they be free.

Iti 27: The Development of Loving-kindness. Translation by Thanissaro Bhikkhu 

"This was said by the Blessed One, said by the Arahant, so I have heard: "All the grounds for making merit leading to spontaneously arising (in heaven) do not equal one-sixteenth of the awareness-release through good will. Good will — surpassing them — shines, blazes, & dazzles.

"Just as the radiance of all the stars does not equal one-sixteenth of the radiance of the moon, as the moon — surpassing them — shines, blazes, & dazzles, even so, all the grounds for making merit leading to spontaneously arising in heaven do not equal one-sixteenth of the awareness-released through good will. Good will — surpassing them — shines, blazes, & dazzles.
"Just as in the last month of the rains, in autumn, when the sky is clear & cloudless, the sun, on ascending the sky, overpowers the space immersed in darkness, shines, blazes, & dazzles, even so, all the grounds for making merit leading to spontaneously arising in heaven do not equal one-sixteenth of the awareness-release through good will. Good will — surpassing them — shines, blazes, & dazzles.

"Just as in the pre-dawn darkness the morning star shines, blazes, & dazzles, even so, all the grounds for making merit leading to spontaneously arising in heaven do not equal one-sixteenth of the awareness-release through good will. Good will — surpassing them — shines, blazes, & dazzles."

When one develops — mindful — good will without limit, fetters are worn through, on seeing the ending of acquisitions. If with un-corrupted mind you feel good will for even one being, you become skilled from that. But a Noble One produces a mind of sympathy for all beings, an abundance of merit. Kingly seers, who conquered the earth swarming with beings, went about making sacrifices: the horse sacrifice, human sacrifice, water rites, soma rites, & the "Unobstructed," but these don't equal one sixteenth of a well-developed mind of good will — as all the constellations don't, one sixteenth of the radiance of the moon. One who neither kills nor gets others to kill, neither conquers, nor gets others to conquer, with good will for all beings, has no hostility with anyone at all."