Posted in podcast

Don’t Be a Jerk, Be Nice, Train the Mind (podcast)

This was recorded at Monday Meditation on 2/3/20.

I commented on some traditional advice from the Buddha and we had a lively discussion.

Click here to listen:

Don’t Be a Jerk, Be Nice, Train the Mind

I mentioned Brad Warner’s book, “Don’t Be a Jerk” which you can buy here:

Don’t Be a Jerk

AND I mentioned this song by Otis Redding, which I like very much:

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Posted in buddhism, zen

Virtue – Meditation – Wisdom

Our goal on this path is to live as genuinely as we can. We want to be real and unleash our full potential to see things clearly and to lessen the suffering of ourselves and others. We have within us incredible potential for wisdom and compassion and what we’re trying to do here is manifest that potential. We are enslaved by our baggage, delusion, and lack of clarity. This path is about learning to manage those things.

How do we do this?

The Zen tradition has something called the threefold study that we can think about here. The cultivation of virtue, meditation and wisdom. All Buddhist teachings contain these three categories, really.

The traditional way of cultivating virtue is in the five precepts. No killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no false speech, no indulging in intoxicants. These are not commandments, I can’t stress that enough. It’s just been demonstrated that if you’re not going around killing people, you have an easier time settling your mind and developing clarity. Precepts also help us lessen our attachment to our ego. We are so pulled around by our desires and our aversions. Precepts are meant to help us resist our temptations some. We might try to think of precepts as a walking stick rather than as a chain. The nature and intent of the precepts is to help us maintain a life of harmony. If we have harmony with the world around us, we have a much easier time practicing. As a result of cultivating virtue, the mind has an easier time settling and focusing.

When we turn our awareness inward, we can start to develop deeper and deeper awareness. This is what meditation is all about. When we develop concentration and clarity, it gives us a chance to see our true nature, which is free of all this baggage and delusion. Our attention is scattered and fractured and meditation helps us to direct it where we need it to go.
When we learn how to focus, it gives our minds a chance to manifest our inherent clarity. This is wisdom. Wisdom means seeing the world as it actually is, without being clouded by our judgments and preconceived ideas and labels. These things filter our reality and we rarely get a clear picture of what’s happening. Wisdom is the great insight into how things really are: interdependent, dynamic, and full of wonder.

To cultivate virtue is to free ourselves from our fixations of attachment and aversion, love and hate. To cultivate meditation is to free ourselves from distractions. To cultivate wisdom is to stop obstructing our true nature. In this tradition we are practicing these three together as a way to awaken to our true nature.

 


 

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Posted in buddhism, way of the bodhisattva

Shantideva on the first 5 Perfections

In “Way of the Bodhisattva” Shantideva starts going through the six perfections, our method for practicing the bodhisattva path. This section is only going to be about the first five. The sixth perfection, the Perfection of Wisdom, is something we will be saving for later.

The teaching of the Six Paramitas was created early in the history of Mahayana Buddhism.

Paramita is usually translated as “perfection” and that’s how I’m going to translate it. It doesn’t mean we do any of this perfectly (obviously) it just means that cultivating these virtues is very important.

5.9

If transcendent giving is

To dissipate the poverty of beings,

In what way, since the poor are always with us,

Have former buddhas practiced perfect generosity?

5.10

The true intention to bestow on every being

All possessions–and the fruits of such a gift:

By such, the teachings say, is generosity perfected.

And this, as we may seem, is but the mind itself.

This is about the perfection of generosity. The Perfection of Generosity is about more than simply giving things. It’s an expression of non-attachment to possessions, but it also represents other forms of giving, such as giving our time to others, helping them with difficult tasks, or just listening when someone needs to be heard.

5.11

Where could beings

Be placed to shield them from suffering?

Deciding to refrain from harming them

Is the perfection of virtue.

The Perfection of Virtue is not necessarily about living according to rules. We have plenty of rules in Buddhism. Living by rules is important, but more important, in this context, is the idea of living in harmony with others. We should strive to bring harmony to all of our relationships, whether personal or professional. If we set an example of virtue we can make the world a better place.

5.12

The hostile multitudes are vast as space–

What chance is there that all should be subdued?

Let but this angry mind be overthrown

And every foe is then destroyed.

This refers to the tool we use against aggression, the perfection of patience.

The Perfection of Patience represents not only patience with ourselves and others, but also tolerance and endurance. It represents our ability to “weather the storm”, to bear hardship without letting it get us down and, especially, to avoid lashing out at others because of our personal difficulties.

5.13

To cover all the earth with sheets of hide–

Where could such amounts of skin be found?

But simply wrap leather around your feet,

And it’s as if the whole earth has been covered!

This is a famous verse, often quoted from the Way of the Bodhisattva. Our problems can’t be solved by making the world a perfect place. They can only be solved by working on ourselves and figuring out how we can better respond to the world around us.

5.14

Likewise, we can never take

And turn aside the outer course of things.

But only seize and discipline the mind itself,

And what is there remaining to be curbed.

Controlling our minds, controlling ourselves, is all we can really do. Shantideva implores us to discipline our minds.

5.15

A clear intent can fructify

And bring us  birth in a better realm.
The acts of body and of speech are less-

They do not generate a like result.

This is a little bit less clear, but the clear intent Shantideva refers to is the perfection of diligence.

The Perfection of Diligence is about tirelessly overcoming obstacles, walking the path even when it’s difficult and it would be simple to give up. Without diligence we might not have the determination necessary to continue to walk the path when things get difficult.

5.16

Recitations and austerities,

Though they may be long,

If practiced with distracted mind,

Are futile.

We can practice and practice, but we really need to be better at avoided distraction. The perfection of concentration is about taming our minds, so we can weather the storms of life with a clear and direct focus.

The Perfection of Concentration represents those practices that are dedicated to helping us improve our ability to focus and concentrate. These include several meditation and mindfulness practices. We are cultivating our mental stability and our ability to contemplate things clearly without getting held back by distractions or preconceptions. We are training our minds so we can have focus, composure, and tranquility.

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Posted in Mahayana, Uncategorized

The Six Perfections

The six perfections are: generosity, virtue, patience, diligence, concentration, and wisdom.

 

The Perfection of Generosity

The perfection of generosity represents more than just giving material things. Obviously, it does represent giving money or items to the needy. It also represents giving your time, things like helping a friend move or spending time comforting someone who is suffering from a loss.

We can also give someone less tangible things, like our love, respect, or patience. We can offer stability, being reliable. If we make plans with someone and keep those plans, we are giving them stability. We can give someone space when they want to be alone, or quiet when they are being bothered by too much noise.

The practice of generosity is beneficial to us. It increases our confidence and self-esteem. It also helps lessen our attachments. If we give material things, it helps us lessen our attachment to material things. Cultivating generosity is helpful in developing love, joy, and compassion.

 

The Perfection of Virtue

This perfection represents ethical behavior, morality, self-discipline, integrity, and nonviolence. The essence of this perfection is that through our love and compassion we do not harm others. We are devoted to being virtuous in our thoughts, speech, and actions. This practice of ethical conduct is an important aspect of our path.

We abstain from killing, stealing, lying, divisive speech, harsh speech, gossip, and greed. We follow this path so that we can enjoy greater freedom, happiness, and security in our lives, because through our virtuous behavior we are no longer creating suffering for ourselves and others. We must realize that unethical behavior is always the cause of suffering and unhappiness. Practicing the perfection of virtue, we are free of negativity, we cause no harm to others by our actions, our speech is kind and compassionate, and our thoughts are free of anger.

When our commitment is strong in the perfection of virtue we naturally become more positive.

 

The Perfection of Patience

This perfection is the enlightened quality of patience, tolerance, forbearance, and acceptance. The essence of this perfection of patience is the strength of mind and heart that enables us to face the challenges and difficulties of life without losing our composure and inner tranquility. We embrace and forbear adversity, insult, distress, and the wrongs of others with patience and tolerance, free of resentment, irritation, emotional reactivity, or retaliation.

We cultivate the ability to be loving and compassionate in the face of criticism, misunderstanding, or aggression.

The ability to endure, to have forbearance, is an important part of the path. In practicing this perfection of patience and forbearance, we never give up on or abandon others—we help them cross over the sea of suffering. We maintain our inner peace, calmness, and equanimity under all circumstances, having enduring patience and tolerance for ourselves and others.

With the strength of patience, we maintain our effort and enthusiasm in our Dharma practice.

 

The Perfection of Diligence

The fourth perfection is diligence. It involves continuing to persevere when the path is difficult. It includes right effort, enthusiasm, and the energy needed to overcome unwholesome thoughts and attitudes as well as the cultivation of positive virtues, study of Dharma and the choice of right actions.

Diligence requires eagerness and sharp interest in the path. It requires active bodily or mental strength to improve our personality for individual enlightenment and supreme Buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings. We need the energy of diligence to stay on the path.

When we are on the right path, we will be diligent in studying ourselves, in seeing the true reality, and in having the sustained energy needed to attain Buddhahood. Through diligence we can generate great compassion to help others and ourselves.

 

The Perfection of Concentration

This perfection represents concentration, meditation, contemplation, and mental stability. Our minds have the tendency to be very distracted and restless, always moving from one thought or feeling to another. This can cause us to be heavily attached to our thoughts and emotions. The perfection of concentration means training our mind so that it does what we want it to. We stabilize our mind and emotions by striving to be mindful and aware in everything we do. When we train our minds in this way we achieve focus, composure, and tranquility.

Concentration allows the deep insight needed to challenge our delusions and attachments that cause confusion and suffering. This development of concentration requires diligence. In addition, when there is no practice of meditation and concentration, we cannot achieve the other perfections, because their essence, which is the inner awareness that comes from meditation, is lacking.

To attain wisdom, compassion, and enlightenment, it is essential that we develop the mind through concentration, meditation, and mindfulness.

 

The Perfection of Wisdom

This perfection is the enlightened quality of transcendental wisdom, insight, and the perfection of understanding. The essence of this perfection is the supreme wisdom, the highest understanding that living beings can attain, beyond words and completely free from the limitation of mere ideas, concepts, or intellectual knowledge.

The Perfection of Wisdom is the supreme wisdom that knows emptiness and the interconnectedness of all things.

The Perfection of Wisdom is a result of contemplation, meditation, and rightly understanding the nature of reality. The sixth paramita is what truly ties the other five together and is often considered the most important.

In a way, the Perfection of Wisdom is the sum of the other five perfections. If one is able cultivate generosity, patience, virtue, diligence, and concentration, this will naturally lead to the cultivation of wisdom. Wisdom represents an awareness of the truth of our nature. It is our intuition, our innate understanding that everything is interconnected, that we are one with everything. Just as a wave in the ocean is never really separate from the water although for a time it appears to be, so are we.

We are all waves and the universe is our ocean. When we act in accordance with this fact, then we are dwelling in nirvana. Recognizing our interconnectedness is unleashing our Buddha Nature. We have this wisdom already, we just have to clear away the delusion and unleash it.

 

 

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Posted in tattooed buddha

Perform Only Virtuous Actions

 

“Do not commit any non-virtuous actions.

Perform only virtuous actions.

Subdue the mind thoroughly.”

-The Buddha

 

This is chanted in a lot of Buddhist temples.

To me it’s the shortest possible explanation of Buddhism.

People sometimes ask me about Buddhism, mainly because I write about Buddhism on the internet and I have cool Buddhist tattoos (I think). When they do, I like to start by talking about that quote. Some people would start by talking about The Four Noble Truths or the Eightfold Path, or even the story of the Buddha’s life.

That quote written above, is direct and to the point.

The first two are pretty simple, in fact. Well, they sound simple. That last one sounds a little bit harder, which it is.

Do not commit any non-virtuous actions.

I’d like to explain this in terms of Sila, morality. In Buddhism we often talk about morality in terms of the Five Precepts (there are lots of lists in Buddhism. Get used to it).

The Five Precepts are:

1.  Abstain from killing any living beings.

2.  Abstain from taking what is not given.

3.  Abstain from sexual misconduct.

4.  Abstain from lying and false speech.

5.  Abstain from the abusive consumption of intoxicants and drugs.

These Precepts are not commandments. They’re rules that we observe only because we realize that such actions cause harm to others and to ourselves.

We can think of them in a positive way instead of a negative one:

1.  The practice of Harmlessness and Compassion.

2.  The practice of Kindness and Generosity.

3.  The practice of Faithfulness and Responsibility.

4.  The practice of Truthfulness and Pleasant Speech.

5.  The practice of Self-control and Mindfulness.

Perform only virtuous actions.

I’d like to explain this in terms of Dana, generosity. This means giving or helping others. This can be done in many ways. We can give kind and encouraging words, we can give someone our time and we can listen to someone who needs it.

Of course we can also volunteer our work to good causes and give material charity as well. There are so many ways we can help others.

Subdue the mind thoroughly.

I’d like to explain this in terms of Bhavana, mind cultivation/meditation. Meditation is said to purify the mind and make it easier to develop generosity, compassion and wisdom. Through deep meditation we can come to fully know ourselves. Through it we are able to really see things as they truly are.

Meditation is the form of spiritual practice that led the Buddha to Enlightenment. Even a short meditation, 20 minutes per day, can change your life.

All of Buddhist teachings can be summed up, I think, in these three things. Sometimes they’re written even more succinctly:

“To avoid all evil. To do good. To purify one’s mind.”

~ the Buddha.

This is it—the cultivation of morality, wisdom, and concentration.

It seems simple, but of course we can spend all of our lives cultivating these things. This is the simplest and most direct way to explain what Buddhism is all about.

 

 

 

 

Posted in diamond sutra

Diamond Sutra, chapter 17

The Buddha continued:

“If a follower were to give away many treasures, would a great blessing and merit be generated?”

Subhuti replied, “Yes they would acquire considerable blessings and merit.”

The Buddha said:

“Subhuti, if such a blessing had any substantiality, if it were anything other than a figure of speech, I would not have used the words ‘blessings and merit’.”

The Buddha is challenging public ideas about karma. Karma is a complicated matter in Buddhism. Many people then, and now, thought of it as ‘if you do good things, then good things will happen to you’. The point is we should practice virtue because we want to practice virtue, not because we believe it will generate good karma for us.