The other day, I found an interesting article by Alan Wallace on the topic of Mindfulness. For many people who have a passing interesting in Buddhism, mindfulness has begun to take on a meaning of “bare awareness”, or being present in the current moment. While this seems appealing to many because it requires very little study and practice to put into action, it does seem like something is missing because it doesn’t state whether the awareness is in a virtuous, non-virtuous, or neutral state of mind. As Venerable Thubten Chodron once said, if that’s how mindfulness is described, then even a theif stealing from a home requires mindfulness. Continue reading
Since there are many options now for Dharma practice in the west, its inevitable that someone will run into many traditions. While some try out different traditions, and then settle with the one that “fits” them best, others take what they’ve learned and try to reconcile and put them all together. Continue reading
In this interesting talk, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche talks about love and relationships. Using his very honest and humorous teaching approach, he talks about western love, and the love defined by Buddhism (Kiruna), which is limitless. He draws from his own experience, describing a time where he grew up in London and thinks he fell in love with a young girl (based on an ordinary definition of love), and as he humorously suggests, he suffered horribly.
Within the Buddhist tradition, love and relationships are not established as an institution, as in other religions. In spite of this, Rinpoche tries to explain how Buddhist wisdom can be applied to this topic.
I’m sure common to many people who practice within the Gelug tradition or are familiar with it, there’s a familiarity with the term “lamrim”, the gradual stages to enlightenment teachings. For most practicing within gelug, studying, contemplating, and meditating on this is a lifetime practice. Continue reading
Bodhisattvas hold a special place among Mahayana Buddhists because of their unwavering dedication towards benefit others from one lifetime after another. One time someone asked my teacher to describe bodhisattvas. He paused for a moment, and then said “They’re the Mahayana CIA!” Afterwards, he let out a big laugh.
Recently, a practitioner in southern California, by the name of Wesley Woo, had passed away. After his cremation, they found a massive collection of relics in the ashes. In Buddhism, finding relics is symbolic of a person who has lived a virtuous life, and is often associated with bodhisattvas. His teacher, Master Hsuan Hua of City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, said that he was a bodhisattva.
To read more about this facinating individual and his life, click here.
To see the collection of relics, click here.
The zen tradition is well-known for use of the kyosaku (sometimes spelled keisaku), a stick that is whacked on the shoulders and backs of meditators in order to keep them awake. When the whack is administered correctly, it’s an efficient anti-sleep tool. In Kosho Uchiyama’s classic book Opening the Hand of Thought, he suggests that in his practice centers and temples, that a kyosaku should not be used during long retreats.
Bringing Toys Into Retreats
Uchiyama argues against the use of kyosaku during a retreat because it ends up being used like a toy. If someone is walking around with a stick, a meditator will attempt to sit up right and appear awake in order to avoid being hit. Instead of actually meditating and being forced to deal with the boredom that comes from hours of long sitting, they’re actually just playing a game. Continue reading
This is a topic I always find interesting, especially learning about other people’s paths towards Buddhism. While I have many friends that grew up culturally with Buddhism, I’ve always wanted to know why someone who grew up in a western culture would be interested in this religion. On the surface, many westeners have the conditions for a happy life, relative to poorer, 3rd world countries. Having a nice place to live, food every month, opportunites for education or meaningful work, and freedom of religion. Continue reading
In Kosho Uchiayama’s classic book “Opening the Hand of Thought,”
he makes an interesting analogy to the persimmon trees found in Japan and the spread of Buddhism around the world. I think if it understood correctly, it can explain how Buddhism could establish its roots in the west, and how it takes our collective, individual efforts to do so. Continue reading
Kosho Uchiyama in his classic book, Opening the Hand of Thought, makes an interesting comparison between the serious approach we often take to our thoughts, and the the layer of atmosphere where clouds appear and disappear above the Earth. The layer itself is only pencil thin, but from the ground, all those clouds can seem dense and expansive. If someone were to move high enough off the ground, it becomes easy to see blue sky and a clear view. The clouds are not as thick and imposing as they seem. Continue reading
I think specifically within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, there’s a strong emphasize on keeping practice commitments. Someone can take commitments to do accumulations continuously (i.e. 100,000 prostrations on continiuous days) or even take on practices for life (6 session guru yoga or doing a mantra recitation everyday for life). After a while, it can obviously become very complicated. Most people live busy lives that they have to balance with their family, work, and their practice. Life seems to get even more busy, while the practice commitments tend to equally get more complicated and demanding. Continue reading
Recently Deb of Dhamma Matters wrote an interesting post about the Five Remembrances. I really like them because they’re easy to remember and can be quickly brought to mind during various points of the day, but continually thinking about them seems to have an interesting affect on the mind. She explains a way she’s incorporated it into her daily practice, and I thought others might also find it very practical and beneficial.
Yangsi Rinpoche during one of his teachings made a very interesting comparison between eating healthy and working with the mind. I thought it was so very cleverly put together and appropriate because many people who are interested in Buddhism are also more likely to be interested in organic foods and healthy living options.
Ideal Healthy Conditions
He made an interesting comment, saying that people go out of their way to make sure they have the best nourishment for their body. This includes the best organic foods, and even limiting their gluten intake. Despite all this care, time, and money put into taking the body, often little care is put into the mind. The body gets the most expensive and best materials, while the mind and feelings often get treated so cheaply.
While I think this may seem like common sense, the point he was making is that even if someone spent hours taking care of the body, failing to look after the mind creates an unpleasant living condition that eventually overtakes many of the positive benefits that come from living healthy.
While I’m sure many people would like to argue against this, saying that nutrition plays a big role in feeling happy, I think the point he’s making is very good. It’s important to take the extra step and to go beyond just watching calorie and nutritional intake, but to watch what goes in and out through the three doors of the body, speech, and mind.
Geshe Tashi of Jamyang Center once said something about the beginning of spiritual practice, which was very powerful for my mind.
He said that in order to really begin a Buddhist practice, one has to fully understand the first two of the 4 Noble Truths: The truth of suffering and cause of suffering. Understanding these fully will create the mind that takes refuge in the last 2 Noble Truths: Cessation and the Path.
Many westerners really don’t like to hear the words suffering, and some western teachers specifically avoid talking about this. However, Geshe Tashi said that without understanding suffering, spiritual practice hasn’t begun yet. The example he used was Formula 1 racing. When the race is going to begin, there is a starting line that all the cars line up on. When someone fully understands suffering and is fed up with it, that’s when someone is at the starting line and is ready to race. This is the beginning of spiritual practice. Until then, we’re not on the path yet. I found this to be very powerful. Continue reading
The Tibetans have very funny idioms that are very earthly and easy to remember.
One of their idioms is about a crippled young boy that is somehow on the roof of a house. The boy falls off the roof, and lands on a wild donkey below. The donkey is startled, and starts sprinting with the crippled boy still riding its back. Continue reading
Buddha nature is one of my favorite Buddhist topics. After I took my refuge vows and precepts, one of my Dharma friends let me borrow a book by Maitreya. It’s famously known as Mahayana Shastra Uttaratantra, translated into English as the Sublime Continuum or Buddha Nature. I’ve had to study this topic for several years just to get tiny bits of understanding of it because it’s a difficult topic. However, the implications of the topic are mind-blowing. Continue reading