Wednesday May 22, 2013
This seems a good question for the week of Vesak -- just what is enlightenment, anyway? (Never mind that "enlightenment" isn't even the right word for what we're talking about, which is something we've discussed before.)
There are several standard answers. It might be the realization of wisdom (anatta or sunyata). It might be the cessation of dukkha. In the Atthinukhopariyaayo Sutta of the Pali Tipitika (Samyutta Nikaya 35.152), the Buddha said,
"Then, monks, this is the criterion whereby a monk, apart from faith, apart from persuasion, apart from inclination, apart from rational speculation, apart from delight in views and theories, could affirm the attainment of enlightenment: 'Birth is destroyed, the holy life has been accomplished, what was to be done is done, there is no further living in this world.'"
This suggests that if a person is still living, he's not enlightened yet. But there are other perspectives.
Monday May 20, 2013
"The plain tea and light food of everyday life are the deep meaning of the Buddha's teaching and the instructions of the ancestors." -- Dogen, "Kajo" ("Everyday Life")
Yesterday our Dogen class reviewed "Kajo," a fascicle of Dogen's Shobogenzo. "Kajo" goes on about tea and rice and ancestors, and in various commentaries around the Web I see that all kinds of meanings have been read into the tea and rice and ancestors. Maybe some of this meaning is what Dogen intended, and maybe it isn't. However, this being Dogen, intensive language parsing may or may not help sort it out.
On a most basic level, Dogen (I think) is telling us not to separate holy and mundane or mystical and ordinary. Practice is not about transcending the ordinary but rather perceiving the awesomeness already present in the ordinary.
Thursday May 16, 2013
I often advise people who seem genuinely interested in Buddhism to find a dharma teacher. By this I don't mean that one must make a lifelong commitment to a guru (unless you want to, of course). Even if you only participate in an occasional short retreat led by a teacher, and practice solo most of the time, the short retreats can make a huge difference.
Occasionally I run into someone who says he will practice with a teacher as soon as he finds one who measures up to some ideal of perfection. And since none ever do, he'll get enlightened by himself, thank you very much.
Along these lines, Dosho Port has a post up about the ideal "true" teacher. Among western students, he says, this desire for an ideal "has led to a lot of inflation, projection, and intoxication by both teachers (speaking from experience) and students in our scene today."
Dosho quotes Norman Fisher --
Wednesday May 15, 2013
I've been reviewing the Four Noble Truths, and we've reached the Fourth Noble Truth, which is the Eightfold Path. Bikkhu Bodhi said of the Path,
"We say that the path is the most important element in the Buddha's teaching because the path is what makes the Dhamma available to us as a living experience. Without the path the Dhamma would just be a shell, collection of doctrines without inner life. Without the path full deliverance from suffering would become a mere dream."
And the first part of the Eightfold Path, Right View or Right Understanding, calls for understanding all four of the Four Noble Truths. There's integration for you.
In the West, many of us are introduced to dharma through the mental discipline practices of mindfulness and meditation, and only later begin to appreciate the parts of the path dealing with wisdom and ethical conduct. I understand that in Asia, laypeople are most likely to focus on the ethical conduct part first. There's no "right" way to begin. What's important is to practice.