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.
Thursday May 9, 2013
As we talk about releasing desires and cravings, it's important to keep in mind that it's attachment to desire that is the problem, more than desire itself. So let's review attachment.
It was explained to me that attachment is something that grows out of the delusion of me-and-other. We think something is separate from ourselves, and we want to possess it (or avoid it) or otherwise do something with it. When we perceive that nothing is separate, we may become intimate with something or someone without attachment.
This is particularly challenging in human relationships. We expect certain things from relationships. We love and care and worry. We rejoice and we grieve. Sometimes our hearts are broken. Isn't this a problem?
Wednesday May 8, 2013
The Third Noble Truth is about the cessation of dukkha (unease, stress, suffering). In his first sermon the Buddha said, "And this, monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of dukkha: the remainderless fading and cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, and letting go of that very craving."
I found a poem by Phra Ajaan Mun Bhuridatta Mahathera (1870-1949) called "The Ballad of Liberation from the Khandhas [Skandhas]" which contains these lines --
The crucial thing: the ending of desire.
Labels stay in their own sphere and don't intrude.
The mind, unenthralled with anything, stops its struggling.
This is a restatement of the Third Noble Truth, seems to me. I am interpreting "labels" as "mind objects," if that makes it clearer.