Posted by: Upāsaka | 11/30/2020

Happy Uposatha – Stay on the Path

This way of practice
can be called the ‘Path of Power’ or the ‘Fearless Path’ through which,
the kilesas shrink away. However, we cannot cease in our efforts.
Whenever we pause along the path, the kilesas take over from there.

— Ajahn Anan, Seeking Buddho

Posted by: Upāsaka | 11/22/2020

Quarantine

Well, my son tested positive for COVID on a test he took Monday and we’ve been quarantining in our tiny apartment since Thursday. It is strange though, as the rest of us keep testing negative. We’re awaiting the second round of tests for my wife and my youngest and until then we’re all stuck in here together.

Naturally, this is stressful but I am thankful for the Dhamma and the Stoics (who I view as Greco-Roman Dhammafarers) for helping me through. I am realizing ever more clearly that I really am not responsible for others and, provided I am taking good care of my intentions, i need not worry too much about them. In other words, I know I intend to do right by my family but my happiness is not dependent upon their recognition thereof. So, if I make breakfast, fold laundry and wash dishes and my wife still complains how I make her do everything, I’m not going to dispute it. It is not as if this is a request for evidence – to the contrary, it is a statement of dissatisfaction with life. And, for better or worse, that is her dilemma to resolve.

On a somewhat related note, I have found that I can reinforce my commitment to brahmacharya by reflecting on her behavior towards me. The less respectful, loving and kind she is to me the more I feel strengthened and justified in my resolve not to have sex with her. What would the point be? It wouldn’t be to help our relationship. Instead it would be purely to scratch a bestial itch.

May I bear this in mind the next time this defilement rears its ugly head. And, may we all turn our myriad disappointments into fuel for our liberation.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 11/12/2020

Right Now

Right now, all I have to worry about is the quality of the heart in this moment. Not in some vague, pop-mindfulness was but in the sense of how I would like to be be prepared of death were to swallow me whole, right now, in this moment.

I’ve lived a life devoted to resentment, anger and disappointment; how much longer do I want that to continue? Most of the last 14 years of marriage have been about feeling slighted or sorry for myself. If I truly care for myself I need to put an end to such emotional and psychological thumb-sucking or it will never get better.

Kindness. Forgiveness. Generosity of spirit. Compassion. These are the tools. Indignation. Anger. Hate. These are but shortcuts to perdition.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 11/09/2020

Brahmacariya

I am becoming ever more convinced that total withdrawal from sexual activity (both mental and physical) is the only way to live a life of worth. I have tried to justify using sex with my wife as a way of strengthening our relationship and keeping our family healthy but it has no discernible effect. What I can see, however, is that indulging in these sense pleasures weakens my resolve and leaves me feeling somewhat dejected and down.

I know that there is no happiness to be found here so why not do my best to escape from the clutches of sexual desire? Knowing the difficulty I’m facing I am taking a more open approach and focussing on the sense of freedom that accompanies such an undertaking rather than this idea that brahmacariya is an oppressive burden. The burden truly is being a slave to desires that can never be fulfilled but constantly whip us into a frenzy chasing mirages.

I have made a determination to forego sexual activity in mind and body for 3 months (at least until my birthday) and will decide then whether to recommit myself.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 11/06/2020

Allow It to Endure

The lion’s share of my life has been dedicated to outrunning, avoiding or, at the very least, trying to explain away pain. Suffice it to say that I have yet to be successful.

I stumbled across this quote yesterday and it has been reverberating in my mind ever since. It’s no surprise, really, giving that the Lord Buddha started that patience is the highest ascetic practice but, like most things, it bears constant repeating.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 11/03/2020

Viriya and Abandoning the Paramis

I have, for quite a long time, made it a practice to recite the paramis every morning as a way to reaffirm my commitment to a certain style of practice. Recently, however, I engaged in a discussion with a Bhikkhu friend of mine and I ended up agreeing with his view that the parami teachings lay outside of the sasana. As a result, I am looking now to the bodhipakkhiyadhamma, or 37 factors of awakening, as my guide.

As fate would have it, the factors of awakening aren’t organized in a neat list that’s easily memorized. They repeat and have significant overlap. As such I may just take to reciting the 8FP. However, there is one quality that I am finding repeated more than any other and which I have been working with in my own practice and it is viriya. Without it nothing much seems possible but with it almost nothing is impossible.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 10/30/2020

I Am a Selfish Man

My wife commented this morning how I can be extremely disciplined when it comes to things I find important like meditation or physical conditioning but, when it comes to doing things for other, I am lacking. She asked if I thought of myself as a selfish person and although there was an initial tinge of resentment I found myself agreeing and replying that, yes, “I am a selfish person.”

It was a strange moment in time: I was struck by the dissonance between my desire not to be a person one would describe as selfish, my habit of thinking of myself as a spiritual practitioner dedicated to practices intended to be of benefit to all and the fact that I am more selfish than I wish to be.

So, I agreed with my wife, not out of a desire to silence her nor because I think it is okay to be selfish but simply due to the fact that I yet have work to do until the mistaken view of self, the cloudiness of delusion and the stickiness of desire are cleared away by insight and wisdom.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 10/29/2020

Amenable to Correction

I have been trying to find the time to write this post but it’s only today, when I find myself in the backseat of a car going to work, that I have a free moment.

I was driving back from Brooklyn on Tuesday after having picked up the youngest and was wearing my way through traffic and frustration. In the end I seemed to have farted better as far as the traffic was concerned because I let my own impatience get the better of me. Case in point: I was posting through a narrow inlet to get onto the street that takes you to the Manhattan Bridge when some guy tried to stick his nose in. I’m anger I threw my hands up and swerved around him.

Not a minute later I pulled up to a stop and he pulled along side. His window rolled down, he asked if I was okay. I replied yes and then we went back and forth a bit. He pointed out that I couldn’t let him in and I should be a more careful driver, especially with a kid in the car. And, then, he pulled off.

And, you know what? He was right. Right on all counts. Why couldn’t I have let him in? Why did I drive so aggressively? Why is my ego more important than my child’s safety?

I owe this irritated stranger a deep debt of gratitude because I was wrong and he pointed it out.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 10/24/2020

Use Your Time Wisely

I have been trying to waste as little time as possible so that I can practice meditation and martial arts as well as conditioning without neglecting my work and family duties. There are times when I ask myself why I bother with anything beyond meditation but it is glaringly obvious that I don’t have the spiritual power to succeed in such an endeavor.

As confusing as it is to practice arts which are expressly designed for combat I have going the conditioning and drills to be excellent at fortifying my discipline and endurance. I do have to post extra attention to cultivating and raising mettā however as I tend to look for threats where I rarely saw them before. Then again, NYC has become a much more dangerous place since COVID emptied it out.

I imagine that the cognitive dissonance here will never quite disappear but as long as it appears to improve my stamina and character I intend to keep at it.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 10/16/2020

Do What You Hate

I don’t recall how I ran into the quote above but the sentiment that it expresses, or perhaps more rightly, the practice it proposes, is one in which I have found incredible value. I have a lot of anxieties surrounding things like driving and parking which sounds crazy on the face of it but are facts of my life. As such, I have a relatively easy way to practice with things that make me uncomfortable.

Why should I even want to put myself in situations that I hate? Simply because nothing good comes for slavishly serving one’s desires. Do you like sweets? Do you think it’s a good idea to sit around eating them all day? Why not? Do you like exercise? Is it a good idea to do some everyday? Why?

Doing things I hate is exercise for the heart. It helps me to put my fears and anxieties into perspective and to be better about to deal with whatever may come my way.

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