Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/18/2018

Practicing Imperturbability

I have been trying to dedicate myself to the practice of the Four Elements meditation as taught by the Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw but have been struggle by against my own laziness and something I might provisionally describe as fear.

My journey to the Pa Auk method began when I picked up the Venerable Ledi Sayadaw’s book The Requisites of Enlightenment and his descriptions of the precariousness and preciousness of this birth really lit a fire under my bum. Unfortunately I feel that my faculties are out of whack now and the overflowing of effort is resulting in restlessness and, strangely enough, sloth and torpor.

So, under these circumstances and facing a spouse who seems to want to deliberately try to upset and destabilize me I can see no better quality to cultivate than equanimity or imperturbability. By sticking with buddho at the nostrils and coordinating it with the breath I can at least regain some calm and present a façade of imperturbability to my wife’s jabs and at least prevent the arising of unwholesome kamma.

This, in conjunction with the difficulties I’m facing trying to put the teachings into practice should serve to humble me if I had any pretensions about my spiritual development. I’m really still a deluded worldling but I can at least work on my paramis with the hope that in this life or another to come I can Delos samadhi and pañña and start to put an end to this mess once and for all.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/16/2018

Self-Care

315. Just as a border city is closely guarded both within and without, even so, guard yourself. Do not let slip this opportunity (for spiritual growth). For those who let slip this opportunity grieve indeed when consigned to hell.

Self-care isn’t sleeping in. It’s wishing yourself well enough to get up early and do your pujas and meditate.

Self-care isn’t allowing your mind to pursue sense pleasures with the tenacity of a hungry dog. It is restraining the mind, tying it to the post of kamatthana and sending it to bed when all else fails.

Self-care isn’t cultivating freedom of desire. It is cultivating freedom from it.

I didn’t care for myself enough this morning to wake early enough to meet my practice commitments and I broke my other aditthana as well. Laxity isn’t self-care when when the world is aflame. Who knows if I will meet the Dhamma again in my next thousand births. Why then am I willing to squander this opportunity and trade diamonds for offal and excrement?

Unfortunately, I don’t even have time for guilt. I have to pick myself up, dust myself off and redouble my efforts. I’m standing on a precipice overlooking an endless abyss: of utter fear and a desire to save myself don’t arise then what a fool am I.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/15/2018

Buddho and the Four Elements

I had made an aditthana to practice with buddho for the next three years and, despite new discoveries, I intend to keep it. However, I also plan to add Venerables Pa Auk and Ledi Sayadaws approach to cultivating wisdom through a vipassana style investigation of the properties of the Four Elements in the body. In this way I hope to be able to cultivate one pointedness through buddho while planting the seeds of pañña so that the unique and liberative teachings of the Buddhadhamma aren’t lost on me.

This morning, for example, I spent the first third on metta bhavana, the second on buddho recitation unhooked from the breath as described by Ajahn Martin and the last part investigating air (pushing) and earth (hardness). It wasn’t easy but I’m getting the sense that lay, guerrilla practice has to be like this: there’s just too many defilements and not enough free time to devote to a single practice so it’s all about planting seeds and applying antidotes. In this way, metta clears the heart, buddho concentrates the mind and vipassana gives rise to wisdom. Or, that’s the hope at least.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/14/2018

No Turning Back

Even if we cannot actually remove the suffering of others how beautiful and skillful is this aspiration.

I take upon myself the burden of all suffering. I am resolved to do so, I will endure it.

I do not turn or run away, I do not wince, I am not terrified, nor afraid. I do not turn back or despond. […]

All beings I must set free. The whole world of living beings I must rescue from the terrors of birth, aging, disease, death and rebirth; of all kinds of moral transgression; of all states of woe; of the whole cycle of birth-and-death; of the jungle of false views; of the loss of wholesome doctrine; of the concomitants of ignorance; from all these terrors I must rescue all beings.

—Nagarjuna, Precious Garland

Great Middle Way

Image result for arya nagarjunaI take upon myself the burden of all suffering. I am resolved to do so, I will endure it.

I do not turn or run away, I do not wince, I am not terrified, nor afraid. I do not turn back or despond. […]

All beings I must set free. The whole world of living beings I must rescue from the terrors of birth, aging, disease, death and rebirth; of all kinds of moral transgression; of all states of woe; of the whole cycle of birth-and-death; of the jungle of false views; of the loss of wholesome doctrine; of the concomitants of ignorance; from all these terrors I must rescue all beings.

—Nagarjuna, Precious Garland

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Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/11/2018

Happy New Moon Uposatha!

I have begun reading the Ven. Ledi Sayadaw’s The Requisites of Enlightenment and am feeling energized and completely blown away. In my early days, I spent a lot of time studying the suttas but for the past eight or so years I felt I needed to focus more on practice so I have left more technical and daunting subjects of contemplation go to the side. I realize now that I need to step it up if I want to make the most out of this birth and apply viriya and aditthana to the study, contemplation and practice of the Dhamma. Reading the venerable’s book it’s become clear that I need to plant the seeds of vijja by reflecting on and practicing with those teachings which are unique to the Buddhadhamma so that I have a chance to gain a sure foothold on the Path and avoid being swept into the oceans of samsara for asankheyya kalpas.

How does one do this? The way that the sayadaw has suggested is to begin by contemplating and practicing with the Four Elements. My head has been aflame since I first read the opening passages of his book (much in the same way it was when I first read Arya Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara over 20 years ago) and I immediately started searching for more information on how to do so. I found a PDF of his Vijja Dipani which describes one way to do the meditation as well as others by the Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw. I then spent the later portion of the night until around 11 PM reading and taking notes until I had firmly set myself on the path to make progress with the Pa Auk method of the Four Elements meditation. I have also decided that I will add formal study (pariyatti) to my practice schedule from 10PM to 11PM everyday. In this way I hope to only sleep during the second watch of the night and wake for the third at 4:15AM.

I’m inspired and intrigued and can think of no better or more auspicious day to begin than on the New Moon Uposatha.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/10/2018

Intention and Motivation

About a month back I wrote that I was scaling back my aims and resolved to focus more intensely on the basic precepts and gradual training. The idea was that I would be able to more easily uproot and counter the defilements but removing the pressure from my spiritual practice. Turns out, however, that I just may need that kind of pressure to progress.

You see, whoever I drop the motivation to practice for others, to focus on myself I end up wreaking havoc in my daily life. If I were an anagarika or lived alone I doubt I would need such an other-focused practice but it seems that current circumstances call for it.

It seems that the only way to avoid creating akusala kamma is to intentionally use the obstacles, irritations and annoyances of daily life as the path and the Tibetan lojong and Mahayana teachings offer a way to do that. So, back with grand aspirations and lofty ideals. May we all succeed in our noble aims!

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/08/2018

Viriya and Aditthana Parami

This morning was interesting. After firmly determining that I would not allow hunger and the craving after food to derail my practice I found that the weakness and fatigue were much less debilitating than they had been the day before. Resolving and having followed through to wake up earlier I had adequate time to do both walking and seated meditation. A couple of interesting things happened this morning though.

During walking meditation my path takes me into my kids dark and empty room (everyone was sleeping with mami) and back down the hall into the living room. I kept get the feeling that there was something in their watching me; not necessarily malevolent but definitely trying to scare me. Recalling the Lord Buddha’s advice I refused to allow the fear to cause me to stop. I decided to challenge the fear. Strangely, as I pushed the half open door fully and encountered a resistance for which I could find no physical cause. Determined, I pushed open the door and, shortly thereafter, made the decision to go and sit in the room in the dark radiating metta.

At some I resumed walking meditation and the thought occurred to me that, whatever this being was (if it existed outside of my mind at all), it was in a rather sad state of affairs if it lived by trying to frighten other beings in the wee hours of the morning. I began to see my very practice as a way to show this being the path leading to the end of its suffering. To show the being the power of the Buddhadhamma. With these reflections the fear subsided.

Later, during the tempest of seated meditation, I found myself calling on most of the paramis to just make it through. In fear of giving in before the fortieth minute, I made the following asseveration: “May I die if I get up from this seat before forty minutes is up.” Crude? Possibly. Effective? Certainly.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/07/2018

Like Thieves

So, my intermittent fasting has now developed into a pretty steady one meal a day (OMAD) routine which means there is plenty of time later in the day when I’m feeling hungry. But, it really does seem like this body was made to perform optimally under stress (read dukkha). My blood sugar is better at fasting, I’ve lost at least four pounds and yet it can be a struggle.

What I find so interesting is how the mind begins to obsess over food around the twelfth hour and how it becomes progressive engrossed with the theme. Coupled with this is the mind’s insistence that the body is too weak to do prostrations. Too weak to meditate. It seems to me that what is now lacking is a clear quality of resolve. Time to cultivate and activate aditthana parami I suppose.

So, rather than spending my entire morning session fantasizing about what I will eat, I will try to remember that this body is breaking down. That there is no refuge here and that to waste my precious time beautifying or pampering it is counterproductive. I am reminded of quote by Seneca where he said that The “pleasures of eating deal with us like Egyptian thieves, who strangle those whom they embrace.”

How true is this? I waste the greater part of my day intoxicated by the idea of food only to overindulge myself in fifteen minutes. Foolishness. May I resolve to take better care of myself so that I can learn to be truly happy.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/05/2018

Eating & Body Maintenance

I’ve been experimenting with my fasting and fitness routine. I’ve gotten some feedback from others and decided to modify my routine as follows. After years of trying to get into the one sessioner’s practice of eating it looks as if I’ve finally broken through so there’s some more encouragement for sticking to it despite repeated failures.

Daily Fitness Routine

  • One Meal a Day between sunrise and noon.
  • 5 Minute Cold Shower Everyday
  • Wear weight vest at work until exhaustion (M-F)
  • 108 Push Ups throughout day until exhaustion
  • 108 Burpees throughout day until exhaustion
  • 108 Prostrations to Lord Buddha
  • 108 Second Plank Hold
  • 12500 Steps

May I recall that this body will soon lie dead like a block of wood and until then it is nothing more than a bag of skin filled with filth.

 

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/04/2018

30 Day Brahmacariya Challenge

Happy uposatha! In honor of the day and as a way to repent for past failings, I’m going to experiment with a 30 day brahmacariya challenge. May not be hard for some (especially the bhikkhu/bhikkhuni Sangha) but this vice has always been my Achilles’ heel. Wish me luck and I’ll check back on 4 September to let you know how I did.

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