Posted by: Upāsaka Subhavi | 05/03/2021

Demanding Much

I hadn’t heard of Christopher Lasch before I stumbled across the quote above but his work seems to speak to the particular stage of devolution which we’re currently living through. When I step back and consider it, it seems awfully strange to have grown up believing that I was entitled to everything my heart desired without even having to work for it.

It may very well be that this is the nature of all unenlightened beings: to desire without limits or reason. But, I would imagine that past cultures and civilizations did a better job of disabusing their children of these dangerous delusions than we do today. Still, it is bound to get worse before it gets better so there’s no use in lamenting.

So, what is the point of this? I’m not quite sure, really. Given the narcissistic tendencies of all of us and the fact that our contemporary society propagates and sustain itself by feeding into these impulses I have no hope that things will improve in the short term. People are too selfish and self-concerned to act overlong for the benefit of another. Hell, we can’t even convince people to wear a mask on the off chance that you may not sicken a stranger. And yet, for all of my talk I realize that I’m infected by the same defilements.

During my morning run I saw, time and again, that I immediately judged everyone upon whom I laid my eyes. This one is fast. He’s stupid. He’s slow. She’s got a nice butt. It was truly disturbing but, rather than trying to push these things away, I wanted to watch as they came up, linger and then were replaced by the next impression. I know that it takes years, lifetimes of devoted practice to eventually see through one’s latent defilements but the speed and strength of the torrent is awesome and terrifying.

How can I expect better of others when I am struggling to simply keep my head above the flood waters? At best, I can see where my mind of going wrong and sell not to act on these impulses but it is a struggle against the currents.

Posted by: Upāsaka Subhavi | 05/02/2021

Apparently Human

How many of us can call ourselves truly human? How often are we the masters of our thoughts, words and deeds? The Lord Buddha has taught us that, if we want happiness in this life and the next, we must follow the Precepts as a minimum. How careful are we with our speech? Do we take only what is given? Are we willing to kill a mosquito or a tick? Do we intoxicate ourselves to escape from pain and ennui? Finally, are we faithful and harmless in our sexuality?

Are we worthy of these human bodies or are we animals, demons and hungry ghosts at heart?

Posted by: Upāsaka Subhavi | 04/25/2021

Been Awhile

It has been some time since I last wrote here but that didn’t mean I have given up the Dhamma and other contemplative practices. Rather, I have been dedicated to daily posts of Dhammapada verses as well as finding and posting teachings that I find inspiring from a variety of sources (truth be told they are usually Stoic or Classical philosophers).

And, although I may decide to repost those here as well (I primarily share those on my Instagram and Facebook pages), I feel that this blog is the only place where I feel comfortable sharing my own thoughts openly. FB and IG are spaces where one is often asked to defend one’s thoughts and opinions which is, of course, completely fine. However, it didn’t serve as well as a kind of discursive and contemplating workshop for that very reason.

So, what have I been up to? Well it’s currently Ramadan so I’m fasting out of respect for family tradition. I’m also doing the #75Hard challenge which requires me to workout twice a day for 45 minutes each (one outdoor session required), drink a gallon of water and a as free other things. It’s been great so far and has really helped me to strengthen my discipline and resolve. Concurrent with that I made the determination to log 100 Fitbit Active Zone Minutes everyday for a hundred days and I’m already halfway through.

I am still training Boxing, TKD, and Kickboxing weekly (2 days of boxing and kickboxing and one of TKD) and am hoping to add BJJ one or two days a week to finally add the grappling piece to my repertoire. I have definitely become a little obsessed but it is something I enjoy and keeps me in good shape.

In terms of intellectual pursuits, I’m taking an herbalism and foraging course to better prepare for any eventualities. It’s been great and not I can identify and gather a large amount of wild edibles here in NYC. In addition to that I have been studying Irish for the last three months and have made some good progress. Tá Gaeilge á foghlaim agam. It’s one of the most difficult languages I have studied but the connection I feel to it has kept me going.

Finally, I have been trying to maintain an hour of formal practice everyday. What this looks like is usually 20 Minutes of reciting Itipiso, 20 Minutes of buddho with the breath and 20 Minutes prone meditation (with buddho). In addition I try to do 108 prostrations to Lord Buddha daily.

So, that’s what’s been going on. I will attempt to be more disciplined about writing here from now on and will likely use my no posts to explore worries that strike me.

Posted by: Upāsaka Subhavi | 03/30/2021

Dhammapada Memorization: Verse 38

38. Wisdom never becomes perfect in one whose mind is not steadfast, who knows not the Good Teaching and whose faith wavers.

For those who are of unsteady mind,
Who do not know true Dharma,
And whose serenity wavers,
Wisdom does not mature. (translated by Gil Frondsal)

Let’s acknowledge that this verse describes most of us, at least some of the time. Our minds are unsteady and our serenity wavers. The Buddha is describing the goal here, not something that is easily attainable by those of us engrossed in lay life. And yet, there are things we can do to steady our minds and establish more serenity, enabling our wisdom to flourish.

One of the first handicaps we encounter is that we don’t often notice when we’re craving. If our normal state is to be trying to get something or get rid of something, then we’re unlikely to recognize the impermanent nature of our desires, whether they are being fulfilled or frustrated.

Being contacted by painful feeling, [the uninstructed worldling] seeks delight in sensual pleasure. For what reason? Because the uninstructed worldling does not know of any escape from painful feeling other than sensual pleasure. (from SN 4.36, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi)

This short section from the Saṃyutta Nikāya (Connected Discourses of the Buddha) suggests that there is another escape from painful feeling that is not simply seeking out pleasurable feelings. What could that be? We could start finding out by sincerely attempting to become an “instructed” worldling, that is, to learn more about the nature of human experience, at the ground level. We do that through observing the behavior of ourselves and others with an attitude of investigation (what are the causal relationships?), and through the discipline of daily meditation.

Our wisdom is also supported if we familiarize ourselves with some of the Buddha’s teachings. We might find that our attitude towards experience shifts from the me-centered world of getting and rejecting to a wider, more generous perspective. The true Dharma is the way it is, at every level, for all of us, for you, for me, for everyone. It’s not personal; it’s not about “me”; it is unfolding due to causes and conditions interacting in (sometimes) unfathomable ways.

If we want to find our way out of dukkha into wisdom, the only thing to do is to start and then continue.

Posted by: Upāsaka Subhavi | 03/26/2021

Dhammapada Memorization: Verse 35

35. Wonderful, indeed, it is to subdue the mind, so difficult to subdue, ever swift, and seizing whatever it desires. A tamed mind brings happiness.

Posted by: Upāsaka Subhavi | 03/25/2021

Dhammapada Memorization: Verse 34

34. As a fish when pulled out of water and cast on land throbs and quivers, even so is this mind agitated. Hence should one abandon the realm of Māra.

Posted by: Upāsaka Subhavi | 03/24/2021

Dhammapada Memorization: Verse 33

33. Just as a fletcher straightens an arrow shaft, even so the discerning man straightens his mind — so fickle and unsteady, so difficult to guard.

Posted by: Upāsaka Subhavi | 03/23/2021

Dhammapada Memorization: Verse 32

32. The monk who delights in heedfulness and looks with fear at heedlessness will not fall. He is close to Nibbana.

Verse 32: A bhikkhu who takes delight in mindfulness and sees danger in negligence will not fall away; he is, indeed, very close to Nibbana.

1. abhabbo parihanaya: Unable to fall away; here it means, unable to fall away from the practice of Tranquillity and Insight Development and the benefits thereof, i.e., Magga and Phala. (The Commentary)

The Story of Thera Nigamavasitissa

While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (32) of this book, with reference to Thera Nigamavasitissa.

Nigamavasitissa was born and brought up in a small market town near Savatthi. After becoming a bhikkhu he lived a very simple life, with very few wants. For alms-food, he used to go to the village where his relatives were staying and took whatever was offered to him. He kept away from big occasions. Even when Anathapindika and King Pasenadi(Prasenjit) of Kosala made offerings on a grand scale, the thera did not go.

Some bhikkhus then started talking about the thera that he kept close to his relatives and that he did not care to go even when people like Anathapindika and King Pasenadi(Prasenjit) were making offerings on a grand scale, etc. When the Buddha was told about this, he sent for the thera and asked him. The thera respectfully explained to the Buddha that it was true he frequently went to his village, but it was only to get alms-food, that when he had received enough food, he did not go any further, and that he never cared whether the food was delicious or not. Whereupon, instead of blaming him, the Buddha praised him for his conduct in the presence of the other bhikkhus. He also told them that to live contentedly with only a few wants is in conformity with the practice of the Buddha and the Noble Ones (Ariyas), and that all bhikkhus should, indeed, be like Thera Tissa from the small market town. In this connection, he further related the story of the king of the parrots.

Once upon a time, the king of the parrots lived in a grove of fig trees on the banks of the Ganges river, with a large number of his followers. When the fruits were eaten, all the parrots left the grove, except the parrot king, who was well contented with whatever was left in the tree where he dwelt, be it shoot or leaf or bark. Sakka, knowing this and wanting to test the virtue of the parrot king, withered up the tree by his supernormal power. Then, assuming the form of geese, Sakka and his queen, Sujata, came to where the parrot king was and asked him why he did not leave the old withered tree as the others had done and why he did not go to other trees which were still bearing fruits. The parrot king replied, “Because of a feeling of gratitude towards the tree I did not leave and as long as I could get just enough food to sustain myself I shall not forsake it. It would be ungrateful for me to desert this tree even though it be inanimate.”

Much impressed by this reply, Sakka revealed himself. He took water from the Ganges and poured it over the withered fig tree and instantly, it was rejuvenated; it stood with branches lush and green, and fully decked with fruits. Thus, the wise even as animals are not greedy; they are contented with whatever is available.

The parrot king in the story was the Buddha himself; Sakka was Anuruddha.

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 32: A bhikkhu who takes delight in mindfulness and sees danger in negligence will not fall away(2), he is, indeed, very close to Nibbana.

At the end of the discourse, Thera Tissa attained arahatship.

(2) will not fall away: It means, will not fall away from Tranquillity and Insight Development Practice and is assured of attaining Magga and Phalla.

End of Chapter Two: Mindfulness (Appamdavagga)

Posted by: Upāsaka Subhavi | 03/22/2021

Dhammapada Memorization: Verse 31

31. The monk who delights in heedfulness and looks with fear at heedlessness advances like fire, burning all fetters, small and large.

Dhammapada Verse 31
Annatarabhikkhu Vatthu

Appamadarato bhikkhu1
pamade bhayadassiva
samyojanam anum thulam

daham aggiva gacchati.

Verse 31: A bhikkhu who takes delight in mindfulness and sees danger in negligence, advances like fire, burning up all fetters, great and small.

1. appamadarato bhikkhu: a bhikkhu who takes delight in mindfulness, i.e., in the practice of Tranquillity and Insight Development.

2. pamade bhayadassi: seeing danger in negligence, i.e., negligence which would lead to continued existence in the round of rebirths (samsara).

The Story of A Certain Bhikkhu

While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (31) of this book, with reference to a certain bhikkhu.

A certain bhikkhu, after obtaining a subject of meditation from the Buddha, went to the forest to meditate. Although he tried hard he made very little progress in his meditation practice. As a result, he became very depressed and frustrated. So, with the thought of getting further specific instructions from the Buddha, he set out for the Jetavana monastery. On his way, he came across a big blazing fire. He ran up to the top of a mountain and observed the fire from there. As the fire spread, it suddenly occurred to him that just as the fire burnt up everything, so also Magga Insight will burn up all fetters of life, big and small.

Meanwhile, from the Gandhakuti hall in the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha was aware of what the bhikkhu was thinking. So, he transmitted his radiance and appeared to the bhikkhu and spoke to him. “My son,” he said, “you are on the right line of thought; keep it up. All beings must burn up all fetters of life with Magga Insight.”

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 31: A bhikkhu who takes delight in mindfulness and sees danger in negligence, advances like fire, burning up all fetters, great and small.

At the end of the discourse that bhikkhu attained arahatship then and there.

Posted by: Upāsaka Subhavi | 03/20/2021

Dhammapada Memorization: Verse 30

30. The monk who delights in heedfulness and looks with fear at heedlessness advances like fire, burning all fetters, small and large.

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