Posted by: Upāsaka | 12/24/2020

Daily Prayer of Gratitude

I am grateful that a Buddha was born into the world.
I am grateful
that he has taught the Dhamma.
I am grateful
that the Teachings have survived.
I am grateful
that there are yet followers of the teachings.
I am grateful
for my favorable conditions to practice the Dhamma.

I am grateful to have been born a human being.
I am grateful to have been born in a land where I may practice my beliefs.
I am grateful to have been born with faculties intact.
I am grateful to have been born into lifestyle that is not harmful or wrong.
I am grateful to have cultivated faith in the Dhamma-vinaya.

I give thanks for the blessing of this earth I have been given.
I give thanks for the measure of health I have been given.
I give thanks for the family and friends I have been given.
I give thanks for the community I have been given.
I give thanks for the teachings and lessons I have been given.
I give thanks for the life I have been given.

I give thanks to the people, animals, plants, insects, creatures of the sky and sea, air and water, fire and earth, all whose painful exertion blesses my life every day.


I give thanks for the care and labor of a thousand generations of elders and ancestors who came before me.

May I dedicate the merit of my practice and any other merit I make to all beings that they may live happily and in peace and quickly come to the end of suffering.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 01/16/2021

Aeschylus Teaches Mudita

I have been really struck by how close many of the Ancient Greek philosophers seem to have been to the Dhamma. I can’t decide if this is due to hitherto unacknowledged division of Buddhist ideas into the Mediterranean or simply that bits of the Dhamma are everywhere but it takes a sammasambuddha to put it all together into a path and create a sasana. Whatever the case may be, it’s always refreshing to see great thinkers praising mudita.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 01/13/2021

Pursuing the Dhamma

I am still working on memorizing the Dhammapada and this was the verse for the day two days ago. I am uncertain that I can convey why it struck me but it did. Perhaps it is due to its uncompromising message: if you want to overcome Mara, you can’t do so by going easy on yourself. In fact, you have to be disciplined and energetic if you hope to make any progress at all.

Interestingly enough, today is an Uposatha day and I can think of no better verse for it. So, rather than giving myself a “break” and giving in to the urge to indulge the senses, I need to gather my forces and make an effort to overcome my defilements.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 01/10/2021

Empires

Empires rise and fall, but the mind remains. That’s got to be your perspective. Because the mind remains not only through the death of the body but through many, many cycles of the Universe. So you’ve got to get it into good shape, because otherwise it’s going to take you to weird places, undesirable places.

The Most Important Thing to Be Doing

I have been thinking a lot about this teaching lately. With American society being as delicate as it is and human civilization seemingly on the brink of a major shift hit could I not? And, trust, we got some writing test results back for our youngest. There is no solid ground anywhere and it is good to recollect that daily.

Given the incredible fragility of our situation what is more important than dana, silā and bhavana? Nothing and yet I spend 23 hours of every day pretending as if that weren’t the case. If I want to truly prepare myself for the worst and be able to skillfully ride out the storms that are bound to come then I must do the real work.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 01/07/2021

Embroiled

The quote above is incredibly valuable because it provides Right View in a chaotic and confusing world that befuddles my mind and pulled me down into the muck. As much as I try to stay out of these things, I keep falling for the siren’s call of righteousness and defending the vulnerable. But, as we lay dying, what will it have mattered?

Posted by: Upāsaka | 01/06/2021

Willing to Be In Pain

At a meditation retreat I attended a few years ago, one of the venerables leading the retreat shared an idea that had proven to be incredibly valuable to me: when experiencing pain, you have to be willing to allow it to endure forever if it must. In other words, you need to give up all bargaining and recrimination and just let it be what it is. If you can do so, you will soon find that the pain isn’t a monolith that is uniform and unchanging but that it is a constantly pulsating energy, vibrating and moving according to its own rhythms. Maybe it disappears after a time and maybe it doesn’t but, and this is where words fail, you discover that all of the pains and suffering you have been running from and rationalizing were never quite what you had imagined them to be.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 01/05/2021

Forgiveness

Much like on this blog, I post things which I find are good Dhamma to me on FB and IG. The above is one of my recent posts. And, interestingly enough, this post, like many others, has inspired one of my friends to take issue with it in a post of her own in an indirect way.

I am noticing more and more that our current culture seems to encourage weakness of character. If a teaching admonishes us to forgive, people are sick to say say that they’re being shamed for not being ready to do so. If a teaching counsels us not to give in to depression, it is criticized for not taking mental health seriously enough and shaming the depressed for not putting forth enough effort.

Initially I was sympathetic and slowly that turned to annoyance. Now I realize that I need to cultivate equanimity and compassion for people who really do believe they are victims of fate and too weak to surmount their issues.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 01/02/2021

Hunt for the Skillful

“So be the sort of person who’s always hunting for something skillful to do, because this lifetime is so short. If you spend your time just being depressed or discouraged, you waste so many opportunities for doing good. There’s so much good that needs to be done in the world. Starting from little things, like keeping your surroundings clean and neat, and working on up: It’s all worthwhile. There are so many ways you can gladden the mind.”

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Posted by: Upāsaka | 01/02/2021

New Year’s Day

It’s the first day of 2021 and I don’t have much to say about it. Today, I was able to dwell in gratitude for my blessings, specifically for my family and my good fortune to be able to support them. I was able to meditate and do most of my physical conditioning routine despite having slept in with my wife and daughter. I was able to give a little more of myself and my time than I am accustomed to doing because I saw the value in it and didn’t think it was appropriate just to pursue my own betterment. And, when I considered it, I realized that pursuing my own welfare was no different than pursuing theirs.

One big thing that occurred to me today was that I want to use my life as a father and husband to bring joy to these people. I want to do things with my time and money that make my wife and children happy. Rather than holding back and worrying about not having enough, I want to be a cause of mundane joy and then I want to bask in mudita. Naturally, there is a balance that needs to be struck but today, this first day of the yea, was a good day and I am thankful.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 12/31/2020

Memorizing the Dhammapada

I train nearly everyday to physically prepare myself for collapse. I try to read up on survival medicine, foraging techniques, shelter building, etc. to prepare for the same and yet, I am doing precious little to preserve the flame of wisdom. For some time, I have wanted to memorize key suttas but if I had to pick one complete book the Dhammapada would be it. So, every day I intend to memorize a verse. There are 423 verses in the Dhammapada meaning that I should spend about a year and a half on this project. I am going to use the technique outlined below:

Daily Procedures

Priority of reviewing old verses: Always give priority in your mind to the retaining of old verses even over the learning of new ones. What’s the point in going on to new ones if you don’t hold onto the old? This doesn’t mean you should re-memorize the old ones… just that you should begin every day’s work with review of old verses. Look on that as what you need to do to earn the privilege of acquiring some precious new verses. (Work before play!)

Repetition over time: Saying a verse 100 times in one day is not as helpful as saying it every day for 100 days. The absolute key to successful Tipitaka memorization is repetition over a long time period. This is how you retain old verses while learning new ones.

Memorizing the verse numbers: An important note is that it is well-worth the extra effort to memorize the verse numbers / paragraph and structural information as if they were part of each verse/paragraph. This will help prevent you from dropping out verses or even whole paragraphs when you’re reciting the book all the way through. It will also help you in being able to pick individual verses out to quote them. Finally, it will help you to be able to recall the verses as you are reading Buddhist books that cite them… you won’t have to look them up! Dhammpada 1:1-3’s verse numbers would be said like this (if you learn them in pali): “Yamakavagga-One. Manopubbangama dhamma …; Yamakavagga-two Grace manopubbangama dhamma….” DON’T SHORT-CUT THIS DISCIPLINE!! It actually makes memorization easier in the long run!

Photographing the verses with your eyes: Memorization is partly visual. This is not to say that blind people can’t memorize the Tipitaka, but just that the memorization process is connected very closely to the eye. Read each new verse ten times, covering each words as though photographing it with your eyes. I can still remember where some particular verses were on the page of the Tipitaka I first used to memorize them. Burn each verse into your brain with your eyes.

Say it out loud: Another help in memorizing is to say the verse out loud to yourself. The additional sensory input to your brain helps the memorization process. It doesn’t have to be very loud, just loud enough so you can hear it. Also, try putting some feeling and interpretation into reciting the verses… this is actually a form of meditation on the verses as you are learning them.

Sample daily procedure: The following is an example of how someone could go about memorizing Dhammapada at the rate of one verse per day:

1) Day one: Read Dhammapada 1:1 out loud ten times, looking at each word as if photographing it with your eyes. Be sure to include the verse number. Then cover the page and recite it ten times. You’re done for the day.

2) Day two: Yesterday’s verse first!! Recite yesterday’s verse, Dhammapada 1:1 ten times, being sure to include the verse number. Look in the Tipitaka if you need to, just to refresh your memory. Now, do your new verse. Read Dhammapada 1:2 out loud ten times, looking at each word as if photographing it with your eyes. Be sure to include the verse number. Then cover the page and recite it ten times. You’re done for the day.

3) Day three: Yesterday’s verse first!! Recite yesterday’s verse, Dhammapada 1:2 ten times, being sure to include the verse number. Again, you should look in the Tipitaka if you need to, just to refresh your memory. Old verses next, altogether: Recite Dhammapada 1:1-2 together once, being sure to include the verse numbers. Now, do your new verse. Read Dhammapada 1:3 out loud ten times, looking at each word as if photographing it with your eyes. Be sure to include the verse number. Then cover the page and recite it ten times. You’re done for the day.

4) Day four: Yesterday’s verse first!! Recite yesterday’s verse, Dhammapada 1:3 ten times, being sure to include the verse number. Again, you should look in the Tipitaka if you need to, just to refresh your memory. Old verses next, altogether: Recite Dhammapada 1:1-3 together once, being sure to include the verse numbers. Now, do your new verse. Read Dhammapada 1:4 out loud ten times, looking at each word as if photographing it with your eyes. Be sure to include the verse number. Then cover the page and recite it ten times. You’re done for the day.

This cycle would continue through the entire book (chapter of your choie). Obviously, the “old verses altogether” stage will soon swell to take the most time of all. That’s exactly the way it should be. The entire first book of the Dhammapada can be read at a reasonable rate in less than fifteen minutes. Therefore, the “old verses altogether” stage of your review should not take longer than that on any given day. Do it with the Tipitaka ready at hand, in case you draw a blank or get stuck… there’s no shame in looking, and it actually helps to nail down troublesome verses so they will never be trouble again. Therefore, your 21th day should look like this:

21) Day sixty: (eight days off in that span means you’re on your 19nd new verse, which would be Dhammapada 1:20) Yesterday’s verse first!! Recite yesterday’s verse, Dhammapada 1:20 ten times, being sure to include the verse number. Again, you should look in the Tipitaka if you need to, just to refresh your memory. Old verses next, altogether: Recite Dhammapada 1:1-1:20 together once, being sure to include the verse numbers. LOOK IN THE TIPITAKA IF YOU NEED TO, SO THIS PROCESS WON’T TAKE TOO LONG!!! Now, do your new verse. Read Dhammapada 1:20 out loud ten times, looking at each word as if photographing it with your eyes. Be sure to include the verse number. Then cover the page and recite it ten times. You’re done for the day.

Long-Term Retention

Assuming you continue this procedure in Dhammapada with no missed days (other than your one day off per week), you should be done with the chapter one to nine in 26 weeks. When you have learned Dhammapada 128, “Papavagga 9:12. Neither in sky nor in mid-ocean..” you should stop to celebrate!!!

But after your celebration is done, you need to get back to work. If you have done the “old verses altogether” stage faithfully, this next stage should not be overly burdensome, even though it may seem like it will. RECITE THE ENTIRE BOOK FROM MEMORY FOR 100 CONSECUTIVE DAYS. If you have done your work well, after about the second week you probably won’t even need the Dhammapada anywhere near you while you do this. Thus, you can do this step while in the shower, while driving, while washing dishes, while walking down the road, while exercising… IT WILL ADD NO EXTRA TIME TO YOUR BUSY SCHEDULE!! What is more, it is in this stage that you begin to see the scope of the entire book of Dhammapada (or whatever book you have memorized). You will see large themes that unite chapters together, you will see the flow of the argument, you will discover new things that you never knew before.

Be tough with yourself… 100 days without missing a single one! You can do it, and you’ll be glad you did.

When that is over, then stick the book in a slot (Monday morning, let’s say), and recite on Monday morning for the rest of your life. You will never forget it. However, don’t forget to weed the garden… as I will describe now:

“Weeding the garden”: As you recite a book over a long period of time without looking at the Tipitaka, you will gradually being to make little mistakes or leave verses out. Again, this is why memorizing verse numbers is so essential!!! However, to “weed the garden,” simply take one of your Monday morning times after the 100 days (perhaps every other month) and just read the book by sight all the way through. This will correct errors… this will “weed the garden.”

Now, you are ready to memorize your next book!!!

I will be using Acharya Buddharakkhita’s version of the Dhammapada. Please find day one here:

1. Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts suffering follows him like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 12/28/2020

Favors

How many favors have been done for me that I have never acknowledged, let alone taken the time to thank the one who has done them? I owe an almost infinite debt of gratitude to my parents of course but there are dozens of teachers, friends, relatives and acquaintances who have done me millions of small favors. I resolve not to never allow myself to overlook even the smallest or seemingly insignificant act of generosity or kindness.

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