Posted by: Upāsaka | 05/21/2018

Back

I was fortunate to be able to do a two meditation retreat this weekend and, thankfully, during that time was not allowed to access my phone. What that means is that I couldn’t post here but it also meant that I was able to put some space between myself and the never ending onslaught of media.

Naturally, there’s always the temptation to “bring something back” from a retreat. I don’t know if it is simply to prove that it was time well spent or to bolster an ego in need of approbation. Nonetheless, this weekend as a result of the Dhamma talks given by Ajahn Suddhaso and conversations with the same I gained a deeper appreciation for upekkha in practice and in a wider sense.

In terms of practice, he suggested that when we encounter painful or unpleasant feelings in the body (I suppose in the mind as well) we take a real interest in them. Looking at them clearly we also invite them to stay for as long as they wish. In other words tell the sensation “you’re welcome to stay here for as long as this body lasts” and mean it. As simple as it sounds it was revolutionary for me. I was able to see anicca in action and to deepen my concentration considerably.

Related to this are issues of social justice. Although I still believe in trying to help where I can and sharing news of injustice I need to take a more equanimous attitude. Societal change is largely out of my control and shaming people into non-harm is never going to work. What that means to me is that I need to look more carefully at my intention in sharing these things and need to spend some time thinking about my motives before posting. As Bhante said, injustice has been occurring since time immemorial so what good is it to be righteously indignant? How will being angry, aversion and confrontational resolve the problems? It won’t. If anything it will add fuel to the fire. For my own good I need to douse those flames.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 05/17/2018

Nekkhamma: Day 3

It’s funny just how tightly bound my mental states are to the body. During fasting, the low energy I experience seems to make it harder to push myself, not only in terms of physical exertion but, strangely, in terms of social situations as well. It is almost as if the body would have me curl up in a ball and shut everything out.

Now imagine how a chronically malnourished child might feel; especially one who hah never been taught the Dhamma. What would that be like? What kind of kamma could I expect to make in that situation? I imagine what it will be like in this lifetime during a time of famine. If I allow my mind to darken now when I know that I will eat at sunset how can I pretend that I would do otherwise when my next meal may never come. How can I play at bodhisattvic aspirations if this fasting is more than I can handle.

I have eaten this morning. I have drank. I must rouse myself and fight these defilements unceasingly.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 05/15/2018

Happy Uposatha and Ramadhan Kareem!

Image result for ramadan kareem

Today is both an uposatha observance day and the first day of Ramadhan (depending on whose calculation you’re using). What that means for me is that I’m fasting from all food until tomorrow at sunset. Tonight I’ll break fast with vegan chicken broth and have that for suhoor (pre-fast meal) around 4am.

You may have noticed that the obligatory prayers get no mention and this is for the reason that I fast primarily or of respect for the family into which I’ve married. Over the years I have truly come to appreciate the renunciation that one can cultivate and so find Ramadhan a worthwhile practice even with the omnipotent deity removed.

May I use this time of fasting to reflect on how few live in comfort in this world. May I reflect on how many do without sufficient food for days at a time. May I recall how many have no clean water to drink. May I give in charity to the homeless, destitute and poor. May all beings be free from suffering.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 05/14/2018

Retreat Hangover

I was afraid that this might happen since I have been with this particular instantiation of body-mind for four decades but it is never a good feeling. In short, after spending two and a half days on retreat I came home toed and worn out and indulged in sense pleasures. It could have been worse, in fact it almost was, but at least I see how far there is to go and I have yet one more reason to recall that arrogance and pride should never be giving ground.

One good thing that came out of this weekend was a technique for concentrating the mind. Venerable Wu Ling described the practice of Amituofo recitation with counting up to 1000 and mentioned that she often just visualized the number while reciting. Trying this with buddho I was surprised to see that I could follow buddho on the breath while seeing the number in my mind’s eye. Now the numbers always appeared in strange and distorted versions of themselves often melting or drooping of to the side but there they were nonetheless. It was intensely interesting and reinforced the dreamlike nature of consciousness to me. What’s more, the mind was necessarily concentrated on its task and a full ten minutes went by counting to 108. So, is proven to be a very useful technique for me.

So, hangover or no, I can at least take comfort in the fact that I was able to derive some good from this weekend.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 05/10/2018

Conflict

This morning as we walked down the street to the train station and my kids skated on their boards we came upon a woman with her large black dog who immediately told my kids to dismount. I was taken aback and struggled at first for a response but eventually told her it was her responsibility to control her dog and not my kids’ fault. She then asked the super sitting on the stoop to “take care of me.” Now this is a man I’ve seen for years sitting on the stoop but never spoke with and I had that kind of natural, unspoken affinity for him as a familiar face. He immediately starts to tell me how it’s not the dogs fault that it was lunging at my kids, that it was theirs. I told him that it didn’t make any sense what he was saying and that I’d call animal control if it happened again. He began shooting the same thing over and over as I walked away telling him (in Spanish the whole time) “esta bien señor.”

I was disappointed to see that someone who I have seen so many times would be so ready to attack my kids but what do I really expect from life? As the shock wore off I began trying to send metta and to see my role in this. I could have just let it go and probably should have to keep the peace although I really didn’t expect this thirty something hipster lady to involve anyone else in our conversation. All that is left now is to send metta and make a point of saying hello to the man now every time I pass. That and letting them know that if the dog menaces my children I’ll be calling the cops. Ugh.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 05/08/2018

Breathing in Sickness

This morning there was an older gentleman who was having periodic coughing fits in the train. Worst of all, he neglected to cover his mouth at all. Naturally, as a “modern, educated” man I was both aghast and tempted to ask him to cover his mouth. But, then it struck me: this is a man who is suffering. As Lord Buddha asserts, sickness is suffering and anyone who’s tried to stifle a cough or make it through the day with a cold knows that.

So, I breathed it in figuratively and, I suppose, literally. I made the aspiration that he be free from sickness and that I may take in the germs and storage anyone else the sickness as well. I have done this once before and both times it has completely changed my view of the situation.

Instead of clamping down and trying to shield myself from his cold while muttering silent recriminations, I opened to his suffering and tried to connect to him and everyone else on the crowded train.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 05/08/2018

Happy Uposatha – Meals

I’ve been struggling with bringing heedfulness to the table (literally) but feel like I may have come up with something. Instead of grazing like a mindless ruminant until I can eat no more, I will decide what to eat, make it and take no more food after that. It seems like food had taken the place of so many other sense pleasures but I really need to get ahold of it if I want to make any progress along the path. What better day to commit to it than on an uposatha day.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 05/05/2018

A Jewel in the Rubbish

Just as a blind man might find a jewel amongst heaps of rubbish, so this Mind of Awakening (bodhicitta) has somehow arisen in me.

It is the elixir of life produced to vanquish death. It is an inexhaustible treasure eliminating poverty.

It is the supreme medicine that alleviates illness. It is the tree of rest for beings exhausted from wandering on the pathways of mundane existence.

It is the universal bridge for all travelers on their crossing over miserable states of existence. It is the rising moon of the mind that soothes the mental afflictions of the world.

—Shantideva

https://greatmiddleway.wordpress.com/2018/05/05/rising-moon/#like-8966k

Posted by: Upāsaka | 05/04/2018

Bodhicitta

May I develop the unmistaken seed of attaining Buddhahood—Pure bodhichitta.

May bodhichitta progress higher and higher.

May I never forget bodhichitta in my successive lives.

May I train in the activities of the bodhisattvas

By meditating on bodhichitta again and again.

-Patrul Rinpoche

Posted by: Upāsaka | 05/03/2018

Body Offering

Offering of OrgansI gave in yesterday and failed to keep pure brahmacariya. The belief that doing so would somehow release the pressure and save me from worse deeds in the future definitely under girded the act but I can now see how foolish that was. My mind is more aflame now than it was before and it will take some time to contain the flames.

One thing that I have played with is the idea of offering each of my body parts to beings as a contemplation. On a silver platter I offer my head hair, on another body hair, nails on another, teeth, skin and so forth. The image of my disintegrating corpse offering pieces of itself to hungry ghosts, animals and demons is enough to immediately chasten me and help return some clarity to the mind. In some ways it’s an extension of chöd practice but for now its freshness is just what’s needed to do the job.

Thirty-Two Parts of the Body

Handa mayaṃ kāyagatā-sati-bhāvanā-pāṭhaṃ bhaṇāma se:

Ayaṃ kho me kāyo,

Uddhaṃ pādatalā,

Adho kesa-matthakā,

Taca-pariyanto,

Pūro nānappakārassa asucino,

Atthi imasmiṃ kāye:

Kesā

Lomā

Nakhā

Dantā

Taco

Maṃsaṃ

Nahārū

Aṭṭhī

Aṭṭhimiñjaṃ

Vakkaṃ

Hadayaṃ

Yakanaṃ

Kilomakaṃ

Pihakaṃ

Papphāsaṃ

Antaṃ

Antaguṇaṃ

Udariyaṃ

Karīsaṃ

Matthake matthaluṅgaṃ

Pittaṃ

Semhaṃ

Pubbo

Lohitaṃ

Sedo

Medo

Assu

Vasā

Kheḷo

Siṅghāṇikā

Lasikā

Muttaṃ

Evam-ayaṃ me kāyo:

Uddhaṃ pādatalā,

Adho kesa-matthakā,

Taca-pariyanto,

Pūro nānappakārassa asucino.

Let us now recite the passage on mindfulness immersed in the body.

This body of mine,

from the soles of the feet on up,

from the crown of the head on down,

surrounded by skin,

filled with all sorts of unclean things.

In this body there is:

Hair of the head,

Hair of the body,

Nails,

Teeth,

Skin,

Flesh,

Tendons,

Bones,

Bone marrow,

Spleen,

Heart,

Liver,

Membranes,

Kidneys,

Lungs,

Large intestines,

Small intestines,

Gorge,

Feces,

Brain,

Gall,

Phlegm,

Lymph,

Blood,

Sweat,

Fat,

Tears,

Oil,

Saliva,

Mucus,

Oil in the joints,

Urine.

Such is this body of mine:

from the soles of the feet on up,

from the crown of the head on down,

surrounded by skin,

filled with all sorts of unclean things.

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