Posted by: Upāsaka | 02/09/2021

Courage and Fear

I find myself facing the unpleasant feeling tone that accompanied fear. The fear of separation that naturally accompanies selfish love and attachment. My little one has to get an endoscopy tomorrow and, despite all of the assurances that these things are safe, I am still afraid that something will happen to her. But, rather than try to run from this discomfort or allow myself to get completely wrapped up and stuck in a web of anxious thoughts, I am trying to stay with the physical feelings. This, while adverting to the possibilities that, yes, she could die, during the procedure or tonight for that matter.

Why have I arbitrarily chosen to focus on the hour or so that she is under tomorrow when her death could come at any time for almost any reason? As a seeker of truth and a disciple of Lord Buddha, it is my duty to courageously face this suffering and understand it so that I can put an end to it. What better tribute and what better gift can I give to my children than the gift of Dhamma? May I practice courage today and everyday so that I can learn to look dukkha in the face and unbind the knots that keep me tied to this wheel of becoming.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 02/05/2021

Discipline and Self Mastery

Today’s verse for memorization is Dhammapada 25 and it speaks directly to my own recent preoccupation with discipline, effort and self-mastery. given that it is in the Appamadavagga, it’s no surprise that it also concerns itself with heedfulness which is a quality that is the sine qua non of the others already mentioned.

By effort and heedfulness,

Discipline and self-mastery,

Let the wise one make for himself an island

Which no flood can overwhelm.

Dhammapada 25

This exhortation seems almost commonsensical to me but is it? Many people, therapists and healers recommend a somatic approach to overcoming trauma (a severe manifestation of dukkha) which immediately seems to discount or sideline what appears to be a largely discursive approach in Dhp 25. But is it?

The more in think about it, the less I believe that any of the Dhamma-vinaya is solely a form of ancient cognitive behavioral therapy. Rather, we are asked to find liberation in this fathom long body, not outside of it and certainly not in the rarefied world of intellectual abstraction.

It now seems to me that the tension I imagined between the Dhamma and therapeutic approaches like the one outlined in Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma by Peter Levine was a misunderstanding on my part. In fact, if you look at the teachings of Satipatthana and Anapanasati given by teachers like Ajahn Lee, it almost seems as if they are recommending the same practices.

May we use all skillful means available to overcome dukkha and free ourselves from the chains of bondage.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 02/03/2021

Complaints

For some time now I have been watching my mouth and my thoughts to ensure that I don’t let slip any lamentations or complaints. I’m not always successful but I feel that I have dramatically improved the quality of my speech. However, I have been noticing a funny thing has begun to occur: I am silently judging others for their inability to restrain themselves from complaint.

Even though it must be said that talking to Facebook to lament the weather, one’s day or anything else is not a productive use of one’s time, it is surely the case that passing judgement on anyone who does so is even worse. And, what is this criticism but a complaint about someone else’s behavior anyway?

If I truly want to live by a code that eschews complaint in favor of action and appreciation, I need to start to catching the mind as it moves towards criticism. Besides, none of these other people have ever made the determination to give up complaint so it’s silly to even judge them by such standards.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 01/29/2021

Gāthā for a Difficult One

These verses came to me as I was running in the frigid dark this morning. Polyvalent thoughts, akin to the semantically nebulous forms of dreams, conveyed the meaning much better than I have been able to captured in words but I hope, at least, that these are somewhat useful.

May I learn from your weaknesses and be grateful for your virtues.

May your virtues carry you to liberation and all of the your weaknesses be overcome.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 01/27/2021

Aspiring Hero

It is rarely easy living with others. Whether they are family, friends, colleagues or random strangers, it can be exceedingly difficult to face disdain and contempt without succumbing to it ourselves.

Call it luck or just my kamma, but I’m back in the situation that I have been for years with a wife who’s so full of resentment and disdain that it is painful and pitiable to see. But, I’m not here to talk about that or disparage her. I’m get to write about my aspiration to meet hatred with love, cruelty with kindness an, thanks to all of the difficult people in my life, I feel that I’m getting closer to it every day.

I give thanks to the people who hate and resent me l, to those who mistreat me and who test my patience; without them, I would be lost in a world of illusory comfort.

May I always learn from difficult people and those who would do me harm and may I cultivate karuna for them as a way to pay their teaching fee.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 01/25/2021

Prepping

One of the Dhammapada verses that has been echoing continually through my mind is the following:

7. Just as a storm throws down a weak tree, so does Māra overpower the man who lives for the pursuit of pleasures, who is uncontrolled in his senses, immoderate in eating, indolent, and dissipated.

In particular, the part of the verse which speaks about being immoderate in eating leading to one’s downfall. I have practiced the uposatha pretty regularly for years and have been doing intermittent fasting for about two years now so I would like to think I’m well-versed in moderation. The truth is, however, that I’m not.

More often than I like to admit I will gorge myself after breaking fast and find it too easy to excuse myself. Still, there of something to be said for getting one’s caloric intake right during a four hour eating period. Regardless, that’s not really what I wanted to talk about.

Viewing my fasting regimen as another way to prepare for possible food shortages and learning to deal with hunger and think while hungry are yet more good reasons to stick with it. In essence, I’m fasting to bring on pain and suffering to train myself in dealing with them skillfully. Also, when food is scarce, raining will be required, so why not not familiarize oneself with it?

Posted by: Upāsaka | 01/22/2021

Sparring

As is almost always the case, all of the grand thoughts and ideas that accompanied the first cups of coffee and followed upon my morning sit have flown and I’m left trying to figure out what I was thinking (quite literally). A recent theme of late, that I can see developed to a degree in the quote above, is that patiently enduring whatever arises and realizing that it is arising due to kamma.

For example, last night as I was looking for parking, I began to despair at about the hour mark. I would occasionally see someone pulling into a spot ahead of me and I would feel a brief flash of injustice: why wasn’t I getting the space? In retrospect it is obvious how silly such thoughts are but, at the time, there was nothing silly about it. Luckily I was able to reflect on the fact that this was both my kamma and that I should be happy for this person who is experiencing parking dukkha just like me.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 01/18/2021

Skillful Thinking

What is this fear when I know I have done nothing wrong? If this what is meant by gaslighting? The feeling of dread that accompanies the thought of my wife returning, knowing she’ll be full of anger, disdain and resentment.

I know, somewhere, that it doesn’t have to effect me. I know that the true cause isn’t me and yet I have spent large parts of the day cleaning and organizing the house to avoid her wrath. It’s a sad state of affairs and I believe I need to refuse to give in to these feelings of anxiety and fearfulness any longer.

I have done what needed to be done and now I have to accept whatever happens with as much equanimity as possible. This is meditation: to learn to think skillfully with fear and anger. To find the best way to deal with and learn from it. And, soon enough, once I have put my mind in order I can turn to cultivating compassion for her once more.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 01/18/2021

Matali on Facebook

I got into a discussion with a friend tonight about something she posted on Facebook. The meme said “If sometimes makes you happy, make them happier,” a sentiment with which I think we can all agree. However, she prefaced it with a commitment that, despite your best efforts some people refuse to be happy.

There’s a lot going on here but my point and opinion is that we should nourish ourselves on the fruits of our own kindness, generosity and equanimity regardless of how or whether they are received by another party.

Her response was that to do so, with the knowledge that the receiver will act in bad faith, only encourages them do continue to do so. In other words, we are encouraging them to take advantage of us.

For some reason, as I write this, I am reminded of the Vepacitti Sutta and it seems like the position of my friend is the one advocated by Matali. I will end tonight’s post with this excerpt:

[Matali:] This very forbearance of yours, Sakka, I see as a mistake. For when a fool reckons like this: “From fear of me he does forbear,” The dolt will come on stronger still — Like a bull the more that one flees.

[Sakka:] Let him think whatever he likes: “From fear of me he edoes forbear.” Among ideals and highest goods None better than patience is found. For surely he who, being strong, Forbears the ones who are more weak — Forever enduring the weak — That is called the highest patience.

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.

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