Enlightenment Practice #30 of the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva Including Divination

Shantideva (who wrote A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life AKA Bodhicaryavatara
Shantideva (who wrote A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life AKA Bodhicaryavatara

The humble monk (Ngulchu Thogme) wrote the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva it in a cave in the Himalayas around the 13th century.  It’s a guide for travelers on the path to enlightenment—practically advice on how to actually live day-to-day.  Are you trying to consciously travel this path?   Me too; c’mon let’s figure this out!

So like I’ve been saying how I’m going to write about the 37 practices of a Bodhisattva (guidance to live by). You know the Dalai Lama? He is said to be the Bodhisattva of Compassion incarnate. Oh, to be like him! Anyway, I’ve got (like most of you) about 1,000 coals-in-the-fire-of –life’ as the saying goes (busy/whatever) but I want to get started here. So I’m writing numbers from 1 to 37 onto 37 small slips of paper and have now put them in a small basked. I will draw one at a time and write about that one while asking that it bring importance guidance for something currently relating to my life on the day the number is drawn!  Ready?

Divination Message 3/16/13 from the Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva:  Today I’ve drawn Practice Number 30!  I don’t know these by heart, so I’ve got to grab the book and have a look; let’s together see what it says.  I guess you already know that a bodhisattva (essentially) is someone who wants to work for enlightenment not only for their own benefit but for the benefit of others in order to end suffering.  You probably already knew that.

Bodhisattva Practice #30

Reading and typing and divining as we go along here… right away I see it’s about virtue with heart.  Maybe this is about putting our whole heart into attempts to be virtuous?

Gosh, I’m remembering (flashing on) something my “spirit-guides” (as it goes) conveyed and at the time (as I did with many things then), I shrugged and felt it to be too simplistic.  You know, I was looking for something more profound after all—I was looking for something really sensational when I asked why I was here and what my purpose is.  I was told we are here to develop and practice virtue—I completely blew that off back then.  Yet, divine irony of irony, here I am studying the 37 Practices and Buddhism and that’s exactly what it’s about!

As I look at this little book of Essential Teachings (the one I carried unknowing with me for 6-weeks –see previous blog—which is the writing of the Dalai Lama himself), he’s talking about having the “right view”.  The word “view” in Buddhism (email me if I’m wrong if you’re a Buddhist monk or someone more expert than myself a humble student) has to do with understanding the nature of reality and the 8-fold path.

“Right View” as they call it has to do with the type of wisdom that has to do with understanding of things as they are which of course has to do with those 4 main truths:  there’s suffering, get real about it and then understand what causes it and the good news is that there’s a way to end it *(yay!) and following the 8-fold path enables us create that cessation.  And back to the 8 fold path again of which right view is a part.  Didn’t we just make a circle, a loop—right view leads back to right view. Ingenious!

Hey, by the way, thanks for being patient while I work through this.

Not to let all the cats out of the bag at once creating confusion but the 8 fold path (just as a preview and curiosity satisfy-er) and no, I’m not going into all this right now but they are as follows:  right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.  But hey, let’s just stick with the view for the moment—right view.  And let’s get back to the #30 practice of a Bodhisattva.

The Dalai Lama the guru teacher here says that this view in practice #30 has to do with realizing that the person who acts in any kind of way to do any kind of thing or who takes any action +plus the action itself that is taken +plus the person who may receive the action that we take don’t (in the right view) actually inherently exist.  Wow, that’s a tough one to explain to the average bear on the street human if you know what I mean!

This IS samsara after all, don’t you know?  This is a dream-like state of reality.  That is what we’re being asked to remember.  Things exist on a conventional level but ultimately—no, they don’t.  It’s really not that hard to understand with the new science where we look at atoms and the core of the atom itself doesn’t even exist only if we put our mind on it.  You know what I mean!?  You’ve heard this!  The chair you sit on or the table or any object is solid according to our perceptions but it is because the vibration is very, very, very slow.  On the quantum physics microscopic level (hope I said that right), it’s nothing but energy molecules vibrating—just a bunch of atoms which are empty at their very core!

So, let’s say you give someone a gift, you could say something like, “There is no giver, no action of giving, no gift, and no receiver of the gift”—that’s ultimate truth.  Conventionally, there is all that, but ultimately NO.  So that’s the right view of things which, if you think about it, is quite liberating and there’s a part of us that says, “Okay, I get that and now I can tell myself to stop worrying about every little thing!”  Or  that’s one view you could take and it would be ‘ultimately’ right, correct, on the quantum or ultimate level.

Whew!  Hope that makes sense.  The bottom line of this practice is:  No subject, No object.

So, what do we do?– we practice this.  We hold this in our mind and remember it and function in life with this view right alongside conventional reality—to practice this it changes our behaviors, our attitudes, and we become a teacher of the dharma (phenomenon and the truth of phenomenon) by our very being via our life being witnessed by others.

Right view is called the word “prajna” in Buddhist teachings.   If we get this one thing, in my humble opinion, it is the best thing we can understand and it really answers most any question we have about life and addresses any concern.  Upset? Worried or fearful?  Remember practice #30 of The 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva – understand the emptiness of reality and shazam, this right view just calms it all right down for ya’!  Totally and fer’ real as they say! What is real isn’t real—totally dude! Samsara is an illusion.

Another way of saying it since this practice #30 is the 6th of the Six Paramitas (more on that another time)… the 30th is about cultivating  “non-conceptual superior knowledge” and in the words of the monk himself or at least one common translation:


Without superior knowledge,
it is not possible to attain perfect enlightenment through the first five paramitas alone. Therefore, joining it with skillful means and not conceptualizing about the three spheres is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

And another translation:

Since five perfections without wisdom cannot bring perfect enlightenment, along with skillful means cultivate the wisdom that does not conceive of the three spheres [as real].

Note to reader:  the three spheres in Buddhism are 1) self 2) other and 3) connecting action.

divider3-15-13

THE DIVINATION

Now.  How can I apply this personally in my own daily life?  Ha!  I’m reminded lately of the story of the monk who, so inspired by teachings on generosity, gave away his worldly possessions, two of which included his food bowl and his shoes!  Since his generosity was not accompanied by wisdom he had to ask for them back when it came time to eat and then to go somewhere!  I was very inspirit-ed to work with generosity yesterday in my efforts to be an ‘active’ Bodhisattva!  In other words, it is one thing to wish all beings be relieved of suffering and I do that plenty but what about “putting one’s money where one’s mouth is?”—as the saying goes.

I did that to the point of pain yesterday—giving when it doesn’t hurt really doesn’t count in my book.  If you’re going to give, make it a bit of a sacrifice at least!  So with that attitude, I did so in a fairly large way; in fact, I gulped hard several times in the process thinking, “Yike, I hope I’m not being like the monk who gave away his bowl.”–!!

And today’s Bodhisattva Practice 30 is a great message for me (using the 37 practices as divination messages here)!

I’m being reminded that the 3 spheres of giver, gift and receiver are not ultimately real; self, other and connecting action don’t exist;  and to remember this and embrace it is a practice of a Bodhisattva! 

Working for Ego, for Spirit or for the sake of the work itself? What’s the Motivation for what you are doing daily?

Busy as a Bee? What's the Motivation?
Busy as the Bees in this Photo? What’s the Motivation?

Working for Ego or Spirit – What’s the Motivation?

Maybe you do this; like I do this – or you don’t.  Do what?  Well, sometimes not what you ‘think’ you should do.  And sometimes we wonder if what we have a plan to do will really make any difference.  I think it’s about the motivation or the reason we do what we do.  That’s what’s what we should examine or look at.   I’ve noticed how people can be uptight and workaholic in their nature and announce or pronounce that they are accomplishing some great task or project and they are too busily involved with this to be distracted from it.  That kind of focus is good and we need that once in a while.  I know how to do that too—been there, done that.  These days, I’m looking at my motivation for everything and that comes along with part of the contemplations involved on my spiritual path.

I question my reason  for doing whatever it is I’ve plans to do and if the motivation to do it isn’t in alignment with my “path” (to use an easy word), then it’s a bit harder to dive in with passion.

I know how it is to be as busy as a bee (see image of honey bees at work above) and also how it is not to be so.  Sometimes I come up with issues either way—the busy bee syndrome can turn into either escapism OR it becomes one huge attachment.  And we know (or at least I do, first hand) what happens with attachments—something’s got to give in order to loosen our grip and that isn’t always pretty.  Best not to go there in the first place!

When you’re younger and with family responsibilities, your motivation is pretty clear, easy, altruistic and necessary–to put food on the table and clothes on the children.  It gets a bit more complicated as you get older and those types of motivations are…. well, no longer motivating. Well, they are and they aren’t–we do get weary of survival needs motivating us and we really want to get past it or be more inspired.

Personally, I’ve been re-inspired by the Buddhist teachings called “The Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva”–completely.  I’m going to start blogging about those!  Talk about working with one’s faults and evolving–totally!  I can see the potential and benefit for personal spiritual alignment and then sharing the works with others may be helpful; but the motivation is… well, its not the same as other things in my life.

Recently I read a teaching in which the point had to do with doing the work because we all have some sort of function here and do the work for the sake of the work itself—lose the attachment to the idea of its importance or your “standing”  in relation to it.  In other words, get the ego out.

That sort of squares with these concepts of this life being an illusion or dream-reality and those notions do filter-in and merge with the idea what I do and don’t do in daily life on a daily basis.

Of course, I am not talking about doing my psychic reading work here—for that is clearly in alignment with all my personal spiritual ideals regarding compassion and expanded consciousness, etc.  I’m more or less referring to my work in composing an astrology course.

I like the idea of simply ‘going with’ this concept that  “we all have a function here, so function” –but don’t get attached to the importance of your  function and don’t engage in the task thinking that you are going to create some type of particular outcome.  And certainly don’t do it because you are trying to be busy as a bee in order to appear important to others or because it’s another way of escaping from contemplating your life.  See what I mean?

Have you ever been right on the edge with life?  Maybe even had one of those close to (if not outright) near death experiences or perhaps even been very sick for a day or two.  Almost everybody has had that last experience and can relate.  You know how everything in life sort of fades away and you seem to be hanging on by each breath or something?   Or maybe there was a close call in your car in traffic or the airplane you were in caught an air pocket during a rough weather patch and you felt the fall of the plane.  How important is your project or work then, eh?  What is it that ‘really’ matters?

I have been struggling with the right motivation in writing the astrology class.  My beginning purpose was to put something down for my grandson and niece—to explain astrology for the beginner in my own way, writing the steps of importance as they seem clear to me.  Like with the psychic class, the motivation is to write it out in a way that I wish I could have learned it.

I read a blog post from an Internet Buddhist Teacher who wrote out about his work something that I felt about the psychic class that I wrote.  Let’s see, how did he say it?   Here we go.  He wrote:  “There was no internet in those days so if you wanted to get the answer to a question; you had to physically hunt out someone who had the answer.”  He also wrote: “I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like to have a resource like this site when I was starting out. That’s one of the main reasons I decided to do it.”  That’s exactly how I felt about the psychic class when I wrote it.  I remember driving long distances and spending many hours with other psychics in classes on Sunday afternoons and attending (at great expense of money and time) many seminars and classes—simply because those were the only sources available pre-google.

My motivation these days is to do the work (of the astrology class) using the right motivation.  I sat here for a moment trying to remember which book mentioned the attitude and motivation toward work that jumped out at me and sparked something within me.  Which book was that?  Just as if in a dream, a moment ago I got up and walked right to it then flipped a few pages and there it was.  It’s a book  on talks with the famous sage Nisargadatta and the subject was work and previous to that about being dissolved by The Supreme which creates perfect balance in all things which dissolves you and thus reasserts your true being.  When asked how this works in daily life, Nisargadatta said, “The daily life is a life of action.  Whether you like it or not, you must function. “

That last line reminds me of that one theme in the move THE MATRIX.  It was about programs that are written for everything that functions in the matrix—a program even for the birds in the park, a program for everything to function.

Anyway, he goes on after stating that everyone must function.  “Whatever you do for your own sake accumulates and becomes explosive—one day it goes off and plays havoc with you and your world.  When you deceive yourself that you work for the good of all, it makes matters worse, for you should not be guided by your own ideas of what is good for others.  A man who claims to know what is good for others is dangerous.”

On a gut level I really get that last line—it’s a karma thing of course.

So then the question was asked about how a person is supposed to work then.  What’s the right attitude and the right motivation? And his answer was, “Neither for yourself nor for others, but for the work’s own sake.  A thing worth doing is its own purpose and meaning.  Make nothing a means to something else.  Bind not.  The Divine Intelligence (God) does not create one thing to serve another.  Each is made for its own sake.  Because it is made for itself, it does not interfere.”

I’ve been thinking about that and as I struggle with the right motivation for my astrology writing project work, I also came across this this morning in my email from www.tut.com .   I like these short pithy sentence or two’s and sometimes they resonate and sometimes not; however today’s did when factored in with all else.  Here’s what it said:

Judging yourself for what you haven’t yet accomplished, Joy, is like finding fault with a lion because it can’t fly, a bird because it can’t swim, or tree because it can’t leave… well, you know what I mean.

Whop,
The Universe

There’s some peace in that and with my self-coaching about self-acceptance and my underlying and core belief that all things come together in divine timing!

And now let me gather up the right motivation and keep my function in mind and let the work do the work for the work while my fingers do the typing—translation:  back to writing the astrology course letting pure being emerge.

The Thirty Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva – Reach Up from the Mud of Samsara – The Deeper in the Mud, the More Beautiful the Lotus Blooms

The Thirty Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva – Another Attempt to Reach Up from the Mud of Samsara

Can we really do this?

The more deeper the mud, the more beautiful the lotus blooms.  How deep in the mud are you?
The more deeper the mud, the more beautiful the lotus blooms. How deep in the mud are you?

Something is being encouraged on deeper levels and something wants to reach up out of the mud of samsara (life/earth living/the illusion of the suffering of this dimension) and is growing and reaching toward the Sun like the Lotus (the flower associated with Buddhism).

The Universe, the Light of Divine Intelligence, the Harmony of Helios or however you want to name it, but some energy encourages this, as it always does and I even carried that encouragement around in my purse/handbag for nearly 5 weeks without realizing it!

And yesterday!  Yesterday I received a reply email communication from a Tibetan Lama (the real Lama, not a secretary!)—my ego is impressed—in which the parting line was, “May all beings benefit from your practice of the dharma!”  And my mind and body froze as if they were my marching orders from the head spiritual warrior!—or something like that.  I felt the directive, the dictate, the command, the instruction, and the order deep within my heart, mind and soul.

“Deny samsara and help others do the same!”–  Aye aye Captain!  I was being given my marching papers or assigned my official mission from a Lama!  Ha!  And the Lama was probably simply just using a phrase to close the email with a customary, “May all beings benefit from your practice of the dharma!”  Sounds like a simple wish to end an email with like “sincerely” or “may you have a nice day”– but for me it stopped my breath and my world for a moment as I swallowed hard and felt like, “Okay, this is IT.” And it’s time to get dead serious about it too!  Especially since each day we get closer by-the-day to those final marching orders too.

Anyway, “dharma” is a word used to describe the teachings—practicing the dharma is doing the spiritual practices, following the teachings of Buddha who—and this is the part I love—said firstly that transformation of the mind is what is needed to alleviate suffering but most importantly he recommends examining the teachings carefully and objectively in order to know if it is something we can work with or live by or adopt.  And secondly, if we do accept the teaching it is because we have done the (here comes my favorite phrase)… we have done the observation and correlation of the teaching.  We apply it and see if there’s any truth to it through our own objective life experience and then if it turns out to be helpful and works for us, then (and only then) do we accept it as part of our own truth.  Then, thirdly, we have the responsibility to put it into practice—to live the teaching.

When we do this, we create “bodhichitta” which is the mind of awakening or the enlightened mind that strives toward compassion for the benefit of all sentient (living) beings. It is a sudden and lasting compassion for all beings, accompanied by a falling away of the attachment to the illusion of an inherently-existing self.  That last part is a kicker and I’ve been working on that one for some good long time now but since the purse-thing, finding that I’ve been carrying around the help for weeks now, is another strong synchronizing “hint” of encouragement.

One day shortly after I broke my toe (don’t ask) and while accompanying my daughter on some errands found myself at our local Goodwill store looking at the dusty old book section (no surprise, right?)  Lo and behold I found a little book with a picture of the Dalai Lama on the front and the book was entitled “Essential Teachings”.  Next thing you know my daughter calls out, “C’mon Mom we’re ready to go, are you ready?”  Making my way to the checkout I pay something like 50 cents for the book, slide it into my purse/handbag and forgot about it.

In the meanwhile, 6 weeks later here, I’m watching a DVD of a Buddhist Lama teaching the Thirty Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva and although it wasn’t the first time I viewed it, and even though I have a good number of Buddhist books on the shelf in my apartment (and have read every one!), this time something really caught hold of me.  That Lama seemed to explain it so well this time when I listened–and it was the very same Lama who gave me my mission via the email signature!

I’ve read the translations of The Middle Way:  Nargajuna’s Mulamadhyamakakarika and a number of books like it including quite few on Mahamudra.  We also have ‘A Guide to the Boddhisattva Way of Life” by Shantideva to name a few.  And I’ve spent hour upon hour viewing of teachings on DVD of the Dalai Lama on these very topics and teachings.  This is conveyed, least you think that the path is very new–I’ve been traveling this way for a while and integrating Buddhism gradually.  Anyway, so much for history…

His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet
His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet

A few days ago, I thought to blog about the Thirty Seven Practices (dharma teachings) to help myself and others—although I should have phrase that the other way around I suppose; but you get the idea.  And from that thought, I began to wish to have these practices written down in a simple form just the way the Lama spoke about them. Well, I thought, why not look to see what’s out there from the Lama of Lamas:  His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet!  He says things so simply and he makes everything so easy to understand!

I could not find anything online and then had to stop my search anyway to go pick up my niece from her High School Driver’s Education Class.  I didn’t want to be late.  Once I got there,  putting the car in park, and taking a breath, then found myself wishing I had a book along with me to read while I waited for my niece.

Then (light bulb turns on in the mind!) remembering that I had that old book from the Goodwill Store—the one I’d paid 50 cents for so many weeks ago—I smiled and pulled it out.  I looked at the chapter headings and felt so moved and smiled  from my heart seeing how this book by the Dalai Lama contains 37 chapters–each chapter being one of the 37 practices explained in his own simple words!  There it was, just exactly what I was looking for and I had it with me all along.  When the student is ready, the teacher… well, you know.

So I will be working with these now and blogging about them.   Time’s up for now.  If you follow along with future blogs, maybe (just maybe) we can do more to further create a ‘mind of awakening’ as we practice the dharma here.

“May all beings benefit from my practice of the dharma”–just like the Lama says!

What would a Bodhisattva do about loud neighbors? And the resulting Anger? And Self-Cherishing? Living Buddhism

Living Buddhism

What would a Bodhisattva do about loud neighbors?

And the resulting Anger?

And Self-Cherishing?

Bodhisattvas cave muralYeah, I’ve been kvetching about the loud neighbors but rest assured I’ve been not only externalizing a solution but internalizing one too.  I’ve used the scrape-your-fingers-down-the-chalkboard type of setting your teeth on edge irritation as charnel ground meditation; but even there one knows the exit or path that takes one away from that graveyard—in case it becomes too much, we need an escape button, don’t we?

Is it any co-incidence that as I consider those matters, I’m also contemplating death, dying in such a way that one can be liberated while still living and breathing?  Well, as much as one can anyway.  And I’m having a more serious look at The 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva.  Factor that into the loud Indian neighbor situation, the contemplation on death—stir well and sprinkle with a generous handful of Practice #20.

Most blog readers will know the meaning of the word Bodhisattva but the short version of a definition is spiritual practitioner—practice of compassion for altruistic benefits.  The 37 Practices describe the enlightened qualities of an aspirant (my own words) which come about due to causes.  (Causes such as loud, boisterous, inconsiderate neighbors?)  And in the list of the practices we see definite references to those types of situations and how to integrate these difficulties of earth living into spiritual practice.

I clearly realize the ‘enemy’ if there is one in my situation with the frustrating irritations of the neighbors is within me, totally, entirely, and completely.  I got that part; so no finger-pointing please.

Do I run from it, push it away or go toward it or do nothing?  I’ve sat with it and the aversion is so great that I think I may cry if I do not put on the white noise so I cannot hear it.  I’d be the first one to run down the path and back to the monastery if I had do to real live grave-yard charnel practice!

I don’t think there’s any teaching that says that the thing that drives you the most crazy you should go seek it out just to see if you can handle it—or maybe there is and I’m wrong about that.

If you want to talk about aversion for a second—let’s do.  My aversion is to myself for having the reactions of intense, acute and profound irritation to their voices in the first place.

Before you start thinking it, let me say that I know it all comes from self-cherishing and self-grasping and attachment to an idea that my living quarters should be completely free from gawd-awful vocal intrusions. Got that too!

The wisdom teachers say that when we cave and just “can’t deal”, to use the situation to bring up compassion for all others who have the same situation in life. One great comfort is that if we reflect for even a nano-second we realize we are not alone in our suffering, whatever it is, no matter what!  With (what is the number we hear others give?) something like 6-million –or is that billion?–people on earth, there has to be at least one (and usually thousands) who are going through that exact same situation right at that exact same moment.

This brings comfort—we are not alone.  So then we bring up the ole’ catholic training and say I will suffer this and for all who suffer for the suffering souls including myself.   It gives the suffering (which is plainly everywhere on Earth, look around) a purpose, a meaning and brings it into a workable (at least for me) and relative perspective.

There’s a certain surrender in that—grant me the serenity to deal with what I cannot change.  I’ve changed what I could already—speaking to them directly (which was like speaking to a wall that is in denial that it’s a wall – for lack of a better example), and I’ve tried speaking to the management and one night I took the management’s suggestion and called the police to give them the word.  They were screaming after all and it was well after midnight and I even brought the altruistic reason into that one—“I do this act of calling the police for all the neighbors, not just myself.”

Oh, sure I can have compassion for the couple—of course.  I think they drink or drug a lot especially if you consider loud never ending conversations a drug.  And they are in a strange country – from India and you know we all have problems.  It’s not hard for me to feel compassion in those ways.  But sometimes my own frustration and self-cherishing and attachment to how I think my life should be when it isn’t gets the best of me and it seems a simple thing not to have un-welcomed human voices permeating my living space.

So yeah, I crank up the white noise (see my last blog post) as my escape valve.

But what about death? I mean that’s one experience where there IS no escape valve really.  I mean we have to deal with it and can’t go anywhere else then or we can’t turn up the white nose to drown it out.  It’s intense and frightening and irritating and we have to really let go of self-cherishing at that time, don’t we?  Well, if we don’t we suffer more.  I’m reading The Tibetan Book of the Living and The Dying (again) and this is my 2nd go at the modern version of the text by Songyal Rinpoche.  It’s more a text about living but the stages of dying are fully described both from the perspective of the dying person and the family and caregivers.  Really useful stuff for when a family member dies or we ourselves—our time will come.

How can I let go when I really need to if I cannot let go in this situation with my neighbors?  I’m working on all that.

Meanwhile, I do love the references to the point in the death process when we reach such a state of luminosity of mind that the – well, the Buddhist call them the 3 poisons leave us completely.  We can get there in this life and do if we’re successful with our meditation practice.  We reach a state where there are no attachments, and it is give a name by the wisdom teachers:  sky consciousness.  The three poisons (anger, ignorance and desire) —gone!  Have you been there to that place? A peaceful lifestyle helps and a crazy couple from India who rocks your world doesn’t!

Let me take a breather to say that I’m grateful they go to work during the day and I’m grateful for when they run their central air unit (even if they have it on fan which I’ve enlightened them about doing).  For when we both have it running, I barely hear them.  I say barely and again it’s not their fault or mine this building that we over-pay in rent to live within is so poorly insulated (paper thin walls).  I’m grateful for electricity and I’m grateful for the fact that they’re gone during the day; thank you thank you thank you thank you!  Amen.

I don’t like my inner reaction and if I’m honest it’s the first of the 3 poisons that most Buddhist text refers to—anger.  Their anger triggers my own?  Maybe?  I don’t know exactly.  But I don’t like that intense feeling that makes me feel like I’m about to lose control.  Like fingernails down a chalkboard I want to cover my ears and run; but HA, I live here!  Some things you can’t run from and this situation as well as my own eventual death someday down the line is another something that I cannot run from.

All this is preparing me I’m sure; everything is somehow always inner-related.  I looked up The 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva online (http://www.dharmadhatu-center.org/the_37_practices_of_a_bodhi.html).  I’m sure I have a Book on the 37 Practices here somewhere on my bookshelf; later today I will try to find it.  (Note to self to do that!)

I should blog my way through the 37 practices as I deal with the hell realms below me (downstairs neighbors).  In the end, it may help me to be able to die well and use that moment-of-death that they talk about to enhance enlightenment.

So anyway for now, for today, OM MANI PADME HUM, what about Practice #20?

Practice 20
Taming the mind
If you have not tamed the enemy of your own anger,

Combating outer opponents will only make them multiply.

Therefore, with an army of loving kindness and compassion,

To tame your own mind is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Generally we think we must defeat outer opponents. If only we could get rid of them, we would be happy. Or so we believe. But we cannot overcome all adversaries, and when we try, their numbers just increase. At first we have one, then two, then many. So what are we to do? The only solution is to tame our anger, tame our mindstream through bodhichitta. Armed with the attitude of loving kindness and compassion, we naturally no longer have any external enemies. Because the Great Teacher, the Buddha, the Bhagawan, had tamed his mindstream, he prevailed against the Maras who tried to distract him as he sat meditating beneath the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya. The Buddha was armed with the forces of the samadhi of loving kindness, and the Maras could not harm him. The Great Yogi Milarepa tamed the enemy of ego-clinging with the force of the wisdom that realizes selflessness. And he conquered the enemy of anger with the army of bodhichitta. Because he defeated his inner foes of ego-clinging and anger, he became so skillful that even his bitterest enemies eventually became his disciples.

http://www.dharmadhatu-center.org

Maybe in my next blog post, whenever the neighbors are ranting below me (which is usually the same time I’m blogging as a coping mechanism), instead of kvetching, I’ll blog about one of The 37 Practices of the Boddhisattva.  That’s the lose plan, time permitting — stay tuned?

Let’s see if blogging my way through this can help others, I’ll do my best.

“Namaste!” which is what I said while giving a slight bow to my downstairs neighbors about 3 weeks ago (sigh!)  Meanwhile, reaching for my copy of The Tibetan Book of the Living and Dying, lifting it to the sky, making a bow to you and the wisdom teachers who have gone before us…. I bid you good day!

Paranoia or Psychic Perception – Maybe Both

Contemplation Image
Contemplation

Paranoia or Psychic Perception – Maybe Both.  Here’s the contemplation…

Alright, I’ll admit.  Today wants to end on a sour note, but I won’t let it!  All was going well until late in the day, my granddaughter came home from school in a snit (she’s only 9 after all, has a head-cold and should probably be given benefit of the doubt) followed momentarily by the downstairs  couple who forgot they weren’t out in the middle of the field in India as they came in from work.  Indoor voices people!  Geesh!  And while reading this stuff might be having the superior, significantly-spiritual type clucking the tongue away and shaking their head, maybe even with a sly smile on their face—let’s not rush to judgment about these things.

Is it my paranoia or true psychic perceptions that cringe when realizing some folks have taken that smile that starts to form at the side of their mouth when they hear these challenges that the mountain yogi me dealing with this daily distraction stuff!  Ha! One person said, “Easy to do it when you’re up in the mountains in seclusion but not so easy NOW, is it?” As if I’m now experiencing life for the very first time!

Wasn’t born yesterday my friends and I’ve been there, done that—after all, I raised three teen-age daughters on my own.

I come back into it now, however, realizing exactly what it all is—as before—but on much deeper levels.  Now I see it as mind being irritated, mind being restless, mind being frustrated (no me) and what a view of it all I have!  Can’t get this kind of stuff in a monastery you know!

For it’s the mind that is irritated—not me!  And I’d have not come this far without my granddaughter and the noisy couple from India.  Never would I have had this kind of ‘in your face’ stuff at these levels and in the perfect timing for me to reach these understandings with it all.  Beautiful actually—just beautiful.

All kinds of things happen—the just do.  Do I necessarily cause them to happen?  Life.  It just happens.  We choose our reaction—the Buddha taught all that jazz.

Oh, I can hear the spiritually significant tongue-clucker now—influenced by all the new age book mumbo-jumbo.  “You attracted your circumstances; it’s your karma!”  Well, partially true if we consider our desire to evolve perhaps; but even if we don’t.  Life unfolds as a matter of circumstances that we simply are privy to witness and we can only change our attitude about it.  (Unless we want to be arrested for assault and battery—a bit of humor.)

What matters is the attitude and not the events—the world is full of desires and fears and pain and suffering and people generally reacting to it all the time.  Today, my granddaughter and more times in the past few months than I can count, my downstairs neighbors are perfect examples.

And me too.  My desire is for quiet and like the Rolling Stones as well as the Buddha have said, “Can’t get no — satisfaction.”  Not from the outer world.

So where is it—it is beyond the world, even beyond the inner world—beyond mind.

Oh, you could say I’ve gone out of my mind and you’d be totally correct on some levels.  I’ve realized that place that is beyond mind and all from humans pushing me there in so many ways so-to-speak.

me comicI’ve also gotten hold of memory—the meaning.  We mistake that we are this group of memories that we have created an ego structure out of.  I’ve given this a good deal of thought since the Indians below me triggered a number of childhood memories and stimulated a fair number of unpleasant dreams, a few out-and-out nightmares.  This causes one to question the nature of memory and dreams; but mostly memory in this case since hold a few and identify ourselves thus creating structure out of those aspects of mind and then say, “This is me; who I am”.

If our memories were our true identity then you’d think we’d remember more than we do—such as what you had for dinner last week or what you did on the 4th of last June.  Unless something memorable, you don’t remember.  What IS memorable, we structure an identity out it and call it “me”.  It’s okay for getting by here but we have to remember it is illusion—and the ego’s reading this are screaming in your heads, “Not me!  I AM REAL.”  That’s okay; I wasn’t always ready for this understanding either.

Maybe it’s all about me getting ready for the inevitable event that we all face someday—death.  It’s going to be easier to let go of this identity structure if we’ve realized all along it wasn’t real in the first place.

Here’s something C said in reply to a question about wanting to live, “To live, to die—what meaningless words are these!  When you see me alive, I’m dead.  When you see me dead, I’m alive.  How muddied up you are!” 

Enough about death—before I loose subscribers!  People don’t like this subject.  About memory, I like this quote:  Use memory, don’t let memory use you!  I should put that one on Facebook.  Anyway, family stuff being triggered is all for the purpose of realizing its memory that I’m overly identified with—it’s all been very good spiritual fodder or grist for the mill as the saying goes.  We need that grist to keep ourselves in true awareness—so tongue-cluckers who think you’ve got it made in the shade because you’ve read all the books and had a few evolutionary experiences and intellectually think you’ve GOT  IT, maybe not so much or there’s always deeper layers and this has been a good one, still is.

The bottom line is we do not need to be set free—we already are.   It is our identification with our body and the structure we created from memory that we over-identify as “me” and our desires that keep us going round and round again, lifetime-to-lifetime, which keeps us from the clarity that we were never born and never die.

All I can say to spiritually significant elite-ist tongue-cluckers is that understanding this intellectually is one thing and living it in the face of human intensity and applying it—well, how deep down the rabbit hole do we go?  With each intense experience, I have deeper realizations that do not come from a book but from my own experience, my own mind but not even there… from a place where I am totally out of my mind.  Hard to describe unless you’ve been there, done that.

I’m grateful when I can be in the right place with it all and when not, I realize I will be—eventually, all in good time.  Patience and perseverance, virtues!

By the way, I am celebrating walking normally this week!  I can wear a regular shoe and barely limp at all; as the illusionary body heals and repairs my broken foot illusion here!  Have a great week dear friends of Light!

(Excuse me now while i light illusionary candles to absorb the illusionary cooking smells from the illusionary neighbors!  laughing as I go… one more desire released… no longer desire to visit India!  See, everything has a great purpose!  ha ha)

Working the graveyard shift of your mind and advice from a spiritual teacher on triggers

ARCHANGEL MICHAELI heard a spiritual teacher once say something very encouraging– in reference to the Native American story that you’ve likely already heard – about the white wolf and the dark wolf inside of us.  Here is the story for quick review if you’ve never heard it:

A Cherokee Legend

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

 The encouragement from the spiritual teacher is that –well, first of all my own observation.  I see the dark wolf in myself and of course in others; but seeing it in my self is the most painful and disheartening.  It is dispiriting to see others feeding the dark wolf also; and it is for these who have no knowledge of their actions whatsoever that can evoke greatest compassion.  And I say this without a grain of self-righteousness being intended.

I recognize in my past the states of being totally asleep as to which wolf was being fed (to continue with the Native American teaching example)—not to mention knowing that there were two wolves in the first place!  Ignorance is bliss only temporarily for eventually awakening (whether in this lifetime or the next) awakening is bound to eventually occur.

And when that awakening does begin to happen one can be filled with great regret—we see unflattering and embarrassing things about ourselves then and that usually happens at 2 am or throughout half the night!  It all bubbles up and there are, at least in my own experience, cycles or layers of time between these realizations about how the dark wolf was fed—sometimes knowingly and sometimes unknowingly.  The light shines upon our awareness and what we were not conscious of or about (because we were busy feeding the wrong wolf) suddenly comes squarely before us.  We don’t want to look because it is painful.

And sometimes this is where people turn to anything to rid themselves of the pain of sorrow or regret over their mistakes.  Who knows how long this process takes—lifetimes maybe, who knows?  But when we get to the point where we have to acknowledge the two truths, the two wolves, that is when we become awakened or fully conscious of ego and how it operates.

However, even when we ‘are’ conscious and aware of feeding the wrong wolf, there is a period in which we cannot seem to stop ourselves—due to habit (brain patterns/proclivities), prior soul wounds, due to the wiring of our psyche for whatever reason, even when we are conscious that we are doing it and we know we are feeding the wrong wolf we do it anyway!

Now what?  I see this in my self.  I am conscious that the wound has taken over (again) and aware that I am reacting in the old patterned ways which, after all, are only for the purpose of wanting to avoid pain and I see myself doing it anyway!  This is called, in some circles, responding in a patterned way to the trigger!

But now the difference is that we are aware we are doing it and that awareness is 99.999% of the battle that the spiritual warrior fights.  The encouraging news from the spiritual teacher is that success is guaranteed once awareness occurs.  And if you think about it, that makes sense.  Once you know—you know and can no longer ‘not know’.  Once you are conscious, you are conscious and can no longer ‘not be conscious’.  Oh yeah, we can try and that’s called denial but in the end we become conscious of that too—it just causes more pain.

Again, what do we do?  One thing is that this can bring us into great feelings of compassion for ourselves and for others and the general human condition.  We can see in others the struggle they are suffering through because we are currently or have been in that same struggle.  For those who have no level of consciousness about feeding any wolf at all (totally asleep)—and these are often (but not always) the folks that seem to trigger us in the first place—we can have great compassion for them but first we must create that compassion for our own self.  (Both at the same time really in many cases I think.)

What I do is go quiet when triggered and since I’ve moved closer to family and since financial demands have been greater all with impositions on time and energy (well, who amongst us does NOT have concerns like these?)—however, the point being that I’ve been triggered every which way but loose and old ghosts of the past are knocking at the door asking to be fed again!  Each one wanting, no demanding, something different—in moments it becomes overwhelming.  And I’ve had to watch myself dealing with the two wolves—some days more successfully than others; yet always aware.

And again that’s the good news—once we are aware we are guaranteed success but then the success becomes challenged again over and over.  More good news is that we can relax about that too once we know it is simply life and impermanent and always changing!  Like my mother’s wisdom goes:  Hang in there, it won’t last.  I add, hang in there and remain aware, conscious.  Don’t let the dark wolf take over completely by going into denial because eventually that, too, will need to be brought to the light of consciousness and again usually at 2 or 3 in the morning!

So often I think of the people of Tibet and the Dalai Lama and that suffering and the example of the refusal to feed the dark wolf that His Holiness has demonstrated and how much discipline, courage and compassion this required of him individually.  Yesterday was human rights day 2012 and still Tibet is not free; it is heartbreaking if we let our mind take us there… and to be more like the Dalai Lama in the face of that the Chinese takeover that his country suffered… well, he continues to be the example for me.  The Buddhists train themselves purposefully to handle intense fear and to handle death by contemplating both.  I sometimes think of the charnel training that some developing monks are sent by their teachers to do.

I’ve read about this numerous times and heard it referred to in documentaries and so my sensitivity to this is not as strong as it is would be if I were hearing about this the first time.  So this may be a bit shocking to the reader who does not know of this.  That high in the Himalayas the ground is often too frozen to have an actual ground burial when someone dies and burning bodies is not practical because of the situation with trees.  Therefore, the way that the bodies are dealt with after death involve feeding them to the vulcher birds and wild animals after the charnel ground workers chop up the bodies. The charnel ground is much like a very exposed grave yard and to be there at all one is to face great fear from many levels as you can imagine (body parts everywhere and all that) but to be there at night… the monks send the students there to learn to deal with highly intense emotion using various tools of the mind.  Sometimes I wonder if this is why folks get themselves so attracted to graveyard ghost chasing experiences and freakish paranormal phenomenon fascinations and magnetisms.  I wonder if they are not trying to induce their own somewhat milder charnel ground experience in order to teach themselves to remain calm during intense situations—or some degree of this somehow.  I don’t know.  Probably some of that is dark wolf stuff too; we shouldn’t make a blanket statement there.

I’ve heard it said that everyone is (in some way) is either trying to avoid pain or induce pleasure.  I’d like to think we’re a bit more sophisticated than that; but perhaps not. Life is sometimes pleasurable and sometimes painful all on its own.  The question is can we be with it either way without fanning either flame or feeding either wolf?  Can we just sit with that—can we sit with whatever it is that comes up in the charnel ground of life even though the whole time we hear the calls of the hungry dark wolf?  He will quiet down and wander off if we just give it a little time—or so that has been my experience.

twowolvesI think to withdraw and not react for a while until you know how you want to react even if it takes months to make peace with it all—a better alternative than its opposite. Then, of course, we see how life is such a balance of up’s and down’s and irritations and joys and we don’t need to necessarily over-react to any of it.  But if we do over react and are aware we are doing so… the bottom line encouragement is to take heart because once the awareness is there, the good quality we want to substitute will eventually take hold.  Will we ever stop being triggered?  Probably best to expect that we always will be but our response to the trigger, with enough charnel ground practice, will be something we are less attached to.  And then I think too we can trust our response by not labeling it good or bad; we can say that we are acting consciously and in the end maybe that is the best any of us can do.  And that’s staying awake.   Being too strict with ourselves or too forgiving with ourselves–neither one is favorable as Buddha taught.  The middle path is best.  We have to love both wolves but not let either take over!

My own intuition was working as a guide last night when after doing yoga stretches on the floor and being at eye level with the bottom bookshelf (a row of Buddhists books), I noticed a strong attraction to one of the books.  I looked at it for a long time just allowing myself to be sure of the pull from the book; my eyes just kept going back to it in my post-yoga relaxation phase.  Without my glasses on, I could not see the title.  I took it off the shelf, retrieved my glasses to find that the name of the book is The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way – Nagarjuna’s Mulamadhyamakakarika (yes, the last word is really that long and when pronounced  is very beautiful IMHO).  I’m reading some other books and doing my own writing, but there’s something in this book I’m about to revisit!

Ego at work in Spirituality and in Psychic Development

Ego
Ego
Ordinary Mind or Special and therefore separate?

Do you think that sometimes we need a good head cold or otherwise run-of-the-mill flu or virus to get ourselves to slow down a bit and contemplate life a bit more?  Last week was the first week of school and half of our family has the sniffles, headaches, body aches, stiff necks and all that jazz.  Toss in a weather shift along with early morning rushes to catch the school bus and it’s no wonder! 

There’s a change in the air in more ways than one and for some of us, when we stop rushing around and are forced to put our bodies into a slumbering position simply because we cannot stand up anymore, it is then that we grab a book and hot cup of tea.

Not that I need a cold or flu to contemplate life—it seems like I do that a lot anyway, but lately I’m thinking about how the ego works and especially how that applies in our attempts to be more spiritual and intuitive. 

I’ve got some ideas that I’m flushing out for this week’s newsletter about how we make moments of merging with higher mind some sort of special and sacred event which keeps it at a distance—we don’t think of it as normal and every day, which it is and should be!

I’ve got to find a good way to express that with some examples and I’m toying with it as my own inspiration kicks in while I’m grabbing for the Kleenex and flu medicine.  Why should these moments of transcendence and clarity and light be deemed so sacred and special when they should really be seen as ordinary and normal?  The Buddhist refers to it as ‘ordinary mind’ in order, I feel, to keep it close to our experience rather than profanely distant. 

The ego, you see, wants to shout it out to the world, “I had this magical spiritual experience!  Majestic and spiritual and special and look at me and how unique I am” and this brings one the separate identity that the ego needs to feel special.   This happens as we intentionally try to develop our intuition and in psychic development too. 

We keep the memory of the momentary flash of insight that we receive in meditation or the unique vision or merging with higher mind as special, unique and therefore separate from who we really are which is mimicking patriarchal religion which purports that ‘god’ is outside of us somewhere else.  We keep our spiritual communions the same way calling them abnormally sacred when they are simply part of what the Buddhists call ordinary mind. 

Well, I have more work to do on these ideas as drink my tea to soothe my sore throat.  I’m thinking how even my cold and flu is being grabbed up by my ego in order to reinforce my identity and I laugh!

Gaining Perspective in Times of Stress with Contemplation and Meditation – I-CHING Kua 45

The sum is greater than the parts. But boy-O-boy don’t we worry about those parts? I’ve had a bit of elbow pain which started from overuse of the hand/arm during the summer and it’s easy to lose perspective when it rains or gets cold. You know how it goes, we can either focus on the one negative thing or look at the bigger, overall picture which represents the positive. In this example, yes the elbow may hurt and if I focus upon that alone, it will magnify in my experience. Yet, if I see my whole body which contains very good levels of health, the elbow is put in proper perspective—meaning that I can cope with it, not letting it immobilize me! It’s all relative no matter what we’re dealing with; we can allow it to overtake us or we can keep it in perspective. So this elbow example is part of how I’m seeing to interpret the message of Kua 45-Joining today. That I-CHING hexigram message has to do with ‘gathering together’ and relates to the phrase which begins this paragraph, “The sum is greater than the parts”. In what area of your life can you apply this idea today?

Our Life Journey Itself creates certain wear and tear as it demands perseverance through hard times or difficult experiences. Bumps and bruises along the way with sad tears and shadows are all part of the human experience on this 3rd planet from the Sun; but we must keep the ‘sum of the whole’ in mind during those times.

Seeing the unity of our life during the temporary difficult issues or suffering by remembering the good times and the future hopes and expectations will help to widen the picture. And like me with my elbow, put it into proper perspective. This makes it bearable and keeps us from letting life (our thoughts and emotions about it) get out-of-hand.

The Earth Itself is this way too if you think about it. We  may see areas of earth where destruction has taken place—perhaps a forest fire that leaves its scar on Earth Mother’s face, but if we stand back and see the whole of the Earth, we see the undeniable beauty.

This doesn’t mean that we should not put out the forest fire, deal with the issue at hand in practical ways and in the case of my elbow, avoid treating it with a pressure wrap for support, an anti-inflammatory (or Reiki healing). Do what is practical while at the same time view difficulties as simply a part of the whole of life. Keeping the whole in mind is an optimistic measure to embrace while we deal with the part—whatever that part may be.

In my humble experience, meditation helps in being able see the unity, the wholeness, which aids in putting life in a balanced perspective. Water travels for hundreds of miles, sometimes beginning as a tiny stream, disappearing beneath the soil, eventually resurfacing. The process is essentially the same on a human scale. Meditation can tune us into that view of our life as well as the lives of others so that we can gain those perspectives and then we can allow without grasping.

“The real glory of meditation lies not in any method but in its continual living experience of presence, in its bliss, clarity, peace, and most important of all, complete absence of grasping.

When you live in the wisdom home, you’ll no longer find a barrier between “I” and “you,” “this” and “that,” “inside” and “outside;” you’ll have come, finally, to your true home, the state of non-duality.”

— Sogyal Rinpoche