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!

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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!

Not a creature was stirring, not even… Let Kua 21’s truth be heard! Confront life’s issues with detachment and do what needs doing!

Take decisive action!  Restore order! Apply force with sensitivity! It’s about a tenacious devotion to a task!  Yeah, that’s the message for today and here’s how it is applying to my life, my issue, my apparent delusion of samsara. May the core theme of guidance help you in some way too!  I’m at the end of the rope and am hanging out waiting for them to arrive so I turned to the I-Ching.   Waiting for who?  Keep reading… it’s about some company coming and other company leaving–quite the drama! Having a free moment, I turned to the ancient divination system for guidance or support—what do YOU have to say about this I thought.

The hexagram of Biting Through points to a time when it is imperative to take swift and decisive action to redefine and reform your approach. The harmonious unfolding of your life has become blocked and the responsibility is yours to correct the imbalance. Once it becomes obvious that something isn’t right, getting to the crux of the matter promptly should be your top priority.

Push through obstacles; vigorous measures must be taken–the time for deliberation is over, but do so in the right way.

Today’s DIVINATION MESSAGE:  Today, confront all apparent problems that arise and putting aside all anxiety, do what needs to be done–confront life’s issues with emotional detachment and honesty.  Emotion will cloud the ability to see clearly.  Stick with the facts.  Self-assurance and determination are keys to implement changes as thoroughly and painlessly as possible.

Again, this comes from I-Ching Kua 21 which is called “Biting Through” and has to do with punishment that is certain and swift.  Can you believe that I find this message comforting?

Maybe you can understand if I tell you this much of the famous night before Christmas story… “…not a creature was stirring, not even a….”….EEEeeeeeeeek, a mouse! 

I’ve tried—truly I have.  The strict Buddhist would find a problem with it and at first I tried to ignore the whole thing—i.e., no, I didn’t just hear something in the attic.  Oh, well, maybe one small mouse just trying to be out of the cold and get warm.  I have compassion, truly I do! 

If you only knew how many times I would gently take a wayward spider or cricket or once even a wasp out the door chanting OM MANI PADME HUMBe on your way tiny Buddha, I’d say while helping them back outside.

Yes, the Buddhist won’t even kill ants.  And you know the story of the worms from the movie starring Brad Pitt, Seven Years in Tibet.  The monks didn’t want to dig up the earth to make a building upon it because they were killing earthworms in the process.

The landlord and I have used certain poison that I think this growing population of mice are immune to.  And maybe you will think this is far-reaching, but maybe because of my own buddhist type resistance to having them die well and quickly– they aren’t.

I have asked they all become reborn into a life where they do not have to seek shelter from the cold and risk eradication—perhaps they could be reborn as little kittens to a nice welcoming home.  If they were good, devoted mice or whatever, then when they leave samsara (here), they will take on a better (next) life.

Anyway, I am convincing myself that they will have that.  I saw one little mouse on the cellar steps so devoted last night to dealing with the details of the poison food that I had put down… they picked up every single morsel.  But then THAT gave me the willies too!!

They say when a mouse shows up in your life it’s an indication that you should pay attention to details–or that maybe you are paying too much attention to details.  Whatever.

Oh I will spare you further details—I trust you have heard enough already.  I do like the ‘Biting Through’ guidance of Kua 21 however,  for this problem that is causing me a good deal of emotional drama.  The bottom line is to take swift action and get the emotions out of it.  Got it!

At 3 pm, the landlord and Terminex Exterminating Company will be here and I am assured that it will be dealt with just that way.  The guy will come back every so many days and/or when I call him as needed in contract with the landlord.  I am blessed to have a landlord who will take the swift necessary action.

In Wilhelm’s book on the I CHING it is written, “Biting through has success.  It is favorable to let justice be administered.”  I’ll take that as the good omen or indication that the right thing is being done. In Wu Wei’s book, he calls this kua “Corrective Punishment”.

AND, as a BOTTOM LINE, even though I won’t be here (holiday with my daughters) on Christmas Eve, I truly do hope nothing  here is stirring, not even a mouse!  May they go to the light with ease and be reborn in a better life! — ‘nuff said.

Karma and Virtue

In reconnecting with some significant soul roots and memories relating to Tibetan Buddhism, an epiphany occurred.  Satori!

The reconnection with this aspect of my soul has been developing  for over a year now.  I’ve been watching movies, reading books and ingesting other forms of  Tibetan energy available on the information highway of this dimensional reality for quite a while now.

In doing so, it is clear that I’ve been basing my intuitive inner truth on the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism without consciously realizing it.  I’m now conscious about it–more aware of the connection.

Virtue, developing virtue–this is something that my higher mind gave to

Tibet Flag

me many years ago in response to my inner question about what we’re all doing here!  This correlates with something I read last night in a book of Tibetan teachings as it relates to “karma”.  That word (and the other word, “soul-mate”) represent concepts that are highly misunderstood by most of us who  have incarnated into  the West.

SUNNY AND WARM TODAY!! Yay!!

It’s way too sunny and beautiful outside today for me to spend hours blogging about this.  I’ll get back to this topic on another day when the rains come.  Besides, “getting” something on deep levels and then putting that into everyday words in a blog may take  a bit more thought.

Meanwhile, I’m going outside to wash the winter dirt and salty snow/slush marks off my car and engage in some other outdoor projects in the sun–but I will be thinking about this while doing so… this whole “virtue” thing.

I will convey  a one-liner as food for thought on this topic:  Developing the virtue of patience releases the karma of anger. 

There’s so much more to understanding the level of mind (often called illusionary) of cause and effect versus the true nature of the mind.

Meanwhile, I just wanted come to “my place” (my blog) and write about how, all along, I’ve had a semi-conscious knowing about something and (then drifted away from that knowing somewhat) and now am re-incorporating it consciously.

Don’t you love it when you have those moments in which you can finally say, “I always knew that but didn’t know I knew but now I know that I’ve always known and I now know it in an even deeper way!”–?

Haven’t you had those kind of moments too? 

I’m going out to play in the sunshine and celebrate Spring along with my remembering!

Wishing you an

 enlightened day!

PS~ Wandering Jupiter went off for another adventure.  Woke up the other day and he had disappeared.  Don’t see him around town anywhere either.  He vanished as quickly as he managed to appear.

I’d like to think that he came by for temporary rest and healing and received it.

He taught me more about myself, as all relationships do… even relationships with animals.  Sometimes, relationships with the animal kingdoms can teach is even more about ourselves than human connections.

Thanks to all who helped by sending healing thoughts for him.

Happy travels Jupiter!  My love goes with you, wherever your Sagittarian self has gone.

 

Jupiter Footnote posted a week later:  A neighbor of Jupiter’s family (who had been looking for him) saw my flyer in town, took the paper to the human tribe who belong to this completely deaf and nearly totally blind dog.  

The folks called me and thanked me since  Jupiter was located via the help of my flyers and, anyway, he is now saftely back home!  Thanks to YOU readers for your mental attention and kind thoughts regarding this temporarily lost member of the animal kingdom.  You helped.  We love happy endings.