Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Buddhist New Year's Resolution

Buddhas and sentient beings grow out of the One Mind and there are no differences between them. It is like space where there are no complexities, and is not subject to destruction. It is like the great sun which illumines the four worlds: when it rises, its light pervades all over the world, but space itself gains thereby no illumination. When the sun sets, darkness reigns everywhere, but space itself does not share this darkness. Light and darkness drive each other out and alternatively prevail, but space itself is vast emptiness and suffers no vicissitudes.
(Zen Master Huangbo Xiyun)

All the thoughts, feelings, and events of the past year are gone; now they are fleeting memories in the present moment. Reflecting on exactly where they arise, in the clear void of the Buddha Mind, they resemble sunlight disappearing into the darkness. Look into this Mind, and see its shining clarity at the heart of one’s being. Remaining as this spacious awareness, know the ephemeral nature of all things, including those memories; let them disappear into the void. Now, turn to face the New Year with this facelessness. What better resolution could there be than to rest in this knowing?

The e- book quoted in this article is available for free download at the following location: ‘Manual of Zen Buddhism’ by D.T. Suzuki

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Yoshiro Tamura on the Selfish View of the Self

Yoshiro Tamura (1921-1989): Don't be self-ish!

The selfish view of the self is a matter of seeing the self as fixed and unchanging, as a kind of absolute, and then seeing and judging other things on that basis. In other words, it is false subjectivity; it is deluded and clinging. In reality, nothing like an unchanging, fixed, absolute self exists. In other words, the self is a self-less self or a self-emptying self. A self that sees itself as impermanent sees things as they are. To know the true appearance of the self as a self-less self or a self-emptying self is to see things phenomenologically in accord with the way they are. It is, in brief, to be genuinely objective.

The selfish view of things involves seeing things as fixed and unchanging and then clinging to them. It is, in brief, a false objectivity. It is also deluded and involves clinging. In reality no unchanging fixed things exist. In other words, things are without independent reality; they are empty of independent reality. To know the true appearance of things as being without independent reality is to have a phenomenological mind, one free from clinging to objects, and conversely to be able to participate in the reality of objects from a phenomenological or non-selfish perspective. In this way, emptiness is not a matter of falling into nihilism but of enabling both objects and the self to exist and live as they should.

Yoshiro Tamura was a Japanese professor considered the leading authority on Tiantai, Tendai & the Lotus Sutra. The above quotation is taken from Tamura's excellent book ‘An Introduction to the Lotus Sutra,' published by Wisdom Publications: A very accessible work on the subject of the Lotus Sutra.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Ajahn Viradhammo on Buddhist Training

Ajan Viradhammo (1947-present): Good intentions

Two points that I find very helpful in training are: 1) to see cause and effect, and 2) intention. We can always reflect upon cause and effect, asking, for example, “What is the result of my practice? How long have I been practising and what’s the result? Am I more at ease with life than I was ten years ago? Or a year ago? Or am I more uptight?” If I’m more uptight, then I need to consider my practice! If I’m more at ease, then also I should consider my practice.

So we look at cause and effect, asking quite simply, “What is the result of my life, the way I live my life?” Not as a judgement, saying, “There I go, getting angry again.” That kind of attitude is not reflective.

Instead notice: The way I speak – what’s the result of that? The way I consume the objects of the sense world, whether it’s ideas in books or ham sandwiches: What is the result of that? What is the result of my sitting meditation?
What’s the effect on my mind and body, on the society around me? These are things we can contemplate. It’s simple, but very important – to see what works and what doesn’t work.

It’s because we don’t understand that we make mistakes, so the trick is to make as few mistakes as possible, and not to make the same mistakes again and again. Yet sometimes we have this blindness, and we don’t see why we have suffering in our lives. Ignorance blinds us. So then what can we do? Wherever there is suffering or confusion, we can begin to look at that pattern in our lives. If we look at this whole pattern, we can discover the causes of suffering, and begin to make intentions to not allow those causes to come up all the time.

Let’s say I’m a person who is always making wisecracks. I watch people cringe, I begin to notice that no one likes me, and end up hating myself. So I reflect: This kind of speech brings me remorse and regret. This kind of speech brings other people suffering. And then I see: Ah, that’s the result. So then what can I do?

Now this is when it’s important to know the difference between remorse and guilt. Remorse is a healthy response to inappropriate action or speech or thought. It’s a healthy response, because it’s telling me, “This is painful.” But most of us probably turn that into guilt.
There is remorse, but also an inappropriate amount of self-flagellation. This is the unhealthy nature of guilt.

For me, it seems that guilt is a kind of cover-up of the pain. I numb the pain, covering it over with these thoughts of guilt: “Yes. You are rotten to the core, Viradhammo!” But this is self-view. What does it feel like when we just go to the pain? If I say something which is unkind to someone, and then see them get hurt, I think: “Oh, I did it again!” – and there’s the jab. There’s the pain. There’s the result of my action.

The above is extracted from the book ‘The Stillness of Being,’ freely downloadable from here. Ajahn Viradhammo has been a Buddhist monk since 1971, having studied with Ajahn Chah & Ajahn Sumedho. He is currently abbot of Tisarana Buddhist Monastery in Canada.