Metta

Metta, like many Pali words, has a range of meanings: loving-kindness, friendliness, goodwill, benevolence, fellowship, amity, concord, inoffensiveness and nonviolence – and lots more. It is commonly translated as loving-kindness and is concerned with the well being of all living beings. It is a universal, unselfish and all-embracing love.
All living things respond positively to love and kindness. Is this true? Consider plants – as being fairly simple living things. On a physical level they can easily be seen as healthier when they get lots of sunshine and are well watered and fed. One even reads of them responding on an emotional level. This is not so easy to prove. If you have ever had a pet; how does it respond to being kicked and yelled at?
Good health results from care and kindness and bad health results from indifference and abuse. I hopefully imagine that you agree with this. So, if pets and plants like love and kindness and care and attention then why should we be different? Truth is we aren’t, but it often seems as if we are a bit short changed in the loving-kindness department. What to do?
To start with:
be clear in your mind of the bad results of anger, hatred, resentment, indignation, and so forth.
be clear in your mind of the good results of kindness, affection, tolerance, friendliness, good will, etc.
This is not to expect that you will have none of the qualities of the first list and all of those in the second list – just that you see the positive value in loving-kindness.

Aims:
There are two areas the developing of metta aims at: external and internal.
External: the aim is to live in the world as harmlessly as possible, both in relation to living and non-living entities. This is to be both ecologically conscious and socially sensitive. It includes things like; being frugal (not using more than one needs, or wasting what one has), being moderate in one’s lifestyle (not living excessively in any way), being modest, guarding one’s speech, respecting the property and general situation of others, offering help where one can, being generous, performing one’s duties well, etc. All of this is very high-minded and saintly and may seem to be beyond your abilities but, we all have some goodness as part of our character and the aims suggested here are a reference point. We always begin from where we are and having a clear aim tends to result in a clear journey.
Internal: the aim is very simple; to have an unselfish mind / heart. The combination of a concentrated mind and a heart free from hatred, etc. constitutes a state of liberation – enlightenment – freedom from suffering.

A Guided Meditation on
Loving Kindness

“Consider this quietly, on your own; or get a friend to read it out slowly to you.”

 

STOP FOR A FEW MOMENTS. Sit quietly, with a straight back and gently close your eyes. Feeling the rhythm of the breath as it enters and leaves the body, allow yourself to let go of past and future, and come into the present moment; being with exactly what is – now.

Bring your attention to the feeling of the body, accepting it just the way it is – with kindness. Allow yourself to accept all the sensations and feelings of the body completely.

Breathe in deeply, with a sense of trust and well-being: breathe out, letting go of tension, allowing any tightness to dissolve.

Then, focus on the normal breathing; just the feeling of breathing in, breathing out.

Imagine yourself surrounded by light – perhaps a golden-coloured light if you like gold. Being with the sensation of the body breathing in, breathing out, draw the light into the body as you breathe – maybe through the nostrils, the heart or the head. Imagine light saturating the body, through every pore.

Think to yourself: ‘May this being be well,’ and turn the calming effect of the meditation towards this being: ‘May this being be calm.’ Suffuse your whole body with this calm and kindly attention.

Then, let your awareness explore the body: moving around the head and face, gradually down the neck, the back and the chest, spreading right down the finger-tips; then down the legs, to each toe; drawing on the good energy of the breath, expanding and embracing the heart.

Focusing more on the out-breath, let go of the memories, the grudges, the grievances; let it all go. Begin again with each breath.

Picture yourself in your mind’s eye as you are now. Make peace with this view of yourself, through forgiveness, compassion, gentleness. ‘May this being be well.’ Suffuse this picture with gentle, warm light from the heart, then let it go.

Next, picture your parents, let them into your mind. Make peace with their image: ‘May you be well,’ bathing them with soft light, with gratitude.

Observe thoughts arising. Memories of yourself as a child, perhaps something painful or something you have never made peace with. Let it be in the mind, in the light.

Then bring up an image of your daily situation, at home or wherever, with the people it involves. People you like or dislike, feel conflict with, love, fear or worry for. ‘May these beings be well.’ Put aside aversion, fear, worry, guilt; at this moment, allow yourself to be kind.

Think of someone you know who is having a difficult time; send these feelings of kindness towards them. Breathe in light, breathe out wishing them well.

Gradually open up more and more, from the people you see every day to nobody special; and even those for whom you have hardly a memory. Recognise them as human beings with ambitions, hopes, problems, anxieties, joy – just like you! Give them some life in your perceptions.

And, even more remote, acknowledge all the people you can conceive of in this world. This may be a faint feeling, but open up the heart to allow them into consciousness, to be felt. See what the mind does, how it reacts indignantly about some people – such as political figures. Let go of that indignation for this moment. Allow a sense of peace to envelop all beings: the liked, the disliked, familiar and unfamiliar.

And then imagine the planet Earth as seen from space. Extend this sense of peace to the planet we live on, embracing it with your heart, surrounding it with light.

Turning your attention to that sense of peace and light allow it to expand outwards, without limit, letting the sense of ‘me’ and ‘the world’ dissolve in the stillness of the present. Then turn your attention back in towards itself; upon the feeling of knowing ‘the screen of the mind’, the place where images arise. Let it be quite empty or full, choiceless, being illuminated by the soft light from the heart, light from the breath; warm, gentle; beginning, letting go, patient kindness.

Gently come back to the rhythm of the breath, and when you are ready, slowly open your eyes.

 

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The Divine Feminine

Mother Nature

Following on from my previous post on making a difference the way forward for me when starting out on this new adventure is to embrace the feminine that is within all of us. For the last few thousand years the masculine side has dominated the world leading to the problems that we now face. Thank fully the movement that is growing for change has realised this and is now adopting a more feminine aspect so that the world we live in can be a more balanced place!

The following “The goddess” by Gard Jameson explains this far better that I can:

“To speak of God as She in today’s society is regarded as either brazen feminism or the deliberate reformation efforts of religious liberals. However, the tradition of the feminine aspect of divinity has a long history. From Ameratsu and Cannon in Japan, to Quanyin in China, to Tara in Tibet, to Shakti in India, to Akua’ba in Africa, to Isis in Egypt, to Ishtar and Astarte in the Middle East, to Demeter, Aphrodite and Venus in Greece and Rome, to the Great Goddess of Willendorf and Laussel, to Freya in Scandinavia, to Spider Woman and Ixchel the Weaver in North America, the Divine Mother has a long tradition in the history of the planet’s consciousness. It appears that from approximately 40,000 BCE to approximately 5,000 BCE the Goddess was the primary deity figure. Over 90% of the figurines found from this period appear to be of a female goddess.

Our planet has a need to reinstate a sense of the “Goddess” within its understanding of the divine;
the nurturing principle of the female is needed to help guide our way through the maze of
accelerated change which surrounds us. I would submit to you that many of our problems arise as a result of looking at God only as He , the He who appears to initiate holy wars and conquest. As the Taoist, Buddhist or Hindu would tell you, without the Divine Feminine Principle incorporated
into one’s concept of the Godhead, you have only told, at best, half the story regarding the divine
nature; you have fallen short of a full appreciation of the divinity within and without.
The”feminine principle”is viewed by the traditions of the East as the principle of birth,
transformation and rebirth, the nurturing and sustaining influence in the universe. In the Taoist
world view, the feminine principle is the responsive nature of the universe in juxtaposition to
the”male principle”which is the proactive and initiating nature of the universe. The male principle
initiates action and movement; the female principle nurtures and is responsive to those actions and movements.

Our current world view is out of balance, and the world scene reflects that lack of balance. The
patriarchal world view has dominated Western Culture for the last seven thousand years. The
aggressive concepts of a Patriarchal God have been responsible for tremendous initiative in the
history of the West, but they have lost the respect of many for not inspiring a greater sense of
responsibility and nurture for our planet earth.

The traditions of the West have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are not
ecologically responsive and responsible. They have at best tolerated, and at worst espoused, political and social behaviors which have violated the planet. The results are all around us: the polluted skies, earth, and ocean attest to this gross lack of responsibility, along with the absence of an attitude of care necessary to heal our sick planet. The Goddess, in contrast, is the caretaker, and by neglecting her within ourselves and the cosmos, we have moved into a state of disequilibrium where our relationships to ourselves and to the planet are in disarray. People who have been guided by the defensive and exclusive characteristics of a jealous Patriarchal God have promoted the distinctions and differences amongst the people of the world. Such distinctions and differences can lead to disastrous results if not balanced with the promotion of sensitivity and understanding that leads to a celebration of differences, an appreciation of distinctions. Two North American traditions — Ixchel and Weaver from the Mayan culture, and Spider Woman from numerous American Indian cultures, — attempt by their efforts as weavers to bring integration to the great diversity of life.

Within the analytical tradition of Carl Jung and the work of mythologists such as Joseph
Campbell, there is much evidence to support the existence of the feminine principle (anima) within the human psyche alongside that of the male principle (animus). Jung’s definition of spiritual growth within the individual in large part relates to the development and integration of those male and female components of the human psyche.

The Eastern religious traditions have for millennia observed that if you fail to show respect to the
female principle within and without, the results can be awesomely destructive. The figures of Kali
and Camunda personify that sense of danger. With vast arsenals of nuclear weaponry at our
fingertips, it is past time for the female principle to re-emerge and take her position as coequal
along side Yahweh, Allah, and the Lord God.

The Goddess image surrounded the planet for well over 35,000 years to about 5,000 BCE, when her position descended like the goddess Peresephone into the deep earth, the home of Hades. Around that time we observe the ascendancy of the male gods — Zeus, Indra, Yahweh, and Thor. There are numerous theories as to why this shift in religious tradition occurred. I choose not to speculate about these theories. Rather, I choose to ask whether in that shift something of value was lost to humanity? In Greek mythology, not until the goddess Peresephone was returned from the kingdom of Hades did the earth restore her health. It was the winter of the earth’s history according to the myth. We are still caught as a planet deep in the winter of our history. We should seek after the lost Peresephone and restore her to her Divine Mother so that our planet may find its wholeness, following not only the guidance of the Great Father, but also the Great Divine Mother Spirit.

I invite you to welcome the feminine image of God, the Goddess, back into your life. Feel her
presence within you, allow her to turn the winter of your existence into a creative and
life-sustaining spring. As we allow the Goddess to re-emerge in consciousness, her compassion
and wisdom will begin to enfold us. She will gradually reveal herself in all of her simplicity and
complexity. As we spend time recognizing and worshiping the Divine Parent who embodies and
integrates both the feminine and masculine aspects of reality, we will come more and more to
embody this unified wholeness in our consciousness and action. The Sacred Feminine is capable
of greatly assisting in the fulfillment of our existence as a people and as a planet.

May the holistic reality of this Divine Parent within you bless you, sustain you, and create new life
within you. ”

The Goddess                                                                                                                                     Gard Jameson

I know I shall be embracing this femininity will you? 

Making A Difference

For some time now I have held the view that we can all make a difference to this world if we only put our minds to it! Each one of us has it within us to make that difference a difference that the world is crying out for. We just need to alter our perceptions of what is happening around us and to realise that we not the politicians are the real answer to this worlds problems. We are the ones that can make change happen just by making the effort to make it happen.

We need only take small steps at first but these will slowly start to become a stride as we see the changes start to happen as we grow with inner confidence.

The following story shows just how one person can make a difference, I do hope that it spurs you into action! 

The Man Who Planted Trees

By Jean Giono

 For a human character to reveal truly exceptional qualities, one must have the good fortune to be able to observe its performance over many years. If this performance is devoid of all egoism, if its guiding motive is unparalleled generosity, if it is absolutely certain that there is no thought of recompense and that, in addition, it has left its visible mark upon the earth, then there can be no mistake.

About forty years ago I was taking a long trip on foot over moun­tain heights quite unknown to tourists, in that ancient region where the Alps thrust down into Provence. All this, at the time I embarked upon my long walk through these deserted regions, was barren and colorless land. Nothing grew there but wild lavender.I was crossing the area at its widest point, and after three days’ walking, found myself in the midst of unparalleled desolation. I camped near the vestiges of an abandoned village. I had run out of water the day before, and had to find some.

These clustered houses, although in ruins, like an old wasps’ nest, suggested that there must once have been a spring or well here. There was in­deed a spring, but it was dry. The five or six houses, roofless, gnawed by wind and rain, the tiny chapel with its crumbling steeple, stood about like the houses and chapels in living villages, but all life had vanished.It was a fine June day, brilliant with sunlight, but over this unsheltered land, high in the sky, the wind blew with unendurable ferocity. It growled over carcasses of the houses like a lion dis­turbed at its meal. I had to move my camp.

After five hours’ walking I had still not found water and there was nothing to give me any hope of finding any. All about me was the same dryness, the same coarse grasses. I thought I glimpsed in the distance a small black silhouette, upright, and took it for the trunk of a solitary tree. In any case I started toward it. It was a shepherd. Thirty sheep were lying about him on the baking earth. 

He gave me a drink from his water-gourd and, a little later, took me to his cottage in a fold of the plain. He drew his water – excellent water – from a very deep natural well above which he had constructed a primitive winch.The man spoke little. This is the way of those who live alone, but one felt that he has sure of him­self, and confident in his assurance. That was unexpected in this barren country. He lived, not in a cabin, but in a real house built of stone that bore plain evidence of how his own efforts had reclaimed the ruin he had found there on his arrival. His roof was strong and sound. The wind on its tiles made the sound of the sea upon its shore.The place was in order, the dishes washed, the floor swept, his rifle oiled; his soup was boiling over the fire.

I noticed then that he was cleanly shaved, that all his buttons were firmly sewed on, that his clothing had been mended with the meticulous care that makes the mending invisible. He shared his soup with me and afterwards, when I offered my tobacco pouch, he told me that he did not smoke. His dog, as silent as himself, was friendly without being servile.It was understood from the first that I should spend the night there; the nearest village was still more than a day and a half away. And besides I was perfectly familiar with the nature of the rare villages in that region. There were four or five of them scattered well apart from each other on these moun­tain slopes, among white oak thickets, at the extreme end of the wagon roads. They were inhabited by charcoal burners, and the living was bad. Families, crowded together in a climate that is excessively harsh both in winter and in summer, found no escape from the unceasing conflict of personalities.

Irrational ambition reached inordinate proportions in the continual desire for escape. The men took their wagonloads of charcoal to the town, then returned. The soundest characters broke under the perpetual grind. The women nursed their grievances. There was rivalry in everything, over the price of charcoal as over a pew in the church, over warring vitues as over warring vices as well as over the ceaseless combat between virtue and vice. And over all there was the wind, also cease­less, to rasp upon the nerves. There were epidemics of suicide and frequent cases of insanity, usually homicidal.

The shepherd went to fetch a small sack and poured out a heap of acorns on the table. He be­gan to inspect them, one by one, with great concentration, separating the good from the bad. I  smoked my pipe. I did offer to help him. He told me that it was his job. And in fact, seeing the care he devoted to the task, I did not insist. That was the whole of our conversation. When he had set aside a large enough pile of good acorns he counted them out by tens, meanwhile elimi­nating the small ones or those which were slightly cracked, for now he examined them more closely. When he had thus selected one hundred perfect acorns he stopped and we went to bed.There was peace in being with this man.

The next day I asked if I might rest here for a day. He found it quite natural – or, to be more exact, he gave me the impression that nothing could star­tle him. The rest was not absolutely necessary, but I was interested and wished to know more about him. He opened the pen and led his flock to pasture. Before leaving, he plunged his sack of carefully selected and counted acorns into a pail of water.I noticed that he carried for a stick an iron rod as thick as my thumb and about a yard and a half long. Resting myself by walking, I followed a path parallel to his.

His pasture was in a valley. He left the dog in charge of the little flock and climbed toward where I stood. I was afraid that he was about the rebuke me for my indiscretion, but it was not that at all: this was the way he was going, and he invited me to go along if I had nothing better to do. He climbed to the top of the ridge, about a hundred yards away.There he began thrusting his iron rod into the earth, making a hole in which he planted an acorn; then he refilled the hole. He was planting oak trees. I asked him if the land belonged to him. He answered no. Did he know whose it was? He did not. He supposed it was community property, or perhaps belonged to people who cared nothing about it. He was not interested in finding out whose it was. He planted his hundred acorns with the greatest care.

After the midday meal the resumed his planting. I suppose I must have been fairly insistent in my questioning, for he answered me. For three years he had been planting trees in this wilder­ness. He had planted one hundred thousand. Of the hundred thousand, twenty thousand had expected to lose half, to rodents or to the unpredictable designs of Providence. There remained ten thousand oak trees to grow where nothing had grown before.AcornsThat was when I began to wonder about the age of this man. He was obviously over fifty. Fifty-five, he told me. His name was Elezeard Bouffier. He had once had a farm in the lowlands. There he had his life. He had lost his only son, then this wife. He had withdrawn into this soli­ tude where his pleasure was to live leisurely with his lambs and his dog. It was his opinion that this land was dying for want of trees. He added that, having no very pressing business of his own, he had resolved to remedy this state of affairs.

Since I was at that time, in spite of my youth, leading a solitary life, I understood how to deal gently with solitary spirits. But my very youth forced me to consider the future in relation to myself and to a certain quest for happiness. I told him that in thirty years his ten thousand oaks would be magnificent. He answered quite simply that if God granted him life, in thirty years he would have planted so many more that these ten thousand would be like a drop of water in the ocean.Besides, he was now studying the reproduction of beech trees and had a nursery of seedlings grown from beechnuts near his cot­tage. The seedlings, which he had protected from his sheep with a wire fence, were very beautiful. He was also considering birches for the valleys where, he told me, there was a certain amount of moisture a few yards below the surface of the soil.

The next day, we parted.The following year came the War of 1914, in which I was involved for the next five years. An in­fantry man hardly had time for reflecting upon trees. To tell the truth, the thing itself had made no impression upon me; I had considered as a hobby, a stamp collection, and forgotten it.The war was over, I found myself possessed of a tiny demobilization bonus and a huge desire to breathe fresh air for a while. It was with no other objective that I again took the road to the bar­ren lands.The countryside had not changed. However, beyond the deserted village I glimpsed in the dis­tance a sort of grayish mist that covered the mountaintops like a carpet. Since the day before, I had begun to think again of the shepherd tree-planter. “Ten thousand oaks,” I reflected, “really take up quite a bit of space.”I had seen too many men die during those five years not to imagine easily that Elzeard Bouffier was dead, especially since, at twenty, one regards men of fifty as old men with nothing left to do but die. 

He was not dead. As a matter of fact, he was extremely spry. He had changed jobs. Now he had only four sheep but, instead, a hundred beehives. He had got rid of the sheep because they threatened his young trees. For, he told me (and I saw for myself), the war had disturbed him not at all. He had imperturbably continued to plant.Oak TreeThe oaks of 1910 were then ten years old and taller than either of us. It was an impres­sive spectacle. I was literally speechless and, as he did not talk, we spent, the whole day walking in silence through his forest. In three sections, it measured eleven kilometers in length and three kilometers at its greatest width. When you remembered that all this had sprung from the hands and the soul of this one man, without technical resources, you understand that men could be as effectual as God in other realms than that of destruction.

He had pursued his plan, and beech trees as high as my shoulder, spreading out as far as the eye could reach, confirmed it. He showed me handsome clumps of birch planted five years before – that is, in 1915, when I had been fighting at Verdun. He had set them out in all the valleys where he had guessed – and rightly – that there was moisture almost at the surface of the ground. They were as delicate as young girls, and very well established.Creation seemed to come about in a sort of chain reaction. He did not worry about it; he was determinedly pursuing his task in all its simplicity; but as we went back toward the village I saw water flowing in brooks that had been dry since the memory of man. This was the most impressive result of chain reaction that I had seen. These dry streams had once, long ago, run with water. Some of the dreary villag­es I mentioned before had been built on the sites of ancient Roman settlements, traces of which still remained; and archaeologists, exploring there, had found fishhooks where, in the twentieth century, cisterns were needed to assure a small supply of water.

The wind, too, scattered seeds. As the water reappeared, so there reappeared willows, rushes meadows, gardens, flowers, and a certain purpose in being alive. But the transformation took place so gradually that it became part of the pattern without causing any astonishment. Hunters, climbing into the wilderness in pursuit of hares or wild boar, had of course noticed the sudden growth of little trees, but had attributed it to some natural caprice of the earth. That is why no one meddled with Elzeard Bouffier’s work. If he had been detected he would have had opposi­tion. He was indetectable. Who in the villages or in the administration could have dreamed of such perseverance in a magnificient generosity? To have anything like a precise idea of this exceptional character one must not forget that he worked in total solitude: so total that, toward the end of his life, he lost the habit of speech. Or perhaps it was that he saw no need for it.

In 1933 he received a visit from a forest ranger who notified him of an order against lighting fires out of doors for fear of endangering the growth of this natural forest. It was the first time, that man told him naively, that he had ever heard of a forest growing out of its own accord. At that time Bouffier was about to plant beeches at a spot some twelve kilometers from his cottage. In order to avoid travelling back and forth – for he was then seventy-five – he planned to build a stone cabin right at the plantation. The next year he did so.

In 1935 a whole delegation came from the Government to examine the “natural forest”. There was a high official from the Forest Service, a deputy, technicians. There was a great deal of ineffectual talk. It was decided that some thing must be done and, fortunately, nothing was done except the only helpful thing: the whole forest was placed under the protection of the State, and charcoal burning prohibited. For it was impossible not to be captivated by the beauty of those young trees in full­ness of health, and they cast their spell over the deputy himself.A friend of mine was among the forestry officers of the delegation. To him I explained the mystery.

 One day the following week we went together to see Elezeard Bouffier. We found him hard at work, some ten kilometers from the spot where the inspection had taken place.This forester was not my friend for nothing. He was aware of values. He knew how to keep silent. I delivered the eggs I had brought as a present. We shared our lunch among the three of us and spent several hours in wordless contemplation of the countryside.In the direction from which we had come the slopes were covered with trees twenty to twenty-five feet tall. I remembered how the land had looked in 1913: a desert … Peaceful, regular toil, the vigorous mountain air, frugality and, above all, serenity of spirit had endowed this old man with awe-inspiring health.

He was one of God’s athletes. I wondered how many more acres he was going to cover with trees.Before leaving, my friend simply made a brief suggestion about certain species of trees that the soil here seemed particularly suited for. He did not force the point. “For the very good reason,”  he told me later,” that Bouffier knows more about it than I do.” At the end of an hour’s walking – having turned it over his mind – he added, “He knows a lot more about it than anybody. He’s discovered a wonderful way to be happy!”It was thanks to this officer that not only the forest but also the happiness of the man was pro­tected. He delegated three rangers to the task, and so terrorized them that they remained proof against all the bottles of wine the charcoal burners could offer.The only serious danger to the work occurred during the war of 1939. As cars were being run on gazogenes (wood-burning generators), there was never enough wood.

Cutting was started among the oaks of 1910, but the area was so far from any rail roads that the enterprise turned out to be financially unsound. It was abandoned. The shepherd had seen nothing of it. He was thirty kilometers away, peacefully continuing his work, ignoring the war of ‘39 as he had ignored that of ‘14.I saw Elzeard Bouffier for the last time in June of 1945. He was then eighty-seven. I had started back along the route through the wastelands; by now, in spite of the disorder in which the war had left the country, there was a bus running between the Durance Valley and the mountain. I attributed the fact that I no longer recognized the scenes of my earlier journeys to this relatively speedy transportation. It seemed to me, too, that the route took me through new territory.

It took the name of a village to convince me that I was actually in that region that had been all ruins and desolation.The bus put me down at Vergons. In 1913 this hamlet of ten or twelve houses had three inhabitants. They had been savage crea­tures, hating one another, living by trapping game, little removed, both physically and morally, from the conditions of prehistoric man. All about them nettles were feeding upon the remains of abandoned houses. Their con­dition had been beyond hope. For them, nothing but to await death – a situation which rarely predisposes to virtue.

Everything was changed. Even the air. Instead of the harsh dry winds that used to attack me, a gentle breeze was blowing, laden with scents. A sound like water came from the mountains: it was the wind in the forest. Most amazing of all, I heard the actual sound of water falling into a pool. I saw that a fountain had been built, that it flowed freely and – what touched me most – that  some one had planted a linden beside it, a linden that must have been four years old, already in full leaf, the incontestable symbol of resurrection.Oak TreeBesides, Vergons bore evidence of labor at the sort of undertaking for which hope is required. Hope, then, had returned. Ruins had been cleared away, dilapidated walls torn down and five houses restored.

Now there were twenty-eight inhabitants, four of them young married couples. The new houses, freshly plastered, were surrounded by gardens where vegetables and flowers grew in orderly confusion, cabbages and roses, leeks and snapdragons, celery and anem­ones. It was now a village where one would like to live.From that point on I went on foot. The war just finished had not yet allowed the full blooming of life, but Lazarus was out of the tomb. On the lower slopes of the mountain I saw little fields of barely and of rye; deep in the narrow valleys the meadows were turning green.It has taken only the eight years since then for the whole countryside to glow with health and prosper­ity.

On the site of ruins I had seen in 1913 now stand neat farms, cleanly plastered, testifying to a happy and comfortable life. The old streams, fed by the rains and snows that the forest conserves, are flowing again. Their waters have been channeled. On each farm, in groves of maples, fountain, pools overflow on to carpets of fresh mint. Little by little the villages have been rebuilt. People from the plains, where land is costly, have settled here, bringing youth, motion, the spirit of adventure. Along the roads you meet hearty men and women, boys and girls who understand laughter and have recovered a taste for picnics. Counting the former population, unrecognizable now that they live in comfort, more than ten thousand people owe their happiness to Elezeard Bouffier.

When I reflect that one man, armed only with his own physical and moral resources, was able to cause this land of Canaan to spring from the wasteland, I am convinced that in spite of every­thing, humanity is admirable. But when I compute the unfailing greatness of spirit and the te­nacity of benevolence that it must have taken to achieve this result, I am taken with an immense respect for that old and unlearned peasant who was able to complete a work worthy of God.

Elezeard Bouffier died peacefully in 1947 at the hospice in Banon.

You can print a pdf version here:  

http://www.ftpf.org/The_Man_Who_Planted_Trees.pdf

 

You can watch a video version here:

 

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2926032018049266053

 

  

Buddhist Stories

“Buddhism has always been fond of parables and many of these were used by the Buddha himself. He taught by parables, ‘for men of good understanding will readily enough catch the meaning of what is taught under the shape of a parable.'”  Let us read these simple and yet moving stories with the eyes of a child and the mind of a beginner– for they are the pointing fingers to the gateway of spirituality. 

THE ELEPHANT AND HIS OLD BLIND MOTHER

Long ago, in the hills of the Himalayas near a lotus pool, the Buddha was once born as a baby elephant. He was a magnificent elephant, pure white with feet and face the color of coral. His trunk gleamed like a silver rope and his ivory tusks curled up in a long arc.
He followed his mother everywhere. She plucked the tenderest leaves and sweetest mangoes from the tall trees and gave them to him. “First you, then me,” she said. She bathed him in the cool lotus pool among the fragrant flowers. Drawing the sparkling water up in her trunk, she sprayed him over the top of his head and back until he shone. Then filling his trunk with water, he took careful aim and squirted a perfect geyser right between his mother’s eyes. Without blinking, she squirted him back. And back and forth, they gleefully squirted and splashed each other. Splish! Splash!
Then they rested in the soft muck with their trunks curled together. In the deep shadows of afternoon, the mother elephant rested in the shade of a rose-apple tree and watched her son romp and frolic with the other baby elephants.
The little elephant grew and grew until he was the tallest and strongest young bull in the herd. And while he grew taller and stronger, his mother grew older and older. Her tusks were yellow and broken and in time she became blind. The young elephant plucked the tenderest leaves and sweetest mangoes from the tall trees and gave them to his dear old blind mother. “First you, then me,” he said.

He bathed her in the cool lotus pool among the fragrant flowers. Drawing the sparkling water up in his trunk, he sprayed her over the top of her head and back until she shone. Then they rested in the soft muck with their trunks curled together. In the deep shadows of afternoon, the young elephant guided his mother to the shade of a rose-apple tree. Then he went roaming with the other elephants. One day a king was hunting and spied the beautiful white
elephant. “What a splendid animal! I must have him to ride upon!” So the king captured the elephant and put him in the royal stable. He adorned him with silk and jewels and garlands of lotus flowers. He gave him sweet grass and juicy plums and filled his trough with pure water.

But the young elephant would not eat or drink. He wept and wept, growing thinner each day. “Noble elephant,” said the king, “I adorn you with silk and jewels. I give you the finest food and the purest water, yet you do not eat or drink. What will please you?” The young elephant said, “Silk and jewels, food and drink do not make me happy. My blind old mother is alone in the forest with no one to care for her. Though I may die, I will take no food or water until I give some to her first.”

The king said, “Never have I seen such kindness, not even among humans. It is not right to keep this young elephant in chains.” Free, the young elephant raced through the hills looking for his mother. He found her by the lotus pool. There she lay in the mud, too weak to move. With tears in his eyes, he filled his trunk with water and sprayed the top of her head and back until she shone. “Is it raining?” she asked. “Or has my son returned to me?” “It is your very own son!” he cried. “The king has set me free!” As he washed her eyes, a miracle happened. Her sight returned. “May the king rejoice today as I rejoice at seeing my son again!” she said.

The young elephant then plucked the tenderest leaves and sweetest mangoes from a tree and gave them to her. “First you, then me.”

The Blind Men and the Elephant

 A number of disciples went to the Buddha and said, “Sir, there are living here in Savatthi many wandering hermits and scholars who indulge in constant dispute, some saying that the world is infinite and eternal and others that it is finite and not eternal, some saying that the soul dies with the body and others that it lives on forever, and so forth. What, Sir, would you say concerning them?” The Buddha answered, “Once upon a time there was a certain raja who called to his servant and said, ‘Come, good fellow, go and gather together in one place all the men of Savatthi who were born blind… and show them an elephant.’ ‘Very good, sire,’ replied the servant, and he did as he was told. He said to the blind men assembled there, ‘Here is an elephant,’ and to one man he presented the head of the elephant, to another its ears, to another a tusk, to another the trunk, the foot, back, tail, and tuft of the tail, saying to each one that that was the elephant. “When the blind men had felt the elephant, the raja went to each of them and said to each, ‘Well, blind man, have you seen the elephant? Tell me, what sort of thing is an elephant?’ “Thereupon the men who were presented with the head answered, ‘Sire, an elephant is like a pot.’ And the men who had observed the ear replied, ‘An elephant is like a winnowing basket.’ Those who had been presented with a tusk said it was a ploughshare. Those who knew only the trunk said it was a plough; others said the body was a grainery; the foot, a pillar; the back, a mortar; the tail, a pestle, the tuft of the tail, a brush. “Then they began to quarrel, shouting, ‘Yes it is!’ ‘No, it is not!’ ‘An elephant is not that!’ ‘Yes, it’s like that!’ and so on, till they came to blows over the matter. “Brethren, the raja was delighted with the scene. “Just so are these preachers and scholars holding various views blind and unseeing…. In their ignorance they are by nature quarrelsome, wrangling, and disputatious, each maintaining reality is thus and thus.” Then the Exalted One rendered this meaning by uttering this verse of uplift, O how they cling and wrangle, some who claim

For preacher and monk the honored name!
For, quarreling, each to his view they cling.
Such folk see only one side of a thing.
 

The Thief and the Master

One evening, Zen master Shichiri Kojun was reciting sutras when a thief entered his house with a sharp sword, demanding “money or life”. Without any fear, Shichiri said, “Don’t disturb me! Help yourself with the money, it’s in that drawer”. And he resumed his recitation. The thief was startled by this unexpected reaction, but he proceeded with his business anyway. While he was helping himself with the money, the master stopped and called, “Don’t take all of it. Leave some for me to pay my taxes tomorrow”.The thief left some money behind and prepared to leave. Just before he left, the master suddenly shouted at him, “You took my money and you didn’t even thank me?! That’s not polite!”. This time, the thief was really shocked at such fearlessness. He thanked the master and ran away. The thief later told his friends that he had never been so frightened in his life.A few days later, the thief was caught and confessed, among many others, his theft at Shichiri’s house. When the master was called as a witness, he said, “No, this man did not steal anything from me. I gave him the money. He even thanked me for it.” The thief was so touched that he decided to repent. Upon his release from prison, he became a disciple of the master and many years later, he attained Enlightenment. From: Zen Flesh, Zen Bones; Paul Reps; 1961 Doubleday Anchor Books, New York 

The Monkey King

There was once a kingdom of monkeys in the forest. The King of the Monkeys was very very large, and was very kind and wise. One day, the King was strolling & he noticed mango trees along the side of a river. He also noticed a human castle downstream. He then ordered the monkeys to remove all the mangos from these trees, “or there would be disaster”. The monkeys did not understand the King’s intention, but they did as told anyway. All the mangos were taken off these trees except one. This one was hidden behind a nest.

One day, this mango was ripe and fell into the river. It flowed downstream where the human King was having a bath. He noticed the mango & asked the Prime Minister what it was. The PM told him it was a “mango”, a fruit of wonderful taste. The King then ordered that the mango be cut into small pieces & he gave a small piece to each of his ministers. When satisfied that the mango was not poisonous, he ate the rest of it & realized how tasty it was. He craved for more.

The next day, the human king, with his troops, went upstream to search for more of these fruits. There were lots of mango trees, but also lots of monkeys. The human king doesn’t want to share the mangos with the monkeys, so he ordered all of them to be killed. A massacre started.

When the news reached the wise Monkey King, he commented, “The day has finally arrived”. The thousands of monkeys were chased all the way to the edge of the forest. There was a deep cliff at the edge of the forest, and a bamboo forest at the other side of the cliff. The Monkey King saw that if his subjects could cross over to the bamboo forest, they will be saved.

With his huge body, he formed a bridge over the cliff and thousands of monkeys trampled over him to reach the safety of the bamboo forest. He endured all the pain. One monkey did not like the King & he saw this as an opportunity to get even. As he was crossing over the King’s body, he pierced a spear through the King’s heart. The King screamed in pain but endured the pain until all his subjects were safely across. Then he collapsed.

The human king witnessed the whole thing. He was so touched that he ordered the Monkey King be saved. When the Monkey King recovered his consciousness, the human king asked him, “You are their King, why did you bother to die for them?”. The Monkey King replied, “Because I am their King”. With that, he died.

The human king was so touched that he decided to be a good king from that day and he ordered that the monkeys in the bamboo forest be protected from harm forever.

 

World Peace

BUDDHIST IDEAS FOR ATTAINING WORLD PEACE
Ron Epstein(Lectures for the Global Peace Studies Program, San Francisco State University, November 7 & 9, 1988)


INTRODUCTION

Buddhism teaches that whether we have global peace or global war is up to us at every moment. The situation is not hopeless and out of our hands. If we don’t do anything, who will? Peace or war is our decision. The fundamental goal of Buddhism is peace, not only peace in this world but peace in all worlds. The Buddha taught that the first step on the path to peace is understanding the causality of peace. When we understand what causes peace, we know where to direct our efforts. No matter how vigorously we stir a boiling pot of soup on a fire, the soup will not cool. When we remove the pot from the fire, it will cool on its own, and our stirring will hasten the process. Stirring causes the soup to cool, but only if we first remove the soup from the fire. In other words, we can take many actions in our quest for peace that may be helpful. But if we do not first address the fundamental issues, all other actions will come to naught.The Buddha taught that peaceful minds lead to peaceful speech and peaceful actions. If the minds of living beings are at peace, the world will be at peace. Who has a mind at peace, you say? The overwhelming majority of us live in the midst of mental maelstroms that subside only for brief and treasured moments. We could probably count on the fingers of both hands the number of those rare, holy persons whose minds are truly, permanently at peace. If we wait for all beings in the world to become sages, what chance is there of a peaceful world for us? Even if our minds are not completely peaceful, is there any possibility of reducing the levels of violence in the world and of successfully abating the winds of war?

To answer these questions, let us look first at the Buddha’s vision of the world, including the causality of its operations. Then, in that context, we can trace the causes of war. When the causes are identified, the Buddha’s suggestions for dealing with them and eliminating them can be discussed. Finally, having developed a Buddhist theoretical framework for understanding the nature of the problem and its solution, we can try to apply the basic principles in searching for concrete applications that we can actually put into practice in our own daily lives.

SOME ASPECTS OF THE BUDDHIST WORLD-VIEW

The Buddha taught that all forms of life partake of the same fundamental spiritual source, which he called the enlightened nature or the Buddha-nature. He did not admit to any essential division in the spiritual condition of human beings and other forms of life. In fact, according to Buddhist teachings, after death a human being is reborn, perhaps again as a human being or possibly in the animal realms or in other realms. Likewise, animals can, in certain circumstances, be reborn as human beings. All sentient beings are seen as passing through the unending cycle of the wheel of rebirth. They are born, they grow old, become sick, and die. They are reborn, grow old, get sick and die, over and over and over again.

KARMA: THE NETWORK OF CAUSE AND EFFECT

What determines how you are reborn is karma. Whether you obtain a human body, whether male or female, or that of an animal or some other life-form is karma. Whether you have a body that is healthy or sickly, whether you are intelligent or stupid, whether your family is rich or poor, whether your parents are compassionate or hard-hearted–all that is karma. Karma is a Sanskrit word that is derived from the semantic root meaning ‘to do’. It refers to activity–mental, verbal, and physical–as governed by complex patterns of cause and effect. There are two basic kinds of karma–individual and shared.
Individual karma is not limited to a single lifetime. What you did in your past lives determines your situation in your present life. If you did good deeds in past lives, the result will be an auspicious rebirth. If your actions in past lives were predominantly bad, your situation in the present will be inauspicious. If in this life you act more like an animal than a human being, your next rebirth will be as an animal.

Shared karma refers to our net of inter-relationship with other people, non-human beings, and our environment. A certain category of beings live in a certain location and tend to perceive their environment in much the same way, because that particular shared situation is the fruition of their former actions.

The doctrine of karma is not deterministic. Rather it is a doctrine of radical personal responsibility. Although your present situation in every moment is determined by your past actions, your action in the present moment, in the present circumstances, can be totally unconditioned and, therefore, totally free. It is true that you may mindlessly react according to the strengths of your various habit-patterns, but that need not be the case. The potential for you to act mindfully and freely is always there. It is up to you to realize that you have the choice and to make it. This realization is the beginning of true spiritual growth.

The Buddha taught that the fundamental cause of all suffering is ignorance. The basic ignorance is our failure to understand that the self, which is at the center of all of our lives, which determines the way in which we see the world, which directs our actions for our own ease and benefit, is an illusion. The illusion of the self is the cause of all our suffering. We want to protect our self from the dangers of the constant flux of life. We want to exempt our self from change, when nothing in the world is exempt from change.

Life centered on self naturally tends toward the selfish. Selfishness poisons us with desire and greed. When they are not fulfilled, we tend to become angry and hateful. These basic emotional conditions cover the luminous depths of our minds and cut us off from our own intuitive wisdom and compassion; our thoughts and actions then emanate from deluded and superficial views.

THE CAUSES OF WAR

The causes of war are too numerous even to list, let alone discuss intelligently. What we discuss here are what the Buddha considered the most fundamental, the fire under the boiling pot of soup.

War is not something abstract. War is waged between one group of individuals and another. The reasons for war are also not abstract. [We have not yet had a war started and directed according to logical paradigms programmed into a computer.] It is individuals who decide to wage war. Even if the war is global, its beginning can be traced back to the decisions of individuals. And so before we talk about global war, let us first talk about war on the level of the individual.

Wars begin because the people of one country, or at least their rulers, have unfulfilled desires–they are greedy for benefits or wealth (i.e., economic greed) or power, or they are angry or hateful. Either their desires have been thwarted or their pride, their sense of self, has been offended. This can also manifest as racial or national arrogance. They wrongly feel that the answer to problems, which are essentially within their own minds, a matter of attitudes, can be sought externally, through the use of force.

THE STORY OF THE WATER WAR

Four years after his [the Buddha’s] attainment of enlightenment, a war took place between the city-state of Kapilavastu and that of Kilivastu over the use of water. Being told of this, [the Buddha] Sakyamuni hastened back to Kapilavastu and stood between the two great armies about to start fighting. At the sight of Sakyamuni, there was a great commotion among the warriors, who said, “Now that we see the World-Honored One, we cannot shoot the arrows at our enemies,” and they threw down their weapons. Summoning the chiefs of the two armies, he asked them, “Why are you gathered here like this?” “To fight,” was their reply. “For what cause do you fight?” he queried. “To get water for irrigation.” Then, asked Sakyamuni again, “How much value do you think water has in comparison with the lives of men?” “The value of water is very slight” was the reply. “Why do you destroy lives which are valuable for valueless water?” he asked. Then, giving some allegories, Sakyamuni taught them as follows: “Since people cause war through misunderstanding, thereby harming and killing each other, they should try to understand each other in the right manner.” In other words, misunderstanding will lead all people to a tragic end, and Sakyamuni exhorted them to pay attention to this. Thus the armies of the two city-states were dissuaded from fighting each other.

The doctrine of karma teaches that force and violence, even to the level of killing, never solves anything. Killing generates fear and anger, which generates more killing, more fear, and more anger, in a vicious cycle without end. If you kill your enemy in this life, he is reborn, seeks revenge, and kills you in the next life. When the people of one nation invade and kill or subjugate the people of another nation, sooner or later the opportunity will present itself for the people of the conquered nation to wreak their revenge upon the conquerors. Has there ever been a war that has, in the long run, really resolved any problem in a positive manner? In modern times the so-called ‘war to end all wars’ has only led to progressively larger and more destructive wars.The emotions of killing translate into more and more deaths as the weapons of killing become more and more sophisticated. In prehistoric times, a caveman could explode with anger, take up his club, and bludgeon a few people to death. Nowadays, if, for example, the President of the United States loses his temper, who can tell how many will lose their lives as the result of the employment of our modern weaponry. And in the present we are on the brink of a global war that threatens to extinguish permanently all life on the planet. When will that happen? Perhaps when the collective selfishness of individuals to pursue their own desires–greed for sex, wealth and power; the venting of frustrations through anger, hatred and brutal self-assertion–overcomes the collective compassion of individuals for others, overcomes their respect for the lives and aspirations of others. Then the unseen collective pressure of mind on mind will tip the precarious balance, causing the finger, controlled ostensibly by an individual mind, to press the button that will bring about nuclear Armageddon. When the individual minds of all living beings are weighted, if peaceful minds are more predominant, the world will tend to be at peace; if violent minds are more predominant, the world will tend to be at war.

BUDDHIST PRESCRIPTIONS

Providing people with physical well-being and wealth does not necessarily lead to peace. Lewis Lapham recently wrote:

Apparently it is not poverty that causes crime, but rather the resentment of poverty. This latter condition is as likely to embitter the ‘subjectively deprived’ in a rich society as the ‘objectively deprived’ in a poor society.

Mental attitudes and the actions to which they lead are the key.Buddhists believe that the minds of all living beings are totally interconnected and interrelated, whether they are consciously aware of it or not. To use a simple analogy for the interconnection, each being has his or her own transmitting and receiving station and is constantly broadcasting to all others his or her state of mind and is constantly receiving broadcasts from all others. Even the most insignificant thoughts in our minds have some effect on all other beings. How much the more so do our strong negative emotions and our acting out of them in direct or indirect forms of physical violence! In other words, each thought in the mind of each and every one of us brings the world either a little closer to the brink of global disaster or helps to move the world a little farther away from the brink. If each time we feel irritated, annoyed, thwarted, outraged, or just plain frustrated, we reflect on the consequences of our thoughts, words and actions, perhaps that reflection in itself will help to lead us to behave in a way that will contribute to global peace. If every time we get angry at our wife or husband, girl friend or boy friend, parents or children, we are aware that we are driving the entire world toward the brink of war, maybe we will think twice and wonder whether our anger is worth the consequences. Even if we feel our cause is just, if we in thought, word, and deed make war against injustice, we are still part of the problem and not contributing to the solution. On the other hand, if we concentrate on putting our own minds at peace, then we can broadcast peace mentally and generate peace through our actions. We should use a peaceful mind to act for peace in the world.

As to the interrelations between the minds of beings, the being we may be about to harm or even kill, from a Buddhist point of view, may well be our own parents, children, wives or husbands, or dearest friends from former lives.
Because Buddhists see the problem of war as a karmic one, the solution is seen as the practicing and teaching of correct ethical behavior.  Good deeds lead to good consequences, bad deeds to bad. If you plant bean seeds, you get beans; if you plant melon seeds, you get melons. If you plant the seeds of war, you get war; if you plant the seeds of peace, you get peace.
The most fundamental moral precept in Buddhist teaching is respect for life and the prohibition against taking life. Generally speaking, all living beings want to live and are afraid of death. The strongest desire is for life, and when that desire is thwarted, the response is unbelievably powerful anger. Unlike almost all other religions, Buddhism teaches that there are no exceptions to this prohibition and no expedient arguments are admitted. The taking of life not only covers human life but all sentient beings. Reducing the karma of killing is equivalent to putting out the fire under the pot of boiling soup. If we end killing, the world will be at peace.

The prohibition against stealing says, more literally, that one must not take what is not given. Stealing, whether it is by individuals, corporations, or nations, occurs because of selfish greed. From the time of the Trojan War, sexual misconduct has also been a cause of war, as has been lying. National leaders whose minds have been clouded by drugs are not rare in history either–their conduct is rarely just and peaceful. The international drug trade in itself has become a major impediment to peace in most parts of the world. The taking of intoxicating substances is also prohibited by fundamental Buddhist teachings.

The Buddhist vision is a world in which all life is sacred, in which selfishness, in the guise of greed, anger and foolishness, does not interfere with the basic interconnectedness of all living beings. That interconnectedness, when freed from the distortion of selfishness, is based upon the potential for enlightenment that every being shares.

PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS

A beautiful vision, some might say. But how can such a peace be realized in a world such as ours? Isn’t it mere impractical fantasy? No, it is not. Now the time has come to outline some concrete and practical steps that can be taken towards making it a reality. As a beginning, here are three steps.

Step One

If the karma of killing is the flame beneath the soup pot, by reducing it, we directly affect the boiling turmoil of violence and war. We need to reduce the atmosphere of killing and violence, both in our society and in our own lives. Each one of us can reduce the level of killing in our own lives by the very simple act of becoming vegetarian. An ancient sage once said:

For hundreds of thousands of years
The stew in the pot
Has brewed hatred and resentment
That is difficult to stop.
If you wish to know why there are disasters
Of armies and weapons in the world,
Listen to the piteous cries
From the slaughterhouse at midnight.

In a more contemporary vein George Bernard Shaw wrote a “Song of Peace:”

We are the living graves of murdered beasts,
Slaughtered to satisfy our appetites.
We never pause to wonder at our feasts
If animals, like men, can possibly have rights.
We pray on Sundays that we may have light,
To guide our footsteps on the paths we tread.
We’re sick of war, we do not want to fight,
The thought of it now fills our hearts with dread
And yet we gorge ourselves upon the dead.
Like carrion crows, we live and feed on meat,
Regardless of the suffering and pain
We cause by doing so. If thus we treat
Defenseless animals for sport or gain,
How can we hope in this world to attain
The Peace we say we are so anxious for?
We pray for it, o’r hecatombs of slain,
To God, while outraging the moral law,
Thus cruelty begets its offspring–War.

For those who still do not see the logical relationships, I shall try to spell them out more clearly. Non-human life is not qualitatively different than human life, according to Buddhist teachings. Just as when a human is killed, an animal too most often responds to its death with thoughts of resentment, hatred and revenge. While it is dying, these thoughts or emotions poison its flesh. After it is dead, its disembodied consciousness continues to broadcast thoughts of resentment, hatred and revenge to the minds of its killers and those for whom it was killed. Think of the billions of cows, pigs, chickens and sheep that are killed for consumption each year in the United States alone. Those of you who have passed the slaughter yards on the interstate highway near Coalinga, California, have probably noticed not only the stench but also the dark cloud of fear and violence that hangs over the place. The general mental atmosphere of that entire county is thick with thoughts of violence with which such thoughts within our own minds can all too easily resonate.One of the problems of modern society is that the karma we generate is often indirect and not immediately obvious to us, even though it can be quite powerful. We are no less responsible for the death of the animals when we buy meat wrapped in plastic in the supermarket than if we had killed them ourselves. We are no less responsible for the environmental poisoning of people by chemicals that we pour down our drains or by industries we work for or whose products we buy, than if we had personally added the poison to their food. So too we may not be directly aware of the ways in which we may be providing support for many conflicts and wars around the world. Of course, it is much worse to do something wrong, clearly knowing that it is wrong than to do it in ignorance. Yet ignorance does not absolve us of blame.

Step Two

Since war can come about when the general level of violence in the population reaches the boiling point and can either manifest in civil war or be channeled into foreign wars, anything we can do to reduce the general level of violence in the population will certainly be most helpful. One of the major teachers of violence in our society is television. Turn off your TV–permanently. Michael Nagler has written:

* 96 percent of American homes have at least one television set.
The average home has a set going six hours a day.
* In ‘ordinary’ viewing, there are 8 violent episodes an hour.
* Between the ages of five and fifteen the average American child has watched the killing of 13,000 people. By age eighteen he or she will have logged more than 15,000 hours of this kind of exposure and taken in more than 20,000 acts of violence. . . .
* 97 percent of cartoons intended for children include acts of violence. By the criteria of the Media Action Research Center, an act of aggression occurs every three and a half minutes during children’s Saturday morning programs. Dr. George Gerbner counts one every two minutes by similar criteria.
* In a typical recent year “children . . . witness, on prime time television, 5,000 murders, rapes, beatings and stabbings, 1,300 acts of adultery, and 2,700 sexually aggressive comments,” according to a group of concerned mothers.

How can all this be helping the cause of world peace? From an early age our citizens are learning that violence the best solution to their problems, that violence is a socially acceptable and socially approved way of dealing with problems both personal and interpersonal. Turn off the TV!Step Three

By constantly being mindful of your own thoughts, words and actions and by constantly trying to purify them, we can become part of the force for peace rather than part of the force for war. Teachings about karma indicate to us that no matter how just our cause, no matter how right our ideas, if they are accompanied by anger and hate, they will merely generate more anger and hate. If our minds are inundated with the emotions of war, we aid the cause of war, no matter how noble our cause. Buddhist teachings about karma indicate unequivocally that a fundamentally moral life is a necessary prerequisite for ridding our minds of negative emotions, for transforming them into selfless compassion for all. There are many selfless endeavors that we can take upon ourselves to stir the soup and help cool the pot. But we should remember to be constantly mindful of our own mental attitudes. If we are not, no matter how hard we stir, we may also be unconsciously helping to turn up the flames.

How do we change our own mental attitudes; how do we rid our minds of those strong negative emotions that cause turbidity in our minds? Part of the Bodhisattva Path consists of the practice of giving as an antidote to desire, greed, stinginess, and craving; the practice of patience as an antidote for anger; and the practice of wisdom as an antidote for foolishness.

Step Four

We should work on the systematic extension of compassion towards others. From the level of our own minds, to our speech and then our actions, we can work on generating compassion to those who are closest to us, the members of our own familes, and then progressively extend our compassion to our communities, countries, and the entire world.
Many of you may be disappointed in these suggestions. Perhaps you are looking for something more exciting or stimulating. However, I hope that you will realize that there is some indication that these Buddhist ideas do really work. King Asoka, the Mauryan emperor of India who was coronated in 268 BCE, was converted to Buddhism after experiencing personal revulsion in the aftermath of his bloody conquest of Kalinga. Thereafter he prohibited any form of killing and encouraged humane treatment of all peoples and also animals. The Tibetans were bloodthirsty and warlike before conversion to Buddhism. Likewise, their neighbors the Mongols, particularly the armies of Ghengis Khan, terrorized many peoples, from China to the gates of Vienna. It would be hard to find people more fierce and bloodthirsty. Buddhist missionaries subsequently transformed the Mongols into one of the most peaceful peoples of Asia. Buddhists have never advocated war and have never sanctioned the idea of religious war. The ideal of the Bodhisattva (an enlightened being who devotes himself or herself to the enlightenment of all beings) is to voluntarily return, life after life, to our world of suffering to teach the Way to permanent inner peace, which is the only way to true peace in the world. Whether for us or for the great sages of the world, peace can only be brought to the world one thought at a time in the minds of each one of us. Only on that basis, can our actions for peace, also performed one at a time, be truly effective.

Ch’an Buddhism

I thought it would be a good idea to explore the different Buddhist Traditions beggining with Ch’an Buddhism.

What is Ch’an?

Ch’an, also known as Zen, is a way at looking at one’s own true nature.  Each of us is born, lives and dies, and yet we may go an entire lifetime without ever realizing that there’s more to ourselves than we think.  Indeed we have the capacity to come to a very direct understanding of what we really are and what our relationship to the universe around us truly is if we will just look.  Ch’an is a way of looking, a way to focus our attention on the truth of our own life.  It is direct pointing at our true nature.In order to point at this true nature we practice Ch’an meditation (see meditation category of this blog) .  A famous saying describes Ch’an practice, among others, as “a finger pointing to the moon.”  The moon’s brilliance is there for all to see, and the finger points the way.  The finger itself is merely a way, a path, a vehicle for us to get at the truth.  In essence, Ch’an has nothing to do with rites, rituals and so forth; it is concerned with getting at the truth.  By gently focusing on our breath we begin to allow the mind to settle into its natural state.   From there we may begin to get a glimpse of our true relationship with the world. 

Where Ch’an Came From

The origins of Ch’an can be traced to the teachings of both Buddhism and Taoism.  The ancient Chinese paid close attention to the cycles of life and their effects upon those who live in the world.  Books such as the I Ching and the Tao Te Ching described the nature of change and its cyclical characteristics.  Thus was born Taoism, from the Chinese word Tao which means “way,” referring to the way of nature, the way of the universe.  The teachings of Taoism are based on the interplay of yin (that which is yielding in nature) and yang (that which is dynamic in nature).Over 2500 years ago in India, Shakyamuni Buddha began teaching the Middle Path to Enlightenment.  The word “Buddha” means “The One Who Has Awakened,” in this instance, awakening to the true nature of the universe.   The Buddha taught that our life is filled with dissatisfaction and discontentment because we attach ourselves to a false notion of the way things really are.  If we were able to abandon our attachment to things, he taught, we would be able to become truly one with all things; this is our true nature, our “Buddha-nature,” our inherent capability to awaken to Universal Truth.The Buddha taught the path to awakening to this true nature; it is called the Noble Eightfold Path.  It consists of Right Understanding, Right View, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.  The Buddha taught that through meditative practice one may discover how the habituated mind can affect the way we perceive things.  A thousand years later, the meeting of Buddhist and Taoist thought in China would establish the foundation for the practice of Ch’an as we know it today. 

Bodhidharma (Ta-Mo)

Whether or not the man named Bodhidharma actually existed is still a matter for some debate, but it is very useful in our exploration of the origins of Ch’an.  As the legend goes, Bodhidharma was a Buddhist scholar from India who visited the court of the Chinese Emperor Wu of Liang in the sixth century C.E.  Following this visit, during which he is said to have debunked the Emperor’s view of Buddhist teachings, he traveled to the Shaolin Monastery.  There he spent nine years in a cave meditating.  Bodhidharma advocated the teachings of the Lankavatara Sutra, which stressed the direct realization of one’s Buddha-nature.By this time Taoist thought was over 3000 years old and was woven into the fabric of Chinese society.  Taoist and Buddhist scholars had intermingled for several hundred years before Bodhidharma’s time, and many books looking at Buddhist teachings in a Taoist way had been written.  The two systems were generally considered to be very complimentary.Bodhidharma is credited with becoming the First Ancestor of Ch’an.   The word Ch’an was a Chinese pronunciation of the Sanskrit word “dhyana, which referred to the Buddha’s teaching of meditative concentration.  But the Chinese chose to interpret the word to mean “awareness.”  Thus the Ch’an school was centered around utilizing meditative concentration, rather than relying on sacred texts, in order to attain a direct awareness of one’s true nature. 

The Spread of Ch’an

By the seventh century C.E., significant numbers of Ch’an monks were gathering in organized monasteries to practice and study.  Ch’an emphasized direct seeing through meditative practice, as well is what is known as “mind-to-mind transmission” between teacher and student.  This transmission was epitomized by the story of how the Buddha once held up a flower instead of giving a verbal teaching.   His disciple Mahakashapa simply  smiled, confirming that his understanding was the same as the Buddha’sFor the next hundred years, Ch’an grew rapidly.  By the beginning of the 8th century it had spread to Korea, where it was called Son.   In Vietnam it was known as Thien, and when the teachers Eisai and Dogen brought it to Japan from China it was called Zen.  After some internal struggles, Zen grew rapidly in Japan, 21 of the 24 lines of Ch’an having been established there.  After a total of 1200 years of development in Asia, the practices which stemmed from the Ch’an tradition were ready for another significant step: expansion to the West.

Ch’an Meditation

SEATED CH’AN MEDITATION

To practice seated Ch’an meditation, one must be able to sit in a balanced position that allows the free and natural flow of breath. If the body is balanced the mind will be balanced as well, since the two are really not separate. One may do seated Ch’an meditation on a round meditation cushion, on a meditation bench, or on a regular chair.A round cushion may be used in one of two ways: sitting on the flat part of the cushion or straddling the cushion, which is in an upright position like a wheel. The straddle method is very similar to sitting on a meditation bench. For most people who want to attempt a cross-legged sitting position on a flat cushion, the “Burmese” posture is very reasonable. The dominant leg is crossed to the inside, while the other leg is crossed to the outside. Both legs are on the floor or the square mat, with the knees touching down. The ankles are never crossed, nor does one leg rest on the other. A small support cushion may be used if one has difficulty getting the knee to touch down.In the “Quarter Lotus” position, the top of the outside foot is placed on the calf of the inside leg. Be very careful, as this position may cause the inside leg to fall asleep due to pressure on the calf. In the “Half Lotus” position, the top of the outside foot may be placed atop the inner thigh with the sole of the foot pointing upward. In the “Full Lotus” position, the tops of both feet are placed, soles up, on the opposite thighs. This position is considered to be the most stable position for seated meditation.

[IMPORTANT NOTE: Never, under any circumstances, attempt to sit in a Half Lotus or Full Lotus position unless you have first done a series of stretching exercises taught to you by a qualified instructor such as a Yoga teacher or Personal Trainer! You risk doing serious damage to muscles, ligaments and tendons if you attempt a Full Lotus posture without being stretched out properly. Remember, a gradual, consistent program of stretching exercises may enable you to attain a Half Lotus or Full Lotus position in time. NEVER, EVER try to force your way into a cross-legged sitting position!]


Stretching is extremely important when attempting to attain a comfortable, stable sitting position of any kind. You should always do some kind of gentle stretching both before and after you meditate in any seated posture. Exercises such as T’ai Chi or Yoga are very helpful in this regard.

SITTING ON A MEDITATION BENCH OR STRADDLING A CUSHION

Using a bench or straddling a round cushion requires one to straighten the upper body in the same way one does when sitting on the flat part of a cushion. The rules of posture, hand position and breathing are the same as indicated below. 

SITTING ON A CHAIR

The use of a regular chair requires that one sit forward on front half of the seat with the feet flat on the floor about shoulder-width apart. If one has severe back problems it is reasonable to use a round cushion to support the small of the back, but this is only recommended for those who have physical difficulties. All others should attempt to sit on the front half of the seat. The rules of posture, hand position and breathing are the same as indicated below. 
 

POSTURE

A balanced posture insures that one’s breathing is slow and even and that one’s natural bodily energy flows easily. The head should be held erect, but not stiffly, atop the body. Don’t try to sit up as straight and tall as you can, as this can lead to back pain. To straighten the back, simply move the navel forward a few inches, supporting the vertebrae from beneath. Place the tip of the tongue behind the top of your front teeth at the gum line. Tuck the chin in slightly. The gaze gently rests on a point no more than three feet in front of you on the floor. The eyelids hang about halfway down the eyeballs. Don’t squint, but don’t close the eyes entirely either. Relax the shoulders! This allows you to breathe naturally.THE

HANDS

One way for beginners to balance the hands is to place them, palms up, on each thigh. Place the flat part of the thumbs over the tips of the index fingernails. Allow the other three fingers to come together in a gentle curve with no space between them.

 

 A more traditional hand position involves what is known as “quieting the dominant hand.” Place the inside edge of the little finger of your dominant hand against the abdomen; the palm faces upward. Place the other hand, palm up, on top of the dominant hand. Now place the tips of the thumbs together lightly, as if you are holding a large egg in your hand. The point at which the thumb tips touch should be at the level of your navel. The thumb tips do not touch the body. Adjust the hands as needed to maintain this position. 

BREATHING

The breaths are slow, deep, gentle, and absolutely silent. Breathe gently through the nose into the abdomen instead of the chest cavity, allowing the abdomen to gently inflate in the in-breath and deflate on the out-breath. Breathe into the abdomen, but don’t try to see how much breath you can cram into it. Then gently release the breath back through the nose.

WATCHING THE TAN-T’IEN

Place your attention on the spot that’s two finger-widths below the navel, known as the Tan-t’ien. Keep your attention gently but firmly focused on this spot as you breathe in and out. Whenever thoughts, sounds, sensations or combinations of the three take your attention away from this spot, simply bring your attention back to the spot every time this occurs. Remember that there are only two things to do: stay on the spot and return to the spot.Thoughts may be especially distracting since they come and go so quickly and may return again and again and again. But even if you must re-center your attention constantly, that’s all right. You are learning how to calm and harmonize the mind as well as how to recognize distractions and return to a state of mindful concentration. In Ch’an practice you really cannot make a “mistake,” since it’s simply a process of staying and returning, so there’s no such thing as “great” Ch’an practice or “bad” Ch’an practice. Just Ch’an practice.

WALKING MEDITATION 

The practice of walking meditation has two purposes: it balances the quiet act of sitting with a slightly more active form, and it gives practitioners a chance to stretch their legs out. The walking pace itself is slower than normal, yet not extremely slow. The body from the waist to the top of the head is in the same position as it is when sitting, with the chin tucked in slightly and the eyes slightly downcast, head resting comfortably atop the spinal column.The focus of your concentration during walking should be the entire body. Simply observe the entire act of walking, from the point where your feet touch the floor to the top of your head, as your body moves around the Zendo. Remember to bring your attention back to the walking body whenever anything takes it away.The hand position for walking practice is as follows: with the dominant hand, gently grasp the thumb of the non-dominant hand as if you were grabbing a hammer. Allow the fingers of the non-dominant hand to fall across the clasped fingers of the dominant hand. Relax your shoulders, let the arms drop straight down, and place the thumb of the dominant hand against the navel, then rest the knuckles of the dominant hand against the abdomen. 

What is Buddhism?

• What is Buddhism?

Buddhism is a religion to about 300 million people around the world. The word comes from ‘budhi’, ‘to awaken’. It has its origins about 2,500 years ago when Siddhartha Gotama, known as the Buddha, was himself awakened (enlightened) at the age of 35.

• Is Buddhism a Religion?

To many, Buddhism goes beyond religion and is more of a philosophy or ‘way of life’. It is a philosophy because philosophy ‘means love of wisdom’ and the Buddhist path can be summed up as:

(1) to lead a moral life,
(2) to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and
(3) to develop wisdom and understanding.

• How Can Buddhism Help Me?

Buddhism explains a purpose to life, it explains apparent injustice and inequality around the world, and it provides a code of practice or way of life that leads to true happiness.

• Why is Buddhism Becoming Popular?

Buddhism is becoming popular in western countries for a number of reasons, The first good reason is Buddhism has answers to many of the problems in modern materialistic societies. It also includes (for those who are interested) a deep understanding of the human mind (and natural therapies) which prominent psychologists around the world are now discovering to be both very advanced and effective.

• Who Was the Buddha?

Siddhartha Gotama was born into a royal family in Lumbini, now located in Nepal, in 563 BC. At 29, he realised that wealth and luxury did not guarantee happiness, so he explored the different teachings religions and philosophies of the day, to find the key to human happiness. After six years of study and meditation he finally found ‘the middle path’ and was enlightened. After enlightenment, the Buddha spent the rest of his life teaching the principles of Buddhism — called the Dhamma, or Truth — until his death at the age of 80.

• Was the Buddha a God?

He was not, nor did he claim to be. He was a man who taught a path to enlightenment from his own experience.

• Do Buddhists Worship Idols?

Buddhists sometimes pay respect to images of the Buddha, not in worship, nor to ask for favours. A statue of the Buddha with hands rested gently in its lap and a compassionate smile reminds us to strive to develop peace and love within ourselves. Bowing to the statue is an expression of gratitude for the teaching.

• Why are so Many Buddhist Countries Poor?

One of the Buddhist teachings is that wealth does not guarantee happiness and also wealth is impermanent. The people of every country suffer whether rich or poor, but those who understand Buddhist teachings can find true happiness.

• Are There Different Types of Buddhism?

There are many different types of Buddhism, because the emphasis changes from country to country due to customs and culture. What does not vary is the essence of the teaching — the Dhamma or truth.

• Are Other Religions Wrong?

Buddhism is also a belief system which is tolerant of all other beliefs or religions. Buddhism agrees with the moral teachings of other religions but Buddhism goes further by providing a long term purpose within our existence, through wisdom and true understanding. Real Buddhism is very tolerant and not concerned with labels like ‘Christian’, ‘Moslem’, ‘Hindu’ or ‘Buddhist’; that is why there have never been any wars fought in the name of Buddhism. That is why Buddhists do not preach and try to convert, only explain if an explanation is sought.

• Is Buddhism Scientific?

Science is knowledge which can be made into a system, which depends upon seeing and testing facts and stating general natural laws. The core of Buddhism fit into this definition, because the Four Noble truths (see below) can be tested and proven by anyone in fact the Buddha himself asked his followers to test the teaching rather than accept his word as true. Buddhism depends more on understanding than faith.

• What did the Buddha Teach?

The Buddha taught many things, but the basic concepts in Buddhism can be summed up by the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.

• What is the First Noble Truth?

The first truth is that life is suffering i.e., life includes pain, getting old, disease, and ultimately death. We also endure psychological suffering like loneliness frustration, fear, embarrassment, disappointment and anger. This is an irrefutable fact that cannot be denied. It is realistic rather than pessimistic because pessimism is expecting things to be bad. lnstead, Buddhism explains how suffering can be avoided and how we can be truly happy.

• What is the Second Noble Truth?

The second truth is that suffering is caused by craving and aversion. We will suffer if we expect other people to conform to our expectation, if we want others to like us, if we do not get something we want,etc. In other words, getting what you want does not guarantee happiness. Rather than constantly struggling to get what you want, try to modify your wanting. Wanting deprives us of contentment and happiness. A lifetime of wanting and craving and especially the craving to continue to exist, creates a powerful energy which causes the individual to be born. So craving leads to physical suffering because it causes us to be reborn.

• What is the Third Noble Truth?

The third truth is that suffering can be overcome and happiness can be attained; that true happiness and contentment are possible. lf we give up useless craving and learn to live each day at a time (not dwelling in the past or the imagined future) then we can become happy and free. We then have more time and energy to help others. This is Nirvana.

• What is the Fourth Noble Truth?

The fourth truth is that the Noble 8-fold Path is the path which leads to the end of suffering.

• What is the Noble 8-Fold Path?

In summary, the Noble 8-fold Path is being moral (through what we say, do and our livelihood), focussing the mind on being fully aware of our thoughts and actions, and developing wisdom by understanding the Four Noble Truths and by developing compassion for others.

• What are the 5 Precepts?

The moral code within Buddhism is the precepts, of which the main five are: not to take the life of anything living, not to take anything not freely given, to abstain from sexual misconduct and sensual overindulgence, to refrain from untrue speech, and to avoid intoxication, that is, losing mindfulness.

• What is Karma?

Karma is the law that every cause has an effect, i.e., our actions have results. This simple law explains a number of things: inequality in the world, why some are born handicapped and some gifted, why some live only a short life. Karma underlines the importance of all individuals being responsible for their past and present actions. How can we test the karmic effect of our actions? The answer is summed up by looking at (1) the intention behind the action, (2) effects of the action on oneself, and (3) the effects on others.

• What is Wisdom?

Buddhism teaches that wisdom should be developed with compassion. At one extreme, you could be a goodhearted fool and at the other extreme, you could attain knowledge without any emotion. Buddhism uses the middle path to develop both. The highest wisdom is seeing that in reality, all phenomena are incomplete, impermanent and do no constitute a fixed entity. True wisdom is not simply believing what we are told but instead experiencing and understanding truth and reality. Wisdom requires an open, objective, unbigoted mind. The Buddhist path requires courage, patience, flexibility and intelligence.

• What is Compassion?

Compassion includes qualities of sharing, readiness to give comfort, sympathy, concern, caring. In Buddhism, we can really understand others, when we can really understand ourselves, through wisdom.

• How do I Become a Buddhist?

Buddhist teachings can be understood and tested by anyone. Buddhism teaches that the solutions to our problems are within ourselves not outside. The Buddha asked all his followers not to take his word as true, but rather to test the teachings for themselves. ln this way, each person decides for themselves and takes responsibility for their own actions and understanding. This makes Buddhism less of a fixed package of beliefs which is to be accepted in its entirety, and more of a teaching which each person learns and uses in their own way

Emptiness

HOW TO INTEGRATE EMPTINESS INTO DAILY LIFE
By Lama Thubten Yeshe

What is emptiness? Emptiness (shunyata) is the reality of the existence of ourselves, and all the phenomena around us. According to the Buddhist point of view, seeking reality and seeking liberation amount to the same thing. The person who doesn’t want to seek reality doesn’t really want to seek liberation, and is just confused.
If you seek reality and you think that it has to be taught to you by a Tibetan Lama, that you have to look for it outside yourself, in another place – maybe Shangrila! – then you are mistaken. You cannot seek reality outside yourself because you are reality. Perhaps you think that your life, your reality was made by society, by your friends? If you think that way you are far from reality. if you think that your existence, your life was made by somebody else it means that you are not taking the responsibility to understand reality.
You have to see that your attitudes, your view of the world, of your experiences, of your girlfriend or boyfriend, of your own self, are all the interpretation of your own mind, your own imagination. They are your own projection, your mind literally made them up. If you don’t understand this then you have very little chance of understanding emptiness.
This is not just the Buddhist view but also the experience of Western physicists and philosophers – they have researched into reality too. Physicists look and look and look and they simply cannot find one entity that exists in a permanent, stable way: this is the Western experience of emptiness.
If you can imagine that then you will not have any concrete concepts; if you understand this experience of physicists then you will let go of your worldly problems – but you don’t want to understand.
It seems to me that we twentieth century people are against nature, against reality, the very opposite of reality. Each moment we build up our artificial, polluted ego; we cover ourselves with heavy ego blankets – one, two, ten, one hundred blankets against nature, against reality. Modern life is the product of the intellectual mind, and we create it. The intellectual mind is superstition. We don’t understand reality, and the intellectual life that we lead keeps us far from reality.
So we don’t accept who we are. We are always looking to cover ourselves with thick blankets and say “this is me”. We hide our own reality and run away from natural beauty, completely neglecting it. By not touching our reality, our modern life becomes so complicated and we create problems with our superstition. We are like a spider spinning his web, climbing on his thread then falling down; climbing up again and falling down again. In the same way we build our own intellectual web, a way of life, that is so complicated, that doesn’t touch reality, that is so difficult to live in. This construction arises from our own mind and does not arise from anything else.
If I told you that you are nothing, you are zero, that you are nothing that you think you are, then you would be shocked. “What is this monk saying?” But what if I say that it is the truth! In fact you are non duality, non self existence. You do not exist, relatively or absolutely, as you think you do. If you really understood this then you would become more realistic and you would really gain satisfaction and peace. But as long as you hold on to the fantasy, concrete conception of yourself and project this wrong conception onto your environment, then no way will you understand reality.
In Western cities nowadays, you can see, the older you are the more problems you have. When we are young, not so many problems, but then there are drugs and sex, and eventually they become dissatisfying, then more depression, more depression. So, as your body becomes bigger and your brain becomes wider, you have more and more problems and become more and more depressed. The more money you have the more problems come. You can see this.
You only take care of your body, you never take care of your mind, and the result of this imbalance is depression. For most western people this is the case: only the body is reality and they don’t care about the existence of the mind, the soul, the consciousness. They don’t believe they can change their minds. They can change their nose through an operation but they don’t believe they can change thei And when you believe this then no way can you resolve your depression.
Our thoughts, our mind or consciousness are mental energy and cannot be localised in the body. It cannot be touched; it has no form and does not travel in time and space. We cannot touch it or grasp it.
What is important to understand is that the view you have of yourself and the view you have of your environment are based on your own mind; they are the projection of your mind and that is why they are not reality.
I will give you a good example. When a western man or woman looks for a girl or boyfriend, there is this research energy from both sides and when suddenly they see each other they make up an incredible story. “Oh, so beautiful! Nothing wrong inside or outside”. They build up a perfect myth. They push and push., the mind makes it all up. If they are Christian they say, “Oh, he looks just like Jesus. She looks just like an angel. So nice, so pure”. Actually, they are just projecting their own fantasies onto each other.
If she is Hindu, then he would say, “Oh, she looks like Kali, like Mother Earth, like my universal mother”…and if you are Buddhist you fold your hands and say, “Oh, she is a dakini and she is showing me the true nature of all things”. You understand? “When I am near her she gives me energy, energy. Before, I was so lazy, I couldn’t move, I was like a dead person. But now whenever I go near her I can’t believe my energy!” I tell you all this is superstitious interpretation. You think that she is your spiritual friend and all she does is really perfect, even her kaka and pee pee are so pure! Excuse me, perhaps I shouldn’t talk like this – I am a Buddhist monk! But when we speak about Buddhism, about reality then we have to speak practically, from daily life, about what is earthy, what we can touch and see, not just get caught up in concepts.
What I mean is this: you should recognise how every appearance in your daily lift is in fact a false projection of your own mind. Your own mind makes it up and becomes an obstacle to touching reality. This is why, our entire life, no matter what kind of life we have, it is a disaster. If you have a rich life, your life is a disaster. If you have a middle class life, your life is a disaster. If you have a poor life, your life is even more of a disaster! You become a monk and your life is a disaster. If you become a Christian your life is a disaster. A Buddhist, disaster… Be honest. Be honest with yourself.
In fact reality is very simple. The simplicity of the mind can touch reality, and meditation is something that goes beyond the intellect and brings the mind into its natural state. We have the pure nature already, this reality exists in us now, it is born with us… The essence of your consciousness, your truth, your soul is not absolutely negative, it does not have an essentially negative character. Our mind is like the sky and our problems of ego grasping and self pity are like clouds. Eventually they all pass and disappear. You should not believe, “I am my ego, I am my problems, therefore I cannot solve my problems”. Wrong. You can see. Sometimes we are so clear in our life we are almost radiating. We can have this experience right now. Now!
So it is wrong to think that we are always a disaster. Sometimes we are clean clear, sometimes we are a disaster. So, stay in meditation, just keep in that clean clear state as much as possible. All of us can have that clean clear state of mind.
Actually, maybe this is the moment to meditate. My feeling is to meditate now. So, close your eyes, don’t think, “I am meditating”, just close your eyes and whatever view is there, whatever view is there in your mind, just be aware. Don’t interpret good, bad. Just be like a light – light doesn’t think “I like this, I like that”. It is just a light. Whatever is in your consciousness, whatever experience, just be aware. That is all.
Whatever your experience at the moment, whatever your colour, whatever appearance is there, just stay aware. Be aware. If it’s black energy, then that black energy is clean clear. If it’s white energy, just feel that clean clear state. Be aware of whatever is happening. No interpretation … Don’t try to hold onto something or to reject something.
Excerpt from Lama Yeshe’s talk at VajraYogini Institute, France, September 5, 1983.

Meditation

“The point of Buddhist meditation is not to stop thinking,
for cultivation of insight clearly requires intelligent use of thought and discrimination.
What needs to be stopped is conceptualisation that is
compulsive, mechanical and unintelligent,
that is, activity that is always fatiguing, usually pointless, and at times seriously harmful”

Allan Wallace
 

Introduction

Before starting a meditation practice, it is very advisable to have visited a group or center where meditation instructions are given, and follow some guided meditations. In this way, it is easy to discover the basics of the actual practice. The various traditions teach slightly different methods, usually related to the emphasis of their main practices. It is strongly advised to start any meditation session with setting one’s motivation and concluding by dedicating the positive energy, for this, verses as given below can be a good guideline.

REFUGE

 I go for refuge to the Buddha,
I go for refuge to the Dharma,
I go for refuge to the Sangha. (3x)

GENERATING BODHICITTA

By virtue of giving and so forth,
may I become a Buddha for the benefit of all sentient beings. (3x)

THE FOUR IMMEASURABLES

May all sentient beings have equanimity, free from attachment, aggression and prejudice.
May they be happy, and have the causes for happiness.
May they be free from suffering and causes for suffering.
May they never be separated from the happiness that is free from suffering. (3x)

THE SEVEN-LIMBED PRAYER

 Respectfully I prostrate with body, speech and mind;
I present clouds of every type of offerings, actual and imagined;
I declare all the negative actions I have done since beginningless time,
and rejoice in the merit of all Aryas and ordinary beings.
Please teacher, remain until cyclic existence ends
and turn the wheel of Dharma for all sentient beings.
I dedicate the virtues of myself and others to the great Enlightenment.

SHORT MANDALA OFFERING

 This ground I offer, as Buddha-fields,
Resplendent with flowers, incense and perfume
In the center Mount Meru, four lands, sun and moon,
May all sentient beings enjoy this Pure Land.

IDAM GURU RATNA-MANDALAKAM NIRYATAYAMI

DEDICATION PRAYERS

 May all sentient beings have equanimity, free from attachment, aggression and prejudice.
May they be happy, and have the causes for happiness.
May they be free from suffering and causes for suffering.
May they never be separated from the happiness that is free from suffering. (3x)
By this virtue may I soon
reach a Guru-Buddha-state,
and lead each and every being
to that state of Buddhahood.
May the precious Bodhicitta
not yet born, arise and grow
may that born have no decline
but increase forever more.
In all my rebirths may I never be separated from perfect spiritual masters
and enjoy the magnificent Dharma.
Completing all qualities of the stages and paths,
May I quickly achieve the state of Vajradhara.
May anyone who merely sees or hears,
remembers, touches or talks to me,
be instantly freed from all sufferings
and abide in happiness forever.
It is only from the kindness of my Guru
that I have met the peerless teachings of the Buddha.
Thus, I dedicate all merit so that all sentient beings in the future
may be guided by kind and holy Gurus.
Until cyclic existence ends,
may the beneficial teachings not be blown away by the wind of superstitions.
May the entire world be filled
with people who have undersdtood and found firm faith in the true teachings.
Day and night, may I pass the time
thinking and examining by what means
these teachings can spread
in the minds of myself and others.
May all sentient beings – who have all been my mother and father – be completely happy,
and may the lower realms be forever empty.
May all the prayers of the bodhisattvas, wherever they live,
be immediately fulfilled.
May the glorious gurus live long,
and may all beings throughout limitless space have happiness.
By purifying our defilements and accumulating positive potential,
may I and all others be inspired to attain Buddhahood quickly.
May I never develop, even a moment,
wrong views towards the deeds of my glorious Gurus.
With respect and devotion, by seeing whatever actions they do as pure,
may the guru’s inspiration flow into my mind.
In whatever way you appear, O glorious Guru,whatever your retinue, ifespan and pure-land,
whatever your name, most noble and holy,
may I and all others attain only these.
In order to follow the excellent examples
set by the wisdom of the bodhisattva Manjushri
and the always sublime Samantabhadra,
I dedicate all virtues to their peerless ideals.
All conquerors of the three times
have praised this peerless dedication as sublime.
Therefore, I also surrender all roots of my activities
to the sublime goals of a bodhisattva.

BASICS

WATCHING THE BREATH – THE REAL BASICS

After the preliminaries, concentrate on the tip of your nose, and feel the breath going in and out.
To help your concentration, you can count every out-breath as one, and count from 1 to 10. When you arrived at 10, simply start at 1 again. All the attention is with the feeling of the nose and the counting, nothing more, nothing less.
Regularly check yourself if you are still concentrated, do not get angry when distracted, simply return to counting from 1.
Just before the end of the session, release the concentration on the counting and the tip of your nose, and simply be aware of how you feel for a minute or so.
Then dedicate the positive energy of the session to whichever goal you like, use for example above prayers.
 

BUTTER ON THE HEAD

Imagine on the crown of your head a lump of gold-coloured butter.– It slowly melts, and wherever it runs down over your body, all stress and tension in the body disappears.
– Very slowly the butter flows over your forehead, all muscles relax…
– It runs down over your eyes and cheeks…, your whole face relaxes.
– Along the back of your head… your neck… shoulders; feel how much tension is there and let it go….
– Arms and hands…. the chest.. belly….
– Along the spine, the entire back relaxes…your legs and feet…
– The entire body is covered in golden butter and you radiate health.
– Go over the whole body again and breathe out all the remaining stress.

RELAXING BY STRESSING

A very effective method to relax the body by stressing all the muscles, holding that 5 to 10 seconds, and then releasing the tension.– Sit or lie in a relaxed way.
– Put an extremely tense expression on the face, straining as many face muscles as possible. Take a deep breath and forcefully hold it. ……
– Now slowly release the breath and the tension of all the face muscles, feel as if you breathe out all stress.
– Inhale deeply again and stress all neck and shoulder muscles…. then let go
– Inhale, make fists and stress the arms… let go
– Inhale, stress chest, belly and back…. let go
– Inhale, stress buttocks, legs and feet… let go
– If you still feel tension at some places, just stay relaxed, don’t hold the breath now, but release all the tension while breathing out.
– Enjoy your relaxed body

ELIMINATING PAST AND FUTURE

Rest the hands, palms down on the legs and watch the breath
– When the mind wanders off to thoughts of the past, gently tap your left leg
– When the mind wanders off to thoughts of the future, gently tap your right leg
– Whenever a thought arises, mentally note “memory” or “fantasy”, then return to the breath. 
 

WATCHING THE SENSES

Focus the attention to your breath and sensory experiences
– Whenever you notice something, mentally note: “feeling”, “hearing”, “tasting”, “smelling”, “touching”.
– Note the senses, but do not start talking with yourself, only note the experience and go back to the breath.

WATCHING EMOTIONS

Focus the attention mainly to the breath and sensory experiences; in addition, note your emotional experiences. – Whenever a particular feeling comes up, mentally note it; as “liking”, “dis-liking”, “anger”, “sad”, “fear”, “resentment”, “anxiety”, “guilt” etc. and let it go
– Do not get involved with the emotions, only note them and return to awareness of the breath.

SMOKE OUT, LIGHT IN

– While breathing out, imagine that all your negative energies, mistakes, misunderstanding and emotions leave your body with the breath. Visualise this energy as black smoke, which goes out into space and completely disappears.
– While breathing in, imagine that all the positive energy of the universe enters your body with the breath. Visualise this positive energy as pure white light which enters all the parts of your body, it pervades every cell and atom. Enjoy this clear white light.
– If you feel comfortable, use every breath to inhale light and to exhale black smoke and problems.
– When distracted by other thoughts, simply observe them without getting involved; transform them into black smoke and breathe them out.

BODY OF LIGHT

– Visualise above the crown of your head a white ball of light, somewhat smaller than your head. It has no real form and is pure white energy. Do not concentrate on details, just try to feel it is there.
– Imagine that the light embodies all the pure love of the universe, the accomplishment of the highest potential of living beings.
– Visualise the ball becomes smaller, about the size of your thumb, and it enters the crown of your head, and descends to the level of your heart.
– Now the light expands and fills your entire body. All the material of the body dissolves into light. What remains is a body of light without shape.
– Concentrate on the feeling this light-body gives, all problems and negativities are gone, only peace and happiness is left.
– When distracting thoughts arise, simply dissolve them in the light.

9-ROUND BREATHING

This is a pre-tantric purification practice in which you visualise the main 3 energy channels in the body. It is used in the beginning of a meditation session (after the prayers of refuge etc.) to calm and clear the mind in only a minute or so.
Make your breath somewhat longer and deeper, but don’t exaggerate, if possible one should not hear the breathing. If you have a cold and one or both nostrils are clogged, just imagine breathing through the different nostrils.
Visualise the body as being completely empty and transparent, then inside it appears the Central Channel.
The Central Channel starts between the eyebrows, continues back just under the skull, and from the crown of the head it goes straight down to the level of four finger-widths under the navel, it stays a little in front of the spine. It is like a transparent blue tube, about the thickness of a thick drinking straw.
To the left and to the right are two side-channels, both transparent and the thickness of only a drinking-straw. The right channel is red, the left is white.
The three channels are flexible and just below the navel they connect with each other.
During the first round of breathing, INHALE through the LEFT nostril, keeping the right nostril closed with a finger. We imagine the air going from the left nostril into the left channel, up near the crown and way down to under the navel. There, the left channel is connected to the right channel, and we BREATHE OUT through the RIGHT CHANNEL by closing the left nostril with the same finger. Imagine breathing in pure white light, and when exhaling, imagine that all DESIRE AND ATTACHMENT which pollutes the left channel collects at the navel and leaves via the right channel as black smoke. The black smoke disappears beyond the universe. Repeat this 3 times.
Then the next round we INHALE white light via the RIGHT nostril, and all ANGER AND HATRED which pollutes the right channel collects below the navel and is EXHALED via the LEFT channel as black smoke. Again, do this 3 times.
The third round we INHALE white light via the LEFT AND RIGHT channel together and imagine them both being connected to the central channel below the navel. This CENTRAL CHANNEL is polluted by IGNORANCE AND CONFUSION which is breathed out as black smoke. Imagine that you BREATHE OUT via the POINT BETWEEN the EYEBROWS.
Normally do this not more than 2 or 3 rounds.    

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