25
May
14

Universal original purity


The Buddha approached the spiritual path through the noble truths. These are based on the existential reality of suffering. This is where many people in the West misunderstand Buddhism. They compare it to other religions and come out with statements about it being a negative approach, and that Buddhists don’t believe in God. There is this idea that it’s some kind of atheist religious form. But if you contemplate the Buddha’s teaching, the important thing to realise is that it’s a teaching of awakening rather than of grasping any kind of metaphysical position.
The first noble truth, suffering (dukkha), brings us back to a very banal and ordinary human experience. The suffering of not getting what we want is common to all of us. We all experience suffering from being separated from what we like and love, and having to be with what we don’t like. So we can all relate to it, rich or poor. We all have to experience old age, sickness and death, grief and sorrow, lamentation, despair, doubt—these are common to every human experience. There is nothing particularly unusual about this suffering; it’s ordinary. But it is to be understood. And in order to understand it, you have to accept it.
If you’re always trying to get rid of suffering, you can’t really understand it; you’re caught up in reacting to it. That is what we tend to do when we feel discontented or unhappy. Whatever form of suffering we’re experiencing, the tendency is to try to get rid of it by seeking happiness, maybe distracting ourselves with something which might give us a few moments of pleasure. We try to get away from what we don’t like.
The first of the four noble truths is the truth of suffering. And then there is the insight—suffering should be understood. This is the where the reflective mind is awakened to suffering, to really examine, to investigate the experience of suffering in the present, whether it is physical or emotional. We have to be willing to experience suffering rather than just see how we can get rid of it. This is going against the natural reactions we have, that all sentient beings have. We actually turn to it, examine it, embrace it, look at it, feel it.
This we can only do through reflection. When we try to examine suffering analytically, what happens? We end up blaming somebody; we increase the amount of suffering and confusion by endlessly trying to rationalise it, by analysing it. The reflective mind, on the other hand, is the willingness to feel and experience, to savour, to taste suffering.
What is the suffering of anguish and despair? There is a difference between wallowing in anguish and despair, and resisting them by understanding. Understanding means we’re willing to notice them, to turn to them, to use them as a noble truth, rather than as some kind of personal problem. We change our attitude towards these things. We change from—’I’m suffering and I don’t want to suffer,’ to ‘There is suffering, and it’s like this.’
What is it like, as an experience, to be separated from the loved? We can notice this feeling of anguish, of suffering, from being separated from what we love and like. And then there’s the frustration, the exasperation of having to put up with something you don’t like, and that feels like this. When I feel frustrated, exasperated or fed up, I use that opportunity for insight into the noble truth of suffering—to feel exasperated and fed up is like this. So what am I doing? I’m really detecting that kind of mood. I’m not judging or analysing it, but just noticing that this feeling is like this. The mind embraces the feeling; its willing to feel exasperated; there’s the awareness of it as an object; you begin to see it as ‘there is suffering’.
The cause of suffering, the second noble truth, is attachment to desire. Maybe we have the view that we’ve got to get rid of desire, that desire is something we shouldn’t have, rather than understanding it, knowing it, investigating the result of clinging to it, of being attached to wanting something, of wanting something we don’t have, of not wanting what we have, of wanting to become something that we’re not, of wanting to get rid of bad habits, of wanting to get rid of anger, of wanting to get rid of desire.
What does desire feel like as experience? Desire aims at something; it has an energy to it. When we attach to desire, that gives us energy to attach to desire, so we’re always trying to get something, like the compulsive shoppers of this age. People go into shopping centres and just buy everything because of the desire to get something they don’t have. Wealthy people can do that sometimes. Not even wealthy people, sometimes people with credit cards get themselves into terrible debt. You go into these malls and there are many things that make you want them—’There’s something I want!’ That desire comes of wanting something you don’t have—some beautiful object.
Reflective awareness is awareness of that feeling of wanting something. What is it like, that feeling of wanting? You can observe it as an experience in the present—wanting is like this. You can observe it just on the sensory level, the desire for sense pleasure, sensory experiences.
Desire itself isn’t a problem; it’s the grasping of desire that brings suffering. It’s not in getting rid of desire, but in letting go of desire that we begin to realise the way of not suffering. Letting go of the causes of suffering is letting go of the grasping of desire.
This realm that we live in is a desire realm. Desire is natural to this realm. Desire is what keeps things moving. This is a realm of sensory experience, of pleasure and pain, beauty and ugliness; it’s just the way it is. So desire is not really the problem. Ignorance is the problem—not understanding things as they really are. Grasping these desires is the cause of suffering. We’re actually recognising that suffering has a cause. It’s not the body, the sense world; the conditions themselves aren’t the cause of suffering, it’s this grasping of the conditions that is the cause.
It is very important to reflect on this. We easily blame conditions for our suffering. We say, ‘You! You said something to me that really made me suffer.’ Or, ‘It’s because I can’t get what I want that I’m suffering; I want something and I can’t get it. So I’m really suffering.’ Or, it’s because I’m very attached to an idea of what I should become and I just can’t stand myself the way I am; I want to become this perfect ideal!
Wanting to become something, wanting to get rid of something, wanting sensory gratification—these three kinds of desire and the grasping of these three kinds of desire are what we reflect upon. That which is aware of desire—mindfulness—is not desire, is it? Desire is a mental object that you can observe; you can be a silent witness to desire. If you are desire, there is no way you can possibly have any perspective on it. Because you are not desire, however, desire is something that you can observe and learn from.
First we observe desire, grasping, and then there is the insight of letting go. Letting go of desire isn’t getting rid of desire. We’re not resisting desire, getting rid of it, we’re just letting it be what it is. Desire is desire—let it be that way. If we understand it, we know it; we know the feeling of it; we know when it’s present; we know when it’s absent. This is knowing, direct knowing. Even in Buddhist countries they say, ‘We’ve got to practise in order to get rid of our desires and get rid of our defilements. Kill the kilesas!’ People go on and on like that. It isn’t just Westerners who interpret Buddhism in this way.
I encourage people to really observe desire as experience. What does it feel like? Really get to know it. Wanting sense pleasure, wanting to get rid of something, wanting to get away from something, wanting to become something, feels like this. Practising meditation in order to become enlightened—what does that feel like? If I practise hard enough I’m going to become enlightened! That’s the worldly mind, isn’t it? At university we have to study hard so that we’ll pass examinations. Work hard! You’ll get rewarded! This is the work ethic of our society. We may apply this ethic to meditation. Meditate hard! Really get in there and meditate! Grit your teeth! Kill your defilements! Really smash through! Make yourself become something. Become an enlightened person. The desire to become enlightened, to become pure, to become a better person—it sounds very good, doesn’t it? The desire to become a good person is a very good desire; the desire to be good isn’t bad. The important thing is to recognise that the grasping of desire is the problem; that is the cause of suffering.
Grasping—what is that like as an experience? There’s desire, and then you really hang onto it, cling to it, identify with it. I remember contemplating purity. Bhikkhus have the Vinaya (the rules of the Order), and there is often the attempt to attain purity through keeping this Vinaya. But after years I never felt really pure just by keeping the Vinaya. You can become kind of pure in Vinaya, but as strict as you become, you don’t naturally feel pure. I kept thinking, ‘Well, what is purity, then? Is it that you become pure through keeping rules, by refraining from doing nasty things and thinking bad thoughts? Do you eventually become pure by that means? Is purity a state that you achieve through doing something? Can you become pure in some way?’ And then there is contemplating, this reflective awareness—What is purity right now? This is different to assuming that I’m impure to begin with and operating from that position. That’s the self view—basically I’m impure and I’ve got to become pure. Bringing purity into the reflective awareness in the present—what is really pure at this moment in terms of what I can actually directly know at this moment?—this is like a koan. The only thing I can really find as pure is in awareness, the pure state of awareness, this attention in the present—that’s pure!
When I really contemplated that and realised that, then I had this insight: I’ve never been impure. It’s never been absent from me. It’s always been here and now. It is close, near, absolutely present all the time, but I forget it, and I get carried away with my desires. I grasp desires—wanting something I don’t have, not wanting what I have, wanting to become something, wanting to get rid of something, wanting to become pure—’I want to become pure!’ I do things to become pure—go on fasts, torture myself, try to get rid of my bad thoughts, struggle and strive . . . bed of nails . . . hair shirts . . . self-flagellation . . . What happens when we do that? We end up exhausted and not pure yet!
At certain moments you might think that you’re pure, but because you think you’re pure then you can also think you’re not pure. So, even if you achieve purity through all those ascetic means, you can’t sustain that kind of purity; it’s something you attain so it’s not really pure.
Contemplate purity here and now—what could it be right now for any of us? Purity is not in a thought, or the body, or emotion, is it? Purity is in awareness. Awareness is the gate to the deathless; awareness is the transcendent reality. We begin to have this sense that our true nature is pure and, no matter what we do or think or say, we can never lose that purity. Even the most horrible criminal is still pure—serial killers, rapists, paedophiles, the whole lot. But they don’t know it. They don’t know and so they do all kinds of things out of ignorance, out of grasping desire, out of not understanding things as they really are. We forget. We believe we are this—I am this or I am that. How many of your identities are you really attached to? Do you like to think of yourself as being a certain type of person, having a certain kind of racial identity or sexual identity or class identity or personal identity? These things are very strong; everyone’s very much attached to their identities. Being a woman is an identity, or being a man, being a blind person, being a disabled person, or whatever. We often depend on these identities for a sense of our self-worth.
In the state of purity, however, these identities are no longer necessary; not that they’re dismissed in conventional language, but they’re not what we really are; we’re not anything, only purity. But don’t believe me. This is something you’ve got to find out for yourself. It’s realisable. It isn’t some kind of theory or some kind of high-minded idea that has come to me, it’s the realisation of dhamma, of truth, through investigation, through awakened awareness.
To recognise this purity, to really value this purity, I find, is a great relief, because it’s with me all the time. I just have to keep remembering. I do forget it—I get carried away with the various habits of the mind and body—but I can also remember. Meditation is actually learning to remember this purity, the here and now, centring yourself with the body, with the breath, with the sound of silence, and just noticing the conditioned states, the changingness of conditioned phenomena, of moods, of the emotions, of thoughts, of feelings, of views and opinions, of good or bad, of high or low.
Those of us who are from, say, Jewish or Christian backgrounds, or European societies, sometimes see ourselves in terms of being sinners. I was brought up with the idea that we are basically born within the state of sin. There was a feeling of having lost purity and of having to find it, of trying to become pure or achieving it maybe when I die by doing something; this is from my own experience, my own cultural background. In Buddhism, however, we’re not thinking of our true nature as some kind of fallen being who has sinned, but just as a forgetful one. That, I can relate to. I have to admit that I forget it. Forgetting is one thing and remembering is another. If we forget, we can remember. Remembering is like mindfulness, awareness, clear understanding, clear comprehension, real understanding, and the use of wisdom. Just noticing this—knowing that one is very clear when there’s purity, and when there’s not, really know what it’s like, know the suffering that one creates when one is caught up in grasping desires. Feel it, know just the general ambience of that, just that kind of irritating, acrimonious feeling of wanting or not wanting, just be aware of that grasping and making oneself suffer through that. Or, remember the purity of the moment.
The purity of the moment is in this pure state of awareness. Therefore, you can always refer to it, remember it, just by the simple act of attention, this wide, embracing attention, intuitive awareness in the present. That’s the gate to the deathless, transcendent reality, the unconditioned. It’s not an achievement; you don’t achieve it; you just remember it. When you try to achieve it, you’re operating from ideas, grasping ideas and going along with the assumption that you are the identity of yourself, you are this person who is impure and you’ve got to become pure. That is then your basis, the premise that you are operating from, your modus operandi. From this position you never feel pure; you always feel as though there is something wrong. There is a sense of despair and disappointment because you’re starting from a position that is basically deluded rather than from the purity of the present.
When we talk about the Buddhist teaching as direct, it is that direct. You can’t be more direct than the awakened attention in the present. You’re not starting from a position about yourself or the world and making value judgements about it; it’s just the simple imminent act, the internal act of listening, the open, receptive listening, where you can hear that sound of silence, that kind of scintillating sound in the background—that’s purity. Of course, you don’t go around saying, ‘I’m pure now!’ You don’t need to decorate purity; it’s perfect in itself. If there’s any claim to it, you’re off again. When people go around claiming they’re pure, I never believe them. It’s not something you proclaim; it’s something you realise; it isn’t personal. Purity is universal; it’s not ‘mine’, ‘my purity’, it’s not yours, it’s universal, it’s where we’re the same.
If you want to know where we’re all equal, we are all equal in this purity. This purity is complete. There’s not more or less of it in anybody. Purity has no nationality, it’s not male or female, it’s not even Buddhist. This is to begin to awaken to the way things are.
Now, emotionally, we’re not usually prepared for the awakened state. Even though I had an insight into this years ago, I resisted it, because emotionally I was prepared for becoming something. I’d get bored with it, or I’d doubt it, I would want things; there were a lot of worldly things that I was still very fond of at that time. I was quite willing to let go of a lot of worldly things but other things I wasn’t quite so eager to let go of. I was perfectly happy to let go of the anger and jealousy and fear, for example, but I wanted to keep the good stuff for a while. The world was still rather tempting, tantalising, fascinating, promising all kinds of things. So, emotionally, there was still a longing for worldly things, for pleasure, comfort, fulfilment, adventure, for whatever. Something in the worldly plane was still very attractive to me and even good in itself. These emotions, then, would become very resistant to this simple practice of mindfulness. More and more, however, you begin to see the suffering of attachment even to the good things of the world. And it’s the attachment, not the world, not the good things, but the attachment, that brings the suffering.
http://buddhismnow.com/2013/01/31/universal-original-purity-by-ajahn-sumedho/

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04
Apr
11

Deep Dukkha: Part 1 – The Truth About Suffering


In his Second Noble Truth, the Buddha said that the origin of dukkha – the dissatisfaction with the circumstances of our lives – is tanha, or thirst. I like to translate tanhha as craving or longing, as this refers to a self-focused desire to get something for ourselves, whether it be a material thing (an iPad), a sensory experience (the taste of ice cream, the feel of ocean waves on the body) or an identity (law professor, award-winning author).

I think of tanha as the constantly recurring experience of “want” and “don’t want” in my life. I want (crave) pleasant experiences (mental and physical); I don’t want (am averse to) unpleasant ones. The Buddha wasn’t mincing words when he said: Dukkha is (1) not getting what you want and (2) getting what you don’t want.” And so, dissatisfaction and craving go hand in hand. No dukkha, no tanha. No tanha, no dukkha.

Sometimes commentators claim that the Buddha was saying that life itself is dukkha because having been born, we are subject to sickness, injury, and loss. But the bare fact of these three phenomena cannot be dukkha because that wouldn’t be in accord with the Second Noble Truth which ties dukkha to tanha. It’s the aversion to sickness, injury, and loss (that is, the craving for them not to be a part of our life) that gives rise to dukkha.

Toni Bernhard

03
Oct
10

common sense


COMMON SENSE

The basis of Buddhist practice is not merely sitting in silent meditation, but common sense. If we behave arrogant and selfish, what can we expect from the people around us?
A nice explanation from Taming the Mind by Thubten Chodron:

“After your morning meditation, have breakfast. Greeting your family in the morning is also part of Dharma practice. Many people are grumpy in the morning. They sit at the breakfast table, pouring over the newspaper or reading the back of the cereal box for the umpteenth time. When their bright-eyed children greet them, they grunt and, without looking up, keep reading. When their partner asks them a question, they don’t respond, or they glance at them for a moment with a look that says, “Don’t bother me.” Later, they wonder why they have problems in the family!
…. It’s easy to bark orders at your children, “Get up!” “Brush your teeth!” “Why are you wearing that? It looks terrible! Change clothes!” “Stop playing around and eat breakfast.” “Hurry up and get to school. You’re late.” Many children will react as unruly subordinates when treated in this way. But if you greet your children with love and firmly help them navigate everything in their morning routine, they’ll be happier and so will you.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama from A Policy of Kindness:

When we practice, initially, as a basis we control ourselves, stopping the bad actions which hurt others as much as we can. This is defensive. After that, when we develop certain qualifications, then as an active goal we should help others. In the first stage, sometimes we need isolation while pursuing our own inner development; however, after you have some confidence, some strength, you must remain with, contact, and serve society in any field — health, education, politics, or whatever.

There are people who call themselves religious-minded, trying to show this by dressing in a peculiar manner, maintaining a peculiar way of life, and isolating themselves from the rest of society. That is wrong. A scripture of mind-purification (mind-training) says, “Transform your inner viewpoint, but leave your external appearance as it is.” This is important. Because the very purpose of practicing the Great Vehicle is service for others, you should not isolate yourselves from society. In order to serve, in order to help, you must remain in society.

19
Sep
10

Frustration


There’s a story about the great
Tibetan guru Milarepa that describes the training he got from his
Teacher, Marpa. It seems one day Marpa told Milarepa to build him a
house, which this being Tibet, meant lugging and lifting hundreds and
hundreds of stones and painstakingly placing them one on top of
another….well, after the house was about half completed, Marpa comes
by to inspect, and starts shouting, "No, No, you idiot, I wanted a round
house, not a square house…" So Milarepa, slowly takes the whole thing
apart, and rebuilds the house stone by stone. And again, when he ‘s
about halfway through rebuilding the house, Marpa comes by,  and yells
at him , "No., no, Not THIS hill, I wanted the house over on THAT hill."
And so Milarepa starts over yet again, stone by stone rebuilding the
house across the valley. Well, I don’t remember how many times he had to
build and re-build that house, but you get the idea. And of course, the
idea is that each time, Milarepa not only has to take down the house,
but take down his own anger and frustration as well.

I
just read a modern version of the story in the newspaper the other day:
A group of workfare workers was given the job of raking up leaves and
gathering them all up into trash bags. Well, the job was supposed to
occupy the whole day, but on this particular occasion, all the leaves
had been raked and bagged by lunch time. So after lunch, their boss took
all the bags of leaves and emptied them out again on the grass  and
told them to rake them all up again. Well, maybe that technique worked
for Marpa, but in this case, in the real world of New York City, all
hell broke loose. And rightly so. That’s no way to teach anything to a
group of people whose lives are chronically filled with a sense of
purposelessness, worthlessness and frustration. It isn’t skillful means
to just pile frustration on top of frustration onto people who  have no
idea how to practice with it. Nowadays, Teachers shouldn’t have to go
out of their way to deliberately frustrate their students – they don’t
have to- modern life is frustrating enough! I, for one, am convinced
that Marpa has been re-incarnated and is working for my computer
technical support line. The real problem is that most of the time we
don’t learn anything from our frustrations. The Dilbert cartoons show a
corporate enviornment as wonderfully frustrating as anything Marpa could
come up with, but somehow the cartoon never concludes, "hearing that
the manager was enlightened."

So
how we practice with frustration is the key. And the answer is really
simple to say, but of course, not so simple to practice in the midst of
our daily lives. We practice with frustration by turning our attention
inward, focussing on our reaction in body, thought and emotion, away
from our usual attention to whoever or whatever out there has done
something to frustrate us. Over and over we just inwardly experience
that physical, emotional reaction, and the same time gradually learn to
make conscious the implicit expectations or core beliefs we all carry
around with us about how others, how Life, ought to treat us. Gradually,
our basic orientation changes, from how is Life treating me, to how am I
reacting to Life. That’s all.

http://www.ordinarymind.com/html/frustration.html

19
Jun
10

Doubt


A monk said to Yaoshan, "I have doubt. I
ask the master to resolve it for me."
Yaoshan said, "Wait until I go
into the hall tonight to speak. Then I’ll resolve it."
That
evening, Yaoshan entered the hall. When the assembly was ready, he said,
"Where is the monk who asked me today to resolve his doubt?"
The
monk came forward and stood there.
Yaoshan got down from the Dharma
seat, grabbed the monk, and said, "Everyone! This monk has doubt!"
Yaoshan
then released the monk and went back to his room.
Andy Ferguson, Zen’s
Chinese Heritage
(Wisdom 2000) p.109

 Do you think that resolved monk’s
doubt? If so, what kind of "resolution" was it? It’s interesting to
compare this story to another, more famous one about resolving doubt:
the story of how Bodhidharma pacifies the mind of Huike. (Wu-men Kuan
Case 41). As you probably remember, in that story, Huike comes to
Bodhidharmas and says, "Your disciple’s mind has no peace as yet. I beg
you Master, please put it to rest." And Bodhidharma replies, "Bring me
your mind, and I’ll put it to rest." Well, after practicing with this
question for a long time, Huike finally returns and says, "I have
searched for my mind, but I cannot find it." And Bodhidharma says, "I
have completely put it to rest for you."
Now, we might say that
Yaoshan resolves the monk’s doubt by demonstrating that the mind (or
Mind) is everywhere. Even in the midst of doubt, there is nothing that
is not It. Huike, on the other hand, discovers that his mind is nowhere
to be found. His mind, his self, has no fixed or essential nature at all
– there is only the ever changing moment, empty of anything he can
grasp onto and call his mind. Yaoshan shows us the mind is everywhere;
Bodhidharma that it is nowhere. Are these perspectives the same or
different?
When the mind or the self is found to be empty, it has no
boundary – it has no fixed or permanent essence, but neither is there
anything we can say that is not the mind. From a practical
practice perspective, what is important is that we come to terms with
our own "doubt," and understand its nature. Whenever we have doubt, or
feel that our mind is not at peace, basically what we’re saying is that
there is some aspect of the present moment we don’t want to face,
something about which we’re not yet willing to say that this is me, this
is it. And no matter how often we tell oursleves that our practice is
"just sitting," or just being the moment, our unconscious mind, our
latent defensiveness, is always there in the background setting up
subtle boundaries of how we want to feel, how we want our sitting to go,
who we want to be and not be. If our practice is to mature, we have to
become more and more conscious of these subtle boundaries. If we don’t
find a way to expose these unconscious boundaries, either we will settle
down complacently within them or forever feel there are aspects of
ourselves that we won’t know how to come to terms with – we will
endlessly nurture the suspicion that our sitting is never quite right
and our doubts will keep intruding. "Is this really it? Is this all
there is?" and so on. Yaoshan grabs us by the shoulders and shouts,
"This monk has doubt!" This too is your mind. Everything is your mind.
Exclude nothing from your sitting.
Of course, I’m not saying, "Just
sit and daydream, that’s your mind too." But why not? Precisely because
our ordinary way of thinking implicitly identifies the mind with the
contents of its thoughts. We may not notice it, but that way of thinking
sets up the most rigid boundaries of all. My "self" is inside, having
"my" thoughts. Only when we meticulously label our thoughts and learn to
see thoughts as thought, and not get caught up in the content of
thought, do we begin to open ourselves to our true nature. Only then do
we become truly transparent and open to the moment. Is the sound of
that bird in the street or in your head? Are we are our thoughts and
feelings or are we one with the whole interconnnected world that’s
giving rise to this moment’s thoughts and feelings? When the mind is
everywhere and nowhere, inside and outside, self and other, dissolve
into this moment. That’s all there is, all there can be. Nothing to hold
onto, nothing excluded. There is room for everything in your mind –
even doubt.

http://www.ordinarymind.com/html/doubt.html

02
May
10

The Platform Sutra – The Formless Stanza


Talk presented by Venerable Guo Xing

On Sunday, March 7th, Abbot Ven. Guo Xing continued his talk on the
topic of "The Platform Sutra – The Formless Stanza". Venerable gave
examples of daily life to explain how discrimination, prejudice, and a
judgmental mind bring out both sides of things, such as good and bad,
right and wrong. With a calm and stable mind, we can see the original
nature and beauty of things, without labels, then transcend from good
and bad, right and wrong. By knowing it’s our own discrimination that
makes us see things as good or bad and right or wrong, we often compare
ourselves to others with our own standards in mind. If things meet our
standards, we see it as good and right, if not, we see it as bad or
wrong.

    Everything is neutral. If we put aside these standards,
we will see things for their face value. Sometimes, we can ask
ourselves, "Who is judging this?" when we criticize other’s faults. If
we think using structures like I, this person, and my standard, the
result will come with answers that fall in "good or bad" and "right or
wrong." If we could take these structures of thought off our minds,
there would not be "good or bad," "correct or incorrect" issues. We
often set a standard in our mind and use it to measure and judge others
and different situations. In turn, others also have their own standard
in mind to measure and judge people and situations as well. This
standard makes us live comfortably or uncomfortably. In fact, all events
are neutral. It is our discriminate mind that limits us from seeing
things as they really are. It also explains that when we have standards
set in our mind, we have faults when we criticize others.

    Our mind should function like a mirror. As an old Chinese
saying goes, "When a foreigner stands in front of mirror, it shows a
foreigner, if a Chinese person stands, it will show a Chinese person.
Shi Fu used to say that he could get along with anyone; he even gets
along with ghosts! Sometimes, we cannot get along with children because
we think they are childish, or we can’t get along with elders because we
think they are needy. It is all because we have set this standard to
limit ourselves. We often blame external situations instead of seeing
our internal problem. We should think if it is the external situations
that limit ourselves, or it is our inner situations that limit
ourselves. We should understand it is our own standards that give us the
limitations that bind us and make us feel the way we feel. We should
think of dealing with the external situations, or indeed, we should deal
with our internal limitations.

    If one discards the faulty mind, vexations will be broken.
This sentence talks about if we let go of the idea of "I," "others,"
"right and wrong," we will get rid of greed, hatred and ignorance. When
we feel we are right, our mind will raise the greed, if we see wrong in
things, we give raise to the hatred mind. We are then affected by greed,
hatred and ignorance. We also have to let go of the idea of "wrong,"
and the idea of "right."

    When hate and love don’t operate in the mind, one can then
stretch out one’s legs and rest. We love "right" things and we hate
"faulty" things. The hate and love are from our discriminate mind, and
it has nothing to do with the mind of wisdom. Love makes us comfortable,
hate makes us uncomfortable. Love and hate do not bring us mind of
equanimity, and the nature of true mind is equanimity. The goal of our
practice should be to focus on the mind of equanimity, which functions
likes a mirror, reflecting the phenomenon truthfully as it is. Chasing
after joyous feelings and resisting painful ones do not bring us
equanimity. Venerable encouraged everyone to practice the mind of
equanimity.

    By answering the audience’s questions, Venerable mentioned
that in order to connect with others through friendly relationships and
to help others, we can cultivate Bodhisattva’s four qualities to make
amicable relationships: be giving, speak kindly, act in ways that
benefit others, and be cooperative with others. These practices will
help us understand each other and let us be willing to take advice from
each other. Venerable said that in Sakyamuni Buddha time, there was an
old lady who lived in the east side of the village, even Buddha wanted
to teach her Dharma and she would not listen to him. And yet, the
trusted relationship established through lifetime after lifetime that
Buddha built with his disciples, some disciples got enlightenment just
heard Buddha said to him "Here, Bhikkhu." Similar situations happened to
some great Chan masters and their disciples, and with only one
sentence, his disciples attained their enlightenment.

26
Apr
10

Simply Stop


Thich Nhat Hanh elucidates the no-frills wisdom of ninth-century Chinese Zen teacher Master Linji, founder of the Rinzai school of Zen

“As I see it, there isn’t so much to do. Just be ordinary—put on your
robes, eat your food, and pass the time doing nothing.” —Master Linji,
Teaching 18


IN MASTER LINJI’S TIME, some Buddhist terms were used so often they
became meaningless. People chewed on terms like “liberation” and
“enlightenment” until they lost their power. It’s no different today.
People use words that tire our ears. We hear the words “freedom” and
“security” on talk radio, television, and in the newspaper so often that
they’ve lost their effectiveness or their meaning has been distorted.
When words are overused, even the most beautiful words can lose their
true meaning. For example, the word “love” is a wonderful word. When we
like to eat hamburger, we say, “I love hamburger.” So what’s left for
the meaning of the word “love”?

It’s the same with Buddhist words. Someone may be able to speak
beautifully about compassion, wisdom, or non-self, but this doesn’t
necessarily help others. And the speaker may still have a big self or
treat others badly; his eloquent speech may be only empty words. We can
get tired of all these words, even the word “Buddha.” So to wake people
up, Master Linji [Japanese, Rinzai] invented new terms and new ways of
saying things that would respond to the needs of his time. For example,
Master Linji invented the term “businessless person,” the person who has
nowhere to go and nothing to do. This was his ideal example of what a
person could be. In Theravada Buddhism, the ideal person was the arhat,
someone who practiced to attain his own enlightenment. In Mahayana
Buddhism, the ideal person was the bodhisattva, a compassionate being
who, on the path of enlightenment, helped others.

According to Master Linji, the businessless person is someone who
doesn’t run after enlightenment or grasp at anything, even if that thing
is the Buddha. This person has simply stopped. She is no longer caught
by anything, even theories or teachings. The businessless person is the
true person inside each one of us. This is the essential teaching of
Master Linji.

When we learn to stop and be truly alive in the present moment, we
are in touch with what’s going on within and around us. We aren’t
carried away by the past, the future, our thinking, ideas, emotions, and
projects. Often we think that our ideas about things are the reality of
that thing. Our notion of the Buddha may just be an idea and may be far
from reality. Buddha is not a reality that exists outside of us, but is
our own true nature. The Buddha outside ourselves was a human being who
was born, lived, and died. For us to seek such a Buddha would be to
seek a shadow, a ghost Buddha, and at some point our idea of Buddha
would become an obstacle for us.

Master Linji said that when we meet the ghost Buddha, we should cut
off his head. Whether we’re looking inside our outside ourselves, we
need to cut off the head of whatever we meet, and abandon the views and
ideas we have about things, including our ideas about Buddhism and
Buddhist teachings. Buddhist teachings are not exalted words and
scriptures existing outside us on a high shelf in the temple, but are
medicine for our ills. Buddhist teachings are skillful means to cure our
ignorance, craving, and anger, as well as our habit of seeking things
outside and not having confidence in ourselves.

Insight can’t be found in sutras, commentaries, verbal expression, or
—isms. Liberation and awakened understanding can’t be found by devoting
ourselves to the study of the Buddhist scriptures. This is like trying
to find fresh water in dry bones. Returning to the present moment, using
our clear mind which exists right here and now, we can be in touch with
liberation and enlightenment, as well as with the Buddha and the
patriarchs as living realities right in this moment. The person who has
nothing to do is sovereign unto herself. She doesn’t need to put on airs
or leave any trace behind. The true person is an active participant,
engaged in her environment while remaining unoppressed by it. Although
all phenomena are going through the various appearances of birth,
abiding, changing, and dying, the true person doesn’t become a victim of
sadness, happiness, love, or hate. She lives in awareness as an
ordinary person, whether standing, walking, lying down, or sitting. She
doesn’t act a part, even the part of a great Zen master. This is what
Master Linji means by “being sovereign wherever you are and using that
place as your seat of awakening.”

We may wonder, “If a person has no direction, isn’t yearning to
realize an ideal, doesn’t have an aim in life, then who will help living
beings be liberated, who will rescue those who are drowning in the
ocean of suffering?” A Buddha is a person who has no more business to do
and isn’t looking for anything. In doing nothing, in simply stopping,
we can live freely and true to ourselves and our liberation will
contribute to the liberation of all beings.