Archive for February, 2009


“The Buddhist Attitude to Sensuality” by Ajahn Brahm



Deviated Path
in Cultivation

          1.1   Wisdom not superstition

    Similar to other religions, Buddhism has incorporated various types
    of traditions, custom, miracles, mysticism, fortune-telling, fung-shui,
    charms, talismans, mantras, prayers and many rites and rituals that may
    not be found in the original teaching. As a result, people give more attention
    to self-protection from evil spirits and to seeking good luck and prosperity,
    etc. They are only interested in discovering ways to get rid of misfortunes,
    difficulties and bad influence of stars, black magic, etc. by external
    powers. Thus, religious practices and beliefs are degenerated, and confined
    to worldly pursuits. People become superstitious because of their blind
    faith in the name of that religion,

    The Buddha rejects superstitions but urges us to pursue wisdom. The
    Buddha teaches us to develop the most important practices: self-discipline,
    self-restraint, cultivation of morality and spiritual development. The
    Buddha also teaches us to cultivate the strength of will-power, wisdom,
    understanding of Mind and self-nature.

    1.2   Ideal worship, not
    idol worship

      Regarding as a way of cultivation, some people place the Buddhist images
    to worship. However, if they pray the images requesting for guidance and
    protection for health and wealth for good luck and fame, for power and
    love, etc, or if they ask favours from the images and figures to forgive
    their evil deeds, then they are not in the right path of cultivation.

    The worship of the Buddhist images is to pay respects to the Buddha,
    the greatest, wisest, most benevolent, compassionate man who has ever
    lived in this world. The images help people to recall the Buddha in their
    mind. They may be used as a symbol or an object of concentration to gain
    a piece of mind. The serenity of the Buddhist images influences and inspires
    them to observe the right path of conduct and thought.

    The recollection of the Buddha produces joy, invigorates the mind and
    elevates man from states of restlessness, tension and frustration. Thus,
    the worship of the Buddha is not a prayer in its usual sense, but a meditation.
    Therefore, it is not idol worship, but "ideal" worship.

    On the other hand, respecting the Buddha images without following Buddha’s
    teaching is not the way of cultivation. All worshippers should endeavour
    to understand the spirit of the Buddha.

    1.3   Spiritual power, not
    miraculous power

    In Buddhism, there are so-called Six Psychic Power, which can be attained
    through long and intense training in meditation. The Buddha has advised
    his disciples not to exercise such psychic power, such as walking on water,
    exorcising spirits, fortune-telling, etc. The people may be converted
    and attracted to a religion, not because they realize the truth, but because
    they harbour hallucinations. It is not appropriate. In Buddhism, miracles
    can hinder a person to attain enlightenment.

    The Buddha says that a person can gain miraculous power without gaining
    spiritual power. However, it is dangerous because this power may be misused,
    and harmful to people. These so-called miracles are merely imaginations
    and hallucinations created by their own minds due to a lack of understanding
    of things as they truly are. The Buddha expressly forbade his disciples
    to use miracles to prove the superiority of his teachings. The Buddha
    teaches us to cultivate and gain the spiritual power, then we automatically
    have the psychic power too. The latter is the "side-product" of the former,
    but the Buddha advises us not to crave and cling to the psychic power,
    or any other responses in form. The change for the better arising from
    an understanding of Dharma is the highest miracle that one can perform.

Bodhi Mind in Cultivation

  The Avatamsaka Sutra states:

To neglect the Bodhi Mind when practising good deeds is
the action of demons.

The teaching is very true indeed. If someone begins walking without knowing
the destination or goal of his journey, his trip is bound to be circuitous,
tiring and useless. It is the same for the cultivator. If he expends a great
deal of effort, but forgets the goal of attaining Buddhahood, i.e. to understand
the mind, the self-nature, and to benefit himself and others, all his efforts
will merely bring merits in the human realm, i.e. worldly gain. In the end
he will still be deluded and revolve in the cycle of birth and death, undergoing
immense suffering. For this reason, developing the Supreme Bodhi Mind to
benefit oneself and others should be taken as a crucial step.

Awakening the Bodhicitta (Bodhi Mind) it can be summarized in the Four
Great Vows:

I vow to save the numberless sentient beings,
I vow to end the inexhaustible afflictions,
I vow to master the boundless Dharma doors,
I vow to attain the unsurpassable Buddhahood.

To really develop the Bodhi Mind, one should meditate on and act in accordance
with the spirit of the vow, in the course of cultivation. In order to develop
a true Bodhi Mind, we should ponder and meditate on the following six critical

2.1   The Enlightened Mind

    With the understanding of Three Universal Truths, we should truly realize
    that body and mind are illusory, and do not cling to them, then we will
    gradually enter the realm of no-self. If we have no Four Marks
    as stated in Diamond Sutra, we have no attachment to any nature that becomes
    empty. Moreover, if we have no attachment to both the marks of Dharma
    and no-Dharma that are also empty, then we will attain a pure, clear and
    bright mind. Only when we cultivate in such an enlightened frame of mind,
    we are said to "develop the Bodhi Mind".

    20.2.2   The Mind of Equanimity

    Shakyamuni says that:

All sentient beings possess the Buddha nature; they
are our fathers and mothers of the past, and the buddhas of the future.

    With equanimity and great compassion, the Buddhas regard sentient beings
    as Buddhas to rescue them. The difference lies in whether we are enlightened
    or not. As Buddhists, we should develop a mind of equanimity and respect
    towards sentient beings, when we cultivate. Wisdom comes from afflictions;
    afflictions comes from discrimination. Therefore, we should cultivate
    a mind of equanimity, then we are said to "develop the Bodhi Mind".

    2.3   The Mind of Compassion

    We ourselves and all sentient beings already possess the virtues and
    wisdom of the Buddhas. However, because we are deluded as to our True
    Nature, and commit evil deeds, we revolve in the cycle of birth and death,
    to our immense suffering. Once we understand this, we should rid ourselves
    of the mind of love-attachment, hatred and discrimination, and then develop
    the mind of repentance and compassion. We should seek expedient ways to
    save ourselves and others, so that all are peaceful, happy, comfortable
    and free from suffering.

    In Buddhism, compassion is different from love-attachment. The latter
    is the mind of affection, attached to forms, binding us with the ties
    of passion. The former is the mind of benevolence, detached from forms,
    without discrimination or attachment to any one, manifesting us with blessings
    and wisdom.

    The compassionate thought of the Bodhi Mind arises from a benevolent
    mind, which is the earnestness to rescue and liberate from suffering.
    We all possess benevolent minds, but have to cultivate the mind of compassion,
    then we are said to "develop the Bodhi Mind".

    2.4   The Mind of Joy

      Having a benevolent mind, we should express it through a mind of joy.
    This mind is of two kinds: a rejoicing mind and a mind of forgiveness.

    A rejoicing mind means that we are glad to witness meritorious and virtuous
    acts, performed by others, to rejoice with the people who gain merits
    and benefits, happiness and peace. It becomes a wholesome seed to be cultivated
    in our mind.

    A mind of forgiveness means that we calmly forbear, gladly forgive those
    people who commit evil deeds, show ingratitude, etc. We make every attempt
    to cross them over rather than take revenge.

    The rejoicing mind can destroy the affliction of jealousy. The mind
    of forgiveness can put an end to hatred and resentment.

    The mind of joy cannot manifest itself in the absence of Enlightenment,
    thus we should cultivate it, then we are said to "develop the Bodhi Mind".

    2.5   The Mind of Repentance
    and Vows

    Because of the Three Poisons, we have harmed other sentient beings and
    created an immense amount of evil Karma through our body, mouth and mind
    for countless eons.

    In cultivating the Buddhist Way, we should feel remorse and repent sincerely.
    We should put a complete stop to our evil mind and conduct, to the point
    where mind and objects are empty.

    We should also vow to foster the Triple Jewels, rescue and liberate
    all sentient beings, repay the Four Great Debts (i.e. debts to Triple
    Jewels, debts to our parents and teachers, debts to our spiritual friends
    and debts to all sentiment beings).

    Through this repentant mind, our past transgressions will disappear
    and our virtues will increase with time, leading us to the stage of perfect
    merit and wisdom. We should cultivate the mind of repentance and vows,
    then we are said to "develop the Bodhi Mind".

    2.6   The Mind of No-retreat

    Although we vow to cultivate, our habitual delusions and obstructions
    are not easy to eliminate, nor is the accumulation of merits and virtues
    through cultivation easy to achieve. The path of perfect Enlightenment
    is long over many lives. Thus, holding fast to our vows is not easy things.

    The practitioner wishes to keep his Bodhi Mind from retrogressing, he
    should be strong and firm in his vows. Practising with such a non-retrogressing
    mind is said to "develop the Bodhi Mind".

    Here’s an excerpt from Avatamsaka Sutra summarizing the Bodhi Mind:

In such people arises the [Bodhi Mind] – –
the mind of great compassion, for the salvation of all beings;
the mind of great kindness, for unity with all beings;
the mind of happiness, to stop the mass misery of all beings;
the altruistic mind, to repulse all that is not good;
the mind of mercy, to protect from all fears;
the unobstructed mind, to get rid of all obstacles;
the broad mind, to pervade all universes;
the infinite mind, to pervade all spaces;
the undefiled mind, to manifest the vision of all buddhas;
the purified mind, to penetrate all knowledge of past, present and future;
the mind of knowledge, to remove all obstructive knowledge and enter the
ocean of all-knowing knowledge.



Renunciation is not getting rid of the things of this world,
but accepting that they pass away.

Aitken Roshi
Our modern Western culture only recognises the first of
these, freedom of desires. It then worships such a freedom by enshrining
it at the forefront of national constituitions and bills of human rights.
One can say that the underlying creed of most Western democracies is to
protect their people’s freedom to realise their desires, as far as this
is possible. It is remarkable that in such countries people do not feel
very free. The second kind of freedom, freedom from desires, is celebrated
only in some religious communities. It celebrates contentment, peace that
is free from desires.

Ajahn Brahm (Opening the Door of Your Heart)


Do not try to become anything.
Do not make yourself into anything.
Do not be a meditator.
Do not become enlightened.
When you sit, let it be.
What you walk, let it be.
Grasp at nothing.
Resist nothing.

If you haven’t wept deeply, you haven’t begun to meditate.

Ajajn Chah

The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that
they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough
to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at
ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s
Pema Chodron

View all problems as challenges.
Look upon negativities that arise as opportunities to learn and to grow.
Don’t run from them, condemn yourself, or bury your burden in saintly silence.

You have a problem? Great.
More grist for the mill. Rejoice, dive in, and investigate.
Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, "Mindfulness in Plain English"

If you live the sacred and despise the ordinary,
you are still bobbing in the ocean of delusion.
Zen Master Lin-Chi

Meditation is not to escape from society,
but to come back to ourselves and see what is going on.
Once there is seeing, there must be acting.
With mindfulness, we know what to do and what not to do to

If we are not fully ourselves, truly in the present moment,
we miss everything. When a child presents himself to you with
his smile, if you are not really there – thinking about the
future or the past, or preoccupied with other problems – then
the child is not really there for you. The technique of being
alive is to go back to yourself in order for the child to
appear like a marvellous reality. Then you can see him smile
and you can embrace him in your arms.

Thich Nhat Hanh
Suttas are not meant to be ‘sacred scriptures’ that tell us what to believe.
One should read them, listen to them, think about them, contemplate them,
and investigate the present reality, the present experience with them. Then,
and only then, can one insightfully know the truth beyond words.
Venerable Sumedho
All happiness comes from the desire for others to
be happy.
All misery comes from the desire for oneself to be happy.

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