making vows

“And ‘I vow to attain buddhahood, no matter how transcendent’ means always to practice with humility, to respect all beings, to avoid attachments, to give rise to prajna from your own awareness, and to put an end to delusions. It is through self-realization that buddhahood is attained. This is the power of making vows”

The Platform Sutra, pg 43

Why bother, I have been asked, and ask myself, to become a monk?

I believe that vows are important and have made a few. And time passes and then something new pops up and this vow becomes a bit less important and this other vow is the new shiny.

Or although I have made a vow to do x, I am tired and worn out and just want to relax and play a computer game and let the world slide by for a few hours. I can pick it back up tomorrow.

So for me, this vow to become a monk (instead of a vow to study Buddhism or having a better practice) is a motivator. Believe it or not, sometimes I don’t really want to listen to someone’s problems. Or give up my time to share with you. Or think the best solution to an issue is to just ‘Go Off’ on someone. Or that piece of trash I just threw at the garbage can and missed…screw it, someone else will pick it up, and if they don’t, it is just one piece of trash…

In all these situations, I have a voice now that says ‘Is that what a monk would do?’ and it gives me a bit more umph to do the needful. To practice a right action. To reinforce the power of a vow.

take refuge in yourselves

“Our nature is pure like the clear sky above, and our wisdom is like the sun and the moon, our wisdom is always shining. But if externally we become attached to objects, the clouds of delusion cover up our nature, and we can’t see it. Then, because we meet a good friend who explains the true teaching, our delusions are blown away and everything inside and outside becomes perfectly clear, and the ten thousand dharmas in this nature of ours all appear. This nature of ours in which the ten thousand dharmas are present is what we mean by the pure Dharma body. Those of you who take refuge in yourselves, if you get rid of bad thoughts and bad practices, this is called taking refuge.”

The Platform Sutra, pg 154

The practice of taking refuge is often done in a ceremonial fashion, in a sangha or temple, with a Monk reciting things and you reciting things. In essence, you are simply making a commitment to a path. You are not committing to any one (living) teacher or any one ‘True Dharam teaching as taught by this school’. You are simply saying that you accept responsibility for your own health and well being. Although I may accept instruction, ideas, suggestions, compliments, or criticism to help guide me, everything I need is already here. I am already a Monk, a bodhisattva, an enlightened being,  whatever term you want to use. Maybe better said is simply a complete human. I need to commit to a practice to help me remember that; to find that part of myself; to recognize my best face; to help others remember theirs.

 

Riding a motorcycle with no helmet

I noticed someone riding a motorcycle yesterday with no helmet on.

For most of us just reading the line above is all we need to construct a complete story. Perhaps we hold of you that only a fool would ride a motorcycle with no helmet. Perhaps we tell the story of how the ER nurse calls people like that organ transplants waiting to happen. Or perhaps we hold the view that the experience of riding with no helmet gives you better visibility and hearing and dust is actually safer. Or perhaps we believe that the freedom and the feeling of wind going through our hair is the embodiment of what riding a motorcycle is and worth the additional risk. Or just maybe you don’t care one way or the other and you are completely neutral about this. Perhaps your view is based on the idea that you’re tired of the government over regulating us. And your actual view has nothing to do with safety but just the simple right to do as you please without a law that says You must or must not wear a helmet.

All of these factors all of these formulations all of these ideas all of these perceptions. Which one did your mind grab onto in create a story around? Because the fun thing is I haven’t told a story at all yet. I simply placed a single sentence down and if you are like me your mind grabbed it and ran with it.

Our experiences are colored by our views. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to be a police officer and ask the question so what did you see? And then to distill the difference between what they actually saw and what their viewpoint lead them to believe they see.

Once more my practice comes back to the simple idea of avoiding judging. Avoiding being attached to a stuck perspective. Avoiding the One Dharma. To remember that there is joy in simply observing.

Nothing is Enough

Normally when we hear the phrase “nothing is enough”, the context is around desires – if you have millions of dollars, you want billions. If you have great sex, you are not satisfied for long for before longing for more. If you have a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee, you wish it was the same as it was in Canada.

When we investigate and sit with and are aware of our common and simple desires, we can acknowledge them and not be trapped by them. Desire is not a problem – the issue arises when we don’t see behind the curtain, when we think that fulfilling a desire is anything but a temporary balm that never actually solves anything.

With clarity, we find out that nothing is enough.

(inspired by a podcast on desire by Gil Fronsdal, https://www.audiodharma.org/teacher/1/)

Watching your fantasy

A big part of Buddhism – some teachings say it is everything – is to simply be aware of what really is. What is really happening, what is really here, really now. To see what is so. Nothing more, nothing less. To see it without judgement. Or attachment.

So is there value is going to the latest Avengers spectal? Having emotion played upon, stimulated by cgi and fight scenes, excited and dismayed and such?

I don’t know. Part of the answer is attachment. If you enjoy it or not, but are done when the credits are over, then no issue. Enjoy – or not – whatever experience you are in. And when it is over, be done. The Platform sutra suggests to not be attached to any Dharma. And so do not be attached to any narrative, either fictional ones or your own. Take it for what it is, and even judge it, as that is part of the fun, to see what parts you enjoyed and what parts you found lacking. But keep it light hearted and don’t give it great value. It is only a movie. It is only reality. Don’t get bent out of shape as it isn’t a big deal. Smile and give it time to change. It will.

Dukkha-dukkha

We normally translate the concent of dukkha as suffering.

I did not realize until fairly recently that there are different types of dukkha.

  • Dukkha-dukkha, the dukkha of painful experiences. This includes the physical and mental sufferings of birth, aging, illness, dying; distress from what is not desirable.
  • Viparinama-dukkha, the dukkha of the changing nature of all things. This includes the frustration of not getting what you want.
  • Sankhara-dukkha, the dukkha of conditioned experience. This includes “a basic unsatisfactoriness pervading all existence, all forms of life, because all forms of life are changing, impermanent and without any inner core or substance (On this level, the term indicates a lack of satisfaction, a sense that things never measure up to our expectations or standards).

 

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dukkha)

Questions

My current student path is this.  After agreeing to a student/teacher relationship said the teacher is out of the country for six weeks. For the first few weeks, as I’ve continued not only my own studies but had people ask me about my path, I’ve had many questions arise. As I’ve not been able to ask them, I’ve sat with them. And the answers often arise.

For example, do I need to shave off my goatee? My follow up question is what is the value – I know the significance of a historical perspective and cultural, but why does that matter to a modern Buddhist? And how does that impact and why and when and…

When I shared this with other people, they respond with how much they like my goatee and have used words like sexy and distinguished and I became even more attached to it. I could not wait to defend my need to keep it!

But since there was no one to ask, no one to argue with, I just sat with it. And realized one day that I was going to shave it off, and then did. And this was the answer.

I have questions still; but they are mainly logistical, not value. We are already in Buddha nature; it is our ability to hear that is impaired.

 

One of the ideas that I am trying to wrap my head around

In place of their existence or non-existence this teaching advocates the realization of the emptiness of objects and dharmas. It also asks us to realize that the existence or non-existence of any object or Dharma is a projection of the mind that any entity can only be said to exist or not exist in relation to other entities and that to understanding sees through the imaginary barriers we used to separate and thus Define beings things ideas and of course ourselves

Good Friends

Good friends, what are meditation and wisdom like? They’re like a lamp and its light. When there’s a lamp, there’s light. When there’s no lamp, there’s no light. The lamp is the light’s body, and light is the lamp’s function. They have two names but not two bodies. This teaching concerning meditation and wisdom is also like this”

Platform Sutra, Red Pine Translation

 

Good friends. This was not originally a Chinese phrase but a Chinese translation of the Sanskrit kalyana-mitra, which literally means “companions of virtue.” This refers to someone who cultivates and who encourages others to cultivate virtue. As with any spiritual path, relying exclusively on one’s own dedication and energy is seldom sufficient—thus the need for spiritual friends, friends who keep us going when our spirits flag and who point out the way back when we have gone astray.

Red Pine, Platform Sutra commentary, Page 91