Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Un-Aging Witness

We see our bodies aging in the mirror, but we ourselves do not feel that we are older. 

That is because your body is aging and your body exists in time. But the one who witnesses the aging body is awareness itself, and that does not exist in time. 

As you sit in meditation, you become more and more the witness of experience (the one who knows, who is aware), and not the experiencer who is ever reacting to ever changing sensations. 

The wise one witnesses in awe as life renews itself in every moment. 

(1) These ideas are indirectly quoted from Jack Kornfield in a recent dharma talk -

(2) In TM, this "witness/awareness" is known as "transcendental consciousness", and the regular practice of TM is intended to awaken that consciousness so it is ever present, not only during meditation, but in our waking and sleeping states, as well.

Friday, January 8, 2016

(Un)Lucky Karma

Buddha did not allow his disciples to participate in fortune telling, prophesizing about the future, interpreting dreams, wearing magic or lucky charms, finding lucky days in the calendar, and similar activities. He considered these useless superstitions, "low arts” and wrong livelihoods -- even if the person had such skills.

Buddha believed that everything that arises has a cause and effect. Nothing happens by chance or fate, and everything that exists is related to everything else that exists. 
Buddha taught that it is more important to develop our heart and mind, through the Noble 8 Fold Path, than to hope for good luck. Every action we do as a sentient being results in some form of karma. However, I once heard the Noble 8 Fold Path described as the "karma that brings and end to karma".

My rational (Buddha) mind thinks that the laws of karma and dependent origination make logical sense, and are fundamental and essential in governing our worldly experience. They, and the 8 Fold Path, guide my personal ethical thought and behavior.

However, my emotional ego mind is more grounded in illogical social and cultural norms, and takes pleasure in at least some of the rituals of superstition (like burning incense for past and present family members in a temple).

I know that there is a contradiction here, and a dualism (rationality and superstition) that needs to be transcended at some point. This contradiction is also seen in the daily practice of most every Buddhist temple in the world,  especially the Mahayana ones. But, like most of the world, I am not yet awakened / enlightened, so I guess I have an excuse...

A variation on the famous Zen saying may give some additional insight on this contradiction:

  • Before enlightenment, visit temple, burn incense, bow. After enlightenment, visit temple, burn incense, bow.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Enlightenment, Karma and Mindfulness

Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. 
                           After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. 

This is one of my current favorite zen sayings, attributed to the Xin Xin Ming, one of the earliest Chan (Zen) Buddhism texts in China.

To me, this is about karma and life. We come into this world with a karmic past that plays itself out throughout our life. We cannot change that past, and the karmic energy must be played out in some way.  

Buddha teaches us in the 8 Fold Path how to live the life we have without creating more karma on top of it, which will require additional lives to be worked through. An enlightened one has learned the lessons of the Buddha (or perhaps discovered them in some other way), and is able to live out the karma of this life (chop wood, carry water) with adding more karma to it.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

If This, Then That

... If This, Then That...

Mantra-like sayings can be useful to summarize complex ideas and apply them in a quick, mindfulness way.

One that I have been using a lot in my daily life lately is "if this, then that" -- which, yes, is like the web service, IFTTT.

I use "if this, then that" to remind myself of the ultimate union of all phenomenon - that I am not separate from all that I experience. Specifically, I use it to mean 'if this is my experience now, then that (the other) is also my experience'.

Most often, I use it when I encounter some uneasiness in my relationship with another person or with things around me.

For example, if I find that I am annoyed by some unknown person's loud voice or aggressive driving, I will think "if this, then that". Similarly, if I become frustrated that my computer is not working the way I think it should be working, I will stop and think "if this, then that" -- or at least I do that some of the time.

"If this, then that", or sometimes "when this, then that", has two effects:

(1) It making me remember that there is no duality -- that I could be that other person in another time and space, just as easily as that person could be me. It reminds me that everything in my awareness around me is a mirror of myself, with a lesson for me to learn.

(2) It turns my attention away from the other and to my own experience of annoyance or frustration, helping me to detach from those aversions, or at least to not let them consume me in such a way that I might act unwisely and turn them into a karmic (stressful) situation with long-term impacts on my mind and body.

"Not Two"

I had earlier heard (on a dharma talk podcast) a similar mantra-like saying, "Not Two", which basically has the same idea. It is used to stop the mind whenever one notices it creating a duality of me and other, usually accompanied by feelings of desire/envy, hatred/dislike, or confusion/wrong thinking (the defilements). (I think "Not Two" was recommended by Joseph Goldstein, but I am not positive about that.

I tried "Not Two" for a while. It works, and I still use it at times because it is shorter to say. But I use If this, then that" more.

“We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness.”- Thích Nhat Hanh

[updated 18Jan2016]

Friday, January 1, 2016