Friday
Jul282017

Cultivation

entails giving up that which has little value

to attain that which is invaluable.

 Let’s be honest, letting go of sensory indulgence can sound so, well, Spartan. And having spent years bettering our lives only to abandon the things now making it enjoyable feels so, well, illogical. Relax. Our goal is a level of joy we have yet to realize, not deprivation. What we discard are attachments to the phenomena cluttering our lifetimes in samsara. We shed our attachments because they bring us, at most, mere fleeting pleasure. In effect, our happiness caused by something yesterday will turn to sorrow tomorrow when its condition is no longer present. Compared to endless joy, momentary pleasure does not hold much value. Admittedly, it takes a lot of letting go to attain infinite joy. But we don’t have to wait to start benefitting from our efforts. Bit by bit, as we progress in letting go, we will realize a hitherto unknown sense of ease and fulfillment. 

Monday
Jul242017

When praised for an accomplishment, 

remember to feel grateful to all those 

who helped you succeed.

One of our fundamental afflictions is thinking that we have an independent self, that what we achieve is due to our own efforts. Such thinking leads to other afflictions, including arrogance and pride. But while we may have put forth much effort, we can’t claim all the credit. Or even most of it. Our parents gave us life, our teachers guided us, friends encouraged us, fellow practitioners reassured us, co-workers challenged us, exemplars inspired us, family members nudged us, enemies drove us. People built the schools and buildings we study, work, and live in. Others provided the food that sustains us. In no way are we independent. We are joined body, spirit, and mind with all those who formed us, inseparably linked to everything and everyone we have been or continue to be a part of and interact with. Any accomplishments we have belong to all of them as well. Be grateful for their presence. 

Thursday
Jul202017

Correcting faults is cultivation.

Three ways to correct faults are to (1) change by catching them before we commit them; (2) change through understanding why our faults are so harmful; and (3) change from our heart, thus ensuring faults do not arise. The first method, trying to catch faults one-by-one demands vigilance as we struggle to weigh every thought before we speak or act. The second method, to change by understanding, necessitates an in-depth understanding of cause and consequence. The third method, the most powerful, does not require us to weigh every thought as they will already be proper being focused on completing tasks and interacting with others. Or, ideally, chanting the Buddha-name. With our focus on correct thoughts, our erroneous, wandering thoughts will gradually fade. Neither does our understanding need to be so thorough with this method. With “Amituofo,” our heart will become serene and pure, empty of faults, naturally wise.

Sunday
Jul162017

When goaded, 

not fighting back takes courage. 

When surrounded by people with nothing to lose looming over you, their barely suppressed anger radiating off them in waves as they goad you into fighting back, it takes courage to remain composed, and not retaliate. Courage. Not a word we usually associate with the Buddha’s teachings. Perhaps we should. It takes courage—steadfastness in the face of fear—to forgive when wronged, to respect when derided, persist when overwhelmed, and, yes, stand peacefully when goaded. We need courage to overcome our fear of being unworthy of the trust the Buddhas and our teachers have placed in us, and courage to overcome our fear of trusting the Buddhas and our teachers. Our fear is yet one more obstacle to overcome. We need to remind ourselves, if the man in the above account could be face up to and overcome his fear, how can we, experiencing far more favorable conditions, do less? 

Wednesday
Jul122017

Too often, 

we not only repeat our mistakes, 

we seem to be trying to perfect them.

Anything worthwhile takes time, patience, and attention; call it stick-to-itiveness. The same holds true for correcting our mistakes. We need to keep chipping away at them like a sculptor steadily working on a block of marble, eliminating the useless bits to reveal the perfection within. Like the sculptor chiseling away every day, we too need to keep chipping away at our faults, even when we don’t feel like it. This must be easier said than done because those who know us might well declare that not only are we not cutting down our mistakes, we seem to be refining them, like the sculptor polishing his finished statue. We need to follow his example and do things in order, daily finding and eliminating faults. Initially, we will make little progress. But as we improve, we will flake off larger and larger faults until, finally, we reveal the perfection within ourselves.