No Perfection Here in Samsara

Our lives will never be perfect here in samsara, in the cycle of rebirth. We can easily forget this when we find our path and our teacher. Striving to be a better person, to follow the guidance we receive to the best of our abilities, we become frustrated to find that we still run into difficulties. That we still encounter obstacles and seeming contradictions.

It is at this point that people can become discouraged. They may think that their good actions are failing to produce good consequences. They may think that they should have progressed more than they have.

It takes time, it takes patience, it takes hard work to remain focused on our vow to end suffering and attain happiness for all beings. But we are so ego-oriented, so wrapped up in our concept of self that we can lose track of this goal.

There will always be obstacles in samsara. There is a Chinese saying "Good work, more trouble." Just because we are sincerely trying to improve does not mean that all our karmic consequences and obstacles will fall away and we will progress smoothly in our practice.

Nothing is easy here in samsara and there is no perfection either. Accepting this will help us to hang in there when we seem to encounter endless obstacles. The obstacles are temporary and will be overcome as long as we do not give up.   



To Teach Others

In one of his discourses, Venerable Sariputta said, 'When one who teaches wishes to teach another, let him establish five good qualities and then teach. Let him think:

  • I will speak at the right time, not at the wrong time.
  • I will speak about what reality is, not about what is not.
  • I will speak with gentleness, not with harshness.
  • I will speak about the goal, not about what is not the goal.
  • I will speak with a mind filled with love, not with a mind filled with ill-will. 

~ (A, lll, 195 translated by Ven. S. Dhammika)



How Long Should I Chant?


In chanting. as with most things we do, it's not the time involved as much as the focus and quality. If I sit on a meditation cushion in the chanting hall and chant for an hour with wandering thoughts one after another, I may look impressive but my chanting will be mediocre.

If however, I find that I have five minutes before I need to do something and quickly settle into my chanting, the benefits of my focused chanting can far outweigh my hour of wandering thoughts chasing one another around my head. Our focus should be on both quality and quantity, not just quantity.

This question of how long leads to another question, "When should I chant?"

With so much to do today, it can be difficult to find the ideal time to practice. It is tempting to wait until we can do some "serious" chanting. When we are home or at our Buddhist center and have a few hours to really get into our practice.

If we wait for ideal conditions, we will end up spending very little time chanting. Most of us do not yet have enough good fortune to have ideal conditions. So we need to be appreciative and work with what we do have. It's far better to chant for ten or twenty minutes a day than wait for that one long weekly chanting session. As with all our practice, we are training to do things more effectively. As we become more skilled at focusing on "Amituofo," we will create the goodness that can result in improved practice conditions. With better conditions, comes more chanting time and more focused chanting.



To End Suffering

"I teach suffering, its origin, cessation, and path. That's all I teach," declared the Buddha over 2500 years ago.

The first of the four noble truths is dukkha, usually translated as suffering. At every moment of our life, we are undegoing some degree of dissatisfaction. The Buddha began with the reality of suffering because if we do not realize that our lives are suffering, we will have no incentive to transcend the cycle of rebirth.

When we understand how we suffer, we will realize that all others suffer in the same way. And just as we wish to end our suffering, we will gradually give rise to the wish to help all beings end their suffering and attain happiness.


Spotting Causality

956849-787008-thumbnail.jpgTracing retributions back to their karmic cause is tough when the retribution takes lifetimes to occur. But we can all see causality functioning in our daily lives.

When we ignored an opportunity to help someone, we felt guilty. When we failed to do the work we were supposed to do, we felt depressed. Speaking harshly to someone, we became unsettled and agitated. This is cause and effect. We do something and we experience the consequences.  

Over time, and with awareness, we will discern patterns. When we act in certain ways, there are the same related feelings and results. As this pattern makes itself clear, we will realize that negative actions result in distress, while those that are positive result in contentment and peace.