Friday
Mar312017

Do not spend time wondering

about another’s karmic consequences. 

Musing over others’ intentions and resultant karmic results may seem intriguing, even worthwhile. But aside from not being our business, we do not know enough about the other person. For one thing, we would need to know the person’s intentions. But having experienced how difficult unearthing our own intentions has proven, how can we even hope to detect someone else’s? It would all turn into wandering thoughts.

A much wiser use of time would be examining why we act as we do, investigating layer by layer, like peeling an onion.

Do I detect some resentment, which obstructed my helpfulness?

Were my actions half-hearted because I was indifferent?

Were they selfish?

Did I mean to help but negligently made mistakes? Since we will have to live with our karmic results, learning why we act the way we do—and how to change for the better—is what matters to an awakening person.

Monday
Mar272017

Forgiveness does not mean we do not care

or that the other person is pardoned. 

Our forgiving others does not mean they will escape their karmic consequences. We can forgive; we cannot pardon. Nor does forgiving mean we do not care about what happened—it means we understand.

Understand that actions will unfailingly have consequences.

Understand the potency of one’s karmic force amassed over uncountable lifetimes.

Understand the futility of embracing our desire for retaliation.

By forgiving, we ease our pain. Also, we spare ourselves having to act as judge and­ executioner. The wrongdoer’s just retribution will occur naturally; we do not have to dispense it. Instead of expending energy on vengeful thoughts, we can release them. Failing to do so, they will pull us down into a spiral of anger, reprisal, and more suffering. As the Buddha cautioned, being angry is like holding a hot coal waiting to throw it at another.

We are the one who gets burned. Now, and for lifetimes to come.

Sunday
Mar262017

An Introduction to the Amitabha Sutra: Chap. 34: The Unified and Not Chaotic Mind

When they die, their minds being unified and not chaotic they will attain rebirth in Amitabha’s Land of Ultimate Bliss. 

Sakyamuni Buddha did not state that One Mind Undisturbed is a prerequisite for attaining rebirth in the Pure Land. This is very fortunate for us because few people can achieve this state. The state that referred to here is a mind that is “unified and not chaotic.” A non-chaotic mind is a mind that is not deluded. With such a mind and by mindfully chanting the Buddha’s name as we breathe our last breaths, we will be reborn in the Pure Land. At that point, while we have not yet attained One Mind Undisturbed, we have achieved Constant Mindfulness of Amitabha Buddha.

If, however, we are unconscious, it will be extraordinarily difficult to achieve rebirth in the Western Pure Land. In our unconscious state, we will not have a mind that is “unified and not chaotic,” and the force of our karma will easily control us. As a consequence of our having committed predominantly bad deeds, we will likely go to one of the Three Evil Paths. Our very heavy negative karma carries with it the retribution of much suffering. As the Diamond Sutra says, were it not for our practice, our suffering would be much worse. This holds true not only for everyday life but also for when we are dying. When unawakened people are dying, they find it very arduous to maintain a calm, clear mind.

As practitioners, we know that if we can always have an undisturbed mind and always mindfully chant Amitabha’s name, it is thanks to the support of Amitabha. Without such support, it would be almost impossible for us to remain calm, clear, and mindful of him. The pull of our bad karma is too strong.

The result of this bad karma coupled with a chaotic mind is that we could easily find ourselves unable to chant while we are breathing our last breaths. A chaotic mind is a deluded mind. In this deluded state, it will be very easy for those who we have hurt or treated unfairly over countless lifetimes to come seeking revenge. These enemies are not evil. Like us, they are unawakened. But having been harmed by us, they wish to hurt us in return. And they know that as long as we continue to be reborn in samsara, their opportunities to do so can still arise.

If, however, we are reborn in the Pure Land, they will forever lose the chance to get even. Knowing this, our karmic enemies will do everything possible to prevent our rebirth in that land. And the easiest time to impede us is when we are in a weakened state, for this is when our concentration can falter and our mind become chaotic and deluded. It thus becomes vitally important that we manage to chant mindfully for the power generated by our chanting can hold these karmic enemies at bay.

But we should do even more. We can dedicate the merit from our chanting to these karmic enemies so they too can achieve rebirth in the Pure Land. This way, our past enemies can transform into fellow practitioners.

To be single-minded and not deluded as we are breathing our last breaths, we need good fortune. To accumulate good fortune, we need to share that which we already have. We must not waste it. This is accomplished by giving to others and by not indulging ourselves. We also need to cultivate wisdom so that we will know how best to use our good fortune and not inadvertently commit more bad karmas. If we are unwise, we will use up all our good fortune. Having none left at the end of our life, we may then become deluded at the time of death.

If however, we are wise, we will live simply, not commit bad karmas, and share our good fortune. Having an ample supply at the end of our life, we will be clear minded as we chant the name of Amitabha Buddha and see him come to guide us home to the Pure Land. 

Friday
Mar242017

Hatred is like a slippery slope:

easy to descend but arduous to scale. 

Most of us have undergone emotional upheaval as a once loving relationship mutated into an acrimonious one. I would imagine that far fewer of us have managed to transform hatred into appreciation and love.

The slide into hatred can begin with our teetering between excusing the other's behavior and justifying our feelings. Then we start to cast blame and look to absolve ourselves.

The other person acted unreasonably. We behaved admirably.

They are guilty of wrongdoing. We are innocent.

Our smoldering emotions erupt, and we fly into a rage. Hatred hardens in our heart, an uninvited guest who has taken up residence. We need to realize that whether its cause was unjust or valid, we were wrong to succumb to hatred, allowing it to fester and grow. Instead of ending our suffering, we increased it. Rather than helping all beings, we injured them.

Such is the terrible price of descending into hatred.

Monday
Mar202017

After seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching,

discriminatory thoughts arise,

habits solidify, control lessens,

and suffering increases.

Through our senses, we perceive our world. Feelings arise, ideas form. Opinions become set. Liking this, I want more; disliking that, I want it to go away. Such impressions accumulate in our store consciousness. We form habitual ways of responding to our assumptions rather than the facts and act emotionally rather than with understanding.

Reacting from habits, we do not stop to formulate the wisest course of action. We respond automatically, unaware the control we had over our thoughts and behavior is waning. The more we fail to exercise control and the more careless we become, the more mistakes we make. Since we act negligently and harm others, our ensuing sufferings will worsen.

What can we do?

Observe clearly, but do not attach, do not discriminate.

Act compassionately from understanding, not uncontrollably from emotions.