Friday
Feb172017

When weeding, we need to pull out the roots,

or the weeds will grow back.

Eradicating bad habits is the same;

remove the root, or the habit will reappear.

A person unskilled at weeding will often begin by just removing what lies above the soil: the stems and leaves. But seemingly overnight, the weeds start growing back. And so the novice gardener learns a valuable lesson: removing just the visible parts of the plant won’t eliminate it. The roots need to uncovered and dug out.

In a like manner, we often try to shed bad habits just by curtailing visible behaviors. But this leaves the underlying causes intact. Not surprisingly, as soon as we relax our guard, the bad habits resume popping up, rampant as those weeds.

To permanently eradicate bad habits, we need to destroy their roots. How?

First, we need to determine the underlying causes of the habits. Maybe selfishness? How about a lack of integrity? Laziness?

Once the causes are determined, we can eliminate them.

Forever.

Monday
Feb132017

Bodhisattvas fear causes;

sentient beings fear results.

Understanding that every cause will have a consequence, bodhisattvas strive to avoid creating evil causes while generating those that are good. This two-pronged approach allows these awakened beings to have the right conditions to continue along the path to enlightenment.

Unawakened beings, on the other hand, are like children who having committed a misdeed hope they won’t get caught. When their bad conduct is discovered, they may blame others. Or they may become defensive, not realizing such reactions are yet more causes, causes that will incur yet more painful results leading to further suffering.

To stop fearing results, we need to live wisely in the present instead of figuring out ways to escape the past.

How?

By being continuously alert to what we do, to what causes we are creating. Without a cause, adverse consequences will not occur, and we will have saved ourselves from their associated suffering.

Sunday
Feb122017

An Introduction to the Amitabha Sutra: Chap. 28 - The Wonderful Adornments and Virtues

The Land of Ultimate Bliss is complete with all these adornments and virtues.

Why does Sakyamuni Buddha keep telling Sariputra that the land “is complete with all these adornments and virtues”? It is done to reinforce the importance of the attributes of that land. A significant attribute is Amitabha Buddha’s support, which all beings there receive. Thanks to this support, the abilities, wisdom, good fortune, and enjoyments of these beings are almost the same as Amitabha’s.

How can this be? We can begin to see how this works with an analogy of a young man who was born to impoverished parents. Although the young man works very hard, he just can’t seem to get ahead. His parents aren’t able to help him because they too are struggling financially. However, he has an aunt who is extremely wealthy. And she, appreciating how hard her nephew works and understanding his difficult circumstances, thoughtfully invites him to live with her in her house. By moving in, he gets to enjoy the same luxurious life she does. He does not own anything he enjoys; rather, he shares his aunt’s good fortune.

We will have a similar experience when, thanks to our belief, vow, and Constant Mindfulness of Amitabha, we are reborn in the Land Where Sages and Ordinary Beings Dwell Together. Even though we will not yet have accrued our own great good fortune, we will be able to share in and enjoy that of Amitabha Buddha.

Great Master Ouyi said that such a situation could happen only in the Western Pure Land and is not to be found anywhere else in the universe. This situation is of the utmost importance for us because, if we do not receive Amitabha Buddha’s support, we will not be able to transcend the cycle of rebirth in one lifetime. It will just be too difficult for us.

Friday
Feb102017

Instead of automatically reacting with sarcasm

or trying to be clever, think again.

Will our wit ridicule another?

Will our sarcasm harm the listener?

For varied reasons, ranging from wanting to make others laugh to being considered witty, we can find ourselves using sarcasm. But what is sarcasm? Yet another manifestation of anger.

We may view ourselves as amusing, but we’re just being unkind in belittling another person or some situation. There’s a valid reason the Greeks defined sarcasm as “tearing flesh.”

Before glibly tossing out another sarcastic quip, we need to figure out why we feel inclined to do so.

So others will laugh?

Think us sophisticated with our rapier wit? Surely, we can find a way to cheer people up or impress them with our humor without resorting to disrespect and ridicule.

And if we really are clever, we will realize that our sharp remarks nurture tension in others on a subtle level as well as plant seeds for our own future belittlement.

Monday
Feb062017

Ordinary beings view things dualistically:

as two, not one.

Awakened beings understand

all phenomena are one, not two.

Viewing all circumstances and objects with a dualistic mind, we see them as being in opposition, as either one thing or another. We thus categorize everything in contrasting terms like pleasing or annoying, superior or inferior.

With such discriminatory thoughts, we spend time trying to acquire more of what we desire while avoiding everything we dislike.

Viewing things dualistically causes us endless problems and agitation.

For example, viewing a spoon from different angles another person and I argue over whether the spoon is convex or concave.

Awakened beings, on the other hand, understand that all phenomena are one. They observe the spoon as one object with two aspects. In such a manner, they view all situations and objects non-dualistically, and can act judiciously without a trace of rancor.