In the Bahudhàtuka Sutta (MN 115), the Buddha explains that there are actually eighteen physical and mental elements. These are six triads of elements where each triad is composed of a sense object (the external sense bases), a sense organ (the internal sense bases), and the six related sense-consciousnesses (viññāṇa):
1. There is the element of the eyes as a visual organ
2. The form element as an objective visual
3. Eye-consciousness as the cognizance of the form perceived by the eyes
4. The ear element, or the ears as auditory organs
5. The element of sounds or audible objects
6. Ear-consciousness as the cognizance of the sounds perceived by the ears
7. The nose element as the olfactory organ
8. The element of aromas, scents, odors, fragrances, etc.
9. The nose-consciousness as the cognizance of the oflactive objects sensed by the nose
10. The tongue element as the gustatory organ
11. The elements of tastes, flavors, etc.
12. The tongue-consciousness as the cognizance of gustation sensed by the tongue
13. The body element as the tactile organ
14. The tangible element of touch, contact, etc.
15. Body-consciousness as the cognizance of the tangible objects sensed through body-contact
16. The mind element as consciousness and discernment
17. The element of mental objects (mano-dhātu) such as intellect, ideas, thought-processes, etc.
18. The mind-consciousness element (mano-viññāna-dhātu) as cognizance itself, or that which discerns
As a more concise, alternative description, the Buddha condensed these eighteen elements into only six descriptive natural elements. These include the four great elements that most people are familiar with – earth, air/wind, sea/water, and fire. Some traditions include a fifth element such as akasha/aether/sky/space/etc. These four classical elements (dhātu or mahā-bhūta), as well as the fifth, are also found within Buddhism. There is also a sixth element, which is consciousness. However, these elements themselves are more properly understood to be categories of sensorial qualities which are used to relate to the sensible physical world, rather than as substances. Therefore, these six elements can be understood as:
1. The Earth Element, or everything solid (pathavī) in the body, such as sense organs, hairs, teeth, tendons, bones, etc.
2. The Water Element, or all that is liquid (āpo) within the body. This is quite a bit, considering that up to 60% of the human body is water, while the brain itself is composed of about 70% water.
3. The Fire Element, or the heat (tejo) energy in the body. This can be related to body temperature, metabolism, temper, etc.
4. The Air Element, or everything internal that is in like wind (i.e. in motion; vāyo). This quite obviously applies to the air we breathe, but it can also relate to other things as well such as blood flow.
5. The Space Element, or the aether (ākāsa) constituted by the physical elements. This can be more easily comprehended as the bodily orifices such as the mouth, ears, nostrils, etc.
6. The Mind Element, or the emergent consciousness (viññāna) that arises from the other elements, by which they become conscious of themselves. This is cognizance, or that which discerns the three feelings (vedanā) of pleasure, pain and neither-pleasure-nor-pain, and the arising and passing of the sense contact (phassa) upon which these feelings are dependent.
So it is easy to see how the six elements make for an easier mindfulness practice. There are of course other examples given which can be used for understanding the elements, but for now we will focus on this formula of six elements.
There was once a wandering aesthetic named Pukkusati who went traveling to search out and meet the Buddha. However, he had never seen the Buddha before so how would he even be able to recognize him once he did? Well, he wasn’t. He was only able to realize his mistake after the Buddha related to him the six properties/elements, six media of sensory contact, eighteen considerations, and the four determinations.
However, the main point of the six element practice is to note that how each is an ever-changing, temporal process, rather than a static, abiding quality or substance. Each element, that is: solidity, fluidity, airiness, aether, and consciousness, makes up our body but none of them can be identified as an intrinsic whole in their own right. They are all empty of inherent existence as they are all dependently co-arisen processes.
Therefore, all things perceived by the these six elements (or even just one of them) are actually unfit for identification with a “self”/”ego” or “soul” (atta) since they are impermanent (anicca) – and because there is anicca there is dukkha. The mark of not-self (anatta) states that one should regard the six elements with right discernment as, “This is not mine, this is not my self, this is not what I am.” Realizing this one grows weary and disenchanted with the each of these elements, letting go of attachment to each by progression through the jhanas, until there is only consciousness which discerns pleasure, pain and neither-pleasure-nor-pain.
With the cessation of the very sensory contact which is to be felt as pleasure, pain and neither-pleasure-nor-pain, the concomitant feeling of said pleasure, pain and neither-pleasure-nor-pain also ceases. That is, consciousness is stilled. When this occurs, only equanimity will remain: pure and bright, pliant, malleable, and luminous. This can lead one to Nibbāna (Skt. Nirvāṇa), in which “birth is exhausted,the holy life fulfilled, the task done” and there is “nothing more of this becoming.”
Everyone seems to have their own preconceived ideas of what Buddhism is and what Buddhists are. I mean, if you saw some punk rocker or even someone from Uganda, you probably wouldn’t think they look like the “typical Buddhist”. But what is a “typical” Buddhist supposed to look like? What’s a “typical Buddhist”, anyways?
There was one time this monk by the name of Bhaddiya. He sure didn’t look anything like all of the other monks. He was dwarfish in that he was shorter but not really proportioned, and he also happened to have a pretty bad complexion. Some of the other monks seemed uncomfortable by his appearance, and upon seeing this the Buddha told them that:
“Monks, that monk is of great power, of great eminence. There is no well-gained attainment that has not already been attained by that monk. For that benefit, for which sons of good lineage rightly go forth from home into homelessness, that ultimate conclusion of the holy life, even in this very life, by himself, having seen with his own eyes the higher knowledge, and having attained, he abides.”
This is because one’s outward appearance is in no way related to their inner wisdom. It doesn’t matter what we look like, or who we are – regardless of our class, gender, color, etc. – we all have the potential to realize full enlightenment. In terms of gender, Ven. Soma once observed that:
“What difference does being a woman make when the mind’s well-centered, when knowledge is progressing, seeing clearly, rightly, into the Dhamma. Anyone who thinks ‘I’m a woman’ or ‘a man’ or ‘Am I anything at all?’— that’s who Mara’s fit to address.”
The Buddha was pretty radical in his time for admitting that everyone was capable of arhatship regardless of gender, caste, etc. It’s not how you are born or even how you define yourself that really matters – its what you do. The Dhamma places a higher value on a person’s ethic and virtue rather than how we were born. Buddha stated in the Vasala Sutta that, “not by birth is one an outcast; not by birth is one a brahman. By deed one becomes an outcast, by deed one becomes an brahman.”
In MN 90, the Buddha explains the five factors for exertion to a king and asks him, “Lord, if these four castes were endowed with these five factors for exertion, would there be any distinction or difference among them in that respect?” The king actually wondered about this, so Buddha said “I tell you, great king, that there would be no difference among them with regard to the release of one and the release of another.”
It makes no difference how you were born, or how you define yourself. Your outward appearance or personal preferences, likewise, make no difference. We all have the potential to realize full awakening – that is, if we do our part and cultivate it with practice.
People often think that something along the lines of “oneness” is a basic Buddhist principle. However, the Buddha actually avoided this view, saying that it was an extreme. In the Lokayatika Sutta, a brahman cosmologist (lokayata) asks the Buddha if the All or “everything” exists or does not exist, or that if it was a “oneness” or “manyness”. The Buddha rejected these as extreme views, and instead related the Middle Way by teaching dependent origination.
Well, if “oneness” is an extreme view – then so isn’t emptiness? Isn’t that like saying that the All does not exist? Well, no, not really. The principle of emptiness (sunna in Pali and sunyata in Sanskrit), as an attribute of objects, simply states that all things are without an inherent, abiding self (anatta) because they are dependently co-arisen. Therefore, “emptiness” in this sense is not an extreme view, but a relative one.
In the Nalakalapiyo Sutta, Ven. MahaKotthita asks Ven. Sariputta if phenomena were “self-made or other-made or both self-made & other-made, or — without self-making or other-making — do they arise spontaneously?” Ven. Sariputta says that none of the aforementioned is actually the case, and uses a simile of sheaves of reeds to illustrate dependent origination:
“Very well then, Kotthita my friend, I will give you an analogy; for there are cases where it is through the use of an analogy that intelligent people can understand the meaning of what is being said. It is as if two sheaves of reeds were to stand leaning against one another. In the same way, from name-&-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness, from consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form. From name & form as a requisite condition come the six sense media. From the six sense media as a requisite condition comes contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of suffering & stress.
“If one were to pull away one of those sheaves of reeds, the other would fall; if one were to pull away the other, the first one would fall. In the same way, from the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of consciousness, from the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form. From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of the six sense media. From the cessation of the six sense media comes the cessation of contact. From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of feeling. From the cessation of feeling comes the cessation of craving. From the cessation of craving comes the cessation of clinging/sustenance. From the cessation of clinging/sustenance comes the cessation of becoming. From the cessation of becoming comes the cessation of birth. From the cessation of birth, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair all cease. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of suffering & stress.”
Ven. Ananda was the Buddha’s cousin and close personal attendant. He served the Buddha with devotion and care, and even memorized most of the Buddha’s sermons. One time, when they were staying in the Sakyan town Sakkara, Ven. Ananda was sitting next to the Buddha as he said, “This is half of the holy life, lord: admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie.” The Buddha replied with:
“Don’t say that, Ananda. Don’t say that. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path.
“And how does a monk who has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, develop & pursue the noble eightfold path? There is the case where a monk develops right view dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion, dependent on cessation, resulting in relinquishment. He develops right resolve … right speech … right action … right livelihood … right effort … right mindfulness … right concentration dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion, dependent on cessation, resulting in relinquishment. This is how a monk who has admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues, develops & pursues the noble eightfold path.
“And through this line of reasoning one may know how admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life: It is in dependence on me as an admirable friend that beings subject to birth have gained release from birth, that beings subject to aging have gained release from aging, that beings subject to death have gained release from death, that beings subject to sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair have gained release from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair. It is through this line of reasoning that one may know how admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life.”
I have already mentioned in an earlier post that the Buddha is often referred to as a teacher of gods and humans (satthadevamanusssanam). However, in the above paragraph the Buddha is actually saying that he isn’t just our teacher – but he is also our friend. He actually helping us out, offering us all release from the cyclic existence of Samsara and the dukkha associated with it.
Of course, we should always seek out admirable friendship with others and act in accordance with those who are consummate in faith (saddha), virtue (sila), liberality/generosity (caga) and wisdom (pañña). In the Dighajanu (Vyagghapajja) Sutta, the Buddha teaches householders how to preserve and increase their wealth and happiness – in both the mundane, material sense and in the spiritual sense. He also defines what is meant by “admirable friendship” by stating that:
“There is the case where a lay person, in whatever town or village he may dwell, spends time with householders or householders’ sons, young or old, who are advanced in virtue. He talks with them, engages them in discussions. He emulates consummate conviction in those who are consummate in conviction, consummate virtue in those who are consummate in virtue, consummate generosity in those who are consummate in generosity, and consummate discernment in those who are consummate in discernment. This is called admirable friendship.”
Therefore, the purpose of having such healthy relationships with admirable friends is to develop those admirable virtues within ourselves. Having the support of your friends is always a great motivator along the path of self-awakening. In fact, having admirable friends, admirable companions, admirable comrades, etc. is actually listed in the Sambodhi Sutta as being the first prerequisite for the development of the wings to self-awakening. This is why it is always important to choose your friends wisely.
In my post On Being a Lay Buddhist, I stated that the Sigalovada Sutta has been referred to as the “Vinaya of the householder”. It basically lays out the codes of conduct for lay Buddhists. So of course, it gives some wonderful advice on choosing your friends wisely.
If someone is constantly taking your stuff without returning it, gives you a lot of lip-service and is constantly full of empty promises, always flattering you just to gain your affection yet always talks crap behind your back, and is pretty much reckless and gets you in trouble – well, then these people aren’t really very good friends. They’re more like enemies in disguise. Also, the Sigalovada Sutta actually lists “indulging in gambling which causes heedlessness” as being a quality of the reckless friend that just gets you into trouble. Maybe someone should have informed certain Korean monks of that.
True friends are good-natured and warm-hearted. They are always willing to lend you a helping hand especially when you need it the most, and they usually give some pretty good advice too. You know that you can always count on them because they are there with you, through thick and thin. They don’t talk smack when you’re not around, and they have never revealed those secrets that you have told them in confidence. They pretty much become a refuge for you when you are in need. These people are real friends, because you know that you can always count on them. That is why the Buddha said that we must always cherish them and attend to them carefully and with devotion, like a mother does for her own child.
As I noted in another post, there are also six conditions that Buddha recommended which are conducive to a state of harmony and unity. Therefore, it would probably be a good idea to try to apply these six conditions, or “harmonies”, in order to establish and maintain healthy relationships with good friends. We should also always keep in mind that those who are close to us – colleagues, friends, companions, family, etc. are not just a part of our spiritual life. They are our spiritual life.
When I first made my post on Spiritual Materialism and Cherry Picking, I never would have thought that it would expand into a three part series. Yet now it seems that Seon Master Jinje, the head of the Joyge Order in Korea, had to apologize Friday after the revelation of certain footage. According to MSNBC, this particular video didn’t show “some supposedly serene monks” cursing during a meditation sesshin. No, they were supposedly “raising hell, playing high-stakes poker, drinking and smoking.”
These so-called “monks” were shot with a hidden camera at a luxury hotel in late April which they were staying at for a fellow monk’s memorial service. The video shows them smoking, drinking, and gambling illegally. The Guardian reported that:
South Korean TV networks aired shots of monks playing poker, smoking and drinking, after gathering at a luxury lakeside hotel in late April for a fellow monk’s memorial service. “The stakes for 13 hours of gambling were more than 1bn won [£543,000],” Seongho, a senior monk, told Reuters on Friday. He said he had reported the incident to prosecutors.
Gambling is illegal in South Korea outside of licensed casinos and horse racing tracks and is frowned upon by religious leaders.
“Buddhist rules say don’t steal. Look at what they did, they abused money from Buddhists for gambling,” Seongho said.
Seongho said he had obtained a computer memory stick with the video clip from a camera that had been hidden in the hotel. He would not say who had planted the camera because of recent threats made against him.
The scandal has cast doubt on the future of the order’s head, Jaseung, who apologised to all of South Korea’s 12 million Buddhists.
“We deeply apologize for the behavior of several monks in our order,” he said in a statement. “The monks who have caused public concern are currently being investigated and will be punished according to Buddhist regulations as soon as the truth is verified by the prosecution.”
Chung Yoon-sun, the secretary general of the Buddhist Solidarity for Reform, said conflict between South Korean monks had become as commonplace as disputes between the country’s politicians. “It’s just like politics,” she was quoted as saying by the Korea Times. “If there’s a conflict in interest between two groups, they make a deal or they fight.”
Chung said the scandal highlighted the need to monitor how Buddhist orders spend their large, and untaxed, donations from the public.
I think the last point is worth emphasizing. There is definitely a need to monitor and regulate Buddhist orders. In Theravada, for example, monks aren’t even supposed to handle money. All of the financing is to be done by the laity. Which is why in Thailand, when people donate money they use envelopes. However, there were reports of supposedly bogus monks that were begging for money from the public.
A lot of people don’t know that there are actually “monastic police” in Thailand, as well, whose job is basically to protect the Sangha. They can’t make arrests, or anything. They just pass information on. A long time ago, the National Buddhism Bureau established four teams of officials to monitor the “wayward activities” of any suspicious Buddhist monk. Any monk that is accused of breaching the Vinaya or engaging in any kind of wrongdoing will be investigated by a panel of monks, and if there is any basis to the accusation – the monks will therefore be defrocked.
Therefore, for us lay Buddhists, since we aren’t monks or nuns we should always do our part to keep harmony and order in the Sangha. It’s pretty much our job to make sure that people are held accountable for abusing the teachings, their monastic vows, etc. Everybody is aware of the important role of a monk or nun in Buddhism, but we can’t forget that the laity holds just as an important role – and these recent incidents only emphasize that. In fact, us lay people make up half of the four groups of Buddha’s following (parisa or “assembly”) – i.e. monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen. These recent events only emphasize how important of a role us lay Buddhists must have for any kind of coherent semblance of order in the Sangha, and it is a role that we must take seriously.
President Obama recently announced his full support for marriage equality. This is an historic event for LGBT rights advocates, and for human rights in general. Hopefully, people will finally realize that marriage is really all about love – regardless of gender, race, religion, etc.
A long time ago – that is, thousands of years ago when the Buddha was still around, arranged marriages were still very much a part of tradition and culture of the time. However, despite this archaic arrangement, in the Samajivina Sutta we find a couple (who happen to be the parents of the Arhat Nakula) who are still deeply in love and wish to be with each other in the future – that is, to be reborn together in the next life. Therefore, the Buddha gives advice to Nakula’s parents on how they can still be in union, knowing and rejoicing with each other, in the realm of devas in the next life. This is timeless advice that can apply to any couple – not just to arranged heterosexual marriages.
Lay Buddhists still very much live within the sensual world, and are therefore subject to rebirth in the rounds of Samsara. Buddha is very considerate of that and as this Sutta makes apparent, he never expected householders to follow the Vinaya (monastic codes of conduct) and practice as renunciate Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis (i.e. monks and nuns). However, as a result of present kusala kamma (wholesome actions), householders can again be in union with their loved ones in the realm of devas.
“Both husband and wife,
Having faithfulness, conviction, and virtue,
Being generous and responsive,
Being restrained and living righteously by the Dhamma -
They are the couple who addresses each other lovingly.
Their beneficial results will be abundant;
Their living together would be meaningful.
When they are in tune with equal virtues, their enemies will be dispirited.
Having followed the Dhamma here in this world,
The couple will not only lead a happy life here and now,
But they will also delight in the realms of the devas,
Enjoying heavenly sensual bliss in the life to come.”
In my post Spiritual Materialism and Cherry Picking, I explained that its “perfectly okay to not belong to any tradition, and to test each of them out for many years before ever committing to one” and that is, in fact, “much better than just ‘diving in’ into any tradition simply because of its outward attractiveness, or following any teacher simply because of their charisma. That is exactly how people end up in cults, and end up being even more confused than when they initially began their spiritual journey.”
The tragic events that happened in Arizona may prove to be a sad example of my point above. This is why it is always important to choose your teachers wisely and with caution. Upon investigating the teachers Christie McNally and Michael Roach, one will learn that Roach was once ordained in the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. In fact, he was said to be the first westerner to qualify for a Geshe degree at the Sera Monastery in India. He is said to have once recognized McNally as a “Lama” and his “spiritual partner”. This has led to quite a bit of controversy itself – which eventually lead to the Dalai Lama censuring Roach, who refused to renounce his monastic vows, effectively barring him from having anything further to do with the order, stating that his “unconventional behavior does not accord with His Holiness’s teachings and practices.” Their “spiritual partnership” eventually ended, although they supposedly still teach together. McNally began a relationship with and eventually married one of their students – Ian Thorson, who was recently found dead in a cave in Arizona.
Before ever deciding upon a teacher or school, it is always wise to do some proper investigation first. Sometimes, we may put our trust in those who would only misuse it and misinform us – filling our heads with all kinds of incorrect ideas. We should always check out our potential teacher’s credentials and their lineage and be entirely confident in their ability to teach us and lead us correctly on the path. However, even this can sometimes be tricky as well. As in the example of Roach, some people may have been ordained into a certain lineage at one point – even though they may not be recognized by that lineage anymore. Therefore, although a certain person may appear to have the credentials to back them up, that is no guarantee that they are still involved with any school or that they are not misrepresenting the teachings.
In fact, the Buddha himself insisted in the Upali Sutta that people think carefully before following any teacher – including himself! The Upali Sutta tells the story of a famous Jain who came to debate with the Buddha and prove him wrong. However, instead of being proven wrong, he was very impressed by the Buddha and decided to become a disciple right then and there on the spot. The Buddha told him to take more time to carefully think about this and to reconsider it before finally making a conclusive decision. Upali was even more impressed by this, saying that if it were any other teacher they would gloat and brag and go on about converting a chief lay-disciple of Mahavira. Upali then went on to say that he wouldn’t stand up until the Buddha accepted him. Therefore, the Buddha did on one condition: since he had been a Jain and gave alms to Jain monks, he should continue giving alms to Jain monks if he was to become a disciple of Buddha.
So, we should all consider the advice of the Buddha and think things over carefully before ever committing to any practice, school, teacher, etc. We should keep in mind that it’s okay to take our time, as there is absolutely no reason to rush anything. Ultimately, we have to walk the path ourselves – and at our own pace.
This post is dedicated to the memory of Adam Yauch, also known as MCA, who passed away yesterday at the age of 47. He had been battling salivary gland and lymph node cancer for several years. He was one of the founding members of Beastie Boys, and he directed many of their videos under the moniker of Nathanial Hornblower. The Beastie Boys started out as a hardcore punk band inspired by the Bad Brains (which is where they derived their name), later expanding into hip hop and dance. They subsequently helped make rap music even more mainstream throughout the years.
As a practicing Buddhist, Adam founded the Milarepa Fund and also organized the Tibetan Freedom Concerts. After 9/11, he and the Beastie Boys organized New Yorkers Against Violence, as a benefit concert for those victims who were least likely to recieve much help elsewhere.
As I noted in my last post, for many Buddhists today marks the observance of Vesak Puja because it is the first full moon of May. For many people in Mexico and the United States, today is also Cinco de Mayo which commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). So today is certainly an auspicious day for many throughout the world. But that isn’t all.
This full moon is also considered to be a “supermoon” or “harvest moon” because this is the closest point that the moon gets to the Earth on its elliptical orbit. This will make it bigger and brighter than at any other point of the year. But that is not the only thing that is happening in the night sky tonight. There will also be the Eta Aquarid meteor shower.
These meteors are actually fragments of Halley’s Comet and they tend to leave large streaks in the sky. However, the harvest moon may be bright enough to wash out any of the smaller meteors, so they may not be very easily detectable tonight. You will probably have a better chance of seeing the meteors a few hours before dawn. Regardless, there are plenty of reasons to keep your eyes on the night skies tonight.
The following video is of Adam Yauch performing Bodhisattva Vow live in 1994.
Since ancient times, May 1st marked a holiday celebrating the beginning of spring in many cultures. This day probably has more holidays than any other day of the year. One example is Walpurgisnacht, the day designated for St. Walburga – who helped St. Boniface bring Christianity to Germany in the 8th century. She had several different days dedicated in her honor, one of which was May 1st. This date actually coincided with an already existing pagan holiday in Germany, which included rituals to protect people from witchcraft. This led to the two holidays being meshed together, and the hybrid legend of witches meeting with the devil on the eve of May 1st.
Some ancient cultures such as in Egypt, India, and Rome held fertility festivals. For example, there is the Roman festival which was celebrated from April 28th through May 3rd, which centered around Flora – the goddess of fertility, f|owers, and spring. There was also the Celtic festival of Beltane, which was a feast celebrating the start of summer. It included rituals involving bonfires, such as dancing around the fires, driving cattle between two fires, and burning witches in effigy. There was also this tradition which involved the baking of “Beltane cakes”, which were broken down into several pieces. One of these pieces would be blackened, and the unlucky person who received this blackened piece would face a mock execution.
May 1st is also known as the International Worker’s Day, or simply May Day, around the world. May Day actually has its origin in the United States labor movement in the late 19th century. Unions across the country went on strike on May 1, 1886. Their demand was simply an 8-hour workday. Something that many people in the US take for granted. These strikes eventually lead to the now infamous “Haymarket Riot”. On May 4th, someone threw a bomb. Nobody really knows who it was, but a lot of anarchists were ultimately blamed and executed without any proof other than their political ideology.
In Zen Buddhism, “samu” is an extension of meditation which is a relevant practice for this particular aspect of May Day. It is bringing mindfulness to work practice. Samu includes the practice of dana (giving or generosity), mindfulness, and devotion. So one doesn’t have to just meditate while sitting (zazen), but they can also meditate while working (samu), walking (kinhin), eating (i.e. seiza), chanting (okyo), listening to Dharma talks (teisho), and even while having private meetings with a teacher (dokusan). The point is to bring mindfulness and clarity to all aspects of our life.
Also, in honor of the spring holidays, the Subha Jivakambavanika recounts a story of an arahant nun who lived alone in the forest, and is hounded by a man who lusts after her insisting that she “delight” in the pleasant season of spring. In this story, the nun Subha was walking through the delightful mango grove of Jivaka. As she was walking, she was approached by a young libertine – who was the son of a goldsmith. He blocked her path so that she couldn’t walk any further. So she asked him what wrong has she done to him, and why is he standing in her way? She also reminded him that she was pure, without blemish, and it wouldn’t be right for him to touch her since she has “gone forth”.
So he tries to convince her to renounce her robes and vows, insisting that she is young and beautiful. So what need does she have for “going forth”? He further insists that she:
“Throw off your ochre robe — Come, let’s delight in the f|owering forest. A sweetness they exude from all around, the towering trees with their pollen. The beginning of spring is a pleasant season — Come, let’s delight in the f|owering forest. The trees with their blossoming tips moan, as it were, in the breeze: What delight will you have if you plunge into the forest alone? Frequented by herds of wild beasts, disturbed by elephants rutting and aroused: you want to go unaccompanied into the great, lonely, frightening forest? Like a doll made of gold, you will go about, like a goddess in the gardens of heaven. With delicate, smooth Kasi fabrics, you will shine, O beauty without compare. I would be under your power if we were to dwell in the wood. For there is no creature dearer to me than you, O nymph with the languid regard. If you do as I ask, happy, come live in my house. Dwelling in the calm of a palace, have women wait on you, wear delicate Kasi fabrics, adorn yourself with garlands and creams. I will make you many and varied ornaments of gold, jewels, and pearls. Climb onto a costly bed, scented with sandalwood carvings, with a well-washed coverlet, beautiful, spread with a woolen quilt, brand new. Like a blue lotus rising from the water, where there dwell non-human spirits, you will go to old age with your limbs unseen, if you stay as you are in the holy life.”
So she asked him what in the world he assumes of any essence in her body, and what it is that he sees when he looks at her? So he tells her that it is her eyes that are “like those of a fawn, like those of a nymph in the mountains.” When he gazes into her eyes, his “sensual delight grows all the more”. He said that even if she were to go far away, he will think of only her “pure, long-lashed gaze”, for there is nothing dearer to him than her eyes.
Upon hearing this, Subha explained,
“You want to stray from the road, you want the moon as a plaything, you want to jump over Mount Sineru, you who have designs on one born of the Buddha. For there is nothing anywhere at all in the world with its devas, that would be an object of passion for me. I don’t even know what that passion would be, for it’s been killed, root and all, by the path. Like embers from a pit — scattered, like a bowl of poison — evaporated, I don’t even see what that passion would be, for it’s been killed, root and all, by the path. Try to seduce one who hasn’t ref|ected on this, or who the Master hasn’t instructed. But try it with this one who knows and you do yourself violence. For whether insulted or worshiped, in pleasure or pain, my mindfulness stands firm.
Knowing the unattractiveness of fabricated things, my heart adheres nowhere at all. I am a follower of the one well-gone, riding the vehicle of the eightfold way: My arrow removed, eff|uent-free, I delight, having gone to an empty dwelling. For I have seen well-painted puppets, hitched up with sticks and strings, made to dance in various ways. When the sticks and strings are removed, thrown away, scattered, shredded, smashed into pieces, not to be found, in what will the mind there make its home? This body of mine, which is just like that, when devoid of dhammas doesn’t function. When, devoid of dhammas, it doesn’t function, in what will the mind there make its home? Like a mural you’ve seen, painted on a wall, smeared with yellow orpiment, there your vision has been distorted, meaningless your perception of a human being.
Like an evaporated mirage, like a tree of gold in a dream, like a magic show in the midst of a crowd — you run blind after what is unreal. Resembling a ball of sealing wax, set in a hollow, with a bubble in the middle and bathed with tears, eye secretions are born there too: The parts of the eye are rolled all together in various ways.”
After saying all of this to him, without any sense of regret, she plucked out one of her eyes. With her mind completely unattached, she gave it to him. She said to him, “Here, take this eye. It’s yours.” As soon as she did this his passion faded right then and there as he begged her for forgiveness. He promised that he will never let this happen again. He said that harming a person like her is like embracing a blazing fire, or having seized a poisonous snake. After this encounter, Subha went to the Buddha. It is said that when she saw the mark of his excellent merit, her eye became as it was before.
Happy Earth Day! Today marks the 42nd anniversary of the modern environmental movement which began in 1970. The founder of Earth Day was the then U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, who proposed the first nationwide environmental protest “to shake up the political establishment and force this issue onto the national agenda.” According to the California Community Environmental Council in Santa Barbara, “The story goes that Earth Day was conceived by Senator Gaylord Nelson after a trip he took to Santa Barbara right after that horrific oil spill off our coast in 1969. He was so outraged by what he saw that he went back to Washington and passed a bill designating April 22 as a national day to celebrate the earth.”
In The Buddhist Attitude Towards Nature, Lily de Silva points out that:
“Prior to the rise of Buddhism people regarded natural phenomena such as mountains, forests, groves, and trees with a sense of awe and reverence. They considered them as the abode of powerful non-human beings who could assist human beings at times of need. Though Buddhism gave man a far superior Triple Refuge (tisarana) in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, these places continued to enjoy public patronage at a popular level, as the acceptance of terrestrial non-human beings such as devatas and yakkhas did not violate the belief system of Buddhism. Therefore among the Buddhists there is a reverential attitude towards specially long-standing gigantic trees. They are vanaspati in Pali, meaning ‘lords of the forests.’ As huge trees such as the ironwood, the sala, and the fig are also recognized as the Bodhi trees of former Buddhas, the deferential attitude towards trees is further strengthened. It is well known that the ficus religiosa is held as an object of great veneration in the Buddhist world today as the tree under which the Buddha attained Enlightenment.”
Also on this day, back in 1954, the United Nations put into force the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees which guaranteed asylum to those persecuted in their homelands on account of their ethnicity, religion, or political opinion.
Today is Ambedkar Jayanthi, or Ambedkar Day, which is a secular holiday as it is the 121st birthday or Bharat Ratna Dr. Babasaheb Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar Vishwavidyalaya (or just Dr. B.R. Ambedkar for short). He was not only the founder and architect of the Indian Constitution, but he was also also a Buddhist activist, juror, political activist and leader, social revolutionary and reformer, anthropologist, historian, scholar and orator, prolific writer and editor, economist, and a revivalist of Buddhism in India.
He was born into a poor Mahar family, which were considered a “Dalit” or “Untouchable caste”. Therefore, he campaigned against social discrimination and the injustice of the caste system (chaturvarna). Ambedkar was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, in 1990. Overcoming numerous social and economic obstacles, Ambedkar became one of the first “Dalit” or outcaste to obtain law degrees and multiple doctorates for his study and research in law, economics and political science from Columbia University and the London School of Economics. Every year, April 14th is known as Ambedkar Jayanti, as his birthday is celebrated all over India which the Union Government declared as a public holiday.
Since 1948, Ambedkar had been suffering from diabetes. He was bed-ridden from June to October in 1954 owing to diabetes and failing eyesight. He had been increasingly embittered by political issues, which took a toll on his health. His health worsened during 1955. He was also credited with delivering hundreds of thousands of Dalits (untouchables) to Theravada Buddhism and even many other Buddhists from India and abroad. Three days after completing his final manuscript The Buddha and His Dhamma, it is said that Ambedkar died in his sleep on 6 December 1956 at his home in Delhi.
In fact, his condemnation of Hinduism and its foundation in the caste system made him pretty controversial and unpopular among the Hindu right of the time. His political philosophy has inspired a large number of Dalit political parties, publications and workers’ unions that remain active across India, especially in Maharashtra. Presently, massive conversion ceremonies have been organized by Dalit activists emulating Ambedkar’s Nagpur ceremony of 1956.
Due to Ambedkar’s prominence and popular support amongst the Untouchable community, he was invited to attend the Second Round Table Conference in London in 1932. Gandhi, who was in jail in Poona, fiercely opposed a separate electorate for untouchables, though he accepted a separate electorate for all other minority groups such as Muslims and Sikhs, saying he feared that separate electorates for untouchables would divide the “Hindu community” with the scheduled caste.
When the British agreed with Ambedkar and announced the awarding of separate electorates, Gandhi began a fast while imprisoned in the Yerwada Central Jail in 1932 against the separate electorate for untouchables only. In fact, Gandhi stated, “I am certain that the question of separate electorates for the Untouchables is the modern manufacture of satanic government. I will resist it with my life.”
The British authorities did not want to deal with Gandhi’s death and said that the UK would accept any voting arrangement that was satisfactory to both Hindus and Untouchables. Gandhi’s fast provoked huge civil unrest across India. Therefore Congress politicians and activists such as Madan Mohan Malaviya and Palwankar Baloo organized joint meetings with Ambedkar and his supporters.
Ambedkar thought that Gandhi’s fast was a ploy, but feared not only increased coercion by Gandhi supporters, but also communal reprisal and even genocide of Untouchables. This agreement, which saw Gandhi end his fast, was called the Poona Pact. As a result, Ambedkar dropped the demand for separate electorates that was promised through the British Communal Award prior to his meeting with Gandhi. Instead, a certain number of seats were reserved specifically for Untouchables who were, in the agreement, called the “Depressed Class”.
Here are a few words from Ambedkar himself:
“History shows that where ethics and economics come in conflict, victory is always with economics. Vested interests have never been known to have willingly divested themselves unless there was sufficient force to compel them.”
“For a successful revolution it is not enough that there is discontent. What is required is a profound and thorough conviction of the justice, necessity and importance of political and social rights.”
“I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved.”
“Political tyranny is nothing compared to the social tyranny and a reformer who defies society is a more courageous man than a politician who defies Government.”
“Positively, my social philosophy may be said to be enshrined in three words: liberty, equality and fraternity. Let no one however say that I have borrowed my philosophy from the French Revolution. I have not. My philosophy has its roots in religion and not in political science. I have derived them from the teachings of my master, the Buddha.”
April 8th was Easter to a lot of people in the West, but in Japan the 8th was the first day of Hanamatsuri which celebrates the Buddha’s birthday. Many different traditions celebrate the Buddha’s birth on different dates, such as Vesak which marks the birth, enlightenment and passing of the Buddha.
However, Hanamatsuri literally means “flower festival” and it is celebrated from the 8th until the 13th of April. It is traditionally known as bussho-e, tanjo-e, kanbutsu-e and Shakuson gotan-e. It commemorates the birth of Siddhartha Gautama (who became enlightened as Sakyamuni Buddha) to King Suddhodana and Queen Maya. The first Hanamatsuri celebration was held in Hibiya Park, Tokyo, in 1917 and it was headed by Ando Ryogan and Watanabe Kaikyoku. A common practice on this day includes the pouring of ama-cha (a tea prepared from a variety of hydrangea) on small Buddha statues (tanjobustu) decorated with flowers, as if to bathe a newborn baby. In Buddhist temples, monasteries and nunneries, more involved ceremonies are conducted for practicing Buddhists, priests, monks and nuns. There are also public festivals in some areas.
So, I have decided to address some questions many people have regarding Buddhism. More importantly, what the heck is a Buddha, anyways? A Buddha is literally an “Awakened One”, as it refers to any being who has become fully awakened (bodhi) – thus attaining Nirvana (Pali: Nibbana; or Unbinding). The historical Buddha, meaning the founder of what is presently called Buddhism, was an ex-prince named Siddartha Gautama (Pali: Siddatha Gotama; ca. 563-486BCE). He was born to a noble family of the Shakya clan in Lumbini Grove, Nepal. Other names of Siddartha Gautama, besides Buddha, include: Arahant or “Worthy one”, Bhadanta or “Most Virtuous”, Bhagava or “The blessed one”, Shakyamuni or “Sage of the Sakyas”, and Tathagata or “Thus gone.”
People often wonder, “Isn’t he like a God? Don’t people worship him as such?” Well, the short answer is no, that isn’t necessarily the case. When Buddhism spread across Asia, it was usually incorporated with the already existing cultural norms of that society. Therefore paying homage and respect to the Buddha is often practiced in most traditions, but this does not constitute worshiping the Buddha as a deity. The Buddha himself spoke against such things, stating in the Vakkali Sutta, “He who sees Dhamma, Vakkali, sees me; he who sees me sees Dhamma. Truly seeing Dhamma, one sees me; seeing me one sees Dhamma.”. Therefore Buddhists have faith in the Buddha as an enlightened teacher, and often show their respect for his teachings in the form of symbolic offerings.
“Master, are you a deva (god)?”
“No, brahman, I am not a deva.”
“Are you a gandhabba (regarded as ‘heavenly musicians’)?”
“… a yakkha (a nature spirit)?”
“… a human being?”
“No, brahman, I am not a human being.”
“…Then what sort of being are you?”
“…Remember me, brahman, as ‘awakened.’
A lot of people often mistake the historical Buddha as “that one fat guy”. Actually, that one fat guy is a Chinese monk named Ch’i-tz’u or Qieci, also known as Pu-tai or Budai (Jp: Hotei) which refers to a hemp bag he is often depicted carrying. According to some traditions, he is popularly seen as an incarnation (bodhisattva) of the future Buddha Maitreya. Therefore his figure is often used in artistic expressions of the future Buddha.
Another question is that since there are so many different Buddhas, aren’t they all the same? What makes this Siddartha guy so special? It is true there have been many Buddhas in the past, and more to come in the future. Shakyamuni Buddha, born Siddartha Guatama, was the last Sammasam or Samyaksam Buddha of this particular world-system or kalpa. The previous were Kakusandha Buddha, Konagamana Buddha, and Kassapa Buddha. The next Buddha is currently a Maha-Bodhisattva, probably residing in the deva realm of Tusita, known as Maitreya.
However, there are essentially three types of Buddhas. There are the Sammasam Buddhas (Skt: Samyaksam Buddhas), such as Siddartha Gautama, who attain Buddhahood and then decide to teach others what they have discovered. There is actually only one Sammasam Buddha for any given world-system, because they basically “rediscover” the Dharma at a time when it has been completely forgotten. The Bahudhatuka Sutta states that,
“It is impossible that two rightfully Enlightened Ones should be born in the same world element at one and same time.
It is possible that a single rightfully Enlightened One should be born in the world element at one time.”
The next Sammasam Buddha will be Maitreya, who will appear when the teachings of Siddartha Gautama have been completely lost and forgotten. In the Infinite Life Sutra and the Amitabha Sutra, Amitabha Buddha is also a Buddha from another world-system that existed ten kalpas ago. Then there are also what are called the solitary or silent Buddhas, known as Pacceka Buddhas (Skt: Pratyeka Buddhas), who do not teach the Dharma to others for they do not even have the desire to do so. Finally, there are the disciples of a Buddha who realize enlightenment and Nirvana called Savaka Buddhas (Skt: Sravaka Buddhas) which basically means “Hearer Buddha”
Any present day Buddha would fall into one of the latter two categories, as the teachings of Siddartha Buddha are still obviously around – meaning he is still the current Sammasam Buddha of this era. This is why the emphasis is laid on Siddartha Gautama, because it is still his teachings which lead other beings to awakening. The Buddha Sutta states:
“The Tathagata — the worthy one, the rightly self-awakened one — is the one who gives rise to the path (previously) unarisen, who engenders the path (previously) unengendered, who points out the path (previously) not pointed out. He knows the path, is expert in the path, is adept at the path. And his disciples now keep following the path and afterwards become endowed with the path.”
So what differentiates a Buddha, anyways? How can you tell a Buddha apart from some other enlightened teacher? Well, the Maha-sihanada Sutta lists ten “powers” or “factors” of a Buddha (tathaagata-balaani) which he understands in actuality:
1. The possible as possible and the impossible as impossible, that is causes and conditions and their results;
2. Past, future and present deeds and their results;
3. The practices leading to good and bad destinations;
4. The world (of the aggregates, etc.) in all its diverse elements;
5. The various (good and bad) dispositions and inclinations of beings;
6. The state of the faculties (indriya, of faith, energy, etc.) of other beings;
7. The cleansing of defilements and the emergence in regard to the jhanas, liberations, concentrations and attainments in meditation;
8 The recollection of many former births and the remembrance the various experiences he had in them;
9. The witnessing of beings arising and passing away according to their deeds;
10. The knowledge of destruction of the mental effluents/pollutants/fermentations/etc. (asavakkhaye ñana), dwelling upon and abiding in the deliverance of mind (cetavimutti) and deliverance through wisdom (paññaa-vimutti).
In a previous post, I touched upon how the story of Buddha found its way into the Abrahamic faiths which eventually led to the Catholic Church proclaiming the Buddha as a Saint. In recognition of the Pesach and Easter holidays, I decided to further expand upon the relationship between Buddhism and other faiths. Alternatively, Tan Swee Eng compiled a list of the differences between Buddhism and other religions. If anyone has anything else to add or correct, please leave a comment.
Buddhism and Hinduism are both post-Vedic religions. However Siddhartha Gautama’s teachings deny the authority of the Vedas and sometimes Buddhism is generally viewed as a nastika school (heterodox, literally “It is not so”) from the perspective of some Hindus. Gautama Buddha is mentioned as an Avatar of Vishnu in the Puranic texts of Hinduism. In the Bhagavata Purana he is twenty fourth of twenty five avatars, prefiguring a forthcoming final incarnation. A number of Hindu traditions portray Buddha as the most recent of ten principal avatars, known as the “Dasavatara” (Ten Incarnations of God) – but this view is not accepted by most Buddhist schools. Prominent Hindu reformers such as Gandhi and Vivekananda acknowledge Buddhist influence
Buddhism and Jainism are the two branches of the Shramana tradition that still exists today. The Upanishads, Mahavira (founder of Jainism) and Buddha (founder of Buddhism) taught that to achieve moksha or nirvana, one did not have to accept the authority of the Vedas or the caste system. Buddha went a step further with the principle of anatta, or not-self and dependent origination. Until recently Jainism was largely confined to India, while Buddhism has largely flourished outside of India. However the two traditions share remarkable similarities. In his life, the Buddha undertook many fasts, penances and austerities, the descriptions of which are elsewhere found only in the Jain tradition. Ultimately Buddha abandoned these methods on his discovery of the Middle Way or Magga. To this day, many Buddhist teachings, principles, and terms used in Buddhism are identical to those of Jainism, but they may hold very different meanings.
The entry of Buddhism into China was marked by interaction and syncretism with Taoism in particular. Originally seen as a kind of “foreign Taoism”, Buddhism’s scriptures were translated into Chinese using the Taoist vocabulary. Chan Buddhism was particularly modified by Taoism, integrating distrust of scripture, text and even language, as well as the Taoist views of embracing “this life”, dedicated practice and the “every-moment”. In the Tang period Taoism incorporated some Buddhist elements like monasteries, vegetarianism, prohibition of alcohol, the doctrine of emptiness, and collecting scripture into tripartite organization.
Confucianism in particular raised fierce opposition to Buddhism in its early, initial introduction in China. It was principally due to what it viewed at the time would be the negative result of the “nihilistic” worldview of Buddhism (although Buddhism is a Middle Way between eternalism and nihilism) on society at large. The prominence of Confucianism in the Chinese society forced Buddhism to endorse certain uniquely Confucian values. Over time as Buddhism became increasingly accepted by the Chinese intellectual class, relation between these two philosophies became more symbiotic. For example, Buddhism shares many commonalities with Neo-Confucianism.
In Japan, since the symbol of one of the Dainichi Nyorai (non-historical buddhas of Mahayana Buddhism), was the sun, many equated Amaterasu (Sun Goddess) with a previous reincarnation (bodhisattva) of Vairochana. The later Tokugawa Shogunate era saw a revival of Shinto, and some Shinto scholars began to argue that Buddhas were previous incarnations of Shinto gods, reversing the traditional positions of the two religions. Shinto and Buddhism were officially separated during the Meiji Restoration and the brief, but impacting rise of State Shinto followed. In modern Japan, most families count themselves as being of both religions, despite the idea of “official separation”.
Buddhist views of Jesus differ, since Jesus came after Buddha. Some Buddhists, including the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, regard Jesus as a bodhisattva who dedicated his life to the welfare of human beings. Both Jesus and Buddha advocated radical alterations in the common religious practices of the day. There are occasional similarities in language, such as the use of the common metaphor of a line of blind men to refer to religious authorities with whom they disagreed (Digha Nikaya 13.15, Matthew 15:14). Some believe there is a particularly close affinity between Buddhism (or Eastern spiritual thought generally) and the doctrine of Gnostic texts such as the Gospel of Thomas.
Some scholars believe that Jesus may have been inspired by Buddhism, and that the Gospel of Thomas and the Nag Hammadi texts reflect this influence. These theories have been popularized in books such as Elaine Pagels’ The Gnostic Gospels (1979) and Beyond Belief (2003), and Elmar R. Gruber and Holger Kersten’s The Original Jesus (1995). Edward Conze has suggested that Hindu or Buddhist tradition may well have influenced Gnosticism. He points out that Buddhists were in contact with the Thomas Christians. Elaine Pagels notes that the similarities between Gnosticism and Buddhism have prompted some scholars to question their interdependence and to wonder whether “…if the names were changed, the ‘living Buddha’ appropriately could say what the Gospel of Thomas attributes to the living Jesus. ” However, she concludes that, although intriguing, the evidence is inconclusive, since parallel traditions may emerge in different cultures without direct influence.
Barlaam and Josaphat are said to have lived and died in the 3rd century or 4th century in India. Josaphat’s story appears to be a Christianized version of the story of the Buddha, Siddartha Gautama. The first Christianized adaptation was the Georgian epic Balavariani dating back to the 10th century. A Georgian monk Euthymius of Athos translated the story into Greek, some time before he was killed while visiting Constantinople in 1028. There the Greek adaptation was translated into Latin in 1048 and soon became well known in Western Europe as Barlaam and Josaphat. The story was translated into Hebrew in the Middle Ages as “Ben-Hamelekh Vehanazir” (“The Prince and the Nazirite”). For more information, please read my post entitled The Teacher of Gods and Humans.
The Indian scholar Maulana Abul Kalam Azad proposed in a commentary on the Qur’an that Siddhartha Gautama is the prophet Dhu’l-Kifl referred to in Sura 21 and Sura 38 of the Qur’an together with the Biblical characters Ishmael, Idris (Enoch), and Elisha. Azad suggested that the Kifl in Dhu’l-Kifl (Ar: “possessor of a double portion”) is an Arabic pronunciation of Kapilavastu, where the Buddha spent his early life. Azad did not, however, provide direct historical evidence to support his speculation. According to other ancient Muslim scholars Dhu’l-Kifl was either a righteous man and not a prophet, or he was the prophet called Ezekiel in the Bible.
In his article “A Muslim View of Buddhism”, Professor Majid Tehranian suggests, “Sufism as a bridge between the two religious traditions (Buddhism and Islam).” One of the reasons, he states, is: “In Islam, Sufism represents a reaction against the excessive emphasis on the Shari’ah, the Letter of the Law, as opposed to the Spirit of the Law, the Tariqah.” However, the fact that all the Islamic countries signed the Cairo Declaration indicates that any ethical basis for either global civilization or universal responsibility needs to take Shari’ah into account.
Buddha is classified as one of the Manifestations of God which is a title for a major prophet in the Baha’í Faith. Similarly, the Prophet of the Baha’í Faith, Baha’u'llah, is believed by Baha’ís to be the Fifth Buddha, among other prophetic stations.
In the Suttas, the Buddha is often referred to as a “teacher of gods and humans” (satthadevamanusssanam). However, since the propogation of Buddhism in West, and especially since the release of Stephen Batchelor’s Confession of a Buddhist Atheist, everybody is quite aware of atheists within Buddhist traditions. Also, many people are not aware that the story of Buddha is also found within many different religious traditions – and not just as an incarnation of Vishnu within Hinduism.
The story of Buddha can also be found within the Abrahamic traditions as the Christian story of Barlaam and Josaphat, the Muslim Kitab Bilawhar wa-Yudasaf, and the Jewish Ben Ha’Melech Ve’ha’Nazir. Barlaam and Josaphat are said to have lived and died in the 3rd century or 4th century in India. The king-turned-monk Josaphat’s name is a corruption of the original Joasaph, which is again corrupted from the middle Persian Budasif (which itself comes from the Sanskrit Bodhisattva). Wilfred Cantwell Smith traced the story from a 2nd to 4th century Sanskrit Mahayana Buddhist text, to a Manichee version, which then found its way into Muslim culture as the Arabic Kitab Bilawhar wa-Yudasaf. The first Christianized adaptation was the Georgian epic Balavariani dating back to the 10th century. A Georgian monk Euthymius of Athos translated the story into Greek, some time before he was killed while visiting Constantinople in 1028. There the Greek adaptation was translated into Latin in 1048 and soon became well known in Western Europe as Barlaam and Josaphat. The story was translated into Hebrew in the Middle Ages as Ben Ha’Melech Ve’ha’Nazir.
Therefore the Buddha is often considered a saint to Thomas Christians (ancient Christians in India), and is also recognized as a saint in the Catholic Church. A version of Barlaam and Josaphat can be found here and The Life of Barlaam the Hermit, from the Golden Legend (or Lives of the Saints) can be found here.
This all also reminds me of the story of Upali. The Upali Sutta tells the story of a famous Jain who came to debate with the Buddha and prove him wrong. However, instead of being proven wrong, he was very impressed by the Buddha and decided to become a disciple right then and there on the spot. The Buddha told him to take more time to carefully think about this and to reconsider it before finally making a conclusive decision. Upali was even more impressed by this, saying that if it were any other teacher they would gloat and brag and go on about converting a chief lay-disciple of Mahavira. Upali then went on to say that he wouldn’t stand up until the Buddha accepted him. Therefore, the Buddha did on one condition: since he had been a Jain and gave alms to Jain monks, he should continue giving alms to Jain monks if he was to become a disciple of Buddha.
So if Buddha is already a part of your religion, and Buddhist practice can benefit pretty much anyone – what need is there to proselytize? The only intent of missionary work within Buddhism should be understanding. Buddha Dhamma doesn’t have to compete for converts. If you’re a Christian or Muslim or Jew or Hindu or atheist or etc. and you want to make the teachings of Buddha applicable to your daily life – then you must first become a good Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, atheist, or etc.
According to the Saraniya Sutta (AN 6.12), there are six conditions which are conducive to amiability and engender feelings of endearment and respect, which lead to a sense of fellowship, a lack of disputes, and a state of harmony and unity. The Buddha recommended these to promote unity and harmony among the Sangha, but these same harmonies can apply to all sorts of relationships such as in a marriage, between co-workers, etc. These include:
1. Physical Harmony
2. Verbal Harmony
3. Mental Harmony
4. Moral Harmony
5. Economic Harmony
6. Doctrinal Harmony
The first harmony, physical harmony, includes living and working together in unity, love and good will with regard to our fellows – both to their faces and behind their backs. In order to create a stable relationship, it is advisable that people get along with each other and learn to treat each other as equals. The second, verbal harmony, means not saying harmful things, or quarreling which brings about anger and can lead to fighting. Talking too much often leads to careless remarks. When people are together, the negative karma of harmful speech is the most likely to incur.
The third harmony, mental harmony, means developing a mind of good will, such as being considerate of the thoughts and ideas of others. This includes being mindful of the welfare and benefit of others, not just one’s self. The fourth, moral harmony, means unity in observing the same precepts, and encouraging each other in our practice. In Buddhism this would include the 5 precepts, and in society in general, this may include local laws and customs.
The fifth, economic harmony, means that whatever righteous gains one may obtain in a righteous way – it is shared equally with others. This does not just include money, but any form of recognition. We must learn to give and take and negotiate things fairly. However, when giving, one should not give with any ulterior motives or a discriminative mind. Generosity should be accompanied with empathy, conviction, compassion, and kindness. The practice of giving helps to weaken one’s habitual tendencies to cling — to views, to sensuality, and to unskillful modes of thought and behavior.
The sixth and final harmony is doctrinal harmony. This includes sharing knowledge and understanding with others so that everyone can improve together and reach the same level of understanding. This also changes the dynamic of how we function as a community, and we learn to do things not just out of our benefit – but for the benefit and welfare of others. Doing so helps us to abandon non-virtue and develop virtuous behavior. This is called delighting in the joy of Dharma through the eradication of ignorance and defilements. The more we practice the Dharma, the more happiness we will have. If we really engage in the Dharma with others, there will be mutual joy and benefit.
Whenever we treat others with a sense of harmony and unity, this will engender mutual respect and reverence. If we can respect each other in harmony, we will be able to accept that all human phenomena are equal, harmonious, peaceful, and beautiful. If everyone could do this, then true world peace would become an even greater possibility.
Tonight was the last night in which eight candles are lit on the menorah as tomorrow (the 9th) is the last day of Hanukkah (which ends at sunset). It’s also known as the Festival of Lights, as it is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the re-dedication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem following Judah Maccabee‘s victory over the Seleucid Empire.
According to Rabbinic tradition, the victorious Maccabees could only find a small jug of oil that had remained uncontaminated by virtue of a seal, and it only contained enough oil to sustain the menorah for one day. However, it miraculously lasted for eight days, which was enough time to press, prepare and consecrate fresh olive oil.
Hanukkah can also be celebrated by singing prayers and hymns such as Maoz Tzur, Psalms, etc.; exchanging presents; and children are also sometimes encouraged to give tzedakah (or “charity”) for at least one of the nights, in lieu of presents for themselves.
This year, Hanukkah actually coincided with the Zen Buddhist Rohatsu Sesshin which is usually held from the 1st to the 8th of December. During the session, many practitioners stay up all night before the 8th in intensive meditation. This is because the 8th (today) was Bodhi Day (also Jodo-e, etc), or Enlightenment Day, for many Buddhists. It is a day which commemorates the Buddha’s enlightenment. As Venus rose in the sky on the early morning of December 8th, Siddartha Gotama (also known as Shakyamuni Buddha) experienced enlightenment at the foot of a bodhi tree (fiscus tree of the genus ficus religiousa, or sacred fig) in Bodhgaya.
As a day of remembrance and meditation, Bodhi Day may also sometimes appear as if it is the Buddhist version of Christmas. In some Buddhist homes you are likely to find a bodhi tree (fiscus tree/sacred fig). Beginning on Bodhi Day, these trees are decorated with multi-colored lights, strung with beads to symbolize the way all things are united, and hung with three shiny ornaments to represent the Three Jewels – The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.
Sometimes you may also find colored lights which are strung about the home to recognize the day of enlightenment. They are multi-colored to symbolize the many pathways to enlightenment. The lights are turned on each evening beginning on December 8th and for the following 30 days. A candle is also lit for these thirty days to symbolize enlightenment.
A meal of rice and milk is significant on this holiday, because it is what Sujata offered to the Buddha upon his awakening to help him regain strength. Sometimes cookies are made in the shape of a tree to symbolize the bodhi tree, or of the leaves of the bodhi tree. Fortunately, the leaves are heart shaped, so its easy to find a heart shaped cookie cutter from Valentine’s Day.
However, the Buddha’s enlightenment is also observed at different times in other Buddhist traditions. Such as some Theravada Buddhist communities usually commemorate the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing into paranirvana on the same day, called Vesak Puja (which already happened May 21st). Tibetan Buddhists also observe those same three events of Buddha’s life at the same time, during Saga Dawa Duchen (which was May 27th).
Since it’s Thanksgiving, I thought I would take this time to offer thanks and gratitude and present some useful Buddhist tips for the holiday.
First of all, I would to thank anyone who actually takes the time read this! Second, I am thankful for my grandmother who is now out of the hospital and can actually spend Thanksgiving at home with the family. Thank you everyone for your prayers and thoughts. I am thankful for my beautiful fiancee, who makes me laugh my ass off, comforts me when I need it the most, and is all around the coolest person I’ve ever met. I am thankful for my family – my brother and his beautiful family, and all of the family that I can’t see this holiday because of the distance between us. I am also thankful for the job that keeps me from being homeless, and the Buddhist practice which continues to help me towards awakening every single day.
Thanksgiving is also well-known for the huge meal, of course centering around turkey. A chant which can be used before meals is included in the Paritta Suttas (as translated by Piyadassi Thera) which goes:
“Wisely reƒlecting I will partake of food not for pleasure of it, not for the pride (resulting from physical strength obtainable), not for adornment, not for beautifying the body, but merely to maintain this body, to still the hunger, and to enable the practice of the holy life; also to resist the pangs of hunger (due to previous want of food), and to resist the pain (resulting from excess of food). Thus will my life be maintained free from wrong doing and free from discomfort.”
There are also some more meal chants, such as the Gokan No Ge (as part of the Gyohatsunenju, or “Meal Sutra”) which is used in some Zen traditions:
“First, we consider in detail the merit of this food and remember how it came to us;
Second, we evaluate our own virtue and practice, Lacking or complete, as we receive this offering;
Third, we are careful about greed, hatred, and ignorance, to guard our minds and to free ourselves from error;
Fourth, we take this good medicine to save our bodies from emaciation;
Fifth, we accept this food to achieve the Way of the Buddha.”
Since we are giving thanks, we should also keep in mind the principle of “parinamana” which means “transfer of merit” or “dedication”. There are benefits to be derived from the non-attached practices of Wisdom and Compassion. These practices include the Buddhist Precepts which are guidelines for enlightened living. These benefits, or “merit,” may be accumulated and subsequently transferred to any or all sentient beings for their benefit (transpersonal) or rededicated so as to transform it into a benefit for one’s self (personal). The three bases of merit are giving, virtue and mental development.
My grandmother lays sick in the hospital at the moment. I tried calling her earlier today, but she was in too much pain to speak for very long. She is having heart and kidney problems, and they also found water in her lungs. She is one of the strongest and most independent women in the world – by far. She has already beaten cancer before. This courageous woman also helped to raise my brothers, cousins, as well as many other kids and I when she provided her own babysitting service. Now, you have to admit that it takes one hell of a woman to be able to handle all of those bratty kids at once.
This is yet another harsh reminder that we are all caught up in the whirlwind of Samsara (“continuous movement” or “continuous meandering”). This refers to the cycles of birth (jati), aging (jara), death (marana), and subsequent future becomming (punabbhava) that all beings are subject to. As a part of Samsara, the consciousness (vijnana) carries karmic energy/conditioning/in∫luence/etc (kamma-vega) from rebirth to rebirth.
Just as one can not point out the beginning of a circle, one can not easily point out the beginning of Samsara. We have been wandering about and suffering within the snare of Samsara for an inconceivably extensive amount of time. Thus we will continue on, wandering and suffering, until we finally realize bodhi (i.e. awakening, knowing, enlightenment, etc) and abide in Nirvana. No, I am not referring to the 90′s grunge-rock band from Seattle; but the ultimate state of awareness and second ultimate state, to paranirvana, of harmony. Nirvana literally means to “go out” like a ∫lame, as it is the liberation (or “unbinding”) from the cyclic existence of Samsara.
In the Assu Sutta (as translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu), the Buddha poignantly explains our predicament as follows:
At Savatthi. There the Blessed One said: “From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. What do you think, monks: Which is greater, the tears you have shed while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — or the water in the four great oceans?”
“As we understand the Dhamma taught to us by the Blessed One, this is the greater: the tears we have shed while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — not the water in the four great oceans.”
“Excellent, monks. Excellent. It is excellent that you thus understand the Dhamma taught by me.
“This is the greater: the tears you have shed while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — not the water in the four great oceans.
“Long have you (repeatedly) experienced the death of a mother. The tears you have shed over the death of a mother while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — are greater than the water in the four great oceans.
“Long have you (repeatedly) experienced the death of a father… the death of a brother… the death of a sister… the death of a son… the death of a daughter… loss with regard to relatives… loss with regard to wealth… loss with regard to disease. The tears you have shed over loss with regard to disease while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — are greater than the water in the four great oceans.
“Why is that? From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. Long have you thus experienced stress, experienced pain, experienced loss, swelling the cemeteries — enough to become disenchanted with all fabricated things, enough to become dispassionate, enough to be released.”
Bhaisajyaguru (also known as the Healing Buddha or Medicine Buddha) is a popular form of the Buddha in the Mahayana traditions of Tibet, China and Japan. The name means ‘Healing Teacher’ or even ‘Supreme Healer’. He is looked upon therefore as someone who can be invoked in times of curing physical illness, warding such calamities as famine, drought and plague, granting longevity and assisting the dead, and is also known to have dispensed all kinds of mundane benefits to those who pray to him. However, his significance is deeper than this because he is also the healer of spiritual ills, including the three poisons: greed, hated and delusion.
Therefore, I dedicate the merit accumulated by chanting the great Dharani of Medicine Buddha to my loving grandmother:
Namo bhagavate Bhaishajya-guru vaidurya-praba-rajaya tathagataya arthate samyak-sambuddhaya tadyata Om bhaishajye bhaishajye bhaishajya-samudgate svaha
The title of this post comes from the amazing pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. She was released from house arrest today amid massive cheers from the people of Burma (Myanmar). This is wonderful news, but we have to keep in mind that this is less about bringing democracy to Burma and more about the ruling military junta there giving themselves some positive publicity after their much criticized elections.
Aung San Suu Kyi was born on June 19th, 1945. Her father Aung San founded the modern Burmese army and negotiated Burma’s independence from the British Empire in 1947. Unforunately, he was assassinated by his rivals in the same year. Aung San Suu Kyi became head of the Burmese National League for Democracy in 1988, opposing the military government of Burma (Myanmar). She was awarded the 1990 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her human rights work.
In honor of her freedom, I decided to share some of my favorite quotes from this beautiful, intelligent and strong woman.
“It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. Most Burmese are familiar with the four a-gati, the four kinds of corruption. Chanda-gati, corruption induced by desire, is deviation from the right path in pursuit of bribes or for the sake of those one loves. Dosa-gati is taking the wrong path to spite those against whom one bears ill will, and moga-gati is aberration due to ignorance. But perhaps the worst of the four is bhaya-gati, for not only does bhaya, fear, stiƒle and slowly destroy all sense of right and wrong, it so often lies at the root of the other three kinds of corruption. Just as chanda-gati, when not the result of sheer avarice, can be caused by fear of want or fear of losing the goodwill of those one loves, so fear of being surpassed, humiliated or injured in some way can provide the impetus for ill will. And it would be difficult to dispel ignorance unless there is freedom to pursue the truth unfettered by fear. With so close a relationship between fear and corruption it is little wonder that in any society where fear is rife corruption in all forms becomes deeply entrenched.”
“Within a system which denies the existence of basic human rights, fear tends to be the order of the day. Fear of imprisonment, fear of torture, fear of death, fear of losing friends, family, property or means of livelihood, fear of poverty, fear of isolation, fear of failure. A most insidious form of fear is that which masquerades as common sense or even wisdom, condemning as foolish, reckless, insignificant or futile the small, daily acts of courage which help to preserve man’s self-respect and inherent human dignity. It is not easy for a people conditioned by fear under the iron rule of the principle that might is right to free themselves from the enervating miasma of fear. Yet even under the most crushing state machinery courage rises up again and again, for fear is not the natural state of civilized man.”
“We have faith in the power to change what needs to be changed but we are under no illusion that the transition from dictatorship to liberal democracy will be easy, or that democratic government will mean the end of all our problems. We know that our greatest challenges lie ahead of us and that our struggle to establish a stable, democratic society will continue beyond our own life span. But we know that we are not alone. The cause of liberty and justice finds sympathetic responses around the world. Thinking and feeling people everywhere, regardless of color or creed, understand the deeply rooted human need for a meaningful existence that goes beyond the mere gratification of material desires. Those fortunate enough to live in societies where they are entitled to full political rights can reach out to help their less fortunate brethren in other areas of our troubled planet.”
“I don’t believe in people just hoping. We work for what we want. I always say that one has no right to hope without endeavor, so we work to try and bring about the situation that is necessary for the country, and we are confident that we will get to the negotiation table at one time or another.”
“Saints, it has been said, are the sinners who go on trying. So free men and women are the oppressed who go on trying and who in the process make themselves fit to bear the responsibilities and uphold the disciplines which will maintain a free society.”
The Burmese struggle for democracy and freedom continues to be in my thoughts and prayers. Please keep them in yours.
A spectre is haunting your town – the spectre of Halloween! Today, there was a Halloween parade in town. All the little kids got to dress up, go “trick-or-treating” at local businesses, and march in the parade. Also, it seems this Saturday, at a local antique shop, there is going to be a Halloween-themed costume party. Apparently, some people from the Travel Channel are also going to be staying the night there – as it is supposedly “haunted”.
So, in the spirit of Halloween, I thought I would share a post on what are commonly referred to as “hungry ghosts” or “hungry shades” in Buddhist culture. In the cyclical existence of Samsara, depending on their karma, some beings may be reborn in the realm of peta loka - which is a realm where ghosts and unhappy spirits wander hopelessly about, searching in vain for sensual fulfillment. Rebirth in this realm is usually due to the vipaka (result, reaction, etc) conditioned by the karma (intended action, volition, etc) of the ten unwholesome actions or a lack of virtue and holding to wrong views.
In his talk called Knowledge, Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo gives this colorful depiction of the realm of hungry shades:
“Or, if you want, you can travel in the world of the hungry shades. The world of the hungry shades is even more fun. Hungry shades come in all different shapes and sizes — really entertaining, the hungry shades. Some of them have heads as big as large water jars, but their mouths are just like the eye of a needle: that’s all, no bigger than the eye of a needle! Some of them have legs six yards long, but hands only half a foot. They’re amazing to watch, just like a cartoon. Some of them have lower lips with no upper lips, some of them are missing their lips altogether, with their teeth exposed all the time. There are all kinds of hungry shades. Some of them have big, bulging eyes, the size of coconuts, others have fingernails as long as palm leaves. You really ought to see them. Some of them are so fat they can’t move, others so thin that they’re nothing but bones. And sometimes the different groups get into battles, biting each other, hitting each other. That’s the hungry shades for you. Really entertaining.”
The title of this post comes from the Tirokudda Kanda:
“Outside the walls they stand, and at crossroads. At door posts they stand, returning to their old homes. But when a meal with plentiful food and drink is served, no one remembers them: Such is the kamma of living beings.
Thus those who feel sympathy for their dead relatives give timely donations of proper food and drink — exquisite, clean — [thinking:] “May this be for our relatives. May our relatives be happy!”
And those who have gathered there, the assembled shades of the relatives, with appreciation give their blessing for the plentiful food and drink: “May our relatives live long because of whom we have gained [this gift]. We have been honored, and the donors are not without reward!”
For there [in their realm] there’s no farming, no herding of cattle, no commerce, no trading with money. They live on what is given here, hungry shades whose time here is done.
As water raining on a hill ƒlows down to the valley, even so does what is given here benefit the dead. As rivers full of water fill the ocean full, even so does what is given here benefit the dead.
“He gave to me, she acted on my behalf, they were my relatives, companions, friends”: Offerings should be given for the dead when one reƒlects thus on things done in the past. For no weeping, no sorrowing no other lamentation benefits the dead whose relatives persist in that way. But when this offering is given, well-placed in the Sangha, it works for their long-term benefit and they profit immediately.
In this way the proper duty to relatives has been shown, great honor has been done to the dead, and monks have been given strength: The merit you’ve acquired isn’t small.”
Monday was an amazing birthday. Since I’m pretty much starting my cd collection from stratch (again…although my vinyl collection, of course, remains intact to this day), my girlfriend gave me brand new copies of Group Sex and Carnival of Chaos! She also made me an amazing dinner, which I still feel kinda full from! My brother also gave me a dart to use to punch small holes in my jacket to make studding a lot easier. Also, as a random fact, my eldest cousin shares the same birthday. Yet, we live in separate states so we can’t exactly throw an extravagant party as celebration. Perhaps one year!
However, the festivities aren’t over. Tuesday also marked the celebration of Guan Yin‘s attainment of Bodhisattvahood. In Sanskrit, the term “bodhisattva” means “enlightenment (‘bodhi’) essence (‘sattva’)”. The Bodhisattva is compassionately dedicated to assisting all sentient beings in achieving complete Buddhahood (Buddhabhaava) – the highest state of enlightenment. This means that the Bodhisattva doesn’t practice for their own enlightenment, but rather for the enlightenment of all. Out of compassion, the Bodhisattva remains in this world of ignorance, illusions/delusions, sickness, and death while experiencing what everyone one else experiences until all sentient beings are liberated. In short, the Bodhisattva has delayed their entrance to Nirvana (unbinding) and thus remain in Samsara (the cycle of life and death) by taking the Bodhisattva Vow to achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible so that they can teach Dharma until all have awakened to enlightenment and can enter Nirvana.
The Bodhisattva is primarily motivated by bodhicitta (lit. “enlightenment mind”) which is the wish to attain Buddhahood in order to benefit all sentient beings who are trapped in Samsara (cyclic existence). There are two types of bodhicitta. They are aspiring or relative bodhicitta in which the practitioner works to free all beings from bondage and suffering, and engaging or absolute bodhicitta in which the practitioner clearly sees that the bondage and suffering are illusory and never existed in the first place.
A Bodhisattva can chose either of three paths to help sentient beings in the process of achieving Buddhahood. They are King-like Bodhisattva, or one who aspires to become Buddha as soon as possible and then help sentient beings full-ƒledged; Boatman-like Bodhisattva, one who aspires to achieve Buddhahood along with other sentient beings; and Shepherd-like Bodhisattva, one who aspires to delay Buddhahood until all other sentient beings achieve Buddhahood.
The Four Great Vows of the Bodhisattva are:
Ordinary-beings are innumerable, I vow to liberate them all
Defilements are endless, I vow to eliminate them all
Buddha’s teachings are unlimited, I vow to learn them all
The ways of enlightenment are supreme, I vow to achieve them all
Guan Yin is the archetypal Shepherd-like Bodhisattva of compassion. Guan Yin’s name comes from the Sanskrit Avalokitesvara. As the offspring of the Buddha Amitabha, MahaBodhisattva Avalokitesvara is the archetype of universal compassion. The name “Avalokitesvara” has been translated as “the Lord Who Looks Down on the World”, “the Regarder of the Cries of the World” or even “Perceiver of the World’s Sounds”. Avalokitesvara is also referred to as Padmapani (“Holder of the Lotus”) and simply as Lokesvara (“Lord of the World”).
Although Avalokitesvara is often portrayed as a male prince in India with the Buddha in his crown, he is also well known for his female form known as Tara, Lokanat, Lokesvara, Guan Yin/Kwan Yin, Kannon, Kanzeon, etc. Although mainstream Theravada does not worship any of the Mahayana bodhisattvas, Avalokitesvara is popularly worshiped in Burma, where she is called Lokanat, and in Thailand, where she is called Lokesvara. In Tibetan, Avalokitesvara is known as Chenrezig, and is said to be incarnated in the Dalai Lama, the Karmapa, and other high lamas.
In chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutra, aptly named “The Universal Gate of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara”, it states that Guan Yin/Kannon/Avalokitesvara/etc appears in many ways and in many forms (e.g. male, female, god, monk, nun, some kind of important figure, or even that homeless guy on the corner, etc.), to help sentient beings according to their level of understanding. This is because Guan Yin has taken a vow to relieve the suffering of sentient beings whenever one should recite his/her name (“Namo Avalokitesvara Bodhisattvaya”, “Namo Guan Shi Yin Pusa”, “Homage to the Bodhisattva Who Perceives the World’s Sounds”), and is thus the archetype of the boundless compassion found deep within us all.
Indeed, the thousand armed and thousand eyed Kannon (Sahasrabhuja Avalokitesvara) represents the many compassionate skills and techniques which one should develop, such as the compassion that arises when one sees suffering (with 1,000 eyes), and those actions taken to relieve this suffering (with 1,000 hands).
Namo Avalokitesvara Bodhisattvaya
Namo Guan Shi Yin Pusa
Om Mani Padme Hum
Today was an exceptionally beautiful day. I love the autumn weather. There is no extreme, ball-sweating heat and you’re not freezing to death like Otzi the Iceman.
There was also an all-day benefit show today for a local movie theater. My brother took his little girl there and she had a blast. It was her first show, and I highly doubt it will be her last. At an age when she can appreciate both Dora the Explorer and the Misfits, she’s definitely the most hardcore (little) kid in this town.
This nice weather today brought to mind the question of who was really appreciating this weather? Also, is my aversion to heat and cold the product of my privileged conditioning (e.g. homes and cars with AC)? This all kind of reminded me of this koan* (which is like a Zen “riddle”, “parable”, etc) from the Blue Cliff Record:
A monk asked Tôzan, “When cold and heat come, how should one avoid them?” Tôzan said, “Why not go to a place where there is neither cold nor heat?” The monk said, “What kind of place is it where there is neither cold nor heat?”
Tôzan said, “When it is cold, the cold kills you; when it is hot, the heat kills you.”
* [It should be noted that the purpose of a koan is not to have a definitive, unique answer. Instead, students are required to demonstrate their own understanding of the koan and of Zen through their responses.]
Last night was the last game at the local high school football stadium which opened in 1937. They are tearing this one down and building another one closer to the school. Of course, to commemorate this end of an era, they had a fireworks display light up the night sky at the end of the game.
Coincidentally, this time also marks the end of another, albeit shorter, era known as Vassa – or “Rains retreat”. Also known as Pavarana Day or Sangha Day, it is usually observed around the full moon of October.
During Vassa, Buddhist monks and nuns usually stay in a certain place (to get out of the rainy season, hence “Rains retreat”) and take some time for the study and practice of Dhamma-vinaya (or “teachings and discipline”).
After Vassa, and during Pavarana, the monks and nuns may begin to “go forth” and travel again, after asking the Sangha (the “community” of monks and nuns) to advise, counsel, and/or reproof them for any fault “seen, heard or suspected” so that they could “amend their ways” and improve in the future. Pavarana is also a day of celebration, when the limitations adopted during the Vassa season are relaxed.
It is in the following month, after Pavarana, that the kathina ceremony is held. During this time the laity gather to make formal offerings of robe cloth and various other requisites to the monks and nuns of the Sangha.
Today, there were some customers who conducted themselves in an extremely rude way. They were obviously intoxicated, and were too busy talking to themselves rather than paying attention to anything around them. I had to repeat myself multiple times, becoming increasingly louder each time, just to get their attention. This kind of behavior is a total lack of skillfulness as they were inevitably inconveniencing themselves. It’s a shame that they don’t know anything about “right mindfulness”, as they weren’t even in their “right state of mind”!
One aspect of the Buddhist Noble Eightfold Path is what is called “right mindfulness” (samma-sati). This is defined as keeping your mind ardent, aware, and mindful, thus seeing things as they truly are, and putting away greed and distress with reference to the world. This means that one should stay alert, focused, and aware of things as they occur naturally without becoming attached, engrossed, or even averse to them. This allows you to naturally see things as they truly are – in and of themselves.
Bhikku Bodhi once observed that, “The mind is deliberately kept at the level of bare attention, a detached observation of what is happening within us and around us in the present moment. In the practice of right mindfulness the mind is trained to remain in the present, open, quiet, and alert, contemplating the present event. All judgments and interpretations have to be suspended, or if they occur, just registered and dropped.”