"When understood, the Buddha’s universe..is anything but alien and inhibiting. It is a world full of hope, where everything we need to do can be done and everything that matters is within human reach. It is a world where kindness, unselfishness, non-violence, and compassion achieve what self-interest and arrogance cannot. It is a world where any human can be happy in goodness and the fullness of giving." ❦ Eknath Easwara

August 8, 2015

How to Stop Losing Oneself in the Endless Desire for Experience

"When the soul wished to experience something, she throws an image of the experience out before her and enters into her own image." ~ Meister Eckhart
This rings true to me, psychologically, and while I don't know the full context of this quote by the wonderful Mr. Eckhart, in Buddhism, what is described here would probably be seen as part of the Twelve Nidānas of dependent origination (Pratītyasamutpāda) -- how suffering arises by "fabrication" based on fundamental ignorance. For a Buddhist, the key here is looking into the *process," that is: "the wish to experience something" -- and then entering into -- self-identifying -- with what arises from that desire to "experience." And getting endlessly lost in experience after experience without real awareness of what's going on and that one is lost in an endless fractal of cascading causes and effects. In becoming "self," ironically, one loses self in self-replicating processes that have little if any presence or real awareness.
As a practicing Buddhist, I can tell you this "loss of self in projective selfing" is not an easy problem to solve in terms of an actual practice. Is there an answer to this conundrum -- which could also be called the "desire for becoming" -- that is truly liberating and not murderous, world-denying, or identity-annihilating?
I am still working all this out in practice, but part of the solution seems to be developing the skill to more and more become conscious, alert, and aware, when the hungry, grasping desire to experience arises. And further, seeing how that unexamined, mindless desire -- "thrown out before" the soul, to use Eckhart's turn of phrase -- is mere fabrication, with no "there there," no real substance, a pseudo "I." With practice of mindfulness and attention, one can see how the impetus to "experience" is simply the impersonal restless hunger, agitation of the "monkey mind" just wanting, wanting, wanting -- wanting the next "banana," the next branch it is swinging to in order to grasp it -- and yet, never satisfied when it grasps (embodies) its fabrication. The irony is that while all this "monkey business" is going on, genuine presence and genuine being quietly await our discovery! (And out of that genuine being, genuine doing arises naturally and is bright joy and freedom of manifestation)
With some measure of quiet mind, which formal meditation practice can greatly develop, one is able to stop this mindless self-projection process and simply *observe* it, without getting lost in one's own self-fabrication. With the stopping, with the quiet, one rests, and begins to get in touch with what some Zen teachers call the True Self (an ironic term for a system that also speaks of anatta -- not self!)...but, that just means being -- just what it is -- the "this" which shows up in the quiet, alert, bright observant mind. And then, as I said, actions arises not from hunger, not from needfulness, not from grasping at things, but out of a natural sense of what is right, good, proper, and skillful.
When this awakening happens, when the mind grows bright and sensitive to what is, you know without a doubt you are on the right track. Then whatever action is taken - - as its natural, appropriateness is revealed -- is far more skillful and has far less suffering because one is not so attached to attaining "results" and mere "experience. Then, instead of an endless, unsatisfiable desire to experience, experience, experience, one begins to simply be, wherein being and doing are simply different ways of describing one thing. And that one thing is the freedom of the liberated mind.
Essay: Steven Goodheart

April 25, 2015

On Sending Metta to the Nepal Earthquake Victims

Metta is a thing of the heart and has to do with generating and expressing goodwill and loving-kindness to various beings — oneself, close friends, near friends, “neutral” people (people you know of but don’t know personally) and the hardest of all, “difficult” people, or even “enemies.”

In doing metta, as understood and practiced in Buddhism, one does not do a mantra, as such. e.g., repeating  “may this person be happy.” The phrase or thought one uses, such as “may John be happy” is simply an “anchor,” even as the breath may be anchor in meditation—that is, something to return to again and again when thought wanders away from presence. The idea is not to simply, mechanically repeat, “may John be happy, may John be happy, etc. etc.”   Such repetition tends to lead to mental dullness and can be mesmeric, putting  one to sleep (figuratively and literally!) instead of developing insight and alert attention to what is going on and being felt.

That said, in my own loving-kindness practice, I have found it very helpful in some cases to be as specific as possible when establishing the object of contemplation and presence.  For example, if you are inspired to do metta for a friend, naming that friend and holding them in thought, remembering what you love about them, their good actions, and so on, is very helpful in maintaining focus and evoking feelings of loving-kindness and good will.

Today, like many, many others my attention and goodwill and loving-kindness, have turned to the earthquake  disaster in Nepal.   Beyond donations, or being able to do something physically, one can feel helpless in the face of a far-away disaster, but I am among those who feel that prayer, and metta, can make a difference, affecting general human consciousness, and yes, even affecting human situations in some measure.  (The beneficial, helping effects of metta on my own body are for me something beyond question, and the real and good effects of metta for others is also something I’ve  seen for myself and that others have confirmed.)

The bottom line  is that painful, difficult human situations deserve, and need, what metta brings to the table. (And yes, what heartfelt prayer can bring to the table, if one works in that field) At the very least, what metta does for one’s own heart, when we hear of terrible human situations, is essential to moral and spiritual progress.  So, today, since learning of  the Nepal tragedy, I’ve been doing metta, and as I mentioned above, very specific metta for the dear beings in Nepal.  I thought it might help to share some of the “anchors” that I’ve been using in this work:

 ♡ May those trapped in ruble be found and saved.  May the rescuers be led by wisdom and spiritual intuition in finding and freeing those trapped.

 ♡ May those trapped in the rubble not lose heart. Beyond hope and fear, may they feel that within them that is comforting,  safe, and home.

 ♡  May those who have lost family, loved ones, and friends be comforted and find comfort in love and care and attention  to one another.  May these loses turn hearts to expressing our higher, more unselfish, and loving nature.

 ♡ May the doctors and nurses and medical helpers be strong, and may they be supported and appreciated  for all their valiant efforts in an overwhelming situation.  May the international community respond swiftly and immediately to the medical needs of this disaster.

 ♡ May the people of the world, the leaders of the world, hearing of this disaster and great need, respond quickly and generously to minimize suffering and death.

 ♡ May this tragedy in our world remind us — if we need to be reminded — of the  transience of all things and of the great preciousness of human life. May such suffering and loss be an impetus to living a more selfless life, a more loving and caring life.

 ♡  May all beings be safe and secure.
If the ideas in this post are new to you, or intriguing, here is a some basic instruction on metta from some really fine dharma teachers that can be of great help in developing the heart:


♡ ♡ ♡