Jun 25, 2013
The Buddha, in Bhikkhu Thanissaro’s translation at least, said, “A person of integrity is grateful and thankful.” This is one of those thoughts that I’m profoundly grateful for because I don’t think it would ever have occurred to me. Yet searching the web for the terms “gratitude” and “integrity” brought me to an interesting book, The Gratitude Factor: Enhancing Your Life Through Grateful Living, by Charles M. Shelton.
Shelton explores this theme of integrity and gratitude. He distinguishes between thankfulness (which involves being appreciative of some specific person or thing) and gratitude (which is a deeper and more pervasive attitude to life consisting of being grateful not just …
May 26, 2013
I’ve often written about how experiencing compassion for ourselves can naturally spill over to experiencing compassion for other people. When someone says something that you find hurtful, that hurt is a form of suffering. Often what we do is try to become angry, ultimately in an effort to rid of the “cause” of the suffering (the other person) and thus remove the hurt. This is a kind of double aversion, because not only are we experiencing aversion to the person whose words gave rise to the feeling of hurt, but we’re turning away from the hurt itself.
A compassionate approach to dealing with hurt, on the other hand, is to …
May 14, 2013
Chogyam Trungpa borrowed from Gurdjieff the very useful notion of “idiot compassion.” Gurdjieff, a rather fascinating spiritual teacher of the early to mid-20th century, had said that we are all idiots of one kind or another, and his extensive lists of the various types of idiots included “the compassionate idiot.”
Compassion is wishing that beings be free from suffering. Idiot compassion is avoiding conflict, letting people walk all over you, not giving people a hard time when actually they need to be given a hard time. It’s “being nice,” or “being good.”
It’s not compassion at all. It ends up causing us pain, and it ends up causing others …
May 09, 2013
I’ve had more people asking me about the “near enemy” of compassion. So here goes…
The “near enemy” is, by definition, something you might confuse with compassion. You might think you were cultivating compassion but were actually cultivating something else, in the same way that you might water and care for a weed, thinking it’s a useful plant. The “far enemy” is quite straightforward. It’s cruelty, or indifference to suffering, which is just the direct opposite of compassion. That’s easy to understand. But what is compassion’s “near enemy”?
People often use the word “pity” to describe the near enemy, but the traditional commentaries use the word “grief.” Compassion is also …
Apr 04, 2013
“No man chooses evil, because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.” Mary Wollstonecraft
Wollstonecraft’s words encapsulate perfectly something I’ve long held, which is that the Buddhist view of greed, hatred, and delusion — often called the Three Unwholesome Roots (akusala mūla) — is far removed from the western conception of sin.
Sin is “bad.” It’s “evil.” It’s a transgression against the Divine law.
When we encounter the Buddhist teaching of the Three Unwholesome Roots, it’s easy to slip it into the sin-shaped space that exists in our minds. But the Buddha’s understanding of these roots is wholly different from how sin is understood, and we need to disentangle the two sets of concepts in our own minds.
Here’s something that when you think about it is rather …
Mar 31, 2013
For at least a couple of weeks now I’ve felt that I’ve been “going through the motions” with my meditation practice. I’m still a rock-solid daily meditator. I still remind myself “I meditate every day; it’s just what I do; it’s part of who I am.” But sometimes my sits have been shorter and squeezed in at the end of the day.
It has, though, been a tough few weeks. My wife was sick, both kids have been repeatedly ill — one with pneumonia. That’s interrupted my sleep, so that I’m more tired than usual. Work’s been challenging as well. These things take a toll.
Sometimes I’ve …
Mar 28, 2013
The other day I posted some commentary on a study showing that mindfulness practice improved students’ working memory and boosted their grades by 16% in just two weeks.
Yay, for meditation! You’d think Buddhists would generally be happy to see that their practices can be shown to be effective. But not everyone’s happy about this. On one of the social media networks, someone criticized the study as “misuse of Dhamma” because meditation is being used for to “make people continue the usual [worldly] ways.”
Furthermore, I was told the “The Buddha even did not teach meditation to ordinary laymen.”
So there are two things here: the use of meditation for “worldly” ends (as …
Oct 18, 2012
Here in this body are the sacred rivers: here are the sun and moon, as well as all the pilgrimage places. I have not encountered another temple as blissful as my own body.
When I meet with people at retreats or in counseling sessions, some will tell me they feel numb, lost in thoughts, and disconnected from life. Others might tell me they are overwhelmed by feelings of fear, hurt, or anger. Whenever we are either possessed by our feelings or dissociated from them, we are in trance, cut off from our full presence and aliveness.
In Buddhist meditation training, awakening from trance begins …
Oct 10, 2012
Last night at a Dharma study group that I meet with on Skype, we looked at the Meghiya Sutta. Meghiya was an attendant of the Buddha, and one time when the two of them were together, Meghiya asked if he could go off and meditate in a lovely looking mango grove that he’d spotted when he was off on his alms-round. Meghiya had thought that the mango grove would be the perfect place to meditate.
The Buddha asked him to wait, though, since he would be left alone. Presumably he wanted …
Oct 06, 2012
Thank you. And I feel like this whole evening has been very amazing to me. I feel it’s sort of like the Vimalakirti Sutra, an ancient work from ancient India in which the Buddha appears at the beginning and a whole bunch of people come to see him from the biggest city in the area, Vaishali, and they bring some sort of jeweled parasols to make an offering to him. All the young people, actually, from the city. The old fogeys don’t come because they’re mad at Buddha, because when he came to their …