First steps into Buddhist meditation – Buddhism now

Sitting in meditationAwareness is the key. But what does the word mean to you? To most people, perhaps, it denotes an acknowledgement of that which is going on around them in a general sort of way. In the context of meditation, however, it means ‘waking up’, becoming acutely sensitive, knowing, feeling, living the moment in its pristine state, sensing colours and contours, sounds, textures, smells, recognising tendencies within oneself yet resisting the pull to be controlled by them — this is meditation, to begin with at least.

Life is a bit of a game really, isn’t it? We look forward to something and when it comes we criticise it, resent it, worry about it, want to change it, want to make it better.

Why do so many beings have to endure hunger and cold, heat, disease, cruelty, physical and mental abuse and deprivation, torture, injustice, and all the rest of it? Some have to go through a living hell, don’t they? And others suffer because there isn’t any cheese in the fridge.

The Buddha expressed what he experienced. ‘We suffer,’ he said, ‘from wanting what we do not already have.’ ‘Yes,’ you may say, ‘and what else?’ Well, nothing else. That seems to be it. The cause of all suffering is yearning, wanting, wishing, desiring. It doesn’t sound much of a reason. What about the husband? . .  the wife? . .  the job? . .  the weather? What about the pain in my arm?

You cannot change the past, arrange the future to suit yourself, or make other people say and do the things you want them to say and do. All of your power is contained within this moment, related to this particular body and mind. And this is a very powerful position to be in.

The Buddha sat alone, accompanied merely by his own deep honesty and awareness until the barriers to truth were shattered. Over the centuries all sorts of elaborate practices have been built onto this simple approach.

The Buddha didn’t really have a method other than awareness, and awareness is no method at all; it is a straightforward ‘opening of the eyes’, a kind of waking up as if from a dream. That is all! But that is everything.

Looking at a flower © BPGAnyone who wants to meditate can, but some have psychological needs which are not necessarily met by delving into the labyrinths of the mind unassisted. Do what is right for you.

If we think about what we see, hear, smell, taste and touch, instead of just seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching, we do not get the full flavour of the experience.

Try doing a job, any job, without thinking about the job itself or anything else besides. Simply stay with the body.

Stay with the process, the action in the body. Avoid functioning from inside the head. Allow the action to do itself very naturally in the body. That is experience without thought, beyond thought; it is undistorted and unadulterated experience; nothing has been added to the process, and nothing taken away.

All situations are immediately known for what they are without the aid of thought. In fact, thinking usually only confounds the mind.

Have a cup of tea © BPGThinking is, of course, part of life too, and in certain forms it is invaluable. Wisely reflecting, skilfully planning, contemplating — these are creative forms of thought; but this is not the kind of thinking I am talking about, and it is not the sort most of us engage in for most of the time.

Passing thoughts arise — that is natural, and they can bring us inspiration. But when one indulges in those passing thoughts, attaching to them, wallowing in them, getting caught up in them, they link up into a sort of chain of hopes, fears, doubts, anxieties, views and opinions.

‘Drink a cup of tea,’ as they say in Zen. Don’t think about drinking a cup of tea — just drink it. Taste it. Feel it. Enjoy it. That is experience beyond thought. How nice! How free!

We need a structure in order to begin, yes, and we need a timetable and a degree of discipline, most likely, but let us not misuse the props. And let us not count up the sitting hours as credits towards a degree in complete enlightenment to be awarded in later years, or in the next life.

Unless one’s motive for meditating is in order to wake up to reality in this moment, then it is doubtful if anything other than a sort of sleep, or negative mental state will come about as a result of it.

Meditation is the great antidote to ignorance. It allows us to see ourselves plainly as we are, as if standing before a large clear mirror. Nothing is hidden.

If the movements of the body and mental processes are observed intelligently and with an open mind, one soon becomes aware of the mystery in life.

Awareness in everyday life

Make an effort to remember to be aware.

Let the body be aware of itself.

Let things go — passing thoughts, opinions and emotional states.

Sitting meditation

Do not disturbFind a quiet place where you can be totally free of interruptions — a room, if possible, or a small corner of the house. Make it very clear to husband, wife, children or anyone else living in the house, ‘This is a time I am not to be disturbed. Questions, telephone messages and miscellaneous bits of information can wait until I’ve finished.’ Be very clear and firm, otherwise your meditation will be tense and anxious as you sit in wait for the door to open and a voice calling your name.

If the rest of the family think you are crazy, fine. Confirm their worst fears. Yes, you are ­crazy and you are very happy about that. You are about to embark on an exciting journey and do not wish to be cheated out of it by others’ opinions. And don’t feel guilty about taking the time for yourself. It’s funny how others can become rather jealous of the odd moment one wishes to spend alone. You may well be accused of being selfish, irresponsible in your consideration of others, and of wanting to escape reality. Don’t be put off!

You don’t have to be alone, of course, if someone wants to meditate with you, or if you want to meditate in a group, go ahead.

Now a sitting posture is to be adopted. There are several to choose from. Find the one which is most suitable for you.

A certain amount of experimentation may be needed in order to find the right position, one which can be held without too much difficulty for about twenty minutes. You may, of course, want to practise a posture at other times, one which you would like to be able to adopt, but cannot manage at the moment.

Hands and eyes

Open your eyes enough to be looking down at the floor a foot or so in front of you, without focusing on anything.

The hands can be held palms upwards, one on top of the other, loosely in the lap.

It is important to decide beforehand how long a session is to last, otherwise you will be thinking about it all the while and wondering, ‘Shall I stop now?’

Ten minutes is probably enough initially and can be increased to fifteen or twenty after a few days or weeks.

At the end of some weeks of regular sitting, thirty minutes would probably be more appropriate. Following on from that, forty-five or sixty minutes may be a possibility. Practised meditators tend not to sit for more than this length of time in any one sitting. You must judge for yourself what feels right.

The duration of the sitting is no mark of progress; it is the quality of each moment which is important.

If the sitting becomes an endurance test, therefore, it has lost its value and you will be ­wasting your time, or worse, you will be putting yourself off meditation altogether. Better to sit for a shorter period with enthusiasm and energy than to drag yourself through an hour faking it.

When?

When is the best time of day to meditate? Some say first thing in the morning, others say last thing at night. You must find out for yourself. The deciding factor may not be the state of your mind, but a busy schedule, or the busy life of your family. The best time may, therefore, be in the middle of the afternoon when everyone is out, or at dawn when they are all still sleeping and the air is clear, or at ten o’clock at night when the kids are in bed and silence reigns.

Sitting You may like to sit more than once a day. Many people sit twice.

Meditate when you can, when the time is right.

You have found a suitable place in which to meditate, and you have sorted out a nice posture in which to sit. The back is straight. The eyes are half closed. The hands are resting loosely one on top of the other, palms upward, in the lap. The physical side of things is all set. But what is happening in the mind? Is it calm and peaceful? Is it full of expectation? Is it ­chattering away to itself — imagining, wondering, ­worrying, planning?

Counting Breaths

Breathe in and count silently to yourself ‘one’. Breathe out and count ‘one’ again. You have now counted one complete breath. On the following inhalation count ‘two’, and ‘two’ on the exhalation. Continue counting for ten full breaths. Then start again at ‘one’. There may be some difficulty in retaining full concentration for the time it takes to breathe ten full breaths. The mind will probably wander. If it doesn’t, I would be very surprised!

If and when the mind wanders, therefore, and the count is lost, simply begin again at ‘one’. Should the counting become mechanical, again, go back to ‘one’. Another possibility is that you find yourself counting mindlessly beyond ten, and this will be a further indication of loss of concentration. Go back to the beginning again and again. You may find you can hardly reach ‘two’ before your concentration goes. It doesn’t matter. Reaching ‘ten’ is not the object of the exercise. Trying to do it is the purpose. And in that effort much will be revealed and realised.

Please don’t become frustrated or depressed on account of this inability to control the mind. You are seeing how the mind works. You are discovering how you work. That is why you are meditating. Be interested in what you are doing and what you discover about yourself.

Forgive yourself if you find your concentration is poor, and continue to make the effort. Make the effort, but without force; try to do it in a gentle way; gently bring the mind back to the exercise time and time again. Be patient with yourself. Let yourself be what you are, and try to stay with the counting.

There are many variations on concentrating on the breathing process, but I will list just three. Only one of them is to be used — it doesn’t matter which. They are all of equal value so there is no question of progressing from one to the other. Yet you may wish to try them all out as time goes by in order to see which fits the best. Finally, however, decide on one and stick to that.

The breathing is a continuous process while one is alive and for that reason a very convenient subject on which to meditate.

And…

Sitting in Buddhist meditationAs the counting takes place to the rhythm of the breath, the mind will be calm and clear, if only for a little while. That moment or two of clarity will be enough to reveal the value of concentration. Worrying, hoping, dreaming and wishing cannot occupy a space already filled with the counting of breaths. This is a simple revelation which has a deep significance, to be contemplated and fully realised. Just by concentrating in this uncomplicated way, one can come away from, or dissolve, a negative mind state, even if it is only for a moment.

Meditation is a way of facing deep and real issues and of experiencing their transformation into something positive and creative.

After a while, a degree of concentration and calmness will begin to manifest itself and develop. It is impossible to say how long this will take. For some it may be almost immediate; for others it may take weeks or months, or creep upon them imperceptibly over a longer period of time.

When the time is right, the exercise can be dispensed with. But you must be honest with yourself. Is it time to leave this exercise? Has it served its purpose? There is no point in waiting for perfection! You may never count ten breaths without faltering. It is enough to establish just some concentration, and to experience just some degree of clarity and calmness. If you wait for perfection — an uninterrupted flow of ten counts over and over again for twenty minutes or so — you may wait for a very long time! Move on when you genuinely feel it is time. Experiment if you like; you can always return to this exercise again in the future if you feel you need to. It is all a question of finding that balance between moving too fast and not moving at all.

Be aware of the breathing and be aware of whatever else passes by — a sense, a feeling, a thought, a smell, a sound. Let the mind open. Observe, but not as someone watching. Try not to become involved in thoughts. Let them fulfil their function and then let them pass on, otherwise you will not be free.

Nonattachment to all sensations — pleasant or unpleasant — is the route to happiness.

Good luck.

The above has been extracted from Experience Beyond Thinking A Practical Guide to Buddhist Meditation. by Diana St Ruth

Read other posts by Diana here.

Buddhism Isn’t a Religion—It’s Something Way Better

There are plenty of people who would disagree with me and say the Buddhism is a religion and its known as a religion worldwide. “The dharma that I preach can be understood only by those who know how to think.” ~ The Buddha The Meaning of religion is: “a system of faith and worship” and “the belief in a superhuman, or god with power.” After spending time in India and Nepal, I observed the Buddhist complex. What I soon realized was that Buddhism is not a system of faith or a god-based establishment. Buddhists don’t see the Buddha as the highest god. Buddhists see the Buddha as an ordinary man who walked the planet. None the less, Buddha untwined the reasons for heart-ship and distress and instead offered a positive way of dealing and escaping it. Even though he did share and taught the world his teachings on how to get unstuck from samsara, he did not want to be seen as a god to be worship or whom we should pray to. All he wanted was for us to examine his teachings first hand, and if they do resonate with us, to practice them. And if they did not resonate with us, we have the complete freedom to walk away from it. Many ceremonies and rituals are held at monasteries, they do not worship the god, Buddha. It is, however, offering respect and gratitude to the Buddha who unveiled the truth. The prayers that are made are prayers of compassion, kindness, and love to all holy beings, no exception. After closely observing Buddhism, we discover that there is no leader Buddhism. Dzongsar Khyentse regularly talks about how the “Dalai Lama is a secular leader for the Tibetan community in exile and a spiritual master to many people all over the world—and not merely to Buddhists”. He affirms that there is no leader or authority in Buddhism. What is Buddhism then if it’s not a Religion? Buddhism is a way of life a philosophy and a simple truth that represents things in life. Buddhism helps one understand different religions. It teaches one to not be co-dependent on “God.” but to look inward. It teaches independence and self-awareness. It helps one to self-reflect and take responsibility for one’s thoughts, actions. Through Buddhism, you will understand that God isn’t a judgmental man who lives outside of us. There is no duality between God and man. Instead, God is in everything, everyone He is everywhere. God is not an unreachable outside entity He is within us. Buddhism expands knowledge by teaching tools to go within oneself. Buddhists don’t care where you come from, what your religion is or who you call God. What Buddhist do care about however is that you are open to the truth—and the truth is: “All compounded things are impermanent.” “Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” ― Dalai Lama

The post Buddhism Isn’t a Religion—It’s Something Way Better appeared first on Enlightened Consciousness.

Compare and contrast Buddhism and Hinduism

Buddhism is believed to have originated about 2500 years ago, near 500 BC in on the border of Nepal and India. Its founder, Gautama Buddha (Prince Siddhartha) was raised in a well-to-do family and lived surrounded by excess. Though raised in this way, Siddhartha was not convinced of the true value of these material items. After seeing the “four sights” sent by the gods, Siddhartha “born a prince and raised in luxury, renounced the world at the age of 29 to search for an ultimate solution to the problem of the suffering innate in the human condition.” (“Buddhism,” 2013). His goal would become the principle of the Buddhist religion finding the way to total liberation from suffering. Often described as a nontheistic religion, the Buddhists to do not pray to or believe in a God as a creator. The goal of the Buddhists, known as Nirvana, is to attain enlightenment and to be released from the cycle or rebirth and death. The foundations for the Buddhists teachings, the Four Noble Truths were prescribed at the very first sermon: 1.Life involves suffering, dissatisfaction and distress.

2.Suffering is caused by craving, rooted in ignorance.
3.Suffering will cease when craving ceases.
4.There is a way to realize this state: the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Noble Eightfold path is a systematic approach that Buddhists subscribe to in order to remove themselves from suffering and achieve ultimate liberation. This path offers ways for Buddhists to purify the mind and live a happy life. Buddhism has nothing to do with “salvation” by a creator, rather, the only goal is to attain this state of Nirvana. By letting go of desires, cravings and attachments, and dispelling ignorance, the Buddhists believe Nirvana is a reachable goal. “The five basic moral precepts, undertaken by members of monastic orders and the laity, are to refrain from taking life, stealing, acting unchastely, speaking falsely, and drinking intoxicants.” “Buddhism,” 2013). Buddhists also do not worship in the way many other religions do. Although they do have places where they gather and spread the teachings, such as monasteries, nunneries, temples and pagodas, the Buddhists pay homage to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. In today’s world, Buddhists in most countries share similar practices on a daily basis. Acts like group and individual meditation, reciting mantras, giving to the poor, yoga, and helping others in ways that confirm compassion are kindness are commonplace in most Buddhist’s lives. In the West, Theravadin teachers make frequent visits from Southeast Asia and Europe to conduct retreats to train and spread the teachings of the Buddha. As Buddhism has evolved into different variations throughout the world, many of its rituals and festivals are no longer celebrated in the same way. During the festival of Vesak in Sri Lanka, thousands of insects, birds and other animals are released into the wild to show the unwillingness of the Buddhists to unwillingly imprison or torture any being. In early April, the Japanese Buddhists celebrate Hana Matsuri (Shakyamuni Buddha’s birthday) to coincide with the bloom of cherry blossoms. Parades showcase images of the baby Buddha and children wear traditional Japanese clothing while carrying cherry blossoms. The celebration highlights the noble greatness and peaceful missions of Shakyamuni Buddha. Hinduism is “unique among the world religions in that it had no single founder but grew over a period of 4,000 years in syncretism with the religious and cultural movements of the Indian subcontinent.” (“Hinduism,” 2013). Although the founder of Hinduism is unknown, the Vedas are collectively revered as the foundational spiritual text that drives the Hindu religion. The Vedas weren’t written down until the middle of the 1st millennium BC, but according to tradition, the Vedas were heard orally as far back as 8000 BC. The Vedas are not believed by the Hindu to be the work of humans, rather they have been revealed to the mortals by the eternal. The core spiritual beliefs in the Hindu religion include the authority of the Vedas as the sacred text, the existence of a reincarnated soul and the law of karma that determines our destiny in this life and in the next. In the Hindu religion, there is not just one purpose to life, but four: 1.Dharma – fulfilling one’s purpose

2.Artha – prosperity
3.Kama – desire, sexuality, enjoyment
4.Moksha – enlightenment
The ultimate goal is to break the cycle of birth, death and reincarnation and attain liberation and salvation through enlightenment after which Moksha is reached. Hindu worship is not confined to any one place and many carry out worship at home. Hindus commonly conduct pujas in shrines in three
different location: in temples, in the home, and outdoor public spaces. Hindus believe that enough care and attention is not shown to a temple’s images, the deity will abandon it. In order to ensure enough care, priests live at the temple and take care of the deities. Priests perform puja several times a day at sunrise, noon, sunset, and midnight. For many Hindus, visiting temple every day or on a consistent schedule is not required, and many devout believers worship in their home. The main focus of puja is not congregational worship but the believer’s offerings regardless of where it takes place. The spiritual life of many Hindus today centers around devotion to God (perceived as Brahman, Shiva, Vishnu, or Shakti) or several gods. Some more philosophically-minded Hindus ignore the idea of the deity and seek self-realization through deep meditation. Others focus solely on carrying out their lives in a moral and just way. As Hinduism continues to grow globally, and gurus continue to export the Hindu message, there are areas of the world where different practices have become dominant. In the 1960’s ISKCON, the Internal Society for Krishna Consciousness arrived in the United States spreading the Hindu movement west. Living in temple communities, newly initiated Hindus would meditate, worship and chant with the aim of reaching spiritual happiness. In Great Britain, devotees have converted a mansion into an ISKCON temple where Indian immigrants can also congregate and together celebrate major holidays. More traditionally in Nepal, Hindus will pick one favorite deity to worship on a daily basis while giving due respect to multitudes of others. Nepal has a variety of festivals and they are dedicated to dozens of deities and are participated in by Hindus and Buddhists alike. Hinduism and Buddhism share a variety of characteristics and yet remain completely distinct in the way each is followed. Both Hindus and Buddhists believe in karma, “a natural, impersonal law of moral cause and effect and has no connection with the idea of a supreme power that decrees punishment or forgiveness of sins.” (“karma,” 2013). Hindus and Buddhists both share a view of spiritual transcendence and a quest for enlightenment achieved through similar mediums like prayer, meditation, or chanting. The goal or mantra “of religions like Hinduism and Buddhism is precisely to transcend this level of human existence.” (Nayak, 1997).

Also, where Christians do not believe in idol worship, both Hindus and Buddhists use shrines or idols as focal points when praying or meditating. These two religions are also very different. Buddhists aspire to be like Buddha rather than worship him and Hindus worship one or several gods. While both believe in reincarnation, Hindus believe in a hierarchy of animals, plants and humans where Buddhists believe all beings are equal. Hindus hope to achieve salvation while Buddhists simply want to attain Nirvana.

Caste plays no role in Buddhism

S. M. Wijayaratne
Kurunegala Daily News Corr.

The talk of “high and low castes”, of the pure Brahmins, the only Sons of Brahma, is nothing but empty sound. All persons of the four castes are equal. Buddha says: “He is a low caste who cherishes hatred; who torments and kills living beings; who steals or commits adultery; who does not pay his debts; who maltreats aged parents, or fails to support them; who gives evil counsel and hides the truth; who does not return hospitality nor render it; who exalts himself and debases others; who ignores the virtues of others and is jealous of their success.

Is the caste of a person necessary to live a happy and prosperous life? Why do people pay so much attention to the caste of a person when they seek life partners for their sons and daughters? Do these traditional beliefs need to be regarded as factors to determine one’s future life? These are some of problems that need to be rectified by all Buddhists who strive to live a peaceful and happy lives on this earth.

I have seen in many newspapers that carry marriage – proposals that the caste of the life – partner is given much consideration in selecting life-partners. Most parents seek high caste life-partners for their beloved children who are about to marry.

“The Thathagata recreates the whole world like a cloud shedding its waters without distinction. He has the same sentiments for the high as for the low, for the wise as for the ignorant, for the noble-minded as for the immoral.

His teaching is pure, and makes no discrimination between noble and ignoble, between rich and poor. It is like unto water which cleanses all without distinction.

It is like unto fire which consumes all things that exist between heaven and earth, great and small.

“It is like unto heavens, for there is room in it, ample room for the reception of all, for men and women boys and girls, the powerful and the lowly,” such were the words in which Gautama Sakyamuni impressed on his disciples the universality of the salvation that He brought into the world. How this spirit of universality has been carried out in practice is well-shown by the attitude of the Buddha Dhamma towards the baneful Hindu institution of caste.

On one occasion, Ven. Ananda who was the chief attendant of the Fully – Awakened One, passing by a well, where a girl of the Matanga caste was drawing water, asked her for some water to drink.

At that time, she answered: “How dost thou ask water of me, an outcast who may not touch thee without contamination? Then Ananda replied: “My sister, I ask not of thy caste, I ask thee water to drink”. Then the so-called low-caste girl was overjoyed and gave Ven. Ananda water to drink to his heart’s content. Ven. Ananda thanked her immensely and went his way, but the girl, learning that he was a disciple of the Blessed One, repaired to the place where the Buddha was. She had become crazy over the handsome appearance of young Ven. Ananda. She wanted to make Ven. Ananda her husband. She went up to the Blessed One to ask His support and permission for this. The Blessed One, understanding her sentiments towards Ven. Ananda, made use of them to open her eyes to the truth, and took her among His disciples.

On the admission of this Chanda-la (low-caste) woman into the Order of Bhikshunis, King Prasenajith

and the Brahmins and the very noble caste dignatories of Sravasthi kingdom, feeling greatly scandalised, came to remonstrate with the Blessed One on his conduct.

Then, the Blessed One demonstrated to them the futility of caste discrimination by the following simple reasoning.

“Between ashes and gold, there is a marked difference, but between a Brahmin and a Chandala, there is nothing of the kind.

A Brahmin is not produced like fire by the friction of dry wood; he does not descend from the sky nor from the wind, nor does he arise piercing the earth.

The Brahmin is brought forth from the womb of a woman in exactly the same way as a Chandala (low caste person).

All human beings have organs exactly alike; there is not the slightest difference in any respect. How can they be regarded as belonging to different species?”

Nature contradicts the assumption of any specific in equality among mankind. If we look closely, we see no difference between the body of a prince and the body of a slave. What is essential is that which may dwell in the most miserable frame, and which, the wisest have saluted and honoured.

The talk of “high and low castes”, of the pure Brahmins, the only Sons of Brahma, is nothing but empty sound. All persons of the four castes are equal. Buddha says: “He is a low caste who cherishes hatred; who torments and kills living beings; who steals or commits adultery; who does not pay his debts; who maltreats aged parents, or fails to support them; who gives evil counsel and hides the truth; who does not return hospitality nor render it; who exalts himself and debases others; who ignores the virtues of others and is jealous of their success. Not by birth, but the conduct, is one a low-caste. He is a Brahmin or a high caste who is free from sin. He is an outcast who is angry and cherishes hatred; who is wicked and hypocritical; who embraces error and is full of deceit. whosoever is a provoker and avaricious, has sinful desires, is not afraid and ashamed to commit sins, he is an outcast. Not by birth does one become an outcast, not by birth does one become a Brahmin; by deeds one becomes an outcast, by deeds one becomes a Brahmin.

The blessed One has described the true nature of a Brahmin according to His noble doctrine in “Dhammapada” as follows”

“He who is calm among the opponents, tranquil among the violent, unattached among the attached, him I call a Brahmana.”

“He who has dropped passion, hatred, pride and envy like a mustard seed that falls off from the end of a needle, him I call a Brahmana.”

“He whose speech is soft, instructive truthful and gives offence to none, him I call a Brahmana.”

Let’s try to be a Brahmana as shown by the Buddha through His perfect wisdom.

May you all be well and happy.

Source: lakehouse.lk (Budu Sarana)

Once you learn these 5 brutal truths about life, you’ll be a much better person (according to Buddhism) – Hack Spirit

Life is no picnic. All too often, we have to overcome obstacles in order to survive.

Sometimes we try to deny these obstacles because they’re too difficult to bare. But as hard as they are to confront, it’s necessary if we want to live a truly fulfilling and free life.

According to Buddhist philosophy, happiness involves embracing and accepting all the different aspects of life, even if they’re negative. Otherwise we’re turning a blind eye to reality and resisting the natural forces of the universe.

So below, we’re going to go over 5 truths about life Buddhism says we’d all benefit from accepting.

1) Worrying is useless.

Worrying is created in the mind and really doesn’t offer any value to our lives. Will worrying change what’s going to happen? If not, then it’s a waste of time. As Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh says below, try to remain in the present moment without putting labels on your “future conditions of happiness.”

“Worrying does not accomplish anything. Even if you worry twenty times more, it will not change the situation of the world. In fact, your anxiety will only make things worse. Even though things are not as we would like, we can still be content, knowing we are trying our best and will continue to do so. If we don’t know how to breathe, smile,and live every moment of our life deeply, we will never be able to help anyone. I am happy in the present moment. I do not ask for anything else. I do not expect any additional happiness or conditions that will bring about more happiness. The most important practice is aimlessness, not running after things, not grasping.”  – Thich Nhat Hanh

2) If we want to be happy, we must see reality for what it is

Buddhism teaches us that we must see reality for what it is if you want to be truly free. Instead of being fixed on our ideas and opinions, we need to stay open and curious to whatever truth arises.

So many of us try to remain perpetually positive by avoiding negative emotions or situations. But we need to confront them and accept them if we are to be truly free. Buddhist master Pema Chödrön says it best:

“We have two alternatives: either we question our beliefs – or we don’t. Either we accept our fixed versions of reality- or we begin to challenge them. In Buddha’s opinion, to train in staying open and curious – to train in dissolving our assumptions and beliefs – is the best use of our human lives.”

3) We need to accept change actively

Everything in life is change. You’re born and you eventually die. The weather changes every day. No matter how you look at life, everything is change. However, many of us attempt to keep things “fixed” and “constant”. But this only goes against the true forces of the universe.

By accepting and embracing change, it gives us enormous liberation and energy to create the lives we want. Buddhist Daisaku Ikeda says that accepting change allows us to take initiative and create positive changes in our lives.

“Buddhism holds that everything is in constant flux. Thus the question is whether we are to accept change passively and be swept away by it or whether we are to take the lead and create positive changes on our own initiative. While conservatism and self-protection might be likened to winter, night, and death, the spirit of pioneering and attempting to realize ideals evokes images of spring, morning, and birth.”  – Daisaku Ikeda

4) The root of suffering is pursuing temporary feelings

So many of us crave those feelings of what we think is happiness. We think happiness includes excitement, joy, euphoria…but these are only temporary feelings. And the constant pursuit of these feelings only turns into suffering because they don’t last.

Instead true happiness comes from inner peace – being content with what you have and who you are.  Yuval Noah Harari describes it perfectly:

“According to Buddhism, the root of suffering is neither the feeling of pain nor of sadness nor even of meaninglessness. Rather, the real root of suffering is this never-ending and pointless pursuit of ephemeral feelings, which causes us to be in a constant state of tension, restlessness and dissatisfaction. Due to this pursuit, the mind is never satisfied. Even when experiencing pleasure, it is not content, because it fears this feeling might soon disappear, and craves that this feeling should stay and intensify. People are liberated from suffering not when they experience this or that fleeting pleasure, but rather when they understand the impermanent nature of all their feelings, and stop craving them.” –  Yuval Noah Harari

5) Meditation is the path to reducing suffering

Meditation teaches us that everything is impermanent, especially our feelings. It teaches us that the present moment is all that exists. And when we truly realize that, we become content and happy, according to Yuval Noah Harari:

“This is the aim of Buddhist meditation practices. In meditation, you are supposed to closely observe your mind and body, witness the ceaseless arising and passing of all your feelings, and realise how pointless it is to pursue them. When the pursuit stops, the mind becomes very relaxed, clear and satisfied. All kinds of feelings go on arising and passing – joy, anger, boredom, lust – but once you stop craving particular feelings, you can just accept them for what they are. You live in the present moment instead of fantasising about what might have been. The resulting serenity is so profound that those who spend their lives in the frenzied pursuit of pleasant feelings can hardly imagine it.” –  Yuval Noah Harari

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Jokhang temple: fire engulfs ancient ‘heart’ of Tibetan Buddhism

Jokhang temple: fire engulfs ancient ‘heart’ of Tibetan Buddhism

Concern over extent of damage to politically sensitive site as Chinese authorities play down blaze

in Beijing

Fire at the Jokhang temple in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa. Photograph: Twitter

A large fire has damaged one of the holiest and most politically sensitive sites in Tibet, the Jokhang temple, stirring an outpouring of grief and concern among Tibetans.

Dramatic video footage posted on social media showed flames devouring part of the seventh-century Unesco world heritage site in Tibet’s spectacular high-altitude capital, Lhasa, on Saturday.

Robert Barnett (@RobbieBarnett)

Devastating news from Lhasa of the Jokhang temple on fire. pic.twitter.com/LXiIlvc7V5

February 17, 2018

China’s Communist party-controlled news agency, Xinhua, said the blaze started early on Saturday evening “and was soon put out”.

However, Robert Barnett, a London-based expert on contemporary Tibet, said Beijing’s “almost total suppression of information” about the incident meant many Tibetans feared “the heart of Tibetan Buddhism” had suffered significant damage.

For almost four hours after the fire began, he said, it was not even acknowledged by China’s heavily controlled media, “even though you could see it from miles away across the whole city”.

“This has increased the fear of people that something really serious has happened,” said Barnett, the author of a book about Tibet’s ancient capital called Lhasa: Streets with Memories. “People are hugely concerned, rightly or wrongly, that the damage might be much more severe than the media is letting on.”

Tsering Woeser, a Tibetan writer, told the New York Times: “I pray that the fire isn’t serious and that the old buildings haven’t suffered too much damage. For Tibetans, the Jokhang is the holiest of holy sites.”

Barnett said the limited information emerging from the region – from which foreign journalists are barred – meant it was difficult to assess the extent of the damage. But as images of the conflagration spread on Saturday the academic recalled receiving calls from distraught Tibetans mourning the apparent destruction of one of their most sacred sites.

“It’s devastating for people seeing this … [At first] it looked like it was impossible anything would survive … Now there is this uncertainty,” Barnett said. “Nobody knows quite what to believe … It could be less dramatic than people feared, but there is a big information vacuum about what has happened.”

China’s efforts to control the narrative surrounding the fire underscores the Jokhang temple’s huge political as well as religious significance. In recent decades the 2.5-hectare (6.2-acre) complex has been the site of repeated protests against Chinese rule, including one “astonishing act of defiance” witnessed by foreign journalists during a rare 2008 propaganda tour.

Barnett predicted China’s bid to suppress news of the blaze – by censoring online posts and forbidding locals to broadcast images of the fire or gather near the temple – would further hurt relations with Tibetans. “It has restimulated the dominant tone in Tibet … which is intimidation really.”

Falling in love (again) according to Buddhism – Kadampa Life

I’m continuing with the subject of love, desire and attachment started in this article.

Our attachment can be very strong. We’re in love with the idea of love in this society. It sometimes seems as if our whole society is focused on finding the right person — we need someone to complete us. We can’t be happy on our ownsome. “I need someone to give me that security, to hold my hand in the movies. That person is waiting. I know there’s happiness waiting somewhere for me. The credits will roll for me.” (Don’t you find it interesting how the credits roll just at that point when people have finally landed in each other’s arms – they have to be quick about it, too, before the story proceeds any further.)

As time goes on in our search for the ideal partner, we are often willing to settle for less. This is because when we are young, half an hour in front of the mirror can make us look like a million dollars, but as we get older we need that half an hour just to make ourselves look vaguely presentable. In an article about baby boomers not too long ago, the implication was that we are not allowed to get old or stop searching for the ideal partner. No, we are simply “seasoned”, like a well cooked leg of lamb or a rusty frying pan. Apparently there are umpteen books explaining how you can attract someone even into your sixties, seventies, eighties… It isn’t all on the outside, but it does help if you take care of your appearance and, if you can afford the nips and tucks, go ahead! It doesn’t ever stop! You’re not even allowed to relax when you’re seventy, much less when you’re under forty. According to this article, you’re not encouraged to recall that you’ve already had a partner (or five) and don’t want to go through all of that again.

What might Buddha say about this? Not that people should never partner up, or should be scared away from love. Perhaps that seeking happiness so desperately from outside in any form is a fool’s game as it is incapable of giving us real or lasting happiness. Especially if the other person is as neurotic as we are!  How are they going to give us security when they can’t even find it themselves?

Falling in love (again)

So let’s look at the kind of thing that happens when we fall in love. If our attachment comes on strong, it is like falling in a ditch — completely out of our control.

Let’s say we’re hanging out with good friends. We’re having a whale of a time, joking, affectionate, enjoying a great night out, until suddenly a really attractive person (to our eyes) walks into the restaurant. Suddenly our happiness is over there. We’re feeling a bit bereft. We’re fast forgetting about our friends because now it’s, “I’ve got to meet that person!” Then they walk out the door, taking our happiness with them!

The scheming begins. How to get their number, set up a date, have their kids. There seem to be three stages to this kind of desire—scheming, indulging, and recovery. Scheming – they are going to complete me, this is it!  Maybe we’re lucky enough and we do get their phone number, their email. We wait by the phone – are people still waiting by the phone now?  Well, in the old days, before we were plugged 24/7 into the cloud, it went something like this: “I’ll just go buy some groceries, I’ll be away for an hour or so, then by the time I’ve got home they are bound to have called.” But no messages. No emails either. Nowadays, maybe no texts, or FB messages. This is painful. We get a call from our best friend, “No, I can’t talk just now, I can’t tie up the line”, then another from our mom, and we try not to sound too disappointed, “Yes, I know you gave birth to me but ….” Any addiction we had to email and Facebook is now really overpowering, but at the same time none of our messages is of the slightest interest.

Then maybe the right caller ID or a relevant email does show up, and, ecstatically relieved, we do manage to hook up. We take a thousand photos of our happiness on our Smart phone, from every angle. Everything about them is delicious and special – their perfume, their eating habits, the way they drive… They can do no wrong. The fact that others don’t get it, or even see faults in our angel, is just a sad indictment on their lack of discrimination.

This phase of romantic indulgence goes on, they tell us from studies, for about six months.

Then at some point we say to this person, “Honey, I really love you and want you to be happy.” And they reply, “I’m really glad to hear you say that because I’ve been taking ballroom dancing classes and I’ve fallen for Giovanna, she’s Italian.”  Suddenly everything goes pear-shaped. That wasn’t what we meant.  We say, “But I didn’t want you to be happy if you’re not giving me happiness!”

Now all the objects of happiness are causes of suffering. The same perfume is now unbearable, the same car is a horrible reminder. All the things that seemed causes of our happiness are now causes of our pain. Maybe we take all their stuff and throw it out of the window. “Take all of your stuff and get out!”  We think it’s all their fault, but really the scales have fallen from our eyes and we are realizing that they weren’t the source of our happiness to begin with.

With attachment, we are set up from the get go for disillusionment when that person inevitably cannot deliver the happiness we sought in them, when they cannot live up to our hype. We need time to recover because thwarted attachment is very, very painful. It can make people feel down for months. It can drive people to kill themselves. And it is very dangerous because when we’re in the indulging phase it can look so good that we forget its outcome and fall for it time and time again.

As mentioned, attachment is called “sticky desire” If you have hairy arms, you can try this experiment, if not you’ll just have to imagine it. Plaster a sticky band aid onto your arm, leave it for a bit, and then tear it off. How does that feel? At some point also we are separated one way or another from our object of attachment, and it hurts. Tears. We often want to lash out.

In Transform Your Life, Geshe Kelsang says:

“If we are skillful, friends can be like treasure chests, from whom we can gain the precious wealth of love, compassion, patience, and so forth. For our friends to function in this way, however, our love for them must be free from attachment. If our love for our friends is mixed with strong attachment, it will be conditional on their behaving in ways that please us, and as soon as they do something we disapprove of, our fondness for them may turn to anger.”

Honey on a razor’s edge

Buddha used an exquisite analogy for attachment: it is like licking honey from a razor’s edge. If we want just the honey, we need to get rid of the attachment. But we don’t need to get rid of the intimacy or closeness. We can have that closeness without attachment. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be close to others but there’s everything wrong with trying to be close to others through attachment. In fact, strong attachment actually makes us hungrier, we can never get enough.

It is only with love that the gap between people is bridged. In attachment, it’s all about a dualistic “me and you”; we’re not actually in union. Because the object of attachment is necessarily “out there”, and we are “in here”, we can never get close to it any more than a donkey can catch up to the carrot on the stick. True intimacy, true “us”, comes from love – affectionate, cherishing, and wishing love.

Your turn: what do you think about Buddha’s analysis of love and attachment from your own experience?

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Based on 37 years’ experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to our everyday lives, and vice versa. I try to make it accessible to everyone who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I’ll write you back!

These 10 lessons from Buddhism will help you get your shit together

 

What’s the secret to happiness?

It’s not an easy question to answer.

If you listen to mainstream media, you might think it’s money or fame. We’re taught to believe that “celebrities” have the perfect life. 

But are they really happy? Not exactly.

In fact, according to Buddhist philosophy, attaching our happiness to outside factors like material objects and money will actually make us unhappy.

So, what can we do?

According to Buddhism, we need to focus on our inner peace first, and then everything else will fall into place.

Here are 10 lessons from Buddhism that will help us achieve true happiness. 

1) Never lose hope

According to Buddhist philosophy, it’s crucial to keep hope, even in tough times.

Buddhism says that change is built into the nature of things: nothing is inherently fixed, not even our identity.

Therefore, no matter bad the situation, it’s important to remember that change is only the law in the universe and it will eventually pass.

According to Buddhist monk, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, the nature of karma also gives up hope:

“In the five reflections, the reflection on karma is the one that gives hope. You realize that you’re in charge of your actions. You’re not simply a victim of fate or of the stars or of some other being acting through you. You’re the one who’s making the choices. That’s what gives you hope.”

2) Help others as much as possible

Beautiful words from The Dalai Lama. Sometimes it can help to stop focusing on your own problems and instead help people with theirs. Not only will you help them out, but it might just make you feel better about yourself.

 

Compassion is one of the most revered qualities in Buddhism. Compassion is also about understanding the basic goodness in all people. It helps you connect wholeheartedly with others, which can be a great source of joy.

Seek to live in a way where you treat everyone as you would yourself. Once you begin doing this, you’ll realize the true power of compassion.

Master Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh offers some great advice:

“When we come into contact with the other person, our thoughts and actions should express our mind of compassion, even if that person says and does things that are not easy to accept. We practice in this way until we see clearly that our love is not contingent upon the other person being lovable.”

3) Letting go gives us freedom

We don’t need to rely on outside factors to make us happy. By clinging onto anything, we remain fixed and unable to change. True freedom means accepting the transient nature of everything. 

Only then can we understand the liberating notion that it’s impossible to hold onto anything. What we can do is embrace the present moment as best we can and allow ourselves the opportunity to grow and improve.

Master Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh says it best:

“Buddhism teaches that joy and happiness arise from letting go… There are things you’ve been hanging on to that really are not useful and deprive you of your freedom. Find the courage to let them go.”

4) Progress can only occur through understanding

Brilliant words from Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh. There’s a huge divide in society because opposing sides refuse to listen to each other. But this has no positive effect at all.

We need to understand and show compassion for people who have different views than us. Progress will only come from dialogue and understanding.

The Dalai Lama also says that understanding is critical for our own happiness as well:

“Only the development of compassion and understanding for others can bring us the tranquility and happiness we all seek.”

5) If we are going to change our life, it’s up to us

 

Your life is yours, and yours alone. There is no way for anyone to experience the world from your unique perspective. Instead of leaning on others to guide you through life, be brave and blaze your own path.

The Dalai Lama offers some potent words on this point:

“There is only one important point you must keep in your mind and let it be your guide. No matter what people call you, you are just who you are. Keep to this truth. You must ask yourself how is it you want to live your life. We live and we die, this is the truth that we can only face alone. No one can help us, not even the Buddha. So consider carefully, what prevents you from living the way you want to live your life?”

6) Trust your own common sense


In a world of fake news and algorithmic newsfeeds we have no control over, it’s more important than ever to exercise our critical thinking skills.

We don’t need some expert to tell us what to think. We can think for ourselves.

7) Holding onto anger isn’t useful


Buddhism teaches us that directing anger at others doesn’t really lead to anything positive. There are better ways to get your point across.

Take a step back and act with reason and common sense. You’ll thank yourself later.

According to the Dalai Lama, instead of getting angry, we should use it a stepping stone in our own development:

“Hard times build determination and inner strength. Through them we can also come to appreciate the uselessness of anger. Instead of getting angry nurture a deep caring and respect for troublemakers because by creating such trying circumstances they provide us with invaluable opportunities to practice tolerance and patience.”  

8) Don’t stoop to anyone’s level


Buddha was one of the first people to teach that you can only conquer hate with love.

So, remember, you don’t need to stoop to someone else’s level if they’re acting toxic. By upholding our values, we will get the desired result we’re seeking and keep our integrity intact. 

9) To be beautiful means to be yourself


We can all agree that the most awesome people are authentic people. They are who they are and they know what they want in life. There’s no BS. You can feel comfortable around them because they’re not trying to be manipulative. 

Buddhism teaches us that through self-compassion and acceptance of ourselves, we’re able to become the beautiful human beings we know we’re all capable of being.

10) The moment is the only thing that exists

One of the cornerstone teachings of Buddhism. The future hasn’t arrived. The past is over. The only thing that matters is the present moment. It’s the only place where happiness resides.

Looking to reduce stress and live a calmer, more focused life? Mindfulness is the easy way to gently let go of stress and be in the moment. It has fast become the slow way to manage the modern world – without chanting mantras or finding hours of special time to meditate.

In Hack Spirit’s new eBook, The Art of Mindfulness, we explain how you can use mindfulness practically to help you clear your mind, let go of your worries and live peacefully in the present moment.

By devoting full attention on what we are doing in the moment, we can alleviate suffering, fear and anxiety.

With the power of mindfulness at our fingertips and the beauty of looking deeply, we can find insights to transform and heal any situation.

Check it out here

 

Lachlan Brown