Before I get started on the Gampopa Ornament of Precious Liberation class notes, here’s a short presentation I gave a couple of weeks ago at an interfaith prayer service in Richmond, Virginia. Organized by Chaplain David Curtis at Westminster Canterbury Retirement Community, the service’s theme was how peace can be lived in different areas of life: self, home, community, and the world. While Buddhism would have been a natural fit for peace within self, I addressed how it views the possibility of peace in the world.
In our third and final class on verse 11, we began with Ken McLeod’s commentary in Reflections on Silver River and discussed a contemplation he suggests: “Suppose you were told that, no matter what you did, you would never be happy. Never. What would you do with your life?” (More on this in verse 11, part 2. Translation and audio for verse 11, exchanging my happiness for others’ suffering, are here.)
Ken suggests we might pay more attention to others, and accept them as they are rather than trying to change them to suit our preferences. We might also relate to life directly and engage with it as it is, rather than continually try to manipulate our circumstances. Answer from a class member: we could relax!
The question arose: if we don’t pursue our own happiness, how can we give it away to others in taking and sending?
We’ve had a couple of weeks off while Chodron was traveling. Tomorrow, October 19, we’ll reconvene (live from Texas!) to complete our study of practice 11: to exchange our own happiness for others’ suffering. This is the crux of bodhisattva practice, and learning how to do this is the reason we are studying the 37 practices. All the rest of the practices follow from this. For the translation and audio of verse 11, click here.
In our first week on verse 11 (audio September 21), we reviewed Dilgo Khyentse’s commentary. Please read it at least two or three times before we move on to bodhisattva boot camp next week, and take it to heart, as it holds many keys to understanding and traveling the path of bodhisattva practice and complete awakening.
I can think of two situations in life when it’s painfully obvious that ego-clinging is counterproductive. The first is in dealing with very young children. The second is in dealing with dementia. In neither case will you ever win an argument using fact or reason, and when you fail and it feels frustrating, who is it that suffers? It’s not me…it’s my ego-clinging!
The Buddha pointed to ego-clinging as the root source of all our suffering, but do we really know what it is or how to recognize it? Who is this mysterious shadow lurking behind our every thought and action, spoiling every otherwise perfect experience?
“Mind is empty. You can change your thoughts.” –Lama Norlha Rinpoche
We are taught in the Seven Points of Mind Training, “Be grateful to everyone,” and “Rely all the time on a joyful mind.” How can we put this into practice when all around us things are constantly going wrong and people continue to behave in ways that disregard or harm us?
As you may know, we had a visit last week at PTC from Dr. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of The Distraction Addiction and teacher of contemplative computing. He talked to us about some ways to tame the hold digital technology exerts on our attention, which can be an issue for us at the monastery just as it might be for anyone who relies on technology in their work and daily life. Among the many topics he touched upon, one of the most immediately useful was “email apnea.” It seems that we users of digital devices have a tendency to hold our breath as we wait for our email to update. Though it may take just a few seconds each time, if we check frequently or have poor reception these intervals can add up to 15 minutes or more during the course of a day, or four 24-hour days over the span of a year.
What excellent news!
This morning Pema Chödrön’s Facebook page shared a quote from her book, No Time to Lose: “The next time you go out in the world, you might try this practice: directing your attention to people—in their cars, on the sidewalk, talking on their cell phones—just wish for them all to be happy and well.“
Losar Tashi Delek! Happy Tibetan New Year! (as of February 14)
I don’t know if our local groundhog saw his/her shadow on February 2. (As you know, every day is Groundhog Day here in retreat.) My bet is s/he didn’t, as it was overcast most of the day and it’s been wicked cold for weeks. But, groundhog or no, one thing this February is guaranteed to bring is:
Warning: Another exhortation to meditate!
A previous post focused on Lama Norlha Rinpoche’s advice that the secret to happiness in this lifetime is, in all our relationships, to focus on people’s good qualities and kindness rather than on their faults and negative behavior.
But in other teachings, Rinpoche has revealed: it is not the whole secret!
A few years ago, during one of Lama Norlha Rinpoche’s visits to New Hampshire, he gave a public talk at the Unitarian Church in Portsmouth on the topic of how to be happy. The gist of his advice was this: in all our relationships, especially with those closest to us, always focus on the person’s good qualities and their kindness, and never think about their flaws and misdeeds.
As usual, the Buddha’s solution to our problem is very simple. The difficulty is in overcoming our habitual patterns, or internal resistance, in order to apply it or even remember it in the heat of the moment.