Posted in sutra, Uncategorized

The Buddha and the Kalamas

There is an old story called the Kalama Sutra. It is one of the oldest sutras and one of my favorites.

It goes something like this: The Buddha was traveling the world spreading the Dharma, teaching people that wanted to listen. He came upon a group of people known as the Kalamas and started explaining the Dharma to them. Their response was unusual.

They said, “We have had numerous spiritual teachers come here. Every new teacher comes and tells us to ignore the teachings we have heard before and to follow their doctrine only. This has made us doubtful and uncertain. What makes your teaching different? Why should we follow your authority and not the authority of the other teachers that came before you?”

The Buddha’s reply was unique.

He said, “You shouldn’t follow my authority. It’s good to be skeptical. It’s good to doubt, to be uncertain; uncertainty has arisen in you about what is doubtful. Don’t believe things just because you’ve heard them from rumors or from authority figures or scriptures. Even if something has been repeated for generations, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t challenge it. We should challenge everything. You should even challenge what I tell you. But challenge your own preconceptions too.

You didn’t need a religious teacher to come tell you that greed, hatred and delusion are bad. Your common sense agrees with that. You didn’t need a religious teacher to come and tell you that compassion and mindfulness are good. Your common sense agrees with that too.

I have only really come to teach skillful means, methods to deal with the suffering that pervades our lives. If my teachings are right, then the truth is within you already. Other teachings may be dogmatic and strict. Mine is not. I only teach suggestions for dealing with suffering.”

This is an important message in my opinion. I have a natural inclination to both be skeptical and to challenge authority. Unlike many other religious teachers, that is actually what the Buddha suggests to us. He had studied with several religious teachers in his time and he had decided that religion was not for him. He didn’t see the religions that he encountered as viable paths to spiritual truth or happiness. So, he created his own path.

In my opinion, he wasn’t trying to start a religion at all, he was just providing an example for us to follow, more of a way of life than a religion. His teachings weren’t given the label ‘religion’ until hundreds of years later.

Posted in sutra

Comparing Sutras

Since I’m teaching a class on the Diamond Sutra for the next six weeks, I expect it will be on my mind a lot. You can expect me to write about it for a while and I hope that’s ok.

What’s significant about the Diamond Sutra is that it’s down to earth and it presents the Buddha as a normal person, like us. It might not seem like a down to earth text the first time you read it. There’s a lot of talk about space and counting grains of sand and things like that.

Here is an example, comparing the first chapter of the Diamond Sutra with the beginning of another Sutra that was written around the same time, so we can compare thest two and see how down to earth the Diamond Sutra really is.

Diamond Sutra Opening:

This is what I heard one time when the Buddha was staying in the monastery in Anathapindika’s park in the Jeta Grove near Shravasti with a community of 1,250 bhikshus, fully ordained monks.

That day, when it was time to make the round for alms, the Buddha put on his sanghati robe and, holding his bowl, went into the city of Shravasti to seek alms food, going from house to house. When the almsround was completed, he returned to the monastery to eat the midday meal. Then he put away his sanghati robe and his bowl, washed his feet, arranged his cushion, and sat down.

Avatamsaka Sutra:

As soon as the Buddha entered this concentration, the magnificent pavilion became boundlessly vast, the surface of the earth appeared to be made of indestructible diamond, the surface of the ground covered with a net of all the finest jewels strewn around with flowers of many jewels with enormous gems strewn all over; it was adorned with sapphire pillars, with well-proportioned decorations of world-illuminating pearls of the finest water, with all kinds of gems combined in pairs, adorned with heaps of gold and jewels, with a dazzling array of turrets, arches, chambers, windows, and balconies.

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So, you can see clearly that the Diamond Sutra is just about seemingly ordinary things happening. The Avatamsaka Sutra, on the other hand, makes the Buddha sound like a wizard or something.

So, when I say the Diamond Sutra is down to earth, this is what I’m talking about.

Posted in sutra, tattooed buddha

Why I Love the Diamond Sutra

I’m going to tell you about the Diamond Sutra.

The full title is: Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra

A lot of Sutras are about teaching us a lesson or telling us a story, but the Diamond Sutra is different. It’s the story of the Buddha answering the questions of one of his students. And it is important to look at it that way.

But it functions on another level. This Sutra can be your teacher. If you’re open to it this Sutra will help you penetrate delusions, smash through ignorance and dwell in non-dual awareness.

This Sutra isn’t a text about Buddhism or the Buddha, but about Enlightenment. Enlightenment is the core of the Buddha’s teaching, the way and the goal.

This is not a story about the Buddha and it’s not an explanation of some Buddhist concept, but rather a roadmap to Awakening.

This Sutra is called The Diamond That Cuts Through Illusion.

Why a diamond? Because diamonds are strong, hard, rare,and indestructible. If we study this Sutra diligently, it will change our lives.

The first line I heard from the Diamond Sutra was, “Arouse the mind without resting it on anything.”
At the time I had no idea what that meant, but it spoke to me. It seemed like a deep and profound truth. Now, of course, I know what it means. It’s a one sentence meditation instruction.

I’ve taken a lot of meditation classes and I’ve read a lot of books on the subject, but that line has kept me on the cushion more than anything else.

If you read this Sutra, there will probably be parts of it where you’ll think “Why am I reading this? He’s talking about grains of sand or how awesome this Sutra is again.” It’s normal to feel that way. I felt that way. Like many Sutras, some parts of it are really repetitive.

But if you persevere, if you take this journey, you won’t regret it.

Do you want to journey to Enlightenment with me?

 

http://thetattooedbuddha.com/why-i-love-the-diamond-sutra/

Posted in meditation, sutra

From the Lotus Sutra

The Lotus Sutra says this about a meditator. ‘In a quiet place he practices meditation by controlling the mind. He sits motionless like Mount Sumeru.’

This is an important instruction. Stillness and silence seem like simple things. When we have them is when we can accomplish the most. It’s possible to meditate when surrounded by distractions, but it’s not ideal.

It’s much better to meditate in a calm and quiet place.