Posted in bodhisattva, Mahayana, Uncategorized

The Six Paramitas

The most important teaching for walking the bodhisattva path is the six perfections. The six perfections free us from delusion and lead us to Awakening. This is, above all else, the path to awakening that I really connect with. If we practice the six perfections in our lives, then we can dwell in Enlightenment. This is, to me, the central point of Buddhism.
The six paramitas (usually translated as perfections) are a teaching of Mahayana Buddhism. They are said to be vehicles to take us from shore of sorrow to the shore of peace and joy. We are on the shore of suffering, anger, and depression and we want to cross over to the shore of well-being and transcendence. Practicing the Six Paramitas is said to help us unleash the joy within.
This six paramitas are: Generosity, Virtue, Patience, Diligence, Concentration, and Wisdom.

The Paramita of Generosity
People tend to think that this means just giving material things and that isn’t necessarily the case.
We can give all sorts of things. We can give our time, our patience, our love.
The best gift we can offer is our presence. To be there when someone needs us, to listen when someone needs to talk. When we give our presence to someone that wants it, we are practicing the perfection of generosity.
Because of our meditation practice, we can be more mindfully present. Listening instead of waiting to talk, paying attention when attention is needed.
We can also give stability. When our thoughts and feelings are unstable, we can cause all sorts of harm and unhappiness to ourselves and others.
We can also give peace. When we are peaceful and have a peaceful relationship to the world around us, it brings benefit to everyone.
We can also give space. Staying away when someone wants time alone is a form of giving.
We can also give understanding. When we pay attention to what others are going through we can better understand how to interact with them in ways that are helpful.
Generosity is a wonderful practice. The Buddha said when we are angry at someone we can practice generosity toward them as a way to soften our anger.

The Paramita of Virtue
The Second Paramita is something we cultivate in two ways.
One way is through mindfulness training and the second way is through precepts. I’m going to write about the five mindfulness trainings now and save the precepts for another time.
Practicing the Five Mindfulness Trainings is a good way to transform our behavior in a positive way. This is a teaching created by the Zen Monk Thich Nhat Hanh.
Some of these overlap with the precepts a little, so it would be repetitive to write about both here.
The Five Mindfulness Trainings
1) Protect other beings. This applies to humans as well as other animals and plants. We should protect and help whenever possible.
2) To prevent the exploitation of humans and other beings. The normal way of doing things is often to step on others in order to get ahead in life.
3) Be faithful in relationships.
4) Practice deep listening and loving speech
5) Be mindful about your consumption.

The Paramita of Patience

This represents our ability to receive and transform our suffering.
The Buddha compared acceptance to water. If you pour some salt into a glass of water it will have a big impact. If you pour it into a river it will have no impact at at all.
We are the same way.
If our ability to accept is small, then we will suffer a great deal even when very minor things happen, like someone saying an unkind word or annoying us.
But if our ability to accept is large, then such things won’t have quite the same impact on us. It is so easy to carry the weight of an unkind word or action with us.
This Paramita represents our ability to receive, accept, and transform any pain and suffering that comes our way. We often tend to make things worse for ourselves than they really need to be.

The Paramita of Diligence

This represents our motivation on the path.
This Paramita is our devotion to cultivating the other five. It’s the one that really keeps us inspired to continue rather than giving up.
We can recognize the things that cause suffering in ourselves and others and we should do what we can to lessen these things.
The Buddha sometimes described life in terms of watering seeds. The seeds of anger, jealousy, and despair exist in our minds and we should try to refrain from watering them if we can. This means trying to bring happiness to ourselves and others.
The Paramita of Diligence represents striving to water positive seeds in our minds instead.
It’s said to have three components:
1) courage: the development of character. The will to walk the path with a sense on conviction and also to motivate others by our desire to walk the path.
2) spiritual training: taking our practice in our own hands. This component represents expressing our commitment to practice, not just when we’re in meditation, but in our daily lives as well. Talking about Buddhist concepts is great, but we really need to put them into practice at home too. Learning about the Paramita of Generosity, for example, is good, but we also need to actually put it into practice and be generous.
3) benefiting others: the Buddhist path is helping us to lessen our suffering and clear away our delusion and that is great. But, another important aspect is our wish to not cause suffering for others. We call this the way of the Bodhisattva.

The Paramita of Meditation

Meditation in this sense consists of two aspects.
First is stopping. Our minds run through our whole lives, chasing one idea after another. Stopping means to stop in the present moment, to settle our monkey minds and be here now. Everything is in this moment. With this meditation practice we can calm our minds. We can practice mindful breathing, mindful walking, and mindful sitting. This is also the practice of concentration, so we can live deeply each moment of our lives, touching the deepest levels of our being.
The second aspect of meditation is looking deeply to see the true nature of things. This is where we really cultivate an understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

The Paramita of Wisdom

This is the highest form of understanding, free from concepts, ideas, and views. Prajna is the seed of Enlightenment within us. This is what carries us to Enlightenment.
There is a lot of Buddhist literature on the Paramita of Wisdom (prajnaparamita), including the Heart Sutra and the Diamond Sutra. I really recommend reading these.
What we can talk about is looking deeply at the nature of things. Waves have a beginning and an end. Some are big and some are small. But they’re all made of water. They all come from and return to the same ocean. And, more importantly, they’re never truly separate from the ocean.
If we look deeply at ourselves and the world around us, we can come to understand that we have the same nature as these waves. We share the same ground of being as all other beings.
The Paramita of Wisdom represents our understanding of the oneness of things and it’s really considered the most important of the six perfections.


 

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Posted in tattooed buddha

Perform Only Virtuous Actions

 

“Do not commit any non-virtuous actions.

Perform only virtuous actions.

Subdue the mind thoroughly.”

-The Buddha

 

This is chanted in a lot of Buddhist temples.

To me it’s the shortest possible explanation of Buddhism.

People sometimes ask me about Buddhism, mainly because I write about Buddhism on the internet and I have cool Buddhist tattoos (I think). When they do, I like to start by talking about that quote. Some people would start by talking about The Four Noble Truths or the Eightfold Path, or even the story of the Buddha’s life.

That quote written above, is direct and to the point.

The first two are pretty simple, in fact. Well, they sound simple. That last one sounds a little bit harder, which it is.

Do not commit any non-virtuous actions.

I’d like to explain this in terms of Sila, morality. In Buddhism we often talk about morality in terms of the Five Precepts (there are lots of lists in Buddhism. Get used to it).

The Five Precepts are:

1.  Abstain from killing any living beings.

2.  Abstain from taking what is not given.

3.  Abstain from sexual misconduct.

4.  Abstain from lying and false speech.

5.  Abstain from the abusive consumption of intoxicants and drugs.

These Precepts are not commandments. They’re rules that we observe only because we realize that such actions cause harm to others and to ourselves.

We can think of them in a positive way instead of a negative one:

1.  The practice of Harmlessness and Compassion.

2.  The practice of Kindness and Generosity.

3.  The practice of Faithfulness and Responsibility.

4.  The practice of Truthfulness and Pleasant Speech.

5.  The practice of Self-control and Mindfulness.

Perform only virtuous actions.

I’d like to explain this in terms of Dana, generosity. This means giving or helping others. This can be done in many ways. We can give kind and encouraging words, we can give someone our time and we can listen to someone who needs it.

Of course we can also volunteer our work to good causes and give material charity as well. There are so many ways we can help others.

Subdue the mind thoroughly.

I’d like to explain this in terms of Bhavana, mind cultivation/meditation. Meditation is said to purify the mind and make it easier to develop generosity, compassion and wisdom. Through deep meditation we can come to fully know ourselves. Through it we are able to really see things as they truly are.

Meditation is the form of spiritual practice that led the Buddha to Enlightenment. Even a short meditation, 20 minutes per day, can change your life.

All of Buddhist teachings can be summed up, I think, in these three things. Sometimes they’re written even more succinctly:

“To avoid all evil. To do good. To purify one’s mind.”

~ the Buddha.

This is it—the cultivation of morality, wisdom, and concentration.

It seems simple, but of course we can spend all of our lives cultivating these things. This is the simplest and most direct way to explain what Buddhism is all about.

 

 

 

 

Posted in buddha

Wisdom

An Awakened Being is said to have deep wisdom. Wisdom is important in Buddhism. Wisdom is important but it’s viewed as highly as it was in ancient times. We think about getting wiser as we get older, but we often don’t think about wisdom beyond that.
Knowledge is appreciated a lot more than wisdom.

Knowledge is important. It has led to many great things in the world.
Wisdom is what can direct our knowledge and lead us to more balanced and fulfilled lives.

Buddhist teachings and techniques for increasing wisdom can help us a great deal.
When we are acting with wisdom, we aren’t being held back by our preconceived ideas. We are able to see what’s going on more clearly. We are better able to analyze the facts and determine the best course of action.
Wisdom is like a mirror that reflects reality clearly. What is reflected in this clear mirror is our interconnectedness. It helps us see through the delusion of separation.
An Awakened Being, or Buddha, is a person who intuitively understands this wisdom.

The concept Awakening is central to Buddhism.

Posted in altar sutra

Altar Sutra: On Prajna: Part 1

On Prajna (Wisdom)

One day, after reciting the Heart Sutra, the Sixth Patriarch Huineng gave the following teaching:
The great seed of Awakening is within all of us. It is because our minds are under delusion that we fail to realize this. This is why we seek advice and guidance from Masters and Teachers
The truth is there is no difference between an Enlightened being and an ignorant one. The only difference is that an Enlightened being sees their own true nature.

Now, let’s talk about the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra so each of us can engage with wisdom.

Several things going on here. The Master is talking about the concept of Buddha nature. This is a traditional Mahayana Buddhist teaching that we are all awakened already, that Enlightenment isn’t something we are seeking, it’s just that we are trying to see through our delusion to see our Enlightened nature underneath. The Mahaprajnaparaimta Sutra is the Sutra of Great Transcendental Wisdom. We’ll talk more about that a little later.

Those who talk about wisdom all the time don’t know that wisdom is inherent in our nature. Talking about food won’t make you full when you’re hungry. Just so, talking about wisdom will not make you wise. We can sit and talk about Emptiness forever, but talking will not make us realize our fundamental nature. It’s pointless.

This is similar to a line from another famous Chinese spiritual text, the Tao Te Ching. “The way that can be spoken of is not the true way.” That is, once we start speaking, we have probably missed the point. The truth is beyond the language we can use to talk about it. Bodhidharma, the first Chinese Patriarch called it, “Beyond words and letters. Emptiness here means we are without inherent self nature. That is, there is no part of us that is really separate from the world around us. Our nature is oneness.

‘Mahaprajnaparamita’ is a Sanskrit word. It means Great Transcendental Wisdom.
We have to put Transcendental Wisdom into practice.Just reciting the teachings of Mahaprajnaparamita without putting them into practice is like a phantom, a delusion, a flash of lightning.

This reminds me of this quote from Ikkyu: ‘Like vanishing dew, a passing apparition or the sudden flash of lightning– already gone — thus should one regard one’s self,’

When we simply recite the teachings, we aren’t doing much good. We have to embody the teachings. Don’t study the Buddha. Be the Buddha.

The Buddha outside isn’t the true Buddha. The true Buddha is within.

Maha means ‘great’. The abilities of the mind are great. What lies within us is infinite, neither long nor short, neither happy nor sad, neither good nor evil.

Our true nature is Emptiness and there is really nothing to be attained. The Essence of our minds is the absolute void.

When I talk about Emptiness, don’t think in terms of nothingness or annihilation. We shouldn’t fall into this idea because then we could begin to think that nothing matters.

A very common mistake people make when they start learning about Buddhism. Buddhism is not nihilism. I think of Emptiness as being vast and open, like the sky.

The void we are talking about is capable of containing many things of various shape and size. The void
contains the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth.

The void contains all of these. So do we.

This echoes a quote by Rumi, the famous Muslim mystic:
‘You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop’

We call our true nature great because it contains all things. All things are within our nature. When we see the behavior of others, we must not be attached to it, so that our minds can be as void as the sky. In this way, we can say our minds are great. So, we use the word Maha.
The ignorant talk about it and the wise put it into practice.
The mind is great in capacity because it is one with everything.

When our minds work without being clouded by hindrance, to ‘come’ or to ‘go’ then we are dwelling in a state of ‘Prajna’, wisdom.

All wisdom comes from within ourselves.

Once we understand the essence of our minds, we can be free from delusion.

Posted in diamond sutra

Diamond Sutra: chapter 2

After a while a respected monk named Subhuti, who was sitting with the other followers, rose from his seat.
He bowed and then addressed the Buddha:
“Most Honored One, It is wonderful that you given so much knowledge and wisdom to your followers. It is remarkable that you look after our welfare so well.”
“I have a question to ask you. If sons and daughters of good families want to develop the highest, most fulfilled and awakened mind, if they wish to attain the Highest Perfect Wisdom, what should they do to help quiet their minds and subdue their cravings?”
The Buddha replied:
“I am mindful of the welfare of my followers. Listen carefully with your full attention, and I will sanswer your question.”
“If sons and daughters of good families want to develop the highest, most fulfilled and awakened mind, if they wish to attain the Highest Perfect Wisdom and quiet their minds while subduing their cravings, then they should follow what I am about to say to you. They will then be able to subdue their discriminative thoughts and craving desires. It is possible to attain perfect tranquility and clarity of mind by absorbing and dwelling on the teachings I am about to give.”
Then the Buddha addressed the assembly.

This is more introductory material. Subhuti has asked the Buddha to describe the essence of his teaching. These people have been following the Buddha’s example for a while and Subhuti is asking him to explain in a clear way what they should do, how they can quiet their minds and control their desires.

Posted in Uncategorized

my notes on the Heart Sutra

My Notes on the Heart Sutra

——This is the Heart Sutra (also called the Great Heart of Wisdom Sutra) with my own notes. I’ve taken it upon myself to teach children about this sutra as part of the Dharma School’s unit on Wisdom. Given that it’s a pretty deep philosophical text, this is an ambitious goal. Taking these notes is going to be immensely helpful to me in making sure I can explain the sutra in plain language that anyone can understand. There is certainly much deeper meaning to the text than I am presenting here. And I urge anyone reading this to study this sutra deeply. I read several commentaries on the Heart Sutra, looking for one that would not be excessively difficult to explain to children. I failed to find one, so I wrote my own.

I’m using the simplest translation of the text that I could find.——

Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, meditating deeply on Perfection of Wisdom, 

——Avalokiteshvara is sometimes called Chenrezig and sometimes called Kuan Yin. Bodhisattva means enlightenment being. Avalokiteshvara is essentially the personification of compassion. Bodhisattvas are archetypes. They aren’t considered to be objectively real.——-
 

saw clearly that the five aspects of human existence are empty, and so released himself from suffering.  Answering the monk Sariputra, he said this:

——the five aspects of human existence represent what’s called the five skandhas. Buddhism teaches that we are really only a collection of five or so things and don’t really have anything that could be considered our independent self, ie a soul. We are just a collection of things and can’t really be described as individuals in any meaningful way. If we have an intuitive understanding of this then it can free us from suffering. ——

Body is nothing more than emptiness, 
emptiness is nothing more than body. 
The body is exactly empty, 
and emptiness is exactly body.

The other four aspects of human existence — 
feeling, thought, will, and consciousness — 
are likewise nothing more than emptiness, 
and emptiness nothing more than they.

——This is a description of the Buddhist concept called emptiness. It is the philosophy that nothing really exists on it’s own. Everything is dependent on numerous other things, including us. We are all intimately connected and intertwined with the world around us.——

All things are empty: 
Nothing is born, nothing dies, 
nothing is pure, nothing is stained, 
nothing increases and nothing decreases.

——This is where things get a little deeper. How could it be said that nothing is born and nothing dies? This is a little hard to wrap our heads around. When he says that nothing is born, he isn’t denying reality. He is rather emphasizing the importance of moment to moment awareness. When we investigate deeply, we notice that nothing really has a beginning or ending. Everything is intimately connected and constantly changing. When does a flower begin? When it sprouts from the ground? When the seed enters the ground? Or perhaps when the sunshine travels to the earth and feeds the flower? It’s difficult to say because the flower is so connected to other things. It is the same with us and with everything else. We tend to think of things as having concrete endings and beginnings, but, of course, reality is a lot more fluid than that.——

So, in emptiness, there is no body, 
no feeling, no thought, 
no will, no consciousness. 
There are no eyes, no ears, 
no nose, no tongue, 
no body, no mind. 
There is no seeing, no hearing, 
no smelling, no tasting, 
no touching, no imagining. 
There is nothing seen, nor heard, 
nor smelled, nor tasted, 
nor touched, nor imagined.

There is no ignorance, 
and no end to ignorance. 
There is no old age and death, 
and no end to old age and death. 
There is no suffering, no cause of suffering, 
no end to suffering, no path to follow. 
There is no attainment of wisdom, 
and no wisdom to attain.

——This is a list of the numerous things that we often become attached to. It even includes Buddhist teachings, like suffering and the cause of suffering. Avalokiteshvara is being very clear in telling Sariputra (and by extension, us) that these things don’t have inherent existence, so becoming attached to them can only be counterproductive.——

The Bodhisattvas rely on the Perfection of Wisdom, 
and so with no delusions, 
they feel no fear, 
and have Nirvana here and now.

All the Buddhas, 
past, present, and future, 
rely on the Perfection of Wisdom, 
and live in full enlightenment.

——Once we recognize that things are empty of an inherent nature, then we recognize that all things are interconnected. Enlightenment is an intuitive understanding of the interconnectedness of all things. When we act with this understanding in mind, we are said to dwell in Nirvana. Deep down we are all enlightened already, we just have to clear our delusion and unleash our Buddha nature.——

The Perfection of Wisdom is the greatest mantra. 
It is the clearest mantra, 
the highest mantra, 
the mantra that removes all suffering.

This is truth that cannot be doubted. 
Say it so:

Gone, 
gone, 
gone over, 
gone fully over. 
Awakened! 
So be it!

——In teaching us the philosophies of both emptiness and interconnectedness, this sutra is supposed to be a great asset in our path to enlightenment.——