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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Danger,Danger Will Robinson!!

Many people want to re-experience what it felt like to be alive when they were a child. For many, the memory of that effervescent way of looking at life is remembered as feeling really alive. As time and daily stress take their toll, many begin to feel less and less alive. This is too bad because the sense of feeling alive has become mixed with the aging process. These two should not be connected; they are two completely different issues.

However, the problem is that without a stabilized energetic system it is very hard to feel that special alive. As we all know, almost all children produce a tremendous quantity of fresh new energy and as they don't have a very clogged up system so they are able to be light, flexible and open to themselves and the world around them. They perform activities and feel very alive because there's not a whole lot there to be stabilized. As that child gets older, these physical energies that originally were produced as mental energies move and join to the physical/mental energy basis and become denser physical energies. These light and effervescent energies of the child now naturally shift to another kind of need for stabilization, due to the aging process to deal with the now pent up mass of unstabilized energies.

A new phase of need for stabilization of mental energies arriving night and day begins. The stabilization of these mental energies should go no faster than you are able to incorporate them into your being. Do you try? The world encourages us all to think even faster and we throw off unstabilized energies from the thinking process faster than we can stabilize them.

Many Tibetan teachers ask themselves and each other, “What is the problem with Western people? Why aren’t they able to practice the Tibetan system better?” And we all agreed that Western people think too much. A number of Tibetan lamas have even suggested to their Western students, “Don't think so much.” Do they follow that advice? Not at all. They continue at the same pace. And in fact, in the 25-30 years since Tibetan Buddhism first came [to America], I think people think even faster.

Most people today require a fast-paced da-da da-da da-da da, otherwise they don't feel normal. However, what happens is unstabilized mental energies are actually producing other different kinds of unstabilized mental energies which cannot be incorporated either. Ideally, you would gather and literally process your mental energies. Now does anyone even tell you that that’s what you were supposed to be doing? No! So these things have not been discussed with you before – Danger danger, Will Robinson! (laughter) You are about to have smoke come out your robotic…like that.

So anyway, what happens is that speed and lack of training is producing a lot of mental energies and these mental energies are remaining in you, unstabilized. And what does that feel like, my friend? Painful! Scattered! Distracted easily! Hey, this is anti – yoga! So many are fascinated by ati- yoga but this is anti-yoga!!

So, perhaps you haven't processed them yogically into your inner being fast enough to keep up with your mental production. Perhaps you didn't even know you were supposed to be doing this. Perhaps you are among many who are way beyond the point of it happening naturally because you are in a different stage of life. Fewer thoughts and higher quality thoughts are healing balm to quiet the further production of energy. This is only a small bit of the discussion.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Wishing Hard!

There are ordinary good wishes for others and then there are the extraordinary wishes. There already exists a wonderful buddhist model for an extraordinary wish for every living being to realize boundless good qualities. “May all sentient beings have happiness and the cause of happiness” This is the wish that desires to lift all living beings away from self-centeredness toward true happiness and freedom. It also lifts us toward the optimistic view that affirms and implies that living beings are truly capable of realizing those boundless and timeless great qualities.

Our own personal qualities and ability to actually grant or to wish good qualities for others depends completely on our stage of development. Sometimes it might feel just like when we were small, creating a magic wand from a twig or toilet plunger and happy tapping everyone turn by turn. “Now you are happy”. I knew a little boy who would tap people on the head if they had a cold and he would say, “Now you’re ok.” I have seen little girls dress up as a fairy princess twirling and blessing others. What a delight for themselves and others.

When we begin practice we might feel like this but later that changes and matures. However, we should not feel shy while doing these practices, even at the very beginning. We are not being compared to other practitioners. We are only being compared to our own potential for great effort. It is also not right to hold back enthusiasm during wishing for happiness prayer out of a fear that we will exhaust ourselves and not have enough energy left for ordinary life. If we think that we should be careful with our happiness going too far because soon we have to get up from meditation and need the strength to make a cup of coffee, this is not the way we should think.

There is another aspect of how to make effort. What actually limits the meditator creating the wish for all others to achieve this boundless quality is how developed is their own capacity for making effort. We need to make tireless efforts to make ourselves strong enough to make tireless efforts. A skilled practitioner wishing for happiness for others does not hold the idea “I am giving top effort here”, or “I am only doing a little bit of wishing today”. There is a powerfully clean and innocent (return to purity) joy for that practitioner making the great wish to bestow happiness on all living beings.

How we achieve this strength is important. The boundless great qualities we wish others to possess immediately are metered by the amount of concern we have for their welfare. People you know that are near and dear are hurting themselves and others. By logical extrapolation and experience gained in life you can understand that people you do not know, are not near and dear, are also hurting themselves and sometimes can hurt those who are near and dear.

No matter what happiness and good things are happening, many people cannot find comfort and peace in their life. A Buddhist friend said recently she looked at her own mother and thought to herself, “Why is it that she just -can’t- be- happy? She’s intelligent, has the love of her children, success…. Mother, why can’t you be happy?” We cannot help noticing this and feel even worse because we cannot say it our loud; people want to do what they want to do. And yet, they have every possibility; they have good qualities…why can’t they make good use out of their own life?

We are encouraged by our Buddhist practice to contemplate the needs of others like this. Like that, even beings with great possibilities of achieving good qualities, are suffering because they have some development obstacle that keeps them suppressed. Without that obstacle, the potential boundless good qualities of compassion and motivation to do good for others will stop their self-inflicted pain they are experiencing and cause them to stop harming themselves and others. Their own feelings of self-worth will increase and inner suffering will be stilled.

This is only the first of the four great wishes. “May all sentient being experience happiness and the cause of happiness”. The skillful mediator creates and bestows this wish on all and actually causes their own qualities to increase and gain the very realizations that will make the wish come alive and become spontaneous.

We cannot force others to change but the great wish also has been well known to loosen obstacles for others so that they have space and inner encouragement to make effort on their own. But first we need to become stronger in authentic effort by daily mediation and encouragement so that we become fully capable and eventually transformed.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Me? A Puff of Smoke?

What makes this dharma talk different than most is that often the subject of enlightenment creates anxiety so people not want to discuss. Enlightenment is this thing that you should be trying to do, you are very bad and wrong not to be enlightened already, and you should be making more effort towards this enlightenment thingy.

However, today I am more interested in knowing what you think enlightenment is.The reason for asking is because there is something inside you, which has produced energetic attitudes that are not easy to describe or even encouraged to be revealed by yourself or others. So, for the purpose of gaining progress for the benefit of all sentient beings, I am absolutely not interested in hearing you tell us something that even you don't believe is true, down deep. I am already bored to hear once again what you read in Tricycle Magazine or on the back of a bus by His Holiness the Dalai Lama exhorting you to peace and hope. Nah! For the purpose of this right now let’s not go there. OK?

Please think lightly and then more strongly about what has become ingrained in you, not located in your brain, but right here (points to heart), the seat of your mind, in order for you to uncover your own attitudes regarding what you actually believe enlightenment is. In deep retreat after much effort, a meditator can sometimes reach a level where they can hear their own view. This can come as a very big surprise to them. If you can uncover what you actually believe, no matter how politically incorrect or embarrassingly juvenile it might be, you will become more capable of changing toward a healthier model. In Buddhism we call it revealing or exposing the view. It is associated with the innate view of believing what is not real to be real. In that process, many layers of fantasy are exposed.

An important fantasy that meditators project is an enlightenment breakthrough. However, first stage enlightenment is not perfection. It only gets you to the platform where you can begin to work in earnest. There are people who are actually afraid of enlightenment because they believe that they will disappear like a puff of smoke once they become enlightened. And so, although they do try to meditate, they are not very good at it because they are afraid they might actually gain enlightenment and disappear - which they are totally not ready to do.

I've heard more than once, "If I become enlightened, I won't care any more about my wife or my husband or my children. And since I do care about them, I actually don't want to become enlightened even though I say I do and am meditating regularly." Some say that they felt enlightened beings were separate from them in an elite society, and they were angry at enlightened beings for being separate and elite.

If your innate view and its companions of energetic influences on your mind are creating obstacles to your true and pure desire to attain enlightenment then make determination now to uncover the rascal hiding in your own mind! Take time today to contemplate fearlessly your own attitudes toward the enlightened state, accept responsibility for any defective view and begin fresh from where you are to change them.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Two Campfires- An Existential Fable

Surfer rose long before dawn. In fact it was shortly after falling asleep that he woke again. Thinking to get an early start in the waves, he walked in deep darkness the few blocks to the ocean; new surfboard under his arm. He hardly noticed and did not much care that he was absolutely naked but did notice right away that he not wearing shoes. This made it painful to walk on the gravel path but forgot even that because he soon was standing on the cliff overlooking his familiar secluded beach and ocean.

Tonight was unusually foggy, he thought. Although he could hear waves that sounded like easy 2 footers hitting the beach, he could not see them through the thick mist. However, surfer could just barely make out two campfires on the beach a distance from each other.

“Great! there's a parties going on. I'll check it out” heading gingerly down the stony path toward the party places. suddenly feeling rather chilled from the fog that obscured any moon that might have lit his path, surfer approached the nearest campfire. As he came closer, figures began to appear out of the surrounding fog seated around the fire, warming themselves. This was not a party atmosphere here he thought but rather a strange but familiar hushed conversation going on with the people their features flickering in the firelight. Surfer found an open spot, crouching on his heels feeling grateful to be away from the clutches of the fog,now wondering what was going on. Shifting to a more languid half lying down position, he took the beer offered, noticing that it had several labels on the bottle but it tasted pretty good.

Looking at those gathered around the fire, surfer noticed that they were dressed in amazing costumes, all quite unlike what one would wear to a beach party. Thinking that perhaps these folks are coming from some festival, he happened to glance at his own feet. They were now in a kind of Turkish shoe with the ends curled up. His glance now following up his leg, surfer was interested to note that he was himself wearing some tight fitted, yellow, orange, and green striped pants. Now fascinated, he clutched his own chest, exploring the rest of the clothing that had so suddenly appeared. If he has chosen them himself, surfer could not have made it more unusual, as his usual garb was ripped jeans and an ancient black t shirt. Wearing a fancy long white shirt with puffy sleeves that fell over the hands, his shirt completely open. The rippling breeze moved the thin fabric; he pulled it close around him.

Fascinated with his costume and the similar unusual costumes of the others, he wanted to touch them to see if they were real, but the others looked up from their conversation disapprovingly and surfer settled in to just listen. The flow of conversation washed over him without catching any particular words. Instead surfer had a strong feeling of belonging here, feeling good. He was feeling good about the fire and especially happy to watch how the sparks enjoyed themselves going up, and then another and another. “This was good! Good to be here” he thought as he started a few times counting the colorful stripes on his thigh, lost count, but that didn't matter.

His hand fell away from his thigh, absently touching something behind him. The surfboard. “What was it I came here for?“ The sound of the ocean waves suddenly overwhelmed the pleasant drone of the conversation, entering his ear like an electric shock. Surfer jumped to his feet. “I don’t belong here”, grabbed his surfboard and dashed toward the ocean without looking back.

'Wow, it’s dark out there', he thought as he stopped his scrambling mad dash to the ocean. Feeling cold again and not ready to jump in to the surf quite yet, thought 'I'll just warm myself for a while at that other campfire. There was something strange about the one I just left, perhaps this other campfire will be ok until the sun come up' and headed down the beach toward the glow in the still heavy fog.

Approaching the campfire, what a lot of noise came from the small group assembled there. Surfer could hardly believe his eyes! They were mostly naked, that is, most of the time. Oddly, as they shouted and waved their hands wildly, pieces of armor would appear and disappear on their bodies without the person acknowledging it or perhaps even noticing. Surfer crept closer to the fire, feeling concerned, but needing warmth against the cold ocean breeze. 'These people seem to know each other but why are they shouting?' he thought.

Disquieted,seated with knees drawn up under his chin, surfer just stared at the fire, which burned but gave off very little heat. It would sometimes flicker in a way that reminded him of a fireplace he once saw, reddish orange gauze with a fan underneath that was moving the fabric like a flame. Looking at the flames in front of him he felt an angry determination arising in him. He felt the cold breeze and the fog on his naked body and accepted it. The others hunched around the lifeless fire wore mouths in a straight line, their jaws clenched, nodded and acknowledged surfer as one of them. His energy and thoughts rose and fell in harmony with the felt but unheard conversation, “how could I have been fooled by those others”, “nothing is real and that is that”, “I will have to harden myself”. These thoughts arose and he was satisfied.

His hand touched his thigh and a scrap of bright stripes caught his eye. At that moment, instantly, surfer was at the other campfire, feeling a bit sick to his stomach from the wrenching move. He laid with eyes closed for a while to recover. 'Crap!' he thought, 'This isn't real' and instantly, the painful shouting began. Surfer did not open his eyes, he knew where he was again.

Behind closed eyelids, surfer turned his face away from the cold flames toward the ocean sensing some light. Predawn had arrived! Now opening his eyes and without alarming the others, he moved slowly away from the fire, inching the surfboard across the sandy beach. Even though it was still foggy and he was feeling groggy, he cautiously moved toward the sound of the ocean. Surfer looked down and saw a black wet suit covering him from head to toe. 'Ah!', he thought, 'At least there would be some protection from the ocean'.

And so on and so on.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I Doubt That!

Although you have an interest in spiritual subjects, it is helpful to understand different kinds of mind, how they are produced, and what effects they have on your personal life. To understand the nature of mind is to understand the root of happiness and suffering. The study of Lorig, the nature and functions of the mind is introduced so that you become capable of discriminating between positive and negative minds and make strong determination to abandon negativity at the root, by your own decision.

The many schools of Buddhism developed according to teaching lineages and philosophical points of view. This is not the emphasis of Lorig. We could spend time looking at this or that point of view or study who thought what and how that relates to another view. That is not a part of Lorig study, so we’re not going to do that. This is not the teachings on emptiness, not the teachings of healing techniques, or the Madhyamika Prasangika view. So I am telling you what it is not first.

This is a foundational teaching taught in the monasteries to those who are capable of understanding the Abhidharma. The abhidharma is one of the traditional three baskets of the teachings of the Buddha. Abhidharma is the philosophy, psychology and the commentaries on those points of view. The vinaya is the scriptures on ethics and morality. Sutras are direct quotations of Lord Buddha as best we can extrapolate from vast numbers of translations over 2500 years. Many translations now come from other translations before, so…..

Any teaching you receive is surrounded by the parameters of what it is, and especially what it is not. However, we do receive all teachings with a mahayana or higher altruistic motivation so we are maintaining inner focus. That is a correct viewpoint.

So, a little bit now about a tiny aspect of Lorig. Normally, in the monastery, at least a year is spent studying Lorig everyday. Let us enter into a little introduction to doubt subject. The formal definition of doubt is a mental factor that vacillates with respect to its object. When the mind becomes mixed or associated with doubt, the mind itself and all other mental factors, such as emotions, motivation, and ability to distinguish between right and wrong, becomes blended with the qualities of doubt. In informal or everyday life we may experience it, we may see it, we may look at it, but we not analyze doubt. Isn’t that so?

Because we have to be very firm when practicing dharma, our mind must be free of wavering. In analytical meditation, which looks at two positions and makes a judgment regarding the correct view. That is not the vacillating mind-wavering kind of doubt discussed here.

When doing correct analytical meditation, we deliberately divide our attention between two or more viewpoints. This kind of meditation will culminate in higher enthusiasm for dharma, resolving inner doubt so completely that eventually one can become awakened. Non-deluded doubt meditation practice actively seeks to resolve conflict.

However, improper doubt is a powerful reverse blessing. Deluded doubt not only shakes confidence and faith, but can actually cause one to stop spiritual practice completely should it get to a point where one cannot tolerate it. One can become discouraged by doubt and without stamina or understanding, that persons progress can either stop immediately or go back into a little, tiny seed form. In this fall from being a practitioner, at best they revert to an earlier practice of mild interest, and no longer sustain the enthusiasm of a practitioner. This is so common in western people and the strongest method to damage spiritual progress.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Scary Root Chakra

In a spiritual environment just about the last thing we want to discuss is the root center/chakra. We are willing to talk about anything above the belt and not, not, not dirty associations we have with the “lower energies”. So, let’s think about root center dynamics.

Many negative root center-stimulating factors exist in other plexes stimulation also. However, they come alive most strongly in the root. Fear is felt in the root plexus or inner/outer nerve bundle as an attack that arises survival instinct. Now a days there is so little actual danger in comparison to danger of war, or wild animal attack that this can be trained to respond to attacks on reputation or disrespect as survival fear.

Negativity stimulates root chakra activity in an unhealthy way. As that energy increases, it interacts with existing energy and begins to “talk to itself” in the root center. Fear further adds juice to that. Bad news on television might stimulate it. Judging others negatively and assigning negative attributes to others might happen from any of the chakras and could definitely happen from root.

Trauma is also harmful because it shocks the survival instinct and increases in the root chakra with almost any kind of stimulation. Because these energies in the root are not intelligent or thinking they easily become trained or entrained. Practicing anger and improper judgment will further confuse that energy like gossip. On the other hand clear, clean and aligned energies are “speaking the same language”.

There is a healthy root function that is trained also. Walking and exercise stimulate the root chakra. Many people exercise to stimulate that great feeling of being grounded. What about sex? Do you think sex would stimulate the root chakra? I think many would think that's probably an important area to consider.

Now that we know that there is activity there, we can extrapolate because you're alive all over your body. You could stick yourself with a pin anywhere on your body and you're going to shout, isn't that so? A rush of energy moves to that pinpoint immediately. Since you can prove that you are alive all over your body, (perhaps by sticking a pin in various locations) there must be some kind of energy that can move to a certain area. (Interesting to think how body piercing might stimulate activity in various locations deliberately).

Since you are literally made out of energy, there is a relationship between the reconfiguration of your energy and yogic transformation in the actual practice, the inner yogas of higher development. These energies need to be reconfigured and the root chakra might be one of your most stimulated and in need of help chakras in your body.

Low sounds also stimulate. I used to live in the Sonoma Valley, Northern California, and the land of wine grapes. There are many Hispanics living there, partly because there are a lot of Mexicans who come to work on grapes. I happen to think it's marvelous living in a multicultural area. However, many young Hispanic men are fond of these special kinds of cars that bounce up and down. The car becomes a giant boom box.

I would roll up my windows and even press the little button to lock the door, because I hopelessly thought if it would keep the sound out even more. My whole car vibrated with subsonic resonance. These young fellows in their car must be just having a root chakra party. This stimulation very likely makes them feel alive.

These off balance dynamics can become the normal way you feel. When you have so much energy balled into that root chakra your mind begins to identify with that energy configuration, it feels right and it pulls your mind or awareness further into that energy knot. You hear and respond to inner and outer stimuli differently when your energy – and I'm going to say your consciousness – is primarily in the root center.

Buddhist practice stimulates activity in the heart center and holds it there to override the feelings of normal, (off balance but normal), in the root plexus. We practice forms of stimulating happiness by admiring the Buddha, the awakened state and our own potential for altruism. Eventually that becomes our normal set point.

Then we can return to a careful healthy root chakra balance. Eating, digestion, walking and other life functions that are important to human life become the basis for a strong yogic transformation of energies. First healing and heart balance, then we can do real yoga.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Buddha Ego

Is there such a thing as a healthy ego? Yes, a healthy ego and the enlightened state could be synonymous. It is what becomes enlightened! You don’t dissolve like a cube of sugar, it’s you that becomes enlightened! You don’t disappear in a puff of smoke, it’s you that becomes enlightened! You will be an enlightened being, you and you and you and you, you all will be enlightened beings! Yes!

Let’s not batter the old ego. Your ego is you, it’s you. Lord Buddha Shakyamuni, he was the one that became enlightened. He was the one who transformed into a Buddha an awakened one; they asked him “Are you an enlightened being?” He place his hand down on the earth and the earth acknowledged him as an enlightened being. It didn’t acknowledge some amorphous entity or the universal energies as being an enlightened being - he was the enlightened being.

Every enlightened being knows this definitively, that they are the one who are enlightened. There have been great beings who have accomplished their full and total enlightenment and walked out of their meditation cave and stated, “I am the enlightened one.” They not say, “I, along with all living beings, who in a certain state, if you configure it this way and you move it this way...” No, “I am the enlightened one. I am an enlightened being.” Like that.

The ego has many different levels. As a repository for dysfunctional attitudes it is a suffering you. When you press those sufferings on others, self- cherishing becomes stronger, the wish to place yourself first, then you will be identified as ego- manic, center of the universe, king of nothing at all!

However, as a meditator it is you in transition to healthier attitudes. As a higher- level practitioner it is you feeling more fluid, perhaps not knowing who you are sometimes. That means you not recognize yourself in new attitudes. Then that stabilizes and you feel like yourself again but in a new and clarity way. But you are still you!

Deeper activity in the advanced inner yogas will awaken, stimulate and develop inner or subtle minds. These inner minds influence your new identity. At some point, if all go perfectly the last obstacle is destroyed and you will awaken. Let’s enlighten all of those levels and let’s let you be that blessing to all levels of living beings, internal that.