Tag Archives: Happiness

What Is your Newest Book About?

9 Jun

Since I first posted about the publication of my newest Book- The Buddha’s Radical Psychology: Explorations, I have had numerous inquirers asking about the content of the book. I thought the quickest look at the book contents would be to list the Table of Contents. Good reading!

The Buddha’s Radical Psychology: Explorations

Contents

Preface…xi

Chapter 1 Introduction 1

Chapter 2 Self/No-Self 7

Chapter 3 Self as Construction 23

Chapter 4 The Human Being as a Collective, Unified Unit 35

Chapter 5 Awakening and Enlightenment: Psychological Transformation and Transcendence 61

Chapter 6 Enlightenment: Reality, Actuality and Transcendence 73

Chapter 7 Knowing and Not Knowing – What is Possible? 81

Chapter 8 The General Doctrine of the Law of Dependent Co-arising 99

Chapter 9 Kamma 109

Chapter 10 Sense of Agency 119

Chapter 11 Agency Labelled as Self 129

Chapter 12 Dividing Existence – Duality 143

Chapter 13 Language Construction of Duality 163

Chapter 14 Identification 181

Chapter 15 The Buddha’s Compassion 197

Chapter 16 Memory 207

Chapter 17 The Unconscious 227

Chapter 18 Habits 243

Chapter 19 Cognitive Biases 253

Chapter 20 Meta-cognition and Mindfulness 267

Chapter 21 Automatic Influences on our Actions and Perceptions 277

Chapter 22 Organisms as Coherent Embedded Systems 299

Chapter 23 Happiness 379

Chapter 24 The World without a ‘Self’ 391

Chapter 25 Closing Thoughts 405

Appendix A Explanation of the effects of stress on the different systems of the human body 411

Appendix B Special experiences 415

About the Author

Rodger R. Ricketts, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist and mindfulness meditation teacher. He has been studying Buddhism for over thirty years, both as part of his own personal quest and also in the application its principles as a therapeutic tool in psychotherapy. He has written three books exploring the foundation of the Buddha’s Teaching in psychology. Rodger has given numerous presentations at wellness and professional psychological conferences on the topics of cognitive psychology, mindfulness and wellbeing. Rodger continues his study of both science and Buddhism, and maintains a regular meditation practice.

Newest Book Now on Amazon- Buddha’s Radical Psychology: Explorations

11 May

The Buddha’s teachings are, at heart, a way of life based on a revolutionary psychology which emphasises the cultivation of wisdom and compassion. Through an exploration of significant, recent findings and thought in psychology, neuroscience, biology, physics, linguistics, ecology and culture, this book shows how the Buddha’s teachings are at the cutting edge of the new direction that psychology must take to reflect and apply the latest trends in science.

Now available on Amazon – a great read!

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Interesting and Surprising Facts about the Buddha and his Teachings

12 Mar

The Buddha was the first thinker in known history to teach the doctrine of human equality and social freedom amongst all humans. Society should be open to all, regardless of caste, color, or class. No caste, class, or race privileges existed among his lay followers or in the Order of the Sangha that he founded. Instead, social classes and castes are nothing but functional divisions of society, man-made, subject to change and resulting from social and historical factors. Any social doctrine based on the alleged superiority of a caste, class, or race, and advocating to keep it dominant by the use of force, will lead to the perpetuation of social tensions and conflict, and never bring about harmony and equality. The Buddha’s doctrine of equality means each person should be treated equally with dignity, and given an equal chance to develop their inherent potentials of economic, moral and spiritual progress, and of human perfection. Also, the Buddha was the first who attempted to abolish slavery, which included the traffic in, and the sale of, females for commercial purposes. In fact, this is a prohibited trade for his followers.

A man named Dighajanu once visited the Buddha and said, ‘Venerable Sir, we are ordinary laymen, leading a family life with wife and children. Would the Blessed One teach us some doctrines which will be conducive to our happiness in this world and hereafter?’ In a large number of his discourses, the Buddha has given practical guidance for the lay life and sound advice to cope with life’s difficulties. The Buddha identified four traits conducive to lay happiness (Pali: sukha) in this life: hard-working (uṭṭhāna-sampadā), being skilled and diligent in one’s livelihood; vigilance (ārakkha-sampadā), protecting one’s wealth from theft and disaster; virtuous friendship (kalyāṇa-mittatā), associating with and emulating those who are learned, generous, virtuous, wise, who will help one along the right path away; and, balanced living (sama-jīvikatā), abstaining from drunkenness, gambling and unwholesome friendships and behaviors.While accepting material comforts, Buddhism always lays great stress on the development of the moral and spiritual character for a happy, peaceful and contented life as well as society.

Buddhism teaches ‘The Middle Way’ because it avoids the extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification.
For six years the, to be, Buddha fervently followed a path of self-mortification, yet it led, not to higher wisdom and enlightenment, but only to physical weakness and the deterioration of his mental faculties. Ascetic Gotama then thought of another path to enlightenment, one which balanced proper care of the body with sustained contemplation and deep investigation. He would later call this path “the Middle Way”. He had experienced both extremes, the former as a prince and the latter as an ascetic, and he knew they were ultimately dead ends. To follow the middle way, however, he realized he would first have to regain his strength. Thus, he gave up his practice of austerities and resumed taking nutritious food. Later, He became Awakened and The Noble Buddha.

The name bhikkhuni refers to a fully ordained Buddhist nun i.e. a woman who has taken higher ordination (upasampada) in the Buddhist monastic community. Bhikkhunis live a simple life, equal to that of a bhikkhu or monk. In fact, all the monks and nuns are equal as the disciples of the Buddha. The order of nuns was established lastly, after the Bhikkhu Sangha, and the communities of laymen and laywomen. Ananda asked the Buddha, “Lord Buddha, can women attain enlightenment?” The Buddha said to him, “Ananda, yes of course they can.” He said, “If they can, why don’t you allow them to join the Sangha, learning and practicing directly?’ Because of practical considerations, it took some time and persuasion for the Bhikkhuni Sangha to be established by the Buddha, but thanks to Maha Pajapati-Gotami and Ananda’s support it came to be.

In Buddhism, actions are not termed ‘sinful’ but unskilful or unwholesome. Buddhists do regard humans as sinful or ‘evil’ by nature but the wicked person is ignorant, foolish and immature. They need instruction most of all, more than punishment and condemnation. The Buddha has encouraged us to develop and use our highest understandings through responsibility for our thoughts and actions. Our suffering is not handed down by the Gods, instead, it is created by our not understanding the great principles of life: Life is impermanent, continuously changing and interrelated; there is No-Self and there is Suffering in life. As our Enlightened teacher, The Buddha advised us on how to lead a pure life and achieve the attainment of nibbana.

The Buddha did not encourage the use of magic, charms or fortune telling to improve our lives. They have no spiritual significance or value. It is only through our Right Understanding, Right Effort and Right Practice that we advance.

In the Kalamas Sutta, the Buddha said, ‘Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.’  Many honest seekers today, like the Kalamas, of the Truth become confused and worried by the many conflicting and inconsistent sects and theologies that are pronounced daily by so many people calling themselves the ‘light to follow’. The Buddha provided a simple and direct test to guide us to know the truth of his teaching: trust yourself, your own experience, and through your experience of the correct teachings which you have found to be reliable and insightful – follow and use. Those people who are “the wise” will teach with the plan that you will see the benefit for yourself through your experience and transformation and not through blind faith and, therefore, you don’t become a slave to their wisdom, instead, you use your reason, your common sense, and your own experience as the ultimate guide and confirmation. So you develop insights for yourself ultimately. While you can benefit from reading books and listening to teachers, etc, your true reliance is upon your real understanding created through the real work that must ultimately be done in transforming and purifying our individual mind. In the end you know for yourself the confirmation of the Buddha’s teachings – there is suffering and the ending of suffering- and this is the only authority needed or desirable.

The Buddha spoke of “beginningless time” and how there is no beginning. The Buddha said that “there is no first beginning, no first beginning is knowable.” (Samyutta Nikaya 15.1-2) This implies that certainly at even the most basic level of existence, everything is made of the same atoms and cosmic ‘stuff’ and we see exclusion and separation only made by our minds.

The Buddha gave to all a practical method (Eighfold Path) for the development of the mind and heart for the shaping of our lives to eventually achieve Awakening or Enlightenment. He did not teach theology or doctrinal orthodoxy. The Buddha understood that all religious doctrines and theology are human inventions built up by the particular authors out of their own mentalities and foisted on people’s minds from the outside. Instead, The Buddha was the teacher who gave the lessons and, if we so want, we are the ones who practice sincerely what he taught and thereby develop our own insights and knowledge of especially the primary Three Universal Truths of Impermanence, No-Self and the existence of Suffering. In Buddhism this is entirely a matter that each individual has to settle for him/herself. But if one makes the effort sincerely- the benefits appear immediately.

Emperor Asoka (304–232 BCE) was an Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent  from c. 268 to 232 BCE. He [propagated the relatively new doctrine of Buddhism to new heights, as far as ancient Rome and Egypt. He made Buddhism his state religion around 260 BC. He built thousands of Stupas and Viharas for Buddhist followers. The Stupas of Sanchi are world famous and the Stupa named Sanchi Stupa was built by Emperor Ashoka. During the remaining portion of Ashoka’s reign, he pursued an official policy of nonviolence (Ahimsa). Even the unnecessary slaughter or mutilation of Animals was immediately abolished. Everyone became protected by the king’s law against sport Hunting and branding. Limited Hunting was permitted for consumption reasons but Ashoka also promoted the concept of vegetarianism. Ashoka also showed mercy to those imprisoned, allowing them leave for the outside a day of the year. He attempted to raise the professional ambition of the common man by building universities for study, and water transit and irrigation systems for trade and agriculture. He treated his subjects as equals regardless of their religion, politics and Caste. The kingdoms surrounding his, so easily overthrown, were instead made to be well-respected allies. He is acclaimed for constructing hospitals for Animals and renovating major roads throughout India. After this transformation, Ashoka came to be known as Dhammashoka (Sanskrit), meaning Ashoka, the follower of Dharma. Ashoka defined the main principles of Dharma (Dhamma) as nonviolence, tolerance of all sects and opinions, obedience to parents, respect for the Brahmans and other religious teachers and priests, liberality towards friends, humane treatment of servants, and Generosity towards all.

Buddhism teaches that the two qualities-wisdom with compassion—are as interdependent as the two wings of a great bird. Together, where there is true wisdom there is compassion, where there is true compassion there is wisdom. This teaching develops positive cooperative relationships among all people and with sentient beings. It is a teaching for a peaceful, fruitful world and enlightened personal mentality.

Buddhism is concerned with how anyone, male or female, can follow a definite path of mental culture and development to have that same realization. In his own lifetime, The Buddha saw many of his followers realize Enlightenment. After his death, and down through the centuries, thousands have experienced the awakened state – and not only monks. Buddhism is a teaching that explains how realization can be acquired in one’s life – here and now.

The Greeks had a story of a handsome young man named Narcissus who went to a pool, where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image or illusion. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, later he fell in the water and drowned. Narcissus is the origin of the term narcissism, a fixation with oneself and one’s physical appearance.
The Buddha, before the Greeks, warned of the suffering caused by a belief and love of the illusion of a self. The Greek story is a nice exposition on this ignorance and the dire consequences of it. The Buddha taught the doctrine of Anatta or no-self.

Sometime between the 2nd century BC and the 1st century AD, the first representations of the physical Buddha were developed. These were absent from earlier Buddhist art, which preferred to represent the Buddha with symbols such as the stupa, the Bodhi tree, the empty seat, the wheel, or the footprints. The Buddha never encouraged statues or artistic representations of himself when he was living. The physical Buddha image like the standing Buddha in the photo was inspired by the sculptural styles of Hellenistic Greek influence.

When some people hear Buddhists say that ‘The World is an Illusion’ they think that means everything in the world is unreal, an illusion. This is a misunderstanding. The Buddha taught that the external environment is ‘real’ but our understanding of it is filtered through our senses, expectations, identities, and memories so our mental construction of the world is an illusion in that we believe that to be the ‘real’ reality but it isn’t – it is like a magic show. To be Awakened is to see beyond the tricks of the magician.

The Doctrine of Karma or Kamma is not a mystical force and does not entail fatalism. Instead, it is a natural phenomenon, like gravity. Our thoughts create consequences inside our mind which we then act on. The doctrine refers to our intentional mental actions- our volitions. What we are now is determined by our thoughts and actions in the past and what we do next, in the future, is determined by our thoughts and actions in the present. Therefore, our kamma has the potential to continuously change depending on our development of our thoughts and actions. The Buddha was very clear in teaching the Noble Eightfold Path that we can definitely transform the quality of our mind and action for the better and ultimately achieve Enlightenment. So Karma does not mean that we have a fixed destiny across lifetimes that we must passively accept or that bad or good things happen only because of our past actions.

Thoughts about The Buddha’s Teaching: Seeing Without Illusion

18 Jan

 

The Buddha placed primary importance on our thinking and volition. In fact our difficulties arise when our thinking is unwholesome, in the past and in the present. Our citta or heart/mind is our kingdom, or our own mentality. It is our private place where the swirl of thoughts continually pass across our mind. No one but yourself can know what truly goes on there. There is both privacy and the possible control to think the thoughts you want. You can choose which thoughts to accept or refuse. Which ever thoughts you allow will shortly be expressed through your volition in the outer environment. Once you think the thoughts, you can not take them back. Your choice lies in thinking or not thinking them in the first place. The more you think unwholesome thoughts, it is like taking a substance that will sicken you both physically and mentally. What your mind dwells on will sooner or later become your ‘world’ and you will attract those energies to you. To entertain and encourage thoughts and feelings of anger, jealousy, resentment, greed, etc., is certain to not only damage your health in some way but also cause a lot of trouble and suffering in your life. So the Buddha taught you to be Mindful or aware every moment onwards, to watch even your habitual thinking with utmost care and nurture and promote only wholesome and skillful thinking. May All Beings be Well and Happy.

The Buddha emphatically declared that the first beginning of existence is something inconceivable.“When this exists, that comes to be; with the arising of this, that arises. When
this does not exist, that does not come to be; with the cessation of this, that ceases, namely: dependent on ignorance, arise volitional formations … and so on … Thus is the ending of this whole
mass of suffering.”There is a flux of
psychological and physiological changes, a conflux of mind and body (nāma-rūpa).Anamatagga Saṃyutta, S II 179
And even now in physics, they say that ‘Now’ is not something that moves forward but it is the empirically-always-present field of change which is the domain in which events are created. Therefore, the future is always indeterminate and creating new possibilities opening for genuine free will. Ruth E. Kastner

The young man said to the Buddha, ‘I will take up the Eightfold Path when I am older, but first I want to enjoy myself and have fun.’ Many people have this idea that by following the Eightfold Path they will be giving up things like intense sense pleasures and self-importance as well as riches and beautiful objects that they will regret not having experienced later. Instead this misses the big picture which is that what one truly comes to sacrifice by personal development through the Buddha’s teachings is selfishness, fear, alienation, insecurity, physical malady, unwholesome pleasures, pride, vanity, doubt, jealousy, self-pity, cravings, anger, hatred, etc. and, instead, what one gains through the Bhavana training includes immeasurably more happiness, peace, joy, compassion, bliss,serenity and vastly improved relationships with all sentient beings as well as oneself. So only giving up things that are not truly worth having and instead gaining that which is, is the final ample compensation for proceeding diligently on the Eightfold Path until achieving Enlightenment.

The Buddha gave to all a practical method (Eighfold Path) for the development of the mind and heart for the shaping of our lives to eventually achieve Awakening or Enlightenment. He did not teach theology or doctrinal orthodoxy. The Buddha understood that all religious doctrines and theology are human inventions built up by the particular authors out of their own mentalities and foisted on people’s minds from the outside. Instead, The Buddha was the teacher who gave the lessons and, if we so want, we are the ones who practice sincerely what he taught and thereby develop our own insights and knowledge of especially the primary Three Universal Truths of Impermanence, No-Self and the existence of Suffering. In Buddhism this is entirely a matter that each individual has to settle for him/herself. But if one makes the effort sincerely- the benefits appear immediately.

A wonderful and powerful practise is with especially people we have difficulty with but also all people- when you see or interact with that difficult person imagine seeing their living Buddha Nature and then you will see the layers and type of ignorance with which you are interacting. This practice is good for not only maintaining our own composure but also helps in our judgement of the difficulty of the situation. With metta.

The Realms or Worlds from ‘hell’ to ‘heaven’ are commonly described as extra human realms but they are also instructive to us when viewed as all of our ranges of mental experience created by our conscious as well as non-conscious mental or cognitive processes.

 

Whatever we give our attention to, is what governs our life – mentally and physically. We have a freedom in our ability to choose what we direct and maintain our attention on. What we consistently pay attention to becomes our ‘world’ and habitually dominates it. If we constantly direct our attention on the ever-changing, impermanent outer world we suffer anxiety and uncertainty; if we direct our attention on nothing in particular then nothing in particular is expressed in our life with uncertainty and boredom. If we direct our attention to the four divine internal states and eventually arrive at Emptiness we experience happiness/bliss, good health, compassion, wisdom and certainty in the Truth of the Four Noble Truths.

Metta (loving-kindness) is defined as follows: Loving-kindness has the mode of friendliness for its characteristic. Its natural function is to promote friendliness. It is manifested as the disappearance of ill-will. Its footing is seeing with kindness. When it succeeds it eliminates ill-will. When it fails it degenerates into selfish affectionate desire. Eventually, one can begin to practice loving-kindness towards a dearly beloved companion, and then towards a neutral person as very dear, or towards an enemy as neutral. It is when dealing with an enemy that anger can arise, and all means must be tried in order to get rid of it. As soon as this has succeeded, one will be able to regard an enemy without resentment and with loving-kindness in the same way as one does the admired person, the dearly loved friend, and the neutral person. Then with repeated practice, jhana absorption should be attained in all cases. Loving-kindness can now be effectively maintained in being towards all beings.Ñanamoli Thera

However, those who believe in a soul only too often override the limits set by experience and concern themselves with “something completely unknowable,” as Bertrand Russell says. Moving along these wrong tracks of thought, they readily admit that all cognizable and experiential constituents of the “personality” are subject to constant change, to an unceasing rise and fall; and for that reason they, of course, cannot be considered as an abiding ego. But it is, so they believe, just from behind or beyond the cognizable and experiential components of the personality that the true eternal self or soul appears which, naturally, must be beyond cognition and experience. What is wrong in such a position and in these conclusions, has chiefly to be attributed to the fact that an empty concept has been raised to the dignity of man’s true essence or core—a concept obtained by mere abstract ratiocination, having nothing in common with observation and experience. The futility of such a play with words has been shown by Kant. For him a way of thinking that transgresses the limits drawn by experience is a playing with ideas, and the alleged vision of something imperceptible is “a poetic fiction transcending everything imaginable, a mere whim.”The Buddha and his monks, however, are no dreamers chasing after metaphysical phantoms. They are sober realists who will not admit such groundless speculations even to the range of their considerations or refutations. Dr. Anton Kropatsch, Vienna

I’ve looked at life from both sides now

From up and down and still somehow

It’s life’s illusions I recall

I really don’t know life at all -Joni Mitchell

This is the true question that the Buddha’s teachings really address – ‘Do I Really Know Life At All?’ And in investigating the question, the answer becomes quite clear- for the uninvestigated mind, No…I don’t. All existence is much too complex, interrelated and deep for us prideful humans to truly comprehend and indeed mystery is the result. But this is not a defeat but an affirmation of our embeddness and interrelatedness with All of other existence. Not the folly, alienation and separateness of the conceit of humans being the supreme being of the universe or even earth but the authentic identification of the true ecological, co-arising nature of all things. You will hear people say, ‘I am trying to find myself.’ But if you want to find your-self, then transcend your-self. When we transcend our-self, we truly find each other and our interconnection with all. We are not alone! Just look around you, there are creatures of life everywhere. If we feel alone, that is our blindness to life all around us, our suffering of alienation created by the illusion of separateness and ‘I’.

The Buddha understood how humans create “conceptual proliferation”- thinking, a representational and abstracting process that they believe and attach to. This is another way to speak about that:
When the animals evolved the talent to produce a virtual presence, they acquired a soul.
Then there was a God to be adored.
And an Adam was created.
As production of virtual presences increases, man’s tie to the Real decreases. Soon, he praises innovation and inhuman courage. He invents thrills and excitements. He relies on myths and mysteries. He downgrades Nature with a reckless chisel. Life becomes the Grand Illusion. With a facility in the manipulation of the virtual presences, the primal Superman was born. With perfection in the art, a second Devil took charge. It was then that man came to defy the God. The interminable conflict thrusting the virtual presences against the real intensifies. R. G. H. Siu

Upon Awakening the Buddha realized emptiness and the illusion of duality and a substantial Self- the consequences of the ignorance of dualistic thinking is expressed well in the following quote by Professor l. k. Tong-‘And so you opted for the substantialist’s art of self making, Cutting off all umbilical cords to the Mother of Field-Being. You first dignify yourself in the kingly robes of an independent entity, enthroning yourself in the lonely kingdom of ego-substance. Then with the projective magic of your subjective substantiality, you objectify everything on your way to Godlike rigidity. And with the pointing of the substantializing wand, a bond was broken; a shade of mutuality has withered and waned. Now everything becomes merely external and separate from everything else. External is your objective world, you objectified a God, and your objectified self. Anything you cannot safely possess and control you relegate to the dark side of the Other, the Hell, the objective pole, And condemned it as ugly, or evil. Oh, in carrying your Godlike rigidity to all eternity (as if you were in fact rigidly eternal), you, a virtuoso in dualization, have created the most unhappy situation.’

In the Kalamas Sutta, the Buddha said, ‘Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.’ 
Many honest seekers today of the Truth, like the Kalamas, become confused and worried by the many conflicting and inconsistent sects and theologies that are pronounced daily by so many people calling themselves the ‘light to follow’. The Buddha provided a simple and direct test to guide us to know the truth of his teaching: trust yourself, your own experience, and through your experience of the correct teachings which you have found to be reliable and insightful – follow and use. Those people who are “the wise” will teach with the plan that you will see the benefit for yourself through your experience and transformation and not through blind faith and, therefore, you don’t become a slave to their wisdom, instead, you use your reason, your common sense, and your own experience as the ultimate guide and confirmation. So you develop insights for yourself ultimately. While you can benefit from reading books and listening to teachers, etc, your true reliance is upon your real understanding created through the real work that must ultimately be done in transforming and purifying our individual mind. In the end you know for yourself the confirmation of the Buddha’s teachings – there is suffering and the ending of suffering- and this is the only authority needed or desirable.

‘To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to purify one’s mind—this is the teaching of the Buddhas.’ (Dhammapada 183.) Throughout human history, innumerable plans and schemes and doctrines have been invented to make people happy, serene and compassionate by making changes in human’s external conditions while leaving the quality of the mentality untouched and the result has over and over again been the same- failure. The Buddha taught that this failure is so because the very nature of our external existence is only changed by the purification of our conscious awareness. The difficulty for human history and never finding the key to happiness and compassion is that purification of one’s mind takes effort, diligence and devoted practise to be successful. We must have constant unceasing vigilance and mindfulness to break the old unwholesome mental habits which are so troublesome. The Buddha understood this but also understood the benefits that arise when we do the Eightfold Path with the result of Nibbana. ‘This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Nibbana.’— AN 3.32

To purify our mind as the Buddha taught, we need to release any anger or resentments toward others or our self. When we experience hurt, disappointment, deception, etc, from other people, these feelings sink into our memory and cause inflamed and festering emotional/psychological wounds of anger, resentment and possibly revenge. To purify our mind, we need to forgive. Forgiveness is a conscious, willing decision to release any feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness. Forgiveness is difficult and it does not mean condoning or excusing offenses nor does it does obligate you to reconcile with the person who harmed you, or release them from accountability. Instead, forgiveness brings the forgiver peace of mind and frees him or her from corrosive anger and resentment. Forgiveness involves letting go of deeply held negative feelings but also maintaining a feeling of at least neutral good will toward everyone who may have injured you in any way. In that way, you to recognize the pain you suffered without letting that pain define you, enabling you to heal. By forgiveness, you set yourself free from the attachment to the link that you maintain even mentally to the past and the negativity. Setting yourself free from the attachment, releases you.This includes forgiveness of oneself for actions you did that you now understand were unwholesome and unskillful. Through purification and letting go of the guilt or resentment, happiness and peace will follow as well as increased wisdom and equanimity.

Meditation Retreat

4 Dec

My weekend retreat began similar to others I had attended at the Buddhadharma Center, in a pleasant suburban setting about 30 miles outside Chicago, Illinois. I arrived by car on a sunny, summer Friday afternoon with my sleeping bag, meditation pillow, mat and a small bag of clothes and toothbrush/shampoo and towel. I was grateful to again have an opportunity to practice a few days of Mindfulness meditation in a supportive and relaxed atmosphere.

As I walked into the renovated small church, now temple, I was greeted by the friendly smiling faces of volunteers who were going to provide us visitors with delicious Thai vegetarian meals as well as evening tea and cookies. One of the helpers showed me to the large room where the male meditators would be sleeping and, looking around the sparsely furnished room, I found a spot where there wasn’t an open sleeping bag on the floor and, firstly, I put my mat down and then on top of it, my sleeping bag. Next to my sleeping bag I set down my clothes bag.  No one else was in the room.

Shortly after setting up my ‘bedroom’ I heard a bell ringing which meant for all participants to go to the main Temple room. Leaving the ‘bedroom’, I put my shoes back on and walked up stairs where there were already about thirty people, men and women, young and older, sitting. I again took my shoes off and went into the Temple room, which, in the front, on a small stage, had a large gold painted statue of the Buddha, beautiful flowers on both sides and three monks in light brown robes were sitting quietly in front of the Buddha statue. With my meditation pillow in hand I found a comfortable spot, sat down on my pillow and quietly focused on my breathing and centering myself in this new situation after a three hour drive.

Everyone sat quietly. I heard birds chirping in the field outside. There was a pleasant smell of incense and the light whirling sound of the three ceiling fans. My meditation weekend had begun. After about ten minutes, one of the monks went to the microphone and greeted everyone and then gave a short talk on the five precepts, which is the basic Buddhist code of ethics, undertaken by lay followers, that we were expected to observe during the retreat. He said that the precepts were meant to provide a harmonious situation for the best practice of meditation and cooperation among all the participants. The five precepts are

  1. Not to harm living beings

  2. Not to steal

  3. Not to participate in sexually harmful behavior

  4. Not to lie

  5. Not to take alcohol or other intoxicating drugs

After this short introductory talk and ‘Taking the Precepts’, we all participated, for an hour, in first chanting and then sitting meditation. After that we had individual time during which I went to the Temple’s small bookshop where I browsed through the titles. With the again ringing of the bell, we were informed that lunch was ready for us so everyone went to the auditorium area where tables had been set up and we chose our lunch of Thai cooking, buffet style. Sitting at tables with our food, we all ate silently and mindfully. After lunch, the program had a pause and I went outside behind the temple where there was an acre of lawn with neat rows of different fruit trees. Sitting in the warm sun, I enjoyed my contentment of the moment.

So that day and the next two included the following: mindfully meditating on loving kindness, walking, sitting, yoga, chanting; Dhamma instruction by the monks followed by Q&A; individual time to read, write, think, rest, and eating nourishing and tasty vegetarian meals for breakfast and lunch and refreshments in the evenings. All activities were done in silence to help keep our focus on the here and now and to quiet the mind and body. As in previous retreats, I noticed a gradual transformation of my mind/body condition. With the meditation practices, the instructive Dhamma talks and peaceful environment, my mind/body began to shed the stress and tension of everyday life and I began to melt into a deeper state of present awareness and mindful absorption.

On the last day, in the late morning, during walking meditation, I chose to walk outside among the trees. It was a beautiful warm sunny day. I began my walking meditation by finding a place where I could walk unhampered for about ten yards. I started walking slowly, mindful of each step, keeping my gaze forward, right foot rises and falls, left foot rises and falls. Arriving at the end, stop, stand and turn, begin walking again. And so it went for about twenty minutes. Then, intuitively, I shifted to a standing meditation by just standing and gazing out without a particular concentration. At this moment I had a wonderful, profound transformative experience. I stood without thinking, without a subject/object split. I experienced a state of profound freedom and deep happiness and relief. I was ‘one’ with existence. I realized that my ‘happiness’ was dependent not on the external but on my internal state. I experienced a sense of timelessness. Without attempting to keep ‘creating’ my experience but only to continue to allow it, my ‘pure experience’ continued for possibly fifteen minutes until I felt the need to return to the schedule of the retreat. After that, my continued meditation and ‘mundane’ activities had a continued profound peacefulness and ‘selflessness’. When I ate, I just ate, when I walked, I just walked. I had a sensitive awareness of everything/everybody. Even in the rolling up of my sleeping bag, my experience was as the Japanese philosopher Nishida wrote, “In pure experience there is no prior or posterior, no inner or outer; no experience precedes or generates experience” and (there is) “not the slightest interval between the intention and the act.”. There was only the rolling up of the bag, an oneness of action.

After having had this lovely transformative experience, later the retreat ended, I drove home and went back to work the next day. However, my transformed understanding of ‘myself’, happiness and the ‘oneness’ of life has remained deep for me and has continued to be a spiritual inspiration, guide and direction in my life as well as has my continued meditation and Dhamma study. Practically, I have continued to explore how to relieve myself from the burdens of the ‘virtual’ self and the accumulation of objects which, in the past, was a vain and destructive attempt to find happiness in ‘things’. I now understand how to better resist the obsessions that our modern mass consumption society attempts to create in our minds. Also, I have since adopted a voluntary simplicity to my life both for ethical and environmental concerns as well as for my own happiness. I try to create environments –both physically and emotionally – which nurture kindness and wisdom. Last, but not least, I continue to try to be mindful, accepting, compassionate and sensitive to my own being and to other living beings.

Reflecting back on my meditation experience, I understand that there was nothing ‘special’ about its creation, indeed, only the correct conditions caused what took place. A deep, spiritual, life altering transformation is available to anyone who is willing to devote time to study and practice, have a “beginner’s mind” and finds wise teachers.

With metta

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The Buddha’s teachings are merely helpful means, ways of looking at sensory experience that helps us to understand it. They are not commandments, they are not religious dogmas that we have to accept or believe in. They are merely guides to point to the way things are. So we are using the Buddha’s teachings to grasp them as an end in themselves, but only to remind ourselves to be awake, alert, and aware that all that arises passes away. This is a continuous, constant observation and reflection on the sensory world, because the sensory world has a powerfully strong influence. Having a body like this with the society we live in, the pressures on all of us are fantastic. Everything moves so quickly – television and the technology of the age, the cars – everything tends to move at a very fast pace. It is all very attractive, exciting and interesting, and it all pulls your senses out. Just notice when you go to London how all adverts pull your attention out to whiskey bottles and cigarettes! Your attention is pulled into things you can buy, always going towards rebirth into sensory experience. The materialistic society tries to arouse greed so you will spend your money, and yet never be contented with what you have. There is always something better, something newer, something more delicious than what was the most delicious yesterday… it goes on and on and on, pulling you out into objects of the senses like that. Using wisdom by watching the impulses, and understanding them. That which observes greed is not greed: greed cannot observe itself, but that which is not greed can observe it. This observing is what we call ‘Buddha’ or ‘Buddha wisdom’- awareness of the way things are.  Ajahn Sumedho

In agreement with Ajahn Sumedho, I would just add that since he wrote the above passage in 1987, modern society has become even faster, more hectic and stimuli bound with the continual evasiveness of technology in everyone’s life. Of course, the newer technology includes mobile phones, computers, electronic games, computer social networking, TV screens everywhere, MP3 players, bigger, brighter high definition TV, DVDs, CDs, 3D movies, etc., etc.. The adverts and sensory impingements are becoming more sophisticated in their intensity and appeal as well as it’s availability. So his critique of not only the powerful impact of the growing hyper sensory world is very relevant but also his observation on the greed factor because adverts and the drive behind most of the technology is create desire and to sell, sell, sell. Rodger
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To continue this line of thought is a piece from Alan Watt’s book, “The Wisdom of Insecurity” while published in 1951 his observation is just as valid: “Thus the ‘brainy’ economy designed to produce this happiness is a fantastic vicious circle which must either manufacture more and more pleasures or collapse – providing a constant titillation of the ears, eyes, and nerve cells with incessant streams of almost inescapable noise and visual distractions. The perfect ‘subject’ for the aims of this economy is the person who continuously itches his ear with the radio, preferably using the portable kind which can go with him at all hours and in all places. (Of course, now update to smartphone) His eyes flit without rest from the television screen, to newspaper, to magazine, keeping him in a sort of orgasm-without-release through a series of teasing glimpses of shiny automobiles, shiny female bodies, and other sensuous surfaces, interspersed with such restorers of sensitivity – shock treatments- as ‘ human interest’ shots of criminals, mangled bodies, wrecked airplanes, prize fights, and burning buildings. The literature or discourse that goes with this is similarly manufactured to tease without satisfaction, to replace every partial gratification with a new desire.”

Enough is Enough- The cause of Suffering is not a Mystery

4 Dec

Even though recent events in the world of beheadings, mass murder, slavery, forced starvation, kidnappings, assault, domination, war and poverty are not a new phenomenon of the human race, with the newer mass communications these horrific acts created by human beings against each other are now exposed in all of its evil so vividly and graphically for all to see that this is yet another compelling reason for this suffering to end. Of course, this refrain against war and the ‘inhumanity’ of human beings to one another is an old often unheeded refrain, however, now the root causes of this abhorrent behavior is clear to be seen and, therefore, changed and, therefore, extinguished through the knowledge and application of the Buddha’s teachings. For it is now possible and, in an explanatory way, to confirm the truth of the Buddha’s teachings and this support and explanatory teachings  of the Buddha is now available through science. With the application of the Buddha’s teachings as a framework or schema for the science of psychology, personality and the consequent perspective from this, allows the possibility of the ending of man’s inhumanity to each other in a scientific and rational way. Even though the Buddha’s teachings are over 2500 years old, with the new support from the findings of science, these teachings of the Buddha will now provide the framework for the new rational consciousness that will end the suffering which human beings create and have created for each other and other living creatures since civilization began. The quote attributed to Albert Einstein is supportive of this point of view: ‘The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend a personal God and avoid dogmas and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description.’  It is with great anticipation and excitement that we can look forward to our future as a species in which we will be able to create a civilization based on a harmonious relationship between the human race and the other creatures that share this earth with us, as well as our relationship with the earth itself. Even though this vision of harmonious relationship has been promised in the past by religions and other philosophical groups with their own particular identities, the vision created by the understanding of the Buddha’s teachings supported by modern science is radically different and avoids the great pitfalls of the static identification of one group versus another which is at heart, one of the causes of past/current conflicts. Therefore, the Buddha’s teachings are indeed a peaceful revolutionary and radical approach which can and will be successful in the final reduction and elimination of this great suffering that human beings experience primarily because of their own folly of separation from the truth of existence as we experience it and understand it here on this planet Earth. Therefore, there is no time to lose to begin the explanation and expounding of the Buddha’s teaching to the world so that we do not have to continue to create the immense suffering that is now daily experienced and broadcast around the world. This suffering is not only the direct experience of those who experience the perpetration of these horrific acts of violence- psychologically and physically and emotionally and spiritually – but also by the people who are committing these horrific acts. For let us not forget that from the Buddha’s perspective, a person who commits an act of violence and is angry and actively hostile and actively ignorant and actively greedy and actively selfish and actively feeling superior is suffering from a foolish, ignorant, unwholesome mind-set. It is this ignorance that creates the actions which are at the basis of the suffering we see in the world today and which has occurred in the history of humankind.  Let us be very clear about this – the suffering that we continually learn about,  where another human being creates violence not only against others but also against themselves is created through their mind-set which is based in ignorance and once that ignorance is dispelled, the violence, the depression, the greed, the hostility, the selfishness, the uncompassionate feelings both towards others and towards oneself is ended. When one properly understands the teachings of the Buddha and follows those teachings in one’s life, happiness, compassion and wisdom are the result. So now with the rational support and explanation of how the Buddha’s teaching can be explained so that all human beings can understand the psychological basis for their own happiness and for the world’s happiness and the ending of human caused suffering in this world is available now. There’s no reason to ignore the Buddha’s teachings because many think the teachings are some esoteric training or they are thought to be some mystical explanation of the universe and they have no relevance to the common man and the common human experience and, therefore, the Buddha’s teachings have been relegated by many only to be important to the life of obscure monks living in a forest monastery. Now we can see this is a misconception and a great misunderstanding of the significance and foundation of the Buddha’s teachings. The Buddha’s teachings are for everyone and are pragmatic and are rational and are based on empiricism or facts. The Buddha did not indulge in mystical thinking nor did he encourage mysticism or religion as an explanation for human suffering. The Buddha, through years of study of psychological study, understood that the foundation of humanity’s suffering is based on an ignorance, a wrong perspective, a misunderstanding and he taught how to gain a perspective based on a correct understanding and this correct understanding relieves the suffering that is created through anger and greed and hostility and selfishness and other forms of ignorance. The result of Enlightenment is a sense of peace and calm and happiness and compassion both for oneself and for the other living creatures not only  human but all living things on this earth because we are all interconnected and to see us separate is one of the facets of ignorance. So there is an immense and great possibility available to us through the perspective of the teacher Buddha who gave his first teachings over 2500 years ago and it is now possible to show his teachings from a scientific point of view. Therefore, we can see that they are not an obscure esoteric understanding of reality instead they are a pragmatic, fact based understanding of how we as human beings create our suffering not only for ourselves but also for other people when we relate without a correct perspective. So now is a time for the new Renaissance of awareness of our functionality, of our psychology, of our ecology, of our sociology, of our neurology, of our biology, of our physics and astronomy and more supporting the principles of the Four Noble Truths in which the Buddha summarized and made into a framework the essential principles of his insights into humanity. Now is the time for us and opportunity for us to understand the profound and radical Buddha’s teachings from an empirical, pragmatic and scientific point of view which will have radical positive consequences in the future of humanity and now is the time for us to begin that Reformation towards happiness and non-suffering of all beings living on this earth.