Although my view is vast as space,
My conduct is fine as barley flour.
Buddhist conduct in daily life
Although the highest meditation is called non-meditation and non-doing, it doesn’t mean: “no more work or activity for me”. Siting still, is only related to the meditations session – there, we sit still without any movement. And it’s not that moving in meditations is bad for you, but by sitting very still, with a relaxed and gentle breath, you will become much more mindful of any subtle thought activities. Remember, your body and speech does not move by themselves …
“Non-meditation” is merely relating to non-involvement in thinking – seeing how thoughts are bubbling up and leaving them alone. It’s quite advanced practice – the fruit of many years of dedicated practice and retreats.
When sitting sitting still in meditation posture, without fidgeting, with open eyes and steady gaze, relaxed without staring – meditation happens almost by itself. Nothing much to do except being relaxed and aware of anything arising, and using the breath as your support. let thoughts come, let them be, and let them go. In addition to a gentle focus on the breath, we also have all the other methods of mantra, visualization, and rituals, as our support for training the mind.
Next step, is to train in any daily activities, with a calm, kind, and clear mind – to mindfully watch our intentions, in whatever we do. It’s a kind of “mental aikido” – mindfulness in action.
To do or not to do?
Applying the View in daily life is indispensable. Dharma practice has to embrace all activities and conduct – not only when sitting on the cushion – you don’t meditate with your butt 😉
Having taken refuge, we have also taken on the refuge vows and commitments. Vows are never forced upon people, they are taken voluntarily as commitments to mindfully walk the gradual path of the Buddha.
You may think of it in the way we make new years vows. There we make a firm commitment in front of friends or family. Maybe to stop smoking, drinking, start exercising, study harder, care more for others, work less (if workaholic), climb Mount Everest, or whatever it may be. Having someone as a witness, makes it easier to remember if our intentions start to slip. It’s very similar with vows. Taking vows is not only the start of the journey, but it’s also a commitment to keep going and complete. We often have to restrengthen our intention, by recalling or retaking our vows. That’s why we do daily recitations of refuge and bodhisattva vows.
- When taking refuge in the Buddha, you also take the vow of not hurting others with body speech or mind. Exaggerating facts and spreading rumors, hurts people. This is no different from lying and slander, and is contrary to the dharma and this vow.
- When taking refuge in the Dharma, you also take the vow to respect other traditions – other paths of wisdom. Being sectarian by glorifying your own tradition or teacher, or criticizing other traditions, is contrary to this vow.
- When taking refuge in the Noble Sangha, you also take the vow to respect the symbols of the sangha, like robes and so on, as well as those who wears those robes.
But all the vows are only there for mindfulness and wisdom, to see how distractions and laziness can trap your mind. The buddha, dharma, and the noble sangha, have no need for our respect. But when respecting others, your innate confidence will grow.
We say “taking refuge” here, not “having taken refuge”, as if it was only done once and for all during the formal refuge ceremony. The ceremony only to signify the start of the journey. We should then continue to retake and remind ourselves of our refuge every day. In fact all study, reflection, and meditation is also part of taking refuge, but being distracted by all the worldly aims, is not.
A very simple, clear advise on the conduct of body speech and mind, is given by The Buddha:
“… Some advice will be on how we should conduct ourselves, some on how to talk, and some about our thinking. What is what I’m sure you’ll figure out yourself. I’ll give the ten guidelines of living, as you requested:
- Refrain from killing,
But have concern for all that lives.
- Refrain from stealing,
But live an honorable life.
- Refrain from using sex inappropriately,
But treat each other with a mutual respect.
- Refrain from lying,
But be always truthful.
- Refrain from speaking ill of others,
But say what’s helping people to be friends.
- Refrain from saying hurtful things to others,
But speak with friendly words.
- Refrain from wasting time with gossip and with idle talk,
But speak of things that’s helpful for yourself and others.
- Let go of thinking greedy, covetous thoughts,
But think of offering to others, and share with them.
- Let go of thinking angry vicious thoughts,
But cultivate your love for others.
- Let go of being stuck with stupid biased thoughts,
But try to understand how all things really are.”
Adapted from Norwegian from “Prinsen som Våknet”,
Buddha’s life-story for children, by Kåre A. Lie.
(Anbefales for både barn og voksne)
Mindfulness and introspection
From Bodhicharyavatara chapter 5
To cover all the earth with sheets of leather—
Where could such amounts of skin be found?
But with the leather soles of just my shoes
It is as though I cover all the earth!
And thus the outer course of things
I myself cannot restrain.
But let me just restrain my mind,
And what is left to be restrained
When the urge arises in your mind
To feelings of desire or angry hate,
Do not act! Be silent, do not speak!
And like a log of wood be sure to stay.
And when your mind is wild or filled with mockery,
Or filled with pride and haughty arrogance,
Or when you would expose another’s secret guilt,
To bring up old dissensions or to act deceitfully,
Or when you want to fish for praise,
Or criticize and spoil another’s name,
Or use harsh language, sparring for a fight,
It’s then that like a log you should remain.
Impatience, indolence, faintheartedness,
And likewise arrogance and careless speech,
Attachment to your side—when these arise,
It’s then that like a log you should remain.
Examine thus yourself from every side.
Take note of your defilements and your pointless efforts.
For thus the heroes on the Bodhisattva path
Seize firmly on such faults with proper remedies.
Be the master of yourself
And have an ever-smiling countenance.
Rid yourself of scowling, wrathful frowns,
And be a true and honest friend to all.
When useful admonitions come unsought
From those with skill in counseling their fellows,
Welcome them with humble gratitude,
And always strive to learn from everyone.
When you look at others think
That it will be through them
That you will come to Buddhahood.
So look on them with frank and loving hearts.
To be, or not to be …
To be a real practitioner, be flexible and kind without a bias,
With humble conduct, free from hope and fear,
Compassion and devotion will naturally arise.
Never judging others – free from nagging, never bragging.
A secret yogi – with no need for fame …
When you have, even just an intellectual understanding of the View, it becomes quite clear that wanting to become somebody: a teacher, lama, monastic, yogi, lopön, chöpön, or whatever title that you may fancy – is quite a useless pursuit, and also contrary to the dharma. Not only is wanting in it self, counterproductive, but wearing robes or getting titles, does not really change you in any way. In stead, if not mindful, it may even lead to the greatest obstacle – self importance.
Also, taking vows and samayas is just the beginning of the path. It is not a goal in it self, but works as tools and guidelines. It’s there to help us to simplify our lives, and as guidelines for mindfulness, to protect us from deviating from the path.
So again, thinking that one is special or great, is a clear sign of being not. Great beings are great because their minds are completely free from thinking. On the other hand, thinking that you are nothing, too weak, or not able to practice, is the other extreme. Great beings are great because they are free from thoughts like that as well. They don’t think: “I cannot, I’m weak … ” or “I’great and I’m better than others … ”. But they have recognized their inner nature, beyond thinking good or bad, so they have completely open-minded confidence. The only difference between us and them, is that they have trained and tamed their minds, and we have not trained that much yet. How could only holding titles or wearing robes, change anything?
The whole point of buddha dharma is to change our present way of thinking, and the way we speak and act.
Do you need to believe in anything as a Buddhist?
Yes, that you can change, and become a better human being.
If you are not willing to change, are you then really a Buddhist?
How long is my exception list today?
By this merit, may I quickly
May every being without exception
Be established in that state
We recite daily prayers like this daily, saying “all beings without exception”. But by the end of the day, check your mind: “How many people did I get annoyed with today? How long was my ‘exception list’ today?”.
This does not mean that our prayers are useless, they are not – they are aspirations to develop unbiased Bodhicitta. But if we don’t apply this kind of “debriefing”, and if we don’t repair our commitments, and if we also don’t try our best to correct our mistakes, we will most probably end up as Buddhist hypocrites. Our prayers and commitments have become mere lip service.
After engaging in action, the military, rescue squads, fire squads, hospitals, football teams, ballet dancers, etc. most often have debriefing sessions. It’s to find where things went wrong, to find out where to improve, and to avoid similar mistakes in the future. In the same manner, a buddhist practitioner should use confession and “debriefing”. The sooner the better, but at least by the end of the day.
One of the most important qualities for a Mahamudra and Dzogchen practitioner is total honesty – being dead honest with oneself: “How can any pretense do me good?” Honesty here, doesn’t mean to tell everyone about your mistakes, nor to tell everyone what you think about them – that’s just rude and also misplaced honesty.
If you don’t like people, you are not a dharma practitioner …
Honesty means to admit that you lost the View, by holding onto thoughts and emotions, without even trying to apply any antidotes. Initially, seeing that anger is arising is OK, but keeping it, even for a short time, is not. The sooner you can let go, the better it is. Why suffer needlessly the pain of anger, by holding to “your ways”?
“So, if not applying antidotes,
When clearly I’m in need of them,
Can I call myself practitioner?”
… If any grasping arises, you don’t have the View.
Even holding on to subtle ideas and opinions, means that you are distracted from resting in the natural state – thought-free wakefulness. And we are likely being distracted like that, most of the time, even as a seasoned practitioners. Nevertheless, it’s important to at least have an intellectual understanding of the highest View, so you check and discover that you are distracted. It’s also really important to apply appropriate antidotes. It would be silly to aim too high when not able, when a more basic method would suffice.
If you think that you are special,
That’s a sign of being not …
Because – those who are remarkable,
Have no thoughts at all like that –
That’s what makes them really special.
It’s quite easy to check if you have fallen into this trap. Just listen to yourself when you are not given the respect or treatment you expect. The mind starts complaining, and often the mouth follows. Ask yourself: “Why do I get so upset by this? Is it because of not getting what I want? Or is the problem wanting it in the first place?” Giving up expectations usually solves the problem.
If I don’t get it “my way”, I get angry.
But if I give up “my way”, are there any problems left?
This is really what training in mindfulness in action is all about. It can be done anywhere, at any time, with any person: When driving in rush hours, in a slow supermarket line, when others are cutting the line, when waiters are slow, when the barista is not making the coffee the way you want it, when being tired at home with the family, and when dealing with coworkers. Anything that pushes your buttons, can then be appreciated: “I got at least a free session of mind training.” …
But who are all sentient beings, by the way?
Is’t that even too vast to imagine?
Well, it’s quite simple. All sentient beings must include anyone you meet in a day: At home, on the road, at work, at the airport, on TV, and whoever pops up in your mind from the past. And as mentioned above, especially people who pushes your buttons: politicians, slow or rude waiters, sloppy baristas, people who cut in line, people that hurt you in the past, or just add your own favorite button pushers. All these can actually become our best helpers in enhancing our practice, in addition to any other unwanted circumstances. So, if you are able to train and make your mind calm, kind, and clear in these situations, then that is perfect conduct. Even if you can’t do perfect, just by trying, it’s still practice.
Politicians are in politics,
Because they are of strong opinions.
I get really angry with them,
Only caused by my opinions.
If my anger helps them, then it’s fine …
But maybe better I let go –
Of all my stupid fixed opinions?
Inspired by Donald Trump
If you’re able to rest in the View, no opinions will stick and no anger will arise …
And if that doesn’t work for you, there are many other ways to handle your emotions as a practitioner.
Whenever you are angry,
Whenever you’re worried,
There’s a simple question you can ask yourself:
”Does it help?”
To like or not to like?
”Sometimes it seems that Buddhists don’t like each-other.”
It this really the case? Sometimes yes, but then it’s probably because of having too high expectations of others. Buddhists are people, and people are humans, and humans have flaws – they are not Buddhas yet. That’s why we have Buddhist centers – not ”Buddha centers“. It’s also much easier to see other peoples faults, than it is to recognize and admit ones own flaws. So, if thinking that other buddhists should be perfect and always nice towards others, one will naturally get disappointed.
You see the speck of dust of faults in others,
But you don’t see a mountain of faults in yourself.
Authentic dharma practice would be: for you to be nice to others, and then to be patient with them. But often we get into the trap of wanting others to be nice to us, and we forget to watch ourselves. This is ”reverse dharma“: using dharma teachings to scrutinize others and criticize them, instead of taking a critical look at oneself.
Dharma is for personal use only …
In Vajrayana we train in pure perception and samayas, and using words of wisdom as reminders, is very useful:
Whatever your dharma friends do – it’s OK.
Remember that! Whatever they do – it’s OK …
Advice from the practicing lineage
This does NOT mean that whatever they do is necessarily OK, but it means that there is neither reason, nor helpful to get upset about it. If others are being stupid or rude, it’s just a sign of their untrained minds. So instead of making yourself upset or annoyed about it, welcome it as an opportunity to train in patience and compassion. And if you are able to give a kind and helpful hint to unruly friends, that will actually help them, then that’s also good.
But I guess, in most cases that’s not very likely they would listen. Most buddhists seems to be too sensitive to criticism, and prefer to live in denial – even when their teachers try to guide them …
Often when people are angry, they complain and gossip. But they will not listen to advice on how to calm down, and look with pure perception. Not even when the advice comes from teachers and close friends. It sometimes makes them even more angry.
So if you are getting angry and display this kind of behavior, it’s a sign you have an untrained mind and need more training. What other people do, is their own business, not yours. If you say you practice mindfulness and bodhicitta, why not watch your own mind, and train in loving kindness and in patience?
Don’t dwell on the past,
Don’t invite the future, and
Don’t meddle with the present.
If on the other hand, you happen to be someones teacher, trainer, or disciplinarian of some sort, then of course it is your duty to give guidance – in the most skillful way. But except for that, we need to teach, train, and discipline our selves only.
As “buddhas in training”, we all need “coaches” …
Be patient with other patients
Be Kind To My Mistakes …
Be kind to me …
In a hospital, you wouldn’t get annoyed or upset with other patients because of their disease, would you? We wouldn’t say: “I don’t like people with stomach ulcers, I don’t like people with cancer, get them out of my face!”. We would most probably have compassion for them instead.
Also, we would not go to a hospital just to hang out with the doctors and nurses, while hiding our disease – pretending to be fine. Nor would we put on white coats, pretending to be doctors, giving medicine to other patients. If we did, they would most likely call security.
A sane person would come to the hospital for help, being very honest with the doctors, telling all the symptoms, hiding none. A sane person would also take the medicine and treatment as prescribed. He would not tell the doctor what kind of medicine to give him. Nor would he just collect the medicine and put it on a shelf.
No, he would listen to the doctor, and take the prescribed medicine according to her advice.
In the same way, one should come to a dharma center, acknowledging ones problems, and ask for help to get well. Why would you otherwise come to a dharma center? Then see the teacher as your doctor, the dharma as the medicine, the other members as your co-patients, and the center as a hospital. When viewing it as hospital like this, it’s easier to relate to the other members or residents according to the similes above, and avoid all those mistakes.
(The word should here only applies if you are a dharma practitioner. If you are a “dharma tourist”, you may come to visit on your own terms. But you may also ask yourself the questions: “Why am I really coming here? What do I want? And what is the Buddha Dharma really about?”)
Dharma “patient” guidelines:
- Recognize your problems, and realize your need for help.
- Attend the teachings, programs, and the practice sessions –
that’s your medicine.
- Respect the teacher as your doctor, and seek him for advice.
- Respect the other patients – be a patient – not impatient.
- Don’t waste time, pretending to be well, or tell the teacher what to do.
- As a doctor, teachers give us what we need – not only what we want.
- Don’t be a dharma tourist: only there for shorter sessions,
social meetings, taking pictures – leave your camera at home.
- Taking vows and donning robes, is not the cure,
it’s just the start of treatment – upkeep is the most important point.
- Authentic teachers and their dharma centers do not need us,
but we the students, are in need of them.
- More important than the dharma, is to put it into practice –
reducing laziness, attachments, irritation, and so on.
The world does not need more Buddhists,
It needs more good people,
Who are calm and kind and clear.
Just develop this, and you’re on the right track.
Welcome to the gym …
Let’s say you have a paid membership in a gym, and you arrive only to find reclining chairs and junk-food. You would be quite surprised and disappointed, and most probably complaint to management and ask for a refund.
In a gym you would expect exercise machines like: treadmills, bikes, weights, steppers, and so on. You would even request a personal trainer and ask for a tight schedule to push you on.
“I didn’t come there hang out, I need some exercise! –
I really want some tough challenge!”
In the same way all dharma practice is all about training and taming the mind – our way of thinking:
- From agitated and picky, to calm and content.
- From calloused and impatient, to kind and forgiving.
- From jealous and competitive, to cheering for others.
There are basic mind-training, Mahayana mind-training, and Vajrayana mind-training. It’s all available for you to learn, and train in your dharma center.
But if you only met people you liked, who always agreed with you, who never gave you any challenge, shouldn’t you be disappointed? Dharma center are there for us to learn and train our minds – that’s the only purpose. If you come as a tourist or just want to hang out, you might have different expectations. But if you are reading this, you are most likely a dharma practitioner on the path of mind-training …
Making this shift of attitude is not that difficult, but will make a world of difference. Why be annoyed and complain about people? Why not view it as a golden opportunity of practice?
All those who slight me to my face
Or do to me some other evil,
Even if they blame or slander me,
May they attain the fortune of enlightenment!
Even those who vilify and undermine
The Sacred Doctrine, images, and stupas
Are not proper objects of our anger.
Buddhas are themselves untouched thereby.
Thanks to those whose minds are full of malice
I engender patience in myself.
They therefore are the causes of my patience,
Fit for veneration, like the Dharma.
Thus the state of Buddhahood depends
On beings and on Buddhas equally.
What kind of practice is it then
That honors only Buddhas but not beings?
Buddhas are made happy by the joy of beings.
They sorrow, they lament when beings suffer.
By bringing joy to beings, then, I please the Buddhas also;
By wounding them, I wound the Buddhas too.
All good reasons to appreciate and be grateful to others – whatever they might do. Just do not reverse this, by being obnoxious – don’t become the “treadmill” for others! … 😉
Take the example of an athlete: If the elevator door just closed in front of her, she would think: “Great, I’ll just run up the stairs instead – Yay! I got an extra training session!” Even if this shift of attitude might seem difficult in the beginning, why not give it a try? …
But keep it secret, not good to boast or talk about it.
Calling others “my dear treadmill”, would be very rude.
Generosity and center work
When offering help to dharma centers, we know that it is all for our own paramita training. And since the main purpose of a dharma center is to help us letting go of “what I want”, it would be much more skillful to offer help with an open frame of mind. Wouldn’t it be better to ask what’s needed, instead of coming with a fixed agenda of what you would like to do, or even what you think others should do?
Giving up opinions is also generosity.
But changing attitude and outlook is not easy, there is a lot of resistance here. So instead of admitting that we are still holding on to wrong views, we are more likely to come up with some lame excuses …
People never seem to change –
Their excuses just gets better and better …
Bringing everything to the path
Some people are good meditators,
Some are good practitioners –
You have to train well in both.
Meditation is indispensable, but the main goal is to bring this calm, kind, and clear mind into everyday activities, not just on the cushion. The goal of both Mahamudra and Dzogchen is to develop a flexible, open state of mind, in both sessions and breaks. We don’t meditate with our butts, but with our minds – and our minds are with us, wherever we are.
“May Mindfulness be with you” … 😉
One of the most profound instructions is to utilize even our own negative emotions:
The three poisons – the three seed of virtue.
Whenever any of the three emotions like dullness, desire, and irritation arises, immediately think of others who are enslaved by the same and even stronger emotion, and imagine that they get completely liberated and free from it. Think like this:
This stupidity, greed or anger I’m having here right now – it is clearly my creation. I see no-one here that’s putting these emotions in my mind. I’m also skilled in dharma, and have many methods, so I will just handle it – no big deal this is for me.
But for others who are less than fortunate, I really wish that they get freed from greed and ignorance, and always blessed with calm and happy minds.
In this way a Dharma practitioner can bring everything to the path of training – good or bad without exception. Learning to seen everything as an opportunity to practice, instead of just getting fascinated or annoyed about it, is not that difficult, it’s just a slight change of attitude. No need to do something drastic, or go looking for trouble. But when trouble come your way, try to welcome it, and then let go.
- Seeing something bad: why not train in patience and compassions?
- Seeing someone do good, or something you want: why not rejoice and give it up for others?
- You don’t notice much around you, train to strengthen mindfulness and meditation.
- Appreciate the things around you, let go of irritation, and let the mind have holiday.
It’s up to you. But just having this attitude of appreciating anything that comes to you, good or bad, is a very good start. Learning to take all joys and difficulties to the path as opportunities for enhancement, without indulging and complaining, will make you a real yogi – a secret yogi in normal clothing.
If I choose to stay both stubborn, stuck and angry,
And make myself and other miserable – that is simple.
But what would be the point of that,
when all I need to do is nothing – just reflect, relax, and let it go.
Why is doing nothing such a pain?
“Water under the bridge”, “no point of talking about last year’s snow”, “no point of beating a dead horse”. Use proverbs, say mantras, sit down, breath gently, read some words of wisdom, do tonglen. Or sometimes just go for a brisk walk, or eat an apple 😉 … Anything that helps you letting go of opinionatedness and grudges, and then move on. Nagging and bragging only makes if worse, even if you only do it in your mind! When saying mantras, it’s kind of hard to complain, and after a short while, your anger will have left – all by itself …
If there is a problem that can be solved,
What’s the use of being upset about it?
And if it can’t be solved,
What’s the point of being sad?
Why and how …
“In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.”
I’m sorry this became so long and full of repetitions – I was too lazy not to make it short.
If this made any sense to you,
Why not put it into daily practice?
We all know why and how,
No point of leaving it as useless theory …
As a spiritual practitioner, you have watch how the self operates. There has to be a lot of joy in watching the self. It is not always comfortable, not always easy, but there has to be keen interest in watching yourself. As you watch yourself over and over, however uneasy or uncomfortable it is, it becomes a habit. In your good moments, you can have a sense of revolution and resolution in accord with the dharma.
From “Parting from the Four Attachments”
Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche
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