Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spring cleaning: Taking Stock of Oneself

Bhikkhu Bodhi (Buddhist Pub. Society); Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly
Spring cleaning: Indian monk cleans a golden Buddha statue (de.pinterest.com)
Mara's Army: our own defilements
Although in principle the Buddhist path leads straight and unerringly from slavery to freedom, when we apply it to ourselves it often seems to take a tortuous route.

This route is imposed on us, or seems to be, by the twists and turns of our own contorted mental topography. Unless we have exceptionally mature wholesome roots, we cannot expect to approach the goal straight "as the crow flies," soaring unhindered through the quick and blissful skyways of the meditative absorptions (jhanas) and higher insights.

American monk Bhikkhu Bodhi
Instead we must be prepared to persist and tread the path at ground level, moving slowly, steadily, and cautiously through the winding mountain roads of our own minds.

We begin at the point of departure -- with a unique constellation of personal qualities, habits, and potentials that we bring with us to the practice. 
Five spring cleaning celebrations (thecultureist)
Our ingrained defilements and obstinate delusions, as well as our hidden reserves of goodness, inner strength, and wisdom -- these are at once the material out of which the practice is forged, the terrain to be passed through, and the vehicle that takes us to our destination.
Confidence in the Buddhist path is a prerequisite for persisting on this journey to enlightenment and ultimate bliss (nirvana).

Yet it often happens that though we may be fully convinced of the liberating efficacy of the Dharma (Pali Dhamma), we stumble along perplexed as to how we can apply the Dharma fruitfully to ourselves.

Monastic vehicle is faster than ordinary feet.
One major step toward reaping the benefits of Dharma practice consists in making an honest assessment of our own character. If we are to effectively use the methods the Buddha taught for overcoming the mind/heart's defilements, we must first take stock of those particular defilements that are prevalent in our individual makeup.

It is not enough for us to sit back and console ourselves with the thought that the path leads infallibly to the end of greed, hatred, and delusion.

Our greed starts young (iheart.com)
For the path to be effective in our own practice, we have to become familiar with our own persistent greeds, hates, and delusions as they crop up in the round of daily life.

Without an honest confrontation of ourselves, all of our other pursuits of Dharma may be to no avail and can actually lead us astray.

Spring cleaning QUOTES (quotesgram.com)
Though we may gain extensive knowledge of the Buddhist scriptures, clarify our views, and sharpen our powers of thought, invest so many hours on the meditation cushion and walkway, if we do not attend to the blemishes in our characters, these other achievements, far from extricating the defilements, may instead only go to reinforce them.
Although honest self-assessment is one of the most vital steps in Dharma practice, it is also one of the most difficult. What makes it so difficult is the radically new perspective that must be adopted to undertake an investigation of oneself and the dense barriers that must be penetrated to arrive at truthful self-understanding. More

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