Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Dharma talk: A Fistful of Sand

Ajahn Suwat Suvaco translated from the original Thai by Ven. Thanissaro (aka Geoffrey DeGraff) edited by Amber Larson, Ashley Wells, CC Liu, Wisdom Quarterly
It's like trying to hold and cling on to a fistful of sand: time (shireializa.com)
It can slip right through our hands like a fistful of sand (memegenerator.net).
United States of America's real first family
We have all come here out of a sense of conviction (confidence in the Buddha), intent on studying and practicing the Dharma that will bring happiness and fulfill our hearts.

We should understand that the Dharma taught by the Buddha does not lie anywhere far away. As the Pali canon says, skillful and unskillful dhammas ("things," mental phenomena) arise right here in the heart. If we want to study the Dharma, we have to study our own heart.

Mourning for rebel leader Fidel Castro, Cuba
When we're well acquainted with the heart, we'll be well acquainted with the Dharma, and when we're well acquainted with the Dharma, we'll be well acquainted with the heart.
There are times when the heart is in bad shape. Bad mental qualities get mixed up with it, making it even worse, making us suffer both in body and mind. These bad mental qualities are said to be "unskillful" (akusala, unwholesome). 

Tragedy strikes in Oakland, California
The Buddha teaches us to study these qualities so that we are able to abandon them.

There are other times when the heart is in good shape: at ease and enjoying a sense of well being. We feel at ease whether we're sitting or lying down, alone or associating with friends and relatives. When the heart gains a sense of ease in this way, it is said to be staying with the Dharma.

In other words, skillful (kusala, wholesome) mental qualities have appeared in the heart. The skillful heart is what gives us happiness. This is why the Buddha taught us to develop these skillful qualities, to give rise to them within ourselves.
Poor Megyn Kelly post-Trump (Fox News)
If one were to list these skillful qualities, there would be lots of them. But even though there are lots of them, they all arise in our one heart. So if we want to know and see the Dharma, we have to develop mindfulness and alertness, keeping watch over our heart. [Mindfulness (sati) is sometimes translated as "vigilance" or "watchfulness."]
If the heart isn't at peace, if it's distracted and turbulent, we should realize that, at that moment, the heart is out of shape.

Sadly, the last face some people see
Unskillful qualities have arisen within it. So we should be mindful and alert to put it back in shape. We have to keep watch over the heart to see whether, at this moment in time, it's in good or bad shape.
If we see that the heart isn't yet in satisfactory shape, we let go of our unskillful preoccupations and make ourselves mindful of what's good.
  • EDITORIAL NOTE (Wisdom Quarterly): What is "good" and what "bad" from the point of view of karma? All intentions or motivations that are rooted in greed, hatred/fear, or delusion are bad. Good refers to those intentions rooted in the opposite categories: nongreed, nonhatred/nonfear, nondelusion otherwise known as generosity (unselfishness), loving-kindness (compassion)/bravery, and/or wisdom.
"Forever Fidel," mourning loss of great leader
We want to be happy, so we don't want the things that will make us suffer. We should try to put the mind into good shape, convinced in the practice of the Dharma that will develop our mindfulness. We have to look after the heart so that it's confident and content in our practice.

We remind ourselves that in following this practice we're following in line with the Buddha: one who knows, who sees, an enlightened being free from defilement, released from suffering in the cycle of death and rebirth known as samsara.

The fact that we're practicing in line with the Dharma taught by the Buddha means that we're studying at an institution of highest learning, with the Buddha as our foremost teacher.

So be mindful to keep the heart in good shape. Be mindful of the meditation word (internal mantra), buddho. Or if you want, focus on the in-and-out breath [at the tip of the nose].

When the breath comes in, keep your mind at ease. When it goes out, keep your mind at ease. Don't be tense, don't force things, don't get caught up in any desire to know or see beyond reasonable bounds.
How much mourning can we do? Oakland
If we give rise to this kind of [subtle] desire, this kind of defilement, it'll distract the heart. So we should be careful to be mindful, to look after the mind, to meditate well.

Simply be mindful of the breath. When the breath comes in, let it come in with ease. When it goes out, let it go out with ease. Let the mind be at ease, too.

If anything comes along to disturb you, don't get involved with it. Just keep that sense of ease going. If your mindfulness can keep maintaining your sense of contentment, your sense of confidence in the practice, the mind [heart] will separate from its outside preoccupations and gather into a sense of stillness. There will be a sense of lightness, comfort, a feeling of contentment within that comfort. More


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