Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Sea of Benefactors

Sitting comfortably, bring attention to the points of contact where your legs and back are resting on the chair or cushion. Feel the weight of the body resting, supported. Notice the sensations and movements of the body as it sits and breathes. See if you can rest in the experience of the breathing body. Inhaling, the body expands. Exhaling, the body contracts. Sitting and breathing, the body balances itself, supported by the chair or cushion and the ground underneath. Sitting, breathing, resting, supported.

Now recall someone whose actions have benefited you. It might be someone in your family, or a friend, the clerk at the store, or someone in the street who spontaneously smiled at you, bringing you a moment of friendliness or a sense of ease. It doesn’t particularly matter how well they know you, or how much or how purely they intended to benefit you; some action they did, large or small, actually did bring you some benefit.

Recall your parents, siblings, and other family members. You may have some difficult relationships with some of them, perhaps some painful memories, but also recall that since before you were born, they have been there, feeding you, taking care of you, sharing their time and energy and experience with you. Before they knew what you would go on to do, before they knew who you would become, they sheltered and educated and supported you. Recognize the enormity of what you have received from your family.

Bring to mind a few of the many people who are involved in the production and delivery of food, clothing, shelter, heat, material goods of all kinds. You may not know many of these people personally, but they are all around you, doing what they do best in order to make available all the life-giving and nurturing things you need, everything you need to survive and thrive. Their energy, knowledge, and actions are supporting you. The interdependence of beings and events is deep, broad, subtle, and profound.

Recall the environment from which you draw life and enjoyment: the earth, the cooling breeze, the warm sun, the clean flowing waters, the plants and animals that provide you with food and companionship and a kinship that goes beyond species.

Recall a teacher who taught you something. It might be a teacher from grade school or high school, or a college professor. Recall a mentor, someone who supported you or encouraged you to grow. Recall a spiritual teacher or guide who has written or spoken or shown you something that made a difference in your life, someone whose work or life has been an inspiration to you.

Continue to recall mentors, teachers, friends, and benefactors of all kinds, large and small, spiritual or practical or mundane, those from the past, those who support you now, and those who will support and benefit you in the future. Imagine this large and growing group of benefactors out in front of you -- a sea of benefactors in front of you.

There is nothing you have to do to earn their support and receive all these benefits. Your benefactors, known and unknown, have been supporting you since before you were born. They have been there your entire life, and will always be there, giving you what you need, teaching you what you need to know, supporting and inspiring you spiritually. Imagine the sea of benefactors in front of you, smiling, accepting you just the way you are, wishing you well, acting on that wish in order to benefit your health and well-being.

Recognize, acknowledge, and appreciate the benefit you receive from this sea of benefactors. Feel the support and rely on it. Rest in the experience of being supported and receiving infinite benefits. Feel your body, sitting and breathing, supported physically, emotionally, spiritually.

From the center of your body, feel a warmth, a warm radiating light. Gradually, naturally extend that warm radiating light throughout your body and beyond, radiating warm friendly light into your surroundings, received by everyone, so that they receive the warmth and benefit. Continue to sit, breathing, supported, radiating good wishes to yourself and to everyone, all human and non-human beings.

With deepest gratitude for all his teachers and benefactors, this contemplation was offered by George Draffan in June 2011.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Take Not

Take not blessings from the gods;
Give alms to the poor.

~ Serlingpa
   Mind Training: The Great Collection, p. 189

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What Turns Around and Runs You

What you shut out is exactly what turns around and runs you.

~ from an interview with Charlotte Joko Beck

Tighten & Loosen

Outwardly, relax clinging to objects!

Inwardly, give up clinging to the body!

Secretly, loosen clinging to mind!

Tighten with intensity, and then gently relax!

The tightening is the method, and the loosening is the wisdom!

~ Padampa Sangye, Lion of Siddhas, p. 281

To Cherish Others

To cherish others is the source of every admirable quality.
~ Tsongkhapa

To have just that one teaching is the same as having all the teachings in the palm of the hand. What is the one? It is great compassion.
~ from the Realization Story of Avalokiteshvara

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Testing, testing...

Can you find anything that is permanent?

Can you find anything that is ultimately satisfying?

Can you find anything that is independent, separate from the many causes and conditions that came together to produce it?

Look at your internal experience (sensations, feelings, thoughts), and look at things in the world around you.

Especially look at things you really like, at things you really dislike, and at things you tend to ignore.

Look deeply, with your body, using all your senses. Use your heart and your intuition, as well as your thinking mind.

Look, again and again, putting everything that arises, and especially those experiences and events that are challenging for you, to this three-fold test.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Don't Volunteer

Samsara is suffering -- don't volunteer for it!

~ Padampa Sangye, Lion of Siddhas

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Awakening ~ Stability, Clarity, Kindness

Each of us has, actually is, buddha nature -- the inherent, indestructible ability to know what arises and to respond in ways that lead to freedom and happiness. When we discover that we can rely on that nature, when we begin to take refuge in it, we can cultivate it until it is available and expressed in everything we do.

~ Abiding (shamatha), resting in experience as it arises and subsides, is the stable foundation of the path. Without a growing capacity to be present and open in experience as it arises, any other practices are impossible or ineffective.
"The object of practice is not to have a smooth ride; the object is to stay in the boat."  (Ken McLeod)
~ Seeing clearly (vipashyana) is the result of looking deeply into everything that arises. We come to know the nature of experience, to know how everything that arises is interdependent with various causes and conditions, to discern what leads to struggle and suffering and what leads to freedom and happiness.
"Seeing is easy; to stabilize that seeing is difficult."  (Milarepa)
~ Kindness (metta) and compassion (karuna) undermine the illusion that our suffering and happiness are separate from the welfare of others. We begin to interact with others in ways that are not based in self-centered confusion and reactivity.
"Of all the grounds for merit, kindness surpasses them all and shines forth, bright and brilliant."  (The Buddha, Itivuttaka 27)
These three -- resting, looking, and kindness -- are the necessary bases for effective practice. The art and mystery of practice is to persist, flexibly and creatively in the midst of our particular internal and external challenges, gradually integrating the three and making them a way of life -- our buddha nature made manifest.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Abhinivesa: insistence; automatic perceptual and conceptual belief in the apparent existence of self and objects; the way things appear due to conditioned patterning of perception and thought.

Prapanca: conceptual fabrication, the stream directed by imprinted preconceptions, including the internal flow of thought constructs and the self and the environment they create. Conceptual elaboration... clinging to words or concepts... the web of words and concepts in which one gets entangled when clinging... the root of all contentions.

Samsara: the world of habitual patterns; from sam, together, intensive; andsara, to go, run, flow, hasten; so samsara means going about, busyness, endless migration, unceasing commotion and unrest. The created world of dissatisfaction and struggle.

Samskara: conditioned mental formations, all constructs, good, bad, or indifferent: dispositions, tendencies, volitions, impulses, emotions, strivings, and reactions. The process by which reactive emotional patterns are formed by, and then continue to form, our experience of the world. The volitional factor in samskaras is motivated by desire, which gives rise to karma.

Samyojana: internal formations; knots; agglomerations; binding together; fetters. Five dull knots: confusion, desire, anger, pride, doubt. Five sharp knots: viewing body as self, extreme views, wrong views, perverted views, superstitious views.

Upadana: compulsive automatic patterning of perceptions, thoughts, and emotional reactions according to the conditioning of past experience.

Vasana: tendencies and inclinations; literally, fragrance, from vas: dwelling, residue, remainder. Subliminal inclinations and patterns, traces of past experience and action, residues of thoughts and actions, particularly the residue of ignorance. The driving forces that color and motivate attitudes and future actions; habit energies giving rise to present samsara.

Vikalpa: patterning; the structuring of cognition due to past experience and the traces they have left. Vikalpa gives rise to the apparent world of self and environment and all our emotional reactions to such appearances.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Zen Healing Prayer

from Sensei Pat Enkyo O’Hara
Village Zendo and Zen Peacemaker Order
To the absolute light, luminous throughout the whole universe,
unfathomable excellence penetrating everywhere.

Whenever this devoted invocation is sent forth
it is perceived and subtly answered.

We dedicate all merits
to the buddhas and bodhisattvas in the realm of prajna wisdom;
to the guardians and protectors of the Dharma worlds
and to their relations throughout space and time;
to all ancestors of this community,
and to all beings in the Dharma worlds.

May penetrating light dispel the darkness of ignorance.
Let all karma be resolved
and the mind-flower bloom in eternal spring.

We pray for the health and well-being
of all those afflicted by diseases of body, mind, or spirit,
and all those working towards the healing of those afflictions.

We especially pray for _________, ________, and ________.

May they be serene through all their ills,
and may we realize the Buddha Way together.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Little Ways That Encourage Good Fortune

by William Stafford

Wisdom is having things right in your life
and knowing why.
If you do not have things right in your life
you will be overwhelmed:
you may be heroic, but you will not be wise.
If you have things right in your life
but do not know why,
you are just lucky, and you will not move
in the little ways that encourage good fortune.

The saddest are those not right in their lives
who are acting to make things right for others:
they act only from the self—
and that self will never be right:
no luck, no help, no wisdom.