Lojong 29) Don't malign others. (Do not gossip either good or bad.)

6. Commitments (21-36)

29) Don't malign others. (Do not gossip either good or bad.)

My Twitter post from practicaldharma was stated as: 29) Don't malign others. (Do not gossip either good or bad. Even talking about someone's good traits, sets the occasion for negative gossip)

So what is there to talk about. I could talk about my stuff or other people's stuff, but this only reinforces my attachment to those things. I think it is possible to talk with others about social connections, without it being in the form of gossip. I can tell when my talk begins to slide toward maligning others, but I have a harder time catching it before it gets to that point. That is why some talk about others, even if it starts out "good" has the potential to slide into maligning someone.

I think the key for me is to maintain a positive outlook on all others and their motivations. If I assume good motives and innocent actions on the behalf of others, I am less likely to slip into maligning anyone. My conversation naturally, flows to other content about the issue I'm discussing as opposed to the personality, motives, interests, etc, of others.

I find this particularly challenging when it relates to certain political figures, for example. I confess, I have said some bad things about former dictator and war criminal (... whoops, I mean former President) George Bush. You notice, I caught myself before I went off on a rant.

What should we say about individuals like Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Mao Tse-Tung, etc? Should I assume their motives where good.  E.g. "He was just trying to eliminate terrorism the way he thought was right?".

Is the following quote contradictory to Lojong 29):

"Evils that befall the world are not nearly so often caused by bad men, as they are by good men who are silent when an opinion must be voiced."

Det. Steve Thomas Harris
Quoted by Lawrence Schiller in Perfect Murder, Perfect Town (1999)
ISBN: 9780061096969

I wonder where this quote originally came from?

Lojong 29 is a challenge, but in everyday life and with our casual acquaintances; it is easier to see its merit.

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Lojong 11.) When evil fills the world, change adversity into the path of awakening. (Each obstacle is a chance to wake up)

3. Using Adversity (11-15)

11) When evil fills the world, change adversity into the path of awakening.  (Each obstacle is a chance to wake up)

Most of the time our chances to wake up are not presented by evil in the world; but a much more familiar source.  That source is our own reaction to others.  If someone says, does, writes, (or whatever) something that really pushes my button, I can be sure it is not about them.  It is clearly about me.  It is my own projection on the other person that causes my reaction and presents me with such an excellent opportunity to increase my awareness.  

Recently, I saw a post on another Buddhist site that provided a very good if there is such a thing (... oops there I go again) presentation on reincarnation.  Reincarnation discussions in any form, no matter how reasonable, just push my button.  I am still meditating on why this is.  On the surface level it is, of course, because the common understanding of reincarnation is such a barrier to enlightenment due to it's intense ego-clinging.  At a second level, even rational and reasonable discussions of reincarnation push my button because I believe discussing anything about reincarnation gives the ridiculous common usage understanding of it, more credence than it deserves. 

But I am sure there must be something else here for me.  While I clearly understand I can not know anything about the events after death, does that mean I really have to give credence to patently ridiculous and ignorant (.... whoa, here's that button again.)

Perhaps it is because I want so much for Buddhism to fit for me, that this "fly in the ointment" is such a bother.  Thank goodness for Philosophical Buddhism. 

This is similar to the problem I have with Christianity.  The message of Jesus, if we could ever truly know it, is so appealing.  But in my judgment the typical practices, conduct, and doctrines, of Christians are such a disappointment.  Despite The Jesus Project, the Jefferson Bible, etc., a satisfying Christian message is hard to find.

Back to the point, I constantly find my projections to be some of the best opportunities to practice Lojong and from that to learn about myself and release suffering.   (And as you can see from this post, I am having some really good opportunities for growth right now!)

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Lojong 32.) Don't transfer the Ox's burden to a cow. (Don't shift responsibility)

6. Commitments (21-36)

32) Don't transfer the Ox's burden to a cow. (Don't shift responsibility)

This saying reminds us to take responsibility for our feelings, words, and actions.  It is about not making excuses.  Instead we should face up to the truth.  To the extent that we engage in excuse making we create another barrier to seeing reality clearly.  At one level this saying is about straight talk, so that I simply tell the truth, but it is also about owning my feelings and judgments (about others). 

Do we know when a thought we have (or statement we make) is a simple statement of fact and when it is a judgment, colored by our prejudices, feels, or culture?  My judgment is this is an area that requires significant awareness and mindfulness, so we don't "transfer the Ox's burden to the cow".

In the collection, The Best of Buddhist Writing (2008), edited by Melvin McLeod, the first essay is "Meeting the Chinese in St. Paul" by Natalie Goldberg.  It is a personal story, so it is about Ms. Goldberg's understanding and insight, that she obtained from a particular Zen koan.  The full reference for the source of the koan can be found in the essay.

The koan goes something like this. 

One day Yanguan called to his attendant, "Bring me the rhinoceros fan."

The attendant said, "The fan is broken."

Yanguan said, "If the fan is broken, then bring me back the rhinoceros!"

The attendant had no reply.

Ms. Goldberg has an intricate and detailed personal understanding of what this koan means to her.  (I don't get how she comes up with it, but I suppose it is her personal truth.)

I would like to suggest the meaning of the koan is similar to Lojong saying 32.  That is, Yanguan did not ask his attendant for a report on the status of the fan.  He asked the attendant to bring him the fan.  Instead of bringing the fan, the attendant made an excuse "The fan is broken."  Yanguan "busts" the attendant on his failure to be in integrity, by saying, "... then bring me back the rhinoceros!"

How often do we make an excuse for not accomplishing something we have an agreement to do, by making some (lame) excuse.  In the koan, the response from the attendant that would have integrity and honesty, would be to bring the master the fan and perhaps say, "I see it is broken, what else can I offer you."

Remember, "Don't transfer the Ox's burden to a cow."  Stay in integrity, by owning your feelings, judgments, and actions.  Don't make excuses, that are additional blinders to seeing reality.

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Lojong 4.) Let even the antidote vanish of itself. (Don't cling to the method)

2. Formal Practice (2-10)

4) Let even the antidote vanish of itself. (Don't cling to the method)

This saying reminds us to follow the middle path.  When we cling to anything it can become a problem, even if we cling to the methods of the Buddhist Dharma.  This may also remind us that it is not necessarily the object that is the source of our suffering, it is our clinging to that object.  Clinging to the method will eventually produce suffering when we demand it must be present, demand that I be perfect in the method, demand that others be perfect in the method, demand that my teacher be perfect, etc.

It is not the objects in my life that cause suffering but my relationship to them.  (And this is my excuse for all the things I have accumulated - I'm not attached to them, I could quit them at anytime....  Isn't this what people say about those pesky addiction problems, too.  Oh well, back to release from clinging.

Here is a short story from my life.  Several years ago, I was very excited because I was going to pick up a new motorcycle I had purchased.  Jim Hall, PhD, a psychologist I worked with at NorthEast Psychiatric and Psychological Institute, suggested that the first thing I should do before I took it off the dealers lot, would be to kick it over.  I sort of knew what he was getting at, but did not really understand until I had dropped the motorcylce for the first time and got over "it".

Who is more attached, the "new ager" who has a melt down when his super efficient and eco-friendly mode of transportation gets a scratch; or the "old codger" who says, "I hope you did not get hurt" when someone crashes into and destroys his big fancy luxury automobile?  (In my philosophy, it is not about the object, but about the attachment. 

So even something as desirable as "the method" can be an object of attachment that causes suffering. 

The first step in the practical dharma is to change your attitude about your stuff, then as you have success with an attitude of less attachment you will see the stuff no longer matters.  You may still choose to have or not have stuff, but your suffering will be less.

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Lojong 3.) Analyze the unborn nature of awareness

2. Formal Practice (2-10)

3) Analyze the unborn nature of awareness. (There is no "Me" independent of momentary perception)

This saying reminds us of the true nature of that which we perceive to be the self.  Because our experiences seem so clearly consistent with Philosophical Dualism, we rarely question if it could be another way.  How can we know the actual nature of the self?  Unfortunately, the most correct answer is that we cannot know with certainty. That is why the saying suggests we analyze the [unborn] nature of awareness.  It is through meditation, mindfulness, and rational analysis that it becomes clear the self is probably an illusion.  Whether I know the answer to this question is less important than the opportunity for release from clinging (suffering) that comes to me when I allow the possibility that my self is just another illusion.  (And that my insistance that I am "a separate independently existing non-physical self" is merely another of the things I accept in unawareness, like dreaming.)

If you would like to know more about how it is possible that you are not your thoughts, consider reading Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now.  Another good resource on how you can be released from suffering by developing a more accurate understanding of the true nature of thinking and language is Acceptance and Committment Therapy (ACT)

The Summer, 2009 issue of Buddhadharma has a nice article, Beyond No-Self - based on the soon to be released book by the Dali Lama (trans. Thupten Jinpa).  I will post links when these become available.

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it; unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.

The Buddha

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