Entries in Bodhicitta (4)


Lojong 8) 3 Objects, 3 Poisons, 3 Roots of Virtue

2. Formal Practice (2 - 10)

8) There are three opportunities presented by the objects of attachment, objects of hostility, and objects of ignorance.  Each of these three can set the occasion for virtuous action.

The Lojong sayings are often stated in a "catchy phrase" that facilitates remembering the meaning.  (My memory for words separate from meaning is very poor, so I generally do better just understanding the meaning behind a saying.)  We are often reminded in the sayings, that adversity presents an opportunity to wake up. 

This saying points out three things that can be significant barriers to enlightenment, can also be used as an opportunity to become aware.  Attachments are the major source of suffering.  The Four Noble truths recognize the primacy of attachments as a cause of suffering.  As soon as we become aware of attachment, we are given an opportunity to release from it so we turn to a path that leads to less suffering (in the shorthand of this saying, this is labeled as a virtue.)

Hostility is also a very significant barrier to peace of mind and enlightenment because it is the opposit of compassion.  Insight leads to compassion.  A frequent misunderstanding of the core teaching of detachment occurs when the listener does not see the connection to compassion.  Detachment without compassion is just another way to be selfish (overly attached to self).

Ignorance is the antithesis of awareness and insight.  Most of us reading this would object to the general label of being ignorant, because of the great effort we put into study and meditation.  Yet there are moments when each of us will be blind to our motivations, unaware of our unkindness, not see the effects of our actions, and miss the connections between our actions and the results of our actions (karma).  As soon as we wake up, there is an opportunity for increased awareness and insight in which ignorance can be transformed into actions on the path of relief of suffering for ourselves and others (bodhichitta).

Objects of attachment, hostility, and ignorance (which result in corresponding poisons to the path of enlightenment) can set the occassion for transformation into right actions.

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Using Our Fortunate Circumstances

Is having a fortunate birth and hearing the Buddhadharma enough to create enlightenment?

Most of us (who are reading this) have access to the "affordances" of modern life, like the Internet, education, health care, beautiful shelter, abundant food, and access to other resources.  I believe these things are what traditional Buddhism would call achieving a higher human birth.  Yet these things are merely external factors that may create an opportunity for spiritual development, if other conditions are present (and utilized).  I believe that some people can simply hear the Buddhadharma, and get it immediately.  Most likely, an individual who "immediately" got it; did so after years of study, meditation, and practice on the path.  

Since we have a very large pool of individuals who have at least some of the external conditions (of a fortunate birth) and other conditions such as the promulgation of the Dharma through magazines, the Internet, workshops, teachers, Sanghas, etc.; shouldn't we expect to see lots of enlightened individuals walking among us on the path of the Bohicitta?

Here is my point:  since the world has so many favorable conditions, what do we need to do to make proper use of these to bring about release of suffering for more people.  And I hesitate to ask this negative sounding question, but I will - why have these very favorable circumstances not produced a pronounced beneficial outcome?   

I believe (another thing I take on faith, not hard evidence) that it may be we are on the brink of an age of enlightenment.  I see this possibility in many young people, especially the so called "Millennial" generation.  But realistically, we are also on the brink of disaster from our ecological hubris and "anti-spiritual" practices.

We have all the conditions needed for a truly enlightened age.  What do we need to do to take proper advantage of these?  Maybe there is something we can each do to create a world in which the Buddhadharma awakens more of those who are in such a favorable position. 

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Lojong 31) Do not strike at weakness (Don't criticize belief, love, trust, etc.)

6. Commitments (21-36)

31) Do not strike at weakness (Don't criticize belief, love, trust, etc.)

I posted this Lojong as a Twitter a few days ago and ever since then it has been returning to me for contemplation. My assessment is that I need to pay more attention to this slogan.

We all have different tendencies, weaknesses, and blind spots. I believe I have been striking at belief. I appreciate the rational analysis of Buddhism, but just as important is a commitment to compassionate action. I can rationally analyze this, but it is also simply a belief I hold. Just as I have many beliefs, and others may hold all sorts of beliefs. I hope to remember Lojong #2 about all of these things.

Belief is a crucial component in many spirtual practices. (Duh....) But actually, I have many connections to spiritual experiences in which I am not commited to belief. I experience Chi, Chakras, Tantra, mystery of the Higher Power, etc., but I still am mostly in an "it was as if ..." when I later recall what happened. The universe is so vast and my understanding so feeble, I can only remain open to "that could be so, and I will never know for sure."  And hopefully, with a genuine attitude of respect and awe.

But back to the point of this Lojong: I judge that I have been overly insistant that others engage in the same rational analysis that I prefer or else I judge them to be lacking in insight or having a barrier to enlightenment.

It is merely my preference that we all acknowledge when these beliefs are ... well, beliefs. (And the same is true for me about judgments; my preference is that we all admit when "it" is a judgment.) As soon as that happens, I am more likely to be "disarmed" of my judgments about their position, statements, etc. My goal is to reach this point of being disarmed without requiring anything of the other. It is not necessary that others meet my expectations in any way.  And others "deserve" my compassion without conditions.

My interpretation of this slogan is that it equally applies to love, trust, faith, and all of the other things that are not measured so easily (even with my best behavior analysis techniques!)

I intend to allow others to enjoy their beliefs, love, trust, etc., just as I enjoy mine.

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Lojong 1.c.) First, learn the preliminaries (3 of 4 parts)

1. Preliminaries (1a - d)

1) First, learn the preliminaries. (a. Appreciate life & hearing the Buddhadharma, b. Know the reality of death, c. Accept Karma, d. Accept the inevitability of pain)

This is the third of four admonitions defining the preliminaries:

c. Accept Karma

Karma is different than cause and effect.  It is also different from behavioral (contextual) psychology.  I support that the scientific principles of physics and behavioral psychology provide the mechanism that explains the phenomena of Karma, but the meaning of Karma is slightly different.  

The correct understanding of Karma is that each of our actions "plants a seed" for the likelihood of different future outcomes, to set the occasion for either more or less suffering.   Most of the time we do not see the immediate result as a manifestation of Karma.  If we see the immediate result, that is probably better described using the terms of physics.  If you touch the hot stove; it burns.  Karma is in operation when each of my acts of compassion (that did not seem to make a difference) eventually add up to less suffering in the world. And sadly, Karma is operating when each of the mean things I do, thoughts I have, etc. (that I thought no one saw) contribute to more suffering in the world.  Each of us is walking the path of the Bodhicitta (or the anti-Bodhicitta) whether we intend it or not.  

Why do we need to posit the operation of Karma, when the underlying laws of physics and behavioral psychology explain all of the variance?  Karma is a shorthand, just like words such as self, I, ego, etc. Buddhism often uses words this way to explain complex concepts.  (One of my favorites is using the phrase, "The Lords of Form" to explain reification - but back to Karma before I completely loose the "thread".) We use the word Karma because we would have great trouble communicating the actual process and events if we demanded that the explanation be precisely scientific and correct.

I hope many more will learn the third part of the preliminaries to start on the path of the Bodhicitta.

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