Entries in enlightenment (3)


Lojong 5) Settle in pure awareness (samadhi - enlightenment / sabbodhi - awareness of things as they are)

2. Formal Practice (2-10)

5) Settle in pure awareness (samadhi - enlightenment / sabbodhi - awareness of things as they are)

On the surface this seems to be to be a high aspiration.  However, this saying clarifies that this is not an achievement to be strived for, but rather it comes from releasing.  This is the key to the meaning of this one.  It is not about striving, but about letting go.  As I let go of the chatter of my everyday thoughts, I begin to settle into pure awareness of the present moment.  When I achieve awareness of the present, I begin to see things as they really are.  This means seeing things without the filters of my judgments such as "ought to be", "is good or bad", etc.  Direct experiences of my emotions are most often in the present moment; it is those pesky thoughts that are the trouble! 

As a Behavior Analyst have been accused of being "mindless" in the past.  I hope I'm not being misunderstood again.  This is why the Buddhist have appropriated the less pejorative "mindful".  I believe a "mind" capable of direct experience and goal directed thought is "an establishing condition" for release from suffering.  And back to the point of this saying:  simply settling into pure awareness.

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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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The Allegory of a Higher Rebirth

I came to an another moment of appreciation for the fortunate circumstances of my birth and life while reading The Middle Way: Faith grounded in reason (2009) by The Dali Lama.  The particular quote is rather long and occurs on page 26.

Now, the goals in Buddhism are the immediate aim of attaining higher rebirth as a human being or as a god and the ultimate aim of achieving definite goodness.  The teachings on the means of attaining higher rebirth are based on cultivating "the right worldly view."  What is the right worldly view?  It is the right view of the law of karma and its effects based on conviction in the principle of dependent origination.  The goal sought and attained on the basis of such a view is higher rebirth.

I guess it was also hearing the story of a friend who just returned from a tourist trip to Rome, in which she described the problem of seeing so many beggars.  (We see just as many in all the big cities.  Washington, DC is such a disappointment in this regard, but this is another topic.)  In the moments following my reading the passage and hearing of the pitiful situation of those "beggars", I realized (again) that I was given a very high birth (whether it is a higher rebirth, I can not say.)

I assume those of you who are reading this also are the beneficiaries of a very fortunate birth.  Mine is so fortunate, I must admit that I live like a god.  In this moment, I can not think of anything I need that I do not already have in full abundance.

Please consider doing this exercise:  In this moment, what do you need that you do not already have.  (Not in some future time or in some past temporary situation, but right now!)  Even if I try by projecting into the past or future, I still must confess; I have always and expect to continue living like a god.

I cannot explain why I have been so blessed.  (Some may speculate on the operation of karma, rebirth, etc., but I judge that is not relevant or necessary.)  But for all of us living in this opportune time and having heard the Buddharma, we are poised on the verge of enlightenment.  What better circumstances could be made available?

If you are reading this, I suspect you have been blessed already with everything you need to achieve definite goodness.  I hope you (and I) will remember this in each moment and especially at the time of our last breath.

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