Tag Archives: buddhism

Bodhisattva of Compassion – and patience – and…

Avalokitesvara is known as the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Sometimes he is depicted having a thousand-arms (represented by many arms, not a literal thousand) because it is said that in his quest to save all beings from suffering, Avalokitesvara shatters his arms. Seeing this, Amitabha Buddha grants the Bodhisattva a thousand arms to save all beings.

Lately I’ve been feeling like I have a thousand arms, reaching out into all of the various projects and responsibilities I have going right now. Family, work full time, school full time, photography, cleaning the house, car maintenance, applying for school, trying to buy a house, dealing with credit bureaus. Today I was thinking about how burdensome those 1000 arms would be, and how infinite Avalokitesvara’s compassion must be.

But a Bodhisattvha isn’t limited to one paramita. In order to have boundless compassoin, Avalokitesvara must have already developed boundless patience. Must have already developed dhyana. And prajna. And the rest of the paramitas.

This path is not a staircase. It can’t be taken in succession. It must be taken up at once, all of it, with the determination of Hui-k’o. Realization comes as a thunderclap and a blowing dandelion all at once.

Is it beneficial to apply oneself to the paramitas, or the precepts one at a time? Certainly. But we cannot believe for one moment that once we have conquered one, we can simply move on to the other. Nor can we assume we have mastered one without the others.

More photos hopefully coming soon btw. I haven’t had the opportunity to take any lately because it has either been raining, or completely dark out by the time I get home from work. I also recently inherited an older Canon film SLR that I’ve been playing with, so I don’t have much digital to share.

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Excerpt from the Kalama Sutra

The Kalama Sutta is often cited as the gold standard for free inquiry in Buddhism, and as such is often used to justify throwing out teachings that don’t agree with one’s “common sense” – something not found anywhere in the sutta itself. Instead what this sutta expounds is a process for finding the dharma, and this process is mostly self-reliant, but must be tempered by checking what we find by that which is also “praised by the wise”, or else we might come to identify only with “common sense” – which is something we’re trying to transcend in the first place. It is our thinking, clinging mind that makes up “common sense”, and abandoning that clinging mind is pretty much the whole point of takin up this path.

If read carefully, we can see that the Buddha is expounding the dharma using upaya (skillful means) to a specific group of people, but his advice to the Kalamas is universal. That is to say that when one has faith in the path Buddha laid out for us, it is important to take up the path with the intention of self-discovery. Teachers and roshis and wise people we meet on the way are there to help guide us, but we should never rely on an appeal to authority if we are to face our Buddha nature and escape samsara. I think the following excerpt help keeps all of this in context:

“What do you think, Kalamas? When lack of greed arises in a person, does it arise for welfare or for harm?”

“For welfare, lord.”

“And this ungreedy person, not overcome by greed, his mind not possessed by greed, doesn’t kill living beings, take what is not given, go after another person’s wife, tell lies, or induce others to do likewise, all of which is for long-term welfare & happiness.”

“Yes, lord.”

“What do you think, Kalamas? When lack of aversion arises in a person, does it arise for welfare or for harm?”

“For welfare, lord.”

“And this unaversive person, not overcome by aversion, his mind not possessed by aversion, doesn’t kill living beings, take what is not given, go after another person’s wife, tell lies, or induce others to do likewise, all of which is for long-term welfare & happiness.”

“Yes, lord.”

“What do you think, Kalamas? When lack of delusion arises in a person, does it arise for welfare or for harm?”

“For welfare, lord.”

“And this undeluded person, not overcome by delusion, his mind not possessed by delusion, doesn’t kill living beings, take what is not given, go after another person’s wife, tell lies, or induce others to do likewise, all of which is for long-term welfare & happiness.”

“Yes, lord.”

“So what do you think, Kalamas: Are these qualities skillful or unskillful?”

“Skillful, lord.”

“Blameworthy or blameless?”

“Blameless, lord.”

“Criticized by the wise or praised by the wise?”

“Praised by the wise, lord.”

“When adopted & carried out, do they lead to welfare & to happiness, or not?”

“When adopted & carried out, they lead to welfare & to happiness. That is how it appears to us.”

“So, as I said, Kalamas: ‘Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, “This contemplative is our teacher.” When you know for yourselves that, “These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness” — then you should enter & remain in them.’ Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

A bit on desire in Buddhism

Most of us, when looking at the four noble truths, don’t realize that they’re all about desire. We’re taught that the Buddha gave only one role to desire — as the cause of suffering. Because he says to abandon the cause of suffering, it sounds like he’s denying any positive role to desire and its constructive companions: creativity, imagination, and hope. This perception, though, misses two important points. The first is that all four truths speak to the basic dynamic of desire on its own terms: perception of lack and limitation, the imagination of a solution, and a strategy for attaining it. The first truth teaches the basic lack and limitation in our lives — the clinging that constitutes suffering — while the second truth points to the types of desires that lead to clinging: desires for sensuality, becoming, and annihilation. The third truth expands our imagination to encompass the possibility that clinging can be totally overcome. The fourth truth, the path to the end of suffering, shows how to strategize so as to overcome clinging by abandoning its cause.

The second point that’s often missed is that the noble truths give two roles to desire, depending on whether it’s skillful or not. Unskillful desire is the cause of suffering; skillful desire forms part of the path to its cessation. Skillful desire undercuts unskillful desire, not by repressing it, but by producing greater and greater levels of satisfaction and well-being so that unskillful desire has no place to stand. This strategy of skillful desire is explicit in the path factor of right effort:

What is right effort? There is the case where a monk (here meaning any meditator) generates desire, endeavors, arouses persistence, upholds and exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful mental qualities that have not yet arisen… for the sake of the abandoning of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen… for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen… for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, and culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen. This is called right effort.

DN 22

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Hiri Sutta

One who, flouting, despising a sense of conscience, saying, “I am your friend,” but not grasping what he could do [to help]: know him as “Not my friend.” One who, among friends, speaks endearing words to which he doesn’t conform, the wise recognize as speaking without doing. He’s not a friend who’s always wary, suspecting a split, focusing just on your weakness. But him on whom you can depend, like a child on its parent’s breast: that’s a true friend whom others can’t split from you. Carrying one’s manly burden, the fruits & rewards develop the conditions that make for joy, the bliss that brings praise. Drinking the nourishment, the flavor, of seclusion & calm, one is freed from evil, devoid of distress, refreshed with the nourishment of rapture in the Dhamma

Studying texts and stiff meditation can make you lose your Original Mind.
A solitary tune by a fisherman, though, can be an invaluable treasure.
Dusk rain on the river, the moon peeking in and out of the clouds;
Elegant beyond words, he chants his songs night after night.

~ Ikkyu

An excerpt from “The Fool”

Let the fool wish for reputation,
for precedence among the mendicants,
for authority in the convents,
for veneration among the people.

“Let both the householders and the mendicants
think that this is done by me.
Let them always ask me
what should be done and what should not be done.”

Such is the wish of the fool
of increasing desire and pride.
One road leads to wealth; another road leads to nirvana.
Let the mendicant, the disciple of Buddha, learn this,
and not strive for honour but seek wisdom.

~ The Buddha