Tag: Buddha

Cause of Suffering

I think we can all agree that there is much suffering in the world. I have yet to find someone that doesn’t feel this to be true. However, as a practitioner of the Dhamma, it is important to realize the cause of suffering. Why are we suffering? Once we understand the causes of our suffering we are in a better position to address the causes. You already know there is the potential to end suffering by walking the Noble Eightfold Path. I like to look at suffering not just from Buddhist definitions, but also from a personal perspective. I would hazard to guess that most of the things I consider the causes of suffering are pretty universal and will resonate with you.

Suffering is caused by:

  • Craving – It’s pretty obvious that all those things you crave only bring suffering in the end. You might be craving material things, sex, alcohol, drugs, money, status, or any number of stupid things. Time spent craving something inherently brings you pain, feelings of unease, a focus on the future, and dissatisfaction with what you have. For most of us, craving is the #1 cause of suffering and encompasses other causes.
  • Ego – For me, this means a sense of self that craves recognition because I have some inflated view of myself. We all want to be special, but a life that is driven by ego will forever feel disappointing. We create an image of ourselves based on what we do for a living or how talented we think we are. This is a false self, one we create for this world we live in, not our true nature.
  • Envy – To some degree, we are envious of others because we crave what they have. We perceive their life to be better than our own. Envy often manifests itself in resentment. We resent that the others have it so much better than we do. They are more successful, have more money, are more attractive, have more leisure time, and the list goes on and on. Instead of being grateful for the small things in life we are envious of someone or some group of people and this causes suffering.
  • Death and Aging – We realize that someday we or someone we care about will die and leave this earth. This fact alone causes us to suffer, knowing that our time is limited and that we have wasted much of it. As we age we experience pain and the inability to do what we did when we were young and healthy, thus causing more suffering. Sometimes it just comes down to the underlying fear of death that hovers over us every day of our life.
  • Attachment – “If you observe yourself and others then you will see that people crave for pleasant experiences, crave for material things, and crave for eternal life. We are attached to sensual pleasures, wealth and power but also to ideas, views, opinion, and beliefs. Taken together, the four types of attachment are the main problems that Buddhists need to understand. The four types of attachment are 1) sense objects, 2) opinions and views, 3) rites and rituals, and 4) self-hood.” Buddhism seeks to break this attachment to these things and ideas.

There are possibly dozens of other causes of suffering, but recognizing that any of these causes may be the root of your dissatisfaction is really a good thing. Without understanding the cause of suffering all the meditation in the world will not lead to its cessation. This is maybe the most fundamental truth that Buddhism seeks to address. Life is suffering, there are causes, there is a solution, and the end of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path.

You will never change your behaviour by changing the way you think until you realize what are the primary causes of your own suffering. These defilements or taints you suffer from must ultimately be addressed and eradicated. There is no Nibbana for someone that does not address their issues with ego, craving, envy, and their own mortality. In my next post, I will make a case for moving your thinking from ego and craving to service, which is another key tenant of Buddhism.

Namaste

Reference:

Guide to Buddhism: Step 5 – Eliminating Attachments

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Mediation Experiences – Cuatro

This is the fourth installment “Cuatro” in my series on my meditation experiences. The previous installments included:

Meditation Experiences – Uno where I covered some of the basics of meditation and how I began my own practice.

Meditation Experiences – Dos was targeted at a discussion on some of the benefits I have received from my practice.

Meditation Experiences – Tres is where I tried to make the case for having no expectations from your practice.

Ok enough about the past, but if you haven’t read these posts I recommend you do so, as this has been a journey for me, and you get a better context for what I have experienced if you start at the beginning. During the time that I have written this, I have been meditating on a daily basis for about 3 months. I don’t know if I mentioned this, but my practice has also included studying Buddhism, which I have been doing for maybe around the last 10 years or so. So when I talk about my practice it is comprised of meditation and Buddhist studies.

All of human history has been turbulent, but we are living in a strange era with this pandemic and technological advances that have brought so much prosperity to the world and at the same time caused so many people to be displaced. If there was ever a time that we needed something to provide a lifeline or an anchor in our world the time is now.

As I went beyond just studying and dedicated myself to daily meditation, I feel that this might be an answer to living a meaningful life amidst all this craziness. In fact, it may be the only true way out of this situation. The Buddha spent years coming to the realization that suffering exists as a natural state for human beings and that there is an end to suffering. His prescription was developing a practice of meditation and following the Eightfold Path. You might be thinking this is bullshit, how can I benefit from studying an applied philosophy created 2,500 years ago. I would argue that Buddhism has survived so long because it was relevant in the past and is relevant today and will be relevant in the future. The basic premise of Buddhism that life is Dukkha (suffering), is as true today as it was yesterday.

As I have become consistent with my practice and specifically the meditation component of it I have found it to be the lifeline that I so badly needed. I won’t kid you there are times when I sit down on my cushion and have trouble tuning out the world around me, thoughts about my work, or other things become so prominent that I have trouble staying present. While some sessions seem better than others, all of the time spent meditating is a respite from the insane world we live in. This daily practice starts out as somewhat of a challenge, but as you persist it becomes a habit, and you will start to look forward to it. You become your practice, you become compassionate, and ultimately you become Buddha. Your practice will soon become the most important thing in your life because all good things result from it. You might just become a better spouse, parent, or friend. You might even start seeing the world as it really is and you will start seeing the good in people.

I will leave you with this somewhat funny quote from the Dalai Lama:

Namaste

 

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Meditation Experiences – Tres

Nice quote by Edgar Cayce

This is the third post on my meditation experiences. In Meditation Experiences – Uno, I spent some time discussing how I started meditating and the technique that works for me. In the post Meditation Experiences – Dos, the focus was on the benefits that I have received from my practice.

In this blog post, I will make the case that you should expect nothing from your practice. I know this seems contrary to all that we are taught during our life, which normally revolves around if I do something I should get some benefit from it, or in the opposite case maybe it detracts from my life in some way. For your practice to be pure and lasting you must not fill your head with expectations. The very fact that you expect something becomes an ego trip of sorts, where you say to yourself if I meditate then I will become enlightened or I will become calmer, or whatever you might expect from your practice. Before too long, you begin thinking you are superior to the rest of humanity because you have become more spiritual or by virtue of your discipline. I’m not saying that there won’t be benefits that come to you from your meditation practice, but I am asking that you leave the expectations at the door.

Here is the thing with expectations they will make your practice more difficult and may result in you quitting altogether. Let’s say that you expect your practice to make you calmer, more empathetic, or maybe more compassionate with the rest of the people on this planet. The next thing you know someone runs into your car and you start screaming profanities at the other driver, or thoughts of why does this shit always happen to me. Stop expecting your meditation practice to turn you into the Dali Lama and when you stop with all these expectations your practice just becomes something you do. Maybe your practice is actually part of a bigger picture on the road to becoming a more spiritual person who embraces Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. I would guess for many of us that meditate it has become just a part of our spiritual practice, and not a thing we do to satisfy some expectation of what we get from it or who we will become.

After I got over the idea that my meditation practice should give me something I dropped all the expectations and it became a habit. What I mean by that it has become like eating, sleeping, breathing, yoga, or any other thing you regularly do. Once your practice becomes a habit, something you just do, you can quit thinking about what is it doing for me. Will you benefit from your meditation practice? Absolutely, but beyond what you might expect is a realization that your practice helps you develop the Buddha-nature that is buried deep within yourself. Maybe what I call Buddha-nature will for you be, Jesus Christ, God, or Mohammed.

This is one of my favorite quotes and I feel is very applicable to your meditation practice:

“I expect nothing and accept everything” Gary John Bishop

Take this to heart as it applies to your meditation practice and all will be well with you.

Namaste

 

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Meditation Experiences – Dos

In my prior post Meditation Experiences – Uno I wrote about how I started meditating and to some degree why I decided to try meditation. In this post, I would like to make a case for meditation, the benefits if you will at least from my own perspective. Some of you may have tried meditating in the past and found it difficult if not almost impossible to just sit and count breaths. You may have been so busy thinking about what you need to do, that the whole process was just painful and seemed very unproductive. Here is the problem, it takes time to create a habit of meditating and the first 5 or 10 sessions may seem difficult at first, but like any good habit, you will need to make the investment before seeing any returns. You may feel like nothing is happening here and I am still letting my monkey mind dominate my meditation session and then something begins to change and you start to both enjoy and benefit from the experience. Mind you it might have taken a month or longer to get to this point, but it does happen.

Why did this seemingly simple thing, just sitting and breathing suddenly become enjoyable? Here are a few benefits I have received from meditating:

  • Being Present – I began to understand that my monkey mind and drive to be always doing something that supported my goals was preventing me from just enjoying the process of meditating. I was so anxious that I was spending all of my time recalling the past and then at the same time thinking about what I needed to do in the future. So instead of looking at meditation as just another thing to check off my to-do list, I began looking forward to it because it helped me be in the present. In fact, I often tell myself while meditating “You are present” or “You are here”, this often helped to drown out the thinking about the future, which often dominates my thoughts. What I’m really saying here is you are fucking yourself over by thinking you need to be productive all the time. This was part of my problem, I was looking at meditation as a kind of goal or thing I had to do, instead of just appreciating how it was helping me live in the present moment.
  • Discover Your True Self – As I continue to meditate I have begun to realize that there are things more important than my job or who I thought I was. Meditation helps you get in touch with who you really are. This doesn’t happen immediately, but over time you begin to realize there is the actual you, not some role you play. Maybe it is your true self, you know the compassionate, introspective, and loving person you actually are. For me, meditation is helping to peel back the layers of responsibility and anxiety that dominates much of our lives as we spend our time trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations.
  • Calms the Mind – Meditation is one of the few things I have found that breaks the monkey mind pattern of thinking and calms the mind. When I finish a session I feel renewed and free if even only for a while. You might get a similar feeling from walking on a nice day when you are not bothered by cars or loud noises. While I love a good long walk and find it very relaxing it feels different than meditating. The aftereffect of meditation is more like a reset or rebooting of the mind to a state of calm and clarity.

I know that there are many other benefits that could be attributed to meditation, but for me, these are the ones I have noticed a couple months into the practice.

 

So is it worth it? 

My answer is a resounding Yes! 

 

Final Parting Shot

The mistake I made in the last year or so is that I would start out very consistent and then my practice would fizzle out. I simply did not put a high enough priority on it, missing many days, stopping and starting. Those benefits of being present, discovering yourself, and calming your mind come from daily practice. I’m not saying I never miss a day, but it has become pretty rare now, and if something prevents me from doing it at my regular time, I fit it in later in the day.

I would love to hear about the benefits you attribute to your own meditation practice, leave me a comment.

I hope to write another post soon as this wonderful journey continues.

Do good and stay safe.

Namaste

 

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Worthy of happiness

Worthy Of Happiness

I was reading a quote this morning and thought it was very interesting. I knew little of Immanuel Kant, but what intrigued me was the premise that to be worthy of happiness you need to live a moral life. As I processed this thought that the possibility of happiness can be earned as a result of morality I thought about The Five Precepts in Buddhism, which are:

  1. to abstain from taking life
  2. to abstain from taking what is not given
  3. to abstain from sensuous misconduct
  4. to abstain from false speech
  5. to abstain from intoxicants as tending to cloud the mind

In Buddhism, the five precepts are a moral code for laypeople, or one could think of them as the fundamental baseline of morality. Read them and you begin to realize how broadly they can be applied and how powerful their influence could be on your personal conduct.

Personally, I tend to stay away from talking too much about morality, as it is often applied for example in religion to various behavior that I may see as moral and not immoral. Still, there is something about this quote that made me think that maybe we all need to strive to be more moral, and by doing so provide an opportunity to be a bit happier.

Note Kant does not equate morality to happiness only to being worthy of happiness. To me, this means real happiness like everything else must be earned, and in Buddhism, this starts with the Five Precepts. Can you be happy without striving to live a moral life?

If you are aware of the consequences of your actions and the impact they have on others, then the answer is no.

Who was Immanuel Kant?

He lived in the 1700s to early 1800 and was an influential German philosopher in the Age of Enlightenment. In his doctrine of transcendental idealism, he argued that space, time, and causation are mere sensibilities; “things-in-themselves” exist, but their nature is unknowable.

Kant’s theory is an example of a deontological moral theory–according to these theories, the rightness or wrongness of actions does not depend on their consequences but on whether they fulfill our duty. Kant believed that there was a supreme principle of morality, and he referred to it as The Categorical Imperative.

Well enough, for now, I need to start making myself worthy of happiness and do something good today, guess I will start by reflecting on the Five Precepts.

Namaste


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Reference:

Five Precepts of Buddhism Explained

 

A little information on Immanuel Kant

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immanuel_Kant

 

 

The way

I’m paraphrasing here, but from the book UNFU*K Yourself by Gary Bishop, he says something like “Only You Can Save Yourself”. So when I say let your practice be your salvation, it means your practice, not someone else, but you must become your own salvation. Your practice and I mean meditation and studies are the means that will lead you to find yourself.

The only way to reveal the true you, the you that is buried deep inside is through your practice. Without daily practice you continually let yourself become some manifestation of your environment and you move further away from who you really are. Either you direct your mind or the world around you will do it for you. I think this quote from the Buddha illustrates my point about why your practice is so important.

For a Buddhist, there is only the way, and the way is to practice.

Namaste

 

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Do you have Buddha nature?

The title of this blog post asks do you have Buddha nature? Well according to Buddhist philosophy we all have a Buddha nature somewhere inside us, but as you can see it took the Buddha Shakyamuni six years for it to be revealed to him. It was his revelation after six years upon becoming enlightened that all living beings are Buddha, meaning they are inherently enlightened. The Buddhist believe that through meditation or for Zen practitioners Zazen, one can strip away the layers of unconscious thinking and brainwashing that has covered up our true nature.

However my statement applied to human beings, homo sapiens if you will. The Buddha Shakyamuni stated “all living beings are Buddha”, not all human beings are Buddha. Often when one refers to the word Buddha they are referring to Siddhārtha Gautama who becomes the Buddha, but in this quote the term Buddha refers to meaning the enlightened one or a person who has attained Buddhahood. In my mind none of these definitions really fully explain what the Buddha Shakyamuni proclaimed upon enlightenment because they again bestow the term only to a human beings.

Maybe it is more precise to say that all living things are inherently enlightened or are Buddha. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines enlightened as:

“freed from ignorance and misinformation”

I like to think we all start out in life with a Buddha nature free from ignorance and misinformation, and then the brainwashing begins. As we are taught fictitious stories by our parents, society, and our formal education systems we begin to bury the Buddha nature beneath layers of thoughts about the world and most of them untrue. We are told stories that impart values such as:

  • Money is good, more money is better
  • Power is good and we should seek power over others
  • Sex is good and we should always want more
  • Success is the result of hard work and we need to work harder
  • Life is competitive and we need to grab all we can get before someone else does
  • Acquiring things is good and we should seek more
  • God is all powerful and we should worship him
  • Nationalism is important, we are better than they are
  • Praise is good, seek more, stoke the ego

Of course this goes on and on, and these stories only serve the purpose to make us subservient to a materialistic me oriented society, where the more you have the more successful your are as a person. We are always seeking more, craving for new experiences, and never knowing ourselves. It is not in our nature to live based on these stories we are told, but it becomes a matter of conditioning over time. The Buddha was not satisfied with these stories, and left the Royal Palace to seek the answers to life, ultimately finding enlightenment, then going on to teach the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path to thousands of disciples.

Can we follow his example and gain enlightenment? I think the answer is a resounding YES! If in fact you believe that we all have Buddha nature buried deep inside us, then the possibility of gaining enlightenment truly exists. There is a catch here, and it is not a trivial thing. The Buddha himself spent six years meditating to gain enlightenment, which clearly points out his dedication and patience. Here is a quote I find applicable to helping you as you follow the path:

 

In a world of instant gratification, rampant materialism, and greed we are probably challenged like never before, but I take heart in seeing that many are disillusioned with the stories that have dominated society since the beginning of the Industrial Age. There seems to be a keen interest in Eastern philosophy and the practice of meditation. People are looking for meaning in their life that goes beyond the acquisition of material things. They are beginning to understand that craving begets more craving, and the cycle only leaves us more dissatisfied and disillusioned. Buddhism can show us the way out of this self imposed existence, ultimately ending the causes of suffering such as craving and ego. My advice would be start with understanding the Four Noble Truths, studying the Eightfold Path, and start meditating.

Let the process begin.

Namaste

 

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Sources:

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/enlightened

A model personality

How do you see yourself?

Do you think you are lazy, unworthy, prone to anger, or lacking direction in your life? What Epictetus is advocating is to see yourself as something greater than you currently do. He even goes so far as to say imagine yourself a model personality, maybe someone like Epictetus, Seneca, or Marcus Aurelius. It could be anyone that you admire, maybe Winston Churchill,  Buddha, Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or anyone that you aspire to be more like. Use that model character as your guiding light that leads on a course of to follow in terms of speech and action.

Once you have chosen that individual or ideal for yourself now act upon it in both your public and private life. It does no good if you ramble on in public about your philosophy if you cannot implement it in your personal life. If you want to be kind, compassionate, loving, understanding, and calm then do this at all times. It’s not only a philosophy, but it must become a way of life. Don’t study the Bible, the teachings of the Buddha, or the Holy Quran, and go about your life as normal. Just thinking about being a better version of yourself does nothing; you must think then act.

I don’t advocate Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Stoicism, or any other religion or philosophy. In fact any of these mentioned provides guidance on how to live a model life, but you are free to choose one or all of them for yourself. An example of this is the Dali Lama who often talks about loving kindness and compassion and by all accounts his actions support his teachings. So the challenge for the day is to take any of the tenants from your studies and actually implement it in your actions. As it becomes more challenging to be virtuous, during these stressful times, it also becomes more important to act as that model character you want to become.

Who do you aspire to be?

Namaste

 

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Today I escaped

This really resonated with me, as I am often the victim of my own thinking, making mountains out of mole hills if you will. I assumed what needed to be done would be difficult, or a situation came up that I perceived to be negative caused suffering. My monkey mind went into overdrive and I took the normal shit that happens and turned it into a nightmare. What the hell!

Sure the Buddha was right; life has more than it share of dukkha (pain and suffering), but how much of it is self imposed? As I have been studying stoicism recently I begin to notice certain parallels with Buddhism. Could the assumptions we make about things,  that Marcus Aurelius is talking about be yet another cause of dukkha, much like craving, desire, and attachment?

At the moment you start to say this is difficult, or I hate this situation, you are making assumptions and most of these are what will happen in the future. In fact in retrospect you find that most of your assumptions were bullshit.

Maybe the answer is in dealing with things as they occur in the present, without assumptions, expectations, and above all withholding judgment.

A bit of stoicism, Buddhism, and lots of yoga and meditation might help too.

Namaste

The Current Expectation

The Happiness Movement

There is a movement in recent times that sets an expectation that we can live a life filled with happiness. Gretchen Rubin wrote a book a few years back called the “Happiness Project” where she expounds on a number of ways to increase your level of happiness. We are constantly subjected to a barrage of advertising that shows us how happy people are with that new car, drinking beer at the beach, or taking expensive vacations to Caribbean. All of these things advocate living a lifestyle that will make us happy forever more. There is a high expectation that if you just buy this, learn this, or do this activity happiness will follow.

corona beach

Unfortunately a consistent state of happiness is probably an illusion, and thinking that it is achievable may be somewhat dangerous to enjoying life. What I mean by this is that you are setting an expectation that is not achievable and this will actually cause you to think something is wrong with you if you are not in a constant state of bliss.

Each of us face so many challenges in our life such as health issues, family strife, making a living, and the list goes on and on. Do you really expect that you will feel happy during what are often very negative events that occur? You need to give yourself the opportunity to feel angry, sad, frustrated, inpatient, as these events unfold. That doesn’t mean you wallow in your pain and conduct a lifelong pity party, but allow yourself some time to express your feelings.

“Life is not a big long beer commercial, much of living is also filled with struggle and challenging situations”.

While it is true you can emerge from a painful situation, stronger and wiser, you may even learn something from it, but you will not be in some state of continuous euphoria.

Instead of expecting a life filled with happiness whatever that really means, be realistic and expect that your emotions will rise and fall like the tide. I really like listening to speakers like Les Brown, Tony Robbins, Bob Proctor, Esther Hicks, Mel Robbins, and Jim Rohn; these people are very motivating and can give you some great tips for being more successful and effective in life. Things like the Law of Attraction and the 5 second rule are great tools for enhancing your life, but like any tool it will have its limitations. Most of the time I hover somewhere in between happiness and sadness, somewhere in the middle, not overcome by either emotion.

My parting advice would be:

  • Feel Happy
  • Feel Sad
  • Feel Angry
  • Feel Pain
  • Feel Frustrated
  • Feel Love
  • Live in the Moment

Just don’t fall into the trap that your life should be one where you are in some heightened state of happiness all the time.

Root of Our Suffering

A certain amount of our life is dealing with pain, it happens to all of us, and we can avoid the suffering associated with it, but it is a difficult thing to do. I like the quote below because it resonates with me. I make no claims to have eliminated all attachment in my life, but I agree it is often the source of suffering.

Root of suffering

Namaste