Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dharma Quote - Bruce Newman

Great quote from Snow Lion Publications. This is a good reminder that compassion takes work, it doesn't just happen in wanting it to be so. Or more to the point, intention is meaningless unless we work on our mindfulness in each and every moment.

Dharma Quote of the Week

It's very easy to sit back and have compassionate and loving thoughts toward the world, all humans, nature, or something like that. This doesn't really threaten us; in fact, we feel good and a little high from that kind of thinking. But I don't feel that this kind of thinking actually changes anything. You can check for yourself: Do those expansive feelings really change how you relate to others in your everyday life, or do old patterns return? If you're like me, the old thought patterns return.

The reason is, those feelings are not really connected to the structure of the ego, which is about pushing away pain while accumulating happiness. You must be very precise in your observation of that process before it can truly be changed. Because of that, the lojong teachings recommend that you begin the exchange with yourself.

Many students who are somewhat familiar with the teachings have ignored this advice, but I feel it is the real key. We must learn to see our strategy of denying pain before we can truly generate the strong wish for beings to be free of it. By pain, I primarily mean mental pain, even the mental pain of having physical discomfort. If you try to do tonglen for others while denying your own pain, your practice becomes a technique for perpetuating avoidance and will never yield any meaningful results. So first, simply be aware of your pain at the moment. Notice your awkwardness, your wish to squirm away from it somehow. Allow yourself merely to feel it.

Now you are ready to begin tonglen. You might want to imagine an unhappy version of yourself standing in front of you; this can make the visualization flow better. Take in your suffering; give yourself healing, white light. It is advised to link these with the breath: Breathe in the suffering as black gunk; breathe out the goodness as healing white light.

Do it until it works! You should "get it," have some definite sense of healing, acceptance, and transformation. You should develop the insight that blocking out or denying pain is actually what keeps you in a place of pain, that it is entirely within your power and ability to do something very simple and effective to change this. Your ego mechanisms developed when you were younger and had no other defenses for dealing with difficulties; now you're older and have had the great good fortune to meet the Dharma. Thus, although it is everyone's habit to push away discomfort, there's no practical or logical reason to continue to do so.

~ From A Beginner's Guide to Tibetan Buddhism by Bruce Newman, published by Snow Lion Publications.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One of the most helpful concepts in Buddhism for me, especially in Tibetan Buddhism, is that wisdom, compassion, and so forth are things you can practice, train in, and develop. No one can hand them to you, but neither are you hopeless if you don't have those qualities already. Shakyamuni's advice about giving to the left hand with the right comes to mind, along with its Gospel mirror image, "Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing".