Phi110: The Core Doctrines of Buddhism


OK. Today we’re going to explore
some of the core teachings of Buddhism. I talked about the problem
of original Buddhism before, but these are teachings
that are generally accepted over the
past 2,500 years by all flavors of
Buddhism as reflecting what the Buddha himself–
the historical Buddha– actually taught. Two things to remember–
there are many numbered lists. The reason there
are many numbered lists is because for the
first 500 years of Buddhism it was an oral tradition. A numbered list helps
you to remember. OK? So it’s there for
purposes of memory. Don’t become confused and think
we have to learn 42 of this, and 33 of that, and what if
somebody says there are 12 and somebody else
says there are eight? No, no, no, no. This is just a way
of remembering. A hook on which to
hang various ideas that you want to refer back to. The other thing
to keep in mind is that all the doctrines
are presented as a sort of
meditational practice. At the very least a
contemplative practice– but as a meditation practice–
to help you understand your own mind, your own
life, your own relationships, and to transform them. This is not a
tradition in which you must be orthodox in your
understanding, and your ideas, and your beliefs, and so forth. This is not what this is about. This is about getting
on track and exploring your own consciousness. So– and I’ll go into more
detail as we go along. One thing that you
will get a flavor for is as Fisher puts
it in her book, this early Buddhis– this
original Buddhism– was not a path for the lazy, she says. Yes, there’s a
lot of work to do. Now, I want to
temper that straight off by saying that, in
fact, the Buddha taught not only to people who
intended to become monks, not only to yogis, not
only to learned people, but also talked to peasants,
farmers, just ordinary people. And we talked about Upaya
before– skillful means– presented such things as
he thought that they could understand and
presented them in a way that they could understand
them, which is all this is, but it’s directed at us. But that’s all this. This is all Upaya–
skillful mean. You don’t have to be a
spiritual Green Beret to be doing these things. Ordinary people who
live ordinary lives can begin integrating the
basic Buddhist teachings into their everyday life. And that, indeed,
is something that we see very strongly as Buddhism
has come to the West. Very few people are going to
join monastic communities. Westerners do things such as
take courses, go on retreats, join meditation groups,
this sort of thing, and then try to integrate
their Dharma practice with the rest of their life. So to begin, many Buddhist
teachers would tell you, if asked, what makes
you a Buddhist? You have taken refuge in what
are called the three jewels. The Buddha, the
Dharma, and the sangha. OK, the Buddha– the
Buddhist teachings, the truth conveyed by those
teachings, and the sangha, which is the Buddhist community. Now, used in a
strict sense, that means the community
of monks and nuns, but it’s frequently– throughout
the history of Buddhism– frequently used to
mean simply everyone who is involved in this path. From the lay person to
the most austere yogi, everyone who is involved
in the Buddhist path is part of the sangha. And everyone in the sangha
is supporting one another. These are sometimes
called the three refuges. And, indeed, there is a chant
that most Buddhists do– I take refuge of the Buddha,
I take refuge in the Dharma, I take refuge in the Sangha. What does it mean
to take refuge? Well, actually, a Tibetan
teacher, Chogyam Trungpa, talked about that a great
deal in one of his essays. And he said,
understand that means you’re becoming a refugee. A refugee? Was that something desirable? Well a refugee realizes,
in my present situation, there is something
that’s not sustainable. There’s something wrong
in my present situation. I have somewhere to go. I have something to do. And I’m going to leave
most of my baggage behind. And I’m going to go
someplace where there is hope that things will be better. So yeah, taking
refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha
makes one a refugee. You’re taking
refuge that you have a lot of things in your life
that you need to put down. They’re just useless baggage. And there’s something about
samsara that is unsatisfactory. But there is hope. Becoming a refugee and
taking refuge you then have hope that things will be better. The four noble truths. These, understand, are
realizations rather than doctrines. Learning the
doctrine doesn’t mean that you’ve understood
those truths in any way that it’s helpful. And Buddha did not say, I’m
teaching you this doctrine. Rather, he said,
these are these things that I realized– Dukkha. Dukkha is often
translated as suffering. It’s not simply suffering. Various Buddhist
teachers have described Dukkha as the
unsatisfactoryness– the imperfection– of life. A teacher of mine, who was
in the Theravada tradition, said, the best way
for some Westerners to understand Dukkha is
to go to the shopping– go to the supermarket,
or the shopping mall, and get a shopping cart
and start pushing it, and you discover one
of the wheels is bad. It just isn’t going the
way you want it to go, and it’s a constant
annoyance that it isn’t going the way
that you want it to go because it is imperfect. And, indeed, one of the original
meanings of the term Dukkha was an application to a wheel
that wasn’t properly aligned on axle and so it
was wobbling as you were trying to push the cart. Taitetsu Unno, a very,
very esteemed teacher in the Pure Land
tradition who was a professor at Smith
College for many years– he said that when he would
teach an introductory course on Buddhism, and he would
try to explain Dukkha, he would begin by
saying it is a fact that life will not go the
way you want it to go. And he said all the
20-year-olds in class would go, ah, what
are you talking? But all the older
people– the 40 or 50-year-old people who
were taking the course– would go, yes. They simply had more
experience that there are lots of things you
can’t control in life. There was a recent
novel published in India about a man who is trying to
deal with the death of someone who was working for him and all
the complications it caused, and he comments
at one point, what a typically Western
illusion it is to believe that you can
control everything in life. Most of what
happens is something you can’t really control. You may be able to
influence it somewhat, but you especially have control
over how you respond to it. What you do with
your experience. OK? Dukkha means, stuff happens. You don’t know how it happened,
you know why it’s there. Earthquake in Nepal–
it just happens. Heat wave in New
England– it happened. You could find reasons
why it may be happening, but your understanding
of why it’s happening is not going to
make it not happen. People get sick, people
grow old, people die. In fact, as the
Buddha realized– and that’s one of
the things that led him to abandon his home
in the palace and his wife and child– I can’t
save them from time. I can’t save them
from mortality. They will grow old,
they will grow sick, and they will die,
just as everyone will. You will lose everything you
love either through its death, or your death. So, what do you do with that? Well, there’s the
Arising of Dukkha. How does Dukkha arise? Well, there’s something called
the Wheel of Interdependent Arising, or
Interdependent Existence, and there are various
different ways that it’s presented by
different Buddhist teachers or in different
Buddhist scriptures. I’ve given a very simple
version of it here. And that’s because,
actually, there is no point in worrying 12
different spokes of this wheel, or whatever, unless
you’re doing that in the context of getting
specific meditation instruction. This is not something
you’re supposed to learn as a
doctrine, but rather something to train
yourself to begin seeing. This is how my mind works. So I’ve given you
this very simple one– phenomenal contact. We have sensations,
some perceptions. They are either neutral
or pleasant or painful. Depending upon whether they are
neutral pleasant or painful, we attach an idea to
them– this is desirable, this is undesirable. This is hard to endure. This is something
that’s attractive to me, so forth and so forth. We create an attachment,
in other words. We don’t just see it as–
we’re not just conscious of it as it is, but rather we see
it through our response to it. And that leads to
a volitional state. We want to do
something about it. This is boring, I
want to do something. Or, oh this is painful. I want to run away from it. Or oh boy, this is pleasurable. I want it. I want more of it. I want to grasp. I want to get it. I want to hold onto it. But, of course, everything
is falling apart. Everything that comes
together will fall apart. And that is known as Anicca. Impermanence–
everything is impermanent and you have to be able to
see that with your own mind. To treat things as if they are
not inpermanent and are totally under your control is
Avidja, or ignorance. And that is– the way we behave,
then, is essentially addiction. We’re addicted to the pleasant. We are averse, which is a
kind of negative addiction to painful sensations. We grasp after things
that can’t be held onto. We try to avoid things
that can’t be avoided. An American Buddhist
teacher, Sharon Salzberg, has said on a number of
occasions, pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. OK, what does that mean? It means that if I simply see
the painful sensation that’s what it is without attachment,
without grappling with it, without defining
myself in terms of it. Oh, I’m in pain. No, that’s just
painful sensation. And I peacefully let it go. It arises if it passes away. Having Dukkha about
Duke is suffering. Anatta– nothing here is a
permanent and essential self. When you observe closely
the arising and passing away of moments of
consciousness, what you find is an interdependent,
dynamic process– a stream. Not something that is
solid, not something that is static, not
something that is essential, but rather afflux that’s
all interconnected, all related by cause and effect. And your mind, your personality,
your identity is this stream. It’s this process. It’s not one thing. Now here’s something
to blow you away. This word Anatta. An is the negative particle. Atta is the poly for atman. And now we’re into
deep territory. There is no atman. Well how different is
that from Hinduism? No, there is no atman. You dissolve completely into
this interdependent process in which there is nothing
permanent, nothing essential, in which everything arises and
passes away instantaneously. Well, this notion of
I, this notion of self, arises out of our
efforts, our attachments, and so forth, that are
based upon– if you will– this ignorant consciousness
that doesn’t see things arising and passing away, but just
tries to hold onto them, or push them away, or
attach ideas to them. And then we don’t even
have the experience. We see the idea. An example– I knew a child who
would not for the life of him eat cheesecake. Why? That idea– cheesecake. A cake made out of cheese? I’m not going to eat that. I’m won’t even taste it. Well, of course, he didn’t
know what it tasted like, and when he finally after a
number of years of refusing it actually tried it, he loved it. But it was the idea. Oh I can’t possibly
like that because I have this idea attached to it. It’s the idea you’re responding
to, not even the thing. When we stereotype people. When we avoid things that we
think are going to be painful, or run after things that
we think are beautiful, or pleasant, or attractive,
essentially we’re chasing cognitive states
rather than real experience. Anicca, Dukkha, Annata– it
arises because we are ignorant and we don’t see how our
consciousness arises, complicates itself, and
passes away every moment. Instantaneously, every moment. As one student of
mine put it once, it’s actually in the
moment between the moments. And the moment you have
the illusion of I– you have the
illusion of I again, next moment have the
illusion of I again. This is happening in the
moment between the moments. And this is where the
rebirth comes from. The rebirth of the
I. Of the illusion of self, which leads to more
phenomenal contact, which, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And then wheel keeps spinning. Now again, it’s not a matter
of examining the doctrine and asking, does that
sound reasonable to me? It’s a matter of
actually learning to become conscious
of your own mind. Learning to become aware of
your own mind, and seeing it. Remember, I said that
in early Buddhism, the phrase ehi passika is used. Come and see. This is not to persuade you. This, rather, is to direct
you to pay attention. The cessation of
Dukkha, or Nirodho. Cessation of Dukkha–
you can intervene once you become conscious here. You can intervene. You cannot attach yourself. You can let go. You can substitute peaceful
states for agitated states, and so forth. And in that way, this
whole spinning wheel they keeps you reborn
every moment in Samsara slows and eventually dissolves. Once it has
dissolved completely, you experience Nirvana. Nirvana comes from an old
word that– essentially it was used for if a cup of tea
is boiling and you let it cool, you let it settle down,
then it has Nirvanaed. Nirvana doesn’t just mean
something really pleasurable. Again, in the West, it’s a word
that we have completely abused. Oh wow, that vacation resort–
that was skiing Nirvana. It doesn’t mean heaven. It doesn’t mean great pleasure. And it doesn’t mean
something that I really want. It certainly doesn’t mean this
state of being really high. I once had a social worker
talk to me about a client back when I was a social worker. And say– he had no
idea what was going on. He was so drugged out he was
just out there in Nirvana. And I thought, well,
you know, I’m not going to bother try to
correct your understanding of that word, but that
is not Nirvana means. So it doesn’t mean doped out. Give you an example, I
was taking a workshop once from Sharon Salzberg–
very respected Buddhist author and teacher in
this country– and a young man said to her that–
she was talking about trying to stay alert
while you were meditating. And this young man
was saying well, and I find that at
that point where I’m just dozing off– if I’m
dosing when while I meditate. Just right at the
cusp of being asleep, it’s really so pleasant. It’s really a peaceful,
pleasurable state and so forth. And she listened
politely while he went on about how much he enjoyed
being half asleep. And when he was done, she
simply smiled and said, meditation is about waking
up, not about falling asleep. And then went on
with the lesson. Well, there you go. Nirvana is not about
becoming unaware, but quite the
opposite– becoming so completely aware that you
are free from all of this. So how do you get there? Well, the Eightfold Path. This formula is talked
about from the earliest times in Buddhist
scriptures and, again, is pretty much a universal. Right outlook, right motive,
right speech, and so forth. But what we mean by right? Again, this is not about
being doctrinally orthodox. Right means it comes out
of the appropriate mindset. Right [INAUDIBLE] and
right outlook, or saddha. Sometimes that gets translated
by Westerners as faith, and the problem with
that is that there are 101 different things
within Western traditions that the word faith can mean. And so quoting Sharon
Salzberg again. She wrote a book called
Faith, and she said, faith, as I understand it
in the Buddhist tradition, is about trusting your own
most fundamental experiences. Well, again, this is not
about a belief system. This is about experience,
and this is about trust. You start off with the right
outlook, which arises out of compassion–
compassion for yourself, and compassion for other
living beings, as well. You have the right motive. Why am I pursuing this? Am I pursuing this
so I can think I’m better than other people? Am I pursuing this
so that I can become some sort of religious
superstar or something? No, I’m doing this
out of compassion. My motive is simply to
live more compassionately. More compassion toward
myself and more compassion toward others. Right speech. Again, this is not
the Ten Commandments. It’s not like, don’t take
the Lord’s name in vain, don’t slander your neighbor,
and that sort of thing. And I’m certainly
not criticizing that tradition, because those
are some very good precepts to adopt– don’t go
around slandering people, lying about them,
gossiping about them. And that would all fall
under the right speech. What is right speech? It’s compassionate speech. It’s speech that arises
out of compassion. Does that mean you
may never criticize someone else’s teachings
or someone else’s conduct? No, it doesn’t mean that at all. In fact, no flavor of
the Buddhist tradition has ever held that one
ought never to speak critically or think critically. It does not mean that one ought
never to chide or admonish, but rather if I’m going to
chide or admonish or criticize, my motive has to be
out of compassion. I’m trying to help. I’m not angry because
you said the wrong thing or I think you think
the wrong thing. I’m not trying to
slap you down, I’m doing it to try to be helpful. There’s a long passage
about before you criticize, make sure that your
motive is proper, that you’re using the
right words to be helpful, and so forth, and so forth, and
so forth, in the monastic code for the Theravadans. I have that excerpted,
and I always have that tacked to the wall
when I’m grading papers. Before you make a criticism
of what the student has said, make sure that you’re
doing it in the spirit of, I’m trying to be helpful. Conduct. What is right conduct? There are five precepts
that most lay people take. Monks and nuns take
an additional five. What are those precepts? Well, first of all,
they’re not commandments. It’s not, don’t ever do
this, or you must do that. It’s, OK, look
we’re human beings. We learn gradually. There are big matters
of degree between, I’m unconscious, and
harmful, and menacing, and I’m enlightened, and
benevolent, and so forth. There’s a big spectrum
of degrees in between. What that means is
I am honest enough to be aware that I’m here,
and try to move myself here. And finding myself
established here, I try to move myself here. You start where you are
and, you take the next step. Once you’re establish in that
step, you take the next step. And that’s what you’re doing. You’re undertaking a
precept of self training to refrain from certain kinds
of behavior that are harmful. Refrain from harming
living beings. Don’t kill. Don’t cause others to
kill on your behalf. Don’t behave recklessly
so that things are killed– living
beings are killed– because of your neglect, or
because of your recklessness. Now, you can’t breathe
without killing microbes. You say, I’ll
become a vegetarian so animals aren’t
slaughtered for me. Most Buddhist cultures
would approve of that, but can I plow that field
without rodents, and insects, and so forth being displaced
or harmed or killed? No, probably not. In other words, this is Samsara. You can’t fix Samsara. What you can do is try
to live as harmlessly as possible to do the least
amount of harm that you can do. It’s not as if you don’t
have a right to live, but so does everything else. So try not to harm
other living beings. Become conscious of
the ways in which you harm other living
beings, and try to refrain from those things. Great Vietnamese Zen
teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh has said on many occasions
that the chief way in which Westerners promote
needless suffering in the world is through heedless consumption. We don’t ask where it came from. We don’t ask what had
to happen to who for it to get on my shelf. And we don’t ask where
the waste is going. I know some vegan
spokespeople have said– I am myself a vegan,
so I am not criticizing them. They said if you have to
look the animal in the face before you kill it,
probably most people would become at least
vegetarians if not vegans. OK, but on the other hand, I do
know people who would say, hey, I do look it in eye
when I kill it, so? Or, you know what? Yeah, I probably
couldn’t do that, and I know I do have a sort
of a paradox here in my life, and I’m trying to
get better about it. Well, yeah that’s
true, but would that same person
say OK, if you had to look at the five-year-old
Asian girl living under conditions of slavery
making your running shoes, would you still buy
those running shoes? If you had to look at what’s
happening in the ocean every time you got a
plastic bottle of water out of a vending machine,
would you still buy that? If you had to look at California
drying up and withering, or villages in India whose wells
have gone dry because the Coca Cola bottling plant has
come in, would you still buy that bottle of water? Or would you seek
some other solution? Well, you see how
complex this is, because everything
is interrelated, everything is interdependent. It’s not a matter
of stop harming. How are you going to do that? It’s rather a matter of become
aware of the ways in which you are contributing
to avoidable harm, and take steps to reduce the
amount of harm you’re doing. And that’s a lifelong process. That’s a continuous
improvement process. And if your actions are
motivated out of compassion, you will want to do that. Taking what is not freely given. So what does that mean? Stealing? It means way more than that. Taking what is not freely given. Apply that to relationships. How often do people
in relationships try to take things–
whether it’s attention, whether it’s
approval, whether it’s this, that, or the
other behavior– that the other
person just really isn’t interested in giving, but
I’m going to try to find a way to manipulate you, or
guilt trip you, or whatever into giving me what I
need without my asking. Do you really want
to give this to me? And if you don’t want
to give it to me, then why am I trying to
make you give it to me? Do I want this relationship
to be based on coercion? Well, OK. This is much broader
than just don’t steal. There are lots of ways
in which we take things from others that they are
not willing to part with. And if we are acting
compassionately, we will want to ask, do I
really need to take this? Or, I am I really thinking
about the other– the person I’m expecting to give. Harmful speech. Harmful speech, of
course, includes attempting to hurt
people’s feelings, lying, slandering people–
all of that sort of thing– gossip– but it also
includes all kinds of speech that misdirects the mind. The Buddha talked quite a bit
about questions not tending to edification. That’s the way it’s usually
translated– questions not tending to edification. What does that mean? It means we can sit around all
day speculating about this, and speculating
about that, and we don’t get one inch closer
to improving our minds and improving our hearts,
improving our lives. We don’t make one
bit of progress toward enlightenment
where we just spin our wheels because
we’re entertaining ourselves. Buddha gave an example of
this that’s fairly well known about a man who’s been
shot with a poison arrow, and he’s jabbering to
his friends, who shot me? Wait a minute, look at the
plumage on end of that arrow. Where did that
plumage come from? What kind of a bird is that? What kind of wood is this? Where was the guy
standing when he shot me? Is that somebody I know? Is it somebody I don’t know? Is it somebody who was hired
by somebody who I don’t know, or by somebody who I did know? Was this random? You know, hey, excuse me. You’ve been shot
with a poison arrow. Pull it out. You’re going to talk
all day until you die pursuing questions that
don’t make any difference. And this is one thing that
the Buddha was adamant about. Look, pay attention
to what you need to do in order to move
closer to enlightenment. And don’t waste your time in
doctrinal m or speculations, or whatever, or
trivia, or minutia that doesn’t make any difference. That is also harmful speech. And remember harmful
speech isn’t just what we’re saying to other people. It’s also that narrative
that’s going on in our heads constantly. Lots of people when they
first start meditating say, I can’t make
myself shut up. Lots of meditation
teachers will tell you, what the problem is
that you think you have to make yourself shut up. What you have to
do is just not get involved with that narrative. That narrative is
just going to float. It’s like stuff floating
on top of the water. You just let it float by. You don’t grab it. You don’t think you
have to play with it. You think about this
coworker of yours who said something rude to you. You don’t attach it. You don’t react
to it emotionally. You just let it float by instead
of saying, hey, wait a minute. I should’ve said this to him. Who does he think he is? Is he going to do this again? No, no, no. Just let it go by. Don’t attach yourself to it. Harmful sexual conduct. This is not simply
conventional sexual morality, although it often gets
represented that way. It’s a matter of do not use
your sexuality in a way that is less than compassionate. Do not use your
sexuality in a way that causes emotional,
or physical distress or harm to other people. In other words, don’t
just be totally driven by pleasure in your sexuality. And the Buddha realized
how incredibly strong the sexual urge is
in human beings. It’s attributed to
him that he once said, if there had been a second
attachment as strong as sex, I might never have
reached enlightenment. Because he knew how big a thing
this isn’t in the human psyche. Well, so very important to then
that before embarking on sex, you’re not that taking
what isn’t freely given by manipulating or whatever. You’re not harming
a living being. You’re not using false
or manipulative speech to yourself or to the
other, but rather you are conducting yourself
compassionately. This is not some sort of
prudish kind of thing that says, oh, don’t ever have sex,
because sex is evil. As with anything else,
attachments to pleasure, and revulsion from aversions,
that causes you problems. But you’re still going to eat. You’re still going to sleep. You’re still going to do
all kinds of other things. That doesn’t mean that you’re
not moving on your path. You do not have
to become celibate in order to practice Buddhism. In most Buddhist traditions,
especially the earlier ones, monks and nuns become
celibate, but it’s not considered a bad thing
that the lay people don’t become celibate. They’re simply admonished
to behave compassionately in their sexual relationships. I think probably
half the problems that we have as a
culture would evaporates very quickly if everyone
resolved to simply behave rather than
acquisitively, rather than in an aggressive way,
to behave compassionately in their sexual conduct. Look at how much of our
entertainment, how much about how we sell products
using sexuality and presenting sexuality, and essentially
in the mode of conquest, rather than in the mode of
compassionate connection with another. Finally, intoxications. Does that mean never drink wine? Does that mean
never smoke ganja? What does that mean, actually? Well, actually some–
we’ll talk about Tantra when we talk about Tibet. Some Buddhist do, in fact,
use all of those substances, but intoxication doesn’t simply
mean don’t ever have a beer. What it means is, don’t
befuddle your consciousness. Don’t ingest things. Don’t do things with
your consciousness that make you less aware
that make you more befuddled. There are all kinds
of intoxicants. What about television? How many people go
home, turn on the TV, and they are zombies
for several hours, and it doesn’t matter what’s
on the screen, basically. Or people who just whip
out their phones and it’s like they are so not present
in the present moment. Be here now said, Ram Dass. And being here now means
that I’m aware of where I am and who else is there. I’m not simply glued to
an electronic device that puts me someplace else, or
puts me into my own head space. I’m not, by any means,
anti technology. In fact, there are any number
of contemporary Buddhists who are looking at the question
of how can electronic devices be used to aid in meditation, or
aid in understanding the mind. So it’s not bad
in and of itself. Becoming less mindful,
less conscious, falling asleep at the
wheel, if you will, is what this is about. Right livelihood. OK, in other words,
our likelihood should be consonant
with– resonant with– our basic value of
compassion– compassion and wisdom. If practicing your livelihood
means you cannot practice compassion, cannot
practice wisdom, then you should be
in a different field. You can’t give the lion’s
share of your time and energy to making a living doing things
that are diametrically opposed to what you think
you really believe and what you really value, and
still walk away from it saying, but that doesn’t matter. Actually, yeah it does matter. When I was in graduate school,
someone gave a lecture. He had a doctorate in
English literature, and he was giving a lecture
on business careers for people with degrees in the humanities. And the first thing he said was,
OK, I want to all of you, look, you if you really feel you’re
not going to find a job, you’re not going to
make enough money, than this workshop is for you. But, do not make yourself
think that you’re going to remain the person
you are while just learning these tricks that’ll make you
successful in the business world. What you are going to do
if you want to move ahead in the business
world– it’s going to change the way
you dress, the way you groom, who you
associate with, what you do when in
your leisure time. You’re not going to be a
dynamic executive nine to five, and then in the evening put on
your turtleneck and your tweed down and sip espresso in
a cafe discussing Proust with other intellectuals. It doesn’t work like that. What you do with most of your
life takes over your life. So either you can practice
compassion and wisdom in your livelihood, or
you’re in the wrong field. And having said that,
there are plenty of people who are entrepreneurs,
or who run businesses, or whatever, who, indeed,
do practice Dharma. And it’s because
they say– I’m not saying you can’t be a successful
businessmen or businesswoman and practice Dharma. There are many
people who do that. But it means that you
have to find ways to bring your values into your conduct. Right effort. What on Earth does that mean? It means that you don’t give up. You don’t become overwhelmed. You don’t say, you know, gee,
I can’t practice Dharma today because look at what
happened or whatever. Whether you turn right
to the Dharma whenever you have things to face. You don’t let this business
sap the energy out of you. Sort of keep your
eye on the light, if you will, and
continue to pursue. It takes some resolution. Particularly, the later
Japanese schools of Buddhism worry a great deal
about this effort part, and try to find ways to make
it possible for lay people especially to pursue their
Dharma without exhausting themselves or without having to
abandon their ordinary lives. Compassionate
effort, if you will. Be compassionate with yourself. Take care of yourself,
take care of others, and you’ll be able to
make the right effort. Right mindfulness, and right
Samadhi are the last two. Remember Samadhi? Samadhi is basically
consciousness is dwelling in that
place of completion. Now, of course, consciousness
is a dynamic thing in Buddhism rather than a static thing, so
let’s start with mindfulness. The way that these
meditations are described, there are several of them. Anapanasati is
mindfulness on breathing, and that is the foundation
of most forms a Buddhist meditation. You become aware of
the breath coming in and the breath going out. Some meditation
teachers will try to teach you some
special thing you should be doing about observing
your abdomen or this, that, or the other thing. Or observe the point where
the breath goes in and out, but others what will say no. That’s ritualistic. Just breathe, and pay
attention to your breathing, and your breathing
will correct itself. Your mind will calm itself. Your mind will focus. Your body will calm itself. There was a Burmese
teacher who when he began teaching
in this country was very amused as his American
students would ask him, how are we supposed to breathe? And he would just
burst into laughter, and say, you don’t
know how to breathe? How are you alive? Well, in this
particular approach, you didn’t have to
do anything special. You just pay attention
to your breathing, and that’s a way
of bringing Dharma into ordinary mind,
everyday mind. Because you’re not
doing anything special, but you know what? You’re always breathing. Satipatthana– basically
this is insight meditation. It means you’ve directed
your consciousness inward toward these affective and
cognitive and volitional states. You see how the content
of your consciousness arises so that you can
peacefully let go of it. Vipassana is very popular
in the United States. Vipassana is usually described
as a kind of a bare awareness. You begin with the
mindless on breath, and then you simply
let your mind flow. You don’t try to
as in Satipatthana gain insight, necessarily,
into the arising and cessation of these mental
states, and that whole dynamic. You simply let things flow. The Brahma Vhiaras
means divine abodes. Well, you try to cultivate
certain kinds of mental states. Metta is loving kindness. Karuna is compassion. You experience the suffering of
others as your own suffering. Mudita is sympathetic joy. You experience the happiness of
others as your own happiness. Anyone who’s ever
been very, very bonded with another person,
whether it’s with a lover, or with a child whatever knows
what Karuna and Mudita are. Your child’s in pain, you
feel that as your own pain. Your child is really
happy, you feel that as your own happiness. And Upekkha, which is sort of
a friendliness, a peacefulness. You approach others as a
friend, not as an adversary. These are all ways of displacing
anger and frustration, and fear, and all the
things that keep you locked into attachment. Displacing them with
compassionate states of mind. And actually most
meditation teachers– traditional meditation
teachers at least– would tell you these are all
basically the same thing. It’s like a gem
that has four sides, and you’re looking
just at different sides of the same gem. What is the light in that gem? It is compassion. Compassion leads to wisdom. And something that may seem
odd to a westerner– meditation on death. One of the things that in
the traditional story– The Life of the Buddha– set
him on the path to enlightenment was observing
someone who was dead, and realizing that
death comes to everyone. Now, in traditional India
there were boneyards. If you didn’t have the money
to bury someone– which is not the preferred way of disposing
the body– or cremate them, which was the preferred manner–
or if someone was homeless, not known to anyone, the body
was simply put in a boneyard. So if you went into
a boneyard, you would see all these
bodies lying around. Some partially cremated remains. You’d see somebody’s
that were just sitting there bloating
and rotting, some of which had rotted away to
be in mere skeletons, and so forth, and so forth. Going into the boneyard, sitting
there, and meditating was the, Buddha said, one of
the most powerful meditations you could do,
because you really understand the seriousness of this. I don’t mean understand
intellectually, but with your heart you
understand this is serious. Everybody’s going to die. Those I love will die. I will die. We will all be like this. I should get busy. Now you’re probably wondering,
well, what exactly is Nirvana? What exactly is enlightenment? Someone asked that of Suzuki
Roche, a zen teacher who taught in California for many,
many years, what is Nirvana? And Suzuki Roche replied,
why do you want to know? What if you don’t like it? OK, and he was being something
of a jester, which he always was, but his point was, I
think, a very, very good one. If we, with our attached,
polluted, confused, mind knew what Nirvana was,
we might not even want it. We might run from it in fear. Why? Because we’re afraid of the
dissolution of this I. We are so attached to
the notion of I. We’re not ready to let go of it. Oh my god, that’s like a death. No, no, no. It’s the illusion of
I that leads to death. The dissolution of the ego is
what leads to enlightenment. What is enlightenment? Well, as far as anyone
has been able to tell, the Buddha said, don’t
even talk about it. When you talk about it,
you attach a concept to it, and that will be a barrier
in actually realizing. You attach an
affective state to it that will be a barrier
to actually realizing it. Just keep going. And you know what? You’ll get there. And the Buddha was not
described as being happy, he was described as being
beyond happiness and sadness. Beyond pleasure and pain. Having that insight
into our own nature and into the nature
of the world, and being totally
at peace with it. Well, in addition to being very,
very peaceful in a peacefulness that’s beyond what the
conditioned mind can think of as being happy. What else? Undiluted compassion
for all living beings. So those are the
two things that are conditioned attached minds can
see about enlightened beings. This incredible wisdom
and peacefulness, and this incredible compassion
for other living beings. That’s sort of what
draws us toward that. When we start
talking about Tibet, which is the next thing
we’ll be looking at, we’ll talk about the Mahayana. The Mahayana, or
great vehicle, as it’s called, in the
sense of being bigger. More people can get
on board because it’s more like traditional
religion in some ways. The innovations that took
place with the Mahayana– and the Tibetan
tradition is sort of a coming together, a
converging, of the Mahayana, the indigenous shamanistic
tradition, which is called Bon, and Tantra, which we
will also talk about. OK, thank you.

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