Jen Philosophical Rants

Pain

9-19-2009 (11:57 pm)
A sun sets behind the horizon and twilight sets itself over us. That foggy grey inbetween that is so resemblent to how life is. Full of darkness and light, shadows beneath the trees but a sunrise words can not describe and memory can not forget. It's an in between full of threats and promises, possibilities of adventures and misfortune.

There is sadness in seeing the sun go, in the changes of darkness and not ever knowing what's going to happen, what we'll find on the next turn or where we'll end up. But it's all apart of how life should be. Unknowing, we plunder through near darkness with a sense of hope and wonder, dread and curiosity…

What are we without these things? With out fearing what might happen, without being afraid of the fabled boogie man or the creatures of the night, would be still hold on to our sense of wonder? Would be feel fortunate and graditude for simply being alive?

But there are things to be afraid of in life. There is pain, pain that we all must experience to be alive. Without this pain we are nothing, we can not understand happiness or know the true depth of love. Pain is the unfortunate truth we discover that is nessisary to be alive, and we can either embrace such pain or die without ever understanding the most beautiful and twisted part of life.

Those who hide from pain take away something from themselves that no money, family, friends, things or even time can ever hope to replace. A man can live a thousand years and yet without knowing pain be as dumb as a newborn child.

There are things in life that make the pain bearable. The love we find, the love we give. Love in itself is a conundrum. To get through life with the pain we must suffer, love is nessisary. But to truly feel the depth and strength of love, we must also feel the pain of it. Being hurt by someone you trusted, getting into an argument with someone you care about, losing someone you loved dearly…..

It seems too cruel and too painful, that our greatest strength makes us stronger by first hurting us.

What happens next is up to us. Do we sit in the shadows and wallow in our pain? Or do we take what we have learned and continue onward? Life is often overwhelming, terrifying, and discouraging..but what do we get from giving up?

There is nothing wrong with embracing our pain, because it is senseless to ignore it. Ruminating over the things we have lost and the pain it has caused us however makes us blind to the wonder of life that still exists. A blazing sunset still looms over head…. don't take it for granted.

The soft dance of fireflies, searching for their soul mates, the mesmerizing moon lighting up the forbiding darkness, the stars that shine and flicker through the earth's atmosphere, the way the air tastes and how the wind feels on your face. With so many things to take for granted there's not enough time to close your eyes in sadness for there's just so much to see.

So don't close your eyes
Carry on,
and live

We are beautiful for the tears we've cried.


Time

9/26/09 (12:58 am)

It is inevitable.

The steady march of time, forever progressing forward.

We can not go back, we have to keep moving in the same direction.

Our minds may drift away and behind from us, traveling back to times less bitter. Times when the worst sorrow we knew was when it was time to go to bed or when we had to eat all of the vegetables off our plate before we could have dessert.

But we ourselves mus continue the steady march forward through time, with or without our minds.

Things are always changing. They have to, because time refuses to stay put.
Only when things are especially aweful..or especially breath-taking, does time seem to for a moment stand still.

For a sweet or bitter moment, the world stops its spinning, everything stands still and the world holds its breath……

A first kiss,
a last goodbye,
a long awaited reunion,
a tragic accident,
holding someone you love in your arms so tightly…….

Time of course, is a precious thing. We have no means to get more of it, and we are only fooling ourselves to thing that we can.
We may strive for longer lives, but death comes for all of us. Another painful nesessity, as without the possibility of death, life loses it's importance.

We fill our lives with worry, we rush about our days being mindful about things that really don't matter, and we are mindless towards the things that do.

We worry about getting older, but no matter how many years we have lived we are still children inside. Always wondering why and how..trying to understand life and everything within it..

Time does not kill our sense of wonder but only builds upon it. The older we get the stranger things we see and we find there are more and more things that we don't understand and perhaps never will.

The child in us always has questions. The questions may become more complicated as we get older…from wondering where babies come from; wondering what death is, wondering why we are here, questioning love, pondering hate, to simply wondering; why?

Things are always changing. Seasons pass, and we will grow older in time. Some memories we will hold on to forever, some we will forget.

As time progresses the human species learns more and more about life and the universe, and it is possible there may come a time when there is nothing left to learn. No more need for the child within us to wonder why?

It is then, and only then, that time will stop for good. Because everything after that point in time is worthless, and we will truly be old and dead.


The Storm

1/12/10 (10:10pm)

Often life can be like a storm. Chaos and a certain uncalm wildness that can tear you apart. I have screamed and fought against the raging winds of this storm and have found no peace. There is no peace or calmness in fighting something that can not be fought. There is only failure. But there can still be peace, an inner calm and serenity can still be found amidst the madness. I have felt it, shattered moments of peaceful calm despite the desperate sorrow and pain.

To live is to suffer, it is true. For without pain we can not hope to understand what happiness is. Somehow, in a way I can not yet fathom, it is possible to find peace within the storm. To be happy despite the pain. I don't know how this can be, but I know that it is possible, and someday, I will see all of the beauty in the destruction, the love within the anger and the serenity in the madness.


Buddhism class journal 1

(I'm in an online Buddhism class and am posting my Buddhism rants here = ) )(also, this first journal is not the best = /)

Question A: Is everything Suffering and how do we touch and heal our suffering to realize well-being?

There are many different ideas and beliefs about what suffering is, and why shouldn't there be when there are so many different ways to view life and the world around us? Some people can find the negative in everything and feel that they are always suffering. Is suffering just a perception or something more?

I believe that suffering and pain is something that all living things must have to be considered to be really alive, for without pain we know nothing of healing, and we can not appreciate the joy within life. A man can live a thousand years and yet without ever knowing pain be as dumb as a new born child.

Pain and suffering are all to easy to run from, but this is not the path to healing. The path to healing involves identifying, accepting, and facing suffering. As Thich Nhat Hanh wrote in his book; " The Buddha called suffering a Holy Truth, because our suffering has the capacity of showing us the path to liberation. Embrace your suffering, and let it reveal to you the way to peace."

I think this is especially true because often when we struggle though hard times in our lives, we learn more about ourselves and those around us then we ever would if life was a Utopia. One example is when I came out about the abuse that had happened to me as a child to my friends and family. I discovered through the pain I underwent that I am a lot stronger then I thought I could ever be and I also learned who was really there for me in my time of need.

Question B: explain the meaning of the Four Noble Truths and the noble eight-fold path that takes us out of suffering, and how Avidya (lack of understanding) is responsible for much of our suffering.

The Four Noble Truths are suffering: (dukkha), the source of suffering; (samudaya), the stopping of the suffering; (nirodha) and lastly the refraining of doing the things that cause us to suffer; (marga.) The last is the most important path and also where the eight fold path comes into play.

The eight fold path is Right View (right meaning beneficial), Right Thinking, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Diligence, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. The eight-fold path is a way to live life refraining from the things that cause us to suffer. An example of why Right View is so important, is that someone with Wrong View, or someone who is feeding the negative seeds within themselves, they are only leading themselves to a path of more suffering.

Question C: What is meant by "call it by its true name" and "the horse is our habit energy pulling us along" and "learning the art of stopping (going beyond) our thinking"?

To call something by its true name is more or less another way of saying call it like it is. As Thich Nhat Hanh wrote on page 23; "To say, "life is suffering," is too simplistic." We need to identify the source of our suffering and be specific or else we can not identify the problem and the solution to the suffering. To say I do not feel well is too broad, but if I said I have a headache then I can identify how to treat that problem.

The horse being our habit energy makes a lot of sense. It says that metaphorically we are riding a horse and are out of control of where it is going. Unless we are able to get control of the steed, our habits can overtake us and lead us to paths of self destruction and suffering. For an example, I tend to eat when I am bored and if this habit gets carried away I could gain an unhealthy amount of weight. I must be aware of my bad habits in order to stop them before they carry me away.

Lastly, learning the art of stopping is very important. Often our emotions can overrule us and we need to stop and take a moment before charging into situations. It is important to stop, focus on breathing, calm our emotions.


Buddhism Journal 2

1/24/10

Question What is the meaning of the seven miracles of mindfulness and the four establishments of mindfulness?

We live in a time in which time is viewed as money and nothing else is more important then the green in your wallet. Trapped inside the cage society has made, we forget the things that are truly important. To simply breathe, to feel the grass under foot, the sun on your face, and even the bitter cold of a winters night.

Instead we are focused on the anxiety of the things we must do, the bills we must pay, checking our figure in a reflection and somehow never finding enough time to unwind our minds and soak in the silence. We do not allow ourselves to simply STOP and find peace. Our minds appear to be forever lost in datebooks and personal dramas.

“Right Mindfulness is the energy that brings us back to the present moment.” (Page 64).
In the book Thich Nhat Hanh says that to have Right Mindfulness is to “fully dwell in the present moment” (page 64). But what does that mean? Does it mean at all times we should be aware of the present moment? If this is true, isn't it also important to from time to time ponder the future and remember the past? I am not suggesting we ruminate over the past and worry about the future, but it is also important to learn from past mistakes and take the time to plot a course for the future…we don't always have to know where we're going in life, but sometimes it's good to have an idea or else life can get away from you.

But another question about what dwelling in the present moment means is, is it being aware of yourself and everything around you? Is it being content with every moment and not wishing to be anywhere else? Or is it simply taking the time to notice all of the little things in life? The way the wind blows snow around on a snowy day, or the realization that those flecks of white are all tiny crystline shapes, all different and absolutly beautiful…

There are seven miracles of mindfulness. The first is to be present. I think a good description would be for your mind to be where your body is..not lost in outer space. The second miracle of mindfulness is to make everything around you present too. If you do not take in the world around you, it will be like a dream. “The third miracle of mindfulness is to nourish the object of your attention.” (65). It is not enough to love someone, because it is so much better and the love can grow so much deeper if you learn and understand and listen to the person that you love. “The fourth miracle of mindfulness is to relieve the other's suffering.” (65) To be present and in the moment while helping to relieve someone's suffering is fulfilling for both people. “The fifth miracle of mindfulness is looking deeply.” (66) This is also a part of meditation and is very important to be calm and concentrated. “The sixth miracle of mindfulness is understanding.” Understanding is connected to a lot of things, and often the only reason why we fear things or hate things is because we lack an understanding of the thing we fear or hate. I used to be afraid of walking in the woods alone. But then I understood and got to know the forest, and found that there was nothing there to be afraid of. Lastly, the “seventh miracle of Mindfulness is transformation.” When we work to use and learn Right Mindedness, we can transform ourselves from suffering creatures of habit to people who are learning to be free and enjoy life and the world around us. Of course, it is not only a transformation in ourselves, but in our suffering itself. We can turn our pain into joy with Right Mindfulness.

Next there are the Four Establishments of Mindfulness. These are Mindfulness of the body in the body, to recognize all of our parts and be aware of our body and not shun it. The nest establishment is ''feeling in the feelings'' We must be aware of our feelings and keep in mind what all of them mean. We must not fight our feelings but allow them to enter us unhindered. “Emotions become strong when we do not know how to look after them.” (73). The third establishment is “of the mind in the mind.” Mental formations are formed by our emotions, complicated feelings that we must be aware of and understand. The fourth establishment is “phenomena in phenomena.” Phenomena refers to the objects of our mind, building of the fact that “each of our mental formations must have an object. If it is anger we must be angry at something.” (76).

Question What are the three fold trainings, right speech, deep listening and mindfulness training?:

The three fold trainings teach Right Mindfulness in precepts (the practice of Right Mindfulness) concentration and insight. These are all needed on the path to enlightenment.

Right Speech has an important role to play. In life we have all felt the pain of words. We have all known the hurt it can bring, but also the happiness. Those who know how to use words well understand the power of words. They can silence the chaos of an angry crowd or give encouragement to a runner on the last leg of the race. Practicing Right Speech for this reason is imparitive in life, for words can both give and take life.

“Deep listening is the foundation of Right Speech.” (86) To listen and understand someone else before yourself speaking is important. How can you respond to what another person is saying if you are only thinking of what you wish to say next? I went to a retreat once for a group of people who were all voted as “Natural Helpers” people who others felt they could trust and depend on. In this retreat we were given a poem that explains that they have a problem that they want to share. They do not want you to try to help them, because you may think you can solve the problem in a sentence when that have struggled for weeks with this problem. They do not want you to talk, because all you will say is that you are sorry for them and they do not want that. They just want you to listen, and understand. Nothing more.

There are five parts to mindfulness training. First, a reverence for life. The book speaks of not killing and not to let others to kill, but how can this be done when we must eat and drink to survive? I understand and agree with not killing needlessly, as the act of killing something when there was no need, to let a life go to waste, is heinous. The second part is generosity. The third part is about sexual responsibility. “Sexual misbehavior creates so much suffering.” (95). The fourth is skipped (that I can see) in the book, but the fifth part is mindful eating, drinking and consuming.

Indicate the importance of Right Livelihood in the text and relate that to your own understanding with examples that you are familiar withy and examples of harmful livelihood that can cause suffering:

To live in Right Livelihood, is to live without defying your morals and the things that you believe, and to practice the 5 Mindfulness trainings. This means to be who we are and not change because of what others tell us. If I was told I had to change the way I act or dress, I would not. I am who I am and I enjoy being this way. I like helping people and it is my aspiration to make the world a better place and could live no other life. I can't even imagine what would happen if I was asked to go to war. War to me is senceless violence, and although I feel that some wars need to be fought, I still feel that there must be a better way, a kinder solution. As far as I have seen though, there is none. Some people just live in Wrong Livelihood, and they let their hate and greed rule them and the way they live. There are people who can not take responcibility for their own actions and always must have someone else to blame, someone else to hate and hurt to make them feel better.

Conclusion:
The things that I found most relavent and meaningful was the seven miracles of Mindfulness. They are interesting because at this time I do not yet understand completely what they mean. Is dwelling in the present moment not wanting to be anywhere else but where you are, or is it taking the time to notice all of the little things that make life so amazing?


Journal 3 Buddhism Class

1/30/10

Question A:

The Three Dharma Seals:
The First Seal: Impermanence.
Most of us are aware that whatever is may someday nothing, whatever is great may someday be small, and whatever goes up must come down. Understanding impermanence means that you accept the fact that nothing can last forever. Some people might think of this fact and feel sad, but if you truly accept Impermanence, then you will be free from this attachment and will not suffer. “It is not Impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.” (132)

The Second Seal: Nonself.
Nonself refers to the idea that we are all connected. Our actions, thoughts and words shape and change the world around us. Often in Science Fiction movies they will mention the dangers of traveling back in time because so much as stepping on a butterfly could effect the future. Perhaps that same butterfly that you killed had in your time line gone on to inspire a poet at the right time to write, and this poem then inspired another person years later who was down on their luck in life to not give up and they then became a great leader, changing the world for the better. Of course, such a happenstance is a bit unlikely….but not impossible. Many great leaders have been inspired by poems, and many poets inspired by the world they see around them. All actions, all life and even things we do not consider alive are connected and effect everything around it.

The Third Seal: Nirvana.
“Nirvana is the extinction of all notions.” (137) To be truly at peace and to find Nirvana, you can not hold onto notions. We find ourselves holding on to trivial notions as though in the end they really matter. The book mentions birth. We have a notion that when we are born we go from nothing to something, but this is not so. We also may think that when we die we become nothing. I think the subject of death is difficult for many people because it is not something we know a lot about. As far as one can tell, a person is there, then suddenly they are gone and all that's left is their body. If we let go of the notion of death, we will realize that they are not gone. They are alive in our tears, our thoughts, and through everything in us that they have taught us. Two years ago I lost my grandmother, which was very hard as we were very close. But it was so important to her that I go to college and make something of my life. She lives on through me and what she has taught me about life. Not just her spirit lives on. Her body breaks down and becomes one with the Earth. It feeds the soil, the plants, the flowers. My physics teacher once told me that there are so many atoms in one person that it is possible for everyone in the world to have at least one or more of the atoms that made up Einstein. I thought this was a neat idea.

Question B: Discuss aimlessness and although we are inherently Buddhas we must exert ourselves to attain enlightenment.

Aimlessness is the idea that there is no agenda in life. Nothing to be but being in and of itself, if that makes any sense. This is not an easy concept. Society leads us to believe that we are all special and meant to be someone. That we have to plan, plot and conspire our entire lives or we will never be happy. But this isn't true. Sometimes the best part of life is the part we didn't plan or expect.

Although I do not agree with the thought of not planning my life out..I know that I want to rescue and rehabilitate animals. To do this I need experience and training. If I don't plan this part of my life then I will never be able to achieve my goal. I agree that not everything should be planned out. I may marry, I may not. I'm not going to let what happens in my life weigh me down. I'm not planning what state I'll live in, or even what country. I'm not going to worry about how many, if any at all, children I may have or how many years I will get to spend in my life. I have goals, and these goals must have a certain amount of planning to be achieved, but the overall idea of aimlessness makes sense. I do not need to plan every minute aspect of my life, especially not the small things..like what shirt I'm going to wear tomorrow.

We are inherently Buddha, in that we all have Buddha qualities and there is a Buddha inside of all of us. We can find it if we know how to look, but like learning how to walk it is not immediately achievable just because we are capable of the act of walking. Even birds, though they are born with wings they do not immediately know how to use them. I was watching Planet Earth, and they showed a young owl trying to learn how to fly. He had everything he needed to fly, he was evolved to do it, he had wings for it, but he still had to learn how. Just like us, we may be inherently Buddha, but this does not mean we are immediately enlightened. We have to learn how to exert ourselves, to follow the eightfold path, the four noble truths and so on.

Question C: What is Impermanence and how it relates to Sunyata

Impermanence has to do with the idea that everything is connected and that there is no end or beginning. Like the Circle of Life in The Lion King, things are born, live, die, become one with the earth and from the earth are born again. We are made from things that have lived and died before us. It has to do with the fact that nothing lasts forever or stays the same forever. Sunyata is emptiness. It means being empty of the idea of self. You are not a lone person in a world of shadows. Everything is connected and what you say and do can effect the entire world around you.

Conclusion to this journal:

I really enjoyed reading about impermanence. I agree with the idea that it is not the fact that everything is changing and that nothing lasts forever that makes us suffer. It is our want for things to be forever the same that makes us suffer. But sometimes even though you found a tree to sit in that makes you happy, should the tree fall you may find another that makes you even happier then the last. If we learn to let go of our fear of impermanence, then we can enjoy the changes.

Journal 4 Buddhism

2/7/10

Question A:
Discuss the five powers of faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration and insight and how they can release us from suffering?

The five powers are faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration and insight. Faith, (shradda) is the first of these powers. One might ask how faith can give power, how can faith release a person from suffering? Faith is generally viewed as something blind, a trust in someone or something when you have no reason to trust or any evidence that it can be depended on. This is not the kind of faith that will free you from suffering. You may have faith that you can rely on your friends to be there when you need them, even though they have never been there for you before and have consistently let you down. This kind of faith is harmful to you and will only hurt. To have the power of faith release you of your suffering, you must have faith that is not blind but relied on facts and information. I have faith that every night when I go to sleep I am going to wake up the next day, because every day before this, this is how it has been. I am not blindly having faith in the idea that I will wake up tomorrow, but base it on the fact that unless there is something wrong with me I have always woken up the next day. This does not mean that I take this for granted. I know that stranger things have happened, and I am always thankful to wake up the next day and be alive.

The next power is diligence. (virya). In being diligent you are present and in the moment. “Our eyes shine and our steps are solid.” (185) Being diligent can free us from suffering because we are more aware of our surroundings. We notice the beautiful flowers, we are aware of the light dancing over the water, we are present in time and nowhere else as we see and feel and hear..we even notice the large truck barreling towards us..it's good to be diligent, as getting hit by such a thing would cause great suffering indeed.

The third power is mindfulness. (Smriti.) This is to use the energy of Right Mindfulness, to meditate and again, to be present in the moment. Right Mindfulness is a lot like having the right attitude in life. It's easy to see that the cup is either half full or half empty, but what some fail to notice is that the cup can not be half empty without also being half full. It's not just one, it's both. And we can see this and not live consistently in negative thought. Right Mindfulness helps free us from suffering because we are not depressed or heavy hearted when we are Right Minded. I did some research on child abuse a few years back when I was looking for some answers in life, and found that girls and boys who are abused as children tend to become easily depressed and are sick much more often. If you are practicing Right Mindfulness and do not let the bad things in life conquer your heart, you will not become sick as often, you will not carry a heavy and burdened heart, as your body responds well to positive thinking.

The fourth power is concentration. (samadhi). This is “to look deeply and see clearly” (186) One must concentrate to do this. You can not look deeply at something and understand it while your mind wanders and thinks about other things. Concentration frees us from suffering because it gives us a better understanding of things. I can be looking at a rather complicated math problem, but if my mind wanders to other things while I try to solve it I will never find the answer. I'll be too distracted to see that the answer is very simply and I'd just given up before I really gave myself the time to try and understand the math problem. If I just take the time to give the equation my full attention, I can end my suffering and solve the problem.

The fifth power is insight, or wisdom. (prajna). This is not only to look deeply but to understand. Having wisdom and understanding what we have learned is just as important as learning how to solve the equation in the first place. If I was to just solve the math problem without really thinking about it, later when I have to solve the same equation but with a few more X's and Y's added to it, if I didn't gain the wisdom to understand how the math works it will be even more frustrating and will cause me more suffering in the end. We can not just learn, we must understand what we learned. Like someone telling us that fire is hot. We have learned that fire is hot, but not understanding why may cause us to make other fir related mistakes, like touching a metal rod that has been in the fire. If we do not understand how fire works we would not know that touching something that has been in heat will also be heated.

Question B: Explain the meaning and implications (in terms of yourself) regarding the Six Paramitas (or perfections) and why it is important to follow a more contemplative and ethical life to attain harmony and equanimity.

The six Paramitas are Giving, Mindfulness Training, Inclusiveness, Diligence, Meditation, and understanding.

The first, Giving, is of great importance. Not only does it feel great to give, but it makes others happy as well, and there are lots of small things that you can give other than material things. You can give your presence, and be fully there for someone. There have been times when I have needed hep and for someone I can depend on. My friends have been there for me, and not just physically. They were mentally, spiritually and wholly there for me and it means more to me than I can ever hope to describe.

We can give our stability, a shoulder to lean on. Many times my friends have been down on their luck, or I've been down on mine, and we support and help each other. We are there when we say we will be and we don't back out on promises.

We can give calmness or peace. When my friends have been worried about tests, homework, relationships, work, or a number of other things, it is helpful to remain calm and at peace so that they may find calmness too.

We can also give space. Often times we want to be around the people we love all of the time, but space is also valuable and a treasured gift.

The next is Mindfulness Training. To practice Mindfulness Training is to protect. To protect the lives of humans, animals, the earth around us. It is to prevent people from hurting each other and the world, from people taking advantage of things weaker then themselves. It is to practice generosity. It is to protect children and adults from sexual abuse. It also means deep listening, and mindful consumption. (I.e, not being glutonous.) Practicing Mindfulness Training sounds like the path to becoming a Knight or Samurai. It is quite possible the values of both may have stemmed from the same roots in history.

Then there is Inclusiveness. “Inclusiveness is the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform.” (198)
Inclusiveness also means embracing our own suffering. We can have one of those days where everything goes wrong, but still remain happy if our heart is big enough and we embrace the things that have gone wrong. The Heart of Buddha's Teaching describes it as if you put a handful of salt in a bowl, you will taste it, but a handful in a river and you will not. If you have a big heart, then you will not feel a little suffering, it will just disperse and will not effect you.

Next is Diligence. This has to do with learning to water the good seeds inside us and others and not the harmful ones. I will be diligent in watering my seeds of caring and love, and I will be careful not to water the seeds of hate within myself and others. It's easy to water the wrong seeds in others, and especially in ourselves. When we are hurt, even unintentionally by another, it is easy to want to hurt our wrong doer back. I have watered the seed of hate in myself for many years, and I must be diligent now in making sure that this no longer happens. A rather nerdy example of how watering the wrong seeds in ourselves can be harmful is in Star Wars, when young Anikan returns to his home planet and finds his mother tortured and dying, he waters the seeds of hate within him and kills everything in the camp including the women and children. As time progresses he waters the seeds of doubt, hate, and anger until in the end the seeds he has planted consume him and he turns to the dark side.

Next is meditation. Dhyana Paramita. This is called Zen in Japan, Chan in China, Thien in Vietnam and Son in Korea. Meditation consists of two parts, stopping and looking deeply. It is important to stop, to slow down time if you will and not to jump to conclusions. Stopping is like when everything is happening to fast and while running we trip. To stop we must catch ourselves and slow down. Then to meditate we must also look deeply and understand what is going on. It's seeing both sides of the argument because we do not take a side. We just watch and understand.

Which brings us to the last one, Understanding. This is tied like a knot with looking deeply, as to understand we must not take sides. This is the highest level of understanding, not taking sides and looking deeply at what is going on. Two people are having a bad day, their just down on their luck, and one is rude to the other. The other person retorts angrily and they fight. From out standpoint we can see it's really just a misunderstanding, they are both having a hard day, perhaps they are both tired and hungry and felt that lashing out at someone would alieviate their anger. It in fact does not, but we can see where things went wrong and where their issues are coming from while they can not because they're too busy blaming all of their problems on the other person. We of course understand that no one is perfect, and we all lash out at others from time to time, knowing it isn't a nice thing to do, but we feel it all the same. Sometimes it helps to remember how it feels when people lash out at us so we are less inclined to do it to others.

Question D: What is the Sanskrit for ignorance, and how is that explained in terms of light and dark and how is that changed to Great Mirror Wisdom?

Ignorance is the lack of light. Often it is referred to people who don't know what's going on that they are left in the dark, and this makes sense. It is my theory that light is so often representative of understanding and knowledge and dark is representative of things we do not understand, or ignorance, because of night and day. Many of us have suffered the fear of the things that go bump in the night at some point or another, and this is often because we don't understand what lies waiting for us in the dark, we can't see it and we don't know what's there. But in light, we find that the things that terrified us in the darkness were just the shadows of things that are not so scary at all. I saw a commercial on youtube (here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRFPf0dgfSg) where this little boy is pointing out all of these scary looking monsters to his dad, but they are not afraid of any of them. However, when they turned the lights out, there was screaming. I believe this is why ignorance is best represented by darkness, because we can live forever thinking that that scary monster in the corner is going to come after us, or we can turn on the light and find that that scary monster was just a pile of stuffed animals.

In finding the light and riding ourselves of ignorance, (for the most part anyways, there's bound to always be something we are ignorant of, as I for one, will never understand high level math, heh..but you know what I mean, not living in complete ignorance) we gain wisdom. Great Mirror Wisdom “reflects the reality of the cosmos” (239) and we can have this wisdom in overcoming ignorance.

Conclusion:
I had a little trouble trying to understand what Great Mirror Wisdom was, as I felt it wasn't explained very clearly in the book. Or maybe it was simply too insightful for me, haha.

In lecture 4, The wheel sort of reminds me of the circle of life, how everything revolves and is all connected.


Journal 5 Buddhism

2-13-10

Question A: What are the two ways to happiness, the way to lasting peace and relate them to the three practices.

There are two ways to happiness. According to the Dalai Lama, these are external and mental development. As far as external happiness goes, there is a certain degree of happiness you can find in having shelter, food, good friends and a warm bed. Although it is possible to find happiness without these things, having the sheer basics and not wanting for anything anymore is happiness in itself. Mental development is finding happiness within yourself, hence, internal happiness. This, to me, is th most important kind, because there are so many of us who have everything in the world they could ask for but they will never find true happiness, because they have not practiced mental development and found happiness within themselves. This relates to the three practices, disciple of morality, discourses on concentrated meditation, and manifest knowledge, in that with practicing external and mental development, along with the three practices, peace can be found.

Question C: What is the “root of lust and hatred” “Contaminated karmas”, and the three stages involving death and the movement of grosser to subtler levels?

The root of lust and hatred is ignorance. It is misunderstanding the nature of how things are and misinterpeting the information. Instead of seeing that the sky if blue, one might see it as purple and become angry when other people disagree. A better example is that people misunderstand each other so often, even while speaking the same language, that a lot of times they lash out with anger at others for not understanding, or for thinking something untrue about the other person. So many wars have been fought, and friends lost, families split, all due to ignorance. This is why enlightenment is so important. No matter what, we are still human and we will misunderstand from time to time, but enlightenment is the way to finding peace with each other.

A Contaminated Karma is an action with a bad transmigration. A karma is an action that either creates virtue or nonvirtue in the long run. There is a tv series called My Name Is Earl, in which a person who has don nothing but bad things in his life suddenly has karma catch up to him. In this, the show is saying that karma is the act of doing good things and in turn, good things will happen to you. This is true in the Buddhism defininition of karma, as a good deed often does benefit you in the long run, but this is not why we do good things. I know that when I help someone who needs me, I don't do it because I think I will get rewarded for the action. I do it because helping people is a part of who I am, and the action of being kind in and of itself makes me happy. So contaminated karma would be if I had something that I didn't need, and even though I knew someone else needed it, (let's say it's a percectly functioning warm jacket) I threw it away. This wasn't something I had done with ill intent, perhaps I was just being lazy and didn't want to go all the way to goodwill to drop it off. This is contaminated karma because it only hurts in the long run. Now there's something more being added to the landfill, and now someone who could have gotten a coat has to go without.

The grossest state of mind is the things we perceive through our senses. What we feel, taste, see, hear, etc. More subtle then that is mental consciousness, which ranges from ordinary thought, to deep sleep and the inner most part, clear light. The deepest parts of our mind we will only see or be fully aware of while dying.

While dying, the four elements that make us up (and I don't mean Nitrogen, Carbon, Hydrogen and oxygen science nerds) but fire (our heat) water (our fluids) earth (our body) and wind (our movement and energy) begin to stop supporting our consciousness. Beginning with the Earth element, they begin to fade. The earth element dissolves into the water element of your body, or your solid parts become fluid, and you are thinner. Then your water element dissolves into your fire element. N which case you begin to dry up, your mouth is dry, your skin is dry, etc. Then your fire element dissolves into your wind element. You will lose heat, either from your head down or feet up. It is better to lose heat from the feet upward is best, because it means your spirit will leave from the head and not downwards, meaning you will have a good next life or rebirth. Lastly, the wind element dissolves into consciousness, and you stop breathing. You will see a light, the remaining wind element or energy being burt away, like a candle.

There are four more stages to dying, even though at this point many would consider you to be dead.
First your mind becomes vast, white. You see your consciousness. “It is described as a clear sky filled with moonlight- not the moon shining in empty space but space filled with white light.” Dalai Lama (page 51) Next your mind becomes red or orange, still a vastness, but more vivid now. Now it is a sky filled with sunlight. Then your mind becomes black. You are now close to clear light, the deepest [art of the mind. It is a moonless night, no stars, no light at all. You are aware at first, but all awareness fades as you sink deeper into the darkness of the mind. Lastly, as the black ceases, you find clear light. It is the most powerful state of mind. “It is the sky's nature state at dawn (not sunrise)-without moonlight, sunlight, or stars.” -Dalai Lama, (page 52).

Question F: Explain what is meant and what is possible (with examples from your own life) in the phrase “Refrain from harming others”

Dalai Lama said that if we can not help people, the least we can do is cause them no harm. I may not be able to help my friends with all of their problems, as sometimes, the only way to solve their problem is that they themselves must handle it. I may not be able to always help, so it is best to make sure I do nothing to make their choices harder.

It also means to simply refrain from hurting one another. The world is already so full of hurt, and sometimes we lash out at each other when we shouldn't. Often one of my friends repeatedly lashes out and picks fights with people when she's having a bad day. But if I attack back, if I hurt her too, then I have done nothing but deepen the pain to both of us. Harming people will never solve anything.

Conclusion:
Looking at the topic of Mindfulness, U can understand how it will help in the long run, but for now I have such a hard time concentrating in meditation. I feel like Goku in Dragon Ball when he was learning that to become a better fighter he had to train his mind too. He had a hard time learning to concentrate too, mind always wandering. I even went to a guided meditation with Professor Curran, but my mind still was restless. I think I just need time and practice, nothing good ever happens instantly. In fact, sometimes the journey is half the fun.

Buddhism Journal 6

2/20/10 3:12 pm

A: Explain the three stages of morality, “Equalizing and switching self and other” and “you should have an enemy (an adversary or face adversarial circumstances) and be “wisely selfish.”

The three stages of morality are 1, the morality of individual liberation, 2, the morality of the concern for others, and 3, the morality of Tantra.

The first step to being a caring person is equalizing, or finding common ground between the two of you. If nothing else, we are all human. Next, you must replace “ your self-centeredness with other-centeredness.” (p 74) It is very easy to forget how those around you may feel, and it often helps to put yourself in their shoes.

What is interesting is that the book says if you practice patience, which is an important part to becoming enlightened, then having an enemy is important. Having an enemy, or going through a hard time helps improve your patience. Sort of like the way suffering or hard times can improve your wisdom, and help you to appreciate good times and painlessness, having an enemy, or even a friend whom you argue with a lot…it can help you develop patience, which is great because patience is like a currency that can not run out and is always usable.

I have a friend of whom I argue a lot with, because we both have two very different ways of looking at things. If we took the time to have a little more patience with each other, we make an amazing team because of the different input and ideas we can pour into whatever problem we're working on. But sometimes we argue and can not understand what the other person is saying, because we're too focused on trying to get our point across rather then listen to what the other is saying.

Being wisely selfish means using karma to your own effect. If you are nice, and kind to others, this kindness is returned to you. If you are cruel and harsh to others, you will find the same treatment. It is showing compassion to the world, but you can also be selfish about it, knowing that you will feel good in return for the deeds you have done.

I'm not sure I like this reasoning. What if there was no such thing as karma, and 'no good deed goes unpunished?'. Would we still show compassion, knowing we would be punished for our good intentions? Would we hurt because we would get rewarded for doing so? What would such a world look like?

I watched an episode of Penn and Teller's Bullshit, where they talked about organized religion. They didn't talk about Buddhism, but they did say that their problem with religion was that in organized religions people do good things because they feel like a manevolent god is watching them and will reward them for good deeds and punish them for bad ones. No one does anything for others because they truly care, but because they feel that they are doing 'god's work' or will be looked upon in a better light, or it's the only way to get into heaven. I don't know if this is true. I was raised a Catholic, though I am atheist now. I know that when I helped others I legitametly wanted to help them, but at the same time, the feeling of “I'm doing good things so I will get rewarded for this” was in my head too. I don't know if religion put this thought there, or if it's simply human nature.

I'd like to believe that we can give without expecting anything in return, that we can give and care simply for the act of giving and caring. But like any what if situation, we can not know the true nature of ourselves unless we undergo the situation. For instance, sometimes we think we may handle a stressful situation differently then everyone else, saying “well if it was me,” or “If I was there then this would happen” etc. But when we find ourselves in the actual situation, we discover we are no different then anyone else. So it's hard to tell what would happen in a world where you were punished for good deeds and caring and rewarded for your cruelty, because we'd all like to think we'd give regaurdless..but that's the scary part…we don't know. Sometimes fear and pain can drive us to such scary means, you hear about the stories all the time where in a panic a mother may leave her child behind thinking only of herself and forgetting everything else, something she would have never thought she'd do. In light of this, how can we truly know what kind of person we would be in such a world? How many of us would still show compassion? …I don't know, I just find it a scary thought because we just can't know…

B: How does Hardship deepen practice and how can we be concerned about all sentient beings and how are negative influences existing deep in the mind? (p.88)

Going through hardship, like experiancing suffering, deepens our enlightenment. We have all undergone hard times. We have all cried, lost, reached what we have honestly felt was rock bottom, and even sometimes we have found a new low. But our hard times teach us, and if we learn to stop and listen to what life has to teach us, we will find there is so much w have yet to understand.

Undergoing hardship also helps us understand all life. Everything has to undergo loss and hardship, and understanding our own pain can help us understand each other's. Instead of getting angry at someone for lashing out when they are in pain, we can understand their pain and have the patience to sit and help them through it.

I think people do unpredictable things when they are suffering, like some monster part of them takes over and they do not act like themselves. People will yell and lash out at others, they look for someone or something to blame, desperate for a crutch or something to lean on to ease their pain and suffering. I think the guilt or burden of being the one responsible for the action that has caused them this pain often weighs a person down as well.

But if we understand the pain they are going through, then we can help them back on their feet, we can offer the crutch they need to lean on without giving them false things or persons to blame for their troubles. So perhaps they tried to drink away their troubles but while drunk made things worse. We can help them get back up, help find the root of the problem so they do not blame the alcohol but know it was their own actions that brought them this pain, so that they can find a way to end their suffering and find happiness again.

E: Explain the two basic types of meditation, “wishing” and “imaginative” meditation and how we can achieve “calm abiding” by concentration and stabilizing meditation methods.

There are two types of practices, “analytical meditation and stabilizing meditation”. (p. 118) In analytical meditation, you try to understand something through reasoning. You may meditate on why some people act the way they do by reasoning through the other choices they have made and what that tells you about them. In Stabilizing meditation, you fix your mind on a single thing. The book gives the example of impermanence.

There is a meditation you can do in the manner of “wishing”. This means meditation on things you wish for, such as inner peace and serenity. (not the spaceship Serenity, but you know what I mean, as I don't think you should be wishing for a material object, but something having to do with internal happiness.)

There is also “imaginative” meditation, in which you imagine having things that you do not yet have. (Like patience or enlightenment.)

I'm not sure if these last two meditations (wishing and imaginative) are meant for material things, but the book never specifies that you should not use them for it. Perhaps, if you are worried about an important job interview coming up, you could use wishing meditation to wish for the interview to go well, or imaginative meditation to imagine yourself having the job and being successful. Again, I'm not sure if this is a correct way to use the meditations, or if this is perfectly reasonable.

The goal of meditation of course is called Calm abiding, which is concentrated meditation. The aim is to strengthen the mind's ability to focus, which then can be used to over turn problems perhaps before they even start.

Conclusion:
I find the reading very interesting, but it seems to raise a lot of questions. Such as the human capacity for giving without expecting anything in return. I think the video lecture was very helpful to better understanding meditation, and the techniques to use it better. (Such as the postures and breathing so that a feather in front of the nose will not move). I think it will be a long journey learning to quiet my buzzing mind, but look forward to the adventure of it.


A Buddhism Contemplation

3/20/10 8:34 pm

First off, I'm not posting my homework for this week. It was a bit confusing (Buddhism can be very in depth and there's a lot to know and understand) and I didn't do well on it.

However, despite my confusions on the matter, it brought up some interesting contemplations that stuck in my mind. This of course is exactly what I was hoping to get from this class; something that made me think.

As far as I could understand it, Buddhist believe in something called dependent-arising, which is when something is dependent on other things to exist. This includes everything really. To exist not only does everything rely on something else, such as a table relying on the wood of a tree to exist, or a plant needing water and soil to exist. Not only this, but to exist it must also be perceived by something. This goes back to the "If a tree falls in a forest and there is no one there to hear it fall, does it make a sound?" question. (damn quantum physics).12If there is nothing to hear the tree fall, the tree makes no sound. The sound does not exist. Neither does the tree, as there is no one there to see it. So at the heart of it, what all of this is trying to say is that nothing really exists, because nothing can exist on its own. The world is not as we know it. That at least, is the Buddhist belief, provided I didn't misunderstand the books meaning entirely.

To achieve enlightenment you must meditate on selflessness, in that you are not a separate entity from the rest of the world. Everything is connected. Every action you make effects something else. To be enlightened one must also meditate emptiness, that nothing is separate or real. This is the key to letting go of anger and freeing yourself from suffering. You can not suffer if you let go of the idea that you are a separate entity from those who have done you wrong.

I don't like these meanings. They seem too complicated and convoluted to me. I understand letting go of the idea of self to stop suffering, but at the same time, can I really accept such a reality and forgive those who have done terrible wrongs simply because we are all connected?

Buddha said that holding on to anger is like clenching a heated coal. You grasp it with the intent to throw it at others for revenge, but it is you who are being burned just by holding it.

But I can not let go of the anger that I have. It has made me realize so many things about life, though that seems strange. I can say for the longest time I had no intention of living past the age of 20. There had been abuse in my life as a child, and I felt no anger about it. For years, I pretended it didn't happen, buried it down inside me, a hidden secret I hoped to never tell and to always pretend that it did not exist. I couldn't keep the secret at bay forever, and so many times I'd get terribly depressed and couldn't understand why. I was sad, but never angry about what happened.

Then one day I fell in love, and felt it was time to tell the ugly truth. There was mostly fear at first. I blamed myself for the abuse, it would be my fault if my parents got divorced, I would be the one who was to blame. But after the hurt of seeing the look in my mothers eyes when I told her what my father did and pleaded for help..when she turned her back on me and called me a liar. She never for a moment considered the truth. And then the phone call, when my father told me he was going to have to lie to everyone, that it was the only way to protect the family from falling apart and losing everything. He asked me if I understood…and although in my fear and confusion at the time I said I understood……

but then the shock went away. This was really happening. I was exposing the truth. Suddenly, I began to feel anger, and for the very first time, hate. It was like every time I'd ever been angry before was a dull and weak feeling to what I began to feel that day.

I'd pondered recently if all this anger would go away, if I'd ever just calm down a little and learn to let go some of the burden of the past…and although I have come a long way in letting go and being happy, I still have a lot of anger left in me.

But I am not sorry for this. Because anger taught me hate, and hate has shown me the light of love. I have a better understanding of love then I ever have had now because I learned to hate. I have always believed that opposites are important, it is nessisary to know both pain and peace, love and hate, for to know one is to better know the other.

I have known pain, so I can appreciate peace. I have known hate, and know love better than ever.

So, I was outside contemplating all of this, and trying to imagine the Buddhist view, that we are all connected, and that none of this is real. But then what does that mean?? What does it mean for everything not to exist??

This thought is tremendously troubling, because I can't grasp what it would mean to not be real. Does it mean that life is a dream?

You know, it could be. This could all be a very real dream, with memories that never were. Perhaps after this dream ends it will be another dream with completely different people and completely different memories of a life that never was.

But then again, really, what does it matter if it is? Maybe tomorrow is an illusion in a dream world and nothing actually exists. But right now, I can enjoy the moment that I'm in, the people that I know, the life that I've had (real or not) and who cares about what tomorrow brings? I have today's dream to live in…

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