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Monday, March 07, 2016
Ever since I read “Running with the Mind of Meditation” by Sakyong Mipham, I started exploring meditation in the mornings after my yoga routine. Up until today (the end of my meditation retreat), my understanding of meditation was shallow. I thought the goal was to sit for a long time and not think about anything, and I attempted it simply to seek a peace of mind.
Last month, at my cousin’s wedding, I met her maid of honor, who has been practicing meditation for years. I asked her to suggest a meditation course or retreat I could try. I also asked an old friend who has been practicing meditation for years. They both recommended a few and strongly recommended checking out Dharma Drum Mountain 法鼓山. I found a two day beginners meditation training course up in SanYi and signed up: Jan 09~10, 2016.
To find your real self, you must lose yourself. I tell my students that they must put aside thoughts about their own birth and death if they are to get anywhere. A meditator who is full of thoughts about himself, thoughts of improving his health, or of gaining limitless freedom, will attain neither wisdom nor freedom.
The Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Association, with headquarters in Taiwan and the United States, actively promotes the Movement of the Pure Land on Earth. We teach these concepts and methods of practice to all practitioners, whatever their cultural or educational background. Our slogan is: "Everywhere is a meditation hall; everywhere is a Buddhist temple." Every family is encouraged to set up a meditation space, a place where together and singly, family members can compose their minds and experience genuine peace. We believe that "engaged Buddhism" begins by engaging one's own mind, in one's own space.
The course of history can be changed radically by a zealous, dedicated individual or by a minority. A small group of people may greatly impact the ideals, ethos, philosophy, and behavior of the majority. The impact can be either negative or positive. When the impact is negative, the minority leads the society into war and destruction. When the impact is positive, they lead the society into prosperity, stability, and happiness, and may even bring about a new civilization or culture. In these ways, great or infamous historical eras are made.
The conventional view of peacemaking is to focus on changing the environment to achieve peace. Such a view advocates the use of institutions, laws, economic structures, military power, etc., to create an environment in which peace can flourish. Buddhists do not oppose such a view, but stress the greater urgency of transforming the mind of the individual.
In many sutras the Buddha teaches lay practitioners to treat their parents, children, spouses, and colleagues with understanding and compassion. These sutras teach that each person has many roles in society and that each role dictates specific responsibilities and duties. Rather than putting blind faith in rituals and worship, the Buddha tells us that we should strive to mindfully undertake the responsibilities and duties of our normal lives. If everybody does so, the world will enjoy enduring peace. You can say that the Buddha was the first advocate of "engaged Buddhism."
To achieve social peace, Buddhism begins with a program of inner peace, believing that long-lasting peace derives from the ability of each person to calm his or her own mind and to temper actions controlled by the mind. Thus empowered, individuals can encourage those in their immediate sphere of influence to also understand the need for peace and to begin calming their minds. In such a widening circle of influence, more and more people will be included. Step by step, people throughout the world can be at peace with themselves and with others. Like a pebble thrown into a pond, causing expanding ripples to reach the far shore, a single person can positively influence many others toward peaceful modes of thinking and acting.
The reason I signed up for the gardening retreat was simple curiosity. I always thought that meditation meant sitting on a cushion until your legs are numb and your back is sore! How can you meditate while you are gardening? So I decided to find out!
Now let us look at the third dualism: “neither increasing nor decreasing.” Your weight may increase by a few pounds, and you may think it is either good or bad. In our appearance-conscious society, where gaining weight has a bad name, many people try to live up to a conventional image of beauty by working away their fat. If it has no impact on health, what are a few pounds more or less? Every time l return from a trip, people tell me I have lost more weight. If this were true, I would have disappeared by now. This is an example of how increasing and decreasing are relative things in people’s mind.
The word Buddha comes from Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language. It means enlightened or awakened: awakened not just oneself but also awakening others; awakening to the knowledge and truth of all things at all times. Thus, a Buddha is sometimes called an omniscient human being or a “fully enlightened one.”
The second dualism-"neither pure nor impure"-refers both to phenomena, and to judgments people make about phenomena. For example, you may choose not to brush your teeth, not to wash, not to change clothes, in which case you may look dirty and smell bad to others. On the other hand, you may clean up, shower, brush your teeth, and change your clothes. Then you will look clean to others. Either way, you are the same person. Some people appear clean most of the time and dirty some of the time; others look dirty most of the time and clean only some of the time. Furthermore, the criteria for cleanliness are not absolute. You may think you are clean while others judge you to be unclean. You may think you are unkempt, but another might find you attractive.