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This blog is created by a Buddhist living in Singapore. He embraces the Mahayana spirit of Bodhicitta, deeply respecting all Buddhist Traditions as expressions of Kindness guiding us on the path towards human perfection ~ Buddhahood.

He likes to post stuff that he had read or think is good to share here, sometimes he adds a little comments here and there... just sometimes..

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“Sariputra, if there are people who have already made the vow, who now make the vow, or who are about to make the vow, ‘I desire to be born in Amitabha’s country,’ these people, whether born in the past, now being born, or to be born in the future, all will irreversibly attain to anuttarasamyaksambodhi. Therefore, Sariputra, all good men and good women, if they are among those who have faith, should make the vow, ‘I will be born in that country.’”

~ Amitabha Sutra

When I obtain the Buddhahood, any being of the boundless and inconceivable Buddha-worlds of the ten quarters whose body if be touched by the rays of my splendour should not make his body and mind gentle and peaceful, in such a state that he is far more sublime than the gods and men, then may I not attain the enlightenment.

~ Amitabha Buddha's Thirty-Third Vow

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Nobility of the Truths

(Picture source: flickr.com. Click to view enlarged image.)

The Nobility of the Truths
by Bhikkhu Bodhi
(Essay from accesstoinsight.org.
Click to view article source)

(See also: The Noble Eightfold Path
The Way to the End of Suffering
by Bhikkhu Bodhi

The most common and widely known formulation of the Buddha's teaching is that which the Buddha himself announced in the First Sermon at Benares, the formula of the Four Noble Truths. The Buddha declares that these truths convey in a nutshell all the essential information that we need to set out on the path to liberation. He says that just as the elephant's footprint, by reason of its great size, contains the footprints of all other animals, so the Four Noble Truths, by reason of their comprehensiveness, contain within themselves all wholesome and beneficial teachings. However, while many expositors of Buddhism have devoted attention to explaining the actual content of the four truths, only rarely is any consideration given to the reason why they are designated noble truths. Yet it is just this descriptive word "noble" that reveals to us why the Buddha chose to cast his teaching into this specific format, and it is this same term that allows us to experience, even from afar, the unique flavor that pervades the entire doctrine and discipline of the Enlightened One.

The word "noble," or ariya, is used by the Buddha to designate a particular type of person, the type of person which it is the aim of his teaching to create. In the discourses the Buddha classifies human beings into two broad categories. On one side there are the puthujjanas, the worldlings, those belonging to the multitude, whose eyes are still covered with the dust of defilements and delusion. On the other side there are the ariyans, the noble ones, the spiritual elite, who obtain this status not from birth, social station or ecclesiastical authority but from their inward nobility of character.

These two general types are not separated from each other by an impassable chasm, each confined to a tightly sealed compartment. A series of gradations can be discerned rising up from the darkest level of the blind worldling trapped in the dungeon of egotism and self-assertion, through the stage of the virtuous worldling in whom the seeds of wisdom are beginning to sprout, and further through the intermediate stages of noble disciples to the perfected individual at the apex of the entire scale of human development. This is the arahant, the liberated one, who has absorbed the purifying vision of truth so deeply that all his defilements have been extinguished, and with them, all liability to suffering.

While the path from bondage to deliverance, from worldliness to spiritual nobility, is a graded path involving gradual practice and gradual progress, it is not a uniform continuum. Progress occurs in discrete steps, and at a certain point — the point separating the status of a worldling from that of a noble one — a break is reached which must be crossed, not by simply taking another step forward, but by making a leap, by jumping across from the near side to the further shore. This decisive event in the inner development of the practitioner, this radical leap that propels the disciple from the domain and lineage of the worldling to the domain and lineage of the noble ones, occurs precisely through the penetration of the Four Noble Truths. This discloses to us the critical reason why the four truths revealed by the Buddha are called noble truths. They are noble truths because when we have penetrated them through to the core, when we have grasped their real import and implications, we cast off the status of the worldling and acquire the status of a noble one, drawn out from the faceless crowd into the community of the Blessed One's disciples united by a unique and unshakable vision.

(Picture source: flickr.com. Click to view enlarged image.)

Prior to the penetration of the truths, however well endowed we may be with spiritual virtues, we are not yet on secure ground. We are not immune from regression, not yet assured of deliverance, not invincible in our striving on the path. The virtues of a worldling are tenuous virtues. They may wax or they may wane, they may flourish or decline, and in correspondence with their degree of strength we may rise or fall in our movement through the cycle of becoming. When our virtues are replete we may rise upward and dwell in bliss among the gods; when our virtues decline or our merit is exhausted we may sink again to miserable depths.

But with the penetration of the truths we leap across the gulf that separates us from the ranks of the noble ones. The eye of Dhamma has been opened, the vision of truth stands revealed, and though the decisive victory has not yet been won, the path to the final goal lies at our feet and the supreme security from bondage hovers on the horizon. One who has comprehended the truths has changed lineage, crossed over from the domain of the worldlings to the domain of the noble ones. Such a disciple is incapable of regression to the ranks of the worldling, incapable of losing the vision of truth that has flashed before his inner eye. Progress toward the final goal, the complete eradication of ignorance and craving, may be slow or rapid; it may occur easily or result from an uphill battle. But however long it may take, with whatever degree of facility one may advance, one thing is certain: such a disciple who has seen with immaculate clarity the Four Noble Truths can never slide backward, can never lose the status of a noble one, and is bound to reach the final fruit of arahantship in a maximum of seven lives.

The reason why the penetration of the Four Noble Truths can confer this immutable nobility of spirit is implied by the four tasks the noble truths impose on us. By taking these tasks as our challenge in life — our challenge as followers of the Enlightened One — from whatever station of development we find ourselves beginning at, we can gradually advance toward the infallible penetration of the noble ones.

The first noble truth, the truth of suffering, is to be fully understood: the task it assigns us is that of full understanding. A hallmark of the noble ones is that they do not flow along thoughtlessly with the stream of life, but endeavor to comprehend existence from within, as honestly and thoroughly as possible. For us, too, it is necessary to reflect upon the nature of our life. We must attempt to fathom the deep significance of an existence bounded on one side by birth and on the other by death, and subject in between to all the types of suffering detailed by the Buddha in his discourses.

(Picture source: flickr.com. Click to view enlarged image.)

The second noble truth, of the origin or cause of suffering, implies the task of abandonment. A noble one is such because he has initiated the process of eliminating the defilements at the root of suffering, and we too, if we aspire to reach the plane of the noble ones, must be prepared to withstand the seductive lure of the defilements. While the eradication of craving can come only with the supramundane realizations, even in the mundane course of our daily life we can learn to restrain the coarser manifestation of defilements, and by keen self-observation can gradually loosen their grip upon our hearts.

The third noble truth, the cessation of suffering, implies the task of realization. Although Nibbana, the extinction of suffering, can only be personally realized by the noble ones, the confidence we place in the Dhamma as our guideline to life shows us what we should select as our final aspiration, as our ultimate ground of value. Once we have grasped the fact that all conditioned things in the world, being impermanent and insubstantial, can never give us total satisfaction, we can then lift our aim to the unconditioned element, Nibbana the Deathless, and make that aspiration the pole around which we order our everyday choices and concerns.

Finally, the fourth noble truth, the Noble Eightfold Path, assigns us the task of development. The noble ones have reached their status by developing the eightfold path, and while only the noble ones are assured of never deviating from the path, the Buddha's teaching gives us the meticulous instructions that we need to tread the path culminating in the plane of the noble ones. This is the path that gives birth to vision, that gives birth to knowledge, that leads to higher comprehension, enlightenment and Nibbana, the crowning attainment of nobility.


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Thursday, July 19, 2007








~End of Post~


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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Meditation tests prove Buddhists right

(picture source: flickr.com)
Meditation tests prove Buddhists right
By Tamara McLean - July 09, 2007 (Article source: www.news.com.au)

SCIENCE can finally prove what Buddhists have sworn by for centuries - meditation really does sharpen and clear the brain.
Tests by Adelaide researchers have revealed that as people go further into a deep meditative state, their brain rhythms shift into a pattern of focus.

This supports long-standing beliefs that the practice can improve concentration levels and alertness in daily activities.

Scientists at the Flinders Medical Centre's Centre for Neuroscience have completed the first scientific demonstration of brain activity changes in distinct meditative states.

They measured the electrical activity in the brain in a group of people as they moved from simple eyes-closed resting through the five states of meditation as defined in Buddhist teachings.

The test used electroencephalography (EEG), which relies on electrodes placed on the scalp.

The results, to be reported at the World Congress of Neuroscience in Melbourne, showed clear changes in brain activity as subjects progressed deeper into meditative states.

Alpha brainwaves, which are associated with focus and attention, initially increased and delta brainwaves, linked to drowsiness, decreased.

As participants went further into mediation the alpha brainwaves, too, started to decrease, as the brain no longer needed to make an effort to be alert.

(picture source: flickr.com)
"So instead of becoming increasingly drowsy, they apparently become more alert,'' PhD researcher Dylan DeLosAngeles said.

"This supports the idea that meditation may help your day-to-day concentration.''

Previous studies have reported mixed results about brain activity, with some research even suggesting meditators are essentially asleep.

Meditation was developed more than 2500 years ago as a way to explore consciousness and a discipline to help people achieve a more beneficial state of mind.

"Meditation is different from simply closing your eyes and relaxing,'' Mr DeLosAngeles said.

"In traditional Buddhist teaching, it requires a subject to fix their attention on a single object or action, such as breathing. "

The research will be presented at the International Brain Research Organisation's annual world congress starting this week.


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Real Gurus “Couldn't care less”

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Real Gurus “Couldn't care less”

The dilemma of an Eastern master in a postmodern world

An interview with Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche
by Andrew Cohen (Article source: What is enlightenment? magazine)

The enlightened mentor—the guru—has throughout the ages been that great being who willingly does battle with the powerful forces of ignorance that reside in the depths of the human soul. Through his or her living presence, the guru catalyzes extraordinary transformation, guiding human beings from darkness to light, from the limitations of a small and petty existence to the free and infinite expanses of illuminated awareness. Few modern teachers are as qualified to claim the title of guru as Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, heir to a long and illustrious lineage of enlightened Buddhist masters. In this recent interview with spiritual teacher and WIE editor in chief Andrew Cohen, Dzongsar Rinpoche candidly discusses what it takes to fulfill his role as guru and explains why the greatest challenge, East or West, is to have the courage to completely disengage from public opinion and attain “a genuine indifference.”

ANDREW COHEN: You are uniquely straddling two worlds: you were born a tulku and had traditional Buddhist education and training in your own culture, but you have spent a lot of time in the West and have also become a well-known filmmaker. So you seem to have one foot in the premodern world and one foot in the postmodern world. You are quite an independent thinker, forging your own path as one of the pioneers in this very interesting time of transition in the evolution and development of the dharma, of East-meets-West spirituality. So I would like to talk with you about what it means to be a guru at this point in history.

When someone takes on a guru, as is clearly illustrated in Words of My Perfect Teacher, it's a deep and serious engagement. And in the film, you speak very directly about the challenge that relationship poses to the ego, to the separate sense of self. The guru represents the dissolution of the ego, and yet Westerners of our generation, more often than not, don't seem to be prepared for this. And while you have said that there are many different methods for finding enlightenment, for discovering “the guru within,” one of the quickest and easiest is to receive the blessings of the teacher. Why is this? What actually is the role of the guru, and why is it so vital?

DZONGSAR Rinpoche: The reason why the guru is the most effective is because the guru is someone you are supposed to look at as being superior to a human being. But he is also someone you can relate to. A guru is someone who eats pizza, who likes the same pizza that you like. And that's quite important because at the same time that he is someone you can relate to, he is the one you have consciously or unconsciously hired to destroy yourself!

(picture source: flickr.com)
COHEN: Could you say what you mean by that?

DZONGSAR: You give up everything and then hire him to destroy your ego. And you pay him body, speech, and mind to do that.

COHEN: When you say “destroy the ego,” that's not a small thing.

DZONGSAR: Yes. That's true.

COHEN: And as we were saying earlier, it seems that the destruction of the ego is an alien concept in postmodern Western culture, which is a nonreligious secular society. In fact, it seems that in postmodern culture, the ego, or the separate self-sense, has become even more powerful as a result of the cultural revolution that began in the sixties. At that time, the emphasis became freedom of the individual and freedom for the individual. And the result is that, unlike in previous times, there was no God above that one had to fear, which in the past had perhaps engendered humility, a bit of healthy fear of something higher than oneself.

So when we in the West discovered enlightenment and then found that in order to attain it, the ego, or the separate self, had to die, this was a very big shock because culturally we had no training or preparation for this whatsoever. Now in the film, Words of My Perfect Teacher, you speak about how you hire the guru to be the assassin, the man or woman you hire to “completely dismantle you.” But how does a teacher succeed in “dismantling” their students' egos in this kind of cultural milieu?

DZONGSAR: It's difficult. This is why defining ego is very important, especially within a culture that doesn't have this kind of background. And I think the classic way of defining the ego is, at the end of the day, the only solution: Ignorance—which is the same as ego—is when you're looking at two, or more than two, ever-changing transitory things, and yet you think that they're one; you think they're independent and permanent. That is ignorance and that is ego.

For instance, if I look at my hand, I make three mistakes. One, I think it's the same hand I had this morning. But that's not true; it has changed. And two, I think there's something called “hand” when there actually isn't because it's a part of a lot of things—my veins, my skin, my blood, all kinds of things.

COHEN: So the point is that there's no such thing as independent existence.

DZONGSAR: Right. And then another mistake I make is not realizing that the existence of my hand actually depends on many things. For instance, the fact that the ceiling hasn't fallen on my hand is the reason why it's moving, why it's there. But I don't think in that way. I think my hand is there because my hand is there.

COHEN: You're talking about what is called “dependent origination,” the understanding that everything that exists depends upon everything else that exists, which depends upon everything else that exists. In this, one sees that one's own self exists as part of this infinitely dependent process in which there is no one who is isolated or separate from the whole.

(picture source: flickr.com)
DZONGSAR: Yes, and all this information needs to be transmitted to one who wants to be the victim of the guru.

COHEN: In the movie, you also spoke about how the guru crushes people's pride, as the means to purify them of ego motivations and attachment.

DZONGSAR: Yes, because pride is thinking something that is not necessarily you. For instance, if I asked you, “Are you a man?” you would say, “Yes.” That is confidence, not pride. Now, if I ask, “Are you a superman?” and you say, “Yes,” that may be pride because “super” is only an adjective, and is not imputed. Pride, ego, and ignorance are all synonymous.

COHEN: And you said that the teacher who “crushes your pride and makes this worldly life completely miserable is something that you ask for. He is the assassin, he is the man or woman whom you have hired to completely dismantle you.”

DZONGSAR: You may not realize that's what you're doing, but that's the idea—to dismantle everything: your identity, everything. And it's not like dismantling one big habit. It changes. Let's say today I would like to be stroked. Then a teacher should not stroke me. Or maybe today I would like to be beaten. Then maybe I should be stroked. So that's why this is actually beyond abuse and not abuse. If somebody bites you or beats you and handcuffs you, that's a kind of abuse, isn't it? But what I'm talking about is ultimate abuse. At the same time, abuse phenomena only exist if you are still clinging to transitory phenomena as permanent and real. If you don't, there is nothing to be abused. But that's difficult, really difficult.

COHEN: In that case, the teacher's work would be done.

DZONGSAR: Yes, of course. But the kind of student we're talking about doesn't exist. And that kind of teacher doesn't exist, either. Teachers don't have that kind of courage. I don't have it. I may be a teacher, but I don't have that kind of courage because I love my reputation. Who wants to be referred to as an abuser? I don't. I am a sycophant. I try to go along with what people think. If people think a teacher should shave his head, wear something maroon, walk gently, eat only vegetarian food, be so-called serene, then I'm very tempted to do that. Rajneesh had the guts to have ninety-three Rolls Royces. I call it guts. One Rolls Royce is one thing. Even two or three—but ninety-three is guts! And I don't have the guts, the confidence. I like Rajneesh very much. I like him much better than Krishnamurti. Many of his words are quite good, and I can see why the Westerners would like him.

COHEN: Perhaps the problem with Krishnamurti was that he pretended that he wasn't a guru or a master, although he obviously was. I think this made it very difficult for people.

DZONGSAR: Yes; it was a contradiction.

COHEN: Are you saying, then, that you hold back with your students?

DZONGSAR: I do, always.

COHEN: At the same time, you said in the film that you're an assassin—that that's your job.

DZONGSAR: Yes, in the context that if I am a student's teacher, then that is my job. But I'm not promising I can do it. You know, but I love very much the eight worldly dharmas. I'm like these police undercover cops who are sent into a Mafia family. What I'm supposed to do is really check out these people, but I fall in love with what they do, so I follow what they want. It's difficult. And that comes from attachment to the eight worldly dharmas—attachment to the praise and fear of the criticism.

(picture source: flickr.com)
COHEN: But some of the greatest Tibetan gurus have the reputation for being the most fierce, like Marpa, for example. He was the fiercest.

DZONGSAR: Oh, yes, of course. They could do it because they have no agenda. Their only agenda was to enlighten. They didn't care what people said, what other people thought—I call it CCL: couldn't-care-less-ness. That holds the biggest power. But who has it today? No one.

COHEN: One of the most interesting things that was revealed about you in the film was the juxtaposition of the roles you're playing. As a guru in the West, you are working with Western students who, at least in theory, are coming to you for enlightenment, and yet who come from this postmodern context where there's an inherent mistrust of authority. Whereas in Bhutan, thousands and thousands of Bhutanese people have no doubt that you are a living god.

DZONGSAR: I think on both continents I have mastered the art of pretense. I go to Bhutan and I know what to do for them, to do what is most harmonious. Because if I act or say things in Bhutan or in Tibet that I say in the West, I'll be in trouble. Now that is what I was referring to before. I do this because I don't want to lose disciples; I don't want to be criticized. Of course, I can justify those actions by saying, “Oh, it's coming from a good motivation, because I don't want to jeopardize the spiritual path of hundreds of people.”

COHEN: You described in the film how it's very difficult for you to have an authentic relationship with many of your Bhutanese devotees because of the kind of admiration they have for you. But with your Western students, there is the fundamental ego position that feels that “no one is higher than me.” And this also presents difficulty, because for any authentic guru to be able to help a student achieve enlightenment, there has to be the acceptance from the outset that the guru has realized something that the student has not yet realized. Then, of course, there's the tremendous pressure the teacher places on the ego and the student's identification with it. And in Words of My Perfect Teacher, Lesley Ann Patten showed very well how many of your Western students were struggling with these very issues—with the notions of hierarchy and authority, and even with their lack of faith in the possibility of enlightenment itself.

DZONGSAR: Yes, exactly. But in both cultures there is one thing that is similar—it's this culprit: expectation. In Eastern cultures, like in Bhutan, there may be blind devotion, but they all have an expectation. In the Western culture, they may be skeptical and secular, but there's also expectation. And that expectation, while it may manifest differently, fundamentally has only one nature and that is that everybody wants to be happy. And that is where things go wrong.

To be a Buddhist and to be practicing dharma have nothing to do with being happy. If you're practicing the dharma to be happy, then it's like you're doing the opposite, just the opposite. Enlightenment has nothing to do with happiness or unhappiness. And both cultures come to me to be happy. That really is the source of all the misunderstanding.

(picture source: flickr.com)
COHEN: Yes. The goal is to be free from both happiness and unhappiness.

DZONGSAR: Yes, and I have to teach them what to expect. But it's really difficult.

COHEN: The fact that you are in these two different cultures seems to make it challenging for you to be simply and authentically yourself. Because on the one hand, in Bhutan, there is a certain role you need to assume, which you've accepted—that's your dharma, your destiny. But there are restrictions associated with that premodern context. And in the West, because of the postmodern secular context, there are also restrictions. So your own capacity to just be fully and spontaneously yourself, even as a teacher or as a guru, must be inhibited in both cases. Could you speak a little bit about this?

DZONGSAR: This is a very good question. It all goes to tell me that the bottom line is that I need to develop my courage, the courage to learn CCL—“couldn't-care-less-ness.” In the morning, with a little bit of good motivation, I can start teaching. That will accumulate some merit, I'm sure. At least I'm not going around teaching people to blow themselves up or kill infidels. And even teaching I only do when I'm in a spiritual mood. But my job now, my duty is to first develop my “couldn't-care-less-ness.” The bottom line is that I need to learn that; I need to achieve that. Then, even if I receive bad publicity in the West, I couldn't care less. Once I achieve that, then I'll reach a certain level where real genuine compassion is. Until then, everything is a bit deceptive.


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