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Make what it says your own….

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The mind can never be described. With clues received from others, just observe it for yourself. It can be seen only by your own awareness. -Milarepa

‎’To cause benefit is not easy – so try first not to cause harm.’ – Kyabjé Düd’jom Rinpoche

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.

– Kahlil Gibran

We can read this in many ways. However, it takes on a specific meaning when read in light of another quote. Read in this way, it is dharma.

The ego-shell in which we live is the hardest thing to outgrow.

– D.T. Suzuki

Ignorantly we cling to our ego-shell as a protector. Safely within lies our understanding, our world view, our meaningful dichotomies that order our experiences. As we experience new situations, as we learn new things – we process these events through the protective shell of our ego- interpreting events (and initiating our responses to them) always from the primary position of protecting our precious ego. We must eye our ego-shell with suspicion – its job is not to allow us to see things are they are – but to see them in a way that causes the least tension with our current understanding.

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I compiled this short prayer to keep the wisdom of the Bodhicharyavatara close to me daily and spur me on.

To those who go in bliss, the dhammakaya they possess, and all their heirs,
To all those worthy of respect, I reverently bow. (1,1)

To the Buddhas, those Thus Gone,
And to the sacred Dhamma, spotless and supremely rare,
And to the Buddha’s offspring, oceans of good qualities,
That I might gain this precious attitude, I make a perfect offering. (2,1)

Until the essence of enlightenment is reached,
I go for refuge to the Buddhas.
Also I take refuge in the Dhamma
And in all the host of Bodhisattvas. (2, 26)

To perfect Buddhas and to Bodhisattvas,
In all directions where they may reside,
To them who are the sovereigns of great mercy,
I press my palms together, praying thus: (2,27)

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The question of authenticity in ‘Western Buddhism’ or Western Buddhist practice is a common one. This issue has recently come up again on various blogs including this post on American Buddhist Perspective. And this post is in part my reaction to that post. However, I think that there is an important distinction to be made here. A ‘Western Buddhism’ implies an ideology that is best characterized by reference to both the West and to Buddhism. I take the qualifier ‘Western’ to imply an important distinction between this and  ‘Non-Western’ Buddhist ideologies. Whereas, Western Buddhist practice seems to only indicate the practices of Western Buddhists and says nothing directly about the ideological basis of this practice. This distinction is important because it determines whether the authenticity (if such a thing exists) we are questioning is of the Westerner’s practice of Buddhism or of the Western Buddhist system itself. Read the rest of this entry »

To cling to Buddhahood is to be in the Mara realm;
to forget Mara is to be in the Buddha-realm.

– Muso

[ I am already dissatisfied with this post. I will leave it as is- but hope to add to it or revise it soon]

There is a tremendous amount of Buddhist literature available in English today across the Theravada and Mahayana traditions. We should be so grateful for this- as it wasn’t always so. However, choice is often a double-edged sword; as choice increases, it seems our responsibility increases as well. The decision what to read (and conversely, what not to read) seems to become a heavy one. What if I am missing something? Am I on the right path? Is this what all Buddhism teaches? Would I be better off reading something else? How does one navigate the available literature without feeling overwhelmed?

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the vehicle is not the end,
this is not that
truth is not Truth

see

Alagaddûpama Sutta (MN 22)

I have been doing some difficult reading  – difficult because I am not formally trained in philosophy, more difficult because it is non-western (Tibetan and Robert Thurman makes you work for every sentence). Anyhow- it is interesting to see just how different schools of Buddhism have been in their understanding of emptiness – it pretty much runs the gamut. The implications however are huge- including the idea that Buddha taught nothing. That is, in the end he absolutely negated anything that he had said that may have been taken as ‘True’ and therefore set him up as an authority expounding some sort of dogma. It is captured most succinctly by Yuan Wu

Old Shakyamuni appeared in this world and in forty-nine years never said a single word

and mirrored by Nagarjuna

No doctrine at all was ever taught by any Buddha to anyone“.

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There are two aspects to the Buddha’s teaching:
The very essence of the scriptures and of realization.
One should hold these in mind, speak about them,
And practice them. Do only that.

Vasubhandu

I came across this while reading volume I of Geshe Sopa’s commentary (Steps on the Path to Enlightenment) on Lama Tsongkhapa’s Lamrim Chenmo. On pp. 45 Geshe Sopa says “Everything the Buddha taught unerringly presents the four noble truths…”.  And “the purpose of practicing the lamrim method is to help you quickly and easily comprehend the true meaning of the scriptures” (pp. 59). Also, “… all the scriptures are important special instructions” (pp. 56) and so as Dromtonpa said “If, after studying a great deal of Dharma, you feel you need to seek out another set of teachings for practice,  then you have got it all wrong” (quoted on pp. 57).

So perhaps not as extreme as my statement that “all there is are the 4 Noble Truths” (since Geshe Sopa’s quote says that all scripture presents the four noble truths but it does not say that it only presents the 4 Noble truths), but it certainly calls attention to the centrality of these Truths to all of Buddha’s teachings. That being said, and pulling from the other quotes, I come to see the lamrim as the method for quickly (relatively speaking) coming to realize the 4 Noble truths in practice.

Not very uniquely insightful, but helpful for me.