INNER THOUGHTS AND OUTWARD RESULTS

"All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him."

- Dhammapada

It is now generally agreed that man is a member of the animal kingdom, and that like the other animals—to whom he is related—his existence has been brought about by the long processes of evolution. Like other animals man is born as a result of the mating process, he needs food, drink and rest in order to grow and remain healthy, he experiences pain, sickness, and ultimately death. Yet in one important respect man is different from the lower forms of life, for he alone of all the creatures of this planet has the power to think imaginatively, creatively and constructively. A man can think, and his thoughts make him what he is.

The ability to think, the power of thought, is man’s greatest gift. It is thought which moulds civilisation and which created many of the things we take for granted. As a tiny seed can produce a beautiful flower, as a small seed can produce a mighty tree, so can thought produce the most wonderful things. Every book ever written, every symphony ever composed, every temple ever built, every scientific discovery ever made, every religious or political system ever created began in the mind of a man as a thought. Religion, philosophy, art, science, politics, and all the things we mean by civilisation begin as a thought. And it was by his power of thought that Siddhattha Gotama became Buddha and gave his Dhamma to the world.

Among the religions of the world it is in Buddhism that the power of thought is given the strongest emphasis. The Dhammapada reminds us that “all that we are is the result of what we have thought,” and further reminds us that “the wise man shapes himself.” It is of the character-building power of thought in our own lives that I would have us give our main attention.

The creative or destructive power of thought—for it can indeed work both ways—is a great truth that has been known in the East for many centuries. It was the Teaching of the Lord Buddha. In the West we came to the knowledge rather late, but our psychologists now corroborate the ancient truth and tell us that many of our physical and mental ailments are due to our thoughts. So worry, for example, is one of the major causes of ulcers, while fear anger, hatred, and the constant dwelling on lewd thoughts, all take their toll. The same is true in the moral realm. Evil thoughts, constantly entertained, weaken the character and make one more susceptible to temptation. All evil words and deeds are preceded by evil thoughts, and evil thoughts allowed to remain unchanged will lead eventually to evil words and deeds.

Thoughts then can be either good or bad and can give rise to results that are either harmful or pleasant. It is claimed that some have gained such control over the mental processes that they can suspend thought all together, and for a long period keep their mind a perfect blank. Few of us are likely to achieve this. For most of us thoughts of one sort or another will always be milling around in our heads, and if they are not good thoughts they will inevitably be bad. Since noble and base thoughts cannot co-exist in the mind at the same time, one will always expel the other.

We are not to blame if evil thoughts occasionally enter our minds, but we are at fault if we give them a welcome and allow them to remain there unchecked. As the Eastern proverb has it: “We cannot prevent them from alighting on our heads, but we can prevent them from building their nests there.” A keen gardener will root out a weed as soon as it appears in his garden lest it should take hold and eventually destroy his good plants. We should act with the same urgency with evil thoughts, for they too will quickly take root and destroy the noblest flowerings of our minds. The surest way of keeping evil thoughts at bay is to discipline our minds to think constantly of that which is beautiful and true and good. When the mind is full of that which is good, the evil will seek for an entry in vain.

The Dhammapada warns the wise man to guard his thoughts, for they are, it says, “difficult to perceive, very artful, and they rush wherever they list. Thoughts well guarded bring happiness.” The Dhammapada further says:

"Let no man think lightly of evil, saying in his heart: ‘It will not come nigh unto me.’ Even by the falling of water drops, a water-pot is filled; the fool becomes full of evil, even if he gathers it little by little.

Let no man think lightly of good, saying in his heart: ‘It will not come nigh unto me.’ Even by the falling of water drops, a water-pot is filled; the wise man becomes full of good, even if he gathers it little by little.

Slowly, like a jar beneath a dripping cave, we accumulate vice or virtue. The choice is ours. The choice is important, for, “If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage … If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.”

We are thinking beings, and out of our thoughts we can create wondrous things. But more important than any work of art, more important than any majestic building, more important than any feat of engineering is that of shaping our selves. And we can do just that as we direct our thoughts towards pure and noble ends, knowing that by our thoughts—which in turn govern our words and deeds—we are preparing for ourselves a harvest of joy or sorrow.

-by John Andrew Storey 

5 REASONS WHY SPENDING TIME ALONE WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE

Being alone is conducive if you apply it in this way.


Sometimes, the best place to be is alone. There is a misconception that if you are alone or want alone time, it means you are antisocial or you are sad and lonely. But think of it this way: when you are alone, it means that no one needs you or needs to occupy your time. It means that you actually can take some useful time for yourself.

When you are alone, you can listen to your inner voice, heart, and mind without any distractions. You can formulate your own ideas and opinions without someone trying to sway you. You can improve and reflect on your life without people interfering. You can concentrate on the present moment for yourself.
image credits

Here are five ways that alone time is conducive to your life and productivity:

1. It’s an opportunity to recharge

When we are constantly surrounded by people, it can be emotionally draining. When we take that break, we can recharge and rest up.

2. It’s a good time to reflect and think

Remember, life goes by really quickly. When you are alone, you have the time to stop and reflect on what is going on. You can soak in the current moments as well.

3. It makes you more productive

People around you can be distracting. When you are alone, you have the opportunity to make progress towards your personal goals.

4. It’s a chance to understand what makes you really happy

When you are surrounded by other people, their wants and needs might influence what you want. Your likes and dislikes are compromised by their own opinions as well. When you are alone, you know what you really want and what will truly make you happy.

5. It teaches you to value people who are close to you

By regularly taking time for yourself, you enjoy engaging with others more. You’ve already given yourself your own time so you are now ready to spend time with others.

6 NECESSARY TIPS TO CREATE A SUCCESSFUL WORK/LIFE BALANCE

Your first challenge is to figure out what you need to do in life rather than what you think you should be doing. Use these six tips to be successful when you create a successful work and life balance:

1. Keep your approach flexible

Realize that balance doesn’t mean you need to have everything planned out at the same time each and every time, it just means you need to stay organized. Make sure you allow time in your life to relax.

2. Define the things that are non-negotiable

While every day can be different, it is important to determine which things cannot be sacrificed. And if you don’t identify them, you can find them slipping away.

3. Embrace imperfection and chaos

Realize that if you try to focus on perfection, you will just set up yourself for failure and disappointment. Life isn’t orderly and perfect. The more you are able to embrace and thrive, the more prepped you are for life.

4. Let the little things go

Life is too short to settle for what doesn’t really matter or is trivial. You need to make sure that you have your eyes on the bigger picture and let go of what has hurt you in the past.

5. Allow yourself to achieve flow

Be engaged with what you are doing, but realize that you can’t force life. There are certain things in life that are out of your control and you need to be okay with that and able to work with it.

6. Don’t put everything you have in store out there

Make sure your life is filled with different, diverse paths. Allow yourself to rise and fall and get up and grow. Have a sense of being spontaneous.

LIVING IN THE PRESENT

We often talk about "living in the present". But what do we really mean by "living in the present"? Does that mean that we do not think about the past or the future? But how can we not think about the past or the future? That would not be possible or desirable. For we do need to recollect the past and to plan for the future at times. So we need to discuss what we mean by "living in the present".

"Living in the present" menas living well in the present, living skilfully in the present. Doing what we have to do now well, for that will, in fact, be the best guarantee for the future. And also there will be no regrets when we think back about the past. Instead, there will be joy -- joy at having lived a good life and at having done good deeds.

How do we live skilfully in the present? For that we need wisdom, we need midfulness and understanding. We need to know how to place our mind, how to compose our mind, how to steer our mind in the right direction -- away from the unwholesome and towards the wholesome.

To live wholesomely we need mindfulness, we need to engage mindfulness in various ways. How? Mindfulness is like our watchdog. Whenver an unwholesome thought arises, mindfulness can alert us. It can tell us: "This is unwholesome. We shouldn't be thinking or responding this way." And realising that, we can check the unwholesome. For example, when anger arises, mindulness can tell us: "Hey, watch it. You are getting angry. You better look at your anger. You better get a hold of yourself and cool down. You better not say or do anything which you will regret later." And so on and so forth. Actually, there is more than mindfulness involved her. First, mindfulness spots the anger. Then with wisdom and understanding, we can reflect and caution ourselves from giving vent to anger.

Similarly with other mental states such as worry and anxiety. Again mindfulness can notice how worrisome we have become lately, how poorly we have been applying the Dhamma in our daily life. We can then check the unwholesome trend. We can adjust and correct our attitudes. If we try to stay more in the present by being aware of all our daily activities, paying good attention to whatever we do, we can check the wandering worrisome mind. Staying more and more in the present, living from moment to moment, day to day, doing the best we can, solving each problem as it comes along, we will find scant time for moping and worrying. We will be living, that is to say, we will be living well.
So mindfulness and wisdom go hand-in-hand. If an unwholesome mind arises, mindfulness alerts us and we can check it. If a wholesome mind arises, mindfulness also knows. We can approve of the wholesome mind. We can encourage more of such mind or thoughts to arise.

Mindfulness also has a quality of memory or recollection. So from time to time too, mindfulness can remind us of the impermanent, suffering and no-self nature of life. Reflecting often on these three characteristics of existence, we can live more wisely, with less pain-bringing kind of attachment.
By engaging mindfulness in these various ways, we will be living skilfully in the present. Also, we will be gradually developing our perception on the impermanent, suffering and no-self nature of existence, and of this mind and body.

On another level, mindfulness can expericence directly and vividly the constant arising and passing away of mental and physical phenomena. This is through Vipassana (Insight) meditation. When we sit in meditation, especially during an intensive retreat, we will be observing closely the nature of our mind and body. As our concentration develops, we will be able to see very clearly that mental and physical phenomena are constantly arising and passing away, that they do not remain the same for even two moments. Such direct kind of seeing can climax in the attainment ofmagga-phala (path and fruition) insight knowledges and Nibbana.

Thus, we can see that there are various aspects to living in the present. There is that which involved skilful living from day to day, and there's the direct perception of phenomena in the present moment in Vipassana meditation. The latter kind is what we must all come to eventually, for it is only by such direct seeing that we can truly comprehend the impermanent, suffering and no-self nature of this mind and body. Comprehending thus, we can cut off for good our defilements of greed, hatred and delusion. Once these defilements are eliminated, we will suffer no more torments of mind. We will become quenched and cooled. We will live our last life as arahants and not be reborn again. Of course, right now we may still be a long distance from the goal, but we are, through skilful and mindful living, already checking our defilement. Mindfulness, the Buddha said, acts as a check and gradually, through deepening wisom, we can cut off the defilements completely.

Living in the present entails not going unskilfully into the past or future. Sometimes we think needlessly about the past. For example, we may be recollecting some ill-deed we had done and remorsing over it now and then. We are unable to forget it, so it keeps popping up. What we should do si not to mope over what had already been done, but to resolve not to repeat the mistake. That is the best we can do. It is unwholesome and unskilful to keep mulling over a mistake, such taht we become very miserable and are unable to live in the present.

Sometimes we may be thinking about some injury that we perceived, rightly or wrongly, to have been done to us by another person. We are unable to forget. We nurse the pain in our heart. There is pain and anger in us whenever we recollect, and we want to hit back at the other person. This too is unwholesome and unskilful.

Sometimes we live in the past, thinking of some happiness or pleasures that we enjoyed then, and wishing and yearning for those "good old days". Such placing of the mind too is painful and unskilful.

As for the future, we can plan to no end until we cannot eat or sleep. We can also, so to speak, worry ourselves to death, thinking about some impending problems. Our we may be having some great expectations such that we cannot concentrate on what we are presently doing.

These are just some examples of how we go unskilfully into the past or future. There are many other possibly scenerios. Basically, our problem is that we take everything too personally. Whethere it is the past, present or future, we tend to relate to them from the context of "I" and "mine". We don't realize that ultimately nothing belongs to us. We ourselves are conditioned and impermanent beings. How can something that is impermanent and which has ultimately no-self, owns anything in the first place? Not to mention too the thing we supposedly own is also impermanent itself! So can we see the height of our own folly?

The Buddha advised us to live skilfully in the present so that we can eventually realize the impermanent, suffering and no-self anture of all conditioned phenomena. On the ultimate level, we need to do vipassana meditation to penetrate these truths on a direct experiential level. Once we have done so, we will be able to live well, naturally, effortlessly.

But while we have not yet eliminate the defilements, we need to use all our skill and understanding to live well in the present, and not to go unskilfully into the past or the future. If we recollect the past, it should be for good purpose, such as to see where we had gone wrong with a view to not repeating the mistake.

Sometimes too we can recollect the good deeds that we have done in giving, observing precepts and meditation. We can get much joy and comfort in such skilful recollection. In fact, when we are near death, recollecting the good that we have done can give us a peaceful comforting end and a good rebirth.

As for the future, no doubt we need to plan from time to time. We can think and plan accordingly. We should do so with a good mind, thinking well and deeply. The problem is we often tend to over-think and over-plan until we become anxious and agitated, and even neurotic. So we should plan calmly and not get excited. We should be flexible and versatile, understanding that we may need to change or modify our plans as we go along. And we should carry on doing what we have to do from day to day.

On a wider perspective, we have to decide how we want to live our life, in which direction we wish to go, and the measures we have to take to realize our goal. Then we need to go about steering our life towards that direction.

Living in present, we need lots of mindfulness. We can be mindful of all our bodily postures and activities -- getting up, sitting down, stretching, bending, eating, drinking, walking, standing, urinating, defecating, opening a door, switching on a light, picking up the phone, etc. We shoudl pay good attention to whatever we are doing. In this way too, we can check the wandering and worrisome mind.

As for the mind, we have already mentioned about the need to be mindful of what arises in it. The main point is to guard the mind from being invaded by greed, anger and delusion. Our task is to cultivate wisdom, loving-kindness and compassion. So in whatever we do, we should try to be as mindful as possible with the view to cultivating wholesome qualities. And in whatever situation we may be, we should always try to respond with non-greed, non-anger and non-delusion. Which means to say we should respond with wisdom, loving-kindness and compassion.

It is not possible for me to write more comprehensively on the subject of living in the present in just this one article. But I do hope the thoughts that I have shared with you thus far may have been of some help, that they may have given you some pointers along the way. I wish you good practice. May you live well and happily in the present.

BY  Ven. Visuddhaacaara

IS THERE AN ETERNAL SOUL? SOUL THEORY IN BUDDHISM

Belief in an eternal soul is a misconception of the human consciousness.

The Soul Theory

With regard to the soul theory, there are three kinds of teachers in the world:

- The first teacher teaches the existence of an eternal ego-entity that outlasts death: He is the eternalist

- The second teacher teaches a temporary ego-entity which becomes annihilated at death: He is the materialist.

- The third teacher teaches neither an eternal nor a temporary ego-entity: He is the Buddha.

The Buddha teaches that what we call ego, self, soul, personality, etc., are merely conventional terms that do not refer to any real, independent entity. According to Buddhism there is no reason to believe that there is an eternal soul that comes from heaven or that is created by itself and that will transmigrate or proceed straight away either to heaven or hell after death. Buddhists cannot accept that there is anything either in this world or any other world that is eternal or unchangeable. We only cling to ourselves and hope to find something immortal. We are like children who wish to clasp a rainbow. To children, a rainbow is something vivid and real; but the grown-ups know that it is merely an illusion caused by certain rays of light and drops of water. The light is only a series of waves or undulations that have no more reality than the rainbow itself.

Man has done well without discovering the soul. He shows no signs of fatigue or degeneration for not having encountered any soul. No man has produced anything to promote mankind by postulating a soul and its imaginary working. Searching for a soul in man is like searching for something in a dark empty room. But the poor man will never realize that what he is searching for is not in the room. It is very difficult to make such a person understand the futility of his search.

Those who believe in the existence of a soul are not in a position to explain what and where it is. The Buddha's advice is not to waste our time over this unnecessary speculation and devote our time to strive for our salvation. When we have attained perfection then we will be able to realize whether there is a soul or not. A wandering ascetic named Vacchagotta asked the Buddha whether there was an Atman (self) or not. The story is as follows:

Vacchagotta comes to the Buddha and asks:
'Venerable Gotama, is there an Atman?
The Buddha is silent.
'Then Venerable Gotama, is there no Atman?
Again the Buddha is silent.
Vacchagotta gets up and goes away.

After the ascetic has left, Ananda asks the Buddha why He did not answer Vacchagotta's question. The Buddha explains His position:

'Ananda, when asked by Vacchagotta, the Wanderer: 'Is there a Self?, if I had answered: 'There is a Self'. Then, Ananda, that would be siding with those recluses and brahmanas who hold the eternalist theory (sassata-vada).'

'And Ananda, when asked by the Wanderer: 'Is there no Self?, if I had answered: 'There is no Self', then that would be siding with those recluses and brahmanas who hold the annihilationist theory (uccedavada)'.

'Again, Ananda, when asked by Vacchagotta: 'Is there a Self? If I had answered: 'There is a Self', would that be in accordance with my knowledge that all dhammas are without Self?
'Surely not, Sir.'

'And again, Ananda, when asked by the Wanderer: 'Is there no Self?', if I had answered: 'There is no Self', then that would have created a greater confusion in the already confused Vacchagotta. For he would have thought: Formerly indeed I had an Atman (Self), but now I haven't got one.' (Samyutta Nikaya).

The Buddha regarded soul-speculation as useless and illusory. He once said, 'Only through ignorance and delusion do men indulge in the dream that their souls are separate and self-existing entities. Their heart still clings to Self. They are anxious about heaven and they seek the pleasure of Self in heaven. Thus they cannot see the bliss of righteousness and the immortality of truth.' Selfish ideas appear in man's mind due to his conception of Self and craving for existence.

Anatta: The Teaching of No-Soul

The Buddha countered all soul-theory and soul-speculation with His Anatta doctrine. Anatta is translated under various labels: No-soul, No-self, egolessness, and soullessness.

To understand the Anatta doctrine, one must understand that the eternal soul theory _ 'I have a soul' _ and the material theory _ 'I have no soul' _are both obstacles to self-realization or salvation. They arise from the misconception 'I AM'. Hence, to understand the Anatta doctrine, one must not cling to any opinion or views on soul-theory; rather, one must try to see things objectively as they are and without any mental projections. One must learn to see the so-called'I' or Sour or Self for what it really is : merely a combination of changing forces. This requires some analytical explanation.

The Buddha taught that what we conceive as something eternal within us, is merely a combination of physical and mental aggregates or forces (pancakkhandha), made up of body or matter (rupakkhandha), sensation (vedanakkhandha), perception (sannakkhandha), mental formations (samkharakkhandha) and consciousness (vinnanakkhandha). These forces are working together in a flux of momentary change; they are never the same for two consecutive moments. They are the component forces of the psycho-physical life. When the Buddha analyzed the psycho-physical life, He found only these five aggregates or forces. He did not find any eternal soul. However, many people still have the misconception that the soul is the consciousness. The Buddha declared in unequivocal terms that consciousness depends on matter, sensation, perception and mental formations and that is cannot exist independently of them.

The Buddha said, 'The body, O monks, is not the Self. Sensation is not the Self. Perception is not the Self. The mental constructions are not the Self. And neither is consciousness the Self. Perceiving this, O monks, the disciple sets no value on the body, or on sensation, or on perception, or on mental constructions, or on consciousness. Setting no value of them, he becomes free of passions and he is liberated. The knowledge of liberation arises there within him. And then he knows that he has done what has to be done, that he has lived the holy life, that he is no longer becoming this or that, that his rebirth is destroyed.' (Anatta-Lakkhana Sutta).

The Anatta doctrine of the Buddha is over 2500 years old. Today the thought current of the modern scientific world is flowing towards the Buddha's Teaching of Anatta or No-Soul. In the eyes of the modern scientists, man is merely a bundle of ever-changing sensations. Modern physicists say that the apparently solid universe is not, in reality, composed of solid substance at all, but actually a flux of energy. The modern physicist sees the whole universe as a process of transformation of various forces of which man is a mere part. The Buddha was the first to realize this.

A prominent author, W.S. Wily, once said, 'The existence of the immortal in man is becoming increasingly discredited under the influence of the dominant schools of modern thought.' The belief in the immortality of the soul is a dogma that is contradicted by the most solid, empirical truth.

The mere belief in an immortal soul, or the conviction that something in us survives death, does not make us immortal unless we know what it is that survives and that we are capable of identifying ourselves with it. Most human beings choose death instead of immortality by identifying themselves with that which is perishable and impermanent by clinging stubbornly to the body or the momentary elements of the present personality, which they mistake for the soul or the essential form of life.
About those researches of modern scientists who are now more inclined to assert that the so-called 'Soul' is no more than a bundle of sensations, emotions, sentiments, all relating to the physical experiences, Prof. James says that the term 'Soul' is a mere figure of speech to which no reality corresponds.

It is the same Anatta doctrine of the Buddha that was introduced in the Mahayana school of Buddhism as Sunyata or voidness. Although this concept was elaborated by a great Mahayana scholar, Nagarjuna, by giving various interpretations, there is no extraordinary concept in Sunyata far different from the Buddha's original doctrine of Anatta.

The belief in soul or Self and the Creator God, is so strongly rooted in the minds of many people that they cannot imagine why the Buddha did not accept these two issues which are indispensable to many religions. In fact some people got a shock or became nervous and tried to show their emotion when they heard that the Buddha rejected these two concepts. That is the main reason why to many unbiased scholars and psychologists Buddhism stands unique when compared to all the other religions. At the same time, some other scholars who appreciate the various other aspects of Buddhism thought that Buddhism would be enriched by deliberately re-interpreting the Buddha word 'Atta' in order to introduce the concept of Soul and Self into Buddhism. The Buddha was aware of this unsatisfactoriness of man and the conceptual upheaval regarding this belief.
All conditioned things are impermanent,
All conditioned things are Dukka -- Suffering,
All conditioned or unconditioned things
are soulless or selfless. (Dhammapada 277, 278, 279)

There is a parable in our Buddhist texts with regard to the belief in an eternal soul. A man, who mistook a moving rope for a snake, became terrified by that fear in his mind. Upon discovery that it was only a piece of rope, his fear subsided and his mind became peaceful. The belief in an eternal soul is equated to the rope of that man's imagination.

BY VEN. K SRI DHAMMANANDA

7 Buddhist Teachings That Will Help You Overcome Life’s Most Difficult Challenges and Find Peace

We all essentially suffer from at least one of the below challenges, if not more than one, which is why I feel that connecting with Buddhist wisdom, whether directly or through the lens of your own tradition (if you have one) is so powerful.
Whatever it is you’re working to overcome, I hope this list can be of help to you.
Here’s 7 Buddhist teachings that will help you overcome life’s most difficult challenges and find peace:

1. Cultivating understanding + compassion allows us to cool anger

At the heart of Buddhism is the practice of realizing a greater understanding of yourself and the world around you.
What many of us don’t realize is that it’s this very lack of understanding ourselves and the world around us which causes us to suffer so much.
And one of the ways this can manifest is in a deep anger or resentment towards others.
Buddhism teaches us to handle our anger “skillfully” (a word used often in Buddhism), which means many things, most notably leaning in to our anger mindfully simply with the power of our awareness or “presence”, which allows us to “step away” from it and view it more clearly so that we can identify its source and then release it.
This leads to understanding, and understanding leads to the cultivation of compassion, the quality of being able to “feel” what others feel and in so being compelled to send our love to them.
Anger is one of two emotions which leads to aggression and war. Most Middle Eastern warfare is based mostly on anger, anger towards the “opposition” because they defy their own beliefs.
But this anger could never survive under the right understanding. It would be cooled like water hitting a flame.

2. We can transcend fear by discovering its source

Much of what we fear stems from our impermanence and the impermanence of all things.
We’re afraid of our own death (so much so that it’s the greatest fear of all), afraid of losing our loved ones, afraid of losing our possessions, and afraid of our current life being turned upside down by the loss of a job, special position, or war. We’re also afraid that we’ll fail and afraid that we just aren’t good enough.
Whether it stems from awareness of the impermanence of all things, or our inner dialogue, we can transcend this fear by learning where it comes from (its source).
This is done through following the path of self-inquiry, or introspection- the practice of looking within until we find the source of our suffering.
Fear is the second of the two emotions which leads to acts of war, this one oftentimes leading to dangerous and irrational acts of self-protection without much cause due to paranoia.
Most “1st world” warfare in the modern era has been and is based on fear more than anything else.
Oftentimes, it’s the pain that fear makes us feel which makes us want to run from it (the fear of our own death makes us run from it and want to postpone it at all cost). But if we were to look just a bit deeper, and be honest with ourselves, we’d realize that everything isn’t what it at first seems to be.
And simply discovering the truth is healing in itself. All we need to do is observe with our mindfulness, to be fully present for the feelings, to transform ourselves.

3. We’re perfectly “whole”

The feeling of a “void”, the feeling that something’s missing, like there’s supposed to be “more” to life, is universal.
Many of us interpret the feeling differently, but we all feel it- we feel like we’re missing a piece, like we’re one half of a whole (thinking we need “the one” to complete us), like we need to acquire something to be happy, like we’re a part of something greater and need to come in contact with that, like we’re a shadow of our potential and need to work hard to become the “greatest version” of ourselves, or something else altogether.
Ultimately, this is all one and the same thing: it’s the feeling that we’re less than “whole”.
This is unfortunate, but arises naturally without any doing of our own, so there’s no use kicking yourself over it.
We can, though, do something about it. The reality is we’re not missing anything at all, and so the funny thing is any effort that attempts to “fill” this void is bound for failure right from the start.
In order to “fix” this (nothing needs fixing, we just need to realize why it doesn’t need fixing), we need to discover the source of the feeling.
Buddhist wisdom teaches us that everything is at it’s supposed to be, it’s just difficult to grasp because the world isn’t at first what it seems to be.
As opposed to static, solid, and separate as it seems to us, upon deep meditation and observation we realize that everything is much more like a giant organism- impermanent (constantly dying, being born, or interchanged), ever-flowing, ungraspable, and without any real “separate” pieces because everything is interconnected and interdependent on itself like a huge woven tapestry all at the same time.
This obviously makes us feel nuts unless we realize deeply that everything is as it’s supposed to be in every moment, because this means the world is altogether out of our control, not solid, constantly changing, and through that much fear, confusion, paranoia, and discontent arises.
But if we can work to realize this, the feeling that something is missing- or that “something” needs to be there for us to hold on to in the first place- disappears.
And through that we realize what I call our “natural wholeness”. Because we were “perfect” (just as we were supposed to be) all along.

4. Our mind is a monkey! And mindful meditation can help us catch it.

Stress and anxiety is a great challenge for many people in today’s society.
30% Percent of U.S. adults say stress strongly impacts their physical health; 33 percent say it strongly impacts their mental health.
That’s kind of alarming, right? Considering that the Buddha termed the phrase “monkey mind” (presumably, no way to know for sure) over 2,500 years ago, and he never once saw an iPhone, iPad, desktop computer, laptop, T.V., or the 1st world work ethic, I’d say “monkey” might be a bit tame for us.
But whether we have a monkey mind, or a steroid-enhanced sugar-injected monkey, it’s all the same: we have a crazy, active mind that bounces around like a manic monkey, and the first step before we can discover any greater level of well-being is to bring it to rest.
You might not show your monkey mind how to place chess right away, but with relatively little work you can create a huge transformation within your mind through meditating.
We may still feel some stress from time to time (it’s natural), but through meditation and our efforts to calm the monkey mind and gain a clear mind with which to receive insight, we also end up gaining an important tool for maintaining our general mental well-being, not only removing stress when it creeps up but creating an environment in our minds that oftentimes keeps it from ever arriving in the first place

5. We are the continuation of our loved ones (they’re in us)

The loss of a loved one will never be “easy”, and we won’t ever arrive at a state of mind where we’re totally unaffected by it, but Buddhism has much wisdom that can help us skillfully manage the sadness and sorrow that overtake us when we lose someone we care about.
In a very real way, much of our loved ones for us existed in our idea of them. Within this idea exists certain qualities that we particularly loved about them.
Think of something you really loved about the person, specifically something you know you inherited from them.
If you can begin to notice these qualities in others, particularly yourself, you can feel some level of healing and connection with the person.
It’s in this way that we realize that the person never truly left us. This is how all things are. Their personality, their physical body, and their presence. It’s all there, you just have to look a little differently. More deeply at the world around you.
It’s there, and you can come in contact with it.

6. We’re intrinsically interconnected in the most intimate way (so we don’t have to feel lonely)

Many of us feel loneliness, but we don’t all feel it the same way. Maybe a good friend or family member passed away, maybe we’re rather secluded and without any friends/much family, or maybe we just don’t feel like we have anyone around us that we can relate with.
Whatever it is, Buddhist wisdom on our interconnected nature can teach us that we can feel connected to the world around us whether we’re around other people (directly) or not.
Simply being alive, you’re connected to millions of other “beings”- humans, animals, insects, and other organisms as well as the clouds, the sun, and the trees.
“Insects don’t keep me from feeling lonely”. I get it, really, but there’s more to it than that. We as human beings are all interconnected in a very real way.
The largest and most unifying way? The fact that we all suffer in exactly the same ways, and simply knowing that can bring us together more than anything else.
In fact, it’s really our suffering which allows for loneliness to be present in the first place. If you’re feeling awesome one day, even if you’re by yourself, you don’t particularly feel lonely, do you? Even if you’re alone you don’t, because you feel great.
In this way, we can understand loneliness as simply the result of feeling that we suffer by ourselves.
But we never do, even if we’re alone in a physical sense. And now, more than ever, we have ways to reach out to and connect with others who are experiencing our same pain. This in itself can be very healing.
Even sitting and meditating on this knowledge can be liberating. Sit, breathe mindfully, and know that thousands, if not millions, of other people all around the world are going through what you’re going through (or something similar) right now in this very moment.
Imagine yourself touching them on the shoulder, and expressing your love and compassion to them. Breathe in knowing that you’re not alone. You’re in this together, whether they (whoever the other people are out there) know it or not.

7. You are not your inner dialogue

Atop everything else exists the highest teaching, the teaching on the ego- our sense of a separate self.
But before really tackling the ego, another issue confronts us. The ego results in what’s often called our “inner dialogue”. It’s the story we tell ourselves about ourselves, and it’s where our negative self-talk lives.
Buddhist wisdom teaches us that if we can come to a place where we can observe this inner dialogue with clarity, through developing greater self-awareness (with our mindfulness practice), that we can embrace it and transform it into fertilizer to grow spiritually.
In the most real sense, this inner dialogue is not us. It exists thanks to the ego, and it’s been constructed as a result of the ego coming in contact with our various life experiences. This inner dialogue is nothing more than a story, it’s not your “true self”.
If we can work to develop greater self-awareness, we can eventually identify this inner dialogue and see a glimpse of our true selves- the enlightened nature in all of us.
source and courtesy

WHAT BUDDHA SAID ABOUT EATING MEAT

Since the very beginning of Buddhism over 2500 years ago, Buddhist monks and nuns have depended on almsfood. They were, and still are, prohibited from growing their own food, storing their own provisions or cooking their own meals. Instead, every morning they would make their day's meal out of whatever was freely given to them by lay supporters. Whether it was rich food or coarse food, delicious or awful tasting it was to be accepted with gratitude and eaten regarding it as medicine. The Buddha laid down several rules forbidding monks from asking for the food that they liked. As a result, they would receive just the sort of meals that ordinary people ate - and that was often meat.

Once, a rich and influential general by the name of Siha (meaning 'Lion') went to visit the Buddha. Siha had been a famous lay supporter of the Jain monks but he was so impressed and inspired by the Teachings he heard from the Buddha that he took refuge in the Triple Gem (i.e. he became a Buddhist). General Siha then invited the Buddha, together with the large number of monks accompanying Him, to a meal at his house in the city the following morning. In preparation for the meal, Siha told one of his servants to buy some meat from the market for the feast. When the Jain monks heard of their erstwhile patron's conversion to Buddhism and the meal that he was preparing for the Buddha and the monks, they were somewhat peeved:

"Now at the time many Niganthas (Jain monks), waving their arms, were moaning from carriage road to carriage road, from cross road to cross road in the city: 'Today a fat beast, killed by Siha the general, is made into a meal for the recluse Gotama (the Buddha), the recluse Gotama makes use of this meat knowing that it was killed on purpose for him, that the deed was done for his sake'..." 

Siha was making the ethical distinction between buying meat already prepared for sale and ordering a certain animal to be killed, a distinction which is not obvious to many westerners but which recurs throughout the Buddha's own teachings. Then, to clarify the position on meat eating to the monks, the Buddha said:

"Monks, I allow you fish and meat that are quite pure in three respects: if they are not seen, heard or suspected to have been killed on purpose for a monk. But, you should not knowingly make use of meat killed on purpose for you." 

There are many places in the Buddhist scriptures which tell of the Buddha and his monks being offered meat and eating it. One of the most interesting of these passages occurs in the introductory story to a totally unrelated rule (Nissaggiya Pacittiya 5) and the observation that the meat is purely incidental to the main theme of the story emphasizes the authenticity of the passage:
Uppalavanna (meaning 'she of the lotus-like complexion') was one of the two chief female disciples of the Buddha. She was ordained as a nun while still a young woman and soon became fully enlightened. As well as being an arahant (enlightened) she also possessed various psychic powers to the extent that the Buddha declared her to be foremost among all the women in this field. 

Once, while Uppalavanna was meditating alone in the afternoon in the 'Blind-Men's Grove', a secluded forest outside of the city of Savatthi, some thieves passed by. The thieves had just stolen a cow, butchered it and were escaping with the meat. Seeing the composed and serene nun, the chief of the thieves quickly put some of the meat in a leaf-bag and left it for her. Uppalavanna picked up the meat and resolved to give it to the Buddha. Early next morning, having had the meat prepared, she rose into the air and flew to where the Buddha was staying, in the Bamboo Grove outside of Rajagaha, over 200 kilometres as the crow (or nun?) flies! Though there is no specific mention of the Buddha actually consuming this meat, obviously a nun of such high attainments would certainly have known what the Buddha ate.

However there are some meats which are specifically prohibited for monks to eat: human meat, for obvious reasons; meat from elephants and horses as these were then considered royal animals; dog meat - as this was considered by ordinary people to be disgusting; and meat from snakes, lions, tigers, panthers, bears and hyenas - because one who had just eaten the flesh of such dangerous jungle animals was thought to give forth such a smell as to draw forth revenge from the same species!

Towards the end of the Buddha's life, his cousin Devadatta attempted to usurp the leadership of the Order of monks. In order to win support from other monks, Devadatta tried to be more strict than the Buddha and show Him up as indulgent. Devadatta proposed to the Buddha that all the monks should henceforth be vegetarians. The Buddha refused and repeated once again the regulation that he had established years before, that monks and nuns may eat fish or meat as long as it is not from an animal whose meat is specifically forbidden, and as long as they had no reason to believe that the animal was slaughtered specifically for them.

The Vinaya, then, is quite clear on this matter. Monks and nuns may eat meat. Even the Buddha ate meat. Unfortunately, meat eating is often seen by westerners as an indulgence on the part of the monks. Nothing could be further from the truth - I was a strict vegetarian for three years before I became a monk. In my first years as a monk in North-East Thailand, when I bravely faced many a meal of sticky rice and boiled frog (the whole body bones and all), or rubbery snails, red-ant curry or fried grasshoppers - I would have given ANYTHING to be a vegetarian again! On my first Christmas in N.E. Thailand an American came to visit the monastery a week or so before the 25th. It seemed too good to be true, he had a turkey farm and yes, he quickly understood how we lived and promised us a turkey for Christmas. He said that he would choose a nice fat one especially for us... and my heart sank. We cannot accept meat knowing it was killed especially for monks. We refused his offer. So I had to settle for part of the villager's meal - frogs again.

Monks may not exercise choice when it comes to food and that is much harder than being a vegetarian. Nonetheless, we may encourage vegetarianism and if our lay supporters brought only vegetarian food and no meat, well... monks may not complain either! May you take the hint and be kind to animals.

BY Ajahn Brahmavamso

DELIVERANCE FROM SUFFERING THROUGH NON-GRASPING

Everything in the entire Buddhist Scriptures is really an expansion of the Four Noble Truths:


1) suffering exists 

2) the cause of suffering is craving, hatred and ignorance 

3) there is a cure for suffering, and 

4) there is a path to end suffering.

Also important are the teachings of the law of causality (causes and effects), impermanence (thingschange constantly...) and selflessness (nothing has a unique self). The law of kamma (in Pali, karma in Sanskrit) should not be understood merely as " doing good produces good; doing evil produces evil ", concepts found in most religions. Buddhism's primary teaching is that "kamma ceases with the ceasing of craving, hatred and ignorance" which means that all past, present and future kamma, desirable as well as undesirable kamma, cease when a being puts an end to craving, hatred and ignorance.

The most important Noble Truth is the fourth one which teaches that the extinction of suffering is achieved by following The Eightfold Path. The Eightfold Path consists of three major factors of practice: Morality (Right Speech, Action, Livelihood), Concentration (Right Effort, Mindfulness, Concentration) and Insight (Right Understanding, Thought).

To succeed in the practice of Buddhism, practitioners must keep the basic concept of non-grasping and non-clinging in mind at all times and reflect it in their every day actions. The teachings mentioned above can help us end suffering just as medicine can end illness. Although we don't usually know what a medecine consists of, by following the instructions, we can see it cures the illness. It doesn't matter if we know if a concept is true or false. Many westerners and orientals who consider themselves modern, expect concepts to be proven true or false scientifically. Buddhist teachings are not against science. Many scientific discoveries of the last half century were in fact taught by Buddha 2500 years ago.

For example, Buddha taught that we should not automatically believe the Tipitaka or the Buddhist canon, nor rely on the people, text books or the majority opinion, but should believe what we find out for ourselves. The key is to understand and understanding comes from experience. Wanting to understand the Buddha teachings without practicing them is like wanting to taste food without eating it but just hearing it described by someone or in books!

We all experience suffering and want to end it, however most of us want to see proof of the of the Concepts of Buddhism or to discuss them in stead of seriously practicing. Many people explain Buddha's teachings in a way it suits their conception of reality, rather than the other way around. Modernizing Buddhism try to make the reality of life around them suit their conceptions, rather the other way around. Modernizing Buddhism may be helpful for people today, however we should be extremely careful, not to depart from the essence of Buddhism. The loving kindness practice in Buddhism fosters helping others and public benefits, but ego can easily become involved in power struggles in the name of ideology!
Sometimes we don't know if we are able of overcoming the attraction of sensual or worldly pleasures. We have seen monks attemting to propagate their political ideas in the temple, on Sunday mornings, after the rituals, instead of giving Dhamma talks. These monks and their followers like to talk about politics, how to save the country from a certain regime or how to fight the other side ! Taking sides does not fit in to any Buddhist practice. Such speeches should not take place in the main hall of a Buddhist temple. Accoding to the proper character of a Buddhist monk, as described in the sutta "hat is a Bikkhu?", speeches may not promote hatred, contradicting the basic objective of all practitioners, that is to end craving, hatred and ignorance.

The Eightfold Path is also called the middle path or the moderation way since it lies in between the path of sensual indulgence and self-mortification. In general, Buddhism is also considered as the middle path because it is in between the two extremes of truth and falsehood. Buddha was not interested in true or false, real or unreal. He was interested in how and why things appear to be real. When we see how things arise, we believe that they are real. But when we see that they pass away, then we don't believe that they are real. The Buddhist psychology states that any arising is conditioned, that all phenomena experience dependent origination and dependent extinction. All phenomena are real only in the relative sense. However, in the absolute sense, nothing is real. When one has insight, one sees the world as it is, not the way it seems. Looking at a flower, one can see in the same time the sun that warms it, the cloud that feeds it, and the hands that pruned it. This would be in depth perception. However, to penetrate an object or a phenomena, to really see it, our insight needs to be developed through the mindfulness practice.

The Buddhist psychology is called ABHIDHAMMA which analyses the relationship between (rupa) and mind (nama), and explains all the mental formations, the development of the mind and its interaction with the body as well as the dependent origination of all phenomena. Abhidhamma helps people to liberate themselves from suffering and is considered as greater than the Sutta (Discourses ) and the Vinaya (Discipline ). Through the practice of The Noble Eightfold Path, people experience the relation between mind and matter and the law of causality to finally develop the Insight.

Efforts to develop Insight through theoretical explanations are useless. "Insight that can be spoken is not real insight". Insight cannot be practiced, it either arises or does not arise ", meaning that insight reveals itself when it is freed from ignorance. We should not have expectations from our practice; expectation of any kind is also greed and hinders our progress. Suffering, like any other illnesses of people, needs a way to end it and this way is usually communicated by words. However we must always remember that words are used to describe other words as "one thorn may be used to remove another thorn in the flesh", just as another means to accomplish something, we should not be attached or hung up on words.

We assume that our mind automatically grasps reality but don't know how artfully the mind works and, therefore, we live in delusion and suffering. The mind must be developed. The Buddhist teachings show how to liberate the mind from ignorance and obtain wisdom or insight. Wisdom implies a mind with equanimity, free of mental defilements, not influenced by worldly pleasures or suffering, a mind detached from the past and the future, a calm and collected mind that experiences that the reality of all phenomena is in its impermanence and selflessness.

To gain this Wisdom, we learn to understand Buddha teaching (Dhamma ) and more importantly, to practice the Eightfold Path. Concentration (meditation practice ) is very important. The Buddhist verses on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness (Satipatthana sutta) explain how to contemplate on the four meditation objects (mind, mind object, body and feeling), and show how to observe and note the phenomena as they arise without any attachment to them. The goal is to practice non grasping in our daily life. Through mindfulness we have to give up things we are attached to.

Meditation is bacically letting go. In meditation, we observe everything which comes to our six senses without reacting; we give up the sound coming to our ears, the itching sensation on our body, the bubble of anger, hatred or craving arising in our mind; just noting the arising, progressing and falling of the phenomenon without and clinging on to it. We then reach a state of concentration where the mind starts seeing the true nature of things, understanding the selflessness (anatta), and experiencing the five aggregates as impermanent and continually flowing and changing (anicca).

The practice of morality, concentration and insight outlined in the Noble Eightfold Path is referred as walking the ordinary path. The Buddha also taught a short cut: do not grasp at the urges of the six senses, but constantly watch all phenomena without attachment. When we finally see that there is no self, the entire eight factors of the Eightfold Path arise simultaneously. Buddha taught of the emptiness of essential nature (sunnata): nothing that exists has a self. Because of misconception of that we have a self, we cling to our desires, and by doing so, we create suffering for ourselves. The ultimate aim is to cling to no thing at all. Gradually we can see that less detachment reduces suffering. This theory seems simple, however practice requires patience and determination, it would go from gross to very fine form. We must give up what we have been attached to, such as material, objects, power, sensual pleasures, affection, love, our concepts, the things we value most...

Buddha teaching offers a raft which takes us across the river to real happiness. As a way of life, Buddhism is neither pessimistic nor optimistic, it teaches us to see clearly for ourselves, through practice, not just talking about practice. Once we reach the other side, we don't need to carry the raft along with us. The Dhamma, the process of meditation, the precepts would not be necessary at all if we could let go all attachments. Buddha taught the basic practice: " Nothing whatsoever should be grasped or clung to ". This practice leads to deliverance from suffering, the unique goal of a Buddhist.

by Lieu Phap

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