Posted in bodhisattva

Awakening in the Outbreak

I had a new plan all set up.

I had a new time and place set up for a weekly meditation group and I was cautiously excited about it. I was going to start in early April and hoping people would find me.

Now everything in the city is shut down and I’ve had to cancel that group until further notice. It was pretty discouraging when I realized I’d have to do it.

I don’t know if I’ll end up starting that group or not. The truth is I’m not sure my city needs another meditation community. There are a lot of meditation communities in Kansas City.

There’s just not one that has me teaching. I wonder sometimes if that’s as important as I think it is. That’s not the right word. I don’t think it’s important. I just feel like I have something to contribute as a teacher.

Anyway,

I’m home now. I’m one of the lucky ones sent home from work with pay during this crisis. My kids are home too. School has been canceled for at least a month, so they’re having the joy of watching their teachers teach in videos and doing assignments on their iPads. (I think the North Kansas City School District is doing a good job dealing with this situation. Everything they’re doing for “virtual school” seems to be working)

 

But the thing I really wanted to tell you about is this: I’m teaching online.

I’ve gotten inspired. I’m giving teachings every day. I say it’s to inspire and help others, but really it’s to inspire and help myself.

I’m doing live videos on my facebook page every day.

This is helping me keep it together and if it’s helping anyone else, I think that’s great. I’m giving talks on “The 37 Practices of All Bodhisattvas”

This is a text in 37 parts and I’m doing a dive into each one. We all need connection and encouragement right now. So come and let’s encourage each other.

It’s going to be 37 talks for 37 days, if I can keep up with it. I’m really inspired by the teachings in this text and I think you will be too.

As of this writing I’ve done 7 of them. You can go back and find the old ones, or start where you are, it makes no difference.

https://www.facebook.com/DScharpy/

follow my page and you should get notified when I go live.

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I’m also recording the audio for my podcast, so I’m dropping a new podcast episode every day.

If you’re interested in just audio, check out:

RSS Kansas City Meditation Podcast

 

The version of the text I’m using for these talks is called “Illuminating the 37 Practices of A Bodhisattva” and you can get it here if you’re interested:

Illuminating the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva

and if you’d rather not get on facebook, you can also see the videos on YouTube here:

Daniel Scharpenburg YouTube Channel

Posted in bodhisattva, way of the bodhisattva

Bodhicitta

Bodhicitta is the quality that drives away the suffering in ourselves and others. “Bodhi” means awake, free from delusion. “Citta” means mind. So this is about the mind of awakening that we’re trying to develop and strengthen.

The way of the Bodhisattva is the way of compassion and wisdom, of realizing your own boundless potential. It comes from realizing that Enlightenment is our true nature, that we have a basic goodness and wakefulness that is fundamental to our being.

Bodhicitta is what the diligence of the Bodhisattva is based on. It’s what helps us overcome the delusions that keep us from seeing our true nature. These delusions are things that we can overcome. They are impermanent like everything else. They may obscure our minds, but we can overcome them. Bodhicitta is our tool for doing this.

In “The Way of the Bodhisattva,” Shantideva said this about Bodhicitta:

The mighty buddhas, pondering for many ages,

Have seen that this, and only this, will save

The boundless multitudes,

And bring them easily to supreme joy.

People have been talking about the great benefits of Bodhicitta for a long time. Although the same words aren’t always used, these kinds of spiritual teachings have been present throughout history. Bodhicitta is so powerful because it helps us combat our self-centeredness. It gives us a chance to put down some of our egotism. We all share the same suffering and craving. By having that aspiration to save all beings we free ourselves from that mind that thinks “I-Me-Mine” all the time. We can think about our shared humanity. These teachings are here to direct us toward more compassionate living.


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Posted in bodhisattva

The Bodhisattva

The Bodhisattva is willing to be authentic, willing to get hurt and be sensitive and have a fully exposed heart. A Bodhisattva cooperates with the world instead of making enemies with everything all the time. Bodhisattvas are sometimes called spiritual warriors, described as daring and fearless. On the Bodhisattva path you have to let go of the lies that you tell yourself all the time. You have to put all of your egocentric bullshit aside and face things as they really are. That’s why it’s fearless. When we put that aside we are free to be more genuine and authentic. This path isn’t so much about manifesting Enlightenment as it is about expanding our openness, gentleness, and compassion. But, I suppose when you get down to it that, in itself, is Enlightenment.

Posted in bodhisattva

Nagarjuna

Nagarjuna is one of my heroes in Buddhist history.

He was a scholar and adventurer, a mystic and wanderer. And a prolific writer whose work is still with us today.

He’s sometimes called the Second Buddha. He’s the only figure given such a high distinction. He lived in the second century and he’s considered a key figure in several different branches of Buddhism. He’s revered in Zen Buddhism as a patriarch and in Vajrayana Buddhism as a treasure revealer.

He came from the southern part of India. It’s said that he lived for 600 years, but of course that’s a legend. It’s said that he came from a Brahmin family, but other than that very little is known about his life before he became a dharma teacher.

He was a Buddhist monk but also a renegade scholar. He traveled around teaching everyone, not just monks. He presented the same kinds of teachings to everyone, rather than giving some teachings to monks and lesser teachings to everyone else. This was probably unheard of at the time. It seems that he just traveled around giving teachings, but also doing an incredible amount of writing. There’s a tradition of mystic scholars in Buddhism now but Nagarjuna is really one of the early ones.

He was an adherent of the Mahayana School, which emphasizes the Bodhisattva path of wisdom and compassion. He defended Mahayana practice, which many Buddhists at the time believed wasn’t authentic Buddhism. He founded his own branch of Buddhism called Madhyamika, or middle way.

He’s also associated with the Prajnaparamita, or Perfection of Wisdom, sutras. This collection of sutras is really foundational to all of the Mahayana Path. The legend is that these teachings were given to him by snake-like spiritual beings called nagas that came out of the bottom of the sea. The story is that the Buddha, during his life, had given the teachings to these beings for safekeeping until the world was ready. For this reason he’s often depicted with snakes around. That’s where his name comes from. It means Noble Naga, or Noble Serpent.

That was a thing people felt the need to do in those days. It was believed that every teaching has to come from the Buddha. But since he had been dead for hundreds of years, that wasn’t possible. So this elaborate story was created, not just for these teachings from Nagarjuna, but for all sorts of teachings.

The Prajnaparamita Sutras are my favorites. And I tend to think Nagarjuna wrote them. We don’t need elaborate mythology to explain why his ideas are Buddhist. We recognize that Buddhism is an evolving culture of awakening, not a system that depends entirely on the teachings of one man.

Nagarjuna was a monk, but he addressed his teachings to all sorts of audiences.  His overriding theme is the bodhisattva journey, the cultivation of compassion and wisdom in order to attain Enlightenment. By wisdom, he meant an understanding of emptiness.  He’s also credited with taking the confusing ways emptiness was expressed in older sutras and making it a little easier to understand. Not that emptiness is ever easy to understand, but Nagarjuna expressed it with far less reliance on metaphorical speculations and wild mythology than the Buddha or other early teachers did.

The Buddha talked about walking a “middle way” between the extremes of self denial and self indulgence. What Nagarjuna did was extend that middle way view to philosophy. He identified our existence as a middle way between real and imagined, between permanence and oblivion. In Nagarjuna’s view delusion is the source of our suffering and it’s a belief in separation, a dualistic worldview. It’s the belief that think things exist independently and permanently. Emptiness, in Nagarjuna’s view is not lack of existence, but rather lack of dualistic existence, lack of separation, lack of boundaries. We are empty like the sky, boundless and beautiful.

We take these teachings for granted now, in modern Buddhism, but they came from Nagarjuna. He was inspired by the Buddha and writing in the Buddhist tradition, but he was the one that explained things in this way.

He said that we should dwell in emptiness, that an intuitive understanding of the emptiness inherent in all things is the road to enlightenment. He said,”For whom emptiness is possible, everything is possible.”

He also created Bodhisattva Vows. Well, there are two different branches of Bodhisattva Vows, and he created one of them, the one that’s called “The Profound View”. This is a series of vows that is taken in the Mahayana tradition as a way to strengthen and demonstrate our commitment to the Bodhisattva path, to cultivate compassion and wisdom for ourselves and others. We take this vow to demonstrate our great determination to cultivate the six perfections; generosity, virtue, patience, diligence, concentration, and wisdom.

The Bodhisattva’s journey was further elaborated later on by a monk named Shantideva in a well known work called The Way of the Bodhisattva.

Everything I write about and practice comes from Nagarjuna. And because I took his Bodhisattva path, I am part of his lineage.

 

Posted in bodhisattva

Bodhisattva Road

The Bodhisattva’s Journey

Mahayana Buddhism is sometimes called the Great Vehicle. It’s also called the Bodhisattva Path. Bodhisattva means Enlightenment Being or Awakened Being.

The path that I advocate, the path that I teach about, is the Bodhisattva Path. It’s a powerful and difficult journey. The ideal of the Bodhisattva is what we are trying to live up to.

The Bodhisattva Path is founded on the idea of Buddha Nature. The idea of Buddha Nature is that it’s not “out there” as something we have to go get or some state we have to attain. It’s here and now already. We have some delusions we’re carrying that stop us from realizing it, but it’s always here beneath all the baggage we are carrying. This whole idea turns some of the other ways of looking at Buddhism around. There was a time when most Buddhists thought that Enlightenment was some sacred state we were trying to get to, something in the future, not something that is with us already. Not something you can attain in some future life, if you’re both very virtuous and very lucky. It’s something that’s here with you already, something that you can see and experience right now, in this very life.

What’s the importance of the idea of Buddha nature? To me it points to one thing, above all else. Potential. If we all have Buddha Nature then we all have potential, we all have the seed within us to awaken to our true nature. If we all have that, then there’s no reason to think we can’t attain what the Buddha attained. There’s no reason to think “I’m not good enough” or “I’m not wise enough.” The Bodhisattva’s Journey is something that you can do.

The Bodhisattva’s Journey begins with discovering the heart of awakening. This means the sincere desire to help others. Generally we say it’s about helping others with their journey on the path too, but there are all sorts of ways we can help others.

To me the Bodhisattva’s Journey is reflected in paramita practice, cultivating the six perfections. The cultivation of generosity, virtue, patience, diligence, concentration, and transcendent wisdom is the fundamental action of the Bodhisattva. Cultivating these six things is what brings us to the other shore, from the world of suffering to the world of Enlightenment. That said, we aren’t cultivating these things with Enlightenment or some other goal in mind. We’re really cultivating them because we know that is the best way to live our lives, to walk in the footsteps of the great teachers and masters. We don’t engage paramita practice to attain Enlightenment. We engage paramita practice to engage paramita practice.

Paramita means going beyond. We’re engaging this practice to go beyond the ocean of suffering that we are stuck in, and to help others go beyond it too. It means crossing through the barrier of greed, hatred, and delusion that keeps us from seeing our true nature, our Buddha Nature that is fundamentally good and one with everything around us. Paramita practice is really based on non-duality, getting us to dwell in a place where we realize that we aren’t separate from the world around us, that we don’t have a self in the way we traditionally think of a self. The things guiding us on this journey are our innate senses of wisdom and compassion.

Paramita practice is the way to be a Bodhisattva. As Bodhisattvas we want to walk this journey of helping others to awakening, to challenge the idea that we are separate from the world around us, and to overcome suffering and dwell in Enlightenment.

The first paramita is Generosity. This is in the sense not only of giving, but also of opening ourselves up, of being open with the world around us. It represents not only giving but also not being attached to gain. In the modern world we often think about attaining more and more things. I had a Garfield poster on my wall as a kid that said “he who has the most toys wins.” That kind of attitude is the opposite of Generosity. In Mahayana Buddhism our goal is to be generous, to give, without expectation of some reward. We don’t give to build a good reputation or to generate good karma. We want to cultivate a Generosity that is free of attachment to outcomes or gain. Being generous helps us deal with our great attachment to things.

The second paramita is Virtue. This immediately brings to mind ideas about right and wrong. I don’t think that’s the best way to think about the paramita of Virtue. Virtue is based on being aware of the world around us. When we are aware of the world around us, this can help us to appreciate things and to have proper conduct. This kind of Virtue does mean that we grind our teeth and avoid taking pleasure in things. Rather, it means that we take pleasure mindfully, that we not be carried away by our attachments. Once we begin to notice and manage our lack of discipline, we can being to see that underneath that we are basically good. It’s Virtue that helps us to realize that we have so much to offer.

The third paramita is Patience. Sometimes this is called Forbearance. That might be a better word for it, but I think it’s a word that a lot of people just don’t know. This is essentially equanimity, our ability to weather life’s troubles. It’s the cultivation of our antidote to aggression. It’s our ability to manage our annoyance when we’re stuck in traffic, or when our kids won’t stop shouting, or whatever else comes up. Patience means not flying off the handle and not letting little things ruin our day. Or ruin the day of those around us. How many times do we react badly because something put us in a bad mood? Too often.

The fourth paramita is Diligence. Essentially it means that we’re trying really hard. Some say it’s the most important of the paramitas because if our practice is casual it might not go very far. It means not giving up when things get hard. There are plenty of obstacles on the path and it’s only our diligence that keeps us going. It’s also about having a sense of delight on the path. By that I mean getting excited about the journey. It shouldn’t be a chore to practice. We are walking the path of awakening to become Enlightened, serene and free of suffering. This is something to be excited about.

The fifth paramita is Concentration. This is our mindfulness, our ability to stabilize our minds and manage our thought processes. This is where we cultivate stillness and attention. This consists of watching our thoughts as they enter our minds and cultivating an understanding of how our minds work. This is where we tame our minds from the relentless deluge of distractions and preconceptions that continuously assail us. Generally when people are practicing meditation, cultivating the paramita of Concentration is what they’re doing.

The sixth paramita is Transcendent Wisdom. This is described as the wisdom that cuts through ignorance. This is really where things get deep and serious. It’s in cultivating Transcendent Wisdom that we practice dwelling in our true nature. This is where we can step beyond the delusion of duality and dedicate ourselves truly to compassion. Our understanding of deep Buddhist concepts like Emptiness and Buddha Nature comes from our cultivation of the sixth paramita. This is where we are overcoming our delusions. This is engaged through deeper meditation styles, often on retreat, and a deep study of Buddhist texts. When we dwell in our true nature, we bring a little bit of it back with us every time.

These six perfections are fundamental to the Mahayana Buddhist Path, the Way of the Bodhisattva. Engaging them is a way to catch a glimpse of our true nature and to attain Enlightenment. Mahayana Buddhism is called the Great Vehicle because it was designed to be a path that many people can practice, instead of a select few.

You can take the Bodhisattva’s journey yourself. Take it with me.

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Posted in bodhisattva, Striding Through the Universe, vajrayana

Shambhala Road

I set off on my journey at 4 in the morning, hours before dawn. I was not on a road trip. I was on a pilgrimage. I was not traveling with family or friends, I was taking this journey alone.

I was crossing the empty and desolate plains of western Kansas to enter Colorado. I live on the eastern edge of Kansas, so I would have to cross the entire state. My destination was the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya, the final resting place and shrine dedicated to Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. He was the founder of the Shambhala lineage and one of the first people to bring Vajrayana Buddhism to the west. He was the first Tibetan Buddhist teacher to really and truly embrace western culture and teach in that context.

 

Being a devout Buddhist, I decided that’s it’s silly that there’s this great Buddhist holy site 10 hours away and I’ve never been there. I know a few people that have, but I don’t know if they’ve seen the journey as a great pilgrimage, as I see it. My friend Ray Porter, who taught me “The Way of the Bodhisattva,” said that he donated to the stupa project when they were building it, but he’s never taken the trip to see it.

Being a 36 year old man, I decided it was silly that I had never seen a mountain and never gone west of Kansas.

It was a year ago that my marriage ended. Since then I’ve realized that a lot of loneliness sometimes comes with a lot of freedom.

It’s been one year since the end of my marriage. There have been some big struggles but some good times too. I’ve made mistakes along the way but some good choices too. Everything is different now and I am different too.
I drove 1500 miles in a weekend so I could go to the mountains, so I could see a Buddhist holy site, so I could have a big experience to help me put down my emotional baggage.

My plan was to go to Red Feather Lakes, to the Shambhala Mountain Center to see that stupa and maybe hike a little. Then, go sleep in Fort Collins in an Airbnb. Then, travel to Boulder Saturday to explore a little. Then, stay at the Airbnb again and return home Sunday.

I went on 4th of July weekend, knowing I could get home Sunday and rest all day Monday before going back to work.

I wanted to sit and meditate under the rocky mountains.

So, away I went early in the morning. As the sun was rising I was driving through some interesting scenery called the Flint Hills. I saw rolling  hills of beautiful green grass. After that I entered the void that is western Kansas. The only thing that catches your attention driving through western Kansas is the giant metal windmills.

Endless time seemed to pass before I crossed the state line into Colorado. I knew I still had four hours left before I would get to Red Feather Lakes, but I still felt like I had accomplished something by driving across the entire state of Kansas.

Hours later I saw them. They were far away in the distance, so far that I thought they might actually be clouds. They were mountains. A new kind of excitement flowed through me as I continued. I turned onto a dirt road to go up to Red Feather Lakes. Mountains were all around me now. I could hear my little car working harder as the elevation increased. I don’t think little cars like mine are meant to go up in mountains.

It was 3pm when I got there.
I came to Shambhala Road and turned left. I parked my car in a parking lot with many other cars. There were signs marking the path up to the stupa, and flags all the way up the path, so I wouldn’t get lost. I could see it in the distance, poking out from behind the trees. It was majestic and beautiful. It was 108 feet tall. It was a long winding path, so the stupa kept coming into view and disappearing again among the trees. I think I walked a mile or more on this mountain path.

 

 

Eventually I came upon it. I noticed a dark statue standing toward the top, built into it. I walked around the stupa clockwise once, as a sign of respect. There was a spot just outside the door for my shoes, so I left them behind and went inside.

 

There was a shrine room inside. There, sitting in front of a row of cushions, (all gomdens, no zafus) was a giant golden sitting Buddha with a beatific smile on his face. And suddenly I had a beatific smile on my face too.
The floor, walls, and ceilings are covered in intricate sacred designs. My friend Lama Matt told me, “When you’re there, don’t forget to look up.” I did look up and there was a beautiful mandala on the ceiling. And there are little alcoves built into the walls all around, even behind the statue. These had different things in them, pictures of Trungpa, notes on his life, statues of Bodhisattvas. All these alcoves were very interesting.

I sat on a cushion at the feet of the Buddha and looked up at him. I noticed my heart was racing and I felt a little light headed. I wondered if it was from the walk up to the stupa and the high elevation, or if it was because of the sacredness of the stupa and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

My head was spinning as I sat there. Then I felt at peace. I felt oneness with the statue, and the other people around, and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and the mountain. I felt oneness with everything. I felt a dropping away of body and mind. I heard the inconceivable thunderous silence of a mostly empty universe. My sense of self was gone.

I was empty and I was emptiness and everything was bliss.

I had a timeless moment of unconsciousness and I saw the golden eternity. There was no coming or going, there was no one and no path. There was only emptiness. And love. There was love too. I felt like I turned a corner in my spiritual journey. I felt like I had put down a lot of my emotional baggage. I felt light and free.

 

I felt like I was receiving teachings from Trungpa, and also from the earth and the sky. I felt so….connected. And aware.

I had a spiritual experience on Shambhala Mountain. Or maybe it was just the lack of oxygen from going up the mountain too fast. Either way I feel transformed.

After an endless and deep sit, I cam back to my body. I stood, opened the door, and stepped out. The sun was shining brighter, everything was infused with wonder. As I walked down the path, a deer walked right up to me. We stood for a moment, looking at each other. Then it ran off. Animals behave differently when they aren’t being hunted. In Kansas deer get the hell away from you as fast as they can. In Colorado they come up to you.

I made my way down the mountain.

I spent that evening exploring Fort Collins and I spent the entire next day exploring Boulder.

These were wonderful places. I saw a man in an African tribal mask dancing and playing bongos in the middle of downtown Boulder. I went to a jazz festival. They had food trucks, just like festivals here. But there was no unhealthy food. It was all kale shakes and salads and vegan burritos. (here in Kansas city it would be chicken fingers and ribs). That’s probably why everyone I saw in Boulder was fit and thin. That, and the bicycles. There are bike lanes on all the streets and I saw people riding bikes everywhere.

A cute hippy girl tried to sell me a pendant with a secret compartment to hide my stash in. I wondered why I would need such a thing in Colorado.

I expected Boulder to be full of Buddhist temples. I only found three and the only one that really seemed like it got a lot of visitors was the Boulder Shambhala Center. There were two Buddhist stores with Tibet in their names. And there was a new age-y bookstore that had a lot of Buddhist stuff too.

I didn’t travel to Colorado to party, but I did buy pot in a store, just because I could.

Sunday morning I came home.

The drive home was harder than the drive there. As you go from Colorado to Kansas on I-70 the scenery slowly gets less and less interesting. But I made it. I got home in the early afternoon.

I brought a little of the mountain back with me.

 

 

 

 

Posted in bodhisattva, Mahayana, Uncategorized

The Six Paramitas

The most important teaching for walking the bodhisattva path is the six perfections. The six perfections free us from delusion and lead us to Awakening. This is, above all else, the path to awakening that I really connect with. If we practice the six perfections in our lives, then we can dwell in Enlightenment. This is, to me, the central point of Buddhism.
The six paramitas (usually translated as perfections) are a teaching of Mahayana Buddhism. They are said to be vehicles to take us from shore of sorrow to the shore of peace and joy. We are on the shore of suffering, anger, and depression and we want to cross over to the shore of well-being and transcendence. Practicing the Six Paramitas is said to help us unleash the joy within.
This six paramitas are: Generosity, Virtue, Patience, Diligence, Concentration, and Wisdom.

The Paramita of Generosity
People tend to think that this means just giving material things and that isn’t necessarily the case.
We can give all sorts of things. We can give our time, our patience, our love.
The best gift we can offer is our presence. To be there when someone needs us, to listen when someone needs to talk. When we give our presence to someone that wants it, we are practicing the perfection of generosity.
Because of our meditation practice, we can be more mindfully present. Listening instead of waiting to talk, paying attention when attention is needed.
We can also give stability. When our thoughts and feelings are unstable, we can cause all sorts of harm and unhappiness to ourselves and others.
We can also give peace. When we are peaceful and have a peaceful relationship to the world around us, it brings benefit to everyone.
We can also give space. Staying away when someone wants time alone is a form of giving.
We can also give understanding. When we pay attention to what others are going through we can better understand how to interact with them in ways that are helpful.
Generosity is a wonderful practice. The Buddha said when we are angry at someone we can practice generosity toward them as a way to soften our anger.

The Paramita of Virtue
The Second Paramita is something we cultivate in two ways.
One way is through mindfulness training and the second way is through precepts. I’m going to write about the five mindfulness trainings now and save the precepts for another time.
Practicing the Five Mindfulness Trainings is a good way to transform our behavior in a positive way. This is a teaching created by the Zen Monk Thich Nhat Hanh.
Some of these overlap with the precepts a little, so it would be repetitive to write about both here.
The Five Mindfulness Trainings
1) Protect other beings. This applies to humans as well as other animals and plants. We should protect and help whenever possible.
2) To prevent the exploitation of humans and other beings. The normal way of doing things is often to step on others in order to get ahead in life.
3) Be faithful in relationships.
4) Practice deep listening and loving speech
5) Be mindful about your consumption.

The Paramita of Patience

This represents our ability to receive and transform our suffering.
The Buddha compared acceptance to water. If you pour some salt into a glass of water it will have a big impact. If you pour it into a river it will have no impact at at all.
We are the same way.
If our ability to accept is small, then we will suffer a great deal even when very minor things happen, like someone saying an unkind word or annoying us.
But if our ability to accept is large, then such things won’t have quite the same impact on us. It is so easy to carry the weight of an unkind word or action with us.
This Paramita represents our ability to receive, accept, and transform any pain and suffering that comes our way. We often tend to make things worse for ourselves than they really need to be.

The Paramita of Diligence

This represents our motivation on the path.
This Paramita is our devotion to cultivating the other five. It’s the one that really keeps us inspired to continue rather than giving up.
We can recognize the things that cause suffering in ourselves and others and we should do what we can to lessen these things.
The Buddha sometimes described life in terms of watering seeds. The seeds of anger, jealousy, and despair exist in our minds and we should try to refrain from watering them if we can. This means trying to bring happiness to ourselves and others.
The Paramita of Diligence represents striving to water positive seeds in our minds instead.
It’s said to have three components:
1) courage: the development of character. The will to walk the path with a sense on conviction and also to motivate others by our desire to walk the path.
2) spiritual training: taking our practice in our own hands. This component represents expressing our commitment to practice, not just when we’re in meditation, but in our daily lives as well. Talking about Buddhist concepts is great, but we really need to put them into practice at home too. Learning about the Paramita of Generosity, for example, is good, but we also need to actually put it into practice and be generous.
3) benefiting others: the Buddhist path is helping us to lessen our suffering and clear away our delusion and that is great. But, another important aspect is our wish to not cause suffering for others. We call this the way of the Bodhisattva.

The Paramita of Meditation

Meditation in this sense consists of two aspects.
First is stopping. Our minds run through our whole lives, chasing one idea after another. Stopping means to stop in the present moment, to settle our monkey minds and be here now. Everything is in this moment. With this meditation practice we can calm our minds. We can practice mindful breathing, mindful walking, and mindful sitting. This is also the practice of concentration, so we can live deeply each moment of our lives, touching the deepest levels of our being.
The second aspect of meditation is looking deeply to see the true nature of things. This is where we really cultivate an understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

The Paramita of Wisdom

This is the highest form of understanding, free from concepts, ideas, and views. Prajna is the seed of Enlightenment within us. This is what carries us to Enlightenment.
There is a lot of Buddhist literature on the Paramita of Wisdom (prajnaparamita), including the Heart Sutra and the Diamond Sutra. I really recommend reading these.
What we can talk about is looking deeply at the nature of things. Waves have a beginning and an end. Some are big and some are small. But they’re all made of water. They all come from and return to the same ocean. And, more importantly, they’re never truly separate from the ocean.
If we look deeply at ourselves and the world around us, we can come to understand that we have the same nature as these waves. We share the same ground of being as all other beings.
The Paramita of Wisdom represents our understanding of the oneness of things and it’s really considered the most important of the six perfections.


 

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Posted in bodhisattva

Great Compassion is a Prerequisite

Great compassion is the fundamental prerequisite for successful Ch’an meditation. Compassion is the best possible motivation. It inspires us like nothing else can. Because we have great compassion, we are striving to become enlightened for the sake of all beings. This is what it means to try to live the way of the Bodhisattva. Because we have great compassion, we cultivate non-selfishness. This helps reign in the ego and regulate our attachment to external things. Our compassion helps us cultivate humility.

Posted in bodhisattva

The Inexhaustible Lamp

When a Bodhisattva teaches and spreads the Dharma it is sometimes called an Inexhaustible Lamp.

This is because it can bring thousands to the mind that is set on Supreme Enlightenment. If a Bodhisattva’s wish to guide others on the path is strong, then it will be Inexhaustible.

Thanks to the Bodhisattva’s Inexhaustible Lamp others will be motivated and inspired. Like a candle, the teachings do not decrease by being shared. That’s why they are called Inexhaustible.

Posted in bodhisattva, tattooed buddha

Unleashing the Bodhisattva Within

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A Bodhisattva is one who has decided to walk the path of Awakening in an effort to help all beings.

The path is a long and selfless mystical journey that involves cultivating generosity, patience, virtue, diligence, meditation, and wisdom. Full of compassion for others, bodhisattvas make the vow to embody the path and guide anyone that seeks it.

The word “bodhisattva” literally means “a being who is seeking awakening.” A bodhisattva is one who is seeking Enlightenment, helps others seek Enlightenment, and cultivates virtue and wisdom. Bodhisattvas strive to benefit both themselves and others in the mystical journey.

Bodhisattvas make the vow to strive to free all beings from suffering.

When we make these vows, helping and liberating others becomes a responsibility. The mind of the Bodhisattva is said to have three elements. They are: the aspiration for awakening, great compassion, and skillful means.

The aspiration for Awakening is the mind seeking Enlightenment. Without this aspiration, we have no motivation on the path. If we have no motivation, then it will be difficult to persevere.

This aspiration leads to making what is called the bodhisattva’s four universal vows:

1 Sentient beings are limitless, I vow to liberate them.

2 Afflictions are endless, I vow to eradicate them.

3 Teachings are infinite, I vow to learn them.

4 Buddhahood is supreme, I vow to attain it.

If we lose our aspiration for Awakening, then it will be difficult to bring benefit to anyone. Aspiration for Awakening is the root of the path.

Great compassion is the part of our mind that wishes to help all beings.

When a bodhisattva wants to help others, they must do so with a mind of great kindness and compassion. A bodhisattva can use kindness to bring others joy and compassion to remove suffering. When a bodhisattva helps others find the path the do not seek anything in return. Instead, they see helping others on the path as a responsibility. This is true compassion.

Skillful means represent the different tools we use in the path to Awakening. These include things like meditation and chanting. A teaching that I like is called the four means of embracing. These are: giving, kind words, altruism, and empathy.

These are some of the tools we can use on the path to Awakening.

The Practice of the Bodhisattva’s Path

Buddhism places great emphasis on the cultivation of wisdom, but it also places great emphasis on ethics in life. After he Awakened the Buddha said, “Do nothing that is harmful. Do only good, and purify the mind.” It could be said that all Buddhist teachings can really be summarized in that small sentence.

Following the path of the Bodhisattva is a way of cultivating our selves. It is a path of self improvement that benefits everyone around us, as well as ourselves. The most important teaching for walking the bodhisattva path is the six perfections. The six perfections free us from delusion and lead us to Awakening.

They are forms of practice for us to cultivate in order to live more awakened lives.

I’ve written about the six perfections before, but I will summarize them briefly here.

The Perfection of Generosity: to give without any attachment to form. To give with no attachment to what is being given, who is giving, or who is receiving.

The Perfection of Virtue: To respect and not harm others. Observing Buddhist precepts and acting in accordance with human values.

The Perfection of Patience: Facing life with a sense of equanimity that allows us to endure what is difficult to endure. Practice patience by being tolerant, accepting, and by spending time contemplating truths.

The Perfection of Diligence: This is our vigorous desire to practice ceaselessly, to bring joy and benefit to others even when it is difficult to do so.

The Perfection of Meditation: This is our cultivation of mindfulness. This helps settle and focus ourselves.

The Perfection of Wisdom: This is our cultivation of insight. This represents our work in understanding the non-duality of existence. When we cultivate this wisdom then we truly can inspire others on the path.

The six perfections are powerful. When we cultivate them we are spreading the teachings of the Buddha and bringing great benefit to ourselves and others. These are good things to do: cultivating the six perfections, generating compassion, aspiring to Awaken.

When we do these things, we are unleashing the Bodhisattva within.

 

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