Posted in interfaith

Buddhism and Religion (Video)

This is a live video I did  in the Tattooed Buddha Community Group.

I encourage you to join that group, which you can get to here:
Tattooed Buddha Community

I explored questions about whether a Christian can practice Buddhism, among other things.

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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 buddha

Bodhi Day

2,550 (or so) years ago today a man sat under a tree.

He saw a really divided world, where people struggled and argued and fought with each other, often over trivial things.

He saw people who valued greed over kindness,

He saw people who valued hate over love,

He saw people who valued lies over the truth.

And he saw that these people were not happy.

 

He saw people not finding fulfillment in their lives. He saw people railing against their own suffering, often making things worse.

 

And he thought, “we can do better.”

 

So he sat under a tree and tried to figure out the nature of the human condition.

 

And he became known as the Buddha. He taught a better way for people to live. A way centered in mindfulness and compassion. We can be better than we are.

 

But Buddhism isn’t about his enlightenment, not really.

 

It’s about yours.

 

The Buddha was right. We can do better.

About a Buddha

 

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Posted in buddhism

Just Try It And See

We don’t engage Buddhist practice because it’s what the Buddha said we should do.

I think people lose sight of that sometimes. There can be a tendency at times to see Buddhist texts as magical truths because they’re Buddhist texts. Instead, we should judge all the teachings and practices based on their own merit. The Buddha said we should judge the teachings for ourselves. But I don’t care that the Buddha said it.

It’s obvious that we should do that.

To follow Buddhism is to do the practices and see what the results are. All that matters is being more aware and compassionate. To see the world and our place in it with more clarity.

 

Posted in buddhism

The Fourth Noble Truths: 8 FOLDS

So, what do we do?

The Buddha gave us an outline called “the eightfold path”. This path gives us a practice to overcome suffering. There are these eight things that are conducive to our awakening, to helping us overcome our suffering by seeing reality as it really is. I’m going to go over those eight now.

  1. Right View: This is cultivating an expansive view that isn’t so caught up in our narrow preconceptions, emotional baggage, and I-Me-Mine thinking all the time. This is a view that sees that things are always changing and that nothing is independent of anything else. We are parts of a whole.
  2. Right Intention: This means we are in this for the right reasons. We’re doing this to lessen our suffering. Therefore we take it seriously.
  3. Right Speech: We want to be honest and forthright. Avoid lying. Lies distract us. Also avoid harsh speech and gossip. Use your words to be kind. We can do so much harm with our words.
  4. Right Action: Do good deeds, but also act from a state that’s not so connected to outcomes. Don’t help someone in the hope that they will later help you. Help them just to help them.
  5. Right Livelihood: Earn a living in a way that promotes honesty and harmony.
  6. Right Effort: Cultivate a determination to be engaged in each moment and to abandon delusion. Be diligent.
  7. Right Mindfulness: Keep in mind the real problem, suffering, and also be here now. Observe the mind and become aware of how it works.
  8. Right Meditation: Training the mind to be focused and aware, not just on the meditation cushion, but all the time.

That’s it. The four noble truths is really the first teaching that the Buddha gave and many would argue that it’s the most important.

 


 

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Posted in buddha

About a Buddha

Sometimes we just come to the Buddha’s story over and over, telling it in different ways.

Gautama was the son of a wealthy king and he lived a sheltered life. It’s said that he didn’t even know about suffering and sickness and death, but that’s almost certainly not true. The story is that his father did everything he possibly could to prevent his son from knowing that life is hard. We should all be so lucky. I think even people today that are born into incredible wealth still do know something about suffering. We all get older, we all get sick, we all die.

So, it’s said that one day Gautama discovered that life is full of suffering. A servant explained the whole thing to him and he just couldn’t stop thinking about it. He dwelled on this information in the same way that we can’t stop thinking about how stressful our jobs or ex-wives are sometimes. And he just had to ask himself, “Is life is full of suffering and (in the scheme of things) short, what’s the point?” This question really bothered him and he couldn’t even enjoy his privileged life anymore.

So he just left.

He left behind this life of luxury to go look for answers, to really try to figure out the meaning of life. At this time, in this part of the world, it wasn’t that rare. There were lots of guys wandering around trying to get spiritual insights in those days. Still, he had so much that he decided to give up and that is hard for us to really think about.

He just wandered around in the woods for years. He learned from various spiritual teachers. He learned a lot from them, but he really didn’t see any of the teachings he was getting as helpful. Nothing could make him stop wondering if life was worth living, what the purpose of life is with all this suffering and transient joy.

And one day, while sitting under a tree, he experienced Enlightenment. He had a great insight that revealed to him the origin, cause, and way out of suffering.

We call this the four noble truths and it’s really the foundation of all of Buddhism.

But this is just about the man. More about the teachings another time.

After that day he was called The Buddha. This means the one who is awake. He taught for over forty years. He taught this path to everyone; rich and poor, men and women, virtuous people and also criminals. His teaching about the cause and liberation from human suffering was and remains something that can be of benefit to anyone. It is open and helpful to anyone who tries it for themselves.

After the Buddha became a spiritual teacher, people asked many questions. One day a man approached him and had this exchange:

“Are you a god?”
“No.”

“Are you a wizard?”

“No.”

“Are you an angel or spirit?”

“No.”
“What are you?”

“I am awake.”

 

I can’t even imagine walking up to someone, no matter how special they appear to be, and saying, “Are you an angel or spirit?” That seems very strange. But this is how the story is told.

The Buddha never called himself anything other than an ordinary human  being, like us. He didn’t claim to be a god or inspired by a god. He didn’t claim to have super powers. He said that everything he achieved was due to normal human capabilities and efforts.

The Buddha isn’t something we pray to or worship. He was just a person who became awake. That is all.

 


 

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Posted in buddhism

Something is Wrong Here

We can sense a lack in our lives. We can sense it intuitively. Something is wrong. We often don’t know what’s going on, but we tend to feel like something is missing. We suffer, we experience pain and loss. Everything we need to handle what’s going on is right here, we just often fail to realize it. This state of things is the first noble truth. The pain we cause ourselves and others comes from within, form our own delusion and neuroses. And if we can’t see the problems, we often tend to just make it worse. The Buddha saw what was going on. He saw that the cause of our suffering and the way out are within us. This isn’t really about expecting our lives to be perfect as much as just paying attention to our problems and seeing where they come from. If we can do that, then we can see how we are able to relate to the world around us in a different way.

We often tend to think we have to deal with our problems by making them  disappear. But the truth is our problems will always, in some form or another, exist. We want to make ourselves happy by rearranging our circumstances, by turning reality into something other than what it is.

This is the nature of human life. We struggle, we suffer, we grow old, we die. The nature of our lives involves being unsatisfied. This is the first noble truth, the nature of human life.

Buddhism is about being honest about ourselves and the world we live in, so we are dedicated to facing the world as it really is, instead of developing elaborate fantasies to try to hide from the truth. We have to recognize that our suffering is rooted in ourselves, it comes from within. It comes out of our delusion, our failure to see things as they really are. We, instead, see reality as something we can manipulate and control. But we can’t control everything all the time. Our incessant wish for things to be different than they are, our longing, needing, craving, is what causes us to be unhappy.

There’s a fake Shakespeare (Fakespeare?) quote: “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” I think that applies.

The first noble truth is that life is full of suffering, it’s inherently unsatisfying.

The second noble truth is that this suffering comes from within us. It’s caused by our own clinging and craving.

The third noble truth is that we have the ability to understanding the origin our suffering and also to overcome it.

The fourth noble truth is the path, the tools that we are using to overcome our suffering.

This is the basis of Buddhism.

 


 

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Posted in lojong

Lojong Point 7: Guidelines of Mind Training

This point has to do with how we go further in our day to day life. This is connected to an understanding of how we can have better behavior in our relationships and in our lives in general.

 

39. All Activities Should Be Done With One Intention

The one intention is to cultivate bodhicitta, to have a sense of gentleness and kindness toward others. This is what the intention to walk the bodhisattva path is really all about. We can ask ourselves in any situation: “Is this helping or harming others?”

 

40. Correct All Wrongs With One Intention

We need to correct all the wrongs or bad circumstances that come up in our lives. If your practice is good when things are going well but falls off when things are hard, that isn’t good. Correcting all wrongs means overcoming our ignorance.

 

41. Two Activities: One At The Beginning, One At The End

Our lives should be founded in two things. One is the vow to put others before ourselves and the other is the cultivation of bodhicitta. We want to be fully committed to the practice and to stop blaming others for everything that happens all the time. Stop trying to make enemies out of the world.

 

42. Whichever Of The Two Occurs, Be Patient

Sometimes good things happen to us. Sometimes bad things happen to us. Whatever happens, we want to avoid letting our practice be swayed. We want to maintain patience, whether we are in a situation of great happiness or great suffering. This is called equanimity. The idea is to develop discipline in ourselves so that whether situations are good or bad we are able to be patient.

 

43. Observe These Two, Even At The Risk Of Your Life

You should maintain the vows you’ve taken. In this case it’s about the refuge and bodhisattva vows. But it can really apply to any vows or commitments you’ve taken. Take your commitments seriously.

 

44. Train In The Three Difficulties

The three difficulties relate to how we relate to our own weaknesses.

The first difficulty is realizing when we are being pulled around and controlled by our emotions.

The second difficulty is to manage our emotional baggage.

The third difficulty is to cut the continuity of our emotional baggage. That is, we don’t want things to spiral out of control, where we get madder and madder about something.

First it’s hard to recognize our neurotic emotional habits. Then it’s hard to overcome them. Then it’s hard to continue resisting their influence. When we practice lojong we are receiving transmission into the bodhisattva’s point of view. The idea is to transmit the dharma to yourself so that the way of the bodhisattva is constantly in your mind.

 

45. Take On The Three Principal Causes

Cause refers to the things that cause us to walk the path. The first cause is having a good teacher or example to follow. The second cause is being able to apply your focus to the dharma. The third cause is having a life that’s comfortable enough to practice and where the teachings are available.

To take the first cause is to realize how important it is to have an example to follow.

To take the second cause is to realize that you should have some control over your mind.

To take the third cause is to realize that we are fortunate to have this opportunity to practice.  Not only is human life more comfortable than any time in history, at least for everyone reading this, but also the teachings are more available. An overwhelming amount of dharmic material is available to you at any time with a simple search on the internet.

 

46. Pay Heed That The Three Never Wane

Don’t let devotion to your spiritual friends diminish over time. Having examples to follow and friends on the path is really important. Don’t let your positive attitude toward lojong practice diminish. Training our minds to be more compassionate and wise is the most important things we can do. Don’t let your conduct diminish. Behave in a way that is upright and helps others whenever you can.

 

47. Keep The Three Inseparable

Our practice of lojong should consist in practicing kindness with the body, speech, and mind.

 

48. Train Without Bias In All Areas.

Lojong practice includes all beings and all things. It’s important to include everyone. No one is left out.

 

49. Always Meditate On Whatever Provokes Resentment

Meditate on that which causes difficulty. If you don’t start with that, then when difficulties arise it will be more difficult to overcome them.

 

50. Don’t Be Swayed By External Circumstances

Circumstances in your life will change over time. But your practice should not depend on circumstances. Lojong is a mind training practice that we can do anywhere at any time.

 

51. This Time, Practice The Main Points

This time refers to right now. We have wasted much of our lives in not practicing. The three points are:

  1. The benefit of others is more important than yourself.
  2. Practicing the Buddha’s teachings is more important than study.
  3. Developing Bodhicitta is more important than any other practice.

 

52. Don’t Misinterpret

There are said to be six things we can misinterpret in our practice.

We can misinterpret patience by having great patience for everything but the dharma.

We can misinterpret yearning by yearning for material wealth instead of yearning to practice.

We can misinterpret excitement by getting excited about wealth and entertainment and not getting excited about practicing the dharma.

We can misinterpret compassion by only showing it to those who we think deserve it.

We can misinterpret priorities by working hard out of self interest but not working hard on our practice.

We can misinterpret joy by taking delight in the suffering of those we consider enemies and not taking joy in our practice.

 

53. Don’t Vacillate

Practice all the time. Don’t practice sometimes and take days off from practice at other times. Just concentrate on training the mind.

 

54. Train Wholeheartedly

Practice with all your heart. Train purely and with a single-minded focus.

 

55. Liberate Yourself By Examining And Analyzing

Look at your mind and pay attention to it. We learn so much just by perceiving our minds and where they take us.

 

56. Don’t Wallow In Self Pity

Don’t feel sorry for yourself because someone else has better circumstances with you. Just practice.

 

57. Don’t Be Jealous 

If someone else receives praise and you don’t, don’t let jealousy arise. It doesn’t help.

 

58. Don’t Be Frivolous

This one’s a bit hard to unpack. It’s tied to number 57. If someone succeeds and we are jealous, we shouldn’t pretend like their accomplishment wasn’t that special. We should congratulate them instead.

 

59. Don’t Expect Applause

Don’t expect to receive credit for even really important accomplishments. In fact, assume you won’t.

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That completes the 59 slogans. Thank you for taking this journey with me. These slogans are a method for transforming our lives into the path of the Bodhisattva.