Posted in ch'an

Han Shan on Greed

With one small fulcrum, a lever can move tons of weight. With one greedy thought, years of integrity can be corrupted. A greedy thought is the seed of fear and confusion. It will grow wildly. The material gain that a greedy act brings is a small gain indeed. To act without greed and lose some material benefit is also, therefore a small loss. But to lose one’s integrity! That is an immense loss! The enlightened person stands in awe of the fulcrum.

What do people strive for? Money, or fame, or successful relationships, or the Dharma. Well, one man may become very rich but be hated by his family. Another man may be loved by everyone but not have a penny to his name. Still a third man may be hailed as a hero by his countrymen and then find himself with neither funds nor loving family. Usually, so much effort is put into achieving one goal, that the other goals cannot be attained. But what about the man who strives to attain the Dharma? If he succeeds he has gained in that one goal far more than the other three combined. He who has Dharma lacks nothing.

Han Shan Deqing

So, I don’t really know what a fulcrum is and I think that’s okay. Han Shan is talking about consequences here, how even small negative acts can bring about big consequences. He’s really tearing into the poison of greed.

Greed, along with hatred and delusion, is part of a list in Buddhism called the three poisons.

The three poisons are caused by ignorance of our true nature. Coming from ignorance, these poisons motivate us to make mistakes and act in ways that are outside our own interest and cause harm to ourselves and others.

Greed is our desire, attachment and yearning for happiness and satisfaction from external sources. It is our impulse to always want more. It helps to think about the accumulation of wealth. Money is made up of numbers and numbers never end, so we can chase that forever if we are obsessed with how much is in our bank account.

When we believe that our fulfillment is dependent on what we have, then we come to realize that we don’t really get the same satisfaction we were expecting. We always want more. Greed can affect our relationships, our jobs, and everything else.

Han Shan is telling us that acting out of greed can have far ranging and unexpected consequences. He’s telling us that instead of striving for material gain and making enemies out of everything all the time, we should strive on the path. We should be motivated to become more aware, wise and compassionate, instead of spending all our time worrying about our possessions.

Posted in Uncategorized

Getting Out Of Our Own Way

“Flow with whatever may happen.”

~ Tao Te Ching

Our true self is always open and free—the only thing stopping us from realizing that truth is ourselves.

We get in our own way.

This applies not just to our spiritual practice, but to many of our goals in life, the big goals and the smaller goals. We are the cause of many of our own problems—not all of our problems, but a lot more of them than we realize.

The number one way of getting out of our own way is simply becoming aware. We meditate to train our awareness. We want to become more aware of ourselves and the things we do.

If we simply can understand what we are doing to get in our own way, then solutions become easier.

How do we get in our own way?

In Buddhism, we talk about the Three Poisons—greed, aversion and delusion. These three poisons all come from within us and they cause a lot of our suffering. When we are guided by these poisons, we are causing ourselves to suffer.

The first poison is greed or desire: I want, I need, give it to me, please, please please I really want it. I need to get it and I need to figure out a way to get it. Maybe I can just take it.

Greed interrupts the natural flow of things. Adding my desire into the equation of life, trying to change or alter the way things are to bring me satisfaction, ultimately can lead to suffering. We often want things that we don’t need and we sometimes want them so much that we get upset.

We also sometimes want things that are incredibly unrealistic.

Aversion or hatred is the second poison. Aversion is essentially rejection—get that thing away from me. Hatred and aversion arise in response to something we don’t like or want to happen to us. It often leads us to push away, at worst culminating in violence. Hatred and anger can overwhelm us, causing us to act in negative ways in order to get relief from these feelings.

Sometimes, pain can’t be avoided, of course, but we make things worse for ourselves when we get angry or stressed out about it. Obviously bad things are going to happen and we want to avoid them and we should try, but at the same time, we shouldn’t become obsessed about bad things.

We tend to worry about things that are unrealistic too. And we tend to magnify things. If something bad happens and we get angry, we are making ourselves suffer more. Anger doesn’t help. It only contributes to our negative feelings.

The third poison is ignorance or delusion—this poison follows directly from the other two. Our greed and anger leads us to a sense of separation. To live with that separation I make up a story or narrative to explain who I am and why my greed and anger are justified. More and more of my true self is lost and I live in the dream of my narrative.

This is a fundamental delusion. The more rigid we become trying to justify and bolster our story, the more we suffer, and the more we cause suffering for those around us.

So what can we do about this?

Awareness. Moment-to-moment awareness is what we talk about in Buddhism. If my mind is here and now, living in this moment instead of in some kind of delusional fantasy, then I am not polluted by the three poisons. Things are going to happen—the universe is going to unfold however it unfolds. We can’t control everything.

The only thing we can really and truly control is ourselves. We can control how we respond to things. Sometimes, it can be very difficult.

Understanding our own actions and responses is the first step in getting out of our own way.

It is a big step.

If we practice meditation, we can learn to be more aware of our minds.

This is important.

 

Posted in buddhism

The Three Kleshas

There is a teaching in Buddhism called the three kleshas. Sometimes these are called the three afflictions. Usually their called the three poisons. These are said to be the three negative emotions that cause us the most suffering. They are the ones that prevent us from realizing our Enlightened true nature.

They are usually called Greed, Hatred, and Delusion. Sometimes they’re called Attachment, Aversion, and Ignorance.

Greed is our selfishness. Our desire, attachment, and yearning for happiness and satisfaction from external sources.

Hatred is our anger, aversion toward things we don’t want, where they are unpleasant people, circumstances, or even toward ourselves.
Delusion is our confusion, our misperception of reality.

The three poisons are caused by ignorance, ignorance of our true nature. Ignorance of our Enlightenment. Coming from ignorance, these poisons motivate us to make mistakes and act in ways that are outside our own interest and cause harm to ourselves and others.

Many of our actions are tainted by these poisons. They exist within us lust, craving, anger, jealousy, and confusion. These poisons can ruin us.

This seems negative, but the teachings of the Four Noble Truths really tell us that when we come to understand suffering and the causes of suffering, that’s when we can suffer less. We can takes the steps necessary to overcome these causes.

I’ll go over them one by one.

Greed

Greed is our impulse to always want more. We want the objects of our desire, regardless of what those are, to bring us permanent satisfaction so we can feel complete. It helps to think about the accumulation of wealth. Money is made up of numbers and numbers never end, so we can chase that forever if we are obsessed with how much is in our bank account.

When we believe that our fulfillment is dependent on what we have, then we come to realize that we don’t really get the same satisfaction we were expecting. We always want more. Greed can affect our relationships, our jobs, and everything else.

Greed can also manifest as a lack of generosity.

Hatred

Hatred can manifest as anger, but also as impatience, ill-will, annoyance, and hostility. We habitually resist and avoid feelings, circumstances, and people that we don’t like. We really want everything in our lives to be pleasant. This is nothing but a reinforcement of our illusion of duality and separation. Hatred puts us in a cycle of always finding something wrong.

When we are carrying hatred, our minds are frantic. We can’t be calm. We have a very easy time getting obsesses with whatever conflicts we are in. We can also have a conflict within, a hatred for our own feelings that we don’t like. With hatred we create enemies out of those around us and out of ourselves.

Delusion

Delusion is our lack of understanding about reality. This is our lack of ability to understand the nature of things as they are, free of our labels and preconceptions. Under delusion we aren’t in harmony with the world around.
Without right perception, we don’t understand the way things are interdependent and impermanent. Because of this we are always looking outside ourselves for satisfaction. Because of our delusion we don’t understand our true nature.

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The teachings of the Buddha tell us that our true nature is Enlightened, that this will be realized if we can just see through our layers of ignorance. The goal of our practice is to free ourselves from these three poisons so we can see our true nature.

To overcome these poisons we have to first learn to notice them when they arise. When we are mindful and aware, we can recognize these things coming into our minds.

In addition to just being mindful, there are things that are called antidotes to the three poisons. These are states of mind that we can cultivate that are said to help us overcome the three poisons.

To overcome greed: we cultivate generosity, service, and equanimity. We can reflect on how impermanent all the things we want are. We can practice giving away things we don’t need. We can also practice acts of service.

To overcome hatred: we cultivate loving-kindness, compassion, and patience. We want to learn how to embrace our life experiences with out aversion. We want to do practices that help us soften and open our hearts. We can also practice compassion for ourselves to deal with our own unpleasant feelings. Our feelings of insecurity and inadequacy require us to show ourselves patience and kindness.

To overcome delusion: we cultivate wisdom, insight, and understanding. Our meditation practice can help us learn how to experience reality as it is and free ourselves from delusion. Perceiving and acting in harmony with the interdependent nature of things, realizing that all beings and things are one, we free ourselves from delusion.

By studying the Dharma and trying to live up to the Buddha’s teachings, we can overcome the three poisons. When we overcome these three poisons, our true nature can shine forth like the sun.