Lotus Blooms In the Blog

July 1, 2006

To Open Doors For Others

Filed under: Shantideva — by Kent Sandvik @ 6:46 pm

Open a DoorWhen studying Shantideva’s amazing text called Bodhisattva Way of Life there are sections that deal with the conduct of someone aspiring to follow the bodhisattva path. Actually, there are explicit instructions how to behave when dealing with other people and the environment, one might say the etiquette of a bodhisattva. Here are some extracts from chapter five, based on the translation by Alex Berzin, available here.

Chapter 5: (91) Should I spit or toss away the stick for (cleaning) my teeth,
I shall cover it over (with earth).
Further, it’s despicable to urinate and so forth
Into water or on land that’s to be used.

(92) I shall not eat with stuffing my mouth,
With noise, or with my mouth wide open.
Nor shall I sit with my legs outstretched
Or with my arms simultaneously (crossed),
pressed (against my body).

(93) I shall not go in a vehicle, on a bed, (a seat),
Or in a room alone with someone else’s woman.
Having observed or inquired, I shall give up
All that would bring disrespect from the world.

(94) I shall never point with (my left hand or) one finger,
But respectfully with my right,
And with the entire hand;
I shall also indicate the path like that.

(95) I shall not wildly wave my arms,
Nor shout out loud, when it’s scarcely urgent,
But shall signal with a snap of the fingers and the like,
Otherwise, I’ll get out of control.

Now, to remember, one of the targeted audiences for this text was the monks at Nalanda monastery, so the advices has connotations related to Vinaya vows, especially the issue of being alone in the same location as a woman.

For me, having a system when dealing with others is a way to develop connections with everyone we meet. It is very tough to develop universal compassion to all sentient beings sitting on the cushion — it’s doable, but the scope is grand and very abstract in the beginning. While helping out with instructions at work, always opening doors for others, or deliberately place oneself last in the line is a very simple and creates positive potentials in the mind. As such, having advices about etiquette, and how to behave in various situations, is a daily practice of training the mind towards the goal of always being around others helping them.

If you want to read more about Buddhist etiquette, Jeff Watts has collected a god set of the most common traditions.

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June 30, 2006

Why Worry – Watch your Waste….

Filed under: Shantideva — by palaniappan @ 5:13 am

Wheel of Life - Hub & Second CircleI am sure many of you are aware of his famous “Why worry if you can do something about it; and why worry if you cannot do anything about it” phrase. I use this phrase often in my management coaching or career planning sessions with senior executives. They are often quick to come to the conclusion that I am advocating a defeatist attitude – which is a no-no in the business world! The simplicity of master Shantideva’s phrase often escapes those looking for complicated solutions in our ever more confusing world. Winston Churchill was reputed to have said “From the most of complexities come the simplest of simplicities” or something to that effect. Now that is exactly what this phrase is – so simple yet so good and effective for the most complex things in life. What else can I say that will not complicate it further and make it lose its meaning?

My other all time favourite phrase of Master Shantideva’s (which I use sparingly and only with close friends, like all of you) is “Whatever shit (manure) is thrown on the ground, turns into food; Whatever food we consume, turns into shit (waste)”. Now that is really something to think about. Why? Often we take for granted what we have or get, and in the process of living our day out, we produce lots of shit or waste – biological, emotional, physical, mental – the human beings can claim the prize for creating waste of any and all kinds! The nature of samsara means that we work this way, and so there is nothing much we can do about the biological waste. But the rest – all the emotional waste such mental anguish, pain, hurt, verbal lashings etc caused onto others – can be managed much better. Watching our minds, leads to watching our words, leads to watching our actions, leads to watching our habits, leads to watching our character and so on. This watching is a lot more strenuous than watching other things, like the World Cup for instance.
So we don’t watch, so we waste, so we worry and so the great wheel of samsara turns perpetually…..

June 27, 2006

HHDL’s teachings at Dharamshala

Filed under: Shantideva — by Sugatagarbha @ 3:51 am

Teachings Webcast 

His Holiness is conducting a week long (24 – 30 June 2006) teaching on Shantideva’s Bodhisattva Way of Life. The web casts for the teachings are available here.

May all sentient beings benefit from these wonderful teachings.

PS: You will need the Real Player to watch these teachings. Download it here.

June 26, 2006

Your Feelings in My Mind

Filed under: Shantideva — by tenzinchodron @ 12:33 am

brain wavesAn article by Eliot Fintushel focusing on the fascinating world of Dr. Manfred Clynes, in the most recent issue of the Buddhist magazine, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review (Summer 2006), captivated and inspired me. “The Merry Greis” pieces together a profile of the life of the esteemed neuroscientist, who discovered a biological law that explains why we can’t distinguish the fading of an odor, invented the first brain wave measuring device (the Computer of Average Transients, or CAT-not to be confused with the current CAT Scan), studied music with Pablo Casals, performs piano recitals all over the world, coined the term “cyborg”, and is a published poet and author of five books-among other things.

One section particularly haunted me, because of its seeming scientific, objective support of Master Shantideva’s rationale challenging the subjectivity of “my” feelings and “my” body.

Mr. Fintushel writes:

“Dr. Clynes has also hewn away at a question that occupied much of my time as a graduate student in philosophy: the ‘problem of other minds,’ or as my philosophy professor used to put it, ‘How do you know that there’s a subjectivity like yours on the other side of the other guy’s eyes?’ Dr. Clynes discovered a deep symmetry in the neural processes that generate ‘sentic forms’-patterns of neural activity that correspond to our feelings-and those that interpret them. To discover such patterns within the flood of cerebral electricity was impossible project until 1960 when Dr. Clynes invented the Computer of Average Transients, or CAT, a statistically based brain probe that would become the workhorse of brain research lab worldwide for years to come. By averaging the intensity of recurring waveforms, the CAT improved the signal-to-noise ratio, like a winnow catching seed while letting the chaff fly. It was this tool that Dr. Clynes found that the wave made in us by another’s feelings is the same as the wave of our own. This deep symmetry accounts for the Aboriginals’ ready understanding of sound-shapes in the minds of white urbanite button-pushers in a distant laboratory.”

Amazing. Let me repeat the amazing part again: “the wave made in us by another’s feelings is the same as the wave of our own.”

Doesn’t it mean that this experiment proves Master Shantideva’s claim:

“Mine and other’s pain-how are they different?
Simply, then, since pain is pain, I will dispel it.
What grounds have you for all your strong distinctions?”

(Verse 102, Chapter 8 – Meditation, from The Way of the Bodhisattva, (c)1997 by the Padmakara Translation Group, Shambala Dragon Editions – Shambala Publication Publications.)

Does it mean that we can say-with scientific assurance-that Master Shantideva was right when he said:

“Since I and other beings both,
In wanting happiness, are equal and alike,
What difference is there to distinguish us,
That I should save myself and not the other?”

(Verse 95)

I think so.

June 15, 2006

The Dharma of World Cup Football

Filed under: Shantideva — by palaniappan @ 3:15 pm

If you read this long enough, Master Shantideva and the Bodhisattva Way of Life will appear……..

I am now sitting around after reading the emails from the blog and contemplating the significance of the World Cup. It has been stated in a number of articles that civil wars and battle squirmishes around the world are reduced during the World Cup period – almost a self declared peace by the combatants. I have wondered why that happens. Why is that no amount peace efforts could reduce the fallout of the conflicts, no amount cajoling, threats or incentives to the combatants can bring that about? But 22 men running for a ball for 90 minutes for about a month every 4 years, can bring just about the whole world (except the USA, of course) that has access to the TV to an almost perfect standstill.

It is not only a standstill at the war zones in various parts of the world. In Germany, or wherever the World Cup has been held, total strangers party with other total strangers. Party revelers booze and dance non-stop before the game, and one half (and sometimes the other half too!) continues after the game has been won. It is not a common sight for thousands to be in one place at the same and enjoy the triumphant moments, and despair the downswings of a team that almost all of them have never personally touched or talked to before. The emotional ups and downs these supporters go through whenever their favourite team does well or misses a goal scoring opportunity or loses, is REAL – real pain or jubilant celebration!

When I watch this I remember Master Shantideva. What has the WOB has to do with the World Cup? Verse 113, Chapter 8 Dhyana Paramita (Meditation) (from Shantideva Bodhicharyaavatara by Paramanda Sharma, edition 2001) states:-

“Just as hands etc, are cherished as being limbs of the same body, why are not then all beings regarded as limbs of the same world?”

By our ignorance and past practice we have come to assume that this collection of limbs etc is “me”, and that other people’s limbs are not theirs. When we were in our class in school and it was participating in a game, we supported our class against others who were from the same school, but different classes. Then when our school competed with another school, we supported the school, even if the players came from the classes that we were not supporting earlier. When our state played against another, we supported our state. When our country played against another, we supported our country despite our political, religious, social differences. When your country is not in the World Cup, you support your continent

Noticing this we can see that our idea of “me” grew from the small class team to the school team to the state team to the national team to the whole continent. The “us” grew from a class of 30 or so to a country of millions, to a continent of hundreds of millions or even billions like Asia! Just like that! Why? Like Master Shantideva said, because we chose to do it that way.

So at the World Cup almost all Brazilians support Brazil, Germans, Germany; Italians, Italy; Americans, America, Koreans, South Korea. And we know for sure that all these country have deep national divisions for a number of reasons. But for 90 minutes, all are put aside. It is brotherhood, sisterhood, nationhood – no differences, no divisions, no acrimony. Seeing this I wish there was an Inter-galactic Cup, then all beings on earth will be on one, and the same, side and support each other.

I am sure Master Shantideva was not thinking about the World Cup when he composed the verse (or maybe he did!), but I am just amazed at how apt it was to describe what goes on for a month. So when I watch the games, while I definitely do enjoy a good game of football, I am contemplating the tremendous opportunity for dharma that is just there.

I think the supporters get worked up enough to support their chosen team because they identify with them, even if they don’t know them personally! But why are they willing to do this for total strangers playing in the field? We do not do this even with those we live with for with such intensity for any long periods of time. Is it because it is only for 90 minutes? I doubt so, as it is not cheap to come all the way across the world just to support them for 90 minutes. This must be something deeper and far more meaningful. (Did you hear about those who commit suicide or die of heart attacks when their team loses!) My conclusion is that because this association brings them happiness. If their team wins, they are happy and vice versa. So they go to the ends of the world in support of their team. If only we spent that kind of time and effort with those close to us, and getting acquainted with this and move onto to include others in our care, the world would be a better place. One long eternal World Cup fever – full of happiness!

I am still going to watch the games (another 3 weeks of it). I am still going to rejoice at how people can be happy with perfect strangers. I am still going to wonder how all this will disappear when their team loses. I am still going to see how the world returns to its abnormal and warring state after July 10 (when the World Cup ends). I am still going to watch the next World Cup in South Africa in 2010. I am still going to wish there was an Inter-galactic Cup that can make people all over the world friends. I am still going to hope that some day, some time in the near future some people will realize that it is all in their hands. Till then and beyond, I think that the 22 men who play are Buddhas in jerseys sweating it for us to realize how close we really are to one another, and that Master Shantideva was the perfect football coach! (maybe this justifies the time I spend watching the games!)

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