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Thinking of starting a meditation practice? Want to gain deep personal understanding of Dharma? Want to start feeling Dharma instead of simply talking Dharma?
Why not take it one week at a time with a weekly meditation project?
Each week we will look at one meditation object. We will examine the object from different angles and towards the end of the week try to bring all our thoughts together in two qualified meditations. The anticipated format is one meditation per day Monday to Friday, and then the same meditation on Saturday and Sunday, bringing all our understanding together.
Our meditation object for Week 1 is Precious Human Life.
Week 1 Object: A heartfelt determination to make our human life meaningful and not to waste it in meaningless activities.
Day 1 Contemplation
Although many people believe material development and possessions are the meaning of human life, we can see that each development and each possession brings with it problems and dissatisfaction. In themselves, material development and possessions are empty and hollow – if we make them the most important thing in our lives, we will waste our life.
Day 2 Contemplation
Animals and other beings in other realms do not have the opportunity to listen to, contemplate and meditate on Dharma. Our precious human life gives us this opportunity. By comparison to these unfortunate beings, we are very lucky and we should not waste this precious opportunity.
Day 3 Contemplation
We experience a precious human life very infrequently. In one Sutra Buddha asks his disciples ‘Suppose there existed a vast and deep ocean the size of the world, and on its surface there floated a golden yoke, and at the bottom of the ocean there lived a blind turtle who surfaced once in every one hundred thousand years. How often would that turtle raise its head through the middle of the yoke?’ We contemplate how extremely rare our human life is, and how long it will be until we experience another.
Day 4 Contemplation
By contrast to worldly activities which lead to dissatisfaction and suffering for ourselves and others, the holy practice of Dharma leads to temporary and permanent happiness for ourselves and others.
Day 5 Contemplation
Our precious human life gives us the opportunity to meet Buddhism. What does ‘meeting Buddhism’ mean? It means entering into Buddhism by sincerely seeking refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and thus having the opportunity to enter and make progress on the path to enlightenment. We can do this because we have a precious human life.
After becoming familiar with our meditation object through the previous five meditations, we can now try to bring all our understanding together in one object of placement meditation, arrived at through the following contemplation:
At present I have briefly reached the human world and have the opportunity to attain permanent liberation from suffering and the supreme happiness of enlightenment through putting Dharma into practice. If I waste this precious opportunity in meaningless activities there is no greater loss and no greater foolishness.
I began by making the appropriate preparations for meditation.
I then settled down, cleared my mind and began my contemplation of my precious human life. I thought about how I have all the best possible conditions for a meaningful life. I have time, motivation, perfect teachings and the support of a local Sangha. Through the wonders of Facebook I can also talk to wonderful Kadampas throughout the world!)
I need to use these special conditions to get the most out of life – to live life to the full. I want to experience happiness now and in the future. I want every moment of my life to be filled with happiness – a real banquet of delight!
How can I achieve this? By practising Dharma. By practising Dharma I can transform every experience and every moment into a cause of happiness. Whoever I meet and wherever I am, I can be happy by putting Dharma into practice.
I focused on the wish to put Dharma into practice every moment, and I was filled with a sense of enthusiasm and joy. How wonderful. I stayed with this feeling for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings experience continual happiness and joy though the practice of Dharma.
Someone close to me is not very well at the moment. They are always well, but not at the moment.
That reminds me how we can just assume that life will always be fine and our health will always be good. We just can’t afford to make that assumption.
We need to cast off the security blanket of thinking everything’s going to be fine (in samsara) and work to free ourselves for the benefit of all.
Following on from my previous post about the Buddhist understanding of our mode of existence, we can now look at arguably the most important part of the Spiritual Path of a Buddhist – namely, how we actually become happier, how we actually reduce our suffering and how we actually attain complete liberation samsara.
As I said in the previous post, when we enter a room and see what is there, our normal understanding is that we are seeing objects which are ‘out there’, separate from our self and our mind. In fact what is happening is that these objects are coming ‘into focus’, and have been ‘in our mind’ all along.
So what are these objects? They are manifestations of our mind, in the same way as dream elephants are manifestations of our dreaming mind. The objects we normally see are simply appearances to our waking mind, which are temporarily in focus.
Another way of thinking about this is to say that the ‘mind appears the object’ rather than ‘the object appears to the mind’. In saying that the mind appears the object, we are conceptualising the idea that the mind creates the object and that the object is not different from or separate from our mind.
Sometimes these objects seem pleasant, and sometimes they seem unpleasant. Why is this?
All the objects that appear to us arise from our mind, and we must understand that at the moment our mind is unclean. It is thoroughly polluted by the pollution of delusions – specifically the delusion of self-grasping. This means that when our mind appears an object, it is tainted with an appearance of inherent existence – it appears to exist ‘out there’, and our habit of self-grasping assents to this appearance and we believe that the object exists ‘out there’. This is mistaken appearance.
This is a fairly subtle taint, but it causes us to make the serious mistake of believing in our hearts that there is an external world and we are separate from it. The big problem is that in accepting the appearance as real, we pollute our mind with the tendency to have more apparently ‘real’ objects appear to us in future.
A more pronounced aspect of the objects which our mind appears is that they appear to be inherently pleasant, inherently unpleasant or simply neutral. Normally we do not think we have anything at all to do with these aspects of appearance, but the truth is very different. Since the objects that we see arise from our mind, they have the nature of that mind. If the mind is polluted, then the objects that arise from that mind will also be polluted. If our mind is heavily polluted, then the majority of the objects that appear will be polluted, or unpleasant. This is our current situation. Most of the things that appear to us are unpleasant, or at best, neutral. Only a very few things that our mind appears are pleasant. These objects have arisen from the few parts of our mind where there is the least pollution.
How did our mind get so polluted?
The Buddhist view is that when we perform a negative action, this pollutes our mind.
The cycle of samsara is that we encounter an unpleasant situation (which is really a manifestation of a polluted part of our mind) and we experience suffering. By experiencing the unpleasant situation, we purify that part of our mind. However, if we react to the situation with a negative action, such as becoming angry, and we cause our mind to be polluted some more. If we get very angry, we end up creating more pollution than we purified by experiencing the unpleasant situation in the first place.
We are like a fish swimming around in a tank full of filthy water. As we swim we encounter filth, but we can purify the water through our gills. It hurts but we purify the water. However, in reaction to the pain we automatically defecate into the water, making it even filthier.
In this analogy what we need to do is experience the water, purify it, but not make it dirty again. Eventually, we will have purified all the water in the fish tank, and there will be no pollution at all in the water we encounter.
This is how Buddhists become Buddhas. We encounter contaminated objects, but we do not react with negative actions. Thereby we slowly purify our mind. Eventually our mind (the water in the tank) is completely clear and free from any pollution. However, we will still have the appearance of the water itself, and the appearance of how the water is different from ourself.
Finally we purify even the appearance of the difference between the water and ourself, so that all we perceive is clarity. We are then an Buddha. We are completely mixed with all the water and can experience any part of it instantly. This is why the definition of a Buddha is someone who is omniscient – namely that they perceive all objects of knowledge – past, present and future, instantly and simultaneously.
Through purifying the water of our minds, may we experience the clarity of lack of inherent existence of all phenomena.
I had a delivery of logs today for the winter.
I had to move the logs from the front of the house to the shed in the back garden. It was a big job for me and it was a case of just getting on with it – one wheelbarrow full at a time. Although I looked at the pile at the start and thought ‘oh boy how long is THIS going to take?’, it didn’t really matter: if I just kept on moving the logs, in the end, the pile would be gone.
That reminded me of the way in which Geshe-la says we should practice Dharma. We should move steadily forward, one step at a time, like a broad river flows without stopping, and eventually reaches the ocean.
The purpose of this meditation is to encourage ourselves to Our human life is precious, rare and meaningful.
I made the appropriate preparations for meditation and then began by reminding myself that my human life is precious because it signifies very special conditions which have come together to provide this very special opportunity. The imprints of many virtuous actions from my previous lives have all ripened to produce the precious human life I now experience.
My human life is rare in that I have experienced one life after the other since beginningless time, but of all of them, very few have been human lives. Of those, very few have been human lives where I have come into contact with Dharma, and of those, very few have been human lives where I have had all the conditions necessary to engage in the spiritual path. In this human life, I have found Kadam Dharma, and therefore this human life is very rare indeed.
My human life is meaningful in that I can use every moment to travel the spiritual path and actualise my full potential as a living being. Each step on the path is an act of homage and dedication to my Guru, and though his blessings I will achieve my aim for the sake of all living beings, recognising that myself and all phenomena are empty of inherent existence.
I focused on the understanding that my life is precious, rare and meaningful, and with this understanding I realised that i need to make full use of my life by making every action an act of homage and devotion to my Guru. ‘I will practice Dharma continually and sincerely’. I foucused on this thought, and once I had a strong feeling, I stopped thinking and focused on the clear, smooth, stable feeling of determination. I held it as the object of meditation.
May I and all living beings make every moment of our precious human lives meaningful, and overcome mistaken appearances of this samsaric world.
While waiting at some lights today I happened to glance up at a nearby roof to se four seagulls perches on the ridge. In the past I might have indulged in some wistful thoughts of how lucky they were to be free and able to fly away from their problems.
Now, through the kindness of my spiritual guide, I recognise that they are spiritually trapped in this prison of samsaric suffering. Although they can fly though the air to freedom from some dangers, they are completely unable to learn, follow and complete any spiritual path.
I silently thanked my Guru for his kindness, and recognised my great good fortune in having possession of a previous human life.