Sujata

I just walked outside to go to the convenience store. I happened to look up, to my right, and framed between two buildings was a cloud, frontlit, as it were, by the lights from the city, and backlit, by the almost full moon. Beneath these was a little church, with a neon cross. Together it was a beautiful scene, and if I had had the foresight to have charged my phone, I would have come back to my place, grabbed my phone, and snapped a picture. 

The last couple of weeks have made it clear again–not that it was ever in doubt–how much the Internet is a place where everyone’s emotions are amplified. It’s really refreshing when there are opportunities to use the Internet (1) to acknowledge concessions by people with whom one disagrees, even if the concession is less than desirable; (2) to offer simple but sincere words of sympathy regarding victims of deadly accidents; (3) carefully to preface one’s words with respectful language; (4) to be genuine and sincere, without revealing personal information; and so on. In other words, to walk  a few steps back from hardened positions, circumstances in which everyone has their back up, and extremism.

This video was supposedly taken at the spot where Sujata offered rice milk to Siddartha Gautama, the event immediately following his giving up trying to achieve enlightenment through extreme asceticism. It’s completely gorgeous–both the temple, the surrounding landscape, the vegetation, and the birdsong. Being more than two and a half millenia removed from the event, it may or may not be the actual spot, but that’s okay. The actual spot is beside the point. 

Chilled rice milk sounds like a great treat for a hot summer day. Take a short walk with me, a walk back from extremism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_q2Yraeoci4

Practices

I think I will probably start regular practices again. These are:

1. Morning and evening prayer based on the meditation set up reflections in Bhante Gunaratana’s book, “Mindfulness in Plain English”. It starts, “May I be well, happy, and peaceful. May no harm come to me.” It then expands, paragraph by paragraph, to one’s parents, teachers, relatives, friends, people with whom your relationship is neither friendly nor unfriendly, then to people with whom your relationship is unfriendly, and then, finally, to all living beings. 

2. Reading the Heart Sutra once a day, for a reminder of impermanence and emptiness.

3. Reading the Five Things to Remember, once a day, for a reminder of the true nature of life.

4. Reading the Five Precepts once a day.

5. Reading the Fire Sermon once a day.

6. Review the four kinds of love, once a day–(1) loving-kindness; (2) compassion; (3) joy; and (4) equanimity.

If it gets too annoying, or, if I can’t keep the schedule, I’ll just stop. The point isn’t to afflict myself by setting up a new burdensome schedule to feel guilty about not following. 

If I have time, I will try to post summaries of sutras, for my own education. 

Prayer and Religion

Something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but haven’t, has been, when praying for others, to adopt their style of prayer. Somehow it seems more humble, loving, and universal. When praying for Muslims, to pray as Muslims pray. When praying for Christians, to pray as Christians pray. When praying for Hindus, to pray as Hindus pray. When praying for Jewish people, to pray as Jewish people pray. When praying for atheists, to do whatever nontheistic acts atheists might do in place of prayer. I have been wanting to look on the Internet for simple instructions on how people in other belief systems pray, and then post them on this blog as a reference.

There’s the danger, in trying to be universal when it comes to religion, of overemphasizing the religious color of other people’s identity and experiences. Religion may simply be background for most people, or something personal and private, and calling attention to it out of an overeager desire to be universal could cause discomfort or promote division. Playing up people’s religious identity has the potential to be very awkward and unhelpful.

Nonetheless, to the extent that people do practice and identify with their religious beliefs, praying for them as they would pray could be something egoless, encouraging, heartwarming, and beautiful.

I’d like to try it.

Mindfulness Video

Mindfulness Video

The video at this link is a promotional video created by Plum Village Monastery in France, to raise money through the movie funding site, Indiegogo.com to complete a film about mindfulness. I was introduced to this video via Facebook.

Mindfulness never saved me from being human, isn’t supposed to, and doesn’t work that way, as I understand it, but the times I’ve practiced it in difficult situations made a world of difference in the outcome, compared to previous, similar situations. I just regret the amount of time in my life I didn’t practice it.

Sense Perceptions and Things Sensed

Sense Perceptions and Things Sensed

Conscious perceptions require two things: a thing to be sensed, and a sense organ to perceive them.

A perception of something seen requires a thing to be seen and an eye to see it, before it can arise. Likewise, a perception of something heard, felt, tasted, or smelled.

Both of these–the sense organs and the things sensed–are more or less in a state of never-ending change. Consequently, the conscious perceptions that arise from them must necessarily also be fickle and subject to change.

(Photo taken on Nam Mountain, Gyeongju, Korea.)

Adapted from the sutra at this link: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn35/sn35.093.than.html

The Ill-Directed Mind

A man wished to serve a lavish meal to a famous teacher as a means of honoring him. He sought permission from the teacher the night before, and the following day, served him the lavish meal.

Some time later, the man was murdered. When news of the murder reached the teacher, the teacher said, “Whatever enemies might do to enemies, the ill-directed mind can do to you even worse.”

Adapted from the sutra at this link: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/ud/ud.4.03.than.html