Thursday, March 6, 2014

Buddha’s Advice on the Four Immeasurables

The Buddha taught the following to his son Rahula (from "Old path white clouds" by Thich Nhat Hahn):

"Rahula, practice loving kindness to overcome anger. Loving kindness has the capacity to bring happiness to others without demanding anything in return.

Practice compassion to overcome cruelty. Compassion has the capacity to remove the suffering of others without expecting anything in return.

Practice sympathetic joy to overcome hatred. Sympathetic joy arises when one rejoices over the happiness of others and wishes others well-being and success.

Practice non-attachment to overcome prejudice. Non-attachment is the way of looking at all things openly and equally. This is because that is. Myself and others are not separate.

Do not reject one thing only to chase after another. I call these the four immeasurables. Practice them and you will become a refreshing source of vitality and happiness for others."

Friday, February 28, 2014

Refraining from the Ten Non Virtuous Actions

I try to go by this and I recite it every time before I meditate:

I vow to refrain from the Ten Non Virtuous Actions

Three of the Body:

1. I vow to refrain from Killing.
2. I vow to refrain from Stealing
3. I vow to refrain from Sexual Misconduct

Four of the Speech
4. I vow to refrain from Divisive Speech
5. I vow to refrain from Harsh Words
6. I vow to refrain from Idle Chatter
7. I vow to refrain from Lying

Three of the Mind
8. I vow to refrain from Envy
9. I vow to refrain from Hatred and Malice
10. I vow to refrain from Wrong Views

Unlike commandments that invoke guilt or sin if you don’t keep them, “vowing” to refrain from these actions shows that you are putting forth effort and you do not want these things in your heart.
It is not meant to be like “If you don’t do these then you will be punished!” We punish ourselves enough when we do the Ten Non Virtuous Actions.

Simply, my heart and soul doesn’t feel good when I hate or gossip or lie and so on so I make an effort in prayer and mediation to put my heart, soul and mind into these simple vows. We have Endless Spirit, True Nature, the All Knowing, our Buddha Nature
deep within in each and every one of us to give us the strength and grace to accomplish these. Taking a vow is more personal action. YOU want to take the action. Doing something because you are commanded to is doing it because someone else demands that you do it. More times than not we fail at that and feel guilty for not accomplishing what we were told to do. When I make a vow with virtuous intent I know I have all the strength I need from within. Within me. Within you!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Believe or How Not to Trust What our Noggins Tell Us


The mind is a wondrous and crafty thing. It takes us a millisecond to go from thought to emotional suffering. One split second to process a glance, a word, a gesture into anger, resentment or pain. We have been doing this so long that it is easier to respond that way to a perceived situation than it is to respond in a balanced, healthy way. We are actually more comfortable with our minds causing unending suffering then doing what we should do in order to be more at peace. It is possible to learn or “re-teach” ourselves how to truthfully perceive the moment, how to look at life with eyes that see truth and not lies. I have found no stronger method to do this than silence. Quiet. Meditation. Prayer. Listening. Sometimes one has to literally force themselves to break away from the alluring, juicy habit of assessing a situation and lying to ourselves about it, making that moment not anywhere near what that minuscule instant truly was. The key is to remember that a second becomes “was” and not “is” immediately. As soon as it passes, our minds go to work on it. Our minds tell us all sorts of stories about the moment that just passed and the sad part is most of the stories are not true. We have to learn to train our minds. “Mind training” is not a secret to many religions. We can start by letting go and being alright with ourselves in silence. That is where our True Nature is. In that moment false stories and lies don’t exist. Only truth. Only our Buddha Nature. Only God. We learn to heal and not believe the false pain that the egoic mind dishes out. After a while we come to know that what our minds are telling us is just a perception. It is far easier to deal with the reality that a perception is just thin air…nothing. We learn not to make the moment something it is not. That is a lovely way to be.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Improbable Journey by Shawn Coady

I was asked to write a little something about my spiritual beliefs. I think the best way to accomplish that is to take a look back at how I got to the place I am in, the spiritual journey that is my life and then attempt to roughly define it.

I was raised in a primarily Irish Catholic neighborhood.  I really didn’t understand that there were any other religions other than Catholicism.  We were not permitted to spend time with “Protestants” and were cautioned about contact with others who didn’t participate in the one true religion.  I was in high school before I really found out that “Protestants” were fun and didn’t seem to have horns and a tail.

I went to Catholic Elementary school and can still recite many of the questions presented by the Baltimore Catechism.  Who Is God?  God is the Supreme Being who made all things.  What is our life’s purpose?  To know, love and serve God in this world and to be with Him in the next.  Who are the Twelve Apostles?  Peter, Andrew, James, John, Phillip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the Lesser, Simon, Jude and Judas.  I pulled those answers readily from my mind, like I learned them yesterday.  In the words of the German Philosopher Niche, “ teach their minds  hate until they are seven years old and somewhere deep in their hearts they will always be Nazis”. A Catholic education does primarily the same thing.  I deviated from parochial education for one semester in High School where the social demands became a problem as I was too shy to mingle and too angry to put up with corporal punishment.  So I became engaged in an altercation with a teacher and was sent back to my comfort (?) zone, Father Baker’s where an angry, impressionable young man could learn valuable lessons like assault, burglary, bullying and reverence for the almighty Franciscans who could beat a young man into seeming surrender until he got out of school and took his rightful place as a curse on society.

I floundered for years with, little or no respect for law and authority.  Circumstance, and an angry judge, convinced me to at least try to look like a respectable citizen in my 27th year, having been arrested more than 30 times for violent behavior and just being a nuisance. After a short period of time I began to really try to be a good citizen.  I couldn’t stand being good, but hated the consequences of bad behavior. I sought counseling from a priest that helped me see that my biggest problem was a dislike of God, whom I perceived had failed me.  I then began a journey of discovery in my 32nd year.

I returned to the religion of my youth, becoming a daily communicant with the buttons on his shirt so strained from self righteousness that I feared they would pop.  It was in church on Easter Sunday that I really discovered that I did not believe in the core concepts of that religion and began to seek a new experience.  I tried it all.  I’ve been dunked for salvation so many times that I have an anti-dunking campaign I am heading up.  I have studied Mysticism, Metaphysics, A Course In Miracles, Christian Science, Universalism, Yoism, Judaism and so many others and found all of them lacking.  I had the opportunity to go to college late in life and found my God amongst the many scientists, philosophers and theologians I had the privilege of learning from.

It began with a need for a philosophy course to meet the minimum electives.  I studied the Bible from a strictly historical perspective, not on whether it was right or wrong. My world was rocked by the discovery that all those things I held as the word of God were historically inaccurate and basically motivated by influence of men to limit or encourage certain behaviors. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John did NOT write the documents ascribed to them. They were dead hundreds of years before those accounts were written, most likely by followers of their teachings. The “historical” reports were strongly influenced by events in and around the Holy Lands. Who was warring with whom, who had the greatest presence in Jerusalem at the time; these were the context in which those accounts were written.  I was truly lost but the professor, a “Protestant”,  told me I was having a wonderful restructuring of my foundational beliefs and that I should just enjoy it and let the new foundation settle. I next began reading Emmett Fox regularly and the scientific approach appealed to me. Physics proved to me the undeniable truth that there is life after death. The first law of thermonuclear dynamics is that “Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be altered.”  Tell me then just what happens to the energy that drives this living luggage I call a body when the energy (spirit) leaves. If it can only be altered, where then does it go?  I believe into the ethers that surround us all the time. I studied the Big Bang Theory in astronomy under a passionate and respected astronomer. The beauty of the science of this kind of creation certainly must have a Cause. She proposed that if there was a big bang then something had to initiate the power that resulted in the ever-expanding universe.  She asked “Who then lit the fuse?” In the words of Albert Einstein, “I want to know God’s thoughts…..the rest are just details.”

The closest philosophy to my personal “Religion” is Christian Science. Emmett Fox’s interpretation of the “Lord’s Prayer” from the Sermon on the Mount is the basis of my belief.  The first two words of the prayer, “Our Father”, tells me everything I need to know about my relationship with God and my relationship with all peoples in the world.

In my personal opinion, to accurately describe God in words is a futile effort at best. To practice the presence of God is a more worthy expression. To love another more than yourself, to behold the beauty of a sunset or a starlit night, to watch young parents doting over their newborn, to see older lovers still holding hands, to witness giving without expectation of reward,  to weep at injustice and brutality, to greet an enemy with kindness and compassion are the things that are truly expressions of God. Not much doctrine in my religion, just a desire to be the best person I can possibly be is my heartfelt desire.

Shawn Coady is a social commentator and writer with a focus on spirituality. He resides in Buffalo, New York with his cat Top Cat.