Metta for All Beings

In these dark times, times that demand such awareness and commitment to strong action, we need to build each others’ heart strength for the suffering we will encounter, for the hard work we will do, for the long struggle we must endure.

One way of building this strength is to send out heart-felt messages to others, spoken and unspoken messages that come from the meditative state and have power to spread encouragement and support. In some Buddhist traditions, this process is known as metta, which is usually translated ‘loving kindness’, but goes far beyond that when part of a deep practice of compassion and compassionate action.

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel composed this poem, whose words speak to us so strongly in light of recent words and actions, in the spirit of that powerful form of metta:

 

For All Beings

May all beings be cared for and loved,

Be listened to, understood and acknowledged despite different views,

Be accepted for who they are in this moment,

Be afforded patience,

Be allowed to live without fear of having their lives taken away or their bodies violated.

May all beings

Be well in its broadest sense,

Be fed,

Be clothed,

Be treated as if their life is precious,

Be held in the eyes of each other as family.

May all beings

Be appreciated,

Feel welcomed anywhere on the planet,

Be freed from acts of hatred and desperation including war, poverty, slavery, and street crimes,

Live on the planet, housed and protected from harm,

Be given what is needed to live fully, without scarcity,

Enjoy life, living without fear of one another,

Be able to speak freely in a voice and mind of undeniable love.

May all beings

Receive and share the gifts of life,

Be given time to rest, be still, and experience silence.

May all beings

Be awake.

The poem was published in Turning Wheel by the Buddhist Peace Fellowship in 2009. May it be spoken, heard, understood and enacted throughout the world.

Metta!

Branching out…

I am actively stepping out into a quest for a personally real path. My vague, desultory wandering for the past year (or two) is taking me nowhere.

These are some thoughts I just picked up that I want to build this post around, but I’m putting it out there in raw form so that I don’t vacillate or shrink from the challenge. I will edit this, well, fill in the gaps outlining what all this means and what I’m thinking, and then repost it with a better title.

My lojong/tonglen practice, weak as it has been, has been leading me in a tantric direction, essentially since I realized a year or so ago that a path based on renunciation does not and will not work for me.

These quotes and links are from my recent explorations into Vajrayana:

Chapman: “The Tantric attitude systematically reverses the attitude of mainstream Buddhism. If you are a non-Tantric Buddhist, and if the Tantric attitude seems attractive or obvious, you might want to wonder why you are practicing a religion based on its opposite.”

Sky Serpent:
“You can do magical practices without assuming anything about them. You can just do the practice, and see what happens. If you do those practices with naive expectations, like “I’m going to shoot fireballs out of my eyes”, you are most likely to get disappointed and not to pay attention to actual results. If you are too skeptical, you do not really go for it, and as such you do not do the actual practice. Ambiguity and playful attitude is the best position.”

Peter Snowdon:

“My hypothesis is, that ordinary people have always had such an ambivalent attitude towards the concrete power of healers, magicians, and other shamanic types, and that this is the natural and right attitude to have towards them. If you come from a materialist-scientific culture, then you are likely to fall into two, symmetrical two traps: total denial of these powers, on the grounds that they are incompatible with (i.e. challenge) your scientific world view, and supposing that people who make use of the services of such healers/magicians must believe in them in some straightforward, literal way, the way that you might believe in the force of gravity, and therefore need to be rescued from ignorance and illusion. Often, when we ascribe superstition to others, I think we are just back-projecting onto them our own superstitious confidence in science, and ignoring the complexity of thought that is natural to people who don’t read books or spend half their lives lost in ‘thought’, but who do have to deal daily with very real situations and who therefore assess methods and techniques not on the basis of their authority or theory, but by their results.”

Chapman: “For me, the heart of the Tantric path is not magical methods or esoteric concepts. It is an attitude; a stance; a way of being. It is the attitude of passionate and spacious engagement with this world. It is an ecstatic and agonizing love-affair with everyday reality.
…Any activity—mopping the floor, designing a web page—can be Tantric practice, if you approach it with whole-hearted, spacious passion. This open-endedness makes possible the constant creative innovation that marks much of Tantra’s history.”
Tantra: (from Arobuddhism.org)
“Tantric Buddhism employs the urgent energies of agony and ecstasy, lust and hatred, paranoia and greed to transform our confusion into enlightenment.

Tantra is radically positive insanity. Tantra is the hot blood of kindness. Tantra conjures with the electricity of being: the shimmering voltage that crackles ecstatically between emptiness and form. Tantra is the alchemy of transformation by which we re-create ourselves limitlessly according to the kaleidoscopic pattern of moments that comprises our experience.”

Lojong 12 Drive all blames into one

Ahhh… we resisted moving on to this one. It’s a bit demanding…. but so rewarding when penetrated deeply.

In everything problematic in one’s life, realize that all the blame starts with you… your uptightness, your ego-fixation… your tendency to protect this fragile ‘self’ that has arisen in your mind. Accepting the blame for what goes wrong in your life is the only way to enter the bodhisattva path. Then it may be possible to realize the truth of our own self- reification.

Accepting the blame on yourself can also defuse a tense situation, can open it up so that others are not defensive, thus communication is possible… then others may be able to accept and acknowledge their own errors.

This is Poison as Medicine again – by absorbing the poison in a situation, we make the rest of the situation medicine. This works at the personal level, and is also key to solving the great social ills, moving toward realizing an enlightened society.

J. Kongtrul says: No one else is to blame; this self-cherishing attitude is to blame. I shall do whatever I can to subdue it.

Lojong #11 When the world is filled with evil…

... transform all mishaps into the path of Bodhi.

[POINT 3, TRANSFORMATION OF BAD CIRCUMSTANCES INTO THE PATH – BUILDING THE PARAMITAS OF PATIENCE & GENEROSITY….]

(This is maybe my favorite – at least my favorite simple, straightforward one.)

Whatever occurs in your life can be transformed into a part of your wakefulness. The way to do this is to incorporate the obstacles, the distractions, the difficulties… make them the substance of your practice. Whatever is hardest for you is the thing from which you can benefit most…

This little slogan has gotten me through some difficult times… like the latter part of my teaching career and a lot of other challenging situations, as well as helping me deal with the whole course of the world descending into chaos in the past 25 years, which at times has seemed to me like evil.

Of course, we can’t get too hung up on the word ‘evil’ here, else we distort the teaching. Truly, there is no such thing as evil, and it isn’t meant in that dualistic, good/bad way at all. It’s referring to our human tendency to identify anything that’s a problem in our own lives as ‘evil’ – projecting the source of it out there somewhere, some malevolent force.

Trungpa says we should realize our own richness and not be mired in a ‘poverty mentality’, not be concerned with loss and gain or competitiveness. Then we can find generosity, which is the way to awakening, or Bodhi.

Pema Chodron, one of Trungpa’s students, has some wonderful teachings on “Poison as Medicine” that are related to this slogan. It’s based on the idea that the challenges are what allow one to practice, because without obstacles and difficulties, there’s nothing to practice with, so we just be grateful for these problems. It’s challenging, but an interesting way to approach life’s nastiness.

Lojong #10 Begin the practice of sending and taking with yourself

“Whenever anything happens, the first thing to do is take the pain on yourself.” (Trungpa) — Give up the good feelings so someone else can benefit. This is connected with developing the Paramita of Discipline. Open your territory completely, let go of everything.

Kongtrul says: Take on all the suffering that will come to you in the future, then you’ll be able to take on others’ suffering.

Radical stuff. Like the Tibetan mountain paths, it’s not for the faint-hearted.

But it’s probably the best program ever devised for helping yourself learn to be more compassionate to others…

This one is a bit tricky. But on a clear, everyday practice level it can be understood simply. When you find something unpleasant – negative emotional states or other problematic things – going on in yourself, you breathe them in. Then on the out-breath, you send out to the world some positive quality in yourself, which requires that compassionate, unselfish motivation we’ve been talking about encouraging. It also helps you feel better about yourself, because you realize these good qualities are there for you to breath out.

The idea is that this is the beginning point for the tonglen practice. Things get a bit more complicated as it develops, so it’s best to be able to be very clear about ones’ motivation and willingness to do the practice. Beginning with yourself helps with that process.

Lojang #8 Three objects, three poisons, three seeds of virtue

This one seems obscure at first, but is really very accessible… and very powerful. It can change your life, all by itself.

The three objects are friends, enemies and neutrals…

The three poisons are craving, aggression, ignorance (which are  sometimes rendered as: passion/anger/delusion, or attachment/aversion/indifference).

The three virtues are the wisdom sides of the three poisons – i.e., ‘the flip side’! What this means is, the wisdom you gain from observing carefully when you experience the three poisons. On one level, this is the post-meditation/everyday life version of tonglen, and can be practiced fully only when tonglen is understood. Basically this amounts to uncoupling from the objects of your emotions and attachments and realizing that without the objects, the passions have no power… Trungpa:

The practice of this slogan is to take the passion, aggression, and delusion of others upon ourselves so that they may be free and undefiled… Whenever any of the three poisons happens in your life, you should do the sending and taking practice… If you have no object of aggression, you cannot hold your own aggression purely by yourself…. you can cut the root of the three poisons by dealing with others rather than by dealing with yourself.

But the simple, straightforward level, the accessible version of this is to realize that whatever bad experiences you are in at this moment can teach you what suffering is for others and thus help you develop understanding, insight or wisdom (panna) — and thus compassion for others.

A simple personal example: I was driving to work a few days ago in a very stressed state due to a combination of circumstances too complicated and mundane to go into, but suffice it to say I was so stressed that I began to wonder if I was safe to drive. As I was driving along, I realized that many of the people around me on the road must be experiencing the same kinds of stress, and that indeed that stress could be the source of many of the frightening and annoying things that other drivers often do  – things that typically get an angry or at least contemptuous response from me. Seeing how this stress could be affecting others, I realized I was able to tap into a source of compassion for them which is helping me be less annoyed and much more equanimous in my daily drive.

Lojong #3, Examine the Nature of Unborn Awareness

This was Monday’s slogan:

#3 Examine the nature of unborn awareness.

Ah, this is a pithy one!

Simply look at your own basic awareness, mind, noting that if you pursue it to the deepest level (which means spending a lot of very still, silent time) there is nothing there.

No color, no shape, no size, no attributes or qualities – just awareness. Sometimes referred to as “pure awareness.” Awareness that has no content. Essentially, we realize that awareness is simply the potential to be aware of some content. So the mind, in itself, without anything else, is nothing.

Pursuing this, eventually we see that the nature of everything is impermanence, emptiness or shunyata – not that it doesn’t exist, but simply that everything is empty of an independent, abiding nature. So it doesn’t exist in and of itself, it only exists in co-existence with everything else. Everything is Anicca, or changing, in the original formulation from Pali.

This is also sometimes referred to as paticca samupada, or the dependent co-arising of phenomena. This is what the Buddha awoke to, as Joanna Macy says.

As I said, pithy. You might have guessed that this is the essential thing you must get before much else in the Buddhist meditation catalog really works for you… but don’t approach it as an exercise in philosophy to be understood, just stay open, meditate and wait patiently for experience of this reality in your own life.