READER SERVICES
Buddhadharma News
STAY CONNECTED


Follow Buddhadharma on Facebook.

Find or promote a Buddhist-inspired event at our online Calendar.

Click here to subscribe to the Shambhala Sun and Buddhadharma email newsletter.

ASK THE TEACHERS

Q: How do we retain passion in life and still follow the teaching that we should accept all of life with equanimity?

Answer here.

Submit a question

Community Profiles

 

Search
Wednesday
Jun012005

I Thought I Was Alone

I’ve been a Zen practitioner for thirty years. Ten years ago I was in a deep depression. If I sat down to meditate, demons took advantage of the opportunity to torment me, until I could no longer stand the pain. More than once I fled from the zendo, drove to the woods, and ran wailing through the trees.

I was afraid to be alone. If I had a car trip that was more than a half-hour long, I had to stop at a pay phone to call someone who could reassure me that I existed. I had no self, but it didn’t feel a bit like enlightenment.

To my great disappointment, my longtime meditation practice wasn’t helping me, and I stopped sitting zazen altogether. The depression continued in bouts for several years.

I was ill, and I got better. Now I sit regularly, both with my sangha and at home. I’m often restless and distracted, but I’m grateful to be alive. I enjoy solitude, as well as the company of others. I’m no longer bewitched. What’s more, I often feel—I’ll come right out and say it—happy.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jun012005

Forum Essays

Depression is violent and merciless. For anyone who has struggled with serious depression, the idea that it could possibly serve as an incentive to meditate is to grossly misunderstand just how debilitating major depression is. The constant barrage of negative thoughts seem to form an unbearable “helmet of doom,” and it is simply not possible to become curious about these thoughts and wish to explore them, as is often suggested for meditation practice. There is simply no space and no ground for this kind of practice in depression.

Because there is so much emphasis on the mind in Buddhism, there is a tendency to believe that if you cannot overcome your negativity, you must not be doing something right. If I could only meditate properly! If I could only spend more time at it! These laments are just variations of the same loop of negative thinking. People who imagine there is a bottom to “hit” before one can get better do not know that depression is a bottomless pit. There is no bottom to the dark. The worst of it is that you just keep falling.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jun012005

Dharma Dictionary: Khandha

The word khandha is the Pali equivalent of the Sanskrit skandha, and their meanings are identical. Like many Pali (and Sanskrit) words, khandha has both a simple and a technical meaning, and both usages are found in the texts. The simple, or root, meaning of khandha as given in the Pali-English Dictionary is "mass, bulk, (gross) substance." This usage is used in the canon to refer to the bulk of an elephant, for instance. The word is also used specifically for a man's shoulders or back, and also for the trunk of a tree.

Used in a more technical sense, khandha refers to various aggregated collections. There is the phrase dukkhakhandha, "this whole mass of suffering," referring to samsaric existence. The principal technical usage of khandha, however, is in reference to the five khandhas as constituents of psychophysical existence. Sentient beings such as humans, animals, and devas are said to be composed of five khandhas—one physical and four mental. This is a formula often repeated in the suttas and may be considered as the most basic Buddhist analysis of what constitutes a conscious being.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Mar012005

Mind Is Buddha

Damei once asked Master Mazu, “What is buddha?” Mazu answered, “Mind is buddha.”

Wumen’s Commentary

If you can at once grasp “it,” you are wearing buddha clothes, eating buddha food, speaking buddha words, and living buddha life; you are a buddha yourself. Though this may be so, Damei has misled a number of people and let them trust a scale with a stuck pointer. Don’t you know that you have to rinse out your mouth for three days if you have uttered the word “buddha”? If you are a real Zen person, you will stop your ears and rush away when you hear, “Mind is buddha.”

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Mar012005

Tiny, Slippery Spot of Mind: The four foundations of mindfulness in the Mahayana tradition

In the Mahayana tradition, mindfulness is regarded as wisdom, transcendental knowledge, which is known in Sanskrit as prajna. Mindfulness is also a method of working with our mind. It is the method of recollection, of watchfulness, which develops into the stage of awareness. But if you look at this mindfulness and awareness, you will see that there is not much difference between them. Once you have developed the discipline of mindfulness, awareness is simply the continuity of that mindfulness.

There are several stages we progress through in our study and cultivation of prajna. These become the means for integrating our understanding into our experience, and progressively developing that experience into the full state of realization. In this article, I will discuss the four foundations of mindfulness as they are understood and practiced in the general Buddhist approach and in the Mahayana tradition.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Mar012005

Spring Comes, the Grass Grows by Itself: Remembering Zen Master Seung Sahn (1927-2004)

I remember him best bowing. For years he rose at 3 a.m. to do five hundred prostrations before the regular 108 with the group at morning practice. He was a sturdy figure in his short, grey bowing robe. His arms swung freely both on the descent and ascent. His forehead pressed against the mat for a precise moment before he rocked forward on his hands to rise. “Much bowing,” he used to say, “your center becomes stronger and stronger.”

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Mar012005

In Translation: Great Perfection in the Palm of Your Hand

Essential Advice for Solitary Meditation Practice was written by Dudjom Rinpoche (1904-1987) at the behest of a retreatant, Rikzang Dorje, in residence at Dudjom Rinpoché’s three-year retreat center, Ogmin Pema Ösel, in Tibet. This profound teaching contains within it the entire path of Great Perfection (Dzogchen), including how to prepare oneself for retreat, how to discern a proper location, as well as key instructions on view, meditation and conduct, including direct advice on how to bring your experiences onto the path.

In three-year retreat, my teacher, Lama Tharchin Rinpoche—who was one of those fortunate retreatants for whom Dudjom Rinpoche wrote this text—would refer us to this text over and over again. It seemed that the answer to every question on meditation we posed would be found in Essential Advice for Solitary Meditation Practice. We all found this to be true, and it continues to be my treasured companion.

The text is divided into three parts: Preparation, Main Practice and Post-meditation. What follows is the Main Practice section in its entirety, with brief excerpts from the Preparation and Post-meditation sections.

—Ron Garry, translator

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Mar012005

Theravada Practice Off the Cushion

For anyone dedicated to a spiritual path, the concern that recurs most often is how to keep one’s daily activities in line with one’s highest aspirations. Special religious activities may punctuate the calendar to give energy to this daily quest, but the basic issues of any spiritual life are shaped by the need to ensure that the particulars of one’s day-to-day decisions don’t run counter to one’s larger vision of a life well-lived.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Mar012005

See Things Clear Through

It’s important that we discuss the steps of the practice in training the mind, for the mind has all sorts of deceptions by which it fools itself. If you aren’t skillful in investigating and seeing through them, they are very difficult to overcome, even if you’re continually mindful to keep watch over the mind.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Mar012005

Give and You Shall Receive

Among Buddhists in the West, the traditional practice of giving is often considered a lay virtue aimed at achieving a better rebirth in the next life. While there is nothing particularly wrong with this understanding, it has a serious drawback: giving is often assumed among more serious practitioners to be a relatively lesser practice in Buddhism, superseded by the elite forms of ethics, scholarly study and meditation. This assumption is inaccurate and has led to a unbalanced, distorted version of Buddhism, not only among scholars but also among Western practitioners.

Descriptions of the practice of giving are found, as is well-known, in the earliest Buddhist texts. Perhaps surprisingly, at least for some, the giving practices outlined there possess much depth, subtlety and sophistication, and certainly do not conform to the prevalent stereotypes of “lay Buddhism.”

In the early texts, the practice of giving articulates the way in which (usually) lay donors and their renunciant (monastic and yogic) recipients establish relationships with one another. As the texts emphasize, the renunciants make the first gesture of giving by presenting themselves to the lay person as a potential “field of merit” or “object of offering.” In practical terms, this means that on their alms rounds they turn up at the door of a home and offer their willing—and generous—availability for a relationship with the lay person living there.

Click to read more ...