Tag Archives: Enlightenment

Buddhism for non-Buddhists

Buddhism makes up the world’s fourth largest world religion and one of the oldest. Religion in general has been slowly decreasing in many countries around the world as society changes and technology advances, but Buddhism has been one of the strongest “religions” to stay around and develop in many countries in the West, especially Australia and Germany, and now in the United States and Canada. A major reason for this is because of Buddhism’s view on one’s life; that we are in control of our happiness and unhappiness, of our present and future conditions, and our own liberation. Another big reason is the absence of the belief in a creator deity; that a higher power controls our life, future, and happiness.

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Emptiness and Samsara

Question: “Having come from emptiness (no-where), returning to emptiness (no-where), why do we manifest in samsara?”

Emptiness isn’t exactly “no where.” It’s not nothing, zero, or empty. Emptiness simply means that the things we see everyday, the people, cars, houses, plants, etc., are not really JUST people, cars, houses, plants, etc. Emptiness is almost unexplainable beyond the superficial explanation I’m about to give, it is something we each individually discover on our own, in our own way. And everyone has their own interpretation.

When we look at a flower, we automatically think “flower” or “rose” or “tulips.” Looking at it from “emptiness” it isn’t just a flower, but also the components that make up that flower; the soil, the sun, water, air – all these put together make the flower and then when the flower is made, we call it “flower.” Our delusion and ignorance doesn’t let us see or think of anything besides “flower.”

Look around you, nothing is made up of its own. Nothing has come about without external causes to make that effect. A car is not a car without its engine or any of the other thousand components that allow it to run and take us from point A to point B. As humans, we are human and alive because of our organs, oxygen, and food. Not even a nail or a screw it made of its own. It’s made from a machine, that needs its own parts and screws, a person to operate and put together the machine who needed parents to exist, the machine is made from metal, that needed the earth and all the elements and time to create it. Everything comes from something. Seeing that is emptiness.

So we’re in this cyclic samsaric cycle because of our ignorance. Ignorance and desire are the made causes of our suffering and our obstacles in the way of liberation. Because we see things and people as this “oneness,” as this thing to last forever, and constantly desiring it and desiring more, that will keep us from escaping samsara. So with a disciplined meditation practice and constant learning, we can shorten the distance to the shore of enlightenment.

 

Smile and be well!

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SHANTIDEVA’S BODHISATTVA VOWS

(Bodhicaryavatara chapter 3)

In the spiritual energy that relieves

The anguish of beings in misery and

Places depressed beings in eternal joy

I lift up my heart and rejoice.

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Finding Your True Self

The goal of Buddhist practice is to find our true Self. This body, our form, our name, this life… Is only a grain of sand in the vast ocean of our Buddha Nature. Who were we before we were John Doe? Who will we be after John Doe? Our present form is simply a perception of our minds. Our true Self, the Buddha we will all become is hidden behind a dirty mirror.

Our mind is a mirror. We have a mirror mind. It’s all fogged up like the foggy mirror after we get out of a hot shower. Behind this foggy mirror is our true Self. The fog represents our ignorance, greed, and anger – the poisons that keep us from discovering our true Selves. To clean this mirror we might use the wet towel we just dried off with, but the towel barely cleaned the mirror. The mirror is still foggy, and now streaky with little fuzzies from the towel. So then we try to use our hand, but still it only took away some of the fogginess and the fuzzies. Our hand cleaned it up a little bit and we can begin to see a shape that is us. So then you use the hand towel to wipe away some more. The mirror is free of fogginess, but now it’s streaky and not completely clean. Now you can at least see if there’s any soap left in your hair. Your form is starting to look familiar but not completely clear. Finally, you use a window cleaner and a paper towel to clean off the mirror.

The mirror is now completely crystal clear and you can see all your pores and white hairs. You’ve found yourself. Likewise, to find our true Selves, you must work to clear the fogginess of our ignorance, greed, and anger from our mind. It takes effort and resources to clear away the fog, but in the end, the benefit is total freedom… Liberation. Buddhism gives us the tools and resources to reach our liberation. It is our job to make the effort, determination, and motivation to use the tools and resources. Otherwise we will always be looking at a foggy mirror; wondering who is behind it.

 

Smile and be well!

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Loving yourself

Question: “How can I learn to love myself? I have a low self esteem and I’m insecure and I feel like I’m not worth anyone’s time. This causes a lot of problems for me.”

I know the feeling. I think everyone goes through this at least once in their life. Everyone gets out of this rut differently. For me it was coming to the conclusion of, “Who gives a shit?!” I looked upon these feelings and concerns and then looked at the concerns of others in the world, and thought to myself, “wow, I feel bad because I look at myself and see nothing, but there are kids in third-world countries who are starved, diseased, and people looking at them in disgust, and I’m worried about myself?”

This was a few years ago and not long after my realization that I came to another realization of this “self,” this body I call my own, this body that’s been called this name all my life.

You can ask yourself, “Why do I care?” Why do you care? Are you not getting enough attention? Do you look like a stereotypical wicked witch? Are you being a cry baby because no one is stroking your ego? What is it? What is making your not love yourself, what’s giving you low self-esteem and insecurity? Meditate on that. Psychologically, it’s usually because of your egotism, low caring parents growing up, or some other traumatic life event.

In Buddhism, it’s important to love yourself. Because that’s the only way you can love and help others. If you don’t have confidence in yourself, how can you help others find their own confidence? And that’s the key word here: confidence. You have to have confidence in yourself, you have to believe in yourself.

Whatever you can do to help yourself, do it. I put sticky notes on my bathroom mirror with inspirational quotes, or words or phrases like, “Beautiful,” “wake up,” “everything happens for a reason,” “you are your own happiness.” Whatever you have to do to remind yourself to smile and laugh, do it. There’s no such thing as having low self-esteem and being insecure. Why have it? What and how is that benefiting you? It’s not.

The Buddha didn’t sit under his Bodhi tree and tell himself, “Ah man, I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t know if I can reach enlightenment. I’m not sure if I’m capable and worth it.” No! The Buddha sat under that tree, touched the earth and made a vow, “As Earth as my witness, I vow to sit under this tree until I am enlightened!” He had confidence! He knew no matter what demons haunted him or what the other ascetics said about his path, he knew, he had confidence, that he would find the truth. And you must do the same!

 

Smile and be well!

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Self and Rebirth

Questions: “How rebirth takes place? What is the connection between the present annihilation of body and future rebirth? What is the basis of this connection? My gratitudes for answering my questions?”

I’m going to answer this question with relation to your other question that seems to be asking roughly the same thing (Q: Does self have the choice of not taking birth in any life forms in the first instance, rather than work around the karmas for liberation from cycle of birth and rebirth.).

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Knowledge and Liberation

Question: “Can knowledge only liberate? I like reading books on spirituality, buddhism and other philosophical subject. But still i feel i am missing something in life.”

Knowledge can only do so much for us. If you’re simply reading without practicing, then you’re just a scholar; you know all the information, but you don’t really know how it works. In Buddhism, the way you liberate yourself is through practice. Regular meditation, practicing loving-compassion and loving-kindness, and using the knowledge you read will lead you to the wisdom of Enlightenment!

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Outcasted and the ego

Question: “When i’m in a small group of people and I try to add to the conversation, I sometimes feel as though i’m being ignored because people don’t seem to listen to what I have to say. I feel as though my conversation isn’t wanted and all I should be doing is listening to their ego projecting in my ears. I’m not allowed to speak or be heard. I’m suppose to just listen. This makes me angry and i’m just wondering how to deal with one way conversers.”

You say you have to sit and listen to their ego projecting in your ears, but then again it is your ego that’s causing you to suffer and become angry. Why is egolessness so important in Buddhism? Because it’s the one thing that will hold us back from attaining Enlightenment. With ego we become ignorant, attached, and greedy – these are poisons that we must find an antidote in order to liberate ourselves.

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Aspiring to be a Bodhisattva in a family life

Question: “Being in a family life, taking care of family can still someone aspire to become a boddhisattva. Family life is full of affliction of desire, attachment, wants etc.”

Of course! You can aspire to become a Buddha and be the father of a household of twenty people! But the keyword here is aspire! Many texts say it’s important and even required to renounce and emancipate your current life in order to find true liberation. But because we probably won’t find liberation or get to the level of Bodhisattva in this life, we can at least set the foundations and create the path towards it for our future lives.

I don’t have many desires or attachments, but that doesn’t mean I would find liberation before you. Your Buddha Nature is just as equal as mine. You might be surrounded by all these distractions, whereas I’m not, but that doesn’t mean I’m better than you. You could be a better practitioner than I am, maybe you have more virtuous merits than I do – so as long as you aspire and KNOW that you will find liberation, you will become a Buddha one day, that’s all that matters.

All you can do is practice. If you have a local or nearby temple you can go to, visit often and attend their services. Temple is the one place (for me at least) where you can go and forget about all your worldly problems and just be at peace for a couple of hours. By regularly practicing meditation, you can learn to handle and ease the emotions that might arise by all the afflictions, desires, and attachments that surround you.

 

Smile and be well!

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Debt and Karma

Question: “I have accumulated much debt. I have always had a non-material outlook, but recently it has intensified. I am considering defaulting on some loans, letting my car go back etc. I know I signed a contract. I’m reaping the karma of my actions; I am a slave to debt. If I stop paying my bills, how would this be viewed in buddhist context?”

As humans we’re always going to be a slave to debt, whether it’s to the bank, family, friends, co-workers. We’re even in debt to the people (farmers) who provide us food. Debt is going to follow us until the day we die. You can run away and live in a cave in China and never have to worry about paying any of your debt back. What you will be paying back is your Karma debt. Just because you got away from your debt in this life, doesn’t mean the debt is gone too.

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