May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness; May all be free from sorrow and the causes of sorrow; May all never be separated from the sacred happiness which is sorrowless; And may all live in equanimity, without too much attachment and too much aversion, And live believing in the equality of all that lives.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

What About Me?


by Andy Weber

(Tibetan: Chi.nae) The painting here represents an aspiring meditator, who is following the path consisting of the stages of meditation that ends in the accomplishment of a calmly abiding mind and the beginning of the practice of insight meditation. At the bottom we see the practitioner, who holds a rope in one hand and a hook in the other, chasing after an elephant led by a monkey. The elephant represents the meditator's mind; a wild or untrained elephant can be dangerous and wreak enormous destruction, but once trained will obey and do hard work. The same holds true for the mind. Any suffering that we have now is due to the mind being like a wild, untrained elephant. The elephant also has very big footprints; these symbolize our mental defilements. If we work at improving our minds, inner peace will be the reward. From the suffering of the hells to the happiness of the Buddhas, it is the mind's activity that gives rise to them all.

At the start of the path the elephant is black, which represents dullness or sinking of the beginning meditator's mind. The monkey leading the elephant represents distraction. A monkey cannot keep quiet for a moment-it is always chattering or fidgeting and finds everything attractive. Just as the monkey is in front leading the elephant, our attention is distracted by sensory objects of taste, touch, sound, smell, and vision. These are symbolized by food, cloth, musical instruments, perfume, and a mirror. The person behind the elephant represents the meditator trying to train the mind. The rope in the meditator's hand is mindfulness and the hook is awareness. Using these two tools the meditator will try to tame and control his mind. Fire is shown at different points along the path to represent the energy necessary for concentration. Notice that the fire gradually decreases at each of the ten stages of calm abiding, as less energy is needed to concentrate. It will flare up again at the eleventh stage, when we start practising insight meditation.

In the beginning, just as the elephant following the monkey pays no attention to the person chasing after it, the practitioner has no control over his or her mind. In the second stage, the practitioner, who has almost caught up with the elephant, is able to throw the rope around the elephant's neck. It looks back; this is the third stage, where the mind can be restrained a little by mindfulness. Here a rabbit appears on the elephant's back, symbolizing subtle dullness, which might earlier have seemed to be a state of concentration, but now can be recognized for the harmful factor that it is. In these early stages we have to use mindfulness more than awareness.

At the fourth stage the elephant mind is more obedient, so it is less necessary to restrain it with the rope of mindfulness. By the fifth stage the elephant is being led by the rope and hook and the monkey is following behind. At this point we are not much disturbed by distracted attention; mostly we have to use awareness instead of mindfulness. In the painting, the sixth stage of practice is depicted with the elephant and the monkey both following obediently behind the practitioner, who does not even have to look back at them. This means that the practitioner does not have to focus continually on controlling the mind, and the absence of the rabbit shows that the subtle dullness, which appeared at the third stage, has now disappeared.

Upon reaching the seventh stage, the elephant can be left to follow of its own accord and the monkey departs; the practitioner has no more use for the rope and hook- distracted attention and dullness occur only occasionally and mildly. At the eighth stage the elephant has turned completely white and follows behind the practitioner; this shows that the mind is obedient and there is no sinking or scattering, although some energy is still needed to concentrate. At the ninth stage the practitioner can actually sit in meditation while the elephant sleeps peacefully nearby; at this point the mind can concentrate without effort for long periods of time- days, weeks, or even months. The tenth stage, where we see the meditator sitting on top of the elephant, signifies the real attainment of a calmly abiding mind. At the last, eleventh, stage, the meditator is sitting on the elephant's back holding a sword. At this point the practitioner begins a new kind of meditation called "higher vision," or insight meditation with which he seeks to realise the nature of reality.

Description provided courtesy of Norbulingka Institute.

I am a warrior

What is a warrior? Here is a post from the TACFIT Warrior blog that sheds some light on this topic:

I am a warrior. I accept that life has challenges, that the road to success and mastery is strewn with the bodies of those who believed it would be easy, and did not prepare. I prepare. Every day I sharpen the sword of my mind, body, and heart.

I am a warrior. I know that fear is a constant companion for those who would live an authentic existence, free of comforting illusion. I make fear my friend, allowing it to empower me, to drive me toward my destiny. I put my love in front of me, my fear behind me, and run like hell.

I am a warrior. I take responsibility for my actions and emotions, for my destiny. I know that I am the only one who can bring my dreams into reality, and have organized my mind and emotions so that every action is in alignment with my most deeply held beliefs and values.

I am a warrior. I know that action creates emotion, and resolve to take effective action toward my goals every single day, without fail. However small, I will take at least one single step to clarify my mind, strengthen my body, and heal my heart. I break my long-term goals into bits I can accomplish one step at a time. Always, I remember that the Way is in training–in constant, conscious action.

I am a warrior. I have the honesty to know I cannot do it all alone, and form teams and tribes to help me reach my dreams. I know that my associations will limit or expand my accomplishments, and choose companions carefully. I know that somewhere out there my opponents and competitors are training, and commit to spending more focused quality time honing my skills than anyone who might ever stand between me and my intentions. My opponents have NO idea who they are dealing with. But soon, they will.

I am a warrior. I know that defeat is a natural part of the learning cycle, and commit to facing this small death with grace and calm–and to return to the fray as swiftly as possible. A warrior is not, as some mistakenly think, merely someone willing to die for what they believe in. That could also be said of a martyr. A warrior is willing to destroy in order to create or maintain. To match force with force, and fire with fire, if necessary, and without apology. And most especially, a warrior is willing to destroy his own ego, day after day, to make room for the best and most authentic essence of his true Self to emerge.

I am a warrior. I have faith that goes beyond that of common men and women. Faith in myself: my skills, heart, intellect and strength. Faith in my companions: mentors, comrades, health care professionals, career and financial advisors. My spouse, my family and friends. Faith in a caring, living universe that sustains me, in the God of my fathers, in something larger and more enduring than my transitory physical existence. I will never be limited by my own flaws and failings: I have more. I have faith.

I am a warrior. I confront my challenges and win. I’ll meet them head on if necessary, but never forget to be flexible and creative: I will go over, under, around and through. I’ll try new things. Try old things. Work harder, smarter, faster, better. Try early, try late. Give it everything I have, day after day when others have yielded to fatigue and doubt. And then I will work even harder. And I win. When I do, I am as gracious in victory as I was philosophical in defeat. Today’s opponent might well be tomorrow’s ally.

I am a warrior. I teach the world by example. Every step, every breath, every word, every action represents me. I behave at all times as if my most honored teachers and beloved friends know my heart and see my actions. I commit at all times to being my very best. I also know that every victory merely opens the door to the next level of action and challenge. Every ending is a new beginning. I also commit to teaching and sharing what I have learned, understanding that this is the only way the human race has progressed. I am a link in a chain of striving, caring, struggling human beings stretching back to the dawn of time, and forward to a brighter future.

Here and now, I vow to be the strongest link in that chain.

I will commit to nothing less.

I am a warrior.

Nuit's Veil

“Becoming a Spiritual Radical”


Buddhism holds out the promise that enlightenment is possible in this very life.  Indeed, according to the texts of the tradition, it is only in a human life like ours, endowed as it is with all the freedoms and opportunities, that the attainment of perfect happiness can be reached.  For those of us living in the modern Western world – with the tremendous wealth we enjoy, the free time, the education, and the access to the authentic teachings and teachers – the conditions are perfect.

There is only one caveat: we must dedicate our lives to this quest if we expect to reach our highest and final destiny.  We cannot be diverted and we must not be seduced by the siren song of samsara in the form of consumer capitalism.  Giving up on the idea that samsaric life will work out is the precondition for the renunciation that makes possible true happiness. 
This is perhaps harder for us than it would be for someone living a marginal life in the Third World.  Renunciation doesn’t really seem necessary.  Things seem to be working out so well for most of us much of the time.
But as Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." (Matthew 6:19-24)  A religious life and a life dedicated to the pursuit of money, new cars, bigger homes, fancier holidays, and the latest gadgets are mutually exclusive.
A true spiritual practitioner in the modern, Western world is first of all a consumer capitalist drop-out.  A serious seeker has given up on the idea that more consumer goods, better vacations, and more entertainment options or cooler and newer gadgets, will provide the true and lasting happiness we all seek.  It is only a person like who has begun treading on the real path to happiness by practicing that rare virtue called “contentment” – the opposite of the endless desires and discontentment the manufacturing of which is the very heart of the consumer capitalist machinery.

In a recent article for the London Review of Books, reprinted in Harper’s Magazine, Slavoj Zizek writes despairingly of the “defeat of the left” in the face of the overwhelming and ubiquitous power of global consumerism.   “One of the clearest lessons of the last few decades,” Zizek claims, “is that capitalism is indestructible.  Marx compared it to a vampire, and one of the salient points of comparison now appears to be that vampires always rise up again after being stabbed to death.” 
But consumer capitalism is not “indestructible” for any individual.   Samsara, in whatever form it takes, can be defeated by practitioners who strongly desire to be free, recognize the true nature of the chains that bind them, and then learn and practice the time-tested methods that will free the mind from the samsaric matrix.
But this requires radical measures.  The spiritual life is a revolutionary uprising against the samsaric status quo.  A good practitioner must be a guerrilla insurgent in an on-going resistance movement.  A spiritual warrior must be a desperado – desperate to escape from suffering.  From the samsaric point of view he or she must appear as a dangerous criminal.  He or she must be an “outlaw” – pitted against the “rules” of samsaric life (“You will only be happy if you make money, buy a house, get promotions at work,” etc.). 
A Buddhist is supposed to recognize first and foremost that samsara is a dangerous place.  It is suicidal to try to make friends with it, to try to “fit in” and “play ball” and be a “pillar of the (samsaric) community.”  A real practitioner is a dissenter, in mutiny against the oppressive regime of suffering life.  
Be a rebel with a cause.  Drop out of and pit yourself against the designer form of samsara consumer capitalism has brought to us.  Get serious about your spiritual life.  Get radical. 

Oppose shopping mall culture and the way it and its values have insinuated themselves into your mind.  Don’t try to appear “reasonable” or “moderate” when it comes to suffering and its causes.  As Jawaharlal Nehru once said, “The policy of being too cautious is the greatest risk of all.”

The Mindscape Of Alan Moore

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Alan Moore is the world's most critically acclaimed and widely admired creator of comic books and graphic novels.

Alan Moore writer, artist and performer is the world’s most critically acclaimed and widely admired creator of comic books and graphic novels. In The Mindscape of Alan Moore we see a portrait of the artist as contemporary shaman, someone with the power to transform consciousness by means of manipulating language, symbols and images.

The film leads the audience through Moore’s world with the writer himself as guide, beginning with his childhood background, following the evolution of his career as he transformed the comics medium, through to his immersion in a magical worldview where science, spirituality and society are part of the same universe.