Sayings of The mad Yogi – 5

I spent my entire life being sensible until I found Wisdom.


The Three Patiences

The Patience of Enduring Suffering

Enduring suffering is a natural state for all of us. If we did not experience suffering we would have no negative karma ripening. This is not possible in this world, so we all experience suffering. Understanding that brings compassion – “I am one of many”. Enduring suffering is the natural state for our whole life.  Happiness is a relief from suffering when things seem to be going right. But things cannot go right for ever, and even apparently fortunate people experience unhappiness. “What is my unhappiness compared with anybody else’s? It is natural for me to experience unhappiness because everybody else is.”  Understanding this is gaining the Truth of Buddha’s First Teaching – the teaching on the First Noble Truth, True Sufferings.

We should not be unhappy when we are experiencing pain, but glad for we are experiencing dharma. When we are happy, and things are going well, we hardly remember Dharma, but when we are suffering we can use it to remind us of the truth of Buddha’s teachings – All Beings experience suffering.

The Patience of Not Retaliating

The reason we retaliate is because unexpected harm causes anger to flare within us. This is Buddha’s second Noble Truth (True Origins) which states that all harm arises from either delusions or karma.

Examining my mental continuum throughout all my actions,

As soon as a delusion develops

Whereby I or others would act inappropriately,

May I firmly face it and avert it.                 (Geshe Langri Tampa)

We expect not to be harmed and so when we are, anger rises automatically. As long as we expect not to be harmed, so will we always have anger.  Only when we have changed our expectation to that which understands the true nature of phenomena is to arise in dependence on karma, will be free of anger arising. Anger arises only because we do not expect the world to conflict with our wishes. Because Buddha teaches that the world will always conflict our wishes, in the three states of discontent, so anger will always arise. When we have conquered the three states then the world will not conflict our wishes because our wishes will be in line with Buddha’s teaching, and anger and all other delusions will not arise.

The Patience of Definitely Perceiving Dharma

When we start to perceive emptiness, and the way it arises, we can face up to Dharma. Dharma means phenomena or things. So, when we are seeing things we are perceiving dharma. Allowing things to happen is a way to practise. For instance, if we are at a festival and we see a group of people who appear to be not too pleased with us we could slink off, or we could go up to them and face our karma. In the latter case, we are going against the natural way of things to avoid conflict. By accepting the pain of unhappiness we are accepting karma – and it disappears. This is a way to release karma. If we face up to all unpleasant karma, eventually we will have nothing left to throw at ourselves. We will be free of our negative karma. This ends the Buddha’s teaching on the second Noble Truth – True Origins. By bringing karma, negative karma, to an end – all suffering is extinguished (nirvana, True Cessation, The third Noble Truth) and we are enlightened (the completion of True Paths, The fourth Noble truth).

This Patience could also be called the Patience of Definitely Sitting in Dharma. Attempting to meditate can be painful on our time, our pleasure, our body and our mind. As we overcome each of these we can congratulate ourselves on definitely practising the Patience of Sitting. The suppleness in our mind and body arising from the accumulation of virtue and the release of pure wind is our reward. As we realise emptiness so our meditation continues even when we are not sitting. Metaphorically this is still The Patience of Sitting in Dharma because we see all phenomena as related to our mind, and hence related to our karma. Since all negative karma is painful, so are all phenomena arising from that karma. This is Definitely the Practice of Sitting in Dharma where ‘Definitely’ means emptiness.


Buddhaland Brooklyn

Buddhaland Brooklyn (2)

The Dharma Forum has been asked to review Buddhaland Brooklyn by Richard Morais. We welcome this opportunity and have created a page in our menu for our past reviews. Enjoy reading! And we hope to make this a feature of the future where we can preview Buddhist related books and films. There are two reviews here, the first by AndyDharma and the second by DharmaForum.

By AndyDharma

Buddhaland Brooklyn, the new novel by Richard C. Morais is a cracking good read, enjoyable from first to last. But, being a novel about Buddhists from East and West trying to get their act together to create a Buddhism that works in the modern world, it presses all the right hot-button issues without ever, to my mind, satisfactorily resolving them, although they are so resolved for the main character of the novel, Seido Oda. But then, having been a Buddhist for over 20 years myself and having seen close-up many of the shenanigans Western Buddhists can get up to in the internal – sometimes infernal – politics of trying to get a Buddhist tradition established in the West, I am deeply sceptical of happy endings such as the charming one this novel has. Mind you, I wouldn’t mind being in a group such as the fictional Headwater Sect that Seido Oda belongs to, a mish-mash of Japanese Zen, Nichiren and Pure Land traditions. Theirs is a simple, cut-down form of Buddhism that relies upon deep faith – especially faith in the Lotus Sutra –  and an application of that faith in a willing engagement with others in the apparently mundane affairs of everyday life. Seido Oda, the narrator of the novel, is a priest in the Headwater Sect, and grows up in the Japanese temple his parents put him in as a child before being posted by the Sect to New York to help build and open a new temple built there by the American ‘Believers’. He takes the affairs of everyday life quite literally indeed, having a passionate affair with the young American lady who is his closest assistant in the New York temple project. But the Headwater Sect, like Japanese priests in general, appear to have a laid-back attitude to sex, not seeing strict celibacy as necessary in the priesthood, so no scandal or serious complications follow from this affair. In reality, in the West, scandalous, damaging sexual affairs between Buddhist monks and their disciples is fairly common, especially in the more puritanical of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, partly the result of unrealistic expectations on the part of Western Buddhists about ordination and partly due to the misunderstanding of the cultural norms and psychological dynamics of Western disciples on the part of Eastern priests/lamas/monks. Indeed, in the novel, Seido Oda’s affair helps him to grow up and to loosen up, and leads to him being able to better connect with, and understand, himself and his denial of his own past traumas and emotional needs, as well as helping him better understand his students and the cultural context of his surroundings in Brooklyn. But the novel is not really about sex. It is about the inevitable cultural clash that occurs when Eastern Buddhism comes to the West and the many difficulties of adjustment that follow. What emerges is, as always, something which is neither wholly East nor West, but an unexpected amalgam of the two. Whether you end up with a ‘pure’ Buddhism, however you want to define it, is another question entirely. Seido Oda thinks he has, but I’m not so sure. But then I’m just an incorrigible sceptic.

More to the point, Seido Oda has a passion for Japanese haiku and any novel that skilfully blends the immortal haiku of Basho and Issa into the narrative gets my vote anytime. Perhaps the perfection of haiku as a vehicle for truly great poetry is the greatest contribution of Japanese Buddhism to Buddhism in general, if not to world art. Anyway, Morais’ own writing style gets pleasantly poetic at times, especially in his descriptions of the natural environment of Japan that Oda grows up in and which helps to deepen his spirituality:

“The Buddha’s Elbow Waterfall stood in the forest, a white-water thrashing of stones that forced involuntary sighs, gulps and gurgles from the river. Sake-coloured froth turned at the water’s surface and sent a drunken spray into the air, moistening nearby mats of green moss. The river eventually settled and the exposed rocks in the lower pool jutted up, round and pert, like stone breasts” (p.30).

Indeed, Morais’ description of the surrounding, whether it be in Japan or Brooklyn, seem to be stronger and more effective than his characterisations of people, some of whom hover perilously near to comic stereotyping. But his understanding of psychological dynamics helps to make the plot of the novel believable overall and those dynamics play out neatly towards the charming ending, where a contented Oda sits in Brooklyn watching the world go by and sees that enlightenment is “the ability to suffer what there is to suffer; it is the ability to enjoy what there is to enjoy” (p.276). Is it that simple? I don’t know, but I hope so. At least I had the ability to enjoy this enjoyable novel; that will do for me.

By DharmaForum

Buddhaland Brooklyn is fiction and that’s a shame. We enjoy the characters and the land so much that we want them to be true. The Headwater Sect is based on the Nichiren Shoshu, or another similar group of Buddhists from Japan. This is because their sole practice is reciting the Lotus Sutra. Interestingly, this leads their monk, Seido, and all the others characters in the monastery to feel free to engage in whatever activity that appeals to them, whilst remaining monks. Not surprisingly they hide some of their excesses, such as drinking sake, from the local community, but the Lotus Sutra has freed them into a consideration that the Buddha Nature is free, and so are all activities. He quotes (p.152):

“No affairs of life or work are in any way different from the ultimate reality.”    Lotus Sutra

This is a very advanced view and requires the student to see emptiness before engaging in this way of life; before freeing themselves from the karmic restraints of controlled behaviour. As Padmasambhava said, until you have realised emptiness directly you must maintain all your vows and behaviour utterly.”

The book is good and apart from the above slight criticisms, which are more wishful thinking than telling off, I thoroughly recommend this book for bedtime reading.

Here is an extract to judge the timeless quality of life in rural Japan conjured so effortlessly.

“I am reminded of the ancient poem by Iio Sõgi.”

“I cannot recall it.”

However low one may be, 

 It is in holding oneself in sway

 That is imperative.”

Senior Acolyte Fukuyama sighed in appreciation. “But still,” he finally said, “I prefer a bit of humour. Kobayashi Issa:

Tub to Tub

The whole journey –  

Just hub-bub.”

Reverend Kawaguchi smiled. “Yes. This poem is very fine.”

In that moment – sitting under the cypress, the breeze sweeping yellow pollen across the river’s pooled surface, the air laced with the priests’ poetic murmurs – a belief within me took hold with such force that I involuntarily shivered. I was just a boy, true, but in the hellish aftermath of my family’s destruction I was visited by a conviction that a clearing filled with Tranquil Light was waiting for me somewhere, and that one day I would find my way to this clearing, this safe haven patiently awaiting my arrival. (p.31-32)

Seido’s struggles in Brooklyn are more difficult. He has been sent to New York to open their New Temple, a kindness to his teacher that he cannot refuse. Seido craves only the peace of Japan, but temple politics will not permit it and his karma must be fulfilled.

The children’s voices in Sant’ Andrea Park beckoned like birds in the forest around the Temple of Everlasting Prayer. An old man and woman rested on a park bench with their parcels, wheezing jokes as they watched the shoppers passing back and forth the intimate, earthy poetry of Brooklyn.

The tired woman finally dropped her white head on the shoulder of her husband’s peacoat. “Come on”, he said, squeezing her thigh. “Let’s get this stuff home. You’re tired.” It was good advice, and I decided to return home, too, in order to give thanks to the Buddha. But as I moved to leave the park, as I breathed in the air, the reality of where I stood finally hit me.

Brooklyn.

It was the Buddhaland. (p.262)

Buddhaland Brooklyn is published by Alma Publishing and is available from them at £12.99. Also available from Wisdom, Amazon and all good book stores.


Mad Monk – Gendun Chöpel

Gendun Chöpel was brilliant. As a student he beat all his teachers at debating points of dharma. In his first monastery he specialised in taking positions that could not be won in traditional dharma debates – and winning them. His greatest was to take the non-Buddhist view of the Jains, who contrary to Buddhists believe that plants have consciousness, and leave his fellow students unable to gainsay him!

As a result he was kicked out.

Alas! After I had gone elsewhere,
Some lamas who can explain nothing,
Said that Nechung, king of deeds,
Did not permit me to stay due to my excessive pride.

Arriving at the famous Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, one of the three important Gelug monasteries, he signed on with a tutor famous for his defense of Tsongkhapa. The two did not get on! Often they were heard having shouting matches with each other over dharma points.

Chöpel went to India for twelve years where he learnt the arts of love, and like the sixth Dalai Lama became known for his poetry. He regretted his countrymen’s use of Sanskrit texts as amulets rather than translating them into their own language. When he returned he tried to teach them the ideas from outside their land, such as the world not being flat.

I have written facts,
Unheard of in the Land of Snows.
Because of my poor and ragged appearance,
No one is there to heed my words.

At one point he was put in prison and all his writings taken.

Today you can read some of these works as well as his life story.

Source: Gendun Chophel

Film: Angry Monk

Life Story: The Madman’s Middle Way


The Three Compassions

We can consider compassion from three points of view. Each of these points of view is a more subtle understanding of compassion, and hence harder to understand, or to see. They correspond to Atisha’s three scopes.

Manifest Suffering

This is the suffering that most people understand, and the compassion that arises from it. People are in pain from illness, wounding, hunger, destitution. We know this suffering and we choose to do what we can, according to our compassion and our resources. General dharma seeks to increase our ability to feel compassion, and to spread it no matter the cause, fault, or relationship. This is seen sometimes as the heart of the Mahayana, and the zenith of the Hinayana.

Release from the Cycle

The intermediate scope relates to release from the cycle of suffering. We have to understand that suffering is now understood as the second of Buddha’s noble truths. In the first practice we use Buddha’s first noble truth as the basis for our compassion. Now we must understand the second truth – how suffering arises. Without this understanding of the teaching we cannot practise the second compassion for we have no basis on which to separate it from the first compassion. A Bodhisattva practising the second compassion must understand the causes of suffering according to Buddha’s instruction, and focus upon them to the exclusion of the first.
What are the causes of suffering? They are karma and delusion. Knowing this the bodhisattva of the intermediate scope practices the abhidharma to understand delusions, and examines patterns to find the meaning of karma. Our perception of karma increases as we practise this meditation on karma and the arising of delusions. Eventually we can begin to see the patterns in ourselves, which is the basis for renunciation, and the patterns within others, which is the basis of the second compassion.
It is possible to alter our own patterns of karma through effort, and our own delusion through conscientiousness. But it is not possible to change the patterns of others. So our compassion appears deceptive. We experience the suffering of others upon their causes more than they do, but we are unable to help. Our reduction of ignorance allowing us to see the suffering produced by the causes of karma and delusion in others arise from our own attempts to reduce our own causes for suffering. And this growing wisdom, allowing us to see karma in others, allows us to begin to formulate methods to help them based on wisdom, example, patience and love. We begin to practise the six perfections, and others, for the sake of helping others release themselves from karma.
We have become a bodhisattva helping others release themselves from samsara through practising renunciation.

The Path

Compassion for the path means that a Bodhisattva looks to see other buddhists practising a path that does not lead directly to Buddhahood, and develops compassion. What practices do not lead to buddhahood? All the practices of the first, and third doors to Liberation, do not lead directly to buddhahood. Bodhisattvas are born from the second door to liberation. Only the practise of love and compassion lead to bodhicitta, and only bodhicitta can lead to buddhahood. So, a bodhisattva contemplates the paths and actions of other buddhist, or spiritual practitioners, and develops compassion for them. This compassion is practical in that it guides practitioners to bodhicitta. Enlightenment occurs from the supreme path, and all practitioners, even bodhisattvas, must reach this.


Do not believe …

Do not believe just because wise men say so.

Do not believe just because it has always been that way.

Do not believe just because others may believe so.

Examine and experience yourself.

Kalama Sutra


Attachment

Attachment is the most important topic in Buddhism.  Why? Because it is difficult to understand the different approaches to it that are contradictory. Buddha said that this world was named the Desirous, not because it is so desirable, but because we have so much desire and attachment. In the tantric path desire is turned into a deity; in the sunyata path into a demon. But desire is natural. It feeds us, it clothes us; it leads us to pretty much all our actions. We get up in the morning because of it, and we go to sleep at night because of it. In the end, we do our practice because of it. It is what brings us all our pleasure. Indeed, these words: desire, pleasure, attachment are all bound up together, and we may need to make some sense of them in order to understand how they fit. More importantly to decide how to fit them into our practice, the very approach to life we take.

Because of the contradictory nature of the different approaches to attachment present in the Buddhist paths it is impossible to practise these separate approaches together. Thus, we have the abandoning of desire on one hand and the cultivation of desire on the other.

Abandoning desire comes from the path of renunciation or sunyata. Attachment is seen as pain, as it is impossible to maintain the pleasure of desire constantly. Therefore abandon it. The monk abandons everything in order to conquer desire, the root of all evils. The yogi abandons desire for certain things in order to find subtle pleasure or bliss.

So what is the difference between abandoning and cultivating? If we abandon, we are saying that pleasure is not the right way to spiritual paths; and if we cultivate, we are saying it is. These are opposing standpoints. Choose your path, but know why you are doing it. If I choose the path of abandoning, I am choosing all that goes with it: the end to the seeking of pleasure that is so natural to animals, humans, and gods. I choose the monks robes, celibacy, control of appetites, and guarded behaviour. If I choose the yogi’s path, it appears that I am giving up even more – I barely eat, I pay no attention to my clothing, appearance, or personal hygiene, but I seek inner bliss. Why do I seek inner bliss? Because it is more desirable than outer, or gross bliss. I give up outer gross bliss and find through yogic paths inner bliss. So, in the end I have accomplished the same, or more, than the outer monk, but inwardly I am more addicted. The difference here is that the inner yogic bliss is not harmful, or not harmful to a spiritual life. It is harmful to an ordinary existence, because the cost of finding that inner realization is the outer life of conformity, and the taking up of the yogic lifestyle with all its abandonment of social life, goals and norms in order to feed the inner fire of yogic pursuit.

How does yogic bliss work? It releases a natural part of the body that produces bliss. This bliss can only be released by yogic or meditative methods. Thus the pursuit of inner yogic methods naturally releases this bliss, and this bliss is a higher, natural virtue. Thus, a yogi abiding in the bliss is abiding in higher natural virtue. The inner subtle bliss can only be released by completion stage, mahamudras, and inner subtle generation stages. Outer gross practices of generation stage lead to inner bliss by cultivating an attitude that the normal sources of pleasure, such as eating etc., are actually gross outer bliss. They are naturally pure, and give rise to tantric bliss which is a gross, outer, naturally pure virtue. Thus through the practice of subsequent attainment, through gross generation stage, and actual accomplishment, through inner subtle generation stage, or completion stages, etc. the yogi attains the various levels of higher natural (or tantric) virtue. This virtue by definition is higher than that accomplished through the abiding in the natural virtue of sutra meditation and practice.

The important point to consider is what happens to us when we fall in love. Falling in love is seen as the highest form of human activity by most people. Yes, its pitfalls are known: the pains of attachment to that which you can’t have, or that returns love with hate. But what of the bliss of love? Are you going to give that up because there will be pain involved? So, the tantric path (and the Bodhisattva path) both explore the idea of cultivating love (and its bliss) in a pure form.

What then of the practice of abandoning? This occurs in the pre-Buddhist practices of India known as austerities. Why would you abandon pleasure? Because, it is unable to fulfil your desire for natural bliss. Pleasure is a corrupt form of bliss. Contaminated with inconsistency. Unable to fulfil your desire. Corruptible and changeable; subject to attenuation and acclimation. Addiction is ultimately doomed to failure, and the pursuit of happiness ends in an unwholesome lack of health, and the corruption of your own morals, the guardians of your natural happiness. That is why you must guard your discriminating alertness, and your morals with them.  For, not to do so will inexorably lead you into degeneration and unhappiness.

Is it possible to practice both? The early stages of practice cause you to drop your natural approach to desire. In the path of sunyata we say no to desire, and contemplate the inevitable miseries of its failure. In the beginning of the bodhisattva path we guard our moral discipline down to our thoughts and action, not wishing to harm anyone by projecting our desire onto them.

But later we acknowledge the power of love and desire. Love for another person, a partner, is so powerful that the energy must be able to be used. And it is. It is used in the tantric practise of generation and completion stage, where desire is the energy that completes and unites the power of tantric expression; and it is used in the higher reaches of the Bodhisattva Path where Love is found to be even more potent than Desire itself. This love of the heart is what finally takes a Bodhisattva to Buddhahood.