This ancient wisdom text reminds us mindful diligence (right effort and right concentration) allows us to yield the benefits that might otherwise be overlooked when our attention is not rooted in awareness.
One of the teachings in the Tibetan practice of Seven-Pointed Mind Training tells us to consider all phenomena as dreams. This enables us to better understand that our perceptions are not always accurate, and helps to break the habituation of being reactionary, based on false-perceptions.
It’s about learning to recognise that at any given moment, our idea of reality is being interpreted through the cloudy, muddled lens of our dualistic perceptions, our fears, and chaotic data, stored on the hard-drive of our subconscious minds.
Think for a moment about someone you dislike a great deal. In your mind, you’ve probably created an idea that this person will be permanently bad, or distasteful, or even evil. Am I right?
As a result, your every interaction with that person is coloured by that perception. But your perception is no different that if you perceived that interaction while you were sleeping.
You see, while we sleep, the dream seems quite real… but the moment we awaken from the dream, we realise that it wasn’t so. These appearances, which make up our everyday experience, are simply our mind’s manifestations of confusion.
Dreams sometimes appear to be totally realistic, and have the ability to cause our pulse to race, our bodies to sweat and shake… even though they are not anything more than our thoughts.
In the same way, as practitioners of Zenkondo, we can train our minds to recognise that those experiences that play out in our ‘waking dreams’ are simply the result of our thoughts… illusions deeply rooted in our subconscious minds.
Viewing each phenomenon as existing by itself, completely independent of its surroundings, causes, conditions, and our mental labeling of it, is the same as regarding dreams as real. By learning to see every experience as a dream – whether good or bad – we organically lose our attachment to them. We relax into the moment, and allow Pure Awareness to arise within us.
Author Stephen Kendrick once observed, “The only way love can last a lifetime is if it’s unconditional. The truth is this: love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love.”
In this video, I share a few thoughts on why unconditional love is so important to your daily practice, and offer a challenge for those interested in cultivating a greater unconditional love for others, as part of their Zenkondo/Bodhisattva path.
“When you plant a seed of love it is you that blossoms.”
– Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati
♥ मा मा मा ♥
The Taoist mythos does not embrace the kind of mythological “creator gods”, such as YHVH from the Abrahamic tradition, but instead sees the Supreme Ruler of the Cosmos as an anthropomorphic representation of the compassion, right action and mindfulness with which balance and awakening is achieved, to which we should all aspire. Our understanding of the “creation” is that the universe came into existence from the union of matter (Ki) and movement (Li) which, according to the principle of yin and yang, infinitely alternate to produce the five elements of metal, wood, water, fire and earth.
This New Year (the year of the Wood Horse) not only ushers in a year of fast victories, unexpected adventure and travel, but also concides with the start of the month of the Fire Tiger, which makes the energies of this new year particularly lively and powerful.
The ancient practitioners of the Way would encourage us to “Hold the old and the new. Be the elder and the child.”
Today we are the “child”, embarking on a journey to the present moment, where we become “the elder” — the ancient holder of the wisdom that recognises our True Nature as Pure Awareness.
As we begin a new year, I want to share with you a video that many of you have seen me share over the past two years. The Wayseer Manifesto resonates deeply with who I am, and with what we’ve taught for the past 32 years. It speaks to who I am and what sets us apart from the masses.
Neurological oppression often prevents us from embracing the Implicate Order, known as the Way. But what if this video were to unlock something within you?
There are times, when all it takes is one simple, yet profound statement that changes everything in our experience. The recognition that our faulty perception is responsible for so much of the suffering in our lives and in the lives of those around us, can be a sobering wake-up call.
What if we learned that the world, as we perceive it, really is nothing more than a harmless enigma, and that by opening our hearts and minds to see that, we can free ourselves of the self-imposed limitations and terrifying, painful or negative perceptions that we’ve accepted as “reality”?
As we begin a new week, let’s strive to do so with the simple recognition that all phenomena are inherently empty… simple holographic projections… and that our experience will always represent nothing more than the current state of our subconscious minds. By releasing the chaotic data… letting go of the clutter, the fears, and the attempts to interpret that data as though, as Umberto Eco puts it, “it had an underlying truth,” we free ourselves to experience the world as it always could have been.
Vibrant. Whole. Abundant. And ever-changing.
At times, it seems hard to believe that it’s been that long, but reflecting back over the past thirty-two years since I took my vows, on the night that Franciscan Companions of the Immaculata (which would later become the Contemplative Order of Compassion), has been a bittersweet journey.
I couldn’t imagine doing things any differently, and can honestly say that it has been a humbling privilege to have walked this path for a little more than three decades.
Our lives were entrusted to the Divine Mother, whose embodiment of the Immaculate Heart of Mary would remind us that a life of surrender to the Dharma, and serving those who suffer was the path to which we’d been dedicated body, mind and soul. It wouldn’t always be the easiest path, and it would require untold sacrifices, but it was the only path I could imagine for myself.
This special day reminds me of so many people who served along side of us, but especially of the three co-founding brothers, and the fourth, who would join us shortly thereafter. They’ve all left their bodies now, as have the two bishops who presided with me over the community in those earlier days.
A few months after my profession of vows, I met my upa-guru, Lama Thubten Yeshe for the first time (in this life), and it would be some years later, that Lama Yeshe would point me in the direction of meeting my Root Guru, Ma Jaya (Tenzin Yangchen Ma).
Nine years of serving as the abbot six monastic houses, and 29 years of serving as the spiritual director of the Order itself, brought me into direct contact with so many dedicated men and women, for whose service to the sick, the poor and the dying I will always be grateful. Some left us to pursue more traditional paths. Others left because they didn’t find the demands of monastic/ordained life suitable. Still others, lacking the commitment to their practice, couldn’t handle the decimation of ego and the demands of accountability, and felt like they were being “picked-on”. All will remain my spiritual children for lifetimes.
At one time, students fought over who would do what, to personally and financially support the work we’re doing. Today, only one student donates all that she possibly can. The others all have convenient excuses for why they do nothing to support our work. And that has severely limited the reach of that work around the country. Yet through this medium, I can continue to try to inspire others to do what they can to alleviate suffering, and teach them to recognise the causes and conditions in their own minds, which create that experience of suffering, so that they might eliminate them in themselves.
For those precious few who still walk the path in these degenerate times, I thank you. And for the one, precious child, who continues to support our work, I offer my heart-felt gratitude and love.
Meditation is essentially training our attention so that we can be more still, more aware, more in touch with our True Nature. Our True Nature is Pure Awareness. From this Pure Awareness springs forth the Bodhicitta Mind — Wisdom and Compassion — the basis for transforming the world, by transforming ourselves.
The more we deepen our practice of meditation, the more we manage to cultivate that serene stillness, the greater our sense of remarkable resourcefulness and the awareness of our intricately woven interdependence, which allows us to lead lives that are organically more free, more energetic, and more full than ever before.
Our path is a path of stillness. One learns to hold the Śakti, rather than allowing oneself to be controlled by it. While we recognise that this calls for greater spiritual maturity and commitment, we must always allow space for those whose paths call for more or less stringent or focused practice.
As Sharon Salzberg reminds us:
“Meditation may be done in silence & stillness, by using voice & sound, or by engaging the body in movement. All forms emphasize the training of attention.” (fromThe Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Programme for Real Happiness)
Not long ago, two of the students I felt showed the most promise for the guiding the future of our Order chose to leave the teaching. They claimed that I was too hard on them, and that my consistently calling them on their shit was “abusive”. From a Westerner’s perspective, they were probably right. And if we were founded as a Western Order, perhaps my approach would have been a little more New Age, Airy Faerie, Unicorns and Rainbows.
But that’s not who we are. And it’s not what this teaching is about.
I will always miss those two students, and know that if they would have dedicated even 15 minutes a day to their spiritual practice, sitting in quiet meditation, their journeys would have been dramatically different. Their experience of “harshness” and “abuse” might have been viewed as the concern and guidance that it was intended to provide.
If more of my students practiced meditation even fifteen minutes a day, I wouldn’t have to ask people to support the Dharma work and service to the poor that we undertake. They would open their hearts and their wallets regularly, because they would recognise this as THEIR work… THEIR community. THEIR Order.
Through meditation, our understanding the true nature of things — seeing things as they really are — becomes the ground of wisdom. And from that fertile ground, our practice takes root and blossoms, like never before.
If we attempt to cultivate wisdom, without compassion, we are left with meaningless platitudes and intellectual masturbation. The Tao tells us that without compassion, “(W)isdom degenerates into an escapist entanglement in concepts, theories and dogmas.” (In other words, wisdom without compassion degenerates into religion.)