Dhammakāya: A Lion Among Us
There is a story of the Lion’s Roar that many Buddhists and story-tellers are familiar with. The story goes, if you were to throw a stick with a dog observing, the dog would follow after the stick. If the observer is a lion, the lion looks to who threw the stick.
The Dhammakāya (Skt. Dharmakāya) has recently been given a lot of attention in southeast Asia. Let's just say that it has always been given attention and importance in Buddhism, particularly in the Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna traditions; but not until the early and mid 20th century did it reach a prominent level of discussion and debate in Thailand and southeast Asia. Today, especially in Thailand, it is becoming a household word; though unfortunately usually not for good reasons.
The word Dhammakāya itself is from the ancient Pali language. A common translatio, concurrent with the Pali and Sanskrit Buddhism Canons and Scriptures is: ’Body / Form‘ (Kāya) of ‘Pure / Unadulterated Nature' (Pali. Dhamma, Sanskrit. Dharma)’. It is also the distinguishing word chosen in the name of one of the largest Theravāda Buddhist temples in Thailand: Wat Phra Dhammakaya or 'Temple of the Revered Dhammakāya '.
Some folk, mainly critics, jest that an era of Dhammakaya ‘is upon us'. They speak of the Dhammakaya Foundation in Pathum Thani, Thailand as a culty new age dynasty that stems from an off-shoot ideology founded upon Buddhism. Moreover, to boot, in both previous and current news we hear of the horrid accusations against the temple’s Abbot, PhraThepyanmahamuni Luang Por Dhammajayo. Money laundering? Stolen Property? Wow. These are big allegations against a monk. What to believe? Who to believe?
The Thai media has thrown a big juicy stick at the public. So much time has been given to blindly looking at the accusations against Luang Por Dhammajayo, as if he is guilty beyond any shadow of a doubt. Anyone who does any digging into the facts, knows this to be not just false but formidable slander and degradation of character. Anyone who digs further finds that there are ulterior motives; deep shocking ones. But that would only be seen by the lions among us.
The media and internet can paint a picture of something in very different lights. They can paint it any way they choose; or, rather, any way their employers or funds chooses. Wat Phra Dhammakaya is a bright topical example of this.
My quest here is not to discuss the stick, as much as to discuss the world around the people throwing the sticks, rocks, and government at a lion. That Lion of Dharma being PhraThepyanmahamuni Luang Por Dhammajayo.
At the end of the day, we don’t know what a chili tastes like until we eat it. Meaning, go see it for yourself. Don't believe something just because you read about it online in an article somewhere or because someone describes it to you a certain way. Go find out for yourself.
Buddhism does not belong to a singular nation, custom, culture, or race. Meaning, one does not have the end-all-be-all say on what is true Buddhism solely because it is either their national religion or is an integral part of their culture and customs. I have an inclination that because we are creatures of identification, we commonly have a tendency to put ourselves in a box of references and labels. References that, "I am a ... This is what a ..... from my country and my culture believes and does.", etc. Repetitive actions of body, speech and mind prevalent in and based upon this chosen or inherited identification (‘heritage') are the basis in the formation of opinions, ideas, views and mental referencing for how they interact with the world around them. Habits develop following this pattern. This behavioral programming, or habits, compose our references for how we interact with and in the world around our bodies. It is also what most people tend to revert to identifying themselves as while alive.
When many people identify with something and 'take it on' as their own, it empowers that thing, whatever it may be. This is where any custom or lifestyle finds its manifesting origins. The great cultures and dynasties of Africa, Europe, and Asia are no exception. Once a momentum starts and moreover builds, then it influences and gathers more and more strength. The more momentum we give to our identifications, the more we become associated with it. The fulcrum here is that this can either benefit us, or hinder us. And in terms of civilization, this principle is how a new generation directly influences, maintains, and or changes the existing culture that they were born into.
The Dhammakāya (Skt. Dharmakāya) has recently been given a lot of attention in southeast Asia. Let's just say that it has always been given attention and importance in Buddhism, particularly in the Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna traditions; but not until the early and mid 20th century did it reach a prominent level of discussion and debate in Thailand and southeast Asia. Today, especially in Thailand, it is becoming a household word. The word Dhammakāya itself is from the ancient Pali language. A common translatio, concurrent with the Pali and Sanskrit Buddhism Canons and Scriptures is: ’Body / Form‘ (Kāya) of ‘Pure / Unadulterated Nature' (Pali. Dhamma, Sanskrit. Dharma)’.
So why is that important? Thailand has a history of association as a country of Theravāda Buddhism. Tibet with Vajrayāna Buddhism. China with Mahāyāna Buddhism. Japan with Zen Buddhism. Buddhism came from India. India has a very different culture than the previously mentioned countries. Even pre-modern and modern India are very different Indias. Through time, shift happens.
What is the point? Culturally, everyone has their version or tint of what they believe is Buddhism. Customs and beliefs, previous to and post-Buddhist integration, over the centuries have come to shape what we now see within these countries. It is how a nation's citizens identify themselves with their faith, and the time-tailored practices of their faith that are the buildings blocks of culture. This does not mean that one country's Buddhism is necessarily better than the other. It does not mean that one is wrong and the other is right and pure. What I mean to say is that, as a nation composed of so many various focuses and customs based off of that nation's own inherited form of what they associate themselves as, - i.e. a Buddhist from 'x.y.z.' - it becomes more of a mental revolution to open the mind up to the bigger picture of Buddhism in order to understand and encompass it as a whole.What is comes down to, is that typically people are scared of what they don’t know. They are afraid when something or someone big comes around and changes up the status quo.
Lord Gautama Buddha is quoted:
Adhigato kho me ayaṃ dhammo gambhīro duddaso duranubodho santo paṇītoatakkāvacaro nipuṇo paṇḍitavedanīyo. … Ahañ c'eva kho pana dhammaṃ deseyyaṃ pareca me na ājāneyyuṃ.
This dhamma attained by me is deep, hard to see, hard to comprehend, serene, subtle, beyond the dominion of reasoning, recondite, apprehensible only to the wise. … Would I preach the dhamma, others would not understand.
- Vin.I.4-5, M.I.167-168, S.I.136.
“Apprehensible only to the wise”. The point is to get back to the core, the essential origins of this whole thing. I have heard many advanced practitioners of Buddhism refrain from labeling themselves 'Buddhists'. When confronted, many of those often simply state that they practice the ‘Eightfold-Path’ that Lord Buddha taught. And I think this speaks to the essence of what separates practitioners from theorists and theologians. Those who seek the ‘Way’, the 'Path', of uncorrupted Buddhism embody the practice of it. They don't need to complicate it with theory, or show off with knowledge with rhetoric. Of course, one has to first establish themselves in a foundation of clear understanding under the guidance of authentic and accomplished teachers. By building a strong foundation, it prevents one from committing the greatest spiritual blunder: coming up with our own ideas of what Gautama Buddha, and all Buddhas, purely teach. By avoiding such a setback we can truly and properly come to re-discover for ourselves the Dharma and any truth about a Dhammakāya, a ’Body / Form of Dharma’, innately within.
At the end of the day, we don’t know what a fruit tastes like until we eat it. Meaning, experience it for yourself. Don't believe something just because you read about it online in an article or someone describes it to you a certain way. Go find out for yourself. Taste the fruit and enjoy the nectar.
“So you want to mediate, eh?…..Why do you want to meditate?” This was the first question I was asked by a mentor of mine. It slapped into focus that the biggest thing I needed to get clear on: Why, really, do I want to meditate? Why am I interested in meditation?
Buddhists and Yogis alike classically spend a good amount of time - especially initially - to focus on intention and motivation. Is my motivation to get more focused, to have better health, to become more successful, for clarity, for mental powers, for liberation? Is the motivation for my practice geared to increase my reputation, how people look at me, boost me sexuality, what people say about me, sense of self-worth or self-importance, etc.? These questions were and are essential to get really, very, clear about. They are mandatory to continually revisit and reestablish. Our intentions are based upon our life view (Pali diṭṭhi, Sanskrit dṛṣṭi). Take a moment to give an honest look at yourself and what motivates you.
In discussing a serious Dharma practice, one invariably runs into the Attha Loka Dhamma “Eight Saṃsāric Dharmas". It is found in the Lokavipatti Sutta, and was written by Nagarjuna in Verse 29, ‘Letters to a Friend’. They come in four pairs of opposites:
1. Hope for gain, fear of loss
2. Hope for fame, fear of insignificance
3. Hope for praise, fear of blame / rejection
4. Hope for happiness, fear of suffering / sorrow
In order for correct meditation, known in the sutras as Sammā-Samādhi, it is necessary to let go of these four pairs. A practitioner needs to let go of any attachment and aversion to any part of them; to any potential hook. This way, we won’t be corrupted or deluded by them. We won’t be controlled by them.
In taking a closer look at our life and life-goals we see that everyone is in this dilemma. We all at some point have been taken under the influence of the Eight Saṃsāric Dharmas. Seeing this commonality, the Brahmavihāras (aka Appamaññā ‘Four Immeasurables') naturally arise. We see that all the problems and issues that we deal with daily, are also around us in other peoples’ lives as well.
Once we take a step out of ourselves, our mind and heart opens. Loving-kindness is born. We wish other people to be happy. We want other people to be happy. That is mettā, the first Brahmavihāra. Next comes compassion ‘karunā’, the wish that the sufferings and problems of others will dissolve and that they will be free from them. Following this is empathetic joy ‘muditā’, where we rejoice in the goodness, accomplishments, and successes of others. Lastly comes equal equanimity ‘uppekhā’, where we accept and are unaffected by gain, loss, fame, ill-repute, praise, slander, happiness, and sorrow both for ourselves and for others. Here we regard all beings as equal, without distinctions or preferences to friends and family. All beings are included in our scope of well-wishing and regards.
This is the motivation, the base, that is traditionally engrained into practitioners from the get-go. The Brahmavihāras are the foundation. From this foundation, a good practitioner sees and is unaffected by the Eight Saṃsāric Dharmas. Once firmly established, they become the practice. Their experience of Sammā-Samādhi is tremendously reinforced and their insight penetrates easily to the Dharma without delusion; whatever vehicle of Buddhism you practice. The idea is that all the streams of the vehicles in Buddhism flow to the same ocean of full enlightenment.
It took a while until I started to touch upon the depth of this seriously awesome long-run meditation advice here. I didn’t give this answer when I was asked, I'll tell you that. I hope it helps you here to heed Socrates' words of “perfect practice makes perfect”. Getting a good foundation first, developing good habits from the start, saves so much heartache and pain. Developing unhealthy non-beneficial patterns only to then have to go back and start over again sucks. It’s one way to learn, yes, and I speak from experience. But it sucks. Focusing on the Brahmavihāras, taking equanimity and warning of the Atta Loka Dhammas as a basis for motivation in practice keeps you grounded, real, and genuine. It also just feels better. You aren’t being a dick, and you open your mind to getting out of yourself. By putting yourself into your fellow human or being’s shoes, there is extremely sturdy communal ground and vibes to get along and make the world a better place. Plus you benefit by having a badass life practice. It’s just logical in the end.
In the vast domains of the internet, the process of how we receive information is undergoing a never-before-seen revolution. Anybody can post anything. Anybody can Google, Bing, Yahoo! Search, or Wikipedia anything. When I was growing up, if I was watching Knight Rider or Dukes of Hazard and I didn’t understand a reference, I just didn’t know what they were talking about. I was in the dark. Now on my iPhone, while watching that same show again, I can look up any reference at any time. I don’t need to physically get out and open an Encyclopedia, or to make time to ask someone whom I believe might know what they are talking about.
In May, m’lady and I’s first born is due. She’s a well known yoga teacher, and I’m reflecting on the life I want to be able to present to this child - gender yet unknown to us. As a former Theravāda Bhikkhu, the practice of meditation and BuddhaDharma has been an integral part of my adult life. One of my teachers, and spiritual fathers, PhraRājāBhāvanāchārya (Luang Por Dattajeevo), once told me that there are three critical resources every child has in the formation of their character and behavior: Parents, Teachers, and Spiritual Leaders.
He went on to say that this trinity must work in unity within any community, in order for the community to fully prosper and successfully continue to usher in new generations which benefit their society. Moreover, in order for it to work, the people in this trinity need to take responsibility and be proactive; understanding that they hold a position of such great influence. Preparing to be a father, I take heed of this advice and look out to my communities to find the best resources and teachers available to expose my child to. That is, until they venture out to find their own.
Today, we live in a society where actors, actresses, professional athletes, musicians, and pop-culture icons hold incredible sway and influence over children, teens, and adults. Meditation is growing rapidly. That said, I can’t help but state that I am concerned at how meditation and BuddhaDharma is becoming presented, marketed, and sold. Traditionally, a student would spend one-on-one time with their teacher, practicing and coming back to that teacher with experiential questions. They would develop a relationship, and connection; one that may last a lifetime.
I recently read a beautiful quote from Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche dedicated to the late Chatral Sangye Rinpoche:
“And yet if I may express one thing from the little I have known of this man it is this: The BuddhaDharma has so many challenges, including all the charlatans who do outright damage to the image of the Dharma. These may be overcome by those who seem to do the right thing, who appear serene, proper, and moral, and who never upset anyone. But that often leads us into another challenge that is harder to overcome. Because in doing things correctly, properly and morally, and in bearing the burden of not upsetting people, one ends up being the victim of political correctness and becoming hypocritical.
In my limited life I have seen very few anti-hypocritical beings, and he was one of them. He meant business, there was no negotiation, and of course he never traded one single word of the dharma for money. Time and again, he refused to bow down to the mighty.
He made a lot of us hypocritical beings shudder. Just knowing he was alive and breathing…made our hearts quake…His mere presence on this earth shattered hypocrisy.”
Receiving Dharma instruction directly in the presence of such a being as Chatral Sangye Rinpoche cannot be described in words. I believe that how we receive information with such essential life topics as Dharma and meditation instruction in today’s mainstream world should be revisited.
How? I think a major contributing factor to problem is convenience. It is not convenient to leave one’s internet device, magazine, or book even to actually travel to go listen, receive, reflect, discuss, and wisely practice these subjects under the tutelage of qualified masters.
Then again, perhaps that was the whole point. BuddhaDharma was never taught for convenience. These teachings, are meant to shake up our personal paradigm in Saṃsāra. Proper practice creates an earthquake inside, showing the full-fledged, full-monty reality of the practitioner’s life and life-situation. Dharma and meditation is meant to remove ego and all the mental junk we all have inside our minds. It does this by empowering the individual with the tools and wisdom to take their lives in their own hands and realize the Truth.
Not long ago, I asked Luang Por Dattajeevo, “What is really needed to taste the fruit of Dharma within?” He replied, “ทำถูกวิธี และบำเพ็ญวิริยะ”. This means: Practice properly with consistent, continuous enthusiastic effort. By proper practice, he is referring to using the correct method received from proper instruction by someone who has fully realized Dharma themselves.
As I look out in to the global and commercial Buddhist communities, there is so much to see. So much to tap into. It can be overwhelming for people starting, or restarting, out. Taking the significance of Parents, Teachers, and Spiritual Guides into account, I find myself having to use a fair amount of honest and compassionate discernment. I hope to continue to see the importance of the human-to-human connection emphasized. I hope and want to see a my child’s teacher take extra moments with their students, to ensure they understand the material. I pray to see the parents of my child’s peers make quality, wholesome, loving time with their children and be concerned in their behavioral and character development.
There is a reason why our old school ancestors decided on a teacher-disciple model of study and practice. I believe that the principle of the model and the reason behind it, moreso than the culture and rituals around it, should be revisited. Now more than ever. Otherwise, teachings and teachers will surely be watered down and out. One of the greatest benefits to having a true teacher - an accomplished life role-model - is that they are essential for our accountability and continued development.
Making time and seeking out a true teacher, and then practicing, milking, what it is that they taught you is incredibly profound and immensely fulfilling. They become like a second Father or Mother; that close to you, that important to you. You can’t compare it to books, articles online, or articles in a magazine. It is alive. You are living it, in that moment, with all of your senses. Moments like those are precious. And those are the moments I wish my child has, when -hopefully- they come into the world and begin to make footsteps of their own in the big journey of life.
This is the original article I sent to Massage Magazine, which they told me they were going to publish in their February 2015 Issue. I put it here as a reference before I witness any editing and correction they may have done to it! I hope it is enjoyable and informative.
Recently, it came across my mind that this article could be revamped, and potentially sent to other magazines not necessarily related to physical therapies, but to the upkeeping of traditions and for the influence faith (Buddhism) has held in the traditional medical systems (Thai). I hope it is not just useful but enjoyable to read!
And here is the original version I wrote with footnotes....much longer!
Waiting to see if this article I wrote will be picked up and published. I forwarded it to a few well-established Buddhist Magazines around the USA. As it rests here for now, let me know what you think!
copyright Joshua Jayintoh 2015
First Steps of Thai:
Traditional Ethics in the Making of a Thai Massage Doctors
We have all heard of the modus operandi in the west where physicians swear upon some version of the Hippocratic Oath as the basis for offering medical assistance, as well as for ethical accountability. In the old days, a person’s ‘word’ was their bond. I feel it is safe to say that I am not the only one who has been treated by a doctor or therapist whom I thought could improve their bedside manner, not to mention pondered over whether or not they solely possessed financial motives while assisting me. As the commercial social paradigm perseveres in driving us towards its adjudged version of abundance and achievement, I see the counterweight quest for whole health is growing paramount. Whomever we consider ourselves to be, we are all susceptible to illness and death. In receiving good medicine from a good doctor, let us take a look as what traditional, moral qualifications a Thai Doctor was required to possess.
Ancient Buddhist medical practices passed down through the ages from its homeland in Northern India and migrated to other lands. One such place was Thailand. The influence of Buddhism, and thus Buddhist medical practices, on Thailand has impacted the people and land since before its recorded formation. The Thai term given to massage therapists in Thailand is หมอนวด ‘Maw Nuad’, literally translated “Doctor (of) Massage”, owing to the fact that Thais revere qualified masseurs as doctors and expect them to act as such. Traditionally, as well as in current accordance with the Thai Ministry of Public Health, นวดไทย ‘Thai Massage’ is seen as an integral sub-sect of แพทย์แผนไทยโบราณ ‘Traditional Thai Medicine’.
In the Buddhist medical tradition of old, aspiring doctors would spend upwards of seven years in training in order to become a qualified doctor of medicine. As a standard, the first few years were spent cultivating ethical behavior, until it became second-nature in their everyday life. They would not only study spiritual texts on moral conduct, such as Shantideva’s Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra, but become proficient at putting them into practice. Doctors-to-be would read through the scriptures of the Sanskrit or Pali Buddhist Canon every day. This proceeded in conjunction with putting medical manuscripts to memory; e.g. the rGyud-bzhi ‘Four Tantras’ if in the Tibetan tradition, the คัมภีร์เวชศึกษา ‘khampi-wetchasueksa’1 and แพทย์ศาสตร์สงเคราะห์ ‘phaet-saat-songkroh’ if in the Thai tradition. To help inspire, as well as remind the practitioners of their accountability to the tradition, many would receive some type of initiation upon which they would take up vows and moral practices. An example of practices would be to regularly hold and practices the following five disciplines, or training exercises, known as the pañca-sīlāni in Pali:
1. Refrain from killing any sentient being
2. Refrain from stealing
3. Refrain from sexual misconduct [e.g. adultery, those in chastity or underaged]
4. Refrain from lying [false, divisive, harsh, and gossip / idle chatter]
5. Refrain from becoming intoxicated; i.e. alcohol, drugs
As the Thai medical profession evolved surrounded by its social and political environment, what remained constant was the perfecting of the Brahmavihāras, also known as the ‘Four Immeasureables’. Masters considered the Brahmavihāras to be the pillars of one’s practice because should a practitioner genuinely follow them then they would automatically follow the rest of the established ethical code expected of Traditional Thai Doctors. A common thread in the modern Thai Massage world is the practice of Mettā-bhāvanā, the “spreading (or distribution) of loving-kindness”. This is but one quarter of the Brahmavihāras, a fact which aspiring Thai Masseurs ought to remember. The four Brahmavihāras are comprised of:
What these eight factors do is to remind us of the true intention and purpose of the medical profession: to remove the sufferings of sentient beings. If we are good therapists or doctors, practice well, and train ourselves well then people will want to come to us because we are good at what we do and we have genuine hearts with our offerings. Word- of-mouth is activated and spread, cyberneticly and physically. These eight factors are not telling us that we have to be poor or meek. In fact, traditionally it is important for the client-patient to not just offer something of value in exchange for a doctor’s aid, but to give them their full trust. Without the offering, the exchange becomes unbalanced and unfair, to both parties. The grey area of ‘what is equal exchange?’ is where the exploitations take place.
For these reasons, students are required to learn and observe a set code of conduct. The following is a translation of ten regulations from Thai to contemporary English used by the famed ‘Wat Po’ Chetupon School of Traditional Medicine in Bangkok2:
In service, Joshua Jayintoh
1 an english translation now exists of this text and is within the book: Jacobsen, N. Salguero, CP. Wells, T. Thai Herbal Medicine. Scotland: Findhorn Press, 2013. Second Edition.
2 I personally translated these ten codes while I was studying at the Chetupon School of Traditional Medicine in Bangkok.
How to Create a Conducive Atmosphere for Intelligent Introspection
One of the most celebrated parts of an intimate relationship is when someone successfully sets the mood, and can sustain it. It is an talent vastly admired, sought-after, and greatly desired; particularly by the masculine. When a lover can seamlessly build the mood for two beings to synergetically unite, it is something like the ultimate high in a romantic relationship. How can we cultivate this skill? Many boys in their search for manhood ask themselves how can they get good at setting the stage? What tips and tricks should we be courting on our path to a deep experience of interconnectedness?
An educated starting point would be figuring out that awareness is a requirement in acquiring the casanova skillset. Simply put, we need to become aware and conscious of exactly what it is that we are trying to achieve. If we don’t know what we are trying to acquire, then we are wasting our time in hopes and dreams. After knowing the ‘what’, we need to have a clear view on ‘why’ we are striving to achieve it; i.e. what motivation and intention do we have? Why?
Once we have truly observed, reflected, and come to know these two things, then the ‘how-to’ knowledge for obtaining them becomes much much clearer. For example: how to find, how to present oneself and meet, timing, how to attract, how to seduce, etc.
We ideally know what it is we want to see happen. We watch it in the movies, we hear personal accounts from those lucky ones whom have experienced it. In order to know exactly ‘what’ our partner - or other half we are attempting to court - needs, we need to be capable of putting ourselves in their shoes. It requests us to research what it is that makes them tick, and why.
I have been very fortunate to meet RJ Sadowski, also known as the Horse Whisperer. He is a master of cultivating a relationship, and teaches people how to “be”, how to co-exist, and how to achieve a communal objective beneficial to all parties involved. A great deal of the insight of how to cultivate a relationship that is written herein comes from my lessons from and exchanges with RJ. He frequently describes that in any relationship we have to understand the ‘other half’ in four fundamental ways:
1. Essential, Spiritual
Profoundly simple. Take a moment to ask yourself this: On what level do you first approach your relationships? Is it first from looking into their essential or spiritual nature? Or does the motivation begin with a focus on the physical aspect and any attraction therein? Throughout the course of the relationship are you being ‘mental’? ‘Emotional’? If there are issues in a relationship, then on which one, or more, of these four levels are we basing our mental, verbal, and bodily actions? Which level is acting up and asking for acknowledgement? These are big, essential questions.
RJ teaches that when you approach a sentient being, not just a horse, we frequently get caught up in the physical first. And the relationship starts from there. When problems arise, often enough we do not understand why and cannot solve the issue from its source. In order to have a true co-existence, the only way to sustain it is to first look at the other’s essential or spiritual nature. Then, progressively move on to see how their essential nature affects their mental state, and how that in turn influences their emotions. Only then should we move towards establishing a physical - or space oriented - relationship with that being. Otherwise you’ll just keep on being the person singing Baby Come Back.
Spiritual relationship is far more precious than physical.
Physical relationship divorced from spiritual is body without soul.
Great teachers say that the acquisition of higher knowledge comes from knowing how to ask the right questions. Mentors show us how to formulate them. We can come up with so many answers from clear reflection on the previous questions. Then, eventually, they lead to another question: how can I come to understand the underlying principles that govern how I approach relationships? How can I turn these principles into a part of my habitual behavior, so that I naturally become them?
Going back to the ‘what’, it is a sound idea to clarify the obvious. What is a relationship? Here is a definition from our ‘Guru Google’:
“the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.”
So the idea here, now, is that I want to establish a connection. I want to drawl interest to ensnare the intrigue and attention of my eye’s apple. Take a moment to look at that. What kind of connections are you creating? On what level? What type of spiritual, mental, emotion, and physical atmosphere is created when you are striving to achieve a connection? Is there just one, i.e. sole physical attraction, or is it multi-layered? And then that brings, yes, another question.
If something is multi-layered, does it have depth? What a redundant question! Of course it has depth. So what do you think makes a relationship last and keep its spark? Shallowness, or depth? That, in itself, could solve most common problems in building and maintaining relationships.
RJ further elaborates that a within a relationship there are two things:
Trust also touches upon issues of safety. If I trust someone, I feel safe and comfortable with them. Ideally, we want to have both of these in balanced proportions. Often enough, these two components are out of balance. If I am approaching a relationship - no matter what stage it may be in - with an objective already in mind, I should look at what that is doing to the other person, or people, involved. How is it essentially, mentally, emotionally, and physically effecting them?
We’ve see a crude example of a ‘man with an objective’ before. A neanderthal advances on a woman, “You. Me. Sexy-time. Now.” Many times we laugh at hearing such a statement, either because of its ridiculousness or because actually somewhere deep down we wish it was that easy and clearcut. It absolutely can be, and a growing populace is actually enforcing that mentality. That is choice. Freedom of choice, and every choice has a physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual repercussion. Problems arise when we do not see this for ourselves, or do not take responsibility for our actions. No judgements, simple facts.
Through stepping back and looking at any style of interaction, we can separate, quantify, and qualify what sort of respect, trust, and connection is taking place in the exchange. In stepping back we can create the opportunity to see ‘how’ we communicate with one another. Then we can discern if that exchange is serving the relationship, or taking away from it.
Often enough, there is a hidden voice of, “Me! I want this and I am going to ‘do’ this to you.” There is an imposition, a ‘doing to’, an objective. With this cloud in the forefront, there is no space to simply “be” with someone. In order to observe and learn someone’s behavior, we have to know how to “be” with them. RJ showed this to me through the vehicle of live horses, which are herd animals. Doing something, anything, to one horse thus automatically effects the whole herd. It is where I got to see how my relationships effect those around me, and vice versa. We have to learn how to put our own stuff aside, separate out our own incentives and the enforcing of our demands - both overt and even deep down within our psyche - so that these things severely step back from influencing our interactions. That is how I was taught to “be” with someone.
How many stereotypes and cases are there in men imposing their desires - subtly and or coarsely - on a woman? And how many times do you hear about women (or those playing a socially dubbed feminine role in the relationship) expressing the wish that their counterparts - “masculine” - would honor and respect their space, body, emotions, mentality, and or deeper self?
This isn’t rocket science. This is learning how to communicate effectively, so both parties in a relationship feel respected, trusted, and honored on all levels of their being. To me, there is a cultured classiness that goes into being a ‘gentleman’. I think that every true gentle-man is someone who is amorously and gallantly attentive to his partner. Being attentive and present is said to be the key to good communication.
Communication is described in Wikipedia as:
“Communication (from Latin commūnicāre, meaning "to share") is the activity of conveying information through the exchange of thoughts, ideas, messages, or information, as by speech, visuals, signals, writing, or behavior. It is the meaningful exchange of information between two or more living creatures.”
For us humans, it is the equal sharing and comprehension of an idea or concept between two people. If there is a miscommunication, somewhere along the line, the idea or concept shared between the parties involved has developed incongruity. If there is a dissonance observed on either side, that needs to be checked out asap. And should the need arise to take time to clarify the situation, regardless of whether or not the people involved want to do it or not, it is imperative to do so. In order for them to get back on track to understanding what is the mutual idea or concept at hand, and each person’s understanding of it, they need to take the time to communicate. Some references on what to clarify comprise of: our physical needs, emotions, mentality and perspective, and spiritual callings or essential nature.
Assumptions are the termites of relationships.
So how does all this tie into building a conducive atmosphere for intelligent introspection? In order to holistically comprehend and integrate all of the tips we have so far discussed, as well as their principles, we have to cover them from two viewpoints:
For outrospection, it means we have to observe, intently and consciously, the other person, people, or sentient being. To observe them without judgement, and with an intention to understand and connect with them on multiple layers. We need to come to a clear understanding of ‘what’ makes them them, and why. This is the art. It does have science to it - biology, sound-wave vibrations, chemistry, physics, wavelengths - but putting them all together with class and suave, is art. And that is what makes it fun. Yet, there is something vital to take into consideration when only focusing on outrospection. How do we clean the lens we use to observe through? If my lens is dusted with jealousy, greed, idolization, adoration, fantasy, frustration, you-name-it, then is that affecting the quality of my observations?
We come to the crux of the issue. What is a time-honored and proven way to cultivate skills of keen observation and focused awareness? Yes, introspection. Intro referring to inside; -spection, to looking at, sight and vision. In-sight. So, what are we observing? What are we trying to relate to and establish a connection with?
Introspection is the forerunner of true meditation. Through introspective meditation, we train in combining the body and mind. And that is considered the true affair, romance, and relationship. Why? Through meditation, we are observing the connection between body and mind. We are beholding who we are; perceiving and discerning the connections between the awareness and the thoughts, the thoughts and the emotions, the emotions and the inner atmosphere, and how that influences our actions. Since our actions make us who we are, by properly meditating we develop an understanding of how to have a deeper relationship with ourselves. If we can do it with ourselves - commonly referred to by the wise as the most difficult thing in the world to do - then we can successfully and wholly develop a relationship with someone else. When we already know who we are, what makes us us and we are at peace and happiness with that, then no one can take that away from us.
I don’t need anyone to rectify my existence.
The most profound relationship we will ever have,
is the one with ourselves.
That victory is ours. More importantly, we are no longer dependent on happiness and fulfillment from an outside source. Then, eventually and as we practice further, the walls melt and there is no separation between the inside and outside. There just is. But first step’s first.
The body and mind are separate yet somehow inter-dependent. They are connected. Properly practicing meditation exposes the true nature of this dynamic relationship, and how we as humans have the unique and auspicious opportunity to discover it for ourselves. Personally, that is one of the most beautiful benefits of meditation. We get to learn about and come to terms with who we are, who we really are, and what is the true nature of body and mind. What could be more beneficial that that? What could be more essential than that?
The Gautama Buddha is quoted for saying:
manasa ce pasannena
bhasati va karoti va
tato nam sukha manveti
All things have mind as their forerunner [basis]; they have mind as their chief; they are mind-made. Thus, if one speaks or acts with a pure mind, happiness (sukha) follows him like a shadow that never leaves him.
-Dhammapada Verse 2
What this means is that the origin of all things, let alone relationships, stem from the mind. Should that be the case, then understanding ‘mind’ would be a crucial part of our life and reality. And should we want to prove or disprove this, then the way to do that is through proper meditation.
Once we come to understand and experience this inner connection, we can only then truly understand the ‘blue-prints’ and DNA that compose healthy and powerful relationships, either romantic or otherwise. We can then begin to see the interweaving patterns and matrix behind our social paradigms and systems. Then we see how that influences the creation of cultures, races, and worlds.
“No message could have been any clearer.
If you wanna make the world a better place,
you take a look at yourself,
and make that change.
I’m starting with the man in the mirror.”
It all comes back down and in, to introspection. By sparking intrigue and interest amongst the body and mind, eventually they meet and connect. In the beginning, the goal is to coerce the ‘awareness’ into one place by giving attention to the atmosphere around it. In order to calm the mind and nestle it down in repose with a continuing stillness in one place, then one way to achieve that is to first give some attention to the mood you are in. Why are your favorite places your favorite places? Is it the ‘vibes’ of the place? People create vibes. And the state of mind - including mood, emotions, etc. - that people are in is what creates the vibes.
Calming down to a gentle and steady internal focus causes the components - khandas - of the mind, citta, to enter a more malleable state. When something is more malleable it is easier to work with. This is a very important stage, as it is a precursor to samadhi.
This leads to the big question of our interior design: what atmospheric elements are we developing for an inner environment conducive to harboring samadhi? Put another way: what tools are we using to coerce the mind into settling down and nestling inside the body?
The answer is in another question. And in order to understand the depth of what goes into this question, it required the preface that is everything aforementioned. The question is: what kind of atmosphere and mood would you build for your loved one? Why not apply that to yourself, to your meditation practice. Here is a list, taught by many meditation masters in Asia (Luang Por Dhammajayo being one of them), as the atmosphere established when a healthy relationship is progressing between the body and mind for meditation:
-Equanimity, Non-reactiveness, Non-responsiveness
-Letting Go / Surrendering
-Enjoying the process, Embracing the practice
Be your own artist, your own chef. Test and discover ways to combine and portion out these elements so that they consistently give the result of spontaneous ‘Stopping Still’. There are two types of stopping still: forced and allowed. Forcing a stopping of the mind is something frequently asked on how to avoid, as it is unstable, and unpleasant. To allow the mind to enter stillness on its own, we simply empower the causes that automatically generate the condition of stillness, and sit back to watch the process unravel before our awareness’ eye.
Why is there all this talk about stopping still in meditation? Once we learn how to stop still, we can fully observe. When we are still, there are no distractions directing our attention somewhere else and we can thus fully ‘be’ there; we can be fully-present. By practicing on ourselves first, we develop the toolkit to then ‘be’ with any other sentient being. To bring in a bit of terminology, training in observation and stillness leads to what is referred to in Pali as Ekagattā, “concentration” or “one-pointedness”. Ekagattā is essential for meditation. Without it, there is no meditation. There is no jhāna, no samatha, no vipassanā. The state of concentration is how we truly connect, how we truly become aware - cultivate sati. Properly formatting and setting the building blocks of our inner atmosphere is how we intelligently design our life’s outcomes and value. Relationships being an experience along the way. See the connections. Know the process. Be your own master and mold your own destiny.
Atta hi attano natho
ko hi natho paro siya
attana hi sudantena
natham labhati dullabham
In service, Joshua Jayintoh
What to do when they are approaching
While practicing, there are a few obstacles that you might encounter. Traditionally there are five main obstacles - Pali: pañca nīvaraṇāni - that most people who begin to learn how to “stop their mind still” come across at some point along the way. They include:
1. Wanting, Desire - kāmacchanda
2. Irritation, Frustration - byāpāda
3. Laziness, Sluggishness - thīna-middha
4. Distraction, Worry, Restlessness - uddhacca-kukkucca
5. Skepticism, Doubt - vicikicchā
So how to fix these? Simple, just don't take heed of them and continuing allowing the mind to stop still. Don’t engage in letting them bother you.
Yeah. Right. So, for those who need a bit more explanation check this out:
1. Perhaps you might desire to think about this or that. You might feel a pull that you have to do something or think that something needs to be done, especially before you think you will forget it. Practice letting go and knowing that meditating “right now” is the current priority. There is a time and a place for everything. Stick it out for now. Let it go! Things will come up on their own, by themselves.
In meditation, we are finding things that already exist within us, we just need to create the right atmosphere and condition so that they will be revealed and arise by themselves. The more we still the mind in a well-rounded way with relaxation, delicateness, softness, and calmness, the faster we get results. Desire, pushing, trying to create, searching for, and grasping after - etc. - are the opposite of stillness. They counteract stillness. People who have already had some inner experience should bear this in mind. Make sure that you do not desire any experience, at all whatsoever. If you have had an experience and want to create it again, or go about your session searching for it, chances are you'll end up disappointed. Cut that habit at the root. "Zen mind. Beginner's mind." Every session is a new session. Simply be content and satisfied with where you are at right now, and what you have right now. Concerning inner experience, wanting to experience something will only take us farther away from what it is that we want. Remember the technique, not the result. Like many other things, they come when we least expect them.
2. At times you might find yourself frustrated or irritated in meditation. “Had a bad day, things just aren’t going right, and meditation is not helping!” Sometimes all that something needs is just a little time to process. Be compassionate and content with yourself and your current state. Go in deeper inside that contentment and satisfaction along with the current effort that you are displaying. Enjoy the meditation; use it as an escape from the outer world as well as for embarking on a progressive development of the inner environment. Also, don’t try to force yourself through the meditation. If you are really heating up, go take a little break, stretch it out, get a cup of water, or whatever else suits you. Then what? Try again. Remember to not push too hard, you don’t want to pop. To be natural, you don't need to try to be natural. Just let 'natural' do its thing. "Let it be." Meditate naturally. Know that no matter what is happening outside or inside, no matter how many disturbances you may have, the real peace and stillness lies beyond that - and beyond the corporeal senses - deeper down in the silence within.
3. Sometimes you just may feel too lazy and without energy to meditate. Try to make meditation the easiest part of your day. When you sit down to close your eyes, make it easy and simple. Refrain from rushing anything with meditation; take it step by step, and enjoy it. Satisfaction is a key to persistence, and persistence is the key to continuity. Simply make it easy, and smile while you are meditating. There's nothing to lose by trying; there is everything to gain. Not only that, if you really make it easy and learn to let go while following the steps, you will notice just how much more energy you have, and that will give you a lot of encouragement.
4. You may find yourself - more often than you'd like - completely distracted and seemingly immersed within a stream of continuous thought. Just let the river flow, see that you are getting caught up in it, and gently remove yourself from it. Suppress any urge to yank yourself out. There's no need to force anything. In fact, that would be counter-productive. Know that your purpose is to still the mind with softness and gentleness. That is the opposite of pushing, pulling, pressing, controlling, driving, and forcing anything to happen. And at the same time avoid pushing them away. Aversion and grasping are opposite sides of the same coin. Utilize ubbekha, meaning equanimity, with practical application as 'non-reactiveness', 'non-responsiveness', or 'disinterest' in the thought clouds and moods that temporarily pass through your awareness. We can choose what we give attention to.
5. It is possible that you might also find yourself worrying about your development. “Why haven’t I improved…This isn’t working…Where is it? Where is my mind?...Am I doing this right?.....etc.” Let it go. Just by putting the effort into the practice, you are guaranteeing yourself success. You might as well “put it in writing”. It is accumulative A teacher of mine says that meditation is like watering a tree. The more you water the tree the more you contribute to the tree's growth. So every bit counts, even if you may not immediately notice it. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Find your pace, and go with the flow.
The main point is to be content, satisfied with the moment, still, soft, caressing, delicate, and stable within. Also, a good tip for those of us whom tend to press and try to control is to let go of using the eyes to see within and refrain from trying to think it out with the brain or thought-processing skills. Feel from the inside-out. Open yourself up and let go of any issues arising from within, surrender to yourself. Forgo being attached to them, as well as attempting to avert them. Know that your point in sitting down is to find some inner peace and relaxation, keep it that simple. Rest the mind within the body just as you would place a leaf on a table and leave it be. It will stay still by itself if you leave it alone. Yet, if you were to turn on a fan, or open the window, the leaf will fly all over the place. Keep it simple. Learn how to build the mood and atmosphere conducive to your own mind nestling into stillness within. Everyone is different, so find your own way. Be the scientist and experiment with your mind. If you find yourself slipping or getting too distracted then slightly open the eyes, and go back to the beginning. It's never too late or early to start over. Socrates is quoted for saying, "Perfect practice makes perfect." Build good meditation habits. Do the right method, even if it feels unnatural or unusual at first. Building a firm foundation is essential. Please do not overlook it. Keep up the motivation and consistency.
As was said before, just by putting the effort into practice you are guaranteeing yourself success; you might as well “put it in writing". Stick with your routine, and don’t make it difficult. Make it simple, easy, and enjoyable. You will know you are on the right path when you have a combination of the follow indicators:
3. Refreshed-ness and inner cleanliness
4. "This is getting easier!"
5. Increasing stillness and concentration
You may also have feelings of emptiness or hollowness with transparency, softness, gentleness, looseness, delicateness, stability, contentment, translucency, equanimity, a sense of release, and an open and free feeling around you. There are a lot of side-effects, too many to briefly mention here. Also, cease and desist from being too critical and analytical. Feeding a cynic feeds negativity. “Just stay still!” said Mom. It took Thomas Edison over 1,000 times to make the light bulb. He eventually found the way because he never ever gave up. And we can be sure that he had a few doubts along the way.
Mr. Edison started from scratch. We already have the methodology. All you need to do is to just stick to it, and you will get the results. You have the match box and the sticks. It is up to you to ignite the fire within yourself for yourself, and only you can do that. Over time and practice, you will learn how to put the pieces together in the way that suits you best, and so that it always bears fruit. Remember not to rush anything, and enjoy the process. Stay cool. Keep it simple. Keep it real.
In service, Joshua Jayintoh
Why, Why, Why?
Suppose that I was to take a clear container and scoop up some water, including a bit of muddy sediment, from a lake. The water is a bit murky because the sediment has been mixed with the water and it is still in motion. If someone was to ask me if there is anything inside the water, would I be able to tell? I suppose I might fire out a few educated guesses, aside from water and dirt. Maybe there is a piece of a tire somewhere in there, maybe a rock, a piece of metal, or maybe even a fish. In point of fact I would have to wait for the sediment and motion in the container to settle down before I could really see, and then know, what is inside.
Meditation is a colossal topic. There are many traditions that utilize meditation. Buddhism is one of them. His Holiness The Dalai Lama is frequently quoted for defining Buddhism as "the science of the mind". Anyone who does any research on Buddhism reads about a man named Siddhartha Gautama who realized something very profound. You read about a man whom realized who, what, and where he is; he realized himself, his intrinsic inner nature - often referred to as Dharma- and the situation of life in the universe. This did not happen because of reading something somewhere in a book, or hearing some wise-man in India talk about it. He discovered, uncovered, these universal facts of life because he meditated. He meditated using his body and mind, and through his own efforts discovered Dharma. What is more, He taught others how to do the same, as we all have the same nature - that same Dharma - within. So if meditating involves mind, whatever that may mean to you, let's talk about mind.
The Gautama Buddha taught that there are 5 khandhas or aggregates that compose the human organism. They include:
1. body / form - all that is composed with the 4 main elements in space - (rūpa)
2. sensations - of like, dislike, neutral - (vedanā)
3. perception / memory (sañña)
4. mental formations - thinking, emotions - (saṅkhāra)
5. consciousness / knowing (viññāna)
In laymen's terms, 1 - 5 = Body + Mind. The last four (2 - 5) refer to the functions of the mind and together they make up citta, mind. Easily put, wherever your attention is, is where your mind is. So samadhi - a refined and ecstatic state of concentration naturally produced when properly meditating - happens when all five of these aggregates return from being distracted and dispersed from one another and unite back together as one in a single location. Afterwards, one develops their view - understand, outlook of life - based on clearly seeing and then knowing (ñāṇa-dassana) the true nature of these phenomena.
Habits are repetitive actions of body, speech, and mind. Author Dame Agatha Christie affirmed, "Curious things, habits. People themselves never knew they had them." Because our minds are used to, familiar with, activity and movement we don’t always see the deeper and more subtle parts of what is going on inside of “us”. We've developed the habit of mentally engaging in the waves of the mind, the pull and push here and there, while trying to get things done and or even organize it all at the same time. When we attach an identification to the mental activity, "this is 'me' thinking this thought", as well as losing ourselves and control within that wave or movement, we run the risk of developing stress, anxiety, pressure, loss of memory, confusion, fear, distractions, inability to concentrate for long periods of time, in-productivity, loss of self esteem or position, irritation, misunderstanding, etc. The plethora in the list of potential daily sufferings goes on and on. Perhaps this is a little disturbing when we first think about it. It goes deep into the rabbit hole. So how do we stop the troubles at the roots, instead of slapping bandaids - or popping pills - over the problems?
Well that’s just it; that is where disciplining the mind using meditation as 'weight-training' gives great benefit. By learning how to bring the mind to stillness, we grasp how to tame the mind and put it in a better working condition. That is how meditation develops efficiency and productivity. It is also how we subdue the mental and emotional tempests that disturb and influence our daily life. We give time to let the sediment - content - in our mind, in who we are, settle down. Then, we will see and know what’s going on therein. That is the purpose of Buddhist meditation. It is learning how to look within. Through repetitive practice, we learn about the process behind developing better habits. We learn about what is influencing us to choose what we do. And then we can make better, more conscious decisions. We can choose to build habits leading to a successful, informed, and fulfilling life. Or, we can choose not to. So you can then see why anyone from any religion can meditate while guiltlessly maintaining themselves to be upholders of their perspective faith.
Sometimes the biggest problems have the simplest solutions. For those who just want to truly relax, to let go and also do something productive in their own development as a human being with values, meditation provides that option. It has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, increase alertness, decision-making, organization, awareness, and energy. Many meditators have more energy than they know what to do with. All the previous energy used in trying to fight the stress, irritation, and the rest is now excess for use at their disposal.
For those on the spiritual journey, meditation gives access to the deepest parts of ourselves and our place in the universe around us. Meditation is how we really to get to know ourselves. We learn who we really are, of both the light and the shadows, and what we are doing here in this thing we call 'life'. Sometimes the 'good work' can appear as dirty work. Trekking through the dredges of the shadows within may take an attitude adjustment.
Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse says in his book Not For Happiness that, "Buddhist practices are techniques we use to tackle our habitual self-cherishing. Each one is designed to attack individual habits until the compulsion to cling to 'self' is entirely eradicated....So if you are only concerned about feeling good, you are far better off having a full body massage or listening to some uplifting life-affirming music than receiving dharma teachings, which are definitely not designed to cheer you up." That may at first sound a tad pessimistic. He is straight-forwardly making a point. There are things we have to face about life, and it is best to get a grip on the reality of our situation, and where we are at in our lives, rather than remain living in an idealized fantasy. When we know more about ourselves and our situation, then confidence automatically manifests. Moreover, we come to have purpose. And when we meditate properly, we find a unique assurance along our life path. Paulo Coelho refers to it like this, "The warrior who trusts his path doesn't need to prove the other is wrong." Meditation leads way to complete understanding and the highest of happiness; what Gautama Buddha referred to as Nirvana. That being a place and state literally meaning 'blown out', or 'extinguished', and referring to a mode of being where the fires of desire, aversion, anger, and delusion have been doused and eradicated.
"Nibbanam paramam sukham", "Nirvana is the highest bliss".
- Dhammapada 203
No matter how delicious we can try to make meditation sound in order to tempt someone into meditating, it is a fruit that is meant to be eaten and not just described. In the end, it is not for anyone else but you yourself. Meditation removes the blindfold, the darkness that covers inner and absolute truth. It generates the inner light that provides vision to see just what is really happening both inside us, as well as the resulting world around us. And I think that, in itself, speaks enough for itself.
Thanks to these website for the pics: