Buddhism - Beliefs and Teachings on the Mind, Personal Relationships,
Meditation and the Spiritual Path.
The nature of the mind
'...The mind is neither physical, nor a by-product of purely physical processes, but a formless continuum that is a separate entity from the body. When the body disintegrates at death, the mind does not cease. Although our superficial conscious mind ceases, it does so by dissolving into a deeper level of consciousness, called 'the very subtle mind'. The continuum of our very subtle mind has no beginning and no end...'
'...In Buddhism, states of mind that are conducive to peace and happiness are called `virtuous minds', whereas those that disturb our peace and cause us suffering are called `delusions'. We have many different types of delusion, such as desirous attachment, anger, jealousy, pride, miserliness, and ignorance. These are known as `inner enemies' because they are continually destroying our happiness from within. Their only function is to cause us harm...'
'...Unfortunately we have become very skilled in recognizing the faults of others, and we devote a great deal of mental energy to listing them, analyzing them, and even meditating on them! With this critical attitude, if we disagree with our partner or colleagues about something, instead of trying to understand their point of view we repeatedly think of many reasons why we are right and they are wrong. By focusing exclusively on their faults and limitations we become angry and resentful, and rather than cherishing them we develop the wish to harm or discredit them. In this way small disagreements can easily turn into conflicts that simmer for months...'
Break up of relationships
'...We could change our home or our partner countless times, but until we change our restless, discontented mind we shall never find true happiness...'
Compassion versus attachment
'...Sometimes out of selfish intention we can wish for another person to be free from their suffering; this is quite common in relationships that are based principally on attachment. If our friend is ill or depressed, for example, we may wish him to recover quickly so that we can enjoy his company again; but this wish is basically self-centred and is not true compassion. True compassion is necessarily based on cherishing others...'
Anger management in relationships
'Anger is particularly destructive in relationships. When we live in close contact with someone, our personalities, priorities, interests, and ways of doing things frequently clash. Since we spend so much time together, and since we know the other person's shortcomings so well, it is very easy for us to become critical and short-tempered with our partner and to blame him or her for making our life uncomfortable. Unless we make a continuous effort to deal with this anger as it arises, our relationship will suffer. A couple may genuinely love one another, but if they frequently get angry with each other the times when they are happy together will become fewer and further between. Eventually there will come a point when before they have recovered from one row the next has already begun. Like a flower choked by weeds, love cannot survive in such circumstances.'
Attachment and separation
'...if we get what we want, such as a new possession or a new partner, we become excited and cling to them tightly. However, since we cannot have everything we want, and since we will inevitably be separated from the friends and possessions we currently enjoy, this mental stickiness, or attachment, serves only to cause us pain. On the other hand, if we do not get what we want, or if we lose something that we like, we become despondent or irritated. Such fluctuations of mood arise because we are too closely involved in the external situation....By training in meditation, we create an inner space and clarity that enables us to control our mind regardless of the external circumstances...'
Compassion for animals
'.....We can also consider the plight of countless animals who experience extremes of heat and cold, and suffer great hunger and thirst. Every day, all around us, we can see the suffering of animals. Animals in the wild are in almost constant fear of being prey to others, and indeed many of them are eaten alive by predators. Just think of the terror and pain a field mouse experiences when caught and ripped to shreds by a hawk! Countless animals are kept by humans for labour, food, or entertainment, and often live in disgusting conditions until they are slaughtered, butchered, and packaged for human consumption...'
Relief of stress and tension
'....So much of the stress and tension we normally experience comes from our mind, and many of the problems we experience, including ill health, are caused or aggravated by this stress. Just by doing breathing meditation for ten or fifteen minutes each day, we will be able to reduce this stress...'
Overview of meditation
Why do we need to study and meditate? What is meditation? How do we meditate? What is the object of meditation? What is Lamrim? What is a realization?
What is Tantra? What is a retreat?
Analytical and placement meditation
'....There are two types of meditation: analytical meditation and placement meditation. When we contemplate the meaning of a Dharma instruction that we have heard or read we are doing analytical meditation. By deeply contemplating the instruction, eventually we reach a conclusion or cause a specific virtuous state of mind to arise. This is the object of placement meditation. Having found our object through analytical meditation, we then concentrate on it single-pointedly for as long as possible to become deeply acquainted with it. This single-pointed concentration is placement meditation...'
Relaxed and steady effort
'...Since most of the problems we experience when we are new to meditation come from overstraining at placement meditation, it is important to be moderate and avoid becoming tense from exerting too much pressure. The effort we apply should be relaxed and steady, and whenever we become tired we should rest...'
Meditation and time management
'...We are often so busy we feel there is no time to stop and meditate! But meditation actually gives you more time by making your mind calmer and more focused...'
Combining visualization with breathing meditation
'....As we breathe out we imagine that we are breathing away all disturbing thoughts and distractions in the form of black smoke that vanishes in space. As we breathe in we imagine that we are breathing in all the blessings and inspiration of the holy beings in the form of white light that enters our body and absorbs into our heart. We maintain this visualization single-pointedly with each inhalation and exhalation for twenty-one rounds, or until our mind has become peaceful and alert. If we concentrate on our breathing in this way, negative thoughts and distractions will temporarily disappear because we cannot concentrate on more than one object at a time. At the conclusion of our breathing meditation we should think `Now I have received the blessings and inspiration of all the holy beings.' At this stage our mind is like a clean white cloth which we can now colour with a virtuous motivation such as compassion or bodhichitta..''
Junk thoughts arising during meditation
'....At first, our mind will be very busy, and we might even feel that the meditation is making our mind busier; but in reality we are just becoming more aware of how busy our mind actually is... '
Objects of meditation
'....There are many different virtuous objects of meditation, but the most meaningful the objects of the twenty-one meditations, from meditation on relying upon a Spiritual Guide to meditation on emptiness, the ultimate nature of phenomena....
Buddhist beliefs and the spiritual path
'...The path to enlightenment is really very simple - all we need to do is stop cherishing ourself and learn to cherish others. All other spiritual realizations will naturally follow from this..'
Stages of the path
'...The stages of the path to enlightenment, or Lamrim in Tibetan, is a special set of instructions that includes all the essential teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni, arranged in such a way that all his Hinayana and Mahayana teachings can be put into practice in a single meditation session...'
Hinayana and Mahayana paths
'...These teachings which include the Sutra of the Four Noble Truths and other discourses, are the principal source of the Hinayana, or Lesser Vehicle, of Buddhism. Later, Buddha taught the second and third Wheels of Dharma, which include the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras and the Sutra Discriminating the Intention respectively. These teachings are the source of the Mahayana, or Great Vehicle, of Buddhism. In the Hinayana teachings Buddha explains how to attain liberation from suffering for oneself alone, and in the Mahayana teachings he explains how to attain full enlightenment, or Buddhahood, for the sake of others. Both traditions flourished in Asia, at first in India and then gradually in other surrounding countries, including Tibet. Now they are also beginning to flourish in the West....'
Buddha's teachings are transcultural
' ..He [Buddha] taught methods for gradually overcoming our negative minds such as anger, jealousy and ignorance, and developing our positive minds such as love, compassion and wisdom..... These methods work for anyone, in any country, in any age..'
'...Emptiness is not easy to understand, but it is extremely important that we make the effort. Ultimately our efforts will be rewarded by the permanent cessation of all suffering and the everlasting bliss of full enlightenment...'
84000 gateways to the Buddhadharma
'...Buddhism, or Buddhadharma, is Buddha's teachings and the inner experiences or realizations of these teachings. Buddha gave eighty-four thousand teachings. All these teachings and the inner realizations of them constitute Buddhism...'
If we regard Buddhism as a combination of a philosophy, psychology and religion, then how much mileage can we get from the first two aspects before we have to start invoking religious faith?