Monday, November 27, 2006

Buddhism

Buddhism (also known as Buddha Dharma, Pali: बुद्ध धम्म, "the teachings of the awakened one") is a dharmic, non-theistic religion, a way of life, a practical philosophy, and a life-enhancing system of applied psychology. Buddhism focuses on the teachings of Gautama Buddha (Pali: गौतम बुद्ध), hereinafter referred to as "the Buddha", who was born in Kapilavastu in what is now Nepal around the fifth century BCE[1]. Buddhism spread throughout the Indian subcontinent in the five centuries following the Buddha's passing, and thence into Central, Southeast, and East Asia over the next two millennia.

Today, Buddhism is divided primarily into three traditions:

Theravada (Sanskrit: स्थविरवाद Sthaviravāda);
Mahayana (Sanskrit: महायान Mahāyāna);
Vajrayana, which developed from, and is sometimes still classified with, Mahayana.
Theravada is still practiced in certain parts of South Asia (mostly Sri Lanka) and Southeast Asia; Mahayana is practiced predominantly in East Asia; and the esoteric Vajrayana is followed in Tibet and Mongolia. The earlier non-Theravada Hinayana schools of thought that stemmed from India largely died out a millennium ago.

Buddhism continues to attract followers worldwide and is considered a major world religion. According to one source ([3]), "World estimates for Buddhists vary between 230 and 500 million, with most around 350 million." However, estimates are uncertain for several countries. Buddhism is the fifth-largest religion in the world behind Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and traditional Chinese religion, respectively.[2] The monks' order Sangha, which began during the lifetime of the Buddha in India, is amongst the oldest organizations on earth.

When used in a generic sense, a buddha is generally considered to be a person who discovers the true nature of reality through years of spiritual cultivation, investigation of the various religious practices of his time, and meditation. This transformational discovery is called bodhi (literally, "awakening" — more commonly called "enlightenment").

Any person who has awakened from the "sleep of ignorance" by directly realizing the true nature of reality is called a buddha. The Buddha is said to have been only the latest of many of these; there were other buddhas before him and there will be others in the future. According to the Buddha, any person can follow his example and become enlightened through the study of his words ("Dharma") and putting them into practice, by leading a virtuous, moral life, and purifying the mind.

The aim of Buddhist practice is to put an end to the sorrow (dukkha, Sanskrit/Pali: दुक्ख) of existence. In the words of the Buddha: "I teach one thing and one thing only: suffering and the end of suffering". To achieve this state of the end of suffering (Nirvana or Nirodha), adherents train and purify the mind by following the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, eventually arriving at an understanding of the true nature of all things. In this way all ignorance and unhappiness ends, and liberation is attained.

Buddhist teaching encourages individuals to practice and verify the Buddha's teachings based on their own personal experience, and also after consulting with 'the wise'. If they find the teachings are valid (leading to more happiness and less suffering), they can apply these teachings in a practical form into their daily life if they so wish.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Sadhana

A Sadhana is a ritualistic meditation practice from Hindu and Buddhist spiritual traditions which is followed in order to achieve a form of spiritual purification or enlightenment. The word is also used in the same connection within Sikhism.

The Path


The term sadhana means spiritual exertion towards an intended goal. A person undertaking such a practice is known as a Sadhu or a Sadhaka . The goal of sadhana is to attain some level of spiritual realization, which can be either enlightenment, pure love of God (prema), liberation (moksha) from the cycle of birth and death (Samsara), or a particular goal such as the blessings of a deity as in the Bhakti traditions. Sadhana can involve meditation, chanting of mantras (sometimes with the help of a japa mala), puja to a deity, and in rare cases mortification of the flesh or unorthodox practices such as performing one's particular sadhana on a cremation ground. Each type of Yoga or Buddhist tradition entails its own type of sadhana.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

THE AIM

Dispassion and firmness in aim strengthen the will so much that nothing can obstruct. In aging, forgetfulness, loss of memory, inability to concentrate may develop, but due to the spiritual practice in mature age, samskaras are already formed. Those samskaras still work in a subtle level.

If the aim is firm, dispassion to the world will develop. But some people become more attached, greedy and discontented. It depends on each person's samskara.

Could you talk about the aging process in relation to sadhana?

Aging is only for the body. If the mind is totally fixed in Aim, then body automatically remains behind. Yoga sadhana is not physical exercises. In the beginning the body is used in practicing asana, pranayama, pratyahara, etc. and later when the Aim becomes stable, only the mind proceeds forward.

Could you talk about the difference between will power and aim?

Will power is in the buddhi. Aim is in the ego. “I will do it.” But the ego and Buddhi always work together because ego is deeply rooted in Buddhi.

Mind is also part of the body and with aging loses some of its energy and ability to focus. So the aim is not as strong as the body declines.

Did Ramana Maharshi leave his Aim due to his terrible sickness? There was a saint named Hari Dass Yaman. He was a Muslim but he became a vairagyi monk. He lived in a cave and his practice was japa, non-stop, night and day. He got old, then very old, then sickness. But his aim, to do a certain number of japa before eating food, was never changed. He never stopped his japa yoga until his last breath.

Is there a natural evolution toward the quieting of the mind? As we age, we naturally begin to limit stimulation, food became simpler, social relationships became simpler because we have less energy to deal with it.

Physical limitation is one thing; firm aim is different. In old age, all don't go to the same mental states. Some become very angry, disappointed and always try to upset others by their needs and demands, and remain discontented. Physical limitations do not limit the desire for worldly objects. Only rare people develop dispassion when they get old.

How do we develop the great patience that's required of a yogi in non- achievement of a yogic state, in order to keep faith in the aim?

People easily drop out from small setbacks. Firmness of aim automatically brings faith. Without faith, the aim can't be stable.

I find myself caught in the world of duality, where the need for establishing some security in the world is a distraction from my spiritual goals.

This is not a problem if we understand our aim and our life in the world honestly. When we mix them, then we blame the world for obstructing our spiritual life. Lahiri Mahasaya was a yogi, a householder, who had a job in the military. He had children, wife, parents, and a large family to support. How did he do? He had a spiritual discipline. Within that discipline he included his family responsibility. What do others do? They have no discipline so they work to support their self-interest (which includes family) and live a selfish life.

Could you elaborate on using your householder life as part of your yogic discipline?

Householder life: 1) merged in attachment and no sense of duty of one's own aim of life, 2) merged in spiritual life where there is a sense of duty toward the family by keeping one's own spiritual discipline. Common people live one side of householder life who are in spiritual path. They think they are in spiritual path so they don't have a responsibility for the household. Or they think household responsibility doesn't give them enough time to pursue their own spiritual life. But there is time for both if they make their household a part of their spiritual life. They keep the attitude of a caretaker of the household and observe their spiritual discipline also.

Isn't householder responsibility just part of one's duty?

Yes. But if the aim is spiritual, then both spiritual practices and taking care of household are duties.

The commentary mentioned 1) delusion: thinking we have attained something we haven't, and 2) non-attaining. How should we observe our progress in sadhana?

Deluded mind is like a daydream. The practitioner only thinks I have attained this and that. In reality, the person remains in the same place. Non-achievement term indicates an effort to achieve. Like football players work hard, get knocked down, get up, run again and can't make it but doesn't stop playing the game. Our progress in sadhana is measured by 1) concentration deepens, 2) peacefulness increases, 3) the mind stops craving for worldly things as it was craving before.

As a householder who is struggling to achieve a virtuous and spiritual life, my understanding has been that as one's spiritual life progresses and deepens, then the obstacles to one's worldly life also becomes less.

Obstacles are identified by the mind. When the mind is channeled towards the aim, then it doesn't identify such obstacles so deeply. The obstacles are there but the mind doesn't give much importance.

According to the scriptures, householder means the large extended family, whereas today householder may refer to a couple who is simply living together with no intention of creating a family.

A man has several dogs, horses, goats; it's a family. In olden times, people lived vanprastha - wife and husband living alone in secluded places, a celibate life. Those who live a householder life in eastern system include the whole tribe as a family. In western system, there is no joint family system so every couple creates a family and their children create their own separate family. Householder means taking responsibility of family life together. “Family” can belong to two individuals as wife and husband, or it can include other members of their tribe. In Hindu scriptures, it is said “Vasudaiva kutumbakam” - the whole world is one family.

So in non-achievement, effort is still made. The football player's mind is not on whether he is achieving or not achieving. He is just making the effort.

Effort to achieve is the main force in all our undertakings. If he keeps on trying, he may achieve another time? The player doesn't drop out, but always tries to achieve. Sometimes wins and sometimes loses, but keeps sports spirit alive.

So there is still faith in the aim?

Yes.

What would be the best attitude to take instead of seeking achievement?

Do your duty for God. You cannot create favorable result. A farmer works hard to achieve a good crop but when the crop is ripe, the hailstorm destroys it. So doing the duty is in our hands and the result is in divine hands.

In finding the balance between worldly life and spiritual practice, suppose we have established a regular spiritual practice meditating early in the morning and then our worldly life requires that we arrive earlier. So you miss that time. It may help the work in the world but it weakens the discipline of spiritual practice.

In meditation class, if someone gets heart attack, what should we do? We have to see our duty in the world also. The class stops and everyone helps that person but it doesn't break the discipline. Next time, the class continues as usual.

The mind can play tricks. It can think that scratching the nose is a heart attack.

There was a swami who started an orphanage in Almora. He was meditating in the morning sun, feeling good. A boy fell down from the roof and got a head injury. The swami ignored that child. The swami ignored his duty to take care of the child first. His mind made a reason to sit by using meditation as a pretext. We have to be honest to ourselves in our spiritual life.


So often its just desire which is pulling the mind out. And it's hard to tell the difference between desire and duty.

It is always a desire, which pulls the mind out in the world taking various forms. Sometimes the form of desire appears as if very spiritual, but deep inside, there is a desire of name, fame, etc.