Giving the Buddha Respect

I listened this talk this morning by the Late Venerable K Dhammananda.

As the main purpose of Buddhism is to cultivate, develop and purify the mind, the greatest respect one can afford to the Buddha would be to do so.

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What’s wrong in being realistic?

Ajahn Brahm recently gave a very insightful talk on the pitfalls of excessive positivity. It is ironic how much emphasis is placed on being positive as the foundation for success. Regardless of what life throws at us, society has placed positivity on a high pedestal where any notion of realism is branded as negativity. Resorting to extreme positions, society has made most people afraid of showing any acceptance of the sufferings of life.

As someone who has had her fair share of ups-and downs, I have experienced the fear of taking a realistic view on the situation. Hearing this talk, I wondered why I was so inclined to take this particular view. Fear of being labelled a ‘negative’ person, fear of impeding my own ambitions, even assuming that acceptance led to making the situation worse.

Let’s think about why being overtly positive can do more harm than good.

We ignore what we’re going through- resort to our egos, external forces (both real and imaginary)

Illness, financial problems, unemployment etc. Many people approach these issues by thinking- oh, things will improve-I deserve happiness so everything will work out great. Or else they pray in hope of divine intervention.The inherent problem in this attitude is that they world does not revolve around us. We’re not the special beings that deserve the best in the world. It just doesn’t make sense for two people who apply to the same job assume that they both deserve it. Even  they prayed to the same god and they equally felt they were so special, it is just not possible for two people to fill the same position.

Seeing our troubles as they are

Understanding the reality of our situations can help us adjust our efforts in improving things. We make a more sincere effort if we knew the odds are against us, rather than relax and assume everything will fall on our laps. Sorry- the world doesn’t work that way. I’m not arguing for being pessimistic, but rather realistic. A great analogy used by Ajahn Brahm and his teacher Ajahn Chah was the simile of the beautiful crystal glass. We see a sparkling crystal glass or dish. We admire it, we treasure it and hold it in high esteem. Then one day, it falls and shatters to bits. We are distraught. We mourn for it, we tear our hair wondering why did it have to fall down etc.. The realist would see the glass for what it is-a glass. Glass can break ( unless it was made otherwise). It is the nature of glass. The glass equals “breaking”. It’s like crying over split milk when you know it is in the nature of milk to spill when you least expect it!!

Ajahn Brahm brings up a great approach to dealing with tough situations. The Buddha always stressed that all conditioned phenomena are impermanent. Our suffering is conditioned-it is made up of causes and conditions. Our happiness is conditioned-it is also dependent of certain causes and conditions. If something gives us pleasure, we are deluded to thinking it is static, unshakable and unchanging. If we understand that our job, for instance, can disappear in an instance, we do not fall in to despair when it does. Rather than think that a job would fall on our laps, we work hard and try our best on improving our chances. When we are sick, if we see that our bodies are not made of steel and are indeed fragile and prone to disease, we can cope better with our illness than wallow in pain and sorrow.

We need to let go of deluding ourselves with ‘think positive and everything magically works out great”. Being more grounded gives us a more genuine grasp of what life’s about and the nature of existence. Where’s the negativity in that? 🙂

This is a great talk by this Buddhist Master, and I hope it helps you in your life as it does in mine.

samsara….

Detachment from samsaric delights is not easy

You tend to get drawn in…by convention. tradition, status quo, the norm-whatever you like to call it

Like a lovely aroma, it draws you in unknowingly

Sensory entrapment of mind and body

Like sheep to birth, life, love, pain , death…..

The Mindful Way

A 3-part series of a BBC documentary about the Buddhist monks following the Thai Forest Tradition. This practice undertaken by the monks follow very closely the original path practiced by the Buddha and the monks during his time.

The abbot, Ven. Luang Por Chah, or Ajahn Chah as he is best known by western students, trained many wonderful western teachers such as Ajahn Brahmavamso and Ajahn Sumedho. Ajahn Chah’s teachings are simple, clear, direct and devoid of speculation and superstition, the closest to the word of the Buddha as I have ever come across.

Please enjoy these videos as a first step:

The Mindful Way

For more details on Buddhism, see Resources

When Writers Speak

Some people are eloquent speakers as well as prolific writers. A true talent. On the other hand, I have observed many more who speak well but cannot seem to put their thoughts to writing as eloquently. I belong to another camp, those that can’t seem to get the right words out of their mouth as well as they can print it out on paper.

I always thought maybe it was just me, but seems that I am not alone in my inability to converse as well as I write. You can blame it on cranial wiring, but it is heartening to read this article and find out that this trait is symptomatic in many people-no less in wonderful writers. I accept that I’m very far from being a Nabokov or NYT columnist, but this article is the first I’ve come across on the topic. I presume putting your thoughts on paper helps you structure your thoughts in a more linear manner than does expressing them through speech.

Here is an excerpt:

………Like most writers, I seem to be smarter in print than in person. In fact, I am smarter when I’m writing. I don’t claim this merely because there is usually no one around to observe the false starts and groan-inducing sentences that make a mockery of my presumed intelligence, but because when the work is going well, I’m expressing opinions that I’ve never uttered in conversation and that otherwise might never occur to me. Nor am I the first to have this thought, which, naturally, occurred to me while composing. According to Edgar Allan Poe, writing in Graham’s Magazine, “Some Frenchman — possibly Montaigne — says: ‘People talk about thinking, but for my part I never think except when I sit down to write.” I can’t find these words in my copy of Montaigne, but I agree with the thought, whoever might have formed it. And it’s not because writing helps me to organize my ideas or reveals how I feel about something, but because it actually creates thought or, at least supplies a Petri dish for its genesis.

The Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, however, isn’t so sure. In an e-mail exchange, Pinker sensibly points out that thinking precedes writing and that the reason we sound smarter when writing is because we deliberately set out to be clear and precise, a luxury not usually afforded us in conversation.

Read the full article by Arthur Krystal on the New York Times.