Buddhist Teachings

  • Become Aware of Awareness Paid Member

    The goal of attention, or shamatha, practice is to become aware of awareness. Awareness is the basis, or what you might call the “support,” of the mind. It is steady and unchanging, like the pole to which the flag of ordinary consciousness is attached. When we recognize and become grounded in awareness, the “wind” of emotion may still blow. But instead of being carried away by the wind, we turn our attention inward, watching the shifts and changes with the intention of becoming familiar with that aspect of consciousness that recognizes Oh, this is what I’m feeling, this is what I’m thinking. As we do so, a bit of space opens up within us. More »
  • "The Most Important Insight of the Buddha" Paid Member

    I read the following quote this weekend: "The single most important or most basic insight of the historical Buddha is the claim that who we are and what we think exists is a function of our mind and its cognitive powers. In other words, it is our mind and our uses of it that determine how we see and understand our self, the world, and other things." - Stephen J. Laumakis, An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy This is from a textbook describing Buddhism in relation to competing schools of thought in ancient India, and I suppose I don't really disagree, but something about it rubbed me the wrong way. I guess it's because it's taking Buddhism purely as a philosophy and missing out on the experiential part of practice. More »
  • The path doesn’t save all its pleasure for the end. You can enjoy it now. Paid Member

    When explaining meditation, the Buddha often drew analogies with the skills of artists, carpenters, musicians, archers, and cooks. Finding the right level of effort, he said, is like a musician’s tuning of a lute. Reading the mind’s needs in the moment—to be gladdened, steadied, or inspired—is like a palace cook’s ability to read and please the tastes of a prince. Thai forest monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu teaches the joy of effort by explaining that "the path doesn’t save all its pleasure for the end. You can enjoy it now." Read the rest here. [Image: Explosions in the Sky, David Poppie, 2007, mixed-media collage, 24 x 24 in.] More »
  • The Just War: Do the Buddhist teachings ever allow for violence? Paid Member

    A lively discussion followed a recent post here on the Army's first Buddhist chaplain. The latest response comes from John Scorsine, a military officer in the National Guard and a newly ordained Buddhist minister, who writes, "This question of the reconciliation of Buddhism and being a professional at arms has been a defining matter of inquiry for me." Scorsine continues, describing his discussion of this issue with the Dalai Lama: When I asked HHDL what in his view was the karmic consequence for killing for one’s country or for being killed in battle he responed: “And over here, liturgically speaking, most important is motivation and goal. Now goal to serve interest for larger community and motivation – compassionate motivation. Genuine sense of care. And then, if the circumstances, there’s no other way, only the violent way, then violence is permissible. More »
  • How to Identify A Tibetan Deity Paid Member

    Jeff Watt at Himalayan Art Resources knows everything about Tibetan Buddhist iconography. I sometimes call him and ask questions like, "Who is that odd-looking deity?" Or, with urgent requests like, "We need an image, and we need it now." I sometimes try his patience, too, so I have to make sure I sort of know what I'm talking about before I call him, and still, it's hard to sound halfway intelligent: the complex landscape of Tibetan iconography is no easy thing to navigate. But those days may be over. More »
  • Why I Became a Buddhist Monk, Why I Quit and What I Learned Paid Member

    Former Tibetan Buddhist monk Stephen Schettini, now director of TheQuietMind.org, explains his teaching this way: I don't promise perfect peace, earth-shattering insight or transcendental breakthroughs. On the contrary, I ask my students to work hard, and especially to beware their own expectations. We're all twenty-first century grownups and as much as we want to believe in easy solutions and magical formulas we know perfectly well that a down-to-earth approach will pay off more than all the mantras, visualizations and promises of enlightenment on the world wide web. Does this sound like someone who's been disillusioned by traditional Buddhist practices? I'd say so. More »