#Buddhist #Meditation #Retreat part 4: Animal Realm contemplations

Some of you know I’ve been doing an at-home, part-time #Buddhist #meditation #retreat in the #Vajrayana #Nyingma #dzogchen tradition of #Tibetan #Buddhism for about two months and plan to finish on Tibetan New Year (#Losar) on March 2, 2014. This retreat consists of the preliminary practices, or #Rushan, for #T’högal. Some of what I’m learning and doing are only to be discussed with dzogchen teachers or similarly or advanced practitioners, but some I can talk about. I share what I am able and wish to in these blog posts.

This portion’s contemplation and prayers are on beings of the Animal Realm. Of all the 6 #Realms, as Tibetan Buddhists conceive of our shared illusory reality, the Animal Realm is the closest akin to ours, so close that Humans can co-exist consciously with Animals. This means we can readily see, smell, hear, feel, and taste Animals in our everyday existence. For most Humans, our senses are not so easily stimulated by beings of the other Realms.

The first time I heard teachings on the 6 Realms, as I mentioned in a previous post, I thought the teacher was being metaphoric or joking. I was so stuck in my senses’ ordinary experiences that I could not believe the other Realms actually co-exist with ours.

There are some Buddhists who do treat the 6 Realms as a metaphor. These meditators prefer to use these concepts to recognize the ways that humans experience all of the Realms’ conditions while being human rather than believing that there are actual beings living in each of the Realms. I leave it up to you as to how you conceive of the Realms and the beings’ experiences.

For me, it’s more important to contemplate those experiences and generate empathy and compassion for them, regardless of how they occur. The main characteristics that Tibetan Buddhists assign to Animals as distinct from Humans are explained in this way by Barbara O’Brien in her article on the Buddhist Wheel of Life (samsara, in Sanskrit):

“Animal Beings (Tiryakas) are solid, regular and predictable. They cling to what is familiar and are disinterested, even fearful, of anything unfamiliar. The Animal Realm is marked by ignorance and complacency. Animal Beings are stolidly un-curious and are repelled by anything unfamiliar. They go through life seeking comfort and avoiding discomfort. They have no sense of humor. Animal Beings may find contentment, but they easily become fearful when placed in a new situation. Naturally, they are bigoted and likely to remain so. At the same time, they are subject to oppression by other beings — animals do devour each other, you know.”
http://buddhism.about.com/od/tibetandeities/ig/Wheel-of-Life-Gallery/Animal-Realm.htm

I don’t happen to agree with this conceptualization of animals; I never have. I do not see all animals as “ignorant,” and some definitely have a sense of humor! They are certainly a lot less bigoted than most humans I know and know of. As for the being “subject to oppression” part, even devouring each other, we’d have to include humans in that activity, wouldn’t we?

Animals are also most certainly NOT “un-curious,” and many employ what Temple Grandin calls “seeking” behavior in their everyday lives. (Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals , Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009). In fact, Grandin’s research proves that animals need more than their basic physical and psychological requirements to be met. Yes, animals need (or certainly would prefer) to be free from hunger, thirst, discomfort, pain, injury, disease, fear and distress. However, Grandin proves resoundingly that animals respond positively when allowed to use “seeking behaviors” and “play.” Some animals, particularly pigs and primates, can malinger, become self- or other-injurious, kill or even die without these outlets.

I spent a few weeks listening to this amazing book on CD this past summer, not yet knowing I’d be doing this retreat or contemplations this fall. Generally, I have not had a close relationship to animals or pets (except for others’ pets I happen to live with or encounter over the years). However, forging new relationships with animals via interspecies communication devices and aliens-humans encounters and relationships are central to my sci-fi novels in The Spanners Series, so I listened to Grandin’s book and watched the biopic about her early life (“Temple Grandin,” starring Clare Danes as Grandin; great movie) as research for my series.

Now that I’m in this section of my retreat, I find myself remembering many parts of both the film and the book, considering animals from Grandin’s perspective rather than Tibetan Buddhists’ concepts. Her philosophies, attitudes and understandings are closer to my own. I go further than she does, though: I am more in harmony with Douglas Adams, the late, sorely missed and amazing author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a five-book “trilogy.” One of these volumes is entitled: So Long and Thanks for All the Fish. In this, Adams posits the superiority and other-worldly origins of dolphins, which I have no trouble believing.

I also believe in the superiority or at least equality with humans regarding intelligence, compassion and creativity, of all forms of cetaceans, elephants, wolves and many primates, cephalopods and others in the Animal Realm. To me, it’s impossible to ignore or deny the ways elephants grieve and remember, wolves communicate with their packs, whales gather intentionally for fun and protection, and many other examples of animals’ social, altruistic, creative and communicative behaviors not at all inferior to humans’ activities. I also can’t ignore or deny how disappointed I am in the selfish, unintelligent and socially perverse ways of humans.

This week, as many vegans rail against humans eating turkeys as well as pigs, fish, chickens, cattle and whatever other animals humans eat, I have to remind myself and others of the inherent suffering in all existence, the nature of samsara, according to my Tibetan Buddhist teachers. Humans can’t survive without killing, even when it’s unintentional. We kill billions of beings every day in service to providing us with shelter, food (even vegan food), clothing, work, transportation, education, tools and entertainment. We can’t plow fields or harvest their bounty without killing. We can’t breathe or walk without killing. Every day and every night, all twenty-four hours of every day of our existence, we are murderers.

Contemplating this and Grandin’s book and life make me want to mitigate the suffering of animals, for sure. However, I do not pretend I or any human can eliminate it. We can’t eliminate our own suffering, either. What we can do is change the ways it occurs, lessen or alleviate it, and feel compassionate about it enough to respond appropriately and less selfishly.

So, if you are NOT a vegan, here is my advice: do not waste your animal food. Only purchase, cook/prepare what you and your loved ones will consume. Honor the spirits of the animals who gave their lives to feed you with prayers, thoughts, songs, smoke, herbs: something sacred. Be conscious as you spend your time this week and every week hereafter of the gifts animals give us and the ways we exploit these gifts. Be humble. Be grateful. Be caring.

I will try. I hope you do, also.

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Recently Deceased #Buddhist May Attain Rainbow Body

This article is quite amazing in its description of what happens when an accomplished Tibetan Buddhist practitioner leaves the physical body. Those of you interested, follow this link and read about what’s happening to this particular Lama and what is possible.

This type of current occurrence is rare and rarely discussed so openly. It inspires faith and renews my commitment to practice.

“Auspicious News: My Teacher Lama Karma Attains Rainbow Body!
Composed by His Eminence Dzogchen Khenpo Choga Rinpoche and his disciples on the 23rd of November, 2013, the auspicious day of Lha Bab Duchen, the Buddha’s Mother’s Day, at the auspicious place of the Dzogchen Retreat Center, USA.”

https://www.facebook.com/notes/dzogchen-khenpo-choga-rinpoche/auspicious-news-my-teacher-lama-karma-attains-rainbow-body/10151794778007773

Dilemmas while #meditating on being human

During each of the current days I am #meditating during this mini-#Buddhist, at-home #retreat, I #contemplate what it means to be human. I examine the emotional, physical, interpersonal, mental experiences I am familiar with myself and then I attempt to empathize or at least sympathize with others’ experiences as deeply as possible: the pains and pleasures, sorrows and joys, defeats and successes, fears and hopes, worries and excitements. What motivates every being is clear: each of us wants to be happy.

However, as I know for myself and observe in others, we often are extremely inept, even self-sabotaging in our attempts to achieve happiness. Furthermore, this happiness is only ever temporary. Impermanence is a fact of existence.

Spending so much time and focusing so such keen attention on humanness intensifies my recognition of these failed attempts on my own part and for others. Also, I become more acutely conscious of my failures to acquire even a bit more comfort.

At the pool, I have my “favorite” swimming lanes. These are the ones I prefer because of their proximity to the inflow jets, which act like those in a hot tub. The pressure from this inflow eases the tightness in my back when I hang in front of it. Or, these are the ones I like because they’re closer to the ropes and have more room around the “lane” (this pool, for unknown reasons, does not rope off lanes, only sections). Or, I like this or that lane because, when I do the backstroke, the line on the ceiling’s architecture exactly matches the line I am supposed to follow that represents my lane (which is faintly painted on the pool’s floor), so I have a fighting chance to stay in my own lane (appreciated by all).

Seems so silly, so trivial, so selfish and absurd when I lay it out like this. Yet, as I enter the pool building every morning, I feel a tightness in my chest and my breathing increases, signaling anxiety. Worried questions hum beneath the surface of my thinking: “Will I get a ‘good’ lane?” “Will I get a lane at all?” “Will the people in adjacent lanes bump into me?” Luckily, swimmers can pre-select our lanes as soon as we arrive, before we get into our suits. My anxiety is relieved as soon as my lane is chosen.

I am told the policy is to choose the lane I want and show my choice by placing an item on the floor above it, signaling that this lane is taken. Then, I go change and return to my “saved” lane and get in to swim.

This system works well enough, usually. When I get into the pool area, I choose a “good” lane, which is empty. I put a kickboard down and go to change. But, yesterday I approached my saved lane and saw that someone else was swimming in it. I waited until she was at the wall and I tapped her: “Excuse me,” I said, “You’re in the lane I saved.”

“Oh, no,” she replies. “There was no one here when I got here.”

I pointed to the blue kickboard on the floor in front of the lane and say, “This is my kickboard. I put it here a minute ago and went to change.”

She looks at the kickboard and up at me and says, “You’re supposed to put something else on the kickboard. How do I know that it’s really saved and not just abandoned by the previous swimmer?”

I look at her, dumbfounded, feeling my anger and irritation rising. This stupid, selfish woman is ruining my swim and my swimming time is elapsing as I stand here and discuss her mistake with her. I am also laughing at myself, inside, and pitying her. But, I am mostly fuming. “I don’t have anything else to put there. Just me.”

“You could have have put your goggles down,” she says.

“Look,” I say. “You made a mistake. Please just find another lane.”

“You could find another lane,” she points out.

“I could,” I say, “but this is the lane I saved and you didn’t. So, please move.” Now, I feel as if we’re in grade school arguing over who got here first. I feel ridiculous, but this is the lane I like, remember? I really prefer it.

“Oh, fine,” she says, irritably. She moves to an adjacent lane and swims off in a huff (I didn’t know that was possible, but she did it).

I get in the pool, hang in front of the jet which is now “mine” and feel horrible. Terrible. Anxious, embarrassed, selfish, tight, ridiculous. What kind of a Buddhist am I? A shitty one, obviously. Completely self-absorbed. Small-minded. A failure. Am I happy now, in my favorite lane? Of course not. I feel bad.

I want to apologize. I want to give it back to her. Even that seems silly. I just swim, meditating on humanness and foibles, mine especially, as I swim.

Eventually, I get into the rhythm of it and calm down. I look over and notice she’s gone already. She probably only swims 20 minutes to my 45 and I could have just waited.

Feeling even more ridiculous and small, I continue my swim. I attempt to offer myself compassion, tenderness, amusement. My attempts are mostly failures.

Few choose the Tibetan #Buddhist or other culture’s #Vajrayana path, even though it makes it possible for practitioners to attain long-lasting, many lifetimes’ happiness in one lifetime. Why? Because we practitioners become unflinching observers of our own minds and behaviors. We commit to, we must continue facing ourselves every day, all day (and all night), in every situation, not just while “formally” meditating. It’s frightening, or at least humbling, to notice day after day what I have not achieved after meditating on this path since 1996. Sheesh.

I have a long way to go in my practice. Good to know. I plan to keep going. And, keep swimming.

#Meditation: it’s not for wimps.

Jackson Peterson writes about Realization and Liberation

Jackson Peterson, teacher of Non-dual Traditions: #Dzogchen, #Advaita, #Zen and #Mahamudra at #Meditation Teacher and Life Coaching, posted on Facebook today something so inspirational I have to share it before I devote some of my day to its contemplation. Find him at: http://www.wayoflight.net/‎

The Five Principles of Realization and Liberation

The first principle is becoming aware of our thoughts and the nature of thought.
“By taking the position of just being an observer of the thoughts and images that come and go, we discover all thoughts are the same: they are temporary appearances that come and go like clouds in the sky. Give no importance to one thought over another.
“If we pay no attention to any thought but remain in the ‘observer’ role, it seems the space of awareness becomes more open and thoughts less demanding of attention. We discover all thoughts are without substance and importance. We could say our thoughts are ’empty,’ like clouds: appearances without any core or entity.

The second principle is recognizing our stories and emotional dramas are structured only from thought, our ’empty’ thoughts.
“In continuing to observe our thoughts, we should notice how they tend to link together in chains of meaning and particular significance. It is this linking together of thoughts that creates our stories, beliefs and emotional dramas in a convincing and powerful way. As a result, we may spend most of our time going from one mini-daydream to another. It is this trance-like state of mind that we need to break up again and again, as often as possible.
“We do that by shifting our attention from thought to the presence of the five senses in immediate now-ness. Just notice your physical environment and the direct sensory experience, free of analysis. Practice this shifting away from mental engagement in thought to noticing your physical environs as often as possible. Hopefully the trance-like habit of living in your thoughts constantly will be broken.
“In this way, we can free ourselves from anxiety and emotional suffering as both are caused by the mind’s stories that are rarely challenged. It is possible to discover that our stories and emotional dramas are as empty as last night’s dreams. In fact, our daydreams and stories are no more real than our dreams at night. We discover our stories are also just as empty as the clouds that group together in the sky in various formations that disperse and disappear in the next moment, leaving no trace.

The third principle is recognizing that one’s sense of self is also only an empty story made of thought. [Self is] a mental construction without an actual identity as an entity that exists independently and with self-determinism.
“Studies have determined that our coherent sense of personal identity doesn’t appear until about the ages between 18 and 24 months. That means, previous to that time, there was no personal ‘me’ story or self-image. That also means the newly appearing sense of ‘me’ is totally the result of thought-stories that the mind constructs about identity. There is no personal self present other than this make-believe ‘me’ story.
“Even science makes clear there is just one unified field of energy as the universe without separate parts. The entire field is interdependent without any breaks or splits in the unity. The sense of being an independent entity. like a ‘personal self,’ is just an illusion and has never existed in fact.
“By observing the ‘me’-thoughts that arise from moment to moment, we can notice the ‘personal me’ is nothing more than a chain of linked thoughts about identity that are supported by memories and imagination. Seeing this directly and clearly, not just intellectually, the emptiness of personal identity becomes obvious to the mind. [A]t [this] point, the illusion ceases. But that cessation will only occur according to the degree of the depth of this self-inquiry.
“If it doesn’t occur, the understanding is too shallow and not convincing enough to the deeper levels of mind grounded in conditioning and habitual ‘selfing.’ In such a case, one should revisit the first and second principles again and establish a deeper state of observation regarding the experience of the ‘me’-thoughts arising and dissolving until it becomes clear that no personal self exists outside of the mind’s belief otherwise.
“When recognition arises, it becomes clear [to the meditator] that the notion of there being a personal self is as empty as a single huge cloud that dominates the sky yet disappears in the next moment without a trace.

The fourth principle is recognizing what exactly is the nature of that which is observing and experiencing the empty nature of thoughts, stories and personal selfhood.
“What is doing the ‘recognizing’? What is this impersonal aware consciousness that perceives and knows? In these recognitions, there seems to be an ever-increasing evolution or revelation of wisdom. As a result, one’s cognitive space seems expansive, open and vividly transparent without a center.
“What exactly is this state of impersonal consciousness? It clearly has a sense of being aware, empty and knowing. Can we be aware of being aware? Is this aware consciousness present in all experience, inseparably so?
“Let’s look directly at this impersonal, aware knowingness: In a well-lighted room, close your eyes. Notice at your eyelids that the light of the room shining on your eyelids creates an inner glow upon your closed, translucent eyelids. You will see an orangey-red color at your eyelids. What is it that is observing this color?
“It will seem as though your aware consciousness occupies a place a few inches behind the eyes and its attention is directed at the eyelids in front. Notice your aware presence as being the place from where you are looking forward at the orangey color. Are you ‘aware’ of the color?
“Now be aware of your awareness just as it is. Does this awareness have any color, shape, substance or dimension of its own? Or is it simply an empty presence of aware knowing?
“Review these last two questions again and again until it becomes clear that ‘you’ are actually this empty, clear and aware knowing. When this is seen clearly, instead of recognizing the emptiness of thoughts and self as the empty nature of the clouds that appear in the sky, the empty nature of the sky itself is recognized: the empty cognitive space in which all appearances appear and disappear.

The fifth principle is recognizing the inseparable relationship between one’s empty, aware ‘seeing’ and the five senses.
“One can’t find awareness separate from one’s sensory perceptions. There isn’t first a sensory perception and then an awareness of it. The five senses are this ‘knowing awareness’ seeming to be split up into five separate sensory components.
“These sensory capacities are not limited to the physical five senses. ‘Knowing awareness’ can perceive independently of the five physical senses with no limitations regarding time and space.
“Merging our attention fully with the five senses instead of with the mental phenomena of thoughts, stories and beliefs in personal identity, reveals a state of total ‘nowness’ beyond thought and mind. A limitless vista of knowing transparency and Clear Light reveals itself to be our true nature, beyond any descriptions or assumptions of mind. In merging our attention totally with the five senses, the luminous nature of appearances reveals the empty vividness of our Aware and Knowing Space.

“If one incorporates and integrates these five principles into one’s daily practice, in my opinion, no other methods or practices should be considered necessary.”

I appreciate Jackson Peterson’s clarity and analysis enormously. I do take exception to his final paragraph, however: only someone who already had spent many years with at least one if not more other practices could attain this clarity and be able to meditate successfully with these 5 principles. Therefore, it is specious and disingenuous, in my opinion, to recommend to people who may be beginners or who are probably less experienced than he that doing these meditations is all they would ever need. Not so.

Compete, much? “Jealous Gods Realm” section of my #Buddhist #Retreat

Out of the “God Realm” into the “Jealous Gods Realm” for this next portion of my at-home #Tibetan #Vajrayana #Nyingma #Dzogchen #Buddhist #meditation/#contemplation #retreat. Week 3 of about 20 weeks.

The basic practice during these “Realms” weeks is to contemplate enough to “get inside the experience” of each of the Realm’s beings as if I am one, to recognize and inspire compassion in me for their suffering. Then, when I meditate on these experiences, I pray to alleviate their suffering, to purify their and my karma for rebirth in that realm.

I went to online teachings for inspiration so that I can share excerpts here. Check this out for a great explanation of the trials and tribulations of being a Jealous God, from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo (link below):

“[Jealous Gods are filled with]…competitiveness, egocentricity, and jealousy….[J]ealous gods do nothing all day long but … compete with one another….[T]hey are constantly waging war with one another….

“There is actually a terrible and immense suffering that comes with the jealous god realm. Even though you know you are powerful, you are powerful in an odd way… like the person who has built a fortress, an impenetrable fortress, and nothing can come in….[B]ut everybody knows you really can’t build an impenetrable fortress… [b]ecause death can come in, sickness can come in….Their kind of suffering is like that.

“…[They know] that the other gods are just as powerful and can come in…so they are jealously guarding their safety….[which] only increases the jealous god’s need to go out and attack the other guy, compete with the other guy, and get on top of the other guy. Their experience is warlike…. You win, you lose, you win, you lose….That is the experience of the jealous gods. They love to dominate others. That’s their habit.

“In the realm of the jealous gods, they are so concerned with their own safety and jealously guarding their safety, as well as competing with others for that safety, that they have not one moment with which to practice #Dharma. Dharma would be to them the same as if you were to, say, talk to a warrior type that was schooled only in being a warrior.

“Okay, back to Star Trek, whaddya say? Let’s say you talk to a Klingon, like Warf, and you say to Warf, ‘Yo, Warfy-baby, here’s what we need to do. Instead of you being a warrior with all your stuff on’ (you know, he wears all this stuff and looks pretty powerful) ‘why don’t you sit down and meditate gently, like a little girl? Why don’t you sit down and meditate very quietly, and in that way you can be very strong.’ What would Warf say about that? Warf would say, ‘Pleeease!’ Warf wouldn’t have time to hear about this.

“Neither would any warrior who was trained to think of being strong and protecting one’s turf, and only thought like that. Neither could a person like that ever think that meditation or Dharma practice or anything like that is strength… so they will push that away, not having time for it…. They simply don’t have the instinct and they will not practice Dharma. They just will not practice Dharma. They’re too busy.”

Since I’ve already established that this practice inspires intense identification with the beings of the realm being contemplated, I plan to invoke silence as much as possible when interacting with others to avoid getting into fights!

Wish me luck! No, CHEER ME ON! I WANT TO WIN! LIBERATION FOR ALL!

http://www.tibetanbuddhistaltar.org/the-realm-of-the-jealous-gods/

“The #Death #Illusion”

Best quote (from Conclusion) from this important, lengthy instruction and explanation of the illusory nature of self and death: “The appreciation that everything reflects everything else, is the undoing of the belief in inherent separateness and along with it, conflict and fear. Under these conditions, the heart opens. There is the recognition that even the autumn leaf is not fundamentally different from the spring leaf. The autumn leaf is life, in a borderless, impermanent flux of causal continuance. It never was itself, and so the appearance of its ultimate death is an illusion.”

Emptiness Teachings

 

INTRODUCTION

~
Humans tend to regard themselves as supreme by nature, in contrast to what is viewed as a primitive world.  We live with a sense of divinity, assumed to distinguish us from everything else.  People commonly assume that they are at least subtly God-like, marked by what is called consciousness.  A dividing wall is imagined to separate mind from matter, the animate from the inanimate.  Consciousness is our divine self, and death, a fall into lowly materiality.
~
The inseparable interrelatedness of people to everything else generally goes unacknowledged.  The world is provides us with things, but we are not of it, hence the extensive environmental disregard.  This dualism also requires that we either accept eternal selfhood or be doomed to oblivion, death, as a descent into a senseless abyss.

~
While the notion of human privilege appears to be an advantage, it is our affliction, resulting…

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“‘Who’ or ‘what’ is watching” my “inner brain movie show?”: #inspiration from #Buddhist #Psychology

Today I’m inspired by this post, from which I quote. I hope you’ll go read it all, contemplate then meditate on it, enjoy and share it.

“‘[W]ho’ or ‘what’ is watching that inner brain movie show? …[I]t turns out that the one watching the ‘outer world’ is also part of the inner show. The brain configures a self or seeming ‘person’ as the observer. The illusion of there being a self or person inside the body as the body is generated from memories, body images, conditioning and subconscious drives. This ‘person’ is constructed exactly in the same manner as who we seem to be in our dreams at night: a projection of memories, conditioning and other subconscious material.”

“There is no person or ‘me’ beside the imaginary one generated by the brain. The whole idea or concept of a person or a ‘me’ is also just a concoction of that same brain. Understanding this clearly is seeing the real meaning of “emptiness of self.'”

from Jackson Peterson, “Teacher of Non-dual Traditions: Dzogchen, Advaita, Zen and Mahamudra at Meditation Teacher and Life Coaching”
a posting on the “Buddhist Psychology” group’s page on Facebook that he entitled: “Deconstructing our World and Sense of Personal Self”