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On Enlightenment

In various forms of Buddhism, the concept of enlightenment is discussed. In Zen practice, satori and kensho are terms used (at least in Korean practice). This Zen enlightenment is the sudden or graudual realization of the oneness of everything–how things are interconnected. The excellent book the Three Pillars of Zen has first-hand descriptions of this experience. The experience can be deepened with continual, daily practice. In Mahayana Tibetan Buddhism, the concept of enlightenment is said to be an experience that leads to a complete understanding of reality such that an individual’s suffering ends. Personally, I understand the Zen enlightenment better than the Mahayana Buddhist enlightenment; they may refer to different realizations, different experiences. Either is desirable from a spiritual development viewpoint. Many kinds of spiritual enlightenment probably exist. Even with one type of enlightenment, each individual experiencing it will have a personal experience, unique in its own way. People come to spiritual practice often due to hardships in life, turning to something they hope will help them cope, help them overcome suffering, help them grow as a person, or lead to the solution of all their problems. No doubt the experience of enlightenment–whether a profound event or a tiny glimmer–is helpful to a person. But in a way it could be anticlimactic–it was there all along, but we did not notice it. Everything changes, but everything stays the same. A Zen saying is: “Before enlightenment, I chopped wood and carried water. After enlightenment, I chopped wood and carried water.” After enlightenment, everything around us is still the same; we just understand reality better. After enlightenment, we continue our lives with a deeper understanding of reality. The dishes still need to be washed. Work needs to be done. Life needs to be lived to its fullest–each wonderful moment of our precious human lives. But with understanding comes a profound peace of mind. A level of knowledge beyond words exists. The experiences of enlightenment cannot be put into words. They can only be experienced. They are not religious experiences. Enlightenment experiences are simply seeing the ultimate nature of our spiritual reality.

Tibetan Buddhism–preliminaries

If you decided to study Tibetan Buddhism, a teacher would start you off with the preliminaries. The preliminaries are things to ponder, to reflect on, to consider deeply. Here are some of them: * The preciousness of your human life–Your life is rare and precious–a wonderful gift. Recognizing the value of your own precious life has implications: don’t waste it! * The impermanence of all things–Everything changes. Material things change. We all die eventually–leaving even our valued bodies behind. Sometime we lose those near to us. Eventually, we will lose all our friendships and family. We should infinitely value each moment with those we love. * The inevitability of suffering–Everyone suffers sometimes, in many ways. * Every action we take, everything we say, even every thought we think, has consequences. Good actions bring sweet fruits, bad actions bring bitter fruits. This is known as the Law of Karma. The results of our actions follow us like a shadow. * Much of what we accept as reality is illusion. We don’t understand the ultimate nature of reality. We need to dispel the delusions in our mind. These preliminaries are points of departure for spiritual practice. A path exists to the end of suffering, but first we must understand the preliminaries. After pondering the preliminaries, one begins practices to understand the ultimate nature of one’s mind.

.top domain is on the bottom

One of my email addresses was for several weeks being overrun with horrible SPAM. Somehow (a data breach from a company, most likely), the email address had ended up on a spammer’s list. When I looked to see where the SPAM was all coming from, all of it was originating from domains registered in the .top domain. One post I read said that the people behind the .top domain were using SPAM to make it seem like the .top domain was one of the most popular ones. Don’t know about that, but I simply blocked the .top domain from all my email servers. Too bad there are so many psychopathic spammers in the world trying to ruin our lives. Just block the culprits from your world. Some people will argue that blocking a domain is not worthwhile because others will spring up. While there is some truth in that, once I blocked the .top domain from the email address getting huge amounts of SPAM, all the SPAM stopped. That’s refreshing beyond words!

Your Subconscious Mind

Some researchers have stated that most of our thinking actually goes on in our subconscious, rather than our conscious, minds. Regardless of the percentage of thinking that is subconscious, we can with confidence state that much of our thinking is subconscious. Much as one who is an expert pianist plays the piano without conscious thought, other than on the sound of the music, we often conduct our actions and say things without thinking about them. Sometimes we say things we regret to other people, where consciously we never would have dreamed of saying such a thing. What we said conflicts with our conscious beliefs and desires, yet we blurt it out, regretting what we said, and wondering why we said it. Perhaps we find ourselves doing something we’ve solemnly promised ourselves we’d never do again, yet we do it again, mindlessly, not rationally thinking about it, indeed not consciously thinking about it at all. Computer scientists have a saying: garbage-in, garbage-out. That’s the way your subconscious mind works. If you put garbage in, you’ll get garbage out. We may often put garbage into our subconscious minds that causes us trouble. Even if we get over that obstacle though, we are not safe. Trouble is, you don’t even have to put it in yourself, other people will do it for you if you let them! So you set your mind on what you want to do for the day when you first wake up (or before you go to bed at night). You wake up and start your day with the best of intentions. Then before long while going about your business, you feel this strong pull to do something not on your agenda and not what you are looking to do with your planned unplanned time (“planned unplanned time” is part of the joyful participation in abundance in this wonderful world). This is the pull of your subconscious. Because your subconscious desires may not be in congruence with your conscious plans, or because your subconscious pulls you into old, unhealthy habits, or because your subconscious is pulling you to regress to past activities you have grown beyond or out of, you are being pulled off track. Resist this pull. The fruit of the discipline of staying on track is sweet. The fruit of being pulled off track is bitter.

A Quote from Shantideva

Shantideva (685-763 AD) was a Buddhist monk. At the Nalanda monastery, he had the reputation of being lazy, other monks saying he just ate, slept, and went to the bathroom. One day he was summoned to give a talk to the monastery, where he was required to stand at an exaggeratedly high podium. The intent of his being summoned to give a talk was to ridicule him, then expel him from the monastery. Shantideva presented some works he had composed in secret, which stupefied the audience with their brilliance. One of those works was The Way of the Bodhisattva. Part of the work is still missing. The Way of the Bodhisattva is the most commented on work in the Tibetan Buddhist Mahayana tradition–a key text in Buddhism worldwide. (Commentaries on key works by spiritual masters is a Buddhist tradition.) There are many translations. The meaning of passages often varies slightly from one translation to another. The quote below is a sample of Shantideva’s wisdom: All whosoever who are happy in the world are so through the wish for the happiness of others; while all whosoever who are miserable in the world are so through the wish for the happiness of themselves.

Food poisoning at Chipotle

I’m at BWI airport waiting to take a flight from Baltimore to Orlando–going down to my Florida house for five days to check on things. Three weeks ago I flew out of BWI headed to Denver. I ate at Chipotle, ordering tofu, brown rice, both brown and black beans, lettuce, and mild salsa. By the time I got to Denver, I was experiencing serious stomach pain. I had about an hour’s drive to Littleton, CO. In the rental car on the Interstate, I was experiencing such severe stomach pain that it was almost necessary to pull over to the side of the road to deal with the pain. It was excruciating. I won’t describe all the horrible symptoms, but it was well into the next day before I was better. I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life! I filled out an online form to tell Chipotle about it. This was actually a mistake. I should have told the local health authorities, who would take my complaint seriously. A woman from Chipotle called me the next day and told me that she had talked to the manager at the BWI airport location. She said, in a voice like she was telling me I’d won the lottery, “I’ve got great news! No one else who ate there got food poisoning. All the employees eat the food, and none of them got sick.” I told her that because it was an airport location, she would not hear of everyone who got sick–they were traveling to other locations. The conversation degenerated into an argument, with her telling me I got sick, but not from Chipotle food. Her unconcerned, hostile attitude was disconcerting. I’ll never eat at Chipotle again. Interesting that tonight is the first time I have not seen a line at Chipotle at the BWI location. I had a tuna sandwich on rye at Nature’s Kitchen, with mustard, lettuce, tomato, and black olive. It was great! I don’t expect my tummy will be in pain soon, either.

Why Don’t People Read Signs?

I’m sitting in the airport in Toronto waiting for a plane to Dulles. Gate 97, a sense of deja vu. I was last here a year ago, coming back from a pleasure trip in Montreal (although I was heading to BWI then). This gate is the end of the line of a long walk–a good thing, actually. Going through security, I noticed a sign telling people going through security to keep their shoes and belt on, and to keep things in their pockets (there were many signs saying the same thing). Most of the people in front of me were taking their shoes and belts off. I turned to the woman behind me and said, “Doesn’t the sign say to leave your shoes on?” “They’ll make you take them off anyway,” she said, knowingly. I then looked at a woman in a security uniform on the other side of the conveyor. “Leave your shoes on?” “Yes.” Behind me, people were taking their shoes off, as they were in front of me. Why don’t people read? Here all luggage goes into a plastic bin though.

Brampton, Ontario

I am in Brampton, Ontario, Canada on business for a few days. Someone asked me if I was staying in Mississauga or Brampton. I told him Brampton. He said that I should not take Brampton as being representative of Toronto. He was afraid that I would get a bad impression. From what little I’ve seen (being in  meetings most of the time), there are many warehouses and lots of trucks on the road in Brampton. This area, not far from the airport, has a heavy industrial look to it–not much artistic architecture in sight. Each of the three days I was here I went to a local mall (Bramalea City Center) to take a walk in the afternoon. Yesterday, I started taking a walk outside. Although it was not too cold, a strong, gusty wind made it seem icy outside, making walking unpleasant (I was not dressed well enough for the cold). Bramalea City Center is a large mall with two food courts and about 1.5 million square feet of retail space. Crowded, noisy, entertaining in a commercial way. Lots of nice stores.

Don’t believe everything you think.

The title is from a bumpersticker. The following quote appears in Buddhism is Not What You Think (Steve Hagen): “The foolish reject what they see, not what they think; the wise reject what they think, not what they see.” (Huang Po)  What this means is that often what we think is deluded. If we act on deluded thoughts, we will suffer as a result. For example, if we get angry and harm the mind of someone close to us, our anger is probably because we are thinking something that is not true. That’s a sure way to destroy a relationship. What we see is much easier to accept as true than what we imagine. We never really know what someone else is thinking, unless they tell us (unless we experience telepathy, which is possible if you are close to someone). Trying to figure out what someone is thinking through conjecture, supposition, hypothesis generation, psychoanalysis or simply our imagination run wild is foolish. We waste our time being deluded. Hence, the Zen saying “Don’t Try to Figure Others Out.” If we can’t even figure ourselves out, how can we hope to figure others out?