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Mindful Morning Saturdays

01 Apr

In the interest of buoying my new practice of Mindful Morning Saturdays (MMS), through the art of sharing my experience in written form, this is yet another installment to help me along.

This morning I especially enjoyed reading the Discourse on the Eight Realizations of the Great Beings, as part of my MMS sutra readings. The sutra starts: Wholeheartedly, day and night, disciples of the Awakened One should recite and meditate on the Eight Realizations discovered by the Great Beings. It then lists them in the order shown above and goes into short detail about each one. The concluding sentence of the sutra states: If disciples of the Buddha recite and meditate on these Eight Realizations, they will put an end to countless misunderstandings and difficulties and progress toward enlightenment, leaving behind the world of birth and death, dwelling forever in peace.

The Sixth Realization especially stood out to me. It seemed different than the other Realizations and it got my internal gears moving. Here’s the whole paragraph from the sutra:

The Sixth Realization is the awareness that poverty creates hatred and anger, which creates a vicious cycle of negative thoughts and actions. When practicing generosity, bodhisattvas* consider everyone – friends and enemies alike – to be equal. They do not condemn anyone’s past wrongdoings or hate even those presently causing harm.

* Bodhisattva: Literally “enlightened being,” one committed to enlightening oneself and others so that all may be liberated from suffering.

After reading this sutra, I wrote this in my journal:

If I hold a dear friend in my heart but keep at bay someone I deem unworthy of my affection, is this not a matter of discrimination? Of weighing the merit of one against that of another? Of getting caught in the three complexes (superiority, inferiority, and equality)?

And yet, there also exists this truth: I cannot extend myself to everyone, nor do I wish to. Choosing one’s circle of beloved is an act of generosity to one’s own limited time and precious reserves of energy.

Still, there is much to be said for the depletion of inner solidity and ease through such unskillful modes as hatred, anger, and separation.

Perhaps there is space, then, to hold both the processes of discernment for the sake of self-preservation and of developing  deep levels of understanding and compassion for those we gravely dislike.

Here’s one last thing I’d like to share, from a Q & A session given during a retreat at Plum Village, in June of 2016, that I watched online this morning, again as part of my MMS practice:

“You have to practice more, until you realize you have already arrived.”

This was a short response given by Sister Thoai Nghiem, to a man who’d posed a question to a panel of monastic and lay Dharma teachers, asking about what his purpose in life was. One of the lay teachers also responded, speaking about the importance of learning how to rest and to let go. I appreciated hearing how the panelists answered his question, because I think it is an extremely difficult one to answer. Hearing how other Dharma teachers share about the practice and answer questions provides me great opportunities to develop my own budding inclinations towards wanting to be a Dharma teacher myself. I learn so much in being attentive and open to what other teachers and practitioners in our tradition have to say.

One of the greatest fruits of my having developed this new practice of Mindful Morning Saturdays is that at the end of my devoted time that I set aside, I feel so richly energized and inspired by Dharmic energy, to the point that I feel a strong resurgence of exuberance and excitement for the practice! During my MMS last week, I watched a Dharma talk online given by Sister Mai Nghiem during the Earth Holders Retreat in April of 2016, where she stated: The cool thing about the practice is that the more we do it the more we get addicted to it because it just feels so good. You start to feel that there’s no other way you’d want to live. I am resonating with her words very much, as of late :)

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