(For an intro to the paramitas and more info about this 6-week practice group, please reference my post from last week.)
Here is the verse our local paramita practice group has been reading & reflecting on daily this past week, which I took and pieced together from the section focusing on the Second Paramita from Thay’s book The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings:
The Five Mindfulness Trainings help protect our body, mind, family, and society. The First Mindfulness Training is about protecting the lives of human beings, animals, plants, and minerals. The second is to prevent exploitation by humans of other living beings and of nature. The third is to protect children and adults from sexual abuse; to protect yourself and protect families and couples; to help other people feel safe. The Fourth Mindfulness Training is to practice deep listening and loving speech. The Fifth Mindfulness Training is about mindful consumption. The most precious gift we can offer our society is to practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings. The Five Mindfulness Trainings are the most concrete way to practice mindfulness. We need a Sangha around us in order to practice them deeply.
The second of the six paramitas is: mindfulness trainings. (To read the Five Mindfulness Trainings in the Plum Village tradition, click here.)
In the first paramita (giving/generosity), Thay wrote: The greatest gift we can offer anyone is our true presence. And in the section on the second paramita, Thay wrote: The most precious gift we can offer our society is to practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings. With deep looking we can see how these two offerings – our true presence and our practice of the mindfulness trainings – are not separate, still, I like the distinction of what I can practice to offer someone else, one-on-one, and what I can practice to offer our collective society.
This past week, rather than reading each of the Five Mindfulness Trainings, I chose instead to simply focus on the titles for each one:
- Reverence for Life
- True Happiness
- True Love
- Loving Speech and Deep Listening
- Nourishment and Healing
This is how I have it worked out: When I invest in and prioritize – regularly and on-goingly – the actions that help nourish and heal my body, mind, and spirit, my capacity to cultivate the energies of true happiness and true love grows and strengthens, which waters my ability to offer loving speech and deep listening, in the spirit of a deep-seated reverence for life.
Some reflections I penned down in my journal:
Reverence for life: to not take life for granted; not disregard the preciousness and splendor of simply being alive; to not downplay the great gift of being able to arrive in the here & now that each present moment is extending to me.
True happiness: this is a fruit that develops as a result of watering the seeds of joy, ease, stability, deep looking, and understanding (just to name a few); it is like the trunk of a tree in a strong wind: well-rooted and un-perturbed; it is the energy that allows me to not lose sight of the joys and beauty that exists within and around me, even in the midst of difficult, upset, and challenges.
True love: this is a fruit that develops as a result of practicing the four elements of true love, as offered by Thay: joy, inclusiveness, compassion, and loving kindness.
Loving speech & deep listening: if I am unable to offer this to myself, I will be unable to offer this to others; to learn to listen & keep listening, speak kindly & keep speaking kindly to myself is of the utmost importance, if I have the desire to extend these abilities in the direction of helping to reduce the suffering of others.
Nourishment & healing: in the spirit of impermanence, I must continually and routinely ask myself: what brings me nourishment? am I watering seeds that assist and strengthen my well-being? am I guarding well what I allow in to my consciousness? what actions will allow me to further myself on my path of healing? what actions am I doing that are holding me back?
After five days of simply reflecting on the titles of each training, I read them through in full this morning. Here they are whittled down to one sentence each, which has been taken directly from the trainings:
- I am committed to cultivating the insight of interbeing and compassion.
- I am committed to practicing generosity in my thinking, speaking, and acting.
- I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy, and inclusiveness.
- I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace.
- I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society.