Re-Envisioning the Practice

This morning, I watched a portion of a Dharma talk on YouTube, given by Brother Phap Dung in Plum Village on July 29th, 2018. It was entitled: The Power of Cutting Off and Letting Go. (Here’s the link if you’re interested.)

How timely that it happened to correspond well with the reading I’d done earlier this morning from our Plum Village Chanting and Recitation Book.

Once a week, I read a different sutra from the chanting book. This morning I found myself reading the Discourse on the Dharma Seal, where it gives mention to the “three defiling qualities of mind – greed, hatred, and delusion.” Brother PD also spoke to this list in his talk, though he referred to them as the three afflictions and rephrased them a bit as: craving, anger, and ignorance.

He also spoke about the three virtues – also referred to as gauges – of a spiritual person and/or leader:

  1. Compassion
  2. Wisdom
  3. Freedom (or cutting off or cutting through)

Some things from the Brother’s talk that I scribed down while watching:

– We must re-envision our practice so that it includes all activities, not just certain ones or the ones we find pleasing; this is what Thay meant when he coined the phrase engaged Buddhism. (this is a paraphrase)

– “Be ordinary, don’t stick out. Don’t over-practice.” – Brother PD on the practice of washing the dishes

– “Buddhist practice is like medicine. It helps us, frees us, and then you don’t go holding on to it.”

– Sometimes, I wish I hadn’t met Thay and I think to myself: my life was so much easier before coming to this practice. So, you might want to go somewhere else (for spiritual practice), because in this practice tradition you have to look at things you might not want to look at. (paraphrase)

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Seven Treasures of the Heart

Over this past weekend, I finished watching a talk by Brother Phap Hai, which he gave at Deer Park Monastery on June 21st, 2018. I watch a fair amount of Dharma talks online and I found this one in particular to be very powerful. If you’d like to check it out, click here. Side note: if you’re like me and it’s helpful to watch talks in segments, there are good stopping/pausing points in this talk at 17.40 and 31.05 (the total run time is 54.55).

From Brother Phap Hai’s talk:

“The fundamental insight of Buddhism is that if we look deeply into our lives, into our situation, with appropriate attention, then the path reveals itself naturally.”

 

Seven Treasures of the Heart

as offered by the Buddha in the Dhana Sutta

1. Confidence

2. Mindfulness trainings

3. Self-reflection

4. Concern

5. Listening

6.Generosity

7. Discernment

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Day of Mindfulness

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I had set aside last Sunday as a personal day of mindfulness but I wound up feeling under the weather so I rescheduled for today.  All week I kept this day free of plans and to-do lists.  It felt strange to set up a day of mindfulness on a Thursday instead of a weekend day, when allowing myself the space to slow down feels more natural and acceptable.  Although I don’t have a full time job I still consider Monday through Friday to be work days and I use them as such.  It was a good opportunity to step into those feelings of discomfort and claim this big Thursday work day as a day of practice.

To me, a personal day of mindfulness means slowing down, practicing to offer my full attention to everything that I’m doing while I’m doing it, and quieting down – for a whole day.  It’s a day of gratitude and intention.  A day of turning off the external chatter of my music and computer – not checking email or making phone calls.  A day to practice enjoying each step and each breath.  A day of coming back home to myself in the present moment, over and over again, with love and gentleness.

I began my day by watching a dharma talk given by Thay during the recent Deer Park retreat in CA (to check out his talks go to: http://tnhaudio.org/).  Here are some of the notes I took while listening (the words in bold are what stood out to me personally during the talk):

The Buddha encouraged his monks to practice solitude, but this didn’t mean to drop out of society and disengage.  One monk misunderstood the teaching and did everything by himself.  He went on alms rounds by himself, sat by himself, ate by himself, and walked by himself.  When the other monks told the Buddha of this the Buddha then gave the teaching of The Better Way to Live Alone.  To live alone means to not have a second person in you.  Maybe that second person is the object of your craving or desire.  To live alone is to be completely satisfied with the here and now – you are not looking for anything else.  You understand that happiness and joy are present in the here and now.  Even if you go to the mountain alone but you are still searching or longing for something you are not alone.  

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