Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mindfulness and happiness

“A very smart monk wanted to be promoted to the rank of teacher. Feeling proud of his past accomplishments, the monk went to visit the temple Abbot. It was raining that day, so when he arrived; he took off his shoes and left them, along with his umbrella, at the front of the door.

The temple Abbot, knowing the character of this monk asked, "Tell me, when you removed your shoes, did you place them to the left or the right of your umbrella?"

Of course, the young monk didn't remember. When he heard that question, he realized that he still had a lot to learn. Why wasn't he paying attention to his shoes as he removed them? What was he thinking about? Why wasn't he being attentive in that moment? As far as he had traveled on the path, he still had farther to go."

Mindfulness or paying attention to all that we do, is not just about where you leave your shoes or your umbrella, it is a tool that can be used to lessen the suffering and loss that we bring into the lives of others by carelessness. We all know that accidents, problems, and catastrophes can ensue when we don't focus on what we are doing in the present moment. The Buddha said that our speech is one of the great sources of negative karma, since many times, we talk without thinking and hurt other in the process.

Even in something as trivial as a phone call, mindfulness can make a difference. Even in the distance, the other person can tell if you are interested in the conversation or tell how important you are in that moment. Can you recall that in your personal life?

Believe it or not, our ultimate goal is our never ending quest for happiness. On a subconscious level, we are continuously bargaining about what makes us happy: money, job, position, relationships, and power. We are led to believe that happiness is dependent on possessions, from outside of ourselves.

Unfortunately, we live in an instant gratification, fast food society. We don’t have time; we don’t make time to enjoy life. We make our jobs and money priority number one. Remember, we work to make money and used it is a tool to live a better life, not the other way around.

When you practice mindfulness, when you pay attention to whatever you do, you live a richer life. The food taste better, the flower smell better and the time spent with your loved ones is priceless. Because you live in the here and now, you accept yourself; you accept others and realize that happiness is a state of mind.
And we all want to be happy, right?


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

On emptiness or Shunyata

 “According to the Mahayana teaching, beings and things have no intrinsic existence in themselves. All phenomena come into being because of conditions created by other phenomena. Thus, they have no existence of their own and are empty of a permanent self. There is neither reality not not-reality; only relativity.
Form and appearance create the world of myriad things, but the myriad things have identity only in relation to each other. Beyond identity, Shunyata is an absolute reality that is all things and beings, unmanifested.”
Understanding and internalizing the concept of Shunyata or emptiness is a necessary to attain enlightenment. Well this is the deal…you see a car, and you call it a car...but what is really a car? That thing that we call a car is an amalgamation of many different parts, it is made out of rubber, plastic, metal, glass, fluids, and then there are other parts, an engine, wiper motors, electronic parts, electrical cables, seats, cushions…just like a human being…but what are we? How about ourselves? This thing that we call man or woman is a compilation of flesh, bone, sinew, blood, collagen, vessels, lymph, hair…that’s what we really are!  If you want to go even further, we are just a composition of molecules mainly Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen rearranged in different sequences, add a mind, and that is what we call a man. Confused yet?
The bottom line is, things don’t exist on their own, and they are co-dependent to another thing. That is the reality!
That is the importance of understanding the concept of emptiness. Nothing has and identity on themseselves.  You cannot say, I am a man or a woman and that’s it! We are part of this universe and our components are in a constant recycling mode. Today I am a man, in the future; I can become part of the soil or even pages from a book!
As wild as this idea seems to be, is important to understand the concept of emptiness, all phenomena’s, and all actions are empty of themselves, because they depend on something else to exist. Just like you came from your parents and your parents from your parents. Once you acquire the wisdom to understand the concept of emptiness, you will be able to understand reality because you know everything is interdependent, everything is connected.  We learn not to judge, not to be attached to anything. We now see all our actions have consequences and you realize things just don’t happen because, they happen because there is a cause, and then there will be an effect; that is what we call Karma.
Now you are probably still wondering, what is a human being then?
Welcome to the Five Aggregates!
According to Buddhism, a human being is a combination of five aggregates (skhandhas), namely body or form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations or thought process, and consciousness, which is the fundamental factor of the previous three. Basically, we are mind and matter, and according to Buddhism, apart from mind and matter, there is no such thing as an immortal soul, an unchanging “thing” separate from these five aggregates. 
Thus the combination of the five aggregates is called a being which may assume as many names as its types, shapes, and forms. According to Buddha Dharma, a human is a moral being with both positive and negative potentials.  We make choices concerning which of these potentials we choose to nourish thereby becoming a part of exactly who each one of us is, in terms of characteristics, personality traits, and disposition.  It is the potential of each human to gain wisdom and enlightenment. 
 Buddhism teaches that each one of us is the architect of our own fate, and we will reap what we sow, isn’t that wonderful? In other words, we do have choices, but beware the choices