Dharma Gleanings


cynthia rich

January 21, 2015—February 10, 2015

January 21, 2015
Friends may think I’m a bit Buddhist OCD, however I enjoy playing with the implications of the words we use to mean “but.” I like to avoid them, at least in writing, and more and more in conversation, since they are juxtaposing words that work to reinforce our dualistic thinking. We may not notice, however there are real differences in the way that words we take to be synonyms feed or lessen our attachment to duality. “Still,” “however,” “although,” “nonetheless,” “and yet,” strongly emphasize that two apparently incompatible entities can co-exist: “He’s a difficult person, still/however/although/nonetheless/and yet I enjoy him.” “Rather” and “instead” are true “but” words that insist on incompatibility, on duality. “But” can become non-dual with the assistance of “not only”: “Not only is it raining but it is windy.”

As a possibly OCD practitioner I’m most comfortable, wherever it’s practical, to introduce less duality, more co-existence in this world.

January 30, 2015
As we advance in our practice, more experiences that used to be “pleasant” tend to become “neutral.” It may be that some of the pleasure of a “pleasant” experience—whether food or music or games or looking at a sunset—comes simply from the relief it gives us from our painfully busy minds. When that need to be distracted falls away, and our happiness settles more into the flow of our life, one source of those pleasures dissipates.

February 4, 2015
What I know about death: Spirit isn’t something you can put in a bottle and then pour out.

February 10, 2015
It’s become clear from my hospital work that all religions, whatever their different forms, rituals, beliefs, can be seen as different skillful means to spiritual awareness, to a life that is psychologically harmonious and more in tune with the nature of reality. Every day I find myself translating back and forth from Muslim or Catholic or Jewish or Evangelical language and experiences into Buddhist language and experiences. Those who know how to “surrender to the Lord” are in accord with the Buddhist principle of letting go or non-attachment. “Sin” is another way of talking about suffering and defilements, while the most deeply spiritual adherents of the different religions are led both spontaneously and by their teachings to the practice of the brahma viharas.

In Finding Our True Home, Thich Nhat Hanh shows how the Buddhist Pureland was skillful means for directing people to the miracles of reality, and working in the hospital has taught me that the mythic stories of the different religions serve as similar skillful means—helping their practitioners understand realities that the Buddha taught in other ways. They are different fingers pointing to the moon, however much they may wind up pointing at each other.

For Adam and Eve, the Garden was their Pureland, that place where they could enjoy the awe-inspiring beauty of ultimate reality. What ruined it for them was the primary source of all suffering: grasping, desire. They were not satisfied with the marvelous it-just-is of the Garden and wanting to experience the “knowledge” of conventional reality, they bit into that juicy apple, which introduced them to the concepts of good and evil—our dualistic view of the world. Because they turned away from it-just-is, that full appreciation of the world as it is, they saw themselves—as children do, when they are introduced to conventional judgments—as naked. A new self-consciousness—consciousness of Self—had come into being, bringing with it shame and “sin” (the Biblical name for suffering), and the resulting curse of becoming (childbirth). As if wakening from a glorious LSD trip, Adam and Eve dropped smack into conventional reality. As after an LSD trip, or an experience of jhana, human beings will often retain the sense that there is a larger reality, however the echo of such an experience is not enough to return us to our paradise lost. The Bible-based religions/the Four Noble Truths say we must do the work to liberate ourselves from sin/suffering if we are to return to a place of bliss.