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Dharma Gleanings


cynthia rich

August 4, 2015—September 4, 2015

August 4, 2015
It’s likely that the reason why children (or adults) with Downs syndrome so often appear to radiate an extraordinary sweetness and equanimity might be the minimal presence of discursive thought, which allows them to stay closer to their buddha natures, instead of wandering off into a maze of conditioned thinking.

Very advanced practitioners can have the advantage both of dwelling in that equanimous state while pulling on discursive thought when it is genuinely useful.

August 6, 2015
I find it helps to recognize that there are three kinds of happiness, that correspond to stages in our practice. The first is worldly happiness, what we conventionally mean by the word: I am happy that you are looking so well, I am happy that I caught the last bus. The second is unworldly—what as Buddhists we call “rapture.” This is the happiness when we recognize that our hindrances are dropping away, that the path is real and delivering its precious goods. The third is what I call nirvanic (a word less charged than nirvana)—more equanimous and wordless, when we are no longer “surprised by joy,” and live in the sweet naturalness of our true natures, move about unSelfconsciously, unfettered by our conditioned identities, free to join the dance of whatever is however it may in that moment present itself.

August 7, 2015
As we advance in our practice, we learn to pay attention to ever subtler appearances of our hindrances—a hint of frustration, a twinge of envy. It is difficult to build a stable practice unless we realize that we are meant to give the same quality of interest and recognition to moments, however fleeting, of unexpected patience, mudita, acceptance, interbeing. When we do that, we honor and celebrate our practice. Not to do so is like hopping along the path on one foot.

August 9, 2015
Something that happens when we allow ourselves to have a fixed notion of another human being is that we tend to see more and more of what we think confirms that notion and discard as irrelevant what seems to suggest another reality. The person becomes more and more fixed in our consciousness—we think we have pierced the butterfly with the pin of our certainty, while she is really fluttering about above a bush somewhere, or headed for Mexico.

August 27, 2015
Meditation can seem like spending time with ourselves, however that state, when it is wordless or thoughtfree, is the most profound way to be with others. We can carry it out into the world with us. The Dalai Lama when he passes by a doorman—and the doorman may always remember their encounter—is relating out of that natural space. If any words pass, and they probably won’t, that will not be what is remembered.

September 4, 2015
In sangha we’ve been talking about the Heart Sutra, how emptiness is form and form emptiness. One of the standard ways teachers introduce these concepts is to remind us about money, how a crumply slip of paper has “form”—meaning, value, dollar-ness—only because we give it form. As Buddhists we know that the paper itself is “paper” only because we give it form. And lately I’ve become aware of how in our daily lives we move back and forth between these ways—form and emptiness—of perceiving the world.

We can all watch the interplay of form and emptiness in the activity of our selective memories. Some people who once had form for us—maybe the girl who sat behind us in high school or a colleague on our first job or a math teacher in junior high—have now faded into emptiness. We can’t see their faces or remember their names—they don’t exist for us. And yet even many years later, some other girl in high school, some other colleague or math teacher might retain their forms, since we hold tightly to the form of certain people as a way of building up and maintaining our own form—our Self. That girl in high school said something that gave Me some confidence I didn’t have before, I’ll never forget how that colleague embarrassed Me, that math teacher taught Me to hate math. Those individuals that we hold in our minds are of course as empty as the others—without our knowledge the girl has died, the colleague has become a Buddhist, the math teacher works for a computer company and has transitioned—and still we cling to their earlier forms since they have become part of what reassures us that we are a stable and unchanging Somebody. We use their forms to shore up the form we build of our Selves.