Dharma Gleanings


cynthia rich

April 5, 2016—April 8, 2016

April 5, 2016
Buddhist teachings are not a religion—they are a science of the mind.

— The Dalai Lama

The confusion comes because Buddhism can be converted into a religion, as when someone prays to the Buddha or Kwan Yin to win the poker game.

It also can feel like a religion, since it is capable of filling us with a sense of beauty and wonder and awe that we associate with religion.

April 6, 2016
In the film Heart of a Dog, the narrator says, “It would be terrible to lie to the dying.” Yes, and since we are all dying, it would be terrible to lie to anyone.

April 8, 2016
At a retreat last weekend, we were reminded of the mantra of karuna: May I hold this suffering with compassion.

As we become willing, through mindfulness, to hold with compassion our own pain in the present, we can see its ancient origins in the childhood suffering that we thought we had put to rest. When we discover that we can contain and honor the reality of our own earliest and deepest suffering, when we see that by not burying such great pain we are liberated rather than destroyed, we can begin to allow ourselves to contain more and more of the reality and breadth of the First Noble Truth.

We can begin to open our hearts to take in more of the suffering of others, including those who used to annoy or enrage us. We can drop our childish pretend games of denial of our own death and the death of those we love the most, and feel the tenderness, the interconnection, the preciousness that comes from knowing that shared fragility.

At this historic moment it is in our faces that, by the greed, aversion, delusion of our species, we have hastened the deaths of what we have loved most on this planet. The Four Noble Truths tell us we can no longer live in denial of the enormous suffering, the deaths and extinctions we have brought to ourselves and other species on this small planet. We must expand our containers to contain that reality as well.

When we can allow ourselves to know the global realities that are so clear and—like our own aging, sickness, death—we have been so unwilling to acknowledge, how do we then respond?

We can imagine ourselves on the Titanic. We don’t need to howl in impotent despair, or spend our last hours raging at whoever failed to provide enough life jackets, or rush to try to grasp the wheel and steer an obviously sinking ship. Instead we might comfort a frightened child, or pick up an instrument and play “Nearer My God to Thee,” or help one or two folks get into lifeboats without trampling others.

When we have developed the courage and insight to deeply take in the inexorable reality of impermanence, the pervasiveness of suffering, when we can deeply accept the First Noble Truth, a great weight is lifted. We do not have to fight against reality, protest what is the condition of living beings. We can take that wasteful energy and transform it to a response of vigorous and lively compassion—How might I ease this pain?.