Book Review: 8 Verses for Training the Mind

Eight Verses for Training the Mind, New EditionSo while reading Rebel Buddha by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, I had to take a detour.  I can’t explain why I am struggling through Rebel Buddha but I think about that later.  In the meantime, I decided to read Geshe Sonam Rinchen’s commentary on 8 Verses for Training the Mind.  Geshe Ngawang Phende at Drepung Loseling in Atlanta is currently in the middle of a series of teachings on root text.
I love to read Geshe Rinchen’s commentaries.  I find them very straight forward and accessible for students of all levels.  This teaching in particular is a wonderfully simple explanation of Langritangpa’s 8 Verses.  He expounds on each verse leading us though a practice to develop our love and compassion.  As Geshe-la explains:

Greater kindheartedness can transform our daily life and make all our activites meaningful.  This is something we can all practice whether or not we have extensive knowledge of philosophy.

The value of these 8 verses in incalculable.  His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama includes them in his daily medititations.  Geshe Rinchen tells us in the book to take one verses that appears to be revelant to our current circumstances and ponder it over and over until until we feel its effect.  By studying all the verses in this manner and putting them into practice we begin to use every circumstance in our lives a chance to strengthen the Bodhisattva qualities, of insight, kindheartedness, and concern for others and result in greater happiness, peace and contentment on our life.

The First Noble Truth

4nobletruthsThe first of the Four Noble Truths is the Truth of Suffering.

What is suffering? Buddhism describes three levels or types of suffering. This is called ‘the suffering of suffering’, the second, ‘the suffering of change’, and the third is ‘the suffering of conditioning’.

The suffering of suffering: the suffering of birth, sickness, aging, and death.

The suffering of change: things we would normally think as pleasurable.

The suffering of conditioning: What is the nature of things? Eveything happens in samsara is due to ignorance

(complied from ‘The Four Noble Truths’ by H.H. The 14th Dalai Lama, fourteenth printing – 2009)

There is only one moment for me to live.

According to the Buddha, my teacher, life is only available in the here and now. The past is already gone, and the future is yet to come. There is only one moment for me to live in — the present moment. So the first thing I do is go back to the present moment. By doing so, I touch life deeply. My in-breath is life, my out-breath is life. Each step I take is life…

Many of us think that happiness is not possible in the present moment. Most of us believe that there are a few more conditions that need to be met before we can be happy. This is why we are sucked into the future and are not capable of being present in the here and now. This is why we step over many of the wonders of life. If we keep running away into the future, we cannot be in touch with the many wonders of life — we cannot be in the present moment where there is healing, transformation, and joy. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Mirrors and Us….

I am posted this because it has touched on something Nancy (Spirit Lights The Way) & I have commented on recently…maybe it will help you too? 🙂 It is from Tricycle, so feel free to go to their website for more information on this ….

“Pamela Gayle White, from Week 4 of the ongoing Tricycle Retreat, “Letting Go” that she is leading along with Khedrub Zangmo,

Something that has been very helpful for me is trying to understand just how subjective my own interpretation of sticky situations and difficult relationships can be. I have a story to illustrate this.

Once, during my first retreat with a group of people, there was a woman in our retreat center that most of the rest of us found irritating. We didn’t want to be irritated by her, for we were all trying to be good Buddhists, budding bodhisattvas. It bothered us that she was pushing our buttons continuously because that’s not how we saw ourselves—as ordinary neurotic people.

Of course, we talked about it, about her, as people do. Then one day four of us got together in one of the girls rooms and decided that each of us was going to write down what exactly it was about this woman, Therese, that bothered us so very much. We each got a piece of paper and a pen and were very happy to have a little project to work on. This was at lunch time so we weren’t breaking any retreat rules. We all sat down and wrote our pieces and then compared them. The result was a revelation.

One of the girls, who couldn’t throw anything away, said “Therese, she’s just such a packrat! She’s got this thing about grasping where she just can’t let go. It bothers me, I find it so irritating.” Then, the oldest among us had written, “Therese is just so old. She really doesn’t catch on very fast.” It was clearly about her own fears of getting older. Then the next of us shared that she had written “Therese, y’know, she just isn’t very swift.” This was the person who was having the hardest time learning the practices. Then, the fourth person, me, who has long been working with my natural tendency of being quite irritable, had written, “She’s just so irritable! There’s always this anger in her that is just waiting to flare up!”

We looked at each other and could see the problem wasn’t Therese at all. It was such a lesson.

Retreat isn’t just about practice, it’s also about these fabulous lessons that we learn about ourselves and others. Therese was a mirror that taught all of us. She taught me to ask, whenever I am having a difficult experience with someone, “what it is in me that can’t stand the mirror?”

*names were changed to protect the innocent

 

The Thirty-Seven Practices of the Bodhisattva by His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama

I found this teaching by His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama on Lama Yeshe’s site.

After reading it, I knew I should share this wonderful teaching. Here is a snippet of what you will read:

‘You have come a long way to be here, from various countries, and often with much difficulty and trouble. There are the strikes, and there are many of you, and it is not easy to get here. And you have not come here with the intention of going to a festival, for entertainment, or to do a good business deal, or for any personal glory. You have come here to hear the Dharma, more precisely Mahayana Dharma, to receive a tantric initiation, more particularly that of anuttarayoga, and among these Kalachakra. To some completely samsaric people, this may seem strange and even comical. Never mind… Even if we have not come with a perfect motivation, this is already something very great, the goal is an excellent one.’

So remember when you read…’Even if we have not come with a perfect motivation, this is already something very great, the goal is an excellent one.’ 🙂 Namaste

 

 

 

 

Book Review:The Bodhicaryavatara by Santideva by Debra Saturday

As I have just finished reading a translation of ‘The Bodhicaryavatara’ by Santideva (Shantideva), I wondered, ‘how will I retain all this great wisdom?’ . For me, re-reading a book will give me more insight…for invariably I will have pass over some of this and some of that….but also…at times my mind is not ready to understand the full depth of a verse or a passage…and then the next time I read it …a light goes off…’Ah! Now I see better’.

The Bodhicaryavatara by Santideva

From the back cover of this edition:

‘Written in India in the early eighth century AD, Santideva’s Bodhicaryavatara became one of the more popular accounts of the Buddhist spiritual path.’  One could ask ‘why this writing is so popular?’

Here my dear reader is an example: Perfection of Meditative Absorption, verse 135 – ‘If one does not let go of self one cannot let go of suffering, as one who does no let go of fire cannot let go of burning.’ With this single verse…if our mindstream is ready…we can make a direct connection between burning and suffering. but if you are me….it will take many more readings and many meditations to fully release.

So do I suggest this book to read? Yes. Make that a large caps Yes. 🙂 I had borrowed the book from our Monastery library…loved it so much bought my own copy from a used book store.

A last bit from the back cover: ‘Important as a manual of training among Mahayana Buddhists, especially in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the Bodhicaryavatara is still used by modern Buddhist teachers.’ I agree. This book is a manual and that is how I read it. It is not always pleasant to read …some verses are grisly…’meat from skeleton’  …yet it is meant to be an awakening…to how reality is…not how we perceive it.

Enjoy! ~ Debra Saturday