Wednesday, December 26, 2012

New year blessings The gift of inner calm

 The blessings for all 
New year blessings
The gift of inner calm 

By  Phra Paisal Visalo
 Published: 28/12/2010 at 12:00 AM
BangkokPost Newspaper section: Outlook

       The New Year is a gift-giving occasion. However, we mostly think about giving gifts to others, overlooking giving ourselves a gift, too, particularly what is valuable to our minds.

       Giving clothes, hosting feasts, taking someone out to dinner, to the movies, or the likes ... these are the gifts that please the physical senses.

       But our mind needs some treats, too. This is an important matter, but much overlooked and seriously lacking. What is it that the mind needs? It is inner calm and happiness, which we are in great shortage. That is why most people are yearning for inner calm.

        We should take the time to infuse our mind with the calm within. Happiness and inner tranquility will only emerge when we have mindfulness, mental concentration, and insight.  These things will nurture equanimity in our mind, which will help us to live our life smoothly.

       I would like to suggest that we use this New Year to give our mind the gift of inner calm. And we should not do this only on New Year's Day. We should keep on doing it, because every day is a new day for us. For the rest of the 364 days, I would like to suggest that we give a present to ourselves by living a life of mindfulness, by constantly practising meditation, and by cultivating insight, for they will eventually transform into inner peace and happiness in our hearts.

       Just a little bit of meditation every day is very beneficial. The time we wash and clean our body each day amounts to more than an hour. We spend just as much time nurturing our body by consuming food. But we don't pay much attention to our mind. We should pay more attention to our inner life. Let's give our mind tranquility. If we can do so, our New Year will be meaningful, and our life will be more worthwhile.

       The New Year is also a blessing-giving time. It is traditional to wish each other good fortune, such as longevity, glowing health, happiness, a strong body, and work success. However, good fortune comprises both opportunity and one's readiness. Opportunity means the situation and timing, which involve many other people, something that is dependent on many external factors.

       Winning first prize in the lottery. Being promoted to higher position. Winning a raffle. These things are often considered luck, which comes from external factors. But to have real good fortune it also depends on our internal factor - our readiness within. We might hit gold, but if we are not ready, it will turn into defective luck. We might win tens of millions of baht from winning the lottery, which is indeed a rare luck. But if we don't know how to spend money wisely, or if we spend it on heavy drinking and heavy partying, our life will plunge and probably end up in deep debt. Being drunk from celebrating the prize money, we might crash into electricity poles when driving home. This is broken luck. The opportunity is there. But it turns damaging because the internal factor, our mind, is not ready.

       If we want to have good fortune, it is not enough to wait for an opportunity. We must prepare ourselves to be ready; mental readiness, in particular. It comes from being mindful, insightful, careful, and knowing enough. This is in accordance with what I mentioned earlier - the need to give ourself a present through the cultivation of mindfulness, mental concentration, and insight. If we have these mores, our mind will be calm and composed and our life will constantly meet good fortune. If we are ready within - being mindful, insightful and prudent - we can turn every opportunity into good fortune that makes our life meaningful. Even when opportunity is not at hand, or when we face obstacles, our readiness within will help us transform any adversity into good fortune. When we fail in our work or our love life, we will be able to see it as not a misfortune, but good luck - that is, if we know how to think wisely, and how to learn from what happened. If we have discernment and mindfulness, then we have the inner readiness to turn a crisis into luck and opportunity.

       For this New Year, I wish you all the attainment of inner peace. I wish you the opportunity to help one another cultivate mental concentration, practise meditation, and nurture happiness within. I wish you becoming the source of moral support for one another to develop the mental readiness, so you can turn whatever you are facing into opportunity.
May your mind be governed with mindfulness and shining with firm mindfulness so you have access to luck and opportunity at all times. I wish you success both in life and spirituality. Whatever comes into contact with your mind, may it be the source of high spirits that emanate to your loved ones, relatives, and friends around you.
This is an edited translation of Phra Paisal Visalo's New Year talk at the Komol Kheemthong Foundation in 2003.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

          Natural Duty for Its Own Sake.

By Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

       Perhaps he thought that he was working to repay his debt to America which had done so much for the Jews. If he only thought of repaying the debt, then he would stop when it was paid. This needs to be done away with. The 'me' and the 'you' need not play a part anymore, leaving only one's natural duty and doing that duty for duty's sake. Thus, one can work with an empty mind — free of 'me' and 'mine,' of profit and loss, of success and failure — a mind most sharp, profound, and penetrating. Such a mind is just like having eyes of fire that instantly incinerate whatever one sets them upon. The empty mind sees through everything, just like the magical hermit we mentioned at the beginning.
      Of course people like Einstein didn't work for any personal benefit like that hermit who thought only of itself. Somebody like Einstein was better than that - he worked for the sake of the work, performed his duty for the sake of the duty. At that time there was neither 'me' nor 'us' nor 'ours.' There was nobody. At that time, Einstein wasn't a Jew, he wasn't indebted to the Americans, he was just a pure mind with pure intelligence. Thus he was able to discover something that ordinary people could never find. He could forget unimportant things, unnecessary things, in a way that's hard to believe: whether he had eaten or not, where things were - he didn't need to know any of that. On his work desk there was a bigger mess than any rat's nest or cow's pen because his mind wasn't concerned with how pretty things looked, or what his work desk was like. His mind focused only on going deeper into what he was researching.
       Nowadays, most people work with minds abashed and nervous. In general, whatever people are doing we lack confidence and don't pay all that much attention. We're worrying about whether we'll be successful or not, how much we'll be paid, and who will pay us. Our thoughts are all concerned with 'me' and 'mine,' which creates intense pressure and stress for us all the time. Their work desk is full of matters of me and mine pressuring them. Thus, they have headaches, their managers have headaches and have nervous breakdowns because they can't drop their concerns and worries. Busy mind has trouble thinking things through, is unorganized, and confuses things. This gives us an idea of how important it is to use wisdom in our work. Even when we consider rather crude or coarse work of the sort that most people think doesn't take much intelligence, such as sweeping and cleaning, if one sweeps and cleans at the same time that one is angry, it's like falling into hell while still alive. When we're sweeping the floors of our home, wiping the counters, if we're angry, how can we do a good job? If we're thinking only of pleasing the boss, of getting some reward or prize, this craving or hope.... there's no way that we will escape suffering and that work isn't as good as we might think - not as good as someone who forgets all those things and focuses completely on the duty at hand.
       Doing any kind of work with hopes of getting something in return is a matter of 'me' and 'mine' that people are so familiar with they don't even notice. If someone is watching and ready to give a reward, people will work, but when nobody is watching they do something else. Or they work only in front of someone with power or authority or someone they like, but behind their backs they do something different. These people are the kind who bow to your face and trick you behind your back. There's no way we can expect very good results from such behavior. When people work with a restless, scattered mind, concerned with, worried about what they must do to please someone, what that person will do for one, then one can't work with the full strength of one's heart. This also is called not working with a void mind. When we don't work with a void or free mind, we'll never have results as good as when the mind is free, even if it's exactly the same work, exactly the same place.
       If we're thinking about pleasing the boss, or a lover, or whoever, the first thought, the first feeling, the first decision is enough. But when we set to the work, we must work with a void heart without any 'me' or 'mine,' without any 'us' or 'them.' There's just mindfulness and wisdom. Then our labor will gather itself appropriately. Our strength is used wisely with a mind that is neither scattered nor sloppy, even in ordinary housework like dusting and mopping. In the end the results come back that the boss or our spouse is 100% pleased. If one worked with a mind all busy and bothered, there would be carelessness in this and that - some spots, some dust, some stains will remain.
      Working with a busy mind always leads to carelessness. This is because the mind isn't 100% settled in the work. It's busy with thoughts according to one's desires and hopes. Thus if we seek to work with good results, we must always work with an empty mind - empty of me and mine, gain and loss, and the like. Then there won't be any headaches and the work no longer has the meaning of work; it becomes something pleasurable, like a hobby.
       I spoke about this the other day - about working and giving up all meaning of work so that it becomes a game. Then it becomes fun. The trick of working with an empty mind (cit-waang) is making our work enjoyable. When working with a busy mind (cit-wun), work is suffering. So by now you should understand that there are just these two ways of working: with a void mind and with a busy mind.
       If we work with a busy mind full of me and mind, gain and loss, profit and the like which are all connected with me and mine, then the 108 things swarm our heads creating scattered restlessness. When the mind is void, there are no such feelings to disturb one. Wisdom is left alone, like when Darwin contemplated the plants and trees until squirrels would climb on his head. This means all the strength of the mind was used without any disturbance. This gives us an idea of the difference between working with a void mind and working with a busy mind.

      A special point is that some people have the character or the blessing to work like this quite easily. You can call it what you like - a blessing, or whatever - but it's easy for them. Some people don't have this kind of character, and some have nervous disorders that make it extremely difficult. Those who are neurotic, unstable, or crazy, just can't do it. One needs the punna to have a fit body/mind according to nature's standards, and that they have been trained and developed from childhood, to have a mind that is stable (look up 'B') such that one can train samadhi and do it easily.
       Working with an empty mind is difficult for people in general whose hearts are no longer fit. This is why there are so few geniuses. It's not that nature stipulates some fixed rule that geniuses are rare. It's mainly humanity's own failure. I don't know who to blame for this, this failing of humanity - of parents, of children, of all of us - is far too much.
Nature creates us well enough for what's needed. It's we who create our own messes. We build characters that are neglectful, sloppy, and selfish, thinking only of me and mine, thinking only of deliciousness and pleasures. In the end our minds lack the strength of samādhi. Without the necessary samādhi, there's no sharp, penetrating wisdom. Thus, it's so hard to find people like Einstein and Darwin. Such people are rare, and when they do turn up, they mainly explore material things.
      It would be wonderful if Einstein, Darwin, and others like them were to consider spiritual matters. In other words, the few geniuses that we have, have focused mainly on material things and haven't given much attention to matters of the mind and spirit. This is the failing, or error, more of humanity than of nature.
       Now, we have discussed and agreed to focus our attention upon the subject of quenching suffering. We've been born to end suffering. Consequently, we must turn around all our hopes, desires, and interests towards spiritual matters, in ways that everyone can follow, so that nobody need suffer.

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