How to Do Metta
by Jack Kornfield

In our culture, people find it difficult to direct loving-kindness to themselves. We may feel that we are unworthy, or that it’s egotistical, or that we shouldn’t be happy when other people are suffering. So rather than start loving-kindness practice with ourselves, which is traditional, I find it more helpful to start with those we most naturally love and care about. One of the beautiful principles of compassion and loving-kindness practices is that we start where it works, where it’s easiest. We open our heart in the most natural way, then direct our loving-kindness little by little to the areas where it’s more difficult.

First, sit comfortably and at ease, with your eyes closed. Sense yourself seated here in this mystery of human life. Take your seat halfway between heaven and Earth, as the Buddha did, then bring a kind attention to yourself. Feel your body seated and your breath breathing naturally.

Think of someone you care about and love a lot. Then let natural phrases of good wishes for them come into your mind and heart. Some of the traditional ones are, “May you be safe and protected,” “May you be healthy and strong,” and “May you be truly happy.”

Then picture a second person you care about and express the same good wishes and intentions toward them.

Next, imagine that these two people whom you love are offering you their loving-kindness. Picture how they look at you with concern and love as they say, “May you too be safe and protected. May you be healthy and strong. May you be truly happy.”

Take in their good wishes. Now turn them toward yourself. Sometimes people place their hand on their heart or their body as they repeat the phrases: “May I be safe and protected. May I be healthy and strong. May I be truly happy.”

With the same care let your eyes open, look around the room, and offer your loving-kindness to everyone around you. Feel how great it is to spread the field of loving-kindness.

Now think of yourself as a beacon, spreading the light of loving-kindness like a lighthouse around your city, around the country, around the world, even to distant planets. Think, “May all beings far and near, all beings young and old, beings in every direction, be held in great loving-kindness. May they be safe and protected. May they be healthy and strong. May they be truly happy.”

The Buddha said that the awakened heart of loving-kindness and freedom is our birthright as human beings. “If these things were not possible,” he said, “I would not teach them. But because they are possible for you, I offer these teachings of the dharma of awakening.”

The relative and the ultimate, these are asserted as the two truths. The ultimate is not the domain of mind; the [domain of] mind is relative.

— Shantideva

烦恼是修行的下手处
广钦老和尚

修苦行是从苦中越修越不觉得苦,而且渐渐觉得快乐轻松,并没有感到是在工作,这就是业障渐渐在消,若是越做越觉痛苦烦躁,那就是业障在翻绞。不要以为佛菩萨是多苦,佛菩萨已从苦中磨得业障消除,没有苦感,做什么事都已轻松自在,而不觉得在做什么,也不觉得自己在度众生。

论人的是非曲直,心里起不平烦恼,那就是自己的错,自己的过失。不去管他是非曲直,一切忍下,自心安之无事,那才对,自己也无犯过失,这是修行第一道,也是最上修道之法。

我们念佛就是要念到花开见佛,什么叫花开见佛?就是凡事要去火性、要忍耐,和颜悦色以道理行之,对人要亲切和蔼,不可一副冷峻的霜脸,令人望之却步,当法师的也要如此才能度众。凡事照道理来,就事论事,不可用烦恼心去应付,对人不论是善人或恶人,都是和气地平等对待,不要去看别人的过错,这样别人对我们印象好,我们心也清爽,照这样做去,心无烦恼,便是花开见佛。

参学是在参自心,参我们的烦恼心、烦闷心、对人善恶是非的分别心,参我们对一切的境界不起分别,不起烦恼,得无烦恼心、无挂碍心,是心参。

我们自身的光明要像太阳光一样,对万物一视同仁,无物不照,好人它也照,恶人它也照,好、坏是别人的事,我们总要平等慈悲,若是与人计较,则自身也是半斤八两。

我们修苦行是在借各种事境,磨炼我们不起无明烦恼,洗除习气,锻炼做人做事的各种能耐,并不是要做什么劳力事,才叫做苦行,打破对一切顺逆境的分别,就是在修苦行。出家就是要吃苦受苦,只有在苦中才能开发智慧。

修就是要修这些坏的、恶的,这些逆因缘,会启发出我们的智慧与知识,成就我们的忍辱行,让我们处处无挂碍。当我们的智慧发展到某一程度时,就能折服某一程度的烦恼,所以,越是会修行的人,越是喜欢在逆境中修。

什么事都要学习放下,不要执着,不要样样记挂在心。自己了生死,才是要紧的事,不必去理会别人在演什么戏。否则,自己跟着起烦恼,一起堕入三恶道去。

这个人生就像在演电视剧一样,各人扮演各种不同的角色,剧情发展悲欢离合、喜怒哀乐,看戏的人也随着剧情忽喜忽乐、忽忧忽悲,而这好恶忧乐,也不过是我们自己眼根对尘境,在分别取舍。我们看娑婆世界也是一样,顺境、逆境、善的、恶的,心境随之起伏,而不幸的是,我们的恶习深重,眼根对境,见恶易随,见善难徙,看到恶的,契合自己的恶性习气,就心生欢喜,恣心纵意,随顺而去;而听到佛菩萨的作为,像释迦牟尼佛、观音菩萨、地藏菩萨等,却心生为难,认为那只是佛菩萨们的境界,自己是凡夫,如何效得来,心生退却,对佛菩萨只有空赞叹。结果,好的没学到,坏的却越染越深,这就是本身没有誓愿力的缘故。

如果要练不倒单,先要从淡泊两字开始学起,等到衣食住都能无碍,贪嗔痴也都消灭了,这样子妄念自然消,才能谈到禅定功夫。

如遇高兴欢喜,则问是什么人在欢喜?如遇烦恼,则问是什么人在烦恼?

凡遇到什么事,皆一句阿弥陀佛,高兴也好,烦恼也好,要远离是非,也是一句阿弥陀佛,要静下来念佛,念到睡着也很好,一念(一念不生)能超出三界,又一念(念而无念)到西方。修行要眼假装没看到,耳装没听到,老实念佛,现在你们都是眼睛睁大大的,仔细看看。修行要人家愈不认识,愈好修。

我们打鼓时,念“公事办,公事办,公事办完办私事”,就是不可人劳我逸,只图自己念佛、拜佛、诵经,这些是属私人的事,若不发心于公事,一味地自私,只顾自己的念佛、拜佛,这样的修持,乃是执我相,心地只有越来越窄,一辈子无法解脱。反之,将身心奉常住,为众人做一切功德,令他人得到利益,这样,虽然没时间拜佛、诵经,但一切的经藏已在其中,则智慧渐开,心胸渐广。

修行人就是要在这色、声、香、味、触、法的业识顺逆中求解脱,无魔不成道,成佛哪有那么便宜之事,不经苦行,不经魔障,如何去历练无明烦恼,修行人就是在修魔障,唯有冲破魔境中的无明烦恼,方能得到解脱,也唯有舍下色声香味触法,心无挂碍,才能得到清净解脱,才能显出菩提心来。所以,修行人不能怕魔障,不能贪图安定顺境,那样是不会进步的。

我们修行,便是要修六根对六尘所起的分别烦恼,分别善恶、好音坏音种种等,这种分别就是六根不清净。修行就是要修这些分别烦恼,直至六根对六尘没有分别,才是六根清净,才能五蕴皆空。譬如说:别人骂你,那是消灾,给你不好的脸色看,那是“最上供养”,要没有分别,如获至宝。

Ven Guang Qin (廣欽老和尚) 26.

When we train, we first must hear the words, which we then must study. Yet we must go beyond hearing and studying the words. Milerapa said ” You should not just focus on the words, but you should understand the meaning.” We read many different words but we must grasp the meaning. There are also the collections of the Buddha’s teachings, the three baskets, extensive teachings, some even memorise extensive teachings, but if they don’t stay in the mind, if they are not integrated in the mind, it will be of not much benefit. So first we must study. We must reflect upon what we have studied. We have to habituate the teachings to our mindstream. For example, we should read the Thirty- Seven Practices every day. We should read or recite aloud, but also we must also think about the words – that is something I personally practice. The point is not to complete one reading of text every day but rather engage with the meaning deeply. Even if we just talk about the very first verse or just one line in the verse! For example, “this precious ship of leisure and fortune that is so difficult to obtain” – if we only think of this, there can already be great benefit. This ship of leisure and fortune is the precious human body. When you think about it, what are those qualities and those fortunes? There are five individual fortunes and five circumstantial fortunes, and so on.

— Garchen Rinpoche

Garchen Rinpoche 26.

Birth, Ageing and Death
by Geshe Sonam Rinchen

For name and form, the six sources, contact, feeling, birth, and ageing and death to occur, the six causal factors — ignorance, formative action, consciousness, craving, grasping, and existence — must have taken place. When the process is spread over two lives, the first three of the twelve links — ignorance, formative action, and consciousness — and the eighth and ninth — craving and grasping — occur in one life and all the others in the next life. Where the process extends over more than two lives, the first three steps take place in one life, the eighth and ninth steps in another, and the others in the following life.

The three projecting causes and their four projected results are presented first. They are followed by the accomplishing causes — craving, grasping, and existence — and by birth and ageing and death, which are their results.

Sometimes birth, the eleventh link, is interpreted in the conventional way to mean the emergence of the baby from the womb. Usually, however, the consciousness of the living being at the moment of conception in the womb is defined as birth and is simultaneous with the fourth link, name and form. Consciousness at this point is referred to as resultant consciousness, whereas it is termed causal consciousness at the moment when the imprint of the action was implanted.

We have used the example of conception in the womb as a human or mammal. The greatest number of beings take a miraculous birth, although we find this difficult to believe because we do not see it. Celestial beings and those in the hell realms are born in this way. Beings are also born from eggs and through heat but the fundamental process is the same.

These days there are many good books about the development of the fetus in the womb and the description in the Buddhist texts of what occurs compares quite well with what we can see from photographic evidence. People have different ideas about what the unborn child experiences in the womb. Some say it is a pleasurable state, but from a Buddhist point of view it is considered a traumatic experience first to be confined in an increasingly uncomfortable space and then to be forced out through the birth canal. When we are born, we are incapable of speaking about it and by the time we can express ourselves, we no longer remember what we experienced in the womb.

Although it may become possible to produce human beings who have not developed in the womb, all of us humans who are in this world at present have spent some time in the womb and have gone through the experience of being born. Better to grow in the womb of a mother who is capable of loving feelings for the unborn child than to grow in a glass dish! While they were pregnant, most of our mothers took great care that no harm should come to us.

Those who claim that the fetus experiences well-being in the womb are relying on appearances and cannot recall the experience themselves. Ordinary people cannot, of course, remember it as an unpleasant experience either, but great masters with abilities far beyond our own have alluded to the unpleasantness of the fetus’s condition. Perhaps the situation of the fetus is a little like that of a prisoner who prefers the security of the jail to the insecurity of the world outside. This does not mean that a jail is a pleasant place.

Ageing and death are combined as one link. Ageing starts the moment after conception, as the body begins to develop. It always occurs before death even in the case of an unborn child that dies in the womb. All of us, whether young or old, are experiencing the twelfth link now and what is left is death. But conventionally, of course, we speak of ageing when our hair turns grey and then white, when our teeth fall out and our faculties begin to deteriorate. Ageing is the ripening of the aggregates and death is the process of giving up the aggregates. Ageing, death and sorrow, lamentation and suffering are all the result of being born.

Nagarjuna speaks of sorrow, lamentation, suffering, unhappiness, and distress. These are not included within the twelve links because it is possible to die without experiencing them if we perform many positive actions and practice sincerely during our lives. Why then does Nagarjuna mention these emotions and their expression? Since we have been born in cyclic existence, there is a strong possibility that we will die like this. By drawing our attention to it, Nagarjuna reminds us of the disadvantages of our present condition. We have been born and are definitely going to die, but we still have the opportunity to insure that we will not die in distress. We cannot afford to wait until we are actually dying. Now is the time to prepare and familiarise ourselves with what will prevent such a death. If we do this properly, it is possible to die with joy at leaving behind a decrepit and troublesome body to take a good rebirth full of potential. But if at death we are confused and full of craving and grasping, suffering is inevitable.

In general, existence and cyclic existence have the same meaning. Sometimes four types of existence are presented. The first is intermediate existence. This refers to the aggregates during the period between existence at death and existence at rebirth, and it is a relatively subtle state. The second is existence at birth, referring to the aggregates at conception, which can be equated with the eleventh link, birth.

Preparatory existence extends from the moment after conception until the moment of death, which indicates that our life is a preparation for death. Some commentators have misinterpreted the term preparatory existence and have taken it to refer to the intermediate state that follows death. People often mistakenly think that the being in the intermediate state looks like the deceased person. When we die and become a being in the intermediate state, we do not look like the person who died but like the being we will become in our next rebirth. Finally there is existence at death, which is the moment of death itself.

The eleventh link may be taken to refer just to the moment of conception, to the period from conception until conventional birth has taken place, or to the period extending from conception until death. In any case ageing begins immediately after we have been conceived. Ageing is the moment-by-moment change that occurs while the continuum of aggregates of a similar type persists. Giving up the aggregates of a similar type marks death.

As we die, confusion and clinging to the self are present, which Nagarjuna refers to as sorrow. The verbal expression of this grief and sorrow is lamentation. As the power of the physical senses diminishes, there is suffering. The mental anguish that accompanies this is termed unhappiness. As a result of the physical and mental experiences that occur all kinds of delusions arise and we feel acute distress. Where does all of this come from? From being born. Through the force of the various causes and conditions described in the twelve-part process this aggregation of suffering comes into being.

The text says, “Thus these exclusively painful aggregates come into being.” The word exclusively is loaded with meaning. It implies that these painful aggregates are totally unrelated to happiness, are not in any way connected with a real “I” or “mine,” and that they are merely attributed by naming. They have come into existence through a variety of causes and conditions — in this case the projecting causes and the accomplishing causes as well as many other factors — therefore they have no intrinsic existence in and of themselves and are merely an aggregation of suffering, a collection of suffering, an accumulation of suffering. They exist nominally as a mere attribution dependent on a panoply of causes and conditions.

The Buddha once said, “I do not argue with worldly people, but they argue with me.” It means that the Buddha understands where people’s desire and attachment come from. But when people hear the Buddha speak of impermanence, emptiness and not-self, they refuse to accept and constantly raise objections. Actually, it is no surprise that people object since the Buddha’s viewpoints are something they have never heard of or thought about before, and are entirely contrary to their usual way of thinking. So object they must. Still, truth is truth. Worldly people can object all they want at first, but eventually they will have to accept it.

— Khenpo Tsultrim Lodro Rinpoche

粉碎旧知识直入当下是般若
一行禅师

伟大的科学发现乃源于智慧而非思惟的呈现。科学家们的工具不仅是智力和实验室,他们整个灵魂都沉浸于工作中。智慧为心灵准备好沃土,并在其中播洒种子。在种子发芽前,智慧只能静观其变,企图揠苗助长只是徒然挣扎。

然后,在出其不意的时刻,种子在智慧中茁壮。由于科学家事先“孵育”它们,所以这些时刻往往都会降临。不论行住坐卧间,科学家都在脑中“孵”这个问题,直到解答“突然灵光一现”。

新发现会打破固有知识的藩篱,而有“智”之士也必须毁掉旧有的架构去建造明天的新气象。旧知识是通往新智慧的障碍,也就是佛教所说的“知识障”。伟大的科学家犹如觉者,内心也经历过巨变。如果他们能够获得甚深的了悟,那是因为他们的观察、专注和觉知的能力都高度开发。

智慧,并非知识的累积,相反地,是努力不受知识束缚的结果。智慧粉碎旧知识以迎接更能契合实相的新知识。当哥白尼发现地球绕著太阳运行,使当时大部分的天文学知识都必须舍弃,包括天在上、地在下的观念。

今日的物理学正勇敢地奋斗,希望摆脱古典科学所强调的恒等式和因果观念。科学就像“道”一样,强烈要求我们抛弃所有预设的观念。

当释迦牟尼提出“无我”的观念,他推翻许多有关生命和宇宙的概念。他严厉批判一般人最坚固和广泛的认知——即有一个“永恒自我”的存在。

凡是了解“无我”意义的人都明白,其作用在于推翻“自我”,而不是以新的实相概念来取代。“无我”的概念是一种手段而非目的,如果它沦为一种概念,就必须跟所有其他概念一样被摧毁。

般若智慧常被人类用概念、思想和文字来描述。但是般若智慧不是零散知识的聚集,而是一种直接而当下的融人。在感觉的领域,是觉受(受):在知性的领域,是知觉(想)。智慧不是理性思惟的顶点,而是一种直觉。它无时不刻在我们身上展现,而我们却无法以语言、思想或概念来描述它。“不可名状”正是这种境况的写照。

在佛教中谈及这类的了悟,也是“不能以理智推演、讨论,或纳入任何教义和思想体系之中的”。

Thich Nhat Hanh 108.

Every year, every month, every week, every day, every hour, every minute, every second, our lives are shorter, not longer. So we need to practice well.

— Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche

Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche 14.

Tara: A Powerful Feminine Force in the Buddhist Pantheon
by Meher McArthur

In the northern schools of Buddhism, the rich traditional pantheon of deities is, like in many religious and spiritual traditions, somewhat male-dominated. At the centre is Shakyamuni Buddha, a man who lived among us some 2,500 years ago and attained spiritual perfection.

In the Tantric traditions of the Himalayas, there are also the Five Dhyani-Buddhas or Five Tathagatas (self-born, celestial) — Vairocana, Amoghasiddhi, Amitabha, Ratnasambhava, and Akshobhya — all manifestations of various teachings and spiritual powers of the Buddha, and also all male. Bodhisattvas, compassionate beings who have postponed their own enlightenment to remain in this realm and help other sentient beings, are also described in texts and depicted in art as male, although the most revered of these, Avalokiteshvara sometimes assumes a female form.

Then there are arhats (holy men), Kings of Light, wrathful deities, and various lesser divinities who help followers along their spiritual path. These too are mostly male and are often depicted embracing their female consorts. Independent female deities are relatively scarce, however, there is one Buddhist deity who is not only supremely beautiful in her representations, but is also believed to possess spiritual power that is at least the equal of her male cosmic counterparts: Tara.

Tara is undoubtedly the most powerful female deity in the Buddhist pantheon. Her name means “star” in Sanskrit and she is believed to possess the ability to guide followers, like a star, on their spiritual path. In some northern Buddhist traditions, she is considered a bodhisattva and is often described in texts and depicted in imagery as the female consort of the most widely revered bodhisattva, Avalokiteshvara. In some Buddhist legends, it is said that she was born from one of Avalokiteshvara’s tears, shed in a moment of deep compassion. Other Buddhist legends, however, tell of a devout Buddhist princess who lived millions of years ago who became a bodhisattva, vowing to keep being reborn in female form (rather than in male form, which was considered more advanced on the path to enlightenment) to continue helping others. She remained in a state of meditation for 10 million years, thus releasing tens of millions of beings from suffering. Since then, she has manifested her enlightenment as the goddess Tara.

In the Himalayan region, especially in Tibet and Nepal, Tara’s status is more that of a supreme goddess or female buddha than a bodhisattva. She is referred to as the Wisdom Goddess, the Embodiment of Perfected Wisdom, the Goddess of Universal Compassion, and the Mother of all Buddhas. As benefits such a supremely powerful and compassionate deity, she is often depicted in painting and sculpture seated on a lotus throne in a pose that is at once regal and solicitous. The “pose of royal ease,” or lalitasana, is typically adopted by bodhisattvas such as Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, and Maitreya, usually depicted sitting in lotus position with the right leg hanging down over the edge of the lotus, or bent with the knee up and foot flat on the ground. In Tara’s case, however, her right foot is usually shown positioned on a smaller lotus, not so much relaxing but appears poised to propel her into action should her followers need her assistance.

In Himalayan representations, Tara can appear in as many as 21 forms, and in painting and pieced-silk images, she is depicted in five different colours — like the Five Dhyani-Buddhas — the most common of which are Green Tara (after a Chinese princess in a Buddhist legend) and White Tara (after a Nepalese princess). Green Tara is associated with enlightened activity and active compassion and is the manifestation from which all her other forms emanate. In the pieced-silk thangka by artist Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo, Green Tara is shown seated on her lotus throne holding lotuses, an attribute that she shares with her male counterpart, Avalokiteshvara. Her lotus is usually the blue or night lotus (Skt: utpala), a flower that releases its fragrance with the appearance of the moon. So as well as being associated with the stars, Tara is also related to the moon and the night. As Green Tara, she is also associated with fertility and the growth and nourishment of plants, flowers, and trees.

White Tara is associated with maternal compassion and healing. In many representations, she has eyes in the palms of her hands and on the soles of her feet, as well as in the centre of her forehead, representing her power to see those who are suffering and offer her aid. The pieced-silk thangka illustrated above clearly depicts the eyes in her palms, as she holds her right palm outward to grant the wishes of her followers. White Tara is specifically associated with practices aimed at lengthening one’s lifespan in order to continue the practice of the Dharma and to progress further along the path to spiritual fulfilment.

With all of these attributes, Tara has much to offer female Buddhists. For much of the history of Buddhism, female practitioners have been taught that in order to attain enlightenment they must be reborn as a male; only then can they progress toward full spiritual liberation. The presence of Tara in the Buddhist pantheon over the centuries, both as a bodhisattva and as a female buddha, has offered a sense of inclusivity and hope of spiritual salvation to many female practitioners. Sculptures such as this elegant 18th or 19th century bronze figure from Nepal, which manifests the serenity that comes with the perfected wisdom and the grace that accompanies true compassion, are some of the world’s most exquisite and potent representations of female spirituality.

Compassion is the very root for the development of knowledge.

— Khenpo Tsultrim Rinpoche