Spirituality & Faith in times of COVID-19
by Venerable Kwang Sheng

The COVID-19 pandemic continues relentlessly even today, causing great disruptions to our daily life, society and economy. In particular, it is causing immeasurable psychological distress to people, who are experiencing anxiety, worries and fears. As Buddhists, how should we strengthen our faith and adapt ourselves to overcome this current calamity?

Faith is the gateway to enter Buddhism and the basis for sustaining the Buddha Dharma. According to the Avata_saka Sutra: Faith is the foundation to cultivate the Way, and the mother of merit and virtue, because it is capable of nourishing wholesome roots. The Buddha Dharma is like a vast sea; only by faith can it be entered. Therefore, the single word “faith” is the key to escape from birth and death and is the wonderful means for returning to the source.

It is also said in the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra that “the Buddha Dharma is like a vast sea; only by faith can it be entered.” In the immense oceans of Buddhist wisdom, the prerequisite to obtain tangible benefits from the Buddha Dharma is to possess the Right Faith. The Right Faith is the abode for our mind and the basis for the three Dharmic, karmic and wisdom bodies. Only with Right Faith in Buddhism will we derive the impetus and motivation to study the scriptures in depth, and sever the roots of our doubts and ignorance, thereby putting the teachings into practice, and thus experiencing first-hand the joy and bliss that comes from having our mind purified with the radiant light and cool cleansing water of the Buddha teachings.

In Buddhism, “faith” refers to the unity of body and mind, an alignment between our inner and outer activities to pay homage and apply the Buddha’s teachings so as to attain liberation. By imbuing and manifesting these teachings personally, we purify our minds, enact good moral values, improve the quality of our daily living, and discern the truth of our existence.

Buddhism objects to blind or unquestioned faith but promotes Right Faith based on wisdom and understanding. The Buddha cautioned in the Nirvana Sutra that “Faith without understanding fosters ignorance; whereas understanding without faith breeds the wrong views.” In other words, having faith without the correct understanding gives rise to ignorance and worries. Moreover, the activities of such a person may not be in accordance with the Buddhist teachings. On the other hand, having understanding without faith generates false or mistaken views. Therefore, the basis of faith in Buddhism is wisdom. Buddhists should strengthen their faith through wise discernment and cultivate their religious piety through wise practice, which would result in their faith deepening with growing wisdom. That is why the Buddha emphasised the paramount role of wisdom in the Avata_saka Sutra: “Of all the teachings, wisdom is foremost.”

The Buddha taught four ways to keep Right Faith steadfastly.

➊ Seek and keep spiritual guidance. We should surround ourselves with a spiritual community. We do this by getting acquainted with learned practitioners with the right views and understanding, namely the Buddhist Sangha. As noted in the Avata_saka Sutra:“All Buddhist teachings achieve fruition through the efforts of conscientious practitioners, who are the pillars.” Moreover, “One who seeks the Bodhisattva path, who wishes to attain the Perfect Wisdom, should diligently seek out good company. Seek them out without fatigue; and when one encounters them, do not grow weary or complacent; comply instantly with their teachings without defiance.” Thus, it can be seen that seeking and keeping good spiritual guidance is the first step in practising Buddhism.

➋ Listen to the true Dharma. This means that we should listen frequently to the teachings of the Sangha. As stated in the Verses about Hearing (Srutivarga):

Through much hearing, one understands the Dharma. Through much hearing, one distances oneself from wrongdoing. Through much hearing, one discards what is meaningless. Through much hearing, one attains Nirvana.

Only by listening extensively to the right teachings can we gain insight into the true empty nature of phenomena and discern the ultimate reality of our existence.

➌ Ponder wisely: After listening to the teachings, we must continually reflect on them based on the correct understanding of Buddha Dharma, to deepen our understanding and truly grasp the spirit and meaning of the teachings. This is in sharp contrast to thoughtlessly or superstitiously following what is said.

➍ Apply the Dharma in our daily life. This means that we apply to real life what we have learned or understood about the Buddha Dharma, achieving unison of thought and action. All four methods are interconnected. Starting with seeking out spiritual guides, we get to hear the true Dharma as a result, thereby leading to us acquiring right views and understanding, which we then put into everyday practice.

The current pandemic is a common crisis confronting humanity. In this scenario, Buddhists should strive even harder to enact the Buddhist values of compassion, gratitude, wisdom and rationality. We should steady ourselves, reframe our mindset, strengthen our faith and deploy the right understanding to overcome this challenge together. During this pandemic, the medical front-liners have stepped up selflessly to answer the call of duty, the cleaning staff have worked tirelessly without complaints, volunteers have served willingly, and the law enforcement officers have discharged their responsibility admirably. They are demonstrating the goodness inherent in human nature and spreading warmth to all others around them. Due to their staunch commitment to forge ahead, we can have some respite and sense of security. Therefore, we should be grateful and show our appreciation.

Only people who are grateful can face the daily grind with optimism and positivity, accepting life’s challenges. As the pandemic rages on, all Buddhists should start with themselves by maintaining Right Faith and views, unite and collaborate cohesively, comply proactively with safety measures, so that we can surmount this challenge together.

Self-discipline will lead us to freedom, and having a common goal will allow us to march forward in tandem. I sincerely pray for strength and protection for all beings to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and that the pandemic will end soon so life may return to normalcy. May everyone stay healthy, happy, safe and blessed.

Ven Kwang Sheng 16.

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It is important for us to reflect on how we got to where we are today and how we can change in the future. Let me illustrate how our thoughts and feelings can change the quality and direction of our life. Unfortunately, if I use a negative story, it might be easier for us to get the point, as we are all personally well versed in such things.

So, say that we have an unpleasant exchange with a co-worker one day. It isn’t significant, but we keep thinking about it and feeling dislike for that person. Soon, whatever this person says or does, whether it actually touches us or not, annoys us. Every exchange, whether smiling or frowning, triggers harsh feelings in us toward them. After some time, even seeing this person’s e-mail in our inbox can make our heart skip a beat. Then, merely thinking about this person makes us feel frustrated and miserable. It doesn’t matter if they are miles away. It consumes us. We constantly bring their annoying demeanour vividly to mind and keep hearing their irritating voice loudly — as if they were right in our face.

Obviously, real harmful actions and harsh words will fly back and forth when you actually meet. We may force ourselves to smile, but whatever we say or do relating to this person will become harmful. Our forced nice gestures won’t charm anyone, as they came from an agitated state of mind. This illustration is probably familiar to many of us.

But it is ourselves that we harm most. We accumulate poisonous emotions that hurt the elements and energy systems of our body and can lead to sickness and disease.

— Tulku Thondup Rinpoche

Tulku Thondup Rinpoche 42.

看鬼怪 活出灿烂的自己
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本来池恩倬不应该诞生在世间,但因为鬼怪救了她的母亲,恩倬不仅活了下来,还成为鬼怪的新娘,背负着了结鬼怪此生的命运。这是风靡各地的韩剧《孤独又灿烂的神——鬼怪》的故事起点。

《鬼怪》的剧情引人入胜,拍摄手法比拟电影规格,画面美得让人不禁倒抽一口气;一系列悦耳动听的歌曲配乐,实在为剧情的发展大大加分;再加上,四位主要演员的高颜值仪表,真的是一部让世间人欲罢不能的韩剧。

我有一段时间没看韩剧了,总觉得好浪费时间,不应该沉迷。但经友人推荐《鬼怪》,真的是一看就有“追”下去的动力。对我来说,这部韩剧除了一般的爱情课题,更值得让人关注的是,对生命课题的处理,从而提升了这部剧的格局。

剧中,遗漏者池恩倬身世可怜,从小就失去了母亲,被姨母收养。姨母一家一心只想拿到恩倬母亲留下的保险金,一直欺负她,但恩倬对生命依旧积极乐观。单纯、善良的恩倬自小有看到鬼魂的能力,更和他们成为朋友,为他们处理一件件生前憾事;也因为这个能力,恩倬相对比较能够接受生死的课题。

剧中有一幕,是倬恩和鬼怪的妹妹Sunny聊天。

Sunny:哥哥是怎么变成鬼怪?

恩倬:因为这个世界需要奇迹。

Sunny:为什么要有地狱使者?

恩倬:因为死亡的存在,才使得生命更加灿烂。

恩倬面对生命的态度,是如此积极。她说:“我的记忆回来后的第一个想法,就是要把今天当作最后一天来过。如果今天是最后一天,现在这个记忆就是我爱的人的最后一个记忆,所以每一个都要拼命去爱,拼命去活。”

这种生命的态度,换个说法,就是活在当下。印光大师在世时,把死字放在床头,就是要提醒自己生命无常,精进办道。而韩剧透过唯美浪漫的铺陈,传达相同的讯息,相信年轻一代的朋友更易接受。

鬼怪这个守护神,总是为世间带来一些美好的转变,但是即使他已经向他想要帮助的人,说出预知的答案或更好的选择,但是人类未必会跟从。每个人都有自己的福德因缘,人生的际遇是因果的如实呈现,但是很多时候,我们总是不能接受,苦了自己。

地狱使者像公务员般,接引亡者到他的“办公室”喝一杯“孟婆茶”,再赴黄泉。一个个亡者来到他的跟前,无论贫富,什么也带不走,唯有善恶决定去向。这和佛教的因果观、业力的牵引也是一致的。

最后一集,当地狱使者拿着好多份名簿,准备去“接”一群即将在车祸里丧生的孩子时;恩倬刚好经过,她在那一刻做了一个决定,名簿里的名字竟然变成了“池恩倬”。

地狱使者看到恩倬的牺牲,含泪说道:“人类的牺牲,大概是神无法计算的部分,就连预测也不可能吧!那是那一瞬间的本能,并且完全取决于人的选择,只有人类才能做出选择。”

剧中,神,被世人误解为一切的主宰者,人类面对的一切,皆由神来安排。殊不知剧中的神,出的是生命的课题,人类依然可以做出选择。只是人类都忘了为自己的选择负责,在面对逆境的时候,把一切责任又推给神。

恩倬为了救这群车上的孩子,选择牺牲自己,在车祸中丧生,但她没有后悔,这是她的选择。她牺牲小爱,成就了大爱,不就是一种慈悲吗?

人类相信命运、宿命,相信有一个主宰者,但其实我们所面对的生活,无论顺逆,其实不就是我们种下的种子吗?

生命的长短,我们无法预知,活在当下,活出最灿烂的自己,不只是韩剧里的唯美描写,更是现实生活中你我可以落实的部分,否则人生又有何意义呢?

Lotus 127.

The more we attune to peace, the more radiant our lives become.

— Zen Proverb

Lotus 291.

We Are The Earth
by Thich Nhat Hanh

At this very moment, the Earth is above you, below you, all around you, and even inside you. The Earth is everywhere. You may be used to thinking of the Earth as only the ground beneath your feet. But the water, the sea, the sky, and everything around us comes from the Earth. Everything outside us and everything inside us comes from the Earth. We often forget that the planet we are living on has given us all the elements that make up our bodies. The water in our flesh, our bones, and all the microscopic cells inside our bodies all come from the Earth and are part of the Earth. The Earth is not just the environment we live in. We are the Earth and we are always carrying her within us.

Realising this, we can see that the Earth is truly alive. We are a living, breathing manifestation of this beautiful and generous planet. Knowing this, we can begin to transform our relationship to the Earth. We can begin to walk differently and to care for her differently. We will fall completely in love with the Earth. When we are in love with someone or something, there is no separation between ourselves and the person or thing we love. We do whatever we can for them and this brings us great joy and nourishment. That is the relationship each of us can have with the Earth. That is the relationship each of us must have with the Earth if the Earth is to survive, and if we are to survive as well.

THE EARTH CONTAINS THE WHOLE COSMOS

If we think about the Earth as just the environment around us, we experience ourselves and the Earth as separate entities. We may see the planet only in terms of what it can do for us. We need to recognise that the planet and the people on it are ultimately one and the same. When we look deeply at the Earth, we see that she is a formation made up of non-Earth elements: the sun, the stars, and the whole universe. Certain elements, such as carbon, silicon, and iron, formed long ago in the heart of far-off supernovas. Distant stars contributed their light.

When we look into a flower, we can see that it’s made of many different elements, so we also call it a formation. A flower is made of many non-flower elements. The entire universe can be seen in a flower. If we look deeply into the flower, we can see the sun, the soil, the rain, and the gardener. Similarly, when we look deeply into the Earth, we can see the presence of the whole cosmos.

A lot of our fear, hatred, anger, and feelings of separation and alienation come from the idea that we are separate from the planet. We see ourselves as the centre of the universe and are concerned primarily with our own personal survival. If we care about the health and well-being of the planet, we do so for our own sake. We want the air to be clean enough for us to breathe. We want the water to be clear enough so that we have something to drink. But we need to do more than use recycled products or donate money to environmental groups. We have to change our whole relationship with the Earth.

We tend to think of the Earth as inanimate matter because we’ve become alienated from it. We are even alienated from our own bodies. We spend many hours every day forgetting that we even have a body. We get so caught up in our work and our problems that we forget that we are more than just our minds. Many of us are sick because we forget to pay attention to our bodies. We’ve also forgotten the Earth — that she is part of us and that we are part of her. Because we’re not taking care of the Earth, we have both become sick. When we look deeply at a blade of grass or at a tree, we can see that it’s not mere matter. It has its own kind of intelligence. For example, a seed knows how to grow into a plant with roots, leaves, flowers, and fruit. A pine tree is not just matter; it possesses a sense of knowing. A dust particle is not just matter; each of its atoms has intelligence and is a living reality.

This understanding of the deeper non-dualistic nature of things is called advaya jñana in Sanskrit. This means the wisdom of nondiscrimination. This is a way of seeing that goes beyond concepts. Classical science is based on the belief that there is an objective reality that exists even if the mind does not. But in the Buddhist tradition, we say there is mind and there are objects of mind, and that they manifest at the same time. We can’t separate them. Objects of mind are created by the mind itself. The way we perceive the world around us depends entirely on our way of looking at it.

If we understand the Earth as a living, breathing organism, we can heal ourselves and heal the Earth as well. When our physical body is sick, we need to stop, rest, and pay attention to it. We have to stop our thinking, return to our in-breath and out-breath, and come home to our body. If we can see our body as a wonder, we also have the opportunity to see the Earth as a wonder, and healing can begin for the body of the Earth. When we go home and take care of ourselves, we heal not only our own bodies and minds, but we help the Earth as well.

The Earth is a beautiful planet; it has a multitude of life forms, vegetation, sounds, and colours. In the sky, we can see the light of Venus and faraway stars. Looking at ourselves we see that we, too, are beautiful. Our mind is the consciousness of the cosmos. The cosmos has given rise to the beautiful human species. With powerful telescopes, people have been able to observe the cosmos in all its splendour. We have had glimpses of faraway galaxies. We have seen stars whose images take hundreds of millions of years to reach the Earth. The radiant and elegant cosmos that we can observe is in fact our own consciousness itself and not something outside of it.

THE EARTH IS A WONDER

When you contemplate the planet Earth, you see that she has many virtues. The first virtue is stability. She is steadfast when faced with challenges and continues to offer perseverance, equanimity, and forbearance in the face of many human-created calamities.

The second virtue is that of creativity. The Earth is an inexhaustible source of creativity. She has given birth to so many beautiful species, including humans. Although there are many talented musicians and composers among us, the most wonderful music of all is composed by the Earth herself. There are those of us who are excellent artists and painters. But the Earth has created the most beautiful landscapes. If we look deeply, we can discover a multitude of the infinite wonders that appear on the Earth. Even the best scientist can’t match the beautiful petal of a cherry blossom or the delicateness of an orchid.

The third virtue is nondiscrimination. Nondiscrimination means that the Earth does not judge. We, humans, have done many careless things that have harmed the Earth and yet she does not punish us. She brings us to life and she welcomes us back to her when we die.

If you look deeply and feel this connection to the Earth, you will also begin to feel admiration, love, and respect. When you realise the Earth is so much more than simply the environment, you will be moved to protect her as you would yourself. There is no difference between you and her. In that kind of communion, you no longer feel alienated.

OUR LIVING, BREATHING MOTHER

In his book, The Lives of a Cell, biologist Thomas Lewis describes our planet as a living organism. After some reflection, he arrives at the insight that the whole planet is like a giant living cell whose parts are all linked in symbiosis. He describes the miraculous achievement of the atmosphere as the world’s biggest membrane. Lewis finds it so astonishing that the Earth is alive. He is struck by the amazing beauty and exuberance of the Earth in contrast to the barren, cratered moon and other planets. He likens the Earth to an organised, self-contained being, a “live creature, full of information and marvellously skilled in handling the sun.”

We too can see that the Earth is a living being and not an inanimate object. She is not inert matter. We often call our planet Mother Earth. Seeing the Earth as our mother helps us to realise her true nature. The Earth is not a person, yet she is indeed a mother who has given birth to millions of different species, including the human species.

Our Mother Earth has brought us to life and provided all the conditions for our survival. Over the aeons, she has developed an environment from which humans can manifest and thrive. She created a protective atmosphere, with air we can breathe, abundant food for us to eat, and clear water for us to drink. She is constantly nourishing and protecting us. We can see that she is our mother and the mother of all beings.

We are a child of the Earth and our planet is a very generous mother who embraces us and provides us with everything we need. And when one day we cease to exist in this form, we will go back to the Earth, our mother, only to be transformed so that we may manifest again in a different form in the future.

But don’t think that Mother Earth is outside of you. Looking deeply you can find Mother Earth within you, just as your biological mother who gave birth to you is also within you. She is in each of your cells.

THE SUN

If the Earth is our true mother, then the sun is also our true parent. Together they make life on Earth possible. The sun’s energy enables life forms to exist on our planet. The sun offers light and warmth for plants to grow. Without the sun, there would be no life at all.

Countless civilisations have paid homage to the sun. In the Buddhist tradition, there are many who praise Amitabha, the Buddha of Limitless Light, and they believe his Pure Land lies to the west. We can call this Buddha Mahavairocana Tathagatha, the Buddha of Infinite Light and Life. We can say that the sun is a true Buddha, because he shines his light upon the Earth, providing warmth, light, energy, and life every minute of the day to all species on the planet. The sun is not only to be found in the sky; the sun is on Earth and in each one of us. Each of us has the sunshine within us. Without the sun, life on Earth wouldn’t be possible; living beings couldn’t exist. We can think of the sun and the Earth as our true parents, and as the true parents of our biological father and mother, and of all our ancestors. The Buddha, Mohammed, Jesus Christ, and all our wonderful teachers are children of this planet. We are all children of the Earth and the sun. Just as we carry the DNA of our biological mother and father within us, we carry the sun and the Earth in each of our cells.

THE HIGHEST FORM OF PRAYER

We can feel a tremendous sense of awe and wonder at the immense energy of the universe, and we may be tempted to believe it was created by a humanlike God. Impressed by the powerful forces of nature, we often imagine there is a god behind the raging storms, a god of thunder, a god of rain, or a god controlling the rise and fall of the tides. It’s easy to think that this highly creative force could have a human form.

However, I don’t think God is an old man with a white beard sitting in the sky. God is not outside of creation. I think God is on Earth, inside every living being. What we call “the divine,” is none other than the energy of awakening, of peace, of understanding, and of love, which is to be found not only in every human being but in every species on Earth. In Buddhism, we say every sentient being has the ability to be awakened and to understand deeply. We call this Buddha-nature. The deer, the dog, the cat, the squirrel, and the bird all have Buddha-nature. But what about inanimate species: the pine tree in our front yard, the grass, or the flowers? As part of our living Mother Earth, these species also have Buddha-nature. This is a very powerful awareness which can bring us so much joy. Every blade of grass, every tree, every plant, every creature large or small are children of the planet Earth and have Buddha-nature. The Earth herself has Buddha nature, therefore all her children must have Buddha nature, too. As we are all endowed with Buddha-nature, everyone has the capacity to live happily and with a sense of responsibility toward our mother, the Earth.

In the Bible, Jesus said, “I am in the Father, and the Father is in me” (John 14:11). The Buddha also taught that we are all part of each other. We aren’t separate entities. The father and son aren’t entirely the same but they aren’t completely different either. One is in the other. When we look into our own bodily formation, we see Mother Earth inside us, and so the whole universe is inside us, too. Once we have this insight of interbeing, we can have real communication with the Earth. This is the highest possible form of prayer.

To worship the Earth is not to deify her or believe she is any more sacred than ourselves. To worship the Earth is to love her, to take care of her, and to take refuge in her. When we suffer, the Earth embraces us, accepts us, and restores our energy, making us strong and stable again. The relief that we seek is right under our feet and all around us. Much of our suffering can be healed if we realise this. If we understand our deep connection and relationship with the Earth, we will have enough love, strength, and awakening so that we both can thrive.

When we suffer we need love and understanding. We ourselves don’t have enough of these qualities, so when we suffer we try to find them outside ourselves. This is very natural. We hope someone else or something else can give us the love and understanding we need. Someone with love and understanding embodies goodness, truth, and beauty. We know that we possess some goodness, truth, and beauty, but maybe not enough to bring us happiness. We don’t know how to help these virtues grow in order to gain true insight and wisdom.

The Earth has all the virtues we seek, including strength, stability, patience, and compassion. She embraces everyone. We don’t need blind faith to see this. We don’t need to address our prayers or express our gratitude to a remote or abstract deity with whom it may be difficult or impossible to be in touch. We can address our prayers and express our gratitude directly to the Earth. The Earth is right here. She supports us in very concrete and tangible ways. No one can deny that the water that sustains us, the air that we breathe, and the food that nourishes us are gifts of the Earth.

Thich Nhat Hanh 174.

Seeing through wisdom that all defects of defiling emotions arise from the view of substantiality, and knowing the ‘ I’ to be its object, the yogis negate the ‘I’ .

— Chandrakirti

Chandrakīrti (月称菩萨) 11.

The Spirit of All Traditions
by Kalu Rinpoche

Westerners have achieved an astonishingly high level of technological sophistication. Mass-produced machines allow us to travel through the air at great speed, explore the depths of the ocean, and witness instantly whatever is happening in any corner of the world and even beyond our own planet. Yet our own mind, which is so close to us, remains impenetrable: we do not understand what our own mind really is. This is a paradox because, even though we have extremely refined telescopes to see light-years away and microscopes powerful enough to distinguish the atomic details of matter, the mind, which is the most basic and intimate aspect of our being, remains the most unrecognised, mysterious, and unknown.

Scientific developments and control over our material conditions have brought us a relatively high level of comfort and physical well-being. This is certainly wonderful, but even so, progress in science and technology does not prevent the mind from remaining in ignorance about itself and therefore conditioned and afflicted by suffering, frustration, and anguish. To alleviate these problems, it is crucial to discover and understand the actual nature of our own minds.

UNDERSTANDING OUR ACTUAL NATURE

The main point here is to understand our real nature, or what we actually are. Many of you know many things; you are educated. Try to use your capacities to study the mind.

You mustn’t think this kind of investigation applies only to a small elite. Each of us has a mind whose nature is the same as everyone else’s. We are all alike; we all have the feeling of existing with an ego which is subjected to all kinds of hardships and suffering, anxieties and fears. All of this results from ignorance about our basic nature. If we can reach the understanding of what we actually are, there is no better remedy for eliminating all suffering. This is the heart of all spiritual practices.

All spiritual traditions, whether Christian, Hindu, Judaic, Islamic, or Buddhist, teach that the understanding of what we are at the deepest level is the main point. This understanding of the nature of mind sheds light from within and illuminates the teachings of all traditions. In every tradition, whoever gains first hand, experiential understanding of mind and retains that kind of awareness is led to a worldview that would not have been possible prior to this direct experience. Knowledge of the nature of mind is the key that yields an understanding of all teachings; it sheds light on what we are, the nature of all our experiences, and reveals the deepest form of love and compassion. The actual realisation of the nature of mind opens onto a complete understanding of Dharma and all the traditions. To have a good theoretical knowledge of Dharma or any other spiritual tradition and to effectively realise the ultimate nature of mind, however, are profoundly different. Even a realised being who is not involved in a particular spiritual tradition would have while living in the ordinary world, an extremely beneficial influence.

I would like to emphasise that this is true regardless of the spiritual tradition Every tradition is illuminated by this awareness. But it is especially the case in the Buddha’s teachings, in which this knowledge constitutes the heart and goal of all his instruction.

Kalu Rinpoche 31.

The ego prevents us from helping ourselves by presenting a false notion of what it really means to help ourselves.

— Gelek Rimpoche

Gelek Rinpoche 7.

If a person serves sentient beings with the mind of no-self and the mind of equality, his blessed virtues are immeasurable.

— Venerable Hui Jing

Ven Hui Jing (慧净法师) 11.

Healing the Body and Mind
by Tulku Thondup Rinpoche

To find true well-being, the best place to look is close to home. We could travel around the globe a hundred times, turning over every stone on earth in the quest for happiness. Yet this would not necessarily give us what we seek. Money does not necessarily grant well-being either, nor does a youthful or healthy body. Health and money can help us, of course. But the real source of peace and joy is our minds.

The mind wants to be peaceful; this is really its natural state. But there are so many distractions and cravings that can obscure our peaceful nature. A characteristic of our time is the speed of our daily lives, especially in the West. Everything is a rush. Meditation can slow us down so that we touch our true nature. Any meditation can help us. The object of our contemplation could be a flower, a religious image, or a positive feeling. Or it could be our own bodies.

One especially rich way to develop a peaceful mind is to meditate upon the body. By doing this, we promote the welfare of our whole being.

Through meditation, we can learn how to encourage our minds to create a feeling of peace in the body. This can be as simple as relaxing and saying to ourselves, “Let my body be calm and peaceful now,” and really feeling that this is happening. It is the beginning of meditation — and of wisdom, too.

This approach is a kind of homecoming. We are reintroducing ourselves to our bodies and establishing a positive connection between mind and body. Quite often, we have a rather strained and distant relationship to our own bodies. We think of the body as unattractive or ugly, or maybe our health is poor. Or else we like the body, cherish it, and foster cravings around it. But even if we cherish the body, we worry that it could be better than it is or that it will get sick or grow old. So we are conflicted and ambivalent. The body is an object of anxiety.

The meditations in this book will help us approach the body with a realistic attitude, accepting it as it is. Then we will practice how to see the body as very peaceful, a body filled with light and warmth. So many mental and physical afflictions are associated with the body, and meditation can help to heal them.

Mind and body are intimately connected, and die relationship of mind to body in meditation is very interesting. When we see the body as peaceful and beautiful, who or what is creating these feelings? The mind is. By creating peaceful feelings in the body, the mind is absorbed in those feelings. So although the body is the object to be healed, it also becomes the means of healing the mind — which is the ultimate goal of meditation.

When our minds are peaceful in meditation, there is no other mind. Even if the peaceful feeling goes away, we are developing the habit of a peaceful mind. Our minds are becoming accustomed to their true nature. Really, it all comes back to the mind. This is where our true happiness is. The Buddha said:

Mind is the main factor and forerunner of all actions.
Whoever acts or speaks
With a pure thought
Will enjoy happiness as the result.

Like a physician treating a patient, Buddhism deals with mental, emotional, and physical afflictions by diagnosing the cause and treating it.

In this world of ceaseless change, the mind tends to develop a grasping quality and gets attached to all kinds of illusory wants and desires. This is at the root of our suffering. We heal ourselves to the extent that we can release that grasping.

As it was first practised in the ninth century, Tibetan medicine viewed the body as composed of four elements — namely, earth, water, fire, and air — and as having hot and cold temperatures. Western medicine has given us a wonderfully detailed and up-to-date knowledge of the body and how it works, and we can take advantage of this. Yet even today, the ancient Tibetan picture of the body is very useful, both as an aid to meditation and as a way to understand the various qualities of the mind.

According to this view, when the four elements are in balance, we are in our natural healthy state, but when there is disharmony, emotional or physical disease can take root and flourish. The third Dodrupchen writes:

The ancient masters said that if you do not foster dislike and unhappy thoughts, your mind will not be in turmoil. If your mind is not in turmoil, the air [or energy of your body] will not be disturbed. If the air is not disturbed, other physical elements of your body will not experience disharmony. Harmonious elements [in turn] will help the mind stay free from turmoil. Then the wheel of joy will keep revolving.

The mind is the source of true well-being. So before we get to the guided meditations upon the body later on, we would do well to consider the qualities of the mind and how we can improve our lives.

Tulku Thondup Rinpoche 16.