FULL MOON: 24th March, 2024

PRAISE and BLAME

"There never was,
nor will there be,
nor is there now,
anyone who is only blamed
or wholly praised
."

DHAMMAPADA v. 228

Apparent reality is one thing; actuality is something else. On the apparent level, receiving praise is good and receiving blame is bad. From a practice perspective, both are useful. If, when we are praised, we become inflated with self-importance, we suffer. We might not notice it at the time, but we will later on. Perhaps we will have to wait until we are blamed and become deflated and experience that sort of suffering. It is useful to learn to see that it is not the praise or the blame that causes our suffering, it is the way we meet them. Are we still identifying as the activity taking place in our hearts and minds, or are we remembering our refuge in the Buddha, in just-knowing awareness?

FULL MOON: 24th February, 2024

SEEKING FREEDOM FROM FEAR

"To many places beings withdraw
to escape from fear:
to mountains, forests,
parklands and gardens;
sacred places as well.
But none of these places
offer true refuge,
none of them can free us from fear."

DHAMMAPADA v 188-9

If we are always looking outside for a way to escape fear, we are looking in the wrong place. We might find a degree of temporary freedom, however, the Buddha's teachings are pointing inwards. They are pointing towards a perspective on fear that means you don't have to become afraid. This doesn't mean you don't feel fear. If you see someone putting suspicious powder in your tea, you should be afraid to drink it. The freedom that our wise teachers are talking about is the freedom found in a heart that can remain wide open and refuse to enact old habits of clinging. It means feeling what you feel without being defined by those feelings.

FULL MOON: 25th January, 2024

EMBRACING DILEMMAS

"Silence does not denote profundity
if you are unaware and untrained.
Like one holding scales,
a sage weighs things up,
wholesome and unwholesome,
and comes to know
both the inner and outer worlds.
Therefore the sage is called wise.
"

DHAMMAPADA v. 268-9

We all know what it is like to feel challenged by dilemmas. Should we go in this direction or in that direction? Should we take sides with her opinion or with his? If significant consequences are associated with the decision we make, the dilemma can feel weighty. From a practice perspective this doesn't have to be a problem. The intensity generated by the challenge can be a cause for increased open-hearted awareness. It depends on how and where we meet the challenge. Cultivating our refuge in the Buddha, doesn't mean merely having great ideas about how to handle difficulties. It more helpfully means strictly observing precepts, and investing in sensitive, just-knowing awareness. The heart of compassionate awareness potentially has the space to receive life's dilemmas and be nourished by them, not weakened. Dukkha does not have to denote something going wrong. It is a message. 'Pay attention here!' With right effort we receive into our hearts the difficult feelings that a dilemma brings – receiving them fully, without reactively taking sides. This is not avoiding making decisions; it is an alternative approach to making decisions.

FULL MOON: 27th December, 2023

CONTRIBUTING COMPASSION

"Disciples of the Buddha
are fully awake
both day and night
taking delight in compassion.
"

DHAMMAPADA v. 300

When we watch the news and witness all the sadness, we easily feel inadequate in our wish to help. If we are not careful we become lost in despair. To limit how much news we watch is sensible, but to stop altogether so as to avoid feeling inadequate, would be a pity. Because we don’t have the power to stop people from following greed, hatred and delusion, does not mean we have nothing to give. It might seem that way to followers of the religion of materialism, but for those cultivating the heart of awareness – cittabhavana – compassion can be our contribution. Don’t underestimate the power of a heart that can stay open in the midst of suffering. It is when the heart closes, and sensitivity is obstructed, that intelligence is compromised.