Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Empathy Series: Buddhist Mind-Training (Lojong)

Master Shantideva

Empathy Series Class 2: Buddhist Mind-Training (Lojong)

Whatever joy there is in the world, comes from cherishing others.

Whatever suffering there is in the world, comes from only cherishing yourself.

What need is there to say more: the childish work for their own benefit while the Buddhas work for the benefit of others. Just look at the difference between them! – Shantideva

Meaning of the word Lojong:

Lo = Mind/Heart Jong = Training/Developing

Training the mind in wisdom, training the heart for compassion.
Implicit meaning is using life's challenges and difficulties for one's spiritual development.

Two Main Problems:

Svartha = self-preoccupation
Svabhava = self-existence

Two Main Remedies:

Karuna = Compassion
Prajna = Wisdom

History of Mind-Training:

The mind-training practice was developed over a 300-year period between 900 and 1200 CE, as part of the Mahayana school of Buddhism. Atisha (982–1054 CE), a Bengali meditation master, brought these and other practices such as the stages of the path (lam rim) to Tibet. Atisha's most renown text is the Lamp on the Path to Enlightenment (Bodhipathapradipam). The lojong practice is based upon Atisha's studies with the Sumatran teacher, Dharmaraksita, author of the lojong text called the Wheel of Sharp Weapons.

There are three lineages of the mind-training teachings: The Sevenfold Cause and Effect instruction; the Fourfold Equalize and Exchange of Self and Other (dakshen nyamje), which is the second point of the Seven-point Mind-Training system; and, the Elevenfold Mind-Training synthesis, which is an integration of the previous two systems. Numerous text and commentaries on these three systems comprise the mind-training literature. In 2006, a total of 43 texts on mind-training were edited by Thupten Jinpa and published by Wisdom Publications entitled Mind Training: The Great Collection.

The lineage of the mind-training traditions are directly linked to the Buddha. The Sevenfold Cause and Effect instruction was taught by Buddha to Maitrya, to Asanga, to Lama Serlingpa, to Lama Atisha, to Je Tsongkapa. The Fourfold Equalize and Exchange of Self with Other method, found within the Seven-point Mind-Training, was taught by Buddha to Maitreya, to Shantideva, to Lama Serlingpa, to Lama Atisha, to Je Tsongkapa. The Seven Point Mind-Training in its present form was composed by Geshe Chekhawa (1101–1175 CE). Chekhawa studied with Sharawa, who was a student of the great master Langri Tangpa Dorge Sangye (1054–1123). The Seven-point instruction and the Fourfold method were combined into an Elevenfold Mind-Training synthesis by Je Tsongkapa (1357-1419).

The rise of Mahayana Buddhism, occurs 500 years after the Buddha in a time when spiritual practices were becoming popular with the laity outside the monastic circles. At this time a new wave of teachings and literature on the wisdom of emptiness (shunyata) appear, which highlight the relativity and interdependence of things. The turn of the millennium in Buddhist India and East Asia is then characterized by an ethos of love and compassion designed to transform the very fabric of urban society. The emphasis on renunciation in early Buddhism is replaced in the Mahayana by compassion firmly grounded in wisdom. Spirituality is brought back from the ashrams on the outskirts of society, back into the marketplace and the hearts and mind of urban dwellers.

Extending the Nervous System:
Our three-part series follows the trajectory of the historical development of Buddhism in India known as the three vehicles (yanas). Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana are three systems of Buddhism each exploring new horizons while subsuming the teachings of the former. They can be characterized by their emphasis on: Hinayana = Dispassion/Renunciation and self-healing, Mahayana = Compassion and social healing, and Vajrayana = pure Passion and embodied healing.

If we use the lens of contemporary psychotherapy and attachment theory we might say that the first phase was about becoming a parent to ourselves, the second phase about becoming a parent to others, and the final phase about becoming a supremely blissful parent to all beings. First the nervous system is regulated and calmed, then the calm nervous system is extended to others who are deregulated, and finally the deepest potential of nervous system is harnessed to expedite the process of regulating others.

Sevenfold Cause and Effect instruction:

1. Recognizing all beings as kin.
2. Remembering their kindness.
3. Vowing to repay their kindness.
4. Developing love for all beings.
5. Developing compassion for all beings.
6. Generating the wish to save all beings.
7. Perusing full enlightenment in order to fulfill one’s wish.

Equalize and Exchange Self and Other
(Point 2 of the Seven-point Mind Training)

I. Equalizing Self and Other
II. Contemplating the Limits of Sefl-preoccupation
III. Contemplating the Benefits of Empathy
IV. Exchanging Self and Other
V. Giving and Taking Meditation (tonglen)

The Seven-Point Mind-Training (with the 59 slogans)
Source: Wikipedia Lojong Entry

ONE: The preliminaries, which are the basis for dharma practice
1. First, train in the preliminaries.

TWO: The main practice, which is training in bodhicitta.
Absolute Bodhicitta
2. Regard all dharmas as dreams.
3. Examine the nature of unborn awareness.
4. Self-liberate even the antidote.
5. Rest in the nature of alaya, the essence.
6. In postmeditation, be a child of illusion.
Relative Bodhicitta
7. Sending and taking should be practiced alternately. These two should ride the breath.
8. Three objects, three poisons, three roots of virtue.
9. In all activities, train with slogans.
10. Begin the sequence of sending and taking with yourself.

THREE: Transformation of Bad Circumstances into the Way of Enlightenment
11. When the world is filled with evil, transform all mishaps into the path of bodhi.
12. Drive all blames into one.
13. Be grateful to everyone.
14. Seeing confusion as the four kayas is unsurpassable shunyata protection.
15. Four practices are the best of methods.
16. Whatever you meet unexpectedly, join with meditation.

FOUR: Showing the Utilization of Practice in One's Whole Life
17. Practice the five strengths, the condensed heart instructions.
18. The mahayana instruction for ejection of consciousness at death is the five strengths: how you conduct yourself is important.

FIVE: Evaluation of Mind Training
19. All dharma agrees at one point.
20. Of the two witnesses, hold the principal one.
21. Always maintain only a joyful mind.
22. If you can practice even when distracted, you are well trained.

SIX: Disciplines of Mind Training
23. Always abide by the three basic principles.
24. Change your attitude, but remain natural.
25. Don't talk about injured limbs.
26. Don't ponder others.
27. Work with the greatest defilements first.
28. Abandon any hope of fruition.
29. Abandon poisonous food.
30. Don't be so predictable.
31. Don't malign others.
32. Don't wait in ambush.
33. Don't bring things to a painful point.
34. Don't transfer the ox's load to the cow.
35. Don't try to be the fastest.
36. Don't act with a twist.
37. Don't make gods into demons.
38. Don't seek others' pain as the limbs of your own happiness.

SEVEN: Guidelines of Mind Training
39. All activities should be done with one intention.
40. Correct all wrongs with one intention.
41. Two activities: one at the beginning, one at the end.
42. Whichever of the two occurs, be patient.
43. Observe these two, even at the risk of your life.
44. Train in the three difficulties.
45. Take on the three principal causes.
46. Pay heed that the three never wane.
47. Keep the three inseparable.
48. Train without bias in all areas. It is crucial always to do this pervasively and wholeheartedly.
49. Always meditate on whatever provokes resentment.
50. Don't be swayed by external circumstances.
51. This time, practice the main points.
52. Don't misinterpret.
53. Don't vacillate.
54. Train wholeheartedly.
55. Liberate yourself by examining and analyzing.
56. Don't wallow in self-pity.
57. Don't be jealous.
58. Don't be frivolous.
59. Don't expect applause.

Quotes on Bodhicitta The Spirit of Enlightnement / Awakened Heart:

Although it is the stick that hurts me, I am angry at the one who wields it, striking me. But they in turn are driven by their hatred (and misperception); Therefore it is with their hatred that I take offense. - Shantideva
(v. 41, Chapter 6) on "Patience", from the Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life

First of all I should make an effort

To meditate upon the equality between self and others:

I should protect all beings as I do myself

Because we are all equal in wanting pleasure and not wanting pain.

Although there are many different parts and aspects such as the hands;

As a body that is to be protected they are one,

Likewise all the different sentient beings in their pleasure and their pain

Have a wish to be happy that is the same as mine.

The suffering that I experience

Does not cause any harm to others.

But that suffering is mine because of my conceiving of myself as "I";

Thereby it becomes unbearable.

Likewise the misery of others

Does not befall me.

Nevertheless, by conceiving of others as "I" their suffering becomes mine;

Therefore it too should be hard to bear.

Hence I should dispel the misery of others

Because it is suffering, just like my own,

And I should benefit others

Because they are sentient beings, just like myself.

When both myself and others

Are similar in that we wish to be happy,

What is so special about me?

Why do I strive for my happiness alone?
- Shantideva

"May I become food and drink in the aeons of famine for those poverty-stricken suffers.
May I be a doctor, medicine and nurse for all sick beings in the world until everyone is cured.
May I become never-ending wish-fulfilling treasures materialising in front of each of them as all the enjoyments they need.
May I be a guide for those who do not have a guide, a leader for those who journey, a boat for those who want to cross over, and all sorts of ships, bridges, beautiful parks for those who desire them, and light for those who need light.
And may I become beds for those who need a rest, and a servant to all who need servants.
May I also become the basic conditions for all sentient beings, such as earth or even the sky, which is indestructible.
May I always be the living conditions for all sentient beings until all sentient beings are enlightened."
From A Guide to a Bodhisattva's Way of Life, Shantideva, tr by Stephen Batchelor, Chapter VIII, verses 90-95,, Snow Lion Publications.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Empathy Series: Attunement, Attachment, Meditation and Psychotherapy

Primary Reference: Daniel Seigel. (2007). The Mindful Brain.

Key words: Attunement, Attachment, Meditation, Psychotherapy and Empathy

Two Problems
1. Affect Disregulation / Nueral Unintegration
2. Traumatic Narrative

Assumptions about Attachment
• Attachment is the relationship of the child to the caregiver over time – first three years are crucial
• Attachment style of the care giver conditions the style of the child
• Research has shown attachment shapes the developing mind/brain
• Attachment impacts self-regulatory circuits

Attachment Styles: Relationship Type

Relationship Type => Parenting Behavior

Secure => Responsive, Consistent
Avoidant => Rejecting, Distant
Ambivalent => Rejecting, Distant
Disorganized => Frightening, Confusing, Fearful

Characteristics of Secure Attachment: The Trusting Child
Securely attached children exhibit distress when separated from caregivers and are happy when their caregiver returns. Remember, these children feel secure and able to depend on their adult caregivers. When the adult leaves, the child may be upset but he or she feels assured that the parent or caregiver will return.
When frightened, securely attached children will seek comfort from caregivers. These children know their parent or caregiver will provide comfort and reassurance, so they are comfortable seeking them out in times of need.

Characteristics of Ambivalent Attachment: The Anxious Child
Ambivalently attached children usually become very distressed when a parent leaves. This attachment style is considered relatively uncommon, affecting an estimated 7-15% of U.S. children. Research suggests that ambivalent attachment is a result of poor maternal availability. These children cannot depend on their mother (or caregiver) to be there when the child is in need.

Characteristics of Avoidant Attachment: The Aloof Child
Children with an avoidant attachment tend to avoid parents or caregivers. When offered a choice, these children will show no preference between a caregiver and a complete stranger. Research has suggested that this attachment style might be a result of abusive or neglectful caregivers. Children who are punished for relying on a caregiver will learn to avoid seeking help in the future.

Characteristics of Disorganized Attachment: The Confused Child
The disorganized types seek attachment but experienced anxiety as a consequence of attachment. They also experience anxiety at the disappearance of the mother and are difficult to soothe upon reunion. Disorganized children are particularly ambivalent upon reunion with their attachment figure, both approaching and avoiding contact. Bowlby described these children as "arching away angrily while simultaneously seeking proximity" when re-introduced to their mothers.
Attachment Styles: Parents Narrative

Adult Narratives

Adult Narrative => Child Attachment

Secure => Secure
Dismissing => Avoidant
Entangled, Preoccupied => Anxious
Unresolved Trauma or Grief => Disorganized

Characteristic of Secure Narrative: The Balanced Adult
flexible, coherent, self-reflective, balanced perspective (positive with the negative)

Characteristic of Dismissing Narrative: The Adult in Denial
Incoherent-vague, inflexible-ridgid, minimize emotional significance, insist on lack of recall, based on denial

Characteristic of Entangled Narrative: The Preoccupied Adult
preoccupation with past, intrudes on present, intense idealization or fixation

Characteristic of Unresolved Narrative: The Traumatized Adult
disorganization, disorientation around issues of grief or trauma, unintegrated, spontaneously intrusive, disorienting

The Brain is a Social Organ

• The function of the brain is to engage with other people, other brains, in the shaping of its development over time and in shaping its activity in the present.

• Mirror Neurons and the capacity to develop empathy and insight = MINDSIGHT

• Our brains are extremely social. Areas involved in self-regulation overlap with those involved in interpersonal communication and plasticity

• How one brain interacts with another has important effects on how the brain functions: Social interactions are one of the most powerful forms of experience that help shape how the brain gives rise to the mind

• Mindsight enables us to meet life’s challenges with more flexibility and joy in our internal and interpersonal worlds

• We are ultimately connected to each other as part of a larger whole

Two Solutions:

1. Attunement via mindfulness (intrapsychically) and empathy (interpersonally via psychotherapy)
2. Coherent Narrative via psychotherapy

Secure Attachment and Empathy Fosters:

• Flexible self-regulation
• Prosocial behavior
• Empathy
• Positive sense of emotional well-being and self-esteem
• Coherent life-story
• Neural Integration

Brain Regions and Functions Integrated During Mindfulness and Psychotherapy:

I. Brainstem: Reptilian brain. Core functions. Heart. Respiration. Metabolism. Sleep-wake cycles. Fight-flight Response.

II. Limbic region: Mammalian brain. Social function. Connection with others. Memory processing into autobiographical context., Appraisal/meaning of sensations and emotions. Hormone regulation via the hypothalamus. Endocrine – autonomic and parasympathetic NS. Motivational drives and survival instincts.

III. Cortex: Neo- Mammalian brain. Cognitive function. Perception, planning, and attention. Resonance circuitr and mirror neurons. Imagination and empathy.

A. Left brain: language, linearity, logic, literal thinking. The narrarator.

B. Right brain: non-verbal, holistic, visiospacial, autobiographical memory, spontaneous emotion, stress modulation, empathic response, attention.

How Psychotherapy Cultivates Attunement, Self-regulation, and Neural integration:

Sharing coherence/integration
In the process of psychotherapy with a range of individuals with intact mirror neuron systems, shared states with the therapist may be an essential component of the therapeutic process. As two individuals share the closely resonant reverberating interactions that their mirror neuron systems makes possible, what before may have been unbearable states of affective and bodily activation within the patient may now become tolerable within conscious awareness. Being empathic with patients may be more than just something that helps them “feel better” – it may create a new state of neural activation with a coherence in the moment improves the capacity for self-regulation. What is at first a form of interpersonal integration in the sharing of affective and cognitive states now evolves into a form of internal integration in the patient. With the entry of previously warded-off states of being in conscious awareness, the patient can now learn to develop enhanced self-regulatory capacities that before were beyond their skill set. It may be that as interpersonal attunement initiates a new form of awareness that makes intrapersonal attunement possible, new self-regulatory capacities become available. - Seigel

Positive Attachment: Attunement and Narrative
Studies of attachment reveal that the parent’s openness to a child’s signals and the coherence of the parent’s own narrative are important predictors of a child’s development of security of attachment (13). Such factors seem to promote a form of resiliency in the child which self-regulation unfold as the child matures. Psychotherapy may naturally harness these developmental origins of well-being in creating a resonant state in which the therapist is sensitive to the patient’s signals and also has made sense of his or her own life. Being open to the many layers of our experience, often involving the non-verbal world of sensation and affect in addition to our verbal understanding is an important stance for the therapist to create toward the internal and interpersonal worlds. Within this framework, the state of brain activation in the therapist serves as a vital source of resonance that can profoundly alter the ways in which the patient’s brain is activated in the moment-to-moment experiences within therapy. Such interactive experiences allow the patient to “feel felt” and understood by the therapist, and they also may establish new neural net firing patterns that can lead to neural plastic changes. Ultimately lasting effects of psychotherapy must harness such experiences that promote the growth of new synaptic connections so that more adaptive capacities for self-regulation and well-being can be established. -Seigel

Adult Narrative made Coherent and Integrated During Psychotherapy:

A narrative is a story we tell ourselves that helps contextualizes our experience.
A narrative is just a construct, and needs to be flexible and adaptive.
In the case of traumatic experience, memories are decontextualized, fragmented, relegated to the unconscious and need to be reintegrated into a holistic, coherent and conscious narrative.
Implicit memories are procedural, non conscious, non verbal, non linear, unconscious, fragmented, emotional, somatic.
Explicit memories are conscious, autobiographical, verbal, holistic, cognitively contextualized.
We need to make positive meaning of our experiences in a coherent narrative.
This process of making meaning of traumatic experience is one of the hallmarks of good therapy.

Narrative: Making Sense of a Story

The hallmark of secure attachment being the ability to reflect on one's internal emotional experience, and make sense of it, and at the same time reflect on the mind of another. One can immediately see how these capacities are imbued in the infant through sensitive attunement of the caregiver. When a caregiver reads the verbal and non-verbal cues of the child and reflects them back, the child sees him or herself through the eyes of the attachment figure. It is through this attunement and contingent communication process that the seeds of the developing self are planted and realized. Insecurely attached individuals lack this reflective function either because their emotional responses are so repressed as in the case of the dismissing attachment status or exacerbated as in the case of the preoccupied attachment status that they are unable to either identify their own internal experience or reflect on that of the other. When either one of these extremes are the method of regulating the attachment behavioral system, the capacity for reflection (on oneself and others) is compromised. - Fonagy

Jeremy Holmes, likewise an analyst in England, has written the book The Search for the Secure Base: Attachment Theory and Psychotherapy (2001). Holmes talks at great length about the narratives of insecurely attached individuals. He refers to story-making, and story-breaking. In the case of dismissing attachment, where the story is so restricted as to reduce the possibility of dysphoric affect, the clinician is helping the patient create a story that is coherent, full of memory and manageable affect. In the case of preoccupied attachment, where anxiety over-runs the client's story in that it becomes convoluted and saturated with anger and disappointment, the therapist's role is to help break the negative cycle of the narrative, manage the affect more effectively and create a story that is balanced and coherent. - Dan Sonkin
See Sonkin's Article Attachment Theory and Psychotherapy

Nine Middle Prefrontal Functions
By Dan Seigel

Body Regulation:
Body Regulation is achieved by the Autonomic (automatic) Nervous System. This system generally works without conscious control and regulates functions like heart rate, breathing, digestion, vascular tone, inflammation and immune response etc.

Attuned Communication:
Attuned Communication is defined as the coordination of input from another mind with the activity of one’s own, a resonance process involving these middle prefrontal areas. This is distinct from other resonant functions such as those achieved by the mirror neurons in the motor cortex that automatically interpret the motor actions of another as one’s own.

Emotional Balance:
Emotional Balance in this context is defined as being able to balance between rigidity and chaos. In other words, being able to keep from being overwhelmed or becoming inflexible in one’s emotional response.

Response Flexibility:
Response Flexibility is the capacity to pause before action. Such a process requires the assessment of ongoing stimuli, the delay of reaction, selection from a variety of possible options, and the initiation of action.

Empathy (Mindsight):
Empathy is defined as conscious awareness and sensitivity to the mind of someone else. It is the putting of oneself in someone else’s shoes.

Insight, or self-knowing awareness:
Insight links the past, present and future. The middle prefrontal cortex has input and output fibers to many areas. Insight means integrating cortical representation of autobiographical memory stores and limbic firing that gives emotional texture to the emerging themes of our present awareness, life story, and image of the future.

Fear modulation:
Fear can be modulated from the middle PFC via neurons that enervate the amygdala, a limbic structure that registers threat and opportunity. These neurons can release calming neurotransmitters (GABA) and can be consciously reprogrammed.

Intuition in this context means registering the input from neurons from the heart and gut. In other words, respecting one’s gut feeling.

Morality in this context means the ability to think of the larger social good and enact those behaviors, even when alone.

Nine Forms of Neural Integration
Adapted from Dan's Seigel's Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation (2010)

1. Integration of consciousness - Awareness of the body, mental/emotional, relational, and outside world. Openness to things as they are.

2. Bilateral integration - Left and right hemispheres working in synchrony. Left hemisphere is logical and linear, very literal. Right side is more creative, metaphoric, and symbolic.

3. Vertical integration - Body up, including lamina-1, from the brainstem through the midbrain (hippocampus) and into the cerebral cortex. [ME: Also look at the role of the vagus nerve in vertical integration.]

Gut, heart, and lungs all have neural networks that seek to communicate with the brain. Too many people are disconnected from the awareness from our bodies.

4. Memory integration - Implicit and explicit memory integration. When traumas become implicit memory, a schema, we are stuck in the past. To integrate memory, we make implicit memories explicit.

5. Narrative integration - Biographical memory, needs to be included. Run into the trauma, not from it. When a dog tries to bite you, stick your fist down it's throat - it'll gag and release. We get wounded, but not as bad as if we pull away and the dog's teeth tear the flesh from our hands.

6. State integration - we are multiple selves sharing a body. Three parts: We need to learn to honor our states (intrastate), interstate, honor that we have different needs at the same time and we need to pay attention to that, and interpersonal states, maintaining my own states while in relation with others.

Other states - such as gross, subtle, causal, nondual?

7. Interpersonal integration - Honoring and supporting the differences in each other promotes neural integration in the brain. Mind is energy and information flow. Talking about thoughts and feelings gets you nowhere. It's about nurturing energy.

Communication of feelings, not about feelings, can be integrative for the brain - promotes integrative fibers in the brain. Parent-child interactions that create healthy attachment work in this way.

8. Temporal integration - Making maps of time. Connected to narrative - we seek certainty, but change is the only constant. We also become aware of our eventual death.

Differentiation and linkage, chaos and integration. We need to differentiate before we can link, and we need to recognize the chaos before we can integrate.

9. Transpirational integration - The identity of a bodily self expands beyond the boundary of the skin - we sense our interconnection time, place, and people. Integration of integration. We Space consciousness.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Buddha Shakyamuni Mantra

Buddha Shakyamuni Mantra


The following translation of the mantra is provided by Thubten Yeshe is a direct quote taken from here:

The mantra of Shakyamuni Buddha could be said to be the essence of the Buddha, the essence of his enlightenment. It is in no way separate from the Buddha himself.

Mantras are said to carry this enlightenment essence in the very sound of the syllables themselves. It's an energetic thing. So, translations can sometimes get in the way of the experience of the energy of the mantra if we focus on the so-called meaning of the words at the expense of simply experiencing the sound that is being generated.

Mantra has been described as "a creative sound considered expressive of the deepest essence of things and understandings" thus the recitation of the mantra "can evoke in a formulaic or even magical way" a transcendent state of mind and energy. Also, "mantra is the pure sound of enlightened speech."

It is Sanskrit, not Tibetan. In fact, mantras are almost untranslatable. But, what we can do is interpret the syllables. This is Lama Zopa Rinpoche's interpretation of the Buddha's mantra:

TA YA THA - it is like this

OM - The All-Knowledge of the three bodies of a buddha and of the infinite Buddha's Holy Body, Speech and Mind. The knowledge of the two paths to enlightenment (Method and Wisdom), and of the two truths (Absolute and relative) that contain all existence within them.

MUNI - Control over the suffering of the three lower realms and over the wrong conception of the self-existent I.

MUNI - Control over the suffering of all samsara and over self-cherishing thoughts.

MAHA MUNIYE - Great control over the suffering of subtle illusions and over the dualistic mind.

SVAHA - May my mind receive, absorb and keep the blessings of the mantra, and may they take root.

I'll finish with a quote from Lama Thubten Yeshe:

"Reciting a mantra...does not mean the mere vocal repetition of speech syllables. Many meditators know from experience that the act of reciting mantras transcends external sounds and words. It is more like listening to a subtle inner sound that has always inhabited our nervous system."

- Thubten Yeshe, quote taken from here:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

3 Qualities of the Student and 10 Qualities of the Guru

Source: Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion by Ashvagosha:

3 Qualities of the Good Student with the Analogies of the Cup:

1) The upside-down cup. Incapable of taking in the teachings.

The student should be open-minded and receptive to teachings.

2) The contaminated cup. Wrong motivations and views corrupt and distort the teachings.

The student should be discriminating and critical of their own and other's wrong views. They should have a sincere motivation when receiving teachings, rather than being motivated by gain or fame.

3) The leaky cup. Incapable to retaining the teachings.

The student should be enthusiastic and determined to listen, reflect, meditatate upon and retain the wisdom being taught to them.

10 Qualities of the Guru according to the Fifty Verses on Guru Devotion by Ashvagosha

1) Stable means that he should have very subdued actions of body; he should abstain from non-virtuous actions of body, keep his bodily actions proper and moral; immutable.

2) Cultivated refers to his speech; he should abstain from non-virtuous actions of speech, keep proper morality of speech, not hurt others by means of speech, sharp words, etc.

3) Mentally, he should abstain from the three non-virtuous actions of mind as well as from pretentiousness; his mental attitude should be very pure. He should possess intelligence and discretion; if he doesn’t, he can’t lead us on the path to liberation.

4) He should possess the three types of forbearance, or patience:
· forbearance of harm received from others;
· the ability to endure hardship; and
· the ability to hear profound teachings without being terrified.

5) He should be true and unbiased, or impartial; not biased towards near relatives or repulsed by enemies; he should be even-minded towards all sentient beings.

6) He shouldn’t be pretentious or conceal his shortcomings. Pretentious means pretending to have supernatural knowledge that he doesn’t have and concealing his shortcomings means always trying to hide his faults from others, especially with the intention of getting offerings.

7) He should have the power to drive out interferences by means of mantras and tantric practice.

8) He should be able to practice medicine, which actually means to help and benefit others by means of his teachings; to really pacify them.

9) He should possess great compassion, the wish that all sentient beings’ suffering be alleviated.

10) He should have profound knowledge of the scriptures, especially the Tripitaka.

10 Qualities of a Guru according to the Guru Puja (Mentor Worship) by the First Panchen Lama Lobsang Chokyi Galtsen

Sourse: Lama Zopa's Online Entry on Guru Devotion

1. Discipline as a result of his mastery of the training in the higher discipline of moral self-control;
2. Mental quiescence from his training in higher concentration;
3. Pacification of all delusions and obstacles from his training in higher wisdom;
4. More knowledge than his disciple in the subject to be taught;
5. Enthusiastic perseverance and joy in teaching;
6. A treasury of scriptural knowledge;
7. Insight into and understanding of emptiness;
8. Skill in presenting the teachings;
9. Great compassion; and
10. No reluctance to teach and work for his disciples regardless of their level of intelligence.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Buddhism & Yoga Series

The Three Trainings or Educations (trishiksha) are Ethics, Meditation and Wisdom.
Together they form a triad of practices that constitute the Buddha's Fourth Noble Truth, the path to happiness and freedom.
The Yoga traditions offer a similar triad of paths to freedom including Karma Yoga (the path of action), Jnana Yoga (the path of Knowledge) and Bhakti Yoga (the path of devotion).

This series will be devoted to exploring the three educations and yogic paths from a practical, rather than academic, perspective. The goal is to offer some conceptual maps and practical skills to help us offer-come habits that bind us.

Overview of this Series:

Class 1: Suffering and Karma

Class 2: Ethics and Action

Class 3: Wisdom and Knowledge

Class 4: Meditation and Devotion

Class 5: Freedom and Happiness

The following past post will help orient participants for this series:

The Four Noble Truths


We will be using the Yoga Sutras of Master Patanjali as a primary source for several of our lectures.

Translations by Chip Hartranft and Geshe Michael Roach are available for free online in PDF format:

Yoga Sutra (C.H. version)

Yoga Sutra (G.M.R. version)

Yoga Sura Verses for Class 1:

Chapter 2 verse 1-16

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pathways to Self-healing: Class 3

Key Themes (Some available in a prior post):

- Karma
- Third Noble Truth: Freedom
- The Second Principal Path: Compassion
- The "Gap"
- How an understanding of karma effects the generation of compassion


The Third Noble Truth

The Second Principal Path

The "Gap": How to Use Recognition to Override Defaut Reactions
Freedom from suffering begins with a conscious choice to override automatic or unconscious conditioning and its effects.
What is necessary is a moment of recognition known as the "gap" and an alternative, more enlightened, response.

The unconscious cycle of stress and suffering is constituted by:
Misperception (Avidya) => Afflictive Emotions (Klesha) => Reactive/Automatic Behavior (Karma) => Adaptation to a compulsive lifestyle

The conscious "gap" of freedom and opportunity can occur anywhere in the chain or cycle, but is most easily recognized (smirti) between afflictive emotion and behavior. We are typically too unconscious of our misperception, but we can recognize our afflictive emotions: greed, hatred, attachment, aversion, pride, jealousy etc. We can train to correct our behavioral response to these emotions, using mindfulness and positive emotional antidotes (love, care, joy and peace). Training involves anticipating and pre visualizing what your "button" are and know your conditioned response sets. If it offten easier to identify these in contemplative therapy or with your meditation instructor. Small gaps and minor correctives lead to new tendencies and finally to cessation (nirodha) of addictive responses. We are not talking about the big liberation here (nirvana), rather we are talking about small, practical everyday liberations that add up. If you dont plant any new negative seeds, you will not create the future causes of suffering. For more on how karma works read the earlier post.

How an understanding of karma effects the generation of compassion
So then how does an understanding of karma give rise to the second principle path: compassion? What is the relationship between wisdom, that sees how things are working, and the loving response to other living beings? There are several ways to answer this, here are two:

1. Seeing how we suffer from misperception, gives rise to the understanding of how all other beings are suffering and acting out due to the same causes. If we achieve true transcendent renunciation, defined in the text on the three principal paths (lam sum na tso) as recognizing that there is not a single experience of true happiness to be found in compulsive or unconscious living, and seeking night and day for true liberation, then compassion is the recognition that other living beings too are caught up in the dissatisfying rounds of compulsive living (samsara) without a moments rest, relief or happiness. What's worse, is that most living beings dont even recognize their complicit involvement in their captivity, and remain asleep to their true potential for freedom. This leads to the heart-felt realization, that we should strive for our own awakening and freedom, in order to be maximally effective in helping others wake up and achieve their innate potential as well. That is the essence of the second path, compassion and its correlate, the awakened spirit (bodhicitta).

How does compassion work in practice, once you understand karma? If you take responsibility for the seeds (bjas) and tendencies (samskaras) from your past that color your current misperception (avidya), then you are forced to work with difficult situations and irritating people in a different way. The world is coming from you, not at you. Perception is reality. The sense of feeling hurt by others is coming from your side, conditioned by your past memories (bijas), tendencies (samskaras) and actions (karma). So when you feel hurt by others, you must recognize the experience as the result of a prior action (karma) of hurting another living being. Recognize cause and effect. If you feel hurt, its because you have hurt another. Does this mean you should be a door mat and allow others to hurt you? - of course not! But you do need to recognize where things are really coming from. Recognize that the real enemy is within. The irritating person hurting you, is not the enemy, the real enemy is your and thier avidya, misperception, about how things work and who you really are. When you feel hurt, blame your misperception, recognize the karma that has given rise to the unpleasant experience and resolve to manage it in a different way. Resolve not to go with you knee jerk reaction. Resolve to reverse your tendencies (samskaras) and actions (karma) with ethics (sila); resolve to counteract your afflcitive emotions (kelshas) with meditation (samadhi) on positive states (brahma viharas); and resolve to see through your misperception (avidya) by studying reality (prajna).

2. The other implication of karma and compassion is how we choose to respond and behave to and with others in the world.
So how should we respond to other's negativity? If you respond to the irritating person with blame, anger, aggression etc, then according to karma, what are you creating? A future moment of suffering for yourself - right? So from the enlightened perspective, what is the best way to respond? Respond with ethics, love and compassion. Recognize the origin of the problem and the most helpful solution. Deposit a new seed into your mind stream that will produce a different future result. Understand that the irritating person who is hurting you, is both your past negativity coming full circle in your internal perception, as well as another living being under the control of their avidya in the external situation. What do you really need and what do they really need? Chances are the answer is the same: care and a feeling of safety. Don't allow them to perpetuate suffering by hurting you or themselves. Set limits and boundaries, communicate your own needs skillfully, motivated out of care and concern for both parties involved. The two antidotes for dealing with difficult people are: recognition/wisdom, of where suffering is really coming from, and love/care about how to effectively respond for your own well-being and the welfare of others. More about how to maximally transform adversity into the spiritual path, please refer to the lojong (min training) teachings of Mahayana buddhism.



Types of Buddhist teachings: Ordinary, hidden/subtle, and extremely hidden/subtle.
Karma is an extremely hidden teaching.
Ultimately, only enlightened beings can understand karma directly and fully.
Ordinary minds can not perceive karma directly, and therefore must rely on inferential reasoning and confidence in our teachers and texts.
Buddha said of all his teachings Karma was the most difficult to understand.

There are different types of causality that govern biology, the environment etc. The Buddhist teaching on karma concern the causality of mind and one's experience of either suffering or happiness, bondage or freedom.

Karma: The law of cause and effect
The science of causality, how things work.
Karma means action, but refers to the intentions that drive actions; and the consequences or results of actions.

Intentional actions create our experience.
Its not what happens to us, but how we experience or perceive what is happening to us that is our karma.
Its not the brick that falls on your head, but how you perceive and evaluate that experience that is your karma ripening.
At a very deep level, we can say that you don't have karma, rather you are karma. "You" are the sum total of your past action, and you change "you" in the future, by what you do now.

World Views:
World Views are meta-philosophies that answer the questions why do things happen and how are things working?

All world views explain the nature of reality, and have implications to how we live and relate to others (ie. ethics).

3 Main World Views:
Theism: God is in control of the forces of nature and the direction of our lives.
Implication: If we surrender and have faith in God, we will receive our blessings in heaven.
Problem: If there is only one God (monotheism), and He is all powerful (omnipotent) and all compassionate, then how do we explain evil and suffering? Either there are many gods, in which case how do we choose, or He is not all powerful, in which case why surrender to him, or He is not all compassionate, in which case why love him. Theologians have argued this problem for centuries. Ultimately they say that this problem is beyond our understanding and that suffering is a test of our faith. But again, if god was all powerful and all compassionate, why test us with misery?

Materialism: No specific forces are in control of nature and our experience. Things are randomly occurring and are not predictable.
Implications: Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die and there is no reason to be moral because nothing matters.
Problem: Unethical and amoral lifestyle, in which we harm ourselves, others and the earth. Why would you even go to school or have a bank account if you didn't believe in those efforts having a consequence?

Causality: We are directly responsible for the forces that shape our lives and expereince.
Implication: We create our own happiness and our own suffering.
Problem: Are we mature enough to accept the responsibility for our lives, or do we secretly have the childhood fantasy of wishing others (God, parents, governments) will take care of us? the other main problem of karma is the gap that occurs between cause and effect. Because we do not perceive the mechanisms of karma directly, and a cause and it's effect my be separated by a time gap, it is very hard for us to understand, and accept, that this is the way things are working.

Types of Causality:

Environmental Causality: There is no environmental causality as such, because the environment is not conscious or sentient. While there is a science of cause and effect in the natural world, there is no conscious intention driving it. This is the difference between "natural laws" such as gravity and "psychological laws" of karma.

Biological Causality: There is a whole domain of science that observes biological cause and effect. Because the mind and body are separate, albeit interrelated, there are distinct causal forces driving our physical bodies. However, in the tantric view (secret teachings) of Buddhism, it is asserted that mind and psychology determine the processes of the body.

Psychological Causality: will be discussed below.

Dharmic Causality: There is a unique type of causality ascribed the the enlightened activity (Tib. trinlay) of a Buddha. Because there is no erroneous sense of self for an enlightened being, then there are no imprints and no place for the imprints to reside.

Outlines of Psychological Karma:

General Characteristics of Karma:
1. The certainty of karma
2. The magnification of karma
3. One will never experience the result of a karma one did not create the cause for
4. Karma causes created are never lost*

I. The certainty of karma
All experience arises from a cause. Nothing is random. Happiness arises from the 10 virtues and suffering arises from the 10 non-virtues. The law of cause and effect is definite and certain. An apple seed can only produce and apple tree.

10 Non-virtues:
3 non virtues of Body: killing, stealing, sexual inappropriateness
4 non-virtues of Speech: lying, slander (divisive talk), harsh words, gossip
3 non-virtues of Mind: Covetousness (greed), harmful intent (hatred), and wrong view (misperception, closed mindedness).

10 Virtues:
3 virtues of Body: Protecting the well-being of others, generosity, respecting the feelings of others.
4 virtues of Speech: Speaking truthfully, speaking to harmonize others, speaking sweetly, speaking meaningfully
3 virtues of Mind: Rejoicing vicariously with others, having love and compassion for others, perceiving reality clearly/precisely (ie. interdependence/emptiness).

II. The magnification of karma
Great effects may arise from small actions. Internal causation seems to involve a magnification, whereby immense results can have very seemingly insignificant origins. The result of tremendous suffering can arise from even a tiny non-virtue like a harsh word, likewise immense joy and happiness may arise from even one kind word. A tiny seed produces a huge apple tree.

III. One will never experience the result of a karma one did not create the cause for
Because cause and effect are inextricably connected, you will never experience the result of an action you did not produce the cause for. Suffering will not arise without a cause, but neither will happiness. If you want to be happy, but are continuously harming others, don't expect to get what you want. On the other hand, if you know you are treating others respectfully and are conscious of your ethical conduct, then rest assured you will reap the fruit in kind.

IV. Karmic causes created are never lost
Karma does not perish over time even if it does not ripen due to absence of conditions. A cause is never lost, it will most certainly give rise to an effect at some point in time. We don't know when a karmic seed will ripen, because there is a tricky "gap" or lapse in time between a cause and its result. We should just assume that we have a massive store of negative imprints on our minds and that it is only a matter of time before we experience their ripening. This assumption helps us to not get too complacent when "good" things are happening, nor too paralyzed when "bad" things are happening, because our experience is constantly changing based on the ripening of past actions. The point is to consciously create your own positive outcome and purify your past negativities. Karma can not be removed by the power of another being, such as God's grace or the power of the Buddha . It can only be mitigated by our own efforts using the method of the "Four Opponent Powers or Purification" (see below).

Different Types of Karma:

Virtuous karma: which leads to rebirth (or positive experience) in the three upper realms

Non-virtuous karma: which leads to rebirth (or negative experience) in the three lower realms

Non-fluctuating karma: actions done with different levels of concentration, resulting in experience of the Form or Formless realms (higher states of consciousness).

Throwing karma: when all four conditions of karma are present (see below) there is sufficient force to direct consciousness into one of the Six Realms of Existence at the time of death.

Completing Karma: karma not containing all four conditions (see below), that influence the circumstances (either experience, predisposition, or environment) in the next rebirth.

Four Conditions of Karma: A Complete Karma

I will steal a wallet; there is a wallet to steal; I attempt to steal it; I obtain the wallet.
I want to help others: there is a person who needs help; I do some kind gesture; A person feels helped.

Four Results of Karma (Throwing and Completeing Karmas):

I. Throwing karma

Throwing Karma: Intentional actions at the time of death that propel (throw) consciousness into one of the Six Realms of Existence:
Animal => Paranoia and anxiety
Hungry ghost => Addiction
Hell => Trauma, dissociative states, schizophrenic and delusional states
Human => Depression and dissatisfaction
Demi-god => Envy and competiveness
Gods => Narcissism

II.-IV Types of Completing karmas

Karma similar to the Action (Predisposition and Tendency)
If you kill in the past then you inherit the mental tendency to kill
If you love others in the past, you inherit the tendency to be kind, gentle and loving

Karma similar to the Cause (Experience)
If you abuse others in the past then you experience abuse
If you love others in the past then you experience being loved of others

Karma similar to the Environment
If you kill in the past, then you experience a threatening environment like a war zone or place of intolerance.
If you loved in the past, then you experience a loving, safe, beautiful environment

Heaviness of Karma:
All four conditions of the karma are present as opposed to only some of them.
Example: Picking up someone's wallet in the street. In this case, one does not have the intention to steal (condition of intention) nor is there a actual person (object) in sight, but this action still carries some level of karmic imprint of stealing because you are taking something that has not been given and their is a person somewhere out there that is experiencing the loss. Your mind knows what its like to loose a wallet.

Karma is strengthened by:

1) Nature of the virtue or non-virtue: killing is heavier than stealing; saving life is heavier than giving food.
2) Intention: The degree of resolve or strength of the emotional investment/intensity in the action.
3) Object: The objects have weight; parents and teachers are the heaviest objects towards which to direct action because they give life and liberation. An action towards a human being is a heavier karma than an action towards an animal because a person is closer to liberation.
4) Action: how conscious one performs an actions; the amount of preparation, premeditation. Is it spontaneous and based on passion in the moment or is it well thought out? Is one conscious of the principal of karma while doing the action?
5) Energy: The more energy the heavier the karma is both directions. Doing something nice for a loved one doesn’t require as much energy as doing something nice for a difficult person.
6) Frequency: How often the action is conducted, shapes the imprint and makes it more robust.
7) Non virtues actions conducted without an opponent, versus non-virtues counteracted by the Four Opponent Powers. (see below)

The Four Opponent Powers:

This is the Buddhist purification practice used to cleanse specific karmic imprints that have been caused but have not yet arisen.
Each of the Four Powers (Refuge, Regret, Repair, Resolve) counteract one of the Four Conditions of Karma:

The Power of Reliable Refuge => which counters the Object
Refuge or reliance on Buddha, dharma, sangha, essentially your own selfless nature and potential for change rather than on your ordinary sense of being inadequate in some fixed way.

The Power of Sincere Regret => which counters the Intention
Have genuine Remeasures and Regret for each negative action.

The Power of the Repair => which counters the Action
Perform the antidote or repair by mentally and then actually doing something (generous, moral, caring, kind.)
If you hurt someone, imagine being kind to them, then actually find that person or another person and act accordingly.

The Power of Resolution => which counters the Completion
Make a sincere vow or promise not to commit the action again. Hold yourself accountable for a specific time period, even if it is just a day in which you do not repeat the action. Do not break your commitments.