I need to remember this

February 26, 2010

No matter what you want in life, you must give something up to get it. It’s a universal law and it works like this: the greater the value of what you want, the greater the sacrifice you will have to make.

The truth is that hard & continuous dedication brings about lasting results. There are no short cuts or detours.

Expect to pay a price if you want to make your life better. But, more importantly, also expect to pay a price for leaving things exactly as they are.

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I set a timer for myself in the kitchen, so I’d know when five minutes had passed. Five minutes seems like such a short time, but it’s really somewhat long. That is a thought that passed through my mind.

The first thing I did was sit with my eyes open, noticing how much sun was coming through my bedroom window. After that, I noticed my hands were cold, and then, I noticed my spine didn’t feel quite straight.

After that, I closed my eyes and fell into a habit of watching my breathing. This is something I learned in yoga classes; specifically I was breathing in on “sat” and out on “naam”, a practice I learned in a few kundalini classes. In Sanskrit, Sat means beingness or existence or truth, and Naam literally means, the Name. It indicates Identity. This mantra means basically, “I am Truth”, or “Truth is my identity”.

Once I fell into breathing with this mantra, the time passed more quickly. I felt I could almost hear a light music in my mind, and I became aware of the rising and falling of my breath, the feeling of the belt of my house robe against my belly as I breathed deeply. Overall, I was sad to hear the timer pip, and I take that as a good thing. We’ll see what tomorrow holds!

Meditation

February 25, 2010

I’ve been doing a lot of reading around in various places about meditation, as well as doing a little more reading of sacred texts. It seems that my own difficulties with meditation plague plenty of people who are just beginning to practice — and the general consensus is that one should start small.

I’ve always been that person who wants to do well at everything they try their hand at, and I have little patience for myself when I don’t automatically succeed. Meditation for me has been like this; I have difficulty sitting still, and I have a LOT of difficulty quieting my mind. I have learned in my readings that one doesn’t necessarily have to quiet one’s mind in the beginning. Using things like a smoldering stick of incense, a flickering candle, or a gong (or singing bowl!) to help draw attention and keep focus has been recommended to me on some fora I asked a few questions on. The idea is that, in the beginning, even a five minute meditation will do. Building up time is something that takes daily practice.

So here, starting today, is my plan: at 9am, every day, I will sit in silence in my room for five minutes. I will attempt to simply be. I will notice my body, what it is feeling, the environment around me. This simple act of noticing or “being” is referred to in Buddhism as “mindfulness“. Mindfulness has a lot of applications — in recent years, we’ve seen seminars on mindfulness about everything from eating to your office life — and it’s easy to see why. Becoming more aware of oneself and one’s environment is a key step, I think, to becoming aware of one’s needs. And isn’t that what so many of us, people called ‘seekers’, are looking for? The answer to a simple disquiet, a need we may not even know we have?

I will keep track of my meditations here, as an effort to help myself build the habit. As it is, it’s 0853 now, which means in seven minutes, I will turn off every electronic in my house, light a stick of incense, and settle into the first of many five-minute meditations.


Goddess Bath Oil & Pagan Rosary
Originally uploaded by caitrionaoconaill

This is my first attempt at a couple of things:

A) making a rosary
B) making anything with beads
C) not stabbing myself with the needle attached to the silk thread.

I did okay! It’s a bit messy, but it’s just for me, so I think that’s okay. I chose red beads and bone skull carved beads for a reason — I intend to use this rosary specifically to honor and focus on the Noble Dead, the Ancestors.

Because I work in a hospital where there are always people dying, death is often on my mind. I honor always the Dead before even the Gods; it feels right to me. The bottom charm is a heavy metal spiral Goddess figure — to me this charm is representative of the cycle of reincarnation, although I don’t honor the “spiral goddess”.

Goddess Bath Oil — I use this oil when I take what I affectionately call my “goddess baths”, or, the baths where I just get in and have a good, long, rose-and-gardenia scented soak. I usually also meditate with a votive candle and affirm my femininity and what it means to me. This oil contains pink & red rose petals and buds among other things. The base is sweet almond, an oil for love. I thought it more appropriate as I use this bath oil with the intention of loving and accepting myself.

To use: I typically start the bath water and then use a small muslin pouch to pour the oil through. This is only because I dislike plant matter in my bath water; it always brushes against me and makes me afraid there is a bug in the bath with me.

I pour a generous amount of oil into the muslin bag, letting it catch the plant matter. I then tie the strings so that it hangs upon the faucet and the water runs through it as the tub fills. When the tub is full I will take the bag off, tie it closed, and drop it in the water with me. I usually also place a rose quartz inside.

“Now listen to the words of the Great Mother, who was of old also called among men Artemis, Astarte, Athene, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Dana, Arianrhod, Isis, Bride, and by many other names.

“Whenever ye have need of any thing, once in the month, and better it be when the moon is full, then ye shall assemble in some secret place, and adore the spirit of me, who am Queen of all witches.

“There shall ye assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery, yet have not won its deepest secrets; to these will I teach things that are as yet unknown. And ye shall be free from slavery; and as a sign that ye be really free, ye shall be naked in your rites; and ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love, all in my praise. For mine is the ecstasy of the spirit, and mine also is joy on earth; for my law is love unto all beings. Keep pure your highest ideal; strive ever towards it, let naught stop you or turn you aside; for mine is the secret door which opens upon the land of youth, and mine is the cup of wine of life; and the cauldron of Cerridwen, which is the Holy grail of immortality.

“I am the gracious Goddess, who gives the gift of joy unto the heart of man. Upon earth, I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal; and beyond death, I give peace, and freedom, and reunion with those who have gone before. Nor do I demand sacrifice; for behold, I am the Mother of all living, and my love is poured out upon the earth.

“Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess; she is the dust of whose feet are the hosts of heaven, whose body encircles the universe.

“I am the beauty of the green earth, and the white moon among the stars, and the mystery of the waters, and the desire of the heart of man. Call unto thy soul; arise and come unto me; for I am the soul of nature, who gives life to the universe. From me all things proceed, and unto me all things must return; and before my face, beloved of Gods and of men, let thine innermost divine self be enfolded in the rapture of the infinite. Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth; for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. And therefore let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honour and humility, mirth and reverence within you. And thou wh othinkest to seek for me, know thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not unless thou knowest the mystery: that if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee. For behold, I have been with thee from the beginning; and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.”

I am presently reading “Awakening the Buddha Within” by Lama Surya Das. The following are excerpts I find meaningful and wish to remember… I will be adding to this post as I read.

The path, as always, begins beneath your feet with the first step you take. Where do you stand right now? This is where we begin. pg. 21

In all my future lives,
May I never fall under the influence of evil companions;
May I never harm even a single hair of any living being
May I never be deprived of the sublime light of Dharma

Traditional Tibetan Prayer

The sacred and the mundane are inseparable. Your life is your path. Your disappointments are part of your path; your joys are your path; your dry cleaning, your dry cleaner are on your path; ditto your credit card payments. It’s not helpful to wait until you have more time for meditation or contemplation, because it may never happen. p. 46

Spirituality is a matter of self-discovery, rather than of becoming something else. p. 48

Acknowledge that enlightenment is a real possibility. p. 54

The Lotus Sutra

February 16, 2010

Before I attend a service or class, I like to do a little background research. The following is what I have read from the website of Rissho Kosei Kai, regarding the Lotus Sutra — this is the sutra that is chanted during services at the Dharma Center here.

The Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, popularly known as the Lotus Sutra, is revered by millions of Buddhists as containing the core and culmination of the Buddha’s teaching. Together with the two shorter sutras that traditionally accompany it, Innumerable Meanings and Meditation on the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue, it is one of the most important scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism and indeed one of the major documents of world religion.

The Lotus Sutra consists of a series of sermons delivered by the Buddha toward the end of his 45-year teaching ministry before a great multitude of disciples and countless others. The setting and scope are cosmic, but the sermons themselves, presented in both prose and verse, are replete with parables and graphic anecdotes.

At the heart of the sutra are three major concepts of Mahayana Buddhism:

  1. All sentient beings can attain perfect enlightenment – that is, buddhahood – and nothing less than this is the appropriate final goal of believers;
  2. The Buddha is eternal, having existed from the infinite past and appearing in many forms throughout the ages to guide and succor beings through the teaching of the Wonderful Dharma; and
  3. The noblest form of Buddhist practice is the way of the bodhisattvas, those who devote themselves to attaining enlightenment not only for themselves but for all sentient beings.

The Sutra of Innumerable Meanings records the sermon preached by the Buddha to a host of bodhisattvas immediately preceding the delivery of the Lotus Sutra. Constituting an introduction to the central sutra, the shorter scripture is traditionally known as the “opening sutra.” The Sutra of Meditation on the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue, supposed to have been delivered following the Lotus Sutra, establishes the way of repentance as the practice of the spirit of the Lotus Sutra. Being an epilogue to the main scripture, it is called the “closing sutra,” while because of its theme it is also known as the “sutra of repentance.”

Rissho Kosei-kai has embraced the philosophy and ideals in the Lotus Sutra and the teachings that are basic to the whole of Buddhism:

  • The Four Noble Truths
  • The Twelve Causes
  • The Three Seals of the Dharma
  • The Eightfold Path
  • The Six Perfections

That is because, through study and actual practice of the Buddha’s teachings, Founder Nikkyo Niwano realized that the basic teachings of Buddhism and the profound philosophy and high ideals of the Lotus Sutra are the complementary halves of a single truth. In short, in the Lotus Sutra, philosophy, ideals, and the practical teachings of Buddhism are perfectly integrated.

Further, Rissho Kosei-kai believes that the integral essence of the Lotus Sutra is so universal and practical that it is in fact common to all the world’s religions and is relevant for people everywhere. Because the Lotus Sutra is a scripture that can lead all humankind from division to unity, from discord to harmony, from conflict to peace, Rissho Kosei-kai reveres it as the basic scripture in which to have faith.

Rissho Kosei Kai – Introduction to the Lotus Sutra

I have already studied many aspects of Buddhism, but I think I will go over them again — things like the Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths are pretty “basic” to Buddhism, but they are very deep concepts, which require a lot of thought. I’ll probably “discuss” them with myself here pretty soon.

beginning.

February 16, 2010

Most recently I have visited the Dharma Center here. It’s a Buddhist center in the Rissho Kosei Kai tradition. I went to visit because of my need for more learning on the subjects of meditation and how to quiet the mind. They offer chanting services and meditation classes, which I am looking forward to attending — at least to try it out.

Here is what the Rissho Kosei Kai organization website has to say about them:

Rissho Kosei-kai is a worldwide Buddhist organization founded in Japan in 1938 by Nikkyo Niwano and Myoko Naganuma. It combines the wisdom of both the Lotus Sutra and the foundational teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha. Its purpose is to bring these transformative teachings to the modern world.

The Lotus Sutra is a teaching of human respect, both the study and practice of a spiritual path that develops human potential, and a way of living that seeks peace for all people. By studying, understanding, integrating, and practicing the teachings, human beings can gradually approach a state of mind free from delusions, thereby enriching their own lives and those of others around them. Because everything is interconnected, when people devote themselves to benefitting all beings through harmony, they create awareness and develop a better world. This is the ideal for practitioners of the Lotus Sutra.