Saturday, March 26, 2005
If we utilize the lovely metaphor of the Tree Of Yoga, and apply it to the Buddha's Yoga teaching, the eight limbs of the Path (marga in Sanskrit, magga in Pali) branch off into three main branches. And somwhat surprising for many, the first branch contains the two limbs that compose the Wisdom (prajna) aspect of the Buddha's path.
Right View has been considered in a previous posting. Briefly, it is the right or skillful understanding of The Four Noble Truths. There are many people who do not understand their situation and thus suffer heedlessly. When people come to Yoga practice, of any kind, they do so out of the seed of wisdom that sees the truth of dukkha. The way life is lived is replete with imbalance, unaligned with reality. We may have tried a variety of ways to overcome our unease with the way we have been living, and now we turn to practice. A wise choice!
The second limb, Right Thinking (samyak samkalpa) has also been translated as Right Intention, Right Aim or Right Resolve. When right view is present, our thinking is in alignment with it. As Thich Nhat Hanh has said, "Thinking is the speech of our mind. Right Thinking makes our speech clear and beneficial. Because thinking often leads to action, Right Thinking is needed to take us down the path of Right Action (coming up next week!).
Right Thinking reflects the way things really are. Wrong, or unskillful thinking causes us to see in an upside-down way (viparyasa) as opposed to vipashyana. Right Thinking is not a doctrine, but a practice! Not an easy one, however, as our mind is often thinking about one thing while our body is doing another. Conscious breathing is one basic technique to unify body and mind.
Then, from this integrated wholeness, we can practice the examination of our motives, our habit patterns -- both mental and physical -- in order to resolve to move in the direction of less suffering and harm for ourselves and all beings. Right Thinking arises from and is in accord with Right View. Obviously, if you understand the root of your duhkha, you can generate the right intention to extricate yourself from it. If we have the view that we are independent, separate monadic selves, then our thinking and our actions will follow from this, and since this view or understanding is not in synch with how reality is, we will cause ever more suffering to ourselves and to those around us. Right Thinking reflects the understanding of interbeing -- the interdependent, interpenetrating nature of all phenomena . Right Thinking is in accord with Right View.
The following are four practices to cultivate Right Thinking:
1. Are You Sure? Misperceptions are a major root cause of duhkha. We can consistently reflect upon whether our perceptions are truly accurate, reflecting how things really are, or if in fact they are based upon misperception, opinion, and unskillful thinking. Sometimes our misperseption of ourself is negative in that we think we are incapable of doing something that in fact we can. At other times, we overinflate ourselves. Often we base our actions on the opinions of others who themselves may not have a truly accurate understanding of the situation. Perhaps you might find it useful to write out in your own hand on a piece of paper, "Are You Sure?" and place it over your desk at work or in your home somewhere where it can be a constant reminder of the fallibility of our perceptions.
2. What Am I Doing? If we stop periodically to ask ourselves this, the question can become a bell of mindfulness, recalling us back to the present moment from our forgetfulness. Through this practice, we become clearer of just how and when our mind "splits" off into another direction. Asking this question creates an opening within which we can disentangle ourselves from our ideas, notions, expectations and desires in order to pay full attention to what is actually happening in the moment.
3. Hello Habit Energy! Our way of acting in our world is based on our way of thinking and our way of thinking is in large part based upon our habit energies (samskaras and vasanas) -- the habitual patterns of conditioning that too often dictate how we relate to ourselves and the environment. Our habits are so tenacious they seem to stick to us, even when they make us suffer. Noticing them as they arise, simply acknowledging them and greeting them rather than feeling guilty or angry about them lessens their power over us. If we are perfectionists and see our hypercritical urge ariseing, "Hello Habit Energy" can loosen the grip of our compulsiveness.
With this friendlier attitude to our habit energy, the very things about ourselves that we have been unaware of become our teachers. By not rejecting them but instead welcoming them as old friends, they lose some of their sting. They offer us the gift of awareness. There are many stories in the Pali Canon that evidence that this is how the Buddha dealt with Mara, the tempter.
4. Bodhichitta This is the deep aspiration to cultivate the motivation and understanding in us that inspires us to work for the liberation of all beings. It is the ultimate motivating force for our practice of mindful living and a deep and generous one it is.
Of course is would be disingenuous to deny that we all take up a spiritual practice, at first, because we want to enjoy the expected benefits -- whether they be relaxations, deeper concentration, patience, peace of mind, stress management or enlightenment. Over time, as we cultivate Right View and Right Thinking, we come to see that it isn't even possible to practice "just for oneself," because we really "inter-are" with all beings. So, the cultivation of Right Thinking ultimately comes to the cultivation of bodhichitta, purposefully offering all the fruits of our practice to all beings equally. With the integration of Right View and Right Thinking, we can live fully in the present moment, nourishing the seeds of liberation and healing the wounds of suffering in the world.
What do you think?
bopsa frank jude
.: posted by Poep Sa Frank Jude 2:17 PM