A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Archive for the month “November, 2010”

Keeping focused

Right effort: Keeping you mind on the task at hand. If you are at work, be productive. If conversing with your spouse, then listen to them not sit there planning your grocery list, or how you can escape to watch your favorite team play on the television. By concentrating on the task in hand, our lives will be more satisfying, we will accomplish more that is important to us. Think of two students, the first diligently studies every evening, concentrating on the subjects. They may have some music playing in the background; however it is more akin to white noise or just enough to cover the background noises. The other student, has music blaring so the neighbours across the street can listen easily, practices singing along with all the songs, or takes breaks to play online games. Come the final exam, who do you think will probably get the better grades? Before someone points out people with photographic memories, let me say, imagine what those people can accomplish if they apply themselves. It has happened often enough in peoples lives that comedies make fun of, the situation where one spouse is not really listening to the other. The inattentive spouse is later in trouble for not listening, or comes home to find his home is now redecorated, and when they ask what happened, hear but I told you about my idea, and you agreed. Right effort can also mean right intentions. In a dating situation, right effort goes beyond listening to our date, it includes being clear about our intentions. My dad used to tell me, that it wasn’t right to make a girl think I was serious, unless I was. If I asked if they accepted me as I was, talked about meeting the girl’s parents, talked about family life in the future, was honest about any medical issues before it got to this point, I was to consider I was leading her down a path, which she could rightly assume was leading to a lifetime relationship. He told me that every culture has stories of women and me, who fall truly in love with someone who is just playing around for their own benefit. In most cases it will lead to a broken heart, however in these tragic stories all cultures have, the one who was deceived truly gave their heart, and usually ended up alone for the rest of their lives. So he pointed out unless I wanted my life to be cursed by the bad karma, from these to always be honest. He also told me of his friend who fell in love with a lady who broke his heart on their wedding day. The fellow went to see a monk who had the power to see past lives, and was informed that the fellow had in a previous life done the same thing to the lady, and she recognized him I this life, and was getting her revenge in this life. The fellow was told that unless, he wanted the cycle to continue into the next life, to show compassion and not seek revenge. Karma incurred in relationships is something my dad taught me to be mindful of, which started with right thought, right speech and right action. If I was blessed to find a lady who shared similar a similar view of meeting in the middle on things, who was strong enough to tell me when I did wrong, and sweet enough to forgive and forget after, and who wasn’t materially driven, but happy with a simple life, I would be very lucky. He used to tell me that the relationship between a man and his spouse was the most important thing to work on. The effort there would be returned multiplied. A good home life meant it was easier to handle work, I would have better friends, and my children would benefit. This was the one area my dad always seemed to include in talks about right effort. Looking back at my parents, they didn’t just preach this message to me, they lived it every day, and I realize how blessed I was to have had them.

Working for a living, the right way

Right Livelihood: It’s not only about having a job, but having one that doesn’t conflict with your morals. This is a sharp edged blade as a tightrope for certain professions. There is no caveat emptor or buyer beware loop hole in Buddhist ethics. The ethics of gene therapy, biogenetics, lawyers, advertising agents, and many other professions are beyond my ken, so to speak. Buddhism requires each person to apply the morals within to their lives the best they can. We need to realize that if we prevaricate in even one area of our lives, soon it will be seeping into the others. I don’t know anyone that wants to have the reputation of a smarmy, conniving snake oil salesman from the vaudeville days. Watching the unfrocking of televangelists for such things as misappropriated funds, cavorting with other women reminds me of those snake oil peddlers. Every religion, faith or way of life has those who will attempt to use it for their own personal gain. Buddha in his instructions to his followers, told us to listen, then test before adopting anything we heard. He made it acceptable to be a skeptic. However once again the middle path is the way to go here as well, either extreme is not good. Believing everything you hear, will lead you to ruin. On the other hand waiting till you have 100% proof, will leave you in a state of procrastination, which is equally not healthy.

Neutral Karma

Today will be a break from the linear path of the last while. Karma which simply put is you reap what you have sown. I have always taken to mean either good or bad karma. I have learnt that there is also neutral karma. I will expound on a later date, after I gain more knowledge, test this then implement it within my own life and thoughts. Learning to live the Buddhist lifestyle reminds me of learning to play the viola. When I first picked up the bow and applied it to the strings, no symphony came out; rather something akin to the screeching of a cat whose tail was just nipped by the neighbourhood pooch. But slowly as I practiced the placement of my fingers upon the frets, the proper amount of pressure on the bow, notes come forth that while not a song were coherent and individually correct. Soon scales, cords and even a stanza could be discerned. The same can be said of learning to apply Buddhist teachings to my daily life.

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