Encouragement

Discuss your personal experience with the Dharma here. How has it enriched your life? What challenges does it present?

Encouragement

Postby duckfiasco » Mon Jun 02, 2014 8:08 pm

I read a dharma book, striving to absorb the wisdom, but I barely understand the words, then immediately forget.
I listen to enlightened teachers speak, thirsty for every word, but my cup has no bottom and there's nothing left to drink.
I chant a mantra, but two words in and I'm already somewhere else, while corpse lips recite empty words.
Deities hide their faces in the shadows of distraction.
I feel love for others only when it is easy. I get angry when they don't fan my flaming pride.
I revel in impotent torpor, too tired to even sit motionless in meditation.
My hand is a stiff fist, no gift can enter it.

An ocean's worth of dharma wisdom has washed over my head, and I've even tried to drown myself in it.
But it carried away my memory, my mala beads, my understanding.
Endless lines of practice in the sand get washed away in one swell.
Only some incomprehensible sun shines on this heap of flesh and bones, drying and warming it.
Somehow, there is salt in my hair.
Somehow, there are waves heard under every rock, over every bent grass stalk.
Even small bugs know it.
The Perfect Way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preferences;
Only when freed from hate and love,
It reveals itself fully and without disguise.
- Sengcan (tr. Suzuki)
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Re: Encouragement

Postby Mkoll » Mon Jun 02, 2014 8:21 pm

IMO, a more apt title would be Discouragement.

No offense.
Peace,
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Re: Encouragement

Postby Adi » Mon Jun 02, 2014 8:38 pm

Mkoll, I can't speak for duckfiasco, but he may be using a particular kind of poetic conceit (i.e. style) here. For instance, in what is arguably one of the most encouraging books ever written, Words of My Perfect Teacher by Patrul Rinpoche, you find such stanzas as these at chapter ends:

Although I have won these freedoms, I am poor in Dharma,
which is their essence.
Although I have entered the Dharma, I waste time doing other things.
Bless me and foolish beings like me
That we may attain the very essence of the freedoms and advantages.

Impermanence is everywhere, yet I still think things will last.
I have reached the gates of old age, yet I still pretend I am young.
Bless me and misguided beings like me,
That we may truly understand impermanence.

I see that samsara is suffering, but crave it still.
I fear the abyss of the lower realms, but continue to do wrong.
Bless me and those who have gone astray like me
That we may sincerely renounce the things of this life.
Last edited by Adi on Mon Jun 02, 2014 8:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Encouragement

Postby Berry » Mon Jun 02, 2014 8:42 pm

If you don't mind me asking, do you get any fresh air and regular exercise,duckfiasco ?

:)
.
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Re: Encouragement

Postby duckfiasco » Sat Jun 07, 2014 7:39 am

Thank you Adi, that was exactly my hope though I may have missed the mark.

When practicing, there may come a point where the sheer mass of our own ignorance and suffering becomes apparent, and the smallness of our efforts compared to the scope of samsara is very discouraging.
You may feel like you're sitting on one edge of a canyon trying to will the other side to come over to you. It can seem exquisitely pointless.
At this moment, something very deep is being felt intuitively.
Take heart.

It's as though our worried mind has forgotten how to stop chattering and can't stop listening to its own ideas.
It runs in circles and stays lost in the same old places, leaping from one religion or practice to the next, feeling like if we only got the right framework of ideas, finally grasped rebirth, or if we just managed to attain samadhi, then we'd be able to work with this slippery mind, this painful situation.
This is looking for relief through the small scope of calculation, looking for stability in the shifting quicksand of thoughts and feelings.
This is what dissatisfaction with one's practice and capabilities is revealing, and it can be painful, disorienting.
Take heart.

Said another way, it's like the fingertip trying to rule the body, as our total dependence on the compassion of the buddhas and other beings illuminates this self-scope of striving.
Every experience in our awareness, from the physicality of the body to beautiful/ugly thoughts, arises effortlessly as if by magic, the play of dharmadhatu, of something strangely Other beyond our conscious influence.
Our forgetfulness, our laziness, our unruly minds, these are the same: manifold dharmas bubbling up from who knows where, then dissipating just as mysteriously.

I don't think this is where suffering lies, and witnessing these phenomena does not create suffering.
The suffering isn't our "bad practice" or "this damn mind", even if there seems to be plenty of blame to spread around like in my case in that first post.
The arising of pain is in fact the invitation to learn something very important, and that's where we need extraordinary encouragement to take the risk and just look, and above all, take heart.
I can't put this into words well enough, but honestly, see for yourself the next time your practice comes crashing down around you, or keeps falling apart despite your best intentions.

I hope someone who struggles with their practice can be helped by the "conceit" of Adi's passage and my own. It's common in many writings of the Pure Land school as well, and has been of immense help in my own challenges.
The Perfect Way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preferences;
Only when freed from hate and love,
It reveals itself fully and without disguise.
- Sengcan (tr. Suzuki)
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Re: Encouragement

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Jun 07, 2014 10:59 am

I do believe you may be grasping and identifying with this sense of inability/discouragement in order to define your self. I think that you may actually be feeding it. But hey, my opinion is based on a couple of passages you posted here at DW, so I may have completely missed the mark.
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Encouragement

Postby dharmagoat » Sat Jun 07, 2014 12:15 pm

duckfiasco wrote:Take heart.

... and walk on, walk on. One foot before the other. Tired, you are headed home.
May all beings be happy
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Re: Encouragement

Postby Adamantine » Sat Jun 07, 2014 1:17 pm

duckfiasco wrote:I read a dharma book, striving to absorb the wisdom, but I barely understand the words, then immediately forget.
I listen to enlightened teachers speak, thirsty for every word, but my cup has no bottom and there's nothing left to drink.
I chant a mantra, but two words in and I'm already somewhere else, while corpse lips recite empty words.
Deities hide their faces in the shadows of distraction.
I feel love for others only when it is easy. I get angry when they don't fan my flaming pride.
I revel in impotent torpor, too tired to even sit motionless in meditation.
My hand is a stiff fist, no gift can enter it.

An ocean's worth of dharma wisdom has washed over my head, and I've even tried to drown myself in it.
But it carried away my memory, my mala beads, my understanding.
Endless lines of practice in the sand get washed away in one swell.
Only some incomprehensible sun shines on this heap of flesh and bones, drying and warming it.
Somehow, there is salt in my hair.
Somehow, there are waves heard under every rock, over every bent grass stalk.
Even small bugs know it.


I enjoyed this, good writing duck fiasco :anjali:
Contentment is the ultimate wealth;
Detachment is the final happiness. ~Sri Saraha
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Re: Encouragement

Postby ovi » Sat Jun 07, 2014 5:26 pm

I can calm an agitated mind, but torpor is just terrible to work with. Not long ago, when torpor was quite common and sometimes it seemed beyond my control, I just gave in to my thoughts until agitation and disturbing thoughts overwhelmed me and then I could just develop some samadhi and work from there. To help maintain a proper state of mind, there are certain things I now do and just take for granted. I've noticed taking a B-vitamins complex has a huge effect on my energy, perhaps partly due to its vitamin B3 content, which spares tryptophan for serotonin production. I've also noticed better states of mind from an extra of 3-5g of ALA per day (in my case from hemp oil). I take 6-8g of piracetam, a nootropic, per day, 4g in the morning and 0.8g every 2 hours for constant effect (until about 6 hours before going to sleep). It has a very positive effect on memory and concentration, it dispels drowsiness and it's neuroprotective. I take 2 full spoons of lecithin per day since we are quite likely to be deficient in choline, which is necessary for acetylcholine production and you need more on piracetam (it also basically doubles its effects, according to a study). I take vitamin D3, which is highly recommended for just about everybody, I've had the best immune system I can remember, my practice has not been affected despite a common cold and a flu, as I didn't become tired and they lasted much less than expected. I go for a walk in the forest 3-4 times a week if it's sunny, the noise of the city is quickly replaced by the peace of the forest and I come back more clear-minded.

On the practice side, I did notice something, a self-defeating thought which when actually observed, I can see it does nothing but tell me that what I want to meditate on/what I want to understand is difficult, I've had failures in the past, I can't do it, why try. If truly observed, I can just eliminate this thought, but what I also do is not to think of my meditation session in terms of an immediate goal, but instead apply as much effort as I can towards practice. I practice lamrim chen mo, but also some anapanasati, shikantaza and mahamudra.
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Re: Encouragement

Postby duckfiasco » Sat Jun 07, 2014 9:15 pm

Thank you for sharing, everyone :group:

Sherab Dorje wrote:I do believe you may be grasping and identifying with this sense of inability/discouragement in order to define your self. I think that you may actually be feeding it. But hey, my opinion is based on a couple of passages you posted here at DW, so I may have completely missed the mark.

Hi, Sherab Dorje! I'm sure others have the same impression, too.
I don't want to mislead anybody.

Discouragement is a powerful gate to renunciation. The suffering felt from fruitless practice, failed desires to refine our behavior, old habits trampling vows, is a critical moment. In fact, I hope everybody experiences a moment of deep discouragement at some point.
To me, it's an indicator that the old game of success/failure, good me/bad me, and so on is wearing out its welcome. But many people, including me, often reach the gate of discouragement and don't enter. We take the appearance of failure as failure and look to other theories and practices that might bring us more pleasure and reassurance.

Dogen said, "When you let go, the dharma fills your hand." But how do you let go when the moment you open your hand, disappointment fills it? Precisely by losing faith in your own abilities. Then an alternative is possible, and you can open to the sufficiency of the Buddhadharma, the words of teachers, and the incomprehensible display of phenomena, which incidentally includes whatever neuroses or worries about a self we may have. This is being taught by all things, by all the beings we see and whose minds we often share as restless ghosts, generous devas, blank animals, and so on.

To your point specifically, if we decide that this stuff "in here" isn't reliable, but then glom onto some idea of "everything else that's better and wiser", we again have a closed hand. We let go of body/mind-self to grasp world-self. It's still seeking relief in emotional responses, in ideas prettier than the ones we have.

But at the moment of discouragement, or any deep realization of our own impermanence and unreliability, there is a wonderful opportunity.
We can begin to practice no longer from our own side, but practice as life practicing life, as "this experience here" realizing great ease and joy in manifesting with everything else. Words really do a poor job describing this.

Through the gate of discouragement and renunciation, we find motivation that includes lack of motivation, peace that includes restlessness, love that acts when we feel cold and run down, and so on.
Practice that isn't dependent on ideas of practice.

I hope that makes sense. I try my best :rolleye:
The Perfect Way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preferences;
Only when freed from hate and love,
It reveals itself fully and without disguise.
- Sengcan (tr. Suzuki)
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Re: Encouragement

Postby Punya » Sat Jun 07, 2014 9:30 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:I do believe you may be grasping and identifying with this sense of inability/discouragement in order to define your self. I think that you may actually be feeding it.


Leaving aside whether this applies to duckfiasco or not, can you say more about how this would work?
Unless the inner forces of negative emotions are conquered
Strife with outer enemies will never end.
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Re: Encouragement

Postby dharmagoat » Sat Jun 07, 2014 9:41 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:I do believe you may be grasping and identifying with this sense of inability/discouragement in order to define your self. I think that you may actually be feeding it.

With regard to my own discouragement, this is something to consider.

Is the "struggling Buddhist" a self-fulfilling perception of myself?
May all beings be happy
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Re: Encouragement

Postby rachmiel » Sat Jun 07, 2014 11:59 pm

Duck,

Could it be you're too much in the head? That this is working against awakening? Just asking, not asserting.
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Re: Encouragement

Postby duckfiasco » Sun Jun 08, 2014 12:06 am

rachmiel wrote:Duck,

Could it be you're too much in the head? That this is working against awakening? Just asking, not asserting.

That's exactly right, rachmiel. This is what I hope to share with those who get very wrapped up in the game of "ah the mind is calm this is good" and "oh no my efforts are worthless". It's hard to practice without introducing self-cherishing, despite our best efforts.
We might understand intellectually what's going on, but recognizing this in our own minds, let alone opening the hand of thought (cf. Uchiyama) when things finally fall apart, can be difficult.
It's something I'm very familiar with in my own practice.

The moment of discouragement is a precious opportunity that must not be missed.
The Perfect Way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preferences;
Only when freed from hate and love,
It reveals itself fully and without disguise.
- Sengcan (tr. Suzuki)
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Re: Encouragement

Postby rachmiel » Sun Jun 08, 2014 12:19 am

Attending unresistingly and ungraspingly to whatever happens to arise ... like gently examining a succession of fascinating objects and letting them all go.
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Re: Encouragement

Postby dude » Sun Jun 08, 2014 1:22 am

dharmagoat wrote:
Sherab Dorje wrote:I do believe you may be grasping and identifying with this sense of inability/discouragement in order to define your self. I think that you may actually be feeding it.

With regard to my own discouragement, this is something to consider.

Is the "struggling Buddhist" a self-fulfilling perception of myself?


It certainly applies in my case. I fight with it all the time.
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Re: Encouragement

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun Jun 08, 2014 10:40 am

The ego, being a pernicious and sneaky little bastard, will grasp at anything in order to fortify its sense of existence. ANYTHING!

Take doubt (vicikiccha), for example. Doubt is considered, by the wise, in the following manner:
The commentators give two
etymological explanations of the word vicikicchā: (1) vexation due to perplexed
thinking; and (2) being devoid of the remedy consisting in knowledge. Both these
explanations indicate that vicikicchā, usually translated as “doubt,” more precisely means
“perplexity,” “skepticism,” or “indecisiveness” due to the prevalence of delusion. The
citta associated with this “doubt” is the first type of consciousness rooted in delusion.


(14) Doubt (vicikicchā): Doubt here signifies spiritual doubt, from a Buddhist
perspective, the inability to place confidence in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the
Sangha, and the training. Its characteristic is doubting. Its function is to waver. It is
manifested as indecisiveness and as taking various sides. Its proximate cause is unwise
attention.
From "The Abhidhammattha Sangaha of Ācariya Anuruddha"

Yet how many people have we seen proclaiming doubt to be a positive quality? Identifying with their doubt as a positive philosophical position? Putting down others for not expressing doubt around key doctrinal points, in order to place their ignorance on a pedestal and bolster their (sense of) self-esteem?

Let's look at doubt of the reality of rebirth. How many that doubt rebirth do so from a position of knowledge of what happens after death? None of them. Not a single one of them. All doubt rebirth because they are ignorant of its reality (and equally ignorant of the reality they espouse too) and instead of relying on (having faith or confidence in) those that are wiser or more knowledgeable, they decide to identify with their ignorance and samsara just keeps rockin' on!

I can give other examples of people identifying with their confusion, with their disease with their anger, with their pain and suffering, with their oppression, with any unwholesome state that you could imagine. I am sure everybody here could do the same.
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Encouragement

Postby ovi » Sun Jun 08, 2014 12:03 pm

:good:
I agree with duckfiasco that you can make use of afflictions such as doubt, as long as you actually transform them, that you arrive from doubt to confidence and faith in your practice.
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Re: Encouragement

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun Jun 08, 2014 12:21 pm

ovi wrote::good:
I agree with duckfiasco that you can make use of afflictions such as doubt, as long as you actually transform them, that you arrive from doubt to confidence and faith in your practice.
Well, Buddhist theory does not agree with you. How can relying on something based in ignorance lead to enlightenment?
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Encouragement

Postby seeker242 » Sun Jun 08, 2014 12:24 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:Yet how many people have we seen proclaiming doubt to be a positive quality? Identifying with their doubt as a positive philosophical position?


In the Zen practices and temples, etc., A LOT! It's but it's called "great doubt" instead of just "doubt". Hakuin Roshi said once "At the bottom of great doubt lies great awakening. If you doubt fully, you will awaken fully". The 3 pillars of zen are said to be "great faith, great doubt, and great determination". All of which are considered good things.
One should not kill any living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite any other to kill. Do never injure any being, whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!
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