Thursday, September 26, 2013

Transform ordinary life into the path of Bodhi

I studied the Tibetan Buddhist Lojong slogans quite strongly in the 1990’s when Pema Chodron was first introducing them to a broader public.  It seems they are coming back around in my practice life as Norman Fischer, a Zen teacher, has written a new book about them from the Zen perspective – “Training in Compassion:  Zen Teachings on the practice of Lojong”.  No wonder there is interest in these very practical great slogans because they are very succinct sound-bytes for practice.

Two of the slogans seemed like a turning word in my spiritual practice.

When the world is filled with evil, transform all mishaps into the path of bodhi.
And
Whatever you meet unexpectedly, join with meditation.

These slogans helped me integrate and bring together my formal practice and my karmic everyday life.  It seems a lot of practitioners compartmentalize their practices.  One side being meditation practice and formal practices, which are split off from the in-between ordinary life.  Sometimes I ask a practitioner, “What is your practice?” and they answer me only in terms of their zazen or how much they are meditating.  Practicing with the Lojong slogans and in particularly these two general slogans, transform our idea of moment-to-moment practice and merge the absolute practices down to earth with our everyday life. 

Now, I see, every moment, every mishap, every unexpected predicament as an opportunity to practice right now.  I practice keeping my vision of wholeness, as I walk through the world filled with evil or misunderstandings or fantasies and delusions.  Mostly, we see our stories as solid, real and with the unending need to fix our karma.  Sometimes, we are completely lost in our individual storyline of our lives and from that point of view, we carry a lot of worry and stress.  My practice now is, without annihilating one speck of dust from my karmic story, I open the moment and include; everything that is whole about the moment, everything that is interdependently manifesting with the rest of life, everything that transcends the narrowness of “my life”.

Moment-to-moment we can transform this dull, painful, repeating day-after-day life into a moment of transforming practice-realization.  We can work that miraculous pivot and see how to practice in each moment, formally or informally.  I am still digesting Reb Anderson's practice of:

Welcome every moment, and use the practices of the paramitas in response:  generosity and patience.

Perhaps, another comment about these slogans is the reflection on “when the world is filled with evil.”  Lately, I only have to read the headlines on the front of the newspapers to feel that the world is filled with evil.  My most human response is to feel despair and nihilism for the world and a sense of hopelessness.  But I think that Buddhism has a different response.  As long as I breathe, as long as I still am awake to this very moment, I can practice living without greed, anger and ignorance and the fact of that practice, helps the world.  I am not adding on more suffering to an already suffering world.  I am not adding anger to anger and hatred to hatred.  'To give up' is not practice!  Jizo Bodhisattva goes into hell to help and has unflagging optimism that life can transform.  How could I possibly have unflagging optimism in the face of the difficulties of our 21st century life?  I can have it in my attitude to the moment-to-moment activity in my life and the willingness to do concrete things in ordinary life to help the whole.   This is to live in connection with wholeness and gratitude, and to have a generous attitude towards how I live my one precious human life.