The practice of non-hatred may be the most difficult of the Buddhist precepts to apply as a Buddhist practitioner/householder living in a world characterized by a mass of human suffering arising from hatred, greed and ignorance. This talk had particular significance as it was delivered two weeks after the horrific events that transpired in Charleston. I consider this dharma talk a follow-up to my last talk on the Skillful Means of Recognizing Empty Appearance.
I offer this original sound/artwork as a gift to a world suffering with greed, hatred, and great confusion. This recording features the Eight Verses of Thought Transformation, a profound Tibetan Buddhist teaching by Geshe Langri Tangpa (1054–1123).
The Eight Verses provides a gateway into the awakened mind of a Bodhisattva by beautifully illustrating the inseparability of mind and heart in a very challenging and thoughtful manner. The text is a practical manual for developing the Pāramīs/Pāramitās: generosity, virtue, renunciation, wisdom, enthusiasm, patience, truthfulness, determination, lovingkindness, equanimity/compassion.
Seating oneself firmly in the sacredness of mind/heart allows full extension of the Bodhisattvic commitment to develop Bodhicitta; the altruistic intention to attain enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. May this practice liberate all beings from the ocean of samsara.
Listen to an edited version of Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health and Professor Richard Davidson discussing neuronal changes from the use of mindfulness interventions for the treatment of anxiety and depression. This panel took place at DAVOS 2015 and the recording was created by Mike Hanley, the Director of Communications, Digital Content and Editing at the World Economic Forum. No hype, just great information direct from the source.
I recently recorded two rich and informative conversations with David Vago, PhD, associate psychologist in the Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory (FNL), Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and instructor at Harvard Medical School, focused on translating the Buddhist concept of “enlightenment” into modern clinical terms. David is currently involved in cutting edge neurobiological research on the awakened mind states that arise during various meditative practices. I have divided our second conversation into three videos featured below. You can also listen to Part Two in its entirety at: http://www.awakenedpresence.com/sounds/dlpart2.mp3
This first of Part Two’s three videos focuses on S-ART, David’s neurobiological framework for describing the positive effects of meditation on self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-transcendence. Covered topics include: Perception and distorted self-perception; clarity and insight; reducing mental and emotional suffering.
The second of Part Two’s three videos covers not-self: Theravada, Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna notions of awakening and not-self; secular mental training; different interventions for different psyches; selflessness/emptiness in psychotherapy; translating the dharma into neuropsychological terms, vedanā (craving and aversion); decentering.
This final Part Two video concludes our conversation on not-self: embodied cognition; aggregates and seeds of habit mind; other-centeredness and not-self; non-referential compassion; empathy fatigue; refuting self-compassion; clinical Tonglen practice; neurobiological evidence for not-self states; developmental model of awakening; dynamic responsiveness; neurotherapeutics.
This week a patient arrived in a state of abject grief. A teen he knew had committed suicide. “I couldn’t sleep; so I tried offering the parents of this child lovingkindness. But wishing them happiness felt wrong, and wishing myself happiness felt like a betrayal to them.” Tears fell from his eyes, “How is compassion relevant under these circumstances? I found myself doubting the usefulness of the dharma.” This was not the first time I had witnessed the conflation of compassion and lovingkindness with peacefulness, joy and the ending of pain. One must discern the difference between pain and suffering in order to wisely offer compassion to the inconsolable.
In the West, the Brahmavihāras (compassion, lovingkindness, altruistic joy and equanimity) are often taught as existing separately from wisdom. This is a huge mistake. “Buddhist philosophy is unique for its insistence upon the unity of mind and heart; a compound entity that co-generates wisdom and compassion in a continuous, interrelational dance. An awakened heart integrates the insights of mind and an awakened mind offers solace to a heart open and extended to suffering,” (Miller, 2014).
I suggested that he try discerning the difference between the pain of loss and the suffering he was mentally generating about loss. This wise, yet kind recognition is the first step in generating compassion. He sat and contemplated this request. Then he shared that his misapprehension of happiness as the absence of sadness was a form of suffering. Knowing this allowed him to soften into the pain and receive its wisdom. The relief he felt, even in a state of abject pain, showed him a truly compassionate act he could do for his grieving friends. He wished them freedom from the suffering of unwarranted guilt and blame that might be arising in their mind. He wished them the capacity to open and receive the love of their friends and family. That was when this patient began to more deeply comprehend the union of compassion and wisdom and the healing power of lovingkindness and compassion.
Addendum: I posted this blog entry on a LinkedIn group and was asked by a group member to elaborate on the union of compassion and emptiness. Here is my response: Without wisdom, we can mistake co-dependent impulses and actions for compassion. In my book I spend a lot of energy explicating the meaning of emptiness precisely because the “bird of enlightenment” to which you refer is actually the recognition of emptiness, suchness, or the way things actually are. If one does not wisely discern misapprehension as the main cause of human suffering, one can not appropriately apply compassionate action to relieve inner and outer suffering.
Miller, L.D. (2014). Effortless Mindfulness: Genuine mental health through awakened presence. New York: Routledge.