Keep your attention focused on the work, be alert and ready to handle ably and intelligently any situation which may arise–this is mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the miracle by which we master and restore ourselves. It is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life. Consider for example a magician who cuts his body into many parts and places each part in a different region–hands in the south, arms in the east, legs in the north, and then by some miraculous power lets forth a cry which reassembles every part of his body. Mindfulness is like that!

Mindfulness is at the same time a means and an end, the seed and the fruit. When we practice mindfulness in order to build up concentration, mindfulness is the seed. But mindfulness itself is the life of awareness: the presence of mindfulness means the presence of life, and therefore mindfulness is also the fruit. Mindfulness frees us of forgetfulness and dispersion and makes it possible to live fully each minute of life. Mindfulness enables us to live.

You should know how to breathe in order to maintain mindfulness. Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.

The Sutra of Mindfulness teaches the method to take hold of one’s breath in the following manner: “Be ever mindful you breathe in and mindful you breathe out…”

In a Buddhist monastery everyone learns to use breath as a tool to stop mental dispersion and to build up concentration power. Concentration power is the strength which comes from practicing mindfulness.

For beginners the method, “following the length of the breath,” the student lies, back down, on the floor:

– Although inhaling and exhaling are the work of the lungs, and take place in the chest area, the stomach also plays a role. The stomach rises with the filling of the lings. At the beginning of the breath the stomach begins to push out. But after inhaling about two-thirds of the breath, it starts to lower again.

– Why? Between your chest and stomach there is a muscular membrane, the diaphragm. When you breathe in correctly the air fills the lower part of the lings first, before the upper lungs fill with air, the diaphragm pushes down on the stomach, causing the stomach to rise. When you have filled your upper lungs with air, the chest pushes out and causes the stomach to lower again.

– That is why, in former times, people spoke of the breath as originating at the navel and terminating at the nostrils.

When doing this exercise don’t prop on a pillow, one should like on his or her back with a thin blanket or mat with two arms loosely at the sides. Focus your attention on your exhalation and measure how long it is. Measure it slowly by counting in your mind: 1, 2, 3…After several times you will know the length of your breath: Perhaps it is 5. Now try to extend the exhalation for one more  count. When you reach 5 rather than immediately inhaling as before, try to extend the exhalation to 6 or 7. When you have finished exhaling, pause for an instant to let your lungs take in fresh air on their own. Let them take in just as much air as they want without making any effort. The inhalation will normally be shorter than the exhalation. Practice like this for several weeks. Continue to measure your breath while walking, sitting, standing, and especially whenever you are outdoors. While walking you might use your steps to measure your breath. After a month the difference between the length of your exhalation and inhalation will lessen, gradually evening out until they are of equal measure. In order to measure your breath you can count or use a rhythmic phrase that you like. For example, if the length of your breath is 6, you might use instead of numbers six words, “My heart is now at peace.” If you are walking each step should correspond with one word.

Your breath should be light, even, and flowing, like a thin stream of water running through the sand. Your breath should be quiet, so quiet that a person sitting next to you cannot hear it. Each time we find ourselves dispersed and find it difficult to gain control of ourselves by different means, the method of watching the breath should always be used.

When you sit down to meditate begin by watching your breath. At first breathe normally, gradually letting your breathing slow down until it is quiet, even and the length of the breaths are fairly long. From the moment you sit down to the moment your breathing has become deep and silent, be conscious of everything that is happening in yourself.

Counting your breath

Making your breath calm and even is called the method of following one’s breath. If it seems hard you can first begin by counting your breath. As you breathe in, count 1 in your mind, and as your breathe out count 1 and so forth. Continue through 10 and return to 1 again. This counting is like a string which attaches your mindfulness to your breath. The exercise is the beginning point of becoming completely conscious of your breath. Without mindfulness you will lose count. Once you have reached a point where you can truly focus your attention on the counts, you have reached the point where you can abandon the counting method and concentrate solely on the breath itself.

When you are upset or dispersed and find it difficult to practice mindfulness, return to your breath. Learn to practice breathing in order to regain control of body and mind, to practice mindfulness, and to develop concentration and wisdom.

Breath is aligned to both body and mind and it alone is the tool which can bring them both together, illuminating both and bringing both peace and calm.

A person who knows how to breathe is a person who knows how to build up endless vitality: breath builds up the lungs, strengthens the blood, and revitalizes every organ in the body. They say that proper breathing is more important than food. Breath is a tool. Breath itself is mindfulness. The use of breath as a tool may help one obtain immense benefits, but these cannot be considered as ends in themselves. These benefits are only the by-products of the realization of mindfulness.

One hour if meditation a day is good but not enough. you need to practice meditation when you walk, stand, lie down, sit, and work, while washing hands, washing the dishes, seeping the floor, drinking tea, talking to friends, or whatever you are doing. When you are thinking about other things as you do them that means you are incapable of living during the time you are doing that task. Each act is a rite, a ceremony. Each act must be carried out in mindfulness.

Each person should try hard to reserve one day out of the week to devote entirely to their practice of mindfulness. While still lying in bed, begin slowly to follow your breath–slow, long, and conscious breaths. Then slowly rise from bed, nourishing mindfulness by every motion. Once up brush your teeth, wash your face, and do all your morning activities in a calm and relaxing way, each movement done in mindfulness. Follow your breath, take hold of it, and don’t let your thoughts scatter. Each movement should be done calmly. Measure your steps with quiet, long breaths. Maintain a half smile. Spend at least half an hour taking a bath. Bathe slowly and mindfully, so that by the time you have finished you feel light and refreshed. Afterwards you may have chores but whatever the tasks do them slowly and with ease, in mindfulness. Don’t do any task in order to get it over with. Resolve to do each job in a relaxed way, with all of your attention. Enjoy and be one with your work. Without this the Day of Mindfulness will be of no value. The feeling that any task is a nuisance will disappear if it is done in mindfulness. Take the example of the Zen Masters. No matter what task or motion they undertake, they do it slowly and evenly, without reluctance. For those just beginning to practice, it is best to maintain a spirit of silence throughout the day. Keep talking to a minimum and whatever you sing or speak do so in mindfulness. It is possible to sing and practice mindfulness at the same time just as long as one is conscious of the fact that one is signing and aware of what one is singing. But be warned that it is much easier to stray from mindfulness when talking or singing if your meditation strength is still weak. At lunchtime prepare a meal for yourself. Cook the meal and wash the dishes in mindfulness. In the morning, after you have cleaned and straightened up your house, and in the afternoon, after you have worked in the garden or watched clouds or gathered flowers, prepare a pot of tea to sit and drink in mindfulness. Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if the axis on which the whole earth revolves–slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment. Only this actual moment is life. In the evening you might read scripture, write letters, or do anything else you enjoy outside of your normal duties during the week. But whatever you do, do it in mindfulness. Eat only a little for the evening meal. Later, around 10 or 11 o’clock as you sit in meditation; you will be able to sit more easily on an empty stomach. Afterwards you might take a slow walk in the fresh night air, following your breath in mindfulness and measuring the length of your breaths by your steps. Finally, return to your room and sleep in mindfulness.

Why should you meditate? First of all, because each of us needs to realize total rest. Even a night of sleep doesn’t provide total rest. It is possible to find total rest in a sitting position, and in turn to advance deeper in meditation in order to resolve the worries and troubles that upset and block your consciousness.

Both knees should touch the floor. Back should be straight. Neck and head should be aligned with the spinal column, straight but not stiff or wood like. Keep your eyes focused a yard or two in front of you. Maintain a half-smile. Follow your breath and relax all of your muscles. Concentrate on keeping your spinal column straight and following your breath. As for everything else, let it go. Place your left hand, palm side up, in your right palm. Let all the muscles in your hands, fingers, arms, and legs relax. Let go of everything. Hold on to nothing but your breath and the half smile. The technique for obtaining this rest lie in two things: watching and letting go. Watching your breath and letting go of everything else. Release every muscle in your body. After 15 minutes or so, it is possible to reach a deep quiet, filled with inner peace and joy. Maintain this quiet and peace. If you sit correctly, it is possible to find total relaxation and peace right in the position of sitting.

Visualization: Imagine yourself as a pebble which has been thrown into a river. The pebble sinks through the water effortlessly. Detached from everything, it falls by the shortest distance possible, finally reaching the bottom, the point of perfect rest. You are like a pebble which has let itself fall into the river, letting go of everything. At the center of your being is your breath. You don’t need to know the length of time it takes before reaching the point of complete rest on the bed of fine sand beneath the water. When you feel yourself resting like a pebble which has reached the riverbed that is the point when you begin to find your own rest. You are no longer pushed or pulled by anything.

The ease of sitting depends on whether you practice mindfulness a little or a lot each day. And it depends on whether or not you sit regularly.

The goal of meditation is to go much deeper than relaxation.  Relaxation is the necessary point of departure, once one has realized relaxation; it is possible to realize a tranquil heart and clear mind. To realize a tranquil heart and clear mind is to have gone far on the path f meditation. To take hold of our mind you must practice mindfulness of the mind and know how to observe and recognize the presence of every feeling and thought which arises in you. This must be done at all times, during your day-to-day life no less than during one hour of meditation.

During meditation all sorts of thoughts will arise but if you do not practice mindfulness of breath, these thoughts will lure you away from mindfulness. But the breath isn’t a means to chase away thoughts and feelings. Breath remains the vehicle to unite body and mind and to open the gate to wisdom. Just acknowledge the presence of thought and feelings, don’t chase them away. Do not let any thought or feeling arise without recognizing it in mindfulness, like a palace guard who is aware of every face that passes through the front corridor.

Don’t be dominated by distinguishing between good and evil thoughts and create a battle within. Just acknowledge wholesome and unwholesome thoughts. Our thoughts and feelings are us; they are a part of ourselves. We are both the mind and the observer mind. Therefore chasing away or dwelling on any thought isn’t important, what is important is awareness. Sutra on mindfulness, Buddha always stressed, “mindfulness of feeling in feeling, mindfulness of mind in mind.” The Sutra says that the mind is like a monkey swinging from branch to branch through a forest. In order not to lose sight of the monkey by some sudden movement, we must watch the monkey constantly and even be one with it. Mind contemplating mind is like an object and its shadow–the object cannot shake the shadow off. The two are one.  Wherever the mind goes it still lies in the harness of the mind. The Sutra sometimes uses the expression “Bind the monkey” to refer to taking hold of the mind. But the monkey image is only a means of expression. Once the mind is continually and directly aware of itself, it is no longer like a monkey. There are not two minds, one which swings from branch to branch and another which follows after to bind it with a piece of rope.

During the first 6 months of meditating try only to build up your power of concentration, to create an inner calmness and serene joy. You will shake off anxiety, enjoy total rest, and quiet your mind. You will be refreshed and gain a broader, clearer view of things and deepen and strengthen the love in yourself.

Sitting meditation is nourishment for your body and your spirit.

The Five Aggregates

Every object of the mind is itself mind. Dharmas are grouped into five categories:

1. bodily and physical forms

2. feelings

3. perceptions

4. mental functionings

5. consciousness

The fifth category contains the other 4 and is the basis of their existence.

The first object of contemplation is our own person, the assembly of the 5 aggregates in ourselves. You contemplate right here and now on the 5 aggregates which make up yourself. You are conscious of the presence of bodily form, feelings, perception, mental functionings and consciousness. You observe these “objects” until you see that each of them has intimate connection with the world outside yourself. If the world did not exist then the assembly of the 5 aggregates could not exist either.

Consider a table. It exists from non table elements (the forest, the carpenter, the nails etc.) If you return any of these non table elements to their source then the table would not exist. A person who can look at the table and see the universe is a person who can see the way.  If we contemplate the 5 aggregates in a stubborn and diligent way, we, too, will be liberated from suffering, fear, and dread.

Meditation on interdependence is to be practiced constantly, not only while sitting, but as an integral part of our involvement in all ordinary tasks. We must learn to see that the person in front of us is ourselves and that we are that person. We must be able to see the process of inter-origination and interdependence of all events, both those which are happening and those which will happen.

We must also look death in the face, recognize and accept it, just as we look at and accept life. Meditate on the corpse until you are calm and at peace, until your mind and heart are light and tranquil and a smile appears on your face. Thus, by overcoming revulsion and fear, life will be seen as infinitely precious, every second worth living.

Sitting in mindfulness, both our bodies and minds can be at peace and totally relaxed. This state of peace and relaxation differs fundamentally from the lazy, semi-conscious state of mind that one gets while resting and dozing. Sitting like this is like sitting in a dark cave. In mindfulness one is not only restful and happy but alert and awake. Meditation is not evasion it is a serene encounter with reality. Be like a lion going forward with slow, gentle, and firm steps.

For beginners I recommend the method of pure recognition: recognition without judgment. Feelings, whether of compassion or irritation, should be welcomed, recognized and treated on an absolutely equal basis; because both are ourselves. In mindfulness, compassion, irritation, mustard green plant, and teapot are all sacred.

In a family, if there is one person who practices mindfulness, the entire family will be more mindful. Because of the presence of one member who lives in mindfulness, the entire family is reminded to live in mindfulness. Only by practicing mindfulness will we not lose ourselves but acquire a bright joy and peace.

We ought to listen to music or sit and practice breathing before every meeting or discussion.

Tolstoy Emperor story moral: Remember that there is only one important time and that is now. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion. The most important person you are with, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future? The most important pursuit is making the person standing at your side happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life.

EXERCISES IN MINDFULNESS

1. Half-smile when you first wake up in the morning. Hang a branch, any other sign, or even the word “smile” on the ceiling or wall so that you see it right away when you open your eyes. This sign will serve as your reminder. Use these seconds before you get out of bed to take hold of your breath. Inhale and exhale three breaths gently while maintaining the half smile. Follow your breaths.

2. Half-smile during your free moments. Anywhere you find yourself sitting or standing, half-smile. Inhale and exhale quietly 3 times.

3. Half-smile while listening to music. Smile while watching your inhalations and exhalations.

4. Half-smile when irritated. When you realize you are irritated, half-smile at once. Inhale and exhale quietly, maintaining the half-smile for three breaths.

5. Letting go in a lying down position. Lie down on your back on a flat surface without the support of a mattress or pillow. Keep your two arms loosely by your sides and your two legs slightly apart, stretched out before you. Maintain a half smile. Breathe in and out gently, keeping your attention focused on your breath. Let go of every muscle in your body. Relax each muscle as though it were sinking down through the floor or as though it were as soft and yielding as a piece of silk hanging in the breeze to dry. Let go entirely, keeping your attention only on your breath and half smile. Think of yourself as a cat, completely relaxed before a warm fire, whose muscles yield without resistance to anyone’s touch. Continue for 15 breaths.

6. Letting go in the sitting position. Sit in the half or full lotus, or cross-legged, or your two legs folded beneath you, or even on a chair, your two feet touching the floor. Half smile. Inhale and exhale while maintaining the half smile. Let go.

7. Deep breathing. Lie on your back, breathe evenly and gently, focusing your attention on the movement of your stomach. As you begin to breathe in, allow your stomach to rise in order to bring air into the lower half of your lungs. As the upper halves of your lungs begin to fill with air, your chest begins to rise and your stomach begins to lower. Don’t tire yourself. Continue for 10 breaths. The exhalation will be longer than the inhalation.

8. Measuring your breath by your footsteps. Walk slowly and leisurely in a garden, along a river, or on a village path. Breathe normally. Determine the length of your breath, the exhalation and the inhalation, by the number of your footsteps. Continue for a few minutes. Begin to lengthen your exhalation by one step. Do not force a longer inhalation. Let it be natural. Watch your inhalation carefully to see if there is a desire to lengthen it. Continue for 10 breaths.

9. Counting your breath. Sitting or walking inhale and be mindful, “I am inhaling, one.” When you exhale, be mindful that “I am exhaling, one.” Remember to breathe from the stomach. Continue to 10 and then start over. Whenever you lose count, return to one.

10. Following your breath while listening to music. Listen to a piece of music. Breathe long, light, and even breaths. Follow your breath, be master of it while remaining aware of the movement and sentiments of the music. Do not get lost in the music, but continue to be master of your breath and yourself.

11. Following your breath while carrying on a conversation. Breathe long, light, and even breaths. Follow your breath while listening to a friend’s words and to your own replies. Continue as with music.

12. Following the breath. Sitting or walking begin to inhale from the stomach mindful that, “I am inhaling normally.” Exhale in mindfulness, “I am exhaling normally.” Continue for three breaths. On the fourth breath extend the inhalation, mindful that, “I am breathing in a long inhalation.” Exhale in mindfulness, “I am breathing out a long exhalation.” Continue for three breaths. Now follow your breath carefully aware of every moment of your stomach and lugs. Follow the entrance and exit of air. Be mindful that “I am inhaling and following the inhalation from its beginning to its end. I am exhaling and following the exhalation from its beginning to its end.” Continue for 20 breaths. Return to normal. After 5 minutes, repeat the exercise. Remember to maintain the half smile while breathing.

13. Breathing to quiet the mind and body to realize joy. Sitting in a comfortable position with a half-smile follow your breath. When your mind and body are quiet continue to inhale and exhale very lightly, mindful that, “I am breathing in and making the breath-body light and peaceful. I am exhaling and making the breath-body light and peaceful.” Continue for three breaths giving rise to the thought in mindfulness, “I am breathing in and making my entire body light and peaceful and joyous.” Continue for three breaths and in mindfulness give rise to the thought, “I am breathing in while my body and mind are peace and joy. I am breathing out while my mind and body are peace and joy.” Maintain this thought in mindfulness from 5-30 minutes, or for an hour, according to your ability and to the time available to you. The beginning and end of the practice should be relaxed and gentle. When you stop gently massage your eyes and face with your two hands and then massage the muscles in your legs before returning to a normal sitting position. Wait a moment before standing up.

14. Mindfulness of the positions of the body. This can be practices in any time and place. Begin to focus your attention on your breath. Breathe quietly and more deeply than usual. Be mindful of the position of your body. Be mindful of the purpose of your position.

15. Mindfulness while making tea. Prepare a pot of tea to serve a guest or drink by yourself. Do each movement slowly in mindfulness. Do not let one detail of your movements go by without being mindful of it. Take hold of your breath if your mind strays.

16. Washing the dishes. Wash the dishes relaxingly, as though each bowl is an object of contemplation. Consider each bowl as sacred. Follow your breath to prevent your mind from straying. Consider washing dishes as the most important thing in life.

17. Washing clothes. Scrub the clothes relaxingly. Hold your attention on every movement of your hands and arms. When you have finished scrubbing and rinsing, your mind and body should feel as clean and fresh as your clothes. Remember to maintain the half smile and take hold of your breath if it wanders.

18. Cleaning house. Move slowly, three times more slowly than usual. Fully focus your attention on each task. Maintain mindfulness of the breath, especially when your thoughts wander.

19. A slow motion bath. Allow yourself 30-45 minutes to take a bath. Don’t hurry for even one second. From the moment you prepare the bath water to the moment you put on clean clothes, let every motion be light and slow.

20. The pebble. While sitting still and breathing slowly, think of yourself as a pebble which is falling through a clear stream. The pebble sinks through the water effortlessly. Detached from everything, it falls by the shortest distance possible, finally reaching the bottom, the point of perfect rest. You are like a pebble which has let itself fall into the river, letting go of everything. At the center of your being is your breath. You don’t need to know the length of time it takes before reaching the point of complete rest on the bed of fine sand beneath the water. When you feel yourself resting like a pebble which has reached the riverbed that is the point when you begin to find your own rest. You are no longer pushed or pulled by anything.

21. A day of mindfulness. Set aside one day of the week that accords with your own situation. Forget the work you do during the other days. Do not organize meetings or have friends over. Do only such simple work as house cleaning, cooking, washing clothes, and dusting. Once the house is neat and clean, and all your things are in order, take a slow motion bath. Afterwards, prepare and drink tea. You might read scripture or write letters. Afterwards take a walk to practice breathing. During all activities maintain mindfulness. While reading follow what you are reading, while writing follow what you are writing. Follow the same procedure for listening to music or talking to a friend. In the evening prepare yourself a light meal. Sit in meditation for an hour before you go to bed. During the day, take two walk of half an hour to 45 minutes. Instead of reading before you go to bed practice deep relaxation for 5-10 minutes. Be a master of your breathing. Breathe gently, following the rising, the lowering of your stomach and chest, your eyes closed. Every movement during this day should be at least 2 times slower than usual.

22. Contemplation on interdependence. Find a photo of yourself as a child. Sit comfortable. Begin to follow your breath. After 20 breaths, begin to focus your attention on the photo in front of you. Recreate and live again the five aggregates of which you were made up at the time the photo was taken: the physical characteristics of your body, feelings, perceptions, mind functionings, and consciousness in the present moment. See the five aggregates which make up yourself. Ask the question, “Who am I?” The question should be deeply rooted in you, like a new seed nestled deep in the soft earth and damp with water. The question, “Who am I?” should not be an abstract question to consider with your discursive intellect. The question “Who am I?” will not be confined to your intellect but to the care of the whole of the five aggregates. Don’t try to seek an intellectual answer. Contemplate for 10 minutes, maintaining light but deep breath to prevent being pulled away by philosophical reflection.

23. Yourself. Sit in a dark room by yourself, or alone by a river at night, or anywhere else where there is solitude. Begin to take hold of your breath. Give rise to the thought, “I will use my finger to point at myself,” and then instead of pointing at your body point away in the opposite direction. Contemplate seeing yourself outside of your bodily form. Contemplate seeing your bodily form present before you–in the trees, the grass and leaves, the river. Be mindful that you are in the universe and the universe is in you: if the universe is, you are; if you are, the universe is. There is no birth. There is no death. There is no coming. There is no going. Maintain the half smile. Take hold of your breath. Contemplate for 10-20 minutes.

24. Your skeleton. Lie on a bed or on a mat or on the grass in a position in which you are comfortable. Don’t use a pillow. Begin to take hold of your breath. Imagine all that is left of your body is a white skeleton lying on the face of the earth. Maintain the half smile and continue to follow your breath. Imagine that all your flesh has decomposed and is gone, that your skeleton is now lying in the earth 80 years after burial. See clearly the bones of your head, back, your ribs, your hip bones, leg and arm bones finger bones. Maintain the half smile, breathe very lightly, your heart and mind serene. See that your skeleton is not you. Your bodily form is not you. Be at one with life. Live eternally in the trees and grass, in other people, in the birds and other beasts, in the sky, in the ocean waves. Your skeleton is only one part of you. You are present everywhere and in every moment. You are not only a bodily form, or even feelings, thoughts, actions, and knowledge. Continue for 20-30 minutes.

25. Your true visage before you were born. In a comfortable sitting position concentrate on the point of your life’s beginning–A. Know that it is also the point of beginning of your death. See that both your life and death are manifested at the same time: See that you are at the same time your life and your death; that the two are not enemies but two aspects of the same reality. Then concentrate on the point of ending of the twofold manifestation–B–which is wrongly called death. See that it is the ending point of the manifestation of both your life and your death. See that there is no difference before A and after B. Search for your true face in the periods before A and after B.

26. A loved one who has died. Sit in a comfortable position and begin to take hold of your breath. Contemplate the body of a loved one who has died and know clearly that the flesh has decomposed and only the skeleton or ashes remain. Know clearly that your own flesh is still here and in yourself are still converged the five aggregates of bodily form, feeling, perception, mental functionings, and consciousness. Think of your interaction with that person in the past and right now. Maintain the half smile and take hold of your breath. Contemplate this way for 15 minutes.

27. Emptiness. Sit in a comfortable position and regulate your breath. Contemplate the nature of emptiness in the assembly of the five aggregates: bodily form. feeling, perception, mind functionings, and consciousness. Pass from considering one aggregate to another. See that all transform, are impermanent and without self. The assembly of all phenomena: all obey the law of interdependence. Their coming together and disbanding from one another resembles the gathering and vanishing of clouds around the peaks of mountains. Neither cling nor reject the five aggregates. Know that like and dislike are phenomena which belong to the assemblage of the five aggregates. See clearly that the five aggregates are without self and are empty, but that they are also wondrous, wondrous as is each phenomena in the universe, wondrous as the life which is present everywhere. Try to see that the five aggregates do not really undergo creation and destruction for they themselves are ultimate reality. Try to see by this contemplation that impermanence is a concept, non-self, and emptiness. You will see that emptiness is also empty, and that the ultimate reality of emptiness is no different from the ultimate reality of the five aggregates.

28. Compassion for the person you hate or despise most. Sit quietly. Breathe and smile the half smile. Contemplate the image of the person who has caused you the most suffering. Regard the features you hate or despise the most or find the most repulsive. Try to examine what makes this person happy and what causes suffering in his daily life. Contemplate the person’s perceptions; try to see what patterns of thought and reason this person follows. Examine what motivates this person’s hopes and actions. Finally consider the person’s consciousness. See whether his views and insights are open and free or not, and whether or not he has been influenced by any prejudices, narrow-mindedness, hatred, or anger. See whether or not he is master of himself. Continue until you feel compassion rise in your heat like a well filling with fresh water and your anger and resentment disappear. Practice this exercise many times on the same person.

29. Suffering caused by the lack of wisdom. Sitting in a comfortable position begin to follow your breath. Choose the situation of a person, family, or society which is suffering the most of any you know. This will be the object of your contemplation. In the case of a person, try to see every suffering which that person is undergoing. Begin with the suffering of bodily form (sickness, poverty, physical pain) and then proceed to suffering caused by feelings (internal conflicts, fear, hatred, jealousy, a tortured conscience). Consider next the suffering caused by perceptions (pessimism, dwelling on his problems with a dark and narrow viewpoint). See whether his mind functionings are motivated by fear, discouragement, despair, or hatred. See whether or not his consciousness is shut off because of his situation, because of his suffering, because of the people around him, his education, his propaganda, or lack of control of his own self. Meditate on all these sufferings until your heart fills with compassion like a well of fresh water, and you are able to see that the person suffers because of circumstances and ignorance. Resolve to help that person get out of his present situation through the most silent and unpretentious means. In the case of a family, follow the same method. Go through all the sufferings of one person and the on to the next person until you have examined the sufferings of the entire family. See that their sufferings are your own. See that it is not possible to reproach even one person in that group. See that you must help them liberate themselves from their present situation by the most silent and unpretentious means possible. In the case of a society, take the situation of a country suffering war or any other situation of injustice. Try to see that every person involved in the conflict is a victim. See that no person, including all those in warring parties or in what appears to be opposing sides, desires the suffering to continue. See that it is not only one or a few persons to blame for the situation. See that the situation is possible because of the clinging to ideologies and to an unjust world economic system which is upheld by every person through ignorance or through lack of resolve to change it. See that two sides in a conflict are not really opposing, but two aspects of the same reality. See that the most essential thing is life and that killing or oppressing one another will not solve anything. Remember the Sutra’s words: In the time of war Raise in yourself the Mind of compassion Help living beings Abandon the will to fight. Wherever there is furious battle Use all your might To keep both sides’ strength equal And then step into the conflict to reconcile (Vimalakirti Nirdesa). Meditate until every reproach and hatred disappears and compassion and love rise like a well of fresh water within you. Vow to work for awareness and reconciliation by the most silent and unpretentious means possible.

30. Detached action. Sit comfortable and follow your breath. Take a project you believe to be important as the subject of your contemplation. Examine the purpose of the work, the methods to be used, and the people involved. Consider first the purpose of the project. See that the work is to serve, to alleviate suffering, to respond to compassion, not to satisfy the desire for praise or recognition. See that the methods used encourage cooperation between humans. Don’t consider the project as an act of charity. Consider people involved. Do you still see in terms of ones who serve and ones who benefit? If you can still see who are the ones serving and who are the ones benefitting your work is for the sake of yourself and the workers, and not for the sake of service. The Prajnaparamita Sutra says, “The Bodhisattva helps row living beings to the other shore but in fact no living beings are being helped to the other shore.” Determine to work in the spirit of detached action.

31. Detachment. Sit comfortably, follow your breath. Recall the most significant achievements in your life and examine each of them. Examine your talent, your virtue, your capacity, the convergence of favorable conditions that have led to success. Examine the complacency and arrogance that have arisen from the feeling that you are the main cause for such success. Shed the light of interdependence on the whole matter to see that the achievement is not really yours but the convergence of various conditions beyond your reach. See to it that you will not be bound to these achievements. Only when you can relinquish them can you really be free and no longer be assailed by them. Recall the bitterest failures in your life and examine each of them. Examine your talent, your virtue, your capacity, and the absence of favorable conditions that led to the failures. Examine to see all the complexes that have arisen within you from the feeling that you are not capable of realizing success. Shed the light of interdependence on the whole matter to see that failures cannot be accounted for by your inabilities but rather by the lack of favorable conditions. See that you have no strength to shoulder these failures, that these failures are not your own self. See to it that you are free from them. Only when you can relinquish them can you really be free and no longer assailed by them.

32. Contemplation on non-abandonment. Sit comfortably and follow your breath. Apply one of the exercises on interdependence: yourself, your skeleton, or one who has died. See that everything is impermanent and without eternal identity. See that although things are impermanent and without lasting identity, they are nonetheless wondrous. While you are not bound by the conditioned, neither are you bound by the nonconditioned. See that the saint, though he is not caught by the teaching of interdependence, neither does he get away from the teaching. Although he can abandon the teaching as if it were cold ashes, still he can dwell in it and not be drowned. He is like a boat upon the water. Contemplate to see that awakened people, while not being enslaved by the work of serving living beings, never abandon their work of serving living beings.

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