Friday, October 10, 2003

Carefully now. Trying to put this battered practice back together.

Three evenings in a row, going to talks by B. Alan Wallace on science, mind, and buddhism. Good talks, but doing anything in the evening breaks the fragile routine that my practice rests upon. Baffled again by how strong and how weak my practice is.

This morning -- quiet gray light -- I dusted the offering bowls and the butter lamp and my photographs of Sarah and Michael and my little wooden Buddha. 6:30 -- too late to practice and still have my leisurely breakfast -- so of course practice goes by the board.

But as I padded into the kitchen -- thinking of the fact that today's Friday, Dionna and Cassidy's day -- the thought came into my mind that there's nothing all that strange about the difficulty I have maintaining practice. I'm only intermittently convinced that Samsara won't bring me lasting happiness, and I don't think I'm ever convinced that practice will. It's just a hope. In such circumstances only the routine of a monastery or a retreat would be likely to hold me in a consistent practice.

There's a reason why the Ngondro practice always begins with the Four Thoughts. I am such a beginner, such a rude, awkward beginner. Without the Four Thoughts firmly in mind, of course I'll wander.

1. How incredibly rare it is to have come into consciousness as a human being, with access to the Dharma and the resources to practice. Winning the lottery is, by comparison, an everyday experience.

2. How fragile this existence is. Today I probably walked past a dozen bacteria that could have killed me within hours. They just happened to miss, today. The drunken bozos in their pickups happened to run down some other pedestrian today, and not me. The aneurism happened to pop up in someone else's heart today.

3. How all these pleasures, even the ones that pan out, come to an end, or go sour: they carry the seeds of anguish and loathing in them.

4. How all my habits drive on, and on, maybe even past death, past this universe. Ten billion lifetimes in a million universes frittered away in anxiety and craving, each gulp of salt water making me thirstier, each surrender to habit making the next surrender more likely. As Alan Wallace said, it's not the materialist concept of death that's scary. Non-existence, a light going out? That's a piece of cake -- all my troubles over -- whatever mess is left, somebody else will have to clean it up! No, what's scary is the thought of these habits living on, life after life.

I don't think I have the thoughts in the right order, there. Not even sure I have them separated into the right slots. But contemplating those is what will bring me to practice, if anything will.

And this is my daughter's eighteenth birthday. That may also counts as "a thought that turns the mind," I hope. Her girlfriend made a beautiful scarf for her. I can practice for them, if not for me -- always easier for me to motivate myself for others' benefit than for my own. (Not because of bodhicitta, I'm afraid, but just because I believe in others, and I don't believe in myself, not really. I don't really believe I'm a real person.)

Enough, for now. May you all be free of suffering and the causes of suffering. May you all have happiness and the causes of happiness. May you all never be without the sacred joy that is without suffering. May you all dwell in the great equanimity, impartial, free of attachment and aversion. Amen.

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