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'A last shred of affliction'

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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Huifeng on Tue Dec 14, 2010 3:08 am

Hence the difference between those bodhisattvas who have just begun their career through aspiration to awakening, those who course in the perfections, those who have realized suchness and have therefore entered into the state of non-regression, and those who stand as final candidates to Buddhahood with only one more life remaining until they defeat Mara.

In a general sense, anyone who aspires to awakening is a bodhisattva. But in a more strict sense, like that stated in the Diamond sutra above, only those who have realized suchness (= emptiness) are able to act in a compassionate manner without the perception or view of a "living being", ie. have vows to liberate beings without the perception of a being (including themselves).

So-on is referring to the arya-bodhisattvas mentioned in the sutra, of which the average aspirant in the average Buddhist Center is something of a different situation. As the saying goes, while a large number of people aspire to awakening, the amount that actually make it to the higher levels is incredibly few. Most either back down altogether, or fall onto the grounds of the arhats and pratyekabuddhas.

So long as an aspiring bodhisattva still has the view of a being, they will still definitely have afflictions (as I described as couple of posts back).
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Kojip on Tue Dec 14, 2010 3:14 am

the world of the Sutras is wonderful to imagine. Don't get me wrong, but does your actual practice and first hand experience touch any of this? Folks?


edit: the last two posts ruffled me. There is talk of what is read in the sutras as if it is direct experiential knowledge, and I just don't believe it is. Can we please acknowledge this?
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby zenophile on Tue Dec 14, 2010 3:38 am

Kojip wrote:the world of the Sutras is wonderful to imagine. Don't get me wrong, but does your actual practice and first hand experience touch any of this? Folks?


I'm not getting the impression that it is. This a nice speculative thread on Mahayana ontology, but at this point it strikes me as even going so far as to distract from practice.

Kojip wrote:edit: the last two posts ruffled me. There is talk of what is read in the sutras as if it is direct experiential knowledge, and I just don't believe it is. Can we please acknowledge this?


I do, and I have been ruffled as well, though before the last few posts. My above statement is a reaction to what you're addressing and I thank you for bringing it up more explicitly than I.
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Dan74 on Tue Dec 14, 2010 3:39 am

Kojip wrote:the world of the Sutras is wonderful to imagine. Don't get me wrong, but does your actual practice and first hand experience touch any of this? Folks?


Thanks for bringing it down to earth, Kojip! :)X

As I said a few pages back, taking refuge in the Buddha, the Awakened and Liberated One, is a foundation of my practice. It's the Great Faith of Zen, as far as I can make out - this Buddha-mind coursing in Prajnaparamita is nowhere else but right here, untainted and luminous.

Practice does confirm this in glimpses and insights. My guess is that I have not had the immersion necessary to stabilize and deepen this. So the reality of my practice is such that I see a Buddha permanently free of defilements as a possibility, not an actuality. As for the doctrine, on the logical grounds I find it plausible but not completely convincing.

I also don't find your dichotomy between an arahat escaping samsara and a bodhisattva who is thoroughly human, convincing either. "In the world but not of the world" or "Entering the marketplace with open hands" having tamed the ox and having let gone of both the ox and the tamer.

But as a provisional view, plunging headlong, holding back neither the tears nor the cries of frustration and self-pity, totally vulnerable and open to what is, is far more preferable to some plaster saint ideal one is desperately trying to live up to, IMO. I am still learning to be a good honest sentient being and then maybe I can see about being a Buddha.
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Kojip on Tue Dec 14, 2010 3:59 am

Dan74 wrote:
I also don't find your dichotomy between an arahat escaping samsara and a bodhisattva who is thoroughly human, convincing either. .
.
For what it's worth I'm not convinced on this either. It is the honest view from here (sitting on my bed with my wife snoring and my kid still jumping around his room when he should be asleep) but it may change.
These threads do sneak-up, and before long it's a tangle of yarn.
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Nonin on Tue Dec 14, 2010 4:12 am

Kojip wrote:the world of the Sutras is wonderful to imagine. Don't get me wrong, but does your actual practice and first hand experience touch any of this? Folks?


edit: the last two posts ruffled me. There is talk of what is read in the sutras as if it is direct experiential knowledge, and I just don't believe it is. Can we please acknowledge this?

I agree, Kojip. Who are those celestial beings? Where are those Buddha realms? Some of those sutra writers had fantastic imaginations, but of what practical use is a fantastic imagination or the results of it?

There are true Bodhisattvas everywhere, at Dharma Rain, at the local homeless shelter, at San Francisco Zen Center, at the High School down the block. Years ago, Charles Kuralt hosted a tv program called "On the Road." One program focused on an African-American man in South Carolina who worked at the post office. After a long days work, he went to the workshop behind his house where he re-conditioned wrecked and impounded bicycles, taught young kids from poor families to do the work on a bike with him, and when it was finished, gave the bike to the kid. He'd been doing this for over 20 years. At the end of the program, as the camera faded back away from the light in the workshop, Charles Kuralt said, "I asked him why he did this, and he said, 'If you can't help someone, what's the use in living.'"

That man was a true Bodhisattva. If you think that Bodhisattvas only live in sutra books or in some palatial palace in la-la land, you're completely missing the point. And, if you think that bodhisattva practice occurs in stages, like going through grade school, middle school, high school, and college, you don't get it either.

In Zen Buddhism, if you can't make every aspect of the teaching alive and vibrant in your life at this moment, the teaching is worthless, for its only words in a book, and of no practical use. Those words are nice and pretty, and we can memorize them and regurgitate them at will, but unless we can live what they point to, they're worthless.

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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby slice on Tue Dec 14, 2010 5:52 am

Huifeng wrote:Hence the difference between those bodhisattvas who have just begun their career through aspiration to awakening, those who course in the perfections, those who have realized suchness and have therefore entered into the state of non-regression, and those who stand as final candidates to Buddhahood with only one more life remaining until they defeat Mara.

In a general sense, anyone who aspires to awakening is a bodhisattva. But in a more strict sense, like that stated in the Diamond sutra above, only those who have realized suchness (= emptiness) are able to act in a compassionate manner without the perception or view of a "living being", ie. have vows to liberate beings without the perception of a being (including themselves).

So-on is referring to the arya-bodhisattvas mentioned in the sutra, of which the average aspirant in the average Buddhist Center is something of a different situation. As the saying goes, while a large number of people aspire to awakening, the amount that actually make it to the higher levels is incredibly few. Most either back down altogether, or fall onto the grounds of the arhats and pratyekabuddhas.

So long as an aspiring bodhisattva still has the view of a being, they will still definitely have afflictions (as I described as couple of posts back).

Just because I haven't experienced what Huifeng describes does not make me believe that it is fantasy. It's simply beyond my experience. 99.999999999…% of the cosmos is beyond my experience.

It's not that I have so much faith, it's just that… if we're not reaching beyond ourselves then what is the point.
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby So-on Mann on Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:04 am

Just because I haven't experienced what Huifeng describes does not make me believe that it is fantasy. It's simply beyond my experience. 99.999999999…% of the cosmos is beyond my experience.

It's not that I have so much faith, it's just that… if we're not reaching beyond ourselves then what is the point.


I'm with you on that one, slice.

For some of us, apparently, the teachings in the sutras describing a Buddha free from all afflictions, abiding in nirvana, ready for Parinirvana at his death, is aspirational. For some of us, a very human Buddha who still gets mad is inspirational.

The teaching that the Buddha was beyond affliction is not worthless to me.

Then we started talking about bodhisattvas... the teachings in the sutras explicitly say that a true bodhisattva does not hold any idea of a separate being. I find this teaching to have worth as well. Aspirational. Like Kyogen (a bodhisattva in the general sense, one who occasionally screams at his computer) says, Buddhahood is like the north star, we steer by it, we guide ourselves by it. He also says of mahasattvas and miracles, that everything he knows is a drop in the bucket compared to everything he does not know.

Back to don't know again, I suppose. But I love these teachings, they resonate in my heart.
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Kojip on Tue Dec 14, 2010 2:43 pm

Who doesn't love these teaching? who says they are worthless?

Even at this very early place in practice, the comparison between before-practice and now amazing. Where before I suffered existential confusion and fear, now there is none of that. All feelings of exile and alienation from life has gone. Existential fear is gone, and disturbances are situational. So even with a trainload of greed hatred and delusion to work with, my life has been fulfilled in some very real and essential ways. It makes no difference to me whether a fully awakened being, who remains in the world and does not split to Parinirvana, is 99.99 percent affliction free, or 100%. Either way I'll prostrate before them with gratitude.
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby christopher::: on Tue Dec 14, 2010 2:56 pm

This is a wonderful discussion. Thank you everyone! For many practitioners the world of the Sutras may seem like an imaginary world written by people with fantastic imaginations. And this may indeed be so!

But isn't the same true for most of us here, and for human beings as a whole? We continuously construct fantastic imaginary stories about our self identities, construct false ideas about "self/other," about who we are and the meaning of things, the meaning of life and what we do, why we are here.

For many these sacred teachings help us to bring the dharma to life, moment to moment, here in this world. They can have a very practical use, helping to illuminate the koan like questions Nonin sensei asked....

Who are these celestial beings? Where are these Buddha realms?

Nonin wrote:
There are true Bodhisattvas everywhere, at Dharma Rain, at the local homeless shelter, at San Francisco Zen Center, at the High School down the block. Years ago, Charles Kuralt hosted a tv program called "On the Road." One program focused on an African-American man in South Carolina who worked at the post office. After a long days work, he went to the workshop behind his house where he re-conditioned wrecked and impounded bicycles, taught young kids from poor families to do the work on a bike with him, and when it was finished, gave the bike to the kid. He'd been doing this for over 20 years. At the end of the program, as the camera faded back away from the light in the workshop, Charles Kuralt said, "I asked him why he did this, and he said, 'If you can't help someone, what's the use in living.'"

That man was a true Bodhisattva. If you think that Bodhisattvas only live in sutra books or in some palatial palace in la-la land, you're completely missing the point. And, if you think that bodhisattva practice occurs in stages, like going through grade school, middle school, high school, and college, you don't get it either.

In Zen Buddhism, if you can't make every aspect of the teaching alive and vibrant in your life at this moment, the teaching is worthless, for its only words in a book, and of no practical use. Those words are nice and pretty, and we can memorize them and regurgitate them at will, but unless we can live what they point to, they're worthless.

Hands palm-to-palm,

Nonin



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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Anders on Tue Dec 14, 2010 4:22 pm

Kojip wrote:the world of the Sutras is wonderful to imagine. Don't get me wrong, but does your actual practice and first hand experience touch any of this? Folks?

edit: the last two posts ruffled me. There is talk of what is read in the sutras as if it is direct experiential knowledge, and I just don't believe it is. Can we please acknowledge this?


I personally believe they are documents of actual experience and I've met people who will attest to the truth of it based on personal experience as well. Why else would one study them in the first place?

The message of the Mahayana is not so much that there are great Bodhisattvas and Buddhas totally beyond human capacity and recognition, but rather that we too can become realise these things, for the sake of all living beings.
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Anders on Tue Dec 14, 2010 4:26 pm

So-on Mann wrote:But is the bodhisattva necessarily attached to the view of a being? Not so, according to the Diamond Sutra...

"Those who would now set forth on the bodhisattva path should thus give birth to this thought: 'However many beings there are... etc etc... in the realm of complete Nirvana I shall liberate them all. And though I thus liberate countless beings, not a single being is liberated.'"

"Subhuti, no one can be called a bodhisattva who creates the perception of a self or who creates the perception of a being, a life or a soul..."


I haven't personally seen any literature that supports the idea that Bodhisattvas are corrupted by affliction, specifically the aforementioned affliction of there being "beings" to save. In fact, the opposite is expounded repeatedly in the wisdom scriptures.

The bodhisattva Dude Abides, unafflicted I say! As to Dan's point, the scriptures tell me that the bodhisattva chooses to abide in the world, and yet are unafflicted. As one of our offertories says, "Just as the lotus is not wetted by the water that surround it, the Mind is pure and beyond the dust."


I would also say there is a difference between a Buddha, who allegedly has no affliction, a Bodhisattva on the bhumis, who can have affliction but is not necessarily tainted by it (at least, they are not insofar as they maintain the practise of prajnaparamita). Actually, for that latter one I would rather say: The Bodhisattva Dude non-abides in affliction I say!
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Anders on Tue Dec 14, 2010 4:33 pm

Nonin wrote:For many, but not all, and often, but not always. For me, a sutra is a teaching, not a teacher. If one mistakes a teaching for a teacher, that person is not seeing things very clearly. Words and a living human being are clearly two different things


The Sutra as the teacher/certifier has precedent. Hanshan Deqing, one of the greatest Chan masters since the Song dynasty and one formative for Chinese Buddhism in general since the ming dynasty, records in his autobiography how his study of the Shurangama Sutra and his completely harmonious understanding of the sutra served to certify his realisation. He doesn't make any mention of being certified by a teacher, so we can perhaps assume that he considered the certification by sutra of greater relevance.

edit: in speaking of 'celestial bodhisattvas' , he also records how he received teachings from Maitreya and such as well. So for him at least, it wasn't pie-in-the-sky stuff.
Last edited by Anders on Tue Dec 14, 2010 4:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Nonin on Tue Dec 14, 2010 4:34 pm

So-on,

You said:
Like Kyogen (a bodhisattva in the general sense, one who occasionally screams at his computer) says, Buddhahood is like the north star, we steer by it, we guide ourselves by it. He also says of mahasattvas and miracles, that everything he knows is a drop in the bucket compared to everything he does not know.

General sense, specific sense, sutra sense, your sense, his sense, none of this makes any sense to me. A bodhisattva is a person who acts like a bodhisattva, who saves all beings by encountering them wholeheartedly wherever he or she finds them, knowing that there are no separate beings in the absolute sense, but that the being in front of them needs their undivided attention. Any idea of what a bodhisattva is divorced from what a bodhisattva does in the world is merely speculation.

All a human being can know and understand is what any human being can know and understand about human life by scrupulously examining themselves and their relationship to the rest of the universe. Anything else is pure speculation. I, too, say that everything that I know is a drop in the bucket compared to everything I don't know. I, and I would guess that Kyogen would say the same, don't see any worth in speculating about what I don't know. As Shakespeare said in Hamlet: "There are more things in heaven and on earth, Horatio, than are ever dreamt of in your philosophy." So I leave it at that, and I'm comfortable not knowing.

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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Anders on Tue Dec 14, 2010 4:39 pm

Nonin wrote:simpleton,

You said:
Dharma transmission does NOT prove that someone's realization is complete.

I never said that it did. Realization is never complete; insight and understanding can always be deepened.

Dharma transmission DOES indicate that the person has experienced their true nature, IF the process is completed properly and the teacher and student are persons of integrity. Those of us who've gone through authentic dharma transmission know this intimately.


Since the argument here is that there are apparently people of such lineage who claim there IS such a thing as final realisation and others of such lineage who claim otherwise, I think that should raise justifiable question marks about the certainty with which you say 'he was not wrong here'.

From the pov of the 'final realisation' camp, it would look more like the other camp simply never made it to the 'final' part and started assuming it wasn't possible. I've heard accounts from those who do claim it's possible and they say that without the guidance of a teacher, it is very difficult indeed to cross the treshold from 'deep realisation' to immutable realisation.
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Nonin on Tue Dec 14, 2010 4:49 pm

Anders Honore wrote:
Nonin wrote:For many, but not all, and often, but not always. For me, a sutra is a teaching, not a teacher. If one mistakes a teaching for a teacher, that person is not seeing things very clearly. Words and a living human being are clearly two different things


The Sutra as the teacher/certifier has precedent. Hanshan Deqing, one of the greatest Chan masters since the Song dynasty and one formative for Chinese Buddhism in general since the ming dynasty, records in his autobiography how his study of the Shurangama Sutra and his completely harmonious understanding of the sutra served to certify his realisation. He doesn't make any mention of being certified by a teacher, so we can perhaps assume that he considered the certification by sutra of greater relevance.

You may assume if you like, but that's only your assumption. Deqing did practice and study with a teacher, however, and is listed as part of a dharma lineage. As I said before, anyone who confuses a written text with a live person is severely deluded. I sincerely doubt if Deqing was.

As practice deepens, our understanding of sutras and other texts deepens, and we resonate with them much better and deeper. It doesn't work the other way around.

Anders, you also said:
. . . it is very difficult indeed to cross the treshold from 'deep realisation' to immutable realisation.

Nothing is immutable. All things are impermanent.

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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby ed blanco on Tue Dec 14, 2010 5:53 pm

So-on Mann wrote:I guess, Nonin, that I am referring to the Bodhisattvas and Mahasattvas as described in the literature... celestial beings who live in Buddha realms, etc. The bodhisattvas at DRZC who practice medicine in rural Africa, or care for children, or teach the Dharma, are ordinary beings who undertake bodhisattva action.


.........I visit prisions to spread the dharma....that makes me a bodhisatva wannabeee...a real looosiwooosi dude with a taste for scoth and music....i sit i fast i wait.....the bodhidatvas practicing med in rural Africa and people teaching in inner city schools and people who need peolple....aaahhh them are the ones i relate to....I read suttras and stuff getting what i'v put in practice but, man, give me the struggle here, the tears and disapointments....that is the stuff of growth, where love abides... i suspect Bodhisatvas a Mahasattvas... don't wanna let go of the last shred of this, the where is the fun? c...at times, affliction vanishes yet it always leaves a trace...i've never thought of passing on to a heaven where there is no affliction....

.....this thread is like the tower Bable must've been: we wanna know, communicate, but the meanings go by like snow balls crashing on threes.......Nonin keeps bring the thread back to practice, to reality here, now....

....open, listen, love, be one of the "ordinary beings who undertake bodhisatva action" "little sister you ain't suffere enough." (sic)

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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Jechbi on Tue Dec 14, 2010 6:26 pm

Kojip wrote:These threads do sneak-up, and before long it's a tangle of yarn.

All this great discussion can become a tangle of yarn if we don't relate it right back to actual practice and first-hand experience. That's why I think it's important to remember why we use certain words and adopt certain views: They are tied to our path of practice.

People use the same words to mean very different things. I try to be very careful when I hear things that seem to disagree with my own perspective, because I can see how what I hear might not be what the person is actually saying. When we listen carefully, we have an opportunity to better understand how another person's approach might be just the right orientation for that person at that stage, I think. And when we really hear, then we might find that those seemingly different viewpoints also can inform our own path of practice.

From that perspective, I can understand how someone might regard "sravaka arhats" and "pratyekabuddhas" as a lesser aspiration. Although I come from a Theravada orientation, I have no problem with the ideas that Ven. Huifeng has presented here. The Winter issue of Tricycle (sorry, I know that's anathema to some people on discussion boards like this) contains a passage that's relevant to this discussion, regarding Tibetan Buddhism, which takes things one step further and regards Mahayana as merely the second phase in a person's spiritual unfolding: "It is interesting that all the historical Buddhist meditative schools, including Theravada, Ch'an, and Zen, have teachings that correspond to all three phases of the Tibetan path, Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana."

So I can understand how someone might choose to see the Buddha as a person who still had afflictions, if that informs their practice and reflects their approach. My own perspective is that of course a Perfectly Awakened One will have cut the roots of greed, hate and delusion and have no more afflicted states. But if someone thinks and teaches that the Buddha was an extraordinary person who nonetheless still had afflicted mental states, I'm not going to argue the point. Debating the details is not the point.

The point is how these words and views underpin a path of practice, which brings me back to the OP. I was interested in knowing how a reliance on, an expectation of, and a need for continued affliction would inform a path of practice. And thanks to Ven. Huifeng for answering that question on Page One of this thread: "Let us go and eradicate to our hearts' content!" From my own perspective, I find the notion of "premature sravaka exit from samsara" hilarious. But taking it seriously for a moment, I would risk that fate if I could cut the roots of greed, hate and delusion right here and now for the benefit of all beings. Fascinating that according to some traditions, when the Buddha attained to perfect awakening, he said: "How marvelous, I, the great earth, and all beings are naturally and simultaneously awakened." Concepts regarding past and future, self and others, can entangle if we hold the yarn too tightly.
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby slice on Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:11 pm

Nonin wrote:
So-on Mann wrote:Like Kyogen (a bodhisattva in the general sense, one who occasionally screams at his computer) says, Buddhahood is like the north star, we steer by it, we guide ourselves by it. He also says of mahasattvas and miracles, that everything he knows is a drop in the bucket compared to everything he does not know.

General sense, specific sense, sutra sense, your sense, his sense, none of this makes any sense to me. A bodhisattva is a person who acts like a bodhisattva, who saves all beings by encountering them wholeheartedly wherever he or she finds them, knowing that there are no separate beings in the absolute sense, but that the being in front of them needs their undivided attention. Any idea of what a bodhisattva is divorced from what a bodhisattva does in the world is merely speculation.

All a human being can know and understand is what any human being can know and understand about human life by scrupulously examining themselves and their relationship to the rest of the universe. Anything else is pure speculation. I, too, say that everything that I know is a drop in the bucket compared to everything I don't know. I, and I would guess that Kyogen would say the same, don't see any worth in speculating about what I don't know. As Shakespeare said in Hamlet: "There are more things in heaven and on earth, Horatio, than are ever dreamt of in your philosophy." So I leave it at that, and I'm comfortable not knowing.

Nonin,

In Shakespeare's Hamlet the quote you use was really a self-criticism in the context of the play. Horatio was ignorant of Hamlet's history and what may have lead to his own analytical paralysis and inability to act according to what he knew to be right in his heart. This is an excellent point and highly relevant to the topic metaphorically, I'm glade you brought up the play. Without a star to steer by, as Kyogen puts it, we may lose our way in thinking and confusion and like Hamlet, end in ruination. What could that star be but our own hearts, our own Buddha-nature, or bodhicitta as expressed by the bodhisattva.

I've seen you write that practice can always be deepened. Maybe the 'deep end' of this deepening is exactly what the Scriptures describe and what Huifeng and others reiterate here.
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby So-on Mann on Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:32 pm

Jechbi:
People use the same words to mean very different things. I try to be very careful when I hear things that seem to disagree with my own perspective, because I can see how what I hear might not be what the person is actually saying. When we listen carefully, we have an opportunity to better understand how another person's approach might be just the right orientation for that person at that stage, I think. And when we really hear, then we might find that those seemingly different viewpoints also can inform our own path of practice.


I think many of us here have gotten to know each other enough to see that the views expressed in this thread are not the end-all and be-all of one's practice. I find it odd that some of you might be assuming that I have my head in the clouds regarding celestial bodhisattvas. I am quite aware of where my feet are at this moment. I am thoroughly steeped in the teaching of the bodhisattvas of daily life. (In fact, one handed me 200 kuai as I stepped penniless onto a plane headed for Shanghai.)

As you know, practice at Dharma Rain is all about the here and now, about everyday life. So when I talk of an infallible, unafflicted Buddha, and speak of the sutras, I do so as a yin to a yang with which I am all too familiar.
Facing a precious mirror, form and reflection behold each other. You are not it, but in truth it is you.
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So-on Mann
 
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