Yesterday it was gliding, tomorrow it is going to be a celebration of Pharaoh’s 14th birthday and today it is about you!
Kadam Morten Clausen is a Buddhist teacher. Now I would be the first to stick up my arm and say that my understanding of Buddhism is pretty poor. But in the days many years back when I spent time exploring a number of Asian countries I found the culture surrounding Buddhism very appealing. (And I write as someone who is not a religious believer.)
Kadam Morten met his teacher, Geshe Kelsang, while attending university in England. He taught widely throughout the UK and helped develop many Kadampa Centers in England. Kadam Morten has been teaching in the US for more than 20 years and has established centers throughout the New York area, as well as Washington DC, Virginia, and Puerto Rico. In addition to his local teaching responsibilities, he teaches and guides retreats regularly throughout the United States and Europe.
Kadam Morten is greatly admired as a meditation teacher and is especially known for his clarity, humor and inspirational presentation of Dharma. His teachings are always practical and easy to apply to everyday life. Through his gentle and joyful approach and his peaceful example, he has helped many people find true happiness in their hearts.
So what’s this all about when I say that today’s post is about you?
Evan Thompson of the University of British Columbia has verified the Buddhist belief of anatta, or not-self. Neuroscience has been interested in Buddhism since the late 1980s, when the Mind and Life Institute was created by HH Dalai Lama and a team of scientists. The science that came out of those first studies gave validation to what monks have known for years — if you train your mind, you can change your brain. As neuroscience has begun studying the mind, they have looked to those who have mastered the mind.
While Buddha didn’t teach anatta to lay people, thinking it might be too confusing, the concept is centered on the idea that there is no consistent self. The belief that we are the same one moment to the next, or one year to the next, is a delusion. Thompson says that “the brain and body is constantly in flux. There is nothing that corresponds to the sense that there’s an unchanging self.”
[W]hen there is no consistent self, it means that we don’t have to take everything so personally.
It is useful to look at a video of yourself from the past, or read something you wrote years ago. Your interests, perspective, beliefs, attachments, relationships, et al, have all changed in some way. Anatta doesn’t mean there’s no you; it just means that you are constantly changing, constantly evolving, and shape-shifting. Why is this important? Why does it matter if there’s no solid “you” or “me”?
Buddhist teacher Kadam Morten Clausen says Buddhism is a science of the mind:
Dr. Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness and Buddha’s Brain, argues that when there is no consistent self, it means that we don’t have to take everything so personally. That is, our internal thoughts are only thoughts and don’t define us. External events are only external events and aren’t happening to us personally. Or as Tara Brach says, our thoughts are “real, but not true.”There is tremendous liberation in not identifying ourselves with thoughts, or a set idea of who we are.
It is then that we can grow and change, with the help of neuroplasticity. There is then hope that we can overcome our vices or bad habits (of mind and body), because if we aren’t stuck with the self-limiting beliefs inherent with a consistent self, we may orient ourselves toward becoming more of who we want to be.
The belief that we are the same one moment to the next, or one year to the next, is a delusion.
As science and Eastern thought continue to hang out with each other, there may be more 21st Century studies to back up 2,600-year-old thoughts. But, as HH Dalai Lama said, “Suppose that something is definitely proven through scientific investigation. … Suppose that that fact is incompatible with Buddhist theory. There is no doubt that we must accept the result of the scientific research.”Hearing a pro-science stance from a religious leader is a relief to many. In the end it seems Buddhism and neuroscience have similar goals: What is this thing we call the mind, and how can we use it to make ourselves a little less miserable and a little happier? Maybe even just 10 percent happier, as Dan Harris wrote. If there is no consistent self, it is at least my intention that my ever-changing self be equanimous and, well, 10 percent happier. No matter who I am.
Lori Chandler is a writer and comedian living in Brooklyn, NY, which is the most unoriginal sentence she has ever written. You can look at her silly drawings on Tumblr, Rad Drawings, or read her silly tweets @LilBoodleChild. Enough about her, she says: how are you?
PHOTO CREDIT: Chris McGrath/Getty Images
So if there are times when you find yourself talking to yourself, perhaps the first thing to do is to ask if it is you! (Golly! I can feel a headache coming on!)
Time to reflect on the previous five chapters: Of change; Hope; Self-compassion; Goodness; Finding Happiness.
However, it wouldn’t be surprising if my opening sentence didn’t raise the odd question or two. Such as why a chapter that wants to round off the messages of change in thoughts and deeds is entitled The Brahma Viharas? What are the Brahma Viharas?
Let me offer my answers.
Long before I started into this book, I drew up a document that I called a Statement of Purpose (SoP). Writing such a document was prompted by an experienced author who made a link with me when I wrote the draft first half of this book, Part One: Man and Dog, under the umbrella of NaNoWriMo 2013. Or to give the organisation its full name: The National Novel Writing Month. I should explain for those unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo that each November, NaNoWriMo offers budding authors a compelling reason to sit down and write 50,000 words in one month. I should hasten to add that the word Novel is flexible and that non-fiction attempts are equally encouraged. Guess that’s pretty self-evident!
Back to my SoP. The purpose behind such a document is to provide a framework of what it is that you wish to say before plunging headlong in to the writing. My SoP included an Introduction, my intended Reading Audience, the themes of the five Sections and intended chapter headings.
Once I had that documented, I showed it to some close friends seeking reactions and recommendations. I included Jon Lavin. It was Jon who suggested that I include the Brahma Viharas.
As I researched the topic, I was moved by how relevant it was to what I was trying to say. This is what I discovered.
Firstly, from the website of the Brahma Viharas organisation I read this explanation:
The four brahma-viharas represent the most beautiful and hopeful aspects of our human nature. They are mindfulness practices that protect the mind from falling into habitual patterns of reactivity which belie our best intentions.
Also referred to as mind liberating practices, they awaken powerful healing energies which brighten and lift the mind to increasing levels of clarity. As a result, the boundless states of loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity manifest as forces of purification transforming the turbulent heart into a refuge of calm, focused awareness.
Those two short paragraphs are laden with wonderful ideas, all of which resonated with the theme of Part Four of this book. However, I still was looking for something that spelt out just exactly what are the four brahma-viharas. A further web search brought me to a site described as The Dhamma Encyclopedia and thence to Page Four from where I read: “The four Brahma Viharas are considered by Buddhism to be the four highest emotions. The word brahma literally means ‘highest’ or ‘superior.’“
A few sentences later, reading:
The Brahma Viharas are also known as the Four Divine Emotions or The Four Divine Abodes. They are the meditative states, thoughts, and actions to be cultivated in Buddhist meditation. They are the positive emotions and states that are productive and helpful to anyone of any religion or even to the one with no religion. The result will be a very nice and good person, free from hate and ill-will. Those who cultivate the brahma viharas are guaranteed to happiness. Those who further cultivate equanimity, may reach insightful states and wisdom of enlightenment experiences.
Loving-kindness, Compassion, Joy with others and Equanimity. A pathway to freedom from hate and ill-will. Who wouldn’t want to journey along such a pathway!
Yet it still didn’t envelope me in the way that I was expecting, so I continued with the research, and came across an essay by a Derek Beres under the title of The Trauma of Everyday Life. The essay had been published on The Big Think website and the opening lines tickled my interest; very much so. But first to find out a little more about the author: Derek Beres.
Derek Beres, a Los Angeles-based journalist and yoga instructor, looks at a range of issues affecting the world’s various spiritual communities in an attempt to sift through hyperbole and find truly universal solutions to prevalent issues facing humanity in the 21st century.
The opening lines of the essay answered an immediate question that was in my mind: “Like all major religions, there exists numerous ideas of what Buddhism is and how to practice it. Perhaps the hardest part about explaining Buddhism is that it’s nowhere near being a religion in the first place.”
Then me immediately warming to: “Rather it is a way of engaging and grappling with yourself and the world you live in, sans metaphysics and dogma.”
The essay then described much of the Buddha’s early days and his quest for a deep, inner meaning to life.
In Derek Beres’ words: “And so the Buddha set off, studying yoga and practicing extreme forms of asceticism, including nearly starving himself in hopes of transcending his body.” This eventually leading him to recognise, “ … trauma as a means of enlightenment, not a hindrance on the spiritual path. Awakening does not mean an end to difficulty; it means a change in the way those difficulties are met.”
“ … a change in the way those difficulties are met.” What better way than that to round off this theme of change in thoughts and deeds. Me wanting to say straightaway that these chapters have been a wonderful pathway of exploration for me and, so too, I hope they have been for you. There can be no doubt in my mind, and I know this is shared by countless others, that the future for mankind, if we continue on the same ways of recent times, is clear and obvious: massive levels of extinction of man and many other higher species.
This is the time for change. Not tomorrow; not some day; but now.
Jon Lavin reflects on the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.
Last week, I republished a number of Jon’s posts from way back and was delighted at how many of you enjoyed his writings. Jon and his family are taking a well-earned vacation which clearly includes reading posts on Learning from Dogs: Poor soul! This was made clear from an email Jon sent me yesterday afternoon.
Jon had read the essay from George Monbiot that was published three days ago under my post title of Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) all over again? So hopefully, this introduction puts Jon’s email into proper context. The subject title of Jon’s email was DDT 2.0.
Hope you guys are well on your lovely farm! We’re in sunny Falmouth for the week staying in our Ben’s student flat slowly working our way through his food supplies.
In my current chilled state, I read your reproduced article and I got to thinking; so you might pick out the odd bit of coherence in these ramblings!
I am reminded of David Hawkins’ ‘Scale of Human Consciousness’. If 80 percent of us are below the level of Integrity, and therefore truth, and the average level of integrity in business is below this level, it is no wonder that money comes before the greater good. Think of the banking crisis as a good example.
I guess we move forward at the speed of the slowest. We certainly seem to learn through the pain and suffering of our own making. I can understand now why this world is perfect for our development and advancement. We are exposed to every opportunity to better ourselves and not everyone has enough of what it takes to hit the mark. We just have to keep going until we get it, even if this means pain and suffering.
The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism talk about suffering and how we create it.The First Noble Truth states that life is suffering. The 2nd Noble Truth talks about our craving for things: money, possessions, etc.; cravings that create suffering. The Third Noble Truth talks of a cure and a way out of hopelessness and suffering and finally, the Fourth Noble Truth gives guidance on walking the path out of suffering.
So, although your article is awful, it is to be expected that we keep being attracted to these sorts of schemes and are attracted to money. We have to learn through pain and suffering until we get it right.
People frequently ask, “What can I do to help?”. Unfortunately or fortunately, there is a way out! The best way to help is to work on ourselves! Sounds a bit silly but by working and developing ourselves we raise the overall level of human consciousness. This means that when companies and individuals attempt to do things that are not integrous, there is less likelihood of them being successful.
Heady stuff really and I wouldn’t describe myself as Buddhist but I have to admit there seems to be some truth in this.
I hope some of this makes sense.
Well, of course it makes sense; perfect sense! Reminds me of the old adage that one cannot truly help another without first helping oneself.
Thus what I read in Jon’s words is that by living a life of integrity we help bring up the overall level of human consciousness, right across our planet. Let me stay with that for a moment longer. Jon mentioned David Hawkins’ ‘Scale of Human Consciousness’. It was included in a post in January 2012 The evolution of the domestic dog but to save you going there, here it is again:
One might argue that the column headed ‘LEVEL’ is a pseudonym for ‘Behaviour’. In other words, those behaviours from Courage and up represent integrity.
So when Jon writes, “The best way to help is to work on ourselves!“, what he is saying that by consciously abandoning levels below 200 we open ourselves to being a force for good beyond ourselves. Just run your eye down the emotions from Ineffable to Affirmation and reflect on how others that offer those emotions affect us in such a positive and inspiring way. Indeed, no better than reflecting on how a dog makes us feel when offering unconditional love!
Of course it’s not easy! Nothing great ever is. There is so much around us that we can hate (score 150), so much to create anxiety (score 100), and so many examples of despair (score 50).
But remember the beginning of integrity is 200.
Which is why trust (score 250) and optimism (score 310) and forgiveness (score 350) and especially love (score 500) are truly the tools of healing our planet.
You can start right now by hugging a dog (dogs score 210!).
Thank you, Jon.
Some content on this page was disabled on August 23, 2017 as a result of a DMCA takedown notice from Susan Hawkins. You can learn more about the DMCA here:
*** If you are not into introspection, then look away and come back tomorrow! 😉 ***
Regular readers will know that quite frequently I write under a topic heading that could be regarded as within the classification of key subjects of our time. You know, such subjects as big government, big money, big power, and even climate change! 😉
Why has this been the case?
Well, because, a) most of my life I’ve tried to stay abreast of ‘current affairs’ and, b) within the broad label of ‘integrity’ it’s relevant to this blog. The sub-heading of the blog is after all: “Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them.” (Yes, I do know ‘integrous’ isn’t grammatically accurate! – Any suggestions for an alternative word?)
Stay with that while I go elsewhere.
Yesterday (Tuesday) a number of events ended up having a profound effect on me. On the face of it, utterly disconnected events.
The first was a post from Alex Jones on his blog The Liberated Way. The only common ground between Alex and me is that we both know Colchester in Essex, England. Alex because he lives there today, me because I used to have a business in Colchester in previous times. Other than that just a couple of bloggers separated by thousands of miles.
Life seems like a cycle of birth, living and death.
I have the honour of following awesome bloggers on WordPress. I learn inspirational teachings from their intimate life experiences that they share with their readers. The cycle, for in my belief everything moves in cycles, of birth, life and death is if we are attentive to living life something we will often be reminded of in our interactions with others and nature.
Then later, adding:
Lijiun is a Buddhist who shares daily experiences from their own life with a Buddhist theme running through their blog. Lijiun has a cat called Little White who often acts as a teacher to them about the meaning of life and a reminder of Buddhist teachings. Little White two weeks ago brought home a stray kitten, which it adopted as like a surrogate parent. Yesterday Adik the kitten died, and a beautiful blog post by Lijiun in memory of Adik reminds us life is impermanent.
Almost absent-mindedly, I clicked on the link about the death of Adik and …… was shaken to my core; shaken by the power of the truth. I want to give you more than a link to the post – want to share some of the beautiful words.
IN MEMORY OF “ADIK”…
Every moment in life is full of changes, this is a law of nature.
However, sometimes we might assume that everything unchanged.
“Adik”- Our stray kitten, so far, she was not showing a sign of sickness. Yesterday, in the evening, I discovered she was laid down under my neighbor car, not moving at all and look severe sick. We checked through her little body, no physical injuries and we tried our best to feed her water and Cat food. She refuse to take.
We need to send her to Veterinarian immediately as her condition was critical, however during Sunday, especially evening time. Most of the Veterinarian clinic is closed. We did our best to check through internet, we were able to locate one of the Vet and we rushed over.
In the journey, we played Mantra Chanting to our little kitten, We reached to the vet clinic, “Adik” was alive but in agony…. she was struggling for life. The only thing we can help was to keep chanting mantra, our only aspiration are for her to relieve from suffering, not to reborn in 3 lower realm, able to follow spiritual practice and attain enlightenment in the coming life.
“Adik” passed away in peace even before the Veterinarian came to treat her.
Then Lijiun went on to write that “This incident gave me a very clear insight on “death” and offered more of that insight: (These are extracts: Please read the full post.)
1. Impermanence Of life
Nothing is permanence , we need to live at now, not past or future.
When Death approached, no bargain time at all whether you are rich or poor, you are ready or not, you are healthy or sick, …
Do all good deeds when you are still alive, Follow spiritual path whenever you can, don’t give excuses that “I’ve plenty of time, I’ll do it when I am “FREE”? When You are Free, you might not able to do it…
2. Young or old…
Some of us, might assume that people died in old age. As such, we’ve a long journey in life.
Is It true???
I learned from “Adik” Sudden death – that death will happen in any age.
“Coffin is not meant for elderly people….” This is so profound.
Spend time with your family members, be filial piety to your parent, Pursuit your dream, Don’t wait until later day…. We are unsure we can survive until later day!
3. Breathing in & Out
Treasure every breath in & breath out…
Life is just in between Breath in & out.
Be Mindfulness in life!
4. What Can you bring???
What can you bring after death, “NOTHING”.
No matter, how much wealth, how much money, how many cars, how many bungalow, how high is your position, how lovely is your family… you can’t bring anything..
Ask yourself, “What is the purpose of life?”, “What do you want?”
You, yourself need to face the death moment…
Nobody can help you… Don’t avoid the topic and say, “It’ll not happen to me so soon”..
Just get ready.
“Adik” passed away at 8:30 pm.. according to my mom, Little White, Our lovely cat was “Meowing” loudly at home. He can sense that “Adik” was not longer around. Animals are just like us, they are loving. Please treat all beings well, no differentiation on form.
We are so touched that “Adik” came home before her death and spend her last moment with us.
Before we sent “Adik” to Vet, She “Meow” loudly to my mom as a good-bye & gratitude to my mom for taking care of her. It’s so touching!
Thank you to “Adik” for celebrating 16 happy day with us and leave behind a great lesson to us.
May “Adik” be relieved from suffering, not reborn in 3 lower realm and find the lasting happiness!
May all beings be Well and Happy!
Then also yesterday, I was chatting to someone who lives close to us; he and his partner-lady have become good friends. He was bemoaning the corruption of so much of his fine country and went on to say that the only way that he could function was to turn away from the big stuff, have no TV, ignore the constant news of this and that, the endless trials and tribulations in this world of ours. I listened in silence, only to find later that the words must have left a mark on me.
My dear friend, Dan Gomez, has known me for over 40 years. He was my Best Man at my wedding to Jean in November, 2010. He and I have been exchanging emails about the truth of the role of man in the raising of the temperature of the planet. I sent Dan the link to the death of Adik, the kitten. It seemed so much more important than the emails we had been exchanging about the ‘big’ subjects in life.
Then something happened overnight (Tuesday/Wednesday) because not long after I got to my PC this morning, I sent this email to Dan.
Yesterday was one of those days, one of those rare days I should have said, where my view of life was radically changed.
Partly because I’m still adjusting to Corinne’s death [my sister], partly because of something I read elsewhere, and other stuff best left for a phone call.
In essence, despite my anger at what is going on around us (big government, big money, big power, even climate change!) I want to retreat from these areas and focus on what is most valuable to me.
Aspects of my life such as love, friendship with ‘old’ travelers, the natural world, being in the present, community, our animals (especially Pharaoh who is over 10), my writings, my book, our small world here at 4000 Hugo; you get my drift!
I’m 70 in November, 2014. Corinne died in her 80th year. Time goes so quickly. No, life goes so quickly. Jean and I met 6 years ago this next December. I must turn away from the things over which I have little or no control and embrace the present. Just what dogs do so well. Live in the present.
It’s all about endeavouring to come to the end of one’s life hearing those immortal words of Edith Piaf, “Je regret rien.”
So dear reader of Learning from Dogs, if you are still ‘on frequency’ – Well done! You have stuck with my very long ramble!
Back to what gets written about in this place. If integrity means anything, it means I’m going to drop all the ‘big’ topics and focus entirely on what man can learn, nay, has to learn from dogs. Indeed, will close by republishing the full ‘home’ page below.
Dogs live in the present – they just are! Dogs make the best of each moment uncluttered by the sorts of complex fears and feelings that we humans have. They don’t judge, they simply take the world around them at face value. Yet they have been part of man’s world for an unimaginable time, at least 30,000 years. That makes the domesticated dog the longest animal companion to man, by far!
As man’s companion, protector and helper, history suggests that dogs were critically important in man achieving success as a hunter-gatherer. Dogs ‘teaching’ man to be so successful a hunter enabled evolution, some 20,000 years later, to farming, thence the long journey to modern man. But in the last, say 100 years, that farming spirit has become corrupted to the point where we see the planet’s plant and mineral resources as infinite. Mankind is close to the edge of extinction, literally and spiritually.
Dogs know better, much better! Time again for man to learn from dogs!
I saw this on Freyja’s Facebook account and thought it would be appropriate for a Saturday reflection along with Random Notes 2. I’m sure many have seen it already but it was new to me!
There was a blind girl who hated herself because she was blind. She hated everyone except her loving boyfriend. He was always there for her. She told her boyfriend, ” If I could see the world, I’d marry you”.
One day someone donated eyes to her. When the bandages came off, she was able to see everything, including her boyfriend. He asked her, “Now that you can see the world, will you marry me?”
The girl looked at her boyfriend and saw that he was blind. The sight of his closed eyelids shocked her. She hadn’t expected that. The thought of looking at him for the rest of her life led her to refuse his offer of marriage. Her boyfriend left her in tears and days later wrote a note to her saying; “Take good care of your eyes, my dear, for before they were yours, they were mine.”
Having just cut and pasted that from the Facebook page, I thought that I would do a web search on ‘There was a blind girl who hated herself‘ and the first link on the results page was Stories from the Heart from the A View on Buddhism website. So that was a lovely find and a web site that deserves more browsing.
At the top of the ‘Home Page’ was the following quote:
“Don’t try to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist;
use it to be a better whatever-you-already-are.” His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
I have received quite a few emails in response to a mailing sent out by me yesterday promoting the fabulous work being done by a dog rescue centre near Payson, here in Arizona. Thank you for letting me know you are adding your support to this great effort by Tara’s Babies to win $250,000 from Pepsi!
A rare request from Learning from Dogs asking if you will vote on behalf of a dog rescue centre.
Many who follow this Blog will know that my beautiful wife, Jean, is totally devoted to dogs, especially rescue dogs. Over the years that she and her previous husband Ben, who died in 2005, lived in Mexico, Jean must have rescued at least 70 dogs. Even today, we have 11 ex-rescue dogs enjoying a fabulous life in our mountain home here in Payson, Arizona.
So it was a big surprise to come across a dog rescue organisation called Tara’s Babies and find that their sanctuary is in our neighbourhood.
Here’s a description of the organisation taken from the local newspaper from September 9th, 2009.
By Alan R. Hudson
It has been nearly five years since Tara’s Babies Animal Welfare began rescuing animals displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Tara’s Babies operates a no-kill animal rescue and sanctuary “off the grid” at the Ellinwood Ranch, near Young.
A few dogs from the dark days of Katrina still remain and many more have been added since. This is no normal animal rescue however: It is operated by three very dedicated and compassionate ordained Buddhists.
Kunzang Drolma, a Buddhist Nun and the director of Tara’s Babies, graciously invited the Connection to spend the afternoon at the facility. When we arrived, she was (as we had anticipated) wearing her Shamtab—the traditional Buddhist robe—as she fed her canine adoptees.
From that article Drolma explains:
“Katrina was a catastrophe that threw it in everyone’s faces but ultimately, every day, hundreds of dogs and cats are being euthanized in shelters because there’s not enough space for them—just because they were abused, homeless, old or sick. And so that’s when we just moved straight into this process of being a no-kill rescue and sanctuary. We will never euthanize.”
What’s needed, explained Drolma, is a paradigm shift. One that is so profound that shelters will become a thing of the past. While euthanasia is something that Tara’s Babies does not agree with, the solution lies at a higher cultural level.
Frankly, my view is that we need solutions to so many of life’s problems to come from a ‘higher cultural level’ but this Post is about helping Tara’s Babies raise more funds to help their mission. It’s easy for any of you to help. You can do it now from your computer.
Feel free to copy and personalize the following paragraph to send to your friends:
“Have you heard about Tara’s Babies Animal Welfare, a No-Kill Dog Rescue and Sanctuary in Arizona? They started rescuing dogs left homeless and injured by Hurricane Katrina, after their founder, Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo, felt compelled to act on seeing the devastation and suffering in the Gulf. They have continued rescuing dogs on death row in overcrowded shelters ever since.
Tara’s Babies Animal Welfare is working to win a $250,000 Pepsi Refresh grant by receiving the most votes for their project in the month of January. The grant will allow them to improve the care they provide to dogs at their beautiful, off-the-grid Sanctuary.
I am going to help Tara’s Babies Animal Welfare by voting for them daily in the Pepsi Refresh grant program and hope that you will too. Please visit www.tarasbabies.org to check them out. You will be able to sign up from their website to support their application to Pepsi Refresh.
The dogs need your vote!”
Here, here! It’s very quick to initiate and then each day all you need to do is to add your daily vote – a few seconds of your life exchanged for the rest of the life of a dog that, otherwise, would have nowhere to go!