Sunday, April 26, 2009


Reading The Essential Sangharakshita, I felt intensity. Sangharakshita says, " a liberal estimate, one in twenty Western Buddhists gets around to trying to practicing Buddhism." Sangharakshita challenges me in The Essential Sangharakshita. So I asked myself how I could intensify my Dharma practice?

Am I too much of a worlding with children, family and career? While it is not easy, I don’t think monasticism is the only way to move towards enlightenment. I think it is all a question of how you do what you do, not necessarily the circumstances and responsibilities. Of course we work to make better circumstances more conducive to Dharma practice. I suppose that is my first suggestion of intensity, to really work to improve circumstances to really intensify and go deeper.

I don’t think I could ever meditate enough. Meditating when free (instead of writing essays for a questionable blog) and meditating regularly two areas for growth. There were times when I meditated 3 times a day (not on retreat) for 40 minutes. I could also amp up the time. I have worked my way up to an hour, but I think meditating for 4 hours would be intense. I have meditated on a rotating schedule of 40 on, 20 off, 30 on, 30 off for 12 hours. That was difficult, also, because it was overnight. Getting up and doing that during daylight hours would be easier than the way we chose it.

Of course retreat is where one can meditate more deeply, away the usual responsibilities. I think going on retreat often and for as long as possible intensifies. I think going on solitary retreat is more intense than being led on a retreat. I have never led a retreat, so I don’t know what that’s like, but I imagine it is more challenging and therefore intense.

Devotional chanting, puja, has been said to be more important than meditation. Who knows if that’s said to counter the fact that we have a meditation and reading emphasis in the west. Chanting with others is of course better than chanting alone, but chanting alone is good too. I could work to organize more pujas with friends. Also there are more than just the standard puja and doing a variety of pujas would be an intensification too. Really meaning the words as you say them, instead of walking through it superficially is an intensification.

Spending time in friendship and spending time with my sangha, and spending time with other Buddhists is always an intensification of my Dharma practice. Making the effort to be with friends, and the various rings of sangha. Of course the more intense the sangha, for me GFR retreat, the better. Making the efforts to connect with visiting Buddhists, and reaching out to be with Buddhists of other sects is important. Deepening the most intense friends is perhaps the most important in this area. I think you can only really confess to your deepest and closest spiritual friends. But also superficial attendance at mitra ceremonies, sangha night, and other events is also very important. Attendance, just being there, showing up, is an intensification of my Dharma practice, instead of being by myself, not extending the effort to plan and travel to be with other Buddhists. When the Buddha was alive he wanted the sangha to gather every moon day to chant, meditate and discuss the Dharma all night. Appreciating others, and all the nitty gritty of being with others has so much possibility for intensification of my Dharma practice.

Writing e-mails and letters to my Dharma friends is another writing activity that combines friendship and the intellectual effort of writing.

Study of the Dharma comes natural to me, reading, thinking and writing essays is something that helps me to develop and clarify my thoughts, and if it is useful to others to read my essays, then that also helps others. I suppose I take this for granted in a way, and I think there, too, I could push myself in an intensifying way. I hope someday to give a talk worthy of some day. I noticed some non-order members there, and not just famous ones. I hesitate, because those who need to teach out of the desire to be superior don’t always make the best teachers. I think also if I end up giving a talk, then it has to be where I am asked to give a talk, and I reluctantly agree. I think the best Dharma teachers are not really into teaching, they are drafted to do it. Similar but not exactly the same thing is thinking, and thinking clearly and deeply. I could put aside more time to think. Sangharakshita said, "One penetrates beyond the rational mind by way of exhausting the resources of the rational mind."

Working for the good of the Dharma can be an intensification of the Dharma practice. I don’t teach or support meditation, which is the standard route, and we don’t have a center to pitch in. I do pitch in in many ways, and while on the one hand I don’t think I really do this one so well yet because I don’t support a beginning class, I do think I make up for it in other ways. There is always room for improvement. Here is an area where I can channel my energies, and work for the good of the Dharma in small and supportive ways, perhaps humbling myself to take an inferior supportive position. And also leadership by organizing and leading activities to the best of my ability. I fantasize about starting a meditation group or opening up a center in Queens, going to India and helping the movement there. Also just being open to who wants the Dharma and meditation instruction and providing that in a skillful way is very important. Also notice if it has a flavor of proselytizing.

Constant vigilance, and using the small spaces in life is also an intensification of the Dharma practice. Being aware of my mental states, just observing what is going on with me, and exerting efforts to change, and act skillfully, is a constant effort. What is the best use of my time? How can I intensify my Dharma practice? Consistently asking intensifying questions. There is vigilance about mindfulness, about being healthy, about being ethical, about being open to the beauty and kindness around oneself. Taking the time to nourish myself, watching out so that I don’t become too depleted and sink down too far away from mindfulness. Being a good husband to my resources and energy. Being playful and open. Having my mission statement at the ready, thinking about my legacy, the moral will I wish to leave my children. Exertion and clarity on the path, but also an experimental and exploring what works and doesn’t work. Vigilance is speech, saying kindly and harmonious things, using non-violent communication as much as possible.

Finally, I think I can simplify my life. Doing less really. Drop the impossible projects, and have more clarity in my going for refuge to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. Simplicity and clarity with vigilance and open playfulness…plus intensity.

1 comment:

Pete Hoge said...

I battled with this issue , wanting
to ordain, to really leave it all
behind...but your Mind does not
just go away when you ordain.

We householders can stretch the
practice we have at our disposal
to the maximum...

I let the Monks do their business,
and I do mine.

Nice post.