Sunday, February 26, 2017

37 Practices of Bodhisattvas

The Thirty-Seven Practices of Boddhisattvas is from the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, the tradition that the Dali Lama is in. I have read this book before. I want to go through the 37 practices one at a time.

The first one goes as follows:

Having gained this rare ship of freedom and fortune
Hear, think and meditate unwavering night and day
In order to free yourself and others
From the ocean of cyclic existence--
      This is the practice of the Boddhisattva

There is a traditional teaching that doesn't touch me much. I don't really know much about reincarnation, and because there is no soul, or essential self, it is all contingent, then of course what ever conditions and whatnot of someone's being is passed on. A friend said to me that he found it hard to imagine all that energy would not going into anything. They also reference the 6 realms. Now The 6 realms are an interesting idea. I've imagined prison to be a hell realm, and with the greed in America I imagine it a hungry ghosts realm. I have a friend in academia and it's not a too much of a stretch of the imagination to imagine it as a god realm. Of course animals live in the animal realm. I'm not sure if humans are much more than animals and the separation makes it easier to eat and exploit animals. But it's rare to be a human when there are so many other possibilities. There's a bit in the Buddhavacana. that suggests being human is as rare as a turtle surfacing after 100 years under water into a fixed yoke, where the turtle could be harnessed. That is rare.

But I don't think we need all these metaphors. I don't take a meditation class if my friend doesn't sign me up. It just happened that one order member from the TCB happened to be in NYC. In the USA the TBC has really taken off in Newmarket New Hampshire, Missoula Montana and San Francisco California. Not really in NYC. It just so happened that I was at a place in my life that I was receptive to the teachings, and being unemployed I spent half a year reading all about it. I went on a retreat at Aryaloka over Christmas and New Years on the Brahma Viharas. It just so happened that an order member taught that retreat. Since then he has gone off to live on the left coast and hasn't really been seen much since then. The retreat blew my mind, I felt the healthiest I've ever felt. I learned to love the puja. I don't think I've ever really been the same since. I was sustained in the TBC for many years. I feel that this is my root tradition and even if I meditate in a Zen tradition, or Tibetan tradition or the Theravadan tradition, I will always at base have a TBC orientation. I happened to find the one tradition of Buddhism that helped make sense of the whole tradition, and indeed all traditions of spirituality for me. All these confluences of events could easily have been otherwise. That I am healthy enough, that I am receptive enough, and that I have exerted myself is also quite lucky. So without the 6 realms and reincarnation it's a pretty amazing even. I'm lucky enough to have this translation and exposition of the teachings, the book came out in 1987. I happen to live in a time when many good English translations have come out. Fifty years ago, that would not have been true. In the history of the world, "America" is a new phenomenon. The USA is a new phenomenon. The spread of Buddhism around the world is a new phenomenon. When you read the early English language Buddhists, it seems kind of fast and loose. The quality of English translations and English Buddhism is vast now, and only seems to be getting bigger. I can read the Middle Length Discourses, the 100,000 Songs of Milarepa. The access to Buddhism is a very new phenomenon, not presented as Zen as the one true path or the other fledgling types of Buddhism replete with ethnic Buddhism. The west has actually culled out an essential Buddhism--even if it's just one Buddhism.

When you think about all these conditions coming together, it truly is a precious life, a rare life. Then you add on the brevity of human life, well, that's enough to put pressure on you. The average life span of white men in the USA is going down, but it's still into the 70's.

The use of the word "unwavering" points to a kind of vigilance, that I have not fully sustained. I do think infusing your entire life with a Dharmic viewpoint is beneficial.

May all beings be happy, may all beings be well.

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