"Let me keep my mind on what matters
Which is mostly standing still
And learning to be astonished"

~ Mary Oliver ~

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thanissaro Bhikkhu -- Workshop Retreat, September 17 and 18, 2011

Thanissaro Bhikkhu – Workshop Retreat, September 17 and 18, 2011

Thanissaro’s two-day workshop was concerned with the Paramitas, qualities of mind that provide a framework of how to bring the teachings of the dharma into everyday life.  The following qualities of mind can be developed in any situation:

Generosity, virtue, renunciation, determination, calm, discernment, goodwill, truth, persistence, patience, endurance, equanimity.

These are often listed as ten:
1.     Generosity (dana) 2. Moral conduct (sila) 3.  Renunciation (nekkhamma) 4. Wisdom (panna) 5.  Energy (viriya) 6.  Patience (khanti) 7.  Truthfulness (sacca) 8.  Determination (adhitthana) 9.  Loving-kindness (metta) 10. Equanimity (upekkha)

If the list is too long for you, then specialize!   Focus on any one, as all connect with each other.  Rather than use the word “intention” as I’ve heard so often, Thanissaro spoke of “determination,” setting a goal to work on a practice and following through with it – he emphasized our will, choice, skill, responsibility and wisdom, giving priority to the role of discernment in looking at any of the qualities:

What informs our choices?  What works?  What leads to happiness?

The assumptions he makes: 
We have freedom of choice.
Our actions have results or impact.
Some choices of action are preferable to others.
See the importance of these inner qualities of mind and develop a conscious path to cultivate them.  It’s pragmatic and strategic.

Which do you want to work on now?  What does this moment require?  What skill do I need to practise?  How do I go about it?

Sometimes we want or have a desire for things that will lead to positive results – so they are easy to plan and act upon.   Sometimes we have no desire for things that lead to negative results – so they are also easy to plan and act upon.  But, sometimes we want things that we know lead to bad results – and we need a lot of discernment here to set aside those kind of desires.  And, sometimes, we don’t want to do things that we know will eventually lead to good results – again we need a lot of discernment here, as well as patience, perseverance and determination to see our way through.

We need to comprehend the suffering and stress that results from our unwise choices, and the clinging and grasping to expectations, outcomes, stories we tell ourselves, about why things didn’t work out.  We need to stop that clinging and develop the path we need to cultivate.

We may need to ask for guidance, read works that inspire us, look at our own past actions, acknowledge mistakes we’ve made, forgive ourselves, and move on in the plan.  We can ask ourselves about our chosen action:

Is this true?
Is this beneficial?
Is this the right time?

We may need to use some of our ego, desire, and conceit on the path because it’s timely to do so at some points, and then let go of those. 
To grow in our own goodness and stop the grasping, he says, “You can’t grasp with the back of your hand.”

“Never take revenge – it’s like mudfighting with a pig.  You get dirty and the pig gets happy!”

What’s better for my own goodness?  It may be best to focus on what’s good about the person who hurt you.  It may not feel dignified, but maybe that’s what you need.  Change your story. Reframe it in terms of telling yourself that you do not wish to do harm.  Develop your adherence to that precept.

Lucy:  “If you go around watching what you say, you’ll never get to say much.”                            Thanissaro says maybe that’s a good thing.

Good intentions can be deluded. Wise intentions are what we need.

We have to see clearly the results to inform our next intention or to repeat this one. 
There is judging involved so that you can improve – we’re a work in progress, but this kind of judgment is not a final judgment of your character, of who you are!  This kind of judging is wise discernment.

We need to distinguish between what is your business and what is not?  When is it the right time and when is it not?

We need to find balance in dealing with conflicts – that is, extend goodwill to all, even those with whom we have the conflicts.   We can hope that others find true happiness and the causes of happiness and we hope they act on those skilfully.  Your own actions can demonstrate.

It doesn’t mean that everyone has to be your friend.  Some can’t be.  The Buddha says not to hang around with fools.  Be with those who are good for your practice and theirs – those with conviction, virtue, generosity, discernment, those wanting to find these, just as you do.  Give them time and advice and ask it of them. 

However, those that make you feel entangled and that you’re responsible for their welfare – do not entangle with them.  Each person must maintain their own sense of balance.  This helps others to train their own mind, and helps and protects you, too.  Set boundaries, distance, when you are being harmed by another’s “happiness.”

We are trying to make our actions fall in line with our desire to be discerning, compassionate and pure.  We can balance our goodwill with equanimity – it’s a tool to use if people are not responsive to recognizing the results of their actions and changing those actions next time.

When you carry out your intention successfully, it is a promise to yourself that becomes a gift to yourself, and a protection for the future.  Sometimes, preparation is needed.  For example, don’t go aggravating the defilement that leads you to break a precept.

Your own true happiness lies within.  It’s there.  Wishing for your own true happiness and taking steps towards it does not harm anyone else!!  Make sure that others, wishing for their own happiness, do not harm you to achieve theirs!!!

Keep discerning.  What type of effort do I need now?  What amount of effort?  Which voices in my mind do I listen to and follow?  Make a decision, and desire to leave behind what you know you don’t need, what isn’t wise for you.  What will train your mind towards the beneficial?

Make your mind like earth, water, wind and fire – they don’t react to damage done.  They just remain steadfast.  Hold that image in order to teach yourself non-reactivity.  When you are non-reactive, you can observe and see clearly.  Make the results of your experiment reliable, using methods that you know work. 

Do not let your happiness depend on another’s words or actions.
Rely on your own skill and be prepared so you don’t fall into reaction.  Learn to cut through the thoughts that are drawbacks in your thinking – ignore your old movies!!  Relax those thoughts, breathe through them, and keep a sledge-hammer handy!!