Thursday, September 28, 2006

Contemplation to Restore Resolve

The state of enlightenment is totally beyond concepts. There is no joy or sorrow within it, such as being happy when one is pleased or feeling sad when one is treated badly. The state of buddhahood is beyond all of these. ... The compassion of the awakened state is beyond both partiality and distance. It is like sunshine in that it is totally unbiased. It is not that the sun shines on some countries and not on others; the sun has no concept that "I will shine on that spot and leave this one in darkness." [1]

The Buddha taught that we should not get caught up in philosophical speculation because doing so distracts us from the task at hand—whatever it is that is sitting in front of us right now. There is nothing wrong with philosophizing, per se. We should feel free to engage in such stimulating thought when that is what we choose to do. But when it begins to detract from our practice of mindfulness and compassion, then it has become harmful—unskillful— and we should abandon such thoughts and return to our practice, our training. In this way, our practice acts as our guiding light in life, our refuge, our protection. But the first Noble Truth tells us that suffering exists. Therefore, sometimes life wears on us, and our effort wanes.

Therefore, we need something to strengthen our resolve. To sustain our practice, we contemplate. Contemplation won't help us achieve wisdom or concentration, but it will strengthen our effort and faith in our practice. The quote above is perfect for such contemplation. It reminds us that we can't wrap our intellectual brains around enlightenment— it is beyond such description. Rather, we can only know it by experiencing it. Furthermore, this quote motivates us by showing us how complete our compassion can become. We need only to practice, and regardless of our current level of compassionate wisdom, we can skillfully increase it until it bursts forth from our awakened minds.

1-Minute Contemplation: Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Listen to the most obvious sounds around you. Now soften your ears and listen to the layer of sounds just below that surface layer. Now open your eyes and read the quote above. Contemplate for a minute what it means to you, or what it suggests to you. What avenues might it send you down?

[1] "Buddhadharma," Fall 2006. Excerpted from Devotion and Compassion, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche.