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RETREAT WITH KARMA SHENPEN: BEING HUMAN IS DIVINE

at Sat Chit Anand Buddhist Centre, South Africa, July 2005

www.satchitanand.co.za

 

THE WHEEL OF LIFE: Realms of Existence and Cycles of Samsara

 

HELL REALMS: predominant emotion/mind-state is anger and hatred

HUNGRY GHOST REALM: predominant emotion/mind-state is greed

ANIMAL REALM: predominant emotion/mind-state is ignorance

HUMAN REALM: predominant emotion/mind-state is desire

DEMI-GOD REALM: predominant emotion/mind-state is jealousy

GOD REALM: predominant emotion/mind-state is pride

 

The Realms of Existence may be seen as different realms or as mind-states that keep us trapped in Samsara. The Buddhas try to help liberate us from the Cycles of Samsara. In the GOD REALM, the Buddha bears a musical instrument to arouse the carefree from their complacency, waking them up to what is truly important in life. In the DEMI-GOD REALM, the Buddha holds a sword, symbol of knowledge and wisdom. In the HUMAN REALM, the Buddha holds an alms bowl and staff, indicating the aesthetic path to liberation. In the ANIMAL REALM, the Buddha holds a book, symbol of knowledge and reason to overcome instinct. In the HUNGRY GHOST REALM, the Buddha carries heavenly gifts showing it is better to desire Truth than be greedy for worldly things. In the HELL REALMS, the Buddha holds a flame, symbolic of purification.

 

MINDFULNESS MEDITATION: Knowing what is happening, when it is happening

 

Shenpen gave very helpful MEDITATION ADVICE AND EXERCISES to help us become more mindful and aware. Meditation is about building MINDFULNESS, and retreats provide an ideal environment to practice mindfulness, which can be defined as “knowing what is happening, when it is happening ... and it doesn’t matter what is happening”. Most important is an attitude of self-acceptance, and Shenpen’s calm and friendly disposition helped everyone to gently examine themselves, with the reassuring words that there is “no need to change anything, just accept with awareness.” We need encouragement to drop our judgements and preferences, allowing them to dissolve into the space of awareness.

 

ENLIGHTENED ESSENCE: You don't have to be perfect, because you already are!

The teachings on Buddha Nature, our Ultimate reality, remind us that our relative faults and flaws with which we are so identified, are impermanent and not part of who we really are. “You don’t have to be perfect, because you already are.” Our Buddha Nature or enlightened essence is pure and perfect. It is ... permanent, unchanging, unconditioned (not dependent on causes and conditions), birthless, deathless, selfless (egoless), everlasting, at peace, undisturbed, free from suffering, not governed by karma, wisdom all-embracing and all-knowing, concept-free, thought-free, free from all obstacles and negativities, formless, invisible, wholesome, completely pure and perfect, wise and compassionate ... WOW! When I grow up, I want to be a Buddha!

 

THE FOUR FOUNDATIONS  

1. Precious human life

2. Impermanence and death

3. Karma, the Law of Cause and Effect

4. Sufferings of Samsara

 

We need strong foundations to build a house. Just so, we need strong foundations for Dharma practice. The Four Foundations are contemplations that increase our understanding of the importance of spiritual practice. We have this Precious Human Life, we have such amazing potential ... Death is certain, the time of death is uncertain, so don't waste your precious human life ... Work towards Enlightenment, it doesn't happen without Cause ... Our actions of body, speech and mind have consequences. We looked at how we end up in the different Realms of Existence due to our actions, and how we can apply antidotes to purify negative karma. Only an Enlightened Being fully understands Karma, but even a small understanding helps enormously to explain the inherent justice in life: we get what we deserve, always, in this life and in the ones to follow! SHENPEN presented the teachings in a clear and understandable way, with stories and laughter. Another wonderful weekend. To end this newsletter, some pointers on what meditation is and isn't: 

 

MEDITATION IS NOT:

-          not a trance (mind clear, sharp, mindful)

-          not an escape (from yourself or world)

-          not self-centered or selfish

-          not simplistic

-          not a quick fix

-          not easy

 

MEDITATION IS:

about facing oneself

-          mind is awake, aware, clear and wise

-          helps discern between truth and illusion

-          replaces self-centeredness with compassion

-          brings lasting benefits

-          a life-time’s work

 

 

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- OM MANI PADME HUM -