Weekly Insights from Meditation Classes You May Have Missed
By Joseph Giacona, Williamsburg Meditation Teacher
2017 may not feel like any improvement over 2016, which many, but not all, thought was a colossally bad year. When the goings get tough, I find it helpful to recall a letter Geshe Kelsang Gyatso wrote to all of our meditation centers around the world after 9-11. It wasn’t what we expected.
In it Geshe la said, “In samsara this type of thing is completely natural.” In other words, suffering, pain, let down etc shouldn’t come as a surprise to us. Buddha called the world we normally see ‘samsara.’ Samsara is a Sanskrit word which means ‘circle’ or ‘cycle.’ It is the world we create when our mind is under the influence of ‘delusion,’ including anger, attachment, jealousy, and self-cherishing. When delusions are functioning within our mind we see the world in a distorted, agitated way, and this causes us to perform various negative or hurtful actions (karma), which in turn ripen in the form of suffering, pain and sometimes horrible, horrible tragedy. Although this ‘cycle’ has an end, it will not end on it’s accord. In his first teaching, Buddha described how to end samsara permanently through the practice of meditation.
From the Buddhist perspective, security is a myth. For as long as our minds are unpeaceful, governed by anger, fear, and attachment, we can never be truly free or secure. Even when you feel secure, it’s only for a moment or there’s a great chance it will fall apart very soon. A hallmark of samara - or living life of contaminated actions painted by delusion, self cherishing, and ignorance - is this grasping at this false perception of security/permanence.
What do we do to transform political unrest, tragedies, loss, uncertain economic situations, and any other future event that on the surface feels catastrophic? Our job is to remain peaceful - full stop. Otherwise, anger and rage will only perpetuate the problem. Is there space for creativity, peace, and most importantly, solutions in mental state of freaking out and screaming “ahhhhhhhh!!!!" in your head? Absolutely not. Similarly, many people feel anger is a requirement for political change, fixing economies, and righting injustices that is both lasting and equally enjoyed. It is not.
A Buddhist approach is to “go to refuge” - to a peaceful and creative state by first focusing on your breath. Responding to the first weeks of a new political party, an economic downturn, or even something less innocuous, such as missing your train on the subway, with a mindset of constant panic is anything but enlightened. Why? Because samsara, this mode of existence created by delusions, has always been a crumbling disaster. The events of 2016 may have simply highlighted that fact a bit more clearly for us to see the truth that was always lying just under the surface.
No person, no situation, and no experience are intrinsically good or bad; it’s your state of mind that determines it. All situations exist relative to your mind - all of them, even racism, sexism, and corruption. We cannot control the situation externally, yet we can internally or how we perceive it.
A question we need to ask ourselves when we are experiencing difficulty is, “What state of mind am I bringing to this situation?” The true heroic action is to go deeper and take that deep peace with you into the situation. As one student said, “As they go out with anger, we go in with peace and love.” The illusion of samsara working out to any benefit is pervasive. We think that only if stocks go up, my political party wins, and everybody says nice things to me, then everything would great, when in fact everything would still be in a state of delusion: Anger, jealousy, grasping, would be alive and well in our hearts. The problem isn’t coming from outside.
Meditation for this Week
Now is a perfect opportunity to go deeper. Feelings of fear, anger, worry, and blame are all a lesson of what’s going on in our minds. Now is an opportunity to train to become your own protector and then become a protector of others. When you wake up in the morning, before you grab your phone and starting reading the news, connect to your breath. Breathe out whatever is on your mind. Keep returning to your breath until your mind settles. Then contemplate, ‘For as long as my mind remains uncontrolled, I will continue to respond to things going wrong with anxiety, worry, and fear. These responses are counterproductive to my wish for lasting happiness and inner peace. Because there is no situation separate from my mind, when my mind is peaceful, I can respond to difficulty with creativity and compassion. Therefore, I must train my mind in peace for the benefit of myself and others.’ Again paraphrasing another student, “When they go out, you go in.”
The Unmistaken Dharma of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso
Geshe la says . . .
When things go wrong in our life and we encounter difficult situations, we tend to regard the situation itself as our problem, but in reality whatever problems we experience come from the mind. If we were to respond to difficult situations with a positive or peaceful mind they would not be problems for us; indeed, we may even come to regard them as challenges or opportunities for growth and development. Problems arise only if we respond to difficulties with a negative state of mind. Therefore, if we want to be happy all the time and to be free from problems, we must develop and maintain a peaceful mind. Sufferings, problems, worries, unhappiness and pain all exist within our mind; they are all unpleasant feelings, which are part of the mind. Through controlling and purifying our mind we can stop them once and for all.
What's Happening at the Center ...
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Sunday - Journey to Lasting Happiness
11:00 AM - 12:30PM
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7:00 PM - 8:30PM
Wednesday - Freedom from Anxiety
8:00 PM - 9:30PM
Thursday - Freedom from Painful Emotions
8:00 PM - 9:30PM
NOTE: Though each day covers a specific topic, each session is a stand alone lesson and can be taken in any order.
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119 North 11th Street (between Bedford & Berry Streets)
Ring Buzzer for Kadampa Meditation Center Williamsburg Branch
By Train: L / Bedford Ave or the G / Metropolitan
By Bus: M7, M15, B37, B43, B44, B52, B60, B62
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