Minister's Post, Fri Apr 15

Dear Ones,

Sources from the Buddha to contemporary brain neuroscience to psychology's Dialogical Self Theory say (or are often cited as saying) that there is no self.

What does not exist -- these schools of thought and many others would agree -- is a discrete (apart, detached from others, separate) and permanent Self. There are two points here:

(1). The Self isn't permanent. You are constantly changing. You aren't the being that you once were. "You can't step twice in the same river," as Heraclitus said. This is so not only because the river is continually changing, losing its waters into the ocean and gaining new waters from tributaries, but also because you are changing in the same way the river is.

(2). The Self isn't discrete. The line between self and not-self is fuzzy, porous, and constantly shifting. What typically feels most like one's self is the part of you over which you have voluntary, conscious control over. But this can get fuzzy. Did you voluntarily choose what foods would be your favorite, or who you fell in love with, or what movies made you cry? At most, we might say "kinda." But if you examine your experience I think you'll notice that food preferences, romantic attraction, and cinema emotions mostly, if not entirely, "just happen" to you. Lying in bed at night waiting to fall asleep, thoughts flow through your brain -- but did you ever consciously make a decision about what to think about? Even your thoughts -- most of them, anyway -- "just happen" to you. Even the parts of you that feel like the "core" of your self are composed of and created by non-self factors that you didn't choose. There's no discrete self.

No permanent self. No discrete self. But there's definitely a self. It's rather like a hurricane: constantly changing, without a distinct border, and just barely coherent enough to be given a name.

If we keep in mind that nothing about us is either permanent or distinct, then we'll see that satisfaction in life, likewise, isn't permanent, and isn't so separate from dissatisfaction. This will help us be less attached to the expectation of satisfaction. Life's dissatisfactions are lighter when we don't expect otherwise.

Yours in the faith we share,

Join a Journey Group: http://cucwp.org/journey-groups

I.C.Y.M.I. (In Case You Missed It)

The Apr 3 worship service, "Commitment, Care, Community":


From Norman Fischer’s Training in Compassion. Trainings #15-20: Grow the Five Virtues. #16: Repetition. You’ll remember #15 was Determination. The determination to pursue a spiritual path will lead to many repetitions of the practices of that path. Repetition leads to familiarization, and familiarization is key. To get out of an old way of being, get deeply familiar with a new way.

Our way of seeing the world is simply an old unexamined habit, so strong, so convincing, and so unconscious we don't even see it as a habit. Yet the world is not as we think it is. Spiritual practice takes time, effort, support, and much repetition. But little by little our way of seeing the world and being in it can shift. With effort, the mind can be trained.

So choose your spiritual practice, and stick to it. Support your path with daily journaling, study, and meditation. Add further supporting practices such as mealtime grace, keeping sabbath, and getting enough sleep. Repeat these practices often – familiarize yourself with them so thoroughly that they become second nature.

When we go to the gym to lift weights or do aerobics, we know that one or two days will do little good. The virtue is in the drill, the repetition over time. This is what changes our body. Likewise, repetition changes the mind. Repetition is the true soul of spirituality. Become as familiar with your inner life – your soul or spirit – as you are with your phone number, address, or place of business.

For more on Repetition, see the full post "Repetition"

For the complete list of spiritual practices see the SPIRITUAL PRACTICE DIRECTORY.

Here it is, your...
#116: Greed, Hatred, and Ignorance

When Raven was just starting on the path, she visited Moose Roshi -- as well as Jackrabbit Roshi and Prairie Dog Roshi -- before settling down under the tutelage of Brown Bear Roshi. In #93, we learned that, "Raccoon was a student of Moose Roshi at Cedarford, but he visited the Tallspruce community occasionally."

Set aside for now the possibility that in the present case Raven is being snide, arch, or mordant. Assume that she deeply respects and admires the elder roshi.

Buddhist literature identifies "three poisons": raga (greed, lust, desire, attachment), dvesha (hatred, anger, aversion), and moha (delusion, ignorance, confusion). These three are the root of all other kleshas (mental states that cloud the mind and manifest in unwholesome actions). Their opposites are dana (generosity), metta (loving-kindness), and prajna (wisdom).
  • The Sangiti Sutta (Digha Nikaya 33), lists sets of three things, including: "Three unwholesome roots: of raga, dvesha, moha."
  • In the Sammādiṭṭhi Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya 9), Sariputta says, "And what is the root of the unwholesome? Greed is a root of the unwholesome; hate is a root of the unwholesome; delusion is a root of the unwholesome."
  • In the Itivuttaka Sutta 3.1 (Khuddaka Nikaya), the Buddha says, “Monks, there are these three roots of what is unskillful. Which three? Greed as a root of what is unskillful, aversion as a root of what is unskillful, delusion as a root of what is unskillful. These are the three roots of what is unskillful. Greed, aversion, delusion destroy the self-same person of evil mind from whom they are born, like the fruiting of the bamboo."
  • In the Titthiya Sutta (Angutara Nikaya 3:69), the Buddha explains that raga arises "for one who attends improperly to a beautiful object;" dvesha arises "for one who attends improperly to a repulsive object;" and moha arises "for one who attends improperly to things."
So how is it, as Moose Roshi says, that greed, hatred, and ignorance are themselves Buddha-nature? "Buddha nature pervades the entire universe, existing right here, now," (as Sutra books in Zen Centers throughout the English-speaking world declare), so where else would greed, hatred, and ignorance come from? Our task is to "attend properly" to them, appreciating that all things have their place. Properly attending immunizes us from their poisonousness.

Moose Roshi said to his students, "Greed, hatred, and ignorance are themselves Buddha-nature."
On one of his visits, Raccoon asked Raven about this.
Raven said, "Moose oughta know."
"Loving makes lovely"

I thought I overheard
someone on the morning subway say.
The way she said it,
and the glance I had of her
and her companion,
Told me this was not a beauty tip.
She meant the beloved is lovely.

Visible through the window, the high rises sang,
"With this power you have,
How does your life admit of unloveliness?"
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon

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