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Buddhadharma : Summer 2013
SUMMER 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 59 the opposite: lying, discordant speech, gossip. Say you read the precept on right speech. If you just believe in it, you might feel guilt or some other painful emotion when you’re not using right speech. But if you take up the precept and repeat it regularly, maybe every morning, that wording may arise as you’re speaking with people. Perhaps when you find yourself putting someone down, there’ll be a voice inside, an echo, like a mir- ror reflecting concord, beauty, and compassion back, that shows you that your words are not right speech. Not to make you feel guilty, but to awaken you to wrong speech so you can make choices toward right speech, which are choices for happiness and peace. That’s an awakening quality rather than a moral imperative whereby you feel guilty if you don’t live by right speech. This is the way to use a beautiful teaching. But taking essential features from the teachings and using them profoundly means constant effort. When I find myself in a negative mood but can still say, “Not me, not mine,” there’s effort, but it’s not a willful attempt to be something else; rather, it’s an opening to what is. Then I can sense the silence in consciousness that is not the person- ality, that is not this particular human formation and isn’t self-referencing. It is just the way it is. Something we have a chance to do in sitting meditation is develop skills that manifest in ordinary life. One of those skills is the capacity to be awake and present to the unpleasant. For example, maybe you’re used to sitting in medita- tion for thirty minutes at home, but you sit for forty-five minutes here. After about twenty-five minutes you may get restless, your bottom may start to hurt, or you may experience unpleasant sensations. Perhaps then you start to look at the shrine, at the other meditators, at your watch— that’s a disaster!—and you get fidgety because it’s unpleasant. In sitting meditation you can begin to train to be objective with the unpleasant, with dukkha-vedana. It sounds rather like a form of self-mortification or torture—“I’m training in dukkha-vedana”—but in the arising of unpleas- antness, you can really begin to see objectively that “This is changing” or “This hurts; this feels this way.” The little bit of training in a session of sitting practice might only be five minutes and then you move, or it might be thirty min- utes and then you move. This effort brings a kind of strength and power into the mind when you need to be with something unpleasant that is more emotionally powerful. You’ve intui- tively understood how to be with the unpleasant in a way that’s not intellectual, but more like a craft. If you do weaving or carpentry, you learn about the elasticity of the yarn or the grain of the wood, and as you work, your hands begin to know what the yarn is like and how to weave well, or how to plane a piece of wood. It’s in your body; it’s visceral. Similarly, in meditation you learn things that aren’t just opinions about meditation. Through your struggles, you learn how to meditate. Your whole body begins to understand what it means not to grasp, to be at peace with the unpleasant in little ways. That is a powerful force when the unpleasant really comes at you, in a committee meeting or maybe dur- ing a family squabble, or when sickness comes. Then you’ve got some kind of equipment, some kind of understanding: “Unpleasantness feels this way.” This is powerful and very helpful. The real depth of practice comes in ways that are perhaps hidden to you, in the little events of unpleasant- ness in a session of sitting meditation or in the capacity to bear witness to something to which you might want to react. Over time that builds a lovely strength of mind. AJAHN VIRADHAMMO is abbot of Tisarana Buddhist Monastery near Perth, Ontario, which is in the Thai forest tradition of Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Sumedho. He took bhikkhu ordination in 1974 with Ajahn Chah. PHOTOGRAPHERUNKNOWN ➤ continued page 82