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Buddhadharma : Spring 2011
13 spring 2 01 1 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly experience, no matter how profound. As Ajahn Chah described them, meditative states are not important in themselves. Meditation is a way to quiet the mind so you can practice all day long wherever you are, see when there is grasping or aversion and so on, and then let it go. What’s left is enlightenment—a release of identification with the changing conditions of the world, a resting in awareness—which is always found here and now. This involves a simple yet profound shift of identity from the myriad conditioned states to the uncon- ditioned consciousness—the awareness that knows them all. In Ajahn Chah’s approach, release from entanglement in greed, hatred, and delusion does not happen through retreat, concentration, and cessation, but from this profound shift in identity. From “EnlightEnmEnts” in InquIrIng MInd, Fall 2010 “sWiTch on!” Benjamin Charlton explains why the rigorous discipline of martial arts is a powerful tool for training the mind. Anybody who has shirked seated meditation in favor of “just being mindful all the time” knows how easy it is to end up being mindful none of the time. The distractions of daily life undermine our intentions. That’s why formal meditation is essential. Meditation techniques differ, but all of them set apart a special time devoted solely to practice. Martial arts train- ing can work the same way. We enter the dojo, bow, and leave ordinary life behind. Training is seldom a casual affair. It makes demands that a mere hobby would not dare to. It is regimented and intense. It emphasizes etiquette and protocol. There is kneeling and bowing, and cleaning the dojo toilet, and “Thank you, Sensei” when Sensei has just winded you and almost certainly cracked a rib. Like crossed legs and breathing in sitting meditation, the discipline can be a post to which the meditator tethers a monkey mind. Daydreamers get rudely awakened. I remem- ber one jujutsu teacher whacking me help- fully over the head with a bamboo sword, saying, “Switch on!” The whimsical mind rebels against the training regimen. Thus it is a reference point against which we can observe how the mind behaves, and come to understand it better. By contrast, there are limits to using daily life as a mental laboratory. When pain or fear arise in the ordinary course of events, it’s because it’s 1:23 a.m. and my daughter isn’t home, or I just cracked my head on a beam and my colleagues are sniggering, or “Oh no! Where’s my car gone?” Expecting the pres- ence of mind to calmly observe these mental and bodily states as they arise and pass away is not necessarily realistic. And between the successive crises of which daily life largely consists, it is easy to forget our fragility and to be intoxicated, as the Buddha put it, by comfort and health. Then the serenity of a sunny Saturday afternoon looks like spiritual attainment rather than the fragile moment it is. In the dojo, however, the ease with which bits of us hurt and break is frighteningly apparent. “The world is burn- ing,” the Buddha said. In the dojo, you can smell the smoke. From “martial arts as Buddhist PracticE” in The MIddle Way, august 2010 The compleTe picTure We can easily become confused in our practice, says Richard Barron, when we don’t understand how the whole path fits together. With the spread of the Buddhist teachings to countries in the Western hemisphere, an area that has received less attention than it should have is the whole issue of what in Tibetan is succinctly termed “paths and levels” (sa lam). erichanson