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Buddhadharma : Winter 2009
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly winter 2 0 09 26 send your questions By mail or to teachers@theBuddhadharma.com Zenkei blanChe hartman: I would say you have already taken the most important step toward answer- ing your question—that is, noticing a habitual pattern that causes a painful result. I am guessing that you noticed this habit while observing your thoughts in meditation. Until we can see for ourselves that our own actions of body, speech, and mind are creating the pain, we think that someone or something out- side ourselves (over which we have no control) has to change in order to put an end to the pain. When we notice that it is our own thoughts that make us want the world to change, so as to accommodate our own desires or aversions, we then have choice. We can cling to that thought, believe it, feed it, and watch it grow from irritation to rage, or from attraction to thirsting desire. Or, in zazen, we can note the first arising of the thought, remember that it can lead to severe pain, and decide to let it go by returning our attention to breath, posture, or physical sensations (which are all occurring in the present moment). In other words, we can see that we do have some control over which thoughts we feed and cling to and which ones we let go. This is easier said than done. Many of us have some pet thoughts and attitudes, especially about “me” and the world according to “me,” and we are very reluc- tant to let them go. It is useful when we hear ourselves insisting on our point of view to say to ourselves, as my teacher often did, “Maybe so.” He also said, “You don’t have to invite every thought to sit down and have a cup of tea.” (One of my favorite bumper stick- ers is, “Don’t believe everything you think.”) In addition to letting go of painful thoughts, it is very beneficial to cultivate positive thoughts. In this regard, two teachings I deeply appreciate come to mind. One is the view of reality in the Avatamsaka Sutra where everything is totally connected with every- thing else as Indra’s Net, where the universe is a vast net with a jewel at each intersection of the threads. Each jewel is reflected in every jewel and every jewel is reflected in each jewel. To me, it is a vivid image of the teaching of no separate self or dependent coarising. ask the teaChers ZenkeI Blanche hartman is former abbess of the san Francisco Zen Center Geshe tenZIn WanGyal rInpoche is a lineage holder of the bön Dzogchen tradition of Tibet narayan lIeBenson Grady is a guiding teacher at Cambridge insight Meditation Center question: It seems that sometimes I can’t tolerate interruptions to my self- absorption. Irritations, big and small, intruding on my desire to settle into the false comfort of ego, can seemingly produce a “me” that is argumentative, difficult, and short-tempered. I’m guessing that I’m not alone in this. How can we engage emotional provocations and self-centeredness in ways that turn us toward dharma practice and life? (left-right):barbarawenger,maryellenmccourt,marylang