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Buddhadharma : Spring 2011
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly spring 2 0 11 36 movie or a sandwich. we buy things to suppress our pain, despair, anger, and depression. we find a way to consume, in the hopes that it will obliterate the feelings. even if a TV show isn’t interesting, we still watch it. we think anything is better than experiencing the malaise, the ill-being in us. we have lost sight of the reality that we already have all the conditions we need for our own happiness. each of us has our own idea of happiness. it’s because of this idea that we run after objects we desire. we sacrifice our time and, to a certain extent, destroy our bodies and our minds. according to the Buddha, happiness is simple—if we go home to the present moment, we realize that we have more than enough to be happy right here and now. all the wonders of life are in us and around us. This realization can help us release our craving, anger, and fear. The more we consume, the more we bring in the toxins that feed our craving, anger, and ignorance. we need to do two things to return to mindful awareness. first, we can look deeply into the nutriment that is feeding our craving, examin- ing the source. no animal or plant can survive without food. our craving, just like our love or our suffering, also needs food to survive. if our craving refuses to go away, it’s because we keep feeding it daily. once we have identified what feeds our craving, we can cut off this source of nutriment, and our craving will wither. The second practice is mindful consumption. when we end our consumption of things that feed our craving, ignorance, and wrong perceptions, we can be nourished by the many wonderful things around us. understanding and compassion are born. Joy in the present moment becomes possible. we have a chance to transform our own suffering. The Four Nutriments The Buddha spoke of four kinds of nutriments, the four kinds of foods that we consume every day. our happiness and suf- fering depend very much on whether what we consume is wholesome or unwholesome. The First Nutriment: Edible Food The first kind of nutriment is edible food—what we put into our mouth and chew, swallow, or drink. Most of us instinc- tively know what food is healthy for our bodies and what food isn’t, but we often choose not to think about it. Before eating, we can look at the food on the table and breathe in and out to see whether we are eating food that is making us healthy or making us sick. when we are away from home, whether we are eating a snack on the go, dining at an event, or grazing on something while at work, we can pause and decide to eat only the most nourishing food. This is mindful eating. Mindful eating can begin with mindful shopping. when we go grocery shopping, we can choose to buy only food that feeds our well-being. we can use the cooking of this food as an occasion to practice mindfulness. at the table, we can be silent for a moment. we can practice breathing in and out and give thanks for the healthy food in front of us. The Second Nutriment: Sensory Impressions sensory impressions are what we consume with our eyes, ears, nose, body, and mind. Television programs, books, movies, music, and topics of conversation are all items of consump- tion. They may be healthy or toxic. when we talk with a good friend or listen to a dharma talk, the seeds of compassion, understanding, and forgiveness are watered in us, and we are nourished. But an advertisement or film can touch the seed of craving in us and make us lose our peace and joy. when we drive through the city, we consume, whether we want to or not. we are assaulted twenty-four hours a day ThiCh nhaT hanh is a Vietnamese zen master, scholar, author, poet, and peace activist. he founded the order of interbeing, a community of monastics and laypeople with monasteries and practice centers around the world. he resides at his Plum Village Monastery in southern France. in august, he begins a north american teaching tour. Details at tnhtour.org. Each of us has our own idea of happiness. It’s because of this idea that we run after objects we desire and sacrifice our time and, to a certain extent, destroy our bodies and our minds. richardfriday