Friday, 1 August 2014

A Buddhist Approach to Self Confidence

What is self-confidence, and how can we cultivate it?

This is the recording from our study morning.

Kaspalita explains what self-confidence means from a Buddhist point of view, where low-self-esteem and egotism come from, and how to reach a place of genuine self-confidence.


Listen/download (mp3)

Friday, 9 May 2014

Dharmakara becomes Amida Buddha


This is the 11th talk in the Larger Pureland Sutra series. In this section the Bodhisattva known as Dharmakara, who made 48 great vows, becomes enlightened and is called Amida Buddha.

This is significant, because it shows that all the vows have been completed, including the 18th vow in which anyone who hears the name of Amida Buddha, with faith in their hearts, will be reborn in the Pureland.

Listen/download (mp3)

Confirmation of great vows, and the three signs of liberation

The 10th talk in the Larger Pureland Sutra was not recorded (or rather a recording was attempted, but didn't work), so instead I'm simply going to include the section of the Sutra that I gave a commentary on, for the sake of completeness.

In this section Dharmakara re-establishes his resolve, in verse, and we hear of  of him beginning to practice the Dharma.

Confirmation of Great Vows

28. Then the Buddha said to Ananda:

Having pronounced his Forty Eight Great Vows, the bodhisattva Dharmakara then spoke these words in verse:

I take great vows that are unsurpassed 
so that the highest truth can be realised 
Should these vows not be fulfilled 
I shall not gain perfect enlightenment 
Should I not for infinite aeons 
become one so great nor offer delight 
To give and save all those in need, 
I shall not gain perfect enlightenment 
When I attain the highest bodhi 
all worlds shall hear my name aright 
Should there be anyone who hears it not 
I shall not gain perfect enlightenment 
Refraining from greed, deep rooted in right thought, 
gaining wisdom pure, I shall pursue 
The way up to the highest enlightenment 
and become a master, guide of the world. 
From strength divine shall radiate forth 
a light great that brightens the whole world 
I shall root out the darkness of illusions three 
and save those in suffering and despair 
I shall try to open the spiritual eyes of wisdom 
and to eradicate the darkness of ignorance 
I shall try to close tight all evil paths 
and to lead all beings to the realm of good. 
When I obtain the highest merits 
my light shall shine boundless in all directions 
Even the sun and moon will seek the darkness 
and heavenly lights will be dimmed 
Now let us reveal the House of Dharma 
so that we shall share the Buddha’s merits 
Among the people I will always 
expound the truth in a lion’s roar.         
I will serve and praise all Buddhas 
on whom the virtues and merits are bestowed 
When I perfect my wisdom and complete my vows 
I shall become the king of the three worlds 
The wisdom of the Buddhas is boundless and free 
shining brightly with none to loath or shun 
I pray my power of wisdom may shine 
like as thine, Oh Buddha, the exalted one. 
When these vows are fulfilled 
the whole universe will tremble and rejoice 
The heavens will shower beautiful flowers, 
celestial lotus blossoms in full scent.” 

29. Then the Buddha said to Ananda
“When the shramana Dharmakara had pronounced these verses 
the earth quaked in six different ways;
wonderful flowers fell all around
spontaneous music filled the air
and a voice on high proclaimed:
‘Without fail, the unsurpassable complete awakening will be yours.’

Dharmakara’s Virtue

30. “Ananda, the shramana Dharmakara then practised those true, unfailing and unsurpassed vows, rare in all worlds and ages, that bring serenity and joy. Before the Buddha Lokeshvararaja and all the devas, Brahma, Mara and a host of celestials, he established his resolve.

31. “Dharmakara practised as he had promised and as he did so his Buddhakshetra grew in extent and magnificence. The purity and magnificence of his Buddha Land increased and increased. It was exquisite, unique, supreme and marvellous. It was vast, incomparable, magnificent; omni-present, eternally reliable and not subject to decay.

Devotion 
32. He worshipped the Three Jewels and brought offerings to his teachers. 

Tenderness
33. He was gentle, charming, cheerful, amiable, and pleasant to live with. His speech was honest, modest, mild, harmless and beneficial to all. His tender heart showed in the friendliness of his face. He knew beforehand when somebody wanted to ask him a question.

Samadhi & Prajna
34. His samadhi was calm. His wisdom was without impediment. He mastered the higher samadhis, realising the true significance of emptiness, signlessness and desirelessness and the meaning of non-arising. 

The final four vows

This is the 9th talk in the Larger Pureland Sutra series, in which we explore the final four vows that Dharmakara made a promise to complete before becoming Amida Buddha.

Listen/download (mp3)

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Failing at spiritual practice


In this talk Kaspa shares an experience of failure, and how that leads to faith in rebirth in the Pureland.

Namo Amida Bu

Listen/download (mp3) 11 mins

Image via wikipedia

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

How to live in harmony

Kaspa writes: Last Saturday I presented a talk on A Buddhist Approach to Living in Harmony. I wanted to share some advice the Buddha gave to those living in lay communities, and in spiritual communities. This advice comes from the Mahaparanibanna Sutta, and as with much of the Buddha's teaching appears as lists of virtues.

In the first part of the talk I made some preliminary remarks about how as Pureland Buddhists we can relate to these lists of virtues, and then went on to share the Buddha's advice for successful communities.

You can listen to the talk below, and I have also copied and pasted some of my notes here as well.

Listen/download (mp3)

Notes

Primary practice: Nembutsu
Auxiliary practices: Other spiritual practices which support the nembutsu & our spiritual life.

Secondary facilities: “Your knowledge and skills and accumulated experience, as tools for helping all sentient beings.”

  • The gap between the ideal and the actual can be understood as a measure of complete faith. Faith and selfishness are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
  • Two different ways of working with the gap between the ideal and the actual:
    • Positive: practice the ideal, fake it until you make it. Either our minds are conditioned by conscious practice, or the resistance to practicing the ideal shows us our rough edges (selfishness) more clearly.
    • Negative: Investigate the specific nature of our selfishness and defensiveness, expose them to Amida, we feel accepted and our faith increases.

As we continually bring ourselves closer to the Buddha the process of our faith increasing will happen naturally and somewhat unconsciously; our lived life will become closer to the preceptual life. At the same time secondary practices can help deepen our experience of nembutsu (showing our bonbu nature, for example).

Whilst the Buddha is the best dance partner in town, and can make us better dance partners just through spending time on the dance-floor with him, I believe we can also make some effort to be a better dance partner.

Precepts are a specific manifestation of love. Different objects of love require loving differently therefore we have many different sets of precepts.

The lists below can be considered precepts in this way, they are given in a specific context, but all in the spirit of love. The spirit of love is always worth cultivating, and the specific way in which these lists below suggest we manifest that love has relevance to how we build community today.

Conditions of a nation’s welfare

From the Maha-paranibanna Sutta 4.
  • Do the Vajjis have frequent gatherings, and are their meetings well attended?
  • Do the Vajjis assemble and disperse peacefully and attend to their affairs in concord?
  • Do the Vajjis neither enact new decrees nor abolish existing ones, but proceed in accordance with their ancient constitutions?
  • Do the Vajjis show respect, honor, esteem, and veneration towards their elders and think it worthwhile to listen to them?
  • Do the Vajjis refrain from abducting women and maidens of good families and from detaining them?
  • Do the Vajjis show respect, honor, esteem, and veneration towards their shrines, both those within the city and those outside it, and do not deprive them of the due offerings as given and made to them formerly?"
  • Do the Vajjis duly protect and guard the arahats, so that those who have not come to the realm yet might do so, and those who have already come might live there in peace?

"So long, Ananda, as these are the case, the growth of the Vajjis is to be expected, not their decline."

Welfare of the Bikkhus (MPNS. 6)

The growth of the bhikkhus is to be expected, not their decline, bhikkhus, so long as they:

  1. Assemble frequently and in large numbers.
  2. Meet and disperse peacefully and attend to the affairs of the Sangha in concord.
  3. Appoint no new rules, and do not abolish the existing ones, but proceed in accordance with the code of training laid down.
  4. Show respect, honor, esteem, and veneration towards the elder bhikkhus, those of long standing, long gone forth, the fathers and leaders of the Sangha, and think it worthwhile to listen to them.
  5. Do not come under the power of the craving that leads to fresh becoming;.
  6. Cherish the forest depths for their dwellings.
  7. Establish themselves in mindfulness, so that virtuous brethren of the Order who have not come yet might do so, and those already come might live in peace.

Being a Sangha member

From ‘Being a Sangha member’ in Not Everything Is Impermanent, page 269:

The goal is to be able to live a fully human life in a noble manner.

  • A Sangha member holds practice dear.
  • A Sangha member is a disciple.
  • A Sangha member values, celebrates and contributes to the life of the Sangha.


From ‘Getting Real as A Sanga’ Ibid pg 304:

  1. face up to and admit one’s bonbu nature – and feel the relief in doing so;
  2. start to think of the collective good rather than merely individual interest;
  3. take refuge; and
  4. do the practice




Buddhism is about your spiritual experience

Kaspa writes: In this talk from our evening service I assert the connection between Buddhist teachings and the lived experience of Buddhist teachers, and talk about how some particular kinds of spiritual experience give rise to and support the wisdom of the Pureland teachings.

The talk is around 15 mins long.

Listen/download (mp3)