Keeping it simple

A guest article by a Buddhist monk.Keep it simple 1

Keep it simple – but life’s NOT simple!

There’s an expression used in business based on the acronym KISS – ‘Keep it simple, stupid!’. This reveals a profound truth; that to succeed in anything we have to have a clear idea of what we want to achieve and how to do it. The more simply and clearly this can be expressed, the clearer we are about our goals and paths.

Geshe Kelsang is a master at this, continually revising his spiritual advice to make it simpler and clearer, yet more profound. In this way, spiritual advice becomes a living, breathing, evolving thing, which is quite beautiful. Someone who really understands something can make it very simple and accessible for others. Have you ever had to explain something complicated to a child? Those skills are very useful for us to understand our own spiritual practices. If you can explain it to yourself in such a way that a child would understand it, there’s a good chance that you will understand it clearly.

We need to make our life simple too. Don’t you find that life is complicated? It seems so! We’re often left confused and bewildered by the pace of change in our life and with our own responsibilities. Our mind feels busy and it’s hard to focus on anything. Life can just become a very busy series of soul-destroying routines until we are left wondering in the small hours of the morning, trying to get to sleep, ‘what is the purpose of my life?’ These routines seem to take over our life until there’s no space left; everything feels difficult and complicated, even spiritual practice, so therefore simplicity is the key to success.

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing

It’s hard to be happy and stay that way but that’s the purpose of our spiritual life. If we are to succeed in our spiritual life, we’ve got to find a way to make our spiritual practice part of our daily life so it’s as natural and comfortable as breathing. We can do this by keeping things simple. We just need a few words that we can remember during our busy day to get Geshe Chekhawa.jpgour mind back on track again so that we can keep calm and happy. In this way we can refocus our life without losing its purpose in the busyness of our daily responsibilities. So here is one great piece of advice from Buddhist Master, Geshe Chekhawa from the 11th Century. He said:

Train in every activity by words.

Not much has changed since then; we really need something simple so that our mind can easily engage. How many distractions are there in an 11th Century Tibetan village compared to our busy modern information-overloaded world? We’re drowning in an ocean of information from email, the internet, texts, phones and people; but not much of it helps us to stay calm and happy. If Geshe Chekhawa’s advice was useful way back then when people enjoyed a simple, technology free life, how much more relevant is it now?

Buddha said that everything is mere name so we don’t have anything other than words to evoke the positive minds that will lead us to inner peace and happiness. But what words? Try to find something that resonates with you. I want to share some of my favourites with you from Geshe Kelsang’s books. We really need these because our mind and life are busy and so we need to RE-MIND ourself. It’s good when put like this! It means ‘to bring something meaningful back to mind’ – literally ‘re-mind’. This is the real practice of mindfulness.

We have to decide what the purpose of our life is. For those who want a meaningful life, it is transforming the mind and thereby making progress in compassion and wisdom. To this end, I like this phrase:

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

complicated life.jpegThe main thing is remembering Dharma, so keeping this practice of remembering is the main thing. We need to remember to remember, otherwise we forget. What we want is to keep a happy mind all the time and to be progressing in our practice of compassion and wisdom and to do this, we need to keep it as the very core of our life by not forgetting. If we forget to transform our daily experience through Dharma thinking, we will lose many opportunities to make progress.

Our main problem is that we lose our purpose because we are constantly being hit by waves of ordinary appearances and so we develop ordinary minds in response. What we need is to make our appearances spiritual rather than the appearances making our mind ordinary and this depends upon having a method for making things spiritual, which depends upon remembering to do so. We need a simple method to remember to transform all our daily appearances into the spiritual path because this is one of the main characteristics of a person who practises Lamrim, and a Kadampa is someone who practises Lamrim, making everything spiritual and continually making progress.

First you, then meSimple reminders

As I said, it’s important to keep things simple otherwise we either won’t do it or won’t know how to do it. The main goals of a spiritual life are developing love and wisdom to keep our mind peaceful and happy, and our actions positive.  Our love and wisdom are like the two wings of a bird that enable us to fly to the jewelled island of enlightenment. We forget to flap those wings during our daily life, so our main focus is to remain focused. We need reminding because otherwise we are too busy and will easily forget. Don’t forget to remember!

Here are some love re-minders that I use:

All the happiness there is in the world arises from wishing others to be happy.

All the suffering there is in the world arises from wishing ourself to be happy.

For happiness, cherish others.

First you, then me.

This person is important and their happiness matters.

Also, some wisdom re-minders:

Everything is like a dream.

All the things that I normally see do not exist.

Everything is the nature of mind, mind is the nature of emptiness.

Everything is dependent, so nothing exists from its own side.

Everything is like an illusion.

 There are many other areas that we can explore too. Can you find phrases that move you to practise renunciation, patience, generosity, rejoicing, Tantric self-generation, and so one? Perhaps you can find one phrase to move your mind for each of the Lamrim meditations? There are many possibilities to explore.

Make it simple and practical – just do

Our path to enlightenment can be very simple – all we need to do is love others with the wish to become enlightened and see Life is like a dream.jpgeverything like a dream. Does that seem too complicated, like patting your belly and rubbing your head at the same time? It’s only two things! If it seems difficult, break it down – train in one, then train in the other. Keep remembering and remembering again and again using words that you enjoy, like spiritual poetry. Many people love poetry because it speaks to them and ignites imagery in their mind; spiritual poetry can do the same. Inspire yourself, find words that speak to your heart, or make up your own. Find something that quickly leads to the actual experience of cherishing others, compassion, patience, wisdom and other virtues.

Here, then, is my spiritual ‘to do’ list:

  1. Find something that works.
  2. Keep it clear and simple.
  3. Do it as often as I can remember!
Precious human life

How often you remember depends upon how important you feel it is to remember your spiritual practice, which depends upon appreciating the rarity and preciousness of this opportunity – yes, we’re back to precious human life meditation! Geshe Kelsang says that we need to meditate on  precious human life to develop four determinations:

I will practise Dharma.
I can practise Dharma.
I will practise Dharma in this very lifetime.
I will practise Dharma right now.

Details can be found in Joyful Path of Good Fortune. To practise Dharma ‘right now’ we need to remember because we want to, so it’s back to mindfulness training.

don't forget to rememberThe most important thing is to move our mind; find something that works. You’ll know when you find something that works because it’s easy to remember and easy to recall, and it moves your heart. Don’t be satisfied until you have found something that works, that feels natural.

We tend to get used to things, or complacent, so you might have to switch things around and try different phrases as you get used to the ones that you initially choose.

Beginner’s mind

Keep tasting the real meaning of those phrases: Geshe Kelsang says that if we think deeply about these things from our heart and without distractions, we will taste the words, our mind will move and we can keep it fresh. People talk about ‘the beginner’s mind’ and this is very important. We need to keep Dharma fresh and interesting no matter how long we’ve been practising; this is a skill in itself.

So do try this method and see how it works!

Thanks for reading – I hope this approach works for you. Please feel free to share your own favourite Dharma phrases that are meaningful to you in the comments below so that we can all learn and benefit, and if you can suggest something simpler, please do because, as I said earlier, simplicity is the key to success.

Meditation versus action … more from our social worker

This is the fifth article from a guest writer, Kadampa Buddhist and student social worker. The others can be found here.

In this article, he is asking significant questions about the relationship between Buddhism and social action, important to address, especially in our modern age.  Please share your understanding in the comments box below, particularly if you work in any of the caring professions!

Continuing on my reflections on working for a mental health charity as a student social worker, I found that being mentally prepared for the work I did was essential.

Meditation on compassion

I tried to make universal compassion my main practice throughout these months, making sure I started the day with a meditation on compassion or at least incorporating compassion into my meditation e.g. having a compassionate motivation/intention at the beginning of the meditation and a compassionate dedication at the end.

I always dedicate my meditations for the enlightenment of each and every living being, but I feel it is ok to include people you know who have a particular suffering (which could include service users) and pray (without attachment) for their liberation from their present suffering.   In fact this makes my meditations and virtue more personal and more powerful.

At work, most of the time I was able to remain unnerved and at ease with service users, with love and compassion (being relatively free from my own self-cherishing) protecting my mind from any negativity in the working environment.

Tackling stigma and leading by example

Another aspect of working for a mental health charity can be tackling the stigma and discrimination there is against people with mental health distress. It has been encouraging to discover this year that mental health charities are beginning to make progress in this area, but there is still a long way to go.  I found that talking openly about my own past and present mental health distress has helped service users and their families considerably.  It can be so beneficial to open up and talk about your difficulties and, once you do, and there is some acknowledgement, difficulties can be shared and reduced, and as a society we can all become more aware of mental health distress.  You do have to check, however, how much you can self-disclose and such practice is more accepted in social work than it is in healthcare.

This placement experience reminded me that it was my own stress, anxiety and depression that led me to Buddhist meditation; and it is this medicine for the mind that I keep on taking several times a day for the rest of my life, gradually improving each year.  People can be relieved and less frightened too when they realise that you are human and experience similar difficulties.  They become more open to your help.

Meditation v. action

Trying to lead by example is the main way I help people, but there are times in social work where you have to act as an advocate, representing a group of people or to politicise a little.  You can become very passionate about this and feel justified in becoming angry.  On my course at university I was a student rep as I felt sorry for the younger students struggling with the course.  It felt good and beneficial to encourage them to stand up for themselves, but I struggled with representing groups of people who were angry or upset; and I realised that the Buddhist belief in personal responsibility doesn’t mix with trade unionism.

These are areas where I can have difficulties, and I am interested in what any of you have to say.  Are your own meditation, prayers and example enough, or could we do more for our society? Could the products that Kadampa Buddhism offers such as the meditation CD’s, teaching in schools, chaplaincy and any other act of public service be more offered and marketed to areas of our society that need it?

I often found that in the academic training in social work, my use of my knowledge and experience of Buddhism wasn’t appreciated, and perhaps there is danger of mixing Dharma too much into our worldly work life and that it is best to quietly lead by our own example? What do you think? If I was to train as some kind of mental health practitioner I would have to study practices that are similar but different to Buddhism.  Could and should Kadampa Buddhism offer more to the care industries in our societies?

Perhaps you would be willing to help me by letting me know what you think below.

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Our job as a parent is to become irrelevant

Another guest article from our Kadampa working dad. The rest can be found here.

I believe our job as a parent is to become irrelevant!

What does every parent want for their children?  We want our children to become fully capable individuals that make wise decisions on their own.  A wise decision is one that leads to true happiness.  Everything we do as a parent should lead to this final result, and we should use this final result as a guide to know how to respond to every parenting challenge and as a litmus test to see whether what we have done as a parent is mistaken and needs to be corrected for.

When our children are born, they are incapable of anything and make all the wrong decisions (put your finger in an electrical socket, anyone?).  In the end, we want them to be capable of everything and to be able to make all the right decisions on their own.  So in the beginning, they need us for everything, but in the end we want them to need us for nothing – in short, we want to become irrelevant (or more precisely, no longer needed). 

So how does this work in practice?  There are no fixed rules, rather general principles we can follow as a parent.  When it comes to helping our children become fully capable, I try to use the following principles:

1 For things they are not yet capable of doing: don’t expect them to be able to do it.  I would say 90% of the problems we have as parents in the early years of our children’s life come from being upset when our children don’t live up to our expectations.  We expect them to already be able to do things, and then when they don’t, we become upset at them.  When we get upset at them for not doing something, we create serious obstacles to their ability to joyfully learn the new skill themselves.  They will reject what we have to say because for them it comes as a punishment and a control, not a helping hand.  For the things they are not yet capable of doing on their own, just do it for them with an excited attitude of “one day you will be able to do this all by yourself.”  Think potty training!  This attitude makes them want to do things on their own in the future.

2. For things they can learn to do:  help them learn how to do it on their own.  This takes tremendous patience.  Usually as parents we are very rushed.  We feel we don’t have time to indulge our kid in spilling the milk bottle 20 times so they can learn from their mistakes, rather we figure it is just quicker and easier to do it ourselves.  But why are we so rushed?  We are rushed because we have to do everything ourselves.  Why do we have to do everything?  Because our kids don’t know how to do anything yet!  So while it is true in the short-run that it takes more time to help our kids do things on their own than for us to just do it for them; in the long run, we are actually saving ourselves time by taking the time now to teach them how to do things on their own.  It is crucial at this stage to instill in them the excitement of “me do it”, where they want to do it on their own – how liberating for them to become capable of doing things for themselves.  If you get this attitude correct at this stage, you avoid the pitfalls of the next stage.

3 For things they are already capable of doing:  don’t do it for them.  It is very easy for the ‘compassionate parent’ to fall into the extreme of becoming their child’s slave.  While this may seem compassionate, there is no wisdom to such an approach.  Yes, we are supposed to serve others and all the rest, but we must do so with wisdom.  We are not helping our children by teaching them laziness and manipulation/exploitation of others.  So if something comes up that they are capable of doing on their own that they want you to do for them, just say “sorry, you are capable of doing that yourself.”  They will say you are being mean, but you will know you are being a wise parent.

If we check carefully, we will see that what we want as a parent for our children is exactly what a qualified Spiritual Guide wants for their disciples, the only difference is the scope of ‘capable’ and the extent of ‘wise decisions’ involved.  The Spiritual Guide wants us to become as capable as all the Buddhas and to develop an omniscient, compassionate wisdom.  As a parent, we would generally be happy with our children being able to get on in the world and to make good decisions in this life.  While much smaller in scope, it is a start and a prerequisite for the capacity and wisdom the Buddhas want for our children.  So we can view our job as a parent as preparing the ground to hand our children over to higher paths (if they so choose).

In the next part of this series, we will look at three key wisdom minds we should try help our children cultivate so that they can make “wise decisions” on their own!

Are you a parent? Have you tried these methods? Please share your ideas and experience in the comments box below.

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Five ways to deal with criticism, part 3

This is the final installment. For the first two installments, see Five ways to deal with criticism and Five ways to deal with criticism, part 2.

How about us criticizing others?

Most of you agreed that it is best avoided. This is because our criticism can hurt others and is often not that helpful. If we can’t take it (and even if we can), perhaps we need to avoid giving it, unless we are quite sure of our motivation 🙂 As Nicola Bear Davis said on Facebook: “I know how I feel when I’m criticized, so if tables are turned I will advise someone with enthusiasm and compassion.” We have to know who we are talking to and be free from delusions such as aversion or pride.

If you have some belief in karma, it’s worth remembering that harsh words (motivated by delusion) are one of the ten non-virtuous actions identified by Buddha Shakyamuni as being karmic pathways to immense future suffering. As Jas Varmana put it: “Minds being paths, do we choose the malicious speech path to suffering realms, or the loving-kindness path to higher rebirth? (Both when giving and receiving criticism?)”

A good time to remember karma is when we are on the the receiving end of hurtful criticism — we wouldn’t be hearing this if we hadn’t created the causes through previous criticism of our own. Time to catch the ping pong ball; it stops here.

Cindy Corey said: “I think most of us don’t quite have the skill or non-attachment that would allow non-harmful criticism. I would almost define criticism as trying to use negative feedback to get someone to do something our way and that’s a failure — as people are different and why should people do things our way? I was just doing some reading today with regards to happiness and better relationships and criticism was certainly in the list of 7 deadly habits that create more problems and unhappiness. I think we can help people see or discover what is not working for them through caring and encouraging dialogue, but our interior dialogue is so negative already that I don’t think judgments from others are helpful. In the end, what is important is the intention — to help someone or control them?” Eileen Quinn agrees: “Motivation is key, isn’t it? If someone is criticizing you through irritation/dislike/anger, you will be more likely to put up walls/dig your heels in/get angry etc. I remember a key incident now when this happened to me a few years ago, I didn’t react positively, well more with bemusement than anything, but then the criticizer’s words did seem to me to be from a position of personal dislike and irritation.” Maria Tonella chipped in: “How can you say ‘I don´t like the way you are doing something’ without hurting any feelings…?”

Most of us prefer criticism of us to be indirect (ideally prefaced by some praise?!), but some brave souls do prefer brutal honesty. JB Christy said: “I wish I would get more honest feedback. Mostly people seem to just stop talking to me rather than speaking honestly about what’s going on for them. If they’d talk to me I’d have a chance of doing better. As it is I have to guess what happened. I’m apparently a terrible guesser.” Eileen agreed: “I deal best with directness. If someone is indirect with me I can tell they’re ‘beating around the bush’ and find that kind of frustrating. I would rather someone honestly and straightforwardly said something to me.”

So, if we do decide we really must go ahead and give those invaluable words of advice out of a pure motivation, it seems we need the skill to know whom we are speaking to as well – some people might be okay with the direct approach, but others would prefer us to beat about the bush, giving constructive comments in an accepting context.

Follow the beautiful advice of the ancient Kadampas

The ancient Kadampas were experts when it came to criticism, flourishing on it as the peacock flourishes on hemlock. And luckily all their advice has survived to this day.

As Neil Toyota pointed out: “Remember Langri Tangpa’s Eight Verses of Training the Mind in Geshe-la’s Eight Steps to Happiness, which includes liberating methods to deal with criticism and view/cherish all living beings as spiritual guides.” Wong Tho Kong agreed: “All Vajrana Buddhism practices the Eight Verses of Training the Mind. Criticism is a welcome teacher. It depends on how much you are ready to let go.” And as Isabel Golla reminded us: “Remember Atisha’s advice: praise binds us to samsara so in order to overcome pride we don’t hold on to praise and instead practice non-attachment to reputation.”

Atisha and Geshe Langri Tangpa were old Kadampas and fully realized Lojong (training the mind) practitioners. I love reciting Eight Verses of Training the Mind regularly, including the verse:

When others out of jealousy
Harm me or insult me,
May I take defeat upon myself
And offer them the victory.

The Lojong teachings on exchanging self with others are probably the most powerful methods in existence for helping us to accept and even enjoy criticism, and thereby make rapid spiritual progress.

The emptiness of the self we normally see

When we are criticized it is a great time to check and see how our understanding of emptiness is doing — how sharp still is the pain of self-grasping? If we are still becoming angry or anxious in these situations, and blaming the other person and trying to get free from them, we can make a mental note that we need to improve our understanding of the object emptiness. These are signs that although we may have an intellectual understanding of emptiness we are not meditating on it.

The emptiness of the self we normally see every day is what we are trying to meditate on and realize. Being criticized gives us an enjoyable challenge — the bigger or closer the target, “How dare they criticize ME!!”, the easier and more fun it is to knock it down, and the deeper the understanding of emptiness and resultant joy. We can therefore use specific difficult situations that cause this inherently existent self to appear strongly to deepen our understanding of its utter non-existence. I find this the most blissful and liberating method of all, and it means no criticism (or problem) need ever go to waste!

Summary: Five ways to deal with criticism

To summarize what everyone has been saying:

(1) Ask yourself, “Is it true or not?” Follow Geshe Kelsang’s advice above.

(2) Identify with your pure potential, not your faults, and then you can accept and use criticism without feeling bad about yourself.

(3) Follow the beautiful advice of the ancient Kadampas, who were the experts.

(4) Use criticism to realize the non-existence of the self we normally grasp at, and destroy all your delusions once and for all.

And last but not least …

(5) Avoid criticizing others unless you really have to!

Your comments are welcome on any of these three criticism articles, and please share and rate (press the stars on) the articles if you find them helpful. Thank you.

New Kadampa Tradition Gatherings

My teacher, Geshe Kelsang, started a tradition of Festivals and Celebrations in the New Kadampa Tradition many years ago, calling them “spiritual vacations”, and explaining their contribution in keeping the New Kadampa Tradition community and tradition strong. The Summer Festival — held at the mother ship Manjushri Centre in the first Kadampa Temple for World Peace — is two weeks long and attracts the most visitors from all around the world. I think of it as the equivalent of the Great Prayer Festival (“Monlam Festival”) founded in 1409 by Je Tsongkhapa in Tibet, also two weeks long and comprising teachings, meditations, inspiring company and other good stuff.

Although Geshe Kelsang did not teach at this year’s Festival (he will with any luck teach in Portugal in 2013), the show went on! And this year there has been a very nice new development – blog articles written from the unique perspectives of Festival goers from all over the world, some new to Festivals, some old hands. I’ve enjoyed reading these because they contain some real gems and show that Kadampa Buddhism can be and is being practiced by a large diversity of modern-day people at all levels and for all sorts of reasons. For reasons explained on this page, Where are the Kadampas?, I reckon the more bloggers the merrier 🙂

Angela from England

Just to add to the mix, here is an article of my own that I wrote about Festivals some years ago. Of course this Summer Festival is almost over, but not to worry if you missed it, there will be more than enough Festivals, courses and retreats all over the world in the years to come. Pick your vacation spot — there will probably be a Festival there sooner or later 😉

Arthur from Ireland

Perhaps it’s worth pointing out that many of these benefits of a Festival apply to any meditation retreat we might do, even on our own. People always seem to love it when they can take a day or two, or a week, or even longer to recharge their spiritual batteries by focusing on meditation and reading. That is why it is called reTREAT!

Here is the original article:

Why go to a Festival?
Irving from South Africa

Anyone whose life is full of irritations, stress, and pain, whether physical or mental, needs a vacation from time to time. Just getting away from the usual routine and surroundings alleviates stress, promotes relaxation, and gives us some mental space with which to establish more positive attitudes.

However, thinking about it, what do we have now to show for our last vacation, other than a few souvenirs, a depleted bank account and a fading tan?! It seems, unfortunately, that the effects are almost always pretty fleeting. The temporary escape ends, but the same problems still seem to be there waiting for us when we get home to our unmowed lawn and back to work. What has changed? Have we come up with new behavioral strategies or spiritual insights, or are we thinking and feeling the same old things? How much impact has our investment of time and energy actually had? If it is back to business as usual, we are in danger of becoming so reinvolved with the details and hectic busyness of everyday living that we forget the deeper meaning and experiences of life.

Joelle from Scotland
Kelsang Menla from USA

That is why Festivals are so welcome – because they give us our well-earned break, but they also set us up for months, years, even lifetimes to come. This is because a Festival is designed to be a “meaningful vacation” or a “spiritual vacation”. It represents a chance to go to an exciting new place and to relax and unwind, for sure, but it is also far more satisfying and productive than being a passive sightseer. It gives us the opportunity to find a deep and lasting mental peace by working on our minds, which is the essence of the Buddhist way of life. It gives us more knowledge and skills to deal with our problems in the present, as soon as we get back to work and home. We learn to live life in a more comfortable, healthy and meaningful manner. It provides long-lasting spiritual benefits and blessings that continue long after the vacation is over.

Marcus from Germany
Catherine from France

Last but not least, during a Festival we can make friends with inspiring people from all round the world who can provide us with support and encouragement. (Update to this article 2011: Then we can continue to meet up with them the rest of the year on Facebook… 😉

Alice aged 4

Update: This latest one, just in, is my personal favorite:

“I wished to have the stabilisers off my bike and Tubchen wished for everyone to be happy. And then we took Tsog back to Mummy and had a midnight feast. I felt grown up.”

Festival Play Co-director

Also just in, the co-director of The Life of Buddha, Julie, gives some fascinating insights into acting and directing and its relationship with practicing Dharma. (For more on Kisogatami’s moving story, see the death article, Preparing for Something?)

5 tips from a Buddhist dad on making time for a daily practice

This guest article from our Kadampa Buddhist dad, who has five young kids and a very busy job, is a continuation of Advice from a Buddhist dad on making practice a priority.

Making time for our daily practice

In the last posting we saw that establishing a consistent daily practice consists of two things: (1) making our daily practice a priority; and (2) making the time to do our daily practice.

We have already looked at why our daily practice should be our priority, now lets turn to the second question of  how do we actually ‘make the time’ to do our practice?  The following are some basic tips that have worked well for me.

1 Do your practice when everyone else is asleep 

Family life in particular places tremendous strains on our time.  In the end, the only way around this problem is to just do our practice when everybody else is asleep.  For me, I do it first thing in the morning because at the end of the day the only thing I can do is collapse.  How do you wake up earlier to do your practice?  Well, the easiest way of doing that is to go to bed earlier.  If that is not possible, then you will have to make trade-offs between hours of sleep and hours of practice.

For example, let’s say you have an 8 hour block of time for sleep.  Instead of sleeping all 8 hours, sleep for only 7 and do your practice for the other hour.  I have found that I am more rested after 7 hours of sleep and one hour of practice than I am after 8 hours of just sleep.  The reason for this is it is not enough to rest our body, we also need to rest our mind.  Only meditation enables us to really relax our mind.

2 Have the only thing you ask for of others be the time necessary to do your practice

In any relationship, there is give and take.  When your practice becomes your number one priority in the day, the only ‘take’ you will ask for of the others you live with is the time necessary to do your practice.  The only thing I ever ask of my wife is she gives me the time to do my practice.  If you waste your ‘relationship capital’ on other things, like seeing the movie you want to see or going to the restaurant you want to go to, then you won’t have any left over for your practice.  Just as we have finite money and must spend it on our top priorities, we also have finite things we can ask for in a relationship and we need to save it for our practice.

3 Understand that habits take time to form 

We need to make doing our daily practice a habit.  Habits are initially formed through applying consistent effort over a sustained period of time.  In my experience, it usually takes a good three months of forcing ourselves to do our daily practice before it becomes a habit.  But once it is a habit, it is very easy to maintain.  So if you can persevere through this initial three month period, you will establish a practice for life.  If you can’t, you will probably never establish a consistent daily practice no matter how many times you try get it started.  I think the reason for this is our practice has a cumulative effect where it is only after doing it for several weeks that we start to feel its effects.  We need to overcome our mental inertia, and unfortunately when we miss even one day it can be like having to start all over again.

4 Once you make it to cushion, choose to let go of everything else and allow your mind to focus on your practice

It is not enough to get our rear-end in the right place, we have to bring our mind there too.  We have worked so hard to create the space to actually meditate, so it would be a shame to then mentally not show up and actually do it.

One of the biggest obstacles to actually allowing ourselves to focus on our practice is attachment to immediate results from our practice.  We meditated for five minutes, how come we are not blissed out yet?  We measure the success of our practice against the feelings we generate as opposed to the causes we create.  A pure practitioner is happy simply to try.  It is by trying that we create causes, and it is by creating causes that results will come in the future.  As Ghandi said, full effort is full victory.  Full effort itself is our victory.

5 Finally, stop making excuses

We all think we are so busy and our lives are so hard that we don’t have time to practice.  But the reality is it is because we are busy and that our lives are hard that we must find the time to practice.  The reality is everybody is equally busy, just in different ways.  Everybody’s life is equally hard, just in different ways.

The good news is once we get started in our practice, it becomes self-perpetuating.  Whether we are aware of it or not, we all have goals we are working towards.  Perhaps our goal is to simply ‘do as little as possible’, but as we practice the Lamrim we start to develop higher spiritual goals (avoiding being reborn in the lower realms, escaping from all suffering forever for ourselves, becoming a fully enlightened Buddha so that we can lead all beings to permanent freedom).  Engaging in our practice functions to make these goals more and more central in our life.  As these goals become more central, the ‘need’ to engage in our practice will only grow because we will see how it is only our practice that will enable us to accomplish these higher spiritual goals.

So in short, it is very simple:  make a consistent daily practice a priority, then make the time to do it.

Free Buddhist meditation book ~ the gift of Modern Buddhism

The author of Modern Buddhism, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, a world-famous Buddhist master who has written 22 highly acclaimed books, wants to give away a free electronic version of his new book, Modern Buddhism ~ The Path of Compassion and Wisdom, to everyone in the world who wants one!

If you are interested in practicing meditation, I think you will find something you like in this book. Just click on this link for your copy: Free Modern Buddhism eBook.

(If you are new to meditation, and are interested in simple easy getting-started instructions, you might like one of these articles.)

Geshe Kelsang says:

“Through reading and practicing the instructions given in this book, people can solve their daily problems and maintain a happy mind all the time.”

I cannot help but feel rather happy about this cosmic no-holds-barred act of giving Buddha’s teachings, especially as I think Modern Buddhism is a spiritual masterpiece. It contains every Buddhist meditation and is a wealth of practical advice for living a happy, positive, and meaningful life.

So what can I do to help give it away? I can help to spread the word amongst family, friends and others. I also feel I can join in helping this come about by the sheer mental act of wanting it enough! Aspiration is the source of joyful effort and of all good results.

I have been doing this special tailor-made visualization on giving Modern Buddhism to everyone for some time now. It only takes a minute or so. I base it on the meditation on giving that Geshe Kelsang explains in Modern Buddhism itself, in a fabulous section called “Training in Giving in Conjunction with the Practice of the Six Perfections” (search for it in Volume One of your brand new eBook!!)

“How do we meditate on giving? In Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, Shantideva says:

… to accomplish the welfare of all living beings
I will transform my body into an enlightened wishfulfilling jewel.

We should regard our continuously residing body, our very subtle body, as the real wishfulfilling jewel; this is our Buddha nature through which the wishes of ourself and all other living beings will be fulfilled.”

If you prefer, you can visualize your regular body as the wishfulfilling jewel. (Just so you know, any words you are not familiar with are explained clearly in the book. For example, according to Buddha’s Tantric teachings given in Volume 2, our very subtle body or subtle energy wind is our actual body, as opposed to this gross meaty body with a limited shelf life. Our very subtle mind and body travel never-endingly from life to life and, once fully purified through the practice of meditation, will become the mind and body of an enlightened being.)

With love wishing everyone to be happy, we then believe that from this wishfulfilling jewel we emanate infinite rays of light which reach all living beings, giving them whatever they want. They experience the pure and everlasting happiness of enlightenment.

At this point, I imagine that at the end of each infinite ray of light is a copy of the Modern Buddhism, and that as soon as the living beings receive it they experience pure and lasting happiness. Then I make a dedication, such as the one by Geshe Kelsang below.

This meditation feels great! It creates enormous good karma (the mental potential for good fortune) and the cause to give spiritual teachings directly to everyone. And there is no reason you cannot adapt it to other things too.

This gift feels to me like one of Geshe Kelsang‘s auspicious deeds, in a whole lifetime spent in the service of others. He is starting by giving away the UK English version of Modern Buddhism eBook, but who knows where he may go with this next… And there are teachers he has trained in countries all over the world who are giving oral commentaries to this book to bring it even more alive. The idea of everyone in the world, whoever they are, and however much money they do or don’t possess, having access to this treasury of exquisite practical liberating advice in their own language sounds almost too good to be true! Almost.

If you like Buddhist meditation, do help spread the word by sharing the link to eModernBuddhism.com everywhere. The sooner people have the choice to download and read this book, the sooner Geshe Kelsang’s dedication can come true:

“May everyone who reads this book experience deep peace of mind, and accomplish the real meaning of human life.”

(Geshe Kelsang’s kindness in giving away Modern Buddhism reminds me of how good it is to have met such an accomplished spiritual master in this life, hence this article: What is the point of faith).