New to Buddhism | Thubten Chodron The Thubten Chodron Teaching Archive Mon, 23 Oct 2017 02:28:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 General advice for Dharma practice Sat, 16 Sep 2017 00:00:34 +0000

This video series is designed for newcomers to Buddhism, exploring themes like reflecting on the purpose and meaning of our precious human life, giving ourselves time and space to integrate Buddhist teachings into our lives, and remembering the central task of developing a kind heart. Tips on sustaining a practice, approaching mental transformation on and off the cushion, and taking note of progress in our practice are provided. “Being Your Own Best Friend: Cultivating a Healthy Sense of Self” is also helpful for non-Buddhists.

Advice for Dharma practice

  • Beginners on the path

    It’s easy to get confused over the different stages of the path, but as the Dalai Lama says, developing a kind heart towards oneself and others is what’s most important. Learning the Buddha’s teachings involves many different components, and we need to learn how to balance all of them without pushing ourselves to master everything right away. We need to give ourselves time to think about things and integrate them into our daily lives, like learning the difference between self-indulgence and self-compassion.

    YouTube Video

  • Practicing the Dharma = Transforming the mind

    Practicing the Dharma means identifying wrong views at the conventional level and counteracting them with wisdom and compassion. Transforming the mind can be difficult and won’t happen quickly because we have a lot of old habits, one of which is saying we can’t transform our mind. The mind of discouragement is actually a mind of laziness because then we don’t practice. We must learn to recognize an incorrect thought instead of following it.

    YouTube Video

  • Transforming the mind

    Venerable Chodron talks about how doing things we initially don’t want to do provides an attitude that will help us transform our minds in our Dharma practice. By pulling ourselves out of stubborn, resistant states of mind, we may enjoy doing things that we never liked before.

    YouTube Video

  • Sustaining a practice

    It’s important to keep ourselves motivated and stick to a regular practice. Setting up an altar, practicing with a group, or finding a teacher can help. Also, watch Abbey teachings online or sign up for a Sravasti Abbey Friends Education (SAFE) course. Attend retreats your teacher is leading to deepen your connection with him or her and do a daily purification practice like Vajrasattva or 35 Buddhas Confession. We have to remember the benefits of practicing the Dharma and our successes so far.

    YouTube Video

  • Sticking to one tradition

    One can bring Buddhist meditations on metta, patience, and compassion into the practice of other religions, but one should be clear about philosophical differences.

    YouTube Video

  • Practicing Dharma

    Venerable Jampel talks about how practicing the Dharma means working to change the way we look at and think about the world, transforming the mind to be more peaceful, kind, and beneficial to ourselves and others. The change may seem slow, but the benefits are always accumulating. We miss the real benefits of practice if we chase after instant results.

    YouTube Video

  • What to practice

    Many guests leaving the Abbey after a retreat ask how they should continue their practice at home. We recommend doing whatever they did here, keeping the same precepts and discipline, and possibly the same meditation schedule.

    YouTube Video

  • The Dharma actually works!

    Venerable Chodron gives tips on how to notice progress in our practice, such as comparing ourselves with what we were like five or ten years ago. How we react to everyday events really shows the force of our practice. Aspire to holistic training that combines offering service, study, meditation, and other practices.

    YouTube Video

Being your own best friend: Cultivating a healthy sense of self

Venerable Chodron provides tips on befriending ourselves. Slowing down and becoming aware of what we’re thinking and feeling is key. We learn to let go of the self-critical mind that always compares us with others and instead cultivate contentment, satisfaction, and acceptance. The Dalai Lama has talked about compassion and concern for others as a way to overcome our unhealthy focus on ourselves and our happiness, which only makes us miserable and exhausted. The Q&A session includes insightful discussions on the notion of an independent self as the root source of suffering and the importance of developing our own values and principles instead of relying on other people’s opinions.

YouTube Video

The four messengers Sat, 15 Jul 2017 05:35:37 +0000

Who did Siddhartha Gautama meet that changed his understanding of human beings’ suffering in the world? Is his understanding true or false? Why?

Illustration of Siddhartha Gautama meditating.

Siddhartha Gautama (Photo by Nyo~commonswiki)

As the scriptures tell it, the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, was born a prince of the Sakya clan in an area near the present border of India and Nepal. At the time of his birth, a seer predicted that the child would become either a great king or a great holy man. Siddhartha’s father, King Suddhodana, was determined to see his son inherit the kingdom and set about creating the perfect conditions to direct his son towards a kingly destiny.

Siddhartha’s father showered the prince with comfort and luxury. He was trained in athletics, the arts, leadership, and warriorship—every skill necessary to become a worthy and successful heir.

Wishing to protect the prince from the sights of suffering—images that might propel him towards a spiritual path—King Suddhodhana prohibited his son from venturing outside the palace complex. By providing every kind of sense pleasure to the young man, the king believed he could keep his son focused on his rightful role as the future king.

But Siddhartha was bright, sensitive, thoughtful, and curious. At the age of 29, he conspired with his charioteer to sneak out of the palace on four occasions to see the world. In the town of Kapilavasti, he encountered what are called the Four Messengers, four sights that led to the prince’s determination to discover how to free himself and others from the cycle of suffering.

First he met a white-haired old man bent with age and leaning on a cane. Seeing this, he realized that aging is an inevitable result of birth, a suffering endured by all who are born.

On a second trip, he encountered a sick person who was writhing in pain, and realized that the human body is subject to illness. No matter how healthy we are, illness can come at any moment, despite the best medical achievements.

On a third trip, Siddhartha saw a corpse, stiff and lifeless. Relatives wept over the body, and the prince realized that this fate awaited him and all the people he loved—his father the king, his stepmother the queen, and even his beautiful wife and newborn son.

Grieved by the truth of the suffering he had seen, Siddhartha went out for a fourth time. This time he encountered a simple mendicant with a calm, radiant, and peaceful countenance. “What is this person?” he asked.

The charioteer explained that the man was a spiritual seeker, a sage who had left behind the distractions of family and possessions to seek the meaning of life and the solution to its problems.

Recognizing the suffering of living beings and determined to find a way to relieve that suffering, Siddhartha set out on his famous journey to realize the path to liberation and full awakening, eventually becoming the Buddha, the Awakened One.

Did Siddhartha find what he was looking for? Buddhists believe that he did, and for the last 2,600 years, numerous others have followed his path, practiced his instructions, and, over time, achieved the same results.

On the path to liberation and full awakening, practitioners develop ethical conduct, meditative concentration, and wisdom, and cultivate love and compassion, among many other good qualities. These practices contribute to greater peace of mind and diminish suffering, even before liberation and awakening are attained.

Is it true? The proof is in the pudding, as they say. The Buddha described the unsatisfactory nature of our situation, and also identified its causes—our ignorance and destructive emotions, and the actions they motivate. He clearly taught the method to overcome ignorance and afflictions and thus the destructive actions they cause and the suffering that they bring. He invited us to test his teachings to see if they prove true for us. Through practice, we gain experience, which develops our faith and conviction. This in turn inspires us to continue practicing the teachings to realize our full potential. We practice to become fully awakened, as the Buddha did, in order to be of great benefit to all other living beings.

Convertirse en un estudiante calificado Tue, 01 Sep 2015 21:46:33 +0000

¿Cómo llegamos a ser un discípulo calificado? Una cualidad que hay que desarrollar es la mente abierta. En otras palabras, nos desprendemos de nuestra propia agenda rígida y acelerada, de nuestros gustos y disgustos, y de nuestras opiniones erróneas sobre la naturaleza de la realidad o de las etapas del camino.

Si asistimos a alguna enseñanza y nos seguimos aferrando fuertemente a nuestras ideas preconcebidas sobre el camino, vamos a evaluar a los maestros en función de si están o no de acuerdo con nuestras ideas. ¿Ese es un criterio válido para elegir a un maestro? Una actitud así evita que aprendamos porque seguimos aferrados a lo que creemos y sólo aceptamos lo que valida nuestras propias opiniones. En ese caso, no somos receptivos a las enseñanzas del Iluminado. Para aprender, debemos dejar de lado nuestros prejuicios, tener la mente abierta y escuchar con una mente fresca.

La segunda cualidad de un excelente discípulo es la inteligencia. Esto no se refiere al coeficiente intelectual de una persona, porque las personas con elevado coeficiente intelectual pueden ser torpes cuando se trata de entender el Dharma. Inteligencia significa la voluntad de investigar las enseñanzas y reflexionar en ellas. No nos limitamos a aceptar las cosas por su valor nominal, “Sí, el maestro lo dijo, por lo tanto, es la verdad”. Por el contrario, pensamos en las cosas, las examinamos usando la razón, y las ponemos en práctica en nuestras propias experiencias. Un discípulo con esta cualidad está dispuesto a hacer el trabajo de investigar profundamente el significado de las enseñanzas.

La tercera cualidad es la seriedad o sinceridad, es decir, una motivación pura. Es difícil tener una motivación pura al principio de nuestra práctica. Se necesita tiempo para desarrollarla; empezamos con la seriedad, sinceridad y un genuino anhelo espiritual que tenemos ahora, y luego construimos sobre ellos.

Algunas personas automáticamente piensan que tienen una motivación pura y son inteligentes y de mente abierta. ¿Cómo podemos ser un buen discípulo espiritual si pensamos que ya lo somos? Eso es arrogancia. Por otra parte, no nos vayamos al otro extremo de la baja autoestima: ” Soy totalmente incompetente. Estoy perdido. No puedo aprender nada”. Eso también es ridículo. Vamos a tratar de tener una apreciación realista de nosotros mismos que nos permita ser humildes y tener confianza. “He desarrollado algunas cualidades, y hay un largo camino por recorrer”. La humildad se basa en la autoconfianza, pero nos deja abiertos al aprendizaje, mientras que la arrogancia cierra la puerta al aprendizaje.

Llegamos al Dharma con una amplia variedad de motivaciones. No empezamos con la bodhichitta, ¿verdad? ¿Cuántos de nosotros tenemos una bodhichitta real y espontánea? Tal vez ustedes; yo no. Para mí es bastante difícil generar una bodhichitta fabricada con esfuerzo, que es el tipo que desarrollamos cuando conscientemente cultivamos nuestra motivación. Tenemos que ser honestos y reconocer nuestras motivaciones egoístas. Esta honestidad es un signo de integridad en nuestra práctica espiritual; nos permite desarrollar cualidades cada vez mejores.

Es importante observar con atención y cultivar continuamente nuestra motivación, porque después de un tiempo, se puedan colar algunas motivaciones furtivas. “Quiero aprender Dharma para que pueda enseñar a otros”. Esto podría traducirse en: “…así voy a tener una buena posición en el grupo y la gente me va a apreciar y respetar”. Tenemos que revisar nuestras motivaciones para querer enseñar el Dharma. “Voy a aprender Dharma para que pueda escribir cosas y así la gente va a pensar que estoy bien informado y soy espiritual. Voy a aprender Dharma para que pueda estar cerca de mis maestros, y luego ellos van a satisfacer mis necesidades emocionales”. Diversas motivaciones equivocadas pueden colarse fácilmente.

Podemos ser sinceros acerca de lo que está pasando en nuestra mente sin caer en la baja autoestima y el odio a nosotros mismos. Seamos honestos, hasta que nos convirtamos en Budas, siempre habrá maneras de crecer. Esa humildad nos mantiene abiertos. Su Santidad el Dalai Lama es un ejemplo de humildad, y sin duda está más avanzado en el camino de lo que nosotros estamos. Así es que, si alguien más avanzado que nosotros puede admitir con humildad: “no entiendo plenamente los grandes textos”, ¿no deberíamos también tener un poco de humildad? ¡No hay nada de malo en no saberlo todo!

Recuerdo que a mediados de los años setenta, cuando las personas estaban aprendiendo budismo tibetano, solían solicitarle a Lama Yeshe iniciaciones del tantra del yoga más elevado. El Lama los mandaba a otra parte diciendo: “Vayan a meditar en el Lamrim y en la transformación mental. Aprendan a ser amables unos con otros primero”.

Changing our minds and emotional habits Sun, 02 Nov 2014 01:15:26 +0000

  • How ignorance projects a mode of being onto phenomena that does not exist
  • Ignorance makes things falsely appear solid, permanent and separate
  • The mind’s nature is clarity and awareness
  • Appearance and emptiness exist simultaneously but are not the same
  • Mind training practices help to transform our minds
  • Virtuous actions lead to happiness, non-virtuous actions lead to suffering
  • Advice for working with anger
  • The afflictions in terms of karma

Overcoming obstacles (afternoon session) (download)

The morning talk can be found here.

Overcoming obstacles to Dharma practice Sun, 02 Nov 2014 01:14:22 +0000

  • Advice on being a student
    • Building confidence in our practice
    • Importance of going to teachings and retreats
  • Duhkha and the causes of cyclic existence
  • Ignorance that misapprehends reality
  • Karma’s cause and effect are the underlying principles of how everything relates
  • Importance of practicing compassion on and off the cushion
  • Qualities of spiritual mentors: what to look for in a teacher
  • The three poisonous attitudes

Overcoming obstacles (morning session) (download)

YouTube Video

The afternoon talk can be found here.

How to greet a teacher and make offerings Thu, 04 Mar 2010 12:29:24 +0000

  • Etiquette for greeting a Buddhist teacher
  • How to offer a kata or donation to the teacher

How to greet a teacher and make offerings (download)

The noble eightfold path and the four-way test Thu, 22 Oct 2009 14:29:11 +0000

  • The noble eightfold path
  • The Rotary Club’s four-way test
  • Support for Sravasti Abby’s work with prisoners

Rotary Club Spokane (download)

Practicing the Dharma, transforming the mind Wed, 12 Nov 2008 01:17:09 +0000

  • The importance of reminding ourselves what practicing the Dharma means
  • Counteracting the mind of discouragement
  • Identifying correct and incorrect thoughts

YouTube Video

I think it’s always good to remember what it means to practice the Dharma and why we’re here. Because practicing Dharma means transforming our mind. And transforming our mind is hard. It’s not going to happen quickly. We have a lot of old habits. One of our old habits is saying, “I can’t transform my mind.” [laughter] The mind that says, “I just can’t do it, the habits are too ingrained. I’m just an angry person. I’m just an attached person. I’m just a self-centered person. There’s nothing to do. I’m hopeless, just give up.”

That mind of discouragement is actually a mind of laziness. Because then we don’t practice, do we? We just give up on ourselves. So we have to realize the incorrect thoughts for what they are instead of following them. Okay? Because an incorrect thought arises in our mind and then we just say, “Well that must be true,” and we follow it. And then of course we’re back in the same old mess because then all of our unhappiness is everybody else’s fault. And then we dig ourselves into a hole. Remember our holes? And we curl up in our holes just like Manju (the kitty) curls up in his kitty basket and we stay in our holes, together with our negative thoughts and our incorrect thoughts.

It’s very important to be able to identify what is a correct thought, what is an incorrect thought. And here I’m just talking on the conventional level. I’m not even talking about grasping at true existence. But of course the grasping at true existence underlies all the incorrect thoughts because we think something is inherently beautiful or inherently awful. So it’s also there. I’m not saying ignore the grasping at inherent existence. Don’t get me wrong. But really try and identify cases of arrogance and jealousy and pride and attachment and wrong views and things like this that come so prominently in the mind. And instead of saluting them and bowing down to them, following their instructions, then to identify, this is the thief that’s been stealing all my virtue. This is the one who’s been making me so miserable all the time. And then call up our forces of wisdom and compassion and counteract those incorrect thoughts.

That’s what practicing the Dharma means. So we have to really remember that. And that’s why we do all the meditations, that’s why we do all the study, that’s why we do the service, that’s why we do all these practices is to be able to identify the difference between a correct and an incorrect mental state and to know the techniques to transform them. So just learning things for the sake of learning them, or reciting mantra and making offerings for the sake of doing them, none of that makes any sense. I mean, it puts some good imprint on our mind, because it’s better than watching the movies on television and playing computer games, so it has some virtue, you know, if we just do it automatically. But the real Dharma practice that we’re all about is confronting those incorrect and harmful thoughts when they arise. And if we do so we’re going to be happy. If we don’t do so we’re going to be miserable. So it makes some sense to try and do that. And it takes some time, so we need some patience with ourselves. We’re not going to get it all at once.

Gender equality/inequality in Buddhism Thu, 23 Nov 2006 12:34:10 +0000

Experience of gender equality

  • Personal experience in the Tibetan Buddhist world
  • Discriminate pure Dharma from social institutions
  • Having unhappiness about inequality and achieving real liberation occur internally
  • We should still work to remedy social injustices compassionately

Gender equality 01 (download)

Past and present situation

  • Discussion of the antidotes to sexual attachment
  • Historical ordination differences between monks and nuns
  • Origin of nuns’ orders
  • Buddhism in the West

Gender equality 02 (download)

Questions and answers

  • The differences between monks and nuns
  • How Sravasti Abbey is organized
  • Warnings about the fascination with finding reincarnated teachers

Gender equality 03 (download)

Vesak and the Buddha’s life Sat, 10 Jun 2006 13:58:48 +0000

  • About Vesak, the holiest day of the year for Buddhists
  • The Buddha’s life and how it can be a teaching
  • The importance of requesting teachings
  • How to make ourselves open-minded students

Vesak and the Buddha’s life (download)