New to Buddhism | Thubten Chodron http://thubtenchodron.org The Thubten Chodron Teaching Archive Sun, 20 Aug 2017 19:43:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The four messengers http://thubtenchodron.org/2017/07/siddhartha-enlightenment/ Sat, 15 Jul 2017 05:35:37 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=80341

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.

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Convertirse en un estudiante calificado http://thubtenchodron.org/2015/09/cualidad-discipulo/ Tue, 01 Sep 2015 21:46:33 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=71380

¿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”.

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Changing our minds and emotional habits http://thubtenchodron.org/2014/11/transforming-anger-attachment/ Sun, 02 Nov 2014 01:15:26 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=26737

  • 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.

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Overcoming obstacles to Dharma practice http://thubtenchodron.org/2014/11/apply-teachings-consistent/ Sun, 02 Nov 2014 01:14:22 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=26736

  • 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.

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How to greet a teacher and make offerings http://thubtenchodron.org/2010/03/respect-offering-guru/ Thu, 04 Mar 2010 12:29:24 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=46972

  • 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)

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The noble eightfold path and the four-way test http://thubtenchodron.org/2009/10/principles-of-living/ Thu, 22 Oct 2009 14:29:11 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=46978

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

Rotary Club Spokane (download)

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Practicing the Dharma, transforming the mind http://thubtenchodron.org/2008/11/right-view-practice/ Wed, 12 Nov 2008 01:17:09 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=33749

  • 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.

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Gender equality/inequality in Buddhism http://thubtenchodron.org/2006/11/meditation-monastics-discrimination/ Thu, 23 Nov 2006 12:34:10 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=46975

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)

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Vesak and the Buddha’s life http://thubtenchodron.org/2006/06/buddhist-holiday/ Sat, 10 Jun 2006 13:58:48 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=3837

  • 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)

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Advice for newcomers to the Dharma http://thubtenchodron.org/2003/05/transform-our-minds/ Wed, 28 May 2003 11:25:32 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=46970

I remember well my initial years in the Dharma, trying to figure out how I was supposed to act in Dharma centers, in monasteries, and with monastics. Figuring out what to study and practice was no easier. And learning to work with my mind was the greatest challenge of all! Sometimes I felt like just dropping it all and spacing out with my favorite distraction. But having made it through those challenging times, I’ll pass on some tips to those who are newcomers.

Boys at the morning prayer in a monastic school in Myanmar.

Learn how to calm your mind and work with your afflictive emotions before delving into more complex practices. (Photo by Dietmar Temps)

When you go to a Dharma center, talk to the person at the door, ask if there is a brochure on etiquette, and pick up a prayer book to use during the class. If there’s no one at the door, ask someone who knows their way around the center, or even speak to another newcomer. People are usually friendly. During Q&A time, ask questions. No question is “stupid.” In fact, chances are several other people in the room are wondering the same thing and hope that someone will overcome their shyness enough to ask the teacher.

You’ll see people bowing. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, don’t. There’s no pressure. Same with saying prayers; take your time to understand them so you feel comfortable when reciting them.

As a beginner, go to the classes for beginners. Although the center may be hosting initiations by well-known teachers, wait to attend those until you have established a proper foundation in the lamrim (gradual path to enlightenment) and lojong (thought transformation). Learn how to calm your mind and work with your afflictive emotions before delving into more complex practices. If you skip around from one class to another or frequently miss classes, you will miss learning the important steps. The importance of properly understanding basic Buddhist principles and establishing a solid foundation at the beginning can’t be overestimated.

You’ll hear many new ideas, some of which may not make sense to you. That’s ok. You don’t need to force yourself to believe them or to discard them as ridiculous. Instead, put them on the back burner and return to contemplate them from time to time. Gradually things will begin to make sense.

Don’t expect to understand or actualize everything all at once. It takes years, lifetimes, eons. Learning Dharma is not like Western education, where we learn facts and tell the teacher what they already know on a test. Listen attentively to the Dharma and at home, think about what you heard. Check it out logically and apply it to your life to see if it works. Listen to the same teaching many times, because each time you hear it, it will sound different because your mind has changed. Read Dharma books slowly, pausing to contemplate what you read, applying it to your mind. Although it’s tempting to hurry to get a lot of information, especially about exotic practices, principally read books that correspond with your level of practice. In this way, you’ll establish a good foundation and won’t become confused.

Buddhism isn’t intellectual concepts. Practice is essential to bring the Dharma into your heart. This entails setting up a regular daily meditation practice and sticking to it. Only by making meditation a part of your daily life routine will you experience its benefits. Making an appointment with the Buddha by writing it into your daily calendar will help you get to the cushion. If someone calls and asks you to do something else at that time, you can truthfully say, “Sorry, I’m busy.” We don’t break appointments with important people like the Buddha.

In your daily meditation practice, begin with reciting some verses to establish your motivation and make your mind receptive. Then do checking (analytical) meditation on the topics you learned in Dharma class. This formal time of meditation prepares you for practicing the Dharma the rest of your day—at work, with your family, at school, wherever. In those situations, be aware of what you’re thinking, feeling, saying, and doing. Be mindful of your bodhicitta motivation and try to bring love and compassion into all your interactions with others. In the evening, review your day, congratulate yourself for what you did well, admit and regret when you made mistakes, and renew your compassion for the next day.

When you first begin to practice, you may be shocked at the thoughts and feelings you discover inside. Don’t get discouraged, thinking the path is too difficult or getting down on yourself. All of us are similar; anyone who has practiced Dharma for a while has gone through what you’re experiencing and has come out the other end. Be patient with yourself.

Don’t get lost in the trappings. Dharma is about transforming our minds. Tibetan Buddhism has many fascinating external things—high thrones, deep chanting, colorful brocade, and pujas—but these are only aids. Real practice is about working with our mind.

There’s no rush to find a teacher. Buddhist scriptures instruct us to check out someone’s qualities before taking them as our teacher. In the meantime, continue attending Dharma class and practice what you learn. Go slowly: take refuge and precepts and form a teacher-student relationship when you’re ready. Sometimes an emotional feeling may suddenly surge up to do this, but it’s wiser to wait a while until your understanding is stable.

Cultivate friendships with people who are also practicing the Dharma. In this way, you encourage each other to learn and practice. One way to meet people is to volunteer at the Dharma center. Start with a small job, and remember that your Dharma practice is most important, so don’t take on more volunteer work than you can handle.

We get out what we put into the Dharma. We’re responsible for our own spiritual practice. No one is going to spoon-feed us. Our teachers and the Three Jewels are there to guide, teach, and inspire us, but we have to do the work of transforming our minds. As we do, we become wiser, calmer, more compassionate, and clearer, and our sense of well-being increases.

This article is available in Italian: Consigli per chi si avvicina al Dharma

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