Buddhism in Daily Life | Thubten Chodron http://thubtenchodron.org The Thubten Chodron Teaching Archive Mon, 20 Feb 2017 20:25:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Transforming adversity into joy and courage http://thubtenchodron.org/2016/10/changing-ourselves/ Mon, 31 Oct 2016 18:50:26 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=75117

Question: How can we transform adversity into joy and courage, so that we don’t get overwhelmed by situations and become unhappy?

Venerable Thubten Chodron: We frequently encounter adversity in cyclic existence. When our mind is filled with afflictions, adversities come quite easily. When the mind isn’t filled with afflictions, we can be peaceful and open even when we face difficult situations. How we interpret the situation influences how we will experience it. That’s why it is so important to transform our mind.

Young woman with palms together.

The only person we can possibly change is ourselves. (Photo by Nrico)

But when we have problems, do we think of transforming our mind? Usually, we think that the situation is unfair, that others are wrong for treating us badly, and that they should change. When we blame others, we are essentially giving our power to them because we’re thinking, “My problem and my unhappiness is the fault of that person. They have to change and then I’ll be happy.” Looking at the situation this way is a dead-end because we can’t make them change. The only person we can possibly change is ourselves. Instead of either feeling sorry for ourselves or stewing in our anger, we need to change how we are viewing the situation.

For instance, my teacher Lama Yeshe told us how much he learned by being forced to flee Tibet and become a refugee. Had he remained in Tibet, he said, he would never have deeply understood the Dharma even though he had been studying it for years at Sera Monastery in Lhasa. Only when he became a refugee did he start putting the teachings into practice, and this caused his whole life to change. He began to see the internal power he had to deal with the situation. By seeing that his having to leave everything behind and go to a new country where he didn’t know anyone was a result of his karma—the actions he had done previously—he didn’t get angry at the Communist Chinese who occupied Tibet. He had more energy to do purification practices and his renunciation of cyclic existence grew. As he saw the suffering of the Tibetan refugees around him as well as the suffering of the soldiers occupying Tibet, his compassion for all sentient beings expanded.

That transformation would not have happened had he not become a refugee. I remember Lama putting his palms together and saying how much he appreciated the people who caused his difficulties. This made a strong impression on me because he was not angry at all and genuinely appreciated the people whose actions brought him problems.

So when you think of someone who makes your life difficult, put the Dharma you have learned into practice and transform your mental state. When you do, you’ll grow in the Dharma and will have increased confidence and courage to face difficulties. Your mind will be joyful. You may even be able to say “thank you” to him for giving you the opportunity to change and grow. If we want to attain Dharma realizations, we need to practice patience and master fortitude. Developing such qualities requires people who challenge us. So we have to appreciate and thank them.

There are several ways we can look at an adverse situation in order to transform it into joy and courage. If we firmly believe and understand karma—that our actions produce the corresponding results we experience—we will know that if we criticize others, inevitably others will criticize us. We created the cause for it with our anger, our judgmental, critical mind, and our tendency to blame others. Once we acknowledge that we create our own misery and whatever we experience is due to our having done something similar to someone in this or previous lives, it becomes easy to begin practicing the Dharma and transforming adversity into the path.

By harming others in the past, we indirectly harm ourselves. This doesn’t mean we deserve to suffer; we’re simply experiencing the results of our own actions. By treating others with kindness and compassion, we create the causes for our own future happiness. Understanding this, we will be more conscientious and mindful of our actions, bringing more peace in our life and influencing others in a positive way.

The heart connection between monastics and laypeople http://thubtenchodron.org/2016/06/mutual-benefit-community/ Tue, 07 Jun 2016 16:56:46 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=71798

  • Verses for laypeople who offer food to nourish the sangha
  • Verses for the sangha who in turn nourishes the laypeople with teachings

YouTube Video

I wanted to make one more comment about yesterday’s talk, when I was talking about going on pindapata as the monastics did at the time of the Buddha. Pindapata, or alms round, was what all the ascetics did at the time of the Buddha. There were many different ascetic groups and they all tried to live a simple lifestyle, be renunciants, and so they would go in the village during the day and people would make offerings to them of food. The Buddha, of course, being a wandering renunciant set up the sangha in the same way.

It has a special meaning. The meaning we can duplicate here, as I was talking about yesterday, going on pindapata doesn’t work so well in the US. Although, maybe we can get a parade permit and then go do it like our friends at Shasta Abbey. But what it does is it sets up this relationship of dependency between the sangha and the lay community. The lay community would give food, and the sangha would give teachings. Sometimes the sangha would just wander, go to the village and collect alms, go back to the monastery and eat. Sometimes lay supporters would bring prepared food to the monastery.

The monasteries didn’t really appear until much later. Aside from the three months of varsa, they didn’t really have settled monasteries until after the Buddha’s passing. But during varsa they certainly brought food to the monasteries.They offered food in the towns. And then some people would invite the entire sangha or a certain number of sangha members to come to their home and offer a meal that way. Whenever that happened, then after the meal that sangha would give a teaching. It was this beautiful kind of interchange of the economy of generosity, with the offering of the food and the offering of the Dharma, so that everybody in the situation benefits.

We try to duplicate that in a more modern context here at the Abbey. The lay community around us brings food to the Abbey. When people come for retreats then they bring food and it’s shared with everybody at the retreat. Then since we don’t have retreats and courses all the time, then there’s a group of very dedicated volunteers in Spokane and Coeur d’Allene and everywhere in between that calls us once a week, or so, and says, “What do you need?” Then when people request us and ask, “What do you need?” then we tell them. We never call them and say, “Please get us this and this.” So we don’t ask for it ourselves. But only reply to requests. And we tell them. And then they do the shopping and come and offer the food. And so we’ve made a Dharma practice out of this to really remind ourselves of the interdependent nature, so that everybody in the situation can create great merit through the offering.

Yesterday Tracy, one of our supporters in Spokane, asked me to talk about this and the different verses.

Originally we started it so that when people came and offered food they would recite a verse of offering and the sangha would recite a verse in response, and I composed these. Then the lay people requested, “Well, we want to make sure our mind is a Dharma mind when we go shopping for the groceries to start with, so please write something for that situation.” So then another verse was written. I’ll read these to you and just explain a little bit.

Here’s what the people do before they go shopping for the groceries when they’ve asked us what we need and we’ve responded, and then they go shopping. I should note, before saying this, is that this was the idea of the local supporters, and then what happened is other people and guests from far away said “we want to offer food too, but we don’t live near you.” So some people send us food. But then also because the packaging and the food itself is quite heavy, and it may get ruined in transport, then all the supporters set up this system whereby the people who live far away can offer money for food, the supporters take that money, purchase the food, and then bring it up here and offer it on behalf of the people some of whom live in other countries, other parts of the US. It’s really rather amazing. And especially considering when we started this at the very beginning I said the Abbey we weren’t going to buy any food, and people said, “You’re going to starve! You’re not going to survive. People are not going to go along with this.” And that hasn’t happened.

Here’s the verse that the donors recite, maybe in their car before they go into the market. It says:

Offering food sustains the lives of others. I delight in providing physical nourishment to the sangha knowing that their practice and the teachings they give as a result of it will nourish my heart and the hearts of many others. I will have a calm heart and mind while mindfully selecting appropriate items to offer, and will have a deep sense of satisfaction knowing that the sangha appreciates this offering. We have a heart connection, and together we will create peace in a chaotic world.

Then they purchase the food, bring it up here, and then when they get here we have a big alms bowl from Thailand, we take a portion of the food and put it in the alms bowl on a table, and then this is the verse that the people who are offering the food recite. And sometimes people will choke (up) when they’re offering this. They’re holding back tears:

With a mind that takes delight in giving I offer these requisites to the sangha and the community. Through my offering may they have the food they need to sustain their Dharma practice. They are genuine Dharma friends who encourage, support, and inspire me along the path. May they become realized practitioners and skilled teachers who will guide us on the path. I rejoice at creating great positive potential by offering to those intent on virtue, and dedicate this for the awakening of all sentient beings. Through my generosity may we all have conducive circumstances to develop heartfelt love, compassion, and altruism for each other, and to realize the ultimate nature of reality.

It’s really emphasizing that we’re all in this boat together and we help each other, and that people are making a food offering out of a mind of real altruism and generosity without holding back, and that they see the value of the sangha community in preserving and spreading the teachings.

After they say that, then the sangha community who’s gathered also recites a verse, and we recite,

Your generosity is inspiring and we are humbled by your faith in the Three Jewels. We will endeavor to keep our precepts as best as we can, to live simply, to cultivate equanimity, love, compassion, and joy, and to realize the ultimate nature so that we can repay your kindness in sustaining our lives. Although we are not perfect we will do our best to be worthy of your offering. Together we will create peace in a chaotic world.

Again, emphasizing how we’re working together to create peace in a very chaotic world. And this verse that the sangha recites is reminding ourselves that we’re eating due to the kindness of other people, and that therefore we should hold our precepts as best as we can. We should study, and practice, and meditate, and then share the Dharma with others so that we can repay their kindness, because without their kindness our lives would not be sustained.

And then a reminder to the lay people that we are not perfect, because sometimes people say, “Oh, you’re wearing robes? You’re perfect. You never make mistakes.” No, we’re not, but we’re trying and we’re very committed to working on our minds.

So that’s how the whole thing of offering and receiving the offering of food works at the Abbey. We’ve been doing this since 2003, or perhaps it was 2004 that we started. The system has been in place since ’03. It was quite remarkable when we first moved in. I had driven up from Boise with somebody and we walked into the house, and people had cleaned the house, there were towels in the bathroom, there was food in the kitchen; it was really quite amazing to walk in and find all this hospitality. So, we’re very grateful, and thank you.

Buddhist precepts regarding food http://thubtenchodron.org/2016/06/fasting-practices/ Mon, 06 Jun 2016 16:56:45 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=71797

  • The Buddhist perspective on fasting
  • How practitioners keep Buddhist precepts related to food

YouTube Video

This time I’d like to talk a little bit about precepts regarding food and about fasting.

About fasting. The Buddha did not advocate any kind of really harsh ascetic practices, he was completely against those. He had tried them himself when he spent six years meditating with his five companions on the other side of the river from Bodh Gaya and he got so thin that when he touched his belly button he could feel his spine. So of course, when the body is basically emaciated and starving, it’s going to affect the clarity of the mind as well, so the Buddha didn’t advocate any kind of extreme austerity like that.

Of course, Buddhists themselves may decide, let’s say, to go on a juice fast or whatever, but that’s something aside from Buddhist practice. If they do decide to do that then they need to really check up on how it’s affecting their mind, and as Lama Yeshe used to say, not go on some kind of ascetic trip.

The kind of asceticism that the Buddha did advocate would be, for example, we (the monastics and the anagarikas) have a precept not to eat after midday and before dawn of the next day. This precept has several reasons behind it. Some traditions follow that precept quite literally and other ones don’t.

Living on alms

The reasons behind it were, first, because at that time the sangha was mendicant, so people would go in the towns with their alms bowl. They did not beg. Begging means you ask for food. They did not beg. They gathered alms. Alms means that they walk with their bowl, they stood there, if people wanted to give something, fine, if people didn’t they went on to the next house. But they did not beg for food. So it isn’t a “begging bowl,” it’s an alms bowl. There’s a difference. Language means a lot here.

Because they were dependent on alms they had to be considerate of the needs of the lay people. If they went on alms morning, noon, and night they would be on alms quite a bit of time during the day and would hardly be able to meditate because you have to go into the village, collect your alms, go back, eat them, and by that time it’s probably almost time to walk in and collect some more for lunch, and walk back and eat… So it takes some time for the monastics.

Then second, it’s not very considerate for the lay people because those who do want to offer alms would be cooking all day. So many of our precepts are made because lay people said, “Look, this isn’t very convenient for us.” And they objected to different things, and so the Buddha made a precept about that.

Third is that if you eat a heavy meal in the evening often your mind is quite dull, it makes you groggy and sleepy. So because we want to have an alert mind for meditation we don’t want to eat a heavy meal in the evening.

Also, another reason, is that before the Buddha made this precept there were monastics who would walk into town and, because it’s dark, they couldn’t see where they were going so they would fall into cesspools, they would step into people’s ka-ka, or the animal’s ka-ka. So it was unpleasant for them. And also then when they arrived at the door of the lay person, some of the people thought they were ghosts because it was dark outside and here’s this strange figure of somebody they don’t know appearing out of nowhere, maybe sometimes smelling like feces because they stepped in it on the way into town, and it would frighten the lay people.

These are the kinds of reasons behind the precept not to eat after midday and before dawn of the next day.

Culture and geography

In India that worked well. The food had a lot of substance. Also at that time the Buddha did not prohibit eating meat. Some people have bodies that need meat and so that was available to them.

And also, in terms of the time of the clock, India is almost on the equator, so after noon and then before dawn is not so long. If you do that in Sweden in the summer it’s going to be difficult, you’re going to be really hungry by the end. So I think when Buddhism goes to different cultures, different climates, different living situations, different expectations of the lay people, then these things happen to be modified.

For example, when Buddhism went to China, because it was a Mahayana tradition they were vegetarian, and so they felt that it was healthier (to keep their body healthy) to have three meals a day, so the evening meal was called “medicine meal.” In the Chinese tradition they don’t actually offer the food then, they see it as medicine. Actually, we should see our food as medicine all the time, no matter when we’re eating it. But they particularly call it medicine meal so that we remember that we’re eating it like medicine to sustain our bodies and our health so that we can practice.

Also in China what happened is a lot of the monastics moved out of the city. They didn’t want to stay in the towns and cities because there were always things going on with the government and the bureaucracy, and then they wound up getting involved in playing politics, and instead, especially practitioners from the Chan tradition, went to the mountains to meditate, and so they had to grow their own food, which is another thing that we’re not allowed to do because in ancient India they lay people were mostly farmers and again, if you’re a farmer you spend your whole day farming, there’s no time to meditate. But in the Zen (Chan) tradition when they moved into the mountains they had to grow their own food because it was too far for them to walk into the city or for the lay people to come to the monastery and offer food.

Buddhism in Tibet: there aren’t a lot of fruits and vegetables, there was mostly meat and dairy and tsampa (ground barley flour). So they had the habit of eating meat. When they came to India, His Holiness and some others are working very hard to diminish the amount of meat. And now in the monasteries they don’t eat meat in the group functions in the monasteries. In fact, His Holiness has said in Dharma Centers in the West, also, when you’re having a group function we should not serve meat. In the Abbey’s case we never eat meat at any time, so it’s clear. But I’m just explaining these things for others.

His Holiness is also trying to get people to eat more fruits and vegetables, but as we all know, eating habits die hard. So, trying, trying.

Not eating after midday

Regarding the precept about not eating after midday and before dawn of the next day there are some exceptions in the Tibetan version of the vinaya, the Mulasarvativadin version that they follow. One is if you’re ill then it’s permissible to eat in the evening. By implication, if you need to eat in order to keep good health so that you can practice, that’s possible. If you’re traveling and you’re not at a place where you can go on alms round before midday then it’s permissible to eat afterwards. If you’re caught in a storm and you’re soaking wet. They didn’t have snow there. But if you’re wet. So if there was inclement weather then you could also eat in the evening. Nowadays, because we have monasteries, we have to do physical work to do the upkeep on the buildings and the grounds. In ancient times mostly they were mendicants, and the only time they were sedentary during the Buddha’s life was during the varsa, for those three months, at which time usually there was a sponsor who offered the residence and who offered the food because the monastics didn’t go in to do pindapata (the alms round) in the summer because it involved walking and the purpose of the retreat was to not walk so much because there were so many insects on the ground. So there was usually one or more benefactors who supplied the sangha of that area with their food during that time.

Nowadays in America most of us don’t go on pindapata. I think I told you before that some of our friends at Shasta Abbey did, and at Abayaghiri did and they had to get a parade permit from the city council because it was people walking in a row. And then sometimes, people don’t know what in the world you’re doing. I went one time with Reverend Meiko and her monastics on pindapata, and we weren’t gathering food just for that day but just gathering supplies. They sent out a notice beforehand so the businesses would know what was going on. In the Zen tradition (or Chan tradition) they ring a bell so that people knew they were coming. And so people came out, a few with cooked food, but mostly with supplies. And then there was a string of lay followers behind us who, when our bowls (we carried the big bowls) would get too full they would take them and take them back to the priory or the monastery. It’s a nice tradition to do and to keep. Nowadays it needs some planning. Our Theravada friends when they go into town they usually tell their supporters beforehand and so their supporters are all lined up ready to give. If you did it really like they did in ancient India you wouldn’t have a bell, you wouldn’t tell your supporters beforehand, you would just walk in town. But if we did that here probably we would be quite hungry, and people may complain about the sangha. Also in China when they tried to go on pindapata in town people complained. They mistook them for beggars and said “we don’t want beggars here.” That could easily happen in our country, too.

Keeping the precepts

It’s up to each individual to decide how they keep the precepts about eating. I think it’s good, when you first take them, to be quite strict about it and not eat in the afternoon for as long as you can. And if at some point you have health difficulties then explain it to the Buddha, you have a little conversation with the Buddha in your meditation, request his permission to eat, and then eat mindfully and seeing the food as medicine. But if you can keep it then it’s very good. I did for the first five years of my ordination and then there began to be a lot of difficulties that occurred so I asked my teachers about it and they said to eat.

Another thing about food is when we’re eating, the monastics are supposed to stay focused on our bowl. There are a lot of etiquette precepts in our pratimoksha. You don’t chew with your mouth open, you don’t smack your lips, you don’t look around the room at what everybody else is doing, you don’t look in other people’s bowls and, “Oh, they got more than I did. Ohh, look what they did, look what they did.” You pay attention to your own bowl, not to other people’s bowls. You wash your own bowl afterwards. You treat your bowl respectfully. You don’t handle your bowl with dirty hands. Things like this.

Nyung ne

[In response to audience] Yes, they’re about to start Ramadan. The one fasting practice we do have is nyung ne. It involves the eight precepts. The eight precepts can be taken as a pratimoksha ordination for one day or they can be taken as a Mahayana ordination for one day. We do it as a Mahayana ordination. If you’re a monastic you’re not allowed just to take the pratimoksha one-day precepts because it’s a lower ordination and you already have a higher one. But to take the Mahayana precepts, that’s permissible. When you take the Mahayana precepts, actually the precept is similar here, you don’t eat after noon and before the next day. That’s the way the precept is. My teacher Zopa Rinpoche always did it where you eat one meal a day, so you eat at lunch time and you finish your meal before midday.

When you do nyung ne then you follow that practice for the first day, and you have your one meal–unless you’re doing consecutive nyung nes, in which case then you have breakfast and lunch on the eating days. You have beverages that are strained at the other time. You don’t have just a glass of milk, something that’s really rich. Or something with a lot of protein powder or yogurt or something like that. It has to be mixed with water. No fruit juice with pulp in it. Although it was very interesting when I was in Thailand they drank fruit juice with pulp. And some of them eat cheese, and candied ginger, and chocolate. They have their own way of saying what’s allowable and what’s not allowable, which I won’t go into.

But then on the second day of the nyung ne you don’t eat or drink or speak, and so that’s for the entire day. And then you break that fast the morning of the third day.

Some people may say, “Well isn’t that a bit extreme? I mean, my mother would be horrified if you went a whole day without eating and drinking, that just is not done in my culture….” But this kind of…. When you do the nyung ne, it’s done for a particular reason, and it really strengthens your spiritual practice because it turns your mind to refuge and to the meditation on Chenrezig. It’s not extreme because it’s just one day that you’re not eating and drinking, and we can manage quite well without that. And it gives us a chance to think of what it’s like for people who don’t have the choice, like we do, and aren’t doing it for a virtuous purpose, but nevertheless cannot eat and drink during one day because there’s no food or drink present.

Questions and answers

[In response to audience] If you’re keeping the precept quite strictly, which it’s good to do…. You definitely have to work with your mind, because then you start really investigating what is hunger and what is habit. And what is physical habit and what is mental/emotional habit. This thing of, like you say, “I feel deprived.” That’s kind of an emotional thing. And it especially arises, like, “Oh, they put out something really good in the afternoon for the others to eat, and I’m not eating in the afternoon, and it was all gone by the time the morning came, and I didn’t get any.” Yes? So then we’re whiny three-year-olds, and we have to remember, well, why are we keeping this precept? We’re keeping it because it was set down by the Buddha, it’s for a reason, we’re accepting that if something’s put out later that we don’t get it, and you know, we will really live. Because anyway, even if we eat three meals, I’ve noticed certain things come in and I’ve never gotten any of them. I don’t know when they’ve been put out, but it hasn’t been when my big eyes and big mouth have been around. [laughter] So we accept that. That’s just the way things are.

Many of us grew up in families, the oldest child always knows, where you have to divide everything exactly, otherwise your younger siblings complain that you did it unfairly and you got more of the good stuff and they got more of the bad stuff. But we have to grow beyond that mind, don’t we? We have to get over that. And it’s just, whatever people offer, whatever is there, we eat. Sometimes they put too much salt in, we can dilute it with water. Sometimes they don’t put enough salt to our taste, tough luck. Take it as your practice. Or you go over there and (add) lots of soy sauce, lots of Bragg’s, lots of salt, lot’s of this…. And then you get high blood pressure. Congratulations. [laughter] So I think we try and eat in a healthy way. And really look at our mind.

[In response to audience] Also the monastic precepts allow for breakfast and lunch. When you do the eight Mahayana precepts, when we do them for one day, then everybody just eats one meal a day. But for example when people come for retreat, if they do the eight Mahayana precepts for a period of days, then I tell them it’s fine to eat breakfast and lunch, because it’s allowed within that precept.

Working with attachment to food http://thubtenchodron.org/2016/06/balance-eating-contemplation/ Thu, 02 Jun 2016 18:09:38 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=71616

  • Methods to work with the attachment to food
  • Considering the causes and the results of the food that we eat
  • Offering the food is a method to curb the attachment
  • Mindfulness while eating

YouTube Video

We’ll continue with the discussion of food and eating and how to work with attachment when we’re eating.

One way they recommend, which works extremely well…. We eat the food and we chew it. When it’s on the plate it looks so delicious and we have so much attachment. Then we chew it. If we spit out the food we chewed would we eat that? It looks kind of disgusting, doesn’t it? But it’s interesting because one minute it’s beautiful on the plate, then thirty seconds later in our mouth, if we spit it out it would look disgusting and we wouldn’t eat it.

If we think about what the food looks like going down our digestive system, and what it looks like when it comes out the other end, then certainly we wouldn’t have very much attachment for it, would we? So, if we’re having a lot of attachment for food it’s very good to remember that the food is not inherently existent food.

First of all, its causes. It came from the dirt. We certainly wouldn’t go outside and go in the garden and eat some dirt. Yet that’s where the vegetables came from, the fruit came from. Then of course after we eat it it doesn’t look very beautiful. It’s kind of strange, isn’t it, that you have the causes of the food and the results of the food, both of which we would not eat and are not very appetizing, but somehow in the middle we think that the result of the cause and the cause of the result somehow has its own inherent deliciousness in it. Isn’t that peculiar? It’s very strange how we living beings think. It really doesn’t make much sense when you think about it. So that’s a very good way to reduce our attachment to food.

Of course, sitting down and doing the meditation that we do when we offer it also reduces the attachment to it because we give it away. We’ve offered it to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, so it’s certainly not very becoming, nor appropriate, to be attached to what belongs to the Buddha. That wouldn’t create very good karma, would it? It would be like offering something on the altar and sitting and salivating over it, “Buddha, please give this to me.” We offered it, it no longer belongs to us. Why are we getting attached to it? That’s another antidote that’s helpful to reduce the attachment to food.

Like I said before, attachment to food…. Sometimes when you’re new to the Dharma it seems like, oh, that’s your worst attachment. What they say is attachment to food is nothing compared to attachment to sex, attachment to reputation, attachment to love and praise and approval.

Once I was at one of our Western Buddhist Monastic gatherings. We were talking about training our mind and how we train our mind and the difficulties. There was one Theravada monk who was explaining how he was living in Thailand and the people offer these beautiful meals to the monks in Thailand, and he just loved mangoes. Mango would be offered every day and he would just see this amazing attachment to the mango come up. He talked about how much he had to work with his mind to deal with the attachment to the mango, and calm his mind, and so on and so on.

Then I was the next one who spoke and I said, “You know, for me, if working on my attachment to a mango was the biggest thing I had to do in my early years of training, that would have been a breeze. Instead, my teacher sent me to be the disciplinarian of the macho Italian monks.” And then I talked about my experience working with them. It’s very clear, attachment to food would be nothing than working with attachment to… You know, you want praise and approval, not blame for things you didn’t do. And not people writing your teacher and telling him that you’re the worst thing that ever happened to the Dharma center, simply because you wanted people to go to puja instead of work.

Anyway, what I’m saying is don’t get too wigged out about your attachment to food and go into crisis about it and say, “Ahhh, I’m so attached to food this is….” Work with the attachment and the anger that causes the most difficulties in your life. And also gently work on your attachment to food. I say this because I’ve seen too many people go into some kind of thing about, “I can’t eat because there’s so much attachment.” That’s just not very healthy at all.


I wanted to talk a little bit about mindfulness while eating. It’s quite interesting. I used to teach at Cloud Mountain Retreat Center, as many of you know, and they host retreats by Zen people, by the Theravada people, and also by the Tibetan tradition people. My friends there would tell me that you could tell which tradition retreat it was by the way that people ate. The Zen people would walk in, sit down, do their prayers chanting, and then eat, and the food would be gone in five minutes. Gone, finished, nothing. Chant the end of the thing, and leave. The vipassana people, Theravada people would come in, walking extremely slowly, lifting, pushing, placing. Finally they would get to their chair and sit down. Then they would pick up the fork up extremely slowly, with the food on it, and put it in their mouth, and then…. (chew slowly). And the meal would last 45 minutes to an hour. Mostly an hour, because they were mindful of the taste of every bite, everything. The Tibetans would walk in, normal pace, do their prayers, sit down, eat, finish, everything normal, and leave.

Here you see, within this, how different traditions have different practices to help us deal with the attachment. The Zen people eat very quickly because when you eat quickly there’s no time to be attached to it because everybody has to finish at the same time and you cannot be the last one. So you shovel it in. The Theravada people you eat very slowly. This is the insight people. My Theravada monastic friends don’t usually eat like this. But the insight people. Very slowly, chew, to be extremely mindful of each, the taste, and the movement and all. And when you do that, really, you want to swallow already because the feeling of this food in your mouth for so long is blah. Can I swallow it and drink something? You really lose the attachment. And also, you realize that when you sat down you had this whole mind that thought you knew how it was going to taste, and when you actually eat it it doesn’t really taste much like you thought. Maybe the first bite does, but really, as you chew it and you feel this goo in your mouth over time, and the same taste, it’s like, this isn’t how I thought the chocolate cake was going to taste. Or the spaghetti. Whatever it was. It’s quite interesting to see these different ways of working with the mind when we eat.

Both of these ways work, eating very quickly, eating very slowly. I think eating normally also works. Personally speaking, I think our motivation for eating is really the key thing, and much more important than necessarily being aware of the movement of the jaw as you eat (each bite, as you chew, each mastication). That word is enough to turn you off. It’s helpful to pay attention to this and to decrease the attachment, but to really come back to the visualization we’re doing, offering the Buddha food and the buddhas sending out light throughout our body. That’s another way to not have attachment to it, because we’re offering it, it doesn’t belong to us. So you eat normal speed and like that.

There are many different ways to eat mindfully. Mindfully doesn’t have to be slow. And I think mindful of our motivation when we eat is quite important. The five contemplations really are talking about mindfulness when we’re eating.

In the Chinese tradition when they do the five contemplations, you don’t just recite them at the beginning and then forget them, but while you’re eating you’re actually mindful of those. You’re mindful of the causes and conditions and the kindness of others by which we receive the food. We’re mindful of the food as medicine. We remember that our purpose in life is generating bodhicitta and attaining full awakening, so we have the resolve to eat with that kind of intention. Those five mindfulnesses, too, are another way to eat mindfully.

I’m saying this because the word “mindful” is so commonly used now that hardly anybody knows what it means anymore. We could call those, instead of the five contemplations, the five mindfulnesses before eating.

Dedicating for the benefit of all http://thubtenchodron.org/2016/05/dedications-for-others/ Tue, 31 May 2016 18:08:16 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=71615

  • Completetion of the commentary on the verses after lunch
  • All the beings whom we make dedications for

YouTube Video

We’re still talking about the prayer dedicating the merit specifically for the people who offer the meal, and in general for all the sentient beings who have offered to us and help us stay alive. We’ve been going through the prayer, here’s the next installment of the verse. This verse says,

By the merit of this generosity, may the naga kings, gods having faith in the Dharma, leaders who support religious freedom, benefactors, and others living in the area live long, enjoy good health and prosperity, and attain lasting happiness.

“By the merit of this generosity,” this is referring to the generosity of the people who offered us food or whatever requisites. We’re dedicating, again, how their merit can ripen and how they can be benefited by all of this.

“May the naga kings….” (We’ll go through each one of these individually.) Nagas are a kind of sentient being. I think they’re in the animal realm. They’re very intelligent. They have a snake-like body. And they tend to live in water or near water or swamps or places like this. Not everybody can see them. They’re very tidy, very clean, and you want to have a good relationship with them. When we have Nagarjuna, he’s so called because he went to the land of the nagas to redeem the perfection of wisdom sutras, so the story goes. There may be nagas on the property or nearby.

I’m not somebody who always believes in these kinds of things, but, I remember one time I was doing a retreat at one retreat center and the bathroom was quite far away from where my cabin was. So I thought, “Oh, here’s a tree (it was the middle of the night) I’ll just pee there.” I peed there and the next day I had some swollen gland, something was really swollen. And this is what they say happens if you dirty a place where there are nagas and you displease the nagas. And I went, oh, hmm, interesting. Because there was no reason for me to get that. So I kind of mentally apologized to the naga, I did the mantra of the buddha who’s the king with power over the nagas and apologized to them, and the lump went away. Go figure. But it taught me a lesson not to just pee anywhere because it’s convenient because it may be someplace where the nagas are living.

“Gods having faith in the Dharma.” These are other living beings who live in the celestial realms. Particularly here, the desire realm gods. It can also include the form realm gods because they can hear the teachings of the Buddha. But the desire realm gods who often live around the property and so on, they like to often listen to the teachings of the Buddha. There’s one prayer that you do when you’re about to give teachings in which you invite all the gods to come and listen.

My Theravada friends say…. Because you notice sometimes when you take photographs, especially around here, you have these little white dots. They say that those are different gods who have come to the teachings or come to the area. Again, I’m not a big one on believing these kinds of things but if you’ve worked in our forest for any period of time, or walked through our forest, there’s some very special energy in our forest. It’s not just any forest. I think that’s because there are these gods–other living beings–who are sharing the space with us. When we moved here we told them what we were doing, asked them “please live peacefully.” Before we broke ground for this building (Chenrezig Hall) do you remember? We did offerings to some of the spirits who live on the place, to some of the different gods and different beings. They say that’s something good to do, rather than thinking we’re human beings we rule it all and everybody else just has to go along. You kind of take care of any other living beings, whether they’re animals or whether we can see them or not.

You’ve probably noticed when you watch our kitties, they see things that we don’t see. I’m quite curious about what they see sometimes. But all of a sudden they’ll go like this [look up quickly] as if tracking somebody who’s moving through space. Who knows?

“The leaders who support religious freedom.” That part isn’t an exact translation of the prayer. In the prayer it’s said “the king.” But we don’t have kings. So when I thought to update it, and I thought “government officials.” But I thought especially government officials who support religious freedom, because that’s something incredibly important for us living in a multi-cultural society is that we have freedom of religion to do our practices and so on, that don’t disturb anybody else, but without government surveillance or government comment. So I thought it’s really important to dedicate for the welfare of all those people who believe in religious freedom and religious diversity. Because there are so many countries in the world where you’re not allowed to have diverse religions. It’s illegal. Or where you’re persecuted for your religion. So I think rather than just say “the king” we say “leaders who support religious freedom.”

“Benefactors.” That means all the people who help the Abbey with whatever. We have people who give to us monetarily, people who come and work at the Abbey. We really need the volunteers who come and work because as you see we have nearly 300 acres of land and a few buildings to take care of. And then even people who, they’ve never even visited the Abbey but they make prayers for us, they make donations, they really support what we’re doing and they’re happy in their hearts when they hear about what we’re doing. So we dedicate for all those people.

“Others living in the area.” For our neighbors. This one is very interesting because we live in a very conservative part of the country. We’re 45 minutes away from where that Aryan Nation used to be. And yet we participate in our community. We’re on the board of the Youth Emergency Services for Pend Oreille County. When they did a walk against child abuse we went in and we participated in the walk. We try and join in things where we can join in. And we’ve had a really wonderful relationship with people in our community even though we may have very different political ideas. But on a human level, when it comes to kindness and consideration and so on we’ve had a very good relationship with these people, and so I think it’s suitable, and proper, and respectful that we also dedicate for their welfare. Because again we share the area with them, it’s not like we can say “this is ours.” No. We share the town, we share the air, we share everything with them, and so to dedicate for their benefit.

I don’t have in my mind a specific border. “I’ll only dedicate for you up to here, but not past.” But you just think the broad area.

“Others living in the area, may they have good health.” That’s something everybody wants. May they be free of illnesses and injuries. “May they live long.” Long lives, again. Implicit with wishing somebody to have a long life is to have a long life where you can create virtue. Having a long life if you don’t create virtue isn’t really worth very much. So when we wish people long lives, in our mind we’re also thinking a long life to create virtue.

“Good health. Prosperity.” Especially material prosperity is important to people who we share the land with and share the country with. May they be materially prosperous. May they have mental satisfaction. Because nobody ever has as much material wealth as they would like. But may they have mental satisfaction, may they feel content with their lives and good about their lives.

And “may they attain lasting happiness.” That’s the happiness of full awakening. Implicit in this is may we benefit them, in return for their kindness, may we benefit them as much as we can in this life. And then in future lives, by the power of our practice that we’ve done in this life, which we’re able to do because of their kindness and their support, may we in future lives meet them and be able to also lead them on the path and teach them the Dharma. It’s creating a karmic link with these people, whether we’re bodhisattvas or not, to be able to create this link so that as we progress through the paths and stages we’re able to benefit more and more people, and we have this karmic connection with them and they’ll come. Because if we don’t dedicate for the benefit of people we may gain a lot of different realizations but nobody’s interested in hearing teachings from us, because we never, from our side, made a karmic connection with them. That’s why they say that even bodhisattvas, if you harm a bodhisattva they still dedicate for you and they dedicate to be able to teach you the Dharma and benefit you in future lives.

Due to this virtue, may all beings complete the collections of merit and wisdom. May they attain the two Buddha bodies resulting from merit and wisdom.

This is a verse from Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland, one of his dedication verses. It’s a very, very famous verse. You hear it a lot when we dedicate the merit. What it’s talking about is there are parallels between the basis, the path, and the result. There are parallels on the method aspect and parallels on the wisdom aspect. If you’re making a chart, and on the chart on the basis you have the two truths (conventional truth and ultimate truth). Then the path: under conventional truth you have the method aspect of the path (which is renunciation and bodhicitta), under the wisdom aspect you have the wisdom realizing emptiness. Those two practices create merit and create wisdom. Then the principal results (not the sole results but the principal results) of these: from practicing method (all the virtuous deeds based on renunciation and bodhicitta) then we attain the form body of the Buddha. That could be either the emanation body (which is the form the Buddha appears in to communicate with us very gross beings), or the enjoyment body (the form a buddha appears in in the pure lands for the high level bodhisattvas). Then from the ultimate truth, practicing to gain the wisdom realizing emptiness, collecting wisdom, then that leads to obtaining the truth body of a buddha. The truth bodies, again there are two. One is the wisdom truth body (which is the omniscient mind of the Buddha) and the other is the nature truth body (which is the emptiness and true cessations of a buddha’s mind).

He’s drawing all these parallels here. If you explain this verse in full you could include the whole path here. This is just a little synopsis.

“Due to this virtue,” from them making offerings, and whatever virtue we create by doing our practices that they support. “May all beings,” everybody completely. “Complete the collections of merit and wisdom” based on method and wisdom. And “May they attain the two buddha bodies” the form body and the truth body, that result from merit and wisdom respectively.

That completes the dedication verses that we do after lunch for the people. Next time we’ll continue on with another aspect about food and eating.

The emptiness of giving http://thubtenchodron.org/2016/05/dependent-generosity/ Fri, 27 May 2016 20:38:39 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=71480

  • Dedicating so that those who offer to us accumulate good qualities
  • Sealing our virtuous actions with an understanding of dependent arising
  • How the agent, object, and action are mutually dependent
  • Dedicating for the awakening of all sentient beings

YouTube Video

Somehow I didn’t manage to finish verses yesterday, I stopped in the middle.

By the merit of offering drink, may their afflictions, hunger, and thirst be pacified.

I explained that already.

May they possess good qualities such as generosity and take a rebirth without any sickness or thirst.

Dedicating for the people who offer our food and offer our requisites, that they may have good qualities such as generosity. Generosity is one example. Ethical conduct, fortitude, the other paramitas are also good qualities. Love, compassion, tolerance, forgiveness, all these kinds of things. So dedicating for these people who, by virtue of their offering to us, may they have all these kinds of good qualities in this life and of course in future lives. And may they take a rebirth without any sickness or thirst.

Sickness could mean physical sickness, thirst can mean not having enough to drink. But sickness could also mean mental illness. It can mean being overwhelmed by afflictions. You know, when you’re sick with anger, sick with greed, so many afflictions that your mind is tormented, basically. And thirst, again, meaning craving, wanting, clinging, needing, constantly dissatisfied. So, by virtue of their generosity in fulfilling our physical needs this life may they have in their future lives physical, mental, and so on, satisfaction and fulfillment.

Next verse:

The one who gives, the one who receives, and the generous action are not to be observed as truly existent. By giving with impartiality, may the benefactors attain perfection.

This is what we were talking about last night in the teachings. When we dedicate (and this whole series of verses are dedication verses here that we do after eating) it’s said that you seal it with emptiness. “Sealing it” in the sense that you see the whole thing as empty of inherent existence. How it it empty? Because the whole process is dependent arising. What does it depend on? There’s the agent (the one who gives), there’s the object (the one who receives…. Or you could also say the food or requisites that are given.) And the generous action (the action of giving). That all of these are dependent on each other.

This is quite a meditation because when we look at a situation of generosity we usually feel like, okay, there’s the giver out there kind of doing their own thing. And there’s the recipient also independent over here. And the act of giving is some kind of nicely defined thing. And you just glue the three together like you’re taking three post-its and putting them together.

In actual fact, the giver doesn’t become the giver without the recipient and the action of giving and the gift. The recipient doesn’t become a recipient without a giver and the action and the gift. And the action doesn’t become an action (giving something) without a recipient and a gift and a giver. All these things don’t attain even their conventional existence of being what they are… Put it this way. They attain their conventional existence of being those things in mutual dependence on each other. They don’t exist as independent things that happen to collide in space. So it’s a very nice way to seal the generosity no matter what side you’re on, whether you’re the giving or receiving side. We don’t observe these things as truly existent because they depend on each other.

“By giving with impartiality, may the benefactors attain perfection.” Here “impartiality” could also be translated as “equanimity,” meaning that everything is equal in terms of being empty of inherent existence. By giving with impartiality, recognizing that the giver, the gift, the action, the recipient, that all things are equal in being empty. That’s what the “impartiality” means. “May the benefactors attain perfection.” The perfection of full awakening comes about through that realization of emptiness. We develop that realization of emptiness by applying it to everything that we do in our lives, because all the things that we do there’s always an agent, and object, and an action.

Another meaning of “impartiality,” a side meaning here, is that at the time of the Buddha when people would invite the monastics to come to their home and offer sangha-dana, offer a meal when they came. Sometimes of course they couldn’t feed the whole sangha so they would invite two, or three, or five, or ten sangha members to come. When they did that they couldn’t choose who they wanted to come. They would extend an invitation to the sangha and then according to ordination order however many people they requested would go for this invitation. If another invitation came in then the next group of people in ordination order would go. It was a practice of seeing all the monastics impartially instead of playing favorites. And seeing that they’re all equal in trying to keep their precepts and trying to practice, so not saying, “Oh, well I want the really funny monastic to come because he’s really a gas to be with and gives a great Dharma talk.” Or whatever. No, but you have a feeling of equality towards the monastics.

Here in particular it’s talking about the equality of everything in emptiness. But that’s a kind of a side meaning.

By the power of being generous, may they become Buddhas for the benefit of sentient beings, and through generosity, may all the beings who have not been liberated by previous conquerors be liberated.

By the power of the generosity of all the people who have made offerings to us may they become buddhas for the benefit of sentient beings. We’re coming back to our bodhicitta motivation, and may that be fulfilled, not only by us becoming buddhas for the benefit of sentient beings, but also by the benefactors and the donors becoming buddhas, through the power of their generosity, because they create such great merit that has been sealed by an understanding of emptiness. So may all of that merit be dedicated for full awakening of ourselves and others.

This is another example of not just dedicating for my awakening or my good qualities to develop but dedicating for the good qualities of other people to develop, for them to progress along the path and attain buddhahood. This links in with something we were talking about last night in Precious Garland.

Then, “May all the beings who have not been liberated by previous conquerors be liberated.” There have been countless beings who have attained liberation and full awakening before us, and we’re still here, because we like going to the beach and we like going mountain climbing and we were work-a-holics, and we were drinking and drugging and, you know, exalting in all of our distractions since beginningless time. So all of the beings like us, and those who are more unfortunate than us because they don’t even have a precious human life, may all these beings who have not been liberated by previous conquerors, may they attain liberation and full awakening.

You’re taking one simple action here of giving food, which is a very human action, isn’t it? If you’re religious or not religious, everybody shares food. More or less. Sometimes religious people don’t share food with people from other religions. It’s really kind of weird because religions should really unite people instead of separating them. But generally, among most human beings we share food because it’s something that we all need. So here’s a very simple action that’s done and a very simple thing that we do how many times a day do we eat, and we’re using it to create incredible merit, to generate an understanding of dependent arising and emptiness, to cultivate an awareness of the kindness of other living beings, and to make prayers and aspirations for their wellbeing, not just for this life. Because this life comes and goes very quickly. But prayers and aspirations so that they can have good rebirths where they can practice and attain the realizations and become fully awakened.

This kind of thing is a very good example of you take one small action that’s very common and it can be used as the basis for collecting merit and wisdom that’s really enormous.

The merit of offering food and drink http://thubtenchodron.org/2016/05/praying-for-good-circumstances/ Thu, 26 May 2016 14:07:08 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=71257

  • Wishing benefactors to have conducive circumstances to practice Dharma
  • How samadhi nourishes the mind and body
  • Subduing hunger and thirst and making our lives meaningful

YouTube Video

We’ll continue with the dedication verses that we say after lunch. The next one is:

By the merit of offering food, may they have a good complexion, magnificence, and strength. May they find foods having hundreds of tastes and live with the food of samadhi.

“They” meaning the benefactors of the food, the people who made offerings to us. And like I explained yesterday, not only of the food but of everything else that we have and use here.

“May they have a good complexion” means may they be attractive physically. Actually they usually say that the cause of having a good complexion or being physically attractive is practicing fortitude in this life. In other words being able to restrain ourselves from getting angry. Because when we’re angry we’re pretty ugly now, and it creates the cause for future ugliness. Practicing fortitude is a remedy for that.

“Magnificence.” May they have magnificent qualities, may they be successful in all of their virtuous projects, may they be able to benefit others.

“Strength.” Strength doesn’t mean just physical strength, although that’s certainly helpful. Physical strength, healthy body and everything. But also to have a strong mind. A strong mind is one that doesn’t crumble when there’s adversity, when there’s criticism, when we’re stressed because there’s a lot to do. It’s a mind that just can remain firm and strong and just do what has to be done without freaking out about it. Which is a lot better than how we often deal with stress, isn’t it? We often deal with stress, “Ahh, I can’t handle it, this is too much.” Then, I get into this: “I have so many things to do!” And then I spend all my time saying, “I have so many things to do!” that I don’t do anything. Whereas if I just say, “You know, the world is really not going to fall apart if these things get done in the order they need to be done in. I set the priorities. Really, Chodron, the world is not going to end if you don’t finish your list today. Or even tomorrow. The world’s still going to be here.” Remarkable, isn’t it? So I don’t need to get so stressed, I can just do what I need to do, one thing at a time, and then eventually it all happens.

It sounds so easy, why can’t we do this? Why do we go into this (panic)? Habit? But what’s behind that? What do we think we get out of it? Yes, there’s a big sense of self. “I have more to do than the rest of the planet!” When I think of what, like, the President has to do…. Then I would get stressed. Making the kind of decisions, with the karmic weight that a President makes…. No thank you. Anyway, so my piddly-dunk stuff is really rather manageable. I don’t have to worry about are we declaring war, and are millions of people going to be killed, and this kind of stuff.

“May they have a good complexion, magnificence, and strength. May they find foods having hundreds of tastes.” In the classical Indian texts apparently this was the optimum of what you could have was food with a hundred tastes. I assume that means a hundred good tastes. I don’t know if there are a hundred good tastes. Or if you get to like 97 and then you have the other three that are bad tastes. I’m assuming it’s all good tastes. But it’s hard to imagine a hundred of them, isn’t it? Anyway, the idea is that they’ve offered us food, so may they have what they need, and may it taste good, and nourish their body, nourish their mind so that their virtuous aspirations can be successful, and so that they can have a happy life.

“And live with the food of samadhi.” When we offer food on the altar it symbolizes the realization of samadhi, of deep concentration, the idea being that when you have deep concentration your mind is so focused that your body needs very little food. You are nourished, physically and mentally, by the power of the concentration. The Tibetans also have this practice called “chulen” which means “taking the essence,” in which they make pills out of different flower substances and herbal things. They recommend this only for people with very deep samadhi, not just kind of average Joe Blow. But when the real strong meditators go up and they want to be alone, so they don’t have to be disturbed by going shopping for food or disturbed by lots of people bringing them food, they can survive on these pills and water. Quite remarkable.

Samadhi apparently has this ability to nourish not only the mind but also the body. And I’ve read accounts, too, in Thailand of people, when there’s danger… When Thailand had forests in the past, now their forests are really decimated. But they used to have meditators in their big forests and some of them, when there were tigers and other wild creatures around they would use the fear they felt to motivate them to have very strong concentration, and they would go into samadhi, and somehow the wild animals would leave them alone if they were in their samadhi. Somehow the animals sensed what was going on and didn’t disturb them at all. Kind of remarkable.

The next verse:

By the merit of offering drink, may their afflictions, hunger, and thirst be pacified. May they possess good qualities such as generosity and take a rebirth without any sickness or thirst.

Here we’re offering drink. I think the next verse food, right? Here, by the people who offered us beverages and and any kind of liquid, broths, even water and who knows what. “May their afflictions be pacified.” Their ignorance, anger, attachment, conceit, jealousy, these kinds of things, laziness, may all these be pacified.

“May their hunger and thirst be pacified.” Hunger and thirst could be physical, so by offering drink then it makes sense that their physical thirst would be pacified. But often in the scriptures “hunger” and “thirst” stand for “craving,” the mind that is thirsty, that is hungry, that is craving for sense objects, for sense stimulation, to see beautiful things, to hear beautiful things, taste good foods, smell good scents, have nice kinds of tactile sensations, good reputation from hearing nice, ego-pleasing words. We’re very thirsty for external things, aren’t we? That kind of thirst drives a lot of our choices, a lot of our decisions, and most of our actions during the day. So when we’re saying “may their hunger and thirst be pacified” it doesn’t just mean may they have enough to eat and drink, but may the force of their craving be pacified and subdued.

When we’re under the influence of strong craving we have very little freedom. We may think we have a lot of freedom, because in this country if you crave things you can jump in your car and go get them right away. You can go online and order them in five seconds. We think that’s freedom. Actually, it’s not, we’re totally controlled by the power of our craving. Imagine what your life would be like if you didn’t crave different things. If whatever you had was good enough. Lama Yeshe used to always say that to us, “Good enough, dear.” If who you are is good enough you don’t need to be somebody else you aren’t. If what you have is good enough. If what you do is good enough. Then there’s real contentment, there’s not this hunger and thirst of, “I need something from outside to validate my existence, to prove that I’m a worthwhile person.

We have a lot of that, don’t we? And if we can’t do something, then we’re afraid we aren’t appreciated, we aren’t valued, people are going to throw us away, something like that, instead of having confidence that we’re a valuable person simply because we have the buddha potential and our life is meaningful no matter what the state of our body. So subduing that kind of hunger and thirst, wouldn’t that be nice?

Us praying for them is a cooperative condition, but for their hunger and thirst to be subdued they have to practice. In the same way that we have to practice for our hunger and thirst to be subdued. Other people praying for us is an extra perk, but without us creating the fundamental cause the extra added perks can’t do much. But if we create the fundamental cause the extra added perks can do a lot.

I think people also enjoy knowing that we pray for them. So all the people who make offerings to the Abbey, when we do tsog every two weeks, we read out the list of all of their names. Once a year we do a special puja for our benefactors, we read out their names. And then here for all the people who offer food and immediate things that we’re using.

Verses after meals http://thubtenchodron.org/2016/05/offering-pretas-dedication/ Wed, 25 May 2016 14:07:07 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=71256

  • Offering to the pretas
  • Mantras to purify wrongdoings
  • Dedicating especially for those who offer us food
  • Dedicating for those who have harmed us

YouTube Video

What we do after the meal is we make an offering to the hungry ghosts. In the Chinese tradition they do it before the meal. We do it after the meal. You take some of the food that you’ve eaten—usually you have rice or bread or something you can take and put in your hand and make (your hand) into a fist. Often you block it, but you don’t have to. It has to be made from the food that you’ve eaten because the hungry ghosts cannot partake of fresh food because of their karma. Their karma obscures them from seeing fresh food as something edible.

There’s a story that at the time of the Buddha there was one mother hungry ghost—the Sanskrit term is “preta”—she was killing human beings, stealing human beings and their children to feed her own children. The Buddha saw all these people disappearing, babies disappearing, and said what’s happening. The mama preta said, “Well, I have 500 children and they’re hungry and I’ve got to feed them.” And the Buddha said, “Better to be vegetarian and abandon killing, and my disciples will feed you every day so that you have food for your children and you don’t have to kill any other living beings to get it.” That’s the story behind the preta offering.

We make it every day after lunch, having it in our hands, and then when we say this mantra:

om utsita bandi ashibya soha
(to offer to the pretas)

We imagine it transforming into blissful wisdom nectar and the mantra helps the pretas to be able to see it as something edible. Then you usually throw it on the floor, you throw it in the middle of the table and you snap your fingers to call the pretas to come.

If you’ve done this inside and the pieces are all over the place, then after the meal you take them and you put them outside. Sometimes at the Abbey we’re in the habit of passing around pieces of bread that then people taste and then use, but what people should be more careful with is if you have rice, if you have bread that you’ve already been eating, save some of what you took on your plate and use that. I think that’s actually more in line than giving everybody something a little bit extra at the end.

Of course, you’re not going to do that with spaghetti sauce or with salad, that’s just going to make a mess. You do it with some kind of grain that you can hold in your hand.

Then we usually say the perfection of wisdom mantra after that….

tayata gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi soha

…before we snap our fingers, because that’s reminding us that it’s going into emptiness and then coming out as something edible for all the pretas. Then we toss it. And you can imagine all the pretas coming to get it and being satisfied because you’ve made it really huge and enormous with the ability to satisfy their hunger and thirst. You imagine that. It’s an act of generosity that we practice.

We should do it every day here at the Abbey because they say there are some pretas that turn up every day, they’re in the habit. Like we turn up every day. Food, food. The pretas come every day, “Food, food.” So we should make sure that, even on days that we’re doing nyung ne, if there’s somebody who isn’t that there’s a preta offering made so that they receive something.

Then we do:

chomdenday deshin shegpa drachompa yangdagpar tsogpay sangye rinchen okyi gyalpo may o rabtu selwa la chag tsal lo (3x)

Translation: I bow to the bhagavan, the tathagata, the arhat, the fully accomplished Buddha, victor of precious light, brightly shining fire light.

That’s a Tibetan one.

The next one:

nama samanta prabhara jaya tathagataya arhate samyaksam buddhaya namo manjushriye kumara bhutaya bodhisattvaya mahasattvaya maha karunikaya tayata om niralambha nirabhase jaya jaye lambhe mahamate daki dakenam meparishvadha soha (3x)

Translation: This is in Sanskrit. This is also to the tataghata, an arhat, a fully awakened Buddha, homage to Manjushri, to the bodhisattva, the great being, the great compassionate one, it is like this….

And then the rest of the mantra I really don’t know what it means.

The idea behind reciting these two is, if we accepted food as offerings but somehow we made mistakes in our precepts or we’re not fully fulfilling what we should be doing, reciting this helps to purify, so it’s good to imagine the Buddha at that time, and light coming into us as we recite this, and then purifying any kind of misdeeds on our part.

Then we’ll start the dedication prayer. These next set of verses (we won’t do them all today), they’re a dedication prayer from the Tibetan tradition, and we’re dedicating for all sentient beings, but specifically for the people who donated the food. So, all of you who came to the Abbey and made food offerings, all the people who send money to the people in Coeur d’Alene and Spokane who buy groceries on their behalf and bring them up here. All these people who contribute to our having food at the community and the food we share with all of you, it’s all coming from offerings, then we dedicate for the wellbeing and the spiritual progress of all of these people. Because there’s a very close relationship between somebody who’s practicing and the people who are keeping them alive so they can practice. It’s a very close relationship. So of course we want to thank those people, and the best way is to dedicate for their wellbeing.

We start out:

May all those who offered me food attain happiness of total peace.

Which means may they attain nirvana.

May all those who offered me drink [things to drink], who served me….

Who put the food out, who put our bowls on our tables or served us, sometimes you’re eating in places they put the food directly on your plate. This could include the people who transported the food and who grew it, because all of those are people who served me in some way or another. The people who clean up, who do the pots and pans and wash our bowls and plates and so on. All of those people.

…who received me,

Often the sangha eats at homes of people who have invited the sangha to come. This would be if somebody received you, asked you out for sangha dana (to offer food) at their home, at a restaurant, they’re the people who received you.

who honored me,

If you are ordained and they show respect to you because you’re ordained.

or who made offerings to me….

Anybody who offers us, like, the whole meal is offered to us, or make any kind of other offerings to us that enable us to stay alive, so I think if you’re working at a job maybe you have to dedicate for your employer who is paying you money because they’re offering you the money that you use to stay alive and that’s kindness on their part. It’s in interesting, instead of ,”I worked for this, I earned it, give it to me,” to think of, “When I came into this world I was totally broke and look at everything I have now and it’s all because people gave it to me.”

…may they attain happiness which is total peace.

May they attain nirvana. It could be the nirvana of an arhat, but better we dedicate for the non-abiding nirvana of a buddha.

May all those who scold me, make me unhappy, hit me, attack me with weapons, or do things up to the point of killing me attain the happiness of awakening. May they fully awaken to the unsurpassed, perfectly accomplished state of Buddhahood.

Here’s the more difficult one. The first verse it was everybody who’s nice to me. So of course praying for them, dedicating for them, may they all attain nirvana. But those who scold me? May they go to hell. Those who make me unhappy? May they go to an even lower hell. This is our ordinary way of thinking. But that ordinary way of thinking is not becoming for somebody who is on the receiving end of offerings. So we have to change our attitude, and especially this judgmental, critical attitude and the mind that just says, “Well, people treat me mean, I throw them in the ‘enemy’ category, throw them out the window, they’re irredeemable and I hate them forever….” We’ve got to change that attitude. You can’t be a Dharma practitioner and hang onto that attitude. You have to work with it.

And I don’t care how horribly somebody may have treated you in this life or previous lives, for our own wellbeing and benefit we have to forgive. We have to drop the anger. It’s not a matter of saying what they did is right, we can say what they did was not appropriate and it was harmful, but for our own well being we cannot go through this life and future lives hanging onto grudges and hatred, because we’re the primary person that is miserable because of it. And you’ve never heard of a buddha who wants revenge. In all the stories of the Buddha’s previous lives,, you don’t read a Jataka Tale, “When the Buddha was a bodhisattva he decided to take revenge on somebody who harmed him.” No. All the stories are about when the Buddha was a bodhisattva how he forgave and found a way to communicate with that person and overlooked what happened. So we’ve got to transform our mind into that.

People who scold us, who yell at us, who point our faults out, who say what we did was wrong. Look around you, you see them all. They’re also the same people who were kind to you, who served you, who honored you, and who made offerings to you.

People who make you unhappy. All the people who make us whine, “I’m so unhappy, this world is unfair, I should be happy all the time and I’m not and it’s their fault.” All those people who make us unhappy, and the people who make us unhappy because all they do is whine and complain about being so unhappy…. [laughter] So, all those people who make us unhappy, who hit us (that includes the cat), attack us with weapons. All the terrorists, all the criminals, all the people we want to put one label on and throw out the window, but they’re more than that one act in their life. Who hit is, who attack me with weapons, or who do things up to the point of killing us. They’re really ferocious and are victimizing us in some ways. All those people, they’re victimizing us but we refuse to be a victim. We refuse to be a victim by not holding a victim mentality. This verse is telling us how to not hold a victim mentality. All those people that do things up to the point of killing us. How do we not hold a victim mentality? We say, “May they attain the happiness of awakening.”

If anybody deserves happiness it should be the people who harm us the most because they’re the most unhappy. People who are happy don’t harm other people. People who are unhappy are the people that we should especially pray for them to have happiness. Instead of always focusing on what they did to us think about their unhappiness that made them act in that way. Also recognize that whatever they did is just this life’s suffering. The worst anybody can do to us is kill us. But nobody can make us take a lower rebirth. People may kill us, they cannot make us take a lower rebirth. What makes us take a lower rebirth? Our own negative actions. So other people are not the real enemies to be afraid of. It’s our own self-grasping, our own self-centeredness that are the real enemies. Those are the things that send us to hell. But those are the things that we invite into our lives and take care of. “Oh self-centeredness please come into my life and help me get everything I want. And self-grasping, please help me be the most important person.”

“May they fully awaken to the unsurpassed perfectly accomplished state of buddhahood.” Not even arhatship. Not even just being a bodhisattva. But fully awakened buddhas whose mindstreams are completely purified, who have gained all the realizations. So all these people, you imagine all… Jihadi John, and you make this prayer for Jihadi John. And you make this prayer for whoever it was who beat you up on the playground in first grade who you still hate.

When I did Vajrasattva retreat many years ago I realized I was still mad at my second grade teacher for not letting me be in the class play. Ridiculous, isn’t it? The kind of grudges we hold onto, for stupidaggios. Do we want to die with those grudges? No thank you. So completely changing our mind is what we need to do, and this is the verse that helps us do it.

How and what to eat http://thubtenchodron.org/2016/05/cultivating-contentment-mindfulness/ Tue, 24 May 2016 13:34:11 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=71227

  • Eating with presence, being aware of what we’re eating
  • Defining “contentment”
  • How to eat in ways that are kind to ourselves and others

YouTube Video

We talked about preparing the mind, offering the food, let’s talk a little bit about eating the food.

The idea is to eat with presence and to be aware of our food. One visualization that is quite nice—because we’ve transformed the food into blissful wisdom nectar—is to imagine the Buddha as a small buddha at our heart, and as we eat the food we’re offering the spoonfuls of nectar to the Buddha at our heart, and then of course the Buddha radiates light and that fills our whole body with light and with satisfaction. That’s the key in eating is to feel satisfaction and contentment when we’re eating, instead of restless desire and craving, and complaining, and everything else that goes along with that. Try that visualization when you’re eating.

The topic also has come up of what to eat. Here at the Abbey we’re vegetarian. I think more people in the country and also in Europe and Australia and so on are becoming vegetarian. People become vegetarian for different reasons. A Buddhist reason is to avoid killing the animals. Other people for health reasons. Other people because they see the suffering the animals go through when they’re raised in indoor things and they can’t move, and so on, butchered so savagely. People have many different reasons, but I think whatever reason one has… Another reason (I should think) is because it’s so bad for the environment, because the manure from the cattle produces a lot of methane that’s very bad for the environment. And also to get enough food (at least for eating cows, and so on) you have to have so much grain, so much grain for a comparatively little bit of meat.

His Holiness recommends for the people who do eat meat to eat those larger animals rather than smaller animals because at least if it’s a larger animal it’s only one life lost and many meals can be served. Whereas with sea fish for example it’s many living beings who die for one meal. Same with chickens. His Holiness himself isn’t a vegetarian. He says he’s a part-time vegetarian. He tried being a full-time vegetarian and then his doctor told him he had to eat meat. So he does so part time. But of course, when His Holiness is eating meat there’s a mantra to say to bless the animal for giving up its life so that you can live, and to make dedication prayers for the animal so that it has a good rebirth, and that by the power of your eating may you practice the Dharma well, and then be kind and share the Dharma with other living beings, and in a future life especially be able to lead that particular being who died for your lunch to enlightenment.

Whatever people’s reason, I think becoming vegetarian is very good. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be too keen on offering my body for somebody else’s lunch. So I don’t know why cows and fish and chickens and turkeys and so on would want to offer their bodies for someone’s lunch.

People often say, “Well, it’s not good for your health.” It’s fine. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 22 or 23. That’s over 40 years, and I don’t think it’s harmed my health at all, I think my health has been pretty good. You take vitamins, you learn how to get your protein. They say that also when you don’t eat meat…. Put it this way, when you do eat meat that some of the energy of the animal that’s in the flesh that energy is transferred to you, so the fear, or the anger, or whatever else is going on.

It is quite possible to learn to eat wisely and to be healthy on a vegetarian diet.

One person came to the Abbey once and said, “Why aren’t you vegan? Why don’t you eat organic produce?” He was quite upset about that. And I explained in terms of the being vegan that we were doing the best we could. He said, “Why don’t you ask for range free eggs…” You know, where the chickens can wander around. “And have milk from cows that also can graze naturally…. Why don’t you do that? Because animals are suffering for the milk and the eggs that you use.”

First of all, we use eggs that are not fertilized, because if you use fertilized eggs that involves killing. But the thing is that those kinds of items are more expensive, as are organic food. If you’re a private party and you can afford that, it’s definitely better. For us, we’re renunciants, and we don’t go and buy food, we only eat the food that is offered to us. Some people call us and say, “What do you need?” But we don’t like saying that we want all this expensive food because for us as renunciants to eat better than the people who are offering the food to us does not make any sense. When people say, “What do you need?” we just tell them whatever they buy is fine. I wouldn’t consider that ethically proper to ask for things that are expensive that people wouldn’t buy for themselves. But that’s our situation here at the Abbey.

Anyway, this one man he got so upset because of that, he never came back, which I thought was really a pity, I felt sad about that. But he had very strong beliefs about what we should eat, and our way of living was… We’re vegetarian, but like I said about the money thing, we just can’t ask for that.

Also, in eating, according to the kriya tantra…. The kriya tantra are practices like White Tara, Green Tara, Manjushri, Medicine Buddha, these practices that many kinds of people do, and it says for kriya tantra not only to be vegetarian but to abandon onions and garlic and things from the onion family, like scallions, stuff like that, and also radishes. It’s very interesting because in Indian culture these foods (especially the onion and garlic) are said to increase desire energy. In the West garlic is said to be medicinal and very good for you. So there are different ways of looking at the same thing. What can I say? We’re following the one that corresponds with our tradition.

At first people said, “You don’t use onions?! Your food must taste awful.” Actually, our food tastes very good, doesn’t it? And you can eat perfectly fine without onions. I remember especially… When I lead retreats I tell people about this, and in Mexico the person from the Center nearly freaked out, he said, “We have over a hundred people coming and no onions?! They’re going to scream!” I said, “Well, try it.” And nobody screamed. It’s fine, you can do that.

I’m not advocating that for everybody. I think according to how you practice and your spiritual tradition and what you do, so that’s what we do. I think the more important thing is being vegetarian because that saves so many lives when we don’t create the cause for other beings to die.

We should try to eat something that is nourishing, because according to our motivations for eating, that we’re looking at this food as wondrous medicine, and I’ve developed the special ability to see cookies as wondrous medicine…. Most people don’t agree with me. Actually, I don’t agree with me either, to tell you the truth. [laughter] But we should try and eat food that’s healthy, some kind of balanced diet, not too many carbs, not so much salt, not so much sugar, so much oil. Not all the things that the food companies have done many tests on in order to see what people like the most so that they’ll buy the most. Oil, salt, and sugar win the prize there. But of course all these things are not very good for our health.

If we’re eating to sustain our body to practice the Dharma we should also take care of our health so that we can have a strong body to practice the Dharma. Especially if other people are offering the food to us. I think that entails keeping a normal weight as best as we can. Not being too thin, not being overweight, because those conditions bring health problems. And if we’re saying we’re eating to nourish our body so we can practice, we should keep our body healthy. I feel that’s something very important. Also, people feel better when they keep a normal weight. You just have more energy and you feel better. It’s definitely an aid to practice. And I think since we’re accepting the food given by others that we also make good use of it that way.

Sometimes people give us a lot of sweets, we tend to give them away. I’m looking over there. Mmmm, cookies. Cookies, remember, they’re good for you. Okay? But you know, as much as we can to try and eat in a balanced way and keep our health good.

[In response to audience] Actually, the food is the last sense thing of grasping and craving. We have many deeper graspings and cravings than that. Because our craving for reputation and approval is much deeper. Overcoming attachment to food is nothing, they say, compared to overcoming attachment to reputation, love, approval, appreciation, and these things.

We have to define “contentment” for eating a little bit differently. For example, I know for myself, when I keep a normal weight I feel much better. That brings a sense of contentment right then and there. It doesn’t bring the contentment of stuffing myself full of cookies. But stuffing myself full of cookies doesn’t bring me contentment either. It makes me feel ill afterwards.

We have to really look at what “contentment” means. I don’t know about you, but I don’t listen to my stomach, I listen to my craving, and the craving does not bring contentment in the long run. When I feel healthy I feel much more content. Use that as the definition of contentment for ourselves instead of just eating a lot of the kind of food that’s not very good for us that makes us feel bad about ourselves.

[In response to audience] You’re saying eating in a healthy way, and eating nourishing food, is a practice of gratitude and appreciation for all the people, all the living beings for the rest of the universe that has provided the food to us.

[In response to audience] And if we can eat with a mind that says “I’m appreciative for all the sources of this food–the people who planted it, and harvested it, and transported it, and cooked it, and whatever…” So he goes in the grocery store and thanks all the people who load the food on the shelf, which is hard work.

If you have that in mind, this is… We already covered that: “I contemplate all the causes and conditions and the kindness of others by which I have received this food.” That is what we contemplate. Not just say it by your mouth but continue to think that, then eating is definitely a process of feeling very grateful to others who provided the food for us.

Dedication verses http://thubtenchodron.org/2016/05/dedicating-merit-food/ Mon, 23 May 2016 13:34:03 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=71226

  • Why it’s important to dedicate to never be separated from the Triple Gem
  • What it means to ask for “blessings” and “inspiration”
  • Reviewing the right attitude to have while eating

YouTube Video

We’ve been talking about the food offering prayers. The previous one we did was the actual offering to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. The next one says:

May we and all those around us
never be separated from the Triple Gem in any of our lives.
May we always have the opportunity to make offerings to them.
And may we continually receive their blessings and inspiration
to progress along the path.

This is actually a dedication verse. We’re dedicating the merit from offering the food to the Three Jewels. First we’re dedicating it so that ourselves and everybody else around us can never be separated from the Three Jewels in any of our lifetimes. That’s a very important dedication to make. If we’re born in a realm where we have no contact with the Three Jewels, or even we’re born as a human being where we have no opportunity to meet the Dharma or to meet teachers, or we’re born at a historic time before the Buddha has appeared and taught…. There can be countless different hindrances and obstacles that come up. So here we’re praying that none of them come up and that we always have the opportunity to meet the Dharma. Because let’s face it, if we don’t meet the Dharma we’re really sunk. Think of your life. Without the Dharma what would you be doing with your life? If you look just in the course of a day at how much virtue versus how much nonvirtue we do in a day, our mind goes towards the ten nonvirtues like this [snaps fingers], doesn’t it? It’s always running after some kind of ignorance, anger, and attachment, running around in our mind, and then acting that out. Without meeting the Dharma (that points that out to us) then we wouldn’t have any awareness….

I just think of before I met the Dharma, I didn’t think…. I mean, there was something wrong with other people’s greed and anger, but in general, my anger was okay, because my anger was necessary and important. Other people’s anger was stupid and was the cause of wars, but I didn’t really see any reason to avoid my anger, because if I avoided my anger then people would have just walked all over me. And as far as attachment, well that’s what I was raised to do. I’m supposed to be attached to things. I’m supposed to consume. I’m supposed to fall in love. I’m supposed to want this and that and the other thing, and have a good reputation, and show it all off to my friends. And if you don’t do that you’re abnormal in our society. In terms of seeing the afflictions as something to be abandoned, I didn’t really have that in my upbringing. Selfishness was bad when you had too much of it that other people noticed. But if your selfishness was contained then it was okay, and even, you know, you should look out for yourself and treat yourself first and everything. Ignorance was just voting for the wrong political party, there was no idea of our mind being ignorant of something.

When you look at how we were raised we were taught certain ethical standards, and we’re all very appreciative to our family and teachers and so on and so forth that taught us that, but in terms of looking at our mind and how to create virtue and avoid nonvirtue in terms of our motivations? Not so much. Not so much. I think even when people go to therapy…. This is a big generalization, please I don’t want five hundred emails in response…. I’ll say it and then [audience] is a therapist and can tell me what she thinks. I think many times in therapy what’s happening is getting people to have levels of afflictions that are societally acceptable. Our therapist is nodding in agreement. Anybody else here a therapist? Do you agree? Maybe. Hang around longer. [laughter] I don’t hear therapists talk about getting rid of all of our anger or getting rid of all of our attachment. Certainly not looking at the nature of the self that’s the root of all of this.

When I think about, if I’m born in a place where I don’t meet the Dharma then it’s really difficult to have any kind of guiding light about how to live a good life and how to live a meaningful life. That’s why it’s important to pray never to be separated from the Triple Gem in any of our lives.

The second thing we’re dedicating for is always having the opportunity to make offerings to the Three Jewels. When we really appreciate that merit is something important to create in our lives, that through having good motivations and kind actions then we leave good imprints on our mind, and that offering to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, because of their spiritual attainments they are an incredible field of merit for us to make offerings to. So, to pray not only to meet the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, but also to make offerings to them. Here, when we’re offering our food, it’s a very simple offering. We eat many times a day so it’s an opportunity to create a lot of merit just by doing what we do during the day, but pausing before it and transforming our mind.

To always have that opportunity to have not only the food and the material things to give but also to have the mind that likes to give and the mind that likes to make an offering. You need two things. Of those two the most important is the mind that likes to make offerings. Whatever we give we just give… We don’t have to be rich in order to create a lot of merit because the main thing is our motivation when we’re giving. But to have the ability to make offerings to them, the mental ability, and then at least some small thing to give, again, not everybody has that opportunity. So, to dedicate to have that opportunity so we can continue to create merit.

“To always have the opportunity to make offerings to them.” And then, “to continuously receive the blessings and inspiration to progress along the path.”

Blessings and inspiration are the translations for the same Tibetan word (chin lap). Actually what “chin lap” means is to “transform into magnificence.” It isn’t like a blessing like somebody hits you on the head, or something like that. When we passed around the water, we all got some of the water at the end of the nyung ne session, the real blessing is how we meditate at the time we’re sipping the water. There were the three things to think: that the afflictive emotions are eradicated, the cognitive emotions are overcome, and the dharmakaya is attained. If you think like that then that way of thinking is blessing our mind. The water is something incidental to the whole thing.

For our mind to be blessed it requires two conditions. One is our receptivity, the other is the awakening or enlightening influence of the buddhas. These two have to come together. It’s not like we’re requesting blessing and then we just kind of sit there and wait so that lightning strikes us and we go, *gasp* “Now I’ve realized emptiness!” It’s not like that. It’s through doing our practice, and the holy beings do have some awakened energy, or awakening energy, that can affect us when we’re receptive to that. So also dedicating to receive their blessings and inspiration. But blessing is not a free ticket. It’s not like you do whatever you want and then you request a blessing and it’s all erased. It doesn’t work that way.

The next verse:

By seeing this food as medicine,
I will consume it without attachment or complaint,
not to increase my arrogance, strength, or good looks,
but solely to sustain my life.

I think this verse is from Nagarjuna, I have that memory somewhere in my mind. But again, as in the five contemplations, to remember that the food is like medicine and it’s nourishing our body so that we’re able to practice the Dharma. We’re not eating it with attachment. Or we’re trying not to eat it with attachment, putting together every bite on our fork so that we maximize the happiness that we’ll get from it. And not shoveling it in so we can get more before everybody else. All these kinds of things. But trying to eat with a mind that says I’m eating to keep my body alive so I can practice the Dharma.

Not with attachment. Not with complaint. The initial translation was “without hatred” and I always pondered that: “Why would you eat with hatred?” Then I realized it didn’t mean hatred literally, it meant complaining. That’s a form of aversion, isn’t it? A form of hatred, so to speak. “This food’s too cold. It’s too hot.” What I went through last week, “We don’t have enough protein, we have too much sugar. Why did you make white bread? Wheat bread is better for you. But the wheat bread that they give tastes like cardboard, I don’t want it. Give me bread that is soft like cake. Give me white bread.” You know how we are. I mean, complaining is our past time, especially about the food. And especially in a monastery where the food is your one last object of sense desire. That you have to take to nourish your body, but it’s like all the sense desire, craving, goes into the food. It’s like one leaf of lettuce all of a sudden becomes “Wow, I can’t have a boyfriend but I can have a leaf of lettuce.” [laughter] It’s easy to eat with a lot of attachment, and then a lot of complaint if it’s not what we expected.

It’s very interesting to watch our mind when we eat, because when you look at the food you have an expectation of what it’s going to taste like. Then you taste it and it never tastes like you thought it was going to. Once in awhile it tastes better, usually it doesn’t taste as good. So we’re always somehow disappointed. “This was supposed to be really good.”

We’re eating without attachment or complaint. “Not to increase our arrogance…” Why would we get arrogant? “Look how wealthy I am, look how privileged I am, I have all of this good food.” Or arrogance can fit in with “strength” and “good looks.” We’re eating to have a strong body so we can show people look how strong I am. Look at those muscles. And good looks. Because in ancient times being a little bit plump was a sign of wealth. You wanted to be plump. So we may want to eat so we look healthy, we look strong, and that can also create arrogance, can’t it? “Look how good looking I am because of what I eat.”

Nowadays people may get a little bit arrogant because they’re vegan or because they eat organic food, because to eat organic food you have to be able to afford it. People can use that as a subtle way of saying “Look, I’m someone who can afford the organic food.” I’m not saying everybody does that, but I’m saying it could be that somebody does that.

It’s reminded ourselves to eat with the proper motivation, without attachment, without complaining, without arrogance of how wonderful we are to have this kind of great food, without wanting to make our body strong and good looking in order to get praise, in order to be somebody, but merely eating to keep our body alive…. Not just to keep the body alive because we don’t want to die, but to keep it alive so that we can practice the Dharma. And to practice the Dharma not only so that we can free ourselves from cyclic existence, but so we can become fully awakened buddhas and help others to attain buddhahood as well.

We say these prayers every day, it’s sometimes easy, you tune out while you’re saying them, and then all of a sudden it’s over, but you know it’s good if we really kind of lock our attention onto each word we’re saying and think of the meaning of it. It really enriches the practice.