Right Concentration

Buddhism by the Numbers

Right Concentration

The practice of Right Concentration is to cultivate a mind that is one-pointed. There are two kinds of concentration, active and selective. In active concentration, the mind dwells on whatever is happening in the present moment, even as it changes. The following poem by a Buddhist monk, Huong Hai illustrates active concentration.

              The wind whistles in the bamboo

              And the bamboo dances.

              When the wind stops,

              The bamboo grows still.

              A silver bird

              flies over the autumn lake.

              When it has passed,

              The lake’s surface does not try

              To hold onto the image of the bird.

When we practice active concentration, we welcome whatever comes along. We don’t think about it or long for anything else. We just dwell in the present moment with our whole being. Whatever comes, comes. When the object of our concentration passed our mind remains clear.

When we practice selective concentration, we choose one object and hold onto it. During sitting or walking mediation our attention is focused on our object.

  • We concentrate to make ourselves deeply present
  • Right concentration leads to happiness, and it also leads to Right Action
  • Samadhi means concentration. To practice samadhi is to live deeply in each moment.
  • Mindfulness brings about concentration
  • Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration lift us above he realms of sensual pleasure and craving, and we find ourselves lighter and happier.
  • There are nine levels of meditative concentration. The first four are the Four Dhyanas. They are on the form realm. The next five levels belong to the formless realm.
  • After the fourth dhyana the meditator enters into a deeper experience of concentration.
  • The object of the fifth level of concentration is limitless space. According the Buddha’s teaching, nothing has a separate self.
  • The object of the sixth level of concentration is limitless consciousness.
  • The object of the seventh level of concentration is nothingness.
  • Level eight is neither perception nor non perception
  • Level nine is cessation. Cessation from ignorance in our feelings. From this level is born insight. When someone practices well, the ninth level of concentration shines a light on the reality of things and transforms ignorance.

The Buddha taught many concentration practices. To practice the Concentration on Impermanence, every time you see your beloved see her as impermanent and do your best to make her happy today. The insight into impermanence keeps you from getting caught up in the suffering and craving, attachment, and despair. See and listen to everything with this insight.

According to the Lotus Sutra, we have to live in the historical and ultimate dimensions of reality at the same time. We have to live deeply our life as a wave so we can touch the substance of water in us. We walk, look, breathe, and eat in a way that we touch the absolute dimension of reality. We transcend birth and death and the fears of being and nonbeing, one and many.

Live every moment of your life deeply, and while walking, eating, drinking, and looking at the morning star, you touch the ultimate dimension.

Based on the Teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh

Photo: Benn Bell

Right Diligence

Buddhism by the Numbers


Right Diligence

Right diligence or right effort is the kind of energy that helps us realize the Noble Eightfold Path. Four practices usually associated with right diligence:

  1. Preventing unwholesome seeds in our store consciousness from arising
  2. Helping unwholesome seeds that have arisen return to our store consciousness
  3. Finding ways to water wholesome seeds in our store consciousness that have not yet arisen
  4. Nourishing the wholesome seeds that have already arisen.

Unwholesome means not conducive to the path. The wholesome seeds of happiness, love, loyalty, and reconciliation need watering every day.

According to Buddhist psychology, our consciousness is divided into eight parts, including mind consciousness and store consciousness. Store consciousness is described as a field in which every kind of seed can be planted. Seeds of suffering, sorrow, fear, and anger, and seeds of happiness and hope. When these seeds sprout, they manifest in our mind consciousness and when they do, they become stronger.

We need to know our physical and psychological limits. We shouldn’t force ourselves to do ascetic practices or lose ourselves in sensual pleasures. Right Diligence lies in the Middle Way between the extremes of austerity and sensual indulgence. Joy and ease are two factors that are at the heart of Right Diligence.

The following gatha can give us energy to live the day well:

Waking up this morning I smile

24 brand new hours are before me

I vow to live fully in each moment

and look to all beings with eyes of compassion.

The practice of mindful living should be joyful and pleasant.  If you breathe in and out and feel joy and peace, that is right diligence.

Based on the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh.

Photo credit: Benn Bell

Right Action

Buddhism by the Numbers

Right Action

Right Action means Right Action of the body. It is the practice of touching love and preventing harm, the practice of non-violence toward ourselves and others. The Basis of Right Action is to do everything in mindfulness.

Right Action is closely linked with four of the five mindfulness trainings:

  • The first mindfulness training is about the reference of life
  • The second mindfulness training is about generosity
  • The third mindfulness training is about sexual responsibility
  • The fifth mindfulness training encourages mindful eating, drinking, and consuming

Right action is based on Right View, Right Thinking, and Right Speech, and is very much linked to Right Livelihood. The basis of Right Action is Right Mindfulness.

Based on the Teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh

Photo by Benn Bell

RIGHT SPEECH

Buddhism by the Numbers

Right Speech

The classical explanation of Right Speech is 1) Speaking truthfully. 2) Not speaking with a forked tongue. 3) Not speaking cruelly.

  • Right Speech is based on Right Thinking.
  • Deep listening is at the foundation of Right Speech
  • Compassionate listening brings about healing
  • When communication is cut off we suffer
  • The Bodhisattva Kwan Yin is the one who hears the cries of the world
  • If you really love someone, train yourself to be a good listener
  • You must use loving speech
  • You need to practice more walking meditation, more mindful breathing, more sitting meditation in order to restore your capacity for compassionate listening
  • When you begin to understand the suffering of the other person compassion will arise in you. Compassion is the only energy that can help us connect with another person. The person who has no compassion in him can never be happy
  • Writing is a deep practice
  • Silence is a time for looking deeply. There are times when silence is truth and that is called “thundering silence”
  • Words and thought can kill. We cannot support acts of killing in our thinking or in our speech. If you have a job in which telling the truth is impossible, you may have to change jobs. If you have a job that allows you to speak truth, be grateful. To practice social justice and non-exploitation, we have to use right speech

The Fourth Mindfulness Training is training oneself to listen with compassion

  • May my words be as beautiful as gems, as lovely as flowers
  • I am committed to cultivating loving speech and deep listening
  • Words can create happiness or suffering
  • I am determined to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope
  • I will not spread news that I do not know to be certain and I will not criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure.
  • I am determined to make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

Based on the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh

Photo credit: Benn Bell

RIGHT MINDFULNESS

Buddhism by the Numbers

Right Mindfulness

  • Mindfulness is remembering to come back to the present moment.
  • Right mindfulness accepts everything without judging or reacting. It is inclusive and loving.
  • The practice is to find a way to sustain appropriate attention throughout the day.

The Seven Miracles of Mindfulness

  1. Be present
  2. Make the other present also
  3. Nourish the object of your attention
  4. Relieve the other’s suffering
  5. Looking deeply
  6. Understanding (the foundation of love).
  7. Transformation

The Four Establishments of Mindfulness

  1. Mindfulness of the body in the body
  2. Mindfulness of the feelings in the feelings
  3. Mindfulness of the mind in the mind
  4. Mindfulness of phenomena in phenomena (object of our mind)

Six Elements

  1. Earth
  2. Water
  3. Fire
  4. Air
  5. Space
  6. Consciousness

If we observe these six elements inside us and around us, we see that we are not separate from the universe. This insight free us from the idea of birth and death.

  • Anxiety comes primarily from our inability to dwell in the present moment.
  • Letting go is a practice that can bring us a lot of happiness.
  • What is essential is to be alive and present to all the wonders of life that are available.
  • Threefold training: precepts, concentration, and insight.
  • The practice of the precepts is the practice of Right Mindfulness. If we don’t practice the precepts, we are not practicing mindfulness. The heart of the Buddhist Meditation is the practice of mindfulness and mindfulness is the practice of the precepts.
  • Look deeply at your hand and see the Buddha Eye in it. The hand represents action and the eye represents insight and understanding.

Based on the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh

Photo credit: Benn Bell

RIGHT THINKING

Buddhism by the Numbers

Right Thinking

  • Thinking is the speech of the mind.
  • Right thinking leads to Right Action.
  • When we concentrate on our breathing, we bring body and mind back together and become whole.
  • Mindful breathing helps us stop being preoccupied by sorrows of the past and anxieties of the future. It helps us to be in touch with life in the present moment.

Four Practices Related to Right Thinking

  1. Are you sure?
  2. What am I doing?
  3. Hello habit energy.
  4. Bodhichitta – Mind of love.

Based on the teachings of Thich Nhat Hahn

Right View

Buddhism by the Numbers

Right View

  • Right view is deep understanding of the Four Noble Truths
  • Where there is perception there is deception
  • Most of our suffering comes from wrong perceptions
  • It is impossible to have a subject without an object
  • Right view is the insight we have into the reality of life; a living insight that fills us with understanding, peace, and love.
  • The instrument for watering wholesome seeds inside of us is mindful living – mindful breathing, mindful walking, living each moment of our day in mindfulness.
  • Your conception or perception of reality is not reality.
  • To practice is to go beyond ideas, so you can arrive at the suchness of things. “No idea” is the path of non-conception. “No idea” means no wrong idea, no wrong conception.
  • Buddhism is a practice to hep us eliminate wrong views.
  • Right View is sometimes called the mother of all Buddhas, the energy of love and understanding that has the power to free us. When we practice mindful living our Right View will blossom.
  • Right View is both a cause and an effect of all other elements of the path.

Based on the teachings of Thich Nhat Hahn

HARD ROCK HOTEL

Dateline: New Orleans

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On a recent trip to New Orleans I came upon this scene.

This is a shot of the Hard Rock Hotel building which collapsed while under construction in New Orleans on October 12, 2019. Three dead and dozens injured. We stayed just two blocks away but the streets were blocked off for three blocks north and south which required a walk around making a five block walk to Bourbon Street an eight block walk.

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Canal Street, a major thoroughfare in New Orleans, was blocked off creating a transportation nightmare. The streetcars were not running for fear of vibrating loose the already unstable building. Authorities sill haven’t recovered the bodies of the dead.