Full Moon of Paravan

Full Moon of Paravan

by Jeffrey Brooks

If we would like to use the Buddha’s instruction to rescue people who are in danger we need to train consistently.

In martial arts we may train each day for an hour or two. To truly save people from harm we will need to devote at least that much time.

But that time is not deducted from the rest of our lives. In every moment is a moment of training. If we train well under controlled conditions, such as in the meditation room and the class room, then we can train well under more difficult conditions, such as in the flow of daily life, or during a special moment at the boundary between life and death.

Our minds crave objects. The technical term for this in Pali is “dhammatanha.” When our senses are not stimulated, such as in periods of meditation or waiting for a bus, our minds will prowl around for something to grab onto – fantasies, mental imagery, abstract ideas, intellectual systems, feelings or emotional states of mind such as anger or desire.

If we are unable to put down mental objects at will we will be unable to practice well. We will lack the presence of mind to deal with reality as it unfolds. And we will be unable to place our minds where we want them, at will. We will become off balance and preoccupied. In martial arts this can cause a lapse in attention or timing which will get us hurt. In our work as bodhisattvas it is a dead end.

We can practice a technique which will end the craving for mental objects. A calm, clear, luminous mind will arise as a result. Developing this gives us real poise and balance.  We can respond to conditions without hesitation or hurry. We never need to substitute rudeness for strength, or impulsiveness for spontaneity.

The technique is to place the mind on our breath as it enters our nostrils and moves over our upper lip.  As we experience some distraction, through our senses or through our craving for mental objects, we can return our attention to the motion of our breath. It is hard to do at first. If you persist it becomes easy.

Then we can easily practice it for a moment or an hour.  When you get good at it, you can place your attention where you want it, wherever you need it. Training in this way frees you to act skillfully, with no hindrance in the mind.

This provides a basis for your practice of the path to enlightenment. It is a first step. It is a practice we can do anytime and anywhere, along our path through life.

The Anapanasati Sutta, called “Mindfulness of Breathing,” includes the classical presentation of this idea.

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