..The Intuitive Times
Spiritual Practices


Shanbhala Buddhism: Meditation and Well Being

by Glen Craig

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When appearances and names are put away and all discrimination ceases, that which remains is the true and essential nature of things and, as nothing can be predicated as to the nature of essence, is called the "Suchness" of Reality. This universal, undifferentiated, inscrutable Suchness is the only Reality, but it is variously characterized as Truth, Mind-essence, Transcendental Intelligence, Perfection of Wisdom, etc. This Dharma of the imagelessness of the Essence-nature of Ultimate Reality is the Dharma which has been proclaimed by all the Buddhas, and when all things are understood in full agreement with it, one is in possession of Perfect Knowledge.

Buddhism. Lankavatara Sutra


Buddhism was founded in North India by Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha ( Enlightened One) in about 500 BCE. The teachings spread through Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tibet, China, and Japan. Today there are over 320,000,000 Buddhists.
Buddhism is based on the four Noble Truths:
1. All forms of life is suffering.
2. All suffering is caused by desire.
3. The cure to desire is the overcoming of desire.
4. Desire can be cured by following the eightfold path.
Once desire and attachment is overcome, Enlightenment is possible.

The Dharma Wheel, the symbol of Buddhist Law, the endless cycles of birth and rebirth. The eight pokes represent the Eightfold Path to enlightenment.



"Depression" can mean a myriad of mental conditions. Some are the result of physical disturbances and changes in the body while others are the effect of events. Some have names like "dysphoria" or "anhedonia", but the type that is described in the Sanskrit language as "dukha" or in the Bible as "Vanity of vanities saith the preacher, all is vanity and vexation of spirit" (Ecclesiastes 1: 2) is the type of suffering the Buddha was referring to when he said that life was suffering. "Dukha" is a state of disillusionment, disappointment, or dissatisfaction that seems to arise from an honest appraisal of life. The second observation that he made on this condition was that it was caused by the tendency to interact with the world by grasping things, pushing them away, or ignoring them. Third, the path that leads to the cessation of suffering was through attentive mindfulness of what we think, say and do.

The practice of seated meditation (shamata vipashna) is the keystone of the training of this attentive mindfulness. Through the practice of meditation, the practitioner develops an appreciation of the mind's tendency to wander, to feed fuel to wild emotions, to get stuck in habitual patterns, to constantly seek entertainment, to feel a chronic state of "dukha". The practitioner experiences the true nature of things and rediscovers basic goodness. There is a sense of appreciating things without grasping, shunning or ignoring. A gentler treatment of self and others emerges. It also trains in the practice of letting go of things, especially cherished peeves and grievances.

Thus Have I Heard We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make our world. Speak or act with an impure mind and trouble will follow you as the wheel that follows the ox that draws the cart. Speak or act with a pure mind and happiness will follow you as your shadow...unshakable

"Look how he abused me and beat me,
How he threw me down and robbed me,"
Live with such thoughts and you live in hate.

"Look how he abused me and beat me,
How he threw me down and robbed me,"
Abandon such thoughts and live in love

In this world, hate never yet dispelled hate. Only loving kindness dispels hate. This is the law, ancient and inexhaustible. - THUS DID THE BUDDHA TEACH

Thus Have I Heard "That which you desire you call "good" and that which you desire not, you call "bad"...and by this path suffering entered the world" -SO TAUGHT THE BUDDHA

So that there be no misunderstanding, it is not a matter of replacing "bad" thoughts with "good" thoughts. It is not meant to cultivate a Pollyanna attitude but rather is in seeing things in their true essence ordinary, simple, warts and all - and appreciating them. In meditation, if a practitioner feels any sort of sleepy torpor or trance-like state, they are to shake it off and become awake. SHAMATA VIPASHYANA (calm abiding awareness) does not involve chanting mantras, counting breaths, or directed visualization. It is meditation in its simplest form - good seat, good posture, good head and shoulders, partially opened eyes, unfixed gaze somewhat downcast. The breath is used as the meditation object and when the mind wanders its is labeled as thinking and the practitioner returns to awareness of the breath.

To understand why this approach is taken, we must first fully understand the meaning of the word "karma". Generally it is understood to mean the consequences of your actions or some pre-destined fate. This is only a partial understanding. "Karma" means habit or habitual pattern. We are creatures of habit. A friend of Benjamin Franklin once observed that Ben was in the habit of touching fence posts as he walked past them. When this was pointed out to Ben, he made a conscious effort to stop doing it. When his friend remarked that Ben had broken his habit, Ben said that he was now in the habit of NOT touching fence posts. Obviously a person could be expected to suffer less if they replace a "bad" habit with a "good " habit, but this is a very shallow understanding of the tangled web that is karma.

The meditator has the opportunity to treat each thing that life presents as a fresh and new experience, untainted by hope and fear and the absurd neurosis that you aren't going to suffer if you "get it right". When things are seen as they are, without reference to intimidations from the past or speculative anxieties about the future, our intelligence has a fair chance to direct what we say and do. Living in the present is worth the effort.

Glenn Craig lives in Charlottetown and is a practitioner of Shambhala Buddhism. He can be contacted at glenn.craig@pei.sympatico.ca or 902- 659-2152.

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