Coping with Change by Buddhism Guide

[ad_1]

published on




Coping with Change
Change is never far from our door, whether it’s breaking up with an ex, moving to a new city, the death of a relative, a pandemic, or the loss of a job. Even good changes, such as having a baby or getting a new job, can be stressful.

Change isn’t easy but here are some ways to help you cope with change and make it feel less scary.

My latest book ‘Open Awareness, Open Mind’ is available now on Amazon and Kindle – amzn.to/35uboLq

If you have any questions for Yeshe about this podcast, Buddhism, meditation or mindfulness you can contact him on the Facebook page below:

www.facebook.com/thebuddhismguide

If you would like to support Yeshe Rabgye’s work please visit www.patreon.com/buddhismguide

Follow Buddhism Guide by Yeshe Rabgye:
Website – www.yesherabgye.com
Facebook – www.facebook.com/thebuddhismguide/
Instagram – www.instagram.com/buddhism_guide/
Twitter – www.twitter.com/BuddhismGuide

Genre
Religion & Spirituality

License: all-rights-reserved



[ad_2]

Nonviolence: Thinking Outside the Box

[ad_1]

Question: I think one big problem, or one issue that we’re seeing right now in the streets is there’s a number of people who are getting more and more militant, or at least more and more defensive. And they’re getting shields, and all of these things that are supposed to try and increase their safety, but they’re still committed to protesting nonviolently. And I think that’s part of why we’re seeing so many casualties, right? The military is coming up against a group of people who looked like they could potentially become violent. But psychologically, on their side, they’re still committed to the nonviolence. So how do we get people to commit to a path, and not do these sorts of things that kind of go into their life or escalate things unnecessarily?


 Answer: Those people who have opted not to think through what they’re doing, but are reacting in an emotional capacity, are your distractions. If they simply cannot contain their emotions, to the point of logically planning out some things so that there is safety involved, some margin of escape in what they’re doing, there’s going to be a reaction to it.

When you start watching groups build shields, there’s going to be a conflict, right? You know there’s going to be an engagement from the end of that event, and it’s going to come from the military side, basically where the battle lines are drawn. If you have a mass of people moving forward, and you have a set of troops holding ground, at some point, there’s going to be a battle line, where damage is going to start occurring.

So if those if you are seeing this happen, don’t be part of the cannon fodder! If people are going to be that foolish, that they’re going to run into automatic weapons fire and still not target the person that shooting at them, then they have made the commitment to be just what they are, and that is a target. And that is a distraction. And you utilize that tactically to your advantage. You sacrifice that pawn to get to the objective, you just understand that they’re going to be an actor.

They’re going to be tying up the military’s operational airspace, their command, they’re going to be tying up their resources, you’re going to be exhausting troops. And so then that’s the opportunity for another group to say ‘Okay, we’re not going to be a part of this, standing in the street with 10 shields that can be shot through from with any weapon. We’re going to actually do something useful.’

And people have the ability to make their own choices. Everyone has a choice in this, forcing somebody to do something against their will, that’s not part of the game plan. It’s a waste of time.

Now, encouraging people to think through what they’re doing is a matter of planting seeds. Maybe instead of ‘Hey, buddy, instead of running out into the street with that little piece of tin in front of you, how about you think about putting those energy in with us. Let’s think about this, let’s have a plan. So you survive the day.’

And it’s a matter convincing people that there are other means for somebody who doesn’t want to commit an act of violence, but wants to have their voice heard, that is a great thing!

So that person then is more useful as a lookout, as a spy, potentially, as an asset inside, an operational area that can manipulate whatever they’re tasked with. If they’re a medical person, they can spike certain tablets or change out something so that you can make people sick. They take it, knocks some soldiers out. It upsets their stomach for three days, well, that person then is useless on the street for three days because they’re somewhere else. Or there’s just a lot of things that people can do that don’t involve necessarily killing somebody. Food preparation, hiding things, people who are good at scrounging or sourcing materials.

And you will have people in your societal groups, in your little niches that can get things, whatever this person is really good at stealing, at knowing where the next water supplies going to be dropped off or when the next supply trucks coming in whatever it is. That’s the type of thing that that you try and task people with who are adamantly against actively hurting somebody.

Try and route that nonviolent passion into their skill set, and say, ‘What are you really good at? What do you do? Well, you’re a taxi driver. So you know the streets everywhere, right? You know, the back roads, you know, how to get around things. So, draw me some maps help me lay these things out, so that I have a planning board to use, whatever it is that you can engage them at where it engages their mind so that they can live another day.’

Instead of walking into the street with a white t-shirt on and holding a piece of corrugated iron in front of you, and yelling and screaming and throwing rocks so that you get shot next, or the next night you get your home raided and arrested that is foolishness.

60592e911c1bab5c4cfd309d_F0FA68F4_A080_4A0B_B4FE_A1CA9DCB9873.jpeg

[ad_2]

The Practical Buddhist Blog – Practical Advice on Integrating the Practice of Buddhism in Contemporary Life

[ad_1]

These two oxymoron’s may seem to make no sense, to be internally inconsistent.   And yet they are at the heart of living a fully human, spiritual life.

For much of my practice, the emphasis has been, had to be, to learn to see things as being just the way they are, that it’s all ok, that I will be ok regardless what life throws my way because I have returned home and will always return home to my true Buddha nature.   To view myself and the world around me directly, with dispassion, free of labels, free of the intervention of my ego-mind.  It has been about gaining the wisdom of acceptance.  For there is no ending of suffering without acceptance.

I have achieved that state and it has been a source of peace to me and great comfort.   I have also learned to take joy in each passing moment regardless what is happening, by being aware of the light, nature, all that I am grateful for, the gift of being alive.

But I have been aware that although I feel very strongly about the work that I do, I do not experience joy in it.  And last night when I was reading a book titled The Map about manifesting, I realized why.   Because something inside me said that my work was not going to amount to anything in that my books wouldn’t sell, my life coaching business would to take off, etc,; I would not make any money because I was no one, I had no name recognition.

I also realized that I feared that if I did put emotional energy into my work that I would become attached to it and I would once again be subject to the disappointment and frustration that is part of our samsara.   I would no longer to able to view my work with dispassion; to say, “If it happens, great; if it doesn’t, that’s ok too.”  I believed those oxymorons were inherently inconsistent.

These two things worked in combination to hold me back and deprive me of taking joy in what I do, in what is important to me, each day.  In meditating one recent morning, I was aware that there was a time when I took great joy in what I did, that I believed not only that it had value but that people would find value in it.   And so I pursued and achieved goals that most people said were unrealistic.

But one day I sent my first book to an agent, who was the agent of a well-respected NPR personality with whom I had a mutual friend.   That agent told me, after reading my book, that no one would be interested in what I had to say because I was no one, I had no name.   

I was devastated, but I persevered.   I sent the book to a well-respected journalist, a cold call, who gave me a strong endorsement.   And so I continued to pursue my dream, but nothing came of it.   

And so it has been with everything I’ve done since then.   What that agent said to me turned out to be my experience.   Why this difference from my former life and efforts?  According to The Map the reason is that I absorbed that negativity and it became one of my false core beliefs.   Somehow this pronouncement by a total stranger, but someone with authority, was enough to change how I viewed myself and my prospects.   I did all the right things to have success, I went through all the motions, but the inner conviction, the faith, was no longer there.   That was the energy I was sending out to the universe, and that was what I received in return.

And so today I have started a new day, fresh.   I have started affirmations regarding my belief in my projects succeeding, being valued by others.   I am endowing my efforts with excitement; I can feel the books selling, the requests for life coaching coming in, and my financial situation being restored.

But back to the title of this post.   While I am investing this kind of energy in my work again, I remain not attached; I can honestly say, if it works, great; if it doesn’t, that’s ok too.  I have faith in my work, but I also view it’s success with dispassion. 

​But beware: it would be very easy to slip into being attached.   Your non-attachment and acceptance must be firmly rooted.



[ad_2]

Eternity And Liberation: A Commentary On The Anuruddha Sutta

[ad_1]

by Jim Wilson

 

Eternity and Liberation

On a number of occasions when someone asked the Buddha about the nature of the eternal, or the extent of eternity, or whether eternity existed, the Buddha refused to answer, or responded by saying that such questions were not conducive to practice, to liberation. In the sutras, the Buddha tends to avoid using the word eternity. However, the Buddha does use the words “deathless”, and “unborn”, which he does discuss, and which I take as synonyms for the eternal.

Why would the Buddha shift his focus from a word like the eternal to a word like the deathless? I believe this has to do with the central insight of the Buddha, which he called interdependent transformation, or dependent origination. From the perspective of interdependent transformation there does not exist any thing which exists independently, on its own, or separately. When people inquire as to the nature of the eternal, often there exists an assumption that there exists an eternal thing, and by thing, they mean separately existing thing. Because the eternal does not manifest as a thing, such as a deity, or a heavenly realm, the Buddha seems to have taken the strategy of deflecting altogether that line of inquiry. Instead, he emphasizes the “deathless”, the “unborn”, the two terms which I have found most often in the Discourses.

The term “deathless” means always existing. The term “unborn” also means always existing. Together, the deathless and the unborn refer to the eternal if we understand the eternal not as a thing, but as the always existing, always present. Insight into the nature of the deathless is considered a gate to liberation and enlightenment. This is wonderfully illustrated in a short Sutta from the Pali Canon called The Anuruddha Sutta. Because of the brevity of this discourse, I shall quote it first in full:

Now the venerable Anuruddha went to see the venerable Shariputta. On coming to him he greeted him courteously, and, after the exchange of greetings and courtesies, sat down at one side. So seated the venerable Anuruddha said this:

“Here in this world, friend Shariputta, with the deva-sight, purified and surpassing that of men, I can see the thousandfold world-system. Strenuous and unshaken is my energy. Mindfulness is set up in me untroubled. My body is calmed, not perturbed. My mind is collected, one-pointed. Yet for all that my heart is not released from the hindrances without grasping.”

“Well, Anuruddha, as to your statement about seeing the thousandfold world-system, that is just your conceit. As to your statement about being strenuous and unshaken and so forth, — that is just arrogance. As to your statement about your heart not being released from the hindrances, that is just worrying. It would indeed be well for the venerable Anuruddha if he were to abandon these three conditions, if he were not to think about them, but were to focus his mind on the deathless element.”

So later on the venerable Anuruddha abandoned these three conditions, paid no attention to them, but focused his mind on the deathless element. And it came to pass that the venerable Anuruddha, living alone, secluded, earnest, ardent and aspiring, in no long time attained the goal supreme of the holy life, for which clansmen rightly go forth from home to the homeless: even in this very life he himself by his own intuitional powers realized it, and having attained it dwelt therein, for he knew: Birth is destroyed: lived is the holy life: done is my task: for me there is no more of being thus. And the venerable Anuruddha was yet another of the realized saints.

The Anuruddha Sutta is a simple and clear presentation of the efficacy that contemplating eternity, or the deathless element, has for liberation. In a sense, the Sutra says that such contemplation in and of itself constitutes liberation. Let’s examine the Sutta in detail.

The Anuruddha Sutta

Now the venerable Anuruddha went to see the venerable Shariputta. On coming to him he greeted him courteously, and, after the exchange of greetings and courtesies, sat down at one side.

Comment:

This Sutta consists of a dialog between two disciples of the Buddha. The first one, Shariputta, is a Saint, or Arhat, meaning someone who has attained liberation. A number of Suttas in the Buddhist Canon contain teachings from the immediate disciples of the Buddha, such as Shariputta and Dhammadinna. This indicates that even at a very early stage, it was understood that others besides the Buddha himself, could attain to the level of understanding and enlightenment that the originator of the teaching had attained. In effect, these Buddhist Saints had themselves become Buddhas, or enlightened ones, and could therefore function as teachers for the community. I suspect that as the community grew in size, access to the Buddha became more difficult. As access to the Buddha became more difficult, newer disciples would gravitate to one of the Saints, those acknowledged by the community as also having an enlightened understanding and realization. I suspect that something like this was going between Anuruddha and Shariputta, for this short text seems to indicate a long familiarity between the two of them.

The Sutta:

So seated the venerable Anuruddha said this:

‘Here in this world, friend Shariputta, with the deva-sight, purified and surpassing that of men, I can see the thousandfold world-system.’

Comment:

Anuruddha is making a claim that he has developed an occult power, a power of vision which allows him to literally see/perceive world systems. It is interesting how often in the Discourses there arises discussion about occult powers and their status. It must have been a frequent, and often distracting, topic of discussion. It remains so today. Many people feel that spiritual awakening means the acquisition of such powers. Comprehending compassion and wisdom, however, does not depend upon the acquisition of these powers and has no connection to them. When I say no connection I mean that someone can possess occult powers without having either wisdom or compassion, and that, conversely, someone can attain both wisdom and compassion and not have any occult powers. For this reason, the Discourses point out that even should someone attain these powers, that does not mean that they will have awakened to Dharma, the teachings of the Buddha. A Discourse from the Middle Length Discourses, The Shorter Discourse to Sakuludaayin makes this point very clearly. Udaayin expresses his interest in and concern about occult powers, specifically the ability to recall past lives and the ability to perceive other realms. The Buddha responds to this as follows:

Udaayin, if someone should recollect his manifold past lives, that is, one birth, two births … thus, with their aspects and particulars, should he recollect his manifold past lives, then either he might ask me a question about the past or I might ask him a question about the past, and he might satisfy my mind with his answer to my question or I might satisfy his mind with my answer to his question. If someone with the divine eye, which is purified and surpasses the human, should see beings passing away and reappearing, inferior and superior, fair and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate … and understand how beings pass on according to their actions, then either he might ask me a question about the future or I might ask him a question about the future, and he might satisfy my mind with his answer to my question or I might satisfy his mind with my answer to his question. But let be the past, Udaayin, let be the future. I shall teach you the Dharma: When this exists, that comes to be; with the arising of this, that arises. When this does not exist, that does not come to be; with the cessation of this, that ceases.

(The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, translated by Bhikkhu Ñaa.namoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi, Wisdom Publications, Boston, 1995, page 655.)

As we shall see in the response below, Shariputta has learned well this simple lesson.

The Sutta:

Strenuous and unshaken is my energy.

Comment:

Here Anuruddha is claiming a different kind of power; that he has acquired some kind of access to unlimited energy, that he never tires. Notice that this does not necessarily imply that Anuruddha is using that energy to comprehend, or manifest, wisdom and compassion.

The Sutta:

Mindfulness is set up in me untroubled. My body is calmed, not perturbed. My mind is collected, one-pointed.

Comment:

Here the claim is more subtle. The subtlety is a source of much confusion. Having a onepointed mind, the development of mindfulness and concentration, does not, in and of itself, or by itself, lead to enlightenment; meaning the understanding of wisdom, or the dependent and interconnected nature of all things, and compassion, which means being able to function in the world from that wisdom. Onepointedness of mind allows for concentration and effective mentality, but that onepointedness can be used for any purpose. Onepointedness can be used to make one a more effective accountant, businessperson, cook, athlete, gardener, etc.. Now this is not bad, and in many ways we can consider it even good. But there is no necessary connection between the onepointedness of mind and the wisdom of the Dharma. Onepointedness and a collected mind are necessary for the comprehension of the Dharma, but they do not by themselves constitute the realization of the Dharma. Because onepointedness is a very pleasing mental state, people sometimes confuse onepointedness with realization itself, when it actually only constitutes a preliminary to, a foundation for, the comprehension of the wisdom and compassion of the Dharma. Anuruddha has, it seems, made this mistake; equating onepointedness with the Dharma itself.

The Sutta:

Yet, for all that my heart is not released from the hindrances without grasping.

Comment:

There is displayed here a deep sense of honesty from Anuruddha. In spite of these attainments, Anuruddha is honest enough to acknowledge that his heart is not at peace. He observes this because there still remains the basic tendency to “grasp”, or cling, which Anuruddha observes in his heart. He recognizes this as a signal that his practice is not complete, that he still has more to do, and for this reason he goes to Shariputta. I suspect also some confusion in Anuruddha’s mind. I suspect that Anuruddha expected that onepointedness would necessarily lead to non-grasping and to a settled and peaceful heart. Anuruddha has discovered that it is possible to be both onepointed and still not overcome grasping and clinging.

The Sutta:

Shariputta responds:

Well, Anuruddha, as to your statement about seeing the thousandfold world-system, that is just your conceit.

Comment:

The word “conceit” could mean several things. It might mean that Shariputta simply doesn’t believe that Anuruddha actually sees the thousandfold world-system. Or it might mean that Shariputta believes that Anuruddha’s ability to see the thousandfold world system is leading Anuruddha to develop a conceited attitude. I suspect a little of both at work here.

Notice that ShariputtaÂ’s response is kind of sharp. My feeling here is that Shariputta and Anuruddha have known each other for some time. Perhaps Anuruddha had selected Shariputta as his principle teacher and guide in the dharma. The brevity and sharpness of ShariputtaÂ’s response indicates a high level of trust exists between the two.

The Sutta:

Shariputta continues:

As to your statement about being strenuous and unshaken and so forth, — that is just arrogance.

Comment:

This continues in the same vein. Shariputta continues to forcibly deflect the claims of Anuruddha. I think that arrogance in this context refers to the idea that AnuruddhaÂ’s energy is the equivalent of having learned the Dharma. One can have great energy and dedication about all manner of things. Simply having energy and dedication does not in itself constitute a great accomplishment in terms of awakening to the Dharma, the realm of wisdom and compassion.

The Sutta:

Shariputta continues:

As to your statement about your heart not being released from the hindrances, that is just worrying.

Comment:

A very interesting comment. I think that Shariputta is pointing out that Anuruddha is locked into some kind of emotional/intellectual analysis. Worrying is a subtle form of fear. One of the hallmarks of realization is the falling away of fear. The Heart Sutra specifically points to a mind free from fear as a mark of an awakened mind. If Anuruddha is locked in this kind of fretful, fearful, worrying, it would point to AnuruddhaÂ’s lack of accomplishment and understanding.

Worry and fear arise from a sense of limitation. Comprehending that this state of worry is the root of AnuruddhaÂ’s difficulties, Shariputta proposes a direct antidote to that state of mind which continues to hinder the ability of Anuruddha to awaken to the ever present wisdom and compassion that constitutes his true nature.

The Sutta:

Shariputta continues:

It would indeed be well for the venerable Anuruddha if he were to abandon these three conditions, if he were not to think about them, but were to focus his mind on the deathless element.

Comment:

Shariputta recommends that Anuruddha abandon his concern with occult vision or deva sight, abandon his concern with developing unshakable energy, and, most remarkably, abandon his concern with mindfulness and one-pointedness. Instead, Anuruddha should focus his mind on the deathless element. I understand the deathless to mean the eternal. The deathless means that which never dies, because it always exists. It is also often referred to as the unborn. The unborn means that which always exists because it has no beginning. Unborn and deathless, it has no beginning and no ending. It is considered in the Discourses synonymous with nirvana, ultimate liberation.

Though Shariputta’s advice in many ways seems remarkable, it reflects without distortion the teaching of the Buddha. For example, in Sutra 26 of the Discourses, titled “The Noble Search”, the Buddha says the following:

And what is the noble search? Here someone being himself subject to birth, having understood the danger in what is subject to birth, seeks the unborn supreme security from bondage, Nirvana; being himself subject to aging, having understood the danger in what is subject to aging, he seeks the unaging supreme security from bondage, Nirvana; being himself subject to sickness, having understood the danger in what is subject to sickness, he seeks the unailing supreme security from bondage, Nirvana; being himself subject to death, having understood the danger in what is subject to death, he seeks the deathless supreme security from bondage, Nirvana; being himself subject to sorrow, having understood the danger in what is subject to sorrow, he seeks the sorrowless supreme security from bondage, Nirvana; being himself subject to defilement, he seeks the undefiled supreme security from bondage, Nirvana. This is the noble search.

(The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, translated by Bhikkhu Ñaa.namoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi, Wisdom Publications, Boston, 1995, pages 255 and 256.)

This passage equates the deathless with the unborn and in turn with Nirvana. The recommendation here is to focus on the deathless, the unborn, the element of Nirvana in existence, and this will bring about the cessation of suffering, grief, anxiety, and despair.

The Anuruddha Sutta is very terse and does not elaborate on the meaning of the deathless. The above quoted passage helps us to understand what Shariputta meant by the deathless. In another Discourse, called “The Way To The Imperturbable”, Sutra 106 from the Middle Length Discourses, the Buddha elaborates further on the meaning of the deathless. Aananda asks:

“But, venerable sir, what is noble liberation?”

“Here, Aananda, a noble disciple considers thus: ‘Sensual pleasures here and now and sensual pleasures in lives to come, sensual perceptions here and now and material forms in lives to come, perceptions of forms here and now and perceptions of forms in lives to come, perceptions of the imperturbable, perceptions of the base of nothingness, and perceptions of the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception — this is personality as far as personality extends. This is the Deathless, namely, the liberation of the mind through not clinging.”

(The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, translated by Bhikkhu Ñaa.namoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi, Wisdom Publications, Boston, 1995, page 873.)

And earlier in the same Discourse, the Buddha says, “A bhikku, Aananda, who is without clinging attains Nirvana.”

Notice here that Nirvana is equated with a state of mind (mind understood in its broader meaning, not exclusively in terms of its discriminative and intellectual function, though not excluding those functions). Nirvana is not located some place, or at some time. This state of mind is labeled as the mind that does not cling.

The Sutta:

So later on the venerable Anuruddha abandoned these three conditions, paid no attention to them, but focused his mind on the deathless element. And it came to pass that the venerable Anuruddha, living alone, secluded, earnest, ardent and aspiring, in no long time attained the goal supreme of the holy life, for which clansmen rightly go forth from home to the homeless: even in this very life he himself by his own intuitional powers realized it, and having attained it dwelt therein, for he knew: Birth is destroyed: lived is the holy life: done is my task: for me there is no more of being thus. And the venerable Anuruddha was yet another of the realized Saints.

Comment:

The great lesson of this Discourse is that if we drop all peripheral concerns, such as concerns with occult powers, concerns with even such seemingly spiritual goals as one-pointedness, and shift our attention to the presence of eternity, like Anuruddha, who was just a person like you and me, we can then awaken to the deathless, to the unborn, to the unlocated Nirvana/Liberation, and we also can become one of the community of the Saints.

Note: The Anuruddha Sutta as used here is based on the following:

Gradual Sayings, Volume I, translated by F. L. Woodward, Pali Text Society, Oxford, original copyright 1932, this edition 1995, pages 260 and 261.

Source: Nichiren Coffee



[ad_2]

Changing Your Behaviour by Buddhism Guide

[ad_1]

published on




Changing Your Behaviour
Karma isn’t some magical or mystical thing handed out by some higher being. It is simply patterns of behaviour. In this podcast, Yeshe Rabgye explains that karma is totally in our hands, so if we want to change our lives, we have to change our behaviour. We can do this by using the acronym AWARE (Attention, Why, Assess, Reality, Examine).

My latest book ‘Open Awareness, Open Mind’ is available now on Amazon and Kindle – amzn.to/35uboLq

If you have any questions for Yeshe about this podcast, Buddhism, meditation or mindfulness you can contact him on the Facebook page below:

www.facebook.com/thebuddhismguide

If you would like to support future episodes please visit www.patreon.com/buddhismguide

Follow Buddhism Guide:
Website – www.buddhismguide.org
Facebook – www.facebook.com/thebuddhismguide/
Instagram – www.instagram.com/buddhism_guide/
Twitter – www.twitter.com/BuddhismGuide

Genre
Religion & Spirituality

License: all-rights-reserved



[ad_2]

Judgmental Mind.

Being non-judgemental is almost impossible for everyone. Dis you notice that in order to make a speech is all based on a judgemental nature? It is a nature for us to be judgemental and comparative. How can we not?If it is not out judgement, how can a speech even be made? We will be in … Continue reading "Judgmental Mind."

You are unauthorized to view this page.

Karmic Law, Free-Will and Manifestations

A lesson from master: Life is all magical, everything that we see, hear, touch, taste, smell in our experience were all derived through the karmic law; cause and effect. Within the karmic law, there is no discrimination, and it is full of compassion.It is intelligence of the universe. It works tirelessly with high precision and … Continue reading "Karmic Law, Free-Will and Manifestations"

You are unauthorized to view this page.

Kate Brandt Reviews THE LIGHTNESS by Emily Temple

[ad_1]

I am so excited and honoured to post this review by a new Buddhist Fiction Blog Contributing Editor, Kate Brandt. Kate works as a teacher trainer in adult literacy at the City University of New York, and has studied Buddhism for many years.  She is a graduate of the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College, and has published in Tricycle, the Buddhist Review, Literary Mama, Talking Writing, the Westchester Review, and Ginosko.  Welcome Kate!

Review of The Lightness by Emily Temple

Kate Brandt

What makes a work of fiction “Buddhist?”  For me, as a reader and long-time student of Buddhism, the answer would be that it engages with Buddhist concepts—the Four Noble Truths, the concept of No-Self, to name a few.  The Lightness certainly engages with Buddhism.  And it performs a difficult feat:  showing the impetus that leads to spiritual aspiration while staying rooted in the world of human attachments and concerns.

The Lightness is Olivia’s story, told in first person, of the summer she spent at a place called The Levitation Center, a “Buddhist Boot Camp for Bad Girls.”  “Boot camp,” of course, is tongue-in-cheek—the “campers” take part in activities like meditation, ikebana, Zen archery, yoga, and of course, work assignments like kitchen duty or weeding in the garden.  In between, they do the things that teenaged girls do—talk about each other; sneak out at night and engage in clandestine rituals; yearn.

There are two especially magnetic characters at the Levitation Center.  Luke, the gardener, is introduced to us first through the eyes of Olivia’s first friends at camp:

“He’s kind of a legend…a prodigy…our own personal holy man…he does something to the plants…no one knows what it is.” 

All the girls imagine themselves in his arms; he himself has perfected the art of elusiveness.  And then there is Serena, a fellow camper, beautiful and even more mysterious:

What was known about Serena: that she was in part Tibetan…that no, obviously she was an heiress…that actually she was a gypsy princess…that she’d slept with a teacher…that she was a virgin. 

Serena is the leader of the group of girls Olivia eventually joins.  She is unpredictable, and therefore, like Luke, someone you can never quite hold on to.

But there is another, even more enigmatic figure that beckons Olivia: her father.  It is from her father that Olivia has learned what she knows about Buddhism, and he is the reason she has come to the Levitation Center.  He has left her, and the Levitation Center is the last place she knew him to be.  Throughout the novel, flashbacks to conversations Olivia has had with her father reveal the Buddhist ideals she has grown up with:

Let me ask you this,” my father said.  “Where is the self?  Can you point to it?  Can you tell me what color it is?  No, not your sternum.  Not your eye.  Your Olivia.”

He shaped her.  Now he is gone.

That is the salient feature of Olivia’s father: he is gone.  Like Siddhartha himself, for all of his elegant detachment, Olivia’s father is essentially a deadbeat dad.  His absence points to a tension at the heart of Buddhism that I have always struggled with:  Buddhism teaches detachment, but under the guise of being peaceful, can one be too detached—as in, uncaring? 

Olivia’s pain and bewilderment at this abandonment is what drives the novel.  Nor is Olivia the only one of her friends who harbors a secret wound.  Another in the group has panic attacks.  Yet another has been abandoned not by one parent, but by both.  In response to this disappointment in the world, this dukkha, they follow the path of Siddhartha:  they seek to transcend. 

In The Lightness, the desire to transcend takes the form of a quest.  Throughout their summer at the camp, the girls are determined to learn to levitate—to actually rise into the air.  They try a variety of methods to achieve this:  getting Luke, the gardener, to teach them; breathing and thought exercises; not eating; special teas.  It is Serena who is most determined to achieve this: as we learn towards the end of the novel, she has the most grief to rise above, the most pain to leave behind. 

This central metaphor of the novel—the desire to rise above it all—tells a truth about spiritual seeking that many of us, I believe, will recognize.  Siddhartha left his palace, discovered what life is truly about—short, painful, and then we die—and decided to throw away his easy life, go into the forest to meditate, and find an answer.  Like him, each of us at one point realizes that, as writer Mark Epstein put it, life is a catastrophe.  We are disappointed, and the impulse is to leave in some way.  Slip out of the house, and go into the forest to figure it all out.  Rise into the air and out of sight.  In this way, I found The Lightness told a satisfying truth about spiritual longing.

A disappointment I felt was Olivia’s repudiation of Buddhism—indeed of all religion.  Towards the end of the novel, Olivia declares “I have decided I hate religion.”  Perhaps this was inevitable.  Her father introduced her to Buddhism, and through his absence and fecklessness, he has rejected her.  So Buddhism—in fact, religion in general–is rejected as well.  Too bad that the belief system got thrown out with the character who introduced her to it.  Too many books about religion, I feel, take it up only to reject it. 

I will not spoil the book by revealing whether the girls achieve their quest.  Let’s just say that while transcendence is not achieved by all, it is not presented as impossible, either.  I loved this book and highly recommend it.  For anyone who has studied Buddhism—for anyone at all, really, who has experienced loss, and quested for answers, The Lightness is a compelling and worthy read.

Pub info:  The Lightness by Emily Temple, William Morrow, New York, NY, 2020

[ad_2]

Important read: About Love, How to Love?

Everyone can contribute to a more conscious humanity. It is only via the sharing of love and compassion we can make the world a better place.  Love needs no intellect, it needs no education; it exists in all of us in silence, but we have refused to use it as the driving force of our … Continue reading "Important read: About Love, How to Love?"

You are unauthorized to view this page.

Types of Amulets & How Does Amulets Help?

There are 3 main types of amulets. Type 1 - Body Affecting Amulets (Energy Form)Type 2 - Mind Affecting Amulets (Psychological Form)Type 3 - Spiritual State Affecting Amulets (Spiritual Form) Amulets can be made in 3 separate forms as above or it can be a combination of 2 or all of the forms above. TYPE … Continue reading "Types of Amulets & How Does Amulets Help?"

You are unauthorized to view this page.