As we end the 11 verses, a reminder that we have been looking at: Plum Village's interpretation of the Discourse on Happiness, as discussed on the podcast The Way Out Is In by Zen Buddhist monk Brother Phap Huu and journalist Jo Confino, in episode 35. Long-standing members of our sangha held a couple of Youtube lives to discuss the discourse too: Part 1 & Part 2. You can use the search bar to discover our other blogs on this topic and other things, or use the drop-down at the top of the blog pages where it says 'More'. The Verses: 9. “To live diligently and attentively, to perceive the Noble Truths, and to realize Nirvana — this is the greatest happiness.
10. “To live in the world with your heart undisturbed by the world, with all sorrows ended, dwelling in peace — this is the greatest happiness.
How do we live diligently and attentively?
Diligence relates to the Paramitas of Ethical Discipline, Patience and Joyful Effort, and connects to 'Right' Effort, on the Eightfold Noble Path.
It's the intentional energy that carries all the others.
It's putting one foot in front of the other, on this path, guided by the paramitas, and attentively knowing that that's exactly what you're doing and coming back to it when we have strayed off it.
We've all had experiences similar to arriving at a destination and wondering how we actually got there safely! Our attention wandered off; planning dinner or creating stories about what is going to happen when we get where we are going. We've most likely been projecting onto the future, our brains love their storytelling!
Our mindfulness practice, that of focusing on one thing at a time, helps us to realize more quickly when we are not attentive. We can suddenly awaken to the fact that we have dreamily just been going about our day and acknowledge that our mind and our body have not been together. The more we practice mindfulness and zazen, the more quickly we realize when we have been unattentive. We're able to do this because we have trained ourselves to acknowledge the experiences of peace in 'just' being with the moment as it is; body and mind.
How do we perceive the Noble Truths?
To perceive here is to know, understand and practice living with the truths above. The more we do, the deeper our perception of the concepts in each. When we're in any form of pain or fear, all we want to be is out of it. We sometimes seek that in ways that are not 'skillful', causing ourselves the delusion of finding 'peace' in the material world. However, the ways we do that are frequently short-lived, so off on the hunt we go again. Hungry little ghosts.
We grasp for and cling to things that give us a sense of permanence, however, all things in life are impermanent.
It IS inevitable that at times we will want some level of permanence, spurred on by pain and fear eliciting a flight, flight, freeze, or appease response from the oldest layer of the brain; the reptilian brain.
Some of us in this sangha call this our spiney or spikey brain. As it is closest to the spinal column. Most all sensory and nerve endings will find themselves going through the reptilian brain first. Hence why a lot of our behaviors are instinct-driven, then emotionally driven before the rational brain kicks in.
This is dis-ease with the pain and fear of impermanence, with the way things are, through habitual choices causes us suffering. Our dis-ease is our suffering. To cling / crave / attach to permanence causes the suffering of dis-ease. There is no permanent self or other, or things. All energy return to source.
Dis-ease manifests as the three poisons of:
greed aka passion, lust or attachment,
hate aka aggression, aversion or anger,
delusions aka ignorance, indifference, or the story-telling mind. All of which try to justify a reactive habit rather than a responding mind frame.
The more we practice walking on the path guided by the 6 paramitas and the 16 bodhisattva vows, the more we create a space where our higher, rational, brain can kick in. Often in this sangha, we call this the sacred pause. A place where we can acknowledge and use instinct and emotions as part of what informs discernment / wisdom / skillful habits. We are guided in our journey, on this path, by Buddha, through the Dharma, and with the Sangha. To support the Buddha within each and everyone, to pass through the dharma gates of life's lessons skillfully, sangha supporting one another and their communities where they can. These are The Three Treasures.
To Realize Nivarna
Traditionally Nivarna has been described in the following ways: 1. Escape from the cycle of rebirth aka 'samsara'. The complete cessation of all becoming; an exalted state entirely beyond karmic conditioning.
2. The state attained by Shakamuni Buddha upon his death.
3. In Mahayana texts, the freedom from attachment to and suffering in the round of rebirth that results from an insight into the emptiness of all dharmas attained by a bodhisattva, despite the fact that he/she remains in rebirth to save other beings and still feels compassion for them.
4. A euphemism for the death of any ordinary human being.
5. A place akin to heaven, peaceful, pure, unsullied or defiled by the 'evils' of the material world. According to Nagarjuna, an ancient Indian philosopher, and a teacher of Mahayana Buddhism, "Nothing of Samsara is different from Nirvana, nothing of Nirvana is different from Samsara."
The Heart Sutra, one of the most chanted verses in all schools of Buddhism, say "No birth, no death, nothing is pure, nothing is defiled." Our lineage can be traced from India to China, to Japan, and now to America. In our lineage and sangha therefore we learn of these traditions. We acknowledge that tradition has led us here, and that language often gets in the way of describing some of these traditional Buddhist concepts. There has been, over the years, many a mistranslation, and then attempts to correct as best they could. As Bodhisattvas; ones who have awakened to the possibility of having Buddha nature. we see these Four Noble Truths and practice the precepts and vows, to nurture the capacity to have peace within ourselves. To embody it. (In the main, we do this through Zazen.) We nurture the capacity to have peace within ourselves by conscientiously selecting intentions or making choices that bring about as much peace for ourselves and others as we possibly can. Mindful of body, speech, and mind as far as possible. Apologizing and 'making amends' where we can. We choose to have one foot on the 'shore' of being human, experiencing pain and fear
and, we choose to have one foot on the other shore of Nirvana; where we make an enlightened / wise / discerning / skillful choice to abide with the moment. With the situation. With our instincts and emotions. Then take the next best, informed, step forward, IF it is required.
Creating snippets of peace / nirvana during our days for ourselves, so as to be in a calmer mental 'place' to engage with the world. Again we do this with the sacred pause and by sitting Zazen twice a day. We also, where we are permitted, will assist others to nurture their capacity to have peace within themselves.
Quite possibly the best-known of all bodhisattvas is Quan Yin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion.
This brings us to verse 10.
“To live in the world
with your heart undisturbed by the world,
with all sorrows ended, dwelling in peace —
this is the greatest happiness.
We practice and practice, daily, on this shore, in this world. We WILL fall off the path, hooked by situations, events, emotions, pain and fear BECAUSE we are human. Just as the Buddha was. Was he always undisturbed? We WILL get back on the path. The suffering we cause ourselves and others will soften over time, as we learn to grant ourselves peace and grant others compassion, for where they are on their journey. and 11. “For he or she who accomplishes this,
unvanquished wherever she goes,
always he is safe and happy —
happiness lives within oneself.”
If you have made it through to the end well done and thank you for joining us as we explored this Discourse.
If you would like to add anything, question anything or just leave a comment, please do. You could also email in using the address at the bottom of the page. 🙏 Gassho Shinjin