Transmuting Padma Neuroses - Morality & Compassion
Changing Longing into Investigation and Compassion through Morality
In the Vajra family, we worked on converting Fear and Anger to Intelligence through the practice of Patience. In Ratna, we converted Pride and Attachment to Balance through the practice of Generosity. Now, in the Padma Family, we convert Longing and Manipulation into Investigation and Compassion through the practice of Morality.
Morality involves the middle ground between either using our relationship with the rest of our world soley to fulfill our own personal desires and our becoming totally absorbed and obsessed in an extreme sense of One-ness with all or part of our world. It becomes the interplay between our impression of the world and the world as it actually is. It's all about the connection between separation and unity or Aloneness versus Togetherness. With morality, our inter-relationship with others comes complete with an understanding and appreciation of everything's own uniqueness while simultaneously recognizing that we are part of a single whole.
Morality is a huge subject, but, because we are talking about how it relates to Padma Energy, we will focus on the role of attraction and curiousity within Morality. We will focus on the relationship between morality and desire, and manipulation.
Morality is defined as Ethics and Discipline in Buddhist teachings. I tend to view ethics as the way that we treat others; as about how we apply our personal values to our relationship with others. I tend to think of discipline as how we apply our personal values to our own thought, speech, and action.
Ethics and Discipline involve the following
At our current time, there is a tendency to think that discipline is the opposite of freedom. This is especially true if the discipline comes from an outside source. But Spiritual discipline is not meant to come from outside. What constitutes spiritual discipline was taught to us or given to us, but we need to follow it because we see the value of the end result of practicing that discipline. This understanding of the role of discipline seems to have been lost.
Spiritual discipline involves disciplining ourselves to align with goals that enhance our spirit. Because this spirit continues on once it can no longer be supported by this body of ours, then spiritual goals and its discipline work beyond this lifetime. This is one of the reasons for the importance of spiritual goals.
This brings up an important point about morality, goals, and values. Just as with other aspects of our lives relating to spirit, these notions of morality, goals, and values relate to every moment of our lives.
It's not enough just to have compassion for starving children in Africa, or to be patient with our children or grandchildren. Most profound Spiritual teachings of any of the traditions emphasize that Compassion, Patience, or Morality need to be practiced every moment and on everyone in our surroundings. Our actions in each moment are a reflection of our goals and values.
Spiritual practice is about enhancing the quality of our spirit. The quality of our spirit is about the state of our mind at every moment. The state of our mind is dependent on our goals and values. Our goals and values are reflected in our current thought, speech, and action. This means that the state of our mind and the quality of our spirit are also reflected in our thought, speech, and action. Hence the need for discipline.
Of course, in order to work with our goals and values, we need to know what they actually are. We need to use the energy of our curiousity about the nature of spirit, and the nature of our own spirit, to investigate what those goals and values really are. Once we discover or decide what our goals and values are, we need to examine if they are based on real possibilities or pure fantasy. For example, if our goals are based on the notion that we'll live forever, then we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. If we think that we'll always get what we want, exactly when we want it, then, again, we have an unrealistic view of reality.
There are Three Poisons according to Buddha's teaching. These are three emotional states that lead to the creation of the various realms or types of suffering. The Three Poisons are Greed, Anger, and Ignorance. These affect our Individual Karma and our Throwing Karma. Our Individual Karma is the strength of our tendencies towards Greed, Anger, and Ignorance or their opposites. Throwing Karmas are the attachments, links, and tendencies that propel us into a new situation. It is because of the force of our throwing karma that we wake up in the morning after going to sleep the night before.
It is very easy for us to allow our feelings of attraction and appreciation to turn into longing and attachment. When that longing and attachment become SO strong that we are willing to do almost anything to satisfy them, then they can be classified as Greed. When our desires are thwarted, we give rise to impatience, Anger, and ill-will. All of these emotions arise out of misguided or incomplete views of reality which are based on our Ignorance of the workings of ourselves and the world around us. This Ignorance also manifests as doubt and confusion.
Discipline involves taking back control of our mind instead of allowing our thoughts and feelings to send us into situations that ultimately end up harmful. Discipline is where we counteract these emotions because of the negative, harmful, and destructive circumstances that result from indulging in them. We also use the power of curiousity and investigation to discover and eliminate the misguided or incomplete viewpoints that give rise to them in the first place.
Discipline is about working on resolving the problems of conflicting desires and lining up our desires with our goals and values. Normally, or at least quite often, we succumb to our desires without question, moving from desire to desire as each one arises. We end up succumbing to the same desires or attractions over and over again, not realizing the harm that they're causing or the limits that they're reinforcing in our life. This happens sometimes even when we ARE aware of the harm that they are causing, but we have trouble stopping ourselves.
We need to begin to encorporate all 5 Wisdoms while we are operating in the world. This is also where discipline comes into play. We need to watch our attractions and desires and control our curiousity and be more selective about which ones we follow and which ones we ignore. We need to stay aware of the entire circumstances surrounding our attractions.
This means maintaining and enhancing our level of awareness and not letting our desires blind us. It means keeping our goals and values in mind and recognizing when a particular desire or attraction will take us in a different direction or contradict one of our supposed values. It is here that we can notice the difference between our idealistic values and goals and our real underlying ones. A good example is there can often be a difference between what we THINK we need and what we ACTUALLY need.
We also need to look ahead and see if fulfilling a particular desire will really give us the satisfaction that we're looking for. We then need to examine to see what the consequences are. Is fulfilling this particular desire beneficial or harmful? What other parts of our world are affected by, or ignored by, focussing on this particular desire and its fulfillment?
This may seem to be very analytical, but we need to combine our head and our heart in order to be complete in our expression of ourselves. With the practice of shamata meditation, we begin to have some space between our world and our reaction to it. This allows us to examine the components of the thoughts and feelings that are aroused by the world around us. Within these thoughts and feelings, we can begin to recognize the grasping, the viewpoint or attitude behind them, the past influences that make us think or feel this way, the possible responses and the future direction of the results of these responses.
We are now learning about all of the possible attitudes, grasping, and responses, so that we can recognize them and see them in operation during our day to day lives once we have the space to notice them. At that point, we can change them if we want to change the outcome or direction they're taking us.
All of this means being more selective about what attractions to fall for and what desires to pursue. The example that I use in this instance is a Surfer. The Surfer looks at the oncoming wave and decides if they should follow it or not. If it doesn't look like the best wave, then they let it go by. When they finally see what appears to be a wave worth following, they get ready to ride the wave all the way into the shore. We need to do the same thing with all of the things that attract us in the course of the day and then only select the best ones.
The strength of our attraction can come from familiarity, or can be from the impression that the object of our attraction will really fulfill one of our goals, or that the object really exemplifies or reinforces one of our values. We can also pursue desires solely because of the momentary sensual pleasure provided or the sense of wholeness, comfort, or freedom from tension that results, even if we know it's effects are only temporary.
The first thing that determines our attractions is our underlying view of ourselves and the world. We have actually developed attachments to these underlying views of ourselves and the world because, at one time or another, we were attracted to these views. The attraction came because our desires were satisfied by them, or we felt comfortable with them, or we sought protection within these viewpoints from an outside threat.
Since then, we have taken ownership of them or identified ourselves with these views, thinking that these views are now a fixed part of who we are. Here we need to use our curiousity and sense of investigation to try to discover what our underlying views really are, based our our current tendencies in terms of thought, speech, and action. Then we need to decide if these views are helping us or harming us.
The Different Types of Views
If we think that our health, wealth, situations, and relationships will never change, then we will tend to take things for granted or we will always feel stuck with whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. We can tend to act any way that we feel like, because part of us does not believe that the things that we do will affect the world around us.
If we think that we can get permanent satisfaction by fulfilling temporary sensual and worldly desires, then we will suffer when we see the signs of the fading of our beauty, health, wealth or relationships. The desire to maintain this type of satisfaction and avoid this suffering can lead to us harming, lying, abusing, deceiving, slandering, and ignoring others. The ultimate occassion of their disappearance is visible at the time of our death. Thinking this way will set us up for a lot of suffering due to our unrealistic expectations.
If we think of people and the world around us as fixed and unchangeable, then we will continually react through routine or could feel stuck in a rut. This allows us to maintain grudges and hatreds and attachments of all kinds. We will also tend to feel that we can't make improvements and that the world and people will never change so our response to them need never change.
If we think of ourselves as unchange-able, then we will feel that we can't improve the way we do things ("It's just the way I am!"). If we have an image of ourselves as unworthy, evil, neurotic, or incapable, then we might tend to think that we are stuck this way and that there's no way out. If we think of ourselves as completely separate from others then we can feel isolated and without help. We can also feel that the world owes us everything. Then we might tend to be arrogant, and indifferent to others.
We actually develop acceptance of these ideas and unite with them. We have become attracted to them and these notions end up stuck in our minds, like ink being absorbed in an ink blotter. Then we continually look for evidence and situations to support these notions and we stick to them as well. This is how these ideas end up as an almost unerasable part of our Perceptions collection. In the process, they end up influencing our feelings, our intentions, and our awareness. When we speak and act based on these, then our Forms change as well to further reinforce these notions. For example, we tend to be attracted to, socialize or connect with people who hold the same notions that we do or join groups of people with similar interests.
We need to recognize these notions and views of ourselves and the world around us, and we need to recognize the damage that they do or the negative circumstances that are perpetuated by continually being attracted to these kinds of ideas and the feelings and situations that reinforce them.
By reflecting on and remembering their harm, even though we may initially be attracted to thoughts, people, and situations that support these viewpoints, we can end up developing revulsion to them and gradually our attraction to these notions will diminish. We can get to the point where lying, stealing or speaking badly of someone is repulsive to us.
If we recognize that everything is temporary and will only last as long as all of the conditions are present to support their existence, then we will be more accepting and less upset by their disappearence, when the time comes for them to go. We will recognize the loss of beauty, and the fading of physical and mental capabilities. We will be prepared for the illness and death of loved ones. Also, we will not take our wealth and posessions or our relationships for granted because we'll know that they could disappear at any time and because of that, they are very precious.
If we recognize that the satisfaction that we can gain from any earthly circumstances is only temporary, then we can stop connecting our sense of satisfaction with temporary pleasures. While we're pre-occupied with temporary pleasures, we don't even notice that there is the possibility of having pleasure that's not dependent on temporary external circumstances. Only once we become a bit indifferent to temporary pleasures do we allow room to experience more permanent pleasures such as contentment, and wholeness.
It's possible to view our interaction with the world as a process that's constantly evolving and that's fresh in each moment, even when it appears to be identical. By having this approach, we allow for the possibility for things to improve, and we allow for the chance to percieve the changes that have taken place in the circumstances and people around us. The result is that we don't react with preconceived ideas or make mistakes due to assumptions and past impressions which could no longer apply. The result is fewer mistaken responses and a more positive feeling of possiblities and creative involvement with our everyday world.
If we view ourselves as inherently wise and capable, and our poor responses as temporary abberations, then there is always the possiblity to improve the way we respond to the world around us. We affirm our capabilities and therefore become attracted to evidence of these qualities, instead of reinforcing and staying attracted to thought, speech, action, and circumstances that reinforce our negative impression of ourselves.
If we feel interconnected with others, then we can share in the good qualities and help eliminate the problems as well as get help with our own problems. We allow for the possibility of a different self-definition and for working together with others and therefore a different response to our world results and ultimately a different world is created. We develop a sense of wholeness or wholesomeness, and elimate a sense of lack of wholeness or unwholesomeness.
So discipline involves watching the things that we're attracted to and applying our curiousity to investigate the underlying circumstances, our goals and underlying spirit. From there, we note the viewpoints that these attractions represent and the tendencies for reinforcing thought, speech, and action that arise with these viewpoints. Then we examine the consequences and decide whether we should ignore the attraction or follow through with it. It involves choosing one set of desires over another. It involves becoming attracted to the beneficial and wholesome and repulsed by the harmful and unwholesome.
With Discipline, we are watching the effects of our attractions and curiousities on our viewpoint, goals, and values and checking that our thought, speech, and actions reinforce the viewpoints, goals, and values that we feel are most important and most beneficial. We are looking at how our desires and attractions negatively or positively impact our own lives.
With Ethics, we examine how our desires and attractions impact on our connections with others. This is a different aspect of Karma that determines our group Karma and our Completing Karma. Throwing karma is the number of stones and the force that we used to drop them into a lake or pond. Completing karmas are the ripples that result from all the stones we have thrown in the pond.
Throwing Karma determines whether we are born as a cat or a human. Completing Karma determines whether we are born in poor and dirty surroundings and toxic relationships or wealthy and clean surroundings and enhancing and beneficial relationships.
The main part of working with others is understanding the sameness and the uniqueness of others as well as our unity and our separateness with others. We often see the separateness and differences, but we mostly lose sight of the unity, sameness, and interconnections.
A large aspect of this is to recognize that, as sentient beings, we all desire to obtain happiness and eliminate and avoid suffering. We need to remind ourselves that we all have BuddhaNature, which means that we all posess this inherent wisdom, but that it is clouded over by our own attachments, impatience, and ignorance. We are all pulled away in varying degrees from our Buddha-Minds by our longings and attachments, fears and frustrations, and doubts and confusion.
At the same time, our survival and our learning are helped by those around us. So even though they provide us a great deal of benefit, they are locked in their own cycle of longing, attachment, fear, anger, doubt, and confusion and the suffering that is caused by actions done with these emotions.
Our longing for wealth, control, or to posess what another posesses can be so strong that we think that killing them would be alright, or that taking these things without asking or without other people's knowledge would be OK. We can feel that fulfilling our desires is more valuable than their friendhips or their own sense of well-being. Because of the strength of our own desires, we are willing to physically and verbally abuse others. We are willing to separate them from their friends through slander, and demean them through physical and verbal humiliation. We can even tempt our friends into harmful activities out of our own desires such as getting into a car with a drunk driver.
We need to consider that harming others, who are already undergoing all sorts of suffering on their own, is just adding more misery onto what they already have. Because of recognizing the benefits they provide for us, we would rather reduce their suffering instead of contribute to it. This is the development of Compassion. It is the sense of appreciation and recognition of their desirable qualities that is also a part of the Padma energy of attraction. If we can focus on the appreciation and then not succumb to the longing that can arise from it, then we will be properly expressing Padma energy.
We can also regard them as what is called "fields of merit" in Buddhism. What this means is that we can practice the perfections on other sentient beings and that way we strengthen our own virtue which increases our own Buddha qualities. We "use" sentient beings to develop Equanimity, Loving-kindness, and Compassion. We practice perfecting our generousity, morality, patience, enthusiasm, Concentration, and Wisdom on them, and take their reactions as feedback on the degree of our success in perfecting these qualities.
When we change our view of others in this way, we will no longer be attracted to harming others in order to fulfill our own desires. We will find it repulsive to harm others or to even hear about others being harmed, demeaned, or denigrated.
The focus on this lesson has been mostly about our viewpoint. This is because our view of others and the world around us has a lot to do with determining what we find desirable and what we think is repulsive.
By changing our view of the world as temporary, unable to supply lasting satisfaction, dependent on causes and conditions for its existence, and changeable, ungraspable, and relative, then we discipline ourselves to be attracted to thought, speech, and action that reflect these views.
We work on changing our view of others from just being objects for our own manipulation, or as threatening, separate, and unimportant, to thinking of others as our Benefactors, our Companions on the spiritual path, and our Teachers. From this, we develop ethics so that we are attracted to thought, speech, and action that reflect our gratitude and reflect an appreciation of our shared experience of both the joys and the miseries of sentient life.