07 Apr 2016
Alan starts explaining that balance is a crucial theme in shamatha training where we cultivate relaxation without losing clarity, stability of attention without losing relaxation and vividness without losing stability. The balance of these three qualities can be applied to every activity in daily life, however there is no guarantee that it is meaningful. During the development of shamatha the faculties of mindfulness and introspection, which we already have, are refined through training and turned into powers. Alan then turns to the more general theme of Buddha Dharma. Within the 37 aspects of enlightenment, there are five faculties, which can be turned into five powers through training and refinement. These five faculties are faith, intelligence, enthusiasm, samadhi and mindfulness. Alan groups them into pairs of balance. Faith can be balanced with intelligence, enthusiasm can be balanced with samadhi and mindfulness will balance out all the other four. Enthusiasm, in Sanskrit Vīrya, is not just effort or diligence but rather carries the meaning of taking delight in virtue. Alan illustrates the meaning of diligence with the examples of filling out a tax form or beating a donkey to go uphill. Enthusiasm in contrast, is likened to water flowing downhill. He then explains that Vīrya is balanced with samadhi, meaning a focused, composed, not fragmented quality of one’s attention. Alan defines the fifth faculty, mindfulness, as bearing something in mind without forgetfulness and without distraction. Mindfulness enables us to balance the other four. Alan then turns to the faculty of Faith, and explains how it is of three types: appreciation, aspiration and belief. Faith has to be in balance with intelligence. If there is too much faith and too little intelligence one can wind up being dogmatic, stupid, rigid and close-minded. And if there is too much intelligence and too little faith, one can be very smart and clever, but will not achieve anything. Alan continues explaining how enthusiasm is balanced with samadhi. Instead of just meditating for 11 hours a day he prefers to balance this with theory. By reflecting on the teachings, joy, inspiration and eagerness to devote oneself to practice is increased. He emphasizes that practice brings life to the theory and the theory brings meaning to the practice. However, enthusiasm and samadhi should not be mixed. While in-between sessions we should arouse enthusiasm, during the meditation we should just focus on samadhi. Alan then says that these five faculties can be turned into powers through training and refinement. This fivefold grid is also very useful if applied to other fields like business, mental health, education, athletics etc. Alan then introduces the “Shower of Blessings practice” as the meditation for today. The text will be available on the podcast website, in the section “Supplementary Resources”.
The meditation is the oral transmission of the “Shower of Blessings” practice.
After the meditation Alan says that he sometimes gets impatient with the request of teaching secular Dharma without any references to Buddhism. On the other hand, the Dalai Lama has now written two books on secular ethics and supports the secular approach with the motivation of helping all people, which Alan admires a lot.
Meditation starts at 29:00
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