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In our last section we’ll look at Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano’s thoughts on how we can grow into the person that we desire to be—someone who can live the beautiful principles of Buddhism on a minute by minute basis.  He gives us a template to follow with the 5 Hindrances.  He writes:

These categories and formulations are worth studying in the texts, as they not only describe from various standpoints the journey to liberation but impress on the student’s mind the dynamic and cumulative nature of the Dhamma [Dharma] so that there can be no mistaking both the existence of higher and higher levels of attainment and the advantages of reaching them.  A sound theoretical knowledge will also help steer one away from dead ends in meditation and unjustified self-criticism or self-congratulation (page 137).[1]

Thus the 5 Hindrances:

  1. Desire, clinging, craving
  2. Aversion, anger, hatred
  3. Sleepiness, laziness
  4. Restlessness
  5. Doubt

Investigating a Hindrance: The RAIN Formula

R: Recognize it
A: Accept it
I: Investigate it, what’s it like?
N: Non-identification

(This is just a passing problem that comes and goes, not who we are.) [2]

I still encounter these 5 Hindrances on a regular basis.  Some days I encounter a whole bunch of them and other times I’m only challenged by one or two. Today may be my lucky day and I might not encounter any. WoooHooo!

Because I practice the teachings of Buddhism on a daily basis I am able to recognize these 5 Hindrances more quickly. This allows me to do something right away to fix the problem that I have created.  Plus, I am less apt to demean myself or others in the process.

Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano goes on to write: To build a good house we must have proper tools.  To make a safe journey we need a map (page 138).[3]  I encourage you to take these 5 Hindrances and work on them each day to use them as your map. Before you know it, you’ll have the most wonderful home filled with peace, love, and compassion for self and others regardless of the circumstance or situation!

Let it RAIN on you each day and watch what beautiful things begin to grow in your life!

Good luck with that!  Let me know how it grows!

[1] Ibid.

[2] https://www.reddit.com/r/Buddhism/comments/6ft69t/the_5_hindrances_to_meditation/

[3] Nyanasobhano, B. (1998) Landscapes of wonder Discovering Buddhist Dhamma in the world around us. Somerville Massachusetts: Wisdom Publications

[4]  Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

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I quoted last time from Dr. Rendon’s wonderful book Sentipensante (Sensing/Thinking) Pedagogy and as I read further into the book I was excited to see how she blends spiritual elements into her pedagogy to help her students learn not only the content but the ability to be good citizens in their communities.

She goes on to say ”The spiritual elements in Sentipensante Pedagogy include the use of diverse forms of contemplative practice, which may do two things: (a) quiet the mind to allow for the cultivation of deep insights and personal awareness, and (b) activate the senses as learners engage in social activism and self-transformation (page 141).”

Let’s not forget that regardless of our age, education, or time spent in school we are all learners!  We are learning something each and every day.  Maybe you read a newspaper, magazine, or book and discovered something that you did not know before.  It could be as simple as a new way to cook all the squash you’ve got growing in your backyard garden to a more beautiful route that you can take to the grocery store.  But learning you are!

Most of us would love to be able to quiet our minds, as Dr. Rendon says, to be able to go deep within ourselves to discover who we “really” are, to find out what our potential is, to discover how we can make our schools, towns, states and our country a better place for everyone to grow and blossom in.  For some it may be through social activism and for others it may come through self-transformation or maybe it is through both.

Even my 92-year-old mother has said to me many times, “I need a job.  I’ve got to be doing something.” It is not that easy to explain to her that no one is going to hire a 92-year-old woman with dementia so I try to find some thing that she is doing daily that is kind of like a job and is helping others.  It can be as simple as being kind and helpful at the Alzheimer’s Daycare Center with the other people who attend there, or when she tells a story to the staff that makes them laugh and lightens up their day.  When that sinks in she is excited to get on the bus to what she calls “school or work” the next morning.

Dr. Rendon goes on to write, “Consequently, contemplative practice is two-dimensional.  Contemplation may involve stillness and quieting the mind.  Yet it may also involve stirring the soul, shaking up the learner’s belief system, fostering a social justice consciousness, developing wisdom, and in the end transforming the self (page 141).”

I sat this morning at Zen contemplating a Koan that I am working on and came upon an interesting thought that when things are “broken” they are not always fixable for whatever reason.  Sometimes the problems are too large and maybe I just need to look at them from a different vantage point.  Maybe I need to give them more time, or be more creative in my thinking about the situation.  Maybe I just need to leave it alone until such time as the answer appears on its own.  Maybe I need to not force an answer, solution, or idea.

Imagine what a great tool it would be for our students if we taught them how to use contemplation and meditation tools to help them engage with problem solving, decision making, and more.  To use these tools to help them quiet down the “monkey mind” that rages in their heads all day and sometimes all night long.

The school of life is daunting, beautiful, fantastic, challenging, and unpredictable.  Spending time in quiet meditation and contemplation can help us and our students get our lives together and find a simple and peaceful way of living.  We can get off the playground where all the “kids” are running and jumping, and yelling and fighting and kicking, and go to the playground where the people are laughing and smiling and sharing and enjoying each others company in peaceful conversations and discussions.

Which playground are you on today?

 

 

 

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As Calvin said to Hobbes in a cartoon one day, “Today at school I tried to decide whether to cheat on my test or not.  Well, it just seemed wrong to cheat on an ethics test.”  Good thinking Calvin!

Cheating, ethics, morals, lies, white lies, little lies, misstatements, gaffes, spin, plagiarism, how many different ways can we say the same thing: doing the wrong thing, when doing the right thing would have served you better.  Bernie Madoff made off with everyone’s money.  And not just the millionaires and billionaires money, but charities and people’s pensions, and so he sits in a federal prison where he was sentenced to 150 years in jail and a forfeiture of $17.179 billion.  Was it worth it Mr. Madoff?

According to Rushworth Kidder the author of the book How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living, this would be considered a right vs wrong dilemma.  Clearly a person can see that what Madoff did was not only illegal but it was unethical. For many of my college students plagiarism is confusing to them and they do not seem to understand that it is wrong to plagiarize something that another person wrote.  And there are rules against it in every school.  After a certain number of times in any school you will be suspended and/or expelled from that institution and rightly so.

Then there is the right vs right ethical dilemma.  That is much harder to figure out and much harder to decide what to do in that case.  During this presidential election time in our country we hear lots of right vs right ethical dilemmas.  Do we raise taxes on the rich to balance the budget, cut services to the poor to balance the budget.  Do we keep Obamacare because it has so many important elements to it that will help everyone, including giving more customers and therefore more money to the insurance companies.  Do we repeal it and start over?  Do we expand the military industrial complex or shrink it?  I could go on and on, but I won’t.  You get the idea.  Whose values are correct anyway?

Every spiritual tradition on this planet gives you a set of values to live by, the 10 commandments, 16 precepts, the golden rule, and more.  Those who are ethical humanists may have something similar in their creed as well.  But how many of us stop to think about these commandments, creeds,or  rules when we are in the middle of a tough decision?

Did Paul Ryan stop to think about them when he wrote a budget that took much needed services away from the poor, the elderly, and the sick?  Maybe he did after he was chastised by the Catholic Bishops and the Nun’s on the Bus.  Did he think about it when he told the reporter he had run “marathons” and his fastest time was around two hours?  Did John Edwards think about the consequences when he cheated on his wife and fathered a child out of wedlock?

Our transgressions may not have been as dramatic and over reaching as Madoff, Ryan, and Edward’s but we need to be aware of them and think about how they affected our family, friends, students, co-workers and more.  As educators it is our responsibility to set the example for our students.  To be the person that they can look up to, and to check in with them to help them deal with their ethical dilemmas.  Do we create fun and informative exercises in our classes that bring ethics into the subject matter?  It does not matter what subject you teach–they all will ultimately depend on good ethical decision making and problem solving.

If you teach history are you looking at the historical figures and talking about some of their unethical decisions from genocide of the native Americans to the Patriot Act and some of its unintended consequences.  If you teach literature are you reading stories, fiction and non-fiction, that illustrate ethical choices.  Are you letting them write essays, reports, and poems on ethics.  Do you have them debate the subject with some of the students taking the pro and others taking the con on a particular ethical dilemma?

Many years ago I played a game with my students and it was all about ethics.  The students were broken into groups, each group was acting as a country.  Each group was given certain items at random–problems and solutions.  Some of the problems were drought, floods, wars, corruption,  and more.  Then the solutions were things like water resources, scientists, good politicians, food, clothes, and more.  The game was not over until all the groups had solved each one of their dilemmas and no one was left behind with an unsolved problem!  Wow was that hard and fun and rewarding for the students.  They came up with fantastic solutions and great cooperation and sharing was demonstrated by the group members.

There were many lessons learned and many “Ah Has” gotten during the training.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get all of our politicians, local, state, and federal to play this game, to take the things they learned from it and actually put them to use for the citizens of this country.  And if they cheated or didn’t share or plagiarized, or allowed themselves to have “insider trading” they would be given “time out” or suspended or expelled from their jobs.  What a wonderful world we would have if only that were true.

So let’s take some time this fall and look at our ethics and see how well we score.  Let’s take the time to be introspective and discover what we mean when we define the word ethics. Let’s look at our lives and see if we parse them out–more ethics on Sunday after church, or on Saturday after sitting at the Zendo.  How about less ethics at work, yet more ethics at home in front of the kids, and less ethics at the grocery store when we are alone.

Where oh where has your ethics gone?

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