Buddhism: Week 2 Summary

Buddhism: Week 2

Summary: Sunday, September 6-Friday, September 11, 2015

You can give people all the pious Christian teaching you want, but without a transformation of consciousness, they don’t have the energy or the capacity to carry it out. (Sunday)

“Buddhism can help Christians to be mystical Christians . . . to realize and enter into the non-dualistic, or unitive, heart of Christian experience.” —Paul Knitter (Monday)

Only when we are resting in our deep center, our source, the Indwelling “Spirit in whom we live and move and have our being . . . . only then can we be of service to others” over the long haul—and with love. (Tuesday)

God is not out there. (Wednesday)

“I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.” —Thich Nhat Hanh (Thursday)

What makes us suffer is clinging to or craving things that are passing away, or trying to avoid things that are unavoidable (aversion). (Friday)

 

Practice: The Four Limitless Qualities

Buddhism identifies Four Limitless Qualities: loving kindness (maitri), compassion, joy, and equanimity. Loving kindness and compassion may appear to be the same, but there are subtle differences. In Buddhism, compassion includes a willingness to identify so fully with someone that you would be willing to carry a little of their suffering. Equanimity may be close to what Christians mean by peace. These four qualities are limitless in that they increase with practice and use. If you don’t choose daily and deliberately to practice loving kindness, it is unlikely that a year from now you will be any more loving. The qualities are also limitless because they are already within you—which beautifully parallels the Christian theology of the Holy Spirit. There is a place in you that is already kind, compassionate, joyful, and equanimous.

Last week’s practice, Tonglen, focused on holding the suffering of self and others. Today I will paraphrase Pema Chödrön’s practice for loving kindness, maitri. I invite you to set aside a quiet period to go through these simple steps with intention and openness.

  1. Recognize the place of loving kindness inside yourself. It is there. Honor it, awaken it, and actively draw upon it.
  2. Drawing upon the source of loving kindness within, bring to mind someone for whom you feel sincere goodwill and tenderness, someone you love very much. From your source, send loving kindness toward this person and bless them.
  3. Awaken loving kindness for someone who is a casual friend or associate—someone not in your inner circle, but a bit further removed, someone you admire or appreciate. Send love to that individual.
  4. Now send loving kindness to someone about whom you feel neutral or indifferent—for example, a gas station attendant or a cashier. Send your blessing to this person.
  5. Think of someone who has hurt you, who has talked evil of you, whom you find it difficult to like or you don’t enjoy being around. Bless them; send this would-be enemy your love.
  6. Bring all of the first five individuals into the stream of flowing love, including yourself. Hold them here for a few moments.
  7. Finally, extend this love to embrace all beings in the universe. It is one piece of love, one love toward all, regardless of religion, race, culture, or likability.

This practice can help you know—in your mind, heart, and body—that love is not determined by the worthiness of the object. Love is determined by the giver of the love. These steps can be repeated for the other three limitless qualities. Remember, spiritual gifts increase with use. Love, compassion, joy, and equanimity will grow as you let them flow. You are simply an instrument, a conduit for the inflow and outflow of the gifts of the Spirit. You are “inter-being.”

Gateway to Silence:
“The suchness of each moment is the infinite mercy of God.”  —Paul Knitter

Reference:
[1] Richard Rohr, Jesus and Buddha: Paths to Awakening (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2008), disc 4 (CD, DVD, MP3 download). 

For Further Study:
Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching
Paul F. Knitter, Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian
Richard Rohr and James Finley, Jesus and Buddha: Paths to Awakening (CD, DVD, MP3 download)
Richard Rohr, Living the Eternal Now (CD, MP3 download)

Image credit: “The Bodhisattva attains Awakening and becomes the Buddha” (detail), a Lalitavistara (The Life of the Buddha) relief at Borobudur in Java, Indonesia, 9th century.
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