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Reflections On A Mountain Lake: Teachings On Practical Buddhism

Reflections On A Mountain Lake: Teachings On Practical Buddhism by Ani Tenzin Palmo

Some of my favourite excerpts…

The best place for us to begin our Dharma practice is with our family. We have the strongest karmic connections with family members; therefore, we have a great responsibility for developing our relationships with them. If we cannot develop loving-kindness towards our family, why even talk about other beings? If we really want to open up our heart, it has to he to those directly connected to us, such as our partners, children, parents, and siblings. This is always a difficult task, because we need to overcome deeply entrenched behavioral patterns.

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What is the use of always seeking tranquility and avoiding challenges?” lie said we are like rough pieces of wood. Trying to smooth our ragged edges down with velvet and silk won’t work. We need sandpaper. The people who annoy us are our sandpaper. They are going to make us smooth. If we regard those who are extremely irritating as our greatest helpers on the path, we can learn a lot. They cease to he our problems and instead become our challenges.

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The main purpose of meditation is to create self-knowing and awareness so we can break through our patterning and respond with more openness, clarity, and understanding.

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Meditation is about arousing self-knowledge. Once we know ourselves, we can understand others. When we understand others, we can put an end to suffering. We can respond to everything with great skill. We can respond to others with respect and compassion. In this lies the importance of the human realm. This is our great opportunity.

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It is up to us whether we act with awareness or with delusion. It is up to us whether we create further suffering for ourselves and for others or whether we gradually release this and create positive circumstances.

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We do not see things as they really are, but rather as we interpret them. This happens so automatically that we are not conscious of what is going on. If you talk to a number of people who have experienced the same event, each one will describe it differently.

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At a basic level, this is what shamatha is all about: doing whatever we do with the whole of the mind-not with part of the mind thinking about something else, but totally. If we give our mind fully to whatever we are doing, it becomes effective very quickly. But if we give only half our minds to it, no matter how hard we work on it, we just generate inner conflict.

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call it anything you like. You can call it atman. You can call it anatman. You can call it God. The fact is, there is a subtle level of consciousness which is the core of our being, and it is beyond our ordinary conditioned state of mind. We can all experience this.

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It’s not what you own that is the problem. The problem is how much you are attached to it. The problem is not so much desire, but clinging. If you want to hold water, you have to hold it with cupped hands. If you make a tight fist, it runs away. Clinging and attachment bring us great suffering. We think attachment is love, but it is not.

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You peel off layer after layer, looking for the mind. We talk about mind, mind, mind. But what is the mind? What is anger? What does it feel like? Say someone has done something had to you and you feel angry with that person. Now drop the person. Drop the object of your anger and look at the anger itself. What is it? Where is it? How does it feel? How does the body feel? Just experience that. Don’t judge it. Don’t think about it. Just know it.

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Our problem is not the fact that we have thoughts and emotions. Thoughts and emotions are natural to the mind, just as waves are natural to the ocean. The problem starts when we believe in them, identify with them and hold onto them.

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If an emotion or a thought comes up, we immediately jump on it. We elaborate on it, we go into it, we keep going over it again and again. We identify with it, we regurgitate it over and over. We worry about it. We blame ourselves if it’s not good. We don’t let it go. We believe in it. We do the same thing with our memories. We are extremely attached to them because we believe they define who we are. Even if they are painful, we still don’t want to let them go. We think, “This is me.” However painful memories may he, they are in the past. They are gone now. Why do we need to hold onto them and make them our identity? But we do, and because we do, we suffer.

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When we first begin to put this into practice, the mind appears to split. We develop what is called the observer, the witness, the knower. This is an aspect of the mind. It is still just mind, conceptual mind, but it is a mind which is standing hack and looking at what is going on as if at a distance. In itself, this is not ultimate reality, because it is still a dualistic mind. But it is a vast improvement on the way we normally think, because it gives us the space to see it thought as a thought and an emotion as an emotion. Then we can decide whether this is it useful thought or emotion or not. We know it for what it is, rather than being absorbed in it. We no longer identify with it.

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It is better to just sit quietly and try to face the fear. Ask it where it comes from and who is afraid? That’s a great question to ask if you have fear.

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Rainbows arise from certain causes and conditions, such as moisture in the air coming into contact with sunlight at a certain angle, and so on. If all these causes and conditions come together, we get something which is very beautiful and very solid-looking which we call a rainbow. It doesn’t really exist, yet it does exist. We can all see it, yet we can’t reach out and grasp it. This is very much like our external reality and our emotions. They are there, but they are not there in quite the way we perceive them. When we realize this, we gain tremendous freedom. We can enjoy the rainbow without trying to grasp it. It’s not my rainbow. Nobody can buy that rainbow and put it in their own backyard as their own private rainbow. We need to he free from this tyrannical slavery to the ego. If we look for this ego, we will never find it. In this way we can deconstruct this fiction.

 

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