Fulfilling Vows

The eighth parami (quality of Buddhamind) is Resolve or Determination, the capacity to set a direction in life and pursue it with courageous energy and patience despite obstacles to its attainment. It is the unshakeable spirit in us that calls us to stick to our course with the kind of dedication the Buddha had on the night of his enlightenment, when he vowed not to arise from his seat until he came to see the cause of suffering in his own heart and in the world, and come to freedom from it.

Resolve encompasses four qualities: discernment—setting reasonable goals and knowing the causes that will lead to their fulfillment; truth—being true to intention and determination; relinquishment—willingness to relinquish what needs to be relinquished;  and peace—keeping the mind calm and easeful while working steadily to fulfill our vows.

Our determined sitting practice is a wonderful metaphor for the development of resolve in the midst of difficulty. Gradually, we learn to sit and open to sadness, restlessness and pain with compassion for however long we have vowed. To practice in such conditions is like pouring soothing balm onto the ache of the heart. Marshalling that spirit, we discover how to tenderly create and nourish our capacity for persevering.

Having the determination to stay the course, like the Buddha, we trust in the freedom that is the fruit of practice and develop true strength. The great forces of greed, hatred, and ignorance in us are met by equally great determined courage of the heart.  Steady on!

Agitation is the Stuff of Suffering

The Second Noble Truth is that the cause of suffering is clinging or grasping-from the mental forces of greed and possessiveness, hatred and aggression, and ignorance and delusion. This clinging or grasping must be abandoned if we are to realize freedom.

We grasp at what we like, trying to hold back change; and we push away what we don’t like, wanting things to be different. We want to never grow old (consider the alternative!) and we don’t want to lose what we love or like. Although this may feel instinctual or natural, this means that we are in constant struggle and at war with the way things are. This agitation is the stuff of suffering.

When you’re suffering, see where there is attachment, grasping. Study how the mind is, moment to moment, each sitting. As attention deepens, we see grasping clearly – the persistent attachment to money, work, even spiritual beliefs (to mention just a few). Our whole sense of self gets created trying to control people and events, convinced that we are “right.”

To unclench the fist of clinging doesn’t mean that we don’t respond appropriately to the world or try to help. Yet we learn that we are not in control of all conditions and outcomes.

Can you stop the war, the constant struggle? Can you let go? As Ajahn Chah advised, “If you let go a little, you will have a little peace; if you let go a lot you will have a lot of peace and if you let go completely, you will have complete peace.”