Interbeing

lotus and koi
Thich Nhat Hanh is well known for coining the term “interbeing,” which refers to the interconnectedness of all things. Over the years, he has frequently used the image of a flower to explain this teaching. Sunflower, orchid, lotus – if you are mindful and concentrated, you can see that a flower is made of infinite non-flower elements. A flower is made up of not just rain but also the cloud that released the rain. It’s made up of not just soil but also the decomposed plants and animals that enrich the soil. If you remove any of the non-flower elements from the flower, the flower ceases to exist. “So the flower cannot exist alone,” Thich Nhat Hanh told me. “It has to inter-be with everything else in the cosmos.” The same is true of people. “A human being is made of non-human elements, and if you remove the non-human elements, the human being is no longer there. So a human cannot be by herself alone. She has to inter-be with everything else in the cosmos.”
“It’s like the lotus and the mud. Without the mud, you cannot grow a lotus. Without the mud of suffering, you cannot create happiness. This is why, if you touch the nature of interbeing, you don’t try to run away from suffering anymore. Instead you try to embrace your suffering. You look deeply into it to understand its nature and to lean how to make good use of suffering to produce happiness.”

– Andrea Miller interviewing Thich Nhat Hanh (from Shambhala Sun issue January 2013)

The 59 Slogans of Lojong

Lojong was originally brought to Tibet by an Indian Buddhist teacher named Atisha. It is a mind training practice in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and is based on a set of aphorisms formulated in Tibet in the 12th century by Geshe Chekhawa. The practice involves refining and purifying one’s motivations and attitudes.

The 59 proverbs that form the root text of the mind training practice are designed as a set of antidotes to undesired mental habits that cause suffering.

Point One: The preliminaries, which are the basis for dharma practice

Slogan 1. First, train in the preliminaries; The Four Reminders or alternatively called The Four Thoughts

1. Maintain an awareness of the preciousness of human life.
2. Be aware of the reality that life ends; death comes for everyone; Impermanence.
3. Recall that whatever you do, whether virtuous or not, has a result; Karma.
4. Contemplate that as long as you are too focused on self-importance and too caught up in thinking about how you are good or bad, you will experience suffering. Obsessing about getting what you want and avoiding what you don’t want does not result in happiness; Ego.

Point Two: The main practice, which is training in bodhicitta.

Absolute Bodhicitta
Slogan 2. Regard all dharma as dreams; although experiences may seem solid, they are passing memories.
Slogan 3. Examine the nature of unborn awareness.
Slogan 4. Self-liberate even the antidote.
Slogan 5. Rest in the nature of alaya, the essence, the present moment.
Slogan 6. In postmeditation, be a child of illusion.

Relative Bodhicitta
Slogan 7. Sending and taking should be practiced alternately. These two should ride the breath (aka. Practice Tonglen).
Slogan 8. Three objects, Three Poisons, Three Roots of Virtue

The Three Objects are friends, enemies and neutrals. The Three Poisons are craving, aversion and indifference. The Three Roots of Virtue are the remedies.

Slogan 9. In all activities, train with slogans.
Slogan 10. Begin the sequence of sending and taking with yourself.

Point Three: Transformation of Bad Circumstances into the Way of Enlightenment

Slogan 11. When the world is filled with evil, transform all mishaps into the path of bodhi.
Slogan 12. Drive all blames into one.
Slogan 13. Be grateful to everyone.
Slogan 14. Seeing confusion as The Four Kayas is unsurpassable shunyata protection.

The Four Kayas are Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, Nirmanakaya, Svabhavikakaya. Thoughts have no birthplace, thoughts are unceasing, thoughts are not solid, and these three characteristics are interconnected. Shunyata can be described as “complete openness.”

Slogan 15. The Four practices are the best of methods.
The Four Practices are: accumulating merit, laying down evil deeds, offering to the dons, and offering to the dharmapalas.

Slogan 16. Whatever you meet unexpectedly, join with meditation.

Point Four: Showing the Utilization of Practice in One’s Whole Life

Slogan 17. Practice The Five Strengths, the condensed heart instructions.
The Five Strengths are: strong determination, familiarization, the positive seed, reproach, and aspiration

Slogan 18. The Mahayana instruction for ejection of consciousness at death is The Five Strengths: how you conduct yourself is important. When you are dying practice The Five Strengths.

Point Five: Evaluation of Mind Training

Slogan 19. All dharma agrees at one point — All Buddhist teachings are about lessening the ego, lessening one’s self-absorption.
Slogan 20. Of the two witnesses, hold the principal one — You know yourself better than anyone else knows you
Slogan 21. Always maintain only a joyful mind.
Slogan 22. If you can practice even when distracted, you are well trained.

Point Six: Disciplines of Mind Training

Slogan 23. Always abide by The Three Basic Principles — Dedication to your practice, refraining from outrageous conduct, developing patience.
Slogan 24. Change your attitude, but remain natural.– Reduce ego clinging, but be yourself.
Slogan 25. Don’t talk about injured limbs — Don’t take pleasure contemplating others defects.
Slogan 26. Don’t ponder others — Don’t take pleasure contemplating others weaknesses.
Slogan 27. Work with the greatest defilements first — Work with your greatest obstacles first.
Slogan 28. Abandon any hope of fruition — Don’t get caught up in how you will be in the future, stay in the present moment.
Slogan 29. Abandon poisonous food.
Slogan 30. Don’t be so predictable — Don’t hold grudges.
Slogan 31. Don’t malign others.
Slogan 32. Don’t wait in ambush — Don’t wait for others weaknesses to show to attack them.
Slogan 33. Don’t bring things to a painful point — Don’t humiliate others.
Slogan 34. Don’t transfer the ox’s load to the cow — Take responsibility for yourself.
Slogan 35. Don’t try to be the fastest — Don’t compete with others.
Slogan 36. Don’t act with a twist — Do good deeds without scheming about benefiting yourself.
Slogan 37. Don’t turn gods into demons — Don’t use these slogans or your spirituality to increase your self-absorption
Slogan 38. Don’t seek others’ pain as the limbs of your own happiness.

Point Seven: Guidelines of Mind Training

Slogan 39. All activities should be done with one intention.
Slogan 40. Correct all wrongs with one intention.
Slogan 41. Two activities: one at the beginning, one at the end.
Slogan 42. Whichever of the two occurs, be patient.
Slogan 43. Observe these two, even at the risk of your life.
Slogan 44. Train in The Three Difficulties.
Slogan 45. Take on The Three Principal Causes: the teacher, the dharma, the sangha.
Slogan 46. Pay heed that The Three Never Wane: gratitude towards one’s teacher, appreciation of the dharma (teachings) and correct conduct.
Slogan 47. Keep the three inseparable: body, speech, and mind.
Slogan 48. Train without bias in all areas. It is crucial always to do this pervasively and wholeheartedly.
Slogan 49. Always meditate on whatever provokes resentment.
Slogan 50. Don’t be swayed by external circumstances.
Slogan 51. This time, practice the main points: others before self, dharma, and awakening compassion.
Slogan 52. Don’t misinterpret.

The 6 thing you may misinterpret are patience, yearning, excitement, compassion, priorities and joy. Your patient when you’ll get your way, but not when its difficult. You yearn for worldly things, instead of an open heart and mind. You get excited about wealth and entertainment, instead of your potential for enlightenment. You have compassion for those you like, but none for those you don’t. Worldly gain is your priority rather than cultivating loving-kindness and compassion. You feel joy when you enemies suffer, and do not rejoice in others’ good fortune.

Slogan 53. Don’t vacillate (in your practice of Lojong).
Slogan 54. Train wholeheartedly.
Slogan 55. Liberate yourself by examining and analyzing: Know your own mind with honesty and fearlessness.
Slogan 56. Don’t wallow in self-pity.
Slogan 57. Don’t be jealous.
Slogan 58. Don’t be frivolous.
Slogan 59. Don’t expect applause.

A Mirror Mind

One moon shows in every pool, in every pool one moon. – Zen Proverb

Your mind should be like a mirror, reflecting everything but holding on to nothing. – Unknown

Mindfulness is mirror thought. It reflects only what is presently happening and in exactly the way it is happening. There are no biases. – Bhante Gunaratara

My mind is like a clear mirror reflecting everything just as it is. Red comes and the mirror becomes red, white comes and the mirror becomes white. This is how a Bodhisattva lives. I have no desires for myself. My actions are only for all beings. This is a complete life. – Seung Sahn

The Bandit

Buddha was once threatened with death by a bandit called Angulimal.

“Then be good enough to fulfill my dying wish,” said Buddha. “Cut off the branch of that tree.”    One slash of the sword, and it was done!  “What now?” asked the bandit.    “Put it back again,” said Buddha.    The bandit laughed. “You must be crazy to think that anyone can do that.”    “On the contrary, it is you who are crazy to think that you are mighty because you can wound and destroy. That is the task of children. The mighty know how to create and heal.”

Death and the Mustard Seed

One day, when the rainy season had ended, Krsa Gautami, the wife of a rich man, was plunged deep into grief by the loss of her only son, a baby boy who had died just when he was old enough to run about.

In her grief Krsa carried the dead child to all her neighbors in Kapilavastu, asking them for medicine. Seeing her, the people shook their heads sadly out of pity.
“Poor woman! She has lost her senses from grief. The boy is beyond the help of medicine.”

Unable to accept the fact of her son’s death, Krsa then wandered through the streets of the city beseeching for help everyone she met.
“Please, sir,” she said to a certain man, “give me medicine that will cure my boy!”

The stranger looked at the child’s eyes and saw that the boy was dead. “Alas, I have no medicine for your child,” he said, “but I know of a physician who can give what you require.”
“Please tell me, sir, where I can find this physician.”

“Go, dear woman, to Sakyamuni, the Buddha, just now residing in Banyan Park.”
Krsa went in haste to the Nigrodharama; and she was brought by the monks to Buddha.

“Reverend Lord,” she cried, “give me the medicine that will cure my boy!”
Lord Buddha, Ocean of Infinite Compassion, looked upon the grief-stricken mother with pity.

“You have done well to come here for medicine, Krsa Gautami. Go into the city and get a handful of mustard seed.” And then the Perfect One added: “The mustard seed must be taken from a house where no one has lost a child, husband, parent, or friend.”
“Yes, Lord!” exclaimed Krsa, greatly cheered. “I shall procure the mustard seed at once!”

Poor Krsa then went from house to house with her request; and the people pitied her, saying: “Here is the mustard seed: please take all you want of it.”
Then Krsa would ask: “Did a son or daughter, father or mother, die in your family?”

“Alas! The living are few, but the dead are many. Do not remind us of our deepest grief!”
And there was no house but that some relative, some dear one, had died in it.

Weary and with hope gone, Krsa sat down by the wayside, sorrowfully watching the lights of the city as they flickered up and were extinguished again, And at last the deep shadows of night plunged the world into darkness.
Considering the fate of human beings, that their lives flicker up and are extinguished again, the bereft mother suddenly realized that Buddha, in his compassion, had sent her forth to learn the truth.

“How selfish am I in my grief!” she thought. “Death is universal: yet even in this valley of death there is a Path that leads to Deathlessness [for] him who has surrendered all thought of self!”
Putting away the selfishness of her affection for her child, Krsa Gautami went to the edge of a forest and tenderly laid the dead body in a drift of wildflowers.

“Little son,” she said, taking the child by the hand, “I thought that death had happened to you alone; but it is not to you alone, it is common to all people.”
There she left him; and when dawn brightened the eastern sky, she returned to the Perfect One.

“Krsa Gautami,” said the Tathagata, “did you get a handful of mustard seed from a house in which no one has ever lost kith or kin?”
“That, Lord, is now past and gone,” she said. “Grant me support.”

“Dear girl, the life of mortals in this world is troubled and brief and inseparable from suffering,” declared Buddha, “for there is not any means, nor will there ever be, by which those that have been born can avoid dying. All living beings are of such a nature that they must die whether they reach old age or not.
“As early-ripening fruits are in danger of falling, so mortals when born are always in danger of dying. Just as the earthen vessels made by the potter end in shards, so is the life of mortals. Both young and old, both those who are foolish and those who are wise – all fall into the power of death, all are subject to death.

Of those who depart from this life, overcome by death, a father cannot save his son, nor relatives their kinsfolk. While relatives are looking on and lamenting, one by one the mortals are carried off like oxen to the slaughter. People die, and their fate after death will be according to their deeds. Such are the terms of the world.
“Not from weeping nor from grieving will anyone obtain peace of mind. On the contrary, his pain will be all the greater, and he will ruin his health. He will make himself sick and pale; but dead bodies cannot be restored by his lamentation.

“Now that you have heard the Tathagata, Krsa, reject grief, do not allow it to enter your mind. Seeing one dead, know for sure: ‘I shall never see him again in this existence.’ And just as the fire of a burning house is quenched, so does the contemplative wise person scatter grief’s power, expertly, swiftly, even as the wind scatters cotton seed.
“He who seeks peace should pull out the arrow lamentations, useless longings, and the self-made pangs of grief. He who has removed this unwholesome arrow and has calmed himself will obtain peace of mind. Verily, he who has conquered grief will always be free from grief – sane and immune – confident, happy, and close to Nirvana, I say.”

Then Krsa Gautami won the stage of Entering-the-Stream, and shortly afterwards she became an Arhat [found Nirvana for herself]. She was the first woman to have attained Nirvana under the dispensation of Sakyamuni Buddha.

Carrying Extra Weight

Two Zen monks, Tanzan and Ekido, traveling on pilgrimage, came to a muddy river crossing. There they saw a lovely young woman dressed in her kimono and finery, obviously not knowing how to cross the river without ruining her clothes.

Without further ado, Tanzan graciously picked her up, held her close to him, and carried her across the muddy river, placing her onto the dry ground. Then he and Ekido continued on their way. Hours later they found themselves at a lodging temple. And here Ekido could no longer restrain himself and gushed forth his complaints: “Surely, it is against the rules what you did back there…. Touching a woman is simply not allowed…. How could you have done that? … And to have such close contact with her! … This is a violation of all monastic protocol…” Thus he went on with his verbiage.

Tanzan listened patiently to the accusations. Finally, during a pause, he said, “Look, I set that girl down back at the crossing. Are you still carrying her?”

(Based on an autobiographical story by Japanese master Tanzan, 1819-1892)