Category: Blog Posts

The Twelve Deeds of the Buddha

By Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche

There are very many great deeds of the Buddha recorded but these can be
summarized into the twelve most important, most famous deeds.

First Deed: Descending from Tushita

When the Buddha was teaching in the paradise of Tushita, which is a realm where the devas (gods) reside and also a sambhogakaya realm, the sound of his previous motivation reminded him that it was necessary to take birth in our world and teach the dharma.

He then considered five things: the land where he ought to be born (which was Kapila in Nepal), the caste he should be born into (which was a royal caste), the family in which he should be born (which was the Shakya clan), who his mother was to be (she was Mayadevi), and the time that was right for him to be born (which happened to be when the five degenerations were on the increase, the present time).

After having made these determinations, he decided to leave the Tushita paradise and take birth in our world. This particular deed of leaving Tushita  to be born had a special significance. It was intended to teach us that somebody who has achieved enlightenment is no longer a slave of his own karma and has control over anything he or she does. So the Buddha chose to take birth in our world because the time was right and he wanted to show us that someone who is enlightened has control over anything he or she does.

Second Deed: Conception into the Womb

The Buddha was conceived into the womb of his mother, Mayadevi (by taking the form of a White Elephant descending from Tushita and entering the womb immaculately). One may wonder why he was conceived and then took birth. If he had complete control over everything, then why wasn’t he born miraculously from a lotus flower as was Padmasambhava or why couldn’t he simply descend from the sky?

The Buddha had a special reason for being born the normal way. If he had been born miraculously from a lotus, for example, it would have been very impressive and attracted many people. However, the Buddha was thinking in the long term of his future disciples who would be inspired because the Buddha, who practiced and achieved enlightenment, started out like ourselves. Had he been born in a lotus they would have thought no ordinary human beings could reach enlightenment because they didn’t have these same miraculous powers. So the Buddha entered the womb, he was conceived, to show that even ordinary human beings can achieve the highest realization. He did this to instill conviction and confidence in his future disciples.

Third Deed: Birth in the garden of Lumbini, in present day Nepal

Although the Buddha took an ordinary human birth, there was still something very special in his birth. The Buddha came out of the body of his mother through her right side. Some people might wonder how this was possible. They might think, “Well, what exactly happened? Did the rib cage crack?” One doesn’t need to think in terms of anatomical problems because the Buddha was a miraculous being and he just took birth through his mother’s right side without any pain or obstacle.

At the time of the Buddha’s birth, there were many very special things happening where he was born. All of a sudden, crops started growing. Trees appeared all over the area of Lumbini and rare flowers such as the Udumbara flower, that had never grown in this area, started blooming everywhere. Due to these events, from that moment onwards, he was given the name Siddhartha in Sanskrit, or Tungye Drup in Tibetan, which means, “the one that makes everything possible.” As a result of interdependent origination, the presence of a highly accomplished individual produces changes in the environment such as the blossoming of flowers (as in the case of the Buddha right after his birth).

Fourth Deed: Training in the Arts, Crafts and Sciences.

A few years later when the Buddha had grown up a little, he was educated and thus became very knowledgeable, very scholarly, and very skillful. This may be a little surprising, because the Buddha was already enlightened or at least a great bodhisattva residing in the tenth bodhisattva level ( bhumi, there are ten stages to a Bodhisattva’s development, the tenth being the final stage before Buddhahood).

People might think it should not have been necessary for him to train in worldly skills because he should have known them naturally. However, there was again a specific reason for doing this. It was to counteract various misconceptions we might have had. One misunderstanding was to think that the Buddha was someone who was simply a meditator without any academic education.

Another misconception was the idea that he already possessed all this knowledge so he didn’t need to learn. This could give rise to concerns that if we humans tried to learn something it would lead to no results. Or again people might think that the Buddha did not have any qualities and that he never had to train.

So to overcome these misconceptions the Buddha worked at becoming a scholar and became very skilled in all different arts. It also shows that it is necessary to receive full education in the culture in which we are born. We must therefore be apart of the various positive aspects of our culture and then become a vehicle for transmitting the dharma.

Fifth Deed: Marriage to Yashodhara, the birth of his son Rahuia and the enjoyment of royalty.

The Buddha did this so that his future disciples wouldn’t think that the Buddha or an enlightened person was unable to enjoy any pleasures or feel the need for enjoyment. The other reason for the Buddha living such a sensuous life was to show that even though the Buddha had all the finest pleasures, he wasn’t satisfied by these pleasures because he understood that there was a higher form of happiness to be sought.

Sixth Deed: Renunciation of Samsara, Leaving his life as a Prince

The royal palace where the Buddha stayed was enclosed with high walls and four gates facing each of the cardinal points. The Buddha went for a walk outside of the precincts of the palace, each time leaving through one of the different gates, and each time he saw something that gave him a different lesson on life.

The first time he went out through the eastern gate of the palace and saw the suffering of an old man, discovering for the first time that all persons experience the degeneration of the body. Another time he left the palace through the southern gate and saw a sick person and discovered the suffering that all persons at one time or another suffer. The next time he went out through the western gate and saw a dead person and discovered the pain of death which all persons must undergo. This hit him hard because he realized that no matter how rich you are, no matter how powerful you are, no matter how much pleasure and enjoyment you have, there is nothing you can do to run away from the suffering of old age, sickness, and death. He realized that there was no way to avoid these; even a king could not buy his way out of this suffering. No one can run away and hide from this suffering. No one can fight and defeat these three kinds of suffering.

But then the Buddha realized that maybe there is a way out: the practice of a spiritual path. The Buddha understood this when he left the palace through the northern gate and saw a begging monk. That moment he felt great weariness with the world and renounced the world at the age of 29. He left his worldly royal life in search of the truth.

Seventh Deed: Practice of Austerities and Asceticism, and then Renouncing them

After the Buddha left home, he led a life of austerities for six years by the banks of the Nirajana river in India. These austerities did not lead to his enlightenment, but the years spent doing ascetic practices were not wasted because they had the specific purpose of showing future disciples that the Buddha had put a very great amount of effort, perseverance and diligence into achieving the goal of enlightenment.

By doing this, the Buddha demonstrated that as long as someone is attached to money, food, clothes, and all the pleasures of life, full dedication to spiritual practice is impossible. But if one gives up attachment, then the achievement of Buddhahood becomes a possibility. So that is why the Buddha engaged in this deed of six years of austerities by a riverside.

In the end, the Buddha gave up the practice of austerities, by accepting a bowl of yogurt. In contrast to the austerities, the Buddha ate this nutritious food and gave his body a rest (regaining all his physical splendor and health). He put his clothes back on and went to the bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya. The Buddha gave up the austerities to show his future followers that the main object of Buddhist practice is working with one’s mind. We have to eliminate the negativity in our mind and have to develop the positive qualities of knowledge and understanding. This is far more important than what goes on outside of us. So, austerities are not the point in themselves, they alone do not bring us enlightenment.

Eighth Deed: Taking His place at the Vajrasana in Bodh Gaya, the seat under the Bodhi Tree

After giving up the ascetic practice, the Buddha went to the bodhi tree and vowed to stay under this tree until he reached final awakening.

By doing so, the Buddha demonstrated to us that true practice should be in the middle of the two extremes: practicing too many austerities and being too indulgent. The first extreme is when you starve yourself or you don’t allow yourself food and drink. These practices also involve placing yourself in extreme physical conditions such as being too hot or too cold. This is pointless because it has no true significance. The other extreme is when you just follow any of your desires. This is endless because there is a constant escalation in your desires. If you have ten pleasures, you’ll want a hundred. If you have a hundred, you’ll want a thousand; so you will never find any satisfaction and you will also never be able to practice the dharma either. So the Buddha wanted to show us that we have to avoid the extreme of too much austerity and too much indulgence: true practice lies somewhere in the middle.

Ninth Deed: Victory over of the leader of Maras, Papiyan

When the Buddha was sitting under the bodhi tree, Papiyan, the leader of Maras, used forms related to the three disturbing emotions (sometimes called k/eshas) of ignorance, desire, and aggression to try to lure the Buddha away from his pursuit of enlightenment.

The first deception, representing ignorance, was that the Buddha was asked to abandon his meditation and return immediately to the kingdom because his father King Shuddhodana had died and the evil Devadatta had taken over the kingdom. This did not disturb the Buddha’s meditation. Then Papiyan tried to create an obstacle using desire; his beautiful daughters tried to deceive and seduce the Buddha. When this did not disturb the Buddha’s meditation, Mara then used hatred by coming towards the Buddha surrounded by millions of horribly frightening warriors who were throwing weapons at the Buddha’s body.

But the Buddha wasn’t distracted or fooled by these three poisons. He remained immersed in compassion and loving-kindness and therefore triumphed over this display of the three poisons and was able to eventually achieve enlightenment. (This deed of the Buddha is represented by the image of the Buddha “taking the earth as witness,”gently touching the ground with his right hand and holding a begging bowl in his left hand. The Buddha wasn’t tricked by Mara’s deceptions, and also miraculously proved to Mara that for eons he performed innumerable good deeds by having the earth itself testify)

Tenth Deed: Attainment of Enlightenment reached while meditating under the bodhi tree.

Since the Buddha developed all the qualities of meditation to the utmost stages, he was able to reach enlightenment. He did this to demonstrate that we also can reach enlightenment. As a matter of fact, one of the main points of the whole Buddhist philosophy is to show us that Buddhahood is not something to be found outside of us, but something we can achieve by looking inside ourselves.

In the same way as the Buddha Shakyamuni reached enlightenment, we also can achieve enlightenment. And the qualities that we will attain with enlightenment will be no different from the ones the Buddha attained. Also, the Buddha managed to eliminate all the negative emotions, the same ones we presently experience.

Eleventh Deed: Teaching the Dharma

The Buddha turned the wheel of the dharma three times, meaning He taught in three different ways. The first is called the Hinayana, which consists of the teachings on the Four Noble Truths, meditation and developing an understanding of the emptiness of self. The second is the Mahayana teachings which involve the study of emptiness of phenomena and practicing the bodhisattva path. The third turning is the Vajrayana which involves the understanding that everything is not completely empty, but there is also Buddha-nature that pervades all sentient beings.

When the Buddha lived in India, the population of India believed that if one made offerings and prayed to a god, then that god would be satisfied and happy. In turn that god would grant liberation and happiness. They also believed that if one didn’t make offerings and pray to the god, he would be very angry, throwing you down to the hells and inflicting other states of suffering upon you. This idea of a god isn’t really one of a special deity, it is only the embodiment of desire and aggression.

In Buddhism, we do not expect our happiness or our suffering to come from the Buddha. It is not believed that if we please the Buddha, he will bring us happiness and if we displease the Buddha, he will throw us into samsara or some lower realm.

This may seem to be a contradiction that Buddhist don’t believe in supplicating a god. Buddhist believe that there are gods, there are deities which were created by mind. But unlike theistic religions Buddhist do not believe these deities created the universe. These deities cannot affect your individual karma by rewarding and punishing you.

So, the possibility of happiness or reaching liberation is entirely up to us. If we practice the path that leads to liberation, we will attain Buddhahood.  But if we do not practice it, then we cannot expect to reach enlightenment. The choice is entirely ours. It’s in our hands whether we want to find happiness or suffering. But still there is something that comes from the Buddha and this is the path to liberation. To provide us with that means for liberation, the Buddha turned the wheel of the dharma.

Twelfth Deed: Passing away at the age of 83 in the town of Kushingara.

The Buddha asked his students if they had any final questions and then lying on his side, in the lion’s posture, he passed away. His last words were, “Bhikshus, never forget: Decay is inherent in all composite things. Therefore, work diligently.”

The Life of the Buddha & the Four Noble Truths

Filed under: Love & Enlightenment

Don Miguel Ruiz Quotes From “The Four Agreements”

Don Miguel Ruiz has published his book, The Four Agreements, in 1997. This is a fantastic book, and I mean fantastic. If you haven’t read it yet, it should be on top of your list. Not because of the more than 5 million copies sold in the U.S. alone. The Four Agreements is a practical guide into achieving personal freedom, regardless of your religious believes, spiritual path, and method of spiritual development. If you read it using your heart, it has the magical power to completely transform your life. So grab this book, and apply its wisdom. You won’t regret it.

If you are impeccable with your word, if you don’t take anything personally, if you don’t make assumptions, if you always do your best, then you are going to have a beautiful life. You are going to control your life one hundred percent.

Be Impeccable With Your Word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Don’t Take Anything Personally. Nothing others do is because of you.  What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream.  When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Don’t Make Assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want.  Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.  With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Always Do Your Best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.  Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse, and regret.

Wherever you go you will find people lying to you, and as your awareness grows, you will notice that you also lie to yourself. Do not expect people to tell you the truth because they also lie to themselves. You have to trust yourself and choose to believe or not to believe what someone says to you.

What causes you to be trapped is what we call personal importance. Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about “me.

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourslef or to gossip about others. Use your power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

We are so well trained that we are our own domesticator. We are an autodomesticated animal. We can now domesticate ourselves according to the same belief system we were given, and using the same system of punishment and reward. We punish ourselves when we don’t follow the rules according to our belief system; we reward ourselves when we are the “good boy” or “good girl”.

Taking things personally makes you easy prey for these predators, the black magicians. They can hook you easily with one little opinion and feed you whatever poison they want, and because you take it personally, you eat it up. You eat all their emotional garbage, and now it becomes your garbage. But if you do not take it personally, you are immune in the middle of hell. Immunity to poison in the middle of hell is the gift of this agreement.

Humans are storytellers. It is our nature to make up stories, to interpret everything we perceive. Without awareness, we give our personal power to the story and the story writes itself. With awareness, we recover the control of our story. We see we are the authors and if we don’t like our story, we change it.

How many times do we pay for one mistake? The answer is thousands of times. The human is the only animal on earth that pays a thousand times for the same mistake. The rest of the animals pay once for every mistake they make. But not us. We have a powerful memory. We make a mistake, we judge ourselves, we find ourselves guilty, and we punish ourselves. If justice exists, then that was enough; we don’t need to do it again. But every time we remember, we judge ourselves again, we are guilty again, and we punish ourselves again, and again, and again.

All of humanity is searching for truth, justice, and beauty. We are on an eternal search for the truth because we only believe in the lies we have stored in our mind. We are searching for justice because in the belief system we have, there is no justice. We search for beauty because it doesn’t matter how beautiful a person is, we don’t believe that person has beauty. We keep searching and searching, when everything is already within us. There is no truth to find.

True freedom has to do with the human spirit — it is the freedom to be who we really are.

Respect your body, enjoy your body, love your body, feed, clean, and heal your body. Exercise and do what makes your body feel good. This is a puja to your body, and that is a communion between you and God.

The freedom we are looking for is the freedom to be ourselves, to express ourselves. But if we look at our lives we will see that most of the time we do things just to please others, just to be accepted by others, rather than living our lives to please ourselves. That is what has happened to our freedom.

You are alive, so take your life and enjoy it. Don’t resist life passing through you, because that is God passing through you. Just your existence proves the existence of God. Your existence proves the existence of life and energy.

The way we judge ourselves is the worst judge that ever existed. If we make a mistake in front of people, we try to deny the mistake and cover it up. But as soon as we are alone, the Judge becomes so strong, the guilt is so strong, and we feel so stupid, or so bad, or so unworthy.

The more self-love we have, the less we will experience self-abuse. Self-abuse comes from self-rejection, and self-rejection comes from having an image of what it means to be perfect and never measuring up to that ideal.

Everything in existence is a manifestation of the one living being we call God. Everything is God.

Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.  Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you.  What they say, what they do, and the opinions they give are according to the agreements that they have in their own minds.

If others tell us something we make assumptions, and if they don’t tell us something we make assumptions to fulfill our need to know and to replace the need to communicate. Even if we hear something and we don’t understand we make assumptions about what it means and then believe the assumptions. We make all sorts of assumptions because we don’t have the courage to ask questions.

People are starving for love, not knowing their heart is a magical kitchen. Open your heart. Open your magical kitchen and refuse to walk around the world begging for love. In your heart is all the love you need. Your heart can create any amount of love, not just for yourself, but for the whole world.

Filed under: Blog Posts, Quotes

Eckhart Tolle Quotes from “The Power of Now”

In this post you will find some of the most beautiful quotes by Eckhart Tolle. They are from his famous book “The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment”. If you haven’t read this book, you should. This book is hands-down at the top of the list of most influential spiritual books in the last several decades. So take your time, read the quotes below, and if you haven’t done that already go to your local bookstore and purchase this book. Or purchase its online version here, put it on your kindle device, carry it always with you, and read it over and over again. Enjoy!

As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease.

If your mind carries a heavy burden of past, you will experience more of the same. The past perpetuates itself through lack of presence. The quality of your consciousness at this moment is what shapes the future.

Don’t look for peace. Don’t look for any other state than the one you are in now; otherwise, you will set up inner conflict and unconscious resistance. Forgive yourself for not being at peace. The moment you completely accept your non-peace, your non-peace becomes transmuted into peace.

Carl Jung tells in one of his books of a conversation he had with a Native American chief who pointed out to him that in his perception most white people have tense faces, staring eyes, and a cruel demeanor. He said: “They are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something. They are always uneasy and restless. We don’t know what they want. We think they are mad.

True love has no opposite. If your “love” has an opposite, then it is not love but a strong ego-need for a more complete and deeper sense of self, a need that the other person temporarily meets.

If you have ever been in a life-or-death emergency situation, you will know that it wasn’t a problem. The mind didn’t have time to fool around and make it into a problem. In a true emergency, the mind stops; you become totally present in the Now, and something infinitely more powerful takes over.

Most people don’t know how to listen because the major part of their attention is taken up by thinking.

Power over others is weakness disguised as strength. True power is within, and it is available to you now.

So next time somebody says, “Sorry to have kept you waiting,” you can reply, “That’s all right, I wasn’t waiting. I was just standing here enjoying myself — in joy in my self.

The great Zen master Rinzai, in order to take his students’ attention away from time, would often raise his finger and slowly ask: “What, at this moment, is lacking?” A powerful question that does not require an answer on the level of the mind. It is designed to take your attention deeply into the Now. A similar question in the Zen tradition is this: “If not now, when?”

Until you practice surrender, the spiritual dimension is something you read about, talk about, get excited about, write books about, think about, believe in — or don’t, as the case may be. It
makes no difference. Not until you surrender does it become a living reality in your life.

It is not true that the up cycle is good and the down cycle bad, except in the mind’s judgment. Growth is usually considered positive, but nothing can grow forever. If growth, of whatever kind, were to go on and on, it would eventually become monstrous and destructive. Dissolution is needed for new growth to happen. One cannot exist without the other.

Forgiveness of the present is even more important than forgiveness of the past.

The more attention you give to the past, the more you energize it, and the more likely you are to make a “self” out of it. Don’t misunderstand: Attention is essential, but not to the past as past. Give attention to the present; give attention to your behavior, to your reactions, moods, thoughts, emotions, fears, and desires as they occur in the present. There’s the past in you. If you can be present enough to watch all those things, not critically or analytically but nonjudgmentally, then you are dealing with the past and dissolving it through the power of your presence. You cannot find yourself by going into the past. You find yourself by coming into the present.

The mind, conditioned as it is by the past, always seeks to re-create what it knows and is familiar with. Even if it is painful, at least it is familiar. The mind always adheres to the known. The unknown is dangerous because it has no control over it. That’s why the mind dislikes and ignores the present moment.

All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry — all forms of fear — are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.

They are looking outside for scraps of pleasure or fulfillment, for validation, security, or love, while they have a treasure within that not only includes all those things but is infinitely greater than anything the world can offer.

You are here to enable the divine purpose of the universe to unfold. That is how important you are!

Things and conditions can give you pleasure, but they will also give you pain. Things and conditions can give you pleasure, but they cannot give you joy. Nothing can give you joy. Joy is uncaused and arises from within as the joy of Being.

One day I’ll make it.” Is your goal taking up so much of your attention that you reduce the present moment to a means to an end? Is it taking the joy out of your doing? Are you waiting to start living? If you develop such a mind pattern, no matter what you achieve or get, the present will never be good enough; the future will always seem better. A perfect recipe for permanent dissatisfaction and nonfulfillment, don’t you agree?

The eternal present is the space within which your whole life unfolds, the one factor that remains constant.

Next time you say “I have nothing in common with this person,” remember that you have a great deal in common: A few years from now – two years or seventy years, it doesn’t make much difference – both of you will have become rotting corpses, then piles of dust, then nothing at all. This is a sobering and humbling realization that leaves little room for pride. Is this a negative thought? No, it is a fact. Why close your eyes to it? In that sense, there is total equality between you and every other creature.

So the single most vital step on your journey toward enlightenment is this: learn to disidentify from your mind. Every time you create a gap in the stream of mind, the light of your consciousness grows stronger. One day you may catch yourself smiling at the voice in your head, as you would smile at the antics of a child. This means that you no longer take the content of your mind all that seriously, as your sense of self does not depend on it.

Ordinary unconsciousness is always linked in some way with denial of the Now. The Now, of course, also implies the here. Are you resisting your here and now? Some people would always rather be somewhere else. Their “here” is never good enough. Through self-observation, find out if that is the case in your life. Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally. If you want to take responsibility for your life, you must choose one of those three options, and you must choose now. Then accept the consequences. No excuses. No negativity. No psychic pollution. Keep your inner space clear.

Filed under: Blog Posts, Quotes