Welcome to Mangala Shri Bhuti’s Dharma Blog

Welcome to Mangala Shri Bhuti’s Dharma Blog, where we explore the dharma, which we have been fortunate to come into contact with. In a word, what is “dharma”? We can say it is the teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni. We can also say dharma represents certain truths or “the facts of life”. But most essentially, we’ve found that dharma comes to mean an awakening of our own active intelligence about the causes of suffering and happiness. This process is ignited by the teachings we hear and catalyzed further by our contemplation and practice. Join us in appreciating and deepening our understanding of dharma through these excerpts by Mangala Shri Bhuti’s teachers and senior students.

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Last time, we talked about the two predominating ways that people try to "manage" their life, and the problems which these create. Somehow we need to discover a more balanced approach. The ability to see our situation objectively as well as achieving greater balance can both be accomplished through Dharma practice.

As we get older, we find that we naturally tend to cultivate an increasing "renunciation." We can nurture this quality by reflecting on the many experiences we've already had. This will then automatically diminish our craving or desire to repeat similar experiences. We'll find ourselves no longer so driven to crank up our life in an attempt to have more and to accomplish more, since we've already tasted that fruit, with all the accompanying emotions. We can begin to relax a little, being content with all that we've experienced already in our life. This process of awareness and appreciation naturally generates a fuller sense of renunciation. It is not something that needs to be very deliberate, but rather it occurs more and more as our life unfolds, unless we try holding onto things too tightly. This natural renunciation is happening all the time. If we can just allow that process, and foster an attitude of "practice mind" to go with it, then there will be an increasing amount of renunciation occurring every year.

After forty plus years I feel that I've actually seen quite a bit of the world, and I am glad I have. But if I was very uptight, and instead had over-managed my life, I probably would not have seen nearly as much. I would just have been in a monastery doing my own thing, which is what I was actually groomed to do. But because of whatever you wish to call it—fate, or passion, or karma, or the disaster of mismanaging my life—I feel like I’ve seen a lot during my life, and as a result there is now a lot more renunciation.

It's not that I feel old necessarily, but my focus has become much more clear. I used to love dancing when I was younger. The other night I was thinking I could still get myself up to go dancing, but what would that do for me? Does that serve my needs, or should I just go back to my room to do my daily practice? And I found there was a tremendous sense of contentment to just go back to my room and read my daily liturgy and be present. In the old days, I doubt whether this would have been the outcome. But now it’s different, so I am glad for that.

I am glad because I feel that I'm doing what’s natural for me. I am not trying to crank anything up. When there was renunciation to the dancing, I thought to myself, “Is this due to getting older or feeling old?” And maybe in some ways it is, if you see it from that point of view. But from another point of view it is not about getting older, but much more that my focus is becoming more clear. What do I want to do with every hour of my life? Certainly not to be so blown around in all different directions. I am actually glad about what happened in the past, but now my life doesn't necessarily unfold in that same way, so I am glad about that too.

My point here is simply that I’m finding there’s a lot more renunciation. And some of you who are older than me probably have more renunciation than I do. But at the same time, perhaps there’s still a feeling of needing to hold on to things, even if they are old things, even if it’s your old self, or your passion from earlier times.

When this increased sense of renunciation makes your focus more clear, then life itself becomes much more orderly. When your needs are not so insistent, when the drives are not so pressing any longer, and there is not such a striving to be young and maintain your old familiar self, you can begin to feel a little more free. It is at this stage that practitioners and non-practitioners alike are faced with a choice. Whereas in the past you chose to entertain yourself through experiences of the world, now you find you are entertaining yourself with your mind.

Ultimately speaking there are two main types of entertainment through the mind. One occurs mostly through thoughts and imagination, while the other is just being present. After some time, thoughts and imagination can get a little bit repetitious or tedious. At any rate, that diversion begins to feel less "juicy" and less attractive after awhile. So it may then seem like all there is to do in life is just to be present. I think when a person reaches that point through some degree of renunciation, and  begins letting go of entertaining the mind through thoughts and imagination— just remaining  present more of the time—it feels almost like starting a new life. There is a sense of freshness, and the sensation of experiencing perceptions for the first time. You may feel like a new or different person. Many of the old inner complaints are diminished: "My life would be so much better if only...”; or, ”I wish I was more this or that." You no longer feel so caught, or bound so deeply by your attachments. Over time, you notice that your previous concerns and attachments no longer seem like such a big deal. Some of the very things you disliked about yourself lead you to a different perspective, and you see how others also struggle with the same issues that used to bind you.

As one’s attitude begins to turn around in this way, people become much more fearless in their life, and their focus becomes much sharper. You find that you are glad you’ve had a variety of different experiences, including even the painful ones. When you have your own record of painful experiences, or whatever suffering has occurred, it makes you much more a person of this world. Otherwise, someone may prefer residing completely within their safe haven, in a kind of strategic fortress, where everything is organized and prepared. All that’s needed is to follow a routine, without any real understanding of what goes on beyond the fortress walls, beyond the setting that has been created within those walls. I’m not speaking here of some exalted prince or princess, some king or queen—people with great wealth or privilege. This could be a description of any one of us who try to live too carefully, within a tight boundary, never daring to take chances or make leaps.

None of us really know what life will hold for us. We may get clues, but there remains great uncertainty about the coming years unless somehow we can know our own karma. But, without so many needs any longer, we also diminish the fears that keep us bound to those needs. We find ourselves much freer, and this sense of liberation becomes a great joy. It becomes one of the deepest motivations for practice. It helps us to develop an inner feeling of letting go, of knowing we can let go if needed, being able to leave everything as easily as going for a walk. With this level of detachment, there is naturally an even greater appreciation for the moments we do have. We can live much more fully. One way or another, sooner or later, our time here will end and we will then have no choice but to let go. If we can find this level of detachment before that point arrives, we can live all our moments with greater appreciation and joy, really present to the time that is ours.

From Personal Link: Talk #126:  Renunciation and Spontaneity

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