"Embracing Impermanence" Retreat with Dharma teacher, Joanne Friday
April 16-20 at Springwater Center
Update: Residential and Commuter Spaces are now completely filled!
We are posting our regular meetings on the easy-to-use calendar on the sangha blog. Click on each event for details. Link to the calendar above or here
PLEASE NOTE THAT THE SUNDAY, APRIL 19, 4- 6 p.m. MEDITATION AT THE Zen Center is CANCELLED DUE TO RETREAT
Don’t forget – It can be cold at the Zen Center and other venues. Please dress warmly and in layers!
Blooming Lilac Discussion Group Online
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Commentary on the 2nd Mindfulness Training
Dear Blooming Lilac Friends- The below is from a meditator at Stillwater Practice Center in Maryland. He is commenting on one of the Five Mindfulness Trainings, the one about generosity…
Dear Still Water Friends,
This week it’s time to recite the Five Mindfulness Trainings and focus on the one with perhaps the most enticing title, True Happiness.
In the traditional Five Precepts, the second precept is often phrased as “do not steal” or “I vow to refrain from taking that which does not belong to me.” So how does Thich Nhat Hanh’s version, the Second Mindfulness Training, go from “don’t steal” to “true happiness?” Here is his formulation of the training:
Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to practicing generosity in my thinking, speaking, and acting. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others; and I will share my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. I will practice looking deeply to see that the happiness and suffering of others are not separate from my own happiness and suffering; that true happiness is not possible without understanding and compassion; and that running after wealth, fame, power and sensual pleasures can bring much suffering and despair. I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy. I am committed to practicing Right Livelihood so that I can help reduce the suffering of living beings on Earth and reverse the process of global warming.
Thay takes the admonition “do not steal” and flips it to the positive suggestion of being generous, open hearted, and focused on what’s good in life.
Over the past month, I’ve been focusing on the roles of arrogance and humility in my own life, assumptions, and habits. There are deep similarities between the roots of the words arrogance and humility and the terms stealing and generosity. They could be an SAT verbal analogy pairing. The word arrogant derives from arrogate, which means “to claim or seize without justification, to make undue claim to having.” By contrast, humility derives from the Latin humus, “earth.” It means to “offer in a spirit of deference.” It seems humility is the ultimate groundedness, knowing we are of the earth and are in service to it and, therefore, others and ourselves. In short, humility offers while arrogance takes.
This framing has helped me start to see my own arrogance and the limits to the understanding of generosity with which I grew up. I usually don’t hold myself above others or as better than them. I believe and try to practice the belief that we are all equal, due equal dignity and rights. Yet I’m generous with my time and resources based on my particular Christian upbringing of how to behave in the world. I often do what I do to “be good” and, therefore, worthy of love. This form of generosity is often blind to the joys and benefits those actions bring to others and is motivated by need and fear, not an open heart and an understanding of the interconnectedness of life.
This notion of arrogance as “making an undue claim to having” also resonates with the Western notion of “self.” When I act from selfishness, greed, anger, or defensiveness, for example, I take myself as someone separate from others. In that sense, I’ve expropriated the freedom and vastness of life of which I’m part and narrowed it down into a tiny, lonely chunk cut off from life that I call “me.” It’s not possible to practice the true generosity of which Thay speaks below from that position. Thus, in the fundamental sense of the words, when I act as if I’m separate from others, when I act from my base emotions, I am arrogant and the opposite of humble—grounded, connected, open to service.