I presented the Sutra on The Better Way to Live Alone to the Pine Gate Mindfulness Community on our First Saturday Mindfulness gathering in February 2015.
I really like the brevity and impact of this sutra. After reading it out to the sangha I used a series of quotes from elsewhere to get the sangha juices flowing. I began the dharma talk with my favorite fridge magnet – LET GO OR BE DRAGGED – and then moved on to the quotes, which were read aloud by different sangha members. The discussion was illuminating with poignant and direct reflections on experience. I introduced Right View and the Eightfold Path into the conversation. Once Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration spark the engine of Right View so that views transform into insights, then there is a cascade of insight from Right View pouring into all thinking, speaking and action – the rest of the Eightfold Path. When our tired old stories prevail and do not transform into insights, then we have wrong views cascading through thinking, speaking and action. And that ensures the presence of suffering.
This eighteen line sutra is immense, as it contains the essence of the Buddha’s teachings about not getting imprisoned by past, future and present circumstances. They are all enslaving ghosts until we cultivate sufficient attention from the present moment. The key lines for me are:
“Do not pursue the past.
Do not lose yourself in the future.
The past no longer is.
The future has yet to come.
Looking deeply at life as it is
In the very here and now
The practitioner dwells
In stability and freedom.”
I also felt that Osho really nailed it in the first quote. I found this way of presenting the material to be novel and useful.
There is a teaching on “The Better Way to Live Alone” which defines “living alone” to be the experience of having one’s mind free of thoughts about the past and future, but is instead focused on the “present moment.” But I can live physically alone but not be alone at all. If my mind is full of memories of the past and thoughts of the future, I can live physically alone but not be alone at all. If my mind is full of memories of the past and thoughts of the future, I can live physically alone while dialoguing with the deceased, reliving a past conversation or some painful (or joyful) incident or experience. Or I can be mentally rehearsing or imagining some future conversation, some future event.
All of which is the antithesis of “living alone” if I am lost in these thoughts. On the other hand If I am aware and watchful of these thoughts, realizing I am having these thoughts in the present moment, then I am truly “living alone” – even if I am living with 100 other beings. And this leads me to my own “deepest core” of who I am. If I know this, I have the capacity to love
As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.
- Henry David Thoreau
Happiness and suffering are dependent upon your mind, upon your interpretation. They do not come from outside, from others. All of your happiness and all of you suffering are created by you, by your own mind.
- Kyabje Thubten Zopa Rinpoche
My Manifesto: My body and mind are not individual entities that I can do anything I like with – such as filling them with drugs, alcohol, hateful attitudes and violence. My body and mind exist for future generations therefore I must be aware of what I put into them. We must also exercise care and responsibility over what we allow into the minds and bodies of our children, to prevent murders from happening in our schools. Furthermore, this care and responsibility is to prevent young people turning their consumption of violence in on themselves – in the form of suicide. So we say NO to our children consuming violence through movies, video games, internet and hate concerts. At the same time we say NO to ourselves at engaging in violent and toxic interactions with them. We must take steps to fill the ethical void, give our children the benefits of our full presence and learn to listen deeply to them so that positive steps are taken to eliminate murders taking place in our schools.
- Ian Prattis