I’ve decided to redefine this blog and make it largely devoted to my work teaching mindfulness and compassion to children. I will rename it if I think of a suitable name for that purpose. I will maintain a separate blog at www.reluctantmonk.wordpress.com that is devoted to my own spiritual journey.
The Four Dignities are tools that are used for training the mind in the Shambhala tradition of Vajrayana Buddhism. They are symbolized by different creatures, some mythical and some real, and these are the creatures that are typically seen on prayer flags.
The first dignity is called Meek, and it is symbolized by a tiger who walks confidently through his jungle terrain, observing whatever happens around her. The tiger, in this image is well fed and composed, confident, dignified, and curious about her domain, simply paying attention to whatever is happening. The dignity of Meek, as concrete practice, has the quality of fearlessness, confidence, openness and unbiased observation Take for example a business meeting where certain problems are being discussed and solutions sought. Working from the dignity of Meek would indicate non-judgmental listening to the different points of view. It would mean that we could hear the original data independent of our own fixed, habitual ideas. With all of our attention focused on listening, we are not trying to adjust the information to fit what we already believe, nor do we sit there formulating our answer in rebuttal to someone else’s presentation. However, the first dignity, Meek, is not simply a matter of being willing to listen to someone, which is how it usually appears in the various problem-solving modes of management theories. We realize that it is very difficult to suppress our automatic reactions to ideas different from those we believe in. So willpower is not enough. Rather, developing Meek as a quality of mind is a matter of repeated practice in openness based on mindfulness/awareness.
The second dignity is called Perky, and it is symbolized by the snow lion. The snow lion is a very energetic image, since it is often portrayed as leaping from peak to peak in the Tibetan mountains. The individual who is working with Meek might at some moment find his interest in the situation is attracted by some elements that seem to have possibilities. Some spark of intelligence in the situation is glimpsed, not because it matches his or her preconceptions, but because it genuinely is part of the actual situation itself. In other words, as we were saying about the warrior, he or she finds the situation to contain its own intelligence and possibilities for action. Thus, instead of working from an attitude of fixed ideas, he or she would be open to new, possibly unforeseen possibilities. This interest might lead to further inquiries. So Perky is connected with the intelligence of insight.
The third stage is known as Outrageous, which is not, as the term may sound, aggressive from the standpoint of ego. Rather, like the Garuda, or Tibetan eagle, which is said to command space, the individual is able to act freely in the open space to achieve some particular solution to the problem. The mindful individual at this point has a confidence and accuracy of perception that makes very penetrating and insightful action possible. The action, because it contains awareness of the whole situation, is not aggressive so that it might try to achieve a result in one direction while causing harm elsewhere. I think we are all used to that blind side to our usual ways of doing things. We dam a river to store water and then causes floods, or we build highways into the countryside and build subdivisions which gradually destroy the green spaces.
Finally, in the fourth stage, we have Inscrutable, symbolized by the dragon. Once again , we could invoke the warrior image. The dragon carries an image of the dynamic qualities of the natural world, the sequence of weather and seasons. It identifies with mind beyond ego, and not the petty grasping and clinging that mark our ordinary life in the world. The individual as warrior lets the consequences of his or her action be as they are. In one sense we could call it “letting go.”
— Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
We learn in Buddhism that sutras are just scraps of paper and we shouldn’t put our faith in them. However, they do have a function. Sutras are like the finger pointing at the moon. We can use them as a guide, but if we don’t look up at the moon ourselves then they aren’t helpful. Buddhism is about practice and experience. It isn’t about reading and memorizing sutras. It can be easy to fall into a trap of putting our faith in sutras instead of in the practice. We must try to avoid this.
My daily activity is not different. It is only that I am spontaneously in harmony with it; not grasping or rejecting anything. Everywhere there is nothing to assert or oppose.
— Eckhart Tolle
One day as Ch’an Master Pao-ch’e of Ma-ku was accompanying the Patriarch for a walk, he asked, “What is the Great Nirvana?”
“Quickly!” exclaimed the Patriarch.
“What quickly?” asked Pao-ch’e
“Look at the water,” said the Patriarch.