Tips to practitioner
Just before contemplating stay in two or three steps away from the place, which is reserved for contemplation. Wait silently and reverently having your hands folded in Namaste gesture on your chest for a few minutes and feel invisible presence of the Enlightened One at this place. He is watching over you with love and approval. When you feel his presence, make a bow with palms near your forehead or if it is possible, do a triple full prostration, imagining that you are hugging The Most-charitied One's feet and touching them with your forehead. Analyze done contemplation, sitting or walking for about half an hour after. If it was weak, look for a reason for its weakness and dimness, and when you find it, consider how to fix it in the future. If it was bright and inspiring, thank about the Enlightened One mentally and think how to achieve even greater depth and inspiration of your contemplation next time.
If the contemplation refers to a visible thing like events of Enlightened One's life , great Dharma teachers' life or your own life, you should imagine or recall place, where contemplating events are taking place, as bright and clear as possible. Try to imagine contemplating place as if you were there. What surrounds you? Who is also here? What do you hear? If you are indoor, what do you heard inside or outside the house? What smells do you feel?
You can imagine it in such a way your own imagination visualizes it. If you started caring about historical accuracy of the sight, it can be a hindrance, which distracts you from the contemplation. Do not worry about historical clothes, nature or rooms authenticity. Just open your imagination freeing it from all boundaries.
It will be useful to imagine a Buddha, Arhats and the Great Teachers as real earth people with a pleasant and majestic appearance people. Do not worry if their images are not sufficiently clear. Their presence and inspiration reality feeling is more important than artistic accuracy.
At contemplation of invisible thing such as spiritual delusion, slavery and samsara painfulness - imagine yourself as if you are in prison, shackled by chains, smeared with filths. They are your delusions. If you contemplate speech delusions contemplate it as burning venom, bile, sewage, garbage or vomit which are emanating from your mouth. At the same moment try to feel all its hideous smelling, taste and mucus. The same images and methods apply to your thoughts and actions. And if you really feel nausea and shudder of this, it means your consciousness will free from chains of samsara itself.
Overviewing your thoughts speech and body delusions, review them year per year or from time to time. Three things assist this: first of all, it is important to imagine the accommodation or the house you lived, then the relations with other people you had and, finally, activities and responsibilities you did and had.
Use inspiring and supporting your contemplation places and objects.
If it is perishable nature, put in front of you a skull or a corpse photograph, contemplate at a cemetery or just walk there, reading gravestone inscriptions in order to realize the universality of death and its arrival time uncertainty.
If it is samsara painfulness, you can put in front of you a photograph of killed children and women in now continuing wars, hungry or dying people, who were poisoned by water and soil wastes, and a photo with insane drug addict's and alcoholics' faces. Go to places where you can see something like this by yourself or watch documentaries about it. Contemplate not just some vague notion of "evil", which is none is personally responsible for, but rather contemplate clear and outright Dharma neglecting fruit in this world. Why should you do it? It is because people rarely face evil and evil pass through their lives by that. And moreover it perceive you to learn deeper Wisdom and Compassion of Buddha, who favored us with Dharma, medicine for us and our world.
If you contemplate Enlightened One's appearance, put in front of you His inspiring statue or image, read texts with his deeds sincerely, commit offerings and prostrations reverently. If you can, visit temples and holy places of Enlightened One respectfully, and if there is no possibility, watch inspirational movies about them. In short, remember: "Every circuit can become a bridge to the rescue!". That is why learn how to use every manifestation of life for your spiritual practice sake, keeping in your mind that the lotus is growing in mud, but mud does not stain it. This is the great power of Teaching about Enlightenment, which converts the poison of samsara to the drink of immortality!
Pieces of advice to someone who contemplates by yourself
Contemplate simply and accurately.
It is easier than it seems to be. Trust the process. As at physical exercises, it is important not to overdo at the beginning not to refuse from practice after short efforts. The effect of good physical exercise is accumulating: we are not getting stronger or more enduring immediately. But if we do exercises regularly, we will find significant changes in state of our body and health soon. We will feel inspiration, good spirits, freedom, peacefulness and goodwill because these exercises will naturally interweave with our everyday life. If we execute them accurately and patiently, we will experience a great joy for ourselves, our loved ones and friends, whom our experience will also gives benefit. Even if we are too busy suddenly many of the days, even then you should not leave our contemplation.
Changes come with practice. When did we manage to learn anything without practice? It is not always easy to change habits, orders, customs, but everybody knows that we become very flexible and resourceful if we really want something. The main thing is to make a choice. If we make a choice in favor of new habits, we will be able to cultivate them.
Living with Dharma
It is hardly possible to live at least a day without facing a slavery of delusions, suffering and death inside and outside. It is within us and it is around us. It can be dealt, just denying the slavery, suffering and death reality, as it is accepted in this darkened world. This is one way. And this way leads to the suffering increasing.
Dharma gives us another Way. We have seen the fact that the Teachings about Enlightenment is healing and liberation from the bondage of this world, where it seems death and delusions reign unchallenged. We have seen the fact that we can open our eyes widely and act in the face of death fearlessly.
We have seen that, we can find Dharma even in the most impenetrable darkness, brokenness and confusion. And Dharma frees us. We can find Buddha's presence and love, which are particularly strong there just in the places which are filled with fragility, insecurity, emptiness. Spiritual, contemplative life sees that every situation presents us with a gift. It is love and peace, which this darkened world can not give to us.
Let's consider, for example a close friendship or marriage. It would never occur to us that to improve these relations, it is necessary to sit on a chair with our eyes closed and think seriously about the other one on the early morning for half an hour a day. We know intuitively that even if we have never expressed in words, that the most important relationships in our life is the case of our heart. My friend or spouse means a lot to me. The other person does not just attract me: his/her desires, dreams and beliefs are incredibly important for me. And if these relationships helps me grow filling the love, I want to serve the other man, giving myself to him completely.
Relationships always involve a strong desire to be together. They will fade, if we do not have a sustainable commitment to pastime together, if we do not support the contact. Even if our meetings are short, we feel sentiments to each other, which keep our relationship on. The closer relationships the stronger feelings. Being married, you can see your spouse not so often as you would. But you must aware that if you do something alone: work, care about children, go shopping, everything that you do, you do for your relationships to achieve your life aims and your mutual mission together. Physical intimacy is an important, but a small part of human relationships. If there is another connection and proximity, the physical intimacy can be wonderful. If cordial relations do not bind us living apart, physical intimacy can be a torture for us.
Words, gestures and rituals helps us express and form our cordial relations with each other. "I love you." "Thank you". "I need you." "Forgive me". A smile, a hug, a manifestation of vulnerability, a frank story, a meaningful gift, mutual activities, your mutual song, your favorite place, your mutual books, your kitchen, your family tradition. Here are a few examples of the countless opportunities for the development and deepening of relationships.
Similarly, if you listen to Enlightened One's love expression to you, it will open your heart and cause a strong mutual feeling in you. It may be a grateful response, desire to act to express your reciprocal reverence and love. Love can be kindled even by a small spark. But this fire needs constant maintaining. If we really care about our relationship, they will never go out and will warm up and strengthen us for all our life.
Share your experience
Even if you do not want or do not have an opportunity to do contemplation in the group, it is very important to share the newfound contemplation fruits with others. There are several ways to do it.
Firstly, tell with your friends, who greet such contemplation making, about them. Many of us have already been in correspondence with friends through the Internet. We have already known what opportunities of communication it opens to us. It allows people to communicate at vast distances. You can share your experience with a person or several people, who are your constant correspondents. Tell them about your experience of contemplations. If these ones become your everyday life background, it will be even better.
Secondly, perhaps you know someone who does not have computer access. It is maybe someone of your relatives or friends who are also interested in a spiritual path. You can print out a few main pages about contemplation practice for them. Thirdly, read what other people write about their experience. It is useful to hear about those gifts, which Buddha's Teaching gives the practitioners. Think of sharing experience, what you got lately.
Keep a spiritual diary
Keeping a diary is a great way to increase fruitfulness of your spiritual path and daily contemplation.
You need just to sketch out the answers to the following questions briefly:
- "What have I contemplated this week?"
- "How much time have I devoted to contemplation?"
- "What have I found with gratitude?"
- "Where would I be able to see and use spiritual fruits in everyday life?"
If you think about these questions every week, it will help you to see how your mind and spiritual vision of the surrounding world is changing.
Tips to people who make spiritual contemplation in a group
What do spiritual group meetings give?
Group meetings allow people, who contemplate, to deepen their spiritual life experience, enrich and improve their contemplation significantly. Regular contemplations give us an opportunity to think of a number of crucial areas of our life. They inspire us to seek the Dharma in the thick of our daily life. This expands our freedom, brings us closer to Liberation. But if we make those contemplations with other practitioners, it will strengthen us on a Dharma way, will support discipline in us, will help us to follow the spiritual guidance precisely, deepen and explore our spiritual experience.
What is happening n such spiritual groups?
Everything happens very naturally and easily. If a group consists of 5-6 people and everyone tells his/her lately experience what he/she wants while he/she were doing contemplation or reading spiritual texts or about experience he/she has got in everyday life. For example, you can start the story this way: "Two days ago, practice (for example perishable nature practice) helped me, when I had encountered the following situation .... Or: "This week I've been excited with next event (a TV transmission, a film, a paper, a book) because ...", or "This week I've been touched with a text from the Canon ...".
Are there any rules for these groups?
Yes, there are. The conversation lasts no more than an hour, begins and ends in time. It makes us respect the time of each participant. Each group member should share his/her experience in such way, others have time to tell. (Thus, if one of the participants has spoken for 20 minutes, the group must say: "Thanks, but we need to save time that everyone who wishes will be able to advance his/her this opportunity"). A very important rule is not to argue. It is not allowed to prejudice, contest or deny other one's experience and expressions. It is useful to open and close a meeting with a brief ritual of prayer and contemplation.
Some pieces of advice of group finding.
You can just invite someone of your friends or colleagues to form a group with you. Being joined together in a group of 4-6 people, we support each other on the Spiritual Path very much. You can meet as often as you want, but it is desirable to do it at least once a week or two weeks.
Ritual in everyday life
Ritual is any repetitive action that is performed in a certain way. You can call a cup of coffee or tea, you drink soon after waking up, your morning ritual. Perhaps holiday lunch or conversation after evening news watching are your family rituals.
Spiritual ritual includes the same elements, but in addition to them has essential symbols and meanings. For example, Sadhana consists of a number of ritual actions. Sadhana uses a sacred time, space and objects. It includes gestures, words, movements and various means which affect our senses.
The ritual can play a very important role in our rising ability to take on the proximity with Three Jewels in everyday life. it is very useful to add a certain ritual to our life to fill this life with spiritual light. Conversion to a ritual is a recognition that we consist of body, speech and mind, and that "spirituality" involves not only the spiritual mood of mind. When our body and speech are entered into a ritual indefinitely small and are connected to our imagination, experience and inspiration, our spiritual experience does not only deepen but it also becomes an integral part of our life.
Do you have any religious symbols, images or objects in your house? Do you have a statue of the Enlightened One, Thanka (image), altar, Indigenous Teacher picture or at least a wearable small icon? Such images and spiritual symbols can become supports for your consciousness. Appearance of a statue or a small altar in your house becomes a great source of spiritual strength and the main place, which unites members in your house. The presence of the altar in your house says: "I believe that the Enlightened One likes me, looks at me and helps me." A simple glance at the Buddha's image can say: "I find the refuge in your Infinite Wisdom and Love me." If you don't have Enlightened One statue or image, they can be a wonderful gift to yourself or close person. This gift can say: "Enlightened One, I want to put this symbol of Your Love and Compassion me in my house." If we put this statue of the Enlightened One at a prominent place in our house, it can become a sacred reminder what person we must be for our close friends and relatives. These are some examples. There are many other examples in which a certain image or symbol or a work of art gets particular importance due to our spiritual experience connection.
If we turn to those everyday life moments which are full of our natural rituals and let them be filled with the spiritual content, it will help us unspeakably to become contemplators in the thick of everyday events. Conduct an experiment: mind, what changes brief pause at morning will bring into your life, when you getting up, wear your slippers or robe on, wiping yourself after a shower. If we note consciously beginning of each day by 20-30-second reflection of who we are and if devote a coming day to Enlightened One, we will experience our life in a very different way. The same before going to bed. Let it be just the few seconds when you are undressing or going to sleep. Dedicate these moments to reflection about Buddha's Wisdom and Mercy for you, your close friends and relatives.
We all eat. Sometimes we eat poorly while running, but as long as eating is a part of our daily activities, we can choose this time to give yourself up to contemplation deliberately if only for a few moments. We can develop the habit to recite blessing before a meal. Try before each meal to pause and treat your food to the Three Jewels.
Try to add a few words of yours to the offering and pronounce them before every meal. You can pray aloud or silently:
"O All-merciful Holy Fully-Enlightened Tathagata Lord! Receive and bless our food. Let it be blessed sacrificial amrita for our body, speech and mind and for all living beings, who need food. Let it be a source of good and let it remove suffering from all six worlds of ten cardinal points! Om-A-Hum!"
Or you can read glorifying Buddha's enlightened qualities Mahamantra only: "Om Namo Bhagavate Tathagata Arhate Samyaksambuddhaya!".
We all know how "body language" is important. We all had an opportunity to "read" body language of other people. Sometimes it is not coincide with people words. We can express ourselves with help of our body without word help. it is especially good that it may take just a few seconds. Thus we can find a few moments to invoke to Enlightened One, but we can not know what to say. In this short moment we can just stop and bow silently or we can just fold our hands on a chest in Namaste. We say silently all we need to say by this gesture. Of course, we can repeat this special moment, deepening our reverence and inspiration gesture, +again and again
We are used to touching our children, close friends and relatives, expressing our love. Imagine how much we would bring in our life if a touch became a blessing. If you do it at first, you can put your hand on a head of a child or close friend, or relative, stop and say a few words: "Let Buddha protect you and let the Three Jewels Light be with us forever." Or simply: "Namo Bhagavate!".
We all can find different ways to bring a ritual in our life, which will help us to contemplate in action, in our daily life. We all can appeal to rituals, which are in our life and just transform them, at least slightly, and fill them with spiritual inspiration, turn them into our expression of proximity to Buddha.
Spiritual practice in tough times
It must be very important to invoke to Buddha at tough times. Sometimes we shout: "Help!", "Save us!", "Please!". However the Buddha is always with those who invoke to his protect with a pure heart.
It is very difficult for us to do practice in such times. We do not know exactly what to ask. A seems we ask for a miracle, but perhaps the experience has taught us: when we asked for a miracle, we always got disappointment. Perhaps we began to treat the Dharma cynically because we asked for a help in truly tough times and did not get what we had wanted. Perhaps I asked for someone recovering, but it did not happen. Maybe I asked for money that I needed desperately, but I didn't get promotion. May be I prayed for relationships that nevertheless were destroyed?
At one or another moment of life we have to give up with Buddha-magician image, the all-powerful Superman, who can change everything if he desires to. It is so difficult to refuse this image, partly because we do not know what will replace it. Buddha does not control the world, as the puppeteer. He does not pull the strings and does not interfere in nature laws to respond whimsical peoples prays. Buddha gives us strength and wisdom to solve all problems ourselves. He does not want our slavery, but he raises us up to his level. And this is His greatness and gifted Dharma beauty! Keeping in mind his eternal and indestructible patronage, we free ourselves from the paralyzing fear, weakness and death.