Go: get a piece of paper.
Write down your four favorite possessions.
Write down your four favorite pastimes.
Write down the four parts of your body you like the best.
Write down the four people you care for most.
Write down your four best personality traits.
Go ahead. Do it now, then come back.
Finished? Now, slowly, one by one, draw a line through each of your favorite possessions. You will lose them all.
Scratch out each of your pastimes. There will come some point in your life where you will be unable to manage them.
Erase each of your favorite body parts. If you’re lucky, they’ll slowly devolve into senescence. If not, you will lose them through illness or injury.
Ink out your favorite people. You will lose them all, either through their deaths or your own.
What you’re left with, at least in the version I learned recently, are your personality traits. However, let’s be honest: you will lose those as well through death, injury, or dementia.
Rip them up. Rip them all up. Either they will die with you, or you will lose them along the way.
The question we all face is how to be happy in the face of these truths.Doug Smith, The Footman’s Snicker, http://secularbuddhism.org/2013/02/22/the-footmans-snicker/
Instead of giving up something you don’t want to give up for a month and cause yourself undue suffering, why not give up something that causes you suffering that you want and are ready to give up forever? Meh. What do I know?
I think one reason metta isn’t a more prominent practice among American Buddhists is that it can feel so tremendously strange and artificial the first few times you try it. We become painfully aware that we’re just playing a kind of game in our heads – the person we “send metta” to is unaware and unaffected. To people of a secular frame of mind, it can even evoke the dreaded sense of praying. To whom, they wonder, are we praying for these benefits? … we “send metta” – not to transmit a mysterious power, but to engage the social attunement circuits of our brain by imagining our relationships with others. The benefit of our practice for others lies in our enhanced ability to respond to those around us with kindness, patience and compassion, thereby helping to decrease the world’s supply of negative reactivity.
Since death alone is certain, and the time of death uncertain, what should I do?I have found that there is, in fact, nothing morbid or depressing at all about reflecting on this fact every day. Rather, it allows for a profound acceptance of this fact as well as a renewed appreciation for life. Death is no longer a topic to be feared or avoided and the fact that I, or anyone else, is here at all is met with awe and respect. Contemplating death allows us to become conscious the wonders of existence.
There is rebirth of character,
but no transmigration of self.
Thy thought-forms reappear,
But there is no egoentity transferred.
The stanza uttered by a teacher
is reborn in the scholar who repeats the words.
The truly dangerous thing about belief in an all-powerful supernatural being - God as it has been called, is that it allows a person to place the responsibility for his or her actions on the shoulders of that being. When one does not take full responsibility for her actions and thoughts, what can be the outcome other than hatred, violence, and eventually war? As an atheist you do not have that supernatural being to give your responsibility to, no omnipotent being to “forgive” you when you act in a manner that is harmful to self or others. You are that much closer to realizing that the only person in the universe responsible for your own actions is yourself. Once this is fully realized, you are free to take responsibility for everything you do and say; in doing this you simultaneously reduce your own suffering as well as the suffering of those around you.
Buddhism and Atheism
Ajahn Brahm outlines his perspectives on god and atheism…
He is lovely. And all of the terrible jokes.
Mindfulness focuses entirely on the specific conditions of one’s day-to-day experience. It is not concerned with anything transcendent or divine. It serves as an antidote to theism, a cure for sentimental piety, a scalpel for excising the tumor of metaphysical belief.Stephen Batchelor, “Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist”