I was writing a letter to a friend of mine about Buddhism and I was wondering if you could tell me what you think of the letter and if you have any suggestions to improve the letter. My apologies for any errors, I am still learning and trying to share what I learn to anyone also interested in the dharma so that it may be of use to them. I would also appreciate help improving the last paragraph in which I speak of practicing the four immeasurables in regards to the physical body.
Dear So and So
I thought I would take the opportunity during this New Year to write down some instructions in regards to Buddhism and it's practicality in daily life. It's a New Year and the errors of the past are dead never again to be ressurected except that they should be regretted and that regret serve to make us more prudent in our daily affairs. During this transitional period we are refreshed and given a renewed determination to trudge on through the murky roads ahead and the mud beneath our feet feel almost like clouds of cotton as we brave our way ahead. Buddhism is not something that we take to our meditation cushions and then leave at our meditation cushions it is a faith whose tenets and teachings we carry everywhere as an indelible mark caused by our practice of it. It is a most proper and complete education capable of reforming the most hardended of hearts and giving strength the weakest of the weak.
In Buddhism we call all sentient-beings or all beings that breath and are alive "A field of merit" because they give us an oppurtunity to cultivate four-immeasurables or four qualities that we should cultivate without limit which are: Love, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy and Equanimity.What the cultivation of all of these four immeasurables do for us is free us from the cage of the ego or "I". Have you ever noticed that when you have a problem the most often repeated thought is in relation to yourself ? Cultivating these four-immeasurables frees you from the ego and therefore creates tranquility for yourself because the object of your concern is shifted. You suffer because by it's nature the ego is always desiring and craving for phenomena which carry three traits: 1. Impermanence 2. Unsatisfactoriness 3. Lack of Inherent existence. Because of these three traits that accompany all conditioned phenomena once you a attempt to satisfy your desiring using the conditioned object it can't satisfy you completely and because of that the desire remains unfulfilled and will seek another object again. As long as you seek happiness in conditioned phenomena this cycle will go on and on and on.
Everywhere we go whether it is at the dinner-table or in the classroom we should strive at every moment 24-hours a day to maintain awareness and to use those around us to cultivate merit. What this means is is that when showering we enjoy our showering and we are not stuck traveling through the worries of the future of the troubles of the past but we are fully present enjoying and experiences all physical sensations whether they be blissful or painful. Through this awareness we are able to accept all the facts of life and are able to enjoy life to it's fullest without hindrance. At our dinner-tables we cultivate gratefulness by extending our thanks to the growers of the food, the natural elements that contributed to the survival of the corp, and to the companies selling the food. When you are in the classroom listen to your students and hear out their complaints,tend to them as a mother her children* and always look out for there well-being. Take Buddhism with you wherever you go and the world you live in will become a Buddha-Land, a paradise of peace because you are able to accept and enjoy reality as it is.
A common trend in our culture is to make a resolution during the first day of the New-Year and try to stick to it for the rest of the year. But I want you to make every morning a time to make new resolutions and to stand behind those resolutions every breathing moment of your days, hand up sticky notes all over the place if need be. Resolve to be mindful and aware of all that is around you and to see things with a right understanding which is an understanding that is arrived at by sound reasoning and is free of the taint of biased views or personal preference. By cultivating the four immeasurables you are watering the seeds of your Buddha-hood, why not strive to become an enlightened person every day of your life ?. This mindfulness I speak of and the cultivation of the four immeasurables will generate an unconditioned state called Nirvana in which all suffering is blown out.
Even right now you can practice the four immeasurables with your body !. Show love to it by just feeling grateful that it has done it's best to fight away illnesses that have repeatedly afflicted you in your life-time and has digested your food for you giving you the energy and capacity by which you may achieve happiness. This body gives you an oppurtunity to be free and so be grateful for all of the hard work it does that you yourself cannot control such as breathing and the beating of the heart. Practice compassion by wishing it ease and comfort and by exercising and maintaining it's health. Practice sympathetic joy by rejoicing in it's health it's well-being. When it is fighting illness and becomes weak practice equanimity by not being displeased with it's ill-health by cultivating acceptance.
Happy New Year !
* The Metta Sutta also suggests that we look at sentient beings as if they were our own children:
"As a mother would risk her life
to protect her child, her only child,
even so should one cultivate a limitless heart
The result of such selfless and loving-kindness is also prescribed in the same scripture:
"Not taken with views,
but virtuous & consummate in vision,
having subdued desire for sensual pleasures,
one never again
will lie in the womb."
with regard to all beings."