Bodhi Mind Reflection

Practicing Flexibly

Amy McMaster (Chuan Yuan 傳願)

I’m so grateful for the ingenuity of shifus in guiding us to continue our practice as we’ve navigated the pandemic. Prior to last year, almost my entire practice revolved around being at the temple. Even reciting sutras was linked to BJM, during the hours spent driving to and from Shoreline. Without the structured routine of classes, I felt lost. Trying to meditate on my own has been a struggle. Even 10 or 15 minutes is sometimes overwhelming. On the rare occasions my thoughts are quiet, I usually fall asleep.

Recitation has been easier to adapt to a home practice, especially once we were able to dedicate merits on the website and work towards the goals together. That was really a big incentive to continue reciting. For me, recitation originally developed as a driving practice because I spent so much time in the car. There’s not much else you can do, except for listening to the radio or maybe a book. Instead of something to be endured, sitting in rush-hour traffic became my study time. For years, I’d lived very much in my head, spending hours daydreaming, lost in my thoughts, so focusing my mind with recitation offered an expedient means to redirect my attention. Instead of thinking about what might have been or what might happen in the future, I was able to concentrate instead on the Dharma. Once I was no longer spending hours in the car each week, it was a simple substitution to start reciting Heart Sutra or mantras during my daily walk, or any other time my brain might tend to disengage.

Next, we had the opportunity to read Buddhist lectures and stories in the weekly newsletter, which provided a chance to study in a more settled, focused way. As the weeks went by, there was so much stressful news as the pandemic spread. Each weekend, the new reading material offered a different perspective and a chance to reflect on teachings of impermanence, gratitude, causes of suffering, etc. Even though I’d heard the concepts over and over, the past year has led to a new and deeper understanding. Life may still feel overwhelming or discouraging, but whenever I can remember to be grateful instead of upset, or change my thinking about a situation, it reinforces a new habit.

Meditation has been the most difficult practice to develop in my home practice, so I’m especially thankful that we’ve been able to start guided meditations again through Zoom. My mind is much calmer, although I continue to fall asleep. There have been enough calm, lucid moments though, that I know I can do it, that it is beneficial to keep making the effort. And, as Shifu has reminded us, if you know you are falling asleep, then you are aware!

Buddhist teachings say that we shouldn’t waste the opportunities we are given in this lifetime and that we should be strict with ourselves. I’ve used those in the past to beat myself up for not practicing the way I thought I should. That isn’t a correct interpretation though and I think the Middle Way should be practiced here too, as in all things. Setting goals, having a standard, an objective, is a positive practice. But I am still an ordinary being and sometimes fall short. The key is to reflect and to reevaluate, then continue on again, challenging myself to improve. If I abandon the practice all together, then there is no way to progress. There are many ways to practice – it doesn’t have to mean meditating for hours every day or reciting lengthy sutras. Those efforts also have their place, but so does reciting a short mantra, changing a feeling of annoyance into one of gratitude, and encouraging others. Practicing this way, I can practice all the time, not just when sitting quietly reading a sutra or meditating. It can reach every part of my life.

Our Grand Master said it best:

“Frequently peer inward, reflect, and reform with a mind of compassion, respect, tolerance, and harmony. By taking a step back, you instead expand your horizons. Truly transforming yourself in this way, you will discover that everyday is a good day, any time is the right time, and that there is reward in every endeavor.”



Amy McMaster (Chuan Yuan 傳願)

在疫情期間,我很感恩師父們用創新的方式帶領我們繼續修行。去年之前, 我所有的用功修行幾乎都離不開精舍,甚至連誦經也是在我開車往返精舍的路上。失去規律性的課程使我感到失落。我嘗試著自行靜坐,十到十五分鐘對我來說都是一種煎熬 。雖然偶爾我也能夠達到無念,但我卻總是落入昏沉。

誦經是在家用功較易上手的法門,尤其當我們可以上網將功德回向,並和師兄們一起朝目標前進時,那對持續誦經更能產生激勵效果。對我來說,誦經原本是在開車時養成的習慣,因為我花很多時間在車上,除了聽廣播或有聲書之外,沒有什麼其他事可做。坐在交通尖峰時刻的車內,變成是我的用功時間,而不是件無奈的事。我一向是個愛做夢的人,花很多時間做白日夢,在各種想法中迷失自我,所以誦經對我來說是個重新導正注意力的方便法門。不去想過去、想未來,我反而可以專注於修行佛法。 我現在不再需要每週花數小時在車上,所以現在每天在散步或閒暇時誦心經或持咒變成我的定課 。

其次,我們有機會每週閱讀佛法開示或佛典故事,這也提供了更安定及專注的學習機會。隨著疫情蔓延,許多負面的新聞讓人備感壓力。每個周末,新的閱讀資料提供我們重新思惟無常、感恩、苦集(四聖諦)的機會。即使我已一次又一次地聽聞過這些佛法觀念,但在過去這一年中還是帶給我全新的、更深入的體會。生活可能還是充滿壓力和挫折,但因為我常常提醒自己要感恩而不是沮喪,要學習轉念,漸漸的, 它變成了一個新的習慣。

靜坐一向是我在家用功最難養成的部分,所以我特別感恩線上課程中我們可以再次恢復靜坐指導。雖然我仍會昏沉,但我的心更平靜了,那些無念、清楚明白的時刻,帶給我信心, 我知道自己可以做到,持續努力終會成功的。如同師父的提醒:如果你知道自己落入昏沉,那表示你還醒著!

佛法教導我們不該浪費此生得為人身的機會,所以應嚴以律己。因此過去我用自己設定的修行標準來鞭策自己, 但是這種落入兩邊的想法是錯誤的,中道才是我該遵循的方向 。積極的修行應該要設定目標及標準,但我畢竟仍是凡夫,有時做不到。關鍵是透過反省檢討和重新評估, 挑戰自己持續進步。如果我放棄所有練習,就絕對不會有進步的。用功方法有很多—每日靜坐幾小時或誦長篇經文是很好的定課,但持個短短的咒語,轉煩惱為感恩,鼓勵他人等也是有一樣的功德。以此方式,我可以在任何時候用不同的方式用功,而不侷限於安靜坐著讀經或靜坐。修行應該是生活中無所不在的 。