By: David Xi-Ken Astor, Sensei
We speak much about how our dispositions interpret how we see the world around us. It is the reality underscored in the Second Noble Truth. When we talk about our dispositions we often do so by focusing on the negative aspects on how these dispositions shape our unsatisfactoriness. But we must not forget the overwhelming positive values of our dispositions too. Dispositions are like bridges that help us connect with realities of our world that our senses often miss. Dispositions fill in the blanks in order for us to get a larger picture of how the world is. We do this because we can not know everything, but we have the potential for having to deal with unknowns in so many of the situations we encounter. So our dispositions function in the form of useful mental tools in order to help formulate our understanding of what is going on around us. Our consciousness depends upon them as markers, or guide posts, as we maneuver along our daily path. This is why it is so critical for us to refine our dispositions and subtract those that have little or negative value, as we build on the positive value of those that add to our awakening of how the Universe is.
This is another example of impermanence, and how our dispositions can and must change for us to experience our progress toward maximum human flourishing. The value of our dispositions points directly to how we are in the Universe. Each time we sit in meditation we are working to discover the treasure we call “Buddha nature.” The value of our dispositions depends on how successful this act of discovery will be.
By: David Xi-Ken Astor, Sensei
As we continue to learn how to live within the borders of our vows taken during the precept ceremony we also focus on getting to know what is going on inside our psychophysical personality that sees clearly what is happening outside of it. For you see, being in the moment is both an inner and outer experience. It is both a physical and mental process. Meditation and contemplative thought begins with the development of a strong subconscious monitor, or witness to how we are in moments of awareness without us being aware of it. It is a critical element that promotes change when we are ready. Change is what our Buddhist practice is all about. It is the principle that underlies the Four Nobel Truths. I once heard it said that “You can’t move a plank you’re standing on”. How many of us are struggling with our practice and getting no where? As long as ordinary awareness is the only awareness you know, there is really no possibility of shifting the weight of your person from its ego-centered perch to its true center. In this ordinary awareness the best you can hope for is to wind up with a healthy ego, one that is in reasonable touch with its own boundaries and respectful of the boundaries of others. For many of us that is as good as it gets. At least, hopefully, it is an ego that has adopted the Three Pure Precepts: Do no harm, Do only good, Do good for others. But there is much more to life when we learn to develop an encompassing and socially aware subconscious monitor moving it to the state of consciousness.
We were each born with the potential to realize certain powers of supreme importance, and our process of becoming how we are is a process of learning to nurture, develop, and utilize those skills and powers of observation, it is how humans survived and flourished. We were born with the potential to be able to celebrate the gift of life, to act with caring for others, to have a passion for social justice and reality, to affirm life despite our inevitable suffering, the potential not only to labor, but to live, enjoy, love, to embrace existence itself and everything in it, including everything that was here before we were born and that will be here after we are gone. Everyday we are diverted and absorbed in the busyness of living. We often miss an opportunity to look, to listen, and to wonder at the uniqueness that is about us and within us. Part of the gift of human consciousness is our potential for awareness of our separation from the world driven by the ego’s seeing itself as separate and eternal. Our Buddhist studies restores ourselves from this state of separation by facing directly what it means to be an expression of the Universe.
What makes the ego behave in such a restrictive manner is its incapacity to separate from itself. It has a tendency to get completely lost in its inner psychodramas. In many ways an uncontrolled ego is like sleep walking, or going through life on automatic – watching life go by like driving a car while looking out the rear window. And we can all imagine how well that would work out. That might account for why some people’s lives are like a car wreck. If we want to know what kind of ego it is to which we are personally attached, we only need to ask ourselves what it is that makes us feel defensive. What comment cuts us to the quick? What criticism of us rouses our anger? Each of us has our own list, and that is the list of our ego attachments.