Tomorrow we will take up half of the next slogan – Four Practices Are The Best Methods. The four methods are (1) accumulating merit; (2) laying down evil deeds; (3) offering to the dons; and (4) offering to the dharmapalas. Norman Fisher’s version is a little more clearer – Do Good, Avoid Evil, Appreciate Your Lunacy and Pray for Help.
First, we will explore what it means to accumulate merit or do good as an act of humility. This practice is actually the opposite of making us feel good by building up the ego around all our good works. Instead, it is aimed at destroying the ego. We do this by acting out of the energy of Metta. We are friendly for the sake of being friendly, kind for the sake of being kind and generous for the sake of being generous. We expect nothing in return. No acknowledgement or return favor. It means we disregard or suspend any hope of gain because of our actions. We don’t act out of desire or fear. We act out of Metta and for no other reason.
The mind generally has a field day with this kind of concept. It jumps to fears about being mistreated or taken advantage of. But you can see how this thinking is connected to our “selfing”. The self is always protecting itself from some suspected harm. It needs to be acknowledged and will never act or give unconditionally. Thus, the point of this practice. By accumulating merit or do good out of Metta – we strengthen our heart. We learn to live freely without being foolish or naïve. I believe that when we operate out of Metta there is no way we can be harmed but we may need to talk about this a bit.
The second method, laying down evil deeds or avoiding evil is connected to our accumulating merit/doing good. In fact, it presupposes that as you accumulate merit/do good you will see more and more of your harmful patterns and began to drop them. Cultivating Metta can be quite an eye-opener; even if we see how little we actually act out of pure kindness or friendliness. This is more about seeing our harmful ways so much so that we become sick of them. NOT SICK OF OURSELVES! Sick of the acts of harmfulness. It’s like recovering from an addiction. We you get sick and tired of being sick and tired, you are ready to let go of the addiction. The thing is, to get sick and tired you have to see yourself sick and tired often. So much so that you can no longer stand it.
Often, practitioners use the practice to avoid seeing their acts of harmfulness. This is what I would consider to be spiritual by-passing. All we want to see is the goodness and sweetness of me. Even though awareness keeps showing us where we are harming ourselves and others, we keep pushing that under the rug or behind the curtain by focusing on our wholesome desire or intention to do no harm. This practice method (and more so with the last two) is aimed at getting us to get sick and tire of our harmful behavior so we can just lay it down and not pick it up again. I know, I know – easier said than done:)
See you tomorrow night – Tuere