Interesting Reads

AUGUST 26, 2013

Against The Stream

Posted by Dorothy under Community Interests, Interesting Reads, Philosophy, Wellnessno responses

Noah Levine ‒ the son of Buddhist teachers, rebel of cultural norms, punk rocker, drug addict, juvenile criminal turned Buddhist believer and now a preacher calling himself a Dharma Punx ‒ was the student of the well-known spiritual teacher, Jack Kornfield. Son of proud parents Stephen and Ondrea Levine, he voluntarily swayed from the spiritual paths which his parents were following even before his teenage years. After rediscovering meditation and Buddhism, Noah now aims to to use his early life’s experiences to serve youth in juvenile halls, men in prison and the general public interested in such topics.

In his book “Against The Stream”, Noah explained that the Buddha isn’t a god or deity to be worshipped. He was a rebel and an overthrower, the destroyer of ignorance, the great physician who discovered the path to freedom from suffering. The Buddha left a legacy of truth for us to experience ourselves. The practices and principles of his teachings lead to the direct experience of liberation. Since Buddhism is not a religion, people should stop worshipping Buddha like a god and try to become a good Buddhist. Instead learn his teachings to become a wise and compassionate human being, to awaken from our life of complacency and ignorance and to be a buddha!!

The Buddha delivered the four noble truths of the revolutionary path to freedom which he referred to as the setting in motion of the wheel of Dharma. The term wheel is used because the Buddha’s teachings explain the cycle or circle of existence. Furthering that imagery, the wheel of Dharma consists of eight trainings, the eightfold path, which are seen as the wheel’s spokes. When a wheel is set in motion it revolves.

The First Truth

The Buddha taught that life by its very nature is unsatisfactory, that some level of difficulty exists for all unenlightened beings in creation. We face sickness, old age, and death; the sense pleasures we do experience don’t last; and physical and perhaps emotional pain is a given in life.

There are two levels to this truth. The first is the pain of exeistence that we can’t do anything about. The second is the suffering and unhappiness that we create for ourselves due to our lack of wisdom and our vain attempts to control the uncontrollable-that is, the transient nature of all physical, emotional, and mental phenomena. We are born into a realm of constant change. Everything is decaying. We are continually losing all that we come into contact with. Our tendency to get attahced to impermanent experiences causes sorrow, lamentation, and grief, becuase eventually we are separated from everything and everyone we love. Our lack of acceptance and understanding of this fact makes life unsatisfactory.

Pain and suffering are two completely different experiences. pain is unavoidable. Suffering is self-created.

Some level of dissatisfaction exists for all unenlightened beings.

For some this is a revelation, a normalising statement that brings about a great sense of relief. Finally we are being told the truth: life isn’t always easy and pleasant. We already know this to be true, but somehow we tend to go through life thinking that there is something wrong with us when we experience sadness, grief, and physical and emotional pain. The first truth points out that this is just the way it is. there is nothing wrong with you; you have just been born into a realm where pain is a given.

The Second Truth

There is a cause for all this dissatisfaction and suffering. It is our craving for life to be filled exclusively with pleasure. That craving for pleasure creates a naturla reaction of aversion to the pains and difficulties of life. This truth can be seen as a simple lack of acceptance: unwilling to accept the pleasures and pains as they are, we go about clinging to the experiences we like and trying to get rid of the ones we don’t like.

We also create suffering for ourselves due to our craving to exist permanently-that is, our craving for eternal pleasure. When life is good, we want it to go on forever. At other times, though, we create suffering for ourselves through our craving to not exist at all-the craving for nonexistence, which results from the desire to escape from the pains and difficulties of life. When life is difficult of painful, we want to no longer exist.

As long as greed, hatred, and delusion exist within our hearts, suffering will continue in our lives, no matter how much we seek to experience pleasure and avoid pain.

Craving is a problem. Desires are natural, but craving-which is painful-is the extreme aspect of desire.

The Third Truth

Freedom from suffering is possible. There is a way to relate to all experience that is in harmony with the reality of constant change and the ultimately impersonal nature of all things. When greed, hatred, and delusion are destroyed, a state of peace and happiness is all that remains. This is the state of freedom from suffering referred to as Nirvana (which means cessation).

The Buddha experienced it, and if he could do it through his own efforts, others can too.

We all have mini-experiences of this-moments in our life, perhaps even on a daily basis, when we are free from greed, hatred, and delusion, when we are satisfied and at peace. Yet we tend to ignore or forget those experiences. The truth of craving blocks the truth of freedom. the path of rebellion, the Buddha’s path, will bring us to a more consistent state of freedom.

Freedom is available in this lifetime.

The Fourth Truth

The path to freedom consists of eight factors (often referred to as the eightfold path). These eigh important areas of comprehension and practice, which make up the spiritual revolutionary’s training manual, can be broken down into three sections:

Wisdom
1.Understanding
2.Intention

Conduct
3.Speech
4.Action
5.Livehood

Meditation
6.Effort
7.Mindfulness
8.Concentration

Studying and contemplating these eight factors, the enlightened revolutionary can experience the freedom celebrated and taught by the Buddha.

Keeping these four noble truths and eightfold path in mind, let us all go against the stream and free ourselves from negative emotions and adopt positive ways of life. This will not only benefit ourselves but those around us, in hope of setting them free too.

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JULY 23, 2013

Homemade Kitchen Beauty

Posted by Dorothy under Community Interests, Interesting Reads, Natural Highs, Wellness1 comment


If you are looking for a cheaper, safer and gentler way to nourish your facial skin, look no further as you can start with your local produce. With only 5 ingredients which are easily attainable in the local Asian supermarkets, you can concoct homemade facial masks to hydrate and moisturise your face and neck. They are cheaper than branded cosmetic products and do not contain added chemicals which will harm your skin in a short or long term period. As a bonus, you do not have to head to a spa for an expensive treat because you can do it regularly in the comfort of your home for 10-20 minutes at a time. The 5 ingredients commonly used are cucumber, yoghurt, turmeric, honey and coconut oil.

a) Cucumber
This cooling vegetable helps soothe sunburnt skin and is used as one of the ingredients to help absorb excess oil from oily skin. It has a large amount of ascorbic acid which can help decrease water retention and reduce puffiness around the eyes. The antioxidants and silica within a cucumber also reduce dark circles.

b) Yoghurt
The content of lactic acid in yoghurt aids in loosening dry skin to help in exfoliation. Whereas zinc cools sunburnt skin and  also acts as a moisturiser. The existence of animal fat in yoghurt helps moisturise but is not suitable for oily skin unless mixed with oatmeal, lemon ore turmeric powder.

c) Turmeric powder
This yellowish looking spice promotes anti-aging, acts as an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. Therefore it is useful in fighting age spots, acne and helps stimulate blood flow to reduce the formation of wrinkles.

d) Honey
A sweet treat which has good hydration property for dry skin as it traps moisture in skin. Not only that, it soaks up impurities from the pores and ultimately is a form of cleanser. Like turmeric, it has anti-aging properties, is antibacterial, antiseptic and a type of antioxidant.

e) Coconut oil
Because of its oily properties, it is definitely not for oily skin. It is highly absorbent through skin which makes it helpful in replenishing moisture loss for dehydrated skin, hence it helps increase elasticity of age old skin. Acne prone and dermatitis suferrers should try this too.

Here are some recipes or combination of ingredients which you can benefit from:

1) Yoghurt
Types of skin: Dry and sensitive

2) Yoghurt and cucumber
Types of skin: Dry and sensitive
Method: Blend equal parts of yoghurt and peeled cucumber in a food processor until near liquid

3) Yoghurt and coconut oil
Type of skin: Dry
Method: Mix 3 parts of yoghurt to 1 part coconut oil

4) Yoghurt and turmeric powder
Types of skin: Any
Method: Mix 3 parts of yoghurt to 1 part turmeric powder
Be careful not to get it into your eyes or on your clothes

5) Yoghurt and honey
Type of skin: Dry
Method: Mix equal parts in a bowl

6) Honey
Type of skin: Dry

7) Honey, yoghurt and turmeric powder
Types of skin: Any
Method: Mix equal parts of honey and yoghurt and half part of turmeric powder
Be careful not to get it into your eyes or on your clothes

8 ) Turmeric powder
Types of skin: Any
Method: Mix turmeric powder with water until it forms a paste
Be careful not to get it into your eyes or on your clothes

9) Cucumber
Types of skin: Any
Method: Peel cucumber and blend it in a food processor

With all the above recipes, you can choose whichever suits you, then take 20 minutes twice a week, turn on some music and just relax while all the goodness of your homemade face masks feeds your skin.

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JUNE 27, 2013

Your Sadhana Should Strictly Be A Private Matter

Posted by Dorothy under Community Interests, Interesting Reads, Philosophy, Wellnessno responses

Yoga practitioners have always been taught to leave their ego aside not only in the yoga class, but also in all aspects of their lives. But sadly this is not the case with the big revolution of modern yoga. Some practitioners encourage competitiveness in their practice and stroke their ego by boasting about their achievements. These ego filled practitioners tend to forget that yoga is a personal relationship between the practitioner and the practice itself. At the end of their daily practice, one should be grateful with whatever happens, whether there is progress or not, as the focus needs to be in the now. There is no need to beat yourself up if you do not achieve what others in class or people you admire have achieved. On the other hand, you should not get too proud and announce it to others or feel egoistic if you have progressed, but be thankful and  have gratitude. In The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Verse 11 states that:

Hatha yoga is the greatest secret of the yogis who wish to attain perfection (siddhi).

Indeed, to be fruitful, it must be kept secret; revealed it become powerless.

The translation which resonates to my liking is the one by  Swami Satyananda Saraswati and Swami Muktibodhananda of the Sivananda lineage. I will not attempt to summarise the translation as everyone should read the actual text and form their own perceptions and conclusions. So enjoy the following wise words.

This sloka is typical of any yogic shastra expounding higher knowledge, i.e. the science should be kept to oneself. Whatever a sadhaka gains or achieves during the period of sadhana should be a private affair. This may seem a little out of context as the book itself appears to be disclosing the secrets of the practices, but in fact, when you learn under the guidance of a guru, you will find that Swatmarama has only stated the bare essentials as guidelines for the practice of asana etc, so that the science of hatha yoga will be preserved for humanity.

Originally, Gorakhnath had written much about hatha yoga in the form of prose and poetry. traditionally, a shastra must be in Sanskrit; local dialects are not accepted as authentic works. Therefore, Swatmarama is continuing Gorakhnath’s original work. What has been given here is the system of hatha yoga without too much elucidation. It is left up to the practitioner to find out from his guru what is actually involved. Swatmarama is not advocating the performance of a particular sadhana; he merely noted down the system and outline the correct methods of practice. Your specific sadhana is between you and your guru. When your sadhana is mastered, the result is siddhi or perfection, and whatever you have managed to perfect is your own attainment and what the guru has enabled you to become.

Gorakhnath used to tell his disciples that hatha yoga is the science of the subtle body. It is the means by which the body’s energy can be controlled. He said that hatha is the means of controlling the two main energy channels of the positive/negative currents.

The positive-negative nature of energy exists in every part of our being. Hatha yoga not only brings a balance in the energy, but also in the duality of the mind, and between the lower nature and the higher mind, between the individual soul and the universal spirit. It involves your self and the atma, so why bring anyone else into the picture?

In the Shiva Samhita it says that the practitioner should keep his practice secret “just as a virtuous wife keeps her intimate relations between herself and her husband quiet”. This develops the love between husband and wife. Similarly, if you have any respect for your own beloved, the pure atma, whatever experience and power you are bestowed with is your own affair and has to be cultivated privately.

This is a purely logical and scientific process. When you have a small light burning in a room at night, the whole room is illumined. If you take your little light outside into the vast, open space, the light is engulfed by the night and absorbed in the darkness. The same principle applies to the power gained through your sadhana. The power may enlighten your own consciousness, but displayed and dissipated in the magniture of the outside world, it loses strength.

Sadhana is like a seed and siddhis are like flowers. If you want a seed to germinate you have to leave it in the soil. If you dig it up to show your friends and neighbours how it is progressing, it will not grow any further, it will die. Likewise, the siddhi is just the germinating point of your sadhana. If you are trying to cultivate fully bloomed awareness of atma, you will have to act properly. Sadhana is not a biology lesson where you dig up the plant to investigate its roots. Sadhana involves the growth of your own spirit and it is like the process of giving birth. When a foetus is growing in the womb, we cannot peep into the intermediate stage of its development, we have to wait for the final product.

Keeping sadhana and siddhis under cover has a powerful psychological effect. If you talk about and display your attainments, the sense of ‘I’ or ego becomes very acute. ‘I’ have achieved, ‘I’ had this experience, or ‘I’ can do this. If you want to experience cosmic consciousness, ego or ahamkara is the greatest barrier. Siddhis never last long, they are impermanent. After a certain stage of evolution they disappear. If you associate yourself with the feeling that ‘I’ have perfected this and that, you will expect yourself to be able to perform a great feat and so will others. You will be living to meet the expectations of others, otherwise they will not think that you are great. One day when the siddhi leaves you, how are you going to cope with the situation? In spiritual life it is very important to keep ego under control.

Most of the great saints and siddhas who had powers rarely displayed them. Only the people who lived very close to them knew their greatness. many siddhas who did display their powers were persecuted. Therefore, for your own good and for the good of others it is said, as a warning rather than mere advice, that sadhana and siddhis are to be kept secret.

 

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