Thursday, May 4, 2006

The Buddhist I Ching: Thunder

This week's randomly selected hexagram from the Buddhist I Ching is number 51, Thunder.

From Thomas Cleary's translation of Chih-hsu Ou-i's commentary:

Developed people do not worry or fear. Why would they need repeated peels of thunder before they practice introspection cautiously? Cautious introspection actually refers to their daily practice of being careful by themselves of what they might not notice. This daily effort can foster what is good and diminish what is bad. Because they are accustomed to cautious introspection in daily life, therefore even when they run into "repeated thunder," they no longer worry or fear.

This commentary underscores the positive results of a good meditation practice. Sorry to say, my meditation practice has left a lot to be desired for quite some time now. Even so, I still feel the vestigial effects of my former zeal for sitting in my mental and emotional patterns. I must try and resume my former ways.

One excellent meditation that I used to alternate with mindfulness of breathing meditation is called mettabhavana, or loving-kindness, meditation. I can attest to its efficacy in helping calm negative emotions, and in dealing with difficult people (even if you're the one who's being difficult). Developing loving-kindness for all beings helps one see the root causes of suffering. And seeing the root causes of suffering helps one develop loving-kindness for all beings. It's a wonderfully vicious circle.

On the opening night of Star Wars: Episode I, I waited in line for six hours (note to self: waiting in line for six hours for a movie is dumb) with the hope of getting into the first showing at a few minutes past midnight. The rules the theatre owners, who -- unbeknownst to both them and me at the time -- would later become my employers, had laid down were that each person standing in line would be able to buy four tickets.

As the evening progressed, we who were standing in line near the cut-off point of patrons who could be reasonably assured the ability to buy tickets noticed some funny goings-on ahead of us. We'd see people come stand by the folks who were going to buy "their tickets" for them. No problem there. It would get everyone into the theatre more efficiently when the time came.

But as the ticket-selling time neared, the boundary between the line of ticket-buyers and everyone else became hazy. Eventually, there was no way to tell for sure who had been standing there for hours on end, and who had just shown up.

At that time, since I had been quite disciplined in my mettabhavana practice, I was able to almost spontaneously generate metta for the very brats who were out to deprive me of my viewing pleasure. (In retrospect, I should say that they were likely acting out of a conspiracy of loving-kindness for me, to keep me from seeing one of the worst movies released that year.)

As the commentary says, people who practice daily won't get shaken when "repeated thunder" is heard. Nowadays, I'm sure I'd be much more likely to grumble. Under my breath, but grumble, indeed.

I need to sit.



P.S. Thanks to these folks for making the I Ching graphics!

Linking to: Liberal Common Sense, TMH's Bacon Bits, Quietly Making Noise, Sed Vitae

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