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The Five Mindfulness Trainings

"When we drive a car, we are expected to observe certain rules so that we do not have an accident. Two thousand five hundred years ago, the Buddha offered certain guidelines to his lay students to help them live peaceful, wholesome and happy lives. They were the Five Mindfulness Trainings, and at the foundation of each of these mindfulness trainings is mindfulness. With mindfulness, we are aware of what is going on in our bodies, our feelings, our minds, and the world, and we avoid doing harm to ourselves and others. Mindfulness protects us, our families, and our society, and ensures a safe and happy present and a safe and happy future."

(Thich Nhat Hanh, from For a Future to be Possible)

1. Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.

2. Aware of suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing and oppression, I am committed to cultivating loving kindness and learning ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants and minerals. I will practice generosity by sharing my time, energy and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.

3. Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.

4. Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am determined to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy and hope. I will not spread news that I do not know to be certain and will not criticise or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I am determined to make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

5. Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family and my society by practising mindful eating, drinking and consuming. I will ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being and joy in my body, in my consciousness and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programmes, magazines, books, films and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger and confusion in myself and in society by practising a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.

The site then includes the following explanation concerning these 5 points.

In this version I have put the first phrase of each training in italics with the purpose of clarifying the nature of these affirmations. I hope that this makes it clear that they are based on awareness, rather than on the commands of a transcendent God as in some other traditions. In each case, the awareness in question is an awareness of the suffering that a certain behaviour causes. As this awareness matures, we become less willing to behave in ways that cause others to suffer. As our mindfulness becomes more stable, we remember, or keep in mind this suffering more often. As our understanding of the interbeing nature of reality increases, we put less distance between ourselves and others - we see more clearly that "happiness is not an individual matter." As we become more rooted in compassion, we want others to be happy.

Thus our wish or willingness to take these vows increases with the depth of our practice. We are ready to take them when we realise that they reflect our deepest wishes.

It is important to keep in mind that taking these trainings is not an invitation to perfectionism.

It has been observed by many (Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh) that it is impossible to keep the first training perfectly, that farming, gardening, housecleaning cooking, eating, and personal hygiene result in some destruction of life. Similar difficulties may arise with the other trainings. Despite the absolutist language, the import of these trainings is that when difficulties arise, they urge us to minimize the damage, to choose the option that causes the least amount of suffering, and to act at all times without creating unnecessary suffering. Awareness of suffering keeps our compassion alive.

In observing these trainings, we can treat other beings as we ourselves wish to be treated: with consideration, respect, and intimate care. (J. E.)

Blessings, shalom, namaste

Doug Trudell

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