Saturday, January 7, 2012

Hello, gorgeous! Yes, you, on the cushion

The other morning I read the product description of a substance I put on my face. It promised "inner radiance."

Hmm. I thought that was what meditation was for.

After all, the Buddha said that if you practice loving-kindness meditation, you'll have a serene countenance and you'll sleep better ... which would make you look better. (The list of the benefits of metta practice is a joy in itself.*)

Scientists have found that meditation can make you less stressed, which also, of course, makes you prettier. When you relax, you look different than when you're stressed. (See these before and after photos of participants in a monthlong retreat.)

Then this link, on some other post, caught my eye:
Meditation Is Better Than A Facelift

An observer might wonder whether the topic of physical appearance is even an appropriate subject for a Buddhist blog. After all, Buddhism is about getting beyond the narrow cultural definitions of beauty, finding space where we don't have to apply those concepts, and knowing, deeply knowing, that everyone is beautiful. Even when their faces are twisted in hate, there is an inner beauty that is obscured by unexamined beliefs based in fear.

And there is a freedom in accessing that inner beauty, giving up the obsession with how others see us, and letting our outer nature show our inner nature.

Clothing, when used to hide our imperfections or as a mask to show others someone who we are not, can be a bullet train to suffering. When it flows from who we are, it's a step in synchronizing mind and body, outer and inner, being fearless and confident. It doesn't have to be expensive or trendy.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was famous for making his hippie students dress up in shirts and ties or dresses and nylons. He called it "uplifted clothing" and said it displayed the respect and dignity of their basic goodness. While he had unkind words for leisure suits, he did say that T-shirts and jeans could be uplifted, if properly cared for and maintained.

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*According to the Mettanisamsa Sutta: Eleven advantages are to be expected from the release of heart/mind by [the absorbed] practice of loving-kindness (metta), by constantly increasing thoughts of loving-kindness, by regarding loving-kindness as a vehicle and as something to be treasured, by living according to loving-kindness, by putting these sentiments into practice, and by establishing them. What are the eleven? The practitioner:(1) sleeps in comfort, (2) awakes in comfort, (3) sees no bad dreams, (4) is dear to human beings, (5) is dear to non-human beings, (6) is protected by devas, (7) is safe from fire, poison, and swords, (8) concentrates the mind quickly, (9) is of serene countenance, (10) passes away free of confusion, (11) and if one does not attain full enlightenment here and now in this very life is reborn in a brahma world [a literal divine abode].

** On another level:

Liberation as the (primordial buddha) occurs in the following way: The instant the ground's manifestations arise, one does not apprehend them as something else but rather recognizes them as one's own inner radiance. Consequently, the movement (of constructive thoughts) ceases in itself: at the first instant (of movement), the recognition that the manifestations are inner radiance causes realization to dawn. This realization defines the difference (between liberation and deception).

Immediately thereafter, deception is dispelled and pristine wisdom unfolds. At this point, the ground fully develops into the result (i.e., awakening). This is re-enlightenment, the realization of primordial enlightenment within one's own nature. When self-manifestations dissolve into primordial purity, the result is awakening within the ground of being itself before anything else manifests (from the ground). (The personification of) this awakening is the enlightened guide known as Ever-Perfect.

-- Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye the Great, Myriad Worlds. Translated & edited by the International Translation Committee founded by the V.V. Kalu Rinpoche, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, 1995, page 211.

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