In May of 2019 the Sugarplum Sangha partnered with Mindful Peacebuilding to offer a retreat called Bodhisattvas In Action. In this week-long retreat, we focused an entire day on each of the Five Mindfulness Trainings (Reverence for Life, True Happiness, True Love, Deep Listening and Loving Speech, and Nourishment and Healing) paired with a Bodhisattva that embodied such qualities.
The title of this post is Bodhisattvas "In Action" with "In Action" in quotes because it is about the Third Mindfulness Training, practicing with sexual energy, and the Bodhisattva Sadaparibhuta who sees everyone not merely as objects but as potential Buddhas. What follows is another version of the Third Mindfulness Training written by the Wake Up participants on the retreat and a Touching the Earth exercise, which invites us to embody the consciousness of Sadaparibhuta and fully understand the implications of seeing everyone as Buddha. Along with Buddha nature, the exercise also lovingly recognizes our animal nature and shows us how to live with appreciation and respect.
Another Third Mindfulness Training: Embracing Sexual Energy
Aware of the violence, exploitation, objectification, and other forms of suffering caused by sexual craving, I am committed to understanding the roots of sexual desire. Knowing that the need for acceptance may manifest as loneliness, which may in turn become sexual craving, I will take refuge in communities and relationships where I can nurture the four qualities of true love: loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. By practicing true love, I cherish all beings without exception, which includes doing everything I can to protect children and other vulnerable groups from sexual violence. Looking deeply, I see that my desires are a product of my environment. If I were born in a different time or place, I would have different ideas about what is attractive or desirable. Therefore, I will practice to not identify with desires as they arise but instead discern if they are leading to more peace and freedom or bondage and suffering.
Invoking Sadapaributa's Name and Touching the Earth
I invoke your name, Sadaparibhuta. I aspire to learn your way of never disparaging or underestimating any living being. With great respect, you say to all you meet, "you are someone of great value, you have Buddha nature. I see this potential in you." I will look with a wise, compassionate gaze, so I am able to hold up a mirror where others can see their ultimate nature reflected. I will remind people who feel worthless that they too are a precious wonder of life. I vow to water only the positive seeds in myself and others, so that my thoughts, words, and actions can encourage confidence and self-acceptance in ourselves, our children, our loved ones, and in everyone we meet. Inspired by the great faith and insight that everyone is Buddha, I will practice your way of patience and inclusiveness so I can liberate myself from ignorance and misunderstanding, and offer freedom, peace, and joy to myself, to others and to our society.
-From Chanting from the Heart
Touching the earth, I invite the Buddha in me to shine.
I know that I have the seeds of joy, kindness, compassion, and peace in my heart, and I am committed to doing as the Buddha does and water these seeds with mindfulness, concentration, and insight. I know that by living with body and mind united I can enjoy ease and freedom in the present moment - the ease and freedom of a Buddha. My every thought, word, and action can be an inspiration and reminder for others of the Buddha nature in them.
With the great mind of love of a person practicing the Buddha's way, my only volition is for the well-being of all. In this moment, with my body held by the earth, I can let go of chasing sensual pleasures, power, prestige, and security and no longer need sex to satisfy my cravings for these empty experiences. Dwelling in peace and freedom, I can embody the joy of the Buddha beneath the Bodhi tree. This is a joy that is unconditioned by the sensual realm and a joy far more satisfying than anything experienced by the skin or the eye. It is the joy the dharma is leading me to. As someone with Buddha nature, I am aware that sex in itself cannot satisfy my deepest yearnings and that much suffering has been caused by blindly following more shallow desires. With joy, peace, and freedom as my foundation, I have the capacity to bring kindness and compassion to my thoughts, speech, and actions.
With mindfulness and deep looking, I will know when my volitions are dragging myself and others towards the burning pit, and I will stop to nourish myself with healing elements. The Buddha in me is awakened every time I come home back to myself, shine the light of mindfulness on the six senses, and watch with discernment the rising and falling of habit energy. I touch the earth and recognize that I have inherited this Buddha jewel from my genetic ancestors, my spiritual ancestors, my land ancestors, and the earth. With gratitude and reverence, I vow to cherish the Buddha jewel so that it may shine for future generations.
Touching the earth, I bow to the Buddha nature in all beings.
I recognize that I am here thanks to the kindness and wisdom of innumerable beings. Some of these beings could smile easily and offer their presence with graciousness and clarity. In others, their Buddha nature was just barely beginning to peek over a wall of afflictions, but I can see it in them. Inspired by Sadparibhuta's practice, I smile to the Buddha nature in all beings. I know that my perception can be clouded by craving and loneliness in a way that makes me forget about the joy, hopes, and suffering of other people. In such moments, I can see people only as objects of desire and not as manifestations of the Dharmakaya. Remembering the teaching: "the Buddha cannot be found within or apart from the five skandhas," I know that enchantment with these forms is not the deepest kind of love.
As beings with a common Buddha nature, it is natural to be drawn to connection and to celebrate inter-being. A Buddha is one who is intimate with all experience. As Buddhas we can cultivate intimacy with tenderness and respect, even as we see impermanence, non-self, and dukkha in all conditioned things. Touching this earth, the mother of all Buddhas, I vow to treat all beings with constant respect and nourish their confidence and love for themselves.
Touching the earth, I hold space for the animal nature in me and around me.
I know that I come from a long line of ancestors who were selected through sexual reproduction. My biology is still that of a primate and contains all the karma of an organism trying to survive in the wilderness, pass on its DNA, and avoid hardship and suffering. As a unique form of primate - a human - I'm lucky that nature has made sex fun and intimate and has given me a consciousness that can realize a realm beyond basic animal instincts. If I have sex, I will do so with mutual joy and appreciation, and I will realize that there are many other wonders of life available like the smell of a flower or the sound of a stream. I know that all these things can be sensual pleasures, but that sex has a special power over my human biology. Thanks to my human consciousness I can remember myself and come back to mindful breathing to calm the sensations of arousal when they are obscuring mine or another's Buddha nature.
Aware of my animal nature, I see my biology is basically the same as everyone's. We share most of our DNA in common. We're all animals, and together we have created a collective consciousness that gratifies its animal desires. I am aware of media that uses sex to captivate our attention. I am aware of gender roles that create power inequities and oppression. I am aware of privilege granted to people with sex appeal. I am aware of all the suffering experienced by people mistreating their bodies because they cannot handle the sexual energy our culture creates. I know that my specific desires are a product of that culture. If I were born in a different time or place, I would have different ideas about what is attractive and what is desirable. Therefore, these desires are not me and not mine. I can smile when they arise and let them go if the lead to harm. Touching the earth, I honor the animal nature in me and vow to use the gifts given to me by nature for the happiness of all beings.