Awakening the Buddha Within by Lama Surya Das

Summary
  1. Really engaging book on the importance of mindfulness and meditation and the principal tenets and practices of Buddhism. About letting go of fixed persona and becoming awake, liberated, aware
Key Takeaways
  1. Enlightenment not about becoming divine, about becoming more fully human
    1. Eliminate ignorance, to be one with all things, to be present in the now
  2. Can only find fulfillment from within
  3. Truth is found by living truly – in your own authentic way
    1. “You become a Buddha by actualizing your own original innate nature. This nature is primordially pure. This is your true nature ,your natural mind. This innate Buddha-nature doesn’t need to achieve enlightenment because it is always already perfect, from the beginningless beginning. We only have to awaken to it. There is nothing more to seek or look for.”
    2. Buddha literally means awake. Awake from what? Awaken from the dreams of delusion, confusion and suffering. Awake to all that you are and all you can be. Awake to reality, to truth, to things just as they are.”
  4. Unconditional compassion and love is at the center of us all
  5. Waking up Buddha about letting go of fixed persona and becoming awake, liberated, aware
  6. Asking right questions more important than having the right answers
  7. We are all Buddhas with potential for enlightenment – spiritual living as well as conscious dying
  8. Cultivating spirituality and awareness a full time vocation – make every moment, action, thought sacred. Practice has to be integrated into our daily lives and culture
    1. “Intrinsic awareness is the common denominator of all sentient beings. Conscious living, contemplative self-awareness, is the means to becoming all that we are. Awareness is curative. Knowing ourselves and learning to let go is the method, the most skillful means. Spirituality is a matter of self-discovery, rather than of becoming something else.”
    2. Self-transformation implies self-transcendence
    3. Spiritual necessities – pray, meditate, be aware/stay awake, bow, practice yoga, feel, chant and sing, breathe and smile, relax/enjoy/laugh/play, create/envision, let go/forgive/accept, walk/exercise/move, work/serve/contribute, listen/learn/inquire, consider/reflect, cultivate oneself/enhance competencies, cultivate contentment, cultivate flexibility, cultivate friendship and collaboration, open up/expand/include, lighten up, dream, celebrate and appreciate, give thanks, evolve, love, share/give/receive, walk softly/live gently, expand/radiate/dissolve, simplify, surrender/trust, be born anew
  9. Can only find enlightenment and truth through your own experience
  10. Death was the Buddha’s primary guru – intensifies life and alleviates boredom, procrastination, sloth
    1. Come to terms with death by destroying ego and you shall live a full and happy life
  11. All about conscious living, self-transcendence and relinquishing control
  12. We all reap exactly what we sow, there are no accidents.
  13. Every single second is a (chance) for rebirth
  14. The self is simply not what we think it is. We are a self-fulfilling prophecy of what we think and believe. Often easy to see in others but very difficult to see in self (Galilean relativity)
  15. Better to know nothing than to know what isn’t so
  16. No eternal “I” – each of us is a process in motion
  17. Seeing through the antics of our monkey-like minds is liberating
  18. Honest investigation and inquiry are the most powerful tools for enlightenment
  19. Monkey-mind is a continuous stream of delusion – thoughts and concepts are delusions, awareness is wisdom
  20. Everything is seen through the filter of our personal concerns
  21. Self-denial (like self-absorption) simply a more subtle form of egotism
  22. Aim to see the Buddha in everyone
  23. Never bottle up emotions. Rather, recognize them, experience them and release them. “Ideally we should be able to be sensitive and aware enough not only to feel life fully but also to let it go.”
  24. Om Mani Pedme Hung – the jewel is in the lotus, the wisdom and compassion we all seek are inherently within us
  25. Stillness leads to clarity
  26. The 7 Points of Mind Training
  27. How we relate to things makes all the difference
  28. Learn from all, judge no one, be kind to all, say thank you
  29. All activities should be done with one intention
  30. Determine what / who pushes your buttons and dive deep into why
  31. Ability to maintain inner joy and larger perspective are signs of a mature mind
  32. “Enlightenment feels completely comfortable, at peace and at ease in every situation and every circumstance with a sense of true inner freedom, independent of both outer circumstances and internal emotions. This requires extraordinary self-knowledge and presence of mind. It means paying close attention to how you think and how you act, and it means making an ongoing commitment to searching inward for answers. Inward. Deeper. Beneath the surface of things, not just inside yourself.”
  33. Three reasons for dissatisfaction and unhappiness (Three Poisons or Three Fires) – ignorance of the truth (see things as we would like them to be rather than how they really are), attachment (possessed by possessions, jealousy, pride, attachments define compulsions), aversion (stems from ignorance of truth and attachments and resistance to change)
  34. There is nirvanic peace in things left just as they are. That is the innermost secret refuge. If you can reach this place within yourself, then you don’t have to do or undo anything. That’s the ultimate refuge, the ultimate practice of letting go – the art of allowing things to be as they are
  35. 4 Noble Truths – Dukkha (life involves suffering, changing circumstances, flawed nature of conditioned existence), tanha (incessant, never ending thirst or attachment which causes identification with what we crave and causes suffering, one word to end craving – wisdom), nirvana exists (inconceivable inner peace, cessation of craving and clinging, the end of suffering, liberation, ever lasting freedom, fulfillment and enlightenment itself; when we realize emptiness and perfect oneness with all, the fires of duality goes out, desirelessness means lacking nothing, enlightened people have preferences but are able to be in the world but not of it), there is a tried and true path that leads away from the dissatisfaction of conditioned existence towards nirvana
  36. 5 primary hindrances – craving, ill will, sloth and torpor (spiritual laziness), restlessness, doubt
  37. The eight fold path
    1. Wisdom training – right view, right intentions
    2. Ethics training – right speech, right action, right livelihood
    3. Meditation training – right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration
  38. Essence means knowing oneself and others, what is, how things work. Wisdom is seeing the truth nature of things. Wisdom is self-knowledge, Wisdom is truth manifested as clarity of vision. Wisdom sees that light and dark are inseparable and that shadows are also light
  39. “Think of what you want, and realize that all beings want and need the same things. They are just seeking it through different ways.” (love, trust, happiness, fulfillment, the world works by reciprocation!!)
  40. Tonglen – sending and taking practice – send all your love and take other people’s difficulties – helps increase empathy
  41. Right speech
    1. Speak kindly, gently and dearly
    2. Don’t lie, be open and truthful about who you are and how you feel
    3. Speak only to help others, listen more
    4. Don’t gossip or tell tales
    5. Don’t speak harshly – no one can make us angry if we don’t already have sparks of anger inside
    6. Mantras and chanting help you attain Buddha nature
    7. Mere words are weak translations of what we really mean to say
    8. Inner solitude and noble silence is a way to empty, cleanse, heal and renew the heart and mind. This is a voluntary way to start the process of simplification and personal downsizing. The peace will help you purify your perceptions and make presence of mind more acute, clear, spacious, and even luminous. Incredible satisfaction is available when you begin experiencing the timeless truth that less can be more; that the most elegant solution is often the simplest one. Set aside one day per week/month to escape all forms of communication, spend some time alone in nature, communing with yourself
  42. Right action
    1. Life is an art form and we are the creators (Toltec = life artist)
    2. “Right” behavior is helpful rather than hurtful
    3. We develop an attitude of cherishing life when we learn to yield, to give in, to let go and soften our hearts and souls
    4. The nongrasping heart is naturally open, accepting and able to say thank you for whatever is. It is the threshold of an unconditional way of being, the supreme spiritual value
    5. Don’t steal – only use what you need, live simply, don’t grasp
    6. Give what you can (money, prayer, support, empathy, time) to all
    7. Even the briefest experience of unconditional love can be transformational
    8. Tantric practice – imagine self and partner as deities (page 211)
    9. No personal hell exists but all have hellish thoughts and experiences
    10. Inner peace, light, enlightenment helps free others too
    11. Enlightenment requires two forms of merit – from virtuous acts and from wisdom, insight, awareness and understanding
    12. Virtuous living a boon to the entire world
    13. Craving – Is there anything or anyone you crave so much that it clouds your judgment or vision?
    14. Desire only begets more desire. Desirelessness is nirvanic peace
    15. Perform random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty
    16. Must try to give what others truly need and not what easiest for us to give
    17. Meditations on Right Action (pg 228)
  43. Right Livelihood
    1. Work is love made visible
    2. Real work involves putting one’s beliefs into actions
    3. Right livelihood helps us make a life and not just a living
    4. Always do the right thing but don’t expect notice or praise
    5. Simplicity, streamlining, downsizing, lives/things key to happy life
    6. The value of anything is always the value we vest in it
    7. Happiness Quotient – balance between what we have and what we want
      1. Contentment is true wealth, wealthy is he who enjoys what he has
      2. Right livelihood is work that develops us as we develop it
    8. True vocation is knowing self and being self
    9. Meditation includes right effort, mindfulness and concentration which leads to mental discipline
    10. Awareness is the common denominator of all sentient beings. meditation is the most direct and effective way to cultivate that innate awareness; it is the essential ingredient on the path to awakening the Buddha within. We meditate in order to purify and discipline our minds
    11. Thought/intellect good servants, great tools but poor masters
      1. A disciplined mind brings happiness
    12. 4 things conducive to happiness – to be skilled, efficient, energetic, earnest and learned in whatever profession one has; to conscientiously protect one’s income and family’s means of support; to have virtuous, trustworthy and faithful friends and spiritual aspirations; to be content and to live within one’s means
    13. The whole thrust of mind-training is to be able to become naturally more loving and compassionate without expecting or hoping for anything in return
  44. Right Effort
    1. The 4 Great Efforts
      1. The effort to avoid any new unwholesome, negative thoughts or actions
      2. The effort to overcome any existing unwholesome thoughts or actions
      3. The effort to develop only good and wholesome thoughts and lead an enlightened life (generosity, virtue, patience, effort, meditation, wisdom)
      4. The effort to maintain the goodness that already exists
    2. The sole incentive to continue meditation is the confidence and inner conviction that develops though one’s own authentic experience. Meditation is not merely a program of mental gymnastics. In the art of meditation, simplicity is the key: the simple necessity of unburdening oneself of all excess baggage, and turning the searchlight inward. For everything is available within our own intangible spiritual core
    3. Trained, dynamic inner life required for effective external existence
    4. Balance between effort and effortlessness is the essence of impeccable effort and self mastery
    5. Renunciation of compulsive preoccupations and intense emotional attachments is vital
      1. “If we get even the smallest glimpse of liberation and what it means to experience freedom from want, we see where our happiness truly lies. This is the arising of inner certainty. When that occurs, we begin to renounce and give up the unfulfilling thoughts and behaviors that create negative karma. The heart of renunciation implies allowing rather than controlling.”
    6. You truly do get back far more than you give
    7. 4 Divine abodes – loving kindness and friendliness (metta); compassion and empathy, joy and rejoicing, equanimity and peace of mind
  45. Right Mindfulness
    1. Mastery of mind comes from constant awareness of thoughts and actions
    2. Simple, conscious presence of the now
    3. Every moment a miracle and when you realize that, all life becomes a meditation
    4. Knowing things as they are, as they function is enlightened wakefulness
    5. Prefer quick mediations 25x per day over 1 long session
    6. As we practice meditation, we peel away layers of our persona
    7. Train self by embracing and breathing in things you fear – simply be present, fully there, without judgment or prejudice, with whatever occurs; see difficult circumstances or happenings as learning experiences; enjoy the spectacle and watch the show as if you’re an outside observer, above the system
    8. Must prepare for death bardo – remembering the inevitability of our own mortality and impermanence of all things can be the most liberating of meditations
    9. Contemplating mortality helps us focus and prioritize – the tenuousness of life helps us to be totally awake in the present moment
    10. Dream yoga can have many great real world benefits –
    11. Pure mindfulness is relaxed, open, lucid moment to moment, present awareness. It is like a bright mirror: nonclinging, nongrasping, nonaversive, nonreactive, undistorting. It is a skill which can be learned like any other
    12. Through meditation we can enter directly into more intimate, immediate engagement with our experiences in a way that reflects simplicity and a deeper, more authentic connection to life. This is not just about being more consciously alive. It’s about being itself
    13. 4 Foundations of mediation – being aware of our bodies, aware of our feelings and emotions, aware of our thoughts and aware of events as they occur, moment by moment
    14. Paying attention and the ability to really be present pays off in so many ways, giving us enhanced satisfaction, broader vision, greater mastery and effectiveness in everything we do
    15. Meditation gives you so much mental clarity and spaciousness that it actually adds time to the day. We become more effective, more relaxed as we can more effectively deal with our feelings and develop our emotional intelligence. Meditation allows us to be more in touch with our feelings without being driven or controlled by them
    16. A mirror doesn’t pick and choose what it reflects. In this way, our natural state of mind is complete lucid awareness, being able to see things as they are, with total clarity
  46. Right Concentration
    1. Right concentration implies a unification of spiritual intentionality, focus, mental discipline, energy and attention. In right concentration, we skillfully collect and harness all of our energy so that every part of our being is integrated and focused, working together toward our goal of enlightenment. Once you have arrived at this point, concentration in this sense is not forced, restricted, or fixated but instead rests naturally where it is placed
    2. 5 T’s of Concentration – taming, training, testing, transforming, transcendence
    3. Concentration training – breath counting, awareness of breath (without counting), walking meditation, walking-breathing-synchronization meditation, standing and walking backward meditation, chewing meditation
    4. A good meditation session simply a microcosm of a well lived life (fractal!)
    5. Investigation/inquiry central to enlightenment
    6. Metaphysical fitness as important as physical fitness
    7. Concentration helps us love and be grateful for every moment without changing anything
    8. Rushen – analytical contemplations that employ the rational powers of the mind, use the well-honed, focused mind like a sharp tool to penetrate further into reality. This special self-inquiry helps us recognize the essential nature of mind. Helps us to discern the difference between what we seem to be and think ourselves to be, and our original nature, what we really are. Who or what is experiencing my present experience? Where is the experiencer, the perceiver? What is the essence or nature of this mind? Does it have a shape or form? A color? A size or weight? Who is experiencing your experience right now? And then let go of thinking. See what comes up. Sense directly
    9. Five different meditations – surround self or imagine water, fire, earth, air and space
    10. Candle meditation – pg 368
    11. Buddha light meditation – pg 369
    12. Why compare?
  47. Great reading list provided on pg 397
What I got out of it
  1. Thought this was a very actionable, interesting and profound book which helps show the benefits of mindfulness and meditation training for all aspects of your life. Highly recommend