Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters


The Dharma According to Me(taphor)

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

AK_studio_2.jpg

The Buddha taught the dharma through metaphor. It’s right there in the first Noble Truth and, indeed, The Four Noble Truths themselves are presented in the form of a medical metaphor with the Buddha as physician.
With the First Noble Truth the Buddha diagnosed the malady of the human condition. He didn’t choose a word to describe it but an image — that of a “bad wheel.” A bad wheel on an oxcart results in a bumpy, off-kilter ride. This is what dukkha means. We translate dukkha as suffering, typically, but this doesn’t capture the pervasive and sometimes subtle sense of things being off. Anguish or pervasive dissatisfaction are, perhaps, better translations but still don’t capture the same sense as the metaphor. 
In the Second Noble Truth, the Buddha provided the explanation for the malady (the etiology of the present condition). We grasp at things, cling to them when we have them, fear that we will lose them, push the things we don’t want away, we make our sense of self-worth contingent on the things we have and the way things go, and we don’t appreciate the changing nature of reality. All of this gives rise to dukkha
The Third Noble Truth is the prognosis for humanity, and it’s a good one — full recovery from the sickness is possible. There is a way to stop dukkha and this is known as nirvana (nibbana in Pali). How to go about doing it is found in the Fourth Noble Truth and it is the Noble Eight-Fold Path. This, of course, is the treatment and it’s efficacy is potent. 
In my book, Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness, I present metaphor in five different sections: mind, self, ordinary craziness, acceptance, and practice. It’s easy to see how understanding the mind requires reference to other things like machines, the sky, and bodies of water. Self, too, is an abstract concept that requires metaphors to understand it. But it wasn’t until I was teaching from the book later that I realized that not only do we need metaphors to understand the self, the self IS a metaphor!
We are metaphors. The Buddha said this. And it is a lesson that is just as pressing today as it was over 2500 years ago. If we understand by metaphor understanding one thing in terms of another how does this apply to understanding “self.” We project a sense of me into the future by referencing memories. We understand one thing — what is happening now — in terms of another — what has happened in the past (and by extension what we anticipate will happen in the future). We imagine our selves in this way and by doing so we may miss what is really happening. Perhaps this lesson is needed more so now since we have photographic and video “evidence” of so many of our past self moments.
To explore this theme further, I’ll be teaching the dharma through metaphors at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in late February 2011. The Barre Center for Buddhist Studies has quickly become my spiritual home. You can feel the peace radiating from the stones found on the property. It’s a beautiful place and an important fulcrum for the dissemination of the dharma. I’m honored to teach there again and invite you to join me there for a weekend winter retreat exploring metaphors and practicing mindfulness meditation. The workshop is called Metaphors, Meaning, and Change: Finding Our Way to Mindfulness and runs from 25 to 27 February. 


Previous Posts

Citizen of the Cosmos
I recently heard Ann Druyan interviewed on Radio Lab. She spoke of falling in love with Carl Sagan when they were working together on the Voyager mission in the late 70s, where she was in charge of developing the content that would be sent out into space for alien cultures to discover. It was a touc

posted 9:59:05am Oct. 14, 2014 | read full post »

The Present Heart: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Discovery
Polly Young-Eisendrath has a new book out, her fourteenth. This is a book like no other that I've ever read. It is a memoir and it recounts events that I lived through as dharma friends of Polly and the love of her life, Ed Epstein. The Present Heart is a statement on the nature of love. It defin

posted 8:41:37am Oct. 09, 2014 | read full post »

Mindfulness and Climate Action
One Earth Sangha presents Mindfulness and Climate Action, a series of online conversations. These are free and start today and will continue through October into November. I am especially excited that Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield will be presenting today. I hope you can catch it. You can regi

posted 8:31:51am Oct. 05, 2014 | read full post »

A Chilling View Inside the Quiet Room: Electric Shocks Preferred to Sitting Still
A study recently published in Science provides a window into the restless soul of Americans and a compelling case of why we need mindfulness. University of Virginia psychologist Timothy Wilson and colleagues conducted a series of experiments where subjects spent time alone in an unadorned room. We

posted 8:53:12am Aug. 29, 2014 | read full post »

Drive by Shooting: Mindfulness on NPR
It's not surprising when a feature on mindfulness appears in a major media outlet. Mindfulness is popular. This time it is a sub-four minute interview on NPR. Tamara Keith spoke with Sharon Salzberg, one of the co-

posted 6:25:54pm Jul. 22, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.