Verfasst von: Enrico Kosmus | 19. Februar 2021

Four Reflections, that turn the Mind

The practice of the fundamental exercises is, as the name suggests, of fundamental importance on the path of liberation. Without the fundamentals being recognized and incorporated into one’s life, sustained development on the path is difficult. The fundamental practices consist of the general basis of the four considerations and the particular fundamentals consisting of refuge, bodhicitta, purification, merit accumulation, and the invocation of blessings through guru yoga. This post here deals with the four thoughts that turn the mind to the Dharma. Then, in further posts, I will describe the other stages of the path in more detail.

Precious Human Birth

The general practices enable practitioners to reflect on the circumstances of their lives. Reflecting on one’s life situation and recognizing the benefits therein, brings about an encounter with the question, what does one want to do with one’s life. What meaning does one attach to one’s own existence? Does one recognize the advantages and possibilities or does one remain in a view of hopelessness, of fatalism? Does one continue to seek distraction and diversion? This also brings up issues of self-worth and self-confidence. A sure sign that this reflection has permeated one’s mind is that one is so fully engaged in the practice. One has taken to heart the preciousness of individual freedoms and preferences.

Impermanence

Realizing that all things are impermanent, one begins to reflect on the essence, the true nature of all things. Since the value of things is not determined by themselves, but by what is attached to them, by their very nature they are like a rainbow in the sky. Beautiful to look at, yet ephemeral and highly dependent on the point of view of the person looking at them. Therefore, if one can see gold and precious stones, as well as dirt and filth, as equal, then this is a sign that one has realized the illusory nature of appearances. By their presence, as well as their absence, the mind is not disturbed from its equanimity.

Connection of cause and effect

Although all phenomena are of illusory nature, yes something always appears. The consideration of the way in which things appear leads one to focus attention on one’s own actions and their results. When one realizes that there is a reciprocal condition, a coherent connection between an intention, a causal action and a so-called result, one begins to pay greater attention to one’s own thoughts and deeds. Everyone desires happiness and joy and tries to avoid adversity and anguish. Therefore, it is advisable and a result of insight that one abandons destructive attitudes and actions and invariably adopts constructive and wholesome attitudes and performs actions. In this way, one has also found a rapid path that, like an escalator, leads one up to liberation. By giving up unwholesome actions, the gate to rebirth in the lower realms of samsara is closed.

Insufficiency of Compound Phenomena

Finally, one comes to the reflection on happiness and suffering in this world of recurring experiences. On reflection, one realizes that ultimate happiness is nowhere to be found in externals. First, one searches for satisfying moments, strives for material goods, for relationships, etc. One struggles with an endless search. Once you have finally attained something, the fear of losing it again sets in. And not only that, you torture yourself with the fear, knowing that everything is transient and ultimately unsustainable. If something stays the same for a very, very long time and without change, it doesn’t fit again, because the creative variety is missing. So it never fits you and you have a constant feeling of dissatisfaction. But once you realize that this recurring and unsatisfying cycle is determined by a wrong view and a grasping for externals, and recognize this as the real obstacle, then this is a sign that you want to cross ocean of suffering and have already set out on the path.

Since these four considerations are of such fundamental importance on the path, they should be remembered daily, even several times a day. Spiritual practice that is not imbued with these four thoughts very quickly turns into an ego project and a new search for entertainment, distraction, and eventually ends up back at the starting point – namely, tromping around within the rat race.


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