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Old 06-06-2009, 07:36 PM   #16
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So...now I'm at the point in my life's journey where I am exploring Buddhism. Hopefully this time around some more responses can be generated? Are there any practicing Buddhists on this thread now, almost 2 years since this was posted?
I practice. So far with concentration and mindfulness. I need to add loving kindness as well. (Grudges can interrupt concentration).

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What brought you to Buddhism (were you raised that way or did you convert?) What keeps you there?
I studied Stoicism first and then got interested in Buddhism. I like reading MANY different philosophies.

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I've seen local postings about Buddhist meditation groups in my area, and I'm sure at some point I'll attend one. I just would like to test the waters here and ask about it before diving in.
I recommend this book which talks from the point of view of a psychologist. The most important part of the book is the appendix which shows some of the pitfalls of joining a meditation group. This can save you years of failure.

http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/meditdepthpsych6.pdf

If you start a meditation practice for narcissistic reasons you'll probably get disappointed. The correct way is to let go of craving because many people can actually ironically get attached to Buddhism. Buddhism is supposed to be anti-narcissism.

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Is it true that Buddhism teaches that there is no soul? If that's the case, how is that congruent with karma?

Any insight would be very helpful
The non-self teaching you are talking about is well explained by the Dalai Lama in his book:

Amazon.com: How to See Yourself As You Really Are: His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Jeffrey, Ph.D. Hopkins: Books

It's not that you don't exist but that nothing "inherently exists". Everything we see has building blocks (cells, atoms, subatomic particles, particles we haven't found yet). Our senses are limited so all we see is cause and effect. Because everything has building blocks (dependent arising) nothing is permanent and everything is susceptible to change yet we emotionally treat things as permanent. Our grasping at anything we want beyond what we need can lead to emotional suffering if we feel entitled to that thing (which is not permanent). Karma to me is basically an abstract concept and so can be riddled with holes but if you look at it more as cause and effect and how your choices have consequences it becomes more like existentialism where there is a burden of choices and you must take responsibility for them. I personally don't believe in the karma wheel and many old religions aren't perfect but much of Buddhism I like despite how old it is. I like to study modern psychology along with buddhism.

Basically there are three important strands: concentration, mindfulness, and loving-kindness. When concentration is developed you can use it for mindfulness (basically self-cognitive therapy) to test your mental projections to see if they are accurate or not. Loving-kindness is to deal with aversion towards people. The non-self part of it is what is needed to really get more results in combination with your mindfulness practice. If everything is impermanent and then so are your emotions and ruminations. When meditating you want to actually feel the mental interruption happen and then dissapate with your awareness. This will help you let go of useless ruminations and expectations that cause emotional suffering.

Here are some free e-books to do your own studies (which I recommend you do before you seek out a teacher).

BuddhaNet's Buddhist eBook Library: General Buddhism, Meditation, Theravada and Mahayana Texts, History and Art.

I personally don't bother with a teacher because the readings give you lots to work with. I also recommend:

Amazon.com: Mahamudra: The Moonlight -- Quintessence of Mind and Meditation: Dakpo Tashi Namgyal, Lobsang P. Lhalungpa, The Dalai Lama: Books

There are lots of how to manuals in this old compilation. Just take the instructions that you can use (don't throw out the baby with the bathwater) and update it with modern science and make your own meditation practice. Many teachers have different ways (focus on breath in the belly, focus on breath at the tip of your nose, focus on breath with eyes slightly open, focus on a visual object) depending on whether it's Theravada, Mahayana, Chan or Zen. Many texts talk about omnipotence and perfection of the practice and how to eliminate desire. These are exagerrations. To practice Buddhism you need some desire but the desire you have is based more on essentials as opposed to superficial things. You need effort and intention to practice. You probably won't have too much happiness in life if you don't pursue some kind of job to pay the bills and if you don't take care of your health or relationships. Beyond that it's okay to let go because the ultimate purpose of Buddhism is to develop equanimity. Take it slow as you develop your own practice and do lots of reading and regular meditation.

So far in my practice I've learned:

- I have to test my inhibitions and mental projections to reality because they often overly limit my choices in life.
- Don't be self-judgmental when practicing meditation and to bring myself back to the present moment watching body sensations, or the breath, (depending on the type of meditation).
- Practice being in the present moment for most of the activities during the day as much as possible. I love walking meditation. Being concentrated on the cushion doesn't mean you are concentrated throughout the rest of the day.
- The more you put in the more you get out. You don't want to look forward too much at your goal but to look back after months of practice at where you were.
- It's okay to take in some pleasure from being in the present moment. Equanimity is a beautiful thing.
- It's extremely helpful to do at least one thing (if not more) per day that I should do that I'd rather not do.
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Old 06-06-2009, 09:24 PM   #17
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I ran into this book a few months ago and found it really concise. Since so many books out there reference buddhism it's easy for things to get blurred Amazon.com: What Makes You Not a Buddhist: Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse: Books

I've been exploring and reading about so many approaches to spirituality most of which end at the same place, but get you a little confused about what your approach might be called. I've decided not to label mine

I take *Hatha yoga and meditation classes at a very traditional yoga center (not a chain), they clear my mind and seem to just make me a better person to myself and others.

*I love Bikram but for a different reason

not to change the topic but can anyone recommend a Sutras of Patanjali translation?
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Old 06-08-2009, 11:38 AM   #18
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not to change the topic but can anyone recommend a Sutras of Patanjali translation?
Hinduism is next on my list.
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