Recently monk Bhante Sujatha and I walked a long way discussing the world and our country and the politics our nation is swirling in.  We debated about the role of monastics and religious leaders and lay leaders within religious organizations being involved in political discussions.

We both agreed it’s such an incredible opportunity to be engaged, to actively involve ourselves in making the world better.  Bhante believes it’s almost an obligation to participate and engage… as long as we use our practice as the driving force.  Right speech, loving-kindness, no-judgement. “To not practice now, to not engage versus engaging with our practice, is to miss a valuable opportunity.  Don’t turn away, walk towards and be a light for others, an example. Look more, listen more, not less. This is the time. Let’s show people we can choose how to think and how to behave and we can agree and disagree with the same kind heart. Get involved, this is a great time. Stay on Facebook, engage in conversation, model for others what compassionate loving-kindness looks like in real life situations!”

Our conversation led to selective thinking and how we can choose what we focus on, how we can see things as good or bad or working or not working.  We can see opportunity, or obstacle.  We can choose to focus on what’s wrong, or what’s right.  When we focus on what’s right, what’s wrong fades away.

Venerable Mahathera Punnaji, an expert on selective thinking, came to visit our local temple a few months ago.  He’s in his 80’s, first a medical doctor and then ordaining and becoming a Buddhist monk in his 30’s.   He’s spent the last 50 years spreading dharma and helping people learn how to think with clarity and find a joyful easy path to follow through this life.

While visiting he left behind a small book he wrote titled “Ariyamagga Bhavana” translated as “The Sublime Eightfold Way”… A guide to selective thinking.

Bhante and I read aloud together and found once again that solid wisdom is always available to us we just need to put in the work and get involved:

“We are all used to taking a physical bath to clean and cool the body.  After the bath we feel fresh and comfortable.  It is very rarely, however, or even never do we get the opportunity to clean our minds in the same way.  We tend to carry into adult life the dirt we have been accumulating since our infancy, and probably we even carry accruements from our former lives.   Therefore the reason our meditation is clear: by purifying the mind we become good, happy and wise.  The individual creates society, and society creates the world.  Therefore, we begin with the individual, and that is YOU.  The impurities to be eradicated are the self-centered emotions, which the Buddha called lust (lobha), hate (dosa), and delusion (moha), the sense of ‘self’, which is the basis of all selfishness.  

These emotions not only pollute our minds, but they also interfere with our physical health.  This problem is what is today called stress.  Emotions have been useful for some lower animals for the preservation of life and the propagation of the species.  But the human beings have a better tool for that purpose, which is itelligence.  Intelligence is the only distinctive faculty that makes the human being stand out among all other animals.  

It is this human intelligence that is responsible for all the scientific inventions and discoveries of the modern world.  It is this same intelligence, which when further evolved, brings about the solution of the problem of existence.  Wrong use of intelligence in catering to our self-centered emotions, can lead to all the crimes, terrorism, and even wars, as they exist in the world today.  In fact, it was to develop this special human intelligence and to put it to better beneficial use, for the sake of all mankind that the Buddha set out to teach his wisdom.”