Everyday Dharma: Seven Weeks to Finding the Buddha in You

Overview


In The Everyday Dharma, Willa Miller, an authorized lama in the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition, reworks ancient Buddhist techniques and adapts them for western readers seeking personal transformation. Becoming a Buddha, Lama Miller explains, means observing the mind and actions and then doing the physical, psychological, and spiritual work to move closer to one's wisdom nature. Dharma is spiritual practice; it's what one does every day to make one's mind and world a better place to live. Each chapter includes a ...
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The Everyday Dharma: Seven Weeks to Finding the Buddha in You

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Overview


In The Everyday Dharma, Willa Miller, an authorized lama in the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition, reworks ancient Buddhist techniques and adapts them for western readers seeking personal transformation. Becoming a Buddha, Lama Miller explains, means observing the mind and actions and then doing the physical, psychological, and spiritual work to move closer to one's wisdom nature. Dharma is spiritual practice; it's what one does every day to make one's mind and world a better place to live. Each chapter includes a passage to read, an exercise of the day that relates to each week's topic, a quote from a sage, and tips on how to make daily practice a little easier. The book shows that it's not necessary to subscribe to a particular -- or any -- belief system to benefit from this program. "It's only necessary," says Lama Miller, "to believe one deserves to live a more fulfilling and meaningful life."
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Drawing profusely on the richness, subtlety, and psychological astuteness of the Tibetan wisdom tradition, Lama Willa manages to make it all seem simple and actually doable in our day-to-day lives. She persuades us that we, even we, can be spiritual heroes — that enlightened altruism is a joyous come-as-you-are party.

Dean Sluyter, author of Why the Chicken Crossed the Road and Other Hidden Enlightenment Teachings, The Zen Commandments, and Cinema Nirvana: Enlightenment Lessons from the Movies

Like revered and profound spiritual teachers of the past, in this remarkable book, Lama Willa masterfully opens a door for us into our own hearts, where she helps us glimpse, and then bring forth, the profound goodness that we always were. Whoever takes up the meditations and teachings of this book will never be the same.

Lama John Makransky, PhD, Professor of Buddhist Studies, Boston College, Buddhist teacher and author of Awakening Through Love, Buddhahood Embodied: Sources of Controversy in India and Tibet, and Buddhist Theology

Here are words from a truly wise woman to help us live more fully, effectively and wisely, and to share our gifts with the world.

Roger Walsh, M.D., Ph.D., University of California Medical School, author of Paths Beyond Ego, Essential Spirituality: The Seven Central Practices, A Sociable God, and World of Shamanism

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780835608831
  • Publisher: Quest Books
  • Publication date: 10/1/2009
  • Pages: 268
  • Sales rank: 382,443
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


Lama Palmo [transitioning to Lama Willa Miller, her American name] has studied and practiced in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition for the last twenty years, and is an authorized lama in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Her teachers include the late Venerable Kalu Rinpoche, Venerable Dilgo Khentse Rinpoche, Lama Norlha Rinpoche, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso Rinpoche, Bokar Rinpoche, and other teachers from all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. She completed two three-year retreats at Kagyu Thubten Choling Monastery in Wappingers Falls, NY, serving as assistant teacher, retreat master (drupon), and translator for her second retreat. Before and after her retreats, she spent time in Nepal, Tibet, and India, studying Buddhism and engaging in service work. She teaches Tibetan Buddhist practice and meditation in the Northeast. She has an M.A. in Buddhist Studies from the University of Virginia, and is working towards a PhD at Harvard University. She lives in Cambridge, MA with her husband and two dogs.
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Read an Excerpt

Everyday Dharma

Seven Weeks to Finding the Buddha in You


By Lama Willa Miller

Theosophical Publishing House

Copyright © 2009 Lama Willa Miller
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8356-0883-1



CHAPTER 1

Week One

Know Your Potential


Step one of your spiritual journey is to discover that you have the potential to awaken to your innate wisdom-nature.

* * *

Few people have confidence when they first set foot on the spiritual path, and even fewer sustain that confidence when the going gets rocky. Few of us realize—in a sustained way—the power of our inborn spiritual potential.

One of my favorite stories about spiritual potential was told to me by a weathered old Tibetan nomad on the high- altitude tundra of central Tibet. As we sipped hot butter-tea, the nomad spun his tale, which he called "The Farmer and the Yogi." It goes like this:

In Tibet, there lived a barley farmer. One day he heard a rumor that a yogi had moved into a rocky cave in the mountain behind his farm. The farmer knew a bit about yogis. They were reclusive figures living in high mountain sanctuaries who devoted their lives to meditation, prayer, and rigorous spiritual practice. He had heard monks speak with admiration of the yogis' meditation abilities. He overheard women spinning tales of their miraculous powers. As a child, he had seen his mother give alms to a man in a brown cotton robe with mounds of hair piled high on his head—a yogi, he would later learn. But the farmer himself had never spoken to one.

The farmer's curiosity got the better of him, and he hiked up the mountainside to the yogi's cave. In the shadow of a rock overhang, the farmer saw the yogi deeply absorbed in meditation. Other than a cooking pot, a sleeping mat, and a small bag of barley flour, he had no worldly possessions. The farmer was impressed and inspired by this ascetic's dedication to the spiritual life. Not wanting to disturb him, the farmer went back down to his farm to gather milk, yogurt, rock candy, and barley flour to offer the hermit as sustenance. He continued with these offerings every few days.

Some time later, it occurred to the farmer, I should really request a teaching from this great man. Maybe I, too, can follow a spiritual path.

So the next day, when he brought a bag of barley, he asked, "Master, would you please give me a teaching? I would like to learn something about the spiritual path. Please accept me as your disciple."

"If you want to understand the path, you should go on a pilgrimage," replied the yogi.

"But I was hoping you could give me a teaching," insisted the farmer.

"If you want a teaching," said the yogi, "go to the Lake of the Goddess's Soul in the south. It is a magical lake—the eye of the goddess! You will see the Buddha in the lake. No teaching I can give is better than that!"

"I will!" replied the farmer excitedly, saying to himself, the teacher must think I am special to give such a prophesy! "How long should I wait for the vision?"

"You will only need to stay a day. You will have a vision the first day," the yogi promised.

The farmer eagerly packed up his belongings and set out on the long, arduous journey to the Lake of the Goddess's Soul. When he reached the lake's edge, he sat down and stared into the deep blue of the lake. He waited and waited. At the end of the day, he had seen nothing unusual in the lake. Even so, he stayed an extra day just in case. Still he saw nothing but what one would expect—some floating leaves, some stones, surface reflections. Disappointed, he returned to his barley farm. The next day, he climbed wearily up the mountain to report his failed attempt at a vision to his teacher. When he got to the top, the yogi was outside his cave basking in the early, high-altitude sunshine.

"I went to the lake and waited for the vision of the Buddha. But I did not see anything at all," the farmer said sheepishly.

"Nothing?" asked the yogi.

"Nothing but some leaves, some stones—oh, and my reflection."

"Ah, then you did see the Buddha." The yogi's eyes twinkled. "You saw the Buddha precisely."


Day One

Wisdom-Nature


If daily you observe the mind-jewel, the innate nature shining forth, you know how things really are—others may speak of it, but what do they know?

—Kanha

Today's Date: _______________


The story about the yogi and the farmer is an old allegory for the seeker's journey. Does it sound at all familiar? Like the farmer on his pilgrimage for wisdom, we all have goals, aspirations, and visions that we dream to achieve. The farmer hoped for a vision of the Buddha. We desire a vision of spiritual truth, happiness, and a meaningful life, and we long for fulfillment of our dreams of success, wealth, and contentment.

Like the farmer, we are sojourners. We are pilgrims. And, like the farmer, we are likely—at some point or other—to encounter a profound irony of our spiritual journey. The spiritual seeker's irony, the cosmic joke on all of us who plod through the jungle of mystical traditions, is this: Whatever we have been seeking has been with us all along, like the farmer's reflection in the lake. Like the farmer's vision of the Buddha, spirituality—inner purity, wisdom, whatever we want to call it—eludes us until we discover the real Buddha, or God, or Shiva, or Shakti, or Jesus, or Mary, or Muhammad reflected in ourselves. Then, and only then, we get the moral of our own life story: We are, in essence, pure at heart. We are, in essence, Buddha. Or, to put it in other words, we are not on our way to becoming a sage. At some level, in the deepest part of our being, we already are.

Wisdom traditions around the world give many names to the innate but inchoate perfection of our spirit, the wisdom-nature, the spiritual genius that lives in every person: the soul, God, basic goodness, Krishna consciousness, Atman, the inner light. It is waiting to be purified, saved, developed, awakened, or sometimes just noticed, depending on the tradition. Buddhists throughout the ages have called it the highest potential, the basic heart of awakening, buddha-nature, the Element, the awakening mind, the spiritual gene, and the seed of enlightenment. All these epithets are translations of Sanskrit or Pali terms. Just as the Inuit language has many words for snow, Buddhists over the ages have produced many words for our inner spiritual genius. This is lucky for us. The more synonyms provided by these profound texts, the more handles we have for grasping an intangible concept like spiritual potential.

In this book, I will refer to this concept as "wisdom-nature." This is merely a translation of the Sanskrit term tathagatha-garbha. A slightly more literal translation is "the seed of the Transcendent One." The Transcendent One is just another name for the Buddha and refers to the fact that a buddha—any awakened, enlightened being—is one who has transcended limiting states of ignorance, aversion, and desire, and gone to wisdom. So, to put it together, your wisdom-nature is the seed of your transcendence. It is your potential to blossom into a loving person, a sage, a community leader, a wise example—to become a hero in your family and your community. Your wisdom-nature is the heart of who you are spiritually.

That does not mean you have to be religious, or spiritual in any mystical sense, to envision and trust the wisdom- nature at the core of your being. This Buddhist teacher, for one, admits to being a "religious erratic" some of the time (the alter ego, I suppose, of a religious fanatic). Some of the time I am fielding the questions of the inner dissident: Hey, wait a minute! How does this fit in with genetics, natural selection, medicine, psychology, string theory? I am always delighted to hear someone come up with another definition of this potential: the genetic predisposition to altruism, the urge to uncover truth, the transpersonal space, a tendency to social justice.... Whatever you define as the most courageous, sacred, selfless, and transcendent part or parts of yourself can be viewed as the expression of your wisdom-nature. There is a great sense of empowerment that comes from beginning to define and value your most authentic nature, the deepest part of your being, or your strongest potential for good.

About the wisdom-nature, the Buddha said, "No mistake can ruin it, and no virtue can make it any better." Because this most sacred part of you exists as an innate seed or predisposition, your wisdom-nature is unaffected by who you are or what you may have done in life. It does not matter if you are a man or a woman. It does not matter how old you are or where you come from. It does not matter what color your skin is or what physical condition you are in. It does not matter what mistakes you have made or what tragedies have befallen you. It does not matter what you think of yourself or others. It does not even matter what species you are. Wisdom-nature is the birthright of every person, even every living creature. It is your deepest self and your brightest promise. By virtue of having that wisdom-nature, you are a sage at heart already.

But if we each have a wisdom-nature, why do we feel so ordinary? Why do we not feel enlightened, free, powerful, fearless, and wise? Why do we not show up like Mother Teresa, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King (or whomever else you may admire)? Herein lies the primordial paradox of wisdom-nature. Everyone is a sage at heart, but everyone is also a sage to be. Everyone is a diamond, but a diamond in the rough. That is the meaning of potential. The spiritual sage lives within us from square one, but we do not fully embody her until the last mile of the journey.

A great meditation master and Indian sage of the fourth century, Asanga, compared this potential to a gold mine. We may know the gold is in there and be aware of its great value. But it does not become useful until we put the effort into mining, unearthing, and refining it. Likewise, we need to compile spiritual tools and use our ingenuity to extract wise qualities from the ground of our being. Until then, potential shows up caked with the earth of suffering, confusion, suspicion, ignorance, anger, fear, anxiety, depression, uncertainty—we could name a hundred spiritual impediments that prevent the full blossoming of love and wisdom. It is up to us to clean up that potential, enjoy the wealth, and share the wealth with others. The whole of the spiritual quest can be seen that way: a process of nurturing innate spiritual genius so that it blossoms into the actions of a spiritual virtuoso.

So, for Day One of your spiritual journey, look into your own experience and inquire whether you have a "most authentic self." What does wisdom feel like? What are its qualities? Think back to times in your life when you felt most at ease, most real, most yourself. One of my students identifies with a time when she was a young girl and her parents used to take her camping. As her senses filled with the smell of pine needles, the sound of the breeze in the treetops, and the sight of the dust motes circling in the sun's rays, something changed for her. It was as if everything fell away, and all she had was herself: not her name or her identity, but some kind of self beyond a self.

Memories such as these ground us in an experience of well-being and centeredness connected to our most authentic self. Remembering those times may not be a full-blown experience of wisdom-nature, but it puts us in a space of stability, calm, and authenticity that predisposes us to know wisdom-nature. We might still not have a clear idea about what constitutes our deepest self, but we have a taste or glimpse of that self in moments of well-being, in moments when our experience is more unified and less discursive.

* * *

Exercise for Day One

Reflect on Your Wisdom-Nature


In a quiet space, reflect on this question: when have you felt deeply at home in your own skin? To get at this question, think about one time in your life when you have felt most at peace, calm, grounded, or at one with everything. Use memory. Think of one specific time when you felt this way. This time might be a recent one or one in your childhood. Return yourself to that time and relive the feeling of centeredness, oneness, or peace you had then. Consider, does the "deeper self" that you connected with then ever go away? Or is it always present? Does it leave you, or do you leave it?

When you rest in this "deeper self," you may not be able to name it or describe it. You may not even be able to find something that is a self when you try to hold onto it. Even that is not a problem! If you find nothing, rest in the groundlessness of the experience of not finding. As a famous Buddhist parable goes, "Not finding is finding." Wisdom-nature is not a thing, so it cannot be identified or pointed to as a thing. It is not even a self, so it cannot be truly found. Even so, everyone has wisdom-nature, and each person senses it at a deep level. No matter what your past, no matter what you may have done, you are divine at heart, and you intuitively know it.


Day Two

Struggle: A Sign You Desire to Awaken


Happiness is different from pleasure. Happiness has something to do with struggling, enduring, and accomplishing.

—George Sheehan

Today's Date: _______________


Your wisdom-nature may not be easy to see, but it leaves signs of its presence. Your wisdom-nature, like an animal that moves across a snowfield at night, leaves its traces in your consciousness and body. Initially this seems hard to believe—after all, how many of us feel enlightened? But if wisdom lives in you, it cannot fully escape your notice, even if you do not consider yourself a wise or insightful or intelligent type. One of the great things about contemplation of the wisdom-nature is that anyone is capable of it. One meditation text says, "When it comes to realizing your nature, it does not matter whether you are smart or dumb." Whew—that is a relief.


Dharma Tip

Each day, before reading on, review the previous day. What was your experience of the exercise for Day One? When you look inward to sense your deepest self today, does it seem the same as it was yesterday? Did you write anything in the margins? What did you write? Your experiences and insights are the book within the book. These are your everyday dharma.


So what are the signs of your wisdom-nature, and how do you look for them? Fortunately, they are right here, in the field of everyday experience.

Some time back, I was having lunch with a friend and her twelve-year-old daughter. My friend said, "Guess what Kate wants to be when she grows up? She wants to be a schoolteacher." Kate interrupted. "No, I do not, Mom. When I grow up, I want to be happy."

Sound familiar? Children begin with a wish that extends throughout a lifetime. Everyone without exception has the wish to be happy and comfortable and to avoid pain. It is only human. How much energy do we put into avoiding what is painful and unpleasant and trying to acquire what is comfortable and pleasant? How many hours a day do you spend working for happiness? To pay the bills for a nice car, for health insurance, for school, for a comfortable home? For most of us, it is almost every waking moment.

But what are we really reaching toward? What is the underlying nature of our struggle? We certainly do yearn for happiness, even if it is sometimes hard for us to define happiness for ourselves. But we are also reaching for a kind of freedom. We wish for freedom to pursue happiness and freedom to be happy. The inevitable flip side to this wish is a desire to be free from the opposite—suffering. A teacher of mine once put it this way: "The incessant search for happiness is really a desire to be free in disguise."

We know we long to be free in some obvious ways—free from our mother-in-law's unexpected visits, free from physical pain, free to speak our minds. We all want to be free from something or free to do something. But when you get that particular freedom, whatever it is, do you not find something else that bothers you? When the headache is gone, do we not notice the backache? When the backache is gone, do we not notice that we are irritated at something or someone? We long for freedom, but our small freedoms do not last long! Our natural human angst—restlessness, agitation, discontent, or whatever we label it—kicks in to move us on to looking for the next freedom or the next vista of imagined happiness.

The reason we are not content for long with whatever freedoms we acquire is that the freedom we really seek is bigger: it is too big to be satisfied with merely getting over a headache or a backache. As soon as we get over those, the real ache, our deepest ache, sets in: we are really aching to be free in the biggest possible way. That is why we cannot be satisfied for long with any given small freedom. That is what my teacher meant when he said, "The incessant search for happiness is really a desire to be free in disguise." We do not want to be free from suffering for an hour, or a day, or a year. If we had our way, we would be free from suffering—all our neuroses, struggles, and problems—for good. Or at least we would learn to live with them more harmoniously. The same goes for our less-acute pains, like boredom, numbness, and feelings of disconnection or alienation. We would rather be awake, conscious, and wise. We would rather be that way because, at some level, we know we are meant to be.

That is why we struggle. Struggle, the urge to escape and be free, the restlessness that pushes you from one experience to the next, is your wisdom-nature speaking. The existential angst that you generally seek to avoid is the displaced call of your soul wishing to awaken. Asanga put it this way:

If the wisdom-nature were not present,
There would be no longing to transcend suffering,
Nor striving and devotion toward this aim.


If your wisdom-nature—the authentic aspect of yourself that wants to awaken—were not a part of you, you would not be interested in reaching and striving, and there would be no fuel for your spiritual journey. Angst, therefore, is not a bad thing. It is the wisdom-nature in you that reaches for goals. It is the wisdom-nature in you that strives to find peace. It is the wisdom-nature in you that motivates your search for happiness and fulfillment. It is the wisdom-nature in you that is dissatisfied with mediocrity. It is the wisdom-nature that calls for wholeness. The challenge of the seeker is to recognize the potential of that tremendous drive for freedom and channel it constructively. The spiritual journey is about not eliminating angst but learning to make it work for you.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Everyday Dharma by Lama Willa Miller. Copyright © 2009 Lama Willa Miller. Excerpted by permission of Theosophical Publishing House.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Acknowledgments,
Introduction,
Week One: Know Your Potential,
Week Two: Map Your Intention,
Week Three: Create a Sacred Space,
Week Four: Grow Love,
Week Five: Be Magnanimous,
Week Six: Grow Your Assets: Trust, Contentment, Conscience, Integrity,
Week Seven: Grow Your Assets: Self-Discipline, Enthusiasm, Wisdom,
Resources for Further Exploration,

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