My Lovely Fetter and Building Buddhas

The ten fetters that bind the us to the world are (1) self-identity views, (2) uncertainty/skeptism, (3) the concious and unconcious clinging to habits & practices, (4) sensual passion, (5) irritation, (6) attachmen to form, (7) attachment to formlessness, (8) conceit, (9) restlessness, & (10) ignorance.

Oh, my lovely, lovely fetters.

We look into so many spiritual recipes to remove our fetters.  Some passed down from generation to generation and some new fusions containing different styles and cultures but they all try to explain and delineate the same thing ~ How many?  How many retreats to I need to go on to remove them?  How many minutes sitting in zazen will do?  How many blogs, Dharma talks or sesshins?  How many masters?  How. Many. Moments.

Every moment is a personal recipe.  It isn’t complex and doesn’t need to be.  The only ingredient of interest is action.  Taking one moment in meditation or mindfulness is the only quantity on which you need to focus.  One moment spent in compassion rather than judgment.

When Master Ikkyu was asked what the most profound teaching of Zen was he replied “Attention.”  When asked for more elaboration and commentary on that teaching he replied “Attention.  Attention.  Attention.  What else is there?”  The questioner grew angrier and asked “Well what is attention anyway?”

“Attention is attention” was Ikkyu’s profound, quiet reply.

A friend mentioned that the endearment I use to describe my daughter “Samsara-toddler” would be better described, in Buddhist terms, as “Fetter.”  My lovely little fetter.  This struck a strong chord as I have felt uncertain and fearful that my practice was faltering due to increased duties at work and at hime.  In reality, it is just my own clinging to outdated modes and ideas of practice (insisting on silent moment for meditation or more free time) that was holding me back ~ not my familial obligations.  Grasping at the past is a fetter and shows an ignorance of or (at very least) a lack of internalization of impermenance.  The life of a householder does not limit practice but allows my practice to change and evolve.  I can either stop practicing altogether or I can adapt my practice to the moment.  I can ignore the fire or allow it to temper this practice. Strengthen it.  Create resolve.

Attention is attention.

My lovely Fetter.

I got up early this morning to practice yoga and sit zazen until I needed to get ready for work.  While beginning my first few stretches my two-year-old walked in and asked for breakfast.  My first reaction was “There goes that. No meditation. No practice this morning.”  But it didn’t feel quite right so I prepared her breakfast and then set myself up for zazen and sat.  While a TV was blaring on one side and a (now fully awake and active) toddler on the other, I sat in zazen for 15 minutes.  The actions and noises and responsibilities were each noticed, addressed and then allowed to move on while I sat under my own personal, domestic waterfall of householder duties and distractions.

There is very little interest in inculcating Buddhist dogma into my child. But for the values that I find dear, I must create a bridge that does not exist here—a bridge to the understanding of Buddhism without ever being Buddhist. Values and concentration without dogma and secterianism.  For a child to see a practice develop is the best way to impart these morals.  To see a calm mind and compassionate actions are the flesh and bones of a little Buddha.  Stories and holidays, retreats and sesshins will create Buddhists but experiences, insights, and concentration will build Buddhas. 

Zen is experiential and the direct experience of a child seeing compassionate action, contemplation and openess in their daily lives will, with care and tenderness, build Buddhas. 

My lovely Buddha.



6 thoughts on “My Lovely Fetter and Building Buddhas

  1. “Stories and holidays, retreats and sesshins will create Buddhists but experiences, insights, and concentration will build Buddhas.”One of the most powerful statements I’ve read in a very long time.

  2. And with that statement ” In reality, it is just my own clinging to outdated modes and ideas of practice (insisting on silent moment for meditation or more free time) that was holding me back ~ not my familial obligations” – I want to say as a friend, and as a Dharma brother, your practice deepens….and what a beautiful, precious little Buddha she is…joining palmsKris

  3. Great post! Everyday Buddhas are being built and that in itself is such a powerful thing to consider. Your little Buddha is adorable!

  4. Why you gotta go overshadow my post?! punk. Srsly. Good stuff here. I tweet quoted you. And hopefully the post I jsut made to chron page should drive some traffic here. It might go fropnt page.

  5. I loved this post. I have watched people I know shunt their family into second position in terms of Buddhism & practice. My teacher has made it clear that a house-holders life IS Buddhist practice & that in many ways it is harder than living in a monastery. I was also told to learn to meditate in any situation. When we learn to do it in noise, we can do it anywhere. Meditating quietly while your child is moving & I’d guess chattering away while sitting next to you is a great skill & as you have noted, a great way of being a good role model. These are great skills for everyone to learn, not just Buddhists. I thank you for writing this post. You love for your child is beautiful to read. Integrating that love into your practice is beautiful as well. Thank you.

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