Monday, December 1, 2008

A Word on the Four Reminders

In Tibetan Buddhism, the Four Reminders are a series of contemplations designed to shake us out of our complacency and spur us to practice the Dharma more diligently. Also known as the "four thoughts that turn the mind towards the Dharma," the Four Reminders challenge us to wake up and smell the coffee that is our human lives – before it’s too late.

The first reminder, Precious Human Birth, confronts our basic poverty mentality about our lives, our habit of feeling like things aren’t good enough yet. It challenges us to see how fortunate we really are, and what a precious opportunity we have to wake up in this lifetime.

The second reminder, Impermanence, confronts our tendency to think that there’s no big rush, we have lots of time left, we can always wake up later if we don’t get to it now. It reminds us that our lives are short, and that death is unpredictable and comes without warning.

The third reminder, Karma, confronts our basic ignorance about the consequences of our actions. Understanding karma means seeing that everything we do produces a result that either leads to happiness and waking up, or to suffering and further ignorance.

The fourth reminder, Suffering (or the Shortcomings of Samsara) confronts our perpetual, deluded hope that some kind of lasting happiness can be found in the pleasures and comforts of this world. It spurs us to recognize that material pleasures are temporary and riddled with suffering, and they don’t lead to awakening unless we see their true nature.

Altogether, the Four Reminders give us a much-needed kick in the ass. Contemplating the Four Reminders shakes us out of our self-induced stupor and turns our mind away from sleep and towards awakening.

No comments: