Gladdening the Mind

Gladdening the Mind

A reflection on practice by Annie Nugent

The beauty of the dharma is worth reflecting on from time to time. It helps to remind us of the power of the practice and where it can take us in any moment. Another way to express this could be “gladdening the mind.”

It is said in the texts that a gladdened mind is important because it supports the necessary qualities coming together in the mind that ultimately bring about wisdom and true happiness, which is what we are seeking when we come to the dharma.

The Buddha uses an example to portray two kinds of practitioners – one who does not engage the practice and one who does engage – using a simile of two kinds of cowherds: The first cowherd is incapable of rearing his herd as he doesn’t know where the watering hole is, how to remove the fly eggs, and how to supply food to the cattle.

The second cowherd understands the job well – is able to feed, water and keep the cattle free of flies, and happy.

By reflecting on our practice, we can feel gladdened by the fact that we are like the second cowherd when we engage the teachings. We know how to practice; we know how to keep strengthening our practice by coming to the “watering hole” to drink of the dharma any time that we check what’s happening in the mind by means of mindful awareness.

In these moments, we are not feeding the defilements by being caught in greed, hatred and delusion – which is “letting the flies eggs grow.”

Rather, we are in touch with the beauty of the dharma – it’s power to free the mind – and experiencing that freedom of mind. We simply need to frequently remind ourselves of this, and by so doing, our confidence in our ability grows, too. This is how we know what it is to have drunk from the watering hole. When we do, as the Buddha says, we gain gladness in the mind connected with the dharma.

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