Thought for the Day, April 1, 2012
think of ourselves, there seems to be an underlying basis for the "I" thought. Examining
what exactly this basis is is self-inquiry. When we think, for example, "I am a ballet
dancer," "I am a student," "I am a daughter," and all the various ways we may think of
reflection, there does seem to be a single owner to all these many manifestations of
ourselves. There seems to be an actor behind the actions of being a dancer, a daughter, a
student, etc. But, apart from the part we play, who is the actor?
If we ask ourselves what sense of "I" would remain if it were not connected with any
action that we generally identify with, what our sense of "self" would be if we were to
strip off the many garments that we dress this sense of self in throughout the day,
gradually an increasingly more subtle sense of selfhood would emerge.
The self does exist, but the way we generally perceive it is very coarse. The more we
examine our ordinary perception of ourselves, the more we will appreciate different
aspects of our being, and this will open up new ways of being and interacting with the
world with a greater sense of openness and fearlessness. This openness and fearlessness
comes as we begin to understand that the garments we generally wear are not what is
really important, and that we need not go through life like a manikin without ever
looking into just who it is that is wearing these garments. When we do ask, we give our
lives new meaning by virtue of the very process of inquiry. (It is the inquiry that is
important, forget answers.)
* * *
Thought for the Day, April 2, 2012
HH Dudjom Rinpoche in his The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: Its Fundamentals and
History points out that although a ladder has many rungs, they all belong to the same
ladder. He was speaking in the context of the way some practitioners almost disregard
the so called lower schools as unimportant, as if they were not even Buddhist. He calls
our attention to the fact that all schools should be understood as an integrated whole
wherein it is the "lesser" schools that give access to and support the "higher" schools.
When I began my studies as a monk, I studied the lesser and higher schools
simultaneously, and now forty years later, I continue to study beginner texts. There are
many dangers on the path and falling back is easy. It is therefore important to be
mindful of foundational practice and constantly reinforce our roots. If we use a ladder to
pick apples, even though we may have used the ladder a hundred times, we still cannot
ignore those lower rungs if we want to get the fruit.
* * *
Thought for the Day, April 3, 2012
Kind and loving actions will gradually uncover our kind and loving nature; whereas
unkind and unloving actions will never reveal an unkind and unloving nature.
* * *
Thought for the Day, April 4, 2012
The purpose of dharma practice is to become enlightened, and that is a very broad
statement. But, we all sense the potential within us. But, more important and easier to
narrow down is the question of what is obstructing our realization of enlightenment.
Desire is the main culprit here because it gives rise to attachments which are selfish by
nature and give rise to self-clinging. All this can be reversed and that is the reason we
focus more on the obstacles than the goal. The goal is obscured anyway, and we cannot
see it without first removing the obstacles. It is our failure to understand this that causes
us to view obstacles negatively and escape them by running after attachments; but just
the opposite, Buddhism points out that by discipline, desire and attachments are reduced
and obstacles gradually removed so that we can see the goal clearly and move along it.
This was all the discussion, in a nutshell, of a dharma discussion at my home last evening
* * *
Thought for the Day, April 5, 2012
My teacher, Master Hsuan Hua, often said: "Treasure yourself." Within these two words
is an important lesson. It has many meanings and should be contemplated daily. If you
treasure yourself you will never shy away from a challenge.
* * *
Thought for the Day, April 6, 2012
While it is true that there are many false teachers within Buddhism, we should not make
find a delicious one. With the proliferation of Buddhism in the West, there are many So,
rather than dive right in, it is better to familiarize yourself with the foundations of , by
Rahula many others, particularly others, particularly attributed to the Buddha himself.
Then you will have a attributed to the Buddha himself. Then you will have a
sutrassutrasreference to judge a teacher and see if his own conduct reflects what you have
read. If it doesn't, no matter how popular that teacher may be, and how eloquent his
talks, stay away. Many popular teachers gather followings because they teach in a manner
that is so While it is true that there are many false teachers within Buddhism, we should
not make tolerant it can no longer be considered Buddhism, and this of course attracts
easy; if it would like to have their cake and eat it too. Buddhist practice will never be
easy; if it seems that way, look elsewhere.
* * *
The practice of Buddhism is a long journey that extends over many lifetimes, many of
which we have already had. Our lives today reflect the accumulated of actions of many
yesterdays. We mold ourselves with each passing day and our tomorrows will reflect
principles to live by that will lead us away a the selfish approach to life which is
instinctive and "natural" to a more disciplined approach which leads to a sense of greater
social and moral responsibility, which in turn creates within us openness , less fear, and
choice, and the application of the guiding principles they teach, can make a big
difference in the way this life and our future lives unfolds. The responsibility is our
* * *
Thought for the Day, April 8, 2012
Today marks the anniversary of Buddha's birthday about twenty-five hundred years
ago. It is remarkable to think how these teachings have withstood the test of time; and
grew, and produced many enlightened masters and led others to a better and more
meaningful life. While many people have grown old and died and the world has
changed in so many ways, the teachings of the Buddha have remained fresh and as
potent today as ever.
* * *
Thought for the Day, April 9, 2012
Dharma practice is a privilege and it is with a sense of humility and gratitude that I
practice it. This was not always the case, especially during my early years of practice
when I thought that I was making a sacrifice whenever I meditated or studied dharma
books. But, thanks to the good instruction of my teachers, particularly Master Hsuan
Hua, I realized just how many people in the world pass through an entire lifetime
never even hearing a sutra teaching or meeting a Good Knowing Advisor.
Along with privilege comes responsibility to carry the ever increasing load that is
placed upon our shoulders as our practice matures. This requires that our commitment
and effort never wanes, as we move along a path that by nature becomes increasingly
subtle. As enlightened as my teachers were, I always sensed that their effort was always
ten fold my own.
* * *
Thought for the Day, April 10, 2012
The paradox in the quest for self is that the more you look the less you find, while the
less you find the more expansive the sense of self becomes.
* * *
Thought for the Day, April 11, 2012
While asking oneself the all important question "Who am I" is the ultimate inquiry,
asking oneself "what is virtue," "what is humility," what it means to be humble, "what is
pride," defining greed and attachment well within oneself, and many such very human
questions will enable us to get a better handle on deeper questions about the very nature
of "being." Bottom feeders are often the fattest fish.
* * *
It is easy to feel anger at those perpetuating injustice in the world; but there is often self
righteousness in this anger that prevents us from bringing about the change we would
desire. The Buddha said; "Truly recognize your own faults and do not discuss the faults
of others, being one with all beings, just this is great compassion." It is simplistic to view
a person as evil because of his present actions. That person no doubt was at some point a
baby nurtured in his mothers arms and grew up desiring happiness like everyone else.
This is something we all share. The person we may view as evil may himself have been a
victim of the very evil he is now perpetuating; something we don't share. If we can for a
moment put ourselves in the "evil" person's shoes we may be able to transform our
anger into compassion; a much more powerful force for change than anger, and thereby
achieve our goal more effectively, because compassion generates understanding, whereas
anger generates ignorance.
It is important to bring about positive change in the world; and this no doubt involves
"bringing to justice" those who oppress others. But, we must examine our own
motivation and eliminate all self righteousness from it. As the saying goes: "There but for
fortune go I." Realize that making an iconic "demon" out of an individual serves no
purpose whatsoever; there is no possible perspective wherein anger is a positive emotion
that fosters understanding. We must be very careful that the good we wish to achieve is
* * *
Thought for the Day, April 13, 2012
Love may be blind, but anger doesn't see any better.
* * *
Thought for the Day, April 14, 2012
I have a Wednesday night class at my home and I generally like to discuss Madyamaka
philosophy and meditation practice, the importance of right intention, and the
bodhisattva ideal. But, sometimes I feel a need to get off my high horse and discuss stuff
that is every bit as important, but often overlooked as "mundane." The occasion for
stepping off my horse was prompted by a question of Jenny who asked: "what is "virtue."
I decided to make this the subject of the following class.
There are many common words we think we know quite well, even though we seldom
use them, and I think virtue is one of them. In fact I began the class by asking the
question: "What is virtue?" It was funny how everyone's face went blank; such a common
word, we think, but it is a difficult one to put into words and explain. It seems to be
easier to understand inwardly than define with words. So we all just sat and looked at
each other for awhile, our difficulty expressing our inner understanding was kind of
comical. But, eventually it led to a very rewarding two hour discussion of "virtue" that I
feel benefited everyone a lot, myself for sure.
My teacher, Master Hsuan Hua, fled Chinese oppression and arrived in America as the
head of the Chan lineage. But instead of making the fact known, he lived as a beggar on
the streets of San Francisco for ten years, begging once a day, and sitting on a city
rooftop in samadhi waiting for causes and conditions to ripen on their own, before he
began his mission to spread Buddhism in the West. As chance would have it, a professor,
Ron Epstein, a teacher of Buddhist philosophy at San Francisco State University, who
had frequently seen my teacher on the streets, decided one day to stop and ask if he was a
bhikshu. My teacher replied that he was, and Ron asked if he might sit and meditate with
him one day. My teacher took him to his roof top dwelling and they sat together. Ron
realized immediately that he was no ordinary monk and asked the Master if he could
bring some students to meditate with him. This was the beginning of what was to
become the largest Buddhist organization in America, and the first to hold full bhikshu
ordination for Americans on American soil. There are now about fifty monasteries
worldwide started by the Master's very humble beginnings.
This example of virtuous behavior led to a long discussion defining the qualities of
virtue. If we study the actions of many great Masters we can see many examples of virtue
and define virtue for ourselves and discover how we too can embody the same principles
in our own lives. Virtue is abiding by true principle even when these principles are
challenged. It is seeking the lowest position for oneself and putting others first. It is that
first thought when we are at the crossroads of indecision and following it and trusting in
our natural instincts. Virtue will nourish and support every aspect of our practice, and if
we investigate its meaning, we will discover the many aspects it has, and see in our
everyday lives opportunity to put it into practice.
* * *
Thought for the Day, April 15, 2012
Progress is a process that takes time, especially regarding dharma practice. Often it is
easy to become discouraged and move from one practice to the next, never feeling a
sense of satisfaction with the previous one. This is sort of like a greedy eater who goes to
a buffet and samples this dish and that, unable to fully enjoy a single dish without his
mind first running off to the next. Dharma gluttony is a similar problem, which occurs
when we are impatient with ourselves and jump from one practice to the next, without a
need to do so that arises from the satisfaction of thoroughly penetrating our practice.
Whatever our stage of development may be, or practice we consider our "root" practice,
we should remain content until a sense of satisfaction arises. Faith in one's practice and
in one's own ability should always be cultivated and never should the "demon of doubt"
be allowed to shift us from one practice to the next. Just as a child grows day by day
without awareness of it, we too often mature in our practice without awareness of it.
When and if the time to change our practice comes it will be obvious, effortless, and
natural. We will either feel we have grown out of a practice entirely, or feel the need to
employ the principles we have learned from one practice into a more advanced practice.
Dharma practice is ever evolving, but it is not something we can do by force or will, any
more than we can pull grass to make it grow faster.
* * *
Thought for the Day, April 16, 2012
Mipalm Rinpoche said that during his years in retreat he never recited a single mantra
nor moved a bead of his rosary without full mental attentiveness. A rosary is not to be
used like a baby's toy nor are mantras like pacifiers; real recitation requires right
intention and attentiveness at all times. It is work; never an excuse to be lazy or put our
intellect to sleep.
* * *
The universe of beings has been described in Avatamsaka Sutra as like a jeweled net
stretched out throughout the cosmos, each eye of the net tugging and pulling on all the
others,thus each having an effect on all the others. It is a metaphor for the
interconnected relationship of all beings and things, and that nothing stands alone, by
Buddhist, emptiness does not mean absence, but rather lack of independence.
Understanding this distinction helps us develop many good and positive qualities. For
more on this, click here.
* * *
Thought for the Day, April 18, 2012
Having a scattered mind isn't good, but having one that is focused on an object we
hanker after isn't any better. But, being desire beings, stuck in the Desire Realm, we do have
our desires and will focus on them. But, as Buddhist we are taught that desires can be
uplifted and transformed so that they can serve us rather than enslave us. That is in part
what dharma practice is all about, uplifting and transforming desire.
* * *
Thought for the Day, April 21, 2012
In his Precious Garland Lectures, HH Dali Lama was asked, "What comprises a negative
action." He replied that the "intention" determines the quality of an action. A positive or
negative action gains much greater weight as the intention becomes more calculated and
focused. If we were to injure someone in an auto accident, the negative karma would be
far less than if we deliberately brought harm to them. If we joined the Peace Corps to
"see the world" the merit would be far less than if we joined it because we were
sympathetic to the people we were serving, and were moved to join the "Corps" by this
Negative actions are always to be avoided, but we cannot move through life without
harming others; it is the nature of the world we live in. Even vegetarians who seek not to
kill animals, bring harm to countless insects and worms and animals who live in fields
when their food is harvested and planted. All we can do to reduce the negative effects of
the unintentional harm we inflict is offer prayers daily for the welfare of all living beings
and deepen our realization of the "cost" of simply being human.
The merit and virtue of the positive actions we perform can be greatly increased by
removing any sense of "self" from them and performing them with an ever deepening
sense of sincerity. Our positive actions are an "offering," and all desire for recognition or
self benefit should be reduced as much as possible. This will increase the benefits of
these actions not only for ourselves, but for the recipients of our positive deeds, who
certainly intuitively feel the depth and warmth of our motivation.
* * *
The Buddha taught that the world is suffering and Nirvana is Peace. He also taught that
Samasara the world) and Nirvana (enlightenment) are one. These two teaching seem to
contradict each other, but they really don't.
We have a inborn predisposition because of our ignorance to think that heaven and earth
are divided. We think one is higher than the other and they are separate. In our actions
we behave as if we thought the lower one were better, which is natural because our
immediate needs seem far more pressing than anything else. When we act this way, then
of course there is a difference between samsara and nirvana, and because we are not aware
of our error we will suffer. Our "pressing needs" greatly overshadow our spiritual ones.
And, if we pass through life never questioning "who" it is that really has these needs,
heaven and earth will remain divided and we will leave the world as ignorant as when we
came in it.
If we can simply begin questioning "who" we are by allowing a tiny place for this
thought somewhere in the back of our mind throughout the day, heaven and earth will
start to come closer and closer together. It may be a long, long while before we become
like a Buddha and see them as identical, but in some small way we will appreciate our
lives a little more each day here and now.
* * *
Thought for the Day, April 23, 2012
Buddha dharma is like the food we eat and the air we breath; their is nothing so evolved
about us as a society, individual, or culture, that makes it any less relevant today as when
the Buddha spoke his message over two thousand years ago. Rather than try and adapt
the teachings to our modern world, and risk losing sight of the underlying principle, the
* * *
Thought for the Day, April 24, 2012
Right effort that fails to succeed is never the less a seed for future effort that will succeed.
Right Effort is one of the Buddha's "paths" in the list of the Eightfold Noble Path, an
important guide to a way of life that will help us become disentangled and freed from the
many obstacles that obstruct our path to self realization. The complete list include: Right
View, Right Thought, Rightht Speech, Right Behavior, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right
Mindfulness, Right Meditation.
As Buddhists we often set goals beyond our reach and it can be discouraging at times.
This is common in the world of sports and other areas of ordinary life amongst great
athlete and others that stand out. Although, spiritual success will bring unlimited joy
compared to worldly achievements, we can still learn much by observing the principles of
those who succeed in the world, particularly their fearlessness of failure and the
willingness to believe in themselves and face seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
* * *
Thought for the Day, April 25, 2012
If we got everything that we wished for we would be in a horrible mess. If we could grant
everything we wished for ourselves upon others, we would be so happy.
* * *
Thought for the Day, April 26, 2012
When Buddhism teaches emptiness our habitual tendency is to think that things and
events are non-existent. This is a natural reaction and if left unexamined leads to nihilistic
viewpoints and negativity and maybe even despondency. But, when the Buddha taught
the doctrine of emptiness he was really teaching us to empty our mind of all the
assumptions about the way things and events appear to us as independent external
In general, we look at the world as if we were a child who has received his first gift. He
would more than likely turn the box about looking at its shape and wrapping and maybe
world is much like this; we never think to look beneath the surface of things and events
or ourselves. The way things appear to our naive perception and our naive understanding
of emptiness are what conceal the real meaning of our world. It is the wrapping that we
must remove if we are to unpack our lives. It cannot be approached with our ordinary
thinking mind alone and requires a new way of living our lives and being free of fear of
* * *
Thought for the Day, April 27, 2012
It is interesting to me to see how I react to the faults of others. I find that some peoples'
faults I tend to ignore while others' I don't. In other words some people bug me more
than others. Have you ever noticed this? Well, the Buddha and Christ both agree on this
one; those faults in others that bug you the most are the one's you need to work on the
most in yourself. Odd as it may seem, those faults are wearing a different mask within
you, so you may not be recognizing them as your own; but take a little better look and
put some effort in it and you will lift the mask. Understanding this better helps us
develop compassion and understanding, as well as becoming a better, more tolerant
* * *
Mental pliancy is cultivated through meditation; it is the ability to place the mind on any
topic of meditation and hold it there without wavering. In our active life we tend to
want to do things that interest us, rather than create an interest in things endlessly a great
support to mental pliancy in meditation.
* * *
Thought for the Day, April 29, 2012
When in meditation allow the mind to be like a perfect mirror that reflects what appears,
and only that.
* * *
meaning of the scriptures and how to apply them in our daily lives, is being like a little
personal value to us. We may gain knowledge of the dharma, but if we cannot use it to
lessen our desires and afflictive emotions, the obscurations that veil insight, what use is it
parading about a bunch of formulas?
It is true what the great master Mipalm Rinpoche says. While in the beginning we do
want to gain an intellectual idea of what comprises the dharma, we must press on for the
satisfaction of intellectual understanding to prompt us to ask ourselves, "what does all
this have to do with me and my life," and figure that out.
* * *