|Thought for the day: August 2, 2007
Those who are intimidated by a meditation practice should realize that much of what
they do on a daily basis requires setting a time, being focused, being reliable,
listening to instructions.....all things that could build a good meditation practice, if only
the effort is put forth.
|Thought for the day: August 3, 2007
Students of the dharma have a right to question the price tag of teachings that make
them cringe and ask whether or not such teachings are given in the spirit of dharma or
business. In many cases a good book may be a better investment. The practice of
dharma was never meant to be another living expense.
|Thought for the day: August 4, 2007
The beauty of discipline is that it leads to greater freedom. In the beginning it seems very
confining to follow rules and not do as one pleases. But, if we stay with it, we will find that
the confinement awakens creativity in thought that we may never have been aware of
without the effort to restrain the outward seeking mind. This can be likened to damming up
a river to generate electricity. Before the river is confined, it cannot be funneled through
turbines to generate electricity. However, once the river is dammed up, turbines can be
built and power generated.
Meditation and moral, ethical, and virtuous discipline is much like a dam. As long as the
ceaseless flow of thought and endless scattered activity dominates our mental and
physical behaviour, it is difficult to gain a footing on the spiritual path. But, if we stop
scattering our energy in superficial pursuits, we will become more focused naturally without
additional effort. The path that was unclear before will become clear by virtue of our own
effort and nothing else. The river of wandering thoughts and scattered desires, are now
confined, like a dammed up water, and can be brought into the Path, like water flowing
through turbines, to help us to realize the freedom that is our true nature, as power from
turbines lights a city.
|Thought for the day: August 7, 2007
There is a saying: "A clay bodhisattva cannot cross the river of suffering himself;
how can he expect to take others across?" It is tempting to teach others what we are
learning through meditation and study; but unless asked to do so, it is probably
better to keep our practice to ourselves. The Buddha also taught to only teach the
dharma when requested.
|Thought for the day: August 7, 2007
Meditation without correct viewpoint is like shooting an arrow without knowing where
the target is. In order for our meditation to be on target we must study and listen to
|Thought for the day: August 8, 2007
Chan masters often use the analogy of the "host" and "guest" positions to illustrate the
difference between a mind rightly and consciously engaged and a wandering mind. The
analogy runs like this: An inn on a mountain pass is a favorite amongst travelers who stop
for awhile on their journey for tea, food, or a night's rest. These travelers are guests, and
the owner of the inn, is of coarse, the host. Now imagine for a moment the innkeeper getting
so caught up in his talk with a guest that he left with a guest. Chan Masters call this falling
from the "host" position. Eventually, the host of the inn, as if someone were tapping him on
the shoulder, remembers that he left his inn and returns and again assumes the "host"
The guests in this analogy are wandering thoughts, and the "host" is the fully aware and
focused mind. In our meditation, when we find ourselves following a wandering thought we
have fallen into the "guest" position, and again we must bring our attention to the task at
hand and return to the "host" position." This principle applies not only to meditation, but all
the tasks of daily life. When the mind is on the task, we are in the "host" position. When we
wander, we are in the "guest" position.
|Thought for the day: August 10, 2007
Breath and thought are closely linked. When thought ceases breath also ceases; when breath
ceases, thought also ceases. This is relationship is observed in simple tasks such as reading
a book. When we become interested and absorbed in our book our breath becomes quiet and
almost indiscernible. Yogis knew about this relationship for thousands of years and developed
various systems of breath mastery to complement meditation practice.
If we are practicing meditation, the addition of breath regulation is an excellent way to quickly
bring the mind to rest before meditation practice. This is especially true for meditators who
have difficulty settling their mind. A very simple practice of pranayama before actual
mediation can dispel disquieting thoughts and thereby make our meditation more efficacious.
BKS Iyengar's, "Light on Pranayama," is an excellent reference work on this practice.
|Thought for the day: August 12, 2007
The Taoist Master Chaung Tse said: "I don't know about doing things; I just know about
leaving things alone." Once a correct intention is set, it is often more important to step aside
and let it unfold, rather than rush to see its fulfillment. Grass does not grow faster by pulling
|Thought for the day: August 14, 2007
Many wonder why they are so miserable. If examined closely it is often the case that poor
choices were made when the freedom to make the right choice was their's to make. Letting
opportunity pass is a source of future misery.
|Thought for the day: August 15, 2007
Emptiness is a confusing concept to understand because it seemingly contradicts the world of
our everyday experience. Indeed, if all is empty, why does the world appear at all? Buddhism's
emptiness doctrine does not deny the world of appearances, but rather denies that it exists the
way it appears. Emptiness in this context means that although objects (and people) appear to
exist as substantially existing entities, endowed with characteristics such as color, shape, etc,
they really do not exist that way. "Substantially existent "means that they exist independently from
their own side. That means they can stand by themselves. That is the way our mind looks at
things---as if they are independent entities, capable of standing by themselves. Buddhism,
however, teaches that objects that appear to be substantially existent are really dependent upon
many factors, and that is why they are empty. The inability for things to stand alone is their
emptiness; it is not the absence of the things themselves.
|Thought for the day: August 16, 2007
If we constantly chase after every surface wish that flies by our mind, we will be continually
living only on the surface of a world that has so much more to offer---like an ant crawling
around the outside of a watermelon with no clue to the sweetness inside. Of the countless
things to do each day, there are almost as many that could just as well be left undone. If we
can slow down enough to leave the undone, undone, we might gain the clarity of mind to see
what actually needs to be done.
|Thought for the day: August 18, 2007
Unlike some schools of thought, Buddhism does not teach that there is an underlying
unchanging essence of things. For example, Buddhism does not adhere to the doctrine of
soul or prakriti, the indivisible building blocks of the universe. If a thing had an essence, that
essence would have to be eternally unchanging, for how could something that is eternal
change? Buddhism teaches that things are in a constant state of change and transformation,
and because this is the case there cannot be an underlying eternal essence of things.
Because there is no underlying essence Buddhism teaches that things are merely nominally
imputed, which means that they exist in name only. In other words, we attach names to things
of our world and mistakenly assume that there is an underlying reality (essence) to which
these names are attached. For example, we see a long tall object with branches and leaves
and attach the name "tree" to the object. We then forget that this name is merely nominally
imputed on the object and assume that there is an underlying essence or reality to which the
name "tree" is attached,apart from the branches, leaves, trunk, bark, etc. But, the name "tree"
is merely a conventional designation and there is no treenesss underlying the designation
tree or its appearance. All phenomena are similar.
|Thought for the day: August 20, 2007
Practicing the dharma is much easier when peace within supports the effort. ""Not two," Chan
masters often advise their students. This means that there should not be two people wrapped
up in one individual, one who is practicing the dharma and one who is not. All activities must
be brought into the Path, maybe not all at once, but over time all aspects of one's life should
support practice. When this attitude is assumed it is easier to make peace with one's demons
and move forward towards turning them around. To pretend they will go away by themselves if
one practices hard enough is the wrong attitude.
|Thought for the day: August 21, 2007
Some people take a hedonistic attitude when they hear about emptiness. They say, "since
all is empty, then I may as well indulge my desires." To this my teacher once remarked,
"Since all is empty, why bother (indulging your desires?)
|Thought for the day: August 22, 2007
People wonder why they are obstructed, and yet the first thing they do when they become
affected by some disturbing emotion is seek to escape it. This is like running from a wild
dog, who will only feel empowered by the fact that you are running. Afflictions afflict
because we empower them with alcohol, meaningless chatter with friends, seeking
distraction through entertainment, drugs, and any variety of methods of escape. Those
times in a day when we feel down should be used as an opportunity to study the nature of
the causes of our feeling. Instead of trying to put disturbing emotions aside, we should
carry them along. This will completely change our attitude towards negativity and bring
great psychological benefits. Instead of being worn down by affliction, just the act of
shinning our conscious awareness upon them can dissolve them. We will discover that they
are mere paper tigers with no power but the power we give them.
|Thought for the day: August 24, 2007
A Chinese saying goes: "Bean Curd Chang and Bean Curd Lee, while your heads rest
on your pillow you think a thousand thoughts, and yet tomorrow you will be selling bean
curd again." Goals need to be worked on to move from the stage of dreams to fulfilled
ambitions; but it will not happen without effort and a willingness to take a chance and bet
|Thought for the day: August 25, 2007
Once an opportunity is missed, it is best to look at the causes for not seeing the
opportunity rather than trying to resurrect the opportunity. Life's blessings have seeds of
loss built in them.
|Thought for the day: August 26, 2007
Some people sit quietly and block out all thoughts and think that they are practicing
meditation. As soon as they stop, however, they are overwhelmed by the same thoughts
they had before "meditating." This kind of meditation can be likened to holding a door
shut to keep intruders out. The home invaders are kept out as long as you stand there
and keep the door shut; but as soon as you leave or give up, the door falls open and
the intruders are in your home.
Blocking out thoughts is not meditation; but what is? Let us continue with the home
invasion analogy. The invaders want what is inside the home; but if you did not have
anything there you could let them in and they would depart without any effort on your
part. In the same way, we are constantly invaded by intruding thoughts of lust, anger,
greed, jealousy and a variety of disturbing emotions, if we clean up our way of life, there
will be no place for these thoughts to attach themselves and they will depart without any
effort on our part.
|Thought for the day: August 27, 2007
Some people make their mind like a rock when meditating and hope by their
hardness disquieting thoughts and disturbing emotions will not be able to penetrate.
Others make their mind like a great ocean, so vast and open that disturbing emotions
and thoughts cannot even cause a ripple and therefore find it unnecessary to pay
attention to them. The latter viewpoint is Mahamudra and its focus is openness. It is
an all embracing form of meditation where equanimity is established through
complete acceptance of all feelings and emotions. This "acceptance" is the only true
way to understand the numerous dominating tendencies of the mind, both good and
bad. This viewpoint leads to understanding, which in turn helps one to build upon
what is useful and empowers one to discard what is not.
|Thought for the day: August 28, 2007
People who like to talk a lot, have the least to say. The root of this talking disease is not
being truly engaged with oneself. Meaningful words are seldom many.
|Thought for the day: August 29, 2007
Yoga competition is being advocated in the West by those who claim that it has its roots in
ancient India. The fact is however, that "Yoga Competition" is a contradiction in terms The
true yogis' adversary is not his fellow spiritual aspirants, but rather the enemies within his
own house: greed, lust, anger, jealousy, covetousness, hatred, pride, arrogance, conceit, in
short, all negative emotions and afflictions rooted in desire. The fact that one can perform a
series of awe inspiring assanas (postures) is no indication that one's inner demons have
been conquered, particularly lust, greed, and anger.
Those who point to India and the competitioon there in support of their own "Yoga
Competitions" are simply deceiving unknowledgable common people. I recently read recently
an article about yoga competitions being a part of the ancient Indian festival, the Khumba
Mela, which still occurrs to this day, and using this to advocate a broader worldwide
acceptance of yoga competition. I have been to three Khumba Melas, and while there are
some "yoga competitions" there, they are few and far between; and looked down upon by
accomplished Masters as misguided displays of pseudo spirituality.
The very idea of a yoga competition is fundamentally flawed by the wrong assumption that
the correct performance of a yoga assana is indicative of accomplishing yoga's goal, which I
stated briefly in the opening paragraph. To assume that one who performs an assana well
has achieved yoga's aim, is tantamount to believing that a child reading from a physics book
understands its application . While assana is a tool in the yogi's toolbox, the tool must be
used to accomplish the job at hand. If it does not accomplish this, then one is as confused
as the proverbial fool who mistakes the finger pointing at the moon for the moon.
Moreover, assana, is but one of eight limbs of yoga, and by itself cannot be regarded as
yoga any more than the leg of a chair without its other parts can be regarded as a chair
(assana, without its other limbs can no more achieve its function, than the leg of a chair
without the seat, back, other legs, etc.) There is no wild leap of the imagination that would
make it possible for a rational mind to overlook the absurdity of a yoga competition. While
the contestants in such a competition may be awe inspiring to look at as the perform their
assanas, there is no way to see the anger, jealousy, lust, conflicting disturbing emotions and
hatred, etc that may well be hidden in the awesome spectacle before our eyes. Moreover, it
is unlikely that anyone truly free of obstructions rooted in desire, the freedom from which is
of course yoga's aim, would even care to enter such a competition.
|Thought for the day: August 30, 2007
When we find ourselves at a point during a meditation sit when it seems that
nothing is going on and we are not moving forward, it is probably a good time to
just watch this "nothing going on." After all, what is supposed to be going on?