Thought for the Day: Feb 1, 2011
If you want to fight your own battles, you have to stay on the battlefield.
* * *
Thought for the Day: Feb 2, 2011
sense, although it appears that way. For example, if our arm is injured, we may say, "I
persist undiminished. In similar manner, we may refer to the "I" as a state of mind: "I"
"I" thought, we must look it. For, it is only by finding out for ourselves that it cannot be
found, that we are under the sway of the mistaken belief of its existence and it persists.
The irony is that scripture teaches us that the most important inquiry we can make is for
something that is unfindable, and that the most important discovery we can make is that
which we are told to search for is
* * *
Thought for the Day: Feb 3, 2011
Language, the use of words, are the tools of reason and analyses, the boat the carries us
through the tangled network of our mind and emotions. Like any other boat they can
ferry us to our destination or set us adrift in an endless sea of confusion. Mastery of our
intellect is dependent upon our inner and outer use of words and language. The great
master Seng Chou put it simply when he said: "The intellect is a good servant, but a poor
You are the rudder of your thinking mind.
* * *
Thought for the Day: Feb 4, 2011
not so much what these factors are that is important, but what we do with them. If we
just look at the lives of the friends we have, we don't have to look to hard to find that
some who life has dealt a "poor hand," have walked away winners, while others have
taken little off the table, despite seemingly advantageous positions. It is important to be
able to contextualize our lives in a framework that gives it meaning, and the Buddhist
we are taught how to harness the wind of change and transformation, just as a skilled
sailor can get to his destination by skillfully using even unfavorable winds
(circumstances.) The winds of life are sometimes blowing in our favor and sometimes
not, but we can make use of it all, if we use our mind to analyze and reason about our
lives, continually, and make decisions and judgements based on sound principles.
* * *
Thought for the Day: Feb 5, 2011
Everyone deserves a second chance, but let someone else give the third.
* * *
Thought for the Day: Feb 6, 2011
The Buddha taught his close disciples to avoid all worldly entertainment. The reason he
taught this is not that "worldly entertainment" is bad; but that inner entertainment is how
duties) drawn out into the world of distraction, an inner world naturally emerges and
gains strength, over time, and truly becomes the greatest show on earth. Why settle for
less? The show plays 24/7.
* * *
If someone teaches you a lesson and it immediately brings to mind something to say,
either the lesson was not right for you, you weren't listening, or you missed the
* * *
Thought for the Day: Feb 7, 2011
The other day a friend asked me how one practices analytical meditation. This person is
a seasoned partitioner, and familiar with many forms of meditation, but when (in the
course of our discussion) I mentioned analytical meditation, she became a bit confused the
mind of the very process this form of meditation employs, analyses. And, it is true that
ordinary analyses and reasoning is to be discarded during most forms of meditation.
However, analyses, as it is employed in analytical meditation, is regarded by many, HH
Dali Lama, for one, as being the single most effective form of meditation.
Analytical meditation is engaging the mind in the search for the referent of the many
words we use to identify the things of our world, ourselves included. Look at the many
ways we use the word "I," for example. If we injure our arm, we may say "I am injured."
"I" in this case is the arm. In similar manner we may refer to many individual parts of
our body as "I," while at other times we may refer to the collection of all the parts that
constitute our body as "I." Emotional states can also be regarded as the referent of the
"I." "I am jealous. I am angry, I am confused," and many more cognitive states. We may
even regard an object such as a car as "I." Imagine being on a race track and thinking "I
must go faster to take the lead" meaning of course the car must go faster.
Although we identify with the "I" thought as if it were enjoying some stable autonomy of
its own; when we reason and look for it we cannot find any. The very process of thinking
about the referent of names is a very powerful tool that will undermine the clinging to
the "I" as something more real than it is, a conventional designation. The same is true
with the objects of the world, when analyzed they become less substantial and
eventually just nominal, as well. All this exercise of mind will eventually break up our
attachment to self and phenomena as independently existent entities, which in turns
allows us to gain access to the interdependence of all things and events, or the no self of
self and phenomena.
When practicing this form of meditation it is helpful to remember to maintain a narrow
focus of reasoning and staying on topic. This will prevent becoming overwhelmed and
weary. A good easy read on the subject of analytical meditation is HH Dali Lama's, How
to See Yourself as You Really Are.
* * *
Thought for the Day, February 8, 2012
Compassion coupled with Wisdom is what generates within us not only the concern for
the welfare of others, but also the ability to bring about positive change through skillful
means. This skillful means constantly and effortlessly works through great masters and is
one of the reasons we are so drawn to them.
* * *
Thought for the Day, February 9, 2012
It seems "letting go" has become used to the point of abuse. It has become a philosophy
of laziness, rather than a profound path of Mahamudra meditation. It is said: "that in the
affairs of others, even the fool is wise; yet in ones' own affairs even saints make
mistakes." So, now it is common advice to "let it go" by others who don't have the same
"attachments" as those they are advising. And, worse yet, even in our own individual
mind-streams, the idea of "letting go" has become an absurd concept because of its
If we do not understand our attachments and how they condition our lives, we cannot
understand properly how they hinder us, and without these understandings we cannot
"let go." Afflictive emotions can all be traced to attachments and to seek release from
these afflictive emotions, while at the same time chasing the attachments that condition
them, is like chasing fire, yet wishing the burning sensation would go away.
* * *
Thought for the Day, February 10, 2012
It is far easier to teach what you know, than to know what needs to be taught.
* * *
Thought for the Day, February 11, 2012
Today I attended a teaching on shamatha meditation given by HH Khentrul Rinpoche;
tomorrow vipasana will be taught. Shamatha is quiesent meditation, while vipasana is insight
meditation. These two forms of meditation are complementary and are generally taught
together, often shamatha preceeding vipasana, for it is the quiet mind that is stirred by
vipasana's inquiry into its nature.
genuinely compassionate concern for the welfare of others and the importance of this
being the basis for all practice of Shamatha /Vipasana. Although the Buddha taught that
generating bodhicitta, the aspiration to attain enlightenment for the benefit of others is
meditation's purpose, it is often ignored by many teaching "meditation." It is a point
whose importance, however, can only be ignored at great loss to anyone seriously
practicing meditation. In fact, without bodhicitta as its basis, there can be no real
meditation practice. We may be able to achieve blissful states of mind, but these states
will not be accompanied by understanding the nature of reality, the clear, bright,
knowing awareness of our being. So, when practicing meditation we should constantly
be checking our motivation, and always make sure a concern for others welfare is well
kindled and infused with it.
* * *
Thought for the Day, February 12, 2012
Yesterday we talked a bit about quiescent meditation and insight meditation, mostly
quiescent meditation. The occasion for my using these teachings is that I myself have
been attending these teachings here on Maui. Insight meditation was the main point of
discussion today, as quiescence was yesterday's main topic. Quiescent meditation,
sometimes called "Calm Abiding" is a very peaceful stop along the way to true
meditation; in fact, it is often so comfortable that many mediators choose to stop here
and go no further. But, this peaceful dwelling place lacks many benefits that can be had
if we put forth a little more effort and initiate insight meditation. Insight meditation is
engaged in when we inquire into the nature of the self who is enjoying the quiescent
state, and the self of phenomena (the substantial nature which we perceive the things of
the world to possess.) This inquiry must take lace within the quiescent state of
meditation, while firmly settled in the heart. It requires a special effort, and perhaps a
little sadness will accompany the sense of leaving the familiar comfort of the bliss of
(from within Calm Abiding) is that we will never develop the understanding that will
enable us to end the attachments that are rooted in the view of selfhood. Without this
understanding, our meditations may be peaceful, yet our lives miserable. And, worse
still, we cannot progress on to Mahamudra or Dzogchen practice, or any of a number of
other practices whose aim it is to end cyclic existence.
* * *
Meditation is learning how to rest in our ordinary mind. The meditation topic is the
seed, that once planted should be watched just enough that it stays healthy, and like any
other plant, weeded, watered, and given a little sunshine. But, just as a plant pulled on
to make it grow faster, will only die, we should guard against overexertion in our
meditation. Our growth is limited by our karma, and we will naturally grow within its
* * *
I heard HH Dali Lama tell a story about a very devoted yogi who while meditating one
day realized his benefactor was coming and found himself delighting in the fact that he
had just recently cleaned his shrine room, which had been in disarray because his many
hours of daily meditation often led to him neglecting it for weeks on end. But, the yogi
found himself a little too delighted and decided to arise from his meditation and scatter the
shrine in shambles. He sat once again in meditation and when the benefactor arrived he
didn't even get up to greet him or offer tea, but was courteous, as if to a stranger. The
benefactor was taken aback by the entire scene and promptly left. Later that yogi was
praised by another master who heard of the incident.
The above story illustrates that appearances are deceptive and most importantly in our
own lives we should never seek recognition for our dharma practice or judge another's.
Self effacement and hiding one's virtue is the surest way we to keep it and make it grow.
* * *
In the Shurangama Sutra, the Buddha asked one of his closest disciples in the assembly
to tell the others how he attained enlightenment. In just a few words he summed up the
main point of Buddhist meditation practice. These words belong to Maha Maudgalyana:
"The Buddha has asked how we broke through to enlightenment. I used the method of returning the
mind-consciousness to its pure source so that the light of my mind shone forth and revealed the turbid
flux within. That flux gradually subsided until it became brilliantly clear. That is the best method.”
Notice that the saint did not say that the "turbid flux" disappeared and what remained
was the pure bright essence of mind; but rather that the pure bright essence of mind
was found within the turbid thoughts, meaning that rightly viewed they are the nature of
Buddhism teaches in many sutras that each and every thought has within it the
enlightening potential. And, because this is so, Buddhist meditation never teaches to get
rid of thoughts, but rather to keenly watch thoughts with complete impartiality, free of
judgment or conceptualizing them as good or bad.
Meditation skill is developed by learning how to allow the mind to rest in its natural
state, and pay attention to that state without trying to contextualize it in any way. Doing
this, Khentrul Rinpoche points out, requires some effort, but not too much, as this
leads to agitation, nor too little, as this leads to a lack of vigilance, and vigilance is a
most important quality of all meditation
* * *
Being vigilant in meditation is as much about knowing what arises within the mind, as it
is being quick enough to release any inclination to interfere.
* * *
Thought for the Day, February 17, 2012
There are many self-realized masters who exhibit poor conduct and behaviour, often
drinking alcohol, eating, meat, and carrying on with women. My ordination master,
whom I lived with for ten years, was a strict master demanding pure conduct and moral
behavior. Yet, after I left my teacher I went on to study with some whom were just the
opposite. Recently a fellow former monk friend of mine asked me how I could practice
under such diverse teachers and how I dealt with the contradiction. For myself it is very
easy because I know my own boundries quite well. I know that while an accomplished
master may carry on outwardly appearing very worldly and desirous, that inwardly he is
unmoved by it all. But, for myself, I must be careful how I conduct myself because my
actions can easily bring me down. More power to those "Crazy Wisdom" masters; let
them conduct themselves as they please; this does not mean I have to act the same, nor
does it mean that I cannot learn a good deal from their teachings. Why a teacher who is
realized may seemingly misbehave is not my concern; it is what he says that I can put to
use that is.
All this being said, if a student does not have the awareness to discriminate a true
master of "Crazy Wisdom" from a charlatan (and most are,) he or she is far better off
choosing a teacher whose conduct and discipline are impeccable.
* * *
A bodhisatvva is one whose aspiration to attain enlightenment is for the welfare of
others. However, this does not mean forgetting oneself. True giving leaves us with a
sense of fulfillment; if we give too much we will feel depleted and exhausted..
* * *
Thought for the Day, February 19, 2012
Happy Shivarati everyone! Last evening I attended a gathering with very close friends
who do not happen to be Buddhists in honor of Lord Shiva, a "Hindu" God, on the
most important evening of the year in his honor. Some of these same devotees also
attend Buddhist events at my home. While I believe it is important to stick to one path,
we all share a common wish to understand ourselves better, and the variety of the paths
to accomplish is an expression of the wondrous diversity and creativity we share as
human beings which should unite us closer together rather than keep us apart.
* * *
Thought for the Day, February 20, 2012
A reader of this website asked me yesterday how to deal with a physical illness when
none of the doctor prescribed medicines seem to be working. He seems to be
chronically ill. I suggested he build up his system through the use of "tonic" herbs;
either Chinese, Ayurvedic, Western, or Chinese. I am also a believer in Western
medicine and know many herbal doctors who also acknowledge its value. Physical
exercise is one of the universally accepted remedies for illness, one that is often
ignored. I myself am a believer in pranyama, which is a very scientific Indian system of
breath regulation. Meditation, of course, not only promotes mental well being, but
physical well being, as well. While disease is inevitable, death too is a disease, we do
have tools to help us lighten the load of diseases burden.
* * *
Thought for the Day, February 21, 2012
When thinking of meditation we generally envision a seated posture, but, simple
mindfulness within daily activity is every bit as potent as meditation while seated. There
is a catch, however. The practice of mindfulness while engaged in action is very
difficult if we are attached to the activity we are engaged in. This is why in monastic
environments monks and nuns engage as much as possible in neutral activities, such as
gardening, cleaning, and various sundry chores. As lay people, we too can learn to avoid
those activities that draw us out like a magnet attracting ore. Things that we hanker to do,
just as foods that we hanker after, are to be avoided as much as possible. Anything that
our attitude is not neutral towards will be more difficult to be mindfully engaged in; and
that is why it is taught to avoid them as much as possible. And, because we are all very
different individuals, there is nothing that we can say is an attachment for everyone. It is
something that each one of us, with intellectual honesty, must determine for him or
The flip side of all this is the fact that when the above is put into practice, we will find
that the nature of mind will be increasingly revealed within the most ordinary and
previously uninteresting tasks. When proper mindfulness is established, happiness
naturally emerges, and a pliancy of mind that makes everything we do "OK," and we
will find ourselves looking forward to even the most menial tasks.
* * *
Thought for the Day, February 22, 2012
It is Tibetan New Year, Losar, and I wish that peace and happiness returns to the
people of Tibet. They have done so much to share the joy, compassion, and the wisdom
of Buddhism with the rest of the world and yet in their own country there is little to
celebrate under Chinese repression. In fact, I have just read that the New Year
celebration has been cancelled by the Tibetans because of recent events in
* * *
Thought for the Day, February 23, 2012
"How do I meditate?" This is a question that arises from the mistaken assumption that
one does not know how. You do know how. In fact, the very question itself, proves my
point. Meditation is inquiry. Do you need to ask me, or a Master, or read a book on it?
No, you don't. The question itself is the seed of meditation. Ask it every day; sit with it,
nurture it, watch it grow, and it will take hold of your heart and mind. That is meditation.
* * *
Thought for the Day, February 24, 2012
The practice of "non-attachment" can, if we are careless, lead to an irresponsible
attitude to the affairs of our lives. While gain and loss should be treated with
equanimity, we do want to put forth our best effort in any task we undertake. If we do
this, then it will be easy to be even minded with success or failure, gain or loss.
Our actions in the world have a two-fold purpose; one is the material or apparent
activity. There are many stories of monks and nuns and lay practitioners of the dharma
such as cleaning the temple, gardening, preparing food, etc. I myself, dedicated my
monk life to keeping the temple clean while not engaged in rituals and meditation.
There is always something going on beneath the surface of the things that we do, and if we
can plug into that, a whole new dimension to our lives will reveal itself. It is not so
much how our garden looks, or the temple shines, or the food tastes that is important,
but our ability to give ourselves so completely to the task that we forget everything
else. This is single mindedness and it is what becomes the real reward of what we do.
When the doer is lost in the doing there is no attachment to the apparent result. The
doing is its own reward; it is self-fulfilling. This naturally leads to the demise of the
attachment and greed for material things and social status. We will feel a gradual shift
of focus as we become less concerned with results and more concerned with paying
attention to what is immediately before us, and absorbing ourselves in the moment.
* * *
This evening my dear friend Ron gave a dharma talk near my home. During the talk he
told a simple story that illustrated the point that the greatest source of happiness, is
making others happy; which we know as Buddhists is the essence of the bodhisattva
out her window at the children playing below. It brought her great sadness that she
could not play as they did, and it also caused her anger, as well. One day from her
window she saw a rainbow, and this brought her great happiness. But, the rainbow, of
course soon faded, and so did her happiness. This happened several times, until one
day while sitting at her widows she again saw a rainbow; but this time she asked her
Mom to drive her to see it. The two of them were soon off chasing the rainbow. They
got to a hillock after chasing it for some time that had the most extraordinary view of
the rainbow. The girl was delighted and watched in amazement; even though she knew
little girl saw the rainbow in a different way. The rainbow's life, though short, brought
only happiness to others, and vanished without a trace, asking nothing in return. The
girls new perspective of the rainbow gave her a new sense of appreciation for it, and a
new sense of purpose in her own life. Rather than thinking of the sadness of the
rainbow's departure, she couldn't stop marvelling that the momentary rainbow only
gave happiness, before vanishing without a trace. She too should be so selfless, she
thought, like a rainbow.
* * *
Life exploits our weaknesses; while we are busy giving attention to our strengths.
* * *
During meditation regard all thoughts with impartiality, like a good inn keeper regards
his guests. All thoughts, both good and bad arise from the same mind and are equally
seed of enlightenment, will nurture the positive attitude so important for correct
* * *
Thought for the Day, February 28, 2012
When practicing analytical meditation always stay on topic and work to uncover new
ways of looking at that topic. Self inquiry, asking ourselves, "Who am I," is the basis
of inquiry; but to get there we have to uproot obstructions to it. Disturbing emotions
such as anger, jealousy, lust, greed and attachment to things and many other obstacles
stand in the way to getting at this question, so we may ask: "who gets angry, what is
anger, why does it arise, etc, and stay with this, or whatever other obstacle we may
choose, for an entire meditation session or more. This kind of analysis is a powerful
tool that should be integrated into all meditative practice. Removing weaknesses
through understanding them better, reveals strengths.
* * *
and pain he experiences. But, the Buddha points out to him that this is not his true
mind. The distinction making consciousness comes into being and ceases constantly,
with each and every thought, feeling and perception that we experience. In short it is
constantly being born and dying, just as we are life after life. And the Buddha points
this out to his "favorite" cousin Ananda to let him know that as long as he mistakes
this mind that comes into being and perishes as his true mind, he too will come into
being and perish, be subject to turning endlessly on the wheel of birth and death.
* * *