|Thought for the day: January 1, 2008
May all have a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year; and may your aspirations towards
maintaining precepts, and developing concentration and wisdom be realized.
Meditation is the art of holding the mind onto the topic of meditation and absorbing it there. The
dangers of meditation is that the topic is either not a worthwhile one, or it begins worthwhile and
descends into an un-beneficial one.
Change is a gradual process that takes months and years. While we cannot expect to see
immediate change as a result of mediation; a periodic check-up should reveal diminishing
obstructions, fewer desires, and a less conflict within. Gradually the line between meditation and
post meditation should fade and become almost indistinguishable.
|Thought for the day: January 2, 2008
Disciplining desires must be done carefully or frustration will arise. Desires must be sublimated
and never blocked. In my monastery, for example, although monks and nuns took vows of
celibacy, my teacher lectured us daily on the importance of cutting off sexual desire. Outsiders
often wondered at this, as his left-home disciples were already firm in the precept prohibiting
sexual activity. However, to those of us maintaining this discipline it was obvious he was
encouraging us to discover the more subtle ways this powerful energy is being dissipated,
gather it in, and direct it. In other words, being celibate is the easy part, delighting in it is far
more difficult. However, my teacher worked tirelessly to instruct his disciples how to accomplish
this and most, though not all, worked past the almost unavoidable frustration this discipline
As with the above, so it goes with all discipline. Whether one is taking a vow of silence, fasting,
ascetic practices, or any number of disciplines, it is important to realize the outward appearance
is the easy part. The difficult part is finding more subtle ways of expressing these energies. This
is, after all, the aim of discipline.
|Thought for the day: January 3, 2008
Never put your Buddhism on display; conceal it well in all your actions.
|Thought for the day: January 4, 2008
Living in the "Now" is a modern phenomena attractive to those who would rather forget their past.
While they imagine their past forgotten, their past remembers them all too well. So busy burying
the past in an idealized view of the present, they have no time to create positive causes today
that will lessen their load down the road. Self-help, New Age, and "Now" philosophies while good
for learning how to get on in the world, should not be confused with Buddhist or Hindu
|Thought for the day: January 7, 2008
Keep ambitions realistic and humble; avoid frustration. Doing this you will last the long haul.
|Thought for the day: January 8, 2008
Cultivate proactive dharmas and strive to remain in the first position. Once negativity arsises and you are in the
second position, analyze how you got there, before negating it, and only then, when the mind is clear about the
cause, move back to the first position.
The non-arisal of dharmas is taught on many levels throughout Buddhist scriptures and applies to both novices
and saints. Course negativity expresses itself in negative action and speech. By checking our thought we can
prevent this, but still we have the thought that was checked. As long as these unprofitable thought patterns arise,
they will consume our energy; so we must get beneath them and discover why they arise to begin with. Old habits
of negative thought are difficult to change, but the momentum can be redirected and gradually transformed into
positive forms of thought.
|Thought for the day: January 8, 2008
I once asked HH Trinley Norbu; "How long should I sit in meditation." He replied, "Until you find yourself
meditating." Often we set a time for meditation and loose sight of its purpose; which is what Rinpoche was
pointing out to me. Meditation must not be put in a box and become something that we "do." It is a dynamic
experience to be engaged and absorbed into.
|Thought for the day: January 10, 2008
If there is one particular aspect of your being that you would like to change, begin by changing everything else.
|Thought for the day: January 11, 2008
When you find an object attractive and you want it for yourself, ask yourself if that object possesses the
quality of attractiveness or your mind imputes that quality upon it. If you find a person attractive, ask
yourself the same question. There is a difference between being moved by an object or person, and
appreciating their qualities and knowing them. Because we (unconsciously) impute values that are not
coming from the object's side, we are confused by the world we live in.
|Thought for the day: January 12, 2008
As with people and things, we impute upon events, both external events and mental events, values that
are not coming from the objects side, but for our thinking it so. This habitual way of seeing can cause us
to misinterpret these events. Meditation can help us to view these events as they are, before being
colored by the mind.
|Thought for the day: January 13, 2008
Mantra recitation should be accompanied with an awareness of a flow of energy supporting it. I
sometimes visualize this energy flow as a fountain supporting the syllables. If mantras are recited with
discursive thought in the background, our recitation is sure to be broken, and each time it is broken we
|Thought for the day: January 14, 2008
A Chan saying goes: "Produce the thought that is nowhere supported." Our world is like a book and
ourselves and others inhabiting it are like the book's characters. If we think of the people we know we
cannot help but think of them in reference to the world they are part of, similar to the way a novel's
characters are created contextually. Bill, in one novel may be an angry person, in another a loving one,
depending on the relationships the author establishes for his character. If we examine "Bill," apart from
these relationships, there is no "Bill."
Similarly, it is impossible to find anyone we know apart from the world that gives them context. When I
think of "Mom" for example, I know her as such because of her place in my life, but if I try to find an owner
of these characteristics, I cannot find one. But, it certainly seems like there must be a "Mom" that all my
ideas of Mom belong to, but there is not. And, this is the illusion of "conventional existence."
All our thoughts of people, things, and events are defined by their relationship to our world, apart from
which there are no people, things, and events. To "produce the thought that is nowhere supported," is
to see this.
|Thought for the day: January 15, 2008
Hope without effort goes nowhere.
|Thought for the day: January 16, 2008
It is easy to have a fixed time for practice when living in a monastery, but for those of us living in the world
it is unrealistic. But, a fixed AMOUNT of time is always a good goal. While responsibilities can usurp time
alloted for meditation, if we a flexible, we can usually find time later in the day, or give up that movie we
were planning to see. The yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda, when asked when he meditated simply
answered that he meditated during free moments throughout the day (as his schedule was so
|Thought for the day: January 17, 2008
If you are lost in the desert long enough, not only will you mistake a mirage for water, but you will also
mistake water for a mirage. Similarly, if we are not paying attention and properly mindful, opportunity
disguised in everyday thought (or interaction with our Teacher) will escape our grasp. Ordinary life and
interactions with others is full of potential, but asleep it won't be realized.
|Thought for the day: January 19, 2008
Fewness of wishes is a virtue born of correct meditation.
|Thought for the day: January 20, 2008
As a monk we ate one meal per day at noon. These noon-day meals were often too well contemplated. As
one of the few indulgences allowed, it often showed on our plate in the form of an over abundance of food.
On one such occasion my teacher passed me and looked at the mountain on my plate, but didn't say a
word. I knew his thoughts, however, and replied to them anyway, "My father always said that I have a
stomach without a memory." I should have known better, because, being a Chan Master he would certainly
throw this back on me, and he did. He replied with a laugh, "Well, why do you remember to eat?"
|Thought for the day: January 21, 2008
Have deep faith in your practice and yourself; it is essential to be fearless and willing to stand alone. This
is especially true for those who are practicing outside a monastic environment. Never doubt yourself. A
sincere application of effort and persistence will reveal the correct path and keep you on it.
Doubt is often a short term phenomena that has long term consequences. People often practice for a
short period of time, and because of limited results, blame the practice rather than their karma. Feeling
they are getting nowhere, they abandon practice and don't pick it up again. Be humble, realize that many
lifetimes of thinking is the momentum behind your present state of mind. Changing one's way of looking at
the world takes time, even for those blessed with correct guidance and practice. Change will come like a
tree growth, almost too subtle to notice; as said in the Dharmapada, "little by little, bit by bit, and from time
|Thought for the day: January 22, 2008
Things that seem least important are often most important, while things that seem most important are
often least important---as dying eyes review their lives. Twenty-twenty hindsight is not any more helpful
than a death-bed repentance; thus the Buddha taught to constantly contemplate birth and death.
|Thought for the day: January 23, 2008
Enjoying the walk is contingent upon forgetting the destination.
|Thought for the day: January 24, 2008
Sutras teach us that we live in the "Desire Realm." As long as we have desire, we will be reborn in this
realm. Blinded by desire, we are unaware of other realms, but instead seek to fulfill our desires, thus
assuring that we remain turning on the wheel of birth and death within the "Desire Realm." There is nothing
"wrong" with this, it is the nature of this realm, and we are just obeying its laws.
However, there are other realms, at least this is what the Buddha taught. He also taught that the "Desire
Realm" is suffering. Now, many may disagree with this, particularly those of us blessed with the "Good Life,"
and this is to be expected because they know no better. Even those not blessed with the "Good life," are
only cursing their lot relative to it, and not with insight of something better. Both those well off and in the
gutter are blinded in the same way. Thus, both those who curse life and say their world is misery and those
who praise it and say "Life is Good" are both reporting from an equally ignorant perspective.
When the Buddha taught "all is suffering," he meant that ignorance of one's true nature is suffering,
regardless of how "happy' one's world may be. And, for those miserable ones who agreed with him, he
taught that their agreement was wrongly reasoned and to seek the true meaning.He didn't leave them
stranded, however, but threw them a lifeline. The lifeline was a teaching that planted a seed of doubt
regarding our familiar world that if studied and meditated upon would turn it completely upside down.
The Buddha taught change and transformation and never taught blocking energy or blind discipline. In
other words, he did not teach blocking desire, but rather transformation of desire or utilizing them to one's
advantage. As long as one has desire, it is far better to work with them than pretend they don't exist. This is
like a martial artist who uses the strength of his opponent to his advantage by turning his opponents energy
back on himself. Conceptually understanding this, and being able to do it, however, are worlds apart.
Conceptual understanding is the seed, however, that will grow into realization with time and practice.
The long term consequences of action are less frequently thought about than the short term ones. We tend
to look for gratification as soon as possible, running from one fulfillment to the next, and never finding the
end, like an ant frantically crawling around the outside of a watermelon, never tasting the fruit inside. As
long as life is approached with a short term view, lasting results are sure to allude us.
The Buddha taught us to constantly question our motives, to constantly ask where our thoughts are leading
us. Doing just this much is sure to slow us down and help us to see a better way of living. While attaining
complete enlightenment may seem beyond our reach, becoming less muddled need not be.
|Thought for the day: January 26, 2008
I have often heard people say, "I can't meditate." And, equally I have heard people say, "I can meditate." Often
both are making the same mistake and that is thinking that meditation is something that you "do." But, it isn't.
Meditation is not a contrived state of mind, and because it isn't, it is not a "do" proposition. Think about it a
moment and ask yourself how one can "do" an uncontrived state, it is impossible. So how does one meditate?
Mediation is more about "allowing" than "doing;" it is about getting out of the way. A very subtle shift of attitude
towards meditation can change the way one approaches it and greatly effect the results. The assumption that
one can "do" meditation enforces the wrong notion that we are creating a new state of mind (or entering one.)
However, the correct view would be more like assuming that we are looking right at it and not seeing it. Some of
us may remember the graphic art work that was very popular a few years ago, composed of many colored dots,
from which would emerge a picture if one could refrain from trying to imagine what it might be (otherwise it
would remain just a bunch of colored dots.)(By the way, if any of my readers happen to know the name of this
kind of art, please email it to me.) Anyway, when we meditate, it is essential to understand that we are already
meditating, but failing to realize it. Only a change in attitude is required, it has nothing to do with mechanics,
whether it be mantra, tantra, koans, hua tous, or whatever, matters little; what does matter is one's
approach---just like the art work.
|Thought for the day: January 28, 2008
The breath is a steady and reliable meditation topic. Thought and breath are closely linked, when one
subsides, so does the other. By resting thought on the breath the mind becomes tranquil. This is samatha.
|Thought for the day: January 30, 2008
Experiencing a blissful state of mind rooted that correct meditation is wholesome unless grasped. As soon as
a wholesome state is grasped, it becomes unwholesome and an object of clinging. Never try to repeat a
blissful state; but rather let it fade as dew drops at dawn.