Thought for the Day, July 1, 2012
Behind each mantra is an intention, the backbone of the mantra. The mantra Om
Mani Padme Hum, the "Six Syllable Mantra," is permeated by an intention. The force
of the mantra is unlocked by this intention, it is the single most important aspect
of the mantra. Any mantra we recite is a mirror of our intention, and unlike an
ordinary mirror, can interact with our intention to help lift it up. While we recite
mantras it is our intention and not the syllables of the mantra that we should be
our consort. As in making love with our spouse, the focus is on the consort; it is
the mantra that introduces us to her. The light of the mantra shines when the
consort is satisfied. This interaction is making love with the divine consort within
each one of us; no other consort is needed.
Many wish to die with a mantra on their lips. But, even one syllable stretches over
time, let alone many syllables. Such an effort to die with a mantra on our lips may
not provide the benefits we all seek even if we were to die having completed a
mantra, any more so than it would be if we happened to be on the first syllable, or
if we were maybe even between syllables, silent as death's moment arrives. It is the
intention, the fiber that holds the mantra together, that is important at the
moment of death. There is no sacred syllable that can stand in a meaningful way
independent of this fiber.
When we recite mantras we must understand that its function is bring our
intention into clearer focus. It is not to take us on a joy ride to heavenly realms or
any such thing. As our intention perfumes the mantra it is enlivened and dullness
is banished. As with any relationship, it grows and flourishes, nourished with our
sincerity, vows, and aspirations. Most importantly, the vows and aspirations, and
prayers of many great saints and sages who have empowered mantras to benefit all
sentient beings have a powerful influence if we are able to plug into by virtue of
our own sincerity.
* * *
Although we think of ourselves as individuals, we cannot imagine ourselves apart
but if we really reflect upon it our sense of selfhood dissolves when other people
are removed from our mental landscape. Even if we were to isolate ourselves in a
cave somewhere our thinking would be infused with the thoughts and feelings of
many people. Apart from others, there is no individual. The fact that we have the
habit of thinking we are a distinct individual causes us a lot of suffering because
our concerns are limited to one person instead of many persons. When we say "I"
we are not referring to others, not even the closest members of our family and
others we love so much, but only ourselves, a misconception
are natural expression of our being. This we all know because we all have not a
continuous experience, but an intermittent one. Our concern for our own welfare
is a reality which cannot and should not be denied. However, it is a mistake to
think that a concern for our own welfare and a concern for others welfare are
distinct concerns. It is a habitual way of viewing things and like any other habit
can be changed.
Changing habitual thought patterns requires a considerable amount of effort; how
much effort depends upon how deeply ingrained the pattern is. The aim is not to
stop thinking of ourselves and our own welfare, as many believe an "altruistic"
intention entails, but rather to learn to think of our own hopes and dreams in a
broader context that does not distinguish our own from others.
Realizing that others concerns are just our own concerns wrapped up a little
differently, will expand our reach and enable a more expansive and all-inclusive
viewpoint to gradually dissolve one that is narrow and of limited potential. Others
are many and we are part of that "many;" why limit ourselves to one, when the
"one" is a false notion that doesn't correspond to the way things are? If we wish to
lift ourselves up, we cannot do so without lifting others up. It is as simple as that.
* * *
Thought for the Day, July 3, 2012
Many think that the Buddha advocated a vegetarian diet implicitly if not explicitly
when he advised his disciples not to kill. But, the fact is that the only thing the
Buddha actually taught on diet were contemplations to do while eating and to take
food as medicine and avoid greed and for monks he advised eating once a day. As
far as killing is concerned, there is certainly as much involved in a vegetarian diet
as a meat eating one. If one takes a moment to think of all the countless bugs,
worms, rodents etc, that are killed when we till soil for planting and in the process
of harvesting it is easy to see this.
The advantages of a vegetarian diet have much more to do with the quality of
mind that vegetarian food generates than anything else. A vegetarian diet is simply
part more satavic, or pure, in that vegetarian food does not agitate the mind or
generate strong desires. The exceptions are any of the pungent plants, leaks, garlic,
onions, etc., which are prohibited in monastic communities.
Those who eat meat are far more likely to generate strong desires and negative
attitudes than vegetarians and that is why most great masters advocate a vegetarian
diet. It is important to be clear on this point or we are liable to miss the point and
have the wrong motivation for out vegetarian diet, if we choose to be a vegetarian.
* * *
Thought for the Day, July 4, 2012
If, in everything you do, you are humble enough to start at the bottom, you will
never let yourself down.
* * *
Thought for the Day, July 5, 2012
but where is it? Everything speaks change, from our very appearance, our health,
our livelihood, our surroundings. Impermanence, a key teaching of Buddhism,
and one of the most important to understand, is not anything unique from our
everyday experience; Buddhist study simply drives the point home because for
most of us the observation of life itself seems to go right over our head.
Impermanence is a fact of life we don't tend to like to think about much, life's
transient nature, yet it is the one that when properly understood will bring about
deep peace. Because there is nothing stable, there is nothing to grasp, and because
there is nothing to grasp, we can expand our understanding and realization. What
we generally hold on to holds us back, no matter how good it may seem.
Understanding Impermanence helps us to let go of these limitations, both on a
conventional, everyday level, and an ultimate spiritual level. For more on the
central concept of Impermanence click here.
* * *
Buddhist practice and ceremonies. It is the offering of the merit and virtue of
whatever good one has accumulated through ones actions to the benefit of all
sentient beings. It ends almost every Buddhist ceremony and is often performed
daily at least once at the conclusion of individual meditation practice. An entire
chapter of the Avatamsaka Sutra elaborates upon it.
There is no self, the Buddha taught. This does not mean that we don't exist, but
rather that we don't exist in the manner that we conceive that we do. We tend to
think of ourselves as discrete individuals, separate from many other discrete
individuals. We think that way because we have formed the habit to think that
way. Because this viewpoint is the root of all our disturbing emotions on earth
Buddhist practice. On an ultimate level it is why we are not enlightened, on a
conventional level it is why we are unhappy, or happy on the surface, while
lacking happiness deep within.
You may spend years building a tall building and blow it up in an instant, but the
view of self must be dismantled piece by piece. This is because it is a manner of
thinking that must be taken apart and not just the result of that thinking. It is not
enough to break a habit, we must also, learn to create new ones. Going back to
the previous analogy of the buiding, it would be like blowing up the building and
be required to create it a new without being able to use any familiar materials or
Dismantling the view of self or realizing selflessness, does not leave a void in its
place. No self simply means no singular self. We distribute ourselves to others. If
we were to cut up the pieces of our body and give a portion to evryone, there
would soon be nothing to give; but because our thoughts are limitless and not
confined to physical constraints, we can think about others welfare without
limitation of any kind. We disolve oursleves into others completely. It is a
gradual process of deliberately conditioning our mind to put others welfare
before our own in thought and deed and then our own welfare following a close
second. We cannot forget ourselves entirely; we are just less of a priority.
* * *
Thought for the Day, July 7, 2012
Technolgy either leads to endless frivious activity or positive meaningful
exploration and communication with our world and others. Are we using the
device, or is the device using us? Are we connecting to our world, or
disconnecting from it? Technology itself is intriguing, but leave it for developers
to be intrigued with it. Whenever moved to pick up a device, have a clear sense
of purpose, or leave it in your shoulder bag.
* * *
Thought for the Day, July 8, 2012
The reason we are confused is because we really don't think about things. A
good exercise is to take a piece of paper and write out what you think. I'm not
embeded beliefs that you base your life upon. If you sit down to write about
some of your deepest thoughts you will find them to be assumptions.
the same. We base our lives on what are really assumptions that for the most part
go unexamined and unanalyzed.
If we write out some of our thoughts, we will find our pen slow to move
because what is going to come out in black and white is not logically coherent; in
fact it is completely untennable. Thoughts left unscrutinized can float around in
our head unchallenged, but writing them out forces them to be challenged and
they don't hold up well.
We all have underlying patterns of thinking that form the bases of our way of
life, both our everyday conventional world and our spiritual or religious life.
These patterns are very different from fleeting and fickle passing thoughts; we
are not concerned here with these. Our personal lives often get stuck in a rut
because of the failure on our part to see whether or not the guidng principles of
our lives are reasonable and logically consistent, or are we allowing much to be
swept beneath the carpet unexamined and allowing ourselves to be content with
the assumptions that remains. If we take a little time to exercise our mind by
wrting out our thoughts, mental clarity will offer us a new and very valuable
sense of direction. New guiding principles will emerge in our lives and new
meaning. It is as simple as picking up a pencil and paper once a day for fifteen
minutes or half hour. Don't be bothered if the page remains blank; the virtue of
your intention is enough.
Everyday write out things you think about with intellectual integrity and
everyday you will come closer to seeing the inconsistency and lack of truth in
your thought. This exercise will lead to becomming more principled in action
and thought and orientate your life with the ways things are and in harmony
with life and its flow.
* * *
lives. Pleasant company is often not the long term best company, for meaningful
friendships that go the distance are often the ones that offer the greatest
challenges to keep going. As a Buddhist monk I noticed that my teacher would
incompatible. I came to realize over time that working through differences
incompatible. I came to realize over time that working through differences
created bonds between people that endured and were very deep.
How personalities clash is important for us to recognize because there are some
clashes that are worth the effort to work through and some that are not. We are
here to learn from one another and should look for those relationships that
challenge our weaknesses, rather than amicable back patting ones.
On relationships, the Buddha said: "associate with those who are superior to you
or your equal." Those who are our equal does not mean like us. Another's
stengths can be our weaknesses and we should seek these kinds of friendships
out; they are the ones that are most likely to be mutually beneficial.
* * *
Thought for the Day, July 10, 2012
There is a responsibility that comes with meditation practice that will be more
keenly felt as our practice develops. It is a sense of duty and commitment that
arises as we realize that without these qualities our meditation cannot move
forward. To develop these qualities we need to be consistent in our daily
practice, for meditation is "training" the mind and habituating it to make itself
vulnerable to new ways of thinking. This openness requires dedication to
develop. A casual approach to meditation, what I term "social meditation," will
never address the important issues that genuine meditation targets. Life-style
changing is not the same as life changing. Understanding this will help us begin
with the correct motivation and find a sangha or fellow cultivators with similar
aspirations. This is very important and supportive.
None of the above is to suggest that a superior capacity is required to begin a
correct meditiation practice. Consistency and dedication will develop capacity as
time moves on and a helpful guide will come if these to qualities are in place.
That is not a worry. A willingness to go it alone at the beginning, however, may
be necessary depending on our circumstances, and is not a real obstacle unless
we make it one.
Getting off to a good strat is important in anything we do. And, once off to a
good start, maintaining momentum is the next challenge. Practice correctly, not
too much or too little, a well balanced and well principle practice is the one that
goes the distance.
* * *
Thought for the Day, July 11, 2012
On a long road trip through the San Joaquin Valley with my daughter Mudra
today, she asked me if people who die gruesome deaths do so because of negative
karma. To me it is a good question, one to think about, and I said "I don't
reflection on this and other topics.
To me it is interesting to observe the question itself which has the undertone
that a gruesome death reflects "bad karma." As Buddhists we are taught that
"karma is never off by even a hair," and Christ taught this, too, in his own way. It
is basically reaping and sowing. Even the Buddha is said to have suffered a
headache and attributed it to a specific cause in a previous incarnation. All this
may sound reasonable when we give a moment to reflect upon it, yet to me I find
it intriguing that the unreflective response to a seemingly good person dying a
tragic death prompts the question, "what did they do to deserve that?" It is as if
all that went before somehow loses meaning.
Even though as individuals we really are a totality of all our experiences, it doesn't
mitigate the simple fact that particular events in our lives take center stage and
periodically blind us to this totality of being who we really are. We are easily lost
in the particulars of our lives to the point that we forget the whole that it is part
of. If we look at an apple tree and spot a rotten apple, we suddenly forget all the
ripe ones! It is just the way we think.
Buddhism addresses this normal way of thinking, by making all things equal, one of
meditations main objectives. Our lives are momentary displays, no more no less,
no moment any more important than the other, because none can exist
independently. We are a totality of many events. Buddhist practice teaches us to
focus on this totality, rather than any particular instant or piece of the puzzle.
And, just as pieces of a puzzle are best assembled after we have a good look at
the box the pieces came in; our lives are better understood when we stop
focusing on particular events and circumstances of our lives, and allows a bigger
picture of ourselves to emerge which in turn gives context and thereby
understanding to the many pieces of the puzzle that make up each one of us.
* * *
Thought for the Day, July 12, 2012
be careful. Depending on what faith or religion one belongs to will determine
our stance; but it must be borne in mind that these stances are for the most part
irrelevant to reaching our individual goals.
The "model" of a supreame creator is more helpful for many people, while for
others it is not necessary. For Buddhists there is no beginning and hence no
Creator, but nevertheless its vast body of literature on meditation practice and
Meditation, for example, develops mindfulness, which can be applied to
Christain rituals (thereby making those rituals more effective,) and of course to
Christain rituals (thereby making those rituals more effective,) and of course to
Buddhist ones. Christians, for their part, have been far more active than
Buddhists in their developing of schools and hospitals and community services
such as the Salvation Army. I have heard HH Dali Lama comment on this
There is much to learn from inter-faith dialogue, and much that can be lost. If
we come with an openness to learn, the ultimate point will be a minor one, lost in
the basics which for most of us, certainly myself, offer the real opporunity to
learn what is important is found.
* * *
Thought for the Day, July 13, 2012
The bodhisattva ideal, the aspiration to benefit others is a gradual process
bodhisattvas may lead ordinary lives seemingly without engaging in any service
and feels their suffering as his own. It is this internal ability to see others as
himself that is the true mark of a bodhisattva. While engaging in service to
others and charitable work creates merit, that alone has very little to do with the
bodhisattva ideal in the Buddhist context. It is not so easy.
The difficulty in engaging in true bodhisattva work lies in engaging in actions
something good we have to work twice as hard to erase the "mark of self" from
that deed, if we don't, then we attach to the action and foster rather than
diminish the mark of "self."
If we can generate a single selfless thought to benefit another human being, it
will bring more merit than we can imagine. Whenever in meditation strive to do
this. There is nothing more beneficial than this or more difficult. It is something
I myself know nothing about; it is simply the teaching of the Buddha.
Service to others falls within the path of devotion in both Hindu and Buddhist
traditions. This "service" is a very special kind of service and requires a great
deal of effort; imagine performing actions with your shadow.
* * *
If as Buddhists we have to work out our own salvation "no one saves us but
ourselves," as said in the Avatamsaka sutra, and similar sentiments woven
throughout Buddhist literature, then the Christian idea of "redemption" as in
Christ redeeming a believer's sins, is quite foreign to Buddhism. Or is it? As
Gombrich brings to light in "How Buddhism Began," the act of "Transference
meditation, is in fact "redemption." Moreover, the vast amount of literature
illumining the vows and aspirations of a bodhisattva, who dedicates his very life
to the benefit of others through service to them with no "mark of the act of
giving," who in such manner dedicates to others all the virtue he accumulates
through meditation and living a virtuous spiritual life really calls into question
the common viewpoint of Buddhist salvation (or enlightenment) as standing in
such stark contrast to his Christian counterpart.
* * *
same mistake again, because you won't try again. My teacher, Master Husan
Hua, always said "Try your best." Never regard a mistake as wrong, but as a
lesson. It may take several lessons, but nothing cannot be accomplished if we
are free of fear or regret at "failure."
* * *
Thought for the Day, July 16, 2012
Whatever disturbs our peace of mind is a disturbing emotion. Our minds are
naturally peaceful, deeply peaceful. However deep this peace may be, most of us
only experience a shallow sense of peace. We are swimming in an ocean and
staying on the surface. As soon as a ripple arises in our mind we are tossed here
and there. In meditation, when we are in a calm peace, we can intentionally bring
to mind an emotion to disturb it, once we succeed, we then return it to peace.
This little exercise can gradually deepen our peace-awareness.
No one likes to be carried away and controlled by a disturbing emotion. But,
they are there all the time and are only waiting for the right combination of
conditions to bring them to the surface. However, we can consciously gain
familiarity with their mechanism by rocking our peace boat a little bit when we
of understanding we need to unravel ourselves from being influenced by causes
and conditions that cause us to lose control of ourselves.
Meditation does not create peace, it only helps us become aware of it. This
awareness is shallow or deep depending on how much effort we are willing to
put into our meditation. Penetrating more and more subtle levels of peace
requires a willingness to relinquish less subtle ones.
* * *
Thought for the Day, July 17, 2012
the most famous translator of Pali texts, Buddhaghosha.
The "raft" simile is well known in many Buddhist texts. The Buddha refers to
his teachings as like a "raft" which once it carries you across the stream, you
don't put it on your back and carry it through the forest, jungle, or whatever.
The common interpretation has been that the "raft" is like the Buddha's
teaching and the river is samsara, our world of ignorance, that once crossed by
successfully applying the teachings, leads to enlightenment. Once on the other
shore the teaching is no longer necessary.
However, the earliest use of the simile does not reference enlightenment, but a
dharma teaching. This is important because once enlightened you are awake
and nothing will make you more awake. Yet, most of us are still asleep and are
in a process of being awakened gradually by the many teachings we receive.
Often practitioners listen to a teaching and selfishly cling to the words (raft)
and allow the spirit to slip away. The reverse is what should be happening.
Gombrich points out that the earliest reference to the "raft" simile stems from
it being misconstrued by one of his followers that when the Buddha says that
monks should cut off sexual desire, he did not necessarily mean that sexual
intercourse was forbidden. The Buddha scolded him saying that he should not
cling to the words he says, but rather the meaning. Once the meaning is
grasped, let go of the words, for if you hold on to them they become a mere
formula easy to misconstrue to suit ones own ambitions. In other words, the
"raft" is the formula that presents the meaning. Let the formula go and hold
the meaning in mind.
* * *
Thought for the Day, July 18, 2012
A friend of mine who was one of my teacher's, Master Hsuan Hua, closest
disciples told me recently how perfect my teacher did everything. He traveled
went on to say that once in a while he made mistakes, and that was perfect too!
It was his attitude that was perfect all the time, even though what he did didn't
always turn out as planned.
I am beginning to see the importance of this. I feel more and more that finding
complete satisfaction in the process of bringing an effort to fruition is wherein
the satisfaction lies. If the effort fails, OK, try again until you get it right.
Being result oriented really stifles the delight in doing things.
* * *
Thought for the Day, July 19, 2012
Are you volunteering because you don't know what to do with yourself, or to
At a dinner conversation last evening someone remarked that Buddhists,
more than any other religion, tend to remain "practicing" Buddhists. I think
this is a very true observation. If we think about the reasons that this may be
so several come to mind but for me the main one is simple: Buddhism is the
mind, but rather the mind from which the idea of selfhood arises. Other
relationship with ourselves lasts a lifetime and there are no options.
* * *
Thought for the Day, July 21, 2012
If it were not for the fact that most of us are scared of ourselves, the Buddha
probably would have never taught the dharma. But, the fact is that everyone,
save very few, are frightened to death of themselves. Our mind is always
looking outside because it feels threatened by what is inside. Why is this so? It
doesn't matter; it is just the way things are.
However, we are being constantly cheated by our own penchant to be robbed
of what is real by grasping what is transient and unsatisfactory. It is simply
easier to be superficially contented than to stand up to that contentment and
reject it and say "now what?" We will listen for a long long while and hear
nothing. Months will pass and maybe years. No wonder monasteries are
empty and movie theathers full!
* * *
Buddhism teaches that the five senses must be disciplined and our distinction
making mind, as well. We are in a chariot driven by six strong steeds; as long
as the reins are firmly held, we can guide our chariot wherever we please. It is
not enough to hold the reins, however, for while this will keep us from
wandering aimlessly, we will still use the reins to guide us to fulfill our
desires. We are not aware of a path that we can travel that leads to desire's
end. This is the path the Buddha reveals.
ordinary mind rooted in desire. The reins are our intention which can be
rooted in knowledge of the Teachings, or not. When knowledge guides
intention it is very different than when desire guides it. One subjects us to a
world of enless distractions and keeps us turning within a narrow frame of
possibilities; while the other stands tall against these limitations and forces us
to look over the wall. As we become increasingly aware of our narrow
confines we unknowingly have restricted ourselves to, we will thirst to see
new possibilites. Now we have the incentive to guide our intention towards
higher aims and with the support of the Buddha's teaching able to achieve
Always hold the reins firmly so the horses don't have control, next, use the
reins to follow a well principled path that brings satisfaction that is not
confined the the limitted possibilites of sense satisfaction. Life can drag us
about or we can consciously navigate it; it is up to each one of us to assume
responsibility for ourselves.
* * *
Thought for the Day, July 23, 2012
Never fear change, but be smart about it. Often the best changes turn out to
be the ones flowing against the stream.
* * *
Thought for the Day, July 24, 2012
Many people I know have said: "I don't fear death," but if they miss a meal
they are grumpy.
I often move from one task to the next, compulsively, as if the space between
doing things should be filled, or else. But, lately, I have found that if I stand
around a little "stupid" in those in-between moments it feels really good.
Life, after all begins with an in-breath and ends with an out-breath, and most
of us stand around stupid in between.
* * *
which they were termed the "Three Fires." The first two are easy to
understand, but "Stupidity" in the West is often misunderstood to mean
conventional stupidity in a worldly sense which carries with it a negative
following the inclination to pursue a much narrower path in life that
revolves around personal needs. It is a failure to see our interconnectedness
with others and to identify with them. HH the Dali Lama points out that it is
"actively mis-knowing" and by this perhaps he means that when
opportunities come our way and we clearly discriminate the higher from the
lower path we choose the lower one. Why? Because it is the one we are most
All three poisons are rooted in desire; if desire is eliminated the three
poisons are as well. Now, if one simply refrains from fulfilling one's desires,
that is extreamly negative. There has to be a positive aspect or our effort will
fail. We cannot simply deny ourselves what we want. We must be positive in
our effort and this is accomplished by engaging ourselves in meritorious
actions. This will have a transformative effect on the mind and our
mis-knowing, our view of self confined to ouir individual needs, will
gradually disolve into a knowing awareness that is inclusive of other's needs
and concerns as if they were our own. This broader perspective of who we
are brings an end to stupidity.
* * *
Thought for the Day, July 26, 2012
Within endless possibilities we have our limitations. If we are an optimist we
concentrate on the former and if a pessimist we concentrate on the latter and
if a realist we balance the two. If we are a Buddhist we understand them to
be the same. Apart from understanding the ordinary mind there is no other
means for attaining enlightenment. So, "Truely recognize what is before your
face." The entire teachings on Buddhist practice is to help us see in a new
way our familiar world. While we rush through life it is passing us by. So, put
on the breaks a bit, don't do anything more than that. We can catch up with
life by slowing down!
* * *
Yesterday I was reading a Vajrayana text and a sentence was quoted from the
to lead a very undisciplined life, and be all the better for it. But, upon a
careful reading one cannot help but notice the word "will," which in this
context indicates a freedom to indulge or not indulge. It is this "will' to do
or not do that most of us, except very accomplished individuals lack. Willing
or not, we are dragged about by the five desires. Because we are not free of
these desires we should not carelessly interpret sentences such as the above
as endorsing careless indulgence in sense pleasure as a viable means to
realization, although many do choose to interpret this way and that is why
Vajrayana is perhaps the most misunderstood school of Buddhism.
Although Vajrayana imagery with deities in union and its language can
appear very sensual, the fact is that many if not most accomplished Vajrayana
masters live celibate, very monk like lives. We cannot look at these teachings
with a very selective eye and grasp at words or imagery that appeals to us
and ignore the rest. We cannot pick and choose. Instead, if we wish to study
the Vajrayana, we must do so very carefully and under the guidance of a
qualified master. One such master, HH Urgyen Turlku, who I was reading
recently, likened this path to being like a snake in a bamboo shoot with only
two ways to go, out the top, heaven, or down the bottom, hell. He described
the path as high risk, high reward. It is a path the be entered cautiously with
proper understanding. There should be an absence of selfish intention.
* * *
key functions of Buddhist practice is the practice of non-attachments
because it is our attachments that confine us to those very things we are
things are." Meditation is an aid that helps us break up our attachments and
thereby develop a fuller view of the world we live in and helps us look
beneath it as well. But, if we are not careful meditation itself can become an
attachment like anything else, and when it does it becomes an obstruction
and no longer an aid to spiritual development.
In the beginning a spiritual practice is like a formula we go through, a sort
of ritual. Like a new job or dating someone there are certain things you just
"do." After a while the "doing" becomes routine and we settle into the
routine. This is OK for a time, but it will eventually need something injected
into it or it will become stale. We don't want this to happen to anything in
life, especially meditation.
Meditation's function is like a very special magic mirror that if you look into
in just the right way will allow you to penetrate deeper and deeper beneath
the surface. That is why the Buddha spoke of and defined so many levels of
meditation. These levels, however, become increasingly comfortable resting
places and the temptation to stay in one of them increases as we move
forward. It is almost impossible without study to recognize these resting
places and so study of sutras is extremely important, as is the guidance of a
A sensation of doubt should always accompany a meditation practice. This is
not a doubt about the practice itself, but is a freedom from the assumption
that all is well on ones spiritual journey and being self satisfied without
justification. This sensation of doubt is healthy and helps us to move forward.
It is the natural result of correct practice and should never discourage us or
cause us to give up.
* * *
Thought for the Day, July 29, 2012
Mindfulness has many qualities and its development is central to all
Buddhist practice. In its simplest form it is the absence of distraction,
whether in everyday life or seated in meditation. The ability to absorb
oneself and become engaged in even the simplest daily routines is a sign that
one is developing mindfulness. However, if we set out to do one thing and
ten others come to mind it will be difficult to become engaged in the task
before us. We need a remedy. Our lives may be busy, but that does not
mean our minds have to be. Any task we engage in has a beginning and end
and often it is the former that gets our attention without thinking through
the latter also. Because many tasks are begun and unravel before
completion, we may end up with many "endings" vying for our attention.
This in turn leads to an inability to become absorbed in what we are doing
and robs us of the joy of singlemindedly engaging in action.
Our daily activities are extensions of our meditation and should be treated
as meditations, with a sense of commitment. If we are feeling stressed, we
are committing to too much and must reduce our commitments so that we
can focus more completely on what we are doing. If we feel we cannot
reduce our commitments, we can make an effort to plan them out better.
The aim is to allow time for ourselves within each activity.
* * *
Nisaragadatta Maharajah was a Hindu sage who began his careers next door
to a public latrine in the heart of Bombay rolling bidi, those small cigarettes
rolled in tobacco leaves omnipresent amongst the poor throughout India.
He and his wife lived above the latrine. He squatted cross legged everyday
rolling bidi for the public latrine goers, and as latrines are quite rare in
India, he had a thriving business.
One day "Maharajah" had a calling to go to the Himalayas to attain
realization. With his guru's blessings and his wife's he closed shop, stripped
himself of all his clothes, and began a naked multi-month journey barefoot
across India to go to the holy city of Rishakesh, tucked away in the
Himalayan quietude, thriving with temples and yogis and a roaring river. He
never arrived at his destination.
About half way through his journey he had a major realization and decided
to return before reaching his destination. Although he returned a fully
accomplished master, he would spend the next forty years of his life sitting
cross legged as before selling bidi to the latrine goers and teaching the
dharma at night in his humble dwelling above the latrine.
As his fame spread throughout India, it was soon to extend far beyond its
borders and he became a world renowned teacher attracting many Western
students. Although many opportunities were offered to him to have a
temple of his own and travel the world, he continued as he had as a youth
and was never tempted to change. In this respect he was like the Buddha,
who continued to wander the dusty planes of India for forty-nine years after
his awakening, just as he had done as a seeker.
During the many years I was with my own teacher, Master Hsuan Hua, I
watched our organization grow out of a mattress factory in the San
Francisco "projects" to one of America's richest institutions. Yet, in the
midst of all this growth my teacher lived as before, a complete ascetic.
We can imagine happiness coming from an ideal mate or peer recognition
that comes from climbing the social stairway that seems so enticing; but no
true leader has ever attributed his inner peace to anything but independence
of all that lures us on in life. Many spiritual guides have everything and
many have very little, but all share in common a sense of who they are
divorced of all external dependencies.
Recognizing a sense of completion is what we all seek as human beings.
Our lives are like a big puzzle with thousand of pieces. They are all in the
box; it is just a matter of putting them together. That is why we study the
* * *
should not be grasped for when dharmas are clung to they can become
obstacles rather than aids to mind training.
If we wish to practice Buddhism we must be willing to set ourselves adrift
in the sea of dharma. If we anchor ourselves, we will sink anchored. Our
practice must always be open to change and transformation. All rigidity
must be abandoned. Even though the form of our practice may remain for
the most part the same throughout many years, internally we must be
completely open to change and transformation that inevitably will come
from within. We must be pliant and willing to let go of our beliefs and step
fearlessly on to new ground as our understanding develops. Don't look for
a comfortable resting place; there isn't one.
* * *