|Thought for the day: June 16, 2008
Once when I was in our monastery's Buddha hall there were some meditation
benches that were not lined up properly together and my teacher asked me to
bring them together. Because I was a very powerful young novice monk, I was
able to use my knee as a lever and move a fifty foot line of benches together is a
single stroke. Although the task was accomplished satisfactorily, my teacher
looked at me and said, "Don't use force." This was to be an underlying
instruction for me throughout my years with my teacher.
|Thought for the day: July 19, 2008
Imagine for a moment the absurdity of a person who throughout his life
committed horrific crimes against his fellow human beings, torturing them by
the most inhumane means, and finally killing them. This person decides that
rape, pillage, and torture have made him sufficiently wealthy and feared, not to
the mention the leader of his people; and he decides that it is time to come to
terms with himself and turn over a new leaf. He turns to the Prince of Peace,
the Buddha, and seeks out a Buddhist Master to study under. The Teacher he
finds knows nothing of his background and gives him the usual instructions.
After a year of practice, the student returns for further instructions. The teacher
asks him what questions are most troubling to him, and the student replies
that he is still not sure if he should meditate with his eyes open or shut, and
that he has been anguishing over whether his right leg should be over the left,
or the left over the right. He tells his teacher that after extensive study of the
texts, he finds that while one text say eyes open, another says eyes shut, and
while some texts recommend full lotus with the right leg over the left, others
recommend the left leg over the right. He remarks how extremely frustrating it
is for him and that without clarity on such matters he does not see how he can
"What is he running from," the teacher thinks upon hearing his student. The
teacher then says to him; "Because you are so "special" you need not worry
about your posture at all. Go meditate and come see me again in a year." The
teacher is very skilled, you see, and knows by his student's question that he is
hiding behind the "form" of his practice.
The disciple returns a year later and reports to his teacher that he had taken
his instructions to heart, and decided to simply meditate lying down with his
eyes shut. But, he found that he often lost his mantra while meditating like
this. The teacher replied, You are very "special" and need not use a mantra at
all. Simply make yourself comfortable, lying or sitting, and just be yourself."
After the third year, the student comes to see the Master; and the Master is not
surprised to see before him a broken man, dishevelled, and skeleton like in
appearance. The student cries out to the master; "What kind of Buddhism is
this you have taught me; I am far worse off now than before I began practicing
the Buddha Dharma."
"Buddha Dharma,?" the Master rhetorically replies; "What right have you to
hide your crimes behind the Buddha Dharma. I have removed it from your life
because you were using the teachings as a veil to conceal the real issues you
Hearing this, the student wept and repented in detail for all the crimes he had
committed. The Teacher then accepted him as his disciple and the student
never again was concerned whether he should meditate with eyes open or shut,
or the position of his legs.
|Thought for the day: July 15, 2008
If I can reflect my understanding of the dharma in ordinary activities, then I
have learned my lessons; otherwise I have not.
|Thought for the day: July 20, 2008
"Worldly concerns" are no less concerns because we have begun a Buddhist
practice. Buddhism simply gives us the tools to put them in the right
perspective. The problems may remain the same; but we will no longer feel
overwhelmed by them; and this will enable us to work through them in a
clearer more rational way.
|Thought for the day: July 21, 2008
Vasanas are karmic propensities; it is the momentum that causes us to act as
we do, think as we do,and simply, be who we are. These propensities are rooted
in our accumulated thoughts and actions from past lives and our current life;
and we are continually creating propensities that will guide our tomorrows.
Our life as it is today is no accident; and who we will become in the future is
not in the hands of chance.
|Thought for the day: July 14, 2008
Simply verbally saying to oneself "I am breathing in, I am breathing out," is a
meditation on breathing. On the surface it seems that the object is to correctly
label each breath without mistakenly labeling an inhaling breath as an
exhalation or and exhalation as an inhalation. If you told a child you would
give him a hundred dollars for correctly labeling each breath for half an hour,
he or she would probably walk off a hundred dollars richer, not because he is
mindful of the breath; but rather because he is mindful of the hundred dollars.
In this way many misunderstand this practice.
The child in our example is tying himself to the breath with a rope; when what we
really want is the thin filament of a spider's web. In other words, we are mistaking
the boat for the destination. This is like the traveler crossing a river who stares at the
boat rather than the emerging other shore.
Coarse mindfulness is placing one's entire mind on the practice---like the child who
wants that hundred bucks so bad he is already riding the new bike he is planing to
buy. However, deep and correct practice is far more subtle in that it only demands a
tiny corner of the mind rightly placed. Achieving this may take years and that is why
I view this as a deceptively simple form of meditation.
A sincere application of effort is required if we wish to move beyond the coarse
level of staring at the boat to the increasingly subtle levels of awareness that begin to
emerge from the clouds of deluded thought obscuring it. In time however, the
destination will absorb more and more of our focus leaving only a thread of
awareness on the initial basis. The danger is, of course, losing the boat before we
|Thought for the day: July 22, 2008
The capacity to share the loss of another is as important as being able to share
|Thought for the day: July 12, 2008
The monk is under constant pressure to demonstrate his understanding in his
life and adhere to a ridged disciplines, as well. Also, he is frequently challenged
by his master to verbally express his understanding of key principles in a context
that he is unfamiliar with. Day after day, year in and year out, he is constantly
put on the spot by his teacher, and having the carpet pulled out from beneath
him. In a monastic environment practice is intense and unnerving. For the monk
it is not enough to know what the teachings are; he must live them, as well.
Because of this huge difference in commitment between the monk and scholar,
one should always seek out advice from left home people whenever possible and
study their published works.
|Thought for the day: July 23, 2008
A short amount of time each day contemplating the consequences of anger
can keep it from arising and causing a set back in one's practice.
|Thought for the day: July 25, 2008
"Morality" is one of the "Six Paramitas;" the others are giving, patience,
vigor, samadhi and wisdom. Morality is difficult because desire is strong. It
is said that even great saints who are adapt in the samadhis have given into
lust and fallen. Although we may be pure in precepts, the mind must be
continuously alert for unexpected conditions that may turn us upside down.
|Thought for the day: July 9, 2008
Whether one is a vegetarian or not, eating the right kind of food can be an
important support for meditation and good attitude. Certain foods agitate
(Rajasic) the mind, which makes it more susceptible to anger, impatience,
uneasiness, etc; other foods dull the mind (Tamasic), which causes it to have a
propensity towards sleep, sluggishness, and clouded awareness. Some foods are
pure (Satvic) and tend to support good qualities like mental and physical
dexterity and lightness, malleability of mind and body, patience, compassion,
and love. The Hindus were the first to break foods up into these categories over
five-thousand years ago, and the Buddhist later adopted it, as well. As
practitioners, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, it behooves us to be aware of
what these foods are. They are broadly outlined as Satvic, Rajasic, and Tamasic.
Click here for a web link that outlines these foods.
|Thought for the day: July 24, 2008
"Giving" is one of the "Six Paramitas;" the others are morality, patience,
vigor, samadhi and wisdom. Giving is rightly viewed throughout most of Asia
as a very powerful Dharma Door, much as meditation is viewed in the West. I
have known many Asian people who have sought realization primarily
through the cultivation of giving, practicing very little meditation. This is very
different from the attitude in the West, where meditation is placed on a
pedestal and giving often ignored.
In a Buddhist sutra the story is told of a poor village girl who had no
possessions except her "favorite leaf." One day, upon seeing the Buddha, she
ran up to him and prostrated, placing her favorite leaf at his feet. The
Buddha picked the leaf up and said to the girl that this leaf was now his
treasure and he will accept it in gratitude for the sincerity of her offering.
Both rich and poor have something to give. There are not any dharmas that
are meant only for a specific class of people; and giving is no exception. It is
through making offerings that we free ourselves from attachment and
accumulate merit. It is a very powerful dharma that can save a lot of toiling
on the meditation cushion.
|Thought for the day: July 8, 2008
As human being we all share the common goal to be happy. Buddhism gives us
the tools to achieve this. It begins by encouraging us to analyze what
"happiness" is, and through this analysis causes us to realize that the
"happiness" we seek is an aspect of our own nature. This realization halts the
constant projecting ourselves outside to attain something that really is within.
This understanding brings the mind to rest and allows it to turn easily inward,
because it is no longer confused by outward seeking. This provides a foundation
for us to understand the tools that Buddhism offers to discover the nature of our
|Thought for the day: July 26, 2008
Patience with ourselves is as important as patience with others.
|Thought for the day: July 5, 2008
The aim must always be alive in the mind and the means forgotten about. The
practice is like a boat that ferries me to the other shore. As I cross the sea, I keep my
eye on the other shore, not on the boat.
|Thought for the day: July 4, 2008
"There are no fixed dharmas," my teacher often told us. No matter what the dharma
is, it should not be grasped and allowed to become an object of clinging.
|Thought for the day: July 28, 2008
Samadhi is absorbed abstraction, when the mind no longer experiences a
sense of separteness from the topic of meditation. When samadhi itself
becomes an object of practice there is great danger in attaining deviant
samadhis that are of no benefit and often harmful. The sutras have many
warnings concerning this and the Shurangama Sutra devotes a book long
section on fifty demon states that arise from deviant samadhi.
|Thought for the day: July 2, 2008
A simple discipline rightly practiced is far better than advanced techniques practiced
wrongly. In our quest to realize the mind's nature, teachings are often sought out that
are not appropriate for our level of realization. The notion to practice the highest
teaching is one to guard against, as it is often motivated by spiritual arrogance and
greed for success. The first step on the path is always becoming a good human being
and developing wholesome qualities. Bad habits must be rooted out. A humble
attitude in the beginning is one of the most important assets and one that teachers
appreciate most in their disciples. It reflects an inner sense of the magnitude and
seriousness of the path, and those who have it usually stick it out for the long haul.