whether or not we have love in our heart can be seen in our reaction to another's gain.
If the first reaction we have is, "Oh, I wish something like that could happen to me," we
are lacking love. If however, our first reaction is to rejoice in that persons happiness,
then we have love. So, on a daily basis recognize we should recognize our immediate
response to the success or failures of others; much is revealed therein. What follows
after that first response is contrived and of little significance.
* * *
Time moves forward; "time marches on." And, yet if we find ourselves constantly
memories and there we should stay focused. Why eat leftovers? Pay attention to the
memories and there we should stay focused. Why eat leftovers? Pay attention to the
food you cook today; and you'll prepare tomorrow's meal even better.
* * *
it. All we can do is humbly hope that by grace of right action we quite unexpectedly
"arrive." Worldly philosophy is "keep your eye on the prize," but Buddhist philosophy
views this as unhelpful, and rather advices being mindful of the "path."
* * *
Thought for the Day, March 4, 2012
If in meditation and active dharma practice we seek only to remove our faults, we may
become faultless. But if instead we seek to replace each fault removed with a good
quality we will become a bodhisattva. The former is the enlightenment of a solitary
realized being, who will eventually fall from his heavenly state because his faultlessness
becomes a liability by virtue of it not benefiting others. The latter, whose intention
from the beginning is infused with the aspiration that whatever gains he achieves is
solely for the welfare of others, will not fall back, because he is merely stepping into
an owning what has been his true nature all along.
* * *
His Holiness the Dali Lama points out that when ordinary events and objects are a
substantial underlying basis, a basis we instinctively believe exists, the closer we look
the less we find. Ultimately we will discover that nothing substantial is findable.
The point of the above instructions is to demonstrate that everyday appearances are
sort of like a mirage in the desert, that while appearing as substantial and real, lack any
such quality. All of us thirst for truth and meaning in life, and not a single one of us
wishes to be mislead. But, experience demonstrates that we are continuously being
misled and have a good deal of difficulty distinguishing the real from the false. This is
why teachings and teachers are so important to help us recognize the true from the
false. Introducing these teachings into our everyday affairs is as important as imbibing
them in meditation. It will save us a trip down many dead-end streets.
* * *
Karma is action and karma phala is fruit of action. The two are often used
interchangeably, but are not the same. But, this distinction is really of little importance
karma its weight. When we perform an action knowingly, with a clear intention why we
are doing it, the consequences of that action are much more powerful than when the
intention is not clear. Naturally, we should try and do positive actions, but we should
also deepen our understanding of why we do these actions through study and that our
actions will have a greater effect on ourselves and others.
* * *
In the Precious Garland Teaching, HH Dali Lama points out the dangers of studying the
dharma with a "flawed motivation." We cannot take it for granted that studying the
dharma is necessarily a good thing. This is because our motivation which may have been
initially pure, changes over time and becomes a selfish ego-driven one. Meditation
practice and study can become a source of pride and arrogance, something we wish to
flaunt before others, demonstrating our knowledge to others or boasting of our
meditative skill. Even if we avoid any outwardly flawed motivation, we can become
invincible knight in shinning armour, impervious to the troubles of the world. Or even
conquering the elements of nature, as in the case of a yogi who may for all the wrong
snow and not feel the cold, or sit in a fire and be comfortable, can become a source of
ego clinging. HH Dali Lama points out that "flawed" motivation can creep into our
practice, and in fact there is a strong propensity for this to happen, given the selfish
nature of our human condition. Because such is the case, we must exercise vigilance all
the time, constantly checking our motivation for practice. We should also look for
others, kindness in our interaction with others, and patience. A willingness to serve
others without attachment to recognition or reward, especially when teaching others
and offering the "gift of dharma," is also very important. HH Dali Lama is a perfect
example of all these good qualities. By studying his life and the selfless way other
great masters live, we can gain encouragement to live and act, in our own small way, in
a similar manner.
* * *
The Chinese Buddhist "Hua Tou" technique is out of the limelight of mainstream
simple to understand, and yet one of the more challenging to practice.
To practice the "Hua Tou" technique, imagine you are about to recite a mantra. You
have the first syllable on the tip of you mental tongue and freeze right there. Your
mind is pregnant with the potential to say that first syllable, but never quite says it,
nor does it allow that potential to slip away, as thought vies for the mind's attention. If
at any instant of the meditation period, your head were to be severed, that syllable
would be the one last potential utterance. It is that simple. But, try it and you will find
that while conceptually understanding it is simple, the actual practice is very difficult
* * *
A saying goes: "Man says Time passes; Time says man passes." But, "Time" is a mere
concept that we create with our infinite mind. If we can know and identify with the
true mind, we will not be confused by the mind that marks time by change: birth,
youth, old age, and instead abide in the unchanging self that does not.
* * *
understanding of a text any other way better than teaching it. So, it was a present to
myself. The Buddha said: "If you know a sutra, teach it, if you know a chapter teach it,
only they don't understand, but that you don't, as well. On the other hand if an
enthusiastic face is following your words, it is likely that you are sharing knowledge
and giving the "gift of dharma." So, whatever you know share, it is how we learn.
* * *
Thought for the Day, March 10, 2012
One of the primary objectives of meditation is blending the seated meditation
period with the post meditation period, in other words finding meditation in
active life. When the Indian yogi Paramahansa Yogananda was asked, "when do
you meditate," he relied, "when I am too tired to do anything else."
Meditation is like shadow boxing, while post meditation, our active life, is like
being in the ring with a real opponent. Often we envision meditation as a
seated exercise in a shrine room etc, and our active life as what goes on when
we arise from our cushion and walk out the door. Instead, we should think that
arising from the formal meditation session and walking out the shrine room
door is stepping into the ring and facing our opponent. It is here that we will
be tested and have the opportunity to reflect upon the mindfulness and
compassion that our seated meditation should be nourishing. It is therefore
particularly important to pay attention to how our post-meditation session is
going, for it is a guide that will help us improve our seated meditation.
* * *
Truth is shy.
* * *
Happy birthday to my son, Kai, who turned 16 today.
* * *
Buddhism teaches you how to ask questions without looking for answers.
* * *
My teacher, Master Hsuan Hua, has said that meditation practice while not
keeping proper conduct is like pouring water through a strainer; nothing of
value is gained. In fact, meditation without disciplined living can enlarge the
very problems it aims to diminish, our attachments and desires. And, we see
this often in dharma groups. It takes real meditation to take on the only
enhance our ability to concentrate on all the attachments and desires we have,
thereby increasing them, not decreasing them.
Many don't realize that a meditation practice is a lifestyle commitment.
Without that commitment it is like "boiling sand grains and expecting to get cooked
* * *
Thought for the Day, March 14, 2012
The substituting of oneself (I) for others (he, she, theirs etc) is a powerful way
to undermine ones own attachments. When we think "I" need such and such,
"I" am hungry, change the "I" out for another person and imagine how that
other person may have a similar need. Take it further along until you see how
the very things you "need" someone else needs far more. This kind of mental
exercise need not lead to action to bring about positive change. Thoughts
have wings, and your very thinking of others and developing a concern for
them brings them hidden benefits. And it will help you live lighter, as the
burden of want diminishes simply by virtue of your thinking.
* * *
I was in a store today and while shopping I heard a Country-western song
playing in the background and gave it my attention. To my surprise a very
sweet lesson was contained hidden in the lyrics. The song is sung by a father
who says that he heard his small son use the "F" word and he asked his son
where he had learned it. The son replies to his father that he heard from him,
a father whom he loves and admires so much, that he even eats what he eats
and tries to do many of the things he does, so that when he grows up he can
be strong and just the man that he is. The father leaves his son and goes out
into the barn and kneels in prayer crying. A few days pass and the father looks
into his son's room and sees him kneeling in prayer. The father inquires of
him where he learned to pray and the son replies "from you Dad, I often see
message. Such a simple reflection, like the Dad in the song, would naturally
underline the fact that the value of the good that we do is often diminished
by negative actions.
* * *
Thought for the Day, March 16, 2012
"Craving" makes us insensitive to what we really need, physically and
emotionally. While we have to eat, for example, we don't have to eat what we
have a craving for. Emotionally too, we crave for certain ways to be fulfilled,
but we often end up emotionally hungry no matter what we do. The Buddha
taught to "cut off craving" because it blinds us to our real needs, which if it
were not for the fact that we are chasing our cravings, would reveal
themselves to us as clear as day.
* * *
Thought for the Day, March 17, 2012
"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink." Some horses
just have to find their own way. If you reach out to someone and they are not
responsive, let it go and don't exhaust any more energy on it. You may not
have "conditions" with that person, so save your energy for those you do
* * *
Thought for the Day, March 18, 2012
A long time dharma brother sent me an article How western Buddhism has
changed in 50 years; any thoughts on this? Do you agree or disagree. Let me
know your thoughts.
* * *
Whenever you feel life is going good and you are on Top of the World, give
some of that away; it beats falling.
* * *
Buddhism uses the term "root guru" to refer to one's main guru. It does not
exlclude us having other teachers in our lives. Nothing should ever lead us to
think that we are "cheating" on our guru if we receive teachings elsewhere.
Sometimes it takes hearing or simply being around another teacher to better
understand what ones own root guru has been trying to teach us. We should
never fear forgetting our guru any more than a son or daughter should fear
forgetting their mother as they wander in the world. Our guru will always be
in our heart if we are mindful of his teachings, no matter how many other
teachers we meet or study with. That is why he is our root teacher. Other
teachers can only help us better understand what we have already received. If
we don't understand this properly, it can lead us shutting the door to many
potentially positive influences.
If we don't have a "root guru" we should study sutra texts and gain an
understanding of the qualities a guru should have. Then when we study with
various teachers we should examine their conduct and teachings closely and
reject teachers who do not exemplify the qualities of a teacher. A big
following is no indication of a good teacher; it is their conduct and teaching
that is important to look at.
* * *
In the "spiritual" section of bookstores in the last few decades there have the
psychology section for there is not a whole lot in them that is "spiritual."
Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. are really "other-help" books, whose
teaching is concerned with the development of compassion and putting
others first. These books do not concern themselves with solving our
problems, but rather dissolving our problems in the problems of others.
The development of the altruistic concern for the welfare of all living beings
is the core motivating factor of Buddhist thought and practice. This is called
bodhicitta, the seed of enlightenment. This seed is not a seed that we plant, it is
already within us. We only need to water it, and it will begin to grow. A
businessman who is a follower of my teacher, Master Hsuan Hua, once asked
him how, as a Buddhist, he can make money in the world. My teacher replied,
"Put people first and the money will follow." The same is true of all our
problems, if we try to put others first our own problems will become smaller
* * *
nevertheless have a debt of gratitude to our teachers for every small step
forward on the path. Even great and learned masters who are teachers
themselves offer prayers and thanks to their own teachers. It would be absurd
for it to be otherwise, for one to say, "I already had it all within me anyway,
what did the teacher give me that I did not already have?" On the other side
become angry because of a wrong done to me, should I think that I had the
anger anyway, and therefore should not blame the person who "made" me
angry; or should I blame the other person for my anger? While I think it is
certainly not helpful to blame the other person, I don't think that accepting
the anger as something one had anyway is a solution either. My solution
thankful for them bringing to the surface what lay hidden somewhere.
Thinking in this way it seems to me would be most in accord with the
Buddha's teaching and there are many stories in the Jataka Tales (stories from
the many lives of the Buddha) where the Buddha thanks those who harm him
for testing his patience, etc.
Now, from another perspective, if we make someone angry, we should not
think that it is OK to say to them "Oh, what are you blaming me for, it was
already in you; I am really helping you let it out." This is being clever with the
dharma, something my teacher, Master Hsuan Hua, often cautioned against.
We should never use the dharma in a clever way.
Disturbing emotions need not be brought to the surface to be worked out. If
we know someone who has an anger problem or some other issue, we can
benefit them by many other means than triggering negative emotions. The
only people who can actually benefit someone by triggering the negativity
would be an enlightened Master, and unless we are in that league, there are
many other ways we can help others work through and reduce negative
* * *
My teacher, Master Hsuan Hua, points out that sliding down a pole is easy,
but getting up is difficult. Whatever progress we make in meditation should
be protected well. The Vissudhimagga says: "Count the cost, and what is
gained will not be lost." Periodic reflection on the discipline and work one
has put into ones practice is important.
* * *
purpose of helping others achieve enlightenment. And, we have to begin
concern for the people in our lives. It is not enough to do good deeds. If I
feed myself I alone am satisfied; if I feed ten people, ten people are satisfied.
But, if the concern I have for feeding them is not the same concern I have for
feeding myself, I will not be any more satisfied than if I fed myself alone. So a
genuine concern must accompany all our meritorious deeds. As long as I am
concerned with my own life, whether I am on top of the world or beneath the
wheel, is the same because I am not seeing the big picture in either case. It is
as if I am looking at a beautiful painting and only noticing the artist’s
signature. It doesn’t much matter if his handwriting is good or bad; I am not
seeing the painting!
* * *
Yesterday I was reading How to See Yourself as You Really Are, by HH Dali
ordered several online, the last of which arrived yesterday. I decided to have
a look, and sat with it on my front porch before going inside. It is a book for
everyone, beginner to advanced, and is fresh every time I pick it up. It was a
home. I was thinking about why some things appear beautiful and some
things appear ugly.
in inherent existence; or simply put, that there is an owner of the qualities. the
object. We simply imagine an owner. A simple example is a chair. We assume
that above and beyond the parts of a chair, there is a chair that is the owner of
these parts. Our everyday language demonstrates this belief very well, and
reinforces it. That is why we think of a chair as real. If, for example, I were
asked to describe a chair, I might say that a chair has four legs, a back, a seat,
a cushion, etc, as if the chair possessed these parts. But, if we examine a chair,
The Dali Lama points out that all our perceptions are interlaced with a belief
we won't find a chair separate from its parts; and therefore there cannot be
an owner of the parts. It is a mere assumption that permeates our thinking, that
an owner is there, and it is because of this misapprehension that attachment
and aversion arise. That things exist as individual, discreet, entireties is a
mental fabrication coming from our side.
The only way to undermine our attachment to form (and aversion to it) is to
understand that whatever qualities we think an object possesses is coming
from our side not the objects,' because the object (as owner of the qualities)
does not exist. We simply imagine an object of our perception has (owns)
certain qualities. Left unexamined it seems that way; but this belief will
gradually fall apart if we investigate our own thinking and begin to
appreciate how we impute a reality upon ourselves and our world that simply
falls apart under examination. The result of this exercise is to diminish our
susceptibility to exaggerating qualities in people and things that generate
strong attachment towards them and strong emotions. HH Dali Lama
remarked in his book that when he discussed this with a psychiatrist he said
that ninety-percent of the ugliness generated by anger comes from our own
The Dali Lama points out that this should not be interpreted to mean that
we don't exist at all or that things of our world don't exist. He points out
that he is the Dali Lama, a Tibetan monk, etc. But, he does exist this way only
dependent on thought. Beyond the various ways we conceive him or the
objects of this world, they do not exist. Someone may think of the Dali Lama
as a monk, or a Tibetan, or a man dressed in a funny outfit. There is nothing
coming inherently from what appears to be the Dali Lama that will tell you he
is such and such.
If we practice the contemplations that lead to the realization that we impute
most of the stuff on our world and see it through the spectacles of our own
thinking, we will start to accept a greater responsibility for the part we play
in perceiving the world as we do and making it what it is.
* * *
Today I will continue a bit from some of the passages I referenced yesterday
from HH Dali Lama's book How to See Yourself as You Really Are. The Dali
Lama points out that the conception of "I" is analgous to a coiled rope seen
that have any snake in it. The snake is merely imputed upon the rope from In
similar manner we consider the mind/body to be the "I," but if we examine
the mind/body and look for it we will not find any "I" there, any more than
if we were to turn on the lights and have a better look at the "snake" we saw
when the lights were dim. In better light it will become clear that our mind
impute an "I" existing in some relation to the mind/body; but no matter
how we look for it we will not find it. The mistaken belief that there is an "I"
like a man who mistakes a rope for a snake might go about hysterically until
he knows better.
The Dali Lama cautions that we should not conclude that there is no
body/mind, for we clearly know we have a body and mind. But, this
body/and mind does not exist as it appears to exist, as a substantially existing
self (snake.) He also points out how the process of realizing a more and
more subtle sense of "I" until it eventually disappears is a long process,
extending over many years.
* * *
Analytical meditation, HH Dali Lama points out, should never be recited by
nature of selfhood, where does the sense of "I" reside, and picturing it in
various relationships with the mind/body and seeing if any "I" can be found.
A feeling of genuine interest should arise as if you were contemplating some
analyzing one's perception of how the sense"I" arises at any given present
moments, and going from there, but staying on topic and with a disciplined
examples. It may seem tedious in the beginning of each session, but as one
moves along a real interest in the inquiry should arise. This kind of inquiry
is suitable while walking or driving, or seated in formal meditation, anytime
one has a few minutes to oneself. Gradually, in this manner we will see that
"although the "I" exists, it does not exist in the manner it appears to exist,"
as a stable, inherently existing self.
* * *
Thought for the Day, March 27, 2012
Our children can be introduced to meditation at an early age. It should be
made simple and fun for them; but they should be included in what we do.
Generally, short periods of time is best. The Jataka Tales (stories from the
Buddha's life) can be read, a little yoga, and simple mantra recitation. These
seeds planted early will benefit them later in life, even if they drift away
during teen years. Below my daughter, Mudra, is pictured during one of our
meditation sessions in Nepal.
* * *
In his talks recently on Shamatha/Vipasana (quiescent meditation and insight
compassion being the motivating factor behind meditation. Most of us who
have studied a little Buddhism already know this as the Bodhisattva Ideal, as it
is emphasized in all schools of Buddhism, especially Mahayana. The idea of
thinking of the welfare of others is going to support this aim. But,
something I have not thought of before and it became the topic of last
evenings dharma discussion at my home.
Loving Kindness is one of the Four Limitless Minds, the others are
Compassion, Joy (rejoicing in the merit and virtue of others) and
Equanimity (in some lists "Giving" is forth.) Khentrul Rinpoche pointed
out that the root of all our suffering is self-clinging and therefore it is
meditation with a concern for the welfare of others that will reduce our
suffering. If we meditate with selfish intention it could have the opposite
effect we desire.
Although Khentrul Rinpoche did not say why Loving Kindness was a
necessary basis for generating Compassion, for some in our group, myself
included, thought it would be Compassion that led to Loving Kindness, one
member, Ron, pointed out that perhaps it is by serving others through
Loving Kindness (deeds,) we gain first hand knowledge of their suffering
and this generates Compassion. What do you think?
* * *
Thought for the Day, March 29, 2012
Pliancy of mind and body is one of the factors that correct meditation should
generate. In his discussion on Shamatha/Vipasana meditation, Khenpo
Khentrul Rinpoche emphasized this point. If our meditation is correct we
should be able to engage the mind fully on any topic of meditation we
choose. An obvious by product of this would be that we could also place
our mind fully on a daily task without undue distraction.
* * *
Thought for the Day, March 30, 2012
Master Hsuan Hua, often said: "Truly recognize your own faults and don't
discuss the faults of others, being one with all beings, just this is great
compassion." If we recognize our faults, we will see that others have those
same faults, and the compassion we have for ourselves and the desire to and
the positive results we achieve in ourselves we can extend to others, and No
smarter fool than the one who knows it(that he is a fool.) My teacher the
happiness that others experience we will share in. This multiplies many
times the sense of fulfilment that self improvement makes.
Fault finding in oneself should always be with a positive attitude that faults
can be turned around into a positive force within us. There is not a negative
aspect here. The power of a fault to bring us down, can also lift us up. And
the first step in finding that power is striping the clothing of the fault and
finding the energy that propels it. Borrow that energy to do what you want
* * *
something that most of us will have to work with. If we are genuinely
convened with benefiting the person or people we are involved with, the
fact that it is often the case that the person we are serving is less fortunate
than we are will not generate a feeling of coming from a higher position.
Seva, the Sanskrit word for service to others, is translated as selfless service. If
we are properly engaged in Seva there will be no room for the sense of "self"
to arise and thereby diminish the merit of our work. This requires deep
concentration on the task and less focus on the doer.
* * *