Thought for the Day: May 1, 2011
could ever ask ourselves: "Who am I?" When wind blows across my arm causing a tingling sensation, I
feel it, and yet am I my body? One moment I say I feel a tingling sensation, identifying myself with my
body, and yet another time I might say: my arm has a tingling sensation, identifying myself as the
possessor of the body. When I say, "I am hungry," what do I mean? Is the "I" that is hungry referring to
the body, or is it the conceptualizing mind that has the thought of food that the "I" is referring to. If
the "I" is completely separate from either of these, how does it know hunger; if it is the same as either,
multiplicity of "I 's;" and yet at times the sense of "I" identifies itself with every variety of sense
perception and the thinking mind. If the "I" is one, how can this be? If it is many, why do I perceive it
as unitary? If I am not my body, why do I experience pleasure and pain? If "I" am my body, why do I
think of it as my possession?
The cat has been let out of the bag long ago: there is no basis of imputation for the "I" thought. It is a
fiction, and yet we are so caught up in it that even being told it is so, doesn't help; we must find out for
ourselves. The tools for the task are meditation, of which there are many kinds, including the method
employing logic and reason to exhaust all possibilities. As illustrated by the sample above, it is a
tedious path, but nevertheless considered by many one of the most effective forms of meditation.
Whatever method we choose, the "I" will not go easily; it has too many attachments that we must rid
ourselves of before it dies.
* * *
Thought for the Day: May 2, 2011
The Heart Sutra says: "Form is emptiness, emptiness is form," a statement that would seem to be a
manifest contradiction, but it certainly isn't. So, what does it mean?
The Heart Sutra is expressing the fact that emptiness is not a mere absence of anything, nor is it the
non-existence of things, but rather everything, from all the seemingly solid objects of our material
world, to our thoughts and emotions, the events of our lives, everything, is empty. This doctrine does
not deny our world, but simply tells us that if we were to examine it closely we wouldn't find anything.
This absence of findability is the emptiness of everything. And, yet the world does appear. This is not
denied. So, if the world and everything in it is not denied or negated by emptiness, what is the point of
realizing emptiness? The point is that once the empty side of everything is understood, the conventional
side will never bind you up, you will be free of desire and attachment to anything. This is freedom.
* * *
Thought for the Day: May 3, 2011
The dangers of conceptualizing emptiness rather than inwardly embracing it is that emptiness will
become a point of view used to satisfy our own personal ambitions, ambitions which more than
likely we should be seeking to put an end to.
* * *
Thought for the Day: May 4, 2011
Kalyan is a Sanskrit word often translated as "kindness." But, in Buddhist terminology, where it is
one of the Four Limitless Minds" it has a special connotation. It means the extraordinary kindness of
one who gives no consideration whatever whether the kindness is deserved or not, who sees past any
faults or wrongdoing, who showers kindness as impartially as rain clouds scatter rain, it is the
kindness of the Buddha, the mother of all sentient beings.
dharma, and yet I can still feel blessings showering upon me constantly from the inexhaustible
treasury the Buddha's incredible Kalyan.
* * *
Thought for the Day: May 5, 2011
Today a friend remarked that meditation seems "so out of context" in her life that she finds it very
difficult to practice. She went on to remark that if she were in a monastery it would be much easier,
for then she would feel it "in context." This is a very good observation, and very well put.
Meditation was never meant to be set up as something apart from our ordinary lives. It is just a
period of time devoted to mindfullness, holding the mind to an "artifical" meditation topic. When
we are done with meditation, post meditation begins, and this is a time when our daily lives becomes the
focus of our attention, the meditation topic. Can we go about our affairs without our mind
elsewhere? Probably sometimes yes and sometimes no, just as in our seated meditation.
During the forty-nine years that the Buddha walked the dusty Indian plains he taught common
people like ourselves, for the most part, and a relatively few monastics. His teachings were for every
day life and were "in context" for the farmer, the merchant, the beggar, anyone interested in removing
fundamental ignorance and attaining self-realization. The Buddha never taught withdrawing physically
from the world, although he did teach removing attachment and desire for it.
If one feels meditation is out of context with their lives they simply have to put more effort into
integrating it into their lives. A balance must be found that does not push too hard nor not enough.
We should enjoy our time in meditation, even if it is only for five minutes a day (I started with only
that much.) Gradually, an interest in meditation will emerge and it will feel very natural and in
Don't hesitate, to meditate.
* * *
There are many physical signs that indicate one's progress in meditation. For example, at the stage of
the second meditative stage one's heart may stop, and on the third breath may cease. These are some
of the physical indications, but there are others, as well. These indicators are to help us to
discriminate mere psychic states from genuine meditation. However, the most reliable indication
welfare of others, a sense of deep humanity rising within. This and a feeling of attachments and
desires dissolving are the natural expressions of selflessness arising from meditation.
* * *
Thought for the Day: May 7, 2011
If our mind is envisioned to be as a mirror, then the world that appears in it would be forever
changing, free, and unobstructed. Just as images do not get "stuck" in a mirror, because the nature
of the mirror is to reflect what is before it, with nothing held on to, everything flows without the
mirror clinging or attaching to anything, thus there is always room for the ever changing world to
be reflected without hindrance. Sutras teach us that the true nature of our mind is like this, with
forms, sounds, tastes, feelings, scents, and thoughts, appearing without obstruction or clinging. Our
mind of attachment clings and tries to hold on to things, afraid to let go, always wishing to own a
piece of what already belongs to it, and thereby giving up its inherent freedom. One who truly owns
his world easily releases it, whereas those bound up in attachment and desires, tenaciously cling to
the world afraid to let it go. And then death comes and shows the fallacy of all holding on.
* * *
Thought for the Day: May 8, 2011
Happy Mother's Day to all our Moms.
Today, I have a true Mother's Day tale from the Mother of our three children, Kai, 15, Mudra,23,
and Rachel, 25. All of us have been very good at remembering this day, until last year, when
somehow, we all completely forgot. Kamala, their Mom, was very sad that everyone forgot her went
all alone to a restaurant and treated herself to a meal; but, sadly it did little to lift her spirits. She left
the restaurant to drive home and on her way she spotted a dog peering out of some bushes around
and see if perhaps it was lost. She pulled over and coaxed it into her car. This rescue made around
and see if perhaps it was lost. She pulled over and coaxed it into her car. This rescue made her very
happy; but more happiness was to come. Upon arriving home with the dog and calling the owner
she found that there was a five hundred dollar reward for the dog. She united the dog with its
owner and collected her reward. Making the dog owners so happy and the nice reward brightened
her heart and lifted her spirits. Mother's Day had a happy ending after all. Divine
* * *
The Buddha based his teachings almost entirely on questions from his audience. It is because of this
that the tradition of circumambulating a dharma master three times and then kneeling before him,
right knee on the ground, and requesting him to "Turn the Wheel of Dharma(teach)," was established,
a tradition that continues in many orthodox Buddhist monasteries today. The fact that Buddhism
largely arose out of these teachings tells us that common people have very good questions,
phenomenal world we perceive through the senses.
The true nature of our mind is enlightening. We all have a thirst to know ourselves better, and in
varying degrees of depth continually inquire who we are, what is the nature of the material world,
and what is our place in it. The more we inquire, the more is revealed, and the deeper we go. A
Buddha appears to help us on our journey and a vast body of Buddhist teachings are there for us to
study, as well. Their are also many learned and realized masters who can guide our inquiry.
If we simply rest our mind and look at it we will be drawn to it like a magnet and a natural curiosity
will evolve into a burning thirst. An entire new inner world will evolve out of this curiosity and it
will eventually take center stage as a new sense of purpose arises in our lives. All we have to do is
flow with it and listen.
* * *
Thought for the Day: May 10, 2011
to ask the right questions. The key to spiritual practice is correct inquiry. We already have within
each of us all we need to know; we only need approach our intelligence from the right angle to The
beauty of Buddhism lies in its simplicity. Rather than offer a lot of answers, it teaches us how
whether coming from reliable masters or printed texts. HH Dali Lama and many other masters
point out the importance of studying original Buddhist texts, rather than modern interpretation,
especially, New Age. This is particularly true when we initially set out on our journey. Then we
want to have a authentic basis of understanding that will later help us to discriminate those modern
teachers who keep their teaching within the overall framework of Buddhism, from those who are
just packaging their own ideas and selling it as Buddhism.
The mind is inquisitive by nature, incredibly so. It cannot sit for a moment without its natural
curiosity being aroused. We constantly are thinking to name or define things, we like to package
everything into words, phrases, and concepts that we can relate to. When this natural inquisitiveness
is turned inside it becomes self inquiry. Meditation is therefore reversing the outward flow we are all
familiar with and turning it around to illumine within. In the beginning the process of meditation
may seem boring and not as interesting as the outward flow; but through persistence and effort our
inner world will become like a magnet consuming our thoughts like quicksand and become
Meditation is not so much a technique that builds or creates a state of mind, as it is a means that
shows us how to leave ourselves alone. We are conditioned to think that we must do something to
experience the clear bright nature of the mind, and this idea of doing is one of the principle things
that meditation aims to undo. When the great Taoist Master, Chaung Tse wrote: "I don't know about
doing things, I just know about leaving things alone," he was teaching us all something very important to
be mindful of.
* * *
Thought for the Day: May 11, 2011
Self-Inquiry, asking oneself the question, "Who am I?" and using analytical reason leading to insight
in the pursuit, is considered amongst the most effective and exalted forms of meditation in both
Buddhist and Hindu traditions. And, yet there is no answer because there is no referent for the "I."
When we thoroughly look for what we mean by "I" we don't find anything. But, as long as the
sense of "I" persists, there will be the sense of self, the individual, and we will be unable to am I?"
dissolves and the need for inquiry dissolves.am I?" dissolves and the need for inquiry dissolves.
Now, all the above may be very nice for a yogi living in a cave with plenty of time on his hands, but
what about householders living in the world, is it practical for them? The fact of the matter is
inquiry is a difficult path even for the monk, let alone the householder. Or, it seems so on the
something very special and this stands in stark contrast to inquiry which presents no such illusions.
Reasonings such as "I am not my body, because my body has many parts, and my sense of I is
single; if I were my body there would be many Is' because the body has many parts" (which is an
actual example of how the inquiry goes) just seems so mundane that our interest is not stimulated.
Mantras and many other forms of meditation are sexier than inquiry and therefore more readily
entice us to practice. But, nevertheless, inquiry is recommended as a most effective practice for
removing the illusion of self, and is often recommended in combination with other more familiar
Most practices support inquiry because they develop concentration power, and concentration power
is essential for analytical reasoning. By the same token, inquiry supports all other practices. It will
help us to look into the mind that is engaging in spiritual practice, and to do so is the aim of
spiritual practice. Whatever practice we are doing, inquiry will help give it roots.
* * *
Thought for the Day: May 12, 2011
Attachments are the principle obstructions to meditation. We may be able to let go of many of our
thoughts, but some thoughts keep coming back again and again, no matter how many times they are
dismissed. These thoughts are usually rooted in our attachments.
Attachments are many, but we are only one. How does one person have so many attachments, we
may wonder. Attachments are rooted in desire and when we chase after desire we create away, we
are in for a big surprise. Desire that is forcefully suppressed only rears up stronger and creates
more problems. We should never think that we can just stop chasing them. The correct approach is
to acknowledge them and work with them. Instead of denying desire completely, seek ways of
transforming the energy of desire to outlets that don't create attachments. Seva is a Sanskrit word
that means "service" and one way of working with desire is to turn it towards others' benefit rather
than one's own. While the desire to serve others will still be a desire, it is a more wholesome kind
that gradually removes selfishness and attachments.
Another principle means of reducing attachments is to avoid all hankerings. Hankerings are just
mental fantasies we create about things, places, events, etc by our thinking. They are generally not
necessary, but we want them anyway. Hankerings are often created due to mental laxity and laziness
as we allow ourselves to wander and fantasize about this and that. A lot of unnecessary desires are
created this way.
Meditation is not just for the meditation cushion; if we think it is, we will constantly be fighting
with ourselves. Being focused in meditation is dependent on being focused in life. When we go
about our daily lives we should always keep in mind our meditation practice and look for ways of
conducting our actions and thoughts to lend it support.
* * *
be disturbed by an afflictive emotion or disturbing thought, that lures us into thinking of it, rather
than the topic of our meditation. When this happens, we have forgotten what is supposed to be
center stage and our meditation is undermined.
Life often teaches us in metaphors and I received such a lesson this evening. I had gone with
Radha to hear the American Indian, Carlos Nakai, play his flute at a concert in the Maui Arts and
Cultural Center. The music he played was so beautiful I found it impossible to resist and allowed
my thought to dissolve in the wind as he blew it through his flute. His music became the perfect
mirror of my mind and its anchor, as well. Then suddenly, two young women got up to leave as he
was still playing his music. As they left the hall their high heels noisily resounded on the wooden
floors. For a moment I became distracted, the main show seemed to be their noisy departure,
rather than Carlos on stage.
How often do we sit in meditation, and sometimes even deep meditation absorbed in quiescent
insight, when a disturbing thought or emotion enters our mind and demands center stage.
Sometimes, because of faith in our practice or lack of skill, we lose our meditation topic
completely and find ourselves entangled in unpleasant thoughts, as if they have taken center stage.
The mere thought of this and seeing it play out in my own mind as I momentarily diverted my
attention to their noisy departure, was a lesson that enhanced rather than distracted me from the
pleasure of listening to Carlos' flute.
* * *
Never shun anyone who fate brings your way; but rather try to understand why they are there, and
what you can learn from them.
* * *
enough. The fault of over exertion usually occurs when we allow our ego to guide our practice of
our over enthusiasm is a very good and strong practice that falls apart after a very short while.
yielded the expected results. Soon we quit practice completely disenchanted and discouraged. We
may have been better off if we hadn't started at all.
Under exertion is just the opposite of over exertion and often occurrs because we feel that true
accomplishment is out of our reach, anyway, so one develops a kind of practice that is really more
for social interaction with other students than it is for spiritual development. We do everything
half heartedly and without genuine commitment.
Exertion must be balanced. We should always feel challenged by our practice, but never worn out
by it. If we find the right balance we will attract energy to our practice; it will well up inside and
even difficult practice will be easy. Having the right attitude is very important; for it is our attitude
that will unlock the strength already within.
* * *
Thought for the Day: May 17, 2011
correctness of an action. HH Dali Lama gave an example during his lecture on the Precious the
motivation behind it. He told of a yogi who was supported by a benefactor, who knowing that the
benefactor would be visiting on a certain day prepared his shrine room by cleaning it and adorning
it with flowers and lighting incense and candles and making his place especially an offering to the
Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, but rather to please his benefactor so that he would continue to
support him. Realizing this the yogi picked up handfuls of ash and scattered it on the the yogi
didn't even give him the warm greeting he was accustomed to, but instead went about in a very
ordinary way. Seeing the ill kept shrine the benefactor was not pleased and soon left with a
diminished view of the yogi and no doubt not likely to give him the support he did in the past. HH
Dali Lama points out that when the great master Patowa heard this story he remarked; "That is the
mark of a true cultivator."
* * *
Thought for the Day: May 18, 2011
and from time too time." Moving too fast and too much eagerness in the beginning will surely be
exhausting and cause the abandonment of effort and practice
* * *
you to yourself, your mind's nature. The meditation topic is an expedient device to introduce you
to the nature of your true mind. It serves as a temporary bridge or support until you begin to see
glimpses of the clear bright nature of the mind itself. When this occurrs the attraction of your
However, there are many obstacles to be overcome before the mind will reveal itself and that is
why the cultivation of morality and virtue are so important. It is because of our attachments that
we have obstacles, they are rooted in our attachments. Where there are no attachments, there are
no obstacles. The principle attachments are rooted in lust, greed, and the desire for recognition.
These obstructions require action that reverses the karma that created them. This is why proper
conduct is such an important aspect of the path of meditation.
* * *
Thought for the Day: May 20, 2011
Our greatest blessing is attaining a human birth, the Buddha has said, and if we are born in My
teacher, Master Hsuan Hua, often said: "To enjoy your blessings, is to exhaust your blessings."
favorable circumstances, this is an even greater boon. However, the gift of a human body and born
in a country and time free of war, does not come our way by accident, we have earned it from our
past deeds. This "merit" we have accumulated can be exhausted if we are undisciplined and fail to
guard our blessings and use them to accumulate even more merit through right action and service
* * *
Thought for the Day: May 21, 2011
The meditative lifestyle is not an easy one, but many people who are busy in the world think it is.
They say, "Oh, if I were not so busy working, then I would meditate all the time." But, these same
people find other things to do when they have a holiday or a weekend off.
It is better and more difficult to do nothing, than to be busy with many things. "Nothing" offers
no escape; it is a perfect mirror, and unforgiving. A multitude of chores and activities, is like a
shattered mirror, a mosaic of images that distract the mind. Meditation, even a small amount every
day, puts the mirror together to reflect the mind's nature; which the activities themselves should
do, but generally don't, because we get caught up in them, rather than mindfully engage with them.
* * *
HH Dali Lama points out in his commentary on the Precious Garland Sutra that the idea of no self
and emptiness often generate fear, when in fact they should cause a sense of joy. Often we feel
possessions, but these attachments themselves are the root cause of our struggle in Samsara, and
the reason why we are stuck and unable to let go of the limiting notion of "I." If we can
understand emptiness and no self then our attachments fall away and with them our limitation.
Where there is the view of self there is limitation, where there is none, there is no limitation. The
illusory notion of a basis for the "I am" thought is created by our thinking, thinking which if
analyzed dissolves the very notion it created and in doing so sets us free.
* * *
actually the monk's view that is positive, while the common person's is negative. The monk's view
Many say that the monk's life of deprivation reflects a negative viewpoint on life. However, it is is
that all sources of happiness are already within him, and awaiting his discovery. While the
common person continually seeks outside for happiness, in relationships, events, and material
objects. Therefore, it is the common person's viewpoint that is negative, not the monk's.
* * *
Common wisdom is often deeply spiritual in nature. Today I was thinking about "positive
thinking" and "being positive," advice we have all heard so often that the words often don't sink
in. But, being positive is really something that should be contemplated and strengthened through
negative; but the energy that fuels them both is the same. Where we go with our thoughts depends
entirely on what we give our energy to. Meditation can help us develop awareness of thoughts
when they are extremely subtle, almost before they arise at all. Using our discriminative wisdom
we can choose whether or not we want to give our energy to the kind of thinking arising, or
whether to starve it of our energy.
* * *
What is proper mindfulness? Proper mindfulness is expressed by such sayings as: When sweeping
fragmented, and distracted. If we guard against these dangers the mind will become absorbed in
what one is doing.
Everything we do has many layers of understanding wrapped up within it. The mind's nature can
be revealed by anything we do mindfully because the world when properly viewed is a mirror of
the mind. When our mind is fragmented thinking of many things the world appears like a
shattered mirror and cannot reflect the true nature of the mind. But, if we put all the pieces of the
mirror together and make it whole, the world appears as a perfect mirror reflecting our true
nature. There is no more or less glass, it is just put together or shattered. Our individual thoughts
are like pieces of the fragmented mirror. When our head is filled with many thoughts vieing for
our attention, they are very weak because they are not united. But, when we pull all these thoughts
together in one pointed focus, mindfulness, they are very powerful. For more on mindfulness
* * *
If there is no view of self, then there are no disturbing emotions or afflictions; but the reverse is
not true. If we get rid of disturbing emotions, the view of self will still persist. The root of all
afflictions by analyzing their source, etc; Buddhism ignores this approach and instead asks "Who"
If you throw a rock at a dog, it will attack the rock; if you throw a rock at a lion, it will attack you.
not gotten rid of (the false notion of self)as soon as one disturbance is "solved" another begins to
form. This is very good for the psychiatrist who make good money keeping their patients for
many years, but not good for the patient who continues to suffer.
* * *
Thought for the Day: May 28, 2011
Within Buddhism there are three levels of meat eating, all not good, but some better than others.
In terms of negative karma created, the least offensive is eating an animal that died by accident. I
lived in a Buddhist monastery in Nepal where the only meat they would eat was of an animal that
fell off a cliff or was killed by a bear, etc. This is an example of the least offensive. Next is eating
meat from a bazaar that you didn't explicitly order killed, and the heaviest karmically is eating the
meat of animals you killed. FYI from a Buddhist perspective.
* * *
Thought for the Day: May 29, 2011
Aside from not killing animals, being a vegetarian has many advantages. In both Hindu and
Buddhist schools of thought meat is a cause of increased anger and also torpor and desire. There
are also vegetables and herbal plants that have the same effect and these are also to be avoided by
those who practice Buddhism and Hinduism. Ayurvedic medicine, similar to Chinese medicine,
and the oldest medicinal science, long predating the Buddha, outlines clearly the characteristics of
various foods to help us maintain a balanced mind conducive to good health and the meditative
lifestyle. Click here to see more on Ayurvedic foods.
* * *
The Taoist Master Chuang Tse said: "I don't know about doing things, I just know about leaving
things alone."It is far easier to be busy than do nothing; but the sage Chuang Tse spent a lifetime
learning how. It has nothing to do with sloth or laziness; for this kind of "doing nothing" leaves
* * *
Hongren was aging and when he knew his time to die was immanent he gathered all his monks
together and asked them to submit a poem reflecting their understanding, the winner would
carry his lineage after his passing. The apparent winner was Shenxiu, whose boldly wrote his 身
是菩提樹， The body is a Bodhi tree,
心如明鏡臺。 The mind a standing mirror bright.
時時勤拂拭， At all times polish it diligently,
勿使惹塵埃。 And let no dust alight.
But, one evening a wood cutter, Hui Neng, and rice grinder who was viewed as a lowly slave by
the other monks, even though he served them tirelessly for many, many, years, saw the poem on
the wall and wrote one of his own. It said:
菩提本無樹， Bodhi is fundamentally without any tree;
明鏡亦非臺。 The bright mirror is also not a stand.
本來無一物， Fundamentally there is not a single thing —
何處惹塵埃。 Where could any dust alight?
It was the lowly wood cuter who inherited Hongren's throne.
While it is true that there is dust, and we all have many conflicting thoughts, it is the spotless
space-like nature of our true mind that we should always remember.