|Thought for the day: April 24, 2007 (Riddle)
Today I am going to present a very intriguing riddle that I hope you find as mentally
stimulating as I did. The riddle is one I learned from reading Ludwig Wittgenstein, the
renowned German philosopher. The riddle was one of his favorites and one he used
frequently to demonstrate to his students that although we may correctly picture
something in our mind, we may still arrive at the wrong conclusion.. It is not a trick
question and unless you answer honestly you will likely miss the point. Of course,
calculating it would also miss the point. This is a mental exercise. It is simple and goes
Picture yourself standing upon a perfect sphere the size of the earth. A cord is wrapped
around the equator (where you happen to be standing, as well,) and stretched tightly so
that it fits snugly around the earth-size sphere. Now imagine that one yard is added to
the cord's length that is circumferencing the earth-size sphere and evenly distributed, so
that the cord is equal distance from the sphere's surface throughout the circumfrence of
the sphere. The question is: Looking down at the cord would you be able to see a
perceptable gap between the surface and the cord?
Almost all of Wittgenstein's student's said there would be no
perceptible gap (because the yard added to approximately
twenty-five thousand miles of cord is insignificant.) But, this is
not correct. The gap would actually be approximately six
inches around the ENTIRE sphere. The temptation for many
would be to blindly say yes (sensing a trick question.) But,
Wittgenstein's students knew their teacher would demand an
explanation, and that if they were unable to give it they would
not escape his wrath.
|Thought for the day: April 25, 2007
Today I went to the first day of HH Holiness the Dali Lama's teaching here on Maui.
The the talk today was on "A Human Approach to World Peace. This was a beautiful
talk which he began by discussing the fact that we all learn compassion from the time
of our birth from our mothers and that it is a natural tendency of our human nature.
Therefore, compassion belongs to everyone, regardless of his religious belief. (It is a
common theme that HH Dali Lama discusses, hat one can practice the principles of
Buddhism regardless of one's religious affiliation.) After the lecture the time was
opened to questions. One questioner asked if he felt despair because of losing his
country, and it is his reply that will be the subject of today's "thought."
of Tibet of communist China domination and live in freedom. He acknowledged that
he said, was that in his heart he knows he has put forth his best effort, and even if he
he has not been successful thus far; but this did not lead him to despair. The reason,
he said, was that in his heart he knows he has put forth his best effort, and even if he
who will make his effort their own, even as they do now.
does not see results in this lifetime, he knows his effort will be carried on by others
who will make his effort their own, even as they do now.
This is a very positive way to look at things. It makes me to think how often despair is
felt simply because one has not tried hard enough, or has given up and ceased to
put forth effort to bring about the changes in one's life that lead to happiness. Indeed,
if in our heart we know that we have tried our best, then where is there room for
|Thought for the day: April 26, 2007
Today I went to the second and final teaching of His Holiness the Dali Lama here on
Maui. His Holiness commented on Langri's Thankpa's, "Eight Verses of Mind
One of the interesting thoughts that the Dali Lama elaborated upon was the fact that
anger needs a definite object to take hold upon or be directed upon, whereas
compassion does not. It is usually the case that anger is directed at someone and
needs a support. It is very difficult to (even conceptually) extend anger to everyone.
Compassion is very different, however. We can extend compassion from one
individual and expand it out to include all our friends and even our enemies. This is
because compassion is a natural quality of our mind. The cultivation of compassion
generally begins by directing ones compassion towards a favorable object, for
example, our own child, mother, friends, etc. Once this is established, and we feel
warmth of compassion arising within, we should try to extend it out to acquaintances,
and later to all beings. After some months and years cultivating the generation of
compassion through this kind of meditation, we will gradually realize that compassion
is actually a quality of mind that when unobstructed will arise without any effort on our
|Thought for the day: April 27, 2007
that sometimes people make the mistakenly discarding what may be useful from
other cultures in an effort to maintain their own. He gave the example of an other
cultures in an effort to maintain their own. He gave the example of an indigenous
people he had met who discarded higher education thinking it would interfere with
their culture. His Holiness met with the elders of this group and pointed out to them
that they could actually make their culture stronger if they incorporated education,
modern medicine, and other positive aspects of modern civilization. Cultural identity
is not in anyway contingent upon shutting out other cultural ideas. This is a big
mistake, he said, and entirely unnecessary.
This is a big mistake, he said, and entirely unnecessary.
I found this comment by the Dali Lama very true, not just in terms of culture, but in
my own Buddhist practice , as well. Although I consider myself a Buddhist, I
frequently study Hindu texts, and occasionally Sikh, Jain, Christian, and others. I
have read the Koran several times. Despite the packaging, we are all seeking to
know ourselves, who we are. That is the common goal of everyone. If that is
understood, true happiness is realized. Happiness is not the exclusive property of
any religion. It is realized by a sincere application of effort. It is foolish to think that
people of faiths other than our own have not realized true happiness; that our
particular Path is the only one. It is far wiser to look for similarities in the various
religious teachings rather than differences. If one does this, one can pick up bits and
pieces from other faiths that will enhance the understanding of our own.
I once heard the Dali Lama advise a Christian who was confronted with the idea of
changing his religion and becoming a Buddhist. The Dali Lama advised him to
remain a Christian, but to study Buddhism and incorporate its ideas to become a
|Thought for the day: April 28, 2007
During his talks here on Mau the Dali Lama spoke of the way we falsely perceive
ordinary objects as though they were real entities over and above the parts that
comprise them. When we see a "chair," for example, we believe that the chair is
something over and above its parts. In other words, there is something like
"chairness" that is not dependent on the parts of a chair. This "chairness" is like a
hanger on which we put the legs, back, seat, etc. But, this is not the case. There is
no chair that possesses its parts.
When we say the chair has legs, back arms, a red color, etc., we are saying that a
chair possesses these parts and qualities; but apart from these parts, etc., what
chair is there? Since there is none, how could it possess these parts and qualities?
We make similar assumptions about all the things in our world, but these
assumptions have no basis in fact.
|Thought for the day: April 29, 2007
My Teacher, Master Hsuan Hua, always urged us not to be "turned by conditions."
He urged us to maintain a thread of meditative awareness throughout the day. If we
are "turned upside down by conditions," the thread is broken, and we are subject to
negative emotions like anger, for example.
It is easy to sit quietly and enjoy the peace of meditation when all the conditions are
suitable for it. It is far more difficult to be at peace when conditions become
unpredictable and beyond our control --- as often happens in our daily lives.
|Thought for the day: April 30, 2007
Now, it may be argued that there are times, perhaps while distracted by other things, that
I may not know it is my daughter on the line. I may say, "who is this? and then, "Oh, it's
you Rachel, I am sorry, I was distracted by other things." In this instance thoughts
clouded my mind momentarily and I did not recognize my daughters voice.
I recognize it now because those thoughts are no longer occupying my attention, and
her voice is able to be identified with previous recollections. So, am I that which identifies
with thought, in the previous moment the thoughts that prevented my recognition of my
daughters voice, and in a later moment the self that is now cognizing her voice?
Can I have a thought without an object? Can I have awareness without thought. Am I that
which remains when thought is removed from awareness. Am I awareness without an
object? Or, do objects spontaneously arise out of awareness, and dissolve into it again.
Is the self that which exists when pure awareness is lost? Is what we call self, awareness
tangled up in particulars? Is no-self the mind set free of particulars?
Wherever the sense of self arises the sense of others arises also, and we feel separate
from the people we share this great planet with. When the sense of self dissolves, there
are no others either, and a sense of oneness with all living beings emerges. So, is the
self we commonly experience a "relative" self, existing only in the world of relative
experience. And is the "no-self" the non relative self that emerges when the mind is no
longer conditioned by relative experience?
Wait, its my phone; I think my daughter is calling!
|Thought for the day: May 1, 2007
His Holiness the Dali Lama spoke briefly on Maui about the foolishness of the "let
whatever happen, happen" attitude. He joked and said these people change their tune
very quickly when served food they don't like. I will make this my topic today.
A boat on the sea can arrive at its destination only if it uses a rudder. Without it, it drifts
aimlessly. Adopting the attitude that whatever will happen will happen is like drifting
aimlessly upon the ocean. As human beings we have the faculty of reason and the
ability to make informed choices as we navigate through life. Reason is our rudder. In
our modern society we are blessed with many knowledgeable teachers from all faiths.
These teachers are the torch bearers of their predecessors. It is our good fortune that
we have the opportunity to benefit from a long lineage of Teachers. By listening to what
they have to say we can make choices in our life that will help us avoid many obstacles
that might otherwise cause pain and suffering for ourselves and others. If we adopt the
attitude of "whatever!" we are subjecting ourselves to the whims of circumstance. Like
a ship adrift we move aimlessly leading a life without meaning.
The "whatever!" attitude is just laziness. Not to mention attaining spiritual goals, but
even worthwhile worldly goals will be forever out of reach. All the great discoveries in
medicine and science, mathematics and astronomy, the human sciences, even sports,
all human achievement is the result of intention. In relationships among people, too,
husband and wife, friends, family, a considerate intention is required to make lasting
harmonious relationships. Relationships among people fall apart with the "whatever"
attitude. This just reflects an unwillingness to put effort into the relationship. No
effort=no love=no relationship.
My Teacher was once at a dinner table with a Tibetan monk who noticing my Teacher
was a vegetarian boasted, "I eat whatever is put before me." My Teacher responded by
asking him what he would do if shit were placed before him. The monk had no reply.
Most people who adopt the "whatever" attitude are extremely weak individuals. When
things go their way, they are happy; but when things don't go as they please
"whatever" is no longer their way. That is the difference between them and great Taoist
masters for whom "whatever" means I accept whatever comes my way, good and bad,
with complete indifference. The "whatever" of the Taoists is not what the Dali Lama was
|Thought for the day: May 2, 2007
The "Two Truths," as they are known in Buddhism, refer to "relative" and "absolute"
truth, also called "conventional" and "Ultimate" truth. Books have been written about
the "Two Truths," but today I will elaborate a little upon an explanation of "relative or
"conventional truth that I came across while reading Thupten Jinpa's book, "Self,
Reality and Reason in Tibetan Philosophy."
Relative Truth is likened to a book where things and events are given contextual
meaning according to the book. For example, if I say to you, Anna Karenina, the
words will have a different meaning for you if you had read Tolstoy's novel by the
same name than one who hasn't. It may just be mere sounds to one who has not
read the novel, while various emotions and thoughts will be conjured up in someone
familiar with the novel.
We live in a world of relationships. If it were not for relationships the world could not
appear at all. There are many ways of looking at this. The people we care about are
given meaning to us by the part they play in our lives and the lives of others, just like
Anna Karenina is given a personality by Tolstoy's skill in creating imaginary events
and character interactions. People play a part in our lives much the same way that
characters play a part in a novel. Characters are developed "relative" to other
characters. By themselves, stripped of this "relative" or "conventional" relationship
they have no meaning. In other words, the characters are not "ultimately" real, they
cannot stand alone, they are dependent on context.
The same is true with the objects and characteristics of the phenomenal world which
we all share. The color blue, for example, is defined by everything that is not blue. It
is impossible to imagine a world in which everything is blue. The reason is "blue" is
blue only because of everything that is not blue. Not only is it logically impossible
that blue could appear by itself, but it is also impossible to imagine any objects
appearing at all in such a world. The same is true with all characteristics, or aspects
of things. The various qualities of things, hard, white, shiny, heavy, etc have their
meaning relative to one another, much like characters in a novel which are given
meaning by the novel.
The above illustrates that appearances are not real in the "ultimate" sense; but only
in the "relative," or "conventional" sense.
|Thought for the day: May 3, 2007
Yesterday I talked about "relative" and "absolute" truth. Let's build on that a bit
more by discussing the relationship between the part and the whole. A house is
composed of many parts. There are windows, doors, rafters, roof tiles, walls,
sockets, plumbing, and many other parts that make up what we call a house. Does
a house exist apart from the parts that create it? Certainly if all the parts are
removed most of us would agree that there is no house. But, what about if only one
small part is removed from the house? Most of us would still call it a house, (say for
example that one roof tile is removed from the house's roof, surely it would still be a
house.) But, let us pretend that one tile is removed everyday from the roof of this
house (that we happen to be able to observe on a daily basis because it is on our
route to work?) We observe the house slowly becoming a house without a roof.
Some may still call it a house, maybe not so perfect a house, but still a house. Now
that the roof is gone, we notice workers dismantling the windows, one a day, until
the house no longer has any windows. Overtime, the doors are also removed, then
the floors, and soon the walls alone remain of our house, if we can still call it that.
If someone were to look at the debris on the ground, say a roof tile, he would
immediately know it as a roof tile because of its association with the house. Apart
from this association it is not a roof tile. The roof tile defines itself in the context of
the house. It is not a roof tile without the house. Its being a roof tile is dependent on
the house. Why is it more difficult to see that a house is defined in similar manner
by the roof tile? If the entire house is removed accept for one roof tile it is easy to
see that the roof tile is no longer a roof tile. But, why is it so much more difficult to
see that the removal of a single roof tile from house nullifies the house's very
Could the reason be that we have a preconceived, very deeply ingrained, belief
that a house exists over and above its parts; that a house is more than the sum
total of its parts? Could we mistakingly believe that there is a houseness that is not
dependent upon its parts? And that the parts are something that merely add to this
houseness, but do not define it? In similar manner could we be mistaken about
everything else that we see?
|Thought for the day: May 5, 2007
Teachers often discuss the importance of "building a practice." Today we will
discuss an aspect of what this means.
Our lives have many dimensions, all appearing very different on the outside, But,
the common root of all diverse activities is a desire for happiness. Good people
and not so good people all seek happiness.
There is not a single outwardly visible sign of happiness. Wealth, for example, is
often viewed as a symbol of happiness; but psychiatrists will tell you that the
wealthy are their main source of income. The wealthy often view the poor as
miserable, but having lived long periods amongst the poor, I can tell you that
poverty does not necessarily indicate unhappiness.
Playing the game of life requires more than just the apparent marks of success.
Nothing is more frustrating than getting everything asked for and still not being
happy. One who gets too caught up in the game, is no longer playing the game,
but the game is playing him. The aim of Buddhism is to get the right perspective of
things, not by abandoning our life and running off to a cave; but establishing
wholesome and meaningful relationships through family and work.
Most of us are interested in the lives we lead. The problem is that most don't know
anything else. Meditation and meditative analyses balances out our ordinary lives
by creating a sense of identity that is not dependent on ordinary appearances and
experiences. In other words, an inner world will gradually emerge from the
practice of meditation that is every bit as important to us as our family, social, and
business life. The individual who is balanced in this way lives a much deeper and
|Thought for the day: May 6, 2007
Karma exists to be worked out. So called bad karma is simply the result of
negative actions. Selfish actions create a stronger sense of a base and dark self.
This kind of action creates karma that binds. Altruistic action has the opposite
effect and liberates. All the great saints of the world from various religions have
taught "losing oneself in others."
|Thought for the day: May 7, 2007
A great Chan Master once said; "Beware of too much intelligence." My teacher
cautioned against being too "clever." These cautions are aimed at the scholars
who tend to confuse erudition with enlightenment. The intellectual understanding
of Buddhism, for example, may enable one to write books on the subject and
perhaps teach it to others. But, one may still be unable to skillfully untie the
binding knots of ones' own karma. We see a similar situation amongst
psychiatrists. This group of people has one of the highest suicide rates amongst
any profession, and yet others turn to them to solve their deepest problems.
Knowledge of Buddhist texts and philosophy does not necessarily mean that one
can benefit oneself spiritually with that knowledge.
Learned Buddhists are often cautioned because the temptation to get
comfortable in theoretical study and scholarly enterprise is very attractive;
especially when fame, respect, and wealth become part of the reward. It is a sand
trap that many fall into.
Without deep meditation and the guidance of a guru it is almost impossible to use
scriptural knowledge alone to attain enlightenment. The study of Buddhism is
little better than any other study unless it is used with uncompromising zeal to free
oneself of ones own attachments, desires, and selfishness.
|Thought for the day: May 8, 2007
Hatred only hurts the hater. There is a Chinese saying: "a thousand years of wood
gathering can go up in a single blaze." Creating good karma requires a lot of
effort. The merit that is gained thereby should be guarded`carefully with proper
mindfulness. Remain on guard for circumstances that may spark a burst of anger
and avoid it.
|Thought for the day: May 9, 2007
My teacher often said that one only need a sincere heart to practice Buddhism and
attain realization. Great masters often will not speak to a student for many months,
sometimes years, to test their sincerity before giving them the teaching. One of the
most famous examples is that of the great yogi Milarepa, who built and rebuilt a
mute-storied tower for several years before Marpa, his teacher, gave him
It is a fact that in almost every worldly endeavor there is an initiation period; so
sincerity is by no means important only in spiritual matters. An employer will devise
many ways to test the sincerity of a potential employee, and offer the job only when
he is satisfied that the applicant will apply himself well. In spiritual matters the test of
sincerity is even more crucial because if a would be student receives instructions too
early and fails, he may lose confidence and not try again, a much heavier
consequence than merely losing a job.
Sincerity is intimately connected with motivation. One must be sincere for the right
reasons. Does one wish to attain enlightenment to become a big shot, or to benefit
and serve all sentient beings? This is an important question each seeker must ask
himself. Upon examinations, we may find that our intentions are not as pure as they
Sincerity is demonstrated most visibly by the sacrifice that monks and nuns make to
devote themselves to the Path. Monks and nuns renounce all worldly ambitions,
family life, wealth, and social life, to devote themselves to the Path. If we intend to
practice as lay people, our success will be closely linked to personal sacrifice. While
on the surface it may look as if we are carrying on the ordinary activities of a
householder and worldly person, within this world there will be many times each day
where opportunity to practice hidden virtue and walk a higher ground will unfold
before us, and depending on the choices we make will our practice be deep or
shallow. Our ability to devote all spare time to practice can be cultivated; while
difficult at first, it will becomes more and more enjoyable.
|Thought for the day: May 10, 2007
Right thought energizes the mind, while false thinking tires it out. Learn to stay on
topic within your everyday thought patterns, and your everyday thoughts will support
|Thought for the day: May 11, 2007
If you practice generosity, you will always have the resources for that practice. If you
are stingy, you will not enjoy the resources that you have.
|Thought for the day: May 12, 2007
The "highest teaching'" may not be the right teaching for me. I practice what I can
understand, and know that my limitations are assailable, and not fixed. I know that a
small amount of improvement now and then is better than failed grand plans. As a
novice i sought full enlightenment, now I delight in minute progress.
|Thought for the day: May 13, 2007
Throughout endless cycles of birth and death all women were our mother and
should be looked upon with respect, love, and appreciation.
|Thought for the day: May 14, 2007
"Remove the impurities off the self like a silversmith removes the impurities off of
silver; little by little, bit by bit, and from time to time."
The above saying from the Buddha in the Dharmapada, cautions us to work at our
spiritual practice at a steady and even pace. It is very easy to burn out by being too
enthusiastic (especially in the beginning,) or being lazy or complacent and not
working hard enough. A middle ground should be found that requires effort, but
never force. Just as it is foolish to pull grass hoping to make it grow faster (which will
only kill it,) so also will one's purpose be defeated if effort is not sustainable and
according to ones own capacity
|Thought for the day: May 15, 2007
Balance study and meditation. Understanding Buddhist philosophy and one's own
psychology is an indispensable aid to meditation. Today there are more excellent
translations into Western languages of Buddhist works than ever before. Take
advantage of every opportunity to study these works. Study when combined with
meditation assures one that the right "view" is reached. It is very easy to develop
distorted and wrong views when practicing meditation alone.
|Thought for the day: May 16, 2007
You can't outsmart the Buddha. Beware of too much cleverness. Foundational
practices, such as the cultivation of morality and virtue, are lifelong commitments. Skill in
debate, or knowing many facts about Buddhism, may impress others, but not the
Buddha inside. Be true to yourself. Frequently introspect to make sure no lapse in
personal integrity has creeps in to undermine your efforts.
|Thought for the day: May 17, 2007
Many years ago while still a monk I did several gruelling fasts. Two of these were 36
days, about a year apart, the first seven days without water and only 12 oz. of water
per day afterwards. I did these fasts for world peace. Today my daughter, Rachel,
asked me what the fasts have to do with world peace.
Buddhist practice doesn't always appear logical, but it is. Thoughts and feelings have
wings. Every sacrifice we make affects others. Some offerings are visible and some
are not; but both are effective. Buddhism is very rational, but sometimes you must
discard rationality and go where your heart takes you. Connections are not always
apparent at the time of an impulse, but will become apparent afterwards.
If the motivation behind an action is an altruistic one, the benefits will be boundless.
On the other hand, if the motivation is selfish, the benefits are diminished, even if the
action appears altruistic on the surface. After I fasted for world peace there were
others who wanted to also, but my Teacher would not allow them. The reason was
that there motivation was not pure. Several times my Teacher returned large sums of
money offered to our monastery because the motivation of the giver was not pure.
Right motivation is the key to correct Buddhist practice. We should constantly work to
purify our motivation as we practice Buddhism. The purer the motivation the more
efficacious the practice.
|Thought for the day: May 18, 2007
Buddhism is a very broad path. While meditation is often viewed as its most important
aspect, it really is not, especially as meditation is usually viewed as sitting quietly
detached from normal activity. While a certain amount of time should be devoted
everyday to seated meditation, it is important to remember that meditation within ordinary
activity is equally effective. In fact, there is no difference between maintaining focus while
carrying out ones daily routine and seated meditation. One great yogi, Paramahansa
Yogananda once remarked that he practices seated meditation when he is tired and
wants to relax, and the rest of the time he mediated while active.
Mediation is not confined to a posture. The mind does not change simply by sitting in full
lotus posture. It is true that seated meditation is useful for familiarizing oneself with the
topic of meditation, but as one becomes more and more familiar with a mediation topic
one should learn to carry it throughout the day.
Maintaining a mediation topic throughout ones activities requires that distraction is
avoided and one remains throughout the day focused and focused. Avoiding
unnecessary talk and activities is an aid to accomplishing this.
If the above is done, when seated meditation time arrives, we will find that we sink into a
deeper meditation more easily without having to spend much of our meditation time
clearing out frivolous thoughts accumulated throughout the day.
|Thought for the day: May 20, 2007
There is a saying by the Taoist master Chaung Tse that says: I don't know about
doing things, I just know about leaving things alone." This is an excellent attitude to
have towards meditation. Meditation requires a lot of staying out of the way and
allowing it to happen.
|Thought for the day: May 21, 2007
When we become absorbed in a book our breath becomes quiet, our body becomes
quiet, our eyes are focused, and we are not easily distracted. These symptoms are
very similar to meditation. So why is it that more people read books than meditate?
The simple answer is that the meditation book is a dull one, certainly in the
beginning. It won't be found on any best seller list. Still the analogy is a good one, as
it points out the simple fact that meditation itself is a simple process that anyone can
do; it is only a matter of devoting a certain amount of time to it each day---much like
reading a book.
|Thought for the day: May 22, 2007
Strive to erase borders between meditation and daily life.
|Thought for the day: May 23, 2007
"Hidden Virtue" is a very powerful dharma practice. The merit of doing good and keeping
it to oneself is greater than merit talked about. This is why Chan masters advise, "dim
your light." The meaning is to root out the desire for recognition from one's actions and
thus increase pure motivation. The purer the motivation the more powerful the deed.
|Thought for the day: May 24, 2007
No practice is inherently good. Reciting mantras, for example, can foster delusion if
practiced without accompanying mindfulness. Consider various dharma practices as
tools. Just as a hammer can be used to build a house or tear it down, meditation, ritual,
visualization, must be rightly practiced in order to bring benefit. Wrongly practiced they
may do more harm than good.
We should never blindly perform our daily rituals and meditation. A keen attentiveness
should be woven into all that we do. It is important to study the sutras of the Buddha daily
so that our viewpoint remains on target and distorted views are not allowed to creep in.
Whenever possible attend teachings and make an effort to receive guidance from
|Thought for the day: May 25, 2007
It is often most effective to spread the dharma by living it rather than preaching it.
Unless one is asked about the dharma it is best to keep quiet on the subject. In
Buddhist monasteries dharma lectures begin with a formal request, made by a monk
or lay person, who circumambulates the Teacher three times, offers three
prostrations, and then requests the teaching. This is more than a symbolic gesture,
for it makes it clear that the dharma seed should not be casually tossed, but rather
carefully planted in fertile soil. If a friend or acquaintance is drawn to ask us about the
dharma, that is the ideal time to speak on the subject.
|Thought for the day: May 26, 2007
Chan Master Seng Chao said: "Discrimination makes a corpse of life which it then
handles. " Send Chao is often misunderstood here to mean that we should not think.
This non-reflective reading misses the point.
Although Dharma practices requires analyses, it is important to recognize when to use
it and when to leave the analyses tool in the tool box. Another Chan saying says: "The
intellect is a good servant, but a poor master."
|Thought for the day: May 27, 2007
My Teacher in a public lecture in an Asian capitol, particularly known for its materialistic
pursuits, severely criticized and joked about Milarepa, one of Tibet's greatest yogis. At
the time there was a Milarepa fever in the island nation and many people became furious
that my Teacher would dare insult him. He even received a call at his hotel room after
the lecture from a Tibetan Master ordering him to leave the island. Few understood my
Teacher's message, but it no doubt benefited his audience nonetheless (by shaking
their blind devotion, even if they were oblivious to the fact.)
What good does it do to idolize a great yogi ascetic while striving to fulfill one's every
materialistic hankering? Being his cheerleader is not honoring the yogi.Stop insulting this
great yogi by endless chatter about him, and honor him with a littlemore practice, a little
more austerity, and a little more disciplne.
|Thought for the day: May 28, 2007
"To endure suffering is to end suffering." Master Hsuan Hua, my Teacher often
said this; and following him pretty well assured you a fair amount of suffering.
But, although studying with an enlightened Chan master is bitter, there always is
a sense of correctness and intelligence that carries you along.
|Thought for the day: May 29, 2007
The inquiry "Who am I?" is a universal dharma door. This form of inquiry is taught by great
masters from a broad spectrum of disiplines. It is generally meant for students who are
deeply rooted in the dharma. Those without deep roots tend to feel as if they were
spinning a gear without its counterpart engaged. While it may not be suitable as a primary
practice for everyone, all of us can and should spend some time each day on this inquiry.
Ask yourself what sense of "I" would exist alone, disconnected from perception of visual
objects, sounds, tastes, tactile sensations, scents, and mental objects (thoughts.)
Bring the sense of uttering "I" to the tip of your tongue and without actually saying it
silently or audibly, keep it there, as if pregnant with the possibility of saying "I" at any
moment, but never actually doing so. This is the practice of inquiry.
|Thought for the day: May 30, 200
and retreat back to the observer position. Negative thoughts are to be watched in the
and retreat back to the observer position. Negative thoughts are to be watched in the
same way. Effort should not be spent getting rid of them. Remain as impartial as a
mirror.same way. Effort should not be spent getting rid of them. Remain as impartial as a
Some Teachers advise their students to discard book learning; criticizing it as dealing in
mere concepts. But, even saying this is in itself a concept. While the highest truth may
be beyond conceptualization, we are still living in a world of concepts. As long as that is
the case, it behooves us to develop a clear and accurate conceptual understanding of
the path and the goal. This can be likened to a traveller who studies a map before
setting out on a journey.
Some advanced meditators who have achieved breathless samadhis and other blissful
states advocate tossing aside book learning and practicing yoga techniques or other
meditation techniques. But sutras, the Shurtangama for example, specifically warn
students about the dangers of grasping such states, however blissful they may be. In
fact these states are sometimes regarded as unprofitable rather than profitable.