Street wisdom is often not far off the mark. One example I can think of is
“put yourself in their shoes.” Many might not be aware of it, but this
advice parallels an important Buddhist meditation practice called,
“exchanging self and others.” I will talk a little about it here.
When we do the meditation of exchanging self and others, we visualize
three persons whom we exchange ourselves with: an inferior person, an
equal, and a superior, and we imagine ourselves in their position looking at
us. Then we take our own position back, and look at them as we usually
We begin by assuming the role of the inferior position and look at
ourselves. Perhaps we take the position of a homeless person, a shop clerk,
a beggar, or someone we know who has low self-esteem, and so forth. We
look at ourselves in envy and try and think about what the person whose
roll we are assuming might think of us. We do this to the point where we
may be emotionally moved to the point of feeling what they might feel.
We should really try to slip into their shoes and experience what they
Next, we shift to ourselves again, and look at how we normally view
inferiors. As we meditate we may notice how we view them with
indifference, as if they were a no count, or we may even have revulsion, or
even anger. We should take the time necessary to genuinely examine our
Once the inferior is exchanged with, we move to our equal. Once we have
slipped into the shoes of our equal, we meditate looking at ourselves
through the equal's eyes. We might notice a rivalry and competitiveness
emerging in our awareness. Anything we can do we will do to make
ourselves better than our equal we think of doing, and any quality we have
we dig up to make ourselves feel superior to our equal.
Next, we shift again to ourselves, and examine the way we usually look at
our equals. We will probably find that we also try to compare ourselves in
a favorable light to our equal, and imagine any way we might be superior.
Once we have meditated on the exchange for an equal, we move to the
superior. We slip into the shoes of a superior and imagine looking down
on ourselves. We, from our new vantage point of the superior, may think
with some pity about the inferior’s state (our state,) and feel a bit sorry for
him. We will delight in our own wealth and pedigree and think of the
unlikelihood of him reaching such a level, and so forth.
Once we have completed our meditation on being a superior looking
down on ourselves, the inferior, we again slip into our own shoes and
complete the exercise by meditating on ourselves from the normal
perspective we have.
Meditations in the above manner, exchanging self and others, are powerful
meditation techniques with a long history. The exchange of self and others
is a tool to reconfigure the way we look at others and our relationship with
them. The technique will make us more humane and genuine in our
interaction with others and will foster an attitude of equality.
* * *
commitments,) we honor ourselves.
Our word is like a ship’s rudder and will guide us and help us navigate
through life. While it may be difficult to keep sometimes, it is also a resting
spot, as it affords boundaries and security. Since words are so precious
they should be used frugally with great care. Casual and idle words will
diminish the value of meaningful words, so we should refrain from idle
When we speak, we should be respectful of our listener, never over
bearing, harsh, divisive, untruthful, blunt, cunning, but direct, honest,
pertinent, clear in meaning, and direct. Our speech should inform, inquire,
uplift, subdue, guide, reprimand, encourage, according to circumstances
and need. Encouraging and uplifting speech is particularly nourishing to
recognition when it is earned. And, if you must criticize as much as you
recognition when it is earned. And, if you must criticize as much as you
are able, do it in a constructive and positive way, always with a silver lining.
are able, do it in a constructive and positive way, always with a silver lining.
If you are angry, when you open your mouth to say something, take a
deep breath instead. Take a few breaths with mindfulness, and collect
yourself well before you say anything. If you’re angry with yourself, do the
same. Do not let angry words come forth externally or internally, but try
and inquire asking yourself, “why I am angry,” “ is this anger helpful, does
it produce clarity,” and so forth. Even if we are wronged, anger serves no
purpose and in fact adds one more wrong upon the one we are already
enduring. So we should not allow circumstances to move us to anger.
Words guided by logic and reason are generally more meaningful than
those guided by emotion. We should check our thinking and talk and see if
it passes the rationality test, and if it doesn’t we should slow down and
inquire what our thinking and talk is all about. Be mindful of the intention
and motivation of your words for these are the most important factors. We
shouldn’t be meaning one thing and saying another; our words should be
in line with our intent.
A little time each day reflecting on how we use language, can go a long
way towards improving our communication with other, and our inner
dialogue, as well. Listen to yourself talk, listen to yourself think. Listening
quiets the mind automatically, so listen to yourself more, listen to others
more, talk to yourself less, talk to others less.
* * *
Some people are too proud to accept help from others and would rather
be independent. Some get by fine in the world this way, but most are not
happy. To deny ourselves to deny timely help, or not ask for it when it is
needed, when we live in a world where we are so interdependent, is shoes
we wear, the food we eat, the car we drive, and the movies we watch. If
we try to be a loner, it is impossible, whether we realize it or not.
We live in a world where we are continually interacting with people, and
since this is the case, we should interact positively, helping others, and
also asking for help when we need it. It is silly to do otherwise because
what is a big deal for us, another finds no problem with, and vis-versa.
We should allow ourselves to see through another’s eyes and they through
our eyes, for adopting another’s viewpoint may just provide the solution
we are looking for. This all has to do with mental dexterity and mental
pliancy, so important to avoid getting stuck in rigid views.
The Buddha said, associate with those superior to yourself, or your equal.
The people we associate with, should challenge us and inspire us to be
better., Be around good people and their good qualities will rub off on us.
Open minded people whom we can discuss our issues with will enable us
to move forward in life in a more enlightened way. Personal problems and
faults should never be concealed, because if they are they will be a burden.
Share them with others, and the load is lightened immediately.
thoughtfully offered, benefits the recipient. We broaden our world
through thoughtful exchanges.
* * *
We really do things to learn, and secondary to get things done. But, we
are generally so rushed that we forget the first part, and just work to get
things done. We have long ago forgotten that we are on the planet to
learn, and that the things we do are for the primary purpose of teaching
and awakening us. But because of our habituation to achieve goals, worth
of engaging with the world.
A saying goes: “people move through life like an ant crawling around the
outside of a watermelon, never knowing the sweetness of the inner fruit.”
The things we do is a stage where a greater drama is happening all the
time, yet we fail to take our part because we do not recognize the subtext
of all that we do (the sweetness of the fruit.) We earn our livelihood, buy
homes, shop for groceries, care for our families, as is these were not
extraordinary affairs. They are! But, we must make them so, and we do
this by learning to participate in a more enlightened way.
To begin to understand how to participate in everyday affairs in a more
enlightened way, we must first realize how privileged we are to even be
participating at all. We have attained a human birth because of excellent
previous karma, and had it not been so, we would have been born in a
form far less suitable for embracing the world in a meaningful way for the
attainment of enlightenment. Animals, insects, birds, fish and other
creatures we share this planet with are incapable of doing anything but by
instinct, without any potential to wonder about the relationship between
themselves and what they are doing.
As human beings, we are capable of not only doing things, but
understanding the relationship between ourselves and the things we do. It
is this capacity alone that separates us from animals. Animals cannot
reflect and ask themselves, “Why am I doing this?” There is not a single
action that we do that is done at face value. There is always a richer
potential disguised within common activities that are waiting to be
These hidden potentials are discovered through the practice of
mindfulness, and therefore mindfulness has been taught by meditation
masters since the time of the Buddha, and recently popularized.
To remain naive and to pass through life robbed of rich inner experience
that could be ours with a small amount of well-directed effort on our part
is a real shame, but it is the norm, rather than the exception. We should
not fail to be alarmed and act to shake ourselves out of willful
complacency. We owe it to ourselves to experience the greatest happiness
we can achieve during our brief stay on this planet as, and we do this
through study and meditation and learning from masters how to practice
mindfulness in daily life and meditation. We cannot allow ourselves to be
self-satisfied like the ant and his watermelon; but we must wake up and
discover what it is that lies beneath the surface of things.
* * *
A good listener everyone likes and he or she will have many friends.
When we are sincere and genuine with others, we naturally listen well. We
must be open hearted and have a genuine interest in the people we speak
with, and recognize the difference between when we are being spoken to
and in an exchange. An exchange is most common, as when we discuss
things, but we must get out of this mode when someone wants to be our
friend, coworker, or family member to be heard. This doesn’t mean we
must offer advice, sometimes just listening is enough.
* * *
or rot. The time to act on our ideas is when we have them, for if we don’
t, the opportunity to do so may pass. Opportunities should be appreciated
and not taken for granted, for if we do so they may pass to another. What
we want to do and what we should be doing are often poles apart, and
our own personal interests may mask the direction we should be going. If
plans are disrupted by something that comes up, obviously, we must
determine the wisdom of our choice.
We all want to make good choices in life, but this requires more than we
may realize. Poor choices, if we look back upon them, are not isolated
instances, but rather reflect a habit of acting in a particular way under
similar circumstances. When we kick ourselves for doing something
wrong, it is misplaced because we often are only considering an isolated
instance. Instead, we should reflect more deeply and try to uncover a
pattern, and when this is discovered try to undermine it.
We seek pleasure because we think the source of pleasure grants
satisfaction, not recognizing whatever object we seek has no innate
capacity to make us happy that we do not impute upon it through our
thinking. Thoroughly understanding how we think into things their power
over us will gradually break the habit of doing so, and allow us to view
our world and what it offers in a more even minded way, which in turn
will enable us to make better decisions.
* * *
Compassion is an often-used word, and, like “Love” through much use
has lost its meaning. But, it is a beautiful word, that, through study,
reflection, and meditation, can be resurrected and reclaim its original
meaning. But, what is compassion?
Compassion is a concern for the welfare of others that is so deeply
moving that it puts aside all concern for our own welfare. Compassion is
putting others first, not in a contrived and pretentious way, but naturally,
from deep within one’s heart. It is cultivated through study, reflection,
and deep meditation, and arises spontaneously as an impersonal concern
for others. It can arise towards a specific individual, but often arises as a
warm feeling deep within one’s heart for all people everywhere. When we
begin to tap into real compassion we will notice a feeling of closeness to
all those we come into contact with and a feeling of unity and lack of
separation. This feeling of warmth towards others will attract many
friends who will feel our genuiness and be nurtured by it. And, in some
small way, we will lift the hearts of those whom we only have a passing
exchange, whether on a walk, at the market, and so forth.
* * *
Thought for the Day: April 8, 2017
Contentment reflects a mind that is staying put, while agitation reflects a
mind wandering out. The mind in its natural state rests within itself and
mind stirs and seeks to find a sense of completion through external
stimulus. It doesn’t always fail in this quest, and like gambling, it is the
intermittent successes that encourage us to try again.
The goal is to find contentment that endures, and many who have found
it point out the futility of hoping to beat the odds and finding it through
externals. But, at the same time, they don’t encourage us to lead a
completely sedate and meditative lifestyle, either. Instead, they advise a
combined approach of meditation and inward turning, and activities
wherein we bring to bear our resources to benefit others, whether this be
material assistance, or giving our time and energy. Outward seeking thus
becomes an indirect form of seeking wherein we seek to benefit ourselves
by accumulating the merit that benefiting others generates.
It is difficult to settle into true contentment, and it will not happen unless
we recognize the futility of selfish striving and take steps to reduce it. A
gradual approach is best as sudden grand gestures will not endure.
Rather, we should slowly accustom ourselves to give small amounts of
our time and material resources and gradually increase this as we are
comfortable doing so. In time, we will abandon narrowly focusing on our
own wellbeing, and broaden it to the point that our own interests become
secondary rather than primary.
* * *
Buddhism has been accused of being nihilistic, but, of course it isn’t. Any
Understanding must grow apace with discipline or discipline will lead to
varying degrees of nihilism in accordance with the degree of one’s
rules of conduct, various form of meditation, and so forth. Through the
study of philosophy, we gain insight into the confused way we normally
think. Philosophy will help us become less muddled and confused by the
trinkets the world offers us and lead us to seek a deeper and richer
meaning in our lives. This is very rewarding. In addition, meditation
techniques enable us to develop skill to focus single pointedly on
anything we wish to place our mind upon without succumbing to
distraction. Once the mind is placed inside, it will stay there, content in
itself, without outward turning.
If we are to avoid nihilistic attitudes, we cannot just give things we enjoy
up. We must find new ways of enjoyment and redefine for ourselves
what enjoyment is. It is more a question of substituting one thing for
another, rather than getting rid of anything and leaving nothing in its
place. Our capacity to find happiness is not limited to the avenues we
have habituated ourselves to look in, and scriptures tell us to explore our
options and gives us the tools to do so.
on the quest is the supreme ambition. If we are not inclined to take such
an opportunity, we should not feel low or displeased with ourselves. New
endeavors take time to become acquainted with and drastic moves are
ineffective. Gradually a little time to familiarizing oneself as to what the
path entails, and small gestures to move in that direction will gain
momentum over time.
I am on my way to Nepal thirty-seven thousand feet in the air as I write.
My daughter, Rachel, dropped me off at the airport and I was so
concerned about checking in my bags that I ran off forgetting to give her
realizing just how distracted I am by material things and seemingly
important circumstances, so much so that I am pulled away from the true
and human feelings of the heart. How simple it would have been to was
distracted in the moment, this is not what happened.
Our most valuable resource are the people in our lives, and feeling this
requires a conscious effort. It has been said by many people when they
are dying, particularly the wealthy (for the poor tend to be more tightly
knit,) that they regret not spending more time with family and loved ones.
And, yet, we do not learn and instead, go about our lives so busily
engaged with earning livelihood, hobbies, sports, gym, yoga, and such,
that those who thirst for a little of our time go unsatisfied, and we miss
the true satisfaction that a little effort on our part would give us.
We are so detached from what is right beneath our nose as we scan the
horizon, that if we do not take the time to correct ourselves, we are likely
to feel the pangs of regret later in our lives. If we don’t want this to
happen, we should reflect on our own values and priorities. A little time
each day devoted to sitting quietly in meditative contemplation reflecting
on the fact that others seek happiness just as we seek happiness, others
wish to avoid suffering just as we do, others need to be loved just as we
need to be loved, others need to feel appreciated just as we do, and
others need to feel supported just as we need to feel supported, and
others need a genuine, deeply felt hug, just as we need a genuine deeply
Meditative reflection is extremely powerful and can reconfigure the way
we think far more effectively than just mulling over thoughts of love and
compassion and so forth on the way to work, on the treadmill, or musing
in the shower. If we focus our mind in a disciplined way it, will
undermine deep rooted selfishness and attachment and help us to
recognize the preciousness of our relationship with others. If we were to
spend a mere fifteen minutes to a half hour sincerely applying our mind
to become a more genuine and warm human being, it would happen.
The benefits of being able to connect with friends and family in a
heartfelt way without distracting thoughts will well reward us for the
effort we put forth. The time to recognize the facts of life is not when it
is slipping away, but while you are living it.
Rachel waited in her car outside the terminal where she dropped me off.
When I cleared my bags I called and said all was OK, and she could go.
Then the reminder came when she said: Dad, you didn’t give me a hug.
* * *
reflect on them, but obstacles incite us to overcome them and be a better
person, if we own them. However, it is true that afflictions can be a
alcohol, drugs, or just mindless shopping, frivolous talk, and anything to
distract us from what is churning our emotions in an unpleasant way.
Afflictions and obstacles are within us because we have earned them,
and we should never think we were not responsible for creating them. It
may be that we did not intentionally act in a way that brought us the
harm we are now experiencing, but out of ignorance, we have acted in
ways that is the cause of unpleasant experiences now. We create our joys
and heartache, no doubt, whether we do so consciously, or not. There is
no reason to run from anything we brought upon ourselves, any more
than being angry at fire for being hot. Dive into a negative feeling or
emotion rather than try and escape from it.
Often the very emotion we run from, are, if given the chance, the ones
with the greatest potential to awaken us to positive change. People run
from paper tigers, out of a fear from something that if appreciated from
another viewpoint could bring great benefit. Positive change does not
mean we will have a pleasant time brining it about, but why fear or seek
escape from a little work for the sake of a positive result. So let us all
face our paper tigers.
* * *
If we are not pleased with ourselves, it is difficult to cultivate meditation
and spiritual inquiry. So, all of us should improve our self-image, for by
good qualities we have, we should focus on and try to cause them to
increase. Our faults are there for sure, but shouldn’t be dwelt upon to of
them, but don’t try to get rid of them. Instead, focus on increasing good
qualities, and expanding the ones you already have. Our faults and
obstacles will go their own way if we do this.
A little guilt is healthy, but often it goes too far and becomes a burden,
and, rather than incite us to practice more vigorously, causes us to give
up. It is far better to be positive and look at all that we have that could
be increased. Positive aspects of our being that are now very weak can
with a steady and sincere application of effort become strong points.
Don’t worry about neglecting faults and working to get rid of them; let
them be overwhelmed by ever increasing qualities.
Attitude is the one thing we should always keep positive and confident.
Spiritual practice is demanding work and cannot be engaged in without
confidence and fearlessness. There are enough opponents to our walking
the path, and certainly there is no need for us to add one more by not
having a confident and positive attitude. The mere fact that we enter the
path and want to improve ourselves and make the necessary sacrifices to
do so, should be a source of immense pride. Be aware of faults without
allowing them to be a weight on you, let your qualities encourage you
and incite in you the motivation to reach your potential. The dharma is a
nobel path and we should be proud of ourselves for walking it.
* * *
Thought for the Day: April 13, 2017
Each person experiences different phenomena as the result of past
karma, and thus the suffering and happiness that arise from our
individual karma are also as far apart as heaven and earth. Even among a
family of three who live in the same house and always eat together, each
person’s experiences will be markedly different: one might have
auspicious dreams at night and enjoy good health, while another might
suffer from endless nightmares, physical discomfort, and mental unease.
No matter who they are or how intimately they are related, no two
people can possibly share the same experience. Where do these myriad
and strange experiences of suffering and happiness ultimately come
from? They are not caused by external objects; they originate from our
Phuntsok, Jigme. Always Present: The Luminous Wisdom of
Jigme Phuntsok Shambhala Publications.
* * *
People have a lot to say until the time comes to say it. We all live in a of
which ever delight our imagination, but become impotent in real life
experiences. Many of us are like the shadow boxer who never gets into
All of us are aware during moments of reflection that we are led about
by the notorious “monkey mind” and yet all but few think it anything
but harmless. Most are willingly be lulled into complacency by it, and
few will have a sense of urgency to destroy it. The difference is a matter
of acquaintance with scripture and good instructions, with those
informed compelled to fight off complacency and take up arms against
the monkey mind.
Enlightened Masters liken the normal everyday existence to fish in a fish
bowl with the water evaporating. The fish swim about in the beautiful
environment oblivious to the fact that their time is running out, and
when the water is no more, they struggle for a few moments and are no
more. If we were a householder, of course we would add water and
save the fish, and this is what the teachers from all traditions have done
through their religious instructions to save us from a rude awakening.
But, how many of us are listening?
meditation manuals, but in short involves carrying on a constant and
well-reasoned inner dialogue which may begin with such a simple
question as “where are all my thoughts coming from,” “to whom are
these thoughts referring,” “am I my body,” “do I exist without thought”
and so forth. Just about any question one poses to oneself can set in
motion a foothold for reason to set in motion a well-reasoned pattern of
thought that will be a big burden on the monkey mind. We owe it to
ourselves to explore our options and not be seduced into complacency.
* * *
Thought for the Day: April 15, 2017
Although each person’s happiness and suffering is different, we have
one thing in common: our happiness and suffering are like a flash of
lightning in the sky. They are all impermanent. Yet many people do not
realize this. They grasp at illusory and insubstantial things like the body,
like wealth, and for the sake of these things they create all kinds of
unwholesome karma. It is only when they face death that they suddenly
realize that despite everything they have striven for, they cannot take
with them even a strand of hair. Instead, it is only the wholesome and
unwholesome karma they created in this life that will follow them—
pursuing them like a shadow.
Phuntsok, Jigme. Always Present: The Luminous Wisdom of Jigme
Phuntsok Shambhala Publications.
* * *
Thought for the Day: April 16, 2017
Reciting mantras without mindfulness and focus will pacify the mind
like a pacifier pacifies a baby, but will not nourish the mind.
* * *
If we find ourselves using harsh language with others, it reflects a
disquiet within and we had better pay attention to it. The root could
very well be that we are harsh with ourselves. Being gentle and kind will
get things done far better than being rough and forceful, whether it be in
action or word. But, we must discover the reason for our coarseness
before we can banish it, we cannot just change our attitude as we might
Rough behavior and coarse speech, especially abusive, harsh speech,
reflect a disquiet within. Often, the cause could be that our thoughts and
ambitions do not fit very well together; we are stretching ourselves in
different directions. If this is the case, a first step would be to try to
bring about a more syncretic way of living, whereby what we do syncs
and flows in a complementary manner. When activities flow well
together, even many activities do not weary the mind, but when they
don’t, even two activities are enough to cause stress.
If we pay attention to the way we interact with others, it can give us
valuable insights into the way we are treating ourselves. If we find
ourselves always making excuses to others, or even inwardly, we must
recognize it as a wakeup call that indicates an inner conflict. Nothing
should be brushed aside. Unpleasant things when considered generally
bring about positive results. The opportunity for growth is more likely to
be found by examining unpleasant aspects of our personality, than
musing about our lovely qualities. The lotus grows out of the mud, after
* * *
narrowing our focus. A modern day example would be atomic power. A
single atom can unleash more energy than the entire Empire State
Building if it were filled with gasoline and set ablaze. A large forest fire
cannot release the energy equal to a fuel rod producing electricity in an
atomic power plant. What should be noted here is that the forest and the
gasoline in themselves contain an infinite number of atoms, yet because
they are inefficiently used when in the coarse aspect, they cannot yield the
energy of a minuscule particle efficiently used.
It has been said in sutra texts: “In each and every thought is the seed of
enlightenment.” This refers to meditative atomic power. Meditation is in
essence very simple. It functions on the premise that you do not need the
energy of many thoughts to do anything, one will do. This is because the
essence of a single thought pervades all thoughts, and when this is
understood, you will not gain any more understanding by examining an
infinite variety of thoughts. In fact, what we generally do only depletes
our energy. We move from one thought to the next, endlessly mulling
over an infinite variety of thoughts, whereas, if we were to make the
effort, and many meditation techniques are available to help us, to
concentrate unwaveringly on a single thought, that single thought would
reveal the nature of all thoughts, the wonderful, clear, bright, nature of
* * *
The expression, “killing time,” is common and reflects our proclivity to
call we don’t need to make, munching a snack, we don’t need to have,
sipping a latte, we could do without, flipping through a newspaper, and
so forth. The fact is, unoccupied time makes us uncomfortable, whether
it be a few minutes or days.
Leaving unoccupied moments of our day vacant will offer us the time
we need to gather ourselves so that what we do, we do better. It gives
us time to regroup and give our undivided attention to our affairs. A
longer period of several days that unexpectedly comes our way should
not be rushed to fill, carelessly, but careful choreographed to challenge
our propensity towards either lazy idleness, or excessive distraction.
The cost of willfully being distracted is higher than many of us realize.
Snacking causes poor health and overweight, idle talk depletes our
energy and wearies the mind, absorbing news unrelated to our interests,
dissipates our attention and assures we will have less where we need it
most, and so forth. The time we kill we cannot resurrect; it is gone, and
we have frittered away a bit of life.
Our time is the most valuable treasure we have, and yet it is easily taken
for granted, especially idle time. Impulses to fill idle time should be
resisted, we should settle into it, take an unscheduled walk, gaze at the
sky, or sit quietly without stirring the mind. Never fear stillness, and
trust in yourself. Allow yourself to enjoy yourself with nothing to do but
* * *
to get anything but a superficial understanding of the dharma. We may
contrived and pretentious display, it is unlikely we will be able to
experience what we are talking about. Many sutra texts talk about this,
yet most people, especially lay people take a sporadic approach to
dharma practice. They will eat every day, three times, but a half hour or
so of morning and evening meditation or study is difficult to pull
Without some degree of personal sacrifice understanding simply won’t
happen; isn’t it enough for us to see that even the Buddha, a prince with
a lovely wife and children, left everything behind to live a beggar’s life in
the forest? While we need not go this far, we should at least see the
importance of sacrifice and discipline and learn to give of ourselves
enough to feel that we are honoring our Teacher, the Buddha, and
Thought of the Day: April 21, 2017
We should remember that when we place our folded hands at our
forehead, we are paying homage to the body of the Buddhas. When we
place them at our throat, we are paying homage to their speech, and
when we place them at our heart, we are paying homage to their mind.
Then, when we touch the ground with our foreheads, two hands and
two knees, we pay homage to the body, speech, mind, qualities and
activities of the Buddhas; at the same time the five poisons present in
the minds of all beings, including ing ourselves, are transformed into the
five wisdoms. It is this kind of precise mindfulness that we need to
maintain. Even by ordinary standards, a good worker is someone who is
always mindful of what he is doing. His body is concentrated on the
job, he uses his speech to discuss what has to be done and what needs
to be avoided, and he uses his mind to think carefully about the work he
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. The Excellent Path to Enlightenment: Oral
Teachings on the Root Text of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
* * *
things well, because we are distracted, just the opposite. When our
Even those who do not meditate at all are aware of lapses of
mindfulness, and the benefits of paying attention. The only difference
between them and others who meditate, is that those who meditate
have the tools to correct the problem.
Of the many functions of mediation, a very practical one is teaching us
how to pay better attention while engaged in ordinary affairs. It does
this by setting up something neutral to pay attention to, a mantra, a
visualization of a deity or Buddha, focus on the breath, and so forth.
One directs one’s focus on the neutral element with the same mind that
one uses when doing activities; there are not two minds. As our skill
develops, holding our minds to the meditation topic without distraction,
we will notice that our ordinary affairs are also accomplished with
greater focus and more enjoyment.
The aim of meditation is not only about attaining enlightenment, it is
also about being a better, more productive person. It is as much about
living in the world, as leaving it. It is very difficult to develop
mindfulness when performing actions whose results we are attached to,
whether it be monetary gain, status, recognition, and so forth. When
busy with our affairs, many competing ideas arise, and distract us from
the task at hand, if not pull us completely away. By setting up a neutral
object of focus, meditation offers us an opportunity to develop the
ability to stay focused, a skill that will help us off the meditation, as well
as on it.
Meditation is a gift for everyone, regardless of our spiritual inclinations.
If we have them, all the better, but not having them should not
discourage us from practicing meditation.
* * *
Put yourself together.
externals to find it. Sayings like, “Peace lies within” are fine and dandy,
but the reality is that we are biologically structured to look outside,
whether it be in the world of people, things, or events. Although we
have been fined many times for disturbing the peace, we continue and
cannot help ourselves.
We cannot help ourselves because the momentum of past actions peace
within. The easiest approach to find it under these conditions is to over
further, or seek it within. Just leave yourself alone and by so doing, the
peace you are seeking will find you.
Finding peace within is more a question of making ourselves vulnerable
than anything else. When we stop, or reduce outward seeking, we will
naturally begin to sense a presence within that is very peaceful.
Whatever we have given up making ourselves vulnerable, will be repaid
a thousand times.
* * *
Thought for the Day: April 24, 2017
When asked by and attendee how she can find time for meditation,
given her chores as a Mom, work, cleaning house, and so forth, in
addition to not being supported by family members, H. H. Dalai Lama
replied, that if he wanted to complain about time, he certainly could, as
well. He went on to say that anyone should be able to find at least a
half hour morning and evening for working on her dharma practice. In
addition, he remarked that we shouldn't’t think that dharma practice is
confined to the meditation cushion, and that there are many
opportunities throughout the day to practice patience, vigor,
mindfulness, and so forth.
Those who complain about time, should take note what the Dalai
Lama has said. If he, with his busy schedule can find time, why
shouldn't’t we be able to. My own experience has been that it is
primarily a matter of conditioning, and once the habit is formed, it
becomes easy to practice and we will, in fact, look forward to it as
“our” time to rest without distraction. Once the habit is formed, we
will find meditation essential to our own wellbeing and will be unable
to do without it.
* * *
Thought for the Day: April 25, 2017
Once you have found something worthwhile, something you truly
resonate with, get rid of anything you can to give it the space it needs
to grow and flourish. Just a farmer planting seed in the soil, will first
clear the soil of all rocks, roots, and so forth, so that once the seed is
planted, its roots will have space to grow and seek nourishment, so too
do our ideas need space to grow and mature. Whatever we can do to
provide a platform for our new idea (s) to grow should be done,
including reducing unnecessary and distracting activities.
Our life, like an enjoyable book, acquires a theme, when its focus
narrows on a few interests and distracting activities are abandoned in
favor of new and complementary interests. Let achieving this be our
focus, for our own happiness and the happiness of others.
* * *
Meditation is not a quick fix. It is a mental discipline that brings lasting
results, but it demands our time, commitment, and a willingness to live
a lifestyle that supports our effort.
Beginning a meditation practice requires only 15-30 minutes of our
time a day, morning and even, to bring positive change as it
disentangles us from disturbing emotions, and instills peace. If we have
tried before, but failed, we should not necessarily fault the meditation;
it may very well be the time off the meditation cushion that is to blame.
Our active life should be in harmony and supportive of our meditation.
At work, while shopping, while engaging in chores, if we are mindful
and subdued, refraining from idle talk, unnecessary and distracting
activities, dishonesty, attaching to peer recognition, and many such
obvious distractions, we are supporting our meditation. At the end of
the day, when we sit to meditate, we will focus easily, and enjoy our
meditation. Not so otherwise.
If we don’t forget ourselves during the period between morning and
evening meditation, our meditation will support every aspect of our
lives. In fact, gradually the distinction between meditation and active
life will dissolve completely.
* * *
was, before placing it back down. In the same way, we should practice
regular introspection to examine our mind and remove any dirt that
Introspection, single minded and free of bias examining our attitude, is
a tool we all have that can enable us to recognize faults that may be
hidden, and that we are not conscious of, or insufficiently conscious
of. Anger, jealousy, harshness with others, prejudice, insensitivity
towards others, selfishness, may be faults others notice in us, but we
don’t notice in ourselves. Introspection helps us to discover
shortcoming that we overlook, and provide a path to eliminate them.
Not only should we set aside time for sitting quietly and examining our
attitudes, we should practice spontaneous momentary introspection
throughout the day. In our dealings with others we should ask, am I
being too harsh, impatient, unfriendly, disconnected, and so forth.
When we walk and move about, are we scattered and allowing our
mind to wander here and there? Are we protecting ourselves from
unseen dangers, being cheated, lied to, beguiled, betrayed, deceived,
abused, insulted, and other possible hurts or injuries?
We should use introspection to observe our overall attitude. Are we
cheerful and pleasant, and if not examine why. Are we discontent with
ourselves and displaying a harsh attitude towards others as if they were
to blame? Are we rushed, when there is no need to be? Are we
depressed for no reason? Our mental dispositions are something we
should be aware of, and cause to grow what is desirable, and curtail
what isn’t. Introspection is the tool we have at our disposal to check
our attitudes throughout the day, and be allot happier ourselves, and
more pleasant towards others.
* * *
Thought for the Day: April 28, 2017
get the most use out of. When their attractiveness does not distract us
from their use, we are more likely to get down to business. Many
objects, particularly high tech ones, like cameras and cell phones, can
have so many features that they become a distraction for most of us,
rather than useful, real world, functions. All but the specialist, can use
these functions. Many people who have had high end cameras for years,
don’t even know how to use their most basic functions, let alone the
advanced ones, but are so enamored by these so called advanced feature
they play around with them, at the expense of learning to take a good
photo! The same is true with smart phones. These gadgets offer so
many features that really don’t fall into the category of “necessary,” that
we may forget that a phone is primarily about communication, and with
other people, not the phone itself. And yet, if we look around and see
how these communication devices are used, we will see faces glued to
the phone, exploring this and that, lured here and there, installing this
game and that function, adding this song and deleting that video, and so
forth, endlessly amused.
other things, and this is not to say these things are not good for us, but
only that if we must have them, we must be cautious of their pitfalls
disguised as functions. We must remember that things are to serve us,
but in fact items that excite our mind are most likely to enslave us, and
knowing this it might be wiser to avoid the purchase and select
something not quite so “exciting,” but one that can nevertheless get the
job done. We don’t need a war vehicle if the only off-roading we do is
pulling into our driveway. A vehicle is for the purpose of getting from
point a to b, and when it cannot do this without making a big statement
about itself, we will be distracted by the vehicles statement, and all but
fail to appreciate its function, getting somewhere and back, too.
* * *
Meditation should never generate arrogance towards others,
particularly towards those who don’t meditate, though it does.
Meditation should not set us apart from other who don’t, it is
not as if we suddenly become a new person when we meditate. It
is true that over the years’ meditation will bring about a
transformation of our attitude, but when that finally begins, we
will notice it manifesting as a deeply felt sympathy and
compassion towards all people, and an all-embracing openness
and feeling of oneness with others.
Moreover, meditation is non-denominational. Whether we are
Buddhist or not, our form of meditation will bring about a
transformation that transcends all labels and sect identities.
Understanding this enables us to embrace all traditions equally,
and sympathize with and equally respect and enjoy the company
of people from all traditions. If we notice our mind developing
any divisions whatsoever between ourselves and others we
should banish them, for if we don’t it, will lead to anger towards
others. Sometimes people who meditate develop a dismissive
attitude toward those who don’t mediate, or who are from other
traditions. This is a sure warning sign that our own meditation is
Meditative arrogance is common because people confuse
concentration with meditation. Concentration has no checks and
balances, it is simply focusing the mind. It is often the case that
this confusion leads “meditators” to develop false views. Bias
and prejudice is easily developed by concentration because it has
no guidelines and will often settle on a completely negative view.
Meditation on the other hand has checks and balances which are
must check the attitudes that his mediation is producing, and if
they is leading to increased openness, compassion, greater joy, a
natural warmth towards others, and so forth. Even if we mediate
many hours a day, if it sets us apart from others, our meditation
is incorrect. Do we do things with mindfulness or are we
scattered. Attitudes such as these are revealing and will help us
keep our meditation on track and not let it fall into
concentration, particularly negative concentration.
Meditation does not come with a guarantee. Many fall because of
incorrect meditation. Meditation must be complemented by
reading and studying scripture and the use of reason and logic.
Listening to the discourse of qualified masters is also very
helpful and we should subscribe to newsletters and so forth of
dharma groups so that we are aware when the opportunity to
hear a teaching comes our way. Meditation needs a guide as
much as a ship need a rudder.
practice of giving, making offerings to charitable organizations,
temples, and others. The practice of giving falls under the
cultivation of blessings, as opposed to a pure meditation
approach towards the path of realization.
We need all the support we can get in our meditation practice,
and for this we may have to look outside the practice itself. We
limit ourselves greatly when we only focus on meditation to
succeed in meditation. This is equivalent, to a champion runner,
relying only on running to develop his skill. As we all know,
athletes from a variety of disciplines employ many supporting
exercises to bring out their best in their field. We, as meditators,
can take a que from them, for meditation needs all the support
it can get, and the practice of giving is one of them.
When we give, we accumulate blessings, and these blessings are
powerful supports to meditation practice. Our offerings to a
temple may support the livelihood of monks who do daily
prayers and these prayers always include prayers for their
donors. If we wish, we can offer money specifically to help us
overcome hardship, avoid obstacles, have good health, and so
forth, all of which will directly support our meditation, even as
we are supporting the monks by our offerings. It is an exchange
wherein both parties benefit.
If we are not accustomed to practicing the dharma of giving, we
should begin by making small offering of support as we see fit.
If we give too much it may obstruct our developing the habit of
giving and taking joy in it. So, we begin gradually with very
small offerings and increase them within the limits of our
financial resources gradually. In time giving will be very natural
and we will find happiness in giving others the opportunity to
Of course, we should vent out well the recipients of our gifts,
many are not honest organizations, but we should also be
cautious not to allow the few who are not worth to stigmatize
those that are. This is a poor excuse for being tight fisted.
However we may serve to support temples and people in need,
it will generate blessings we need to support our meditation
practice. We should not arrogantly think that meditation by
itself is enough. The Buddha would not have emphasized
auxiliary practices such as patience, kindness, truthfulness,
absence of greed, giving and other auxiliary practices if
meditation alone would do.
Giving according to our resources will never be regretted,
formed it will be a source of joy and support. You might even
give by writing out your thoughts and posting them on a blog!
* * *