Thought for the Day: August 1, 2017

Carelessness causes us to make most of our “stupid” mistakes. We know
better, but for some reason we don’t perform in sync with what we know.
Instead, we are out of sync and careless.

Carelessness generally arises when we don’t slow down enough when we
focus on things, and fail to take in all the aspects of what we are doing.
Oversight causes mistakes that could have been avoided if we were not
moving too fast. Therefore, the first step towards carefulness is slowing
down.

We tend to move too fast do because we are trying to get too many things
done. Often, we need to take on less activities in order to be attentive to
what we do. We need space, and if other things are constantly vying for
our attention, we will be distracted and it will be impossible to be careful.
Generally, a little planning and prioritizing our responsibilities can go a
long way towards giving adequate space to fulfill our tasks. We will be
cheerful and naturally more careful. Try and have the feeling that you are
doing one thing at a time, rather than everything at once. This attitude
fosters carefulness.

                 * * *
Thought for the Day: August 2, 2017

The inclination to snack is a sign that the mind is distracted. It is an
indicator that we are being pulled in several directions, and food presents
temporary grounding. There are much better options, such as cleaning up
around the house, watering some plants, or just dashing outside and
looking up at the sky, taking a walk, and so forth. A snack should be the
last resort, because governed by desire, as we are, we create snacking
habits, which are unhealthy and don’t address the issue.

Another indicator is finding ourselves doodling, drawing patterns in the
sand, and so forth. This indicates an idle, unproductive, unengaged
mental state and we must stimulate our awareness and engage in
something else. Idleness is the opposite fault of scatteredness mentioned
above.

If we pay attention to both mental and physical deportment, we can
recognize unfavorable states of awareness. It is like looking in a mirror
and seeing blemishes or an unkempt look that brings to our attention a
good wash is in order. Many times, how we are walking, sitting, lying
down or moving about the house are like mirrors revealing the mind
within. We can use our awareness of our deportment wisely to our
advantage, it is up to each of us.


                 * * *
Thought for the Day: August 3, 2017

There is an uninsightful predisposition amongst vegans and vegetarians to
be dismissive of non-vegetarians on the grounds they lack compassion.
whether it be on a vegetarian, vegan, or non-vegetarian diet, the vegetarian
finds this not so obvious. The vegan and vegetarians use faulty reasoning
to place the non-veg on a lower rung of the ladder than themselves.

One vegan recently responded to a challenge by a vegan by saying that in
the production of vegan food, planting, harvesting, preparing fields, and so
forth, countless animals lose their lives: “what about all the rodents etc
that are killed to feed the animals which you then also eat?” But, a little
reflection exposes the problem with this response and the many similar
ones, it doesn’t address the issue. All such a response says is: “you do it
too,” which basically proves the non-vegetarian's point.

We cannot escape killing, no matter what we eat, and a non-veg diet, and a
veg diet both nourish the body, and this body can be uses for spiritual
purposes, or not. Food will never determine that.
                 * * *
Thought for the Day: August 5, 2017

As far as Dharma practice goes, a common mistake that leads to
abandoning practice is taking on too many diverse practices that pull in
different directions. Always strive for simplicity.

                * * *
Thought for the Day: August 6, 2017

Forming good habits is an essential point of Buddhist practice, especially
foundation work. Without discipline, which is like a rudder, it is likely we
will move helter-skelter towards our goal and expend much more energy
than needed. Well-formed habits are like a railroad track leading directly to
our goal, with the fewest twists and turns.  But even good habits have
their times of weakness, and these must be recognized.

“Mental pliancy,” is a quality every dharma practitioner should have. It
gives us the ability to shift gears when a discipline we are following isn’t
working for the present situation, and get off our railroad track, and adapt
appropriately.

Rules will serve us ninety percent of the time, but we must recognize
when we are clinging to them to our own detriment. They are our
servants, we are not their slaves.

                * * *
Thought for the Day: August 7, 2017

me until I had already been meditating for thirty years. I was arrogant,
viewing meditation as a do-all tool. But, one day when I was about fifty
years old a friend dragged me to a yoga studio, and I am glad she did.

Nothing makes the body physically fit like yoga. Not only does yoga make
the body strong, but it also opens nerve channels, increases circulation,
makes the body pliant, and increases use of oxygen. All these factors
support good meditation. We are more alert, our posture is naturally
better, and our breath is soft and supple. It is easier to focus while sitting,
for longer periods of time, without fatigue.

The actual yoga session itself reveals a scattered and distracted mind far
better than meditation. Yoga requires a certain amount of balance, and
when we fall out of poses, it often is because of a distracted mind more
than anything else. What better mirror could we ask for? When we are not
focused, yoga is quick to remind us, there is no possibility for day
dreaming to go unnoticed, like there is in meditation.

Yoga is also energizing. If we start a session tired and fatigued, it is quite
possible that we will become more energized as we go along, but this is
generally not the case with meditation. One cannot fall into a torpor or be
lax while doing yoga.

The benefits of integrating yoga as a support for meditation practice are
for all to experience. Needs and responses are all unique. But, no doubt,
in our own unique way, we will feel the benefits of yoga if we give it a try.

                * * *

It is said: “thoughts have wings.” Even if they are not consciously aware
of it, our thinking is felt by other people, and of course this entails that we
also feel the thoughts of others. But, when thinking of others, do we
consider how are thoughts might be affecting them? If we reflected a little
on the power our thoughts might have on the people in our lives, is it not
the case that we would make an effort to formulate only positive
thoughts? Wouldn't’ we wish others would do the same for us?

                * * *
Thought for the Day: August 9, 2017

It is said, “When the mind moves, the Ten Thousand Things are created,
when the mind becomes still, nothing arises.” It might seem obvious that
we should just still our mind and be at peace, but, as we all know, it is not
so simple. We have all tried to still our mind, even those who don’t
meditate try to be calm and collected, but it is not so easy.
If we wish the mind to be still, we cannot try to do so directly, because
that is to apply force. The mind arises because of desire for objects,
people, entertainment, and so forth.

If we observe an agitated mind it is always connected to getting
something, receiving something we want, entanglements with people,
wanting to be acknowledged, and so forth. We each have our desires and
ambitions which are unique, and what makes our world so interesting, but
if desire isn’t kept in check, we become out of balance, and the mind
becomes agitated. No amount of force will still it, we have to balance our
desires, and then the mind will settle easily.

We are human beings and having desires is natural, but when there are
too many pulling in different directions, or any single desire becomes an
obsession, the mind will be agitated, and it will not settle. Simplification is
the key, and no one can tell another how to do that. Each must decide for
herself.

                                * * *

IIn the Bodhisattvacharyavatara, “the Bodhisattva Way of Life,”
Shantideva says that the only reason we are confined to this body is
because we choose to be. It is because for the most part we are concerned
only with our health and wellbeing, he points out. However, our
orientation can change is we shift our attention to others through giving,
community service, supporting the elderly through giving time to homes
for the elderly, and any way we feel we can make a difference in someone’
s life.

Our orientation can change from a limited single perspective, to a more
embracing other perspective. If we can begin this shift in some small way,
it will snowball into a practice that enriches ourselves as we enrich others.
We owe it to ourselves to explore ways to give others a bigger place in our
lives.
                                                          

           * * *

Vulnerability is a beneficial attitude. As a young person, I remember a
high school friend coming up to me at a party and saying that I had a wall
around me, and was guarding myself. I knew I had a wall around me, but
I didn’t think others knew. Suddenly, I felt vulnerable. It didn’t feel good;
but it was good for me
.
We all have a self-image that it is natural to try to protect, but it also
requires a lot of energy. We worry what others may think, we hide our
faults, we appear upbeat, when we are not, we pretend to like people we
don’t, and so forth. Hiding faults, I found the biggest drain of my energy,
and the resolve I made to just be open and vulnerable, not concealing
anything, lightened my heavy heart, even if it wasn’t easy to do.

Being vulnerable is just being honest; it is a “what you see, is what I am”
attitude. It is a frankness that other will value in us. If we are dharma
practitioners, vulnerability and openness are considered essential
foundation building elements. One who is vulnerable shares his
shortcomings with others and overcomes them. Vulnerability paves the
way to more advanced meditation practices by clearing out personal
obstacles so that we can move unhindered by them. If we are not
vulnerable, we cannot work out our problems, because working on our
faults and concealing them are conflicting interests, so we must make a
choice which it will be.

                                * * *

How often have we been told: “Be careful!” Carefulness is a support for
mindfulness, it fosters mindfulness. It is not just Dharma, it is street
wisdom, too.

We often engage in familiar action  carelessly, and for this reason are
often kicking ourselves saying: “I should have known better!” Carefulness
is the domain of the familiar as much as the unfamiliar. We shouldn't
view familiar tasks dismissively, as if our attention weren't needed.

When on unfamiliar territory, small, tedious, details cannot be allowed to
make us impatient; we have to slow down, and cast aside any impulse to
rush forward.

Carefulness and patience are closely linked; where the one is present, the
other is too. These two dharmas are our best friends and best
companions.

                             * * *
Thought for the Day: August 13, 2017

Fearlessness is one of the most supportive of all dharmas. Basically, there
is nothing to be afraid of, but it is impossible to find that out unless one
is fearless.

“Nothing will go away by merely wishing it go away,” HH Dalai Lama,
says. Only by looking, examining, analyzing, our obstacles will we
succeed in undermining them. If we are afraid to look at what is
unpleasant to look at, we will never find happiness. We will be burdened
by something in the back of our mind, even if we don’t articulate it.

No place in our mind should be immune to our probing. We should
explore what is difficult to explore and not be like running water that just
flows where it is easy. A daily time set for quiet reflection will make us
stronger and more fearless by the day.

                             * * *
Thought for the Day: August 14, 2017

One of the things my teacher, Master Hsuan Hua, often said to me was
to never use force. It has been a tough lesson for me to learn. I become
frustrated and try to force things, often breaking them, or force my mind
to think a certain way, meditate in a contrived way, or push my body
beyond its capacity.

I have discovered it is my big ego behind force. I am often ill equipped to
do what I set out to do and try to make it work anyway. Whenever we
engage in action with our body, speech, and mind, we should not us
force. Even if we succeed, it will be at the price of a lot of aggravation.
Far better we know what we are doing, and then we can not only get
what we want done, but enjoy doing it.

When I am getting into something beyond my capacity, I try to recognize
it early on, and adjust what I am taking on. I have come to know that
even demanding work can be enjoyable if I work within my capacity.


                             * * *
Thought for the Day: August 15, 2017
If you committed to something and regret it later, either get out, or put
yourself a hundred percent into it. We shouldn’t be half in and half out.
If no one is getting hurt, we should commit or get out.

As a novice monk, I discovered that the secret to make the austerities
easy was to always go further than asked. Whether it was eating only
once a day, cleaning the temple, meditating, I would always aim to do
more than the requirement. For example, we all ate only once a day at
noon in our monastery, but I limited my bowl size, and sometimes
fasted. If I thought to clean the Buddha Hall, I would clean the toilets
too. If I sat down for an hour to meditate, time permitting I would add
more.

No matter the task, if one foot is in and one out, often the case with
novice monks, the time will drag and nothing will be learned along the
way. But, if we put extra effort, even tasks we don’t like will gradually
reveal the fact that they too can be enjoyable if our attitude is right.

Being there, 100%, assures actions are well performed. Attitudes are not
fixed, and if we keep this in mind, we will realize that actions we are ill-
disposed at one time, may be looked forward to in the future. We need
only put forth the extra effort.

Terrible things happen in the world and we wonder how and why people
would do such things. We may wonder in amazement why White
Supremacist are growing in number on American soil, why people want
to harm one another, and point our finger saying they are
incomprehensible. In our language, we separate ourselves from them,
“they” are something disgusting to “us.” But, if we zoom out, from
another perspective, they and us are “we.”

As a society whenever we isolate one group from ourselves, we move
further from solving the problem. But, the reality is we are affected by
what goes on and cannot isolate ourselves from “them” any more than
we can isolate “them” from us. So, the correct attitude that might work is
to view them as “we,” “us,” and tackle the issue from the perspective of
a problem created by our society.

If, as a society, we take a subjective perspective and investigate how we
have created some of the problems we are forced to cope with, we are
taking a more organic approach, a more open approach, that will offer
possibilities for us to remedy the issues we face  Drawing boundaries
between them and us will never move us forward.

                             * * *
Thought for the Day: August 17, 2017

Post-meditation offers a reliable indicator to judge whether we are session
and immediately move on to other things, or if we are in a group,
socialize. But, when we do this we may not be allowing ourselves to
transition from our meditation. Instead, Masters recommend walking
around for five minutes just observing what we notice, sights, smells,
sounds, and so forth. We should observe what catches our attention. If
we do this, we allow ourselves to fully transition out of the meditation.

Post-meditation is also a valuable indicator how our long-term growth is
going. The best of the many indicators is noticing a more compassionate
and loving feeling towards others. A natural uncontrived warmth and
concern for other is a sign our meditation is going well. Some other
indicators would include being more patient, less greedy, gentle in speech,
and a reduced inclination to engage in idle talk.

As a guide to meditation progress don’t look at meditation to tell you, but
the period in between, when we can see ourselves in real world situations.

                             * * *
Thought for the Day: August 18, 2017

Some people argue that a vegetarian is more compassionate than a non-
vegetarian, but this is just because of unreflective biases working. If we
take a moment to reflect on the matter, we cannot help but notice that
this claim is primarily based on the assumptions that non-vegetarians
engage in killing animals for their nourishment, and vegetarians don’t.
But, a moments reflection and we can easily see that vegetarians also are
responsible for the death of many animals in their choice of food. During
the preparation of land for planting, the planting itself, harvesting, and so
forth, countless rodents, birds, snakes, and various critters lose their life.

Both vegetarians and non-vegetarians are responsible for killing, but the
non-vegetarian more so because the animals he eats, also consume lots of
foods that need to be grown to sustain them, and in the process of
planting, and so forth many animals die. Still, although the non-vegetarian
is responsible for more death than the vegetarian, both are killing animals
to survive and there can be no assertion otherwise by either party.
Vegetarians and non-vegetarians are on equal footing as far as the issue
of killing is concerned and we cannot claim the non-vegetarian is less
compassionate by virtue of his diet. But, it can be demonstrated that a
vegetarian diet is more conducive to a peaceful and compassionate mind.
In Ayurveda and Chinese medicine meat is considered agitating and
contributes to anger, agitation, restlessness, lust, and so forth. In
Ayurveda, meat is “rajistic” (agitating,) and “tamasic” (dulling,) and for
these reasons it is less suitable for a meditation diet.

While there are many ways to demonstrate a vegetarian diet is more
conducive to generating a compassionate mind, this does not mean that a
non-vegetarian cannot have equal or superior compassion. There are
many other factors besides diet that play a role in our mental dispositions.
If we polarize ourselves placing too much emphasis on our diet, we may
miss the point.
                             * * *
Thought for the Day: August 19, 2017

rare. Regarding religious writings, often devotees had to rely on word of
mouth, and memories were often far from perfect, and imagination was
very active. It was difficult to hear a teaching that was reliable, much less
read one.

Today we have the opportunity to study well researched work from
reliable teachers from all branches of Buddhism. Yet, how little we
concentrate on learning! The treasure trove of sutras and shastras we have
at our fingertips today, would be like a dream to pilgrims and devotees of
an earlier time, and yet many of us do not support our meditation and
devotional activities with adequate learning.

As lay people, it would behoove us to take note of the amount of study
that monastics do. Monastics study considerably more than they meditate
and engage in rituals, with few exceptions. Even in the Chan school,
where meditation is emphasized, monks and nuns study at least three
hour a day. Of course, we are not monks or nuns, and can’t be expected
to behave as if we were, but, that does not mean we should not learn
from them, and resolve to make study a bigger percentage of our time
allotted to spiritual practice.

In the eyes of many, meditation is the end-all of spiritual endeavors, and
study is considered a less direct and effective means of attaining
realization and peace. But, this view is biased towards meditation and has
no real foundation. Without study, and lots of it, it is unlikely our
meditation will develop properly. In fact, often meditation by itself will
generate distorted views and can even create obstacles. Meditation needs
guidance, and study is the rudder that will keep meditation on course.

Dharma practice requires a balanced approach, study, reflection,
meditation, and service. We should explore any weaknesses in our
practices, and work to balance them out. We all want results and do not
to want to stall, but move forward, and it is through periodic balancing of
the various aspects of our effort that we will accomplish it.

                            * * *
Thought for the Day: August 20, 2017

Choosing friends is an art many of us don’t have. We generally seek
likeminded people; but companions who are like minded may keep us
rolling along complacent for years on end, never breaking ground into
innovative ways of thinking about things.

When I was a monastic, my teacher, Master Hsuan Hua, always paired
the monks and nuns together in such a way that we would always be
working with someone who rubbed us the wrong way. Whatever project
it may have been, translation work, cleaning the temple, distributing
books, preparing food, research work, and so forth, the Master would
make sure it wasn’t someone we were buddy-buddy with. Often it would
be someone who tested our patience, was boring, lacked enthusiasm,
distracted, scattered, in short, someone who annoyed us and caused us to
be disciplined to carry out our task.
Life often brings us together with people wherein our patience is tested
and we may find it difficult to be with such a person, but if we were with
someone we liked, would we be able to develop our patience? Probably
not.

Ideally, we would have people that challenged us in a unique way, by
being smarter than we are and inspiring us to be better, but it is not
always the case that such opportunities appear, and when they don’t we
should not be distraught or seek a different work partner. Instead, we
should make the best of the situation, and see what we can learn, and
thereby turn a negative circumstance into a positive one.


                            * * *
Thought for the Day: August 22, 2017

We all have strengths and weaknesses and as individuals we should be
impartially aware of both. We should not be disposed to make a show
of strengths or conceal weaknesses, but rather, evenmindedly regard
both.

But, just because we have and even attitude towards our strong points
and shortcoming, does not mean that we should not try to lift and
improve ourselves where low, or reach higher where we are already
strong. All limitations are made to be broken.

Concealment is a hindrance because it prevents us from moving
forward; so, we should always be open about faults and shortcomings
and not pay too much attention to what people think. The same goes
for our strengths. If we are a show-off, we will be stuck and not
improve. Be humble about qualities. It is OK to conceal qualities, but
not weaknesses.
                            * * *

I just recovered from one of my periodic arrhythmias that had been
going on for the last twenty hours. I got up at 4 A.M. and did yoga for
almost two hours, and then cleaned my flat vigorously for another hour.
I have found that while it is tempting to relax and rest during my
depression, and physical fatigue. We are creatures of desire and often
desire does not take our best interest in mind when dealing with
emotional stress, depression, or fatigue and laziness. This can be evinced
by the way we try to remedy stress and depression through food phones,
and so forth.

When we feel out of sorts physically or emotionally, the cure is often
counter intuitive. Seeking what we feel is right often is not going to
work because feelings are controlled by desire. Instead, reason is a better
servant, for it will get us off our butts and make us go against the flow,
and probably get us results in the process.

                            * * *

“Sexual Abuse in Buddhism” was the title of an article the New York
Times ran concerning the Sogyal Rinpoche scandal. Sogyal Rinpoche is
a Tibetan Lama who is accused of sexual abuse, financial bilking, and
physical assault, by almost a dozen of his closest disciples and
administrators of “Rigpa, the world-wide foundation he heads.
Whether it is high profile politicians or religious heads media loves
sexual scandals because the public who pays for their advertising does.
The problem is that media only seeks to shock and amuse and it does
not seek to educate. It is OK to tell a story without any effort to educate
at the same time? In the case of Sogyal Rinpoche, his actions are
deplorable by our own standards as a civilized society, but no effort was
made to educate the public on the rules of conduct expected of a
Buddhist follower.

When presenting an article such as the New York Times article, while
presenting the obvious violations, an effort should be made to
emphasize the fact that such actions are outside the parameters of what
is expected of a Buddhist. If instead of saying “Sexual Abuse in
Buddhism” the article said, “Buddhists Repulsed by Lama’s Conduct,”
the reader is less likely to have the impromptu response, “Oh,
Buddhism also has sex scandals.” A small shift in wording can shine the
light on the perpetrator of the crime, where it belongs, rather than
Buddhism itself.

People are suffering from a loss of grounding in a culture of flash-in-
your-face news designed to get us riled up, but not educate us.
Respectable news should have some ethics and preserve our religious
and political institutions by presenting the facts in such a way as to make
“Buddhist” by Buddhist themselves. The same can be said for other
beneficial institutions harmed by scandal.

                            * * *
Thought of the Day: August 25, 2017

For myself I enjoy meditating in public places because they represent a
real-world experience better than isolating myself in a temple. Today I
meditated in a temple courtyard that included residential housing. It was
quiet when I started my almost three-hour study and meditation session,
but as time went on the courtyard was already busy with people for half
of my meditation and study. By the end, I had kids playing football right
next to me.

It is relatively easy to meditate in a quiet place, but we are also more
subject to deluding ourselves that our meditation is calm and peaceful
and our mind is not distracted and busy with thoughts. But, a public
place is more challenging; every noise may distract and annoy us. I do
become annoyed sometimes in a public place, and I enjoy meeting the
challenge of trying to absorb myself in my meditation to the point I do
not notice the noise about me.

Public parks may not be as quiet as temples, nor courtyards in buildings,
but these and many places may be available, when temples or the quiet
of our homes are not. When we take advantage of a few minutes at
work, or on a walk, and so forth to sit and quietly relax our mind in
meditation, the skill we develop will be well appreciated when we are in
a temple or the quiet of our home. “Don’t hesitate to meditate,” no
matter where you are.

                                       * * *

Thought of the Day: August 26, 2017

The other day I went to a friend’s house and had the opportunity to
have an impromptu Sanskrit lesson from his daughter. It was a Buddhist
recitation text of praises to Manjusri that I recite daily and I wanted to
go over my pronunciation. I only expected her to recite a few minutes
but once she started after some time she said, “Oh, this makes me so
peaceful,” and she continued about a half hour until we finished the text.
In the West meditation and yoga is emphasized but in the East chanting
is preferred by many, and even those who meditate include chanting as
part of their “sadhana.”

                                         * * *
Thought for the Day: August 27, 2017

Space after meditation allows the meditation state to become grounded.
When a meditation state ends, before we tend to our affairs, it is said
sound we notice, and the things we see, and whatever may catch our
attention. We should in a relaxed way be aware of our thoughts as we
get ready to settle into our day.

Jumping up and doing things disturbs the mind. While the bell may
abruptly end the formal session, that doesn’t mean that we need to
abruptly start doing things. Instead, give a few minutes for yourself to
relax and feel your body and mind, and then begin your day.
                                              * * *
Death gobbles up rich and poor alike; so why do we pay so much
attention to it when we are alive?

Within Chan Buddhism there is a saying, “Paint birth and Death on
your forehead and always never have it out of your mind.”  Rich and
poor, fame and no-count, beautiful and ugly, all appearances are
deceiving, and cause us to live in fear of one and strive at any cost for
the other.

If we are constantly mindful of our human predicament, which is like
fish in a bowl whose water is ever evaporating, we will find more value
in our lives and consider what we do with greater care. The facts of life
are what is real, and should not be shied away from no matter how grim
they may seem. Indeed, ironically, mindfulness of death, is the best way
to connect with life.

                                          * * *
Thought for the Day: August 30, 2017

the extensive availability of Buddhist teachings on the internet in recent
years. For example, teachings by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, that
many pay thousands of dollars to fly to and attend, may only have a
worldwide internet viewership of less than five thousand. That more of
us do not take advantage of the live streaming and recorded teachings
of great masters is rather extraordinary.

We cannot blame the meager statistics reflected by viewership count on
a lack of Buddhists, for there are millions of Buddhists worldwide.
Even Buddhists may be contributing to the large viewership of much of
the frivolous broadcasts designed to amuse, and yet we may overlook
opportunities to engage our mind in something truly beneficial to us.
If we visit YouTube or Livestream we can inform ourselves of many
recorded teachings on almost every aspect of meditation and practice of
the path, and by reliable Masters who hold the authority of lineage. If
we do a search of the teaching we wish to receive, it is no doubt we will
find teachings addressing any doubt we might want to resolve. This
resource, only comparatively recently available, we should not overlook.

                                          * * *

The best way to be a good person is to surround ourselves with good
people. Not only are we “known by the company we keep,” but we
come like the company we keep.

                                           * * *