Thought of the Day: March 1, 2018

Be kind to others because you are a kind person, sincerely, and without
pretense. It is easy to act kind to others, but very difficult to be kind
genuinely. If we are without pretense, others will appreciate our
sincerity, even if we don’t always present ourselves as we wish.
Gradually, we can make ourselves better, through and through.

                         * * *
Thought of the Day: March 2, 2018

There is a saying, “If bitter cold strikes not to the bone, how can the
plumb blossoms be fragrant?” This saying refers to the practice of the
Buddha Dharma. It means that genuine progress is very elusive and
won’t be coaxed out by a lighthearted attempt. Dharma practice is
serious business, and we must be prepared to make unexpected
sacrifice and maintain strict discipline, without which our realization
will not blossom.

                       * * *

Thought of the Day: March
3, 2018

We are “conditioned” beings and are constantly being influenced by the
people in our lives and our environment. People we associate with
mold our lives more than we may realize, and this is something we
should contemplate deeply so that we realize the importance of good
influences. Indeed, we may be better off sticking to ourselves if
circumstances don’t offer good associations that stimulate us to
become a better person. If we stick to ourselves, we can take the time
that might go elsewhere for time in the library and meditation, quite
contemplative walks, and other things that stimulate our imagination to
reach higher and develop our aspirations.

Our potential is limitless, and we can explore this potential in any way
of life as there is no place the practice of dharma cannot be employed,
monasteries have no monopoly here. Always, we should treasure
ourselves and have faith in ourselves and work hard to feel we are
doing our best to be our best.

                
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Thought of the Day: March 4, 2018

The reason we must study books is because we don’t listen to
ourselves; and when we study books we find out that what is written is
what we have been thinking all along. When in doubt about the way to
go; ask yourself and listen. The path is there somewhere.

                       * * *
Thought of the Day: March 5, 2018

The Dharma will only seem confining if you merely follow rules like a
sheep follows its master. Each of us must make the rules serve us; and
if we feel enslaved by them they aren’t serving us very well. The rules
are to force us to think beyond the usual sources of pleasure and find a
deeper level of happiness. If we feel confined, we are not pushing
ourselves to think past the rules.

                       * * *
Thought of the Day: March 6, 2018

Ramana Maharshi, a Hindu master, practiced what Buddhist would call
Dzogchen, and in fact would be regarded as a master of this Buddhist
discipline. With regard to mantra recitation he was once asked by a
student, “Is it OK and beneficial to recite mantras that one casually
picks up here and there?” The master replied: “No, you need to receive
the teachings associated with the mantra and be initiated.”

                                   * * *

Thought of the Day: March 7, 2018

An effective way to calm the mind when mantras and watching the
breath seem impossible, is to move through the many parts of the body
and feeling the joints and bones sequentially, starting at the toes and
going up to the head, and circling down again on the other side. I
learned this from a hypotherapist friend who uses it to treat sleep
disorders, and so forth. It really works for an agitated mind, too. After
one or two rounds one should be relaxed and ready for meditation.

                       * * *
Thought of the Day: March 8, 2018

Meditation is all about focus---right? Well, right and wrong. It is about
defocus, too. The increased awareness generated by meditation can
magnify our obstacles and generate a feeling of being overwhelmed as
afflictive states appear larger than life. This happens when our
understanding is not growing apace with our concentration and signals
that it is time to balance out the time we spend on the meditation
cushion with a proportionate time spent on book learning. By “book
learning” I mean the study of authentic sutras and “shastras,”
(commentaries) with the aim of acquiring a philosophical basis of
understanding capable of supporting meditative inquiry.

Book learning may seem far less “sexy” than meditation, but it will give
us the understanding we need to defocus on our shortcoming and
afflictive emotions and get on with meditation’s larger enterprise.
Otherwise, it is easy to obsess on our mental clutter because we do not
have sufficient understanding to serve as a support for our meditation.
Study is to meditation what a map is to a road trip; we need it to
negotiate the twists and turns of a maiden journey.

                                        * * *
Thought of the Day: March 9, 2018

Our lives may seem long in the context of an individual life, but, in the
context of countless births, this present life is but a moment.

Sometimes it is helpful to defocus on this life and think in terms of the
many rounds of births we have had to gain a perspective that makes us
realize just how little time we have. If we can recognize our brief period
of less than a hundred years as not anything but a very moment of
time, we will surely not want to be careless with a single minute.

The Indian saint, Satya Sai Baba, said: “Time waste is life waste.” If we
see life as an opportunity to realize enlightenment and end ignorance,
we will not be careless how we spend our time, even seemingly “idle
time.” A little time each day reflecting on the brevity of our appearance
on this planet will instill in us a carefulness and appreciation for the gift
that life is.

                                            * * *

Thought of the Day: March 10, 2018

When the Dalai Lama was asked about his religion he said, “My
religion is kindness.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama often emphasizes
that the foundation for spiritual growth, regardless of our religious
affiliations, is being a good human being. That is the starting point for
all of us, one that is often overlooked because of our enthusiasm to
experience lofty states of meditative awareness.
Thought of the Day: March 11, 2018

“Never give up” does not mean butt your head against a wall;
sometimes we simply need to step back and put things into perspective.

                                           * * *

Thought of the Day: March 12, 2018

Being free to do what we want, is not as good as being free of want.

                                      * * *

Thought of the Day: March 13, 2018

There is not a friendship worth its salt that does not have differences to
be worked through.
                                      * * *
Thought of the Day: March 14, 2018

Sutras may not be as engaging as more modern dharma books; but they
are the authentic word of the Buddha and should be the first choice for
all of us wishing to study the dharma. After we have studied the sutras
we will have a firm basis of understanding and be able to selectively
read more modern works without being fooled by the many unworthy
dharma presentations by misguided authors. Without a basis in the
sutras, discriminating the worthy from the unworthy is almost
impossible.

Sometimes the language of sutras may seem preachy and the metaphors
and analogies archaic but look carefully for the underlying principles
and meditate on them, and you will discover the genius of the Buddha.
Sutra study is worth the patience it takes to devote time to the task of
reading them.

Some classic sutras to start with would be the Vimalakirti Sutra,
Diamond Sutra, Lankavatara Sutra, Sixth Patriarch sutra, and
Shurangama Sutra. If we study these daily our meditation will be on
track and we will not be confused about the path we are on.

                                      * * *
Thought of the Day: March 15, 2018

If you try you best and fail, you have the thought to cushion your fall,
“I tried my best,” but, if you don’t try your best, if you fail, there will
be no cushion to soften the fall.

                                      * * *
Thought of the Day: March 16, 2018

If we are busy thinking of the rights and wrongs of others, we will be
blind to our own affairs. We don’t want to be wise about the affairs of
others, and inept regarding our own. But, that is what will happen if we
busy ourselves doing other peoples’ laundry. Worldly wisdom says,
“Mind your own business,” and this is true.

Moreover, while we shouldn’t be anxious to see the faults of others, we
should not hide our own. If we hide our own faults we are supporting
them. Openness is a quality that people value in others and reflects
genuineness. It takes a lot of energy to conceal faults, better to be open
about them and spend that energy dissolving them.

                                      * * *
Thought of the Day: March 17, 2018

Understanding why we keep disciplines is far more potent a discipline
than the same disciplines followed out of fear or a promise. Always,
before adopting a discipline, feel comfortable with it, and never follow
a rule out of fear of the consequences of not following it, or the
promise of the reward for following it. Know the undesirable fault you
have and wish you hadn’t, and how the discipline might undermine it.
If you do this, you can follow the rule with confidence.

                                      * * *
Thought of the Day: March 18, 2018

Someone we may not get along with can be the best kind of association
when it puts our cherished views to the test or causes a healthy self-
doubt that reveals shortcomings within ourselves. We can admire
people we don’t necessarily like, and these people may be most likely to
stimulate our growth. We must put our personal likes and dislikes aside
when we choose our friends and associates, and be objective, always
having our self-improvement in mind.

                                                        * * *

Thought of the Day: March 19, 2018

Logic and reasoning are far better guides to use when tough decisions
present themselves than are feelings. Feelings are deceptive and rooted
in our desires, whereas logic and reasoning is like a mathematical
equation that if correctly applied will point us in the right direction,
even though it may not feel right at the time.

                                                * * *
Thought of the Day: March 20, 2018

Trust is important between people; but trust in oneself is equally so.
We must be able to trust in our decisions or we will be blown about by
opinions of others.

Consistency and a disciplined schedule and way of life will help us
develop a foundation of trust in ourselves. If we are deterred by endless
changing circumstances, we will have little grounds to trust in
ourselves, but, if we stay the course through trying circumstances, we
will gradually become stronger and able to weather the many storms of
life.

Whenever we try to improve ourselves, we can expect commensurate
obstacles to arise. That is the nature of the game. If we build trust in
ourselves, we will play the game well.

                                                * * *
Thought of the Day: March 21, 2018

Shantideva, in his Bodhisattvavatra, states: “If I bind myself in
promises But fail to carry out my words in deed, Then every being
will have been betrayed.” Yet, in another section he states: “Although
a promise and a pledge were given, It is right to reconsider: Shall I act
or not?” (Shantideva. The Way of the Bodhisattva: Revised Edition
(p. 23). Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.)

Obviously, we should all try to keep our word, but, practically
speaking, we know that sometimes circumstances change, or elements
come to light that make it impractical. This is what the master
Shantideva is referring to.

Before giving our word, we should consider carefully the situation
and not give it lightly. We do not want our word to be lightly taken
but want to be “a man (or women) of our word.” If we make a habit
of changing with the wind, we will not be respected. So, we should
reserve changing our word for only those occasions when others
would easily see we have worthy cause to do so.

                                                * * *
Thought of the Day: March 22, 2018

There are many rules and regulations, but if we truly ask ourselves the
way, and follow our heart, the way should be clear. Human being
have many qualities such as compassion, truthfulness, caring attitude,
steadfastness, that are covered over and dusty at times, but will shine
forth with a little still introspection. So, while rules and discipline are
important, they are only there to remind us of our natural disposition
towards good.

                                                * * *
Thought of the Day: March 23, 2018

Have you ever wondered why palm trees can withstand hurricane
force winds and not topple over? You would have to see one sawed
down to know, but coconut trees are not really wood, but “rope.”
That is right; if you look closely even on the outside you can see it is
made of fiber, and this fiber makes up the entire tree. The palm tree
can bend just like a rope and this flexibility is allows it to endure
powerful winds.

In our cultivation of the dharma we must be like the palm tree and be
flexible and capable of withstanding tough challenges. We should be
pliant like the palm and not rigid like most trees. Even if adversity
causes us to sway to and fro; we will never fall down. We should
accord with conditions but remain unmoving inside; just as a palm
may be blown this way and that, and yet remain rooted.

It is good to bind ourselves in rules; but until we attain realization we
must realize we are human and we may fail to maintain them
perfectly. Rules are guidelines and not absolute. We should try to live
within our disciplines, but not be discouraged when we fail. We
should allow ourselves flexibility, for it is better than being to rigid in
our rule maintenance, and thinking they are correct for all situations.
We must be able to adapt to change.

                                                * * *
Thought of the Day: March 24, 2018

We are forever engaged in inner chatter only a small percentage of
which is useful. A good way to keep inner chatter in check is to recite
mantras during times of idle musing. Simply reciting the Buddha’s
name, or the mantra, “Om Mani Padme Hum,” or any mantra of
choice, can go a long way towards calming the mind and allowing us
to weed out what is of value from what is not.

When we recite mantras during our free time we must be cautious to
focus properly on it or the mantra will become like just another idle
thought floating around in the mind. If a thought arises competing
with the mantra we should continue our recitation until it goes away;
but if it persistently interferes, we can stop our recitation and quietly
and single-mindedly consider the thought. It may be something we
should pay attention to; but if after stopping our recitation to consider
it, we determine the thought is unimportant, we should go back to
our recitation.

Allot of energy is lost in vein musing, energy that we are wasting.
This energy can be used to strengthen our mind and support our
formal meditation sessions. All we must do is make use of our idle
time to recite mantras mindfully. If we take care of our mantras, they
will take care of us.
                                                * * *
Thought of the Day: March 25, 2018

Giving is not mathematics. We should never think, “If I give this,
what will be left for me,” as Shantideva says in his Bodhisattva Way
of Life. Giving is an opportunity to share according to our capacity.
Even a thoughtful letter can remind someone that we appreciate
them; material gifts are not always necessary. The important thing is
to give from the heart and not be stingy with our time, energy, or
material resources.

                                                 * * *

Thought of the Day: March 26, 2018

Once master Hsuan Hua was asked, “What are thoughts?” He
replied, “The people in my mind.” This being the case, who would
not treat the people in their lives respectfully, carefully, and mindfully?
                                                   * * *

Thought of the Day: March 27, 2018

No amount of meditation on loving others and being kind and
compassionate towards them is possible if we don’t love ourselves. If
we try to love others while being discontent with ourselves it will only
be seen as pretentious and contrived. We must therefore begin
generating loving kindness by focusing on ourselves and appreciating
ourselves. It may be that we don’t have much that we like about
ourselves, but we won’t become any better by ignoring ourselves.
Therefore, we should reflect daily on our qualities and wish that they
increase, and reflect on our faults and wish they decrease. When we
reflect in this way we will naturally become warmer, more genuine,
and appreciative towards others.
                                              * * *
Thought of the Day: March 28, 2018

Cultivation is a balance between our perceived capabilities and our
imagined ones; and our success or failure will depend on our ability
to find that balance and remain in it. Our imagination can encourage
us to practice the dharma, and even the sutras have many stories to
cause us to push ourselves and avoid being lazy or complacent. But,
we also must not push beyond our limits, physically, emotionally, or
mentally. We must be rational and never allow our enthusiasm to
push us too far, for if we work too hard, we will not be able to
maintain the momentum because our understanding is not growing
apace with our effort. When we practice extended rituals and
meditation and study to the point we become emotionally unengaged
it will be counterproductive and will lead to discouragement and
maybe quitting practice altogether.

Therefore, finding a comfort zone and staying within it is an art that a
smart cultivator tries to achieve. A skilled teacher, especially in a
monastic situation, assists his students to achieve this balance; but,
most of us do not live in monastic situations and must exercise their
wisdom to stay in tune with their abilities. Meditation and other
aspects the path of dharma entails should be looked forward to and
engaging, which requires sacrifice and effort on our part. The joy of
practice will not be discovered without effort, but if we go too far our
effort will not be sustainable. A long-term view can be very helpful in
establishing ourselves in the path.

Grass will not grow any faster if we pull on it. If we want our
realization to grow we must be patient, but never complacent or lazy.
We should feel the spiritual path a joy to walk on, but challenging
work at the same time.
                                              * * *