May I say, this first day of May, May everyone be happy!
Whether it be in speaking to others or writing we should always
maintain a friendly tone that is rooted in heartfelt feelings and is
not contrived. People appreciate and listen to such words, even if
the message is not a pleasant one. We are given the gift of
communication, yet it is an art that we must put forth effort to
develop. When we speak, our listeners should want to hear what we
must say as much as we want to say it. To accomplish this, we
should always consider how it would be if we were in the listeners
shoes, and speak accordingly, with respect, and courtesy.
The tone of our language is almost as important as its content, and
our words should be spoken at the appropriate time, place, and to a
receptive listener. Often, we will have to save our words for the
occasion. The art of language use is intimately connected with the
discipline of patience. “Holding one’s tongue” is not an expression
without good reason.
Free of bias and personal agenda, we should speak what need be
spoken. Nothing should be hidden in our talk or concealed, but we
should be frank and truthful. Our words don’t have to be uplifting,
life is not always pleasant and good words like good medicine is
often bitter, which doesn’t mean that they are not spoken with
Never ignore what need be said, while speaking a thousand words
that could be left unsaid. Don’t engage in niceties unless it cannot
be avoided. A serious demeanor is not necessarily an unfriendly
one, and may only reflect thoughtfulness, and that others
appreciate. We don’t have to be all smiles to be friendly, others will
be attracted to us more if our demeanor is serious and thoughtful.
What more could we ask for?
* * *
When the masters tell us that they will carry our burden if we have
faith in them, what do they mean, and how do we hear it? Or, when
we are told that a mantra is like a train that once embarked upon we
can set our luggage down and relax, and that we should view
mantras in this sense and not carry the burden of our thoughts and
afflictive emotions when reciting mantras. But, again, what does
Generally, we think the obvious, “Oh, my guru will wash away my
obstacles now, and I can forget my burden. Or, “Now I can leave
my burden with the mantra.” But, there are views other than these
common views. There may be burdens that we regard as friends,
such as wealth, our leisure time, our various cravings, food, alcohol,
sweets, gadgets of all varieties, and other attachments that we may
When we think of giving up our burden, we must take a serious
look at exactly what our burdens are, which will invariably suggest
attachments that we don’t recognize as burdens. Giving up our
afflictive emotions and obstacles is only one side of the coin, but
giving up what we may think is ours to enjoy is the other. So, we
must look honestly and decide just how much we are willing to
offer up. When it comes to attachments, offering up what we can is
a very transformative action on our part and attracts many blessings.
* * *
Within Tibetan Buddhism, it is said that the body should be viewed
as a loan, and a short term one, at that. This way of viewing the
body is very helpful because it instills a sense of urgency to use it
wisely, even as we might a monetary loan.
If we want to accomplish a goal in our day to day lives we
sometimes have to borrow money to meet our means. There is
always an extra sense of responsibility when working with
borrowed funds because the money is not ours, and if we fail we
will be unable to pay it back. It is the same with our body, which is
not ours, yet we act as if it were. If it were our we certainly not get
sick, nor get old, nor die, but the fact is that it is a loan that will be
recalled in due course, and we better have something to show for it.
If, when we die, all we can show for this human birth is a multitude
of lustful entanglements, countless unnecessary shopping
escapades, eating and sleeping more than needed, and so forth, then
when we close our eyes for the last time there is no doubt we will
regret not having spent more time with family members, helping
and supporting them, more time in the study and practice of
meditation, church, and community service, more time pursuing
personal studies and hobbies that might increase one’s knowledge
If, however, when we close our eyes for the last time, we can look
back and say to ourselves, “well, I tried my best to lead a useful
life.” Then, no matter if we succeeded or failed, the fact that we
tried our best will allow us to rest truly in peace. Therefore,
knowing this, we need not wait until we die to reflect on the life we
are leading. every day, when we lie down to rest we can ask
ourselves, “have I tried my best, have I uplifted anyone today and
provided support, have I practiced my meditation or engaged in
study, have I given aid when asked for it, have I avoided all
frivolous activity, needless shopping, idle chatter and gossip, have I
honored my family and friends, have I been true to my word,” and
so forth. The end of every day brings us closer to the final goodbye,
and it is a good time to practice so we can say it with a smile.
* * *
Often, words and language are taken for granted, but if we think they are
unimportant we should ask ourselves how we could even reach such a
conclusion without language. That language is taken for granted by
common folk is not surprising, the body is too. But, that many who study
the dharma, reciting countless mantras, engaging in endless visualization,
and engaging in “mindful living,” should think for a moment that
enlightenment is beyond words and phrases, should abandon such
spiritual ignorance and take a better look. All talk of spontaneous action or
spontaneous enlightenment is language dependent. If there is
consciousness there is language. Some may say that a baby acts and is
conscious but has no language, and that we, who have language, often act
like babies in that we act without thought, withdrawing from a flame, or
avoiding something frightening. But, those who argue that way, fail to
consider that just because we don’t formulate the thought to act in words,
the action itself is capable of being formulated into words. Some argue
that anything we do that is fit to be expressed in words, connects us, like it
or not, to language. A sect of the Grammarians went so far as to say that
the body itself is an illusion created by language, and that being a human
being is just “languaging!”
Words are important to us, they are fundamental to our being a person.
We can observe our mind and marvel at this. For example, we can be
alone walking in the country and sit down ever so peacefully. Then we
notice a flower, a bug, or wild herb we hadn’t seen before. Immediately
we think of its name, what it is called. Trying to name it is as natural for
great masters as the common run of people. Even though we know that
knowing the name tells us nothing about the thing, we still feel more
comfortable knowing the name because it gives us a way to handle it.
Whether that is a good thing or not, I don’t know, but we all like handles
for things, and words are how we handle everything from our emotions to
material objects. Words, however, can be well chosen, and lead the ones
to follow, and carefully direct our thought, feelings, and emotions. Being
able to guide our words is presence of mind. Reasoning is language
dependent and word dependent and can cut through confusion which is
also language and word dependent. Maintaining a logical thread of
connected words can lead to deep meditation as well as a properly
maintained mantra, and this is why both reasoning and meditation using
mantras and so forth are supportive practices.
What greater treasure have we than our language and what can serve us
better than or words to benefit ourselves and others through appreciating
them as the most amazing gift we have.
* * *
Thought for the Day: May 5, 2017
Relaxation defines meditation. If more people understood this, more
people no doubt would be meditating. Everyone likes to relax, but the
fact is that we are busy doing stuff. We hear the expression, “I don’t have
time to relax.” People hate to be busy and envy those who are at leisure,
and yet, when they do have moments to relax, they find something to do.
We are better doers, than non-doers.
When we are busy, it is a very unsatisfying and distracted state and we
function pretty much on the surface of our being, and sometimes
disconnect with our core completely. This leads to stress, fatigue, and
weariness. When we relax, if we can, we begin to feel connected with
ourselves and remember ourselves. We feel peace. This is really a kind of
meditation, but we call it relaxation, if we are not familiar with
meditation. If we know how to relax, then we know how to meditate.
Meditation is only a way to become good at relaxation; it is really nothing
more than that. If we have not meditated because we feel it is a skill we
cannot learn, we should learn how to look at it differently. Meditation is
just a more scientific and effective form of relaxation, and it is a skill that
once developed will help us put our busy lives in balance.
* * *
Tantra is dharma fast food, whereas the Sutra School can be thought of
as cooking at home: food to wash, peel, and prepare, and cook, and a
kitchen to clean afterward. Just as we tend to mix eating out and eating at
home, not exclusively one or the others, similarly, Tantra and the Sutra
School are meant to be practiced together, but often they are not. Either
the Sutra School is clung to tenaciously as the school that based on the
Buddha’s authenticate teachings, and the Vajrayana is viewed as a
misguided interpretation, or the Vajrayana is seen as the more advanced
embodiment of the Buddha’s intent. Only those who understand the
inseparability of these two schools gets it right.
Tantra is like a house resting on a firm foundation, while the Sutra
School is that foundation. Without a foundation, a house would tumble
and fall; and without first being secure in the disciplines of the Sutra
School, the practice of Tantra is nothing other than supreme spiritual
arrogance. And, as for those who denigrate Tantra, those who naively
cling to Sutra School's purity and its “Proper” dharma and disciplines,
they suffer in their own form of arrogance, and will continue so long as
they don’t understand openness.
Whether it be the imagery of a solemn monk, wrapped in saffron robes,
eyes downcast, begging bowl in hand, or two deities in sexual union, we
must understand that the same oil paint and canvas creates the two
images. There are many ways to express the Buddha’s intent, it is the
ability we have as individuals to interpret that intent, that will decide our
success or failure.
* * *
Thought for the Day: May 7, 2017
It is said that the “Family who prays together, stays together,” which is
not to say that those who don’t pray together, don’t stay together, but
that if they do stay together, they probably do so without prayer.
Our family and friends influence us more than we may realize, and we,
them. If this is fully appreciated it will help us to understand one of the
simplest, yet most beneficial of the Buddha’s instructions: “keep
inspiring company.” The better we are as a person, the stronger and
more profound will our effect on family and friends be, and conversely,
those who are the most realized amongst our associations, will have the
most beneficial effect on our lives.
We are constantly exchanging energy with people, which is either a
source of growth or decline or stagnating, depending on the quality of
those associations. Naturally, we want to be the best we can be to
influence others positively, and to wish that others have a like influence
on us is not an unreasonable wish. But, some effort on our part to
discriminate well our influences is important. We must realize that
receiving is as important as giving, and associate as much as possible
with those who will inspire us and challenge us.
People are important. Our associations are like food that will either
nourish us or not depending on its quality. Associations that lift us up by
challenging us should be cultivated, while those that weary us should be
* * *
It is a rather interesting phenomenon how members of the various
religious traditions of the world do not openly embrace other traditions,
and often in fact, criticize them. Only those who have thoroughly
studied their own tradition and thereby gained understanding rejoice in
the diversity of other faiths. All others, due to a lack of study and
religious instruction, base their understanding on personal assumptions
concerning their own tradition and the traditions of others, and doing so
create biases that are baseless.
Of the great traditions of the word, there is not a single one that
obtained its greatness by exchanging ideas and debating with religious
traditions in agreement with their own, but rather by those traditions in
opposition to theirs, which forces each party to develop a more
sophisticated world view.. Philosophical and religious traditions evolve
through debate, and debate fosters knowledge, whether one is on the
winning or losing side. Whatever our faith may be, we should at least
acknowledge the opposition that helped develop our own system. We
don’t grow because of those in agreement with us, but by those in
The fact that religious wars are fought by so called adversaries reflects
the pervasiveness of spiritual ignorance. Those at odds with each other
should undermine their biases with knowledge. We don’t have to agree
with each other, we can do what Buddhist and Hindus have done for
centuries, which is to agree to disagree, knowingly seeking an answer
where there is none, for the sake of refining the question.
* * *
Humor and the dharma go well together, after all, many have
characterized the moment of enlightenment as a time for a good laugh.
But, long before we reach that point we can begin laughing. We are
likely to get far more accomplished if we are light hearted, cheerful, and
look for humor within our mistakes and absences.
Being well disciplined does not entail a solemn attitude or seriousness.
We can be very serious in a cheerful way. This attitude is exemplified
best by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who, even during deeply subtle
philosophical teachings often breaks out in laughter. A happy attitude is
refreshing, it circulates the blood and lifts the heart and fosters and
supports meditation and study. There is an enthusiasm that cheerfulness
inspires that a reserved attitude does not. The truth of this can be
observed in anyone of us and need not be explained.
What can be funnier than the mere fact that here we are supposedly
possessing the enlightened potential and yet entangled in countless
desires and attachments which lead us about like a dog on a leash? That’
s funny! And, rather than being oppressed by that fact, if we can learn to
see the humor in it, we are more likely to be amenable to the methods to
disentangle ourselves. The fact that we may think we know better even
though a respected and admired a master is telling us otherwise is funny.
Our innate arrogance is a laugh, and it is easier to laugh it off, than take
it seriously.. Our failure to maintain mindfulness doing even the simplest
things has its humor, too; we don’t have to punish ourselves for every
mistake we make. We can laugh at ourselves; it will take us much further.
A disciplined lifestyle and light heartedness go together, and we should
not allow ourselves to think otherwise. We will get much further if we
recognize the power of light heartedness and while proacting hard, not
taking ourselves so seriously. Smile inside and outside.
* * *
Today in Nepal the birth of the Buddha is being celebrated and I went
this morning to the sacred Stupa of Swoyambu, and afterwards to the
Tara, Manjusri, and Akshobya temples near my flat. I wish to transfer
the merit to all of you and wish you a Happy Buddha Birthday.
The Buddha taught for forty-nine years, almost daily, walking barefoot
through the dusty plains of Bihar, India. He counted as his disciples
kings and beggars, whores and outcastes, and gave equally to all without
bias or prejudice. His enlightened mind did not see high or low,
privileged or disadvantaged, but equality in all. And, he shared his
Wisdom accordingly. The Buddha, like all his close followers, ate once a
day, and begged for his own food. He wore rags and slept in open
places. Because he himself lived as a common person, he could see the
Buddha nature in all. In fact, once the Buddha was walking through a
field when a farmer knelt before him and asked: “What is the difference
between you and me?” The Buddha replied: “I have realized I am the
Buddha, you have not yet realized you are.”
The greatness of the Buddha was his simplicity. He lived as his
followers lived, and saw no reason to be treated differently. His
enlightenment never got in his way. This is incredible, for often it is said
that as many as twelve-hundred accomplished masters would gather for
his sermons, and yet he never thought himself better than a common
beggar amongst them. His compassionate heart poured forth the nectar
of his Wisdom according to the capacity of each listener. When
questioned, he listened with equal attentiveness to the saint or prostitute,
king or beggar, seeing in all the enlightened potential uniting them. His
life was his message, and that message was extraordinarily simple, never
in anything you do or say or speak, have it be that your words, actions,
thoughts, or speech, set you apart from a single living being.
* * *
Thought for the Day: May 11, 2017
Accepting responsibility for our actions is another way of affirming our
belief in the law of karma. The word “karma” may not be understood
by many, particularly those who are not of the Buddhist of Hindu faith,
but “responsibility” is understood by all. Whether we call ourselves
Buddhists, or not, by accepting responsibility for ourselves, we are
following a key principle of the Buddha’s teaching.
Many unhelpful attitudes arise when we fail to accept responsibility.
When we do good, we don’t hesitate to credit ourselves for creating our
present good fortune, but when we are troubled, afflicted, emotionally
unstable, and so forth, we feel a victim, and wonder why we are in such
unfavorable circumstances. We may resort to drugs and so forth, as an
escape, a place to hide, as if we were being chased by thieves.
It can be difficult to blame ourselves for our troubles, even if we want
to. Often, karma is delayed, and may ripen years after misdeeds. When
all is going well and afflictive states arise, we wonder where they are
coming from, and even if we reflect, we may not identify the source
because it was so long ago. When this happens, it is good to go on faith
and accept responsibility, regardless of our failure to identify the source.
We don’t have to be Buddhists to be responsible, but if we are
responsible, we are practicing as a Buddhist would practice.
* * *
Avoiding unnecessary talk is a dharma of central importance to all faiths
and for good reason, it is arguably the most capable and yet basic
practice. The power of our talk is most keenly realized by what is unsaid
rather than said. Words are powerful, and when we speak only those
necessary, all the energy that would flow out wasted, stays within and
illumines the mind.
If we doubt the illuminating capacity of our words, we need only speak
less for a single day and we will surely notice how much fresher we feel
at the end of our day, how clear our mind, alert, pliable, and capable of
being set on anything we choose, whether it be reading, paperwork, or
simply relaxing. It is as if we were meditating all day.
Guarding our talk is simple and anyone can practice it. Unlike
meditation, which takes some training and skill, speaking less is a
concept even a child can grasp easily. The difficulty lies in its execution,
not its mechanics. We all like to talk! Unfortunately, we like to talk more
than necessary. The consequence is similar to our penchants for
spending money, which is another thing we all like to do. When we
spend more than we need to we go into debt and feel weary and
depleted. It is the same with our words. If we talk too much we feel
weary and depleted, but if we budget our words, we will, at the end of
the day, never feel spent.
* * *
Yesterday I spoke of the power of guarded speech as a dharma door;
dharmas are extraordinarily simple to understand, and although all major
these dharmas are basic human qualities we can cultivate even if we do
not subscribe to so-called “spirituality.” They will make anyone a better
I once asked one of the world's leading masters whom I have had a
lifelong relationship with a ridiculous question; I asked him if I could
cheat on my wife. I was young and in Nepal, where I was married and
lived, this is acceptable. To my surprise, he didn’t say no but simply said
that I should never do anything that will hurt my wife.
Rules are established for reasons, and when they are followed without
reason, we may not follow them well, but if we see the reason, we will
be motivated. Many rules, such as no lying, stealing, sexual misconduct,
taking intoxicants, no killing, should be framed in the context of
harmlessness if we want to actively refine them rather than merely
follow them. Consideration of others in everything we do is a shortcut
that can help us erase indecision regarding our conduct. If we simply
ask ourselves, “will my actions harm anyone,” we will have the virtue of
not acting in a way we wouldn’t like others to act towards us.
Harmlessness does not only pertain to the effect our actions have on
others but also the effect they have on us. Of course, if we harm others,
we are indirectly harming ourselves, but, some actions harm us and are
self-inflicted injury. Some of our habits and desires that may lead us to
this kind of injury are, diet, drinking, smoking, and so forth, for
example. Instead of thinking of vices as breaking a rule, if we think of it
in terms of harming ourselves, we may get further towards eradicating
any habit we wish to break.
For many disciplines, our success or failure depends on how we
approach it. The mind does not like rules and rebels against them. There
is no logic in rules and they seem like fences we wish to tear down. But,
non-harming has its logic, and when deeply contemplated will make us
more amenable to right action. If everyone asked the question, “is my
action harming anyone or myself” our world would be a much better
* * *
Thought for the Day: May 14, 2017
If we don’t believe something a hundred percent, we should not
propagate that thing to another, or we will start believing it ourselves.
This is how dogmas are created. If we do wish to express that belief,
opinion, and so forth, we should always add the caveat, “I believe,” or,
“I was told,” and so forth.
* * *
otherwise; this is especially true for Mom’s who may have given up a
promising career to marry and parent children. All of us may look back
and think that we may have done better than we did, and this is
especially true if we don’t like our present situation. But, any reflection
that projects what could have been, is going to be fundamentally flawed
because it is based on an assumption. Assumptions are all invalid, like
fortune telling. There is no certainty whatsoever, yet because of our
habituation to believing assumptions, we entertain them.
If we contemplate and reflect on the falsity of assumptions, really
meditate on them, we will gradually undermine the inclination to
indulge in them. We can conserve allot of energy by breaking the
assumption making habit and false regret.
* * *
Thought for the Day: May 16, 2017
Negative emotions are like angry dogs, the more you try to get rid of
them through kicking, throwing stones, wielding a stick, the more
emboldened they become. But, if we were to carry a few treats in our
pocket, we could easily conquer their anger. The same is true with
negative emotions. If we try to block them, or cast them out, they
become inflamed, but if we accept them and look at them we will
gradually understand them and through understanding dissolve them.
* * *
We all like to be respected by others, but we all know that this isn’t
always the case. Sometimes others are short-tempered with us,
impatient, demeaning, and so forth. And, sadly, we are not always as
good to others as we would like to be. We can do better and with very
little effort, we can.
Respecting others begins by respecting ourselves. If we are rushing
inside, filled with a thousand distracting thoughts, we will be impatient
with others. We must slow down inside before we can be courteous and
thoughtful outside. If we are angry about something, we should try not
to do things as much as possible, but instead give ourselves the space
we need to allow our anger to settle. Rushing about doing things only
adds kindle to the fire, so as much as possible we should slow down.
Generally, even when all is going well, we may be so absorbed in our
own world that we fail to appreciate fully the people around us. The
mind is naturally self-centered and it takes some effort to break it away
from thinking of itself and begin to acknowledge the place others have
in our lives.
that we will naturally be more patient and aware of our external
environment and the people that form a much larger part of it than we
are generally aware. People are important, and when we clearly see that,
we will naturally reflect that in our interactions with others. When we
appreciate others, they feel it. And, when we slow down enough to
genuinely appreciate them, we feel it. Everyone benefits, and it only
takes a little patience.
* * *
Thought for the Day: May 18, 2017
unfortunately, we mostly seek it in the new rather than the old. We buy
new things, and how many divorces and breakups are the result of
seeking new people! The fact is, we are habituated to look for
stimulation in whatever is newly acquired, whether it be people or
things. This is no less true for the poor as it is for the rich.
The problem with seeking fulfillment in the new, is it seldom addresses
the problem, but only creates more seeking. We all seek happiness, we
all have this in common, but at some point, we have to take a look at
ourselves and ask if we are finding it. If not we have to contemplate
ways of changing our approach.
The most viable way of changing our approach will probably be found
in non-attachment, a practice ascribed to in all religious traditions.
Simply put, it is learning to be content in our own skin. It is finding
innovative ways to appreciate the people in our lives by being more
sensitive to their emotional needs and seeing our own mistakes in
relating to them. It is working out the problems in personal friendships
and relationships, rather than running away from them (generally to
meet the same problems in a new guise.)
As far as things go, before buying something new, we should ask
ourselves if the one we have will do. What has led us to wanting
something new? Was it dissatisfaction with the old, or something
catching our eye in the market place. We should trace our impulses to
buy things back to the source and refrain from accumulating things as
much as possible --- this leads to contentment. There will always be new
things, we can never keep up even if we have the resources to do so.
But, there is a virtue in being content with what we have, and the
happiness that goes along with it. Things kept become like old friends,
and there is a good deal of joy in having them.
Non-seeking, Non-attachment, Contentment, is the path to happiness,
and we all can explore it for ourselves, and don’t have to read books to
learn about it. People and things are to keep, not exchange.
* * *
Fear arises in all of us and we don’t find it pleasant. The fact is we fear,
fear. And, most often without good reason. The Chinese have a name
very real from a distance, but upon close inspection, we will see its
Much of our fear isnot good and if examined with reason would be
seen as such. For example, we may fear breaking some established
social norm, or behaving in an unacceptable manner. But, rules evolve
and change, and adhering to a rule when we have a strong impulse not
to, may inhibit our creativity. As long as we don’t harm anyone or
ourselves by breaking a rule, we should think of rules: “they were made
to be broken.”
An example of breaking a rule that many would in fear is illustrated by a
friend of mine who one day decided to dress completely different from
everyone else. He showed up at school one days in perfectly pressed
overalls, workers, cap, and boots. Everyone looked at him like he was
crazy, but he thoroughly enjoyed his new style. What he did was
unconventional, but it wasn’t hurting anyone, or himself. Two years
later that person, Jim Ganzer, formed a beachwear clothing company,
JimmyZ, which he sold for ten million dollars, a big sum in the 1970s.
A good rule of thumb when it comes to dealing with fear is asking
ourselves if whatever we fear is going to hurt ourselves or others. And,
we should not leave our current fear out of the equation. For fear harms
us when we entertaining it. So, first of all, we should not entertain fear.
We should either relinquish it through logical reasoning that exposed its
absurdity, or if the fear is valid, recognize our fault for not recognizing
how it is serving us. Yes, fear can be good, it may be protecting us from
drugs, alcohol, friends who do not have our best interest in mind, and
so forth. If it is doing this, we should accept the fact by acknowledging
fear’s benefits. But if it is inhibiting us by restricting our creative
ambitions and exploring our potential, it should be undermined and
dissolved. Fear although never pleasant is not necessarily bad. We
should use reasoning to understand the nature of our fear and see if it is
a friend protecting us, or an enemy unnecessarily restricting us. Fear
must be well discriminated and understood for what it is. It is
something we should never turn away from, but always investigate.
Dealing with fear amounts to putting it in the right perspective, and this
requires investigating it, not sweeping it under the carpet. Our fear may
prove, when rightly viewed beneficial.
* * *
Thought for the Day: May 20, 2017
People are important and they may influence us more than we realize.
If we are feeling low and discouraged, depressed, joyful and happy,
somewhere in between, whatever we are feeling, the people populating
our lives may have more to do with than we may imagine.
The above is very true and is one of the things the Buddha pointed to
when he said: “Associate with gold, and be like gold, associate with
silver, and become like silver, associate with iron, and become like
iron.” Keeping good company is an often-under-acknowledged factor
in our well-being. Always strive to be in the best company.
* * *
Often, we burden ourselves with assumptions on how things would be
different if we had made a choice other than we did. I call this rear-
view-optimism, and it seems to be a pervasive problem, not just with
myself, but most of us.
We often project on to the past a picture of how much better off we
would be if we had acted in a way other than we did, said something
other than we said, bought an item other than the one we bought, and
so forth. Assumptions such as these only antagonize regret. What we
don’t take into consideration is that things could be very different than
we assume they would be, and maybe much worse rather than better.
When we are picturing a very rosy picture of our lives it is only our
projection. Believing is such a projection is like believing in fortune
telling, and just as with fortune telling, the picture is always favorable.
Regret is bad enough, it doesn’t have to be enhanced by our rear-view-
optimism, believing things would be better if we hadn't made the
choice we did. Maybe they would have been or maybe they would’t
have been. Since there is no way of knowing, we should break the habit
of rear-view-optimism and accept our mistakes as part of our growth
* * *
Many people find maintaining a consistent meditation practice difficult,
if not impossible. One remedy that might be considered is seeking
sources of inspiration. In India and Nepal and other countries temples
some flowers, and their day is off to a good start. In America and
Europe temples are not so common, but with a little effort we should
be able to find a Buddhist center, even if it is a small apartment where
people gather on a regular basis for ritual and meditation. Visiting these
places a few times a week can provide the stimulus that will encourage
us to be more disciplined in our daily practice. Also, calling on
venerable teachers who visit or who are in residence can have a similar
effect, and often they can offer valuable guidance to help us on our
Practicing alone in a modern society has many distractions and we all
need support. Good friendship with others who maintain a daily
practice can have more influence on us to do the same than we may
imagine. The opportunities are there, and the effort to find them will
not be futile. Being encouraged by others and making offerings in
temples can have a profound effect on us. We owe it to ourselves.
* * *
things well. Those of us involved in science, biotech, medicine,
management, sports, and so forth, perhaps ascending to the top of our
field, often cannot sit quietly in meditation for an hour or more. This is
of course because whatever it was that made us successful is difficult to
turn off. We are accustomed to social interaction, discussing ideas,
brainstorming, planning, and may lack the mental pliancy to turn off
On the other side of the wall, you have contemplative monastics who
may be excellent at meditation and recitation of scripture, but not much
else. Unlike the successful person of the world, they can point to few, if
any achievements. Many cannot even teach speak or write about the
dharma, let alone do anything creative outside meditation. This group
lack the pliancy to remove their mind from its addiction to the stillness
and security that meditation and recitation of scripture offers, and
actively engage their mind in any creative enterprise. Again, the problem
with this group is the same as the first, lack of mental pliancy.
Mental pliancy is a quality for all of us to develop, and it is praised in
the Buddha’s teaching. As human beings, we have the ability of abstract
thinking and we should exercise it. We do this when we explore our
potential. Stagnation is an enemy and it is possible to slip in even when
we least suspect it, as when we are doing what we do well. We must
continually diversify our interests and this will assure that we are
* * *
Thought for the Day: May 24, 2017
Wherever and whenever and whatever you are doing,
For your sake or the sake of others,
Implement with diligence
The teachings given for that situation.
There is indeed no field of knowledge
That the Buddhas’ offspring should not learn.
For those who are well-versed in all these ways,
There is no action destitute of merit.
Directly, then, or indirectly,
Do nothing that is not for others’ sake.
And solely for their welfare dedicate
Your every action to the gaining of enlightenment.
* * *
Shantideva. The Way of the Bodhisattva: Revised Edition (p. 45).
Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.
Thought for the Day: May 25, 2017
Just as we focus our mind during meditation, so should we keep a
narrow focus on study that is supportive of our meditation practice.
The Buddha dharma is vast, but, as often said, it points to the same
realization. One master famously wrote, “Because I have understood
one truth, I have understood them all.”
It is tempting to jump around in our studies, but this is an ill-advised
and confusing distraction. Instead, pick a sutra or two and reliable
commentaries on those sutras. Both should be books that have stood
the test of times and not New Age. Traditionally, monastics recite the
same few texts again and again, year in and year out, as, like peeling an
onion, they see more and more layers of meaning. This is a very
satisfying practice and those who engage in it become fluent in between
Because we will stick to a text for a prolonged period, it is
recommended to seek a Masters guidance if possible when selecting;
but if this is not possible, we should carefully take time to examine a
few texts until finding one whose vocabulary and manner of expression
one resonates with. Once a text is selected, it can be recited or read as
part of one’s daily meditation period. This will have a profound effect
on our meditation because reading and reflecting prepares the mind and
makes it a fertile field for meditation to grow. It will protect us from
falling into some of the many false views associated with incorrect
While meditation is the most popular, we should not forget that
meditation is a three pillar process: study, reflection, and meditation.
* * *
Pests, whether the big two legged ones, or the tiny winged flying ones,
or the multi-legged crawling ones, are only “pests” because of the way
we treat them. For example, if flies bother us if present when we
meditate, we probably kill them in the kitchen or elsewhere in our
homes. The same can be said with ants and other insects, and even
mice or rats. The attitude we have towards annoying critters of various
kinds we create by how we respond to them. If we put out rat poison
without a thought, then every time we see a rat we will cringe. The
attitude would be completely different for someone who traps them in
a cage designed for that purpose, and then chauffeurs them out of the
neighborhood. Even insects in the kitchen need not necessarily be
killed. There are many herbal repellents that make a kitchen an
inhospitable place. Moreover, cleanliness is a natural repellent for many
unwelcome guests, while the opposite attracts them. So, whose fault is
it if we have pests, anyway?
If we have human pests in our lives, being harsh, abrasive, abrupt, and
standoffish, will only harden our attitude. Being unkind to those
individuals in our lives whom we find challenging to be around, won’t
become any less so by ill-treating them, or even ignoring them. If
instead we take their presence as an opportunity to practice tolerance,
patience, forbearance, they will be our teachers! In fact, it is the
relationships that we find most challenging where we learn the most.
If petty annoyances seem to bother us, it may be an alert to something
going on inside. Perhaps we are dissatisfied with our job, social life, and
so forth, and every little unrelated thing becomes an annoyance. But,
these annoyances are really offering us friendly advice. If we don’t see it
this way, we can try. A change of perspective may help us identify
discontent within ourselves that we are misdiagnosing as coming from
Ants, flies, two-legged pests, and so forth, are really gauges of our
satisfaction with ourselves. Often, if we are annoyed by the small
disturbances they offer, it is really a sign of being annoyed with
ourselves. We can begin seeing this when we treat the perceived
annoyances with greater tolerance and understanding.
* * *
Thought for the Day: May 27, 2017
When the urge arises in your mind
To feelings of desire or angry hate,
Do not act! Be silent, do not speak!
And like a log of wood be sure to stay.
Shantideva. The Way of the Bodhisattva: Revised Edition Shambhala
* * *
considerate, forbearing, even tempered, generous, and so forth. The
first step of spiritual practice is not to take us to some far away realm,
but to bring us back to the natural state.
As members of a modern culture, many of us have grown away from
the basic human values that are so fundamental to our well-being. We
have lost touch with ourselves and now feel stressed, depressed,
anxious, fearful, and other dispositions that are the result of a fast-
paced modern world. In fact, new phrases are even being coined to
describe mental states that didn’t exist forty years ago.
The foundation of a good spiritual path will always be being a good
human being. Although many teachers may portray meditation, etc., as
a departure from our mundane existences, the better teachers show us
how to find true joy in the common affairs of daily life. They do this
by bring to the fore our shortcomings rather than indulge us with other-
worldly fantasies. Naturally, many would prefer to be indulged, and
seek the teachers that will indulge them; but, the more serious and
insightful student is willing to start at the beginning and build a
foundation that will assure her that the finish line is eventually crossed.
Rather than start off on the wrong foot seeking exalted experiences,
only having to retreat and get back to basics, we should use our
wisdom and build a firm foundation for our spiritual quest by first
being securely rooted in basic human values. Spirituality begins here,
and if we begin at the beginning, we will enjoy the entire path.
* * *
One of the big advantages of monasticism, one that is often
overlooked, is the benefits of being a member of a sangha. A sangha is
the community of monks and nuns, who receive the same teaching, eat
together, work together, and meditate together. Generally, sangha
members live together for extended periods of time, many years, as
they go through their training. Being a member of a sangha is an
invaluable support towards all progress on the difficult path to
As lay people, engaged in the world, we can take a cue from sangha
members and try to cultivate long and lasting relationships with people.
People in our lives who know our faults and shortcomings, and our
strengths, as well, support us in ways that those with whom we have a
superficial relationship with can’t. Flighty and fleeting friendships do
not serve us well, nor do we contribute much to their lives. But, deep
and long enduring relationships afford us the opportunity to support
others and be supported. The value of sharing our lives in depth with
others has long been recognized by religious leaders of all faiths who
have gathered communities around them. But, the benefits are not
confined to religious communities. We all seek happiness, and no
matter who we are or what we do, we are more likely to accomplish
our aim if we share in our goal in deep and enduring friendships.
* * *
Study is an important aspect of meditation practice; it is an essential
support, more so than it is given credit for. While within monastery
walls scripture study is a given, it is not the case for many lay
practitioners, most of whom do not engage in study in a disciplined
way. We may pick up a philosophical or religious text from time to
time out of curiosity, but few have established a disciplined reading
regimen, daily, and at a given time.
Study is the unsung hero of realization. If we were to look at the
biographies and autobiographies of many of our great masters we
would find that they mastered one or more scripture, often committing
them to memory. In Tibetan monasteries, it is common to see monks
walking around on rooftops, text in hand, reading aloud, pausing now
and then to absorb the meaning. They often walk for hours.
If we are new to the idea of study, we should begin. Short sessions at a
given time each day is the best way to begin, as this will not be too
difficult or boring, which would put us off to the practice. We want to
create a habit, so we should take it easy in the beginning and increase
the time as we see fit.
Taking a cue from the Tibetan monks and reading aloud is excellent if
we have the opportunity. It is a good way to absorb the material. This
is a proven system, not only for dharma material, but even in business
and ordinary affairs it is said that reading letters and essays aloud
allows us to find mistakes and determine if the meaning is well
Study is to meditation what looking at a map is to a road trip; it takes
out a lot of guess work and prevents potential mistakes. It can be very
* * *