Thought for the Day: October 1, 2016
Happy "Dasain" to all my friends in Nepal, and all the beautiful people
there. Enjoy your festival. Unfortunately, by no plan of mine, I will be
traveling to America this day and won't be able to join you.
Life offers many challenges, and if we accept them all, we will be
overwhelmed, if we don't accept enough, we will be lazy, and if we
accept the wrong ones, we will grow crooked. So, we must discriminate
worthwhile challenges from those that are not, and take on only enough
to keep us busy without being overwhelmed.
We must be careful not to be drawn into action we may regret later, or
reject worthwhile opportunities because we are lazy. We must be careful
not to underestimate our ability, or overestimate it. Working within our
ability will be much less stressful than working beyond it.
If the tasks we choose are beneficial and tend towards inner growth, it
will be far easier to do than tasks we don't believe in. Look for
challenges that inspire.
Whenever possible, work with a person your equal or better, as this will
encourage you to work at your highest level.
One important point my father drilled into me when I was growing up is
the importance of liking what you do even if it may not be the most
lucrative. Always try and find the tasks that suit your natural inclinations.
* * *
concentration on a symbol or a mantra. This kind of approach is also the
People like to daydream and there is no better way than to recite mantras
hour or more delighting in your own mental state. Such a person is like a
beautiful women delighting in her own appearance in a mirror. Needless
to say, this is undesirable, pleasant though it may be. Analytical and
reasoned meditation comes to the rescue here.
The purpose of logic and reason is to help us develop what is known as
the "right view" without which most will get stuck in a blissed out
quagmire mentioned above. While analytical meditation should not
necessary replace mantra recitation or visualization., it definitely should
be combined with it. Its practice will help us develop understanding
which serves to balance concentration.
There are ongoing debates that have been going on for centuries
concerning the nature of the external world and our relationship to it. Is
the material form we see a solid object or does it dissolve moment by
moment? Is there and eternal soul that transmigrates from life to life, or
not. Are the objects of our thoughts within the mind or outside it? What
is the referent of the word? When we name a cow, for example, are we
referring to an object we have contact with through our senses, or are we
attaching the word cow to a mental image caused by that object, and so
Questions such as the above have engendered lively and involved debate
for centuries. They are the kinds of questions we pose for ourselves
when engaged in analytical meditation. We pose for ourselves questions
like the above and reason about them trying to maintain a train of
thought that stays with the topic without wandering. Then we compare
our line of reason with those found in the texts and see how we did. We
will notice that often our mind drifts from what we are supposed to be
thinking about just like it does in mantra recitation and so forth. We will,
in the beginning, constantly have to bring it back onto the topic of
If we stay with the practice of analytical meditation, we will find that
after some time our mind becomes absorbed in the inquiry and that we
no longer drift about here and there, but rather genuinely enjoy being
absorbed in the inquiry.
* * *
creates stressed boundaries, each division finding reason to think their
own way of thinking is superior to the other. Even though we may be
correct in thinking that technically our "view" is higher than another's,
we should not let this be a cause of division, for we should realize that
the various levels of practice are essential as the capacities of beings
everywhere are not the same.
Many traditions have meditations to help us dissolve prejudices where
they occur. Mahamudra, popular in the Tibetan tradition, is an all
embracing and expansive meditation practice that embraces all
distinctions, whether internal or external, and in doing so rises above
needless discrimination. Many other forms of meditation are similarly
Divisions are only useful when they help us contain our meditation
within particular constraints that enable us to narrow our focus so that
we are not overwhelmed; divisions are not meant to set one view against
the other. If we find ourselves prejudice or biased, we should keep in
mind the purpose of divisions as an aid to meditation and not a cause to
criticize or set one view against another.
* * *
Thought for the Day: October 4, 2016
"It is important to diminish undisciplined states of mind, but it is even
more important to meet adversity with a positive attitude. Keep this in
mind: By greeting trouble with optimism and hope, you are undermining
worse troubles down the line."
The Dalai Lama His Holiness; Hopkins Ph.D., Jeffrey. How To
Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life, Atria Books.
* * *
our effort over a long period. Our practice will be erratic, sometimes
practicing, but sometimes feeling a lack of energy. From the start, we
should find a sustainable balance between exertion and laxness and walk
a comfortable yet not relaxed pace. Time is our friend, and we should
use it to pace ourselves, set goals, boundaries, and help us plan our day.
A specific time should always be set for dharma activities, rituals,
meditation, and so forth. Schedules work.
Fickleness should be avoided. Meditating one day and skipping another
will not work and will instead lead to abandoning our practice. The mind
and body respond to a steady application of effort and not otherwise.
Keep your practice simple and sustainable. It is better to take on little
and maintain it, than too much and be irregular.
* * *
Be a support for others and be supported by others. As much as
possible, practice the dharma with other people. Even gathering once a
seekers is mutually supportive. Such a group of people is called a sangha
in Buddhism, and Christ alluded to a similar idea when he said,
"wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am also."
* * *
things "making" us happy, for example. Such an attitude separates us
from it by the very way that we conceptualize it. A better way would be
to assume that the happiness is already within us and only waiting to be
One of the best ways to increase happiness is to share it. Sharing it does
not mean talking about our latest new thing or bragging about our
accomplishment or some happiness realized in some superficial way, but
rather sharing with another how we were uplifted upon hearing about or
seeing someone else' achievement or sharing the happiness of another in
some other way. We often delight in the joy another felt upon achieving
a goal, and this natural response should be cultivated and shared.
It is said that the very nature of the mind itself is happiness and that it is
merely covered over by our constant thinking and seeking. We need to
let that happiness out. We do not necessarily have to have a reason to be
happy. If the outward turning mind is slowed down it will gradually turn
inward and when it does we will naturally feel happier and reflect that
Believe in yourself. We undermine the fundamental belief in ourselves
every time we chase after something or someone we don't need. The
first step towards discovering happiness is realizing the virtue of
contentment. Rest the mind in itself; there is no need to do anything
else. The happiness will arise without doing anything else and without
support. Share this happiness as much as you like; it will never decrease,
but rather increase the more you share. When you are of a happy
disposition, those around you will feel it and become happy also. Is this
not wonderful, is this not something to strive for?
* * *
The source of all depression and unhappiness can be avoided if we are
We are each, individually, one person, and even when all goes well, our
happiness is limited to one. But, others are many, and if we change our
orientation from self seeking to seeking the welfare of others and
rejoicing in their happiness, we increase our potential for happiness
many fold. Is this not a worthwhile ambition?
With a little imagination we can delight in the accomplishment of
another as if it were our own. Technically, in Buddhist terminology, this
is called "rejoicing in the merit and virtue of others." We do this by
putting ourselves in their shoes and visualizing how happy they must be.
Engaging in this form of meditation will increase our mental dexterity,
and mental dexterity is fundamental to success in all forms of meditation.
In addition, we should always try to help others achieve their worthwhile
aims, even at the cost of putting our own on the back burner. "Put
others first," is a good rule to live by for ever increasing happiness. Try
to help others fulfil their wishes.
Changing our perspective takes time. We have been conditioned to think
in a very narrow framework for most of our lives and changing habitual
tendencies does not happen without effort and time. We have to
undermine old ways of thinking, weed them out, so that new growth can
* * *
An interesting fact about meditation is that there is a caution, a sort of
disclaimer, that applies as well to raw beginners as advanced adepts, and
happiness of a meditative state. For a beginner, it will lead to either
getting stuck on one level or quitting altogether, and for one far along
the path, it can lead from getting stuck in a blissful "heaven" or falling
teacher, it is easy for one not to recognize when one is attaching in a
unwholesome way to meditation. We should always moderate our
meditation. This involves analyzing our attitude towards meditation and
reflecting upon it to see if there are any signs of being "blissed out," or
being self-absorbed, as a beautiful women might be while looking at
herself in a mirror.
Meditation that loses its sense of struggle has also lost its potential to
advance us further on the path. Like anything else in life, the sense of
being challenged should always be there. If it diminishes, we will fall
into complacency, and that will introduce us to other dangers. Being
mindful, humble, and on guard for being a little too comfortable, can go
a long way to assuring we stay on the path and progress.
* * *
Thought for the Day: October 10, 2016
which is the ability to stay with an object, not allowing distraction. You
exercise mindfulness by putting your mind back on its object of
meditation every time it falters, which will happen again and again.
When you become skilled in maintaining mindfulness on the object, you
need to use introspection. As Shantideva’s A Guide to the Bodhisattva
Way of Life says, the special function of introspection is periodically to
inspect your activities, whether physical or mental. In the process of
developing calm abiding, the task of introspection is to determine
whether the mind has come, or is about to come, under the influence of
laxity or excitement.
Initially you must forcibly put your mind on the object of meditation
with great exertion; then from time to time you engage the object
without great exertion; then you engage it in a relaxed way continuously;
and finally you spontaneously stay on the object without needing to
make any effort to remove excitement and laxity."
The Dalai Lama His Holiness; Hopkins Ph.D., Jeffrey. How To
Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life Atria Books.
* * *
Conflict is never a good thing. Where there is conflict, there is no
communication. It does not matter if it is conflict with another, or
conflict within oneself, wherever it is present, it is an obstacle and never
an aid. We will talk here about conflict within oneself.
When we feel conflicted, we cannot communicate with ourselves, our
thoughts become muddled and confused, and decisions are difficult to
make. If we analyze what causes conflict within, we will find that most
often it boils down to conflicting desires. We feel pulled in two or more
directions and this stresses us out and we lack the clear direction we so
much need to be at peace.
Few desires, few problems, many desires, many problems. If we wish to
reduce conflict within, a good place to start is simplifying our lives and
finding contentment in the things that we do. In our modern society, we
are conditioned to think that we have to do everything, be part of every
group, have the latest gadgets, drive a new car, and so forth. The world
wants us to think more is better and not less. Abundance rules over
We are but one person, but often think as if we were many. To do
everything on our busy schedule would takes two or three or more "Me"
and maybe still not get everything done or accumulate all we wish for.
Therefore, the first thing is to analyze what we need and discriminate that
from what we want. Taking stock of our lives from time to time will help
us towards greater simplicity. Where there is simplicity, contentment
follows, and where there is contentment, conflict ceases and does not
Non-dualistic thinking is essential for peace of mind. We cannot feel we
are being pulled in multiple directions and be at peace. The possibility for
inner struggle is greatly reduced when our lives are simple and we are
content with few desires. Less is more because it is appreciated more.
Having a few friends that we are close to is better than many superficial
relationships. Having a few material things that are deeply appreciated, is
better than many things we cannot relate to. And, few social events that
we relate to, is better than many that we don't. We cannot spread
ourselves out to thin and expect to be happy, but rather be self contained
and content with little.
* * *
earlier this afternoon from Ukiah, about one-hundred ten miles north of
San Francisco. It has been a long day, and it is now 2:45 AM.
whatever it is you usually don't have time for. I am reflecting on the fact
that all the people on my bus are far more identical to me than different,
although my non-reflective side would think there is a big difference.
But, aside from superficial differences like our work, social status, clothes
and personal likes and dislikes, appearances, and so forth, we are the
same in the most fundamental aspects.
Just as all the other people on the bus seek to be happy, I seek to be
happy. They have families they care about just like I have loved ones I
care about, and that care about me. They do not wish to suffer, nor do
I. They will die as surely as they were born, and so will I, and so forth.
In the most important ways, the people on this bus are far more similar
to myself than different. Understanding this is important to me because it
will help me to feel a genuine concern for their welfare, even as I do my
The more transparent the boundary between self and others is, the more
in tune with reality we will become. It is an illusion to think we are
different from others, and this illusion causes allot of confusion and
missteps in life. We become jealous of others, angry, deceitful towards
them, and so forth, all to our determent, and entirely unnecessarily.
Taking time to contemplate the sameness of self and others can help us
to have a more in tune relationship with others wherein we focus on
similarities rather than differences.
Finding peace in the world depends on how we view ourselves and
others. We can either integrate ourselves with others or isolate ourselves
from them. The choice is ours.
* * *
If you have time to eat, you probably have time to meditate. If you eat
would be if you nourished your mind as well as your body. Physical
health is tied to mental health.
* * *
rejecting them. But, as all of you know, neither blocking or rejecting
thoughts works very well. So, what is the correct attitude that we should
have regarding thoughts?
Thought for the Day: October 18, 2016
The dharma is neither "proper" or otherwise; it is just dharma. Yet,
some speak of proper dharma as a way to set their dharma above others.
Qualifying like this is a mistake because either it is dharma or it is not
and if it is, it is proper.
* * *
Thought for the Day: October 19, 2016
Simplicity supports a dharmic way of life. Being content is to have few
desires. Contentment and simplicity go together to create a firm
foundation for spiritual inquiry and growth. If we are distracted by many
desires or have too many things to do, it will be difficult to focus on
practicing the dharma.
Whatever we have in excess should be given away. Simplicity will not
only assure that we will always be prosperous, but it will free our mind
of attachment to our wealth. As for activities, we do not have to do
everything, and if we avoid what is unnecessary, we will be more
focused and enjoy what we do better. Our mind cannot be two places at
once yet we often plan as if it can. When we plan, we should give ample
space between activities so that we can be full present in whatever we
A great yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda, was once asked when he
meditated, and he replied that he meditates when he has nothing else to
do. Often, when we find ourselves with nothing to do, we pick up the
phone to chat with someone or run off to do an errand that could be
put off, and so forth, but we seldom think of reciting a mantra or taking
a walk while reflecting on a dharma teaching. Our spare time is often
wasted and could be better put to use. We should take a cue from the
yogi in this regard.
* * *
Thought for the Day: October 20, 2016
There is a big difference from failing after trying your best and failing
task, that very effort will be the cloud with a silver lining that will
comfort us with the thought of knowing we had given it our best. But,
when we fail to achieve because of a lack of effort, we will fall and it
Whenever we fail, it is important to be enthusiastic to try again. But, we
won't have that enthusiasm if we hadn't given it our best. Failure born
of lack of effort breeds despondency, discouragement, and depression.
No one wants to be in that position, so we must always try our best.
Always examine the goal and make sure it is worthwhile and one you
believe in and one that will make you a better person. Once the
worthwhileness of the goal is clearly seen, it will be easier to give full
attention to it.
* * *
appreciate enough when it comes our way. We have an abundance of
striving is reduced, kindness will naturally increase. In other words, we
Many times someone is crying out to us for acknowledgment or help,
yet we are so busy with our affairs that we don't recognize the signal
even when it is right beneath our nose. People may be suffering because
of our failure to understand their needs, needs which we could easily
fulfill if we were more sensitive. Looking after personal interests
hardens our hearts to the exclusion of others, often without our even
Also, we may not appreciate acts of kindness or acknowledge receiving
them when they come our way because we are living so much in our
world we do not see the part others are playing--- even when it is a vital
role. Or, although we see it, we do not recognize the importance of
others in our lives. We become isolated in our world.
We will be much happier if we show our appreciation to all the many
people that play a role in our lives. A smile, a gesture, a few words of
appreciation will bring us closer together and fill us with joy and
* * *
Thought for the Day: October 24, 2016
The time to seek the company of others is more than likely not when
we are lonely, but rather when we are feeling perfectly content in our
The medicine for loneliness is meditation, for loneliness arises when we
disconnect with ourselves, not when we are disconnected with others. It
is difficult to see this because we have been misdiagnosing loneliness so
long, and habitually seek relief in the company of others. But, although
company may provide temporary relief, it will prove unsatisfying in the
end. We must first find joy within before we can truly enjoy the
loneliness as a calling to get together with ourselves through meditation
and not a need to get together with others.
* * *
even when all goes well. But, if we fill our desires as a byproduct of
helping another, then this is satisfying indeed. Being mindful of the
needs of others is to have an altruistic intention. When we only have
our needs in mind, it is, of course, a selfish intention. As human
beings, we are capable of having a broad and expansive focus for
self-centered. By broadening our motivation to embrace the needs of
others, we will feel the joy of having our needs met as a secondary
reward rather than a primary one.
* * *
release from the pain of a relationship gone wrong, whether it be a
opportunity to happen and never harden our heart. We make mistakes
and harm others, and visa verse, and we should accept our human
condition while at the same time vowing to correct our mistakes. We
should always provide opportunities for others to amend the hurt they
may have caused us, and never fail to seek forgiveness from those we
have harmed. Life moves on for those who forgive and are forgiven.
* * *
thousand demons cannot harm a saint. Therefore, don't pay mind to