Thought for the Day: September 1, 2017
capable. Within Buddhism, the path to fulfilling this entailment is called the Bodhisattva
Attaining enlightenment is an aspiration that can be focused solely on ourselves, or
enlightenment so that we are able to help others do the same. The latter has a much
broader focus than the former and is the primary aim of the Mahayana Buddhist
Practically speaking, however, as novices on the Path, it is a given that selfish intentions
will permeate our efforts in meditation and study and so forth. We are human, after all.
But, this does not mean we cannot take steps to broaden our focus.
Every day if we do prayers and visualizations wishing others to be free of suffering and
attain happiness, we will notice a subtle change of attitude developing deep within our
hearts as the days, weeks, months, and years pass. Gradually, we will attain an entirely
altruistic attitude towards our meditation. We will notice that even in our everyday
interactions with others we have a friendliness, warm-heartedness, and concern for their
welfare that previously was not present.
There is no more important sign that our meditation is on track than newly felt
compassion and concern for others arising within us. More than anything else, this is
what we should look for.
* * *
Thought of the Day: September 2, 2017
We are never too poor to share. If we think, “if I give, what will be left for me,” as
Shantideva points out in his excellent classic, “The Way of the Bodhisattva,” “we are
truly cursed.” No matter how little we have, we can share that. I once visited a yogi in a
cave about to prepare his evening meal. It only consisted of three potatoes, but as he
dropped them in the pot to boil he invited me to have dinner with him!
* * *
Thought for the Day: September 3, 2017
My teacher, Master Hsuan Hua, often said to his monks and nuns, “Treasure yourself.”
At first blush, this might seem a bit of an egoistic thing to do, but if we really think
about it deeply it is not.
We are more respectful of ourselves when we treasure ourselves and more likely to
engage in actions that represent ourselves in a positive way. We will be more thoughtful
and careful in everything we do. In a sense one could say that we will perform actions as
if we were representing the Master himself, and if we don’t have a teacher, we will regard
our actions as representing ourselves as being the best we can be.
Above anything else, more than car, home, clothes, and appearances, our word and deed
are how we represent ourselves to others and will influence their view of us. If we wish
others to value us, we must first value ourselves.
* * *
Thought for the Day: September 4, 2017
It is no secret that our phones and tablets disconnect us from our environment and
others; everybody is talking about it. We stroll through a park and don’t notice the
Spring flowers because we are on our phones, or we have lunch with our friends and
spend half the time checking our messages, and so forth.
Yesterday when I went for my bike ride, I left my phone behind deliberately. After my
ride, before I went home, I stopped at a restaurant for a very late lunch. It took some
time for my food to arrive and the manager stopped by my table to greet me. I found
out he was from Bhaktapur, about thirty kilometers outside the Kathmandu Valley, and
I asked him if he knew a friend of mine who had lived there more than thirty years. He
didn’t, but it opened up a conversation.
I asked the manager if his parents were still alive and living in Bhaktapur and learned
that they both were, one seventy-four and the other, the father, eighty-four; and
amazingly his father is still working the fields and carrying baskets of cut grain during
harvest. This started a entire conversation about the benefits of exercise.
I complemented the manager on his father’s good health and pointed out it is a result of
daily exercise. I further reminded the manager that he is working a job that, unlike his
father's does not require exercise and that he had to take responsibility now, while young
and in good health, to start a routine of daily walks, bike rides, swimming, any exercise
he enjoys, for at least an hour, for this will keep him feeling like his current age (about
fifty) all the way through old age.
The manager and I engaged on this topic for quite some time, and we both thoroughly
enjoyed the conversation. In fact, he sent other waiters over to talk with me.
After I left the restaurant it struck me that had my tablet been with me it is unlikely that
I would have had such an enjoyable conversation. This is not to say we should leave our
phones and so forth at home, but that if we take them along we should be careful how
we use them. Their purpose is for necessary communication; but they are not for
amusement or entertainment, for if we use them in this way we may miss out on a real-
world opportunity to communicate as I experienced.
* * *
If we are resourceful we will always have what we need. Some of us have lots of material
things and some of have few, but whether we have few or many, we are subject to
feeling of not having what we need. The Rolling Stones even wrote a song about it
wherein theysay, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try some time, you just
might find, you get what you need.” How deeply they realized this I don’t know, but the
words are certainly true.
Sometimes the lack we feel arises because of anxiety and restlessness and shopping
creates a good distraction. Our mental dispositions may cause us to create needs that
aren’t real but when we are at a low point, these will look real. The same objects that are
so attracted to at a low point, we may not even have casual interest in when all is going
well. If we understand this trick the mind plays on us we will be more keen at being
content with what we have. Sometimes it may take some resourcefulness and creativity
and finding dual purpose in things, but there is a virtue in doing so that is a source of
Thought of the Day: September 6, 2017
The lessons that life teaches us are not very different from the lessons we learn in school
in that we must review them for them to stay with us and be useful when we need them.
Life teaches us to learn from our mistakes, but sometimes we need to take a refresher
course to review what we have learned so that we can put what we learned to good use
when situations turn unfavorable and we have to. We don’t want to be saying to
ourselves, “I should have known better.”
* * *
Thought of the Day: September 7, 2017
When something has been planned and started on,
Attention should not drift to other things.
With thoughts fixed on the chosen target,
That and that alone should be pursued.
Behaving in this way, all tasks are well performed,
And nothing is achieved by doing otherwise.
If thus we act, the secondary defilement,
Lack of introspection, will not grow.
And if you find yourself engaged
In different kinds of pointless conversation
And curious sights, the like of which abound—
Be rid of all delight and taste for them.
Shantideva. The Way of the Bodhisattva: Revised Edition Shambhala Publications.
* * *
Thought of the Day: September 8, 2017
Sometimes we may not be too strict with ourselves on the pronunciation of mantras that
we are not familiar with, but it is worth our effort to try and get our mantras right. The
reason is that even getting just one mantra right will help us along the ways to getting all
right in that language, however if one is carelessly recited, all will be.
In general, I have not paid too much attention to my pronunciation while reciting
mantras, as I have found that I feel a good deal of peace and insight even when my
recitation is poorly pronounced. But, I am making some effort to correct that now. For
one thing, I have noticed, particularly with Sanskrit, that mantras sound beautiful when
correctly pronounced. Also, it is said that when we recite aloud many spirits and other
beings we don’t usually see come to listen. It may also be that a deceased relative or
friend is listening, and correct recitation is necessary if we wish to benefit these beings. In
this sense, mantra recitation can be considered an offering, no less valuable than offering
of material wealth.
While the immediate effect of mantra recitation without emphasizing pronunciation may
be quicker to delight us, in the long term we will go much further reciting correctly,
and * * *
Thought of the Day: September 9, 2017
While it is important to have a respectful way with others, if it is not genuine, it may cost
us a good deal of energy to contrive one. It is far better if we can come from the heart,
and have a natural warm and respectful way with others.
If we take a few moments each day to reflect on those whose attitude towards us was
warm and thoughtful, it can help us to be the same. We all appreciate it when others are
sympathetic to our needs, thoughtful, soft spoken, and caring, and of course others
appreciate the same. In the real world, when we are stressed and pulled in many
directions, we may not always reflect ourselves as we would like to. Situations may be
uncomfortable and control how we act. But, if we are preemptive and take a little effort
to meditate on patience, tolerance, and the value of warm heartedness, we will be better
prepared to be in control in stressful circumstances and with people who are more
* * *
Thought of the Day: September 10, 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.
And when your mind is wild or filled with mockery,
Or filled with pride and haughty arrogance,
Or when you would expose another’s secret guilt,
To bring up old dissensions or to act deceitfully,
Or when you want to fish for praise,
Or criticize and spoil another’s name,
Or use harsh language, sparring for a fight,
It’s then that like a log you should remain.
Shantideva. The Way of the Bodhisattva: Revised Edition. Shambhala
* * *
Thought of the Day: September 11, 2017
Today I was sitting in a restaurant and feeling a little down and depressed, a childhood
condition that I have carried many decades now. My meal was finished after only fifteen
minutes and I got up to go to my friend’s home where I am staying as a guest, having
arrived from Nepal only a day earlier. As I got up to leave I had an intuition that I
should not run off so fast and that if I waited I might be able to leave in a happier state
of mind. I sat down again and dove into a book on Buddhist logic I had and waited.
Towards the end of my allotted hour I was winding down on the last chapter before I
left, not feeling a whole lot better, when a lady walked up to me and asked me about the
clothes I was wearing, which happened to be North Indian “Punjabi” dress, common
where I was coming from, but rare in the USA. It is beautifully embroidered and falls
below the knees.
I explained the origin of my attire and the lady returned to her seat after we exchanged a
few greetings. I again got up to leave, but once again was hesitant and sat down. I
thought to myself how this one or two-minute interaction lifted my spirits and wondered
if perhaps I was running away too soon. Even though I had nothing to say, I decided to
go to her table where she was sitting with a friend and see whether I could continue our
So, on my way out the door, I stopped by their table, and picked up our initial
conversation about my dress. Gale and Lucy and I talked for about fifteen minutes, and
then I went my way. I left in good spirits.
People are the greatest treasures in our lives, and whether they are new acquaintances or
old ones, they are in our lives for reasons and yet we often don’t slow down enough to
honor the connections we have. I knew that if I took a moment to try to engage with my
new friends with warmhearted feelings, that even though they were strangers, it would
lift my spirits and I accepted the challenge. It wasn’t long and the three of us were
I value people, and exchanges like I described above are common for me. Isolating
ourselves from others deprives ourselves of the richness of experiencing the diversity we
all share as human beings. The more we value others, the happier we will be, and taking
an opportunity to take an interest in others and truly engage with them is an opportunity
I seldom let pass. Whether new or old, relationships should be fully appreciated.
* * *
Thought of the Day: September 12, 2017
Many people meditate to quiet a busy mind, but if you don’t have a busy mind to quiet,
meditation will set one in the experience of clear, bright knowing awareness. Therefore,
we should build a firm foundation for meditation by cleaning up our daily lives of all
sources of stress, distraction, and selfishness. A meditative discipline will entail a whole
lifestyle change, and if we are not willing to do this, meditation is pointless. We will only
be continually repairing self-inflicted wounds and never dive deep enough to discover the
joy of knowing the nature of mind.
* * *
Thought of the Day: September 13, 2017
With perfect and unyielding faith,
With steadfastness, respect, and courtesy,
With conscientiousness and awe,
Work calmly for the happiness of others.
Shantideva. The Way of the Bodhisattva: Revised Edition. Shambhala
* * *
Thought of the Day: September 14, 2017
Our lives need challenges that stimulate our imagination. New things must be tried, for
without adventure our mind does not receive the exercise it needs to be vibrant, pliant,
and alert. Unfamiliar territory may make us lose the sense of control we enjoy, but it also
teaches us that mistakes are OK, being wrong is acceptable, and being inept can be
If we always cling to the familiar we may be in our groove, but that groove can become
like a prison that confines us beyond what is healthy. Therefore, many people take up art,
dance, writing, and many other arts, crafts, sports, and so forth that are new to them. Just
about anything that allows us to laugh at ourselves as we fumble along on a learning
curve, familiarizing ourselves with new territory, will exercise our mind in a positive way
and be a source of newfound strength and joy.
If our life doesn’t feel in part like a big adventure, we must step away from our
complacency and stagnation and rock our boat. If we don’t, we are depriving ourselves of
the nourishment we need to be happy and warm hearted.
* * *
Thought of the Day: September 15, 2017
When we decide to take up meditation, we should have a long-term view. It is far better
to wait until we feel thoroughly committed than to enter the door to meditation while
already planning an exit if all doesn’t go as expected.
A common discouraging symptom of a well-intentioned entry-level meditator is that of
feeling overwhelmed with disturbing thoughts and emotions. Many don’t understand this
as a sign that our meditation is correct, which it is, but instead take it as a sign that we
are not meditating correctly.
Correct meditation stirs up long ignored problems and emotions, things we have all but
forgotten about. If we mistake these buried feeling for “new’ negativity, we are making a
mistake. The negativity isn’t new at all, but rather old burdens brought to light so that we
can see through them and move forward in meditation with a clean slate.
* * *
Thought of the Day: September 16, 2017
Believing in oneself is almost as important as having faith in the Buddha. The path to
enlightenment is a difficult one and we will need to muster allot of self-confidence to face
our problems and own them. The Buddha’s teachings offer us many tools to assist us
along the way, but we are the ones who have to put them to good use. Therefore, the
Buddha always emphasized self-reliance.
* * *
Thought of the Day: September 17, 2017
When we practice the dharma, and study the teachings we should not “pick and choose,”
as Master Seng Chia emphasizes in his “Song of Enlightenment.” Likes and dislikes
should be set aside and we should integrate all the pieces of the puzzle together and
equally honor all the teaching we discover.
* * *
Thought of the Day: September 18, 2017
Keeping our mind stimulated isn’t always easy. Sometimes we find ourselves with nothing
to do and it is natural to wonder, “what shall I do now.” Many of have had this
experience, and what I find curious about it is that as soon as I set out to do “something”
I suddenly remember ten other things I should have thought of first! And, this can be
frustrating, to say the least. We cannot always drop what we are in the middle of to do
one of those ten things that suddenly came to mind, even if they are more important.
The key to solving the above dilemma I believe is learning to be a bit better at doing
nothing when that “what shall I do now” question arises. We should practice meditation a
little more deeply and learn how to be still when not meditating, so that we easily can wait
through the “what shall I do now” experience without getting antsy to do something until
something we truly feel like doing comes to mind.
* * *
Thought of the Day: September 19, 2017
People that rub us the wrong way are often the best ones for our growth, spiritually,
emotionally, and intellectually. Challenging relationships are not always good, of course,
but sometimes they are the best. Learning to analyze a challenging relationship impartially
requires unbiased reflection, our ability to set our mind in an impartial state and see our
relationship’s pluses and minuses, seeing what outweighs what, and proceed accordingly.
Some relationships must be nourished, and some don’t, but it is often the ones that do
that are the most valuable long term.
* * *
When we are travelling, whether locally or internationally, we are all probably familiar with
the ubiquitous “things to do list,” published by the local chamber of commerce or
something similar. But, how often do you see local monasteries or temples on the list.
Not often, unless they are historical landmarks. This is a real pity.
When I travel one of the first things I do when arriving in a new city is look up their
monasteries. Before I get to sightseeing and taking in local attractions, I find spending a
morning or afternoon meditating and relaxing on temple grounds the best way to shake
off driving or flight fatigue and get myself refreshed.
Traveling is more exhausting than we sometimes realize, and if we think about it, a good
part of feeling wearied and fatigued isn’t so much the travel itself, but rather being in
unfamiliar territory, seeing unfamiliar faces, and feeling different sensations because of
weather and sounds. When we allow ourselves to meditate in a local temple and spend
time on its grounds, it helps us to become centered and refreshed.
A little consideration for ourselves can go a long way towards assuring that we are able to
take in unfamiliar places with a cheerful and alert mind.
* * *
Thought of the Day: September 21, 2017
There are several aids for those of us who find it difficult to maintain focus during
meditation, and my favorite is not on the meditation cushion. It is discipling my food
intake, especially how often and how much, and avoiding all foods I hanker for or crave.
If we control our snack seeking mind, and make it wait till meal time, we are creating
mental strength that will come in very useful during meditation. Every time we resist a
snack we are taking our mind off of what it is wandering off thinking about and bringing
it under our control. When we sit and meditate, this small effort will help us to resist
distracting thoughts and help us not get entangled in them.
In addition to resisting snacks, we can also avoid foods we crave for and eat simple
foods. This also helps the mind gain the power of single minded focus that will indirectly
strengthen our meditation.
Eating less is another way to build mental strength and for most it is healthier.
It is no wonder that in many countries Buddhist monks eat once a day at noon, and
consume simple foods. As laypeople, we can take a cue from them. Although we don’t
have to eat once a day, we can benefit by retraining ourselves more. If we have difficulty
focusing, and even if we don’t, we will find in a disciplined diet a valuable resource for
supporting our meditation.
* * *
Worldly wisdom says to think before you act, but often situations arise and wisdom goes
when anger has us in its grip.
Whenever we see ourselves animated by strong emotions it is best to remove ourselves
from the situation and shake off those emotions. Wherever emotions are strong, mental
clarity is generally weak, and without clarity it is unlikely we will solve our problems to
Of course, it is best to avoid situations that invite strong emotions, but when this is not
possible and we find ourselves on the verge of impulsive action, we should catch
ourselves, pause, and avoid conflict.
* * *
Thought of the Day: September 23, 2017
Whether it be political, economical, health related, spiritual, personal relationships, and so
forth, we all have viewpoints, often viewpoints we hold very strongly. But, how often do
we take time to trace back the source of these viewpoints?
Positions that we hold in relationship to other modes of thinking are often not on as firm
footing as we would like to imagine. By daily reflecting on our beliefs and opinions we
may discover in them a shallowness that is disturbing enough to encourage us to either
undermine them and dissolve them, or prop them up and support them through deeper
thinking. In either case, we don’t want to hold onto views that are untenable, and those
that are worthy of our support, we want to make truly ours through reasoning and
analyses, rather than simply adopting a viewpoint because it is mainstream or acceptable.
* * *
Thought of the Day: September 24, 2017
The mind typically polarizing itself during meditation, typically dividing itself between
what we think of as meditation, and what we don’t. For example, eating a peanut butter
The deeper we absorb ourselves in meditation, the more distinct the “background’ noise
will become. Our mantra recitation, for example, can seem to be projected on a screen of
thoughts or a thought of what we will do when our meditation session is completed, an
idea for a project we are working on, or a solution to a relationship problem, and so
forth. This is a kind of abstraction, which is another way of thinking about meditation.
The background noise can seem to balance out and equalize our meditation. We may
feel in a state of equilibrium, aware very keenly of what the background noise is, but
favoring, ever so slightly, our meditation.
What we must realize is that the so-called background noise is as essential to correct
meditation as the mantra itself, or whatever meditation topic we choose. If we do not
seek to banish it, block it, or focus on it, it will not obstruct us in any way and our
meditation practice will prosper.
* * *
Thought of the Day: September 25, 2017
Friendship is a gift and should be protected. This point was reinforced by my father who
became aware that a longtime friend was unable to pay a substantial loan in full. My
father saw that I was stressed about it and reminded me, “Don’t let the matter ruin your
friendship.” Over the years my father’s words have echoed in my mind and have made
me more pliant and tolerant during my life.
Things happen in relationships with people and our perception of what is going on can
be very different from the reality. Whenever I feel that I may be misinterpreting the
action of another towards me, I try to talk about it to that person, or simply wait and see
if time dissolves the stress I may feel.
Also, even when we have every reason to fault a friend for treating us unfairly, we should
ask ourselves if it would not be better to tolerate the fault and preserve the friendship,
rather than not tolerate it. In general, it is better to tolerate a fault, for it teaches us
patience and our patience may help our friend see through his fault. That is what
friendship is all about.
People are important and may support our mental wellbeing more than we realize. If we
are careless how we treat others, we might be pulling the carpet from beneath our own
feet. Therefore, we must be cautious.
The reverse is also true. We must take care when developing new friends and be
especially careful when we feel swept away by a new acquaintance. As we all know,
appearances can be deceptive, and often it is best that casual acquaintances remain casual.
* * *
Thought of the Day: September 26, 2017
Loss of focus is of course the most common of our shortcoming while meditating, and
if it happens repeatedly, we may feel like quitting the session. Distraction happens to all
of us, whether we are beginners or old hands makes little difference. But, before quitting
a session without completing it try rising from your seat and standing in front of your
I often find in standing a viable means to rescue my focus. I don’t reserve standing for
just loss of focus, but also when I feel torpor setting in, or if I find myself nodding.
Sometimes I only need to stand fifteen minutes or so and can sit back down, but
sometimes I stand for an hour or more. If standing is not effective, I quit the session
and do something else. Standing meditation is a simple cure often overlooked.
* * *
For many of us meditation is an acquired taste. If we begin to meditate and don’t find it
liking, but that we stuck with out of necessity and that eventually we came to enjoy. I
didn’t like meditation the first time, but decided to give it five minutes a day, after a few
months I began looking forward to that time, and gradually increased it.
Everyone can meditate and like nourishing food, it is good for us even if we don’t
particularly like it. Likes and dislikes are fickle. Things we like now, we may not like a
few years down the line, and visa versa; so we should not rely on them. Common sense
is more reliable, and it is easy to see by our own common sense that meditation every
day is a effective way to exercise our mind, just as daily exercise is a good way to keep
the body fit.
Always rely on common sense rather than likes and dislikes and when it comes to
meditation study the lives of meditators with experience to get inspiration. Once inspired
begin with determination not to turn back.
* * *
Thought of the Day: September 28 2017
A reliable teacher is essential for meditation and spiritual enquiry. But, teachers may not
live in our area. Before modern communications, pilgrims would travel hundreds of
miles and endure weeks of hardship just to hear a teaching; thankfully this is not the case
Many videos of live teaching are available on YouTube and Buddhist organization’s
websites; His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s website, for example is a particularly good
example. If we listen or download these teachings and watch or listen to them, it can be
almost as effective as being there.
It is well known that trusting one’s own mind to determine if our meditation is correct or
not is an unreliable method. That is why we must study and reflect on teaching. The
advantages of live broadcasts is a wonderful offering to all of us on the spiritual path and
should be taken advantage of.
* * *
Thought of the Day: September 29, 2017
Expectations are one of meditations biggest enemies and should be avoided completely.
Instead learn to enjoy the process of meditation itself, and keep results far from the mind.
Not only are expectations a hindrance to actually attaining them, we are poor judges of
our own mental states, and even if expectation were OK, we would not likely evaluate
our progress very well.
If we have a strong inclination to evaluate how our meditation practice is going we
should talk with a master about it and let him instruct us on our level of understanding
and how to proceed further.
* * *
Thought of the Day: September 30, 2017
When we meditate we want to sit in a comfortable posture. Upon hearing this often-said
advice some may wonder why then is Full Lotus recommended. Full Lotus posture is
the classical posture of most of the Buddha images we see, with the legs crossed, and
our feet resting on our thighs. It seems uncomfortable, right? Well, it is for most of us, at
least at the beginning. But, it has many benefits that make it worth our while to learn and
become accustom to.
The primary benefit of Full Lotus posture is that it is the most comfortable posture for
extended periods of time, and the healthiest. Other postures, sitting in a chair, or casually
on the floor, may be more comfortable for a brief period, but over a long period of time
will cause our body to become sore. Therefore, it is worth the effort to try to become
accustom to this posture.
If our physical build is not suited for Full Lotus posture, we can try half lotus, with only
one foot resting on the thigh, and the other beneath the opposite thigh. If that is
difficult, we can try easy posture’ with both feet under the thighs. Avoid the chair, if
The body resting in Full Lotus is very symmetrical and circulation is at its best, both of
which make it easy for the mind to focus and stay focused. Moreover, in Full Lotus we
will be stable and fidget less. It may take a few weeks to adapt to Full Lotus, but it is
worth the effort.
* * *