"When understood, the Buddha’s universe..is anything but alien and inhibiting. It is a world full of hope, where everything we need to do can be done and everything that matters is within human reach. It is a world where kindness, unselfishness, non-violence, and compassion achieve what self-interest and arrogance cannot. It is a world where any human can be happy in goodness and the fullness of giving." ❦ Eknath Easwara

November 28, 2011

Held In the Arms of Mindfulness

In the space of sacred silence, I come home again.
Held in the arms of mindfulness, I am at peace,
A child of the Buddha.

Steven Goodheart
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The Moment We've Been Waiting For

If we will only realize it, this is the moment we've always been waiting for, and there is no other.

Steven Goodheart

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November 26, 2011

How Even a Telephone Ringing Can Help Us Awaken

"The Buddha is someone who is very close to us. The Buddha is the power of awakening, of loving, of understanding in us. Every time the Buddha is calling, we have to listen with all our being. That is why our minds have to be with our bodies; so we stop every activity, including thinking, and we go back to ourselves, using our breathing as a vehicle. We arrive, and we listen very deeply to the voice of the Buddha. That is the voice of peace, of stability, of freedom.

If we don’t know how to listen to the voice of the Buddha, we won’t be able to restore peace, tranquility, and solidity inside ourselves. In Plum Village we enjoy the practice of listening to the bell very much. Every time I listen to the bell, I feel I am a better person. I am more solid, I am more free. I am calmer, more understanding. That is why everyone should profit from the practice of listening to the bell of mindfulness.

You will notice that in Plum Village we practice mindfulness of listening with other sounds. For, example, every time we hear the telephone ringing, all of us in Plum Village will stop our talking, stop our thinking, and go back to our in-breath and out-breath, and listen. Even though the sound of the telephone is a very ordinary kind of sound, when you practice, it becomes something very important too.

We practice breathing, with the gatha: 'Listen, listen, this wonderful sound brings me back to my true home.' 'Listen, listen,' that is what you say when you breathe in. When you say, 'Listen, listen,' that means 'I am listening deeply,' and when you breathe out you say, 'This wonderful sound brings me back to my true home.' My true home is where there is peace, there is stability, there is love, and I love to go home, because at home I feel safe."

From a Dharma Talk by Thich Nhat Hahn at Plum Village, July 1998

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November 25, 2011

Allen Watts on Beat Zen and Square Zen

“. . .the Westerner who is attracted by Zen and who would understand it deeply must have one indispensable qualification: he must understand his own culture so thoroughly that he is no longer swayed by its premises unconsciously.

He must really have come to terms with the Lord God Jehovah and with his Hebrew-Christian conscience so that he can take it or leave it without fear or rebellion. He must be free of the itch to justify himself. Lacking this, his Zen will be either “beat” or “square,” either a revolt from the culture and social order or a new form of stuffiness and respectability.”  Allen Watts

 Sound interesting?   You can read Allen Watt's entire article here:

Beat Zen? Square Zen? or just Zen?

Allen Watts



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Working with the Six Parimitas

The Six Paramitas
by Jack Kerouac from “Some of the Dharma

    1.    Unselfish giving for others, DANA, radiant & selfless

    2.    Moral purity, kindness, SILA, sympathy, absence of craving

    3.    Forbearance, patience, KSHANTI, endurance, forgiveness

    4.    Energy, enthusiasm, VIRYA, effort for the ideal

    5.    Dhyana concentration, DHYANA PARAMITA, 4 stages of meditation

    6.    Wisdom, insight, PRAJNA PARAMITA, absence of conceptions and illusions

Meditation on the Six Paramitas
from the Japanese Soto Zen tradition

Dana - May I be generous and helpful.

Sila - May I be pure and virtuous.

Kshanti - May I be patient and able to bear and forbear the wrongs of others.

Virya - May I be strenuous, energetic, and persevering.

Dhyana - May I practice meditation and attain concentration and oneness to serve all beings.

Pranja - May I gain wisdom and be able to give the benefit of my wisdom to others.

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November 23, 2011

What Attention Can Reveal

“If you can sustain your attention on any part of nature long enough, nature opens up to you and reveals its secrets, whether it's watching a leaf on a tree or it's watching the moon in the sky or even watching the finger on your hand. 
Whatever it is, if you can sustain your attention unmoving and without comment, silent and still, you'll find the object in front of the mind will open up its secrets to you. And you'll see much more in there than you've ever seen before.”
Ajahn Brahmavamso
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November 22, 2011

The Right Attitude in Meditation

"Having the right attitude is essential for success in meditation. Although it is necessary to motivate ourselves to meditate, samâdhi will not arise from ego-based craving for altered states of consciousness or for the repetition of previously experienced peaceful states. This craving will actually increase stress. There is too much desire and sense of self.

The quickest way to make progress in meditation is to be perfectly content, putting energy into being mindful in the present moment, and not hoping for or expecting anything."

Ajahn Chah
"A Mind of Harmony"

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November 20, 2011

Renunication - It Really Isn't Medieval Self-Torture

"The Buddha taught that as conditioned beings living in a conditioned existence (Samsara) we can never be completely free of all sorts of unpleasantness, stress, and suffering. All conditioned phenomena are flawed, and that inevitably gives rise to unsatisfactoriness.

This is the First Noble Truth of the Buddha’s teaching, and far from being a vague philosophical speculation, it is something that each of us experiences first hand for him-or-herself in daily life. While true and permanent freedom (Nibbana) comes about as a result of the insight gained through Vipassana meditation, we can eliminate a great deal of unnecessary suffering in the meantime by applying the principle of renunciation.

Unfortunately, the very word “renunciation” has a strange medieval ring to it in this modern, Western-dominated, supposedly hedonistic age. For most, it carries the smell of sack-cloth and ashes, an image of penance, self-denial, self-deprivation, even self-torture. It is thought of as a negative, dejected turning away from the world, a gloomy giving up on life, the last refuge of spurned lovers and aging old maids.

It is none of those things. Genuine renunciation, as the Buddha teaches it, is akin to throwing open the windows of the mind to morning sunshine and crisp, cool air. Renunciation is “cleaning house,” getting rid of trash and useless clutter, both figurative and literal. It is recognizing that when we become attached to things, we do not own them, instead they own us. It is putting things in proper perspective, simplifying our lives, and being satisfied with 'enough.'”

Petr Karel Ontl
"Of Mindsets and Moneypots"

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November 11, 2011

Thich Nhat Hanh and the Soldier Who Poisoned Five Children

Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh
Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh on May 10, 1998  in Plum Village, France.

Beginning Anew

"During the Vietnam War there was an American soldier who got very angry because most of the soldiers in his unit got killed in an ambush by Vietnamese guerrillas; that happened in a village in the countryside, so out of his rage he wanted to retaliate. He wanted to kill a number of people who belonged to that village. So he took out a bag of sandwiches, and he mixed explosives into the sandwiches and left them at the entrance to the village. He saw children coming out and happily taking the sandwiches, thinking that someone had left these delicious sandwiches, and they ate together, enjoying a lot.

And just half an hour later he saw them begin to show signs of suffering. Their father and their mother and sister came, and tried to help, to give them massage and medicine, but the American soldier who had hidden himself not far from there, knew very well there was no way to save these children, and that they would die. He knew that even if they had a car to transport these children to the hospital it would be too late. Out of anger he had done things like that. If anger is strong in us, we are capable of doing anything, even the cruelest things.

When he went back to America he suffered because of that: that scene appeared to him in his dreams, and he could never forget it. Any time during the day if he found himself alone in a room with children, he could not stay, and had to run out of the room right away. He could not talk about that to anyone except to his mother, who said, 'Well, that was the war, and in a war you cannot prevent these things happening.' But that did not help him, until he came to a retreat organized by Plum Village in North America.

During many days he was not able to tell people of his story. It was a very difficult retreat. We sat in circles of five or six people, and invited people to speak out about their suffering, but there were those who sat there unable to open their mouths. There were war veterans who were deeply wounded inside, and fear and despair were still there.

When we did walking meditation I saw one or two walking far behind, at least twenty meters behind us. I did not understand why they did not join us, but walked far away like that. When someone inquired, they learned that these ex-soldiers were afraid of being ambushed. So they walked far behind so that if something happened they would have enough space to run away. And one war veteran set up a tent in the jungle, and in order to appease his fear, he set up booby traps around his tent. That happened in the retreat in North America…he always had the guerrillas around him, and in him, ready to kill him at any time.

Finally that American Vietnam War veteran was able to tell us the story of the explosives put into the sandwiches. It was very good for him to be able to tell it, especially in front of the Vietnamese people, his former enemies. I gave him a prescription. I had a private consultation with him, and I said:

'Now look, you killed five children, yes. And that is not a good thing to do, yes. But don’t you know that many children are dying in this very moment, everywhere, even in America, because of lack of medicine, of food? Do you know that 40,000 children die every day in the world, just because of the lack of medicine and food? And you are alive, you are solid physically. Why don’t you use your life to help the children who are dying in this moment? Why get caught in the five children who have died in the past? There are many ways…if you want, I will tell you how to save five children today. There are children who need only one table of medicine to be saved, and you can be the one who brings that tablet of medicine to him or to her. If you practice like that every day, the children who died because of the explosives will smile in you, because these five children have participated in your work of saving many children who are dying in this very moment.'

So, the door was opened, so that the man was longer trapped in the feeling of culpability. That is the amrita, the ambrosia of compassion, of wisdom, offered by the Buddha: there is always a way out.

So that war veteran has practiced and has been able to help many other children in the world. He has gone back to Vietnam, has done the work of reconciliation, and the five children who died have begun to smile in him and to become one with him.

In the beginning it was a distressing image, but now the five children have become alive, have become the energy helping him to live with compassion, with understanding. The garbage can be transformed into flowers if we know how to do it."

Related links:

How Loving-kindness Practice and Meditation Can Help with Military Suicides

Skillful Ways to Deal with Your Demons

Veterans Day Book-At Hell’s Gate: A Soldier’s Journey from War to Peace by Claude Anshin Thomas
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November 8, 2011

A Buddhist Paraphrase of I Corinthians 13

Here's a "dharma" version I wrote of the much loved I Corinthians, 13, passage on love. In Buddhism, "wisdom" is typically seen as the highest attainment, but I feel that "love" can fill that bill too, if love is understood in its fullness and selflessness, that is, in its divine or fullest sense.

Beyond all fabrications and conditions, wisdom and love are one—indeed wisdom and love "inter-are"—for genuine love is always wise, and highest wisdom is always loving, though we may not always understand these as such with our present self-centered sense of wisdom and love.  Anyway, here's my paraphrase.  I think it rings true.  ~  Steve Goodheart

"If I speak in the tongues of gurus or of divas, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of samādhi and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge of the True Self, and if I have concentration that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. ..

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are samādhis, they will cease; where there are spiritual teachings, they will be stilled; where there is spiritual knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness, non-duality, appears, what is in part disappears.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face—our 'original face.' Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: wisdom, insight, and love. But the heart of these is love."
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The Mind of Grabbiness

With insight, we can let go of the mind of grabbiness...but first, we have to notice we are grabbing, and then, look into what we are grabbing at.  No judgment, no resistance — just look -- eventually we see that we are grabbing at what we believe to be "my" or "me" or "mine."  That's where we stick—that's where the "glue" is.

In Buddhist practice, the universal solvent is the "glue" is not-self—not the concept of not-self, but the actual insight that is itself not-self.  In meditation, this insight arises of its own accord when we become truly quiet and sense the transience and unsatisfactory nature of those things we self-identify with.  To sense this is to see what the Buddha called the "emptiness" of fabricated, conditional things.  This insight into "emptiness" doesn't leave a vacuum, nor is it nihilism, because we also sense "that" which is free and limitless and just is—the deathless, and we are not (and never have been) apart from "that."

Call it "original mind" or True Self, this awakening to what is dissolves the epoxy of grabbiness, so that we can hold the things of life loosely and without getting stuck to them because we want them to do what they cannot do—supply us a real self, last forever, and end the root causes of our unhappiness.

So, slowly, through self-inquiry, meditation, and insight—and yes, a whole lot of loving-kindness and compassion—we learn not to grab.  And if we do grab—and we all do—that's just our practice too.  Don't try to end grabbiness—that goal can be just another thing to grab onto! Rather, just look into the grabbiness itself with curiosity and interest.

Don't want or expect anything for the inquiry, except to know what some particular grabbiness is about.  With insight into why we are grasping and grabbing, our growing wisdom and awakened heart help us to let go of those causes of grabbing, and thus, the root causes of suffering.

Steven Goodheart Essay
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November 6, 2011

Spiritual Practice—It Comes Down to Being Real

"Many people get caught up in spiritual experiences and perceptions and all kinds of interesting, subtle impressions, some of which can be exciting and uplifting.

But there is nothing like the simplicity of being oneself—settling into yourself, just being there, recognizing what you are, and feeling the sense of intimacy and realness of that.

All the inner journey, all of the spiritual practice, ultimately comes down to this: that we are able to be genuinely what we are.  If you want to do inner practice in order to develop certain powers or go to other dimensions, or have special experiences, you still don't know what spiritual work is.  And this is because you have not yet recognized what reality is or what being real means."

A. H. Almaas "Loving the Real"
from The Unfolding Now—Realizing Your True Nature through the Practice of Presence

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November 2, 2011

On Trusting the Ebb and Flow of Love and Life

“When you love someone, you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand.

We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity — in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.

The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. Relationships must be like islands, one must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits — islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, and continually visited and abandoned by the tides.”

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
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