"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

September 30, 2011

The Importance of Heightening the Mind in Meditation

"The Buddha concluded one of his most important talks with the phrase, adhicitte ca ayogo, commitment to the heightened mind. What this means is that we lift the mind above its ordinary concerns, as when we come here to practice meditation. Our normal cares of the day— looking after our own bodies, feeding them, looking after other people, being concerned with what other people think about us, how we interact with them, all the concerns of the day—we put those down, lift our mind above them, and bring it to the meditation object.

When you look at the affairs of the world, you see that they spin around just as the world does. There’s a classic list of eight: gain and loss, status and loss of status, criticism and censure, pleasure and pain. These things keep trading places. You can’t have the good ones without the bad ones. You can’t have the bad ones without the good. They keep changing places like this, around and around, and if we allow our minds to get caught up in them it’s like getting our clothes caught up in the gears of a machine. They keep pulling us in, pulling us in. If we don’t know how to disentangle ourselves, they keep pulling us in until they mangle our arms, mangle our legs, crush us to bits. In other words, if we allow these preoccupations to consume the mind, the mind gets mangled and doesn’t have a chance to be its own self.

We don’t even know what the mind is like on its own because all we know is the mind as a slave to these things, running around wherever they force it. So when we come to meditate, we have to learn to lift our mind above these things. All thoughts of past and future we put aside. We just bring the mind to the breath so the mind doesn’t have to spin around anymore. It simply stays with the breath coming in, going out, and gains at least some measure of freedom.

From this heightened perspective we can look at our normal involvement with the world and begin to realize that, for the most part, it doesn’t go anywhere. It just keeps spinning around, coming back to the same old places over and over and over again. All that gets accomplished is that the mind gets more and more worn out.

If we allow the mind to rise above these things so that it doesn’t feed on them, doesn’t run after them, we’ll begin to get some sense of the mind’s worth, in and of itself. As the mind gets still, things begin to settle out. Like sediment in a glass of water: If you allow the water to stay still for a time, whatever sediment is in there finally settles out and the water becomes clear."
Heightening the Mind
Thanissaro Bhikkhu July, 2001
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September 29, 2011

How to Use Anger as Spiritual Practice

"Do you imagine anger should be suppressed? Pushing anger down, below awareness, does not free us from its grip. When we do this, anger festers, and its consequences continue unabated. Whether suppressed anger resurfaces as physical symptoms, depression, passive aggression, or explosive rage—sooner or later it will rise.

Yet expressing anger in words and actions is not more skillful than pushing it down. And when we justify our anger, we get hijacked into believing our thougths are The Truth.

Without justifying anger, repessing it, or acting on it, we have only to genuinely feel our anger. When we do, we see the present moment of anger is very quiet—and also very specific. Anger is never just ANGER—which is a mental concept. Rather it is a concrete, visceral experience—perhaps of tightness, pulsing, heat, pressure—plus strongly believed thoughts.

Bringing attention to these sensations in the quiet light of awareness, you may experience a release from the constricting belief that this emotion is 'you.'"

Ezra Bayda
Saying Yes to LIfe (Even the Hard Parts)
For more in-depth dharma articles and instruction, visit:  METTA REFUGE

Spiritual Practice and Money

"Spiritual practice must include everything, even the temporal worldliness of money. We may imagine that, spiritual practitioners that we are, finances are not worthy of our consideration; yet these issues make an especially rich field for practice.

Money issues are rarely about money—try to see them with clarity and precision. Then bring awareness to the well of emotion out of which your beliefs and behaviors arise.

You may discover that behind most financial insecurity is the terror of losing control or feeling helpless. Honestly facing this fear is the price we face to be free."

Ezra Bayda
Saying Yes to Life (Even the Hard Parts)
For more in-depth dharma articles and instruction, visit:  METTA REFUGE

September 28, 2011

When we are sick, is the body more "me" or "mine?"

"Consider the human body. Do you consider the body to be yours? It’s very easy to say, “The body is not self” when one is young, healthy and fit. The test comes when one is sick, especially when that sickness is very deep and lasting, or can even be life threatening. That’s when one can really see at a deeper level whether one is taking the body to be ‘me’ or ‘mine’.

Why does this fear arise? The fear is always because of attachment. One is afraid that something which one cherishes is being threatened or taken away. If ever a fear of death comes up at any time, that will show with ninety nine percent certainty, that in that moment one is seeing or thinking that this body is ‘me’, or is ‘mine’."

Ajahn Brahmavamso from “AnattaNot Self

Goodheart Comment:  And what about when we are having great enjoyment or pleasure in the body? The pleasure or the pain, as such, is not the problem!  The dharma issue is this:  what do "I" self-identify with?

Can we just be with the flow, mindfully, without adding story lines and grasping?  Can we enjoy without clinging?  Can we have pain without clinging?  That's the cutting edge where we prove what we know theoretically and what we have demonstrated for ourselves about not-self.

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How a Buddhist Works with the Prayer of St. Francis

"Below is a mantra I often work with during the day. It’s an adaptation I made of the much-loved Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. (St. Francis is my favorite Christian saint, among other things, because of his love of animals, and especially birds!  See: The Compassion of the Swans)

In Buddhism, working with a mantra is different from the usual method of meditation—I would describe it as a kind of combined mindfulness practice and metta, or loving-kindness practice. Rather than the breath being the focus, or states of concentration, the focus is on the meaning and feeling and spirit of the words. . ."

To see the adapted St. Francis prayer-mantra and to listen to a beautiful piano transcription of “Pie Jesu” by as played by Angelicus, go here:

For more in-depth dharma articles and instruction, visit:  METTA REFUGE
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Thoughts on "How To Live this Year as If It Were Your Last"

Running from death misses the point of life!
"How soon will we accept this opportunity to be fully alive before we die?"

“Until we find out who was born this time around, it seems irrelevant to seek earlier identities. I have heard many people speak of who they believe they were in previous incarnations, but they seem to have very little idea of who they are in this one. . . . Let’s take one life at a time. Perhaps the best way to do that is to live as though there were no afterlife or reincarnation. To live as though this moment was all that was allotted.”

“You have to remember one life, one death–this one! To enter fully the day, the hour, the moment whether it appears as life or death, whether we catch it on the in-breath or out-breath, requires only a moment, this moment. And along with it all the mindfulness we can muster, and each stage of our ongoing birth, and the confident joy of our inherent luminosity”

“Our life is composed of events and states of mind. How we appraise our life from our deathbed will be predicated not only on what came to us in life but how we lived with it. It will not be simply illness or health, riches or poverty, good luck or bad, which ultimately define whether we believe we have had a good life or not, but the quality of our relationship to these situations: the attitudes of our states of mind.”

Excerpts from the best book I've ever read on mindful living and dying: Stephen Levine's, A Year to Live: How To Live this Year as If It Were Your Last
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September 27, 2011

Why is “letting go” so important in Buddhism?

The following excerpt is from Living Meditation, Living Insight: The Path of Mindfulness in Daily Life by Burmese Budddhist teacher Dr. Thynn Thynn.


Why is “letting go” so important in Buddhism? 


Thynn: The term “letting go” has become a catchword in Buddhist circles. It is true that “letting go” is crucial for arriving at self-realization of inner freedom, but you have to understand how to let go.

What are we supposed to let go of?


Let go of your clinging. Let go of the motivating desire behind whatever you’re doing. It may be a desire to succeed, to be perfect, to control others or to glorify yourself. It doesn’t matter what it is specifically; what matters is the desire behind your act. It is easy to mistake the act for the desire.

To let go is to let go of clinging to desire,

not to let go of the act.


We have been talking about stopping and looking at emotions. Try to stop and look at an act; see if you can identify the desire propelling it. When you see the desire, you can also detect the clinging to the desire. When you see the clinging, you see it resolve and you spontaneously let go.

To read the entire interview and here a great "Zen song" by folksinger Chris Smither, go here:


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What is Our Life About? And What is the Path?

What is Our Life About?

Ezra Bayda

Our aspirations, our calling, our desire for a genuine life,
is to see the truth of who we really are—
that the nature of our Being is connectedness and love,
not the illusion of a separate self to which our suffering clings.
It is from this awareness that Life can flow through us;
the Unconditioned manifesting freely as our conditioned body.

And what is the path?
To learn to reside in whatever life presents.
To learn to attend to all those things
that block the flow of a more open life;
and to see them as the very path of awakening—
all the of the constructs, the identities,
the holding back, the protections,
all of the fears, the self-judgments, the blame—
all that separates us from letting Life be...

To read Bayda's entire poem and listen to an incredibly beautiful piece of music by Ludovico Einaudi, go here:

To discover more Shambhala books by Zen teacher Ezra Bayda, go here:
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Choose life! Choose love! Choose to live!

“Most people can look back over the years and identify a time and place at which their lives changed significantly. Whether by accident or design, these are the moments when, because of a readiness within us and a collaboration with events occurring around us, we are forced to seriously reappraise ourselves and the conditions under which we live and to make certain choices that will affect the rest of our lives.” ~ Frederick Flack
In critical moments of retrospection such as this—moments often wracked with pain, remorse, and self-condemnation—can we realize that we can always choose to do something better this time? Can we open ourselves to the compassionate thought that there are skillful ways to choose to love ourselves better than we ever have before?...

To read the rest of this essay, go here:


Don't Be Discouraged When Meditation Uncovers the First Noble Truth

"Many people start meditating and then get frustrated with how much suffering and pain they experience, never knowing that they are actually starting to understand something. They cling to the ideal that insight practices will produce peace and bliss and yet much of what they find is suffering.

They don’t realize that things on the cushion tend to get worse before they get better. Thus, they reject the very truths they must deeply understand to obtain the peace they were looking for and thus get nowhere. They reject their own valid insights that they have obtained through valid practice.  I suspect that this is one of the greatest and most common stumbling blocks on the spiritual path."

Daniel Ingram

Go here to read a fuller explanation of these ideas:


September 26, 2011

Take Time to Meet the Buddha!

In all of the stress about world events and your daily life, take time to breathe!  Just stop—and get in touch with your breath. Take time to “meet the Buddha,” as Ajahn Chah says:

"Look on the breath as if it were some relatives come to visit you. When the relatives leave, you follow them out to see them off. You watch until they’ve walked up the drive and out of sight, and then you go back indoors.

We watch the breath in the same way. If the breath is coarse we know that it’s coarse, if it’s subtle we know that it’s subtle. As it becomes increasingly fine we keep following it, at the same time awakening the mind. Eventually the breath disappears altogether and all that remains is that feeling of alertness. This is called meeting the Buddha."

~ Ajahn Chah
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Meditation Tip - Bathing in the Breath

"[In meditation] think of yourself as totally surrounded by the breath, bathed in the breath, and then survey the whole body to see where there are still sections of the body that are tense or tight, that are preventing the breath from coming in and going out. Allow them to loosen up. This way you allow for the fullness of the breath to come in, go out, each time there’s an in-breath, each time there’s an out-breath.

Actually the fullness doesn’t go in and out. There’s just a quality of fullness that’s bathed by the breath coming in, bathed by the breath going out. It’s not squeezed out by the breath. It’s not forced out by the breath. Each nerve in the body is allowed to relax and have a sense of fullness, right here, right now. Then simply try to maintain that sense of fullness by the way you breathe. Your focus is on the breath, but you can’t help but notice the fullness."

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu
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The Middle Way: The Opposite of a Profound Truth May be Another Profound Truth

In the Zen tradition, there is famous story about how the Sixth Patriarch was chosen by way of a kind of competition by a poem, or gatha. One day the Fifth Patriarch asked him monks to express their insight in a poem. The senior disciple, the highly educated Yuquan Shenxiu, offered this gatha:
The body is the bodhi tree.
The mind is a great bright mirror.
Every day you have to wipe it clean
so that the dust will not cover the mirror.
Huineng, an illiterate peasant, who came to study with the Fifth Patriarch, asked one of his dharma brothers to write out this poem for him:
There's no such thing as the bodhi tree.
There's not such thing as the great bright mirror.
From the beginning everything is empty.
Where can the dust cling?
As legend and tradition has it, on the basis of this poem, the illiterate Huineng was chosen as the Sixth Patriarch.  Later, Shenxiu established the so-called "Northern School and Zen eventually split into the "gradualist" and "sudden" enlightenment schools.

Consider these two gathas. Which would you have chosen? Why?

Is one the second poem better or more insightful or more profound? Why? In practice, does one really have to choose one or the other as "correct" or "the only way?" What do you think?

Maybe if this profound insight of quantum physics founder Niels Bohr had been understood by these ancient worthies, Zen might not have fallen into schism and warring schools:
“The opposite of a true statement is a false statement, the opposite of a profound truth can be another profound truth. The poles of a paradox are like the poles of a battery: hold the together and they generate the energy of life; pull them apart, and the current stops flowing.  When we separate any of the profound paired truths of our lives, both poles become lifeless spectres of themselves — and we become lifeless too.”  Niels Bohr
My understanding of the the Buddha's "middle way" is that one seeks to avoid getting caught up in "views, including views like those in these two gathas.  I've found that if one looks deeply into practice, both views can be skillful and enlightening—"the opposite of a profound truth can be another profound truth."  Surely the point is to not get stuck in either view, but to find the skill in both!
For more in-depth dharma articles and instruction, visit:  METTA REFUGE
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The Major Purpose of Compassion is Not to Reduce Hurt but Lead to Truth

"Let's talk a little more about what compassion means.  Usually, compassion is seen as the desire to alleviate someone else's pain; compassion is experienced as the desire to help.  We feel compassionate when we see somebody hurt.  Rarely do we feel compassionate when someone is not hurting. So we connect compassion with pain and hurt.  However, this is only the elementary level of compassion—emotional compassion...but [telling the truth] is the real function of compassion.  The point of compassion is not to eliminate suffering but to lead the person to the truth so that she will be able to live the life of truth.

This is an important fact that we tend not to see because our ideas about compassion are not accurate. Look for yourself.   What kind of compassion have you believed in and acted from? For most of us, it's obvious where our prejudice lies.  Our compassion has not been on the side of truth; it has been on the side of feeling good. That is not the compassion of Essence; it is the compassion of emotions. It is understandable that it hurts to see someone hurting.   You may also feel compassionate towards yourself when you are hurting; this compassion helps.  So what  is the relationship between hurt,  truth, and compassion?

Compassion is a kind of healing agent that helps us tolerate the hurt of seeing the truth.  The function of compassion in the Work is not to reduce hurt; its function is to lead to truth. Much of the time truth is painful or scary. Compassion makes it possible to tolerate that hurt and fear. It helps us persist in our search for truth.  Truth ultimately will dissolve the hurt, but this is a by-product and not the major purpose of compassion.

In fact, it is only when compassion is present that people allow themselves to see the truth.  Where there is no compassion, there is not trust.  If someone is compassionate toward you, you trust him enough to allow yourself to be vulnerable, to see the truth rather than reject it.  The compassion doesn't alleviate the pain; it makes the pain meaningful, make it part of the truth, makes it tolerable.

This way of viewing compassion makes a tremendous difference in our lives. Seeing compassion as a guide to the truth rather than as something to alleviate hurt can change the way we behave toward ourselves, our friends, everyone.  It may seem like a subtle difference, but one perspective will take you away from truth, and the other will take you toward it. One will keep you unconscious, and the other will help you learn the truth."

A. H. Almaas, Diamond Heart, Book One, "Truth and Compassion"

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September 24, 2011

Let the Ego Bleed and Open the Heart

"The  Buddhist definition of ego as 'holding on to ourselves' and controlling our experience helps us understand why it is so hard to let ourselves feel our emotions and let them be.  We usually try to keep them from flowing through us because they threaten the control we try to maintain.  Since ego by definition is the actvity of holding holding on, 'I' cannot let go, 'I' wants to ward off anything that threatens this hold.

What is possible, however, is to let the emotions wash through me,  and in so doing, wash the controlling part of me away with them.  If I can really open to the actual texture and quality of a feeling, instead of trying to control it or churn out story lines from it, 'I'—the activity of trying to hold myself together—can dissolve into 'it'—the larger feeling and process itself.

If I fully become my sadness, it may intensify for a while, and I may feel the full painfulness of it.  Yet really letting myself the pain and letting myself dissolve into it wakes me up to the feeling of being alive.  Emotions, we could say, are the blood shed by the ego—they start to flow whenever we are touched, whenever the shell around the heart is punctured.  Trying to control them is trying to keep the shell from cracking. Letting the ego bleed, on the other hand, opens the heart."

John Welwood
from "Befriending Emotion" in
Awakening the Heart: East/West Approaches to Psychotheraphy and the the Healing Relationship
For more in-depth dharma articles and instruction, visit:  METTA REFUGE

September 23, 2011

Something the Buddha and Richard Feynman Had in Common

“If you simply do what's in the books, you're not following the Buddha's method. The Buddha didn't follow what was in books. He had to use his own powers of ingenuity. We have the advantage that we're building on the discoveries he made, but we still have to go back and make those same discoveries for ourselves. We have to use the same method he used. And one element in that method is this ability to improvise.

...A British physicist who went to study with Feynman in Cornell was amazed by, on the one hand, how brilliant he was in physics, but also how playful he was. After a while he realized that the two were connected. If you don't learn to play around with ideas, you don't see new things. If you don't learn to play around with what's happening in the mind, you don't make any discoveries.

The Buddha was the type of person who made discoveries. You have to make yourself the type of person who makes discoveries, even if it's simply to reconfirm what he discovered. You have to go through the same process, really testing things.”

Thanissaro Bhikkhu - "Standing Where the Buddha Stood"
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Dharma Practice - Commiserate with the Turtle in Trouble, Help the Sick Sparrow

"Working for the welfare of all beings means that you contrive to benefit all sentient beings, high and low.  In other words, you carefully investigate others's distant and near futures, and think of various means that will be the most congenial to their well-being.

Commiserate with a turtle in trouble, and take care of a sparrow suffering from injury. When you see the distressed turtle or watch the sick sparrow, you do not expect any repayment for your favor, but are moved entirely by your desire to help others.

Fools may think that if another's benefit is given priority, their own good must be lost.  This is not the case.  The practice of benefiting others is a total truth, hence it serve both self and others far and wide...

Therefore serve enemies and friends equally, and assist self and others without discrimination.   If you grasp this truth, [you will see that] this is the reason that even grasses and trees, wind and water are all naturally engaged in the activity of benefiting others, and your understanding will certainly serve others' benefit..."  Dōgen Zenji

Quoted in Eihei Dōgen: Mystical Realist
By Hee-Jin Kim, Taigen Daniel Leighton
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Zen is Not Beyond Morality - It is Living Morality

"When Zen arrived and began to take root in this country, there arose a misconception about the role of morality and ethics in the practice of the Buddhadharma. Statements that Zen was beyond morality or that Zen was amoral are made by distiguished writers on Buddhism, and people assumed this was correct. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

Enlightenment and morality are one. Enlightenment without morality is not true enlightenment.  Morality without enlightenment is not complete morality. Zen is not beyond morality, but a practice that takes place within the world based on moral and ethical teachings..."

John Daido Loori Roshi from Invoking Reality: The Moral and Ethical Teachings of Zen
To read the full article, go here:

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September 22, 2011

Look at suffering in and of itself—don't ask *who* is suffering

"The Buddha has us focus simply on the problem of suffering without asking who’s causing this, or who you are, or what you have to do to your sense of self to make it better. He says, 'Just look at the suffering in and of itself.'

That’s important: the 'in and of itself.' That helps get you out of the entanglements that come from your clinging to your suffering.

When you can look at these things as events simply on their own terms, simply as a pattern of cause and effect without asking how you’re involved in it, when you can simply see the fact of suffering as it’s being caused, then you see the connection to its cause. You realize that you don’t have to engage in the cause. That helps loosen up your attachment to the suffering.

So it’s important to understand this process: that you’re clinging to, identifying with, the very things that cause you to suffer. Even though that’s what defines you, it’s simply a definition you’ve imposed on things. You don’t really need it to function. You don’t really have to worry about being annihilated if you stop the suffering.

For many people that’s a scary idea, because the connection between their self and their suffering is so strong. This is why the Buddha focuses you back on just the suffering in and of itself.

Don’t ask who’s doing this. Don’t ask how you’re involved in it. Just ask, 'What’s happening here?' Look at things in and of themselves as events, as processes."

Thanissaro Bhikkhu
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September 21, 2011

Pema Chödrön on Unconditional Friendship with Ourselves

"As long as our orientation is toward perfection or success, we will never learn about unconditional friendship with ourselves, nor will we find compassion.

It is tempting to ask ourselves if we are making 'progress' on the spiritual path. But to look for progress is a set-up-a guarantee that we won't measure up to some arbitrary goal we've established.

Traditional teachings tell us that one sign of progress in meditation practice is that our kleshas diminish. Kleshas are the strong conflicting emotions that spin off and heighten when we get caught by aversion and attraction.

Though the teachings point us in the direction of diminishing our klesha activity, calling ourselves "bad" because we have strong conflicting emotions is not helpful. That just causes negativity and suffering to escalate.

What helps is to train again and again in not acting out our kleshas with speech and actions, and also in not repressing them or getting caught in guilt. The traditional instruction is to find the middle way between the extreme views of indulging-going right ahead and telling people off verbally or mentally-and repressing: biting your tongue and calling yourself a bad person.

Now, to find what the middle way means is a challenging path. That is hard to know how to do. We routinely think we have to go to one extreme or the other, either acting out or repressing. We are unaware of that middle ground between the two. But the open space of the middle ground is where wisdom lies, where compassion lies, and where lots of discoveries are to be made..."

Pema Chödrön / Start Where You Are / March 1999
Click to read full talk: "Signs of Spiritual Progress"

For more in-depth dharma articles and instruction, visit:  METTA REFUGE

Voltaire - "On Tolerance"

"Grant then that we may mutually aid each other to support the burden of a painful and transitory life; that the trifling differences in the garments that cover our frail bodies, in our insufficient languages, in our ridiculous customs, in our imperfect laws, in our idle opinions, in all our conditions so disproportionate in our eyes, and so equal in yours, that all the little variations that differentiate the atoms called men not be signs of hatred and persecution."

~ Voltaire "On Tolerance"

For more in-depth dharma articles and instruction, visit:  METTA REFUGE

September 20, 2011

A Tibetan Lama's Insight into Doing Good for Others

Helpful Thoughts on Doing Good for Others

By Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche

Question (Helen): For months at a time, I can be tremendously active and capable of helping others. Inevitably, a difficult situation arises, and I despair of ever making any difference in the world whatsoever. I realize that good heart is the way to go, but how can I deal with these periods of burnout?

Answer (Rinpoche): Ideally, we serve others with pure heart, not expecting gratitude, payment or recognition. We accept complaints with equanimity and patiently continue, knowing that people don't always see the purpose of what we're doing. Though our actions may seem insignificant or unproductive, if our motivation is pure and we dedicate the merit expansively, we generate great virtue.

Though we may not accomplish what we set out to do, auspicious conditions and our ability to benefit others in the future will only increase. No effort is wasted; when someone witnesses our loving-kindness, he sees a new way of responding to anger or aggression. This becomes a reference point in his mind that, like a seed,will eventually flower when conditions ripen. Then when we dedicate the virtue, our loving kindness will extend to all beings.

We mustn't become discouraged if someone we are trying to help continues to experience the results of her negative karma and, in the process, creates the causes of future suffering. Instead, because she doesn't have enough merit for her suffering to end, we must redouble our efforts to accumulate merit and dedicate it to her and others. We're not out to accomplish selfish aims. We are trying to establish the causes of lasting happiness for all beings. By purifying our self-interest and mental poisons, we develop a heroic mind. The process of going beyond suffering and helping others do the same is the way of the Bodhisattva."
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The Mind Compares Itself with Images of Buddha or Jesus

"The mind compares itself with images of Buddha or Jesus, with saints and with blessed beings of which we have read.  And the mind finds itself wanting in the balance.  The mind condemns itself for being what it is, though it fears letting go into the spacious freedom that would release it from its bondage.  Like the battered child carried gently away from its mother, the tormentor, the mind  cries out in pain for what it is leaving, fearful of what is yet to come.  To the mind, even hell is acceptable and preferable to the the unknown.

We berate ourselves for the content of the mind, for the anger and doubt, for the fear and loathing.  And it is this very act of judgment of the mind, that causes us to feel separate from ourselves and all else.  It is constantly rating us on our behavior and participation, and seldom disappears long enough for us to merge with our experience, to become one with life.

Our models, our ideas of who we are and how the world is supposed to be, create a cage.  Each concept becomes a bar that blocks our perception of truth. Each idea of how things are limits our ability to experience them as they really may be.  We can't go beyond our  idea of the world to actually touch the world.  When we move beyond our models and ideas, we feel threatened and defensive.  Confronting some reality which opposes our self-image, our sureness confuses and upsets us.  We don't know who we are because we think of ourselves as ideas and old models.  The world is constantly confronting us with the truth.  We are constantly withdrawing.  Our experience is pain."

Excerpt from Stephen Levine's Who Dies?

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True Spirituality is Not a "High"

"True spirituality is not a high, not a rush, not an altered state. It’s been fine to romance it for a while, but our times call for something far more real, far more grounded and responsible, something radically alive and naturally integral, something that shakes us to our very core until we stop treating spiritual deepening as a something to dabble in here and there.

Authentic spirituality is not some little flicker or buzz of knowingness, nor a psychedelic blast-through, nor a mellow hanging-out on some exalted plane of consciousness, but a vaster than vast fire of Liberation, an exquisitely fitting crucible and sanctuary, providing both heat and light for what must be done. Divine dynamite. Dying to see, dying to live, dying into a deeper Life, until we are our true size, no longer seducible by any disguise or distraction, no matter how brilliant or ecstatic."

Robert Masters
Dissociation in Holy Drag: An Inside Look at Spiritual Bypassing

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Krishnamurti on Dogma & Make-Believe Religion

"We have reduced religion to mere ritual or belief, and our gods, our self- disciplines lead, not to reality, but only to respectability. Our gods have really no meaning at all, and religion has become merely a series of beliefs and rituals without significance. Their influence is conditioning, like any other organised influence, whether it be the communist, Christian, or the Hindu. The influence of dogma, belief, ritual, is tyrannical, limiting because it conditions and therefore makes the mind small, petty. Being confronted by immense problems, we are meeting them with our conditioned minds, and so we make these vast problems stupid and petty, thereby increasing the problems.

So, is it not very important to find out, actually to understand and experience for oneself, how the mind can be free from all the influences which religion has imposed? Because religion which is organised obviously does not lead to reality. Reality can come into being only when the mind is free, when the mind is unconditioned. And is it possible not to belong to any religious group or organisation, to any church, but to stand alone and find out what is true? Surely, religion as we know it is a process of make-believe.

From childhood we are forced into a particular pattern of thought, and the mind believes for it's own security, for it's own safety; but religion is something totally different, is it not? It is a state in which reality can come into being - reality, truth, God, or what name you will. But when the mind is conditioned, shaped by belief, can it ever be free to receive that which is true? Is not religion the state of mind in which the known is not, so that the unknown can come into being? Because, after all, our gods are self-projected. We create our gods, we pursue ideals and beliefs, because they give us satisfaction, comfort, solace. But surely none of these things free the mind to discover reality and that is why it seems to me very important to strip ourselves of all these conditionings, not as an ultimate gesture, but right from the beginning, and to find out whether the mind can remain uncorrupted."

Quotes taken from "Krishnamurti's Talks in America. May 28, 1954

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September 19, 2011

How Do We Treat Desire? Friend? Enemy? Teacher?

"We can treat desire the way we treat everything else in meditation. This means accepting it as it is, not pushing it away and not holding on to it. In Eros the Bittersweet, a big inspiration for my own book, the Canadian poet and classicist Anne Carson points out that desire implies the presence of three things: the lover, the beloved, and that which separates them.

In other words, there is always a gap, an obstacle, impeding the union desire seeks. This obstacle seems like a problem, and we want to get rid of it. This is clinging. I propose that if you relate to desire in a different way—if you learn how to simply dwell in the gap it opens up—then desire can become a teacher in its own right. In practical terms, this means learning to desire without expectations."

Excerpt from an interview with Mark Epstein

Read the full interview with Mark Epstein at Tricycle magazine here:
In Defense of Desire

I also highly recommend Epstein's book:
Open to Desire—Insights from Buddhism and Psychotherapy

For more in-depth dharma articles and instruction, visit:  METTA REFUGE

September 18, 2011

When We Love, We Too Hold Hands with Krishnamurti

“A few years ago, when he was quite old and rather frail, I heard Krishnamurti address a large assembly.

He spoke in his accustomed softness and care for a few minutes before calling on a fellow who had raised his hand with a question. Krishnamurti answered slowly, then stopped and began again, then stopped again. He said his aging had caused him to not always be so very sharp and would the fellow just come down and hold his hand.

It was a teaching for us all that some day all that might be left of us is our love.”

Stephen Levine - Turning Toward the Mystery
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The Right Way to Go Easy

Zhuangzi dreaming of a butterfly (or a butterf...Image via WikipediaEasy is right. Begin right
And you are easy.
Continue easy and your are right.

The right way to go easy
Is to forget the right way
And forget that the going is easy.

Chuang Tzu

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