Friday, November 24, 2006

Letting go

Two monks were at the edge of a river they wished to cross when a woman approached them. She said that she probably wouldn't be able to cross on her own and would appreciate some help. The younger of the monks remained silent and let the more established practitioner speak - he said that yes, he could carry her across.

He did so without much fanfare and bid her farewell on the other side of the river. Then the younger monk exploded. The older monk had been defiled by touching her! He'd renounced sex and yet had his hands all over that woman! That went directly against his vows! The older monk calmly replied: "I put her down a long time ago. Why are you still carrying her?"

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Introspection is the key to the door of wisdom

We lead a contemplative life, but that does not mean we sit in meditation all day long. A contemplative life means that one considers every aspect of what happens as part of a learning experience. One remains introspective under all circumstances. When one becomes outgoing, with what the Buddha termed "exuberance of youth," one goes to the world with one's thoughts, speech and action. One needs to recollect oneself and return within. A contemplative life in some orders is a life of prayer. In our way it's a combination of meditation and life-style. The contemplative life goes on inside of oneself. One can do the same thing with or without recollection. Contemplation is the most important aspect of introspection. It isn't necessary to sit still all day and watch one's breath. Every move, every thought, every word can give rise to understanding oneself.

Ayya Khema

I love Ayya Khema. She is, along with Pema Chodron, Thich Nhat Hanh and Lama Surya Das, among my favorite Buddhist teachers. She passed away in 1997, but she wrote twenty-five books during her eighteen years as a nun in the Theravadin tradition. I recommend her 1998 book Being Nobody, Going Nowhere. A survivor of the Nazi Holocaust, she speaks with a gentleness and compassion that could only come from one who understands the journey from suffering to acceptance.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Cultivating joy

"How do we cultivate the conditions for joy to expand? We train in staying present. In sitting meditation, we train in mindfulness and maitri [lovingkindness]: in being steadfast with our bodies, our emotions, our thoughts. We stay with our own little plot of earth and trust that it can be cultivated, that cultivation will bring it to its full potential. Even though it's full of rocks and the soil is dry, we begin to plow this plot with patience. We let the process evolve naturally.

At the beginning it is just a feeling that joy is workable. We stop looking for a more suitable place to be. We've discovered that the continual search for something better does not work out. This doesn't mean that there are suddenly flowers growing where before there were only rocks. It means that we have confidence that something will grow here."

Pema Chödrön

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Bodhisattva Vow

The Bodhisattva Vow is the commitment to put others before oneself.

It is a statement of willingness to give up one’s own well-being, even one’s own enlightenment, for the sake of others. And a bodhisattva is simply a person who lives in the spirit of that vow, perfecting the qualities known as the six paramitas—generosity, discipline, patience, exertion, meditation, and transcendental knowledge—in his effort to liberate beings.

Taking the bodhisattva vow implies that instead of holding our own individual territory and defending it tooth and nail, we become open to the world that we are living in.

Chögyam Trungpa

(From The Collected Works of Chögyam Trungpa, Volume Three, edited by Carolyn Rose Gimian. © 2003 by Diana J. Mukpo. Published by Shambhala Publications.)

Friday, November 17, 2006


"Move beyond any attachment to names."

Every war and every conflict between human beings has happened because of some disagreement about names.

It's such an unnecessary foolishness, because just beyond the arguing there's a long table of companionship, set and waiting for us to sit down.

What is praised is one, so the praise is one too, many jugs being poured into a huge basin.

All religions, all this singing, one song.

The differences are just illusion and vanity. Sunlight looks slightly different on this wall than it does on that wall and a lot different on this other one, but it is still one light. We have borrowed these clothes, these time-and-space personalities, from a light, and when we praise, we pour them back in.

Mawlānā Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (1207—1273)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Four Immeasurables

May all living beings have happiness and the causes of happiness;
May all living beings be free from misery and the causes of misery;
May all living beings never be separated from happiness, devoid of misery;
May all living beings abide in equanimity free from prejudicial attachments and aversions.

- Buddha Shakyamuni

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The sacred lotus

The lotus appears frequently in Buddhist teachings. Why is the lotus such a powerful symbol?

The sacred lotus, nelumbo nucifera, grows in marshy areas. Its roots cling to the bottom of the pond or stream in which it grows, while its petals floats on the surface of the water and its flower sits atop the stem a couple of centimeters above the water.

The lotus flower, therefore, symbolizes purity of mind. By practicing the Eightfold Path, the practitioner can elevate her mind above the muddy quagmire of suffering. We should all seek to be like the lotus, remaining aware of the pain of existence and yet rising above temptation, hatred and greed to express the natural beauty of compassionate consciousness.

May each of you bloom like the lotus...