Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.
~ George Santayana

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you.

~ Rashi, in The Gilgul, or the Wandering Soul, by Aizik-Meyer Dik

Monday, December 20, 2010

Rx for Holiday Blues

1. De-commercialize your holidays
2. Keep your sugar intake low
3. Get outside and exercise
4. Stop trying to control your family members
5. Write a few personal holiday cards
6. Do something for others--not just your own family
7. Reflect on your good fortune
8. Focus on the present

The Mystery

El misterio apacigua mis ojos, no los ciega

The mystery brings peace to my eyes, not blindness

~ Antonio Porchia

The Tao Emerges Flavorless

look -- you won't see it

listen -- you won't hear it

use it -- you will never use it up

~ Tao te ching 35
translated by Addiss and Lombardo

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Little Practice

Better to practice a little than to talk a lot.

~ Muso Soseki (1275-1351)

Saturday, December 11, 2010


by William Stafford

It is the ocean at home.

It is easy, but it has deep rules.

It is a liquid fact apparently random
but riveted together by all the necessities
enforced by the universe.

A shadow moves from its place on a rock
and hidden dramas adjust their feet
for the newest step in the oldest dance.

Something grim tickles its way
forward, staring from under mother of pearl.

Minnows play to confuse the sun —
they belong to a plot that only
the deepest toes in the sand can explain.

Every color has a place and a secret reason.

When the next wave comes, all the others
forget what their mission was.

Over in China some child is waiting
for all the connected promises in the water
that your next step will begin.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Straying & Returning

We have a natural, inherent, indestructible ability to know what arises and to respond appropriately to whatever happens internally or externally. The practice of cultivating awareness and compassion relies on this natural ability. Despite this natural simplicity, or perhaps because of it, there are several ways of straying from the essence and path of awareness. The moment we recognize how we've strayed, and trust our natural abilities, we've already returned.

Straying from the essence
Trying to make meditation a certain way. Having a little experience or insight of impermanence or emptiness, and then clinging to that experience. Or gaining a little conceptual understanding and believing the idea is the same as the experience.

Straying from the path
Anticipating the results of practice. Not seeing or trusting that what is needed is the path of awareness itself, we hope for some result in the future.

Straying from the remedy
Not trusting that experiencing whatever arises is the remedy, we try to "fix" what we experience.  Whenever "disturbing" thoughts or emotions arise, we try to fix them or overcome them so that we can get back to meditating. 

Straying into generalization
Dropping out of awareness by conceptualizing. We might start to use the idea "everything is empty" as a way of dismissing what arises. Or we start to believe that thinking about resting in awareness is the same as resting in awareness. 

Click here for more on the ways we stray from practice.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


by William Stafford

Our slow breath goes out and returns
while the world looms more and more
itself, as dawn at first hasn't arrived,
then has. Our breath makes it happen.
All day it calls forth, minute by minute,
whatever was hiding in the little square
that gradually fills in on the calendar.
At night again we let the world by itself
coast through those hours our breath
quietly monitors, heartbeat, heartbeat.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Watch Your Feet

It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.

~ Bilbo Baggins

Monday, November 29, 2010

Insight & Compassion

With insight, we don't mistake our projections for people.
With compassion, we don't regard people as projections.

Projections aren't real, people are real. Insight helps us see when we're reacting to our own projections rather than relating to actual people. Compassion saves us from treating people as internal objects (projections) or external objects (unfeeling things) for our enjoyment or disposal. Treat people unfailingly well, and projections become apparent. With projections apparent, we can treat people well, if we will.

Compassion is foremost. Insight shows aspects of reality, but often in an incomplete way, and a shallow or temporary insight may not bear the fruit of compassion. The power bestowed by insight, wielded without care, may even lead to harm. Compassion includes insight by revealing and honoring the connections between realities. Compassion tends, even when incomplete, to relieve suffering. Compassion and insight united dissolve any sense of being separate from others.

The root of both insight and compassion is the intention to free ourselves and others from struggle and suffering. There is clarity and kindness in that intention.

In each moment, seeing what is and appreciating and welcoming it. Awareness and warmth inseparable.

Your vision will become clear 
when you look into your heart.
~ Carl Jung

This is all insight. How do the warm sun of kindness and the cool shade of compassion feel?


One Question

What's the most important question you can ask in life?

Albert Einstein:
Is the universe a friendly place or not?

Mary Oliver:
There is only one question:
how to love this world.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Moving in Awareness

Upright, fluid, grounded, light.

Feel the contact between soft feet & firm ground.

Feel your weight resting on the ground. Let your skeleton & the ground hold you up – don’t hold your self up.

Balance the body on sensitive feet. Feel the whole spine from tailbone to skull. Let the spine move as you breathe in & out.

Notice the sensations & movements of breathing in & breathing out. Breath likethe wind.

From your knees down feel roots going down into the ground. From the shoulders up feel your head floating into the sky.

Invite the whole body to breathe.

Let soft eyes gaze into the whole field of vision.

Relax from the inside.

Open all the senses: touching, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, warm/cold, balance, location.

Let the belly fill up as you breathe in & empty out as you breathe out.

Let the skull balance top of the spine & rock as you breathe.

Connect with the ground again & again.

Let exhaling be complete.

With each exhale let your weight drop down through your legs & release into the ground.

Use intention to move, not muscular effort. Movement begins in the belly & then ripples through the whole body.

Ground & balance again & again so your standing & moving are open, alert, relaxed.

Let every joint be an open hinge swinging as you breathe & move. Don’t lock elbows, knees, shoulders, fingers or toes.

Let moving be smooth circles. Nature moves in spirals.

Connect feet & belly again & again.

Relax pelvis, hips, lower back, shoulders.

Breathe naturally. Let your movements ride the breath.

Feel weight shifting back & forth from one leg & foot to the other.

No strain. When extending & leaning, don’t go as far as you could go.

Let the whole body breathe in & breathe out. Let awareness ride the breath through the whole body.

As you move, invite every part of the body to participate, so no part has to do extra work.

Gently open awareness again & again to include everything in & around you as you move.

Let the qualities of the breath reveal balance & imbalance.

Completely mix three things: awareness ~ breathing ~ moving

Sitting in Awareness

Sit upright, grounded, alert, relaxed.

Don’t hold the body up. Balance & let go.

Let the ground support you.

Notice the sensations & movements of breathing in & breathing out.

Invite the whole body to breathe in & out.

Relax from the inside. When the body settles, the mind settles.

Let all your senses open: touching, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, temperature, balance, location.

Feel the whole spine, from tailbone to skull. Let it move as you breathe.

Don’t try to hold body or mind still. Rest in the sitting breathing body.

Sit here, in this place.

Notice that sensations, feelings, & thoughts are all there is, appearing & disappearing on their own.

Breath connects body & mind.

Appreciate the qualities of each sensation, feeling, thought — the ones you like, the ones you don’t like, the ones you ignore.

Don’t try to control, block, or create certain thoughts & feelings. Resting in the body, include whatever arises.

Just rest, like a great ocean accepting hundreds of streams. (Hongzhi)

Let exhaling be complete. Let whatever you’re holding drop down through your body & release into the ground.

Notice the gap between breaths.

Notice the gap between thoughts.

Don’t fidget or hold still. Rebalance as needed so you’re resting, alert, settled.

Don’t hold attention. Rest attention in the experience of sitting & breathing.

Start anew as needed, again & again. Short sessions, many of them.

Don’t waste time or energy fighting or chasing what arises. Let what arises rise; take care not to follow. (Milarepa)

Form the intention to know & appreciate your actual experience just as it is. Then practice doing that, again & again.

Invite the whole body to sit so no part has to do extra work. Don’t arch, slump, or hold. Stack your bones on your seat so the body can rest.

Let awareness ride the breath through the whole body, right out into fingers & toes.

Notice the moving & the stillness involved in breathing & in sitting.

Gently open awareness again & again. Whatever arises is fine. Gently mix it with awareness & breathing.

Let awareness expand to include all that is in & around you. Open like the sky. Trust.

Don’t try to get rid of “distraction.” Whenever you discover you’ve been lost in the maze, just drop back into the center — the breathing body. Return & rest.

Let subtle sensing of the breath reveal balance & imbalance in the bodymind.

Completely mix three things: wareness ~ breathing ~ sitting

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Difficulty Along the Way

Seeking Perfect Total Enlightenment
is looking for a flashlight
when all you need the flashlight for
is to find your flashlight

~ Lew Welch

Saturday, October 30, 2010

What Matters

Worthy admonitions cannot fail to inspire us, but what matters is changing ourselves. Reverent advice cannot fail to encourage us, but what matters is acting on it. Encouraged without acting, inspired without changing -- there’s nothing to be done for such people.

~ Confucius, Analects 9:24

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Misunderstanding of Many Lifetimes

Ch'an master Hongzhi Zhengjue:

Emptiness is without characteristics. Illumination has no emotional afflictions. With piercing, quietly profound radiance, it mysteriously eliminates all disgrace. Thus one can know oneself; thus the self is completed. We all have the clear, wondrously bright field from the beginning. Many lifetimes of misunderstanding come only from distrust, hindrance, and screens of confusion that we create in a scenario of isolation. With boundless wisdom journey beyond this, forgetting accomplishments. Straightforwardly abandon stratagems and take on responsibility. Having turned yourself around, accepting your situation, if you set foot on the path, spiritual energy will marvelously transport you. Contact phenomena with total sincerity, not a single atom of dust outside yourself.

~ from Cultivating the Empty Field

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Waste of Effort

I cleaned up
And pondered.
It was tiresome.
During cleaning
Is better to clean.

~ Karel Nespor

Friday, October 22, 2010

Helping Others

May I be of help to others.

May I not be overwhelmed by my own suffering. May I remember that others struggle and suffer just as I do. May I see how my suffering and their suffering are inseparable. May I completely unite awareness and compassion.

May I remember that others also suffer from confusion, anger, neediness, craving, jealousy, and pride. May I not ignore the suffering that comes from poverty, cruelty, slavery, rape, war, environmental destruction, storms, earthquakes, cold, heat, exhaustion, busyness, fear, prejudice, loneliness, depression, old age, illness, loss, and grief.

May I remember the animals, plants, and other beings with whom I share this world. They provide me with food, clothing, shelter, the very air I breathe, companionship, and beauty. They too suffer, and they too wish to be happy and free.

May the struggling and suffering of the world make me utterly sad, and move me to try to help others as much as I can.

May I offer material wealth such as food and clothing to those who need them.

May I offer protection to the fearful.

May I extend kindness and compassion and a listening heart to those who need to be heard.

May I offer the teachings of calm abiding, insight, and skillful means to those who request them.

May I be able to relate to others with kindness, clarity, and ethical behavior.

When I cannot help others, may I still see their suffering, still feel sadness, and still feel compassion and kindness. May I offer heart-felt prayers and may my prayers be the seeds for future abilities and the happiness of all.

May the ocean of suffering not overwhelm me; may I be even more compassionate and more inspired to free myself and others from suffering and the causes of suffering.

May I not misunderstand the nature or cause of my own or another’s suffering.
May I not be overwhelmed by sadness. May I not offer help unskillfully.

May I recognize others’ lives and karma to be their own, and let them live without interference from me.

May I recognize the nature of my own experience and conditioning. May I not offer help to others with the aim of benefiting myself.

May my mistakes and limitations not be the cause of more suffering; may even my clumsy or deluded actions still help others in some way.

May I remember that there is suffering, there is an end to suffering, there is freedom, peace, and joy.

May I be happy when I see another is happy. May I rejoice when another is freed from suffering.

May I see that my freedom and happiness and the freedom and happiness of others are completely intertwined.

May my practice, pleasure, happiness, good fortune, and virtue be of benefit to every being.

May every being be safe, healthy, happy, at ease in their body, at home in the world.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Outer, Inner, & Hidden Practice

Outer practice: the skillful means of relieving suffering, working with interdependence, causes and conditions, balancing energies, perfecting the paramitas -- skillfully taking different medicines for different diseases.

Inner practice: cultivating awareness-compassion, the only panacea.

Hidden practice: faith (recognizing, accepting, appreciating) that the whole system is balancing itself in its own time and way; anything I can cultivate is a drop in a mysterious ocean.

The three are a progression, but all through they interact and overlap and can be practiced simultaneously.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Different Efforts in Practice

So it is said that false [thinking] is stopped and stillness necessarily arises, stillness arises and wisdom appears, wisdom arises and stillness necessarily disappears [in wisdom’s active functioning]. 
    ~ 12th century Ch’an master Hongzhi Zhengjue
Seeing the nature of suffering brings disgust with reactive patterns, and encourages an intention to wake up and free oneself and others from struggle and suffering. What are traditionally known as renouncing samsara and taking refuge in awakening can arise because we all want and have the ability to be happy; they are deepened endlessly as we cultivate them intentionally.

Resting in experience as it arises brings settling and stability -- the capacity to abide in whatever arises without grasping at experience or pushing it away. There are many ways: cultivating a sense of being grounded and supported; anchoring the body and mind, with or without an object of support (such as the contact and weight of the body on the seat, or the flow of sensations in the body, or the experience of breathing in and out); relaxing one’s habitual efforts to control what arises; letting the momentum of thought and emotion mind settle naturally. The capacity to rest in experience as it arises, in Sanskrit shamatha, is often translated as calm abiding, but this isn't ordinary calm or tranquility; this is true strength, the flexible capacity to abide in everything as it arises and falls.

Opening to experience brings what is arising into vivid clarity, so that experience is not ignored or murky. It is helpful to be careful here, to continue relying on the first effort of grounding and resting, so that opening to sensations, feelings, and stories doesn't become overwhelming. Shamatha is both stable and vivid. When we are grounded and stable, then we can let our whole experience open to include everything: the pleasant and unpleasant, the calm and turbulent, the clear and familiar and the unclear and mysterious, the complex, the mixed, even the contradictory. Gently, relaxing from the inside out, include, include, include: bring together everything you have and everything you experience, everything inside and outside: this is recollecting, re-membering (sati).

Looking deeply into what arises brings a clear knowing of the nature of experience, and eventually a growing ability to discern the difference between what brings struggle and suffering, and what brings freedom. Again, capacity to be grounded and to abide in experience is essential as a base for insight practice. It’s fine for a session to be mostly resting, with brief periods of opening and looking deeply. And we say looking -- the Sanskrit term vipashyana means insight or clear seeing -- but the practice really requires all our senses: sight, sounds, taste, smell, touch, time, balance, location, movement, time and space, intuition -- sensing in every sense.

Kindness, compassion, and generosity help mitigate and eventually undermine the confused sense of self that is the seed for the reactive attachment and aversion that create struggle and suffering.

Responding from what one knows brings balance and freedom to inner and outer experience. We can let go of habituated reactions naturally when we see how reactivity is futile; we can relate to others. Kindness, compassion, and generosity help mitigate and eventually undermine the confused sense of self that is the seed for the reactive attachment and aversion that create struggle and suffering. Taking responsibility for training ourselves and others in whatever skills and abilities we need to be free from struggle and suffering. There are infinite skillful means (upaya) that can be cultivated on the cushion and practiced in daily life interactions and relationships. This is where awareness and compassion are united, where practice meets the world.

Explore making each effort gently, persistently, sustainably, effectively. These are different but interconnected efforts and results that need to be adjusted and balanced as one goes along. Explore and play. All these efforts can be made and experienced on every level: physical, emotional, mental, behavioral. Practice the different efforts alternately, and explore how to balance and mix them. Thoroughly come to know each kind of effort, and the different results. Too much anxiety, vividness, and confusion may suggest resting more. Too much dullness may suggest opening and looking. Seeing clearly but nothing changing may indicate that what is needed is action, in the real world, that arises from one’s knowing.

Each of us must find our own ways to make these efforts, and learn to recognize false and genuine results as they arise. Mix the efforts together until they arise simultaneously, united, easily, sincerely. How long will it take? This is a life-long practice, an infinite game. Ken McLeod’s version of the four Zen vows says:
Beings are numberless: may I free them all.
Reactions are endless: may I release them all.
Doors to experience are infinite: may I enter them all.
Ways of awakening are limitless: may I know them all.
Like everything in this world, one’s practice can never bring permanent or perfect results separate from the causes and conditions that arise and subside. And yet, everyone has an inherent, indestructible potential for knowing what is arising in each moment, and for responding in ways that reduce struggling and suffering and restore balance. With practice, knowing and freedom arise together, and one experiences equanimity, kindness, compassion, and joy. These are natural, inherent human abilities. Sincere, gently, persistent, creative practice make them accessible. Try it and see!

printable version here

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Futility of Samsara

The Reactive Life is Unsatisfactory
the fourth of the Four Reminders

The aches and pains of the physical body, the grief of losing what one holds dear, old age, sickness and death — some things are unavoidable. But I create extra suffering for myself and others with craving, aversion, and delusion.

When I define my life by wealth, pleasure, praise, and reputation, then my happiness depends on circumstances and conditions.

Reactive emotions do not bring me happiness; they produce exactly what I am trying to avoid. Samsara, the life of reactivity, is a never-ending cycle through realms I am creating: Caught up in anger and aggression, I find myself in a realm of conflict. Consumed by grasping and neediness, I never seem to get what I want. Seeking security and comfort, I get stuck in the same old ways of doing things. Jumping from desire to desire, chasing possessions and pleasures, my desires are never satisfied for long, and my busyness is endless. Feeling inadequate, jealous and competitive, I’m compelled to accomplish more and more. Self-satisfied, trying to maintain my position, I’m blind to the inevitability of change.

The cycles of reactivity and suffering can be brought to an end. Our fundamental nature is goodness and awareness. A path of awakening and freedom has been developed and refined over many centuries of experience. I can place confidence in the teachers and practitioners of that path, and in my ability to travel it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Keep Walking

Keep walking, though there's no place to go.
Don't try to see into the distances.
That's not for human beings. Move within,
But don't move the way fear makes you move.

~ Rumi (Barks)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Karma: Actions Evolve Into Experienced Results

Karma: The Third of the Four Reminders

Though I may not be able to see all the impacts of my actions, I know that acts do have consequences. Everything I think, say, and do has consequences, large or small, immediate or distant. Karma is the evolution of action and result. Each action’s intended and unintended consequences become new seeds, setting up conditions that influence my future actions.

Every action I do becomes easier to repeat. Repeated actions become habits, and habits become character. My actions inevitably ripen into my experience of happiness and suffering. Ignoring the effects of my actions does not relieve me of the consequences. I alone am responsible for my actions and my experience of life.

We have about as much room to move as a violin in a violin case. And that’s enough.
~ Michael Conklin

Everyone has the potential to wake up, to see how things are, to stop creating suffering, to help others. But not everyone does. This brief, precious life can be used for good or ill. Is my life my own, or is it being directed and consumed by habitual patterns I do not choose?

When you really know yourself, you will realize how important it is to practice zazen. Before you know what you are doing, you don’t know why we practice. You think you are quite free, that whatever you do is your choice, but actually you are creating karma for yourself and others. You don’t know what you’re doing, so you don’t think there is any need to practice... But we have to pay our own debts; no one else can pay our debts. That is why we practice. To fulfill our responsibility we practice. We have to.
~ Suzuki Roshi

No Wrangling

Make sure there is no wrangling between the breath and the will.

~ from A Book on Breath by the
Master Great Nothing of Sung Shan

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Impermanence: Everything Changes

The second of the Four Reminders:

Every event and circumstance in this world is dependent on complex causes and conditions that are constantly arising and disappearing.

The pleasures, conditions, beliefs, and relationships that I rely on — which of them is genuinely reliable and lasting? What am I taking for granted? As I observe the world about me, I can see that everything changes — nothing stays the same.

the end of accumulation is dispersion
the end of building is ruin
the end of meeting is parting
the end of birth is death

The inhabitants of the world come and go. Every one of them will die. Though I see change, impermanence, and death all around me, I act as though I were going to live forever — but I too will die.

My death will definitely come, and I have no idea when.

Today you live, and tomorrow you are
dust. One fever will quench your pride
~ Romanus

I may live a long time, or I may die today. What I do know is that each day brings me one day closer to my inevitable death. Nothing — not wealth, intelligence, strength, power, friends or family — will prevent me from dying.

Where in my life do I ignore change? What am I trying to cling to?

What is really important to me?

Am I living the life that I want?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Taking Refuge and Sharing the Good


Inner experience is more important than the external practices that support the inner movement (prayers, recitation, bowing, etc). Intention and cultivation are more important than the feeling-tone at the moment of taking refuge or sharing the good. We may not feel confident about taking refuge, or generous in sharing the good, but we practice doing them, and as they deepen, they moves us, and we let them. We may be moved to bow, or pray, and then those movements are meaningful.

Taking refuge begins with disgust with the ignoring/confusion/reactivity that creates suffering, and coming to see and acknowledge that it is futile to try to find happiness through reactivity. Out of disgust and hopelessness, we are moved to turn away from confusion and reactivity, and we begin to find the willingness, and to form the intention, to move toward freedom -- to free ourselves and others from struggle and suffering.

Taking refuge is disavowing our habitual attachment and allegiance to patterned behaviors, and touching and pledging fidelity to the three jewels. The three jewels operate on many levels, and any of the levels are good. (Click here to see Ken McLeod's explanation of inner, outer, and ultimate refuge). Ultimately, buddha is our inherent indestructible awareness; dharma is any practice that frees us and our inherent ability to integrate practice into our life; sangha is anyone who is also cultivating awareness and compassion -- that is, everyone.

The purpose of practice is to free ourselves and others from suffering and its causes. Dedicating the merit means sharing the good that comes from our practice. We acknowledge and appreciate the effort that has gone into our practice, and every bit of the pleasure and good that has come or ever will come from our practice, and we form the intention to share it with others. We appreciate and share every moment of pleasure, peace, clarity, understanding, and freedom, and we freely share those with everyone.

Better to take refuge, breathe in and out three times in attention, and share the good, than to get tangled up in complex practices for hours, striving and grasping for results.

The Universe Rings True

What I like about experience is that it is such an honest thing. You may take any number of wrong turnings; but keep your eyes open and you will not be allowed to go very far before the warning signs appear. You may have deceived yourself, but experience is not trying to deceive you. The universe rings true wherever you fairly test it.

~ C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Young, Busy, Late

When we are young, we don’t realize the importance of dharma practice;
when we are middle-aged, we think we are too busy to do it;
and when we are old, it’s too late.

~ Kagyu saying

Friday, August 27, 2010

Precious Human Life

The first of the Four Reminders:

Of all the planets in the universe, I am on this one — warm, green, hospitable. Of the billions of creatures on this planet, I am a human being. Of all the times and places I could have been born, I am in this time and place.

Many people live in poverty, lacking adequate food, shelter, and health care. My life is free from war, from oppression, from grinding poverty, from debilitating addiction or crippling mental illness. I enjoy basic health, with my senses and intelligence intact.

I have all the freedoms and conditions necessary for spiritual practice. I am endowed with natural awareness and the ability to respond to imbalance and suffering. I have access to authentic spiritual teachings by qualified and compassionate teachers. I can rely on the support of experienced companions on the path.

This life has great potential for good or harm. The coming together of all these freedoms and conditions is fragile, and may end at any time. I want to understand my life and make the most of it. I don’t want to waste these resources and opportunities.

All human beings should try to learn before they
die what they are running from, and to, and why
~ James Thurber

More on the Four Reminders at NaturalAwareness.net

Monday, August 23, 2010

Your Head in a Bowl of Glue

When you have even a single thought of looking for a shortcut in zen you have already stuck your head in a bowl of glue.

~ Ch'an master Dahui Zonggao (大慧宗杲) (1089–1163)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Right to the Core

The ancient buddhas taught the dharma
Not for is own sake but to assist us.
If we really knew ourselves
We would not have to rely on old teachers.
The wise go right to the core
And leap beyond appearances;
The foolish cling to details
And get ensnared by words and letters.
Such people envy the accomplishments of others
And work feverishly to attain the same things.
Cling to truth and it becomes falsehood;
Understand falsehood and it becomes truth.
Truth and falsehood are two sides of a coin;
Neither accept nor reject either one.
Don't waste your precious time fruitlessly
Trying to gauge the depths of life's ups and downs.

~ Ryokan (1758-1831) (translated by John Stevens)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Still You Must Go Ahead and Enact It

Silently dwell in the self, in true suchness abandon conditioning. Open-minded and bright without defilement, simply penetrate and drop off everything. Today is not your first arrival here. Since the ancient home before the empty kalpa, clearly nothing has been obscured. Although you are inherently spirited and splendid, still you must go ahead and enact it. When doing so, immediately display every atom without hiding a speck of dirt. Dry and cool in deep repose, profoundly understand. If your rest is not satisfying and you yearn to go beyond birth and death, there can be no such place. Just burst through and you will discern without thought-dusts, pure without reasons for anxiety. Stepping back with open hands, giving up everything, is thoroughly comprehending life and death. Immediately you can sparkle and respond to the world. Merge together with all things. Everywhere is just right. Accordingly we are told that from ancient to modern times all dharmas are not concealed, always transparent and exposed.
~ Hongzhi, Cultivating the Empty Field

Completely resting, dropping the compulsive activity and sense of separation, everything is displayed. Still, we must choose our way and act. Self-expression may be seen as a virtue or a right, but trying to express and satisfy the patterned self leads to struggle and suffering -- barking up a tree that isn't there. Letting the true self which isn't a thing evolve and manifest, merging together with all things, brings freedom and harmony. Insight, knowing in the belly, discerns the difference. Kindness/compassion embraces everything, patterned and free, but chooses to cultivate what is skillful and helpful. Flinch and the moment is missed. Harden and the delicate web is broken. Wander in thought and the real is lost. Everything is right here; embrace it all with empty hands; touch it and go.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Dragon's Jewels

The truth you search for cannot be grasped.
As night advances, a bright moon illuminates the whole ocean.
The dragon's jewels are found in every wave.
Looking for the moon, it is here is this wave, in the next.

~ a verse by Hsueh-tou Ch'ung-hsien (Setcho Juken, 982-1052),
one of the last great Ummon Ch'an masters, and compiler of the
Blue Cliff Record

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Wisdom and Right Action are the Same Thing

“Soon you will be dead, and not yet are you of one mind, undisturbed, without suspicion that you can be truly harmed by external things; nor yet are you gracious in all circumstances; nor are you truly convinced that wisdom and right action are the same thing.”

~ Marcus Aurelius 4.37

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Outer, Inner, & Hidden Bustle

A Nyingma commentary on ngondro says:
outer bustle is many activities ~
inner bustle is many thoughts ~
hidden bustle is many intentions ~

Don't make a project out of being still. The natural and inevitable fruit of stability, clarity, and knowing is that all things are completed. Roots, branches, leaves, and fruit are one: five aspects of natural awareness.

Where Do We Meet the World?

Stability and clarity are undermined by busyness and dullness. Busyness includes distraction, attention and energy being drawn into objects and excessive activity, or becoming obsessed and believing in the solidity of thoughts, feelings, or activities. Dullness includes sleepiness, dreamy states, torpor, laziness, and sinking into oblivion.

Don't turn the cultivation of awareness into a withdrawal from the world. Sinking into oneself is as much a problem as attaching to sense-objects. When distracted, return to the body, here and now. When dull, open eyes and ears and reenter the world. The body does not stop at the skin. Sitting, standing, walking -- awareness does not depend on posture. Don't pose. Where do we meet the world? Explore the border, not dwelling anywhere.

Demons and Buddhas

Muso Kokushi wrote:
Aversion or fear of demonic states is itself a demonic state. If you have emotional attachment to the appearances of the state of Buddhahood, then it is actually a demonic state. If you are unconcerned by the appearances of demonic states, then they are the realm of Buddhahood.
True practitioners of Buddhism are not emotionally attached to the realm of Buddhahood and do not fear the realms of demons. If you work in this way... obstructions will vanish of themselves.
~ from Dream Conversations, translated by Thomas Cleary