Image courtesy of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_meditation
“In meditation we discover our inherent restlessness. The pith instruction is to stay….stay….just stay. So whenever we wander off we gently encourage ourselves to stay and settle down. Are we experiencing restlessness? Stay. Discursive mind? Stay. Are fear and loathing out of control? Stay. Aching knees and throbbing back? Stay. What’s for lunch? Stay. What am I doing here? Stay. I can’t stand this another minute! Stay. This is how we cultivate steadfastness.
~ Pema Chodron
from “The Places That Scare You”
“There is no big difference between a spiritual friend and a teacher, because one plays both roles in spiritual matters. Someone who strives for liberation from suffering needs a spiritual friend until they attain liberation. So a spiritual friend would not say, “I have played my role. Now you are on your own.” Rather he would say to you, “Come any time you need help. Don’t forget to ask me any questions. I am available to you any time. Whenever you have any difficulty, remember, I am here waiting to help you. Don’t think you are alone. I am here.”
“Spiritual friends give you a sense of security. You always feel someone is paying attention to your spiritual needs. You feel there is somebody to help you. You don’t feel as if they will ignore you. A spiritual friend is there to help guide you in the right direction.”
“Treat your actions as experiments. Then, if you see the results aren’t good, you are free to change your ways!”
~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu
From “The Joy of Effort”
Quote courtesy of the Bhavana Society Facebook page.
“We can’t wait until the world gets straightened out before we straighten out our own minds, because the cause is in the mind. The world out there is the realm of effects. The realm of causes is in here: That’s one of the basic lessons of dependent co-arising. All the causes of suffering come prior to your engagement with the world. If you want other people to change their behavior, you’ve got to straighten out your behavior. You have to walk your talk, so that your talk is compelling. You can’t force other people to follow your example, but at least you establish that example here in the world. It’s good to have these examples in the world. Otherwise the world would be a totally depressing place.”
“States of fear sometimes arise during meditation for no discernible reason. It is a common phenomenon, and there can be a number of causes. You may be experiencing the effect of something repressed long ago. Remember, thoughts arise first in the unconscious. The emotional contents of a thought complex often leak through into your conscious awareness long before the thought itself surfaces. If you sit through the fear, the memory itself may bubble up to a point where you can endure it. Or you may be dealing directly with the fear that we all fear: “fear of the unknown.” At some point in your meditation career you will be struck with the seriousness of what you are actually doing. You are tearing down the wall of illusion you have always used to explain life to yourself and to shield yourself from the intense flame of reality. You are about to meet ultimate truth face to face. That is scary. But it has to dealt with eventually. Go ahead and dive right in.”
~ Bhante Gunaratana
“Mindfulness in Plain English,” p. 101
“It is psychologically impossible for us to objectively observe what is going on within us if we do not at the same time accept the occurrence of our various states of mind. This is especially true with unpleasant states of mind. In order to observe our own fear, we must accept the fact that we are afraid. We can’t examine our own depression without accepting it fully. The same is true for irritation and agitation, frustration , and all those other uncomfortable emotional states. You can’t examine something fully if you are busy rejecting its existence. Whatever experience we may be having, mindfulness just accepts it. It is simply another of life’s occurrences, just another thing to be aware of. No pride, no shame, nothing personal at stake — what is there is there.”
~ Bhante Gunaratana
“Mindfulness in Plain English” (Wisdom Publications)
“Let not a person revive the past
Or on the future build his hopes;
For the past has been left behind
And the future has not been reached.
Instead with insight let him see
Each presently arisen state;
Let him know that and be sure of it,
Today the effort must be made;
Tomorrow Death may come, who knows?
No bargain with Mortality
Can keep him and his hordes away,
But one who dwells thus ardently,
Relentlessly, by day, by night —
It is he, the Peaceful Sage* has said,
Who has had a single excellent night.”
~ The Buddha
from the “Bhaddekaratta Sutta”
(A Single Excellent Night),
Sutta 131, “The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha,”
translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi
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* The “Peaceful Sage” (santo muni) is the Buddha
Contemplate the mind;
This king of emptiness
Is subtle and abstruse.
Without shape or form,
It has great spiritual power.
It can eliminate all calamities
And accomplish all merits.
Though its essence is empty,
It is the measure of dharmas.
– Master Fu (497-569)
(Quote courtesy of DailyZen.com)
“Ethical action shifts our focus from what we personally want to what will most benefit us and others. When we are obsessed with our own desires, we are motivated primarily by hatred, greed, envy, lust and other selfish preoccupations. Then we have neither the self-control nor the wisdom to act rightly. But when we abstain from negativity, our mental fog clears a bit, and we begin to see that loving-friendliness, compassion, and generosity genuinely make us happy. This clarity of mind helps us to make ethical choices and to progress on the Buddha’s path.”
~ Bhante Gunaratana
from p. 113 of “Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness: Walking the Buddha’s Path” (Wisdom Publications)
“… The mind is very powerful. There’s a tremendous strength there, and it makes such a big difference how this mind, this will, this intention is being steered. And everything depends on whether it allows itself to relax and be serene, or whether it allows itself to get caught up in anxiety, grasping, and fear; it makes a difference if you do something with a relaxed, easygoing frame of mind, or if you do it in a harried and distracted way.
“In past times, people used to walk from eastern Tibet all the way to Lhasa, in central Tibet. Some types wanted to get there really fast, so they’d walk as quickly as they could. They’d tire, or get sick, give up and have to return. But other people, they would just walk at an easy pace, and they’d sit down, take breaks, pitch camp for the night, have a good time. And then, the next day, continue. And in that way they would actually reach Lhasa quite quickly. Thus the Tibetan proverb, “If you walk with haste, you do not reach Lhasa. If you walk at a gentle pace, you will make it there.”
~ from a Tricycle interview with Mingyur Rinpoche
The Buddha’s supposed final words are given in many forms in different places. But this version, really cuts to the heart of his teachings:
“Impermanence is relentless, decay inevitable. I have taught you all that is needed. Work diligently for your own salvation. Mindful you should dwell, clearly comprehending. This I exhort you.”
Here is an excerpt from a wonderful essay, “A Holistic Mindfulness,” by Ajahn Amaro on the Buddhist context of the word “mindfulness,” which is so much the rage these days. The whole essay is worth a read, but the segment below gives a wonderfully nuanced explanation of the Buddhist term ‘dukkha,’ often translated as ‘suffering’, but which has a far more nuanced and complex meaning.
Dukkha is often translated as ‘suffering’. Suffering, however, represents only one aspect of dukkha, a term whose range of implications is difficult to capture with a single English word. Dukkha can be derived from the Sanskrit kha, one meaning of which is ‘the axle-hole of a wheel’, and the antithetic prefix duḥ (= dus), which stands for ‘difficulty’ or ‘badness’. The complete term then evokes the image of an axle not fitting properly into its hole. According to this image, dukkha suggests ‘disharmony’ or ‘friction’.
“The purpose of meditation is not to concentrate on the breath, without interruption, forever. That by itself would be a useless goal. The purpose of meditation is not to achieve a perfectly still and serene mind. Although a lovely state, it doesn’t lead to liberation by itself. The purpose of meditation is to achieve uninterrupted mindfulness. Mindfulness, and only mindfulness, produces enlightenment.”
~Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, “Mindfulness in Plain English” (page 126).
NOTE: This excerpt and image comes from the Bhavana Society Facebook page, which we highly recommend following, full of daily quotes by the Buddha and teachings on meditation and Buddhist practice by Bhante Gunaratana, abbot of the Therevadan forest monastery in eastern West Virginia.
“Awareness is your refuge: awareness of the changingness of feelings, of attitudes, of moods, of material change and emotional change. Stay with that. because it’s a refuge that is indestructible. It’s not something that changes. It’s a refuge you can trust in. This refuge is not something that you create. It’s not a creation. It’s not an ideal. It’s very practical and very simple, but easily overlooked or not noticed. When you’re mindful, you’re beginning to notice, it’s like this.