“It is important to sit with the clear intention to be present. At the same time, we need to let go of expectations. In a very real sense, what happens when we sit is none of our business. The practice is to accept whatever arises instead of trying to control our experience. What we can control is our wise effort to be present with what is.”
Two excerpts from “Your Mind Is Your Religion,” reprinted by Tricycle from “Make Your Mind an Ocean: Aspects of Buddhist Psychology” (1999). This is a rich piece for reflection. Read the longer excerpt here:
One day the world looks so beautiful; the next day it looks terrible. How can you say that? Scientifically, it’s impossible that the world can change so radically. It’s your mind that causes these appearances. This is not religious dogma; your up and down is not religious dogma. I’m not talking about religion; I’m talking about the way you lead your daily life, which is what sends you up and down. Other people and your environment don’t change radically; it’s your mind. I hope you understand that. Similarly, one person thinks that the world is beautiful and people are wonderful and kind, while another thinks that everything and everyone is horrible. Who is right? How do you explain that scientifically? It’s just their individual mind’s projection on the sense world. You think, “Today is like this; tomorrow is like that; this man is like this; that woman is like that.” But where is that absolutely fixed, forever-beautiful woman? Who is that absolutely forever-handsome man? They are nonexistent-they are simply creations of your own mind …
No matter which of the many world religions we consider, their interpretation of God or Buddha and so forth is simply words and mind; these two alone. Therefore, words don’t matter so much. What you have to realize is that everything-good and bad, every philosophy and doctrine-comes from mind. The mind is very powerful. Therefore, it requires firm guidance. A powerful jet plane needs a good pilot; the pilot of your mind should be the wisdom that understands its nature. In that way, you can direct your powerful mental energy to benefit your life instead of letting it run about uncontrollably like a mad elephant, destroying yourself and others. | READ ON
1. This Dhamma is for one who wants little, not for one who wants too much. 2. This Dhamma is for one who is contented, not for one who is discontented. 3. This Dhamma is for one who loves seclusion, not for one who loves society. 4. This Dhamma is for one who is energetic, not for one who is lazy. 5. This Dhamma is for one who is mindful, not for one who is unmindful. 6. This Dhamma is for one who is composed, not for one who is restless. 7. This Dhamma is for one who is wise, not for one who is unwise. 8. This Dhamma is for one who delights in freedom form impediments, not for one who delights in impediments.
“Meditation is never one thing; you’ll experience moments of peace, moments of sadness, moments of joy, moments of anger, moments of sleepiness. The terrain changes constantly, but we tend to solidify it around the negative: “This painful experience is going to last the rest of my life.” The tendency to fixate on the negative is something we can approach mindfully; we can notice it, name it, observe it, test it, and dispel it, using the skills we learn in practice.”
“We need to talk about a balance. Frankly, I think Asian monastics probably spend too much time sitting in meditation looking inward, and not enough time outdoors. They have to go out, as Shakyamuni did, and find out how people are living in society. But in the West, it’s the opposite problem. People spend all their time in the outer world. They’ve been successful in business, in their professional lives, but they have no relief from the stress of their lives. They need to sit down and settle the body and mind, instead of always running around feeling agitated inside.”
“The nightingale singing among the flowers warbles Marvelous Law; all the birds that soar in the sky and even the frogs croaking in the water never cease chanting the Dharma. The clang of the evening bell echoes impermanence of everything; and the sound of the bell at daybreak reverberates with the message of appearance and disappearance of all elements. Flower petals flying and leaves falling before the wind disclose the perpetual changeability of karmic fortunes. There is not a single thing that does not embody the Dharma.”
“Let go of all your previous imaginings, opinions, interpretations, worldly knowledge, intellectualism, egotism, and competitiveness; become like a dead tree, like cold ashes. When you reach the point where feelings are ended, views are gone, and your mind is clean and naked, you open up to Zen realization.
After that it is also necessary to develop consistency, keeping the mind pure and free from adulteration at all times. If there is the slightest fluctuation, there is no hope of transcending the world.
Cut through resolutely, and then your state will be peaceful. When you cannot be included in any stage, whether of sages or of ordinary people, then you are like a bird freed from its cage.”
Anger gives the illusion of clarity. A certain strength arises when we have an opinion and we know where we stand. The difference between the clarity we believe we have when angry and the clarity that results from actually seeing clearly is that aggression has its own narrow logic, which does not take into account the deeper level of causes and conditions that surround each situation.
“Make no mistake about it; if you do not find it now, you will repeat the same routines for myriad eons, a thousand times over again, following and picking up on objects that attract you. We are no different from Shakyamuni Buddha. Today, in your various activities, what do you lack? The spiritual light coursing through your six senses has never been interrupted. If you can see in this way, you will simply be free of burdens all your life.”
~ Lin Chi (d 867)
from the essential website Daily Zen
“Longing for Certainty: Reflections on the Buddhist Life,” is one of the richest books I’ve ever read on weaving Buddhist teachings into the way we live our daily lives. The book interleaves clear expositions of basic Buddhist teachings with seemingly mundane walks in Nature. The author – Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano – teases out from the cycles of the seasons and from the growth, blossoming and decay of all things what the Buddha was talking about. Below is his concise and direct exposition of kamma (the Pali pronunciation of the more familiar Sanskrit word ‘karma’). This work, by the way, is the book for Buddhist sympathizers who find their deepest connection to spirituaity in the back woods and blooming things of the world:
“Kamma, we should always remember, is intentional action; so when we are in doubt about the morality of some action we are considering, or when we cannot find a rule that exactly covers the case, or when we have done something that has resulted in harm to others, it is helpful to examine our motives. Unintended actions are not kamma. No future suffering, no moral degradation, comes to us because of harm we have not meant to happen and have not tried to bring about. We are only responsible for what we directly intend and do. As long as we act with sincere good will according to virtuous principles we are acting correctly. Since the world is a snowstorm of contradictory conditions flying this way and that, and since other beings are constantly doing actions themselves and experiencing the results of actions, we can never be certain that misfortunes will not occur for someone.
When, however, we become aware that on some occasion we have indeed intended and acted badly, violating a precept or otherwise behaving in an ignoble way, we should face up to the misdeed without evasion, recognize our mistake, and distinctly resolve not to behave in that way again. Then we should go on about our business without unduly steeping ourselves in regret, which benefits no one. There is, when we look around us, always much good to be done, even in small, daily matters of courtesy and friendliness, and this sort of action, gladly undertaken, refreshes and elevates the mind.
Our duty is always to consider carefully and act as mindfully and honorably as we can. But we cannot stop here, because if we wish our deeds to become purer and more beneficial to ourselves and others we must observe more, learn more, contemplate more. The better we behave, the easier it will be for us to understand the Dhamma; the better we understand the Dhamma, the more we wil be inspired to cultivate virtue. The noble person, the person of outstanding character, is the result of countless actions that he or she has done, countless efforts made according to noble standards. We ought not to think that we can govern all our actions with sheer improvisation, trusting to our supposed natural goodness. As long as desire and aversion burn and confusion and delusion gust across the mind we are liable to err and therefore should anchor ourselves to what is firm, to the Dhamma which the Buddha taught for our welfare. Continue reading A few words on karma→
Be soft in your practice. Think of the method as a fine silvery stream, not a raging waterfall. Follow the stream, have faith in its course. It will go its own way, meandering here, trickling there. It will find the grooves, the cracks, the crevices. Just follow it. Never let it out of your sight. It will take you.
I love the bamboo tree:
It staves off heat and cold,
Cultivates unbending fidelity;
Empties its mind every day.
In the moonlight it plays with its shadow
And sends clean words before the wind.
When it wears snow on its head,
Grace fills the deep forest.