“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.
Good friends, my teaching
Of the Dharma takes
Meditation and wisdom
As its basis.
Never under any
Circumstances say that
Meditation and wisdom
They are one unity,
Not two things.
Meditation itself is the
Substance of wisdom;
Wisdom itself is the
Function of meditation
“Try to be mindful, and let things take their natural course. Then your mind will become still in any surroundings, like a clear forest pool. All kinds of wonderful, rare animals will come to drink at the pool, and you will clearly see the nature of all things. You will see many strange and wonderful things come and go, but you will be still.”
~ Achaan Chah
PS: Even afflicted with the illness that would confine him to a bed for ten years and later kill him, Achaan Chah used the stuff of daily life as a teaching. From the Wikipedia entry on his life:
“By the early 1980s, Ajahn Chah’s health was in decline due to diabetes. He was taken to Bangkok for surgery to relieve paralysis caused by the diabetes, but it was to little effect. Ajahn Chah used his ill health as a teaching point, emphasizing that it was “a living example of the impermanence of all things…(and) reminded people to endeavor to find a true refuge within themselves, since he would not be able to teach for very much longer”. Ajahn Chah would remain bedridden and ultimately unable to speak for ten years, until his death on January 16, 1992 at the age of 73 …”
A young man caught a small bird and held it behind his back. He then asked, “Master, is the bird I hold in my hands alive or dead?”
The boy thought this was a grand opportunity to play a trick on the old man. If the master answered “dead,” it would be let loose into the air. If the master answered “alive,” he would simply ring its neck.
The master spoke, “The answer is in your hands.”
~ H.H. the Dalia Lama | NOTE: This story was the quote for April 2, 2010 on a Dalai Lama daily quotes calendar. But I wonder what the original source o is? It appears on the Web in various guises, usually as a Zen tale.
On that side, beyond the clouds,
The mountain is blue-green as jade
The white clouds on the mountain
Are whiter than white
From the spring on the mountain,
Drop after drop
Who knows how to see the face
In the white clouds?
Clear skies and rain have their times,
They’re like lightening
Who knows how to listen to the
Sound of this spring?
It flows on without stopping
And thousands of turns
The moment before thought
Is already wrong
To try to say anything further
– T’aego (1301-13
Practice is nothing other than the
capacity to arouse fearless energy.
Without this energy,
whatever practices you perform,
whatever virtuous feelings you have,
all are without substance.
Without this energy,
will you be prepared when
you come face to face with death
in your ordinary state of mind?
How then will you persevere over other hardships?