Saturday, December 28, 2013

What Color is Your Mind?

What Color is Your Mind?
by Thubten Chodron

What is the essence of the Buddha's teachings? Simply speaking, it is to avoid harming others and to help them as much as possible.
"If you want to know about your past life, look at your present body. If you want to know about your future life, look at your present mind." Tibetan saying
By reflecting on impermanence and unsatisfactory experiences, we can deal better with all unpleasant events that occur because we're still in the cycle of constantly recurring problems.

Love doesn't expect anything from others in return. We accept people for who they are and try to help them, but we aren't concerned with how we'll benefit from the relationship. Real love isn't jealous, possessive or limited to just a few near and dear ones. Rather, ti's impartial and is felt for all beings.

Emotionally beating up on ourselves doesn't alter the past or develop our potential. It only immobilizes us and makes us spiral down into our won self-centeredness.

Guilt often comes from considering something our responsibility when it isn't.

Sometimes acceptance, patience and inaction are the most effective ways we can be of aid.

It isn't what we eat that makes us enlightened, it's what we do with our minds.

Children often provide the best - and most difficult - opportunity to practice patience.

We become like the people we respect, so when we take the loving-kindness and wisdom of the Buddhas as our example, we strive to become like them.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

TED: The Habits of Happiness

Matthieu Ricard: Monk, author, photographer
Sometimes called the "happiest man in the world," Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk, author and photographer.

So, I guess it is a result of globalization that you can find Coca-Cola tins on top of Everest and a Buddhist monk in Monterey. (Laughter) And so I just came, two days ago, from the Himalayas to your kind invitation. So I would like to invite you, also, for a while, to the Himalayas themselves. And to show the place where meditators, like me, who began with being a molecular biologist in Pasteur Institute, and found their way to the mountains.

So these are a few images I was lucky to take and be there. There's the Mount Kailash in Eastern Tibet -- wonderful setting. This is from Marlboro country. (Laughter) This is a turquoise lake. A meditator. This is the hottest day of the year somewhere in Eastern Tibet, on August 1. And the night before, we camped, and my Tibetan friends said, "We are going to sleep outside." And I said, "Why? We have enough space in the tent." They said, "Yes, but it's summertime." (Laughter)

So now, we are going to speak of happiness. As a Frenchman, I must say that there are a lot of French intellectuals that think happiness is not at all interesting. (Laughter) I just wrote an essay on happiness, and there was a controversy. And someone wrote an article saying, "Don't impose on us the dirty work of happiness." (Laughter) "We don't care about being happy. We need to live with passion. We like the ups and downs of life. We like our suffering because it's so good when it ceases for a while." (Laughter)

This is what I see from the balcony of my hermitage in the Himalayas. It's about two meters by three, and you are all welcome any time. (Laughter)

Now, let's come to happiness or well-being. And first of all, you know, despite what the French intellectuals say, it seems that no one wakes up in the morning thinking, "May I suffer the whole day?" (Laughter) Which means that somehow -- consciously or not, directly or indirectly, in the short or the long term, whatever we do, whatever we hope, whatever we dream -- somehow, is related to a deep, profound desire for well-being or happiness. As Pascal said, even the one who hangs himself, somehow, is looking for cessation of suffering -- he finds no other way. But then, if you look in the literature, East and West, you can find incredible diversity of definition of happiness. Some people say, I only believed in remembering the past, imagining the future, never the present. Some people say happiness is right now; it's the quality of the freshness of the present moment. And that led to Henri Bergson, the French philosopher, to say, "All the great thinkers of humanity have left happiness in the vague so that they could define -- each of them could define their own terms."

Well, that would be fine if it was just a secondary preoccupation in life. But now, if it is something that is going to determine the quality of every instant of our life, then we better know what it is, have some clearer idea. And probably, the fact that we don't know that is why, so often, although we seek happiness, it seems we turn our back to it. Although we want to avoid suffering, it seems we are running somewhat towards it. And that can also come from some kind of confusions.

One of the most common ones is happiness and pleasure. But, if you look at the characteristics of those two, pleasure is contingent upon time, upon its object, upon the place. It is something that -- changes of nature. Beautiful chocolate cake: first serving is delicious, second one not so much, then we feel disgust. (Laughter) That's the nature of things. We get tired. I used to be a fan of Bach. I used to play it on the guitar, you know. I can hear it two, three, five times. If I had to hear it 24 hours, non-stop, it might be very tiring. If you are feeling very cold, you come near a fire, it's so wonderful. Then, after some moments, you just go a little back, and then it starts burning. It sort of uses itself as you experience it. And also, again, it can -- also, it's something that you -- it is not something that is radiating outside. Like, you can feel intense pleasure and some others around you can be suffering a lot.

Now, what, then, will be happiness? And happiness, of course, is such a vague word, so let's say well-being. And so, I think the best definition, according to the Buddhist view, is that well-being is not just a mere pleasurable sensation. It is a deep sense of serenity and fulfillment, a state that actually pervades and underlies all emotional states, and all the joys and sorrows that can come one's way. For you, that might be surprising. Can we have this kind of well-being while being sad? In a way, why not? Because we are speaking of a different level.

Look at the waves coming here to shore. When you are at the bottom of the wave, you hit the bottom. You hit the solid rock. When you are surfing on the top, you are all elated. So you go from elation to depression -- there's no depth. Now, if you look at the high sea, there might be beautiful, calm ocean, like a mirror. There might be storms, but the depth of the ocean is still there, unchanged. So now, how is that? It can only be a state of being, not just a fleeting emotion, sensation. Even joy -- that can be the spring of happiness. But there's also wicked joy, you can rejoice in someone's suffering.

So how do we proceed in our quest for happiness? Very often, we look outside. We think that if we could gather this and that, all the conditions, something that we say, "Everything to be happy -- to have everything to be happy." That very sentence already reveals the doom of destruction of happiness. To have everything. If we miss something, it collapses. And also, when things go wrong, we try to fix the outside so much, but our control of the outer world is limited, temporary, and often, illusory. So now, look at inner conditions. Aren't they stronger? Isn't it the mind that translates the outer condition into happiness and suffering? And isn't that stronger? We know, by experience, that we can be what we call "a little paradise," and yet, be completely unhappy within.

The Dalai Lama was once in Portugal, and there was a lot of construction going on everywhere. So one evening, he said, "Look, you are doing all these things, but isn't it nice, also, to build something within?" And he said, "Unless that -- even you get high-tech flat on the 100th floor of a super-modern and comfortable building, if you are deeply unhappy within, all you are going to look for is a window from which to jump." So now, at the opposite, we know a lot of people who, in very difficult circumstances, manage to keep serenity, inner strength, inner freedom, confidence. So now, if the inner conditions are stronger -- of course, the outer conditions do influence, and it's wonderful to live longer, healthier, to have access to information, education, to be able to travel, to have freedom. It's highly desirable. However, this is not enough. Those are just auxiliary, help conditions. The experience that translates everything is within the mind. So then, when we ask oneself how to nurture the condition for happiness, the inner conditions, and which are those which will undermine happiness. So then, this just needs to have some experience.

We have to know from ourselves, there are certain states of mind that are conducive to this flourishing, to this well-being, what the Greeks called eudaimonia, flourishing. There are some which are adverse to this well-being. And so, if we look from our own experience, anger, hatred, jealousy, arrogance, obsessive desire, strong grasping, they don't leave us in such a good state after we have experienced it. And also, they are detrimental to others' happiness. So we may consider that the more those are invading our mind, and, like a chain reaction, the more we feel miserable, we feel tormented. At the opposite, everyone knows deep within that an act of selfless generosity, if from the distance, without anyone knowing anything about it, we could save a child's life, make someone happy. We don't need the recognition. We don't need any gratitude. Just the mere fact of doing that fills such a sense of adequation with our deep nature. And we would like to be like that all the time.

So is that possible, to change our way of being, to transform one's mind? Aren't those negative emotions, or destructive emotions, inherent to the nature of mind? Is change possible in our emotions, in our traits, in our moods? For that we have to ask, what is nature of mind? And if we look from the experiential point of view, there is a primary quality of consciousness that's just the mere fact to be cognitive, to be aware. Consciousness is like a mirror that allows all images to rise on it. You can have ugly faces, beautiful faces in the mirror. The mirror allows that, but the mirror is not tainted, is not modified, is not altered by those images. Likewise, behind every single thought there is the bare consciousness, pure awareness. This is the nature. It cannot be tainted intrinsically with hatred or jealousy because, then, if it was always there -- like a dye that would permeate the whole cloth -- then it would be found all the time, somewhere. We know we're not always angry, always jealous, always generous.

So, because the basic fabric of consciousness is this pure cognitive quality that differentiates it from a stone, there is a possibility for change because all emotions are fleeting. That is the ground for mind training. Mind training is based on the idea that two opposite mental factors cannot happen at the same time. You could go from love to hate. But you cannot, at the same time, toward the same object, the same person, want to harm and want to do good. You cannot, in the same gesture, shake hand and give a blow. So, there are natural antidotes to emotions that are destructive to our inner well-being. So that's the way to proceed. Rejoicing compared to jealousy. A kind of sense of inner freedom as opposite to intense grasping and obsession. Benevolence, loving kindness against hatred. But, of course, each emotion then would need a particular antidote.

Another way is to try to find a general antidote to all emotions, and that's by looking at the very nature. Usually, when we feel annoyed, hatred or upset with someone, or obsessed with something, the mind goes again and again to that object. Each time it goes to the object, it reinforces that obsession or that annoyance. So then, it's a self-perpetuating process. So what we need to look now is, instead of looking outward, we look inward. Look at anger itself. It looks very menacing, like a billowing monsoon cloud or thunderstorm. But we think we could sit on the cloud -- but if you go there, it's just mist. Likewise, if you look at the thought of anger, it will vanish like frost under the morning sun. If you do this again and again, the propensity, the tendencies for anger to arise again will be less and less each time you dissolve it. And, at the end, although it may rise, it will just cross the mind, like a bird crossing the sky without leaving any track. So this is the principal of mind training.

Now, it takes time because we -- it took time for all those faults in our mind, the tendencies, to build up, so it will take time to unfold them as well. But that's the only way to go. Mind transformation -- that is the very meaning of meditation. It means familiarization with a new way of being, new way of perceiving things, which is more in adequation with reality, with interdependence, with the stream and continuous transformation, which our being and our consciousness is.

So, the interface with cognitive science, since we need to come to that, and it was, I suppose, the subject of -- we have to deal in such a short time with brain plasticity. The brain was thought to be more or less fixed. All the nominal connections, in numbers and quantities, were thought -- until the last 20 years -- thought to be more or less fixed when we reached adult age. Now, recently, it has been found that it can change a lot. A violinist, as we heard, who has done 10,000 hours of violin practice, some area that controls the movements of fingers in the brain change a lot, increasing reinforcement of the synaptic connections. So can we do that with human qualities? With loving kindness, with patience, with openness?

So that's what those great meditators have been doing. Some of them who came to the labs, like in Madison, Wisconsin, or in Berkeley, did 20 to 40,000 hours of meditation. They do, like, three years' retreat, where they do meditate 12 hours a day. And then, the rest of their life, they will do that three or four hours a day. They are real Olympic champions of mind training. (Laughter) This is the place where the meditators -- you can see it's kind of inspiring. Now, here with 256 electrodes. (Laughter)

So what did they find? Of course, same thing. The scientific embargo -- if ever has been to submitted to "Nature," hopefully, it will be accepted. It deals with the state of compassion, unconditional compassion. We asked meditators, who have been doing that for years and years and years, to put their mind in a state where there's nothing but loving kindness, total availability to sentient being. Of course, during the training, we do that with objects. We think of people suffering, we think of people we love, but at some point, it can be a state which is all pervading. Here is the preliminary result, which I can show because it's already been shown. The bell curve shows 150 controls, and what is being looked at is the difference between the right and the left frontal lobe. In very short, people who have more activity in the right side of the prefrontal cortex are more depressed, withdrawn. They don't describe a lot of positive affect. It's the opposite on the left side: more tendency to altruism, to happiness, to express, and curiosity and so forth. So there's a basic line for people. And also, it can be changed. If you see a comic movie, you go off to the left side. If you are happy about something, you'll go more to the left side. If you have a bout of depression, you'll go to the right side. Here, the -0.5 is the full standard deviation of a meditator who meditated on compassion. It's something that is totally out of the bell curve.

So, I've no time to go into all the different scientific results. Hopefully, they will come. But they found that -- this is after three and a half hours in an fMRI, it's like coming out of a space ship. Also, it has been shown in other labs -- for instance, Paul Ekman's labs in Berkeley -- that some meditators are able, also, to control their emotional response more than it could be thought. Like the startle experiments, for example. If you sit a guy on a chair with all this kind of apparatus measuring your physiology, and there's kind of a bomb that goes off, it's so instinctive response that, in 20 years, they never saw anyone who will not jump. Some meditators, without trying to stop it, but simply by being completely open, thinking that that bang is just going to be just a small event like a shooting star, they are able not to move at all.

So the whole point of that is not, sort of, to make, like, a circus thing of showing exceptional beings who can jump, or whatever. It's more to say that mind training matters. That this is not just a luxury. This is not a supplementary vitamin for the soul. This is something that's going to determine the quality of every instant of our lives. We are ready to spend 15 years achieving education. We love to do jogging, fitness. We do all kinds of things to remain beautiful. Yet, we spend surprisingly little time taking care of what matters most -- the way our mind functions -- which, again, is the ultimate thing that determines the quality of our experience.

Now, our compassion is supposed to be put in action. That's what we try to do in different places. Just this one example is worth a lot of work. This lady with bone TB, left alone in a tent, is going to die with her only daughter. One year later, how she is. Different schools and clinics we've been doing in Tibet.

And just, I leave you with the beauty of those looks that tells more about happiness than I could ever say. And jumping monks of Tibet. (Laughter) Flying monks. Thank you very much.

Why you should listen to him:
After training in biochemistry at the Institute Pasteur, Matthieu Ricard left science behind to move to the Himalayas and become a Buddhist monk - and to pursue happiness, both at a basic human level and as a subject of inquiry. Achieving happiness, he has come to believe, requires the same kind of effort and mind training that any other serious pursuit involves.

His deep and scientifically tinged reflections on happiness and Buddhism have turned into several books, including The Quantum and the Lotus: A Journey to the Frontiers Where Science and Buddhism Meet. At the same time, he also makes sensitive and jaw-droppingly gorgeous photographs of his beloved Tibet and the spiritual hermitage where he lives and works on humanitarian projects.

His latest book on happiness is Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill; his latest book of photographs is Tibet: An Inner Journey.
"Matthieu Ricard, French translator and right-hand man for the Dalai Lama, has been the subject of intensive clinical tests at the University of Wisconsin, as a result of which he is frequently described as the happiest man in the world."
Robert Chalmers, The Independent

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Being Your True Nature

Being Your True Nature
by Osel Hita and Matteo Passigato


What makes people travel from all over the world to meet each other, exchange ideas and feel inspired to commit themselves to a lifelong task?

Universal Education for Compassion and Wisdom Gathering
France, August 2011

Sometimes it goes back to the influence of just one person.

The late Lama Thubten Yeshe was born into a remote village in Tibet in 1935. He was both a scholar of traditional Buddhist texts, and a radical free-thinker with a passion for helping people to find happiness and satisfaction.

In 1974, he became one of the first Tibetan Buddhist masters to travel abroad, along with his devoted student and companion Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

What Lama Yeshe soon noticed was that even if the people he met seemed happy enough on the surface, they rarely seemed to be satisfied with their lives, or to have any lasting peace of mind.
Andy Wistreich: educator, UK

"We are addicted to growth, not just at a social level but also at an individual level. We feel that happiness comes from going to the shops and acquiring more possessions, so then we are filling our house with more and more possessions."
Lama Thubten Yeshe

"So even you (do) not feel you are suffering, if you check up (on) your mind, are you satisfied? You ask yourself: are you satisfied? No, I'm not. I'm not satisfied. Okay, how many things (are) you not satisfied (with)? Then comes this. I want this, I want this, this, this, this, this…"
Osel Hita: director & musician, Spain

"So in the end we are all trying to be satisfied. What is satisfaction? Where does it lie? I mean, unless we live in the moment, we can't really be satisfied; it's impossible. How many people are searching outside, in this materialistic world, in this world full of entertainment and distractions and suffering?"
Lama Yeshe was convinced that dwelling deep inside every being without exception is an inexhaustible source of wisdom and compassion. The root of the problem is that we fail to develop these qualities.
Lama Thubten Yeshe

"We need new education for the world because all the education is no longer up to date for the present intelligent people. And present education produces a lot of conflict and dissatisfaction for the new generation."
Andy Wistreich: educator, UK

"Sometimes the education is useful for understanding the outside world, but mostly the kids are just bored. The education system didn't offer them any meaning in life, any way to really understand oneself at a deeper level."
Pan Cayton: Creating Compassionate Culture, USA

"Teach the children to awaken their awareness to the way things exist, then what would arise out of that would be a healthy emotional state of mind."
Lama Yeshe explained that kindness and compassion are the natural result of developing wisdom.
Connie Miller: editor and teacher, USA

"This extraordinary potential for love and compassion and connection with others, and being there for others, and that being there for others completely and totally was what Lama, for me, embodied."
The more we accept and understand that none of us exists in isolation, the more we can expand our consciousness to embrace all other beings.
Anna Colao: youth worker, UK

"Into our own reality, our own existence, the way that we are connected to other people, it's unbelievable, it's tangible, we are so interconnected with each other. And from that it's only logical that if we create positive actions in the world, more positive things will happen."
Lama Yeshe believed that this special combination is the key to bringing about a happier and more peaceful world.
Alison Murdock: Director of the Foundation for Developing Compassion and Wisdom

"Universal Wisdom Education is about people discovering their potential, discovering the compassion and wisdom that we all have deep down inside ourselves and seeing that making use of that and bringing it out is actually going to create satisfaction and happiness in our lives."
Lama Zopa: Honorary President of the Foundation for Developing Compassion and Wisdom

"Not harming each other, helping, benefiting each other, bringing happiness to each other. That's what it is. Bringing the self, individual and whole world into higher and higher happiness. That's the aim."
What Universal Wisdom Education seeks is a language that speaks to universal human experience at its simplest and most profound.
Lama Zopa

"Everybody in the world cannot become Buddhist, cannot become Muslim, cannot become Hindu, Christian or so forth, in the teaching of any religion. But you need to bring some method, education to this world. For the better life, for the better world, more happiness, solve all the problems, cause of unhappiness. So, I thought that. Need to bring another method to use in the world. So I thought Universal Education, which Lama Yeshe started, I thought this, how important it is."
Rasmus Hougaard: The Potential Project, Denmark

"The mission is basically to take part in creating a more peaceful, more just, more kind and more compassionate world. Very basic. And we believe by training people to train their minds, that's the best way we can do this. So a more peaceful world, that's the very main objective of what we are doing."
Esther Garibay: Foundation for Developing Compassion and Wisdom

"Actually what we want is to be happy and to have basic skills to know how to cultivate happiness. So this is I think for me the most powerful thing, that it's not that you are giving wisdom to people, it's that you are helping people reveal their own wisdom and the wisdom that they already carry within. So I think this is the work we do and this is what I am passionate about because I think everybody has this potential."
Osel Hita

"We are life. Each individual represents life. We are a reflection of the universe. The universe exists through us and therefore, as an individual, our mission is to understand ourselves and to discover our inner reality, our true nature and that's where the rear satisfaction comes in, it's when you live with yourself, when you're happy with yourself, you're satisfied with yourself and you're living each moment as it is, as it comes, and as you design it, in order to help other people. Because that's where the real satisfaction is."
Andy Wistreich

"And when our mind comes into harmony with reality, then everything changes."
Sofia Marban: teacher and therapist, Spain

"All of us, everyone, is very responsible for their actions. Because every single person who is with you is learning from you, in the same way that you are learning from others. So it's very important our action in any moment."
Universal Wisdom Education is particularly important for children, who hold the future in their hands. There is increasing scientific evidence that small children, and perhaps even babies, have an unexpected capacity for compassion and meta-cognition. Skillfully led, Universal Wisdom Education can also offer powerful experiences for young people.
Lydia Rigdzina Dolma: student, UK

"I don't usually go this deep into myself or into my feelings, so that was quite weird. But I think it could be useful for loads and loads of teenagers out there, because my generation and the next generation have been accustomed to violence for so long, through video games and stuff, and UWE is all about compassion and wisdom, and I think that could really bring them out of this kind of numb feeling that everyone has when they're confronted with violence on the news, on a video game, on the computer, and even in adverts. It's quite weird to see how deep even I could go into myself with the right kind of help and the right kind of teaching."
Universal Wisdom Education is logical, practical and relevant to every life situation, whoever we are, whatever we do, whichever is our religious belief or cultural tradition. Its programs are now taking off all over the world, in schools and colleges, healthcare and prisons, the workplace and the home.
Alison Murdock

"We've been taking advice for this work from Lama Zopa Rinpoche, who was the number one student of Lama Yeshe, and he gave us some very interesting and very helpful advice at the beginning, which was to try working with just one program, an 8th century text about ethics - how to live a good life, develop a good heart - which we've turned into a program called the "16 Guidelines for Life". And to our surprise, it's proved incredibly popular. It starts with humility, it ends with courage, it talks about how we think, how we act, how we relate to other people and how we find meaning in life. Very straightforward practical everyday things. And it's been taken now into over 20 different countries and translated into 5 different languages."
The 16 Guidelines for a Happy Life
How we think:
  • humility
  • patience
  • contentment
  • delight
How we act:
  • kindness
  • honesty
  • generosity
  • right speech
How we relate to others:
  • respect
  • forgiveness
  • gratitude
  • loyalty
How we find meaning:
  • aspiration
  • principles
  • service
  • courage
David Machles and Karen Mastroianni: organizational consultants, USA

"They brought the 16 Guidelines to our center for the children's program, and one Sunday when they were presenting it and I heard them talking about the Guidelines, it was the most powerful thing I'd ever heard, and I said 'this is what we need in our organizations.' So I came back to David and said 'you have to come hear this, we have to go learn about the Guidelines' and your first comment was 'it's for kids, not adults!' David was doing work in prisons for anger management at the time, and was going to start doing some things at the youth prison, and anger management is really just one piece that people suffer from, so we decided to use the 16 Guidelines in the prison program and we called it 'Building Inner Strength'. That's really how you started using them. And that was in a youth facility, a youth prison."
Rasmus Hougaard

"The transformation that is taking place for people in the corporate world when they start to engage with these methods is really profound. For me as a trainer, it's amazing to see the changes in their lives. So there's been done research, especially from Inseat, which is the largest business school of Europe, which has pointed out very clearly that the practice of mindfulness, that mindful leaders and mindful employees are better at what is called corporate social responsibility, they have higher corporate social responsibility. That means they take better care of their employees, they take better care of each other, and they take better care of the environment at large. So there's a lot of research backing up that it does not only have an impact on the individual, but actually also on the globe, socially and environmentally."
The huge amount of interest and enthusiasm poses many organizational challenges. How do you turn such a vast vision into reality? Into something practical that holds both integrity and diversity? That can adapt to the moment while remaining true to its roots?

But the passion and commitment of the growing UWE community makes us confident that we will gradually achieve our goal of creating a happier and more peaceful world.


The Foundation for Developing Compassion and Wisdom was established in 2005 to take forward the vision of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa.

One year after the gather: Work has begun on a set of experiential study courses to guide and support this work worldwide. The manuals will make accessible in contemporary style and language some of the most profound yet universal aspects of Buddhist philosophy, psychology and science.

The people who met at the gathering in France have gone on to set up all kinds of projects in their own communities.

Universal Education for Compassion and Wisdom has replaced the name Universal Wisdom Education as a reflection of the urgent need for more compassion, love and empathy in our 21st century world.
Lama Zopa

"So, everybody, please enjoy your life with good heart and with wisdom. Okay, thank you very much. And make the world better. Make your life better so that the world can become better."

We invite you to find out more:
for additional interviews and supporting information
to join the mailing list
and learn about our educational programs
about Lama Yeshe, Lama Zopa and Osel Hita

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Sit Down and Shut Up

Sit Down and Shut Up
Punk Rock Commentaries on Buddha, God, Truth, Sex, Death, & Dogen's Treasury of the Right Dharma Eye
by Brad Warner

"You can never notice your own enlightenment." Nishijima Sensei
You just discover that "me" was far too limiting a name for what you really are.

This is the way we all are, though. We're far more interested in explanations of reality than we are in reality itself. The solution is to see the problem and take action - now. Start from just where you are, and do something.

Buddhism is about discovering the things that "go," that really work and make our lives and the lives of others better and happier; and the things that do not "go" and make us and others miserable.

The trick to not thinking is not adding energy to the equation in an effort to forcibly stop thinking from happening.
"Someone who is pursuing the truth is already halfway to the truth. Don't give up until you get there." Dogen
Anger doesn't make music, not even angry music.

"Angry music," exposing as it did its author's truest feelings let me know I was not alone in my own feelings of frustration. Far from making me angry, it made me feel as if there was something positive I could do with my feelings.

Buddhism is about balance. And in the state of balance right action presents itself at every moment.

It's hard for most of us to admit, but when you start paying attention you'll notice that you actually enjoy being angry. There's this wonderful rush of self-righteousness to it. Because, obviously, you can't be angry about something unless you know you're right and the other person is wrong. You are angry because you want to be angry. Always, always.

It's only when we are balanced that we can do any good for anyone else. Otherwise we act from confusion instead of true compassion.

It's about seeing your real troubles, your real trials, all your real difficulties and real joys as they actually are, without the overblown drama we usually ladle on top of them.

Faith keeps you going but doubt keeps you from going off the deep end.

The trick here is to give up imagining how things are going to be. Or, at the very least, to give up believing that the way you imagine things are going to be has anything to do with the way they really will be.

Real happiness comes when you are truly living this moment, no matter what it is. It's not the least bit futile to pursue this kind of happiness. In fact it's your sacred duty as a human being.

Sit in zazen (meditation) enough, and you begin to relearn how to notice the fascinating sensations that make up your ordinary life.

So do what needs to be done right now. The do the next thing. And the next. And the next.

That's the way it is with every skill worth pursuing. It's a pain in the ass for a very long time until you become any good at it at all. And this is true for everyone...

It's easy to become paralyzed in your practice when you focus on the so-called results. But there really are no "results" in the real world. There is only what is, right here and right now.

Any job you do contributes to the welfare of all humankind. Maybe a little, maybe a lot.

If you're serious about transcending anger, you have to be prepared to give up everything.

But it's incredibly tough to pursue a practice that says that if you spend tons of time and energy on it, your reward is...nothing.

Real hate is that part of you that sees itself as eternally separate from the rest of creation. Real love is that part of you that sees everything as a seamless whole.

It's hard to worry what other people thing when you realize their thoughts are just as dopey and meaningless as yours.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Is Buddhism a Religion?

by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

We often talk about Siddhartha, the young man who became known as the Buddha, as if he were a god. The fact is that he was just a simple Indian guy, a human being like you and me. We think of him as some kind of super-genius for having attained complete spiritual awakening, but in fact his real genius was in showing how any one of us can attain the same awakening as he did. We describe him as a prince and a member of the elite royalty of his time, and we think that must have given him an advantage over us -- but the reality is that most of us today are probably better off, in material terms, than Siddhartha was.

We talk about his kingdom and so forth, but what the prince Siddhartha had was really no more than what you might find in any middle-class American household. He might have had more wives, but you've got more gadgets, more technologies and comforts and conveniences. Siddhartha didn't have a refrigerator, and you do. He didn't have WiFi, or a blog, or Facebook or Twitter. He might have had more houses and land, but you've got a more comfortable bed than he had. Maybe you even have one of those new, space-age Tempur-Pedic beds. Think of how much time you spend in bed, and how important your bed is. I guarantee that Siddhartha had a worse bed than you have.

The point is, we shouldn't mythologize Siddhartha's life and think that his spiritual awakening was due to his special circumstances. Most of us today actually live in conditions very similar to Siddhartha's, in terms of our material situation.

Siddhartha was a truth seeker, nothing more. He wasn't looking for religion, as such -- he wasn't particularly interested in religion. He was searching for the truth. He was looking for a genuine path to freedom from suffering. Aren't all of us searching for the same thing? If we look at the life of Siddhartha, we can see that he found the truth and freedom he was seeking only after he abandoned religious practices. Isn't that significant? The one who became the Buddha, the "Awakened One," didn't find enlightenment through religion -- he found it when he began to leave religion behind.

The Lure of Religious Trappings

A lot of people prefer to think of Buddhism as a religion. It's easy to see why, when Buddhism abounds with religious trappings: the rituals and the chants and the golden statues sitting on the shrine. Buddha himself never wanted to be deified in any kind of icons; at the beginning, he told his students no icons, no worshiping. But it's said that he had a very devoted student who kept pestering him, requesting his permission to make a statue of him, until finally the Buddha gave up and allowed the first image to be made. And now we have all these elaborate golden icons that look like they were dug out of an Egyptian pyramid. It's nice to have these reminders, but we must remember that's what they are: reminders of something, an example to be followed, not idols to be worshiped.

If our goal is to turn Buddhism into a religion, that's fine -- in America we have freedom of speech and the Bill of Rights. We can make Buddhism into a religion, or a branch of psychology, or a self-help program, or whatever we want. But if we're looking for enlightenment, we won't find it through relating to the Buddha as a religious idol. Like Siddhartha, we'll find real spiritual awakening only when we begin to leave behind our fixed ideas about religious practice. Seeing the Buddha as an example and following his example -- recreating, in our own lives, his pursuit of truth, his courage and his open mind -- that's the real power of Buddhism beyond religion.

Truth Has No Religion

Siddhartha actually became the Buddha through his failure at religion. He saw that the ascetic practices he'd been engaged in were not leading him to true liberation, and so he left them behind. But he had five colleagues who continued their religious practices of asceticism, and they regarded Siddhartha as a failure. From their point of view, he just couldn't hack it, and that's why he gave up. Later, after he attained enlightenment and became known as the Buddha, they became his first five disciples; but at the time when he left behind their religious program, they regarded him as a failure. I find that very encouraging. As spiritual practitioners, we should be open to being a failure. We can take heart in the fact that Siddhartha found enlightenment not through his great success at religious practices, but through his failures.

As Buddhists, Siddhartha's example is the most important one for us to follow. He was a great explorer of mind and its limits. He was open-minded, seeking truth, with no preconceived agenda. He thought, "Okay, I'll do these religious practices and see if I can find the truth that way." He did the practices, he didn't find the truth, and so he left the religion. Like Siddhartha, if we really want spiritual enlightenment we have to go beyond religiosity. We have to let go of clinging to preconceived religious forms and ideas and practices.

Religion, if we don't relate to it skillfully, can trap us in another set of rules. On top of all the ordinary rules we are already stuck with in this world, we pile on a second set of religious rules. I'm not saying there is anything bad about religion or rules, but you should be clear about what you're seeking. Do you want religion and a set of rules to follow, or do you want truth? Truth has no religion, no culture, no language, no head or tail. As Gandhi said, "God has no religion." The truth is just the truth.
If you are interested in "meeting the Buddha" and following his example, then you should realize that the path the Buddha taught is primarily a study of your own mind and a system for training your mind. This path is spiritual, not religious. Its goal is self-knowledge, not salvation; freedom, not heaven. And it is deeply personal. Without your curiosity and questions and your open mind, there is no spiritual path, no journey to be taken, even if you adopt all the forms of the tradition.

Posted here by permission of the author.
Originally posted on August 6th, 2010 at

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Osel Hita Torres - The Reluctant Lama

Originally posted on on September 27, 2012
By Jolyon Jenkins
A Spanish toddler identified as the reincarnation of a revered Buddhist lama
spent his entire childhood in an Indian monastery.
But at the age of 18 he returned to his family in Spain.
Still hailed as a teacher, he is more comfortable on the beaches of Ibiza.

DOWNLOAD "The Reluctant Lama" MP3 and/or TEXT

When he was two, Osel Hita Torres was enthroned as a reincarnated Tibetan Buddhist lama.

He was dressed in robes and a yellow hat. Grown men prostrated themselves in front of him and asked for his blessing.

No-one was allowed to show him affection unless he initiated it. He had his own special cutlery.

"It must have been tempting to take advantage of that sometimes and act badly," I say to him now.

"Yes," he replies. "I was a tyrant and an obnoxious spoiled brat. I was pretty bossy, let's say."

Even by Tibetan Buddhist standards, two was a young age for enthronement, and Osel was not even Tibetan - he is Spanish.

We are speaking in Ibiza, in the courtyard to his mother's villa. Osel is 27 and no longer a lama.

Osel would like to become a documentary maker.
He has swapped the rigours of monastic life for playing the drums on the beach, and chilling to trance music. He is not sure he is still a Buddhist.

Because of his bad experiences with the media, he hardly ever gives interviews. But he is relaxed and charming to me, and philosophical about his extraordinary history.

He was born in Granada, the fifth child of Maria Torres.

Maria had converted to Buddhism and was a follower of Thubten Yeshe, a charismatic and extrovert Tibetan lama who was traveling the West in the 1970s.

Yeshe was no ordinary lama. He visited Disneyland and was half in love with Western culture.

His young Western disciples were drawn by his Eastern exoticism. Some believed he could read their minds.
"It made me feel very special, the fact that he had chosen me as his mother” - Maria
But Lama Yeshe had heart problems, and he died in 1984 in a Los Angeles hospital, aged 49.

His followers were distraught. A few months later, Maria became pregnant with Osel.

In Tibetan Buddhism, lamas who achieved a high level of enlightenment are able to choose what happens after their death - whether to be reincarnated and, if so, where.

The conviction grew among Lama Yeshe's followers and former colleagues that Yeshe had chosen to be reincarnated in Spain, in little Osel.

They detected in Osel a certain meditative self-containment. The way he acted reminded them of Yeshe. A baby like Osel appeared in another lama's dreams.

Osel was taken to India for testing, where he picked out Lama Yeshe's former possessions, including his sunglasses. The Dalai Lama confirmed that Osel was Lama Yeshe's reincarnation.

Osel went to live in a monastery in southern India and had little contact with his parents. It was a strange way to treat a toddler but Osel feels no resentment.

"For them it wasn't something negative, it was a huge opportunity they were giving the kid, like he's going to Yale or Oxford."

I met Maria at a Buddhist temple on Ibiza. I put it to her that her name is appropriate for the mother of a God. She does not reject the idea. "At the beginning, yes, it was something like this."

The fact that Lama Yeshe had come back in her son was good news.

"It was a reason for celebrating. It made me feel very special, the fact that he had chosen me as his mother. I thought that I was not going to have any more suffering during my life, just because of that. I wanted to share my son with the rest of the world, because it's not my son."

But did she not miss him? She says she was not clingy.

"Maybe because I don't really need to have my children by my side all my time, it was something I could deal with very easily."

But having a lama in the family was disruptive for her other five children as they all travelled the world, trying to stay reasonably close to Osel when he was very small.

Osel's Western disciples barely saw him as a little child at all. They detected in him wisdom, compassion and a detachment from emotional needs that allowed him to develop on a spiritual path - and stopped him missing his parents.

"When you were treated in this very deferential way, how much did you think to yourself secretly 'This is crazy'?" I ask him.

"For me it was completely normal," he says.

"But at a certain point in my life, around 15-16, I didn't feel comfortable with it...

When he was nine, he sent a cassette tape to his mother where he pleaded to be allowed to come back to Spain.

Instead his father, Paco, went to live in the monastery with him, and his younger brother, Kunkyen, went to join him as a monk.

"When I turned 16-17, I was dying to get out."

The turning point came when he read Herman Hesse's Siddhartha, and he started to wonder whether he was a true Buddhist.

Osel finally decided to leave the monastery when he was 18.
On his 18th birthday, he had a momentous conversation with his mother, which she described to me. "He said to me, 'If I decide not to go back to the monastery, can someone force me to go back?'"

"No", she told him. "Well, I'm not going back," he said.

But the monastery wanted him to return.

"I got a huge amount of letters and phone calls, and people coming to visit me, just telling me that I made a big mistake, that I lost a huge opportunity, that was my destiny, my purpose, blah-blah-blah, whatever."

Maria was also put under pressure but she supported his decision, and still does.
Life outside the monastery was difficult for him to start with - discos and girls were baffling and scary.
Life outside the monastery was difficult for him to start with - discos and girls were baffling and scary. One of his Buddhist sponsors living in Canada arranged for him to go to school there. He then went to Madrid where he did a degree in film studies. He would like to become a documentary maker.

Sometimes Osel seems like a living disproof of the old Jesuit saying, "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man." The Tibetans had him from two till 18, but the pull of the West was stronger.

"What music do you like?" I ask him. "Reggae, I like drum-and-bass, I like trance, psychedelic trance, stuff like that. Hip-hop also."

In Lama Yeshe's organisation, the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), they still see him as a teacher. He tries to accommodate them with what wisdom he can muster, but his advice tends to be light on Buddhist theology, with generic suggestions like, "When we see people in the centre, it's nice to always say hello."

His future is uncertain, caught between cultures and traditions. He lives on Ibiza but Spanish is only his third language, after Tibetan and English. He has taught Tibetan classes, he doesn't have a full time job but has been making a documentary for the FPMT.

He and Kunkyen feature on a recording that combines Tibetan chanting with Western trance music. He seems to be moving back towards the FPMT and even talks about returning to head the organisation.

Lama Yeshe was famous for his smile and sense of humor
"Maybe when the spiritual director decides to retire, then I can take over."

As the spiritual director?

"I'll probably just be maybe the co-ordinator. Not spiritual. I don't know, maybe some day. Slowly I am getting some interest towards Buddhism."

Maria is still a convinced Buddhist. "Do you still think he's a reincarnated lama?" I ask.

"Yes," she says. "What he isn't, is a traditional lama and it is what he doesn't want to be."

She has no regrets. "I never ask this question to myself, because it's not possible to go back. I always think everything has sense. What's happening now is the best it can happen, because it's what's happening."

Buddhists do not really do regret.

Osel himself still believes in reincarnation, and that Lama Yeshe could have chosen whose body he would come back in. He is just not sure it is him.

"Are there ever occasions when you feel a little bit of Lama Yeshe in you?" I ask.

"Yes, sometimes," he says. "Sometimes I ask Lama Yeshe to give me a message or a sign or something. And many times he does give me a sign or a message.

"So I don't know if he's outside or if he's inside. I don't know, but he's one of my best friends."

DOWNLOAD "The Reluctant Lama" MP3 and/or TEXT

Word List:
  • enthroned: officially recognize a young monk as the reincarnation of a high lama
  • prostrated [ мөргөл үйлдэх ] - to lying on the ground and facing downwards as a sign of respect
  • cutlery: knives, forks and spoons, used for eating and serving food
  • tyrant: a person who has complete power and uses it in a cruel and unfair way
  • obnoxious: extremely unpleasant, especially in a way that offends people
  • brat: a person, especially a child, who behaves badly
  • rigours: the difficulties and unpleasant conditions of something
  • extrovert: a lively and confident person who enjoys being with other people
  • distraught: extremely upset and anxious so that you cannot think clearly
  • clingy: needing another person too much
  • momentous: very important or serious, especially because there may be important results
  • baffling: to confuse somebody completely; to be too difficult or strange for somebody to understand or explain

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tacloban is calling

Originally posted on on Nov 12, 2013

This message is not for the people of Tacloban. The people of Tacloban do not need any messages from me. They are completely engulfed in a reality that eclipses the linguistic coding of sentiment or solidarity. Send money if you can. No, this message isn’t for, but rather from the people of Tacloban, because in their horrific struggle for survival and security, they have sent a message to you. It is a message you don’t want, and that none of us is ready for.

Some people have a sudden glimpse of reality, a stroke of insight, an aha moment. They might strive for it a long time – travel the world, trek mountains, study the wisdom of sages. But that’s not the glimpse of reality that matters. The glimpse that can change your life is the sight of rubble and ruin – the truth that things fall apart. We see the evidence every day, but still, it’s a hard thing to wake up to.

There was that cloudless morning in early September when most of us – roused by the radio, a phone call, or a shuddering impulse – turned on our televisions and saw the impossible. We saw a building buckle, and then, after a breathless half-second, a rushing crush of dust as one and then another tower disappeared in front of us – a Niagara of concrete, steel, desks, and doorknobs, everyday lives conjoined irretrievably in death, a plume of ash simultaneously rising and falling and haunting the gaping emptiness we could not turn away from.

One day after Christmas, the Indian Ocean stood to reach a resplendent sky and then tumbled forward into a bottomless blackness, swallowing the earth in one gulp, stealing the doomed from their innocent idylls and the sleepy ease of paradise – paradise! A whole population was snatched from the sheltering palms of a holiday while the rest of us still celebrated ours.

These things really happened. Of course, they happened to someone else.

There are a thousand tragedies no one knows about but you: the day the hospital calls, the accident happens, the letter arrives, and time runs out; the door slams, the brakes squeal, and the paperwork is signed. The day the rains flood, the pipes burst, the bones break, or the dinner burns. The day you lose your mind in a wild rage. The day you hurt someone.

We might think these days will end the way we spend our days – the way we worry and waste our days. We say they are wakeup calls. But do we really wake up? And what do we wake up to? Soon we forget, and go back to searching for the illusive comforts of a tamed and predictable world, one that doesn’t rise up without warning and defeat us every time.

Now, don’t tell me how you will die. Tell me how you will live.

Someone somewhere is always calling you.

Definition List:
  • to engulf: to surround or to cover somebody/something completely
  • to eclipse: a loss of importance, power, etc. especially because somebody/something else has become more important, powerful, etc
  • linguistic: connected with language or the scientific study of language
  • sentiment: a feeling or an opinion, especially one based on emotions
  • solidarity: support by one person or group of people for another because they share feelings, opinions, aims, etc
  • to glimpse: a short experience of something that helps you to understand it
  • rubble: broken stones or bricks from a building or wall that has been destroyed or damaged
  • to buckle: to become crushed or bent under a weight or force; to crush or bend something in this way
  • irretrievably: that you can never make right or get back
  • plume: a cloud of something that rises and curves upwards in the air
  • resplendent: brightly coloured in an impressive way
  • gulp: to swallow large amounts of food or drink quickly
Pronunciation MP3:
= engulf
= eclipse
= linguistic
= sentiment
= solidarity
= glimpse
= rubble
= buckle
= irretrievably
= plume
= resplendent
= gulp

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Thai Women Don Monks' Robes

Originally posted on Inter Press Service on Nov 1, 2013
By Simba Shani Kamaria Russeau
Buddhist bhukkhini (female monk) ceremony.
Cedit: Simba Shani Kamaria Russeau/IPS

NAKHON PATHOM, Thailand, Nov 1 2013 (IPS) - Thai women were among the first women in Asia granted voting rights, in 1932. However, when it comes to religion, women in Thailand continue to struggle for equality and social acceptance.

Rhythmic chanting fills the air just before dawn at the Songdhammakalyani Monastery in Nakhon Pathom, a provincial city located about 56km outside of Bangkok in central Thailand.

Unlike the 33,903 Buddhist temples that house an estimated 250,000 monks in Thailand, the Songdhammakalyani Monastery is the first temple built for women by women. The abbess, Venerable Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, is the country’s first fully ordained nun or Bhikkhuni in a Theravada monastic lineage.

The temple’s roots stretch back nearly five decades when Venerable Dhammananda’s mother, Venerable Voramai or Ta Tao Fa Tzu, became the first fully ordained Thai woman in the Mahayana lineage in Taiwan and turned their family home into a monastery.

“When my mother became interested in Buddhism she realised that in the Buddha’s time the Buddha gave ordination to women. Why were women never ordained in our country?” Venerable Dhammananda tells IPS.

“It was actually the Buddha who gave the ordination to his own stepmother and aunt and the whole story is in the Dhamma for you to read.”

Women account for an estimated 51 percent of Thailand’s population of nearly 68 million, according to a 2012 World Bank report.

Compared to neighbouring countries, women have made great strides in education and on the socio-economic front. However, women still earn 74 percent less than their male colleagues and hold a minority of high-level positions in business and politics. And when it comes to religion, women remain absent.

“A lot of the gender inequalities regarding salary and lack of female representation among the top-ranking members of our parliament are due to deeply ingrained cultural stereotypes of women,” Yad Prapar, associate professor of economics at Ramkhamhaeng University, told IPS.

“In Thai culture, they view the buffalo as a stupid animal that is hard-working. And they used to believe that woman was a buffalo while man was human. This is why women’s status in Thai Buddhism is far inferior to men because they are considered of less value.”

Under the current Thai constitution the ordination of women is permitted. But the Thai Sangha Council, a government-linked religious advisory group, maintains that only men can enter the monkhood, citing the 1928 Sangha Act that forbids Thai monks from ordaining women.

Women’s rights activists and religious scholars argue that legally recognising bhikkhunis (female monks) not only upholds the ‘Four Pillars of Buddhism’ but also provides a monastic community where women from all walks of life can practice among women.

“Women feel safer staying in a temple that is mainly run by women,” says Dr. Sutada Mekrungruengkul, a lecturer at Nation University. “If I had a daughter I would feel more comfortable sending her, during the summer months when there’s no school, to be part of a bhikkhuni sangha where she could be a youth monk for about ten days or one month without harassment.

“Also, with bhikkhunis I can discuss issues pertaining to my personal life or the Dhamma privately. Whereas with a male monk, people could accuse me of having an interest in him because he’s handsome or claim that I want something more than guidance. This is how women strengthen Buddhism.”

The Songdhammakalyani Monastery’s regular 12-week Dhamma courses and three-day retreats in Buddhist education fill a major gap left by male-dominated sangha communities with a curriculum that is geared towards a feminist approach to interpreting Buddhist texts.

“Despite being a Buddhist all my life, I didn’t understand the Dhamma of the Buddha,” 53-year-old Venerable Dhammasiri, who received ordination four years ago in Sri Lanka, tells IPS. “I didn’t practice from my heart because I was never told the meaning of the chants, or the reasons we bow or abstain from certain foods. I was merely a Buddhist by birth certificate.

“In Thailand, the monks only teach from their point of view. I feel more empowered after becoming a bhikkhuni because I’ve not only learned self-control but my eyes have been opened to the historical role women played in Buddhism, like the thirteen female arahants, the history of the bhikkhuni sangha and the respected status we held during the Buddha’s time.”

Currently there are over 30 bhikkhunis and an unknown number of samaneris or female novices living in monasteries throughout Thailand.

To support the bhikkhunis’ movement of establishing a thriving and legally recognised female sangha in Thailand, a coalition of civil society members, scholars and legislators have put forth several proposals to amend Thai laws. Their hope is that in five to ten years the government and the religious clergy will restore the rightful heritage granted to women by the Buddha.

“Women have always contributed to Buddhism because it is actually women who feed the monks. Go to any temple in Thailand, and 80 percent of the attendants are women, so they are actually the foundation to keep Buddhism going in this country,” adds Dhammananda.

“We are laying the groundwork for more women to pursue the ordained life, so that future generations don’t have to fight so hard.”

Definition List:

  • to grant: to agree to give somebody what they ask for, especially formal or legal permission to do something
  • provincial: connected with the parts of a country that do not include the capital city
  • to ordain (ordination: ceremony): to make somebody a monk, priest, minister or rabbi
  • stepmother: the woman who is married to your father but who is not your real mother
  • colleague: a person that you work with, especially in a profession or a business
  • inferior: not good or not as good as somebody/something else
  • harassment: to annoy or worry somebody by putting pressure on them or saying or doing unpleasant things to them
  • to empower: to give somebody the power or authority to do something
  • to restore: to bring somebody/something back to a former condition, place or position
Pronunciation MP3:
= grant
= provincial
= ordain
= ordination
= stepmother
= colleague
= inferior
= harassment
= empower
= restore

The Passionate Buddha

The Passionate Buddha
Wisdom on Intimacy and Enduring Love
by Robert Sachs

Book Quotes:

Buddhism is more a set of tools than it is an '-ism.

If we open our eyes, relax our minds, and offer our hearts to those around us, there is no doubt in my mind that we shall receive in kind - and the journey will be that much richer and more joyful.

We may find something inside ourselves that encourages us to reach through the fog, giving us what may seem to be a completely unwarranted confidence that all will workout – somehow.
"Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It is the ultimate source of success in life." by Dalai Lama
Once we have come to the realization that we are inseparable from everyone and everything around us, expressing our loving nature fully and without reserve becomes effortless.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Awakening to the Sacred

Awakening to the Sacred
by Lama Surya Das

Book Quotes:

Do our opinions so define us that our innate goodness gets lost in the rhetoric? Are we so driven by our need for personal rites and rituals, schedules, timetables, and set ways of doing things that our priorities are lost?

We lose god, meaning, and our very selves in complexity. When we get caught up in the many, we lose the one.

By it's very nature, life is not simple.

The more deeply we are in the present moment, the less resistant we are to the ebb and flow of change and evolution.

The more aware we become of all that is within us, positive and negative, light and dark, the more we will be able to handle life in a balanced, sane, and spiritual way.

Each time we undergo even a small transformation and life change, we are reborn.
"There is no greater magic than meditation, to transform the negative into the positive, to transform darkness into light - that is the miracle of meditation." Bhagwan Rajneesh
A human life is a great blessing. If we accept and internalized the fact of our own mortality, then, by definition, we have to deal with the essential questions of how we live and how we spend our allotted time. We have to stop procrastinating, pretending that we have forever to do what we want to do and be what we long to be.
"Do not overlook tiny good actions, thinking they are of no benefit. Even tiny drops of water in the end will fill a large vessel. Do not overlook negative actions merely because they are small. However small a spark may be, it can burn down a haystack as big as a mountain." Buddha

Definition List:
  • rhetoric: speech or writing that is intended to influence people, but that is not completely honest or sincere
  • "ebb and flow": the repeated, often regular, movement from one state to another; the repeated change in level, numbers or amount
  • transformation: a complete change in somebody/something
  • mortality: the state of being human and not living for ever
  • allotted: to give time, money, tasks, etc. to somebody/something as a share of what is available
Pronunciation MP3:
= rhetoric
= ebb
= transformation
= mortality
= allotted

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Live in a Better Way

Live in a Better Way
Reflections on Truth, Love and Happiness
by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Book Quotes:

The practice of Buddhism can be summarized in the short phrase: "If you can't help others, at least don't harm them."

Patience offers you the greatest advantage and benefit in life, the best spiritual development. It transforms your mind, teaches you to be even more patient and abate anger.

The goal in life is not to harm others, but to benefit others. Make their life useful, free them from problems, develop compassion and wisdom to create greater happiness for others.

...contaminated seeds of disturbing thoughts and this is why it is the nature of suffering. A disturbing thought can only produce another disturbing thought.

Buddhism itself is all about empowering yourself, not about getting what you want.

The idea of karma is that you continually get the teachings that you need in order to open your heart.

Word List:
  • to transform: to change the form of something
  • abate: to become less strong; to make something less strong
  • contaminated: to influence people's ideas or attitudes in a bad way
  • empowering: to give somebody more control over their own life or the situation they are in

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Happiness: It’s Here, But We’re Looking Over There

Originally posted on on August 11, 2013
by Lama Thubten Yeshe

It’s difficult to say “Buddhism is this, therefore it should be like that” or to summarize it in a simplistic way because people have a wide variety of views of what Buddhism is.

However, I can say that Buddhism is not what most people consider to be a religion.

First of all, when we study Buddhism we’re also studying ourselves—the nature of our body, speech and mind—the main emphasis being on the nature of our mind and how it works in everyday life. The main topic is not something else like what is Buddha or what is the nature of God or anything like that.

Why is it so important to know the nature of our own mind? It is because we all want happiness, enjoyment, peace and satisfaction. These experiences do not come from ice cream but from wisdom and the mind, so we have to understand what the mind is and how it works.

One thing about Buddhism is that it’s simple and practical; it explains logically how satisfaction comes from the mind and not from some kind of supernatural being in whom we have to believe.

I understand that this idea can be difficult to accept. As a westerner, from the moment you’re born, there’s extreme emphasis on the belief that the source of happiness resides outside of yourself in external objects.

Therefore your sense perception and consciousness have an almost fanatical orientation toward the sense world and you come to value external objects above all else, even your life. This extreme view that over-values material things is a misconception. It is the result of unreasonable and illogical thought.

If you want true peace, happiness and joy, you need to realize that happiness and satisfaction come from within you and stop searching for it so obsessively outside yourself.

You can never find real happiness out there. Do you know anyone who has?

From the moment they evolved, humans have never found true happiness in the external world, even though modern scientific technology seems to think that that’s where the solution to human happiness lies. That’s a totally wrong conception. Of course, technology is necessary and good, but it has to be used skillfully.

Religion is not against technology nor is external development contrary to the practice of religion, even though we do find religious extremists who oppose material development and scientific advancement and non-believers pitted against those who believe. All such fanatics are wrong.

First, let me ask a question. Where in the world can we find somebody who doesn’t believe? Who among us is a true non-believer? In asking this I’m not necessarily referring to conceptual belief. The person who says “I don’t believe” thinks he’s intellectually superior, but all you have to do to puncture his pride is ask a couple of simple questions: “What do you like? What don’t you like?” He’ll come up with a hundred likes and dislikes. “Why do you like those things? Why don’t you like the others?” Questions like those immediately expose all of us as believers.

To live in harmony we have to balance external and internal development. Failure to do so simply leads to mental conflict and restless states of mind.

Buddhism finds no contradiction in advocating external scientific and inner mental development. Both are correct, but depending on mental attitude, each can be positive or negative as well. There’s no such thing as absolute, eternally existent, total positivity or absolute, eternally existent, total negativity. Positive and negative actions are defined mainly by the motivation that gives rise to them not by the actions themselves.

This is why it’s important to avoid extreme views. Extreme emotional attachment to sense objects—“This is good. This makes me happy”—only leads to mental illness. What we need to learn instead is how to remain in the middle, between the extremes of exaggeration and underestimation.

That doesn’t mean that you need to give everything up. You don’t have to get rid of all your possessions. It’s extreme emotional attachment to any object— external or internal—that makes you mentally ill and that’s what you have to abandon.

Western medicine has few answers to that kind of sickness. There’s nothing you can take and it’s hard to cure. Psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists–I doubt that they can solve the problems of attachment. Most of you have probably experienced it. Attachment and the lack of knowledge and wisdom that underlies it are the actual problem.

The reason that Western health professionals can’t treat attachment effectively is that they don’t know how to investigate the reality of the mind. The function of attachment is to bring frustration and misery. We all know this and it’s not that difficult to grasp. In fact, it’s rather simple. But Buddhism has a method of revealing the psychology of attachment and how it works in everyday life. That method is meditation.

Excessive concern for your own comfort and pleasure driven by the exaggerations of attachment automatically leads to feelings of hatred for others. These two incompatible feelings—attachment and hatred—naturally clash in your mind. From the Buddhist point of view, a mind in this kind of conflict is sick and unbalanced.

Going to church or temple once a week is not enough to deal with this. You have to examine your mind all day every day and maintain constant awareness of the way you speak and act.

We usually hurt others unconsciously. In order to observe the actions of our unconscious mind we need to develop powerful wisdom energy, but that’s easier said than done. It takes work to be constantly aware of what’s going on in the mind.

Most religious and non-religious people agree that practicing love and kindness for others is important. How do we develop love and kindness? First we have to understand how and why others suffer, what the best kind of happiness is for them and how they can get it. That’s what we have to investigate, but our emotions get the better of us.

We project our attachments onto others. We think that others like the same things we do, that people’s main problems are hunger and thirst and that food and water are the solution.

The human problem is not hunger and thirst; it’s misconception and mental pollution.

It’s important that you make your mind clear. If you can, the ups and downs of the external world won’t bother you. No matter what happens out there, your mind will remain peaceful and joyous.

If you get too caught up in watching the up and down world you end up going up and down yourself. “Oh, that’s so good! Oh, that’s so bad!” If the outer world is your only source of happiness, its natural fluctuations constantly disturb your peace of mind and you can never be happy. No matter how long you live, it’s impossible.

But if you understand that the world is up and down by nature and expect things to fluctuate, you won’t get upset when they do and as a result your mind will be balanced and peaceful. Whenever your mind is balanced and peaceful you have wisdom and control.

Perhaps you think, “Oh, control! Buddhism is all about control. Who wants control? That’s a Himalayan trip, not a Western one.” But in our experience, control is natural. When you have the wisdom that knows how the uncontrolled mind functions and where it comes from, control comes naturally.

All people have equal potential to control and develop their mind. There’s no distinction according to race, color or nationality. Equally, all can experience mental peace and joy.

Human ability is great and if you use it with wisdom, it’s worthwhile. If you use it with ignorance and emotional attachment, you waste your life. Be careful.

Lord Buddha’s teaching strongly emphasizes understanding over the hallucinated fantasies of the ordinary mind. The emotional projections and hallucinations that arise from unrealistic perceptions are wrong conceptions and as long as your mind is polluted by wrong conceptions you will always be frustrated.

The clean and clear mind is simultaneously joyful, that’s simple to see. When your mind is under the control of extreme attachment on one side and extreme hatred on the other, you have to examine it to see why you grasp at happiness and why you hate.

When you check your objects of attachment and hatred logically, you’ll see that the fundamental reason for these contrary emotions is basically the same thing–emotional attachment and emotional hatred project a hallucinatory object. Either way, you believe in the hallucination.

As I said before, it’s not about an intellectual, “Oh, yes, I believe.” Just saying you believe in something doesn’t actually mean you do. However, belief has deep roots in your subconscious and as long as you’re under the influence of attachment, you’re a believer. Belief doesn’t necessarily have to be in something supernatural or beyond logic. There are many ways to believe.

From the standpoint of Buddhist psychology, in order to have love and compassion for all living beings you first have to develop equilibrium—a feeling that all beings are equal. This is not a radical sort of “I have a piece of candy. I need to cut it up and share it with everybody else,” but rather something you have to work with in your mind. A mind out of balance is an unhealthy mind.

So equalizing sentient beings is not something we do externally, that’s impossible. The equality advocated by Buddhists is completely different from that which the communists talk about. Ours is the inner balance derived from training the mind.

When your mind is even and balanced, you can generate loving kindness for all beings in the universe without discrimination. At the same time, emotional attachment automatically decreases. If you have the right method, it’s not difficult; when right method and right wisdom come together, solving problems is easy.

But we humans suffer from a shortage of intensive knowledge and wisdom. We search for happiness where it doesn’t exist. It’s here, but we’re looking over there.

It’s actually very simple–true peace, happiness and joy lie within you and if you meditate correctly and investigate the nature of your mind you can discover the everlasting happiness and joy within. They’re always with you; they’re mental energy, not external material energy, which always fizzles out.

Mental energy coupled with right method and right wisdom is unlimited and always with you. That’s incredible! And it explains why human beings are so powerful.

Materialists think that people are powerful because of the amazing buildings and so forth that they construct but all that actually comes from the human mind. Without the skill of the human mind there’s no external supermarket. So instead of placing extreme value on regular supermarkets we should try to discover our own internal supermarket. That’s much more useful and leads to a balanced, even mind.

As I mentioned before, it can sound as if Buddhism is telling you to renounce all your possessions because attachment is bad, but renunciation isn’t about physical giving something up. You go to the toilet every day but that doesn’t mean you’re attached to it—you’re not attached to your toilet, are you?

We should have the same attitude towards all of the material things we use and give them a reasonable value according to their usefulness for human existence, not an extreme one.

If a kid runs crazily over dangerous ground to get an apple, trips, falls and breaks his leg, we think he’s foolish for exaggerating the value of the apple and putting his well being at risk for the sake of achieving a tiny goal.

But actually, we’re the same. We exaggerate the beauty of objects of desire and generate extreme attachment toward them, which blinds us to our true potential. This is dangerous. We’re just like the boy who risks his safety for an apple. By looking at objects with emotional attachment and chasing that hallucinated vision we definitely destroy our pure potential.

Human potential is great but we have to use our energy skillfully; we have to know how to put our lives in the right direction. This is extremely important.