understanding

April 4, 2010

Understanding is like water flowing in a stream. Wisdom and knowledge are solid and can block our understanding.

In Buddhism, knowledge is regarded as an obstacle for understanding. If we take something to be the truth, we may cling to it so much that even if the truth comes and knocks at our door, we won’t want to let it in.

We have to be able to transcend our previous knowledge the way we climb up a ladder. If we are on the fifth rung and think that we are very high, there is no hope for us to step up to the sixth. We must learn to transcend our own views. Understanding, like water, can flow, can penetrate. Views, knowledge, and even wisdom are solid, and can block the way of understanding.

– Thich Nhat Hanh, from “The Heart Sutra”

wishful thinking

April 3, 2010

Not knowing its strength,
The mosquito sucked too much blood to fly.
Don’t covet what others value.
You’ll pay for it someday.

– Naong Haegun (1320-1376)

just do it

March 28, 2010

Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.

– Alan Watts

happy solitude

March 26, 2010

Being alone means you are established firmly in the here and the now and you become aware of what is happening in the present moment.

You use your mindfulness to become aware of every feeling, every perception you have. You’re aware of what’s happening around you in the sangha, but you’re always with yourself, you don’t lose yourself.

That’s the Buddha’s definition of the ideal practice of solitude: not to be caught in the past or carried away by the future, but always to be here, body and mind united, aware of what is happening in the present moment.

That is real solitude.

– Thich Nhat Hanh from “The Heart of The Matter” (Winter 2009)

thoughtful eating

March 15, 2010

“When you eat with awareness, you find that there is more space, more beauty.  You begin to watch yourself, to see yourself, and you notice how clumsy you are or how accurate you are.  So when you make an effort to eat mindfully, you find that life is worth much more than you had expected.”

– Chogyam Trungpa

skillful speech

March 7, 2010

Skillful speech begins by refraining from lying, slander, profanity, and harsh language. We should avoid language that is rude, abusive, disagreeable, or malicious, and we should abstain from talk that is foolish, idle, babble, or gossip. What remains are words that are truthful, kind, gentle, useful, and meaningful. Our speech will comfort, uplift, and inspire, and we will be a joy to those around us.

The pillar of skillful speech is to speak honestly, which means that we should even avoid telling little white lies. We need to be aware of dishonesty in the forms of exaggerating, minimizing, and self-aggrandizing. These forms of unskillful speech often arise from a fear that what we are is not good enough––and that is never true. Honesty begins at home, so the practice of skillful speech begins with being honest with ourselves.

– Allan Lokos, from “Skillful Speech”

it matters not

March 1, 2010

As it says in The Way of the Bodhisattva, praise and a good reputation do nothing to increase our longevity or good health.  Maybe if lots of people praised us we might get a bit richer!  But apart from that, praise does not make us live longer or in better health or help us in any other way.  If people criticize us, it does not make us sick or unhealthy and nor does it shorten our lives. It does not affect us in any substantial way at all.

If we really stop to think about praise and criticism, we will see they do not have the least importance.  Whether we receive praise or criticism is of no account.  The only important thing is that we have a pure motivation, and let the law of cause and effect be our witness.  If we are really honest, we can see that it makes no difference whether we receive praise and acclaim.

– The Dalai Lama, “Bad Repuation” (Summer 2007)

be nice

February 21, 2010

It’s rather embarrassing to have given one’s entire life to pondering the human predicament and to find that in the end one has little more to say than, “try to be a little kinder.”

– Aldous Huxley, as quoted by Huston Smith

crooked cucumber

February 18, 2010

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.

– Shunryu Suzuki

Now I teach you to be like someone who has died the great death. If you truly can be like someone who has died the great death, then why should you spend time on intense effort, or on studying Ch’an and the Way, or on bowing and burning incense? It is a lot of wasted effort. I have been the abbot at five different monasteries, and what I have taught my followers at all of them does not go beyond this: be like someone who has died the great death.

– Ch’an-t’i Wei-chao (1084-1128)