silence and non-doing

July 31, 2010

Many people have some ambivalence about silence; they fear it, or don’t value it. Because we only know ourselves through thinking and speaking and acting. But once the mind gets silent, the range of what’s possible is immeasurable. So first you taste the silence. Then you realize that it’s not a vacuum or dead space. It’s not an absence of the real stuff; it’s not that the real stuff is the doing, the talking, and all that. You get comfortable in it and you learn that it’s highly charged with life. It’s a very refined and subtle kind of energy.

And when you come out of it, somehow you’re kinder, more intelligent. It’s not something that you manufacture—it’s an integral part of being alive. And it’s vast. We’ve enclosed ourselves in a relatively small space by thinking. It binds us in, and we’re not aware that we’re living in a tiny, cluttered room. With practice, it’s as if the walls of this room were torn down, and you realize there’s a sky out there.

Larry Rosenberg, The Art of Doing Nothing

We know what we mean by white in comparison to black. We know life in comparison with death. We know pleasure in comparison with pain, up in comparison with down. But all these things must come into being together. You don’t have first something then nothing or first nothing then something.

Something and nothing are two sides to the same coin. If you file away the tails side of a coin completely, the heads side of it will disappear as well. So in this sense, the positive and negative, the something and the nothing, are inseparable – they go together. The nothing is the force whereby the something can be manifested.

– Alan Watts, from Nothingness

with or without words

July 28, 2010

The Dharma is devoid of words or appearances, but it is not separate from words and appearances. If you abandon words you are subject to distorted views and defilements; if you grasp at words, you are deluded as to the truth.

Students of the scriptures often abandon their inner work and pursue externals; some adepts prefer to ignore worldly activity and simply look inward. Both positions are biases which are bound at two extremes.

They are like fighting over whether a rabbit’s horns are long or short, or arguing whether flowers in the sky are profuse or scarce.

– Uichon (1055-1101)

coming out of the dark

July 28, 2010

Rationalism and Newtonian science has lured us into dark woods, but a new metaphysics can rescue us.

– Huston Smith

cultivating compassion

July 25, 2010

Boundaries play an interesting and sometimes complicated role in developing compassion. They are like the stake and wires that are used to help keep young trees rooted and growing straight. Early on in our practice or when we’re faced with difficult, new challenges, a lack of healthy boundaries can lead to our compassion being blown away before it’s had a chance to take root. As we develop, though, boundaries held too tightly can stifle our compassion and keep it from reaching maturity. In the process of developing compassion, we need to become skillful at knowing when to apply boundaries and when to relax or release them.

– Lorne Ladner, “Taking a Stand”

rational conflict

July 22, 2010

The causes of any conflict lie in strong attachment to certain views, and the core of Buddha’s teaching is of great help here. All phenomena, in addition to being transient, arise and disappear according to a complex set of conditions. When we apply this truth to conflict, we give up the simplistic, black-and-white picture through which conflict is usually described and perpetuated. Views about the “good guys” and the “bad guys” simply do not correspond to the reality.

– Zarko Andricevic, from Peace: How Realistic Is It?

What do we understand by meditation? From the Buddhist point of view, meditation is a spiritual discipline, and one that allows you to have some degree of control over your thoughts and emotions.

Why is it that we don’t succeed in enjoying the lasting happiness that we are seeking? Buddhism explains that our normal state of mind is such that our thoughts and emotions are wild and unruly, and since we lack the mental discipline needed to tame them, we are powerless to control them. As a result, they control us. And thoughts and emotions, in their turn, tend to be controlled by our negative impulses rather than our positive ones. We need to reverse this cycle.

The Dalai Lama, “The Dalai Lama’s Little Book of Wisdom”