Thursday, July 29, 2010

In the end, all souls must walk their path

You cannot help another who will not help him or herself.

In the end, all souls must walk their path -- and the reason they are walking a particular path may not be clear to us...or even to them at the level of ordinary human consciousness.

Do what you can to help others, of course. Show love and caring whenever and wherever you can. But do not get caught up in someone else's "story" to the point where you start writing it. Know what I mean?

Love, Your Friend....

In the Presence of Difficulty

True compassion recognizes that all the boundaries we perceive between ourselves and others are an illusion.

Compassion is the ability to see the deep connectedness between ourselves and others. Moreover, true compassion recognizes that all the boundaries we perceive between ourselves and others are an illusion. When we first begin to practice compassion, this very deep level of understanding may elude us, but we can have faith that if we start where we are, we will eventually feel our way toward it. We move closer to it every time we see past our own self-concern to accommodate concern for others. And, as with any skill, our compassion grows most in the presence of difficulty.

We practice small acts of compassion every day, when our loved ones are short-tempered or another driver cuts us off in traffic. We extend our forgiveness by trying to understand their point of view; we know how it is to feel stressed out or irritable. The practice of compassion becomes more difficult when we find ourselves unable to understand the actions of the person who offends us. These are the situations that ask us to look more deeply into ourselves, into parts of our psyches that we may want to deny, parts that we have repressed because society has labeled them bad or wrong. For example, acts of violence are often well beyond anything we ourselves have perpetuated, so when we are on the receiving end of such acts, we are often at a loss. This is where the real potential for growth begins, because we are called to shine a light inside ourselves and take responsibility for what we have disowned. It is at this juncture that we have the opportunity to transform from with! in.

This can seem like a very tall order, but when life presents us with circumstances that require our compassion, no matter how difficult, we can trust that we are ready. We can call upon all the light we have cultivated so far, allowing it to lead the way into the darkest parts of our own hearts, connecting us to the hearts of others in the understanding that is true compassion. 

From DailyOM

What Benefits Can Buddhism Bring to Humankind?

Sayadaw U Dhammapāla

Tonight’s talk is on “What Benefits Can Buddhism Bring to Humankind?“. Why is this topic chosen? Because this is the concern of every human being; everyone wants to be happy, not to be sad. But are you all happy?

At one time the Buddha was asked why everybody wished to be happy, but most of them were not happy? The Buddha answered that it was due to jealousy and stinginess.

Thus, owing to these defilements many people seek only for their own happiness, ignoring the welfare of others, even to the extent of causing harm to others. However seeking happiness in the wrong way brings little joy, but much suffering. The worst thing is that they are unaware that they are wrong, because they cannot differentiate what is wholesome and what is unwholesome. You may think that this is not true, and hold that a normal person can differentiate what is wholesome and what is unwholesome.

To this, let me ask you a few questions. In the morning when you take a copy of the newspaper and read, what does it teach you? In the evening, having come back from work and taken your dinner, you sit down and watch TV, and what does TV teach you then?. Both of them teach you to increase your greed, showing that various kinds of sensual pleasure are real happiness. Furthermore they show you how to be violent. In short, most of the contents of the newspaper and TV are full of those teachings which increase your greed, anger, and delusion. And under their powerful influence, many people are led onto the wrong path. But it is hard to say that the fault lies only with the mass media, because it just provides what people want and what they think is good. However, whether it is good or not, it does not depend on how you think. We can know this from many suttas given by the Buddha.

The Samyutta Nikaya states that: Once a famous stage manager and actor named Talaputa went to see the Buddha. He said that his teacher had told him that an actor, through making people laugh by composing and playing false stories, would, after death, be reborn in the company of laughing devas. And he asked the Buddha what was his opinion on this matter. The Buddha told him not to ask that question. However the stage manager insisted and asked the same question three times. Then the Buddha said that he would, if that kamma ripens, be reborn in the laughing hell. The reason is that he brought defiled or tainted happiness to many people, and made their greed, anger and delusion increase.

Thus one of the benefits that Buddhism provides the human world is the knowledge of what is wholesome and what is unwholesome. This is a kind of right view which is a very important factor for your welfare as well as that of others, because only when you have right view will you know how to walk on the right path. For example, after listening to the Buddha, the stage manager Talaputa gave up his actor career and became a bhikkhu. Then he practised meditation and before long attained arahatship. On the contrary, he who has no right view will probably do whatever he likes, such as indulging in sensual pleasures, craving for name and fame, drinking, gambling. These will bring him suffering for a long time. On the other hand, a person with right view would likely engage in wholesome deeds, such as performing giving, practising virtuous conduct, cultivating loving-kindness and compassion, and purifying his mind through meditation. These will bring him happiness for a long time.

In the Dhammapada verses 316 and 317, the Buddha says:

“Those who are ashamed of what is not shameful, and unashamed of what is shameful, such beings, embracing wrong views, go to the woeful state.”

“Those who see fear in the non-fearsome, and do not see fear in the fearsome, such beings, embracing wrong views, go to the woeful state.”

These words of the Buddha are a real reflection of the modern age. For example, many poor people are ashamed of their poverty, and many rich people are so proud of their wealth; unattractive people are ashamed of their ugliness, and beautiful people are so proud of their beauty. But are money and beauty the yardsticks of what is shameful and what is not shameful. Certainly they are not. In either cases, if the person is virtuous, then there is nothing to be ashamed of, but if the person is immoral, then even if he is very rich and handsome, there is nothing to be proud of. Having known this you should always examine whether the thing you are going to do is wholesome or unwholesome. And through doing only what is wholesome, you become harmless to other beings; this is a kind of giving of fearlessness. Furthermore you yourselves also will gain benefits from your wholesome deeds.

Here I shall give you a summary of the Bālapandita Sutta, the Discourse of Fools and Wise Men, to show that how a fool causes his own destruction, and how a wise man uplifts his own mind. In the sutta, the Buddha says to bhikkhus thus:

“Bhikkhus, there are these three characteristics of a fool, signs of a fool, attributes of a fool. What are the three? Here a fool is one who thinks bad thoughts, speaks bad words, and does bad deeds. If a fool were not so, how would the wise know him thus: “This person is a fool, an untrue man”? But because a fool is one who thinks bad thoughts, speaks bad words, and does bad deeds, the wise know him thus: “This person is a fool, an untrue man.”

Then the Buddha tells the bhikkhus that a fool, who kills living beings, takes what is not given, wrongly conducts himself in sensual pleasures, speaks falsehood, and indulges himself in wine, liquor, and intoxicants, will feel pain and grief here and now in three ways: First, when he sees people are discussing, he thinks that they are talking about his bad deeds. Second, when the fool sees a criminal is being punished by a king, and having many kinds of torture inflicted on him, he, being one who did the same kinds of crime, would be frightened. Third, when he rests on a chair, bed, or the ground, the evil actions that he did in the past cover him, over-spread him, and envelop him. Then the fool thinks: “I have not done what is good, I have not done what is wholesome, I have not made myself a shelter from anguish. I have done what is evil, I have done what is cruel, I have done what is wicked. When I pass away, I shall go to the destination of those who have not done what is good, … of those who have done what is wicked.”

After that, the Buddha says:

“A fool who has given himself over to misconduct of body, speech, and mind, on the dissolution of the body, after death, reappears in a state of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, even in hell.

“Were it rightly speaking to be said of anything: “That is utterly unwished for, utterly disagreeable,” it is of hell that, rightly speaking, this should be said, so much so that it is hard to find a simile for the suffering in hell.”

When this was said, a bhikkhu asked the Blessed One: “But, Venerable Sir, can a simile be given?”

“It can be, bhikkhu,” the Blessed One said. “Bhikkhus, suppose men caught a robber and presented him to the king, saying: “Sire, here is a robber. Order what punishment you will for him.” Then the king said: “Go and strike this man in the morning with a hundred spears.” And they struck him in the morning with a hundred spears. Then at noon the king asked: “How is that man?” -”Sire, he is still alive.” Then the king said: “Go and strike this man at noon with a hundred spears.” And they struck him at noon with a hundred spears. Then in the evening the king asked: “How is that man?” – “Sire, he is still alive.” Then the king said: “Go and strike this man in the evening with a hundred spears.” And they struck him in the evening with a hundred spears. What do you think, bhikkhus? Would that man experience pain and grief because of being struck with the three hundred spears?”

“Venerable Sir, that man would experience pain and grief because of being struck with even one spear, let alone three hundred.”

Then, taking a small stone the size of his hand, the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus thus: “What do you think, bhikkhus? Which is the greater, this small stone that I have taken, the size of my hand, or Himalaya, the king of mountains?”

“Venerable Sir, the small stone that the Blessed One has taken, the size of his hand, does not count beside Himalaya, the king of mountains; it is not even a fraction, there is no comparison.”

“So too, bhikkhus, the pain and grief that the man would experience because of being struck with the three hundred spears does not count beside the suffering of hell; it is not even a fraction, there is no comparison.

“Now the wardens of hell torture him with the fivefold transfixing. They drive a red-hot iron stake through one hand, they drive a red-hot iron stake through another hand, they drive a red-hot iron stake through one foot, they drive a red-hot iron stake through another foot, they drive a red-hot iron stake through his belly. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings. Yet he does not die so long as that evil action has not exhausted its result.

“Next the wardens of hell throw him down and pare him with axes. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings. Yet he does not die so long as that evil action has not exhausted its result.

“Next the wardens of hell set him with his feet up and his head down and pare him with adzes. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings. Yet he does not die so long as that evil action has not exhausted its result.

“Next the wardens of hell harness him to a chariot and drive him back and forth across burning ground, blazing, and glowing. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings. Yet he does not die so long as that evil action has not exhausted its result.

“Next the wardens of hell make him climb up and down a great mound of burning coals, blazing, and glowing. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings. Yet he does not die so long as that evil action has not exhausted its result.

“Next the wardens of hell take him feet up and head down and plunge him into a red-hot metal cauldron, burning, blazing, and glowing. He is cooked there in a swirl of froth. And as he is being cooked there in a swirl of froth, he is swept now up, now down, and now across. There he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings. Yet he does not die so long as that evil action has not exhausted its result.

“Next the wardens of hell throw him into the Great Hell. Now as to that Great Hell, bhikkhus: It has four corners and is built

With four doors, one set in each side,

Walled up with iron and all around

And shut in with an iron roof.

Its floor as well is made of iron

And heated till it glows with fire.

The range is a full hundred leagues

Which it covers all-pervasively.

“Bhikkhus, I could tell you in many ways about hell. So much so that it is hard to find a simile for the suffering in hell.”

I do not quote these words of the Buddha to frighten you, but just to show the facts, so that you know how to avoid falling into such a pathetic state.

In the sutta the Buddha gives also a simile to show how long the fool has to suffer in the woeful states. There he says:

“Suppose a man threw into the sea a yoke with one hole in it, and the east wind carried it to the west, and the west wind carried it to the east, and the north wind carried it to the south, and the south wind carried it to the north. Suppose there were a blind turtle that came up to the surface once at the end of each century. What do you think, bhikkhus? Would that blind turtle put his neck into that yoke with one hole in it?”

“He might, Venerable Sir, sometime or other at the end of a long period.”

“Bhikkhus, the blind turtle would take less time to put his neck into that yoke with a single hole in it than a fool, once gone to perdition, would take to regain the human state, I say. Why is that? Because there is no practising of the Dhamma there, no practising of what is righteous, no doing of what is wholesome, no performance of merit. There, mutual devouring and the slaughter of the weak prevails.

“If, sometime or other, at the end of a long period, that fool comes back to the human state, it is into a low family that he is reborn-into a family of outcasts or hunters or bamboo-workers or cartwrights or scavengers-one that is poor with little to eat and drink, surviving with difficulty, where he scarcely finds food and clothing; and he is ugly, unsightly, and misshapen, sickly, blind, cripple-handed, lame, or paralysed; he gets no food, drink, clothes, vehicles, garlands, scents and unguents, bed, lodging, and light; he misconducts himself in body, speech, and mind, and having done that, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in a state of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, even in hell.

“Bhikkhus, suppose a gambler at the very first unlucky throw loses his child and his wife and all his property and furthermore goes into bondage himself, yet an unlucky throw such as that is negligible; it is a far more unlucky throw when a fool who misconducts himself in body, speech, and mind, on the dissolution of the body, after death, reappears in a state of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, even in hell. This is the complete perfection of the fool’s grade.”

Thus it is said that hell is the real home of a fool, and only after a long time in hell they take a short vocation in the human world. And after the short vocation, he will go back to hell. That is why the Buddha says that it is difficult to be born as a human being. However many people do not really appreciate being born as a human being. They regret that they did not make a proper use of human life only when they are reborn in the woeful states, but then it is too late.

After suffering in the great hell for a long time, a fool will be reborn in a minor hell. After suffering for a long time there, he will be reborn in another minor hell. After suffering thus for a long time in various hells, he will be reborn in the peta world. Again he has to suffer for a long time there, and then he may be reborn as an animal. In the animal world, mutual devouring and the slaughter of the weak prevails, and he makes a lot of bad kamma. After death he is again reborn in hell. After going in such a cycle for many times, he may be reborn as a human being. But again he makes a lot of bad kamma, and after death he is reborn in hell. Thus we can call a fool as a permanent inhabitant of hell.

From here we can see how a fool without right view wrongly conducts himself in body, speech, and mind, bringing himself destruction. Thus it is very important that we are able to differentiate between the wholesome and the unwholesome, and to act in accordance with the wholesome, so that we can promote our own welfare as well as that of others. While Buddhism shows you the danger of unwholesome deeds, it shows also the benefit of wholesome deeds. This is a real benefit that modern science cannot provide. Further, Buddhism can benefit humankind not only in this life, but also in the life to come, as the Buddha says in the Bālapandita Sutta:

“A wise man who has given himself over to good conduct of body, speech, and mind, on the dissolution of the body, after death, reappears in a happy destination, even in heaven.

And in the sutta, the Buddha further says:

“If, sometime or other, at the end of a long period, the wise man comes back to the human state, it is into a high family that he is reborn–into a family of well-to-do nobles, or well-to-do brahmins, or well-to-do householders–one that is rich, of great wealth, of great possessions, with abundant gold and silver, with abundant assets and means, and with abundant money and grain. He is handsome, comely and graceful, possessing supreme beauty of complexion. He obtains food and drink, clothes, vehicles, garlands, scents and unguents, bed, lodging, and light. He conducts himself well in body, speech, and mind, and having done so, on the dissolution of the body, after death, reappears in a happy destination, even in the heavenly world.

“Bhikkhus, suppose a gambler at the very first lucky throw won a great fortune, yet a lucky throw such as that is negligible; it is a far more lucky throw when a wise man who conducts himself well in body, speech, and mind, and having done so, on the dissolution of the body, after death, reappears in a happy destination, even in the heavenly world. This is the complete perfection of the wise man’s grade.”

That is what the Blessed One said. The bhikkhus were satisfied and delighted in the Blessed One’s words. And dear audience, are you satisfied with and delighted in the Blessed One’s words?

If you want to be really delighted, you have to live in accordance with what the Buddha says, only then can you benefit from the Buddha’s words and be delighted. However, although most Buddhists know the natural law of kamma and kamma-result in their heads, they do not take it into their hearts; they believe in it, but do not practise in accordance with it. A fool will only hope that there is no bad result from bad kamma, and there is spontaneous good result without having performed a good kamma. But the natural law of kamma and kamma-result does not bother whether you believe in it or not, or if you like it or not; it will still work according to its own principle: good begets good, bad begets bad. Thus the result we will get depends on what we do, not what we hope.

Buddhists always talk about loving-kindness and compassion. But that is not good enough. They must put them into action. They must practise giving wisely with a loving mind. They must at least keep their five precepts pure. If a person does not keep the five basic precepts, but kills living beings, steals others‘ property, commits sexual misconduct and so on as he likes, then can we say that he is compassionate? Certainly he is not. How can a compassionate person kill living beings? Such a person is not only not dear to other beings, but also not dear to himself. As regards this, we can understand from the Kosala Samyutta of Samyutta Nikaya.

Once King Pasenadi said to the Buddha: “Venerable Sir, once when I was alone, retired to a quiet place, this thought arose in my mind, “Who are dear to themselve, and who are not dear to themselves?” Then, Venerable Sir, I thought, “Those who practise unwholesome bodily, verbal, and mental actions are not dear to themselves. Even though they may say, “I love myself“, they do not love themselves. Why is that? Because what they have done is what their enemy would do to them. That is why they do not love themselves.

On the other hand, those who practise wholesome bodily, verbal, and mental actions are dear to themselves. Even they say, “I do not love myself“, they do love themselves. Why is that? Because what they have done is what their friend would do to them.

To the king‘s thoughts, the Buddha said: “That is so, Sire, that is so. What you have said I will repeat and confirm it.”

Thus, if you really love yourselves, you should act in accordance with what the Buddha approved of, and with what the Buddha says in the Dhammapada verse 157:

“If one knows oneself to be dear (to oneself), let one keep close watch upon oneself. During any of the three watches the wise man should keep vigil.”

Here the three watches mean the three periods of the life of a man.

So if you wish for your own welfare you should do good, and if you wish for others‘ welfare you should also do good. You should practise generosity, giving to those who are in need. In this way you benefit both yourselves and others. What benefits can you get from giving? In the Culakammavibhavga Sutta or the Shorter Exposition of Action of Majjhima Nikaya, the Buddha says:

“Here, student, some man or woman gives food, drink, clothing, carriage, garlands, scents, unguents, beds, dwelling, and lamps to recluses or brahmins. Because of performing and undertaking such action, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in a happy destination, even in the heavenly world. But if on the dissolution of the body, after death, he does not reappear in a happy destination, in the heavenly world, but instead comes back to the human state, then wherever he is reborn he is wealthy.“

However the Buddha says that only the giving of those who have pure virtuous conduct can be fulfilled. That means you must keep your five precepts pure. Further, if you keep the basic five precepts you will also get their respective good result. Taking the first precept of non-killing as an example, the Buddha says in the Culakammavibhanga Sutta:

“Here, student, some man or woman, abandoning the killing of living beings, abstains from killing living beings; with rod and weapon laid aside, gentle and kindly, he abides compassionate to all living beings. Because of performing and undertaking such action, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in a happy destination, even in the heavenly world. But if on the dissolution of the body, after death, he does not reappear in a happy destination, in the heavenly world, but instead comes back to the human state, then wherever he is reborn he is long-lived.”

Now, you may doubt whether there is future life. To this, you should reflect wisely. If there is no future life, to do good still gives benefits in your present life, such as living with a peaceful mind, having a good name, being praised by the wise, having no remorse. But if there is future life, you will be happier in your future life. Just like what the Buddha says in the Dhammapada verse 16:

“He rejoices here, he rejoices hereafter, in both worlds the well-doer rejoices. He rejoices, exceedingly rejoices, seeing his own pure deeds.”

On the other hand, even if there is no future life, to do bad will still give yourselves suffering in the present life, such as living with an ever agitated mind, having a notorious name, blamed by the wise, having a mind filled with remorse, etc. And if there is future life, you will experience more pain in your future life. Just like what the Buddha says in the Dhammapada verse 17:

“He grieves here, he grieves hereafter, in both worlds the evil-doer grieves. “I have done evil” is the thought that torments him. Still greater is the grief when he goes to the states of woe.”

Considering this you should do only what is good; in this way you will have no loss in this life and in the life to come.

From tonight‘s talk, I hope you now know what benefits Buddhism can give to humankind. They are: (1) the knowledge of virtuous conduct and mental development which is far superior to the material development provided by modern science, and (2) the good results accrued from that mental development. These benefits are not that which gives you short-lived happiness, like the honey on a sharp blade. You can experience the benefits without having to suffer for them later. However these are not the highest kind of benefit that Buddhism can give to humankind.

In my next two talks I will tell you the higher benefits that you can gain from practising Buddhism. And before I stop tonight‘s talk, I would like to cite a verse from the Dhammapada:

“A man defiles himself through his own evil actions; he purifies himself by avoiding evil. Purity and impurity depend on oneself. No one can purify another.”

This means that if you want to better your life and uplift your mind, you yourselves have to put forth effort in cultivating purity; others cannot do it for you.

May you benefit from the Buddha‘s teachings.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How to Meditate

Why is sitting and doing nothing the most difficult, mysterious, joyful, painful, profound, and life-changing thing we can do?

Because it is the radical opposite of what we usually do to try to make ourselves happy. Yet, it works! In this selection of articles from the Shambhala Sun, we present teachings on the various techniques of meditation from all the major schools of Buddhism.

A perfect companion to our September 2010 "How to Meditate" issue. (Click here to browse the magazine online.) Just click any article's title to start reading.


How to Meditate

Basic Buddhist mindfulness/awareness meditation instructions from Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.

Getting Started

Norman Fischer proposes a short trial run to get your meditation practice started. Take note, beginners: it doesn't get any clearer than this! From our special 2010 "How to Meditate" issue.

Tonglen: Bad In, Good Out

Pema Chödrön teaches a practice for connecting with suffering — ours and that which is all around us — everywhere we go. From our 2010 "How to Meditate" issue.

A Mind Like Sky: Wise Attention and Open Awareness

In Buddhist meditation wise attention—mindfulness—acts like a zoom lens. Our meditation ranges from close attention to the details of our body and breath, to open awareness as vast as the sky. Jack Kornfield, presents a meditation from his book The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness and Peace.

Going at our Own Pace on the Path of Meditation

“Our mind is like hard ground that has not seen water for a long time. As meditation practitioners, we begin to till that ground so that we can grow the mind of enlightenment.” The first of three teachings from Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche on basic meditation.

How to do Mindfulness Meditation

“Mindfulness practice is simple and completely feasible. Just by sitting and doing nothing, we are doing a tremendous amount.” The second of three teachings from Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche on basic meditation.

Shamatha Meditation: Training the Mind

“The process of undoing bewilderment is based on stabilizing and strengthen our mind. Shamatha meditation is how we do that.” The last of three teachings from Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche on basic meditation.

Returning Home

Thich Nhat Hanh offers a guided meditation to relax our body and mind and return to the here and now. Fully present, fully alive, we find we are already home.

Mindfulness, Compassion, and Wisdom: Three Means to Peace

Joseph Goldstein on how three principles of meditation can be applied to the world's conflicts. The method is mindfulness, the expression is compassion, and the essence is wisdom.

Mahamudra and Dzogchen: Thought-Free Wakefulness

The ability to dissolve thoughts is essential to attaining liberation, says renowned Dzogchen teacher Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche. Devotion and Pure Perception are two principles that lie at the root of Vajrayana practice that lead beyond confusion to thought-free wakefulness.

Riding the Crest of the Wave

“In subtle and in more obvious ways, the experience of birth and death is continuous," says Judy Lief. "All that we experience arises fresh, appears for a time, and then dissolves. It is as if we were riding the crest of a wave in the middle of a vast ocean. That arising and falling of experience is our life; it is what we have to work with.”

Yoga Body, Buddha Mind

A complete spiritual practice—or even just a healthy, satisfying life—requires working with both body and mind. Cyndi Lee and David Nichtern explain why yoga practice and Buddhist meditation is the perfect mind-body combination.

The Power of Positive Karma

Rebirth and karma are the Buddhist beliefs that Westerners find hardest to accept. Yet are they really so foreign to us? If we look at our own experience, we find that thoughts, emotions, and self-images are continually arising, ending, and being reborn. We see that the seeds we plant in our consciousness in one moment will determine what we experience in the next. This is also what we experience as we go from lifetime to lifetime. Therefore, says Tulku Thondup Rinpoche, we should be concerned above all else with creating positive karma to lay the ground for our future enlightenment.

Beyond Present, Past, and Future is The Fourth Moment

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche on meditation, the spiritual path, and a sense of basic being beyond relative time

Going Nowhere

The Zen practice of just sitting, says Lewis Richmond, doesn’t help us to reach our destination. It allows us to stop having one. But how do you “go” nowhere?

Sitting Meditation Step by Step: Being in the Body, Labeling, and Opening into the Heart of Experiencing

Zen teacher Ezra Bayda discusses three aspects of the Buddhist practice of sitting meditation. Being in the body is the ground of practice. Labeling our thoughts breaks our identification with them. Opening into the heart of experience awakens us to love and compassion.

How to Practice Vipassana Insight Meditation

Step-by-Step instructions on how to do this important meditation practice, the foundation of all Buddhist meditations, from the famed Vipassana master Sayadaw U Pandita.

Vipassana Meditation

Vipassana Meditation aims at personal transformation. Through understanding and awareness we retrain the mind and life becomes a glide instead of a struggle. A teaching from Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana.

Taming the Mind, Transforming Ourselves

Traleg Rinpoche describes the techniques of Buddhist meditation. Taming and transforming our wild passions involves the meditation of paying attention to the body and paying attention to our thoughts.

Building Your Mental Muscles

Meditators and musclemen don’t seem to have much in common, but Thanissaro Bhikkhu says meditators can learn a lot from the techniques of strength training.

More related articles:

Awakening in the Body, by Phillip Moffitt
The Key to Knowing Ourselves is Meditation, by Pema Chödrön
Buddhist Meditation is Relaxing with the Truth, by Pema Chödrön
Counsels from My Heart, by Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche
The Universal Meditation Technique of S.N. Goenka, by Norman Fischer
Nine Stages of Training the Mind, by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
True Stories About Sitting Meditation, with Charlotte Joko Beck, Joseph Goldstein, Sylvia Boorstein and Sharon Salzberg
How We Get Hooked and How We Get Unhooked, by Pema Chödrön
How to Live a Genuine Life, by Ezra Bayda
Loosening the Knots of Anger, by Thich Nhat Hanh
The Practice of Looking Deeply Using Three Dharma Seals: Impermanence, No-self, and Nirvana, by Thich Nhat Hanh
Meditation: The Four Foundations of Mindfulness, by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Zen Mountain MonasteryShambhala
Insight Meditation Society
Cambridge Insight Meditation CenterSan Francisco Zen Center

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Unlimited Vision

Everything is in Divine Order
We can only see so much from where we sit in our particular bodies, in the midst of our particular lives, rooted as we are in the continuum of space and time. The divine, on the other hand, is not limited to the constructs of either space or time, and its wisdom and workings often elude us as we try to make sense of what is happening in our lives. This is why things are not always what they seem to be and even the best-laid plans are sometimes overturned. Even when we feel we have been guided by our intuition every step of the way, we may find ourselves facing unexpected loss and disappointment. At times like these, we can find some solace in trusting that no matter how bad or just plain inexplicable things look from our perspective, they are, in fact, in divine order.

Even as we take our places in this earthly realm, a part of us remains completely free of the confines we face here. Regardless of what is happening in our lives, this part of us remains infused with joy and gratitude, connected to the unbroken source from which we come. Our small self, on the other hand, who is caught up in our false identity as a being limited in space and time, regards happiness as the result of things going the way it wants them to go. It is this part of us that suffers the greatest confusion and upset when the logic of events does not compute. And it is to this self that we must extend unconditional love, forgiveness, and compassion. In order to do this, we tap into our inner divinity, holding the space of a tender authority, extending love and light to our ego as a mother extends her love to a troubled child.

There are many ways to access our inner divinity—meditation, prayer, chanting, channeling, and conscious breathing, to name a few. It is helpful to develop a regular practice that provides us access to this all-powerful, healing presence, as it can be difficult to reach once we are in a stressful position, if we have not already established a connection. The more connected we are with this part of ourselves, the more we share its unlimited vision and the secure, knowing that all the things of our life, no matter how they appear, are in a state of divine and perfect order. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

In the human heart

On this day of your life, I believe God wants you to know...
...that the salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.

Vaclav Havel said that and he was right. Some people say that our salvation lies with God, or with God's Son, yet is not the human heart the place where such Divinity is found?

Therefore open your heart, and open TO your heart, that you may hear its call to reflect, to be meek, and to be responsible.

Love, Your Friend...

Neale Donald Walsch

Monday, July 19, 2010

How Your Words Can Change Your Life

he spoken word has incredible power.
If you can harness that power and put it to work in a positive way, you can change your life and become a happier, more successful person. This isn’t new age psychobabble — there’s science behind it.

I have become fascinated with the science of neuroplasticity and the impact it has on our ability to “live bold and bloom.” Neuroplasticity is a term that describes the ability of the brain to change and adapt in response to stimuli, cognitive demands, and new learning. As a result, the brain can create new neural pathways and connections.

For the damaged or disabled brain (such as people with strokes or brain injuries), plasticity allows the brain to repair or reroute damaged neural pathways so a person can re-learn to use functions previously lost to brain damage. With repetitive practice, a stroke victim can learn to re-use an affected limb because other parts of the brain begin to take over the movement function for that limb.

For me and you in our everyday lives, the adaptable brain allows us to make profound positive changes if we are willing to do the work. One area where this work has a daily practical application is with our words and the language we use. 

“Be careful of your thoughts; they may become words at any moment.” ~Ira Gassen

If you are repetitively thinking negative thoughts, you are actually strengthening neural pathways in your brain that support continued negative thinking. Negative thinking leads to negative feelings, and negative feelings impact your relationships, work, motivation and sense of well-being.

Now, if you speak your negative thoughts and put your feelings into words, you are exponentially reinforcing your brain to remain in that negative thought pattern. If your language is filled with fearful comments, self-condemnation, negative remarks about others, complaints, or self-pity, you are literally talking yourself into more of the same.

Alternatively, if you focus your mind on positive and affirming thoughts, even if you don’t feel happy or positive in the moment, you will stimulate and reinforce the “happy” part of your brain. With repetitive practice, your feelings will change for the better, supported by a stronger happy brain function.
If you want to accelerate the process of feeling great about yourself and your life, change your language to reflect your positive thinking. Speaking words puts action behind thought. It gives momentum and reality to the thought.

Changing your language is the first real action step toward changing your life for the better.
Now, I suspect some might see this positive talk as potentially false or too Pollyanna. Well it might be. You don’t have to believe it at first to begin the practice of retraining your brain. You just have to speak the words and try to put some feeling behind them. As with physical exercise, you get stronger and more motivated as you continue the practice.

Awareness of your own thought and language habits is the key to this work.
If you accept and embrace (and I hope you do) that you can change your life by changing your thoughts and words, then you must start paying attention to your thoughts and words.

Here are some ways that you can begin to incorporate a new positive language in your daily life:

1. Language starts with thought. Pay attention to your thoughts, and whenever you catch yourself in a negative thought pattern, bring it to a screeching halt. Immediately say out loud, “Stop!” Break the pattern by speaking or singing something to distract you from the negative thoughts. Repeat this for five minutes to unlock the negative pattern.

2. Start your day with verbal intention. When you wake up, go to your mirror and have a chat with yourself. State out loud your intention for how your day will proceed. For example, say something like, “I intend to have a joyful, fun and productive day filled with positive and successful interactions and events.”

3. Use car time as self-talk time. My friend Steve Chandler who is a speaker and coach uses his time in the car to practice his coaching and speaking skills out loud. Instead of listening to negative news on the radio or feeling anxious about traffic, use the time in the car to repeat positive affirmations about yourself or to rehearse a positive conversation or presentation. You may feel goofy doing this, but do it anyway. This verbal activity will reinforce the feelings behind the words you are speaking.

4. Disengage from negative conversations. When other people start kvetching about their day or some co-worker or politics, politely excuse yourself from the conversation. If that’s not possible, do what you can to steer the conversation in a more positive direction. Whatever you do, don’t participate in this pessimistic discourse. There is nothing positive that will come from it.

5. Express gratitude. Several times a day, take a moment to look around you and verbally acknowledge what you are grateful for. I just did this little exercise as I am writing this post and expressed gratitude for my computer, my ability to write, the people who will be reading my post, the bird on the limb outside my window, the books on my desk. You get the picture. Good things are all around us, and if we take the time to see them and speak thanks for them, we begin to feel uplifted and happy.

6. Follow difficult words with action words. There are times when we do have to speak about negative, painful or unpleasant things. During these times, speaking about our pain helps us unburden ourselves from it. It is a necessary part of healing. But once the burden begins to lift, follow up with words and discussion around healing and action. Speak about feeling better and moving forward even before you feel ready to do so. You will be paving the path for yourself as you take the first step toward healing and happiness.

7. Include writing in the mix. If you really want to give your brain a double whammy, write down your affirmations, words of gratitude or positive thoughts, before you speak them. Writing about these ideas is another reinforcing action step that sends signals to the pre-frontal cortex, stimulating feelings of joy.

8. Do the work consistently. Strengthening your brain and transforming your thoughts and feelings takes practice. Like exercise, the work must be done regularly and with intensity if you want to see results.

Commit to pro-actively speaking positive affirmations and words of gratitude at least three times a day. Pay attention to your thoughts and words all the time. Regularly remove yourself from negative conversations. Rate your level of happiness and contentment on a scale of one to ten as you begin this work, and then rate yourself again after a month or two to see how you are progressing.

Your words are tools that can set you free and change your life. Choose them wisely.


Change for the better

On this day of your life, I believe God wants you to know...

...that all change is change for the better.
There is no such thing as "change for the worse."

Change is the process of Life Itself, and that process could be called by the name "evolution." And evolution moves in only one direction: forward, and toward improvement.

Therefore, when change visits your life, you can be sure things are turning for the better. It may not look that way in the very moment change arrives, but if you will wait a while and have faith in the process, you will see that this is true.

Neale Donald Walsch 

The law of attraction cannot change anything in your life that you hate, because hate prevents the change from coming. Since the law is giving us exactly what we are putting out, when you hate something the law must continue to give you more of what you hate. You will not be able to move away from it. Love is the only way. If you focus completely on the things you love, then you are on your way to a beautiful life.

May the joy be with you,

Rhonda Byrne

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Gazing Upon Goodness

The Importance of Seeing the Good in All

It is important to see the good in all as there are blessings in every aspect of our reality, and the potential for grace exists in all beings.

Our perception shapes the lives we lead because the universe adjusts itself almost instantly to our expectations. When we look for negativity, we are bound to come across it in abundance. Conversely, we create positive energy when we endeavor to see the goodness around us. As easy as it is to criticize the people and situations that frustrate or hurt us, we do ourselves a disservice in the process. It is important to see the good in all as there are blessings hiding in every aspect of our outer-world reality, and the potential for grace exists in all human beings. When our lives are flooded with challenges, grief, and pain, we may be tempted to believe that some individuals or incidents are simply bad. But if we look for the good in all, good reveals itself to us, easing our doubts and reminding us that the universe is a place of balance.

There is a perceptible energetic shift that takes place when we choose to see the good in all. The unnecessary tension that came into being when we dwelled on negativity fades away and is replaced by sympathetic tolerance. We can forgive those that have wronged us because we recognize in them traits we admire, and we may even discover that we can bring out the good in one another. Though loss still grieves us, we recognize the beginning of a new phase of existence that abounds with fresh opportunities. Each new challenge becomes another chance to prove ourselves, and we learn to show great patience in the face of difficulty. There are few pleasures greater than gazing outward and seeing beauty, wisdom, and harmony. These are the attributes of the universe that help us to cope when we encounter their opposing forces.

Since you create your reality, you make your world a better place each time you acknowledge the good in your circumstances and in the people you encounter. As you draw attention to the positive aspects of the world around you, your understanding of the affirmative nature of all existence will grow. There are few lessons you will learn in this life that will prove as instrumental to your happiness and satisfaction. In appreciating the all pervasive goodness that exists in the universe, you internalize it, making it a lasting part of your life. 

Daily OM

Monday, July 12, 2010

6 Virtues that Can Radically Improve Your Life

“Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.” ~Aristotle
Moral excellence, as Aristotle says, is a result of habit. Like anything else we want to master, to become morally excellent or more virtuous takes practice. Typically, we don’t go through our day thinking about whether we need to practice more kindness or more commitment or even more love. Morals or virtues are usually ingrained in us and come naturally, right? Yes, but if we became more mindful of the difference that the practice of virtues can make in daily life, we will undoubtedly lead a more fulfilling and happy life. Mainly because we are striving for excellence; our personal best based in virtues such as love, kindness, gratefulness, courage, and integrity.
By practicing the following six virtues, your life can radically improve in the form of better relationships, peaked performance, and fulfillment of your dreams.

1. Commitment

Without commitment, we have little direction or purpose in life. We fall victims to our circumstances, rather than being captains of our ships. But to commit to a worthy cause, to something that holds meaning for us, whether it’s a highly noble one like starting a nonprofit or simply promising to exercise regularly, is when things turn around. Now we have focusing power, there are no more questions, no more being on the fence or wavering in the face of fear, temptation or criticism. The moment we commit to something, thoughts become action and with true commitment, we become unstoppable.
Think about what you are committed to or not committed to in life. Our commitments either move us towards our goals or further away from our goals. The beauty is that we have a choice. We can continue committing to things that are not working for us or to nothing at all, which can lead to frustration, unhappiness and even addiction, or we can commit to things that matter to us and give our lives purpose.

2. Faith

How hard is it to have faith when things are not going well in life? This bad economy has surely tested the faith of many people. People have lost their jobs, foreclosed on their homes and lost their 401K’s. Yet, without faith, it’s tough to even get through another day. Having faith provides a spiritual foundation that allows us to push through difficulties again and again.
Take for example Nelson Mandela who endured 27 years in prison through faith. He had faith in what he stood for, the people’s support and in his eventual freedom, which gave him the will to persevere and keep his sanity. However, faith can be a challenge because we are trusting in things that we cannot see, and that’s not always easy. But when you are faced with a difficulty, practicing faith and trusting in the journey can help you press on and give you peace knowing that things will work out.

3. Forgiveness

When Dr. Wayne Dyer, a well-known personal development author and speaker, forgave his deceased father for abandoning him at just 4-years-old, his life turned around. Before he forgave his father, Dr. Dyer was overweight, in a bad relationship and drinking too much. His writing was not doing what he wanted. But after he forgave his father and released a lifetime of anger and bitterness, his whole life took off. He wrote the book Erroneous Zones, and 14 days after he wrote it, the book became a worldwide bestseller. He got back into shape and stopped drinking.
Forgiveness can change the course of our lives as it did with Dr. Dyer’s. It allows us to place our attention on other things in life instead of dwelling on our anger and resentment towards the offender. If there is someone you have not forgiven, think about how your lack of forgiveness is affecting your life and consider making amends with the person so that you can live your best life.

4. Gratitude

Gratitude is one virtue that, if practiced, our lives can improve right away. Our natural tendency is to think negatively, which can hurt our well-being. Gratitude helps us to shift negative thoughts to positive ones, and positive thoughts prevent negative emotions.
Also, grateful people, according to scientific research, recover more quickly from illness, cope better with stress, and benefit in greater physical health. There is always something to be grateful for in life. It’s not always easy to be thankful, especially during hard times, but by practicing gratitude we focus our thoughts on what is working in life and this can help us to make positive change.

5. Courage

What incredible insight C.S. Lewis had when he said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” It sure does take great courage to persevere through obstacles. You need courage to be honest with someone about how you really feel. Integrity requires courage because you are doing the right thing no matter how tough it may be.
Think about being courageous when practicing virtues and you will find that becoming more virtuous will start to come easier.

6. Love

With love, all things are possible, fulfilling relationships, self-confidence from loving ourselves and service to others, for example. And when we look at any situation through the eyes of love, we will experience more peace and harmony and create the same for others. This may seem like a Pollyanna approach to life, and not always easy, but it’s a more enlightened way of being and peaceful path to follow rather than feeling angry and hurt.
Next time when a person or situation causes negative emotions, step back for a moment and make a choice to see that person or situation in a loving way. For example, if someone criticizes you, instead of getting defensive and angry, take a deep breath and make a choice to tell them how you feel, but with kindness and love. You will find that this practice can make for a more peaceful and happier experience for you and for them.

Author bio: Stacey Porto, CC, a certified life coach, is founder of Virtues for Life,, a website designed to inspire and coach people in the daily practice of virtues so that they can become their personal best and, consequently, live more extraordinary lives. Subscribe to our Virtues for Life blog here for our latest posts. Also, have you practiced a virtue that made a difference in your life or someone else’s? Please write to us with your story. We would love to hear from you.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The simple art of kindness

There’s something powerfully simple, and deeply profound in the Dalai Lama’s quote: “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”

This single word can become the central tenet of your life, if you let it: “kindness”.

Kindness can guide every interaction you have with others, can guide your life’s work, can give meaning to your life, can even guide your eating, parenting, marriage, and more.

All else will melt away, if you let go of it, and leave only kindness.
Doing to others IS doing to yourself

The Golden Rule goes like this, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” But another idea of this rule – how you treat others is how your treat yourself.

Consider: when you react to others with anger or meanness, you are putting yourself in an angry mindset, a bad mood. You’ll likely feel pretty bad for at least an hour, if not all day.

When you are uncaring or indifferent to others, you also create an empty, blank feeling in yourself, a void that cannot be filled with gadgets, social networking, shopping, food, or possessions.

When instead you are kind, you build a good feeling within yourself, you make yourself happy. In effect, you are being kind to yourself.

Other outward-facing actions have a similar inward effect: if you want to learn, teach. If you need inspiration, inspire others. If you’re sad, cheer someone up.

mindfulness + kindfulness

It is near impossible, in my experience, to transition towards kindness without being mindful. Thoughtlessness leads to unkindnesses.

You must be mindful of every interaction with another human being. Approach each person mindfully, with your full attention, smiling, seeking to understand them, trying to interact with gentleness, warmth, compassion.

When someone comes to talk to you, when your kid tugs on your pant leg for attention, when your spouse starts speaking, turn to them without distraction, putting everything else away, and give your full attention. Listen. Be 100% present.

Here’s something beautiful: by treating others with kindness, you will create a happy feeling within yourself, effectively creating a positive feedback loop for your mindfulness. This will encourage you to be more mindful throughout your day, which will help you to treat others with yet more kindness, and so on.

Mindfulness and kindfulness feed on each other in a wonderful cycle.


Corey is the editor of Simple Marriage as well as a licensed marriage & family therapist. While he has a Ph.D. in Family Therapy, he only occasionally likes to be called doctor. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe so you don't miss any future posts.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Magic of Guarding Your Vibration

by Kate Corbin
"There is nothing wrong with you that cannot be fixed by what is right with you." - Michael Neill 

To recognize your vibration as a precious treasure is merely to hint at its value and significance in your life. Even fame and fortune pale by comparison. Everything you experience comes to you in response to your vibration. To live the life you desire, it will serve you very well indeed to guard your vibration as your most prized possession.
Your vibration, which consists of your thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and feelings, is the state from which you attract people and circumstances into your life. A high vibration attracts what you DO want and a low vibration attracts what you DO NOT want. 

As I've become ever more vigilant about guarding my vibration, I've noticed a tendency to activate past memories of sadness and disappointment. With awareness of this negative habit, I am now able to make a conscious choice to "not go there." With this awareness, I can swiftly replace sad thoughts with joyful, empowering thoughts. 

Here are some ways to guard YOUR precious vibration: 

Be Conscious. To be a Conscious Creator, it follows that you must be fully conscious, which means no more sleepwalking through life. With consciousness and awareness, you create deliberately rather than by default. Manage your vibration with conscious awareness and BE the Deliberate Creator you truly are.
Think Good Thoughts. You have a choice in every moment what kinds of thoughts to think and you create your reality based on this moment-to-moment choice. Thinking good thoughts produces good feelings which attracts good stuff. Be the gatekeeper and refuse to allow negative thoughts to enter your kingdom.
Focus on Positive Aspects. Set your intention to focus on the positive aspects in everyone and everything. 

Focus on what you DO WANT, not on what you DON'T WANT. Focus on what feels good, not what feels bad. Focus on the abundance, not the scarcity. Continuously seek out the most positive aspects of your life and consciously direct your attention there. 

Notice How You Feel. Remember to be extra vigilant about guarding your vibration when you're hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (good advice from AA). Taking good care of your vibration is also the best thing you can do for your health. When you think Feel-Good thoughts, your body releases Feel-Good chemicals into your system. 

Protecting your vibration is not a passive activity. It's a proactive exercise to keep tuning and retuning your vibration to what FEELS GOOD. It's a conscious commitment to keep focusing and refocusing on what you DO WANT.
When all is said and done, creating a wonderful life is simply a matter of choosing wonderful thoughts. As you guard your vibration by reaching for the best feeling thoughts you can find in each moment, you're creating the wonderful life you desire and deserve - one thought at a time. 

Kate Corbin

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Questions of King Milinda

The Questions of King Milinda, Volume 01

The Questions of King Milinda, Volume 02

translated by T. W. Rhys Davids

Part I of II

Volume XXXV of "The Sacred Books of the East"


Title Page

Book I: The Secular Narrative

Book I

Book II: The Distinguishing Characteristics of Ethical Qualities

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 3

Book III: The Removal of Difficulties

Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7

Book VI: The Solving of Dilemmas

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4


Devadatta in the Gâtakas
Addenda Et Corrigenda

Love your fate

“Nietzsche was the one who did the job for me. At a certain moment in his life, the idea came to him of what he called “the love of your fate.” Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, “This is what I need.” It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment—not discouragement—you will find the strength is there. Any disaster that you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow. Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures followed by wreckage were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You’ll see that this is really true. Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes.”
~ Joseph Campbell from A Joseph Campbell Companion

Wow. That’s worth a re-read (or four).
I don’t know about you, but “the moments which seemed to be great failures followed by wreckage” have been the incidents that have shaped the life I have now. (I share some of these moments in my Note on Joseph Campbell.)

Love your fate.
Remember Uncle Joe’s sage advice: “Whatever the hell happens,” … say, “This is what I need.”
And, most importantly, “Follow your bliss. The heroic life is living the individual adventure.”

“In my world, nothing ever goes wrong.” ~ Wayne Dyer
“What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Quote from the Note: “Follow your bliss. The heroic life is living the individual adventure.”
~ Joseph Campbell from A Joseph Campbell Companion

by Brian Johnson