The Dhammapada

‘O let us live in joy, in love amongst those who hate! Among those who hate, let us live in love’

I have often packed my Dhammapada when I have been traveling, as it is one of the smallest Buddhist books I own, and it is comforting to pull out and read at an airport, or a train station. I pulled it down the other day ahead of doing a meditation on Chalk, as I was wanting to to find some words about what we create with our minds (the opening lines in fact), and leafed through the rest of it. These seemed like good and challenging words from millennia past. Human behaviour has not really changed in the meantime, even if the way it manifests takes a different form.

Lama Rod Owens

‘One thing that I have discerned from my practice is that all our different bodies are interconnected. The physical body is the central experience body for us, as it is the body that seems to be in the same time and place with us. Every other body links into our physical body, and we can work through our physical body to connect to and learn to embody our other bodies. The bodies that I identify and work with in my practice are the physical body, emotional body, subtle energy body, sexual body, spiritual body, collective body, social media body, and ego body.’ (Love and Rage)

I was reading this passage with my student group this week, and my first thought was that if we take a moment to look at all these different bodies, they have all suffered from the isolating circumstances of this year. I asked my students, and I ask you, what will you be able to do to nourish these important aspects of your being?

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

‘We will forever be pushed to expand the human capacity. Are we ready to keep living with an attention to how we navigate what feels like the worst of times, without closing off or covering it all up with optimism? We are collectively and constantly being given the path to transformation and awakening. We may have to walk it in our bare feet without knowing where we are going. Are you ready for such wandering with its trouble and beauty along the way? Can you be the open field of unknowing darkness that you are and discover what it means to live on this planet with all else that is alive? Can you still have visions of the freedom you know to have been granted in birth?’ (from Lion’s Roar)

Sharon Salzberg

‘We extend our sense of inclusion even further to people we may have disagreements with, people whose actions we disapprove of, even those who may have harmed us or those we care for. We don’t have to like what they’ve done, and we might take very strong action to prevent their doing it ever again, but as our experiences of the universality of suffering grows, our sense of interconnectedness deepens, and we begin to wish others could be free in a new way- in spite of their actions, their beliefs, or their positions in the world.’ (Real Love)

Wonderful words from a wise teacher who has been doing a lot to extend loving action into the world in these difficult times.


‘Dizang saw a monastic coming and held up a whisk.
The monastic bowed.
Dizang said, “What did you see that made you bow?”
The monastic said, “I thanked you for your instruction.”
Dizang hit the monastic and said, “You saw me hold up the whisk and thanked me. Why don’t you thank me when you see me sweep the ground every day?”‘ (Shinji Shobogenzo)


The sun brightens
the solitary peak,

The moon’s face
in the valley stream,

The intimate vastness of the Buddhas
cannot fit into
a small mind.


‘Nothing arises on its own. Everything is the result of karma. All it is is karma. It possesses no self-nature. According to the Middle Path, since nothing possesses any self-nature, it does not exist. Yet we give things a name, hence they do not not exist. Becuase we do not not give them names, we keep liberating beings. But because their natures are empty, we do not actually liberate anyone. And why don’t we liberate anyone? If the concept of a self existed, we could say that somebody is liberated. But since neither a self nor an other exist, who is liberated? Is is only a fiction.’ (Commentary on the Diamond Sutra)

A fiction, I might add, that we take to be real.

Marian Mountain

‘One day, many years ago, I asked Suzuki Roshi what the Chinese characters on his wooden nyoi [short staff] said. Roshi studied it thoughtfully. After a long pause, he spoke, very slowly, as if he were reading the characters one by one: “Hit him over the head and by his yell you will know if he is a dragon or a snake!”

Roshi seemed just as surprised by his statement as I, and we both laughed. That was all. We never discussed the matter further. But the words stuck in my mind, and slowly, slowly, over many years, those words began to change my mind. The effect of turning words, as they are called in zen, may not be realized immediately or consciously. They may work quietly in the depths of our mind, changing it very subtly. It was only after my zen master passed away that I found out that Suzuki Roshi hadn’t read me the inscription on his nyoi. He had inscribed the turning words on my own embryonic nyoi.(The Zen Environment)


‘When you see a speck of dust, it is not that you don’t see the world of phenomena. When you realize the world of phenomena, it is not that you do not realize a speck of dust. When buddhas realize the world of phenomena, they do not keep you from realization. Wholesomeness is manifest in the beginning, middle, and end.

Thus, realization is reality right now. Even shocks, doubts, fears, and frights are none other than reality right now. However, with buddha knowledge it is different; seeing a speck of dust is different from sitting within a speck of dust. Even when you sit in the world of phenomena, it is not broad. Even when you sit in a speck of dust, it is not narrow. If you are not fully present, you do not fully sit. If you are fully present, you are free of how large or narrow it is where you are. Thus you have thoroughly experienced the essential unfolding of dharma blossoms.

Is it that the manifestation and essence of your practice now originates in the world of phenomena or in a speck of dust? Have no shocks and doubts, no fears or frights. Just this turning of dharma blossoms is the original practice, deep and wide. In seeing the speck of dust and seeing the world of phenomena, there is no attempt to create or measure.’ (Shobogenzo Hokke Ten Hokke)

Before turning to this passage, I was looking at the fascicle on the kashaya, and the same propositions were at work. Don’t get caught on whether silk or other cloth is right, or what constitutes the discarded cloths traditionally used for Buddha’s robe. Here, don’t get caught in measuring. Though, being Dogen, he goes on to say that even attempting to measure is ‘in accordance with dharma blossoms.’ Realization is reality right now, as long as we don’t stop and think about it.

Suzuki Roshi

‘We should not be caught by anything. Until you have that kind of strength or freedom, you should, you know, practice hard. Purpose of practice is not to chase after worldly freedom, but it is to have freedom from our small desires or fame or success in our mundane world, and if possible to help people– to make– to release them from that kind of mundane wishes and restrictions. That is, you know, Buddhist way of life: join you in your path, in your ordinary life, and then you will have freedom from ordinary life. There big difference.

So when you have real freedom from everything, you may be very sympathetic with people who are involved in small, personal desires and– to be involved in competitive world. So naturally you want to help people to be free from– free from this kind of life. To share the, you know, to share the joy of freedom with people is our purpose of life. Usual– usually, you know, people are deeply involved in city life and so they stay in city. But Buddhist, you know, remain in city and live in city to help people who are involved in that kind of confusion. The way upward is to, you know, to– to make ourselves free from the small self of desires. And the way downward is after we have that kind of freedom to help people and to go back to the city is the way downward.’ (from the Suzuki Roshi archives)

This illuminates the point made in Lama Willa Miller’s post the other day.