‘For monastics, any talk not associated with the dharma and the goal of the liberation is considered samphappalapa, a Pali onomatopoeia meaning idle chatter. As lay practitioners, we abide by a different standard as we engage in social conversations to build relationships. Still, it behooves us to be mindful of how we feed our mind: what we say and our media contribution and consumption habits. Are we rushing to fill an uncomfortable silence? Are we indulging in drama, getting riled up with our self-sense? Such engagements threaten to dull our spiritual sensitivities. A great acronym, from Jonathan Foust, is WAIT: “Why Am I Talking?” The Buddha instructs us to speak “words worth treasuring” that are of benefit and in service of goodness.’ (from Lion’s Roar)
‘One of the most important meditation in Buddhism is contemplating the certainty of death. When we do this regularly, it helps inform our priorities on how to live. For while material considerations are important in our daily life, we need to avoid assuming that they have any greater value than this.
A helpful view of our life of leisure and fortune is to think of it like a brief stay in a luxury hotel. It’s good to enjoy the view, to make the most of the facilities, to strike up cordial relations with our fellow guests. We may have a favorite seat in the dining room, or we may talk about “my” room, but we are constantly aware that the facilities are only very temporarily ours to use. Most of us don’t suffer from a midholiday crisis on day three, thinking how it’s all going to come to an end on day five – we’re more likely to book in the jet-ski activity or beach massage, or make other plans to extract the full value from our stay. And having been mindful all along that we’re only making a short visit, we’re unlikely to burst into tears in the lobby, overcome with remorse and regret while checking out.’ (Enlightenment To Go)
I happened across this post from a few years ago when doing a search on the blog, which also brought up some lovely memories of visits to England and Tassajara just before the pandemic. If you click all the links, you might be able to spot the search term that links them all, and the post that occasioned the search!
‘Seeing the delusion of negative self-talk clearly, then having tools that support us in returning to and remembering Love, leads to liberation.
Seeing the delusion of othering clearly, then having tools and practices to undo the structures and collective forms that are born out of this distortion, allows us to create new collective forms that are reflections of truth.
Through new forms we more freely return to a collective experience of Love.
This is true of any distorted views that lead to domination. As the writer and activist bell hooks reminds us, “The practice of love is the most powerful antidote to the politics of domination.”
You can only dominate something you see as other than you: domination of the earth, domination over women in the structure of patriarchy, domination of people with disabilities, domination of children. Domination arises out of othering but wears a dirtier outfit. All distortions have the potential to lead to domination. All distortions represent a felt sense of separateness taking form.
We must begin by seeing the distortion. Then we can be creative, forming pathways that return us to Love, to the truth of our shared being. In the same way that at the monastery I learned that I could consciously choose the tools I’d been given rather than feeling completely victimized by the voice in my head, we can collectively turn to the remembrance of the truth of our shared being. As a practice, we can return.
The path to truth is Love.
What truth is found?
Love.’ (The Heart Of Who We Are)
When buddhas don't appear
And their followers are gone,
The wisdom of awakening
Bursts forth by itself.
‘The name is a false name. Beneath this false name is the real body. The paramita of wisdom proclaimed by the Buddha is verbal wisdom. But from verbal wisdom arises insight wisdom, by means of which we see that all things are empty, including wisdom. Thus, the paramita of wisdom is not the paramita of wisdom.
But when we see that wisdom is empty, we see the real form of all dharmas. This is real wisdom. Thus, the Buddha calls it the paramita of wisdom.’ (commentary on the Diamond Sutra)
I might have to go back and read the entire book again to see how I find it now.
‘Contemplative practices that do not directly address the relationship between trauma and identity run the risk of doing the greatest harm in diverse populations… because the experience and impact of oppression is an embodied experience. The way people experience their identities in society will have great bearing on whether they are discriminated against, and all forms of discrimination are traumatic.
If we are to direct our awareness toward our embodied experience with love, compassion, and forgiveness, we must include the parts of ourselves that suffer in relationship to our identities as well.’ (quoted in The Heart Of Who We Are)
As I continue to think about how the teachings are going to continue to be passed on, takin on these kinds of ideas is essential.
‘In our time, many respond to the specter of complexity, relativity, and change by recoiling against the threat of “relativism.” This word and the morass of intellectual dangers that it signifies tend to evoke fear and other unhelpful reactions rather than thoughtfulness. When that happens, the two extreme positions mentioned above- blind assertions of dogmatic certainty and hopeless confessions of arbitrary relativism are common outcomes. Neither response is functional, however. Wisdom demands a more thoughtful conclusion, one that appropriates whatever elements of insight may have motivated both positions, while moving through and beyond them.
The partial truth that lends credence to the reaction of “arbitrary relativism” is that human beings are indeed finite, not unlimited in mental powers, and we do live in the midst of an always changing reality that is shifting in accordance with the complex of relations within it. Our concepts are therefore always articulated from particular points of view and always insufficient to a comprehensive and definitive grasp of what they seek to understand. But to conclude from these realizations that our concepts and decisions are therefore arbitrary is an enormously mistaken response to the issue, one that interprets the “relations” in which we stand as insurmountable barriers to understanding rather than as the very connections that make understanding possible. The dangers presented by that naive view lead some people to embrace the opposite view since, without thinking carefully, they see it as the only other option. But assertions of dogmatic certainty do not fare any better. They are equally immature attempts to avoid facing the issue directly. Merely asserting that the understanding currently most persuasive to my mind or the perspectives afforded by my culture are absolute and unconditional does not make it so, and such assertions fly in the face of substantial evidence to the contrary.’ (The Six Perfections)
I am sure I have said this before, but it is hard to open this book anywhere and not encounter strong thinking like this.
My natural habitat is silence. However, it was not always easy. In the beginning I remember being terrified by silence. In my training to become a teacher, I spent more than 3 years in a small group retreat, much of it alone and in silence.
The terror emerged from the reality that the silence would be for years. When silence is intentionally used to understand ourselves, then it will reveal many secrets to us. I found myself paralyzed by the promise that silence would be brutally honest with me, and I felt I wasn’t ready for that.
Through practice, I began to understand that silence allowed space to hold everything that was happening in the moment. Silence can offer us the support to notice the space in and around us.
And silence tells me the truth and calls me to do the work of holding the space for that truth, which is the work of spiritual transformation. Now, silence is a homecoming that I can rely on. (from Instagram)
‘How do we start to love? We’re in such a climate of hate right now. We’re seeing diminishing acts of kindness and love because fear of the stranger has been so deeply cultivated in us. Breaking down that us-and-them binary is part of the work of love. We need to challenge all the binaries we face and try to see where to find a relationship with the “other”—the one we fear—so that we can enact compassion.’ (from Lion’s Roar)
‘Zen masters are said to reside in a state of “no-mind” or “no-thought,” a relation to the world that is less hesitant and more immediate than more intellectually sophisticated comportments. Having trained long and hard in the various disciplines of mindfulness, Zen masters live in an intuitive grasp of their circumstances that allows them to function easily and extemporaneously where the rest of us hesitate and falter. With a profound sense of unity – the simplicity behind the complexity of the world – Zen masters are pictured as acting out of an intimate connection to the world that has been earned by following Buddhist meditations on “emptiness” down to the level of embodied, practical wisdom. Manifestations of this character transformation are a sense of ease and fluidity, a sense of being at home in the world, and a kind of spontaneity that features unmediated movement and action.
Each of the foregoing traits – the ability to see patterns within divergence, the sense of ease and fluidity of life lived through cultivated instincts, and the cultivated quality of simplicity – are grounded in a background of peace and composure. Indeed, it is hard to imagine any form of wisdom – not just Buddhist that does not derive from an embodied state of calm and composure. States of character that are fearful, greedy, anxious, compulsively busy, jangled, or nervous tend to diminish the scope and depth of human vision. They do not provide the conditions under which our minds can gather themselves, stepping back from the throes of activity to see where we are and what is going on.
When our minds are in turmoil, we lose track of larger perspectives; we push ahead unaware of all the ways the immediate situation we face is framed in more comprehensive perspectives. Composure and equilibrium make that awareness possible and are on that account fundamental components of wisdom.’ (The Six Perfections)
We can aspire, can’t we?