Red Pine

‘None of the things that fill our lives is by itself false. It is only our conceptualization and attachment that make them false. Meanwhile, the perfection of wisdom transforms these obstacles into aids to enlightenment. At the end of Chapter Six, the Buddha likened his teachings to a raft and told Subhuti to let go of all teachings, all dharmas as well as no dharmas. Just as the no dharma of emptiness must be put aside, the dharma of prajna must also be left behind, lest it become a new obstruction or attachment. Thus, such a teaching not only transcends the world of language, it also transcends itself. No other teaching is so self-effacing and yet so sure of itself. It is self-effacing because it asserts nothing. And it is so sure of itself because it asserts nothing. It frees us of all assertions and opens the door to all knowledge. This is why it is called the “perfection of wisdom.”‘ (Commentary on the Diamond Sutra)

And there you have it. If it is not clear, keep reading it until the words have lost all meaning, and try again.

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?

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.

Dale S. Wright

‘Wisdom, therefore, is the ability to face the truth and not be unnerved or frightened. It is the capacity to be disillusioned but not disheartened. It is the ability to consider the contingency and the groundlessness of all things, oneself included, and not turn away from the consideration in fear. Wisdom means setting aside illusions about oneself and the world and being strengthened by that encounter with the truth. It entails willingness to avoid seeking the security of the unchanging and to open oneself to a world of flux and complex relations.’ (The Six Perfections)

It really is a pleasure to pick this book off the shelf and open to find such wisdom about wisdom. With an added tinge of poignancy post-election.

Lama Willa Miller

‘We might think that the opposite of grasping is detachment, but actually it is intimacy. Intimacy can be approximated with the conceptual mind. We can understand it. We can imagine it. But approximation is not enough. True intimacy, the kind that the Buddha seems to be expressing when he smiles at his demons on the eve of his awakening, is embodied. Embodied intimacy arises from a neurological change in our response to appearances…

This connection between the Buddha’s intimacy with the maras and the radical presence of bodhi might hold a simple but profound key for those of us who meditate. It is a breadcrumb on the path of meditation. The most important goals of our practice may not be focus, relaxation, or even tranquility. Intimacy may be the most important goal and outcome of our practice, its most important promise, because the one thing keeping us from radical presence is our struggle with appearances.’ (from Lion’s Roar)

Sharon Salzberg

‘This kind of integration arises from intimacy with our emotions and our bodies, as well as with our thoughts. It arises from holding all that we know and want and fear and feel in a space of awareness and self-compassion. If we reject or resent our feelings we won’t have access to that kind of intimacy and integration. And if we define ourselves by each of the ever-changing feelings that cascade through us, how will we ever feel at home in our own bodies and minds?’ (True Love)

Echoing Lama Rod’s post from Monday.

Dale S. Wright

‘Whereas the things of experience and our thoughts about them can become objects of reflection – we can get them in front of our mind’s eye in order to contemplate them – the one who does this cannot be similarly objectified. This is so because every time you attempt to look back at yourself or your current engagement in any activity, the one who steps back is the one at whom you hope to look. I cannot see myself as subject – my subjectivity as such – in any direct way because I am always the one doing the seeing. 

Furthermore, the more “I” understand “myself” in deeper and deeper self-awareness, the more I realize that, in Buddhist terms, there is “no self.” To say that there is “no self” is not to say, absurdly, that I do not exist. It is instead to say that the more profound my self-understanding becomes, the more aware I am of the kind of existence I live. GIven deep enough meditation, my existence reveals itself as impermanent and interdependent with a wide variety of other beings, all set within frameworks that are metaphysical, physical, and social.’ (The Six Perfections)

Following along from Shohaku’s post yesterday. As always, I find his expositions crystal clear.

Lama Rod Owens

‘To hold space for our pain is a way that we begin to take care of our pain. Taking care of our pain softens our hurt as we do the work of empathizing with ourselves. Empathizing with ourselves makes it easier to empathze with others around us. This empathy is at the root of the love and compassion that will begin to disrupt the systems that create harm.’ (Love and Rage)

This illuminates one of the central ‘paradoxes’ of a life of practice. Mostly, we think that we need to push pain away to function, or that if we ignore it, it might go away. Once we do hold space for it, our relationship to it changes, and softening can occur, loosening the hurt, and the power of pain.

Ruth King

‘I often think about power and how quickly a situation can change with a caring and wise heart. I think about the moments when we can see beyond judgment and self-interest to choose rather than react — the moments when small, caring choices can influence a social balance. This, I think, is the power of equanimity.

Equanimity is a sustained state of balance, seeing what’s here with evenness of mind — a mind that is touched by life but unbroken by its ever-changing nature. It’s a prominent concept in Buddhism, often represented in images of stillness, ease, compassion, and strength and regarded as the fruit of spiritual practice.

Equanimity is an invaluable inner resource that is cultivated through awareness. It is the experience of knowing the movement of the mind without reactiveness, an experience of grounded presence amidst extremes. When the mind is steady and responsive, we can say to ourselves, “This moment is like this, and it doesn’t have to be different right now. I can allow what is here and offer what is needed.”’ (from Lion’s Roar)