Sharon Salzberg

‘See what motivating factor is strongest in you prior to an action, and explore it without judgement. Does it seem to have a nature that will incline the mind toward suffering, or toward the end of suffering? Toward contraction, attachment, or anger, or toward love, compassion, sympathetic joy, or equanimity? Notice that the decision to follow or not to follow an intention into action is a separate and distinct moment from perceiving the nature of the intention itself. Notice that the more fully aware you are of the nature of the motivation, the more you truly have a choice as to whether to act upon it or not.’  (Lovingkindness)

This was one of the quotes I used in my recent class. Since the distinction she makes is quite subtle, especially when read aloud, I used the example of wanting an ice cream as distinct from going to get an ice cream.

The Lotus Sutra

‘The Tathagata is able to discriminate everything, preach the law skillfully, use gentle words, and cheer the hearts of all. Sariputra! Essentially speaking the Buddha has altogether fulfilled the infinite, boundless, unprecedented Law. Enough, Sariputra, there is no need to say more. Wherefore? Because the Law, which the Buddha has perfected is the chief unprecedented Law, and difficult to understand. Only a buddha together with a buddha can fathom the Reality of All Existence, that is to say, all existence has such a form, such a nature, such an embodiment, such a potency, such a function, such a primary cause, such a secondary cause, such an effect, such a recompense, and such a complete fundamental whole.’

This is the heart of The Lotus Sutra, the revealing of the final complete teaching of the Buddha after he acknowledges his previous teaching as skillful or expedient means to bring people along the path to understanding. I am very tempted to head straight back to Dogen to remind myself how he parses these lines in the Shobogenzo.

The Sutra of Innumerable Meanings

‘A bodhisattva, if he wants to learn and master the doctrine of Innumerable Meanings, should observes that all laws were originally, will be, and are in themselves void in nature and form; they are neither great nor small, neither appearing nor disappearing, neither fixed nor immovable, and neither advancing nor retreating; and they are nondualistic, just emptiness. All living beings, however, discriminate falsely: “It is this” or “It is that” and “It is advantageous” or “It is disadvantageous”; they entertain evil thoughts, make various evil karmas, and thus transmigrate within the six realms of existence; and they suffer all manner of miseries, and cannot escape from there during infinite kotis of kalpas. Bodhisattva-mahasattvas, observing rightly like this, should raise the mind of compassion, display the great mercy desiring to relieve others of suffering, and once again penetrate deeply into all laws. According to the nature of a law, such a law emerges. According to the nature of a law, such a law settles. According to the nature of a law, such a law changes. According to the nature of a law, such a law vanishes. According to the nature of a law, such an evil law emerges. According to the nature of a law, such a good law emerges. Settling, changing, and vanishing are also like this. Bodhisattvas, having thus completely observed and known these four aspects from beginning to end, should next observe that none of these laws settles down even for a moment, but all emerge and vanish anew every moment; and observe that they emerge, settle, change and vanish instantly. After such observation, we see all manner of natural desires of living beings. As natural desires are innumerable, preaching is immeasurable, and as preaching is immeasurable, meanings are innumerable. The Innumerable Meanings originate from one law. This one law is, namely, nonform. Such nonform is formless and not-form. Being not form and formless, it is called the real aspect of things. The mercy which bodhisattva-mahasattvas display after stabilising themselves in such a real aspect is real and not vain. They excellently relieve living beings from sufferings. Having given relief from sufferings, they preach the Law again and let all living beings obtain pleasure.’

I had an urge to make The Lotus Sutra my next commute read, and since it is always worth observing such urges, I got stuck into it. In the edition which Linda Ruth recommended we get, when we studied it at Tassajara back in 2004, The Sutra of Innumerable Meanings forms the preface to the main sutra itself.  Reading it for the first time in all these years, I found it very heart-warming and encouraging. Stay tuned for a couple more extracts, as well as some from The Lotus Sutra.

Silvia Boorstein

‘Maybe the whole of spiritual practice rests on remembering – over and over again – that we are, after all, human beings.’ (Pay Attention for Goodness’ Sake)

This was one of the books I took out of the library at Tassajara to help me coalesce ideas about my upcoming classes, which begin on Thursday. It was full of down-to-earth advice such as this.

Dzogchen Ponlop

‘The term “ordinary mind” can be confusing if we understand “ordinary” to mean “mundane”. If that were the case, then “ordinary mind” would mean mundane consciousness, confused mind, klesha mind – a mind that is totally caught up in the this world of samsara. However, in this context, “ordinary” means “unfabricated”. When we experience this ordinary mind, we experience buddha mind. Buddha mind is not some special mind that we always seem to be searching for elsewhere. It is simple and ordinary in the sense of being totally free from elaborations, from fabrications, and from all conceptual thinking. It is the best part of the mind. Usually we think of buddha mind as something extraordinary, extra-special, but at this point we cut through all these concepts and go back to the fundamental nature of mind, which is the mind of buddha, or the heart of buddha mind. It is ordinary because it is so simple.’ (Wild Awakening)

When I started practising, you would not have been able to convince me that there was a mind that was free from conceptual thinking, but I am glad to have a different feeling about it nowadays.

Sharon Salzberg

‘Equanimity’s strength derives from a combination of understanding and trust. It is based on understanding that the conflict and frustration we feel when we can’t control the world doesn’t come from our inability to do so but rather from the fact that we are trying to control the uncontrollable.’ (Lovingkindness)

Once I get back from England, I will be starting to focus on preparing for my upcoming classes at Zen Center; this book will be an important source of material, for sure.