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.

Avatamsaka Sutra

‘When great enlightening beings practice dedication in this way, they do not become attached to actions, to consequences, to the body, to objects, to lands, to places, to sentient beings, to the nonexistence of sentient beings, to all things, or to the nonexistence of all things. When great enlightening beings make dedication in this way, they distribute these roots of goodness throughout the world, that all sentient beings may fully develop buddha-knowledge, attain pure minds with clear, comprehensive wisdom, their inner minds silent and serene, unmoved by external objects, as they extend and develop the family of Buddhas of past present and future.’

I am very glad that I live in a house where I can come home and find a copy of the Avatamsaka Sutra on the dining table*. I confess I have not done more than dip a toe into it occasionally; I would  make it my commute read, but it is a heavy tome (the above quote is from page 634 of approximately 1500 pages). At Zen Center over the years, a number of dedicated people have led reading and chanting sessions – Jerome, Greg and Kodo come to mind right away. It is one of the more esoteric teachings in the way it presents a multi-dimensional interconnected universe, but a paragraph like this one stand easily next to Hongzhi, Ta Hui or Dogen.

 

*It subsequently turned out that it was not the roommate whose book it was that had taken it out, but the other one, who on this occasion had been more interested in the bulk of the book than the content, and had used it to prop up a mirror to get better lighting at the south-facing back of the house. Self-illumination takes many forms, I suppose.

Sharon Salzberg

‘Desire – grasping, clinging, greed, attachment – is a state of mind that defines what we think we need in order to be happy. We project all of our hopes and dreams of fulfillment onto some object of our attention. This may be a certain activity or outcome, a particular thing or person. Deluded by our temporary enchantment, we view the world with tunnel vision. That object, and that alone, will make us happy. Who has not been greatly infatuated with some idea or some person, only to look again two months later, six months later, a year later, and think, “What was that all about?” (Lovingkindness)

I would only add that not only do we all do it, but we all do it all the time.

Lama Rod Owens

‘The Heart Sutra tells us that form is emptiness and emptiness is form; if that’s true, then our practice is to try to recognize the integration of form and emptiness, and to let ourselves sit in the utter discomfort of that. From this discomfort emerges a greater capacity to hold space for contradictions. Ultimately, we are not these identities, which is awesome. But relatively, we are, and that’s awesome too! Privileging one over the other is not the practice here. The practice is to bridge the relative truth of I am with the ultimate truth of I am not, to hold them together while exploring the tendency to want to bury ourselves in one extreme. This practice can be deeply unsettling, but if we can hold the ultimate truth together with our relative truth, then space opens up within our identity locations, and we can recognize them without being firmly planted. For example, for me to identify as Black is to first recognize what it has meant to be conditioned as a Black body; at the same time, I see that ultimately I am not Black but still conditioned to perform and to relate to the Black cultural conditioning.’ (Taken from Lion’s Roar website)

In my teaching and studying, I spend a lot of time grappling with the co-existence of form and emptiness, or the harmony of difference and equality. With so much current talk about identity politics, it is great to read a cogent teaching piece on how this looks from a dharma perspective.

I have also been wanting to post a link to this since I read it; I go to the Establishment regularly to learn views that are different to my own, and found this a helpful exercise. I said yes to several questions.