Thich Nhat Hanh
When we first hear about emptiness, we feel a little frightened. But after practicing for a while, we see that things do exist, only in a different way than we’d thought. Emptiness is the Middle Way between existent and nonexistent. The beautiful flower does not become empty when it fades and dies. It is already empty, in its essence. Looking deeply, we see that the flower is made of non-flower elements — light, space, clouds, earth, and consciousness. It is empty of a separate, independent self. In the Diamond Sutra, we are taught that a human being is not independent of other species, so to protect humans, we have to protect the non-human species. If we pollute the water and air, the vegetables and minerals, we destroy ourselves. We have to learn to see ourselves in things that we thought were outside of ourselves in order to dissolve false boundaries.
What is important to understand is that the view you have of yourself and the view you have of your environment are based on your own mind: they are a projection of your mind and that is why they are not reality.
I will give you a good example. When a French man or woman looks for a girl or boyfriend, there is this research energy from both sides and when suddenly they see each other they make up an incredible story. ‘Oh, so beautiful! Nothing wrong inside or outside.’ They build up a perfect myth. They push and push, the mind makes it all up. If they are Christian they say, ‘Oh, he looks just like Jesus.’ Or ‘She looks just like and angel. She is so nice, so pure. I wish always to hear her!’ Actually, they are just projecting their own fantasies onto each other.
If she is Hindu, then he would say, ‘Oh she looks like Kali, like Mother Earth, like my universal mother. I hope to always be near her. She will teach me who I am and where I am going. Each time I see her, my whole body shakes. I am sure that it must be incredible karma! And because it is our karma I have to serve her, to accept!’ You understand? Actually, you are making the karma at that moment, you are inventing it. Of course, you do have some connection, but….
And if you are Buddhist you fold your hands and say, ‘Oh, she is a dakini and she is showing me the true nature of all thing.’ You understand? ‘When I am near her she gives me energy, energy. Before, I was so lazy, I couldn’t move, I was like a dead person. But now whenever I go near her I can’t believe my energy!’ I tell you, all this is superstitious interpretation. You think that she is your spiritual friend and that before you were not so clear and that now she speaks to you about dharma and everything becomes clearer. And all she does is really perfect, even her kaka and pipi are so pure! Excuse me, perhaps i shouldn’t talk like this — I’m a Buddhist monk! But when we speak about Buddhism, about reality, then we have to speak practically from daily life, about what is earthy, what we can touch and see, not just get caught up in concepts.
What I mean is this: you should recognize how every appearance in our daily life is in fact a false projection of your own mind. Your own mind makes it up and becomes an obstacle to touching reality. This is why, our entire life, no matter what kind of life we have, it is a disaster. If you have a rich life, your life is a disaster. If you have a middle class life, your life is a disaster. Of you have a poor life, your life is even more of a disaster! You become a monk and your life is a disaster. You become a nun and your life is a disaster. If you become a Christian, your life is a disaster. If you become a Hindu, your life is a disaster. If you become a a Buddhist, your life is a disaster. If you become a Muslim, your life is also a disaster.
Be honest. Be honest with yourself!
Even if you go to a cave, disaster! You can stay in a mountain cave, in the snowy mountains, and still you carry your ego with you. You carry your entire world with you and all your fantasy clothing doesn’t help.
I’m not talking about religion here, I’m talking about personal things, who we are, what we are, where we are going, what we are doing! I am disaster, my mind is making it. Everything is always with me, always with me, my attitudes poison me. That is what I am talking about.
All this religion you follow… as long as you don’t touch reality in yourself, as long as you don’t eradicate your fantasies, you are a disaster. (Now I am disaster hot!)
In fact, reality is very simple. The simplicity of the mind can touch reality, and meditation is something that goes beyond the intellect and brings the mind into its natural state.
Compassion is not about kindness. Compassion is about awareness. Compassion in the general sense of kindness would be an expression of awareness, but one that might not necessarily be free from the stain of ego-grasping. Genuine compassion is egoless. It is the inherent essence expressed, inseparable from awareness. This natural essence, which is genuine compassion, does not need to be formulated or even expressed as something like “compassion.” We see this exemplified in our great teachers. Their genuine compassion does not require phrases and expressions or even actions. Just their presence, who they are, is nothing other than the quintessence of compassion.
The bodhisattva vow acknowledges confusion and chaos — aggression, passion, frustration, frivolousness — as part of the path. The path is like a busy, broad highway, complete with roadblocks, accidents, construction work, and police. It is quite terrifying. Nevertheless it is majestic, it is the great path. “From today onward until the attainment of enlightenment I am willing to live with my chaos and confusion as well as with that of all other sentient beings. I am willing to share our mutual confusion.” So no one is playing a one-upmanship game. The bodhisattva is a very humble pilgrim who works in the soil of samsara to dig out the jewel embedded in it.
Do you really want to support the center, support the dharma, and benefit sentient beings, with all three of your doors and not just your mouth? Then you need to be flexible and accommodating, rather than wanting everyone else to help and support you in your idea. We are all one family, all trying to support the dharma because that way we can be sure we are bringing benefit to sentient beings in a meaningful way. We are none of us at the level where we should be proud, or want to be the boss. None of us have those kinds of qualities and none of us are omniscient! But all of us can try to be more harmonious and more humble, which is how we can develop those qualities in ourselves. Each person should check his or her own mind continuously to see when the faults of stubbornness and self-importance creep in. When you see your faults, then you can work to eradicate them. That is how you develop qualities. That is how you clean up your mindstream and become worthy of praise and respect. You don’t get praise and respect by yelling the loudest; if you did, babies would be above all others. We don’t need more babies crying or boasting. We need people working together smoothly, watching and helping intelligently, like grown up human beings. That is not beyond our level. Therefore, if you really want to help, watch yourself carefully. Be patient with each other. Have humility and discipline, which means being in control of your three doors, rather than everything being under the power of your five poisons. Then everything will be very good: in the center, with the sangha, with the dharma, everything. That way, it works!
This variety of desirous and hateful thoughts
that strands us in the ocean of cyclic existence
once realized to be without intrinsic nature,
makes everything a golden land, child.
If you meditate on the illusion-like nature
of illusion-like phenomena,
actual illusion-like buddhahood
will occur through the power of devotion.
You do not have to abandon worldly activities in order to attain effortless unconcern. You should know that worldly activities and effortless unconcern are not two different things, but if you keep thinking about rejection and grasping, you make them two.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Nirvana means extinction, the extinction of all notions and concepts, including the concepts of birth, death, being, nonbeing, coming, and going. Nirvana is the ultimate dimension of life, a state of coolness, peace, and joy. It is not a state to be attained after death. You can touch nirvana right now by breathing, walking, and drinking your tea in mindfulness.
Viewing others through the lens of interdependence helps us see that we are not separate from people on the other side of these seeming gaps. We are capable of seeing causal connections that link us to others who appears to be remote from us, even if such links are not visible to the naked eye. For example, we can review the ample evidence and arguments that show that those who have less economic power provide the labor that keeps down the cost of living and fuels the material prosperity of those who have more. This means we can identify ties between our meal and the field workers who harvested our vegetables and factory workers who manufactured our dishes. Yet having this intellectual knowledge of our connection to them does not automatically make us feel personally close to them, especially when the outer conditions of their lives seem so different from our own.
We are in many ways creatures of habit. If we live within certain conditions long enough, they come to seem natural to us. But if we had lived in different conditions, they would seem equally natural. Looking at the cultural, religious, or material conditions that others have become habituated to may make us feel that they must be totally different from us, but we are just mistaking something circumstantial for something essential. It is largely an accident of our birth and our life circumstances that we have come to find certain conditions familiar and others alien or distant. It is not an indication of anything essentially other or different about us.
All beings consist of causes and effects,
In which there is no ‘sentient being’ at all.
From phenomena which are exclusively empty,
There arise only empty phenomena.
All things are devoid of any ‘I’ or ‘mine’.
Like a recitation, a candle, a mirror, a seal,
A magnifying glass, a seed, sourness, or a sound,
So also with the continuation of the aggregates —
The wise should know they are not transferred.
There’s no real happiness among any of the six classes of beings.
If we consider the sufferings of the three lower realms,
When you feel upset just by hearing about them,
How will you possibly cope when you experience them directly?
Even the happiness and pleasures of the three upper realms,
Are just like fine food that’s been laced with poison,
Enjoyable at first, but in the long run a cause of ruin.
Who feels angry? Where does this anger rise from? Is there a place where this anger is now? Is there someone who is angry, since we feel so strongly, “I am angry”? Is there a real substance, a force? Questioning in this way, it’s absolutely impossible to find such a thing. There is neither a place to find, nor a substance, nor any entity. It’s simply a seeming presence, a mere movement of the attention which has no reality to it whatsoever. It is like a bubble on the surface of water.
14th Dalai Lama
Peace, in the sense of the absence of war, is of little value to someone who is dying of hunger or cold. It will not remove the pain of torture inflicted on a prisoner of conscience. It does not comfort those who have lost their loved ones in floods caused by senseless deforestation in a neighboring country. Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free.
All parties are changed by being in relationship. Just being connected to someone or something means we are each forming part of the other. This is true in all forms of interdependence, from those that form planetary systems to our most intimate and personal relationships. For example, in the case of parents and children, although in the more obvious sense parents produce children, yet it is only by having children that people become parents. We could even say that parents are born in the moment that their first child comes into their life. Before they had children, a woman and a man were not a mother or father. In that sense, children also make their parents “parents”. Interdependence connects us on many levels and always works both ways.”
Tulku Thondup Rinpoche
Unless one is omniscient or at least enjoys some degree of clairvoyance, no one can judge others. One can see how others appear and how they are behaving, but not who they are or why they are behaving in a particular manner. For example, enlightened ones such as buddhas, bodhisattvas, and sages appear in peaceful forms and wrathful forms, but all their activities will be for serving others with love. This is why the fully enlightened Buddha said, “Apart from myself and those like me, no one can judge another person.”
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Some people may have the idea that these teachings on compassion and exchanging self and others are part of the ‘gradual path’ teachings of the sutras, and are not nearly as effective as the more advanced ‘direct path’ teachings of the Great Perfection or the Great Seal. That is a complete misunderstanding. Only if you have developed the love and compassion of relative bodhichitta can absolute bodhichitta – the very essence of the Great Perfection and the Great Seal – ever take birth in your being.
My son Naropa, for phenomena that come from interdependence,
Until you realize all these are unborn,
You must not separate
From the wheels of merit and wisdom.
As long as there is an ego, there are demons.
When there is no more ego, there are no more demons either!
If there is no ego, there is no more object to cut through,
Nor is there any more fear or terror.
Free from all extremes, co-emergent wisdom
Gives birth to the understanding of [the nature of] all phenomena.
This is referred to as the fruit of liberation from the four demons.
Thinley Norbu Rinpoche
At the time of the meditation of tranquil stillness and true seeing, although this meditation is not the basic nature of clarity and emptiness just as it is, it is the arising of an aspect of experience that is similar, like the way the form of the sky appears in water. This is called an example demonstrating clear light. The essential nature of wisdom is free from the coverings of experience, like stainless sky. When this is realized, it is called absolute clear light.
By realizing the basic nature of the great bliss of the clear light of empty awareness and by continuously sustaining it, when one actually accomplishes the stages of the path, the consciousness of the five senses will dissolve into mind. Mind will dissolve into the consciousness of alaya. When alaya dissolves into the dharmata of empty clear light, even though there is no consciousness, because consciousness is purified from the root, self-awareness wisdom light will arise like stainless sky. Thus it is also said. For example, when gold mixed with earth, stone, sand, and so on is melted down and refined, the power of the ordinary stain or nature of the elements of earth and stone is reduced more and more, like the gross energy of obscurations, and the quality of the element gold is purified more and more. Eventually the time will come when even the object of purification, the gold itself, will be purified and there will be nothing left.
Don’t mistake mere words to be the meaning of the teachings. Mingle the practice with your own being and attain liberation from samsara right now.