Thoughts are merely an impression of something being there. It is only when we fail to recognize the essence of this vividness that thoughts feel very concrete, if not overwhelming. However, when you look into the nature of thoughts and emotions, you will find that they only seem to exist; they have no concrete reality.
Every time you connect, a little bit more clarity stays around the love, a little bit more space opens up around it. your mind becomes clearer. you experience expanded possibilities. You become a little more confident, a little more willing to connect with others, a little more willing to open up to other people, whether that means talking about your own stuff or listen to theirs. And as that happens a little miracle occurs: You’re giving, without expectation in return. Your very being becomes, consciously or not, an inspiration to others.
Sitting practice is not always going to be smooth, pleasant, comfy, and nice – it is also going to be very painful. However, whether you are experiencing pain or pleasure, what really is needed is the subtle humor of somebody standing behind your back willing to kick you off the cliff. You may think you are drowning, but you have to drown more! It cannot be helped.
I want to share with you a feeling I have. I feel that my love does not have to remain within the limitations of my own life or body. I imagine that if I am no longer in the world, my love could still be present. I want to place my love on the moon and let the moon hold my love. Let the moon be the keeper of my love, offering it to everyone just as the moon sends its light to embrace the whole earth. Since the moon is holding the love I have for you, seeing the moon can remind you of that, and inspire you. If anything I have said here makes sense to you, you can ask the moon to keep it for you. You can ask the stars to keep it for you. When you look at the moon and the stars, I hope you will be reminded of the thoughts and the love I have shared with you here.
I’ve known many people who have spent years exercising daily, getting massages, doing yoga, faithfully following one food or vitamin regimen after another, pursuing spiritual teachers and different styles of meditation, all in the name of taking care of themselves. Then something bad happens to them and all those years don’t seem to have added up to the inner strength and kindness for themselves that they need to relate with what’s happening. And they don’t add up to being able to help other people or the environment. When taking care of ourselves is all about me, it never gets at the unshakable tenderness and confidence that we’ll need when everything falls apart.
Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
This excellent support, a human form with its freedoms and advantages,
Is so difficult to obtain; but now that we have actually gained one,
Let us strive to make it meaningful and realize its full potential,
Without squandering the opportunity and letting it go to waste.
Discard all lingering doubts, and strive with dedication in your practice. Thoroughly relinquish sloth, mental dullness, and laziness, and strive always with joyful perseverance.
One may think: “We concede that our decisions are unreliable, but when we follow the decisions of the Buddha, we are infallible.” Then who decided that the Buddha is infallible? If you say, “The great scholars and adepts like Nagarjuna decided that he is infallible,” then who decided that Nagarjuna is infallible? If you say, “The Foremost Lama Tsong khapa decided it,” then who knows that the Foremost Lama is infallible? If you say, “Our kind and peerless lama, the excellent and great so and so decided,” then infallibility, which depends on your excellent lama, is decided by your own mind. In fact, therefore, it is a tiger who vouches for a lion, it is a yak who vouches for a tiger, it is a dog who vouches for a yak, it is a mouse who vouches for a dog, it is an insect who vouches for a mouse. Thus, an insect is made the final voucher for them all. Therefore, when one analyzes in detail the final basis for any decision, apart from coming back to one’s own mind, nothing else whatsoever is perceived.
The practice of meditation consists of working with thought. As thoughts arise, they are the natural display of the mind, and we simply do not follow them. By not following them, we also don’t try to stop them or get rid of them. By not following our thoughts, we find that the thoughts will lessen and we will begin to experience that underlying cognitive clarity without thought.
Taming the mind takes time. Through good and bad moods, through periods of peacefulness and klesha attacks, we train in being present. Day by day, month by month, year by year, we become better able to keep a rule of life, better able to lead the life of a bodhisattva who can hear the cries of the world and extend a hand.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
The Buddha gave eighty-four thousand different teachings, all of them designed to subdue ego-clinging. This was the only reason why he set them forth. If they do not act as an antidote for our attachment to self then all practice is in vainas was the case with the Buddha’s cousin Devadatta. He knew as many sutras as an elephant could carry on its back but because he could not shake off his clinging to self he went to hell in his next life.
The extent to which we have been able to overcome our self-attachment will show the degree to which we have used the Dharma properly. So let us try very hard.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
Another danger is that Buddhism is becoming synonymous with mindfulness, happiness, and nonviolence. Many people think that’s all there is. When they talk about mindfulness, they immediately think of sitting cross-legged on a cushion with a straight back. This kind of thinking will destroy Buddhism. If we choose to emphasize only one technique, the others will start to rot, and when even one rots, like a bad apple, it will spoil the whole bunch. Longchenpa saw this even in the twelfth century. He said if such degeneration happens, it will be like pouring milk inside a clay pot that hasn’t been put in the kiln. The pot will crumble, and the milk will also spoil. So abundance and variety in the teachings is so important. Otherwise, if the mindfulness movement doesn’t work in a place like America, Americans will throw the baby out with the bathwater and discount all of Buddhism. This would be such a loss.
My training had introduced me to the spacious awareness of my natural mind. We compare this awareness to open skies and oceans — references meant to invoke immeasurable vastness, even though awareness is more immeasurable than skies and oceans combined. Once we learn to recognize the ever-present quality of awareness, to let go of the conditioned and contingent mind and recognize that we are this spacious awareness, then our thoughts and emotions manifest as waves or clouds inseparable from awareness. With recognition, we no longer get carried away by the stories that keep our minds spinning in repetitive cycles, or jumping around like a crazy monkey.
Whenever Buddha spoke he stressed the importance of making a personal investigation of his words and their meaning. Only when we are convinced that the teachings are accurate and applicable to our own lives should we adopt them. If they fail to convince us, they should be put aside. He compared the process of testing the truth of his teachings with that used to determine the purity of gold. Just as we would never, without testing, pay a high price for something purporting to be real gold, we are also responsible for examining Buddha’s teachings for ourselves to see whether they are reasonable and worthwhile.
One of the meditation techniques that is good to use — especially if you are busy — is mindfulness of the body. When you get disturbed it’s often hard to settle down again. Instead of going straight to present-moment awareness, silence, the breath, mettā, or whatever other type of meditation you use, sit down and just become aware of the sensations and feelings in your body. Focusing on the physical feelings is a way of giving ease to those feelings. This is particularly useful if you are tired or sick. And it’s not that hard. To make this sort of practice truly effective, use caring attention. Caring attention is not just being mindful but also looking upon those feelings with gentleness and compassion. You’re not just aware of the sensations, but you’re kind and gentle with them.
In talking about discipline and exertion on the Buddhist path, people tend to have the attitude that everything has to be somber and militant. But exertion, discipline, and openness do not need to come along with such confusion. Genuine discipline is very clean-cut, and at the same time, it is powerful and worth celebrating. Mindfulness is very refreshing each time. Every moment the bubbles of mindfulness begin to pop, there is a new creation of fresh air.
In Tibetan there is a word that points to the root cause of aggression, the root cause also of craving. It points to a familiar experience that is at the root of all conflict, all cruelty, oppression, and greed. This word is shenpa. The usual translation is “attachment,” but this doesn’t adequately express the full meaning. I think of shenpa as “getting hooked.” Another definition, used by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, is the “charge” — the charge behind our thoughts and words and actions, the charge behind “like” and “don’t like.” Here’s an everyday example: Someone criticizes you. She criticizes your work or your appearance or your child. In moments like that, what is it you feel? It has a familiar taste, a familiar smell. Once you begin to notice it, you feel like this experience has been happening forever. That sticky feeling is shenpa. And it comes along with a very seductive urge to do something. Somebody says a harsh word and immediately you can feel a shift. There’s a tightening that rapidly spirals into mentally blaming this person, or wanting revenge or blaming yourself. Then you speak or act. The charge behind the tightening, behind the urge, behind the story line or action is shenpa.
You can actually feel shenpa happening. It’s a sensation that you can easily recognize. Even a spot on your new sweater can take you there. Someone looks at us in a certain way or we hear a certain song, or walk into a certain room and boom. We’re hooked. It’s a quality of experience that’s not easy to describe but that everyone knows well.
Now, if you catch shenpa early enough, it’s very workable. You can acknowledge that it’s happening and abide with the experience of being triggered, the experience of urge, the experience of wanting to move. It’s like experiencing the yearning to scratch an itch, and generally we find it irresistible. Nevertheless, we can practice patience with that fidgety feeling and hold our seat.
When practicing and studying, it’s important to have a motivation that is free from affliction. Among the various pure motivations, the most important is the wish to help ourselves and others, the vast motivation of the Mahayana, which means acting for the sake of all our former mothers, all sentient beings, who are as limitless as space. You may already have faith, respect, and excitement about the Dharma, and the pure motivation of bodhichitta. Still, it is good to recall and reinforce that motivation from time to time. It helps your mind to go toward the Dharma, the Dharma to become the path, and the path to dispel confusion.
14th Dalai Lama
The problem with having expectations is that we usually do not expect the right things. Not knowing what spiritual progress is, we search for signs of it in the wrong areas of our being. What can we hope for but frustration? It would be far better to examine any practice with full reasoning before adopting it, and then to practice it steadily and consistently while observing the inner changes one undergoes, rather than expecting this or that fantasy to become real.
Know that there are three types of people:
Inferior, mediocre, and superior.
The inferior are said to be those
Who by any of the various means
Strive for their own benefit
To merely attain the pleasures of samsara.
The mediocre are said to be those
Who turn their back on samsara’s pleasures
And also refrain from evil deeds,
Yet pursue a personal peace.
The superior are said to be those
Who through understanding their own suffering
Deeply desire to completely end
The sufferings of all other beings.