13 December 2009
Transcribed from discourse given by Ven. Jian-Hu, Zen Buddhism I class, Dec. 29, 2000, Buddha Gate Monastery
Good evening cultivators! We are learning to observe the breath. That is the first step in meditation. We are learning to observe, observe things as they are.
Now this is what awakening is all about. The Buddha was a fully awakened person. Awakened or enlightenment means to see, to understand things as they really are. Understand everything: the world, the universe, your mind, people, and all other beings. Understand them and the self for what they are--not for what you think they are.
Impermanence Is A Fact of Life
We are not called Buddhas, we are not enlightened because we do not see the reality of things. We do not see impermanence as a fact of life. Observe how impermanence is a fundamental element in life. Think about how everything changes throughout your life, how everything comes to pass. New things come and go. Impermanence is all around us.
Suffering is the first of the fundamental truths that the Buddha taught in the Four Noble Truths. This first truth, suffering, is closely associated with impermanence. “Oh, our loved ones have departed, “ we would lament. “Such sorrow, such pain. Why did this happen?” We put the blame on life’s impermanence.
But if you take a closer look, impermanence by itself does not cause suffering. If a stranger died, you would probably not feel any pain. Instead you may think, “People die all the time. That’s life. All people must die one day.”
What is the difference? The difference is that when we come to know a person, we become attached to that person, and that is what creates the pain. When we care about someone, often we also simultaneously create an illusion, an illusion of permanence. We think that the person will stay the same, will always be there. We do not recognize, we ignore, or we choose to ignore the reality that all things change. That is the problem. Now this does not mean that we should not form close relationships nor that we should not care about others. What is important is to accept reality when impermanence hits. Do not delude ourselves or escape from facts. Delusion is what prevents us from becoming enlightened. We create a lot of delusions about people, about the world.
It is very important to recognize this. Whatever relationships that we encounter--with parents and children, husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, friends and classmates—do we not always have this inherent belief that “things will stay the way it is; we will always be
good friends; I will always have this good job” ? But this thinking goes against reality, we are not observing reality as it is. When we live in this delusion, we ignore things, we choose not to see things, we lie to ourselves. Then when something happens we are shocked by it. In truth, the world changes continuously. A lot of different conditions come into being. A lot of different factors come into play—things are always changing.
So impermanence is a fact of life. That in itself is not painful; it is not the source of our problems. Not recognizing impermanence, instead creating an illusion that things will stay the way they are for a long time--that is the source of suffering. The more we get attached to things, the less we can accept it when they come to pass, and the more pain we feel. To see life for what it is, to accept things as they occur, is an important lesson for us all. You need not believe in what I have just said. In his teachings, the Buddha always encouraged people to examine things for themselves.
When we live in illusion of permanence, when we cling to the past, then we will not be ready for the present. When things happen we are surprised, displeased, thinking it is unfair. And we wonder about the future. At some time or another, we have probably all asked questions like, “Why do these things happen? Why was I born? Why do these good/ bad things happen to me instead of others? Why are some people born so rich? Why are some people so poor? “ There are reasons. They are not accidents. There are reasons for everything.
Can The Future Be Foretold?
Many Chinese people in the olden times, and even nowadays, are very interested in fortune telling. “What’s my future?” They want to go find out, and so there are many fortunetellers around. Few of them even seem to be somewhat accurate. But nobody is a hundred percent accurate all the time. Now in the western world, in these modern times, how do we view this? Is it a superstition? Can future really be foretold? We shall soon understand.
In the Ming Dynasty there was a well-known man named Yuan, Liao Fan. When he was about five or six years old, he met a fortuneteller, who foretold his life. He said, “You will take a government examination when you are eighteen. You will get this grade and pass. You will then obtain a certain position in the government.” He even knew how much salary Liao Fan would get. “But,” he continued, “you will only go this far. You will not be able to get very high in the government. You will get married at this age. You will have no children. And then, you will die at the age of fifty-three.”
This is a true story. As Liao Fan grew up, everything that was foretold came true. When he took his government examinations, he got exactly the same grades, position, and salary that the fortuneteller predicted. He was amazed. “So life is predestined,” he thought to himself. “What’s the point in making an effort then?” So he came to believe that life and the future were all predetermined. How else was it possible for someone to foretell your future? “Things will just turn out the way it is supposed to. What would be the point of trying?” He stopped striving and took an easy life. He started traveling and sightseeing all over China.
One day he came upon a mountain. In that mountain was a monastery where a renowned Chan (Zen) master lived. He went in and saw the Chan master sitting in meditation. So Liao Fan sat down in meditation also. They sat that way for three days and three nights without moving.
The Chan master was quite surprised. “This is no ordinary person,” he thought. As we all know, having just sat through a half-an-hour session, that this was no easy feat!
The Chan master asked Liao Fan, “What experiences have you had in your life? How can you sit there without raising a single thought? You are very calm.”
Liao Fan told the master about the fortune-teller and his predictions, and then added, “I came to the realization that everything in life is predetermined. What is the point of doing anything? What is the point in raising any thought? I just take life as it comes. Things will run their own course.”
Upon hearing this, the Chan master laughed at him. “And here I thought you were someone extraordinary. Actually, you are only an ordinary man. Quite ordinary.”
Liao Fan was a bit upset. He was bright. At the age of eighteen, he passed his official exams, and received a fairly decent governmental post. Back in those days, this also was not an easy task! He did quite well for himself and was proud of the fact too.
He asked, “Why do you say that I am an ordinary person?”
“When you were six, someone predicted your life. It’s been twenty years since, and what he predicted is still true. This means that you are common like the rest,” the Chan master’s replied. “Ordinary people’s lives can be foretold while exceptional ones cannot be. For the very virtuous and very immoral people, their lives cannot be foretold.”
Liao Fan became curious.
Weaving The Future Pattern
The Chan master explained, “Why is it that your whole life can be prophesied? As you react to things the same way, a pattern forms. You don’t really learn, you don’t really change yourself. When someone gets angry with you, you get angry in return. When someone praises you, you are flattered, and then your pride becomes inflated. In the past you were like this, now you are like this, in the future you would still be like this. So the pattern continues.”
Whenever we think or do something, something called karma is created. Karma is action, and actions have effects on the universe, the cosmos; karma has an effect in Dharma realm. Whatever you do, the retribution will come back to affect you. This concept is actually very scientific. Newton discovered that, when you apply a force, a same and equal force from the opposite direction will return; for every action there is a reaction. This is just one of the special cases of karmic law. When we perform good deeds, good things will happen to you. When you perform bad deeds, negative things will come back to you. Anything that you do, performing an action or deed, you create karma. A corresponding outcome will thus be created. Its effect will show in due time.
Now there are people in this world who can tell the future, see the future “patterns.” Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, great cultivators, people with samadhi (people who have attained deep concentration states), they can see that. And then we have the fortunetellers who may also predict that. He may not be a Buddha or a cultivator. He may not even know how to meditate. But yet he can tell something about the future. Why? Simply put, fortune telling is based on statistics, a set of rules devised by observing many people and averaging out a common pattern.
There are signs that one can learn to observe. Some people can look at your face and tell something about you. It is a matter of acute observations and following some rules.
What we have done throughout our lives leaves imprints in the mind. Your gestures and physical characteristics become extensions of these imprints. The Buddha sees that the body and the mind are not separate entities, they are one of the same. Your face, your body reflects your mind. If you can learn to perceive this, you would have the ability to know more about a person. But nobody can be a hundred percent accurate.
Your future is the accumulation of all your actions done up to the present moment. Everything done from the past up to now weaves a future pattern. This is just causality. If we never improve or change ourselves and we react to situations in the same manner, then basically everything will run accordingly. For example, if I slapped you, I would be able to tell your future. You would probably get angry or slap me right back. That is predicting the future. I took a probable guess and predicted your future reaction.
Then why is it that the lives of virtuous people cannot be determined? They do not fall into the norm. Very virtuous people examine their own actions closely; they are constantly improving themselves, and so change their future constantly. Thus their future becomes difficult to determine. The same holds true for very immoral people. Their minds are constantly going on the wrong track. They always create evil karma and thereby alter their lives for the worse. In both these cases, the actions have fallen out of the norm, out of the range of predictability for that of an average person.
So the Chan master told Liao Fan, “Why do I say that you are ordinary? Because the predictions still hold true. You are of the average lot.”
“Are you saying then that I can change my future, that it doesn’t always have to be this way?” asked Liao Fan.
”Yes, certainly. And I will teach you.”
Now we come to a very profound concept: the causal relationship of all things. It is a fundamental Buddhist realization. If you wish to obtain a certain result, you need to do certain things. We need to examine, to recognize the right causal relationship of situations. You need to find the right cause and conditions that will create the right results. That is science. In fact, that is exactly what science and scientists do. They try to find the right causal relationships of things in the world.
If you do not want awful things to happen in the future, you can try to change it. As we have said, the future is determined by everything previous to it. Why did the fortuneteller predict that Liao Fan would die at the age of fifty-three? He must have preformed some action, some karma, to get this result. How does one change this? How do we live a longer life? We need to understand the causal relationships between long lives and short lives. If we do a lot of killing, we take away the lives of other beings. As a karmic result, we will have poorer health, or live shorter lives. And if in a single lifetime we kill excessively, we will live shorter lives or be killed for many lifetimes to come. This is causality.
Once we have understood causal relationships, we must not forget another important element: acceptance. Everything that happens to us, good or bad, is due to things that we have done previously. When we get into an “accident”, when we earn a good living, when someone dies, etc., if these things have already happened, then they are in the past. There is nothing else to do but to accept. We often say, “time can heal everything.” Does time heal anything? No. What happens is that as time goes by, we gradually accept reality. Acceptance, that is what heals. So why not accept things now, as they happen?
However, this is not the same as believing in a predetermined future. The point stressed here is to learn how to let go now instead of ten years later, then we will not suffer as much. Sooner or later you will have to accept. Wise people perceive things as they are, accept events as they come. This is not being pessimistic. This is being realistic. We can still try to change the world and change ourselves, because things can still be changed before they happen, not after.
The Chan master continued, “If you want to change the future, if you want to live a longer life, then you need to understand what are the causes for a long life. You need to stop acts of killing, and even more importantly, protect and save lives. Do things that can save people and animals. For example, donate medicine. Save animals from being slaughtered. When you perform these acts, you change your future.”
He then added, “Promise yourself to do a thousand good deeds. Perform a thousand virtuous actions to help others. Whenever you complete an act of goodness, mark it down in a book. Keep a track of these. Try to finish in three years.”
And so he did. One, two, three years finally passed and Liao Fan finished. He felt very happy. His life was more meaningful. He decided to make a new vow, a new resolve. “I will do ten thousand more over this many years,” he promised himself.
Gradually things began to change. The predictions were no longer accurate. He was not supposed to get any higher positions in the government but he got promoted. He was to have no children but he had two excellent sons. And then when he was fifty-three, he did not die. Liao Fan actually changed his future. When he was sixty-nine, he wrote a book about his realizations called, “The Four Lessons of Liao Fan.” (了凡四訓) It is still in circulation now and is even translated into English.
As we see, a large degree of the future is in our hands. I say to a large degree because there are still some things that are very difficult to alter. But our current actions can definitely change what is yet to come.
The Key to a New Future
The Buddha once said, “If you want to know what you have done in your past (including past lives), just look at what has happened in this life. If you want to know what will happen to your future, just look at what is being done in this life.” (欲知過去因，今生受者是。欲知未來果，今生作者是。) There is no need to go to a fortuneteller. All we need to do is to look at this life’s experiences. Has it been good? Has it been bad? Has it been mixed? If it has been mostly good and happy, then that means that in the past you have done many good deeds. You made others happy, you created good karma between you and other people. If most of your life has been unhappy and unfortunate, then that means that we have not planted good seeds previously.
We created a lot of bad karma. Just by understanding this Principle of Causality, you can tell about your own past. We do not need a fortuneteller or go to get hypnotized. The details, who you were, what you did, are not all that important. Why? It is already in the past. What would be the point? Take a deep look at this life and you will have a good general idea of the past.
As for our future, “If you want to know what will happen to your future, just look at what is being done in this life.” This is the key. There is an important difference between “what has happened” and “what is being done.” For example, if somebody treats you badly, that is a result of karma from the past. This is something that you are experiencing now, something that “has happened.” How you react to this situation though is “what is being done” and this will determine the events in the future. Do you understand? You cannot change what has already occurred. However, when you change your reactions, you change the future outcomes. If someone treats you badly that means that somewhere along the way, bad karma was created between the two of you. If you react to things in the same negative way and think, “He treated me badly, I will get him back, fair is fair,” then you have created the same cycle over again. This is samsara. It like playing ping-pong, hitting back and forth. The same situation happens over and over again. A predictable pattern forms.
If we understand this, we should be determined to change our reactions. Instead we say, “He treats me badly, I will forgive and forget. I will be like the vast empty space and let go.” Immediately the karma between the two of you changes for the better. Bad karma turns into good karma.
The future depends on what you have done, and what you do now. And what you do now comes from the mind and the thoughts that you have at this moment. That is why we need to meditate in order to become more mindful. Everything begins from the mind. Everything you do, everything you say. You need to be aware of the type of your thoughts that you are having. What are you thinking? How do you react to things? The change starts from there, the future changes from there.
Through awareness you can detect your thoughts, catch them before they turn into an action. It is like catching a thief before it commits a crime, and transforming the thief into a sage. Transform your thoughts into actions that will bring you happiness. Have thoughts of equality, of tolerance, of compassion. Then turn these thoughts into actions. Generosity and charity will bring you prosperity; giving comfort, solace and compassion will bring peace and blessings. Protecting life will give you good health and a long life. This is the Buddhist principle of causality. When you understand it, you take life into your control. Life then becomes very positive. You can always change things for the better, beginning at this very moment. Detect your thoughts, become aware. What are you thinking? Exam them closely. Catch yourself and ask, “am I falling back to my old ways, the old habitual ways of reacting? That is not being very mindful is it?” Become mindful, live a mindful life, that is cultivation.
11 December 2009
- Ramana Maharshi
Are you breathing?
Are sounds appearing?
Are thoughts coming and going?
Are feelings in the body happening?
Could it be that you are already awake?
Could it be that you were never actually asleep?
This is all there is.
What's happening is all that's happening.
Pretty damn obvious right?
And yet you believe that you are an individual who experiences life. An individual who is somehow separate from life. But is there really anyone here experiencing life, or is there just life happening, to and for no-one? Just life seeing itself, hearing itself, tasting and touching itself? Just this spontaneous present appearance? Just the dance of life, in love with itself?
Notice: Everything that happens happens right here.
Notice: Sounds come and go, effortlessly. There's nothing you need to do, or give up doing, for this to be. Sounds simply happen. They arise spontaneously in this aliveness. They appear here.
Feelings in the body happen. Perhaps a tightness in the chest. Perhaps a rumbling in the stomach. Sensations appear and disappear. They arise and fall away.
And there is something here that gently notices all of that.
Is there a sense of a presence that sits 'behind' everything, watching everything?
Has it always been there?
Is there the sense of something here that is already aware of sounds coming and going?
Something that is not really a 'something' at all, because it is not part of that which comes and goes?
Could that 'something' be the no-thing that allows every-thing to be?
Notice: feelings in the body simply appear in presence. Simply, effortlessly, ordinarily, they appear.
And thoughts too. Thoughts come and go. See how they arise, linger a while, and pass. And there is something here that watches silently as all thoughts come and go. All the thoughts in the world come and go in this presence.
Something here is already free from all thoughts. Something here is already liberated from the entire story that thought has constructed about "me and my life". Something here is already free from "me and my problems", "me and my spiritual seeking", "me and my difficulties", "me and my successes and failures". There is something here that is already free from past and future. Something that is already free from "you".
"You" are just a bundle of stories, arising presently. What you are cannot be touched by any of those stories.
Notice: sounds come and go. Clouds in the sky come and go. Cars and trees and people come and go. Smells and tastes come and go. Feelings in the body come and go. Thoughts come and go. An entire world comes and goes. And there is something here that is not touched by any of that coming and going. There is something here that never enters into the stream of coming and going, cause and effect, time and space. There is something here that is already totally, radically free.
There is a freedom here that does not come and go.
Could this freedom be identical with what you are?
Is there really an inside and an outside? Or is that just another thought, another concept that comes and goes?
Notice: sounds in the room come and go. Bodily feelings come and go. Thoughts come and go. None of these are 'inside' or 'outside'. They are just happenings. 'Inside' and 'outside' are just more labels that appear. 'Inside and outside' is just another story that comes and goes in this awareness.
Prior to the story of 'inside and outside' can anything really be inside or outside?
That bird singing. Is it happening inside of you, or outside of you? Is there really any division there, or is that just another creation of thought? Come back to the bird singing. Is there really an inside and outside, or is there just the bird singing? Is there even a 'bird' that's outside of you, or is there just the singing?
Everything seems to arise within presence, within awareness, within consciousness, within being; you can give it a million different names. But should we really call it 'awareness' or 'consciousness' at all? Doesn't that suggest that there is something there that is separate from everything else? How can we speak about it when it's not an 'it' at all?
Should we even speak about it?
Notice: you have no way of separating yourself from what you are seeing, touching, hearing. Awareness-presence-consciousness-being seems to mingle with everything that you see, hear, touch, taste. So much so that it seems to be identical with everything that arises.
Presence is not separate from the sounds in the room, from the feelings in the body, from the thoughts that arise and fall away. In fact, presence is the sounds, presence is the feelings, presence is the thoughts that arise. It is all a play of presence, a play of consciousness, a play of being, the play of the divine.
Can you find anything - anything at all - that separates you from the sound of that bird singing? From that feeling in the stomach? From these presently-arising thoughts?
You have no way of separating yourself from life.
So, who are you? Are you the sounds in the room? Well no, you might say; you are aware of sounds, so you are not those sounds. Are you feelings in the body? No, they arise and fall away, and there is something here that does not fall away when they fall away. Are you any of the thoughts that arise? No, you are aware of them, so you are not them. They come and go. Everything does.
There seems to be something here that is already free from the world of passing forms. There seems to be something here that remains when everything else has come and gone. A 'peace that passes all understanding'. An openness that is already open and never closed up. A gentle seeing that welcomes everything as it is born and dies.
You are not sounds, smells, thoughts, feelings. But it would be equally true to say that you are those sounds, smells, thoughts and feelings.
Non-duality does just not mean "not duality". It also includes apparent duality. It is not duality, but it is also duality, because it is everything.
You are everything that arises. And, at the same time, you are nothing, because you are also the wide open space that holds everything. You are everything, but because you are aware of everything, you cannot be any of the things of which you are aware. Nothing, everything. Everything, nothing.
And so that bird singing over there. You are not that, because you are aware of that. But at the same time, you have no way of separating yourself from that. At the same time, you are that.
The bird sings, and you are the bird singing. The bird sings, and that is you. How intimate this is!
And notice, even these are just more thoughts that arise. I am nothing, I am everything. I am nobody. I am somebody. Self, no self. Me, no me. Just thoughts. What are those thoughts trying to capture?
Forget the words. Going on present evidence, what is clear? Is it clear that you are no-thing, you are the empty space, the vast openness in which an entire cosmos arises? And yet, because that spaciousness can in no way be separated from everything that arises, you are everything too? Don't believe me. I don't want you to believe me. Come back to what's actually happening, right now. And there is no other time!
A bird sings. Aliveness dresses up as a bird singing, and as the one who hears the bird singing.
Upon hearing the bell ringing, the Zen master said "there is no bell, and no I, just the ringing."
No bird, no I, just the singing.
Notice that what we are pointing to is very ordinary and everyday. Nothing special. Just sounds, thoughts, feelings happening. Just life happening, as it is happening. What is, as it is. A bird sings, a dog barks. Just that, and nothing more.
Do you believe that there is an event called 'awakening' that will suddenly transform everything? An experience called 'enlightenment that will come along and solve all of your problems? An 'energetic shift' or 'transformation of consciousness' that will strike you if you're lucky enough or dedicated enough? A 'falling away of the I' that will happen one day, if you just wait long enough?
Who told you that? Why did you believe them? Didn't that just lead to feelings of inferiority? To the sense that you weren't good enough? To more seeking?
Notice, that all of these stories are just thoughts arising in this ever-present awakeness. All beliefs are just that: present thoughts. The beliefs and concepts about awakening, about spirituality, nonduality, Advaita, enlightenment – all of these arise and fall away in what you are, which cannot be touched by any belief.
You see, there is something here that is already awake, and has no need for any 'future event' to be so. This awakeness, this aliveness is what you already are. You are not asleep, you are awake! And this aliveness is not separate from everything. It is not separate from the world. You could so far as to say that this awakeness is the world in its entirety. You are the world, and the world is you, something which Krishnamurti often repeated.
There is only now (and of course even 'now' is just another idea.) So who cares if you were 'awakened' yesterday? Who cares if you'll be 'awakened' tomorrow? There is only now. And this is the only awakeness there is.
If there is any awakening, it is here and now. If there is any awakening, it is this.
This is life, awake to itself.
You are the awakening. You are life seeing itself. Meeting itself in a million different forms, and delighting in that.
Notice, there is nothing to awaken from. And nobody there who could do that awakening. The person who would awaken, or not, is just a thought-story, arising here. The person and all their seeking, all their suffering, all their problems, is just a huge bundle of thoughts arising in this ever-present awakeness. "You" are just a story.
That is why, ultimately, nobody "notices" this. There is nobody there who "sees" this. Nobody who is awakened, nobody who is enlightened. Nobody there who thinks, breathes, hears, smells. Everything just happens but there is nobody there doing any of it. Ultimately, this life has no centre. There is only life happening, but to no-one.
The thought "I see" cannot itself see. The thought "I hear" cannot hear a thing. The individual is only an apparent individual.
And yet this is not about rejecting those stories. This is not about rejecting the apparent individual. Notice that nothing could ever be rejected in this awakeness, because this awakeness is everything that arises. Notice that any rejection would just be something else happening in this awakeness.
Even the appearance of the individual is welcome here. This intimacy rejects nothing.
This is already awake. This is already enlightened. Can you see how enlightenment has nothing to do with a separate person becoming something?
Enlightenment does not exist outside of a thought story about it.
Enlightenment. Literally: to en-lighten. To shine light upon. Notice that everything is already enlightened. The light of awareness is already shining upon everything, allowing everything to be. Allowing everything to arise and dissolve exactly when it does, and not a moment before.
Breathing happening. Heart beating. Hunger in the belly. Cars beeping their horns.
Notice: there is a perfection here that could never be reached by a seeking mind. Perfection because it couldn't be any other way. A perfection that includes all apparent imperfection. Only thought would say "this should or could be otherwise". Beyond that story, this is as it is. And it is enough.
I am describing the state you are already in. And there is no other state. (Or if there is, it is something that comes and goes in this. All 'experiences', all 'states', all 'events' arise and dissolve in this. This is the stateless state, if you will. The event-less event. The eternal experience.)
I am describing what you already are.
I am describing what is already the case.
You have always been this.
The world is illusory – everything, literally, every 'thing' is a passing form. Everything is a form passing through awareness. Nothing has any existence outside of a thought story. Everything is empty of self-nature. Everything is impermanent, as the Buddhists have always known. (The word 'existence' literally means 'to stand out of Being'. In other words, to be separate from Being. And of course, that is the illusion - that there is anything separate from anything else. Anything that 'exists' in an illusion.)
Brahman alone is real – behind all the passing forms of the world, behind any 'thing' that 'exists' there is awareness. There is this. Not the thought of it, but the undeniable actuality. Can you deny that you are present and aware, right now? The world comes and goes in this. The "I" comes and goes in this. 'I' and 'world' arise and dissolve together, and only this remains. And even the thought that "only this remains" is something that arises in this. You cannot escape this. Trying to escape from this is just this trying to escape from itself.
Brahman is the world – awareness and the passing contents of awareness are not-two. And this is about as far as we can go with words.
This is not about an intellectual understanding, because all the intellectual understanding in the world is just something else that comes and goes in this. The truth cannot be told, but whether or not it can be told, this is.
All words can do is suggest that everything that arises in the vastness is not separate from the vastness. Everything that arises – the 'world'- is not separate from Brahman. Brahman is the world. And so there is no Brahman and no world.
In other words, this awakeness was never born and will never die. And it is what you are. You are already free.
And so what does all of that mean? To where is it all pointing? Where does it leave us?
Here, right here. Radically so. Breathing happening. The heart beating. A bird singing. Feelings in the body happening. The refrigerator buzzing. Right here, right now, the miracle shines.
This is the only miracle: that anything is happening at all.
This is the awakening: here and now.
This is the grace: drinking a cup of tea. Watching the sunset. Chatting with a friend. Ordinary life, as it is. Ordinary awareness, as it is. Aliveness dances in and as everything. It is aliveness drinking a cup of tea, or watching a sunset. And the tea is aliveness playing at being tea, and the sunset is aliveness playing at being a sunset. In everything, as everything, life dances.
Home was always here: where you are.
You spent a lifetime looking for what was always right under your nose.
No matter. That 'lifetime' is just a thought arising now.
Good to notice.
By Jeff Foster
Why do we try to blame others for weaknesses in our own nature?
Why do we make ourselves unhappy by cherishing negative thoughts?
Why do we always want to have the last word?
Why do we place so much emphasis on the misinformed criticisms of others?
Why do we struggle to find time to spend even 10 minutes a day on the cultivation of our own inner peace.
Why do we give so much importance to the fleeting prospects of name and fame?
Why do we struggle to see the beautiful and simple in every day life?
Why are we instinctively drawn to the faults of others and remain blind to their good qualities?
Why do we continue to pursue habits we know are bad for us?
Why do we so often live in the past, reliving old problems?
Why do we get malicious pleasure from speaking ill of other people?
Why do we feel responsible for the progress of the world?
Why do we doubt our own capacities?
Why do we give so much importance to the accumulation of material wealth?
By Sri Chinmoy
Because it is easier to blame than it is to change.
Because it is easier to dwell than it is to act.
Because it is easier to seem right than it is to seem wrong.
Because it ease easier to busy and run away from our inner weaknesses than it is to be still and face them.
Because it is easier to convince with reputation than it is to convince with passion.
Because in complexity we find excuses to hide our unproductive actions.
Because it is easier to practice ignorance than it is to practice empathy.
Because it is easier to speak than it is to be still.
Because we take much and give little.
Because we are afraid to fail.
Because it is easier to follow the norm than it is to follow your dreams.
A Guided Meditation by Peter Aronson
The is the text Peter prepared when he led a meditation on impermanence and death at a retreat given by Ven. Chodron. The purpose of the meditation is to help us see what is important in life, what we need to take care and place as priorities in our lives.
One day, your life is definitely going to be over, and since you have no way of knowing when you're going to die, it's a good idea to be prepared. So now we're going to do a meditation where you will imagine your own death.
Imagine you're on an airplane leaving after this retreat. This is not some abstract airplane... a specific one. Look around you and note what airline you're flying on. Notice what seat you're in, and whether it's an aisle or window seat. Smell that airplane smell in the air. See the tray table in front of you, and feel the seat belt.
You've already had a cold drink, and a tiny bit of airplane snack food. You're relaxed, you're feeling good. Maybe you're reading, or napping, or you've just come back from the lavatory. A typical flight. Take a few moments to get a clear image of the scene in your mind.
All of a sudden, you see three men jump to their feet, shout something in a foreign language and run toward the cockpit. There's a commotion at the front of the plane, and you see blood spray on the ceiling. People are screaming now. Your heart is pounding. Your blood feels cold. There's an explosion. A flash and a boom at the front of the plane. After a few minutes, you learn that the terrorists were killed in the blast, but the pilot and co-pilot are also dead. The plane's controls have been damaged beyond repair. It's still flying, but there's no way to land the plane. It will just keep going and going and going for a few more hours until it runs out of fuel, and then it will drop out of the sky and plummet to the earth.
You know that you're going to die. All the people around you are going to die. There's nothing you can do about it. No one can save you. People around you are crying.
How do you feel? What are you going to do? Among your belongings, you have a cellphone with you. Who do you want to talk to, if anyone, and what will you say? Who don't you want to talk to?
Take some time to think about this.
Some time goes by. The plane enters some dark clouds, and you begin to feel turbulence. All the lights are off, and there's no pilot left to comfort you, just the noise of the wind and the engine and the crying and screams. You're thrown around wildly in your seat. After a time, it smooths out again, but the plane is flying much lower now. You think about all your friends and family on the ground, and how safe they are, while your own life is going to end so soon, even though you're so healthy, and so full of a desire to live.
Think about this.
More time passes. You hear one engine go quiet, and the plane begins to turn. You're flying in circles now. Automatically you begin to think about your life, your whole life. From the time you were a child until now. So as you look back on your life, what has been worthwhile? What do you feel good about having done? What has created positive imprints that will help you have a good future rebirth? Consider this for a while.
And as you look back over your life, what do you have regrets about? What weighs on your mind? What mistakes have you made in your life? Before the plane hits the ground, who do you need to forgive? How can you let go of that anger?
Now bring your awareness back to the meditation cushion. You're sitting here again, back in the relative safety of this room. Temporarily, you're still alive. But one day in the future, everyone in this room will be dead, without exception. Knowing that one day you WILL die, what is important to you? What are your priorities? What is unimportant to do? What is useless? How do you want to live the rest of your life, whatever time you have left?
Feel deeply, in your guts, how important it is to make life meaningful while you still have a chance. And with that feeling, come to some definite conclusions about how you want to live from this moment until your last.