September 15, 2008

Enlightenment in your Inbox? Subscribe to Dalai Lama Quote of the Week.

I get so many emails. Too many. Hundreds a day. Luckily, I type quickly and get back to half of ’em. So it’s with relief that there’s a few (like this, and Trungpa Rinpoche quotes, and Treehugger’s daily newsletter) that offer something, or rather offer a break from ‘something‘—a little nothingness, a little gap in my mindstream.

Subscribe here. Here’s four recent ones to give you a taste of what you’re in for.

  • August 30
    Once we take ourselves and the quality of our life seriously, and acknowledge the difficulties we may be experiencing, the next step is to have confidence that (1) it is possible to overcome them, (2) there is a way to accomplish this, and (3) we are capable of achieving it [Buddha-nature]. This bring us to the topics of refuge and Buddha-nature.
    Taking refuge is not a passive act of placing ourselves in the hands of a higher power that will do everything for us, as the English word “refuge” might imply. It is an active process of putting a safe, reliable and positive direction in our life. That direction is indicated by the Buddhas, the Dharma and the Sangha–the Three Precious Gems. They are precious in the sense that they are both rare and valuable….
    In short, the definitive level of the Three Precious Gems of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha presents the goal we would like to achieve. Their interpretable level indicates what we rely on, externally, to bring ourselves there. But we also have internal factors that we need to rely on as well. These refer to our Buddha-nature.
    We are capable of eliminating our problems and achieving the definitive Three Precious Gems because everyone has Buddha-nature, namely the various factors or working materials that make it possible. Of all our natural resources, the most important is mind. We all have a mind which, in its nature, is unhampered by anything from experiencing whatever exists. No matter what happens–no matter how confused, stressed or unhappy we may be–we experience it. Even death is something that we experience when it occurs. Therefore, because we have a mind that allows us to experience whatever exists, we have the basic resource that allows us to experience a total absence of confusion and a utilization of all possible good qualities for helping others–provided that such a total absence and utilization actually exist. In other words, if we can establish that it is possible for these two things to exist–and that they are not just objects of nice but totally unrealistic wishes–we can be confident that we are capable of attaining them, simply because we have a mind.
    –from The Gelug/Kagyu Tradition of Mahamudra
  • August 24
    Actually, we Buddhists are supposed to save all sentient beings, but practically speaking, this may be too broad a notion for most people. In any case, we must at least think in terms of helping all human beings. This is very important. Even if we cannot think in terms of sentient beings inhabiting different worlds, we should nonetheless think in terms of the human beings on our own planet. To do this is to take a practical approach to the problem. It is necessary to help others, not only in our prayers, but in our daily lives. If we find we cannot help another, the least we can do is to desist from harming them. We must not cheat others or lie to them. We must be honest human beings, sincere human beings.
    On a very practical level, such attitudes are things which we need. Whether one is a believer, a religious person, or not, is another matter. Simply as an inhabitant of the world, as a member of the human family, we need this kind of attitude. It is through such an attitude that real and lasting world peace and harmony can be achieved. Through harmony, friendship, and respecting one another, we can solve many problems in the right way, without difficulties.
    –from Answers: Discussions with Western Buddhists
  • August 16
    It makes no sense to brood anxiously on the harmful actions we have committed in the past to the point where we become paralyzed. They are done, it is over. If the person is a believer in God, the appropriate action is to find some means of reconciliation with Him. So far as Buddhist practice is concerned, there are various rites and practices for purification. When the individual has no religious beliefs, however, it is surely a matter of acknowledging and accepting any negative feelings we may have in relation to our misdeeds and developing a sense of sorrow and regret for them. But then, rather than stopping at mere sorrow and regret, it is important to use this as the basis for resolve, for a deep-seated commitment never again to harm others and to direct our actions all the more determinedly to the benefit of others. The act of disclosure, or confession, of our negative actions to another–especially to someone we really respect and trust–will be found to be very helpful in this. We are quite wrong if we merely acknowledge the gravity of our actions inwardly and then, instead of confronting our feelings, give up all hope and do nothing. This only compounds the error. Above all, we should remember that as long as we retain the capacity of concern for others, the potential for transformation remains. Above all, we should remember that as long as we retain the capacity of concern for others, the potential for transformation remains.
    –from Ethics for the New Millennium
  • August 9
    According to Buddhism, compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It’s not passive–it’s not empathy alone–but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and lovingkindness. That is to say, one must understand the nature of the suffering from which we wish to free others (this is wisdom), and one must experience deep intimacy and empathy with other sentient beings (this is lovingkindness). Let’s examine these two elements.
    The suffering from which we wish to liberate other sentient beings, according to Buddha’s teachings, has three levels. The first level includes the obvious physical and mental sensations of pain and discomfort that we can all easily identify as suffering. This kind of suffering is primarily at the sensory level–unpleasant or painful sensations and feelings. The great Tibetan master Panchen Losang Chokyi Gyaltsan, tutor to the fifth Dalai Lama, reminds us that even animals seek to avoid physical suffering and pain.
    The second level of suffering is the suffering of change. Although certain experiences or sensations may seem pleasurable and desirable now, inherent within them is the potential for culminating in an unsatisfactory experience. Another way of saying this is that experiences do not last forever; desirable experiences will eventually be replaced by a neutral experience or an undesirable experience. If it were not the case that desirable experiences are of the nature of change, then, once having a happy experience, we would remain happy forever! In fact, if desirability were intrinsic to an experience, then the longer we remained in contact with it, the happier we would become. However, this is not the case. In fact, often, the more we pursue these experiences, the greater our level of disillusionment, dissatisfaction, and unhappiness becomes.
    …But the third level of suffering is the most significant–the pervasive suffering of conditioning. This refers to the very fact of our unenlightened existence, the fact that we are ruled by negative emotions and their underlying root cause, namely our own fundamental ignorance of the nature of reality. Buddhism asserts that as long as we are under the control of this fundamental ignorance, we are suffering; this unenlightened existence is suffering by its very nature.
    If we are to cultivate the deepest wisdom, we must understand suffering at its deepest, most pervasive level. In turn, freedom from that level of suffering is true nirvana, true liberation, the true state of cessation. Freedom from the first level of suffering alone–merely being free of unpleasant physical and psychological experiences–is not true cessation of suffering. Freedom from the second level is again not true cessation. However, freedom from the third level of suffering–being completely free from the very source of suffering–that is genuine cessation, genuine liberation.
    –from Essence of the Heart Sutra: The Dalai Lama’s Heart of Wisdom Teachings
  • August 2
    To consider those things which are existent, there are many phenomena which are produced only occasionally. For example, certain plants grow only during certain seasons, not all the time. That shows that they have been produced by their causes and conditions. On the other hand, certain phenomena exist permanently. Those are the two types of phenomena. In the case of phenomena which arise only occasionally for a certain period of time then cease to exist, their production is evidence used to prove their dependence on their causes and conditions. But permanent phenomena are not dependent on causes and conditions. Generally speaking, almost all phenomena which are beneficial or harmful to us belong to the category of the occasional, the dependent–the impermanent. Even our mind, which is to be disciplined and subdued belongs to that category.
    Within the kind of phenomena which are existent, we can talk about different types: those which are animate and those which are inanimate; those with form and those formless; visible and invisible; audible and inaudible. And there are phenomena which definitely exist but can be experienced only by our mind, not our sense perceptions; in other words, we can talk about two types of phenomena, external matter and internal consciousness. When we talk about subduing mind, we refer to internal consciousness, that which has clarity and cognitive power and is capable of experiencing objects. Although our mind has arisen depending upon its causes and conditions, we need to find out to what extent it can be transformed, for it is through the transformation of our mind that we can subdue it. The way of transformation is to pacify the mind’s faults and to cultivate and enhance its good qualities. Although there are certain phenomena which, having arisen from their causes and conditions, remain as they are and cannot be changed by any means, there are others, including our mind, which can be. To establish that kind of distinction, the reasons provided in the Lam-rim section on analytical meditation to generate special insight are especially important and useful.
    –from Generous Wisdom: Commentaries by H.H. the Dalai Lama XIV on the Jatakamala
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