Tender Joyful Heart | Part Two | 9 . 25 . 18


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Opening The Injured Heart

– Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche


The way to live with joy in a painful world 

is not by shutting down or closing off

—just the opposite.


Love is never the culprit. An open heart only provides joy, never suffering.

A self-destructive story we may tell ourselves when we’ve been hurt is that our open heart itself was the cause of our suffering. This is a common scenario in romantic love, for example. In the beginning, our love is so innocent and trusting, but when things don’t work out the way we had hoped, we can become bitter and jaded about love itself. We can blame love for our hurt and then have a hard time opening our heart toward others. But love is never the culprit. An open heart only provides joy, never suffering. If a few experiences of being disappointed make us give up on love altogether, our world will become dark and gloomy, even if everything else in our life works out the way we want. Therefore, to avoid this outcome, we have to investigate what has really happened, setting our story lines aside as much as possible. We need to look at cause and effect objectively, until we are able to blame whatever deserves blame—whether it’s our unreasonable attachments, our expectations, or our lack of wisdom and skillful means. When we use our mind to prove love not guilty in this way, then our heart will once again be free to love—from one person, to many people, and eventually to all sentient beings.

A similar descent into jadedness can happen with children as they grow up. Young children who are brought up in good circumstances feel a lot of love for their parents, for the world, for their games and activities, and so on. They maintain this innocent openness until they get older and meet the complex reality of the world. Then the innocent phase comes to an end, and they are faced with a challenge. At this point, they need to develop wisdom to keep that warm feeling flowing in the heart. Otherwise, they may interpret their loss of innocence as evidence that they have awakened from some kind of self-delusion: “Now it is time to wake up and accept the grim facts of life, the harsh reality of the world,” they may think. With such thoughts, it is natural for them to feel foolish about their naiveté and gullibility, and they may blame their disappointment on their openness of heart. The world is indeed full of harsh realities, but that is no justification for shutting down into our small, bitter self. On the contrary, the painful nature of samsara is the most important reason for us to find ways to keep our hearts continually warm with tsewa.

To reopen our heart after a deep hurt or a painful disillusionment can take a long time, even if we understand how necessary it is to do so. Even when we apply the effective methods of the dharma, such as those mentioned earlier, we may find that our thoughts still return to whatever self-destructive story we were telling ourselves. Because we have given a lot of energy to perpetuating these stories, there will still be momentum for them to keep resurfacing and occasionally carry us away. We have to be patient with this process. In our mind, thoughts are continually arising and dissolving, arising and dissolving. The thoughts that make up the story behind our injured heart are no different. But if we just give these thoughts space to arise and dissolve, they will eventually wear themselves out. The story will lose its feeling of reality and it will no longer be able to convince us. The key here is to focus on our tender heart and not pay so much attention to the story. If we do so, our tsewa eventually will overcome our confused and limited way of looking at things. We will have more confidence in tsewa and thus more confidence in ourselves. This confidence will be invaluable in carrying us forward along our spiritual journey.

Although they may take a long time to let go of completely, the most painful forms of grudge or disappointment can be the easiest for us to make progress with. The acute pain they cause gives us a lot of incentive to work with them. But in addition to these more blatant hurts, we can hold on to other forms of resentment that also block the flow of tsewa from our heart.

One of the most common causes of resentment is when we feel our love and tenderness are not reciprocated. It’s as if our tsewa comes with an implied condition—we can continue to keep our heart open only if the other party meets this expectation. This is not to say that reciprocation isn’t important. Gratitude, appreciation, and the willingness to reciprocate are signs of good character. Those who are strong in these qualities are well respected, and deservedly so. Also, mutual reciprocation gives people a greater sense of solidarity with each other.

But none of this should make reciprocation a condition for our expressing tsewa. Parents are able to love their young children, even before good character has formed. If parents always needed reciprocation, they couldn’t even begin parenthood. After all, babies do not reciprocate. We hope that our children will eventually become mature enough to know the value of gratitude and become worthy of our respect in this way. But until then, we never even think of making reciprocation a requirement.

When it comes to expressing our tender heart, we should try to have the same openness and tolerance that parents have with small children. This openness is based on appreciating tsewa as the source of all happiness, including our own. As the great sage Shantideva said, “If you make yourself a delicious meal, will you expect gratitude from yourself?” If you apply your power of discernment to your experience, you will see how tsewa is its own reward and how keeping your heart filled with tenderness is itself the greatest joy. If others respond well to your warmth, that is a bonus, but the continued flow of your tsewa shouldn’t be based on the response.

If we can’t recognize the joy in tsewa, it’s easy for us to get confused about why we are keeping our heart open. Are we doing it because we want to be good, because we’re “supposed to be” loving and compassionate? Are we doing it because of our ideas about karma, or because we’ve made some kind of commitment or vow? Are we doing it in response to some kind of pressure? If any of these become our primary motivation for expressing tsewa, then we may well overlook how joyful it is to have a tender heart. Our love will be based on concepts, not on our deep, heartfelt connection to the source of everything positive in the world.

Sometimes we don’t open our heart to others because we feel they are unworthy of our tender feelings. We are full of love and warmth, we think, but not everyone deserves our tsewa. Some people aren’t pure enough vessels to merit our outpouring of love and affection. They lack this or that qualification. If we are not careful, our critical mind will come up with a long list of requirements. Then our tsewa, which has the potential to flow limitlessly, will be walled in by our biases. That is not intelligence; it is ignorance. When we let the natural expression of our tender heart be handcuffed to a set of qualifications, we are putting our small, confused self in charge. We are forgetting that all beings are equally in need of tsewa because all beings—ourselves included—are constantly longing to be happy and free from suffering.

We are also forgetting the equality of all beings when we allow prejudices to tighten our heart. We may block our tsewa because of religion, gender, nationality, cultural differences, political differences, race, species, and so on. These prejudices can be very subtle, manifesting as a slight contraction or a feeling of indifference. They may not stand out as anything worth noticing, much less remedying. But these subtle blockages hinder our tsewa, and thus hinder our own happiness and our path to enlightenment. Therefore, we need to apply continual mindfulness and vigilant introspection to make sure we don’t come under the sway of any form of prejudice.

We need to be wary of closing our heart not only with people we know or encounter, but even with those we have never met or seen in person. It seems natural to withhold tsewa from a corrupt politician or ruthless war criminal that we read about in the news. But by doing so, we reverse our progress toward realizing the full capacity of our tender heart. Even if all our friends, or all of society, supports our closing down toward certain “evil” people, we have to put things in proper perspective, remembering the law of karma and choosing to have a bigger view of things. Otherwise, we won’t be able to arouse genuine bodhicitta, the aspiration to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all beings without exception.

The great Tibetan teacher Dromtonpa was once circumambulating a temple with a few of his disciples. Circumambulation is a traditional practice of showing respect to an object of veneration. At the outer edge of the circumambulation path, a stray dog was lying on the ground. Instead of walking down the middle of the path, Dromtonpa purposely went around the dog so as to include it in the circle of veneration. When one of his disciples asked him why he was paying such respect to a stray dog, Dromtonpa said, “I’m not paying respect to a dog. I’m paying respect to a being whose nature is enlightened.” This is how a sage sees other beings. However they may temporarily appear or behave, all sentient beings have the seed of enlightenment in their tender heart. Their innate tsewa may be thickly obscured, but it is still there. If we look at things from a wider perspective, we will know that there is something to venerate in everyone.

Our biases can come up not only in giving tsewa, but in receiving it as well. Sometimes we only want to receive tenderness and support from special people, an exclusive group that is worthy of giving that to us. But we are not like flowers that can only blossom if they receive rays of light from the sun. That is too limited a view. We can blossom by receiving tsewa from anyone, from the highest to the lowest. If we are too picky about whom we receive warmth from, then we may even lose the affection of those we do admit to our heart. For it will become harder and harder for the latter to meet our standards and expectations.

Sometimes we turn away from others’ tsewa because we are suspicious. Why is this person being so nice to me? What’s behind his friendly expressions? This person doesn’t even know me. What could he want? Is he planning to take advantage of me? So much paranoia can manifest when someone spontaneously and genuinely tries to be friendly with us. Of course, people can have ulterior motives, but 99 percent of the time, they are simply expressing the natural human desire to connect with one another. Why turn that into something else, something from which we need to protect ourselves?

If we let the 1 percent spoil the other 99 percent, we are letting our suspiciousness color all our relations. On one hand, we always long for love in our lives. We know we can’t be happy if we isolate ourselves. But on the other hand, we feel that we’re taking a big risk by opening up to receive tsewa. We have to recognize that this risk—which is usually tiny—is a risk well worth taking. What do we think we have to lose? Whatever it could be, that loss is nothing compared to the pain of keeping our heart closed in fear and paranoia.

At other times, we may feel that we just don’t deserve love. Somehow we’re fake, and when our true colors are exposed, we’ll be rejected. Inside we may feel shaky and weak. In this state, it’s very hard to open up to receiving warmth from anybody. This is when we have to remember that no one is undeserving. We are no worse than the dog that Dromtonpa circumambulated. We are also no better—everyone has the same precious tsewa. There is nothing fake about what lies at the core of all our hearts. We may have a lot of negative habits and shameful thoughts, but they are not our true colors.

As you remove impediments to giving and receiving tsewa, your mind and your life will be transformed. As you let go of small-minded stories and biases, you will be more and more amazed at how much warmth there is in this world. You will find so many beings to whom you can reach out and so many who can touch you as well. Wherever you stay or go, you will be able to make a difference in many others’ lives, and many others will be able to make a difference in your life. When you orient yourself to tsewa, what you can give and receive is boundless.

Tender Joyful Heart | Part One | 9 . 18 . 18



Opening The Injured Heart

– Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche


Click here to access PDF: TenderJoyfulHeart_PartOne9_18_18


The way to live with joy in a painful world

is not by shutting down or closing off

—just the opposite.


I’d like to talk to you about a profound quality that we all have: the innate tenderness of our own heart, or tsewa in Tibetan. When it is warm with tenderness and affection toward others, our own heart can give us the most pure and profound happiness that exists and enable us to radiate that happiness to others. That happiness is right here within us. It is not something on the outside for which we need to search and strive. We don’t need to get several university degrees, work hard, and save up a lot of money to buy it. We don’t need special opportunities or amazing luck. We only need this heart, which is right here within us, accessible at all times.

This may sound too simple—even simplistic. If happiness is so accessible, then why are so many of us unhappy? And if we do experience periods of happiness, why is our happiness so unreliable and difficult to maintain? The reason is that although this joyous, warm heart is part of our nature, most of the time its glow is hidden from us.

One of the most common impediments to tsewa is holding a grudge. If someone has caused you pain, it’s challenging to keep your heart open to that person. Even worse, a grudge against one person or a few people can turn into a much bigger form of resentment, such as prejudice toward an entire group of people or animosity toward the entire human race. It’s not uncommon for a few experiences of being hurt to block all flow of tenderness from a person’s inherently warm heart.

If you shut down your heart because of past injuries, life becomes a painful ordeal. Even if you hold a grudge against just one person, anytime you think of them or recall the time you were hurt, you will suffer. Since you have no control over when these thoughts will arise in your mind, you will always be susceptible to sudden pain. And if you resent many people, whole groups of people, or humanity at large, you will be that much more susceptible. There is no peace in such an existence, no matter how good your life may look from the outside.

To let go of our grudges, we must understand that we are not stuck with them. We have two choices. The habitual option is to keep holding on—to keep depriving ourselves of the oxygen of tsewa. The other way is to make whatever effort it takes to let go and thereby restore the naturally exuberant flow of love to our heart. We may believe we’re protecting our heart by shutting it down, but that is a confused way of thinking. Trying to protect ourselves in this way ends up being what harms us the most. There is a classic analogy: If an arrow wounds you, you can blame the one who shot the arrow for your injury. But if you then take that arrow and grind it deeper and deeper into your wound, that is your own doing.

The past is important, but not as important as the present and the future. The past has already been lived. It doesn’t have to be relived. To sacrifice the present and the future by reliving past injuries is not the way of the sages. When we find ourselves caught in a grudge, we should notice how we are perpetuating the past. Something has happened, and we have put together a whole story around it that we repeat to ourselves over and over like a broken record. And we tend to be so stubborn about these stories: “This is what happened, and there’s no other way of looking at it.” In this way, we continue to grind the arrow into the wound. Our mind and heart are frozen around this issue. How can we breathe our oxygen of tsewa in such a state?

The past has already been lived. It doesn’t have to be relived.

Closing our heart because of a grudge doesn’t harm only ourselves. Our negativity affects the people around us, such as our family and friends and those who depend on us. It makes it harder for them to be close to us, to feel relaxed in our presence. Though we may not act out with physical and mental abuse, our internal unhappy state distresses others, especially our children, who can perceive us in a less conceptual, more energetic way. On the other hand, overcoming our resentments and fully reclaiming our innate tsewa—our birthright to feel love and tenderness toward all—brings tremendous benefit to others. In the present, those around us feel our warmth, which in turn induces their own tsewa to flow. And in the long term, our tender heart is the seed of realizing our full potential to benefit others by attaining enlightenment.

Some grudges are easy to overcome, but with others, it may seem almost impossible to let go. Perhaps someone has let us down again and again. Perhaps someone we were kind to has hurt us badly. Perhaps someone has been cruel to us and shown no remorse. But whoever these individuals are and whatever they did, we have to keep in mind the bigger picture of what’s at stake: our wish-fulfilling jewel of tsewa. Sometimes it takes a lot of work to overcome resentment, but we are capable of doing that work as long as we are motivated. And we will be motivated as long as we understand there’s no good alternative.

Keeping your heart closed toward others who have hurt you is the natural result of perpetuating your negative story lines. It can seem like a satisfying way of repaying the injury. Perhaps unconsciously, you are thinking, “This person did this to me, so I’m going to get him back by maintaining a cold grudge in my heart.” Maybe your negative thoughts will make your enemy suffer. Maybe he will even come to you and beg for forgiveness on his knees! But even if your “best-case scenario” miraculously occurs, will it restore the mental and emotional balance you’ve lost while depriving yourself of tsewa? Will it bring you the peace and joy you long for every moment of your existence? Or will you have just caused yourself a lot of extra suffering that continues to disturb you like a hangover? And if the improbable desired outcome of your story never happens, how long are you willing to keep grinding the arrow into your wound?

These are questions you must ask yourself in your darkest hour, sincerely and objectively. Being objective will require you to step aside from your emotions and prejudices and look at the bigger picture. If you have observed the glories of the tender heart in your own experience, how does the possibility of fulfilling your story line compare? How does it compare to watering the seed of tsewa and watching it grow and grow until you realize your potential to become a buddha? Would you really prefer to collapse into your small, contracted self and its relatively minor concerns? Would you like that to be the dominant habit of your mind and heart?

If we ask ourselves these questions, we will inevitably conclude that keeping our heart closed is an unproductive way of working with our stories. A more intelligent way is to put the story in a bigger context. What is the one fact about every sentient being that never changes? It is our constant wish to be happy and free from suffering. The infinite differences in how we appear and how we behave are all temporary because they come from temporary conditions. Almost all of these conditions are beyond our control. They are based on other temporary conditions, which are based on more conditions, and so on. But underneath this limitless display of interdependence, we are all the same. No one is permanently one way or another—good or bad, right or wrong, for us or against us. When we hold a grudge, however, we see everything through the lens of that resentment. We see other beings, who are equal to us at the core, as intrinsically selfish, inconsiderate, or just plain bad. They can even appear to us as permanent enemies.

Right now we may be having a lot of turmoil around one particular person. If so, we should ask ourselves, “Has it always been this way with them? If not, then what has changed? Have they really changed at the core? Or is it that temporary conditions have changed? Will it always be this way in the future, or does that also depend on temporary conditions?”

We will quickly realize that people and our relationships with them are always changing. There is no malevolent, unchanging person who has always been and will always be against us. So if the conditions are responsible for what has gone wrong, does it make sense to hold on to blame? The object of our grudge is, in fact, quite innocent, like a child. He or she only wants to be happy and free from suffering but unfortunately sabotages these desires out of ignorance. If we were under the same conditions, we would be acting in the same confused way. In fact, we ourselves, though we may be well educated in the dharma, also can’t help harming others from time to time because of our own conditions. No sentient being is exempt from wrongdoing. But no one is intrinsically bad either. This is how we can understand things when we’re not blinded by our resentment.

If our aim is enlightenment—or at least some form of spiritual growth—then any time we are hurt, we can view it as an opportunity. Now we have a chance to look at things in a different way, which is based on wisdom. We can choose not to see the story with ourselves in the role of intrinsic victim and the other person in the role of intrinsic culprit. Both of us have the wish-fulfilling jewel of the tender heart, which gives us the potential to attain the ultimate state of happiness. But both of us, perhaps to different degrees, have let our jewel go to waste because of our ignorance. Either we haven’t recognized our tsewa, we haven’t appreciated it, or we’ve failed to take advantage of it because we continually get swept away by our habits. So far, our impediments have gotten the best of us. That is why we keep hurting one another. But now that we’ve encountered the Buddha’s wisdom and skillful means, we can finally learn to open our heart to all, including those who have hurt us in this life. As we gain confidence in the power of our tsewa, we can even hold a special place in our heart for the former objects of our grudges. We can be grateful that they have helped to open our eyes to the cyclic nature of suffering and motivated us to expand our mind and try a different approach. And if they are continuing to hurt others out of the suffering of a closed heart, we can feel compassion for them. In this way, the pain we have gone through can be transformed from an impediment into a warm rain that nourishes our precious seed of tsewa.

To be continued next week—Part Two.

Lovingkindness & See For Yourself | 9 . 11 . 18



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Kalama Sutta: To the Kalamas  

The Kalamas of Kesaputta ask for guidance from the Buddha

The Kalamas who were inhabitants of Kesaputta asked the Blessed One: “There are some monks and brahmans, venerable sir, who visit Kesaputta. They expound and explain only their own doctrines; the doctrines of others they despise, revile, and pull to pieces. Some other monks and brahmans too, venerable sir, come to Kesaputta. They also expound and explain only their own doctrines; the doctrines of others they despise, revile, and pull to pieces. Venerable sir, there is doubt, there is uncertainty in us concerning them. Which of these reverend monks and brahmans spoke the truth and which falsehood?”

The criterion for rejection

“It is proper for you, Kalamas, to doubt, to be uncertain; uncertainty has arisen in you about what is doubtful. Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias toward a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another’s seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, ‘The monk is our teacher.’ Kalamas, when you yourselves know: ‘These things are bad; these things are blamable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,’ abandon them.

Greed, hate, and delusion

“What do you think, Kalamas? Does greed, hate and delusion appear in a person for his benefit or harm?”

 — “For his harm, venerable sir.” 

“Kalamas, being given to greed, and being overwhelmed and vanquished mentally by greed, this person takes life, steals, commits adultery, and tells lies; he prompts another too, to do likewise. Will that be long for his harm and ill?” 

— “Yes, venerable sir.”

 “What do you think, Kalamas? Are these things good or bad?” 

— “Bad, venerable sir” 

— “Blamable or not blamable?”

 — “Blamable, venerable sir.” 

— “Censured or praised by the wise?”

— “Censured, venerable sir.” 

— “Undertaken and observed, do these things lead to harm and ill, or not? Or how does it strike you?” 

— “Undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill. Thus it strikes us here.”

 “Therefore Kalamas, do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias toward a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another’s seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, “The monk is our teacher.” Kalamas, when you yourselves know: “These things are bad; these things are blamable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,” abandon them.’

The criterion for acceptance

 “Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias toward a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another’s seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, ‘The monk is our teacher.’ Kalamas, when you yourselves know: ‘These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,’ enter on and abide in them.

Absence of greed, hate, and delusion

 “What do you think, Kalamas? Does absence of greed, hate and delusion appear in a person for his benefit or harm?”

 — “For his benefit, venerable sir.” 

— “Kalamas, being not given to greed, and being not overwhelmed and not vanquished mentally by greed, this person does not take life, does not steal, does not commit adultery, and does not tell lies; he prompts another too, to do likewise. Will that be long for his benefit and happiness?” 

— “Yes, venerable sir.”

“What do you think, Kalamas? Are these things good or bad?” 

— “Good, venerable sir.” 

— “Blamable or not blamable?”

 — “Not blamable, venerable sir.” 

— “Censured or praised by the wise?”

 — “Praised, venerable sir.” 

— “Undertaken and observed, do these things lead to benefit and happiness, or not? Or how does it strike you?”

 — “Undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness. Thus it strikes us here.”




Whatever kinds of worldly merit there are, all are not worth one sixteenth part of the heart-deliverance of loving-kindness; in shining and beaming and radiance the heart-deliverance of loving-kindness far excels them.

Just as whatever light there is of stars, all is not worth one sixteenth part of the moon’s; in shining and beaming and radiance the moon’s light far excels it; and just as in the last month of the Rains, in the Autumn when the heavens are clear, the sun as it climbs the heavens drives all darkness from the sky with its shining and beaming and radiance; and just as, when night is turning to dawn, the morning star is shining and beaming and radiating; so too, whatever kinds of worldly merit there are, all are not worth one sixteenth part of the heart-deliverance of loving-kindness; in shining and beaming and radiance the heart-deliverance of loving-kindness far excels them.


Discourse on Advantages of Loving-kindness

-The Buddha

Thus have I heard:

The Blessed One spoke as follows:

“Eleven advantages are to be expected from the release (deliverance) of heart by familiarizing oneself with thoughts of loving-kindness (metta), by the cultivation of loving-kindness, by constantly increasing these thoughts, by regarding loving-kindness as a vehicle (of expression), and also as something to be treasured, by living in conformity with these thoughts, by putting these ideas into practice, and by establishing them. What are the eleven?

1. “He sleeps in comfort. 2. He awakes in comfort. 3. He sees no evil dreams. 4. He is dear to human beings. 5. He is dear to non-human beings. 6. Devas (gods) protect him. 7. Fire, poison, and sword cannot touch him. 8. His mind can concentrate quickly. 9. His countenance is serene. 10. He dies without being confused in mind. 11. If he fails to attain arahantship (the highest sanctity) here and now, he will be reborn in the brahma-world.

“These eleven advantages are to be expected from the release of heart by familiarizing oneself with thoughts of loving-kindness, by cultivation of loving-kindness, by constantly increasing these thoughts, by regarding loving-kindness as a vehicle (of expression), and also as something to be treasured, by living in conformity with these thoughts, by putting these ideas into practice and by establishing them.”


Loving-kindness and its Rewards



So there are these five modes of speech that others may use when they address you. Their speech may be timely or untimely, true or untrue, gentle or harsh, for good or for harm, and may be accompanied by thoughts of loving-kindness or by inner hate. Now this is how you should train yourselves here: “Our minds will remain unaffected, we shall utter no bad words, we shall abide friendly and compassionate, with thoughts of loving-kindness and no inner hate. We shall abide with loving-kindness in our hearts extending to that person, and we shall dwell extending it to the entire world as our object, with our hearts abundant, exalted, measureless in loving-kindness, without hostility or ill-will.” That is how you should train yourselves.

Even were bandits savagely to sever you limb from limb with a 

two-handled saw, he who entertaineth hate on that account in his heart would not be one who carried out my teaching.

You should keep this instruction on the Simile of the Saw constantly in mind.



– The Buddha

Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal.

Purify & Free the Mind | . 9 . 4 . 18


Click here to access PDF: Purifying_FreeingMind_Sept_4_18

Purification of Mind

– Bhikkhu Bodhi

An ancient maxim found in the Dhammapada sums up the practice of the Buddha’s teaching in three simple guidelines to training: to abstain from all evil, to cultivate good, and to purify one’s mind. These three principles form a graded sequence of steps progressing from the outward and preparatory to the inward and essential. Each step leads naturally into the one that follows it, and the culmination of the three in purification of mind makes it plain that the heart of Buddhist practice is to be found here.

Purification of mind as understood in the Buddha’s teaching is the sustained endeavor to cleanse the mind of defilements, those dark unwholesome mental forces which run beneath the surface stream of consciousness vitiating our thinking, values, attitudes, and actions. The chief among the defilements are the three that the Buddha has termed the “roots of evil” — greed, hatred, and delusion — from which emerge their numerous offshoots and variants: anger and cruelty, avarice and envy, conceit and arrogance, hypocrisy and vanity, the multitude of erroneous views.

Contemporary attitudes do not look favorably upon such notions as defilement and purity, and on first encounter they may strike us as throwbacks to an outdated moralism, valid perhaps in an era when prudery and taboo were dominant, but having no claims upon us emancipated torchbearers of modernity. Admittedly, we do not all wallow in the mire of gross materialism and many among us seek our enlightenments and spiritual highs, but we want them on our own terms, and as heirs of the new freedom we believe they are to be won through an unbridled quest for experience without any special need for introspection, personal change, or self-control.

However, in the Buddha’s teaching the criterion of genuine enlightenment lies precisely in purity of mind. The purpose of all insight and enlightened understanding is to liberate the mind from the defilements, and Nibbana itself, the goal of the teaching, is defined quite clearly as freedom from greed, hatred, and delusion. From the perspective of the Dhamma defilement and purity are not mere postulates of a rigid authoritarian moralism but real and solid facts essential to a correct understanding of the human situation in the world.

As facts of lived experience, defilement and purity pose a vital distinction having a crucial significance for those who seek deliverance from suffering. They represent the two points between which the path to liberation unfolds — the former its problematic and starting point, the latter its resolution and end. The defilements, the Buddha declares, lie at the bottom of all human suffering. Burning within as lust and craving, as rage and resentment, they lay to waste hearts, lives, hopes, and civilizations, and drive us blind and thirsty through the round of birth and death. The Buddha describes the defilements as bonds, fetters, hindrances, and knots; thence the path to unbonding, release, and liberation, to untying the knots, is at the same time a discipline aimed at inward cleansing.

The work of purification must be undertaken in the same place where the defilements arise, in the mind itself, and the main method the Dhamma offers for purifying the mind is meditation. Meditation, in the Buddhist training, is neither a quest for self-effusive ecstasies nor a technique of home-applied psychotherapy, but a carefully devised method of mental development — theoretically precise and practically efficient — for attaining inner purity and spiritual freedom. The principal tools of Buddhist meditation are the core wholesome mental factors of energy, mindfulness, concentration, and understanding. But in the systematic practice of meditation, these are strengthened and yoked together in a program of self-purification which aims at extirpating the defilements root and branch so that not even the subtlest unwholesome stirrings remain.

Since all defiled states of consciousness are born from ignorance, the most deeply embedded defilement, the final and ultimate purification of mind is to be accomplished through the instrumentality of wisdom, the knowledge and vision of things as they really are. Wisdom, however, does not arise through chance or random good intentions, but only in a purified mind. Thus in order for wisdom to come forth and accomplish the ultimate purification through the eradication of defilements, we first have to create a space for it by developing a provisional purification of mind — a purification which, though temporary and vulnerable, is still indispensable as a foundation for the emergence of all liberative insight.

The achievement of this preparatory purification of mind begins with the challenge of self-understanding. To eliminate defilements we must first learn to know them, to detect them at work infiltrating and dominating our everyday thoughts and lives. For countless eons we have acted on the spur of greed, hatred, and delusion, and thus the work of self-purification cannot be executed hastily, in obedience to our demand for quick results. The task requires patience, care, and persistence — and the Buddha’s crystal clear instructions. For every defilement the Buddha in his compassion has given us the antidote, the method to emerge from it and vanquish it. By learning these principles and applying them properly, we can gradually wear away the most stubborn inner ingrained patterns and reach the end of suffering, the “stainless liberation of the mind.”


Freeing the Mind (excerpt from A Simple Guide to Life)

– Robert Bogoda. Born 1918. Native of Sri Lanka.

Mind occupies the pre-eminent place in Buddhism, for everything that one says or does first arises in the mind as a thought. To have a well-trained mind is indeed to possess a treasure. When a person trains the mind, turns inward to examine and cleanse his own mind, he will find therein a vast storehouse of happiness. Real happiness is a quality of the mind which has to be sought and found in the mind. The Buddha teaches that non-attachment to worldly pleasures is a greater happiness than the enjoyment of worldly pleasures. Nibbana is the highest happiness, the happiness of relief from suffering and from repeated birth, and this happiness is only to be attained by freeing the mind from its defilements.

The misguided worldling thinks otherwise. In his view the enjoyment of sensual pleasures is the only real happiness. He forgets, however, that sensual happiness arises merely from the gratification of desire, and thus that this happiness must fade when the desired object is obtained. Nor will the multiplication of desires make sensual pleasure permanent, for there is no permanence in the passing. The pursuit of sensual pleasures ends only in restlessness and dissatisfaction.

The aim of Buddhist mental culture is to gain direct intuitive knowledge of the real nature of existence by systematic training of the mind through meditation. This practice issues in detachment and thus frees the mind from its delusions. Meditation leads the mind from the pain-laden things of the world to the sorrowless, transcendent state of deliverance, Nibbana. The basic cause of rebirth and suffering is ignorance of the true nature of life. We consider what is passing, unsatisfactory, and empty to be permanent, a source of true happiness, and substantial. This delusion sustains the craving for more existence and leads to the accumulation of kamma. Meditation is designed to lead step-by-step to the dissolution of these delusions and thereby to freedom from the grip of craving.

There are two kinds of meditation recognized in Buddhism: the development of tranquillity (samatha-bhavana), which emphasizes concentration, and the development of insight (vipassana-bhavana), which emphasizes wisdom. These two types of meditation respectively correspond to the second and third groups of the Noble Eightfold Path, the concentration group and the wisdom group. Concentration means one-pointedness of the mind, the ability to fix the mind on a single object to the exclusion of all else. Concentration is not an end in itself, but to be developed primarily because it is the foundation for wisdom, the ability to see things exactly as they are. It is this wisdom that frees the mind from bondage.

To train the mind is not at all easy, for the mind has long been accustomed to flow in the channels of greed, hatred, and delusion; through ages we have relished sense pleasures, raged with anger, wallowed in torpor, fidgeted restlessly, and vacillated with doubt. Such habits are indeed difficult to break. Moreover, it is the very nature of the untrained mind to wander from one idea to another. Thus when the meditator sits down to begin the practice, strange thoughts may dance before his mind. .

At the outset meditation will be a continual effort to pull the mind back whenever it strays from the subject of meditation. It will seem impossible to focus the attention on the selected subject for more than a few seconds at a stretch. With continued practice, however, one will refine one’s skills until one can keep the mind focused steadily and calmly on the chosen topic for increasingly longer periods. Then the practice becomes more engaging, more rewarding, and also less tiring. Eventually one’s efforts will culminate in one-pointedness of mind, samadhi.

With the attainment of the one-pointed mind, the meditator turns this pure, steady, clear mind to the contemplation of existence itself. This marks the beginning of vipassana-bhavana, the meditative development of insight. The meditator mindfully investigates his own compound of the “five aggregates.” He sees that the body, or form, is made up of changing physical qualities, while mind itself consists of fleeting mental factors: feeling, perception, mental formations (intentions, emotions, thoughts, desires, etc.), and consciousness. He sees that these all occur in mutual dependence, all in a flow. There is no substantial self to be called “I” or “mine.” As the impermanence, the unsatisfactoriness, and the “not self” nature of the five aggregates become manifest to the meditator, one realizes that clingng to the conditioned is unsatisfactory, for everything conditioned is fleeting and changing, and in the fleeting it is impossible to find stable happiness. This is pañña, wisdom, the third and final stage in the Noble Eightfold Path.

With the development of wisdom, ignorance ceases in all its forms and shades. Craving and kamma, the fuel for becoming, are exhausted. Hence the conditions for existence cease for lack of fuel. When such a person who has reached this realization, one day passes away, this person no longer takes rebirth in any realm of becoming. This one has attained release, Nibbana, the deathless.


The Buddha
SN 42.8 Sankha Sutta (Purification Through Lovingkindness)

A follower of the Buddha develops a mind devoid of covetousness, devoid of ill will, unbewildered, alert, mindful — keeps pervading the first direction with an awareness imbued with: compassion, appreciation, equanimity, likewise the second, likewise the third, likewise the fourth directions. Thus above, below, & all around, everywhere, in its entirety, one keeps pervading the all-encompassing cosmos with an awareness imbued with: equanimity, abundant, expansive, immeasurable, without hostility, without ill will.

Just as a strong conch-trumpet blower can notify the four directions without any difficulty, in the same way, when the awareness-release through equanimity is thus developed, as a result, any deed done, to a limited extent, no longer remains there, no longer stays there.”

Shadow Mind / Mara | 8 . 28 . 18


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Rajja Sutta  (SN 4:20), The Buddha

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying among the Kosalans in a wilderness hut in a Himalayan district. Then, as he was alone in seclusion, this train of thought arose in his awareness: “Is it possible to exercise rulership without killing or causing others to kill, without confiscating or causing others to confiscate, without sorrowing or causing others sorrow — righteously?”

Then Mara, the Evil One, knowing with his awareness the train of thought in the Blessed One’s awareness, went to him and on arrival said to him: “Exercise rulership, Blessed One! Exercise rulership, O One Well-gone! — without killing or causing others to kill, without confiscating or causing others to confiscate, without sorrowing or causing others sorrow — righteously!”

“But what do you see in me, Evil One, that you say to me, ‘Exercise rulership, Blessed One! Exercise rulership, O One Well-gone! — without killing or causing others to kill, without confiscating or causing others to confiscate, without sorrowing or causing others sorrow — righteously!’?”

“Lord, the Blessed One has developed the four bases of power, pursued them, handed them the reins and taken them as a basis, given them a grounding, steadied them, consolidated them, and undertaken them well. If he wanted to, he could resolve on the Himalayas, king of mountains, as gold, and it would become a mountain of gold.”

[The Buddha:]

The entirety of a mountain of gold,

of solid bullion: even twice that would not suffice

for one person knowing this:

to live evenly in tune with the contemplative life.

When you see stress and from where it comes,

how can you incline to clinging to desires?

Knowing acquisition to be bondage in the world,

train for subduing clinging


Then Mara the Evil One — sad & dejected at realizing, **The Buddha; the One Well-gone knows me.” — vanished right there.


Brief Explaination of the Shadow

– Scott Jeffrey

It’s always standing right behind us, just out of view. In any direct light, we cast a shadow. The shadow is a psychological term for everything we can’t see in ourselves.

Most of us go to great lengths to protect our self-image from anything unflattering or unfamiliar. And so it’s easier to observe another’s shadow before acknowledging one’s own shadow. Every human being is susceptible to this.

Exploring your shadow can lead to greater authenticity, creativity, energy, and personal awakening.

What the shadow is and how it comes into being

The shadow is the “dark side” of our personality because it consists chiefly of primitive, negative human emotions and impulses like rage, envy, greed, selfishness, desire, and the striving for power. All we deny in ourselves—whatever we perceive as inferior, evil, or unacceptable—become part of the shadow. Anything incompatible with our chosen conscious attitude about ourselves relegates to this dark side.

The personal shadow is the disowned personal aspects or impulses. This shadow self represents the parts of us we no longer claim to be our own.These unexamined or disowned parts of our personality don’t go anywhere. Although we deny them in our attempt to cast them out, we don’t get rid of them. We repress them; they are part of our unconscious. Think of the unconscious as everything we are not conscious of.

**We can’t eliminate the shadow. It stays with us as our dark brother or sister. Trouble arises when we fail to see it.

How the Shadow is Born

Every young child knows kindness, love, and generosity, but he also expresses anger, selfishness, and greed. These emotions are part of our shared humanity. But as we grow up, something happens.Traits associated with “being good” are accepted, while others associated with “being bad” are rejected. We all have basic human needs. These needs include physiological needs, safety and security needs, and needs for belonging. These needs are biological and instinctual.

As children, when we expressed certain parts of ourselves, we received negative cues from our environment. Maybe we got angry and threw a tantrum. Our parents reprimanded the outburst and sent us to our room.

Or perhaps we acted boldly, playfully, spontaneously, or silly in our first-grade classroom. Our teacher shamed us for our lack of decorum in front of the class and told us to sit down.

Religious training can also cause us to supress “sinfull” behaviors and thoughts in fear of being judged and eternal punishment. Whenever it happened—and it might have happened often—it threatened one of our basic needs.

Would the disapproval of our parents threaten our safety? Would the disapproval of our teachers and classmates jeopardize our need to belong? Will perceived sins damn our soul?

We adjusted our behavior to gratify our needs and learned to adapt to the external world. All the unaccepted or discouraged parts of us in the first early years of our lives are bundled together, swept out of view (outside our conscious awareness).

As poet Robert Bly says in A Little Book of the Human Shadow, the child puts all of these unwanted parts into an invisible bag and drags it behind him. This repression of unwanted parts creates what psychologist Carl Jung called the personal shadow. As Jung writes in Psychology and Alchemy: “The is no light without shadow and no psychic wholeness without imperfection.”

Ignore the Shadow At Your Own Peril

Any part we disown within us turns against us. The personal shadow represents a collection of these disowned parts.

So here’s the problem: The shadow can operate on its own without our full awareness. It’s as if our conscious self goes on autopilot while the unconscious assumes control. We do things we wouldn’t voluntarily do and later regret (if we catch it). We say things we wouldn’t say. Our facial reactions express emotions we don’t consciously feel.

Do you remember Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Dr. Jekyll could not control the actions of his darker half, leading him to commit unscrupulous acts.

Such is the fate, although often not so severe, of anyone who denies his or her shadow.

What Happens When You Repress Your Shadow

So what happens to all the parts of ourselves we sweep out of view? Whatever qualities we deny in ourselves, we see in others. In psychology, this is called projection. We project onto others anything we bury within us. If, for example, you get irritated when someone is rude to you, it’s a good bet you haven’t owned your own rudeness. This doesn’t mean the person isn’t being rude to you. However, if rudeness wasn’t in your shadow self, someone else’s rudeness wouldn’t bother you so much. This process doesn’t happen consciously. We aren’t aware of our projections. Our egos use this mechanism to defend itself—to defend how it perceives itself. Our false identities of being “good” keep us from connecting to our shadow.

These psychological projections distort reality, creating a thick boundary between how we view ourselves and how we behave in reality.

Benefits of shadow work

The shadow isn’t a popular topic. Who enjoys owning their flaws, weaknesses, selfishness, nastiness, hate, and so on? Focusing on our strengths is more enjoyable and life-affirming. Exploring our shadow side is essential for spiritual health and balance.

Improved Relationships

As you integrate your shadow side and come to terms with your darker half, you see yourself more clearly. You become more grounded, human, and whole. When you can accept your own darker parts, it is easier to accept the shadow in others. As a result, other people’s behavior won’t trigger you as easily. You’ll also have an easier time communicating with others.You may notice an improvement in your relationships with your spouse, family members, friends, and business associates.

Clearer Perception

In seeing others and yourself as you are, you’ll have a cleaner lens with which to view the world.As you integrate your shadow self, you’re approaching your authentic self, which gives you a more realistic assessment of who you are. You won’t perceive yourself as being too big (inflated) or too small (deflated). When you’re self-aware, you can discern with more accuracy. You’ll see others and evaluate situations with greater clarity, compassion, and understanding.

Enhanced Energy and Physical Health

Dragging around this invisible bag of stuff behind us is draining. It is exhausting work to continually repress and suppress all of the parts of ourselves that we don’t want to face in our adulthood. Fatigue and lethargy can plague the unexamined life. Mental suppression can also lead to physical pain and disease. Dr. John Sarno has healed thousands of patients of chronic back pain by helping them acknowledge the repressed rage in their unconscious.

With shadow work, you liberate a tremendous reservoir of energy you were unconsciously investing in protecting yourself. This can improve your physical, mental, and emotional health. Shadow work can bring you inner strength and a greater sense of balance, making you better equipped to take on life’s challenges.

Psychological Integration and Maturity

As long as we deny our shadows and repress certain parts of ourselves, a sense of wholeness and unity is elusive.

How can we feel a sense of wholeness and balance with a divided mind? Integrating the shadow brings you one step closer to realizing a sense of wholeness. It’s a critical step to achieving mature adulthood.

Getting in Touch with the Shadow

Cultivate Self-Compassion

Before you get to know your shadow, it is helpful to cultivate a sense of unconditional friendliness with one’s self. In Buddhism, it’s called Maitri. Without friendliness and self-compassion, it is difficult to look at our darker stuff.

If you’re hard on yourself when you make mistakes, it is difficult to confront your shadow. If you’re accustomed to feeling shame or guilt, you need to transmute these emotions with friendliness, self-acceptance, and self-compassion. Start by accepting your own humanness. Remember that we all have a shadow—everyone is in the soup together, as Jung used to say. Understanding this will help you hold compassion for others. A simple Buddhist practice, offered by Thich Nhat Hanh, is to connect to your heart: place your attention on your heart. Breathe in and acknowledge your heart. Breathe out and say to your heart, “Thank you.”

Cultivate Self-Awareness

Seeing the shadow requires a self-reflective mindset—the ability to reflect and observe our behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. Meditation helps foster nonjudgmental awareness—the ability to stay aware of the present moment without involving the inner critic or other modes of judgment. Self-awareness and self-reflection are a precursor to shadow work because they help us observe feelings and emotional reactions without judgment or criticism.

Be Courageously Honest

Self-honesty and integrity are prerequisites for shadow work. It’s easy to give lip service to these qualities, but true self-honesty means being willing to see unpleasant attributes in our behavior and personality. It is often uncomfortable to come to terms with your disowned parts, which is why the ego invests so much energy in repressing them. Seeing and accepting your insecure selfishness and tyrannical nasty parts can be challenging. To take an honest look at your attitudes, behaviors, dark thoughts, and emotions require courage and self compassion.

The rewards are worth the discomfort, as these honest confrontations with your shadow helps you maintain emotional and spiritual balance.


At Savatthi. Now at that time the Blessed One was instructing, urging, rousing, & encouraging the monks with a Dhamma talk concerning Unbinding. The monks — attentive, interested, lending ear, focusing their entire awareness — were listening to the Dhamma.

Then the thought occurred to Mara, the Evil One: “Gotama the contemplative is instructing, urging, rousing, & encouraging the monks with a Dhamma talk concerning Unbinding. The monks — attentive, interested, lending ear, focusing their entire awareness — are listening to the Dhamma. What if I were to go to Gotama the contemplative to obscure his vision?”

Then Mara the Evil One, taking on the form of a farmer with a large plowshare over his shoulder, carrying a long goad stick — his hair disheveled, his clothes made of coarse hemp, his feet splattered with mud — went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, said, “Hey, contemplative. Have you seen my oxen?”


“And what are your oxen, Evil One?”


“And what are your oxen, Evil One?”


Of what people say,

‘This is mine—and those who say, ‘Mine’:

If you think this way contemplative,

you can’t escape from me.

[The Buddha:]

What people speak of, is not mine,

and I am not one of those who speak that way.

Know this, Evil One,

You won’t even see my tracks.

Then Mara the Evil One — sad & dejected at realizing, **The Blessed One knows me; the One Well-gone knows me” — vanished right there.


** Acknowledging the shadow, disengages it’s influence and hold.

Understanding Mind | Pt.2 | 8 . 21 18


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Still, Flowing Water

– Ajahn Chah

When sense impressions arise, know them. Why run after them? Impressions aren’t for sure. One minute they’re one way, the next minute another. Sometimes they stay as they were before. They exist through change. And all of us here exist through change. The breath goes out, then it comes back in. It changes like this. Try only breathing in: Can you do that? How many minutes would you last? Or try just breathing out without breathing in. If there were no change, could you survive? You wouldn’t survive at all. You need to have both the in-breath and the out-breath. Only then can you walk to the monastery. If you just held your breath all the way coming here, you’d be dead by now. You wouldn’t have made it. So understand this.

Sense impressions are the same. They have to be there. If they weren’t there, you couldn’t develop any discernment. If there were no wrong, there could be no right. You have to be right first before you can see what’s wrong. Or you have to be wrong first before you can recognize what’s right. That’s the way things normally are.

If you’re studying the mind, the more sense impressions the better. But if you don’t like sense impressions, if you don’t want to deal with them, you’re like the student who skips class, who doesn’t want to learn or to listen to his teacher. These sense impressions are teaching us. When we know sense impressions in this way, we’re practicing Dhamma. We know what they’re like when they calm down, we know what their issues are — just like understanding monkeys. The monkey in your home doesn’t irritate you. When you see the monkey here it doesn’t irritate you — because you understand monkeys, right? You can be at ease.

The practice of Dhamma is like this. It’s not very far away. It’s right with us. The Dhamma isn’t about divine beings or anything like that. It’s simply about us, about what we’re doing right now. Contemplate yourself. Sometimes there’s happiness, sometimes suffering, sometimes comfort, sometimes irritation; sometimes you love that person, sometimes you hate this person. Observing and understanding this is the Dhamma.

To know this Dhamma, you have to read your sense impressions. Only when you’re acquainted with them can you recognize the source and let them go of them. That way you can be at ease. The realization may come flashing up: “Oh…This isn’t for sure!” When your impression changes: “This isn’t for sure!” If you’re acquainted with sense impressions, you’re acquainted with the Dhamma. You can observe and let go of sense impressions. You see that there’s nothing for sure about sensations in any way at all.

The Dhamma can be seen as what’s not for sure. Whoever sees that things aren’t-for-sure, sees for sure that that’s the way they are. The way they are doesn’t change into anything else. That’s the way things are. That is understanding the Dhamma. If you know inconstancy, not-for-sure-ness, you’ll let things go naturally. You see the futility of grasping onto them.

You may say, “Don’t break my beautiful glass!” We want to control the process of change–glass breaking. But can you prevent something breakable from breaking? It is in the nature of glass to break. If it doesn’t break now, it’ll break later on. If you don’t break it, someone else will. If someone else doesn’t break it, one of the chickens will! The Buddha says to accept this. He penetrated all the way to seeing that this glass is inconstant and will break at some point. This glass that isn’t broken, he saw will be broken. Whenever you pick up the glass, put water in it, drink from it, and put it down, he tells you to see that it is an inconstant object. The Buddha’s understanding was like this. At some point, it will be broken. Develop this attitude. Use the glass; look after it. Then one day it slips out of your hand: “Smash!” No surprise, anger, blaming, vengeance, unrelenting sorrow. Why? Because you understand it’s impermanent nature and not-for-sureness.

But usually people say, “I’ve taken such good care of this glass. Don’t ever let it break.” Later on the dog breaks it: “I’ll kill that damn dog!” You hate the dog for breaking your glass. If your child breaks it, you hate him, too. You hate whoever breaks it. Why? Because you’ve created a false sense of control, dammed yourself up, built a wall against the natural flow of inconstancy. You’ve made a dam without a spillway. The only thing the dam can do then is to burst.

So learn to hold the impermanent nature of things, whether standing, walking, sitting, or lying down, keep on practicing, using mindfulness to watch over and protect the mind. That’s concentration. That’s discernment. They’re both the same thing. They differ only in their characteristics.

If you can practice just this much, it’s enough. Suffering won’t arise, or if it does arise you can recognize and address it easily. And that will be a cause for suffering not to arise in the future. That’s where things finish, at the point where suffering doesn’t arise. And why doesn’t suffering arise? Because we observe and understand fully the cause of suffering. When there’s no longer any suffering, that means it ceases. That’s nirodha.

That’s all there is. Don’t stray away from this point. Just keep working away right here. Contemplate right here. Start out by contemplating your own mind. To put it in really basic terms, you should all have the five precepts as your foundation. (non-harming, not stealing, no sexual misconduct, no false speech, ingest no substances that cause heedlessness) You’ll make mistakes. When you realize it, stop, come back, and start over again. Maybe you’ll go astray and make another mistake. When you realize it, start over again, each and every time.

Your mindfulness will gain a higher frequency, like water poured from a kettle. If we tilt the kettle just a little, the water comes out in drops: glug … glug … glug. There are breaks in the flow. If we tilt the kettle a little bit more, the drops become more frequent: glug-glug-glug. If we tilt the kettle even further the glugs disappear and the water turns into a steady stream. There are no more drops. Where did they go? They didn’t go anywhere. They’ve changed into a steady stream of water. They’ve become so frequent that they’re beyond frequency. They meld into one another in a stream of water.

Don’t think that the Dhamma lies far away from you. It lies right with you; it’s about you. Take a look. One minute happy, the next minute sad, satisfied, then angry at this person, hating that person: It’s all Dhamma.

Look yourself. What’s trying to give rise to suffering? When you’ve done something that causes suffering, turn around and undo it. Turn around and undo it. You haven’t seen it clearly. When you see it clearly, there’s no more suffering. The cause has been put out. Once you shine the light on the cause of suffering, there are no more dark corners-conditions for it to arise.

Study concentration like this. When it’s time to sit in meditation, then sit. But concentration isn’t just sitting. You have to let the mind encounter different things, then register them and bring them up to contemplate. Contemplate to know what? Contemplate to see, “Oh. That’s inconstant. Stressful. Not-self.

Have you ever seen flowing water?

Have you ever seen still water?

If your mind is peaceful, it’s like still, flowing water.

Have you ever seen still, flowing water?


You’ve only seen flowing water and still water.

You’ve never seen still, flowing water.

Right there!

Right where your thinking can’t take you.

Where the mind is still… but can develop discernment.

When you look at your mind, it’ll be like flowing water, and yet still.

It looks like it’s still, it looks like it’s flowing.

So it’s called still, flowing water.

That’s what it’s like.

That’s where discernment can arise.

Understanding Mind | 8 . 14 . 18


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Still, Flowing Water

– Ajahn Chah

Okay, everyone, pay attention. Don’t let your mind focus on this person or that. Create the feeling that right now you’re sitting alone on a mountain or in a forest somewhere, all by yourself. What do you have sitting here right now? Just body and mind, that’s all, only these two things. Everything sitting in this physical lump here is “body.” “Mind” is what’s aware of sense impressions and is thinking in the present. These two things are also called nama and rupa. Nama refers to what has no rupa, or form. All thoughts and sensations, such as feelings, perceptions, thought-fabrications, and consciousness, are nama. They’re all formless. When the eye sees forms, those forms are called rupa. The awareness of forms is called nama. Together they’re called nama and rupa, or simply body and mind.

Understand that what’s sitting here in the present moment is just body and mind. Everything comes out of these two things. If you want peace, these are the only things you have to know. But the mind at present is still untrained. It’s dirty. Unclean. It’s not the primal mind. We have to train it by making it peaceful from time to time. We do this with pactice, to practice concentration is to give rise to knowledge, to give rise to discernment. Concentration is a firm intent, focused on a single object.

People come and say, “I try to sit in concentration, but my mind won’t stay put. They think their mind’s running around, but actually the only things that run are our impressions. For example, look at this hall here: “Wow,” you say, “it’s so big!” But the hall isn’t what’s big, just our impression of it. Actually, this hall is just the size it is, not big, not small, but we run around after our impressions of things.

Regarding meditating to find peace, you have to understand what this word “peace” is. If you don’t understand it, you won’t be able to find it. For example, suppose you brought a pen with you to the monastery today, one that you love, an expensive one that cost 500 or 1000 baht. And suppose that on your way here you put the pen in your front pocket, but later you took it out and put it somewhere else, like your back pocket. Now when you feel for it in your front pocket: It’s not there! You panic. You panic because you don’t see the truth of the matter. You get all upset. Standing, walking, coming and going, you can’t stop worrying about your lost pen. Your misunderstanding causes you to suffer: “What a shame! I’ve only had it for a few days and now it’s lost.”

But then you remember, “Oh, of course! When I went to bathe I put the pen in my back pocket.” As soon as you remember this you feel better already, even without seeing your pen. See that? You’re happy already; you can stop worrying about your pen. You’re sure about it now. As you walk along, you run your hand over your back pocket and there it is. Your mind was lying to you. Your pen wasn’t lost, but the mind lied to you that it was. You suffered because you didn’t know. Now when you see the pen and your doubts are gone, your worries calm down. This sort of peace and calm comes from seeing the cause of the problem: samudaya, the cause of suffering. As soon as you’re sure that the pen is in your back pocket, there’s nirodha, the cessation of suffering.

So you have to contemplate to find peace. What people usually refer to as peace is simply the calming of the mind, not the calming of the defilements. You’re just sitting on top of your defilements, like a rock sitting on the grass. The grass can’t grow because the rock is sitting on it. In three or four days you take the rock off the grass and it starts growing again. The grass didn’t really die. It was just suppressed. The same holds for sitting in concentration: The mind is calmed but the defilements aren’t, which means that concentration isn’t for sure. To find real peace you have to contemplate. Concentration is one kind of peace, like the rock sitting on the grass. You can leave it there many days but when you pick it up the grass starts growing again. That’s only temporary peace. The peace of discernment is like never picking up the rock, just leaving it there where it is. The grass can’t possibly grow again. That’s real peace, the calming of the defilements for sure. That’s discernment.

We speak of discernment and concentration as separate things, but actually they’re one and the same. Discernment is just the movement of concentration. They come from the same mind but go in different directions, with different characteristics, like this mango here. A small mango eventually grows larger and larger until it’s ripe. It’s all the same mango. They’re not different ones. When it’s small, it’s this mango. When it’s large, it’s this mango. When it’s ripe, it’s this mango. Only its characteristics change. When you practice the Dhamma, one condition is called concentration, the later condition is called discernment, but in fact virtue, concentration, and discernment are all the same thing, just like the mango.

Actually, in practicing the Dhamma, whatever happens, you have to start from the mind. Do you know what this mind is? What is the mind like? What is it? Where is it? Nobody knows. All we know is that we want to go over here or over there, we want this and we want that, the mind feels happy or sad, but the mind itself we can’t know. What is the mind? The mind isn’t “is” anything. We’ve come up with the supposition that whatever receives impressions, both good and bad, we call “heart” or “mind.” Like the owner of a house. Whoever receives the guests is the owner of the house. The guests can’t receive the owner. The owner stays put at home. When guests come to see him, he has to receive them. Who receives sense impressions? Who lets go of sense impressions? That’s what we call “mind.” But we don’t understand it, so we think around in circles: “What is the mind? What is the heart?” Don’t confuse the issue like this. What is it that receives impressions? Some impressions it likes and some it doesn’t. Who is that? Is there something that likes and dislikes? That’s what we call “mind.” Understand? Don’t go looking far away.

What is the mind? The mind is what receives or is aware of sense impressions. With some sense impressions there’s pleasure; with others there’s sorrow. The thing that receives impressions leads us to happiness and suffering, right and wrong, but it isn’t a thing. We suppose it to be a thing, but it’s really only awreness of name and form / body and mind.

People these days keep studying, looking to understand what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s good and evil, but they don’t know the concept of rightness-nor-wrongness. All they’re looking to know is what IS right and wrong: “I’m going to take only what’s right. I won’t take what’s wrong. Why should I?” If you try to take only what’s right, in a short while it’ll go wrong. It’s right in reaction to wrong. People keep searching for what’s right and wrong, but they don’t try to find what’s neither-rightness-nor-wrongness. They study about good and bad, they search for merit and evil, but they don’t study the point where there’s neither merit nor evil. They study issues of long and short, but the issue of neither long nor short they don’t study.

This knife has a blade, a back, and a handle. When you pick it up, can you lift only the blade? Can you lift only the back of the blade, or the handle? The handle is the handle of the knife; the back, the back of the knife; the blade, the blade of the knife. When you pick up the knife, you pick up all three parts together.

In the same way, if you pick up what’s good, what’s bad must follow. People search for what’s good and try to throw away what’s bad, but they don’t study what’s neither good nor bad. If you don’t study this, things never come to an end. If you pick up goodness, badness comes along with it. It follows right along. If you pick up happiness, suffering follows along. They’re connected. The practice of clinging to what’s good and rejecting what’s bad is the Dhamma of beginners. Sure, if you want, you can take just this much, but if you grab onto what’s good, what’s bad will follow. The end of this path gets all cluttered up.

We rest the mind to make it calm in order to become acquainted with what receives sense impressions, to see what it is. That’s why we’re told to keep track of the mind, to keep track of “what knows.” Train the mind to be pure.

To train the mind in the right way, to make it bright, to develop discernment: Don’t think you can do it by sitting. That’s the rock sitting on the grass. People jump to the conclusion that concentration is sitting. That’s just a name for concentration, but really, if the mind has concentration, walking is concentration, sitting is concentration — concentration with the walking, concentration with the sitting, the standing, the lying down. That’s the practice.

Some people complain, “I can’t meditate. It’s too irritating. Whenever I sit down I think of this and that, I think of my house and my family. I can’t do it. I’ve got too much bad kamma. I should let my bad kamma run out first and then come back and try meditating.” Go ahead, just try it. Try waiting until your bad kamma runs out.

This is how we think. Why do we think like this? That’s what we’re studying.

Let me give you an example. Suppose you have a pet monkey at home. It doesn’t sit still. It likes to jump around and grab hold of things. That’s how monkeys are. Now you come to the monastery. We have a monkey here too, and this monkey doesn’t stay still either. It jumps around and grabs things just the same, but it doesn’t irritate you, does it? Why? Because you’re acquainted with monkeys. You know what they’re like. If you know just one monkey, no matter how many provinces you go to, no matter how many monkeys you see, they don’t irritate you, right? That’s someone who understands monkeys.

If we understand monkeys then we won’t become monkeys. If you don’t understand monkeys, then as soon as you see a monkey, you become a monkey yourself, right? When you see it grabbing this and that, you think, “Grrr!” You get angry and irritated. “That damned monkey!” That’s someone who doesn’t understand monkeys. Someone who knows monkeys sees that the monkey at home and the monkey in the monastery are the same monkey, and so why should they irritate you? When you understand what monkeys are like, that’s enough. You can be at peace. If the monkey runs around, it’s only the monkey running. You don’t run around with it. You don’t become a monkey too. If it jumps in front of you and behind you, you don’t get irritated by the monkey — because you understand monkeys, and so you don’t become a monkey. If you don’t understand monkeys, you become a monkey — understand? This is how the mind grows calm.

We have to know sense impressions, observe sense impressions. Some are likable, some are not, but so what? That’s their business. That’s what they’re like. Just like monkeys. All monkeys are the same monkey. We understand sense impressions. Sometimes they’re likable, sometimes they’re not. That’s what they’re like. We have to get acquainted with them. When we’re acquainted with them, we let them go. Sense impressions aren’t for sure. They’re inconstant, stressful, and not-self. We keep looking at them in that way. When the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind receive impressions, we know them, just like knowing monkeys. This monkey is just like the monkey at home. Then we can be at peace.