Saturday, March 6, 2021

the inclination of the mind



Whatever a person frequently thinks and reflects on, 
that will become the inclination of their mind.

~ Buddha

Speak and act from unwise thoughts, 
and sorrow will follow you as surely as the wheel follows the ox who draws the cart.
 Speak and act from wise thoughts 
and happiness will follow you as closely as your shadow, unshakable. 
~ The Dhammapada

Whatever we regularly think colors our experience—all day, every day.
 Once we start to watch these thoughts, we discover that 90% of them are reruns!
 Others are about problems:
 “I need to call John about the roof again. I hope he can finally fix it.”
 Some are about our preferences: 
“I like the way this person talks.” “I really hate this traffic.” 
Many are worry or self-evaluation: “Oops, I’m messing up again. 
How do I get through this?” “Wow, I pulled that off well. I hope it was noticed!”

Our life is shaped and determined by our thoughts. 
Usually we are only half conscious of the way thoughts direct our life;
 we are lost in thoughts as if they are reality. 
We take our own mental creations quite seriously,
 endorsing them without reservation.
Often our fears don’t turn out to be accurate predictions of anything.
 As Mark Twain put it,
 “My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes—
most of which never happened!”

With the letting go of unhealthy thoughts, there arises a space, a calm, 
an opening to add healthy thoughts of love and self-respect. 
With all the dignity, courage and tenderness you possess,
 say from your heart phrases of loving-kindness such as:
 “May I be filled with compassion for myself and others.
 May I hold myself with care and respect. 
May I treasure my life.
 May I be filled with kindness.” 
Plant these loving thoughts, water these seeds of well-being, 
over and over until they take root in your heart and mind.
 ~ Jack Kornfield

Friday, March 5, 2021



in midnight water,
no waves, no wind,
the empty boat
is flooded with moonlight.

~ Dogen

container and content



A wise man, the wonder of his age, taught his disciples 
from a seemingly inexhaustible store of wisdom. 
He attributed all his knowledge to a thick tome 
which was kept in a place of honour in his room. 
The sage would allow nobody to open the volume.
 When he died, those who had surrounded him,
 regarding themselves as his heirs, ran to open the book,
 anxious to possess what it contained. 
They were surprised, confused and disappointed when they found
 that there was writing on only one page. They became even more bewildered 
and then annoyed when they tried to penetrate the meaning of the phrase
 which met their eyes. It was:
 "When you realize the difference between the container and the content, 
you will have knowledge."
- Idries Shah
from The Book of the Book
with thanks to whiskey river

last year's language


For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
But, as the passage now presents no hindrance
To the spirit unappeased and peregrine
Between two worlds become much like each other,
So I find words I never thought to speak
In streets I never thought I should revisit
When I left my body on a distant shore.
Since our concern was speech, and speech impelled us
To purify the dialect of the tribe
And urge the mind to aftersight and foresight,
Let me disclose the gifts reserved for age
To set a crown upon your lifetime's effort.
First, the cold fricton of expiring sense
Without enchantment, offering no promise
But bitter tastelessness of shadow fruit
As body and sould begin to fall asunder.
Second, the conscious impotence of rage
At human folly, and the laceration
Of laughter at what ceases to amuse.
And last, the rending pain of re-enactment
Of all that you have done, and been; the shame
Of things ill done and done to others' harm
Which once you took for exercise of virtue.
Then fools' approval stings, and honour stains.
From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit
Proceeds, unless restored by that refining fire
Where you must move in measure, like a dancer."
The day was breaking. In the disfigured street
He left me, with a kind of valediction,
And faded on the blowing of the horn. 

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,


We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree

Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always--
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
 ~ T. S. Eliot
from  The Little Gidding
  the last of The Four Quartets

Thursday, March 4, 2021

for you


For you who
rarely visit,
though you have already arrived,
may the early evening storm
not blow so hard!
~ Ryokan
 from Sky Above, Great Wind
by Kazuaki Tanahashi
photo by Wolverson Photography

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

I knew

Although from the beginning
I knew
the world is impermanent,
not a moment passes
when my sleeves are dry.

~ Ryokan
from Sky Above, Great Wind



 causing or tending to cause objects to slip 
 liable to slip from the grasp, a position, etc.
 not to be relied upon
 liable to change; unstable

An ardent Jehovah's Witness once tried to convince me
 that if there were a God of love, he would certainly provide mankind
 with a reliable and infallible textbook for the guidance of conduct.

 I replied that no considerate God would destroy the human mind 
by making it so rigid and unadaptable as to depend upon one book,
the Bible, for all the answers. For the use of words, and thus of a book,
 is to point beyond themselves to a world of life and experience
 that is not mere words or even ideas. Just as money is not real, 
consumable wealth, books are not life. To idolize scriptures
 is like eating paper currency.

Therefore the Book that I would like to slip to my children
 would itself be slippery. It would slip them into a new domain, 
not of ideas alone, but of experience and feeling. It would be a temporary
 medicine, not a diet; a point of departure, not a perpetual
 point of reference. They would read it and be done with it, 
for if it were well and clearly written they would not have to go back
 to it again and again for hidden meanings or for
 clarification of obscure doctrines.

~ Alan Watts
from The Book on The Taboo against knowing who you are

find your real being

There will be marriage, there will be children, 
there will be earning money to maintain a family; 
all this will happen in the natural course of events, 
for destiny must fulfill itself; you will go through it without resistance, 
facing tasks as they come, attentive and thorough, 
both in small things and big. 

But the general attitude will be of affectionate detachment, 
enormous goodwill, without expectation of return, 
constant giving without asking. 

In marriage you are neither the husband nor the wife; 
you are the love between the two. 

You are the clarity and kindness that makes everything orderly and happy. 
It may seem vague to you, but if you think a little, 
you will find that the mystical is most practical, 
for it makes your life creatively happy. 

Your consciousness is raised to a higher dimension, 
from which you see everything much clearer and with greater intensity. 

You realize that the person you became at birth 
and will cease to be at death is temporary and false. 

You are not the sensual, emotional and intellectual person, 
gripped by desires and fears. Find out your real being. 

What am I? 
is the fundamental question of all philosophy and psychology. 
Go into it deeply.

~ Nisargadatta

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

a parable


Buddha told a parable in a sutra:
A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled,
the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold
of a root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge.
The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man
looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting
to eat him. Only the vine sustained him. 
Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started
to gnaw away the vine.  The man saw a luscious strawberry
near him.  Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked
the strawberry with the other.
How sweet it tasted!
~ Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki
from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings 

Monday, March 1, 2021

can't see what they can’t see



People can't see what they can’t see. 
Their biases get in the way, surrounding them like a high wall,
 trapping them in ignorance, deception, and illusion. 
No amount of reasoning and argument will get through to them, 
unless we first learn how to break down the walls of bias. . . .

Confirmation Bias: We judge new ideas based on the ease with which they fit in with and confirm the only standard we have: old ideas, old information, and trusted authorities. As a result, our framing story, belief system, or paradigm excludes whatever doesn’t fit.

Complexity Bias: Our brains prefer a simple falsehood to a complex truth.

Community Bias: It’s almost impossible to see what our community doesn’t, can’t, or won’t see.

Complimentary Bias: If you are hostile to my ideas, I’ll be hostile to yours. If you are curious and respectful toward my ideas, I’ll respond in kind.

Competency Bias: We don’t know how much (or little) we know because we don’t know how much (or little) others know. In other words, incompetent people assume that most other people are about as incompetent as they are. As a result, they underestimate their [own] incompetence, and consider themselves at least of average competence.

Consciousness Bias: Some things simply can’t be seen from where I am right now. But if I keep growing, maturing, and developing, someday I will be able to see what is now inaccessible to me.

Comfort or Complacency Bias: I prefer not to have my comfort disturbed.

Conservative/Liberal Bias: I lean toward nurturing fairness and kindness, or towards strictly enforcing purity, loyalty, liberty, and authority, as an expression of my political identity.

Confidence Bias: I am attracted to confidence, even if it is false. I often prefer the bold lie to the hesitant truth.

Catastrophe or Normalcy Bias: I remember dramatic catastrophes but don’t notice gradual decline (or improvement).

Contact Bias: When I don’t have intense and sustained personal contact with “the other,” my prejudices and false assumptions go unchallenged.

Cash Bias: It’s hard for me to see something when my way of making a living requires me not to see it.

Conspiracy Bias: Under stress or shame, our brains are attracted to stories that relieve us, exonerate us, or portray us as innocent victims of malicious conspirators. 
Brian McLaren
from Why Don’t They Get It? 
Overcoming Bias in Others (and Yourself

observation of ourselves becomes very superficial


Everywhere society is conditioning the individual, 
and this conditioning takes the form of self-improvement, 
which is really the perpetuation of the 'me', 
the ego, in different forms.
 Self-improvement may be gross, or it may be very, 
very refined when it becomes the practice of virtue,
 goodness, the so-called love of one's neighbor, 
but essentially it is the continuance of the 'me', 
which is a product of the conditioning influences of society. 
 All your endeavor has gone into becoming something, 
either here, if you can make it, or if not, in another world;
 but it is the same urge, the same drive to maintain and continue the self.
Being free of society implies not being ambitious, 
not being covetous, not being competitive; 
it implies being nothing in relation to that society 
 which is striving to be something.  
But you see, it is very difficult to accept that because you may be trodden on, 
you may be pushed aside; you will have nothing.  In that nothingness
 there is sanity, not in the other...  
As long as one wants to be part of this society, 
one must breed insanity, wars, destruction, and misery; 
but to free oneself from this society - the society of violence,
 of wealth, of position, of success - requires patience, inquiry, 
discovery, not the reading of books, the chasing after teachers,
 psychologists, and all the rest of it.
If one is capable of studying, watching oneself,
 one begins to discover how cumulative memory is acting 
on everything one sees; one is forever evaluating,
 discarding or accepting, condemning or justifying, 
so one's experience is always within the field
 of the known, of the conditioned. 
  But without cumulative memory as a directive, most of us feel lost, 
we feel frightened, and so we are incapable of observing ourselves as we are. 
 When there is the accumulative process, which is the cultivation of memory, 
our observation of ourselves becomes very superficial.  Memory is helpful
 in directing, improving oneself, but in self-improvement there can never 
 be a revolution, a radical transformation. It is only when 
the sense of self-improvement completely ceases, 
but not by volition, that there is a possibility
 of something transcendental, 
something totally new coming into being.
~ J. Krishnamurti
from talks given:
August 7th, 1955
 August 28th, 1955

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

silent language



When the monks had found their homes,
they not only settled there, 
for better or for worse,
but the sank their roots into the ground
and fell in love with their woods...
Forest and field, sun wind and sky, 
earth and water,
all speak the same silent language,
reminding the monk that he is here
to develop like the things that 
grow all around him... 
~ Thomas Merton
from the introduction to
When the Trees say Nothing
 edited by Kathleen Deignan

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

the rock and the wind


there are five courses of speech that others may use when they address you;
their speech may be timely or untimely,
true or untrue,
gentle or harsh,
connected with good or with harm,
or spoken with a mind of lovingkindness or with inner hate... should train yourself thus: 
Our minds will remain unaffected,
and we shall utter no evil words;
we shall abide compassionate for their welfare,
with a mind of lovingkindness...
~ the Buddha

Is that so?

The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbors as one living a pure life.
A beautiful Japanese girl whose parent owned a food store lived near him.
  Suddenly,  without any warning,  her parents discovered she was with child.
This made her parents angry.  She would not confess who the man was, 
 but after much harassment at last named Hakuin.
In great anger the parents went to the master.   "Is that so?"  was all he would say.
After the child was born it was brought to Hakuin. 
 By this time he had lost his reputation,  which did not trouble him, 
 but he took very good care of the child. 
 He obtained milk from his neighbors and 
everything else the little one needed.
A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer.  
 She told her parents the truth - that the real father of the child
 was a young man who worked in the fish market.
The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask his forgiveness,
  to apologize at length,  and to get the child back again.
Hakuin was willing.  In yielding the child,  all he said was: "Is that so?"

~ from 'Zen Flesh Zen Bones',
 compiled by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki
Self-portrait by Hakuin Ekaku

Sunday, February 21, 2021



What is transcended is not responsibility for one’s misdeeds;
rather it is the model of sequential piling up of one’s actions
 in such a way that one is forced to react unskillfully in the future.
 Dōgen’s “great practice” is the bodhisattva practice
 of incorporating and responding to the whole of our situation,
 thereby deeply seeing cause and effect. 
As soon as we return to the totality of this moment’s complete expression, 
we are not caught by anything. Even though we are still subject to the repercussions
 of our past actions, we are free to respond skillfully
 in the present moment.

If we have been rude to someone in the past and that person is wary of us,
 our total participation in this moment of meeting that person
 will not necessarily take away the effects of our past meeting. 
What it will do is free us to respond skillfully in this situation. 
Since we are not caught by “piled up” or overlapping experiences, 
we are freed to enact the new paradigm of “great practice.”

Another example: If you are playing baseball and you drop the ball, 
you don’t let your mistakes “pile up.” You must forget dropping the ball
 and be present for the next opportunity to catch the ball. 
Holding on to a past mistake will often hinder your ability
 to respond skillfully in the present, although you still file away your mistake
 and make adjustments. 
From the point of view of practice this would translate to
 making a mistake, acknowledging the mistake, atoning for that mistake,
 and moving on from the mistake.

Dōgen points out that our understanding of self 
can become a fixed idea of accumulated traits or experiences. 
He observes, for example, that spring, autumn, and ourselves
 are independent moments that are not the results of being piled up. 
He writes, “This means that we cannot see the four elements
 and five aggregates of the present as our self 
and we cannot trace them as someone else.” 
The self is both independent and the totality of all being-time. 
We are no-self and a particular self at the same time, 
caught by neither and more than both.
 In the case of practice-realization, we are not waiting
 for a particular set of experiences to line up or pile up,
 thereby creating the circumstances for realization. 
Realization is present in each moment. 
Realization is each moment. 
It is true that we may progress in our practice,
 but realization is not predicated upon a particular set of circumstances, 
since it is actualized being-time: a response to our current circumstances.

In concrete terms, this means we must engage and fulfill
 our understanding of practice in each moment,
 not putting it off. A student once said,
 “I know what is skillful, 
but I don’t want to do it right now.” 
This kind of procrastination usually arises when our small self 
is trying to avoid facing a situation that will cause us to look at our own faults. 

~ Shinshu Roberts
from an article on Dōgen in Insight Journal
 Barre Center for Buddhist Studies  
excerpted from Being-Time: 
A Practitioner's Guide to Dogen's Shobogenzo Uji:
 Wisdom Publ. 2018
art by Van Gogh

blaming the past



We must abandon completely the notion of blaming the past
 for any kind of situation we’re in and reverse our thinking
 and see that the past always flows back from the present.
 That now is the creative point of life. 
So you see it’s like the idea of forgiving somebody, 
you change the meaning of the past by doing that. 
Also, watch the flow of music.
 The melody as it’s expressed is changed by notes that come later.
 Just as the meaning of a sentence—
you wait till later to find out what the sentence means… 
The present is always changing the past.

~ Alan Watts
art from the book: If you come to Earth
by Sophie Blackall

Saturday, February 20, 2021

no matter where I am


In the peaceful places of my life, wherever I may find them,
 I will search for you. In the midst of the crowd, 
I will look for you. In the sound of laughter and weeping,
 I will listen for you. You are around me, within me,
 beside me, no matter where I am. 
You are everywhere at once and always.
 When I go up to the highest point of joy I know, you are waiting for me. 
When I fall to my lowest point, you catch me.
 When I am alone in the deep night, you hold me. 
You are forever, in all places, in every moment. 
You let me go at the right time. You release me to the open air.
 You trust me. And I, in all that I do, and say, and believe, trust you.
 I have since the beginning. I will until the end. 
You are my creator, my simple truth, 
what I believe and why I believe,
 the sum total of my life’s experience.
 I have made my choice and pledged my love.
 I am in this with you, in every way I can be, for as long as I can be, 
until your mystery surrounds me and the next dream begins.

~ Steven Charleston
Citizen of Choctaw Nation
retired Episcopal bishop of Alaska
with thanks to louie, louie

Monday, February 15, 2021

who speaks


Who speaks the sound of an echo?
Who paints the image in a mirror?
Where are the spectacles in a dream?
Nowhere at all - that's the nature of the mind!

~ Tree-Leaf Woman, (8th - 11th c.)
tantric Buddhist women's song
from Women in Praise of the Sacred
painting: undergrowth by Van Gogh

Sunday, February 14, 2021

to clear away


The true purpose of all spiritual disciplines is to clear away
whatever may block our awareness of that which is God in us. . . .

It will be in order to suggest certain simple aids to this end. 
One of these is the practice of silence, or quiet. 
As a child I was accustomed to spend many hours alone in my rowboat,
 fishing along the river, when there was no sound 
save the lapping of the waves against the boat. 
There were times when it seemed as if the earth 
and the river and the sky and I were one beat of the same pulse. 
It was a time of watching and waiting for what I did not know—
yet I always knew. 
There would come a moment when beyond the single pulse beat
 there was a sense of Presence which seemed always to speak to me. 
My response to the sense of Presence always had the quality of personal communion. 
There was no voice. There was no image. There was no vision.
 There was God. 
Howard Thurman
from Disciplines of the Spirit
 photo above by Jordan McChesney
 with thanks to Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation