Sunday, June 30, 2013

It Is The Method That Matters

It does not matter whether the Buddha existed or not. What matters is his method was advanced.


Potato and Mushroom Soup

3/4 pound of your favorite mushroom (It should be a hardy, full-flavored mushroom.), cubed
1 1/2 cups of olive oil
4 shallots, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup of white wine
1 pound of potatoes, peeled, cubed, and steamed
4 cups of mushroom broth
1 1/2 cups of heavy cream
2 large egg yolks, beaten
1 bunch of chervil, chopped

Carefully clean the mushrooms.

Heat the oil in a pot and cook the mushrooms, shallots, and garlic for a few moments.

Add the wine, potatoes, and the broth.

Cook for 15 minutes, then remove from the heat and whisk in the cream and the egg yolk.

Garnish with the chervil.


Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.


Evil Destroys Itself

An evil man may wish to injure the Virtuous Ones and, raising his head, spit toward heaven, but the spit, far from reaching heaven, will return and descend upon himself. Virtue cannot be destroyed, while evil inevitably destroys itself.

---The Buddha---

Under These Immeasurable Starry Heavens

Can it be that there is not room for all men on this beautiful earth under these immeasurable starry heavens? Can it be possible that in the midst of this entrancing Nature feelings of hatred, vengeance, or the desire to exterminate their fellows can endure in the souls of men?

---Lev Nikolayevich, Count Tolstoy---


What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.

---Frederick Douglass, Speech, Corinthian Hall, Rochester, New York, 5 July 1852---

Comfortably Numb

All through the ages, there have been people who hope to find in Buddhism a way out of the chronic problems and pressures inherent in the everyday world. The more turbulent the times, the more people want to escape into a peaceful realm of contemplative retreat, where they can finally calm down and get comfortable, or at least comfortably numb. This may be why Buddhist teachers through the ages have warned that this escapist approach can be an illusion and a snare.

In the Lotus Sutra the Buddha tells his listeners that he taught methods of cultivating detachment as a way to help people progress beyond the madness and futility of self-centered living. But the inner peace and quiet to be gained by this approach, the Buddha explains, is only a temporary resting place, where would-be travelers on the path to enlightenment can stop and rest and muster their strength and courage, until they are fit to continue on way to being bodhisattvas. The real goal of the teaching is to enable people to unlock their potential to be bodhisattvas, that is, enlightened beings with the wisdom and fearlessness to work for the enlightenment of others.

---J. C. Cleary---

Saturday, June 29, 2013

What Makes You a Buddhst?

The Eight elements of the Noble Eightfold Path are grouped into one of three divisions; Wisdom, Ethics or Morality, and Concentration.

Within the division of Wisdom (Prajna) we find: Perfect Understanding and Perfect Thought.

Perfect Understanding (View, Perspective, Outlook) is both an understanding of the Buddha’s Teaching and also an acknowledgement of why we have chosen to follow these teachings: These teachings include the Four Noble Truths, Cause and Effect, Impermanence, and Non-Self.

Perfect Thought (Resolve, Conception, Aspiration, Intention) refers to the Practices of Non-Attachment, Loving-Kindness, and Harmlessness

Within the division of Ethics or Morality (Sila) we find: Perfect Speech, Perfect Action, and Perfect Livelihood.

Perfect Speech is respect for the Truth and the avoidance of Lying, Backbiting, Slander, Harsh Speech, and Idle Talk

Perfect Action (Conduct) is expressed by the Five Precepts. These Precepts help us do our best to protect living beings and all living things, to respect the property of others, to be sexually mature, to use words truthfully and compassionately, and to respect and care for our own body and mind.

Perfect Livelihood advises that we not engage in an occupation that’s at variance with the ideals of Perfect Action, of Compassion, and of Wisdom. These traditionally are listed as the buying and selling of human beings, the buying and selling of weapons, the sex trade, the buying and selling of intoxicating drinks or drugs, and the creation and the buying and selling of poisons. I’m sure each of us could add to this list.

Within the final division, the division of Concentration (Samadhi), we find: Perfect Effort, Perfect Mindfulness, and Perfect Concentration.

Perfect Effort (Endeavor, Diligence) is the effort to reject and deny the unwholesome and the effort to develop and grow the wholesome that is within all us.

Perfect Mindfulness (Awareness, Attention) is to be constantly aware of our body, our words, our feelings, and our thoughts.

And Perfect Concentration (Meditation) means no distractions in our practice of Perfect Mindfulness of our practice of the Path as a whole. This is why we practice meditation, to help us in our Mindfulness our Awareness. And this is why we practice the Eightfold Path.

We look to the Eightfold Path to develop insight into the true nature of phenomena, of reality. We look to the Path to help eradicate greed, hatred, and delusion.

So, if someone asks you, “What makes you a Buddhist?” You might answer, “I look to the Eightfold Path. I’m a student of the Compassionate Teacher.”

Do You Want To Liberate Yourself?

When the Buddha was eighty years old and about to pass away, a young man named Subhadda came to see him. Ananda, the Buddha’s attendant, thought it would be too exhausting for his master to see anyone, but the Buddha overheard the request and asked Ananda to invite the young man in.

Even as he was dying, the Buddha was willing to speak with a person requesting help.

When he came before the Buddha, Subhadda asked, “Are other religious teachers fully enlightened?”

The Buddha knew he had a very short time to live and that answering such a question would be a waste of precious moments. Remember that, if you ever have the opportunity to ask a great teacher a question make it a question that can change your life, not something that’s unimportant and trivial.

The Buddha answered the young man, “It’s not important whether the other teachers are fully enlightened. The question is whether you want to liberate yourself. If you do, practice the Noble Eightfold Path. Wherever the Eightfold Path is practiced, joy, peace, and insight are there.”

The Eightfold Path

All of us here know Buddhism is not a belief system, we know it’s a practice. To be a Buddhist, to call yourself a Buddhist, you do something. What do you do? You look to the Eightfold Path for inspiration and guidance.

The first teaching the Buddha gave was to the five ascetics with whom he had practiced austerities. In that first teaching the Buddha spoke of two extremes. The extreme of indulgence in desire and the extreme of self-denial. He said both extremes are unprofitable.

He told the ascetics he had realized a Middle Path between the two extremes and that Path is the Eightfold Path.

A Map

The Buddhist commentator Eknath Easwaran wrote, “One of the reasons so little is said about the Eightfold Path is the highly intellectual bent of many Buddhist thinkers, who might have found matters like right occupation rather mundane.”

He also wrote, “...the Path remains far more important than philosophy. It is, in the Buddha's own estimation, his foremost gift to mankind.”

We should remember that thought. The Path is not theorizing, it’s practical application we can begin at this moment.

We should also keep in mind the Eightfold Path is not a set of commandments or regulations we’re obligated to follow. The Path is a set of guidelines and practices that’ll help us develop the capacity to realize the Truth.

It’s as if the Buddha was a map maker -- the Eightfold Path is the map he offered us.

Values For Life

The ideals which have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been kindness, beauty, and truth.

---Albert Einstein---

Restrain My Own Mind

I am unable to restrain external things, but I shall restrain my own mind. What need is there to restrain anything else?


Stand Pure

If you hear a speaker express hate, bigotry, intolerance, or non-equality, share your unhappiness with him or her.

It does not matter if the speaker is conservative or liberal or middle of the spectrum. It does not matter if the speaker is a member of your "group" or not.

Hatred, bigotry, intolerance, and non-equality are not part of civilized behavior, not part of a spiritual life.

Stand fresh and clean and pure.

Friday, June 28, 2013


Wealth is like sea water; the more we drink, the thirstier we become.

---Arthur Schopenhauer---

The Best of Gifts

The only gift is a portion of thyself.

---Ralph Waldo Emerson---

Our Example

There is a transcendent power in example. We reform others unconsciously when we walk uprightly.

---Anne Sophie Swetchine---

Buddhism: Past and Present

Buddhism died out in India following the destruction of Nalanda University, the great seat of Buddhist learning in India, and the widespread eradication of Buddhist practice by Muslim expansion in the 11th century. More recently, Communism virtually obliterated Buddhism in China.

Today Buddhism is thriving in Sri Lanka, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, and countries in the West. Buddhism is beginning to re-emerge in China and Mongolia.

The appeal of Buddhism is universal: as Albert Einstein said, "If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism."

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Leaving the Raft

The Buddha compared his teachings to a raft carrying us across the turbulent river of samsara to the other shore, where we can nirvana. However, once we reach the far shore, just as carrying the real raft with us would be foolish, so we must leave behind the theory of Buddhism and rely upon ourselves.

---Desmond Biddulp---

Taking Refuge

"Good friends, now that we have finished the repentance, I will transmit to you the Formless Precepts of the Triple Refuge."

The Master said, "Good friends,

.....'We take refuge in enlightenment
.....and the best of two-legged creatures.
.....We take refuge in truth
.....and the best of what transcends desire.
.....We take refuge in purity
......and the best of congregation.'

Beginning today, call the Buddha your teacher. Never again take refuge in the mistaken teachings of other paths. And may you experience the compassion of your own Three Treasures. Good friends, I urge you all to take refuge in the Three Treasures of your own nature, wherein 'Buddha' means enlightenment, 'Dharma' means truth, and 'Sangha' means purity.

Take refuge in the enlightenment of your own minds. Those whose delusions do not arise, who have few desires and who know contentment, who are free from wealth and sex, they are called the 'best of two-legged creatures.'

Take refuge in the truth of your own minds. When your thoughts are free from delusion, you are therefore free from attachment. And freedom from attachment is called the 'best of what transcends desire.'

Take refuge in the purity of your own minds. No matter how many afflictions and delusions are present in your nature, because your nature remains uncorrupted, this is called the 'best of congregations.'

Ordinary people don't understand this. Day after day, they recite the Precepts of the Triple Refuge. But when they say take refuge in the Buddha, where is the Buddha? If they don't see the Buddha, they aren't taking refuge in anything.  And if they aren't taking refuge in anything, their words are false.

Good friends, each of you should examine this for yourself. Don't misdirect your attention. The sutras only say to take refuge in the buddha of yourselves. They don't say to take refuge in some other buddha. If you don't take refuge in your own nature, there's no other place of refuge."

---The Platform Sutra---

No Self

In a famous passage from the classic Buddhist text, The Questions of King Milinda [ed. The Debate of King Milinda], a monk is talking with the king and trying to explain exactly this idea of not-self (in Sanskrit, anatman, literally not-self). The monk uses the simile of a horse-drawn chariot, but to make it more relevant, let's use a car. Same idea. As the monk might ask if he were around today: What is the car? Is the axle the car? Is one or all of the wheels the car? Is the engine block the car? Are the airbags the car? And so on.

Of course the answer is no, none of these things is the car. The "car" is merely a convenient container word for this set of systems that operates together in a way that, for a time, constitutes a car. But in reality there are only the systems; there's no actual car. If we were to replace each part, one by one, we could completely rebuild the thing. (If you've ever rebuilt an old clunker to drive, you know what replacing the thing one piece at a time is like. You've also discovered that buying the parts for a car costs sometimes like twenty times the cost of the whole car. This is an example of dukkha.) If you replaced every part, would it be the same car? Not physically. And you can't really say that it would be the same car because you would use it the same way. That's just its use, not its essence. That would be like saying that another person kissing your boyfriend or girlfriend is you, because he or she is doing the same thing you do. "That's another example of dukkha.)

This brings us to the self. Just as there is no car, there is no self. Take you, for example. Are you your liver? Your heart? Your skin? Your blood? Such things are constantly changing. They can't be you if you want to claim that you are a permanent thing. Let's cut to the chase: No part of you is you. Even your mind, which is what's left when we've discovered the various parts of your body are not you, is impermanent. Your thoughts are constantly arising and passing away.  Even your consciousness itself was simply not there before you were born. It didn't exist.  And after your death? Gone again. In fact it's gone when you fall into deepest sleep.  It's gone even during the day in those micromoments between thoughts. There are times when your very you-ness dissolves into a grainy mess of mere perceptions and apperceptions fleeting across a field of consciousness which itself disappears when it's not active.

There's a charming passage in an early sutra that lists the questions it is foolish to dwell on:

He may ask, "Did I exist in the past? Did I not
exist in the past? What was I in the past? How
was I in the past? What was I that led to me being
as I was in the past? Will I exist in the future? Will
I not exist in the future? What will I exist as in
the future? How will I exist in the future? What
will I be that will lead to me being as I'll be in the
Future?" Or he may be confused about right now:
"Do I exist? Do I not exist? What am I? How am
I? Where have I come from? Where am I going?"
Majjhima Nikaya
---Buddha In You Backpack, by Franz Metcalf---

The Place of Practice

He [the Buddha] replied, "An upright mind is the place of practice, for it is without sham or falsehood. The resolve to act is the place of practice, for it can judge matters properly.  A deeply searching mind is the place of practice, for it multiplies benefits. The mind that aspires to bodhi is the place of practice, for it is without error or misconception.

---The Vimalakirti Sutra---

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Nirvana: Freedom From the Illusion of Self

In almost all religions the summum bonum can be attained only after death. But Nirvana can be realized in this very life; it is not necessary to wait till you die to 'attain' it.

He who has realized the Truth, Nirvana, is the happiest being in the world. He is free from all 'complexes' and obsessions, the worries and troubles that torment others. His mental health is perfect. He does not repent the past, nor does he brood over the future. He lives fully in the present. Therefore he appreciates and enjoys things in the purest sense without self-projections. He is joyful, exultant, enjoying the pure life, his faculties pleased, free from anxiety, serene and peaceful. As he is free from selfish desire, hatred, ignorance, conceit, pride, and all such 'defilements', he is pure and gentle, full of universal love, compassion, kindness, sympathy, understanding and tolerance. His service to others is of the purest, for he has no thought of self. He gains nothing, accumulates nothing, not even anything spiritual, because he is free from the illusion of Self, and the 'thirst' for becoming.

---Walpola Rahula---

The Path To Happiness

The Dalai Lama says we all should just get happy.

The goal of life is happiness, and whatever path leads you to deep and lasting happiness is the path you should follow. It doesn't have to be Buddhism; it can be any path with heart.

In fact, it can be several.

Sweet Corn Risotto

4 ears of sweet corn (the fresher, the better)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups of finely chopped onion
Salt to taste
6 to 8 cups of a very fine vegetable broth
2 cups of Arborio rice
3/4 cup of dry white wine
3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons of chopped flat-leaf parsley
Additional grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley for the table

Husk and wash the corn and peel away all the silk. Slice the kernels off the cobs with a sharp knife. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of corn kernels. Place 3/4 of a cup of the kernels in a food processor and process until they are roughly chopped. Scrape the processed corn in the bowl holding the whole kernels.

Ina large skillet, heat the oil and the butter. Sauté the onion until tender and translucent. Add a wee pinch of salt.

While cooking the onion, heat the broth and regulate the flame to keep it just below a simmer.

Add the Arborio rice to the onions and stir gently for about 2 minutes.

Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed.

Add a soup ladle of the heated broth and all the corn kernels to the rice and stir, keeping the mixture at a simmer.

Keep stirring until the broth is nearly all absorbed into the rice, then add another ladle. Continue in this manner, adding a little broth at a time, stirring constantly, or at the very least, very (very) frequently, with a wooden spoon for about 25 minutes, or until the rice is al dente. (The more you stir, the creamier the rice.)

The rice should form a creamy sauce around the grains. The grains should be firm but not crunchy.

When the rice has just achieved this perfection of tender-firmness, stir in one more ladle of broth, the grated cheese, and the 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley.

Serve the risotto at once at once in warmed dishes.

Pass the additional cheese and parsley at the table.

Wisdom, Ethics, and Meditation: The Foundation of the Practice

Proper View and Proper Thought are considered to be the Wisdom element of the Noble Eightfold Path.

The second three principles -- Proper Speech, Proper Action, and Proper Livelihood -- relate to the element of Ethics or Morality.

The last three principles -- Proper Effort or Diligence, Proper Awareness or Mindfulness, and Proper Concentration -- relate to Meditation: simply being wholly at one with what we are doing.

The true expression of the Noble Eightfold Path is to see the world as it is (Wisdom), to behave appropriately (Ethics), and to be at one with what we are doing right now (Meditation).

Our Habits

We may idealize freedom, but when it comes to our habits, we are completely enslaved.

---Sogyal Rinpoche---


This is the Noble Truth of dukkha. Birth is dukkha, decay is dukkha, disease is dukkha, death is dukkha, to be united with the unpleasant is dukkha, to be separated from the pleasant is dukkha, not to get what we desire id dukkha.

---The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta---

For the Benefit of the Many

An extraordinary man arises in this world for the benefit of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the good, benefit and happiness of gods and men. Who is this being? It is the Tathagata, the Exalted, the Fully Enlightened One.

---The Anguttara Nikaya---

Monday, June 24, 2013

Simply The Truth

Buddhism teaches a terrible truth. Whatever we cherish, we shall lose, and there's simply nothing we can do about it. This may sound profoundly depressing at first, but it's not. It's simply the truth. It's what we all know already but don't always want to examine. It's what the Buddha saw when he left the palace. It's reality. The question is: What do we do about it?

---Franz Metcalf---

Campfire Pocket Stew

For each person to be served, thinly slice:
1 potato
1 carrot
1 onion
1/4 of a green bell pepper

Several pieces of your favorite cheese cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
2 large cabbage leaves

Wrap each serving in aluminum foil, shiny side in. Cook the packets on the coals of your campfire for 15 minutes, turn and cook for 15 minutes more.

The Teaching

When you first seek the teaching, you think you're far away from it. But the teaching has already come to you; you are immediately your true self.


No One Does It For You

Buddhism is not an escape from reality. It is an escape to reality, which includes disappointment and pain, happiness and joy. The Buddha and the Teachers who have followed him give us tips on avoiding inner roadblocks as we walk the path, but we, each one of us, must walk the Path.

There Is No Enduring Self That Suffers

The Buddha's truth is astounding not because it's complex or brilliant. It's astounding because it's so unsuspected, yet follows so directly from the idea of impermanence.

---Franz Metcalf---

Buddhas Need To Be Free

Unless we free ourselves of the past, we can never free ourselves of the future. And unless we free ourselves of the future, we can never free ourselves of the present. And buddhas need to be free.

---Red Pine---

Defilement and Purity

...when the mind is defiled, the living being will be defiled. When the mind is pure, the living being will be pure.

---The Vimalakirti Sutra---

Becoming a Child of the Buddhas

While practicing generosity, we should always remember how very fortunate we are to have this opportunity.

---Gomo Tulku---

A Buddhist Guided Life

Adopting a Buddhist outlook, a Buddhist guided live, is simple. Not easy, but simple.

1...Be Ethical: Honest, Just, Compassionate, Generous

2...Be Aware: Mindful, Present, Empathetic

3...Wise: Open, Inquisitive, True

Laws and Regulations

Before simply accepting laws, rules, and regulations set forth by government and religion look to the principles behind these statutes. Decide whether these reasons are valid. Once you take this step the world will never be the same.

The Refuge Commitments

(Three Bells and One Bow)

I take refuge in the Buddha, the one who shows me the way in this life.

I take refuge in the Dharma, the way of understanding and love.

I take refuge in the Sangha, the community that lives in harmony and awareness.

(One Bell and One Bow)

Dwelling in the refuge of the Buddha, I clearly see the path of light and beauty in the world.

Dwelling in the refuge of the Dharma, I learn to open many doors on the path of transformation.

Dwelling in the refuge of the Sangha, shining light that supports me, keeping my practice free of obstructions.

(One Bell and One Bow)

Taking refuge in the Buddha in myself, I aspire to help all people recognize their own awakened nature, realizing the mind of love.

Taking refuge in the Dharma in myself, I aspire to help all people fully master the ways of practice and walk together on the path of liberation.

Taking refuge in the Sangha in myself, I aspire to help all people build four-fold communities*, to embrace all beings and support their transformation.

 (Three Bells and One Bow)

---Rituals and Practices: Grand Rapids Buddhist Temple---

*Monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Three Jewels

A student asked, "What do you mean by the true Buddha, the true Dharma, and the true Path? Will you please explain them?"

The teacher answered, "The Buddha is the simple purity of mind. The Dharma is the radiant illumination of mind. The Path is the clean light that can never be hindered. These three are actually one, yet remain mere names without essence."

Religion, Spirituality


What is religion? What is spirituality? These things are notoriously difficult to define, but here's a short answer. Religion is a multidimensional system of ritual, myth, doctrine, ethics, social and material forms, and sacred experience. There is no one "right" religion; instead there are literally thousands of systems through which people relate to the sacred, giving meaning and order to human life.

Spirituality is the individual person's relationship with the sacred. It's an inner experience, so it can vary from person to person even more than religions differ from one another, yet spirituality, too, must always grow from certain unchanging truths. Some people find their spirituality through traditional religion. Others experience it through nature, art, science, or love.

---Franz Metcalf---

Following the Teachings

Following the Teachings of the Buddha is not about joining a religion; it's about being happier, it's about understanding Reality, it's about waking up to your own Buddha Nature.

A Projecting Ego

When something undesirable happens, rather than blaming somebody or something else, I will look at how I might have contributed to it. I will train to ask: maybe this isn't how things really are. It might be my own ego projecting something onto the circumstances. I must learn to stop personalizing things. I will look at the poison and not the person.

---Rituals and Practices: Grand Rapids Buddhist Temple---

My Responses

I cannot control events but I can change my attitude towards them. I will develop the wisdom not to assume that my initial responses are always true and correct.

---Rituals and Practices: Grand Rapids Buddhist Temple---


Like a bubble, a lifetime has no inner core. Like a mist, it dissipates upon close examination. Like a mirage, it is beautiful from afar. Like a reflection in a mirror, it seems as if it were really true. Like clouds and fog, it seems as if it were really stable.

---Rituals and Practices: Grand Rapids Buddhist Temple---

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Fundamental Nature of Things

When the fundamental nature of things is not recognized
the mind's essential peace is disturbed to no avail.

---Hsin-Hsin Ming---

To Know the Truth

Autumn Tree by Angela T

If you wish to know the truth,
then hold to no opinions for or against anything.

---Hsin-Hsin Ming---

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Buddha

He argues with no one, denies no faith, convinces only with truth and love. He brought not so much a new religion as sanatana dharma, "the eternal dharma," the name India has always given to religion itself.

---Eknath Easwaran---

A Creation In My Mind

My relationship with you is not with you as you see yourself, but with you as I see you: a waxworks creation in my mind. As a result, two people can share the same house and literally live in different worlds.

---Eknath Easwaran---