........."Anyone who, for only a second, gives rise to a pure and clear confidence upon hearing these .........words of the Tathagata [the Buddha], the Tathagata sees and knows that person, and he or she .........will attain immeasurable happiness because of this understanding."
This sentence in the Diamond Sutra became clear to me one day several years ago as I was reading a poem I had written in 1967 for the brothers and sisters of the School of Youth for Social Service. It was a pleasant surprise to have insight into a sutra by reading or doing something else. I discovered that reading a sutra is like planting a tree inside our being. When we walk, look at the clouds, or read something else, the tree grows and it may reveal itself to us.
By 1967, the war in Vietnam had become so terrifying and destructive that many of the young social workers, monks, and nuns in the School of Youth for Social Service had to evacuate villagers even as the bombs were dropping. Already in exile, I received news from time to time that a brother or a sister of our school had been killed while doing this work. Neither the communists nor the anticommunists accepted our Buddhist movement. The communists thought that we were backed by the CIA, and the pro-American side suspected that we were communists. We would not accept the killing by either side. We only wanted reconciliation.
One evening, five young brothers were shot and four died. The one survivor told Sister Chan Khong that the killers had taken them to the riverbank, asked if they were members of the School of Youth for Social Service, and, when they "Yes," said "We are very sorry, but we have to kill you."
When I heard the news, I cried. A friend asked me, "Why do you cry? You are the commander-in-chief of a nonviolent army working for love. There are certain losses every army has to take. You are not taking the lives of people, you are saving lives. Even for warriors of love in a nonviolent army, casualties are inevitable."
I told him, "I am not a commander-in-chief. I am just a person. These young people joined the School in response to my call, and now they are dead. Of course I cry."
I wrote a poem for the brothers and sisters at the School and asked them to read it carefully. In that poem I told them never to look at anyone with hatred, even if they hate you, suppress you, kill you, or step on your life as if you were a wild plant or an insect. If you die because of violence, you must meditate on compassion in order to forgive those who killed you. The title of the poem is "Recommendation." Our only enemies are greed, violence, and fanaticism. When you die realizing this state of compassion, you are truly a child of the Awakened One. Before immolating herself to call for a cease-fire between the warring sides, my disciple, Sister Nhat Chi Mai, read the same poem into a cassette recorder and left the tape for her parents.
promise me this day,
promise me now,
while the sun is overhead
exactly at the zenith,
Even as they
strike you down
with a mountain of hatred and violence;
even as they step on you and crush you
like a worm,
even as they dismember and disembowel you,
man is not our enemy.
The only thing worthy of you is compassion—
invincible, limitless, unconditional.
Hatred will never let you face
the beast in man.
One day, when you face this beast alone,
with your courage intact, your eyes kind,
(even as no one sees them)
out of your smile
will bloom a flower.
And those who love you
will behold you
across ten thousand worlds of birth and dying.
I will go on with bent head,
knowing that love has become eternal.
On that long, rough road,
the sun and the moon
will continue to shine
guiding my way.
Even if you are dying in oppression, shame, and violence, if you can smile with forgiveness, you have a great power. When I was rereading these lines, I suddenly understood the Diamond Sutra: "Your courage intact, your calm eyes full of love, even if no one knows of your smile, blossoming as a flower in solitude and great pain, those who love you will still see you, while traveling through a thousand worlds of birth and death." If you die with compassion in your mind, you are a torch lighting our path.
---Thich Nhat Hanh, in his commentary on The Diamond Sutra---
If you want to become a buddha, don't learn a single teaching of the buddhas. Just learn not to seek and not to cling. By not seeking, thoughts are not born. By not clinging, thoughts do not die. What is not born and what does not die is the buddha.
The Buddha tells us that to understand the true nature of any entity, whether that entity is a self, a dharma, or even a buddha, we must not be blinded by our own perception of it. It is not the myriad atoms of dust or the billion-world universe that prevents us from attaining enlightenment but our mistaken views of such things as separate or permanent, as somehow real. But on closer examination, these entities turn out to be rather arbitrary views of reality founded on nothing more than linguistic conventions, which are themselves the detritus of previously established arbitrary views. And all these views can be traced back to our view of the self.
---Red Pine, in his commentary on The Diamond Sutra---
Before practicing Zen, mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers. While practicing Zen, mountains are no longer mountains and rivers are no longer rivers. After practicing, mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers again.
On the intellectual level, it can be said that emptiness means that all dharmas – all
phenomena, mental and physical – lack an independent existence of their own and exist only through reliance on other phenomena. All dharmas lack real, permanent, essential attributes that distinguish them from all other phenomena. In other words, everything in the world, both physical and mental, is interdependent. Nothing exists entirely on its own, separate, and with no causal relation to anything else. Thus all dharmas are empty of any individual, inherent being.
In his teachings, the Buddha starts from the worldviews and beliefs of the people he is teaching. He only leads them to question their views and beliefs to the extent necessary for his teaching and to the degree necessary for their liberation.
The Buddha should not be understood as a philosopher who was trying to develop a systematic philosophical system, complete with its own epistemology, metaphysics, and cosmology. Nor was he engaging in early scientific thinking. His teachings do not speculate about the nature of what seems to us to be the external world. Rather, his goal was to teach beings to understand their experience in such a way that they would be able to eliminate suffering and the fundamentally unsatisfactory quality of their lives. When we read in the sutras statements that seem to be abstract philosophical claims or excursions into neuroscience or cognitive psychology, we should realize that the purpose and meaning of these statements is to be understood and evaluated in light of their utility in advancing spiritual practice.
1/2 cup of olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 cups of cooked white beans (cannellini, Great Northerns, or navy beans) 2 teaspoons of minced fresh rosemary 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (use fresh, always avoid bottled) Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste In a small saute pan, over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the garlic and oil into a liquid measuring cup. In a food processor, combine the white beans, the rosemary, and the lemon juice. Pulse until the beans are partially pureed. With the motor running, pour in the sauteed garlic and the oil and process until a smooth puree forms. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. To serve, place the dip in a serving dish and drizzle with some extra-virgin olive oil. Serve with grilled or toasted bread and bell pepper strips.
undertake the training rule to abstain from the taking of life.
Nhat Hanh's approach:
of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to
cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of
people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill,
not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the
world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.
undertake the training rule to abstain from taking what is not freely
Nhat Hanh's approach:
of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing,
and oppression, I am committed to cultivating loving kindness and
learning ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants,
and minerals. I will practice generosity by sharing my time, energy,
and material resources with those who are in real need. I am
determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should
belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will
prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering
of other species on Earth.
undertake the training rule to avoid sexual misconduct.
Nhat Hanh's approach:
of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to
cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety
and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. I am
determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a
long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others,
I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of
others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from
sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by
undertake the training rule to abstain from false speech.
Nhat Hanh's approach:
of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to
listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and
deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and
relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create
happiness or suffering, I am determined to speak truthfully, with
words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope. I will not spread
news that I do not know to be certain and will not criticize or
condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering
words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the
family or the community to break. I am determined to make all efforts
to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.
undertake the training rule to abstain from fermented drink that
Nhat Hanh's approach:
of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to
cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my
family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and
consuming. I will ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being,
and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body
and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to
use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items
that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books,
films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my
consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my
parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform
violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by
practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a
proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the
transformation of society.
Yamaoka Tesshu, as a young student of Zen, visited one master after another. He called upon Dokuon of Shokoku.
Desiring to show his attainment, he said, "The mind, Buddha, and sentient beings, after all, do not exist. The true nature of phenomena is emptiness. There is no realization, no delusion, no sage, no mediocrity. There is no giving and nothing to be received."
Dokuon, who was smoking quietly, said nothing. Suddenly he whacked Yamaoka with his bamboo pipe. This made the youth quite angry.
"If nothing exists," inquired Dokuon, "where did this anger come from?"
Buddhism, systematized some two and a half thousand years ago, is one of the oldest religions on earth. Subsequently spreading over Asia through numerous cultural spheres, it became, more than a philosophy, a body of many philosophical systems embracing a wide variety of beliefs and practices. Generally speaking, however, it may be said that all forms of Buddhism comprise three spheres of learning: ethics, concentration methods, and analytic insight. These three spheres of learning support, enhance, and complete one another, and it is through their mutual interaction and development that Buddhism aims to realize human potential. Corresponding to these three spheres of learning, Buddhist literature includes three general types of material: precepts, scriptures, and philosophical treatises. Because of the interweaving of the three fields of learning, scriptures and treatises include ethical material as well as meditational and analytic principles. Scriptures are presented as the teaching emerging from the meditations of the Buddha. Although there are a great many scriptures, the major schools of Buddhism which arose in China and spread throughout East Asia usually concentrated on one or more as basic texts. Among the principal schools of Buddhism in China was the school known as Hua-yen—Garland or Flower Ornament. Based on a vast scripture by that name, Hua-yen teaching is one of the crowns of Buddhism.
As to the Avatamsaka-Sutra, it is really the consummation of Buddhist thought, Buddhist sentiment, and Buddhist experience. To my mind, no religious literature in the world can ever approach the grandeur of conception, the depth of feeling, and the gigantic scale of composition, as attained by the sutra. Here not only deeply speculative minds find satisfaction, but humble spirits and heavily oppressed hearts, too, will have their burdens lightened. Abstract truths are so concretely, so symbolically represented here that one will finally come to a realization of the truth that even in a particle of dust the whole universe is seen reflected—not this visible universe only, but a vast system of universes, conceivable by the highest minds only.
Reciting the sutras, practicing the way of awareness, .....gives rise to benefits without limit.
We vow to share the fruits with all beings.
We vow to offer tribute to parents, teachers,
friends, and numerous beings, .....who give guidance and support along the path.
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.
Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.
A paper-window bamboo hut a hedge of hibiscus
wormwood soup for tea when guest arrive
the poor people I meet are mostly content
rare is the rich man not vain or wasteful
I move my table to read sutras by moonlight
I pick wildflowers to fill my altar vase
everyone says Tushita Heaven is fine
but how can it match this place of mine