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A View on Buddhism
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Quotations on:
A Spiritual Path

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We should take a moment to reflect on our Dharma practice from when we began practicing up until now. Have our afflictive emotions decreased since that time? Are we less angry, less dramatic, and less extreme? Are we less worried about the behavior of others and more mindful about our own behavior? Has our self-attachment decreased? Are we experiencing more clarity and stability in the mind? Are we able to practice more?
If, after making this examination, we feel that we are progressing pretty well, then it would be good to keep at Dharma practice just the way we have been. If we examine ourselves and then think: "I haven't changed as much as I should have as a result of practicing this long," it would be good to evaluate and reflect on ways that we could change.
Anyen Rinpoche, Momentary Buddhahood: Mindfulness and the Vajrayana Path

The Buddha

I teach about suffering and the way to end it.

Conquer the angry man by love.
Conquer the ill-natured man by goodness.
Conquer the miser with generosity.
Conquer the liar with truth."

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, nor to anticipate troubles, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.

The best of all paths is the Eightfold Path. The best of all truths are the Four Noble Truths. Non-attachment is the best of all states. The best of all men is the Seeing One (the Buddha).
Dhammapada v. 273

Who does not strives when it is time to strive, who - though young and strong - is indolent, who is low in mind and thought, and is lazy, that idler never finds the way to wisdom.
Dhammapada v.280

In a sense everything is dreamlike and illusory, but even so, humorously you go on doing things. For example, if you are walking, without unnecessary solemnity or self-consciousness, lightheartedly walk toward the open space of truth. When you sit, be the stronghold of truth. As you eat, feed your negativities and illusions into the belly of emptiness, dissolving them into all-pervading space. And when you go to the toilet, consider all your obscurations and blockages are being cleansed and washed away.
Dudjom Rinpoche

If you seek liberation, you must have more than an intellectual understanding of suffering, its causes, and the antidotes; you must practice for this understanding to mature. Just as a deer shot by a hunter retreats into solitude to heal itself, so too, you should withdraw from all superfluous activity. At the very least, occasionally withdraw into solitude in order to practice. As a result, you may realize the one taste of reality and cut through the divisions created by delusion, attachment, and hatred. Once you have gained this realization, you become as fearless and powerful as a snow lion. You have then achieved the state of confidence. At this point, your own self-interest is fulfilled as you observe all phenomena as displays of awareness. Having brought your own inner transformation to perfection with the motivation of being of benefit to others, you are now fully capable of serving others' needs. This is the path of a true Dharma practitioner.
Karma Chagme from "A Spacious Path to Freedom: Practical Instructions on the Union of Mahamudra and Atiyoga"

Ajahn Chah

The Buddha taught us to give up all forms of evil and cultivate virtue. This is the right path. Teaching in this way is like the Buddha picking us up and placing us at the beginning of the path. Having reached the path, whether we walk along it or not is up to us. The Buddha's job is finished right there. He shows the way, that which is right and that which is not right. This much is enough, the rest is up to us.

First you understand the Dhamma with your thoughts. If you begin to understand it, you will practice it. And if you practice it, you will begin to see it. And when you see it, you are the Dhamma, and you have the joy of the Buddha.

It's like a child who is learning to write. At first he doesn't write nicely -- big, long loops and squiggles -- he writes like a child. After a while the writing improves through practice. Practicing the Dhamma is like this. At first you are awkward...sometimes calm, sometimes not, you don't really know what's what. Some people get discouraged. Don't slacken off! You must persevere with the practice. Live with effort, just like the schoolboy: as he gets older he writes better and better. From writing badly he grows to write beautifully, all because of the practice from childhood.

Always recognize the dreamlike qualities of life and reduce attachment and aversion. Practice good-heartedness toward all beings. Be loving and compassionate, no matter what others do to you. What they will do will not matter so much when you see it as a dream. The trick is to have positive intention during the dream. This is the essential point. This is true spirituality.
Chakdud Tulku Rinpoche

The more we generate an attitude of contentment in our lives, the happier we will be and the more open we will be to engage in genuine Dharma practice. Letting go of the eight worldly concerns brings mental peace right now.
The defining characteristic of a thought or action being Dharma is whether or not we're attached to the happiness of this life. The eight worldly concerns are completely involved with attachment to the happiness of this life. How can we practice genuine Dharma when our self-centered mind is fixated on getting our own way and making everyone and everything around us suit our preferences and needs?
That doesn't mean the happiness of this life is bad or wrong. The Buddha did not say that we should suffer in this life so that we'll get our reward in heaven. The objects we're attached to and have aversion for aren't the problem; there's nothing wrong with experiencing pleasure and happiness. Those aren't the issue. Rather, attachment to pleasant feelings and to the people, objects, and situations that cause them, and aversion to unpleasant ones—it is these emotions that create trouble. They make us unhappy and propel us to harm others in order to get what we want. The troublemakers of attachment and hostility are what we want to abandon, not people and things. There is nothing wrong with being happy. But when we're attached to it, we actually create more unhappiness for ourselves.
Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron, from 'How to Free Your Mind: Tara the Liberator'

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.

I believe that constant effort, tireless effort, pursuing clear goals with sincere effort is the only way.

According to Buddhist practice, there are three stages or steps. The initial stage is to reduce attachment towards life. The second stage is the elimination of desire and attachment to this samsara. Then in the third stage, self-cherishing is eliminated.

Through actual practice in his daily life, man well fulfils the aim of all religion, whatever his denomination.

In the beginning of Buddhist practice, our ability to serve others is limited. The emphasis is on healing ourselves, transforming our minds and hearts. But as we continue, we become stronger and increasingly able to serve others.

Firstly, we should re-examine our own attitude towards others and constantly check ourselves to see whether we are practicing properly. Before pointing our finger at others we should point it towards ourselves. Secondly, we must be prepared to admit our faults and stand corrected.

Even when we are helping others and are engaged in charity work, we should not regard ourselves in a very haughty way as great protectors benefiting the weak.

When one is very involved in hatred or attachment, if there is time or possibility during that very moment, just try to look inward and ask: 'What is attachment? What is the nature of anger?

To develop genuine devotion, you must know the meaning of teachings. The main emphasis in Buddhism is to transform the mind, and this transformation depends upon meditation. in order to meditate correctly, you must have knowledge.

Question: A person, particularly in the West, must have the foundation of humility, honesty and an ethical way of life. Once one has this foundation, what else does Your Holiness suggest that one cultivate in one's life, if there is the foundation of virtue, ethics and humility?
Dalai Lama: The next thing to be cultivated is mental stabilization. Ethics is a method to control oneself--it is a defensive action. Our actual enemy, you see, is within ourselves. The afflicted emotions (pride, anger, jealousy) are our real enemies. These are the real trouble makers, and they are to be found within ourselves. The actual practice of religion consists of fighting against these inner enemies.
As in any war, first we must have a defensive action, and in our spiritual fight against the negative emotions, ethics is our defense. Knowing that at first one is not fully prepared for offensive action, we first resort to defensive action and that means ethics. But once one has prepared one's defenses, and has become somewhat accustomed to ethics, then one must launch one's offensive. Here our main weapon is wisdom. This weapon of wisdom is like a bullet, or maybe even a rocket, and the rocket launcher is mental stabilization or calm abiding. In brief, once you have a basis in morality or ethics, the next step is to train in mental stabilization and eventually in wisdom
A Policy of Kindness: An Anthology of Writings by and about the Dalai Lama

The essence of all spiritual life is your attitude toward others. Once you have pure and sincere motives all the rest follows.

Do your best and do it according to your own inner standard - call it conscience - not just according to society's knowledge and judgment of your deeds.

When we practice, initially, as a basis we control ourselves, stopping the bad actions which hurt others as much as we can. This is defensive. After that, when we develop certain qualifications, then as an active goal we should help others. In the first stage, sometimes we need isolation while pursuing our own inner development; however, after you have some confidence, some strength, you must remain with, contact, and serve society in any field -- health, education, politics, or whatever.
There are people who call themselves religious-minded, trying to show this by dressing in a peculiar manner, maintaining a peculiar way of life, and isolating themselves from the rest of society. That is wrong. A scripture of mind-purification (mind-training) says, "Transform your inner viewpoint, but leave your external appearance as it is." This is important. Because the very purpose of practicing the Great Vehicle is service for others, you should not isolate yourselves from society. In order to serve, in order to help, you must remain in society.
A Policy of Kindness

Spiritual practice is difficult in the beginning. You wonder how on earth you can ever do it. But as you get used to it, the practice gradually becomes easier. Do not be too stubborn or push yourself too hard. If you practice in accord with your individual capacity, little by little you will find more pleasure and joy in it. As you gain inner strength, your positive actions will gain in profundity and scope.

My Western friends often ask me for the quickest, easiest, most effective, and cheapest way of practising Dharma! I think to find such a way is impossible! Maybe that is a sign of failure!
We should realize that practising the Dharma is actually something that needs to be done twenty four hours a the day.That's why we make a distinction between actual meditation sessions and post meditation periods, the idea being that both while you are in the meditative session and also when you are out of it, you should be fully within the realm of Dharma practice. In fact, one could say that the post-meditation periods are the real test of the strength of your practice.

Robert Thurman: Now for a really simple question: What is the essence of Buddhism?
His Holiness: Respect all forms of life, and then compassion and affection toward all sentient beings, with the understanding that everything is interdependent - so my happiness and suffering, my well-being, very much have to do with others.

Three qualities enable people to understand the teachings: objectivity, which means an open mind; intelligence, which is the critical faculty to discern the real meaning by checking the teachings of Buddha; and interest and commitment, which means enthusiasm.

Reason well from the beginning and then there will never be any need to look back with confusion and doubt.
The Path to Enlightenment

The nature of samsaric evolution is not such that death is followed by nothingness, nor that humans are always reborn as humans and insects as insects. On the contrary, we all carry within us the karmic potencies of all realms of cyclic existence. Many beings transmigrate from higher to lower realms, others from lower to higher. The selection of a place of rebirth is not directly in our own hands but is conditioned by our karma and delusions. They who possess spiritual understanding can control their destiny at the time of death, but for ordinary beings the process is very much an automatic chain reaction of karmic seeds and habitual psychic response patterns....
Our repeated experience of frustration, dissatisfaction and misery does not have external conditions as its root cause. The problem is mainly our lack of spiritual development. As a result of this handicap, the mind is controlled principally by afflicted emotions and illusions. Attachment, aversion and ignorance rather than a free spirit, love and wisdom are the guiding forces. Recognizing this simple truth is the beginning of the spiritual path.
The Path to Enlightenment

...when seeking work, or if you already have a job, it is important to keep in mind that a human being isn't meant to be some kind of machine designed only for production. No. Human life isn't just for work, like [a socialistic] vision where everyone's purpose is just to work for the state, and there is no individual freedom, where the state even arranges the person's vacations and everything is planned out for the individual. That is not a full human life. Individuality is very important for a full human life, and then accordingly some leisure time, a bit of holiday, and time spent with family or friends. That is the means to a complete form of life.... If your life becomes only a medium of production, then many of the good human values and characteristics will be lost--then you will not, you cannot, become a complete person.
So if you're looking for work and have a choice of a job, choose a job that allows the opportunity for some creativity, and for spending time with your family. Even if it means less pay, personally I think it is better to choose work that is less demanding, that gives you greater freedom, more time to be with your family, or to do other activities, read, engage in cultural activities, or just play. I think that's best.
The Art of Happiness at Work

The Buddha's life exemplifies a very important principle--a certain amount of hardship is necessary in one's spiritual pursuit. We can also see this principle at work in the lives of other great religious teachers, such as Jesus Christ or the Muslim prophet Mohammed. Furthermore, I think that the followers of these teachers, if they wish to attain the highest spiritual realizations within their tradition, must themselves undergo a process of hardship, which they endure through dedicated perseverance. There is sometimes the tendency among the followers of the Buddha to imagine, perhaps only in the back of their minds, that "Although the Buddha went through all of those hardships to attain enlightenment they aren't really necessary for me. Surely, I can attain enlightenment without giving up life's comforts." Perhaps such people imagine that, because they are somehow more fortunate than the Buddha, they can attain the same spiritual state as he did without any particular hardships or renunciation. This is, I think, mistaken.
...While Buddhism has adapted to the culture of each new civilization it has encountered, it nonetheless retains its emphasis on morality and discipline as essential for spiritual maturation. If we ourselves want the attainments described by the Buddha--the deep concentration and the penetrating insights--then we too must endure some amount of hardship and observe ethical behavior. Essence of the Heart Sutra: The Dalai Lama's Heart of Wisdom Teachings

In his Precious Garland of Advice, Nagarjuna lays out the triad of practices that a follower of Buddha should take up:
If you and the world wish to attain unparalleled enlightenment,
Its roots are the altruistic aspiration to enlightenment
Firm like the monarch of mountains,
Compassion reaching to all quarters,
And wisdom not relying on duality.

Those who take refuge in Buddha should practice compassion, the wisdom realizing emptiness, and the altruistic intention to become enlightened. I practice these as much as I can and I have found over the course of my life that they are indeed very beneficial, making me happier and happier. Even if there were no future life, I would have no regrets; that these practices help in this life is sufficient. If there is a future life after this one, I am certain that the effort I have put into practicing altruism and the view of emptiness will have beneficial effects. Though I have not yet achieved control over how I will be reborn, if I continue these practices I will likely die with confidence that I can direct my own future rebirth... Altruism puts your mind at ease. You will live longer, your body will be healthy, sickness and disease will diminish, and you will have many friends without having to resort to trickery or force. 
Becoming Enlightened 

It is vital for us to obtain genuine confidence in the nature of mind and reality, grounded in understanding and reason. What we need is a skeptical curiosity and constant inquiry, a curious mind, drawn toward all possibilities; and when we cultivate that, the desire to deeply investigate naturally arises.
The Middle Way

When we speak about enlightenment and the path leading to it, we are naturally speaking about a quality, or state of mind. In the final analysis, enlightenment is nothing other than a perfected state of mind.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama


His Holiness Gyalwang Drukgpa

We tend to have a very selfish, impure motivation. We want to get the teachings for our own sakes and this is not respected in terms of spiritual development. We need to have at least a motivation to help others as a result of the practice or listening to the teachings. Even if that motivation is not there right away, we need to work on th teachings from that time and eventually be able to benefit beings. This must be the true motivation.
Drukpa Kargyud Trust Summer Newsletter

Whatever your practice, this is a path. The path is the mind, the motivation the mental state. The spiritual path actually means one's mental state. So, wherever and whatever your motivation is, that is the path - path is motivation always has to be there continuously. When the motivation stops, the path stops. There is no path other than motivation; there is no motivation other than the path
Drukpa Kargyud Trust Summer Newsletter

Grant your blessings so that my mind may be one with the Dharma.
Grant your blessings so that Dharma may progress along the path.
Grant your blessings so that the path may clarify confusion.
Grant your blessings so that confusion may dawn as wisdom.

What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.
Thomas Merton (Christian monk)

When the Buddha said "Do not pursue the past," he was telling us not to be overwhelmed by the past. He did not mean that we should stop looking at the past in order to observe it deeply. When we review the past and observe it deeply, if we are standing firmly in the present, we are not overwhelmed by it. The materials of the past which make up the present become clear when they express themselves in the present. We can learn from them. If we observe these materials deeply, we can arrive at a new understanding of them. That is called "looking again at something old in order to learn something new."
If we know that the past also lies in the present, we understand that we are able to change the past by transforming the present. The ghosts of the past, which follow us into the present, also belong to the present moment. To observe them deeply, recognize their nature, and transform them, is to transform the past.
Thich Nhat Hanh, Our Appointment with Life

Few people are capable of wholehearted commitment, and that is why so few people experience a real transformation through their spiritual practice. It is a matter of giving up our own viewpoints, of letting go of opinions and preconceived ideas, and instead following the Buddha's guidelines. Although this sounds simple, in practice most people find it extremely difficult. Their ingrained viewpoints, based on deductions derived from cultural and social norms, are in the way.
We must also remember that heart and mind need to work together. If we understand something rationally but don't love it, there is no completeness for us, no fulfillment. If we love something but don't understand it, the same applies. If we have a relationship with another person, and we love the person but don't understand him or her, the relationship is incomplete; if we understand that person but don't love him or her, it is equally unfulfilling. How much more so on our spiritual path. We have to understand the meaning of the teaching and also love it. In the beginning our understanding will only be partial, so our love has to be even greater.
Ayya Khema; When the Iron Eagle Flies

Few people are capable of wholehearted commitment, and that is why so few people experience a real transformation through their spiritual practice. It is a matter of giving up our own viewpoints, of letting go of opinions and preconceived ideas, and instead following the Buddha's guidelines. Although this sounds simple, in practice most people find it extremely difficult. Their ingrained viewpoints, based on deductions derived from cultural and social norms, are in the way.
We must also remember that heart and mind need to work together. If we understand something rationally but don't love it, there is no completeness for us, no fulfillment. If we love something but don't understand it, the same applies. If we have a relationship with another person, and we love the person but don't understand him or her, the relationship is incomplete; if we understand that person but don't love him or her, it is equally unfulfilling. How much more so on our spiritual path. We have to understand the meaning of the teaching and also love it. In the beginning our understanding will only be partial, so our love has to be even greater.
Ayya Khema; When the Iron Eagle Flies

When we are humble everyone is a potential best friend and our generosity naturally grows. We want to do things, to help out. A wonderful Zen tradition is called "inji-gyo," or secret good deeds. The virtue gained through performing a secret good deed is believed to be immense. So, in a monastery, if one watched closely, you might see a monk secretly mending another's robes or taking down someone's laundry and folding it before the rain comes. In our temple I often find chocolate spontaneously appearing in my mailbox, or a beautiful poem, unsigned. This year the Easter Bunny visited our Sunday service, leaving chocolate eggs under everyone's cushions, even the one prepared for a visiting Zen master. Sometimes the bathrooms are miraculously cleaned overnight. And flowers spontaneously appear in a neighbor's yard, thanks to the children in the temple. Secret good deeds. They are so much fun. In their doing you can't help but smile.
Geri Larkin in Tap Dancing in Zen

Practice now. Don’t think you will do more later.
From Dipa Ma, The Life and Legacy of a Buddhist Master

To train your mind in the actual body of the graduated path to enlightenment, you should attempt to purify your obstacles and
accumulate merit, which are the necessary conditions. Then, you should make single-pointed requests to the guru inseparable
from the deity in order to receive blessings within your heart. If you attempt to strongly and continuously practice in this way
every day, realizations will come without any difficulty.
Manjushi's advice to Lama Tsongkhapa, from The Heart of the Path

There are four kinds of people when it comes to acquiring wisdom. They can be likened to clay pots.The first kind are like a pot with a hole in the bottom. Wisdom can pour in, but it flows out just as fast and they never acquire any.The second kind is like a cracked pot. The wisdom fills it when it is poured in but it leaks away and is diminished.Thirdly they may be like a pot already full with its own water. This water is not allowed to change and becomes stagnant. New knowledge pours out and overflows as it is poured in.The fourth is an empty vessel w ith sound wallsHaving become enlightened, having received the Dharma properly, then the bottom of the vessel is dropped out. What good is it to keep the teachings to oneself? It will only become stagnant. Let the Dharma flow freely through us so that others may benefit.
Dennis Merzel in Beyond Sanity and Madness, page 78

One can encompass a whole range of means and methods which are elaborate and complex. But one should know that even while that may be so that part of the Dharma path may involve complex practices, all are meant to provide a single insight: the insight into the basic nature of things, which is not complex, without any elaboration, simplicity. Because of being the intrinsic nature of things, it transcends elaboration and complexities we are used to. The key point is, all means and methods that we see described in teachings, and that you may make personal use of in practice, are all meant to bring an end to complexity. While they may be complex, they are meant to provide a realization which is beyond all complexity!
Not that those methods won't work, but don't confuse methods with the discovery one gets through the methods. Methods are very helpful conditions. Necessary factors need to be brought together for us to gain insight of the nature of things just as it is, the abiding way of things, beyond all complexities. It is discovered because of the means and methods. We need to understand this relationship and use the means and methods in a correct and skillful way.
Chökyi Nyima Rimpoche

What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.
Thomas Merton

Remember the example of an old cow:
She’s content to sleep in a barn.
You have to eat, sleep and shit— That’s unavoidable—
Anything beyond that is none of your business.
Do what you have to do
And keep yourself to yourself.
Patrul Rinpoche

While we may begin to understand our intrinsic potential, our human fallibility is nevertheless glaringly evident in so many aspects of life. We may try to overlook it or strive towards some ideal or vision of perfection, but even then, our humanity is just below the surface. The spiritual search and the quest for personal growth is often an attempt to transcend this fallibility. We may have a vision of wholeness, but if we relate to this vision unskillfully, it may not lead us beyond suffering
but instead perpetuate its causes.
Rob Preece, The Wisdom of Imperfection

When we forget the real reason we are living for,
the worldliness of life becomes like quicksand that sucks you into a spiritual vacuum.
When that happens, we live less and less; we merely stay alive.
Shian (

The purpose of studying Buddhism is not to study Buddhism, but to study ourselves.
Shunryu Suzuki

The spiritual path is truly simple. It is simple because it is not about acquiring, accumulating, or achieving anything. It is all about giving up what we don't need. It's about giving up what isn't useful instead of acquiring things with the idea of going somewhere or achieving something. That was the old game. That game which we have been playing for a long time is like a vicious circle. It has no end.
Sometimes the spiritual search itself prevents us from seeing the truth that is always one with us. We have to know when to stop the search. There are people who die while they are searching for the highest truth with philosophical formulas and esoteric techniques. For them spiritual practice becomes another egoic plot which simply maintains and feeds delusions. Amazing! Buddha, God, truth, the divine, the great mystery, whatever you have been searching for, is here right now.
Anam Thubten, from No Self, No Problem

In general the teaching of the Buddha is very vast and profound, it is not so simple as to grasp it in one time. If we had to summarise the complete teaching of Buddha we would see that all is included in two main points, that is:
cause no harm to any sentient beings,
always try to benefit all sentient beings;
or, if we are not able to benefit others we should at least avoid all harmful thoughts and actions.
Buddha Himself summarised in a few lines the essence of His teachings: abandon all harming actions and all negative actions, practice all positive actions completely and control your own mind. This is the teaching of Buddha.
His Holiness Trijang Dorje Chang

The birth of a man is the birth of his sorrow. The longer he lives, the more stupid he becomes, because his anxiety to avoid unavoidable death becomes more and more acute. What bitterness! He lives for what is always out of reach! His thirst for survival in the future makes him incapable of living in the present.
Chuang Tzu

The cloistered environment stands in stark contrast to the uncontrolled environment of everyday active life in the modern world. When I was a graduate student living in a family housing unit at Stanford University, I meditated early in the morning. At about 7:00 outside our window, a group of little girls would begin shrieking and driving their plastic tractors and tricycles across the bricks. I was meditating and these girls were disturbing my peace. I got to feeling pretty sorry for myself so I phoned my lama, Gyatrul Rinpoche, and asked for advice. He gave me a one-liner, "Just view it." This was not just Rinpoche's way of telling me to quit whining, but a reminder of the more encompassing teaching to embrace obstacles in practice. And carry on. We can't always control our environment, but we can embrace it, the good, the bad, and the loud, and integrate it into Dharma practice.
B. Alan Wallace, Buddhism with an Attitude: The Tibetan Seven-Point Mind-Training

Modesty is the foundation of all virtues.
Let your neighbors discover you before you make yourself known to them.
A noble heart never forces itself forward.
Its words are as rare gems, seldom displayed and of great value.

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Last updated: December 11, 2016