All That We Are is the Result of What We Have Thought

Good evening, my friends.

One of my favorite spiritual texts is the Buddhist Dhammapada. Part Buddhist philosophy and part poetry, this text embodies the very heart of the Buddha’s teaching as it has come down to us.

The first chapter of the text – usually titled The Twin Verses – begins with a powerful verse. As the ancient Pali language does not always translate cleanly into English, there are a number of popular versions of this verse and some dispute among traditional Buddhist and personal development advocates on the Buddha’s meaning in the verse.

The dispute centers around the fact that some translations put the verse in very modern, western-lensed context where the Buddha’s words appear to apply to the individual and their thoughts.

A more classical interpretation, drawn the Buddhist concept of no-self, is that Buddha is speaking of mind in a more general way and saying that all phenomena begins with mind.

As someone who has studied both Buddhism and personal development for more than 30 years, I honestly don’t get the rub. This is a lot of nuance. Here’s my read. Even if the more traditional interpretation is followed, the phenomena created by Mind includes us. As we are here and also purveyors of mind through our thoughts and actions, we are creating our reality through the thoughts in our consciousness.

In this video, I share both traditional and contemporary translations and use the more modern version as a kind of mantra or affirmation reminding us that we are creators of our reality.

Wherever you are, know that you are amazing!

Ray

Simple Loving Kindness Meditation

Good morning, my friends. The esteemed Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh was nominated by Martin Luther King, Jr. For the Nobel Peace Prize for his peaceful work to bring an end to the Vietnam War.

He called his work “Engaged Buddhism.” While older monks sought to remain above the fray in the the country’s civil war, Thay, as he’s known to his students today, led a group of younger monks who worked actively to stop the war. 

For his trouble, the victorious North Vietnamese exiled him from the country. Their loss was the West’s gain. He established his Plum Village Monastery in France and began sharing his message of peace and compassion with western readers.

My favorite book of his is Peace Is Every Step. The book is filled with wisdom and insight into our struggles as human beings and ways to release ourselves from them.

In that book, Hanh shares a simplified version of a Metta (Loving-Kindness) meditation that I have used off and in for many years. It’s a fantastic mantra for meditation, but is also a fantastic aspirational affirmation.

May I be happy.
May I be peaceful.
May I be free from suffering.

May all beings be happy.
May all beings be peaceful.
May all beings be free from suffering.

Just in case no one else has reminded you today, you are awesome!

Ray

Meanderings on Enlightenment 1990

I wrote straight out of a very powerful visualization meditation on a warm spring afternoon in 1990. I came across it this morning and thought I’d share.

Just in case no one else reminds you today, YOU are awesome!

Stay safe. Stay well. Stay inspired!

Ray

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Inter-Being – Day 271 of 365 Days to a Better You

Thich Nhat Hanh was nominated for the 1968 Nobel Peace Prize by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He did not win the Nobel, but it was a great honor nonetheless. He was banished from his home country Vietnam during the Vietnam War. He led a group of Buddhist monks who were actively seeking peace in their country which invited the disdain of both sides.

“Thay” (teacher), as he is known by his followers, founded a retreat called Plum Village in France. Vietnam’s loss has been the West’s gain. For the past 45 years, Thich Nhat Hanh has taught, written, and spoken on his brand of “Engaged Buddhism” in Europe, the U.S., and around the world.

I first became aware of his work about 30 years ago when I picked up a book titled “Peace is Every Step”. Since I have read many of his other books. One of my favorite passages from any of his books – in fact one my favorite things I’ve ever read – is his brief essay on Inter-being.

Today I’d like to share this beautiful and powerful insight with all of you. I hope it transforms the way you think about the interconnectedness of the people and things around you.

Stay inspired!

Ray

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Inter-being

If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-” with the verb “to be,” we ha vea new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are.

If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look, we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And wesee the wheat. We now the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way, we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.

Looking even more deeply, we can see we are in it too. This is not difficult to see, because when we look at a sheet of paper, the sheet of paper is part of our perception. Your mind is in here and mine is also. So we can say that everything is in here with this sheet of paper. You cannot point out one thing that is not here-time, space, the earth, the rain, the minerals in the soil, the sunshine, the cloud, the river, the heat. Everything co-exists with this sheet of paper. That is why I think the word inter-be should be in the dictionary. “To be” is to inter-be. You cannot just be by yourself alone. You have to inter-be with every other thing. This sheet of paper is, because everything else is.

Suppose we try to return one of the elements to its source. Suppose we return the sunshine to the sun. Do you think that this sheet of paper will be possible? No, without sunshine nothing can be. And if we return the logger to his mother, then we have no sheet of paper either. The fact is that this sheet of paper is made up only of “non-paper elements.” And if we return these non-paper elements to their sources, then there can be no paper at all. Without “non-paper elements,” like mind, logger, sunshine and so on, there will be no paper. As thin as this sheet of paper is, it contains everything in the universe in it.

Cultivating Equanimity – Day 264 of 365 Days to a Better You

The standard dictionary definition for equanimity is mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.

In Buddhism, equanimity is one of the four sublime states of being. The Buddhist teacher, Gil Fronsdal, describes it this way.

Neither a thought nor an emotion, it is rather the steady conscious realization of reality’s transience. It is the ground for wisdom and freedom and the protector of compassion and love. While some may think of equanimity as dry neutrality or cool aloofness, mature equanimity produces a radiance and warmth of being. The Buddha described a mind filled with equanimity as “abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility and without ill-will.

Sounds like a quality I’d like to develop more fully, but how?

Broadly speaking, meditation, prayer, or communing with nature can gain you temporary equanimity. The goal, though, is to bottle it so you can take with you into life’s adversity and, “Keep your head when all about you are losing theirs,” as Rudyard Kipling put it.

Buddha described seven qualities that create equanimity. These are qualities you and I can develop with or without Buddhist practice.

  1. Virtue or integrity
  2. Faith
  3. Well-developed mind
  4. Well-being
  5. Wisdom
  6. Insight
  7. Freedom

If this topic interests you and you’re wanting a little deeper dive, I’ve outlined the seven qualities and how to achieve them here.

Have a fantastic evening, my friends! Thank you all for your support of this blog and my work.

Ray

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