Happy Vesak Day!

"The condition of practice-and-enlightenment

“Buddha” describes a person in the activity or condition of practice-and-enlightenment, the deepest meaning of the term "zazen." The keystone of Zen practice is not “sitting meditation” (though that is where it is often first discovered), it is “mustering the whole body-and-mind” and perceiving the world directly.

Seeing and hearing (as well as smelling, tasting, feeling, and thinking) sights and sounds (smells, tastes, sensations, and thoughts) with the ‘whole body-and-mind’ means truly being intimate with them. When we are truly intimate with them, there is no sense of I see that or I hear that. Hence, Dogen tells us that in such a condition “buddhas do not know they are buddhas.” In Shobogenzo, Genjokoan, He says, “It is not like an image reflected in a mirror, and not like the reflection of the moon on water” -- there are not two things (e.g. moon and water).

When we are authentically engaged in practice-and-enlightenment we do not hear a bell, there is simply, booooonngg–boooooongg. The classic Zen koan about escaping heat and cold illustrates this point wonderfully:

A monk asked Tozan, “When cold and heat come, how can we avoid them?”
Tozan said, “Why don’t you go to the place where there is no cold or heat?”
The monk said, “What is the place where there is no cold or heat?”
Tozan said, “When it’s cold, the cold kills you; when it’s hot, the heat kills you.”"

- Ted Biringer, http://dogenandtheshobogenzo.blogspot.com/…/condition-of-pr…

I love this teaching by Buddha to Bahiya because this teaching was the one that led to my sudden realization and entrance into the Great Way, which is not an end in itself but the way towards effortless and ongoing practice-enlightenment/actualization:

"So we continue on with Bahiya’s meeting with the Buddha and the Buddha’s response to Bahiya’s urgent pleading to teach him how to truly enter the Great Way of freedom and happiness. Remember that although Bahiya has sought out the Buddha as a result of deep doubt and the realization that he is neither free nor practicing in a manner that will lead to freedom, he is nonetheless completely ripe to receive a teaching that will utterly transform him. He has dropped literally everything, emptied himself of everything except his completely focused urgency for awakening. The Buddha meets his simple openness with a simple and powerful response:

“Bahiya, this is how you should train yourself: Whenever you see a form, simply see; whenever you hear a sound, simply hear; whenever you taste a flavor, simply taste; whenever you feel a sensation, simply feel; whenever a thought arises, let it be simply a thought. Then “you” will not exist; whenever “you” do not exist, you will not be found in this world, another world or in between. That is the end of suffering.”

There are at least two approaches to understanding this teaching. The first is to follow closely just what the Buddha says; that this is an approach to training the mind and training one’s life; a teaching to be practiced and worked with as a process. Bahiya gets it in one deep jolt which he swallows whole, digests instantly and is fully awakened.

Most of us have to work at this as a practice for a very long time, and yet we don’t know how long Bahiya worked at his in order to come to this place, available for this encounter. And it doesn’t really matter whether we have gradual cultivation and sudden awakening, or sudden awakening followed by gradual cultivation. In fact both are not only true, together they encompass the whole of the life of practice-realization.


See, hear, sense, touch, taste; everything happening all at once with no discrimination, preference or choice. Every sense door completely open, welcoming, receptive, alert, completely alive. So that listening is with the whole body/mind; every pore of our skin, every hair on the body, one whole receptive, alive field of listening. In this there is no “who”, is there? No “me” listening, is there? Check it out for yourself. It may be a little slippery to catch, because when “you” are only hearing, seeing, touching, tasting, smelling; there may not be anyone there to record or reflect on the experience; no “you” there! See what happens when you notice there is separation from what is; when the mind is wanting this to be some other way than just how it is. What happens in that moment of just seeing separation? What happens when you’ve traveled down the mind road and there is a sudden seeing of that? Was there a “you” in that moment of awareness? What if seeing is awakening? What is hearing is awakening? What if it is just as simple and as obvious as that? Then you might wonder what you are doing here on this retreat! What happens if there is just awareness of that thought? This is the practice of awakening, but it might be more accurate to say that it is really awakening which is practicing us!

- Douglas Phillips, http://www.emptyskysangha.org/bahiya2.htm
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In TRAINING by James Corrigan
12/15/20152 Comments

A lot of people ask me about my meditating for more than an hour each day, my target is 108 minutes. My short answer is: all the really interesting stuff happens after the first hour! If you are meditating to develop concentration and mindfulness then even a 30 second pause has important benefits; but if you are meditating to go beyond mindfulness, seeking insights, vipassana, then I recommend sitting for more than an hour because your mind needs time to let go, and then the really interesting things start.
Why do I sit for 108 minutes? I found myself always striving to do 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 60 minutes, an hour-and-a-half, it suddenly dawned on me that I didn’t have to follow the clock geometry of how we tell time, so I picked 108 minutes as my daily target. It’s the number of beads on a Buddhist mala.
There have been two external changes that came while meditating like this for as long as I have that I’ll mention. One is a remarkable ability to be patient. Very little fazes you, and you have a seemingly limitless equanimity when dealing with difficult situations. This became very evident when I was caring at home for my wife at the end of her battle with breast cancer. The nurses, doctors, and hospital admins overseeing her care were constantly remarking that they had never seen anyone with the ability to gently care for someone in such a loving way and yet never fall into emotional turmoil myself. The head of the home hospice service from the hospital wrote in her report that she had never worked with anyone even close to my “stability” in the face of such a painful experience.
The other change was at first disconcerting, until someone independently remarked to me that if one meditates for sufficiently long periods of time each and every day, they will lose large amounts of memories—unimportant memories—like rain wearing down a mountain. Scientists have recently taken note of this phenomenon, saying that it appears that since meditation brings with it the ability to quiet the mental chatter that normally goes on, during which we constantly replay events in our lives that disturbed or delighted us, and thus strengthen them, many of these memories will slowly fade away. Only important memories remain, while our memory itself functions normally. We just don’t hold onto unimportant information anymore.
You may be wondering why I referred to these two changes as being of an external character when they both seem to be about internal changes that I have experienced. Well, the simple answer to that is all the really interesting things happen after the first hour. You’ll see. And when you do, my calling these external changes will make perfect sense to you!

To New Meditators and Newbies to /r/meditation: How to Actually Make Meditation A Habit in 2016 (self.Meditation)
submitted 4 months ago * by GreenMonkeys4LifeDesroyer of the Orange Iguanas - stickied post
To all those visiting /r/meditation for the first time, or those who have struggled to build the habit - this one's for you.

Full article here and condensed below!
"This year I'm going to start meditating regularly."
It sounds good, but in the real world we rarely follow through.
Maybe we meditate a few times and nothing exciting happens. Or we make some progress. But after a few days, a week, a month, we stop. It doesn't become a regular part of our life.
It doesn't become a habit.
If you want to get the benefits of meditation, talking about it with friends, reading about about it on Facebook and Reddit, and meditating "every so often" is not going to cut it.
It's time to start thinking about how to turn it into a habit, robust enough for the long run. We know meditation is a practice much like exercise (it only works if done consistently) - so treat it that way!
Today we're going to abolish the casual: "ughh, I need to meditate more." If you ever expected to evolve from a Facebook-addicted mind to a Zen master in a matter of weeks, this article is for you.
Meditation is amazing - it rewires our brain, literally building gray matter and undoing years of conditioning.
That's why today I'm going to give you a blueprint to actually make meditation a part of your life.
Make Meditation Stick
We are just primates with self-awareness. Our brains and minds are these amalgamations of evolution - flawed, complex, and weird.
But we can leverage this weirdness, exploit its flaws and make them work in our favor. Using best practices from behavorial psychology, we can turn the forces behind advertising, video games, and Facebook to our favor, making our minds work for us.
Below is a blueprint to making meditation stick. It's not about working harder, but instead putting some smart plans in place to make each and every meditation session feel natural - like this is what you're supposed to do now.
Once you have established the habit of meditation, you should begin to drop many of these strategies away, allowing your practice to grow organically. Without further ado:
Step 1: Start small and build in progress from the start.
This is the obvious one, but crucial: Thinking about meditating tomorrow for 30 minutes when you can hardly sit for 2 seconds sounds excruciating. Already your brain is calculating all that system 2 willpower it has to spend, and it's getting tired from just thinking about it.
And then, somehow, you never make it to that session.
Instead, tell yourself you only have to meditate for either 2 or 5 minutes (feel free to go longer if you're feeling it).
But here's the kicker: You don't get to stay there for months and months. Instead, plan from the start to raise your minimum time incrementally every week. Even if it's just by 1 minute a day.
If you are on the fence about whether you're ready to add more time, just do it and see how it goes. If you've been meditating for 2 minutes a day for two weeks, it's time to level up.
Step 2: Attach it to an existing habit.
Habits allow your system 1 (the automatic mind) to do complex tasks with minimal brainpower (driving, brushing your teeth). But when you form a new habit, system 2 is required to come in and make it happen.
This is why it feels laborious, effortful, and tiring. Like that feeling you get when you have to do large mental math. "Ugh."
Remember when you used to build sand castles as a kid (or last week, who am I kidding) and you dug out tunnels to vent the water away from your castle? Forming a habit is a bit like that - the forming the habit part takes effort, but once you do, the water (your brain) finds the path of least resistance and it's all down hill from there.
That's why we're going to find a habit you already have, and do your meditation right after.
Here are a few example morning habits to piggy-back off of:
Brush your teeth, then meditate.
Shower, then meditate.
Coffee, then meditate.
Get dressed, then meditate.
The habit can be anything - so long as it's a well-established habit in your day.
By attaching your meditation to an existing habit, you won't have to do as much work (system 2) in remembering to do it each day. (The scientists call this anchoring or piggybacking. It increases your chance of success. Use it!)
Step 3: Vary your practice time.
A common analogy to describe the mind often uses a glass of muddy water. The idea is that by letting the glass sit out on a table and doing nothing, the mud will naturally settle to the bottom naturally and the water will clear up.
As you approach a new meditation habit, you should consider the very real possibility that a 10-20 minute meditation might feel a lot easier than a 5-10 minute meditation.
This is because the first few minutes can be the worst part. Once the monkey mind takes some time to calm the eff down, your meditation experience can change dramatically without much extra effort.
If you spent your first two months only spending 2-5 minutes a day, you might NEVER get to the point where your mind naturally settles down... and you might think you must just suck at this meditation thing.
I suggest adding at least one day a week (pick a specific day) where you at least double or triple your total sit time. See what happens over time, and make adjustments to your practice accordingly.
Step 4: Find the right time of day.
We all have different peak times of energy based on our work, personal, sleep, and workout schedules.
If you choose a time to meditate where you are naturally tired, it's going to be a lot harder than you think - maybe even impossible for you to actually build the habit.
I suggest experimenting with a few different times of day before you officially choose your time slot.
I have a short window in both the morning and evening where if I meditate I know I'll be distracted and tired. If this happens to you, know that you aren't bad at meditation. You probably just need to find a better time.
Step 5: Stop thinking about this as a temporary change.
Imagine your doctor told you that you need to now take this life-saving medication every day in order to stay alive. That it now needs to be taken regularly in order for you to survive.
You would view this dramatically different than a week's work of antibiotics. It is now a part of your life, not a thing to be endured.
Your mind is permanent fixture. It demands a permanent response. This isn't a crash diet or quick fix. This is a new way of being. Treat it that way. Give it the mental respect it deserves, and start to think about this not as a temporary change, but a new part of who you are. Once you really accept this, you will feel a weight come off your shoulders.
Use your self-construction to your benefit. Tell yourself (and believe it): "I am a person who meditates each day" or "Meditation is important to me."
Making the meditator ego work for us, especially in the beginning (and telling friends about it) can be an extremely powerful ally in habit formation. But this is one especially you'll want to watch carefully - don't let your meditation ego grow too strong and go to your head. You'll want to dispose of all this later.
Step 6: Call yourself on your own bullshit.
Everyone has time to meditate, every day.
If you think you are too busy, reframe this thought in more honest terms. Instead of thinking about meditation like a thing you don't have time for, tell yourself it's not a priority. "I don't have time to meditate" becomes "meditation isn't a priority."
All we have is our conscious experience. Everything we do falls in the category of the movie theatre of our minds. We spend time on so many things in our life - but all of it is trumped by the way we see the world; all of it falls on this movie screen.
You are going to come up with excuses, whether it's time or something else. You need to stay vigilant and call yourself on your own BS.
Try meditating on a commute, on a walk, or while exercising if need be.
Step 7: Choose one bridge activity.
Don't let your formal meditation practice stand alone. Practicing just meditation for a few minutes a day in the modern world is like sending out 300 Spartan warriors to hold back a tide of thousands or millions of enemies.
Give your formal meditation practice an ally - a bridge to the real world.
Identify some real world scenario you can be more present or mindful in.
Can you apply mindfulness to stressful meetings? Can you take advantage of an otherwise "mindless" commute and do a walking meditation or basic breath awareness? Do you have any boring or menial tasks that you can explore with mindfulness? (dishes, cleaning?) Choosing a bridge activity does two big things:
It helps you see the real world benefits of meditation as you level up. This creates a positive feedback loop - you stay motivated, you see results, you become more motivated. Everyone wins.
It helps you build momentum. When we have a particularly good meditation session, it can feel like the "real world" quickly undoes our work. A bridge activity can help you chain together mindful moments and return to the mat with momentum.
The Meditation Habit Blueprint
That was a lot of information, so I'm going to run you through a real world example.
Start small. Build in Progress: 2 minutes each day, but bump it up to five minutes after week 2.
Attach it to an existing habit: After I brush my teeth I meditate.
Vary your practice time: "Fridays I meditate for 2x as long."
Find the right time of day: I have great energy right when I wake up and right after lunch. That's when I'll meditate.
This is not a temporary change: I am someone who meditates and values meditation.
Call yourself out: I have the time and resources I need to meditate. It's on me to make it happen.
Bridge activity: On my walk to the bus each morning I will practice walking meditation, or at the very least try to be mindful during my walk.
Finally, here are some other random tips you might find useful:
Stop looking at each meditation session as good or bad:You will feel like there are ups and downs. Don't beat yourself up for the downs. Just go with the flow and accept them as a part of the process.
Try creating a dedicated space to meditate: If you have a quiet space you can set up with a chair, pillow, or cushion, claim it! It might help you build a ritual and thus the habit.
Read meditation books/blogs or listen to lectures: I find that when I am particularly immersed in a new piece of literature on meditation, my practice gets reinvigorated.
Try an app: Certainly not necessary, but if you need an extra boost, it could be right for you.
Find an accountability-buddy: Find someone who also wants to form the habit, and check in daily to verify you got it done, and debrief about the sit.
There you have it. Any steps or tips that you think I left out?
Full article here!"
first comment on reddit page:
"Thank you so much for posting this guide. The biggest mindset switch I've seen to help make meditation a daily habit is to actually make it a priority. Like you said, we all have time to meditate but we don't consider it a priority enough to get it done. Once you reframe it as something that is essential to life like water is essential for a flower to grow, it makes it seem less like a burden and more like something that is a part of you.
I will be sharing this guide with any up and coming meditation enthusiasts I come across."

“Busy-ness is Laziness,” by Dr. Reggie Ray, from elephant journal’s Autumn 2005 issue.

Life emerges out of the silence of our inner being. The life that we have in our mind, the life that is a reflection of our planning, the life that has been constructed out of bits and pieces in our environment—external conditioning, things we have observed in other people, things that influential people have told us—is actually not who we are.
That pre-planned life is rigid. It’s artificial. It’s unresponsive. It doesn’t reflect the life that we were born to live.
As a student of mine observed, obstacles—which are always with us—are not really obstacles when you work with them in the right way. And we have to work with them.
Many, many people tell me “I’m having a lot of problems doing this [meditation] practice because I am so busy. I’m really busy. I have a full life. It’s busy and I run from morning ‘til night.” People actually say that.
Now think about that for a minute. What kind of life is that? Is that a life worth living? Some people feel it is. America is probably the most extreme example of a speed-driven culture—and this is not my particular personal discovery, but something that has been said to me by many people from other traditional cultures. The first time this was said to me was when I was 19 and I went to Japan. Western people are running from themselves and they use the busy-ness of their lives as an excuse to avoid having to actually live their own life. We are terrified of who we actually are, terrified of the inner space that is the basis of the human experience.
We are actually incapable of being alone—of any work that requires genuine solitude, without entertainment, that requires making a connection with the silence of the inner being. The American family engineers a life in which there is never any time alone, where we never have to actually talk to each other. Even dinnertime is around the TV, at best—or we’re just grabbing something at McDonald’s.
But it’s not the larger culture. It’s actually us. It’s me and it’s you. We load our life up to the point where it’s about to snap. And when you ask someone to sit down and be with themselves they go, “I can’t. I don’t have time for that.” Now you and I may realize that there actually is a problem. Most people don’t think there is a problem.
We run our kids in the same way—and it’s destroying them. The soccer practice and the music lesson and three hours of TV and homework—it goes on from the minute they get up until they go to sleep. They never have an opportunity to experience silence. Psychological development requires periods of solitude. Anthropological psychology—studying other cultures, as well as our own—shows that when children do not have completely unstructured time, when there are no parental expectations looming over them, they actually can’t develop normally.
We see this at higher levels of education, too. Even the unusual and gifted students at Naropa [University]. These people are disabled, in many cases, because they have lived a busy life, fulfilling all expectations that middle and upper-middle class parents lay on their children because of their fear. The underlying thing is fear of space.
We all have it. I have it in a major way. I am busy. I have all these things that I like to do. When one thing ends, the next thing starts. It’s all important and I have to do it and I don’t sleep enough. So we all have to take another look.
The problem with being busy is that it is based on ignorance—not realizing that by keeping your mind occupied constantly you are actually not giving yourself a chance. We even put an activity in our life, called meditation, where you practice not being busy. Think about it. It’s actually genius. You have added another thing on top of everything else you do, but you are pulling the plug for a period of time every day—so it actually has a reverse effect of opening up and creating space. So you are just going to be more busy now! But this is good, especially in Western culture. People put meditation on their To Do lists. This is something I tell my students: “If you don’t put meditation on the top of your To Do list, it will be at the bottom, and it won’t happen.” I find that if meditation is not the first priority of my day it won’t happen. You know if I am
foolish enough to say, “Well, I have to make this phone call, check my email…,” then it’s over. Finished. “I’ll do it later.” It never happens. Look at your life and ask, “Am I being honest with myself? Is it really true that I don’t have time?”
When I was in graduate school I worked with a Jungian analyst, June Singer. She used to say, “Work expands to fill all of the available space.” The problem is not the amount of things you have in your life, it’s the attitude. It’s your fear of space. Busy-ness in the Tibetan tradition is considered the most extreme form of laziness. Because when you are busy you can turn your brain off. You’re on the treadmill. The only  intelligence comes in the morning when you make your To Do list and you get rid of all the possible space that could happen in your day. There is intelligence in that: I fill up all the space so I don’t have to actually relate to myself!
Once you have made that list, it’s over. There is no more fundamental intelligence operating. So the basic ignorance is not realizing what we are doing by being busy. What we are doing to ourselves, what we are doing to our families, what we are doing to our friends.
When my daughter Catherine, who is now 24, was a newborn baby my wife Lee and I went home to my mother’s house. My father had already died. I grew up in Darien, Connecticut—the ultimate suburbia. Everyone works in New York and they are all busy. My best friend from high school came over with his wife, who was also a close friend of mine, and my godfather came over. This succession of people all came in…and Lee picked up on it right away, because she is from Alberta and out there, there is a lot of space!
These people…we loved each other. We were so close. But it was always the same: after 10 minutes they said, “Well, we got to run!” Every single one did the same thing. And Lee said to me, “What are they so afraid of?” Not one of them was actually present. It made me realize why I left the East Coast and went to India. “How far away can I get?” But these patterns are deeply ingrained in us, and running away is not
going to solve the problem. It’s in us.
People on campus always say to me, “Gee, you must be really busy.” I could be standing there looking at an autumn tree. I say “No, I’m not busy, I have all the time in the world.” Now, I may not really feel that way—but somehow we have to stop this mentality. It’s sick. Literally. So I never say to my wife, “I’m busy.” Ever. I used to do it, but it didn’t evoke a good reaction. [Laughter]
“I’m too busy.” I am sorry. I don’t buy it. It’s self-deception: “I am too busy to relate to myself.” I don’t care if you have four children and three jobs—we have one human life. And if you can’t make the time, 15 minutes to relate to yourself, everyone else in your life is going to suffer. You have to realize that you are harming other people by making up excuses and not working on yourself. This is serious.
I do understand that things happen in life, and in the course of a week there are going to be times when you can’t practice if you have a job, a family. But to say that over a period of three months I can’t practice because I am too busy? That is the very problem that you came here to solve. I implore you.
My wife has developed some techniques to help with this problem. I am going to give them to you, and then I’ll ask her permission when I go home for lunch. [Laughter]
Being busy is tricky. We set up our life so we are busy. I do this to myself; this is one of my biggest obstacles. I get excited about things and agree to do things three months from now. But when the time comes I realize it is not a good idea because I can’t do it properly, because I have so much else going on. But I have no choice. I have to go through with it. “God, you idiot, how could you do that!” But getting angry
doesn’t help, because there I am and I’ve got a 16-hour day I have to get through.
Unless you viciously carve out time to work on yourself it’s not going to happen. You have to be brutal about it, actually. If your mind is always busy then you have no sense of the world you live in. Because there is no communication, there is no space within which to see what we are doing. We will end up destroying our lives, and you may not realize what you have given up until you are on your deathbed. By being busy you are basically giving away your human existence.
One of the things about being busy is that it is a un-examined behavior. It’s habitual.
What’s the Point?
So when something comes up and you think “I need to do this,” the first question to ask is, “Why do I need to do this? What am I expecting to get out of this particular activity? What is the benefit going to be?”
A lot of times we actually don’t even think what we are going to get out of it, or what it’s going to accomplish. Amazing. Say I need to call so-and-so right away. Okay: “Why?” You’d be surprised. You think
“Well, it’s obvious.” It isn’t. We have not thought through most of the things that we do at all. We haven’t looked at what the desired consequence is.
What are the Odds?
I may think I am likely to get something, and sometimes I do. But what is the likelihood that something is not going to happen? How sure am I that what I think I am going to get, will happen? What is the percentage of possibility?
Is Other Stuff Likely to Come Up?
This is the big one for me. Does this action have unforeseen karmic consequences? For example: I want to call up somebody and check on something. A lot of times they start telling me some terrible thing
that has just happened. I’d allowed five minutes for this conversation, and 45 minutes later I am still on the phone. We do this all the time. We don’t look at the consequences of a particular action.
It’s like somebody who goes into a café, and there is this huge cheesecake right there. You could buy a slice, but you get a cappuccino and sit down with the entire cheesecake and start eating. Now, from a certain point of view this sounds like bliss. And maybe for a short period of time you are going to forget all the pain of the
human condition. I mean, that is the great thing about cheesecake. [Laughter] It boosts your endorphins for 5 or 10 minutes. You feel great! But then, having eaten the entire cheesecake, you feel sick for the next three days.
Strangely enough, this is how we live our lives. We jump on things. Someone asks me, “Why don’t you come to Switzerland, teach for a few days and then hang out in the wonderful Alps?” By the time I get off the phone I am ready to pack. Then I talk to my wife. [Laughter] And she asks me, “Have you considered what a 17-hour trip is going to do to your bad back? Have you thought about that?” And then I get back on the phone. [Laughter]
But, because of our ambitions of all kinds, we are ready to fill our life up to the point where, even if I’m in Switzerland, nothing is different. This is one of the great discoveries: wherever I go it’s still lousy. [Laughter] It’s just me and my mind and I don’t feel good and I have got this work to do and I don’t have the energy. It’s the same story, no matter where I go or what I’m doing.
Except when I sit down and meditate. Then, I feel like I am creating an inner space so I can actually relate to the fact of what my life is, rather than just being in an out-of-control mode. So sit down and ask yourself, “What is important in my life, and what’s less important?” Almost on a daily basis, we have to look closely at the things that remain on our To Do list to see whether they are actually realistic.
Ten years ago, after I’d taught a Dathün—a month long meditation—some of the students said to me, “We feel bonded to each other and to you. We’d really like to keep going” And I said, “Well, we could start a meditation group.” And 10 years later I am trapped with a community of 200 people, called Dhyana Sangha. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful. But I got into it in a blind way. And there are many other things that I do not love in the same way that I get into blindly. We all do that all the time—and we wind up with a life that doesn’t work and isn’t helpful to others.
My ambition to accomplish things is going to be one of the last things to go. I can’t help it; it’s just the way that I am. I see a pile of leaves that need to be raked up and I start salivating. I love to do things. I love to be active. And you can say, “Well, that’s great.” But there’s neurosis in that. It’s a way of shutting out space. This is another thing my wife has taught me: when there’s no space nothing really happens.
I had a wonderful quotation by Chögyam Trungpa up on my wall during my [meditation] retreat. It goes something like, “If there isn’t a complete sense of openness and space, then communication between two people can not happen. Period. It’s that simple.” The communication we have with each other is often based on agendas: negotiating with other people to get what we want. That’s not communication.
My wife taught me that. Insistently. It’s to the point where that busy mind is just not acceptable in our house anymore. It doesn’t matter what’s going on my life. If she comes into my study, I have to be completely there. And that’s fabulous, because I’m never able to get invested in that neurosis. If I do, she’ll let me have it.
Giving up this state of busy-ness doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to be active, creative people. We’re giving up the mentality where you can’t actually relate to what’s in front of you because you have this mental speed going on. Let it go. I’m saying it to you. This is an issue that we are going to have to address if we want to be any good to anyone.
You’ll notice when you work in this way over a period of years—and this is something that I have discovered accidentally—the more you practice, the more you get done. If you sit for 2 hours in the morning, which is a lot for people, you will find that your day is 30 hours long. When you establish sitting, somehow, in your life—when you sit in the morning—your day takes care of itself. Things happen as they need to. There is a sense of auspicious coincidence throughout the day.
And when you don’t sit, things go to hell. [Laughter] Everything runs into everything. You say, “I don’t have time to sit ‘cause I have to do this email.” You run to your computer, turn it on and spend the next 4 hours trying to get your computer to work. This is just how things work.
Magic is actually very down to earth. It’s a part of our lives. It’s going on all the time, we just don’t see it. But when you actually take care of yourself, work with yourself and create openness in your life, life will respond by cooperating. And when you are unwilling to relate with yourself at the beginning of your day, your life is going to give you a hard time.
I got stuck on my first book, Buddhist Saints In India. If I wrote another book like that it would kill me. It was an unbelievable labor. I got stuck in the middle. So I started practicing more, I started doing long retreats. And the book started flowing. The more I practiced, the more the book happened. In a sense, when I meditated I was getting something good done.
I realized that the way you accomplish things in life—whether with family or going to work—is through practice. One hour of work with the practice behind you is worth two days when the practice isn’t there. Things just don’t work well—there’s too much neurosis in it. When I don’t feel busy, things I have to do fall into place. Going through my day with a sense of relaxation, I connect with people. I appreciate the outdoors when I walk to my car. I see the sky.
I encourage you to take a chance: put practice at the top of the list. Don’t make that call if it isn’t something that actually needs to happen—so many of the things we do is to make people like us. “I have to make this
call or so-and-so is going to be upset.” I have a pretty good idea that if you do that you will find that there is plenty of time to practice, no matter how busy you are. Busy people will look at your life and go, “I don’t see how you can do it!”
Here’s a teaching that Chögyam Trungpa gave that has changed the way a lot of people look at their work lives: learn how to invite space into your worklife. The space itself will actually accomplish most of what you
need to do. In the form of helpful people turning up, auspicious coincidences… And in so doing, you are not only opening up your self, you are opening up the world. It becomes a dance. It’s no longer your job to sit there for 10 hours doing your thing, it’s to respond to the way the world wants things to happen. It’s de-centralized.
In Buddhism, this is one of the paramitas: exertion. Exertion is tuning into the natural energy of the world. And when you tune in, you don’t get tired. You become joyful. That you are part of a huge cosmic dance that is unfolding, moment by moment. And you have to change your ideas of what you thought should happen. It requires flexibility on our part!
Busy-ness. It’s the most commonly mentioned obstacle that everyone faces, and I know for me it’s #1. So I thought it would be worthwhile spending a little time with it. I invite you to take a fresh look at your life. Relate to the fear that comes up when we are not busy. Am I still worthy? It’s that Calvinist thing, underlying our culture. But try letting go and lo and behold it’s a better human life, and much more beneficial for other people.
I hope I didn’t upset anybody by saying these things, but I can’t beat around the bush with you. I need to just lay things out as they come up.
The above is adapted from a talk Dr. Reggie Ray gave as part of his Meditating with the Body retreat.
Universally Recommended
Instructions for Zazen
(Fukan zazengi)
The Way is originally perfect and all-pervading. How could it be contingent on practice and realization? The true vehicle is self-sufficient. What need is there special effort? Indeed, the whole body is free from dust. Who could believe in a means to brush it clean? It is never apart from this very place; what is the use of traveling around to practice? And yet, if there is a hairsbreadth deviation, it is like the gap between heaven and earth. If the least like or dislike arises, the mind is lost in confusion. Suppose you are confident in your understanding and rich in enlightenment, gaining the wisdom that knows at a glance, attaining the Way and clarifying the mind, arousing an aspiration to reach for the heavens. You are playing in the entranceway, but you are still are short of the vital path of emancipation.

Consider the Buddha: although he was wise at birth, the traces of his six years of upright sittingcan yet be seen. As for Bodhidharma, although he had received the mind-seal, his nine years of facing a wall is celebrated still. If even the ancient sages were like this, how can we today dispense with wholehearted practice?

Therefore, put aside the intellectual practice of investigating words and chasing phrases, and learn to take the backward step that turns the light and shines it inward. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will manifest. If you want to realize such, get to work on such right now.

For practicing Zen, a quiet room is suitable. Eat and drink moderately. Put aside all involvements and suspend all affairs. Do not think "good" or "bad." Do not judge true or false. Give up the operations of mind, intellect, and consciousness; stop measuring with thoughts, ideas, and views. Have no designs on becoming a Buddha. How could that be limited to sitting or lying down?

At your sitting place, spread out a thick mat and put a cushion on it. Sit either in the full-lotus or half-lotus position. In the full-lotus position, first place your right foot on your left thigh, then your left foot on your right thigh. In the half-lotus, simply place your left foot on your right thigh. Tie your robes loosely and arrange them neatly. Then place your right hand on your left leg and your left hand on your right palm, thumb-tips lightly touching. Straighten your body and sit upright, leaning neither left nor right, neither forward nor backward. Align your ears with your shoulders and your nose with your navel. Rest the tip of your tongue against the front of the roof of your mouth, with teeth together and lips shut. Always keep your eyes open, and breathe softly through your nose.

Once you have adjusted your posture, take a breath and exhale fully, rock your body right and left, and settle into steady, immovable sitting. Think of not thinking. Not thinking-what kind of thinking is that? Nonthinking. This is the essential art of zazen.

The zazen I speak of is not meditation practice. It is simply the dharma gate of joyful ease, the practice-realization of totally culminated enlightenment. It is the koan realized; traps and snares can never reach it. If you grasp the point, you are like a dragon gaining the water, like a tiger taking to the mountains. For you must know that the true dharma appears of itself, so that from the start dullness and distraction are struck aside.

When you arise from sitting, move slowly and quietly, calmly and deliberately. Do not rise suddenly or abruptly. In surveying the past, we find that transcendence of both mundane and sacred and dying while either sitting or standing have all depended entirely on the power of zazen.

In addition, triggering awakening with a finger, a banner, a needle, or a mallet, and effecting realization with a whisk, a fist, a staff, or a shout-these cannot be understood by discriminative thinking; much less can they be known through the practice of supernatural power. They must represent conduct beyond seeing and hearing. Are they not a standard prior to knowledge and views?

This being the case, intelligence or lack of it is not an issue; make no distinction between the dull and the sharp-witted. If you concentrate your effort single-mindedly, that in itself is wholeheartedly engaging the way. Practice-realization is naturally undefiled. Going forward is, after all, an everyday affair.

In general, in our world and others, in both India and China, all equally hold the buddha-seal. While each lineage expresses its own style, they are all simply devoted to sitting, totally blocked in resolute stability. Although they say that there are ten thousand distinctions and a thousand variations, they just wholeheartedly engage the way in zazen. Why leave behind the seat in your own home to wander in vain through the dusty realms of other lands? If you make one misstep, you stumble past what is directly in front of you.

You have gained the pivotal opportunity of human form. Do not pass your days and nights in vain. You are taking care of the essential activity of the buddha way. Who would take wasteful delight in the spark from a flintstone? Besides, form and substance are like the dew on the grass, the fortunes of life like a dart of lightning-emptied in an instant, vanished in a flash.

Please, honored followers of Zen, long accustomed to groping for the elephant, do not doubt the true dragon. Devote your energies to the way of direct pointing at the real. Revere the one who has gone beyond learning and is free from effort. Accord with the enlightenment of all the buddhas; succeed to the samadhi of all the ancestors. Continue to live in such a way, and you will be such a person. The treasure store will open of itself, and you may enjoy it freely.

"Being one with our moment-to-moment experience, as we are in the bottom-up practice of just sitting, gives us a taste of nonseparation that is more continuous with our daily lives. Being one with chopping vegetables may sound less glamorous than being one with the universe, but gradually we come to realize the whole universe is contained in that act of chopping."

"Our usual way of thinking is to think about something - we sit and think about something out there that our thoughts are describing or imagining. This kind of thinking is characterized by its descriptive content - what it's about. But what if instead of focusing on the content of thought, we see thought as an activity on its own right?

As something that we, or our body, does? Our foot itches, our knee hurts, our head thinks. It is just this perspective that labeling our thoughts come about. When we repeat the thought "thinking about 'the cat on the mat,'" our attention is no longer on the cat but on ourselves having a thought, engaging in the activity of thinking. Often in Zen literature we find the words not-doing used to refer to a not-separate mode of functioning. No thinker having a thought. Just the activity of thinking.

And what Dogen means here by "think not-thinking" is that not-separate activity of thinking - a thinking that is just the activity of thinking itself, as he says, beyond thinking about anything."

"According to the Buddha, all dharmas (things or moments of experience) are empty of any fixed or essential nature. This lack of any individual essential nature can also be seen as another consequence of oneness - all dharmas are aspects of a constantly changing, co-determined, interdependent whole. To speak of the self as empty is to remark on the transience of all experience, without positing any permanent experiencer or observer set up in the background who watches it all go by.

When emptiness is used to convey impermanence, there is no one psychological state that corresponds to the "feeling" of emptiness, any more than there is a state of experiencing pure being. If I say an apple is round and red, how many attributes am I listing? Does it possesses being as an attribute in the same way it possesses redness and roundness? Could it have just the roundness and redness but not the being?

To posit some intrinsic being or appleness alongside the apple's physical qualities of color, shape, and texture (and their constant, if ever so slight, physical changes) is to posit the sort of fixed, unchanging essence that the Buddha's teaching denies. Likewise, the emptiness of the self is not an additional attribute in any way on top of, behind, or between the gaps of moment-to-moment experience. It is not the silence between or behind our thoughts. It is just a way of saying that this moment-to-moment experience is all there is.

- "Ordinary Mind", Barry Magid

Also see: Dependent Arising and the Emptiness of Emptiness: Why did Nagarjuana start with causation

Very clear, by James Corrigan


Agency implies an agent. If there is no agent, there can be no agency. Agency, of course, is the action or intervention of a thing, or person, that produces an effect. To say that language can’t capture the truth is even more true when silly things are being stated. So when someone talks about causes and conditions, they are being silly because these are not the same. A cause is that which makes a thing happen. It implies an agent and agency–a veritable proliferation of sillinesses. A condition is that which opens the possibility of something happening. But conditions can never cause anything to happen because they are neither an agent nor have agency. Perhaps this surprises you. But think about all the things you thought were going to happen in your life that didn’t, and all the things that did that you never saw coming! Scientists call this stochastic behavior–it extends all the way down to the quantum level (and perhaps especially there!). It’s the reason why a computer needs a clock, that coordinates all the stochastic behavior of electronic components so that the device can actually accomplish the tasks it has been engineered to allow to happen. Notice I didn’t say “make happen,” because sometimes things don’t. And we’ve probably all experienced that too.

Often, in our attempts to make sense of reality, we fall into old habits of thought that arise from an understanding in our heads that things do things. Exorcising that understanding happens naturally when a certain point is reached, but without the direct experience, silliness abounds.

Parmenides, an Ancient Greek philosopher once wrote a poem about his insights into reality. He didn’t use any pronouns, and few, if any nouns. Smart people, thinking they knew what he meant, supplied a lot of additional wording that made the poem easier to read, but empty of truth. Then, once that was done, they realized that Parmenides hadn’t said the right thing in the right way, so they fixed that up too. When Parmenides said: “the same: to be and wherefore is intuitive awareness” (“ταὐτὸν δ᾽ ἐστὶ νοεῖν τε καὶ οὓνεκέν ἐστι νόημα”), equating the manifesting appearances and selfless knowing, they clarified it, equating “being” with “thinking,” turning it into a kind of “I think, therefore I am!” statement instead. Silliness. Neither the Greek word for “thought, nor for “thinking” appears anywhere in Parmenides’ statement.

So, try to make sense of conditions, not as any kind of interaction between entities, not even in a metaphorical fashion. Instead, think of how a seed grows. The sun doesn’t cause the seed to grow, any more than rain does, or the soil, or all the bacteria, fungi, animals, and other plants do. Yet, for the seed to grow, all of those conditions need to be right, including the condition of the seed being present.

As to what causes the seed to grow, well, just let the idea of causes go. It involves agents and agency, and they are just silly nonsense. Understand that when the right conditions are present, the possibility of genesis is present, but what actually happens is uncaused.

Now divest that scenario of all sense of things inherent in it. Sunlight isn’t a thing, except as a concept. Neither is water, or soil, or all the life present in soil. These are all just ideas, ways to talk about reality in shorthand. Instead, see an amazing, and coherent presencing of selfless naturing. Don’t even hold onto the idea of a nature, as something doing the naturing. It will cause a cognitive dissonance that will tire you out, but the effort lays a groundwork for the direct experience to come. It’s all just more conditioning, and in this case, it’s called mind training, but it could be called mind conditioning as well, because you are not making anything happen, you are only developing the right conditions for certain experiences to happen.

So remember: there is no mind, instead there is just this awesome and beautiful selfless naturing. Or if you prefer, there is just this awesome and beautiful selfless minding. But no nature and no mind anywhere–just the appearance of awesome beauty.

Reflect on that phrase, “awesome beauty.” Another way of expressing it, that I use, is the visceral essence of selfless loving. But you can just call it bliss instead.
"If asked what I am most drawn to (in Tsongkhapa's teachings), I am most drawn to Prasangika's "mere imputation". The quintessence of "mere imputation" is IMO the essence of Buddhism. It is the whole of 2 truths; the whole of 2 folds. How the masters present and how it is being taught is entirely another matter. It is because in non-conceptuality, the whole of the structure of "mere imputation" is totally exerted into an instantaneous appearance that we r unable to see the truth of it. In conceptuality, it is expanded and realized to be in that structure. A structure that awakens us the living truth of emptiness and dependent arising that is difficult to see in dimensionless appearance."
"In ultimate (empty dimensionless appearance), there is no trace of causes and conditions, just a single sphere of suchness. In relative, there is dependent arising. Therefore distinct in relative when expressed conventionally but seamlessly non-dual in ultimate."

"When suchness is expressed relatively, it is dependent arising. Dependent designation in addition to causal dependency is to bring out a deeper aspect when one sees thoroughly that if phenomena is profoundly without essence then it is always only dependent designations."

- Thusness, 2015
Great book.

Review from Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Light-Yoga-B-K-Iyengar/dp/0805210318/ref=sr_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1462456769&sr=1-11:

This is the definitive text on hatha yoga. This is the book you want if you are serious about beginning your yoga practice. This is also a text of reference for professional teachers used throughout the world. It is no exaggeration to say that all yoga instructors in the United States know this book, and most of them own a copy and refer to it regularly.

Iyengar's text is characterized by a thoroughness of content, a detailed, precise, step-by-step "how to" for instruction in asana and pranayama. There are 602 photos of Iyengar himself demonstrating the poses with extraordinary flexibility and precision. I have an early, hardcover edition with the photos collected together at the back of the book. The newer editions have the photos spaced appropriately throughout the text.

The 34-page Introduction entitled, "What is Yoga?" is a concise overview of the nature, aim and extent of yoga as gleaned from the ancient texts, in particular Pantajali's Yoga Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita and Swatmarama's Hatha Yoga Pradipika (from which Iyengar gets his Sanskrit title, Yoga Dipika). These are the three great texts of yoga and Iyengar knows them well. This Introduction rewards patient study, and is the kind of pithy text that needs to be returned to again and again, and yet it is written in an accessible, inspired, and inspirational style.

Iyengar emphasizes precision and careful technique and a whole body mindfulness as prerequisites to success in hatha yoga. From my experience this mindfulness is absolutely essential for two main reasons. One, you will surely strain or pull a muscle, usually several little ones, if your mind goes astray or if you practice with your attention elsewhere. Count on it. Two, the full import and effect of asana cannot be appreciated, nor the psychological and spiritual lessons implicit within the practice be understood without a deep and continuous concentration--the mindfulness leading to meditation.

The technical instruction of the poses includes some commentary on beneficial effects. It should be noted that according to tradition there are 84,000 poses known (or perhaps the number is 840,000) of which about 84 are said to be necessary for health and the progression to samadhi. It is also said traditionally that a cat was the first yoga teacher. I want to note that only a gifted person with a natural suppleness can hope to master all the poses that Iyengar demonstrates. So don't despair. Most authorities will tell you that a dozen or so will suffice.

Even though detailed instruction is given in only three pranayamas, the subject is nonetheless throughly introduced and explained in the twenty-five elegant and succinct pages that constitute Part III of this book. Included and noteworthy is Iyengar's well-know warning: "Pneumatic tools can cut through the hardest rock. In Pranayama the yogi uses his lungs as pneumatic tools. If they are not used properly, they destroy both the tool and the person using it."

There are two appendices, one on "Asana Courses," which may be useful for teachers or for those who like a highly structured approach. The other is on the curative effects of asana for various disorders including arthritis, asthma, diabetes, flatulence, etc. I take this second appendix with some reserve and note that a comprehensive study of the curative effects of asana awaits its great genius. Nonetheless, the traditional experience, which Iyengar relies on, is part of the ancient practice of ayurvedic medicine, one of the great healing traditions of the world, and as such commands the highest respect. Personally, it is obvious to me that certain asanas facilitate certain natural bodily processes, and it is well know that a concentration of attention and blood flow to an effected part of the body can assist the body's healing mechanisms. Asana, properly understood in this context, is part of a maintenance program for a healthy body.

Iyengar's is preeminently a practical approach seeped in the ancient traditions of India. As such there is a distinctive, but unavoidable Hindu cast to his instruction. (Separating yoga from Hinduism is like trying to unscramble an omelette.) Nonetheless Iyengar strives for a universal approach and does an excellent job of achieving it. Note this from the introduction: "Food, the supporting yet consuming substance of all life is regarded as a phase of Brahman. It should be eaten with the feeling that with each morsel one can gain strength to serve the Lord...Whether or not to be a vegetarian is a purely personal matter as each person is influenced by the tradition and habits of the country in which he was born and bred."

--Dennis Littrell, author of "Yoga: Sacred and Profane (Beyond Hatha Yoga)"