June 2008 Reading

Excerpts/quotes from Ladakh Reading

(Ancient Futures, A Journey in Ladakh, Ethics for the New Millennium, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Mutual Causality in Buddhism and Systems Theory)

“It is not enough to be compassionate. You must act. There are two aspects to action. One is to overcome the distortions and afflictions of your own mind, that is, in terms of calming and eventually dispelling anger. This is action out of compassion. The other is more social, more public. When something needs to be done in the world to rectify the wrongs, if one is really concerned with benefiting others, one needs to be engaged, involved.” – His Holiness the Dalai Lama (from Chogyal’s website for Ladakh Heart Foundation)

Excerpts from Ethics for the New Millennium by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

 No matter what our situation, whether we are rich or poor, educated or not, of one race, gender, religion or another, we all desire to be happy and avoid suffering. Our every intended action, in a sense our whole life—how we choose to live it within the context of the limitations imposed by our circumstances—can be seen as our answer to the great question which confronts us all: “How am I to be happy?” (p. 4)


With these developments, there has arisen a sense that my future is not dependent on my neighbor but rather on my job or, at most, my employer. This in turn encourages us to suppose that because others are not important for my happiness, their happiness is not important to me. (p. 8)


Our overemphasis on material gain reflects an underlying assumption that what it can buy can, by itself alone, provide us with all the satisfaction we require. (p. 16)


Whether or not a person is a religious believer does not matter much. Far more important is that they be a good human being. (p. 19)


As a human being I have a much larger responsibility toward the whole human family—which indeed we all have. And since the majority does not practice religion, I am concerned to try and find a way to serve all humanity without appealing to religious faith. (p. 20)


My concern in this book is to try to reach beyond the formal boundaries of my faith. I want to show that there are indeed some universal ethical principles which could help everyone to achieve the happiness we all aspire to. (p. 22)


There is an important distinction to be made between religion and spirituality. Religion I take to be concerned with faith in the claims to salvation of one faith tradition or another, an aspect of which is acceptance of some form of metaphysical supernatural reality, including perhaps an idea of heaven or nirvana. Connected with this are religious teachings or dogma, ritual, prayer, and so on. Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit—such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony—which brings happiness to both self and others…religion is something we can perhaps do without. What we cannot do without are these basic spiritual qualities. (p. 22)


The unifying characteristic of the qualities I have described as “spiritual” may be said to be some level of concern for others’ well being. (p. 23)


My call for a spiritual revolution is a call for a radical reorientation away from our habitual preoccupation with self. It is a call to turn toward the wider community of beings with whom we are connected and for conduct which recognizes others’ interests alongside our own. (p. 24)


Since love and compassion and similar qualities all, by definition, presume some level of concern fro others’ well-being, they presume ethical restraint.  (p. 26)


Religious belief is no guarantee of moral integrity…religion can help us establish basic ethical principles. Yet we can still talk about ethics and morality without having recourse to religion. (p. 27)


Establishing ethical principles is possible when we take as our starting point the observation that we all desire happiness and wish to avoid suffering…the desire to be happy and avoid suffering is a natural disposition, shared by all, it follows that each individual has a right to pursue this goal. (p. 28)


In Tibetan, the term for what is considered to be of the greatest significance in determining the ethical value of a given action is the individual’s kun long. Translated literally, the participle kun means “thoroughly” or “from depths,” and “long (wa)” denotes the act of causing something to stand up, to arise, or to awaken. But in the sense in which it is used here, kun long is understood as what, in a sense, drives or inspires our actions—both those we intend directly and those which are in a sense involuntary. It therefore denotes the individual’s overall state of heart and mind. When this is wholesome, it follows that our actions themselves will be (ethically) wholesome. (p. 30)


The aim of spiritual, and, therefore, ethical practice is to transform and perfect the individual’s kun long. This is how we become better human beings…this understanding of ethics means that in striving continuously to cultivate a positive, or wholesome, mind-state I try to be of the greatest service to others that I can be…A spiritual revolution entails an ethical revolution. (p. 33)


Dependent origination (in Tibetan, ten del)…according to this, we can understand how things and events come to be in three different ways. At the first level, the principle of cause and effect whereby all things and events arise in dependence on a complex web of interrelated causes and conditions, in invoked. This suggests that no thing or event can be construed as capable of coming into, or remaining in, existence by itself. For example, if I take some clay and mold it, I can bring a pot into being. The pot exists as an effect of my action. At the same time, it is also the effect of a myriad of other causes and conditions. These include the combination of clay and water to form its raw material. Beyond this, we can point to the coming together of the molecules, the atoms, and other minute particles which form these constituents (which are themselves dependent on innumerable other factors), Then there are the circumstances leading up to my decision to make a pot. And there are the co-operative conditions of my actions as I give shape to the clay. All these different factors make it clear that my pot cannot come into existence independently of its causes and conditions. Rather it is dependently originated. On the second level, ten del can be understood in terms of the mutual dependence which exists between parts and whole. Without parts, there can be no whole; without a whole, the concept of parts makes no sense. The idea of “whole” is predicated on parts, but these parts themselves must be considered to be wholes comprised of their own parts.  On the third level, all phenomenon can be understood dependently originated because, when we analyze them, we find that, ultimately, they lack independent identity.  (p. 37)


When we come to see that everything we perceive and experience arises as a result of an indefinite series of interrelated causes and conditions, our whole perspective changes. We begin to see that the universe we inhabit can be understood in terms of a living organism where each cell works in balanced cooperation with every other cell to sustain the whole. If, then, just once of these cells is harmed, as when disease strikes, that balance is harmed and there is danger to the whole. This, in turn, suggests that our individual well-being is intimately connected both with that of all others and with the environment within which we live. It also becomes apparent that our every action, our every deed, word, and thought, no matter how slight or inconsequential it may seem, has an implication not only for ourselves but for all others, too. (p. 41)


This does not mean that something exists solely because it is said to or because there is a word that refers to it. No one has ever found a unicorn. (p. 43)


The “identitylessness” of phenomena points rather to the way in which things exist: not independently but in a sense interdependently. Far from undermining the notion of phenomenal reality, I believe the concept of dependent origination provides a robust framework within which to situate cause and effect, truth and falsity, identity and difference, harm and benefit. It is, therefore, quite wrong to infer from the idea any sort of nihilistic approach to reality. A simple nothingness, without any sense of an object being this and not that, is absolutely not my meaning. Indeed if we take lack of intrinsic identity as the object of further inquiry and search for its true nature, what we find is the identitylessness of identitylessness and so on, going into infinity—from which we must conclude that even the absence of intrinsic existence exists only conventionally. (p. 45)


The observation that at the subatomic level it becomes difficult to distinguish clearly between the observer of an object and the object itself seems to indicate a movement toward the conception of reality I have outlined (dependently originated reality). (p. 46)


Because self and others can only be understood in terms of relationship we see that self interest and others’ interest are closely interrelated. Indeed, within this picture of dependently originated reality, we see that there is no self-interest completely unrelated to others’ interests. Due to the fundamental interconnectedness which lies at the heart of reality, your interest is also my interest. From this, it becomes clear that “my” interest and “your” interest are intimately connected. In a deep sense, they converge….our interests are inextricably linked, we are compelled to accept ethics as the indispensable interface between my desire to be happy and yours. (p. 47)


The nature of happiness is a relative quality. (p. 49)


We must acknowledge that there can be no hope of gratifying the senses permanently. At best, the happiness we derive from eating a good meal can only last until the next time we are hungry. As one ancient Indian saint remarked: Indulging our senses and drinking salt water are alike: the more we partake, the more our desire and thirst grow. (p. 52)


When we act to fulfill our immediate desires without taking into account others’ interests, we undermine the possibility of lasting happiness. (p. 53)


The principle characteristic of genuine happiness is peace: inner peace. By this I do not mean some kind of feeling “spaced out.” Nor am I speaking of an absence of feeling. On the contrary, the peace I am describing is rooted in concern for others and involves a high degree of sensitivity and feeling…This fact, that inner peace is the principal characteristic of happiness, explains the paradox that while we can all think of people who remain dissatisfied, despite having every material advantage, there are others who remain happy, notwithstanding the most difficult circumstances. (p. 55)


If we can develop this quality of inner peace, no matter what difficulties we meet with in life, our basic sense of well-being will not be undermined. (p. 56)


Where, then, are we to find inner peace? There is no single answer. But one thing is for sure. No external factor can create it. (p. 57)


Our basic attitude—how we relate to external circumstances—is thus the first consideration in any discussion on developing inner peace…While we cannot always change our external situation to suit us, we can change our attitude. (p. 59)


The spiritual actions we undertake which are motivated not by our narrow self interest but out of our concern for others actually benefit ourselves. And not only that, but they make our lives meaningful. (p. 61)


We humans are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others. Nor is it so remarkable that our greatest joy should come when we are motivated by concern for other. But that is not all. We find that not only do altruistic actions bring about happiness, but the also lessen our experience of suffering…When we worry less about ourselves, the experience of our own suffering is less intense. (p. 62)


When our intentions towards others are good, we find that any feelings of shyness or insecurity we may have are greatly reduced. (p. 75)


By transforming our habits and dispositions, we can begin to perfect our overall state of heart and mind (kun long)—that from which all our actions spring. (p. 81)


We might think of mind, or consciousness, in terms of a president or monarch who is very honest, very pure. In this view, our thoughts and emotions are like cabinet ministers. Some of them give good advice, some bad. (p. 84)


Negative thoughts and emotions are what obstruct our most basic aspiration—to be happy and to avoid suffering. (p. 87)


We need to pay close attention and be aware of our body and its actions, of our speech and what we say, and of our hearts and minds and what we think and feel. (p. 91)


When we become angry, we lose all inner peace. (p. 96)


Genuine happiness is characterized by inner peace and arises in the context of our relationships with others. It therefore depends on ethical conduct. (p. 99)


In order to transform ourselves we need to develop an ethic of virtue. (p. 101)


Forbearance and also fortitude are two words which come quite close to describing so pa at its first level. But when a person develops it more, there comes composure in adversity, a sense of being unperturbed, reflecting a voluntary acceptance of hardship in pursuit of a higher, spiritual, aim. This involves accepting the reality of a given situation through recognizing that underlying its particularity, there is vastly complex web of interrelated causes and conditions. (p. 103)


So pa acts as a counterforce to anger. (p. 109)


Making a habit of concern for others’ well-being, and spending a few minutes on waking in the morning reflecting on the value of conducting our lives in an ethically disciplined manner, is a good way to start the day no matter what our beliefs or lack of them. (p. 120)


It is self-evident that a generous heart and wholesome actions lead to greater peace….and it is equally clear that their negative counterparts bring undesirable consequences. Happiness arises from virtuous causes. If we truly desire to be happy, there is no other way to proceed but by way of virtue: it is the method by which happiness is achieved. And, we might add, that the basis of virtue, its ground, is ethical discipline. (p. 121)


Compassion is our ability to enter into our and, to some extent, share others’ suffering…It is unconditional, undifferentiated, and universal in scope. A feeling of intimacy toward all other sentient beings, including of course those who would harm us, is generated, which is likened in the literature to the love a mother has for her only child….This sense of equanimity toward all others is not seen as an end in itself. Rather, it is seen as the springboard to a love still greater.  (p. 123)


Compassion belongs in every sphere of activity, including of course, the workplace. 9p. 127)


When compassion is lacking, our activities are in danger of becoming destructive. (p. 128)


Compassion and love are not mere luxuries. As the source of both inner and external peace, they are fundamental to the continued survival of our species. On the one hand, they constitute non-violence in action. On the other, they are the source of all spiritual qualities: of forgiveness, tolerance, and all the virtues. Moreover, they are the very things that gives meaning to our activities and makes them constructive. There is nothing amazing about being highly educated; there is nothing amazing about being rich. Only when the individual has a warm heart do these attributes become worthwhile…When we reach beyond the confines of our narrow self-interest, our hearts become filled with strength. Peace and joy become our constant companion. It breaks down barriers of every kind and in the end destroys the notion of my interest as independent from others’ interest. But most important, so far as ethics is concerned, where love of one’s neighbor, affection, kindness, and compassion live, we find that ethical conduct is automatic. Ethically wholesome actions arise naturally in the context of compassion. (p. 131)


A sentient being, is one which has the capacity to experience pain and suffering. (p. 133)


If we can actually shift our focus away from self towards others we experience a freeing effect. Conversely, when we come to see it in relation to others’ suffering, we begin to recognize that, relatively speaking, it is not all the unbearable. This enables us to maintain our peace of mind more easily than if we concentrate on our problems to the exclusion of all else. (p. 139)


If the prospect of confronting our suffering head-on can sometimes seem a bit daunting, it is very helpful to remember that nothing within the realm of what we commonly experience is permanent. (p. 141)


According to the theory of dependent origination, everything that arises does so within the context of innumerable causes and conditions. (p. 142)


Ethical discipline is something that we adopt voluntarily on the basis of full recognition of its benefits. (p. 145)


Ethical discipline entails more than just restraint. It also entails the cultivation of virtue. Love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness and so on are essential qualities…because ethical discipline is what facilitates the very qualities which give meaning and value to our existence, it is clearly something to be embraced with enthusiasm and conscious effort. (p. 147)


Union of skillful means and insight… “skillful means” can be understood in terms of the efforts we make to ensure that our deeds are motivated by compassion. “Insight” refers to our critical faculties and how, in response to the different factors involved, we adjust the ideal of nonharming to the context of the situation. We could call it the faculty of wise discernment. (p. 149)

Humanist philosophical tradition…The consensus among them, despite differences of opinion concerning metaphysical grounding is to my mind compelling. All agree on the negativity of killing, stealing, telling lies, and sexual misconduct. In addition, from the point of view of motivational factors, all agree on the need to avoid hatred, pride, malicious intent, covetousness, envy, greed, lust, harmful ideologies (such as racism) and so on. (p. 150)


Given that wholesome ethical conduct entails considering the impact of our actions not only on ourselves but on others, too, there are the feelings or third parties to consider. (p. 151)


Every act has a universal dimension. Because of this, ethical discipline, wholesome conduct, and careful discernment are crucial ingredients for a meaningful, happy life. (p. 161)


A reorientation of our heart and mind away from self and toward others…To develop a sense of universal responsibility—of the universal dimension of our every act and of the equal right of all others to happiness and not to suffer—is to develop an attitude of mind whereby, when we see an opportunity to benefit others, we will take it in preference to merely looking after our own narrow interests…When we neglect others’ well-being and ignore the universal dimension of our actions, it is inevitable that we will come to see our interests as separate from theirs. We will overlook the fundamental oneness of the human family. (p. 163)


In order to overcome our tendency to ignore others’ needs and rights, we must continually remind ourselves of what is obvious: that basically we are all the same. (p. 164)


The culture of perpetual economic growth needs to be questioned. It fosters discontent, and with this comes a great number of problems, both social and environmental. There is also the fact that in devoting ourselves so wholeheartedly to material development we neglect the implications this has for the wider community. (p. 166)


Universal responsibility also leads us to commitment to the principle of honesty. (p. 167)


Given the broadly interdependent nature of reality, our habitual distinction between self and other is in some sense an exaggeration, and if on the basis of this I am right in suggesting that our aim should be to extend our compassion toward all others, we cannot avoid the conclusion that compassion—which entails ethical conduct—belongs at the heart of all our actions, both individual and social. (p. 173)


Luxurious living is inappropriate, so much so that I must admit that whenever I stay in a comfortable hotel and see others eating and drinking expensively while outside I see people who do not even have anywhere to spend the night, I feel greatly disturbed. It reinforces my feeling that I am no different from either the rich or the poor. We are the same in wanting happiness and not to suffer. And we have an equal right to that happiness. As a result, I feel that if I were to see a workers’ demonstration go by I would join in. And yet, of course, the person who is saying these things is one of those enjoying the comforts of the hotel. Indeed, I must go further. It is also true that I possess several valuable wrist watches. And while I feel that if I were to sell them I could perhaps build some huts for the poor, so far I have not. In the same way, I do feel that if I were to observe a strictly vegetarian diet not only would I be setting a better example, but I would also be helping to save innocent animals’ lives. So far I have not and therefore must admit a discrepancy between my principles and my practice in certain areas. At the same time I do not believe everyone can or should be like Mahatma Gandhi and live the life of a poor peasant. Such dedication is wonderful and to be admired greatly. But the watchword is “As much as we can” –without going to extremes. (p. 178)


Education is much more than a matter of imparting the knowledge and skills by which narrow goals are achieved. It is also about opening the child’s eyes to the needs and rights of others. We must show children that their actions have a universal dimension. And we must somehow find a way to build on their natural feelings of empathy so that they come to have a sense of responsibility toward others. For it is this which stirs us into action. Indeed, if we had to choose between learning and virtue, the latter is definitely more valuable. The good heart which is the fruit of virtue is by itself a great benefit to humanity. Mere knowledge is not. How, though, are we to teach morality to our children? I have a sense that, in general, modern educational systems neglect discussion of ethical matters. This is probably not intentional so much as a by-product of historical reality. Secular educational systems were developed at a time when religious institutions were still highly influential throughout society. Because ethical and human values were and still are general held to fall within the scope of religion, it was assumed that this aspect of a child’s education would be looked after through his or her religious upbringing. This worked well enough until the influence of religion began to decline. Although the need is still there it is not being met. Therefore, we must find some other way of showing children that basic human values are important. And we must also help them to develop these values. Ultimately, of course, the importance of concern for others is learned not from words but from actions: the example we set. This is why the family environment itself is such a vital component in a child’s upbringing. When a caring and compassionate atmosphere is absent from the home, when children are neglected by their parents, it is easy to recognize their damaging effects. The children tend to feel helpless and insecure, and their minds are often agitated. Conversely, when children receive constant affection and protection, they tend to be much happier and more confident in their abilities. Their physical health tends to be better too. And we find that they are concerned not just for themselves but for others as well. The home environment is also important because children learn negative behavior from their parents. (p. 182-183)


What children learn about ethical conduct in school has to be practiced first. In this, teachers have a special responsibility. By their own behavior, they can make children remember them for their whole lives. If this behavior is principled, disciplined, and compassionate, their values will be readily impressed on the child’s mind. This is because the lessons taught by a teacher with a positive motivation (kun long) penetrate deepest into their students’ minds. (p. 183)

If we have the capacity to destroy the earth, so, too, do wee have the capacity to protect it. (p. 191)


Once we have experienced the benefit of love and compassion, and of ethical discipline, we will easily recognize the value of other’s teachings, But for this, it is essential to realize that religious practice entails a lot more than merely saying, “I believe”…Simply relying on faith without understanding and without implementation is of limited value…The efforts we make sincerely to transform ourselves spiritually are what makes us genuine religious practitioners. (p. 224)


Many truths, many religions. (p. 226)


The best way to ensure that when we approach death we do so without remorse is to ensure that in the present moment we conduct ourselves responsibly and with compassion for others. (p. 234)


There is no denying that consideration of others is worthwhile. There is no denying that our happiness is inextricably bound up with the happiness of others. Nor is there any denying that the more our hearts and minds are afflicted with ill-will, the more miserable we become. Thus we can reject everything else: religion, ideology, all received wisdom. But we cannot escape the necessity of love and compassion. This, then, is my true religion, my simple faith…Our own heart, our own mind, is the temple. The doctrine is compassion. Love for others and respect for their rights and dignity, no matter who or what they are: ultimately these are all we need. (p. 234)


Why, then, if it is so simple to be happy, do we find it so hard? Unfortunately, though most of us think of ourselves as compassionate, we tend to ignore these commonsense truths. We neglect to confront our negative thoughts and emotions. Unlike the farmer who follows the seasons and does not hesitate to cultivate the land when the moment comes, we waste so much of our time in meaningless activity. We feel deep regret over trivial matters like losing money while keeping from doing what is genuinely important without the slightest feeling of remorse. Instead of rejoicing in the opportunity we have to contribute to others’ well-being, we merely take our pleasures where we can. We shrink from considering others on the grounds that we are too busy. We run right and left, making calculations and telephone calls and thinking that this would be better than that. We do one thing but worry that is something else comes along we had better to another. But in this we engage only in the coarsest and most elementary levels of the human spirit. Moreover, by being inattentive to the needs of others, inevitably we end up harming them. We think ourselves very clever, but how do we use our abilities? All too often we use them to deceive our neighbors, to take advantage of them and better ourselves at their expense. And when things do not work out, full of self-righteousness, we blame them for our difficulties. Yet lasting satisfaction cannot be derived from the acquisition of objects. No matter how many friends we acquire they cannot make us happy. And indulgence in sensual pleasure is nothing but a gateway to suffering. It is like honey speared along the cutting edge of a sword. Of course, that is not to say that we should despise our bodies. On the contrary, we cannot be of help to others without a body. But we need to avoid the extremes which can lead to harm…Therefore, with my two hands joined, I appeal to you the reader to ensure that you make the rest of your life as meaningful as possible. Do this by engaging in spiritual practice if you can. As I hope I have made clear, there is nothing mysterious about this.  It consists in nothing more than acting out of concern for others. (p. 236)


If you cannot, for whatever reason, be of help to others, at least don’t harm them. Consider yourself a tourist. Think of the world as it is seen from space, so small and insignificant yet so beautiful. Could there really be anything to be gained from harming others during our stay here? It is not preferable, and more reasonable, to relax and enjoy ourselves quietly, just as if we were visiting a different neighborhood? Therefore, if in the midst of your enjoyment of the world would you have a moment, try to help in however small a way those who are downtrodden and those who, for whatever reason, cannot or  do not help themselves. Try not to turn away from those whose appearance is disturbing, from the ragged and unwell. Try never to think of them as inferior to yourself. If you can, try not even to think of yourself as better than the humblest beggar. You will look the same in your grave. (p. 237)


Excerpts from Mutual Causality in Buddhism & Systems Theory by Joanna Macy


The teachings which I first found most compelling point to the process nature of the self. They reveal the self as a changing, fluid construct created by the dynamics of the mind…Buddha’s central doctrine of causality, paticca samuppada, or dependent co-arising means that everything arises through mutual conditioning in reciprocal interaction. Indeed the very word Dharma conveys not s substance or essence but orderly process itself—the way things work. (p. xi)


General systems theory…the systems view of reality as process, its perception of self-organizing patterns of physical and mental events, and the principles it discerned in the dynamics of these natural systems struck me as remarkably consonant with the Buddha’s teachings. Like the doctrine of dependent co-arising, systems theory sees causality as reciprocal, arising from interweaving circuits of contingency…a Dharma of Natural Systems…a philosophic basis and moral grounding for the ecological worldview emerging in our era. This emerging dharma discloses moral values that do not stem from divine commandments nor from human nobility alone but instead inhere in the fundamental causal interconnectedness of all phenomena. This interdependence sets the limits and provides the scope for our conscious participation in reality. (p. xiii)


In a hierarchical view of reality, and in the linear, one way view of causality to which it leads, both value and power are attributed to absolute entity or essence, unaffected by the play of phenomena…habits of thought bred by this one-way view persist in the assumption that power works from the top down. This notion is particularly dangerous in a time of increasing planetary disruptions and scarcities. It tempts people to assume that freedom is inimical to collective survival, and that order must be imposed from above. Indeed the political fanaticisms and religious fundamentalisms of our time give voice to the belief that common will and coordinated action require subservience to a particular leader or deity…both Systems Theory and Buddhism make clear, order is not imposed from above, by mind exerting its will on dumb material forces; it is intrinsic to the self-organizing nature of the phenomenal world itself. When we recognize our participation in its co-arising patterns, we can claim our power to act. We can then, through our choices give expression and efficacy to the coordination at play in all life forms. (p. xiii)


Because reality is seen as dependently co-arising or systemic in nature, each and every act is understood to have an effect on the larger web of life, and the process of development is perceived as multidimensional. One’s personal awakening is integral to the awakening of one’s village and both play integral roles in the awakening of one’s country and one’s world. Being interdependent, these developments do not occur sequentially, in a linear fashion, but synchronously, each abetting and reinforcing the other through multiplicities of contacts and currents, each subtly altering the context in which other events occur. (p. xv)


Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess coined the term deep ecology for this mutual belonging that extends beyond the individual or family or even species…appropriate secular referent for dependent co-arising. (p. xvi)


Deep ecology work seeks to expand the notion of self beyond the confines of ego and personal history and to extend concepts of self interest to include the welfare of all beings. (xvii)


Once we have experienced the fierce joy of life that attends extending our identity into nature, once we realize that the nature within and the nature without are continuous, then we too may share in the exquisite beauty and effortless grace associated with the natural world (John Seed).  (p. vxii)


In the Vedic view change is seen as issuing from or occasioned by an eternal changeless substance. (p. 31)


Denial that anything ever exists eternally or perishes absolutely. (p. 39)


Universe in process where all is interrelated and mutually affecting. (p. 40)


The Atman, the locus of reality and power is perceived as a subtle substance underlying and permeating the phenomenal world….it is the ultimate material of the world and the locus of agency…In other words, reality is seen not as constituted primarily of relationships, but constituted primarily of entities—substances that can impinge on others and transmit properties to them. (p. 46)


As long as one thinks in terms of self-existent entities…there is an effective “being stationed” by a subject-object dichotomy. (p. 48)


General systems theory presents a mutual or reciprocal view of causality. (p. 69)


The organized whole found in nature, then, is not only a system but an open system. It maintains and organizes itself by exchanging matter, energy, and information with its environment. (p. 73)


Analysis of the components is useful but limited in what it reveals about the whole, for in focusing on them features characteristic of the whole are lost to view. It appeared, then,  appropriate and necessary to view life forms as organizations or systems. (p. 92)


The perspective of mutual causality brings to view a world where “everything flows.” To be interdependent and reciprocally affecting is to be in the process. In this fluid state of affairs the self is no exception. To think of our selves as changing patterns as fluid was water as ephemeral as flame, runs counter to conventional assumption. Language and society, indeed our very perceptions of a world, “out there” distinct from self “in here,” encourage the notion that as selves we are separate and distinct individuals, anchored in separate and distinct bodies. If we conclude as would be natural that we exist independently in our own right with an identity that endures intact through time, then change can appear as a threat from which we need to protect ourselves. Such notions are undermined by the concept and perception of mutual causality, as is evident in both Buddhist and systems perspectives. (p. 107)


Indeed the Buddha stood in clear opposition both to Vedic and other non-Vedic thought in India when he ascribed reality, not to any substance, physical, psychic, or supernatural, but to change itself…the things and substances which make up the world have process as their nature…Similarly is the systems view of mutual causality grounded in the assumption that all is process…The universe is seen as made up not of things but of flows and relationships…In the world seen in terms of relations, rather than substance personal identity appears as emergent and contingent, defining and defined by interactions with the surrounding medium. (p. 108)


Scholars like Edward Conze remind us that “the Buddha never taught that the self ‘is not,’ but only that it cannot be apprehended. (p. 109)


No-Selfness is then in Buddhism a characteristic of the universe as a whole and everything in it. The emptiness of own-being, which will be recognized in the Mahayana as an “absolute” the ultimate nature of reality, derives from dependent co-origination. Mutually conditioned, everything subsists in relationship and knows no independent self-existence. The individual “self” neither isolable nor fixed, is seen as a flowing stream, a stream of being, a stream of consciousness. (p.110)


We must do away the subject-object distinction in analyzing experience. This does not mean that we reject the concepts of organism and environment, as handed down to us by natural science. It only means that we conceive of experience as linking organism and environment in a continuous chain of events, from which we cannot, without arbitrariness, abstract an entity called ‘organism’ and another called ‘environment.’ The organism is continuous with its environment, and its experience refers to a series of transactions constituting organism-environment continuum. (p. 111)


Categorically speaking, “my” relationship to any larger system around me and including other things and persons will be different from “your” relation to some similar system around you. The relation “part of” must necessarily and logically always be complementary but the meaning of the phrase “part of” will be different for every person. (p.129)


For reality in the Buddhist view is process, and no substance—mental, psychic, or supernatural—is aloof from it…The monks goal, in reflecting on the body, is to become more mindful of it, not to withdraw from it or alter it. (p. 143)


The self, if causality is mutual, is not the knower and actor we conventionally posit, so much as a series of events, occurrences of knowing and acting. It has been likened, by both systems thinkers and early Buddhists, to a stream and to a flame, constantly flowing and undergoing transformation. If that is the case, we confront then the problem of identity and, beyond that, the questions of responsibility. If I am but a succession of happenings, who am I at a given point, and in what does my continuity reside? If there is in my internal organization no separable and continuous agent that decides, can I be accountable for my acts? Does it matter what I do? What we do not only matters, it molds us. In this view questions of both identity and responsibility are resolved (karma). (p. 161)


Social systems impinge on our lives and relate us to our fellow beings, as a constituent connects its promontories, a landscape its trees (John Donne, No Man is an Island). Even when we set ourselves apart, they condition our private pursuits and reflect them in turn. (p. 183)


To be a person, therefore, is to participate, at every level of our being, in a reality wider than that enclosed by our skin or identified with our name. As a social and linguistic  convention, the notion of an “I” is useful, but, if taken to represent a fixed or separable entity, it is a fiction. In systems terms it is a construct which is dysfunctional to the extend that it distorts the system’s perception of its own relation to the external world. To the Buddhist, the belief in a permanent, separate self represents a fundamental error: engendering greed, anxiety, and aggression, it is an illusion basic to the suffering we experience and which we inflict on others. Our liberation by whatever technique or circumstances it is attended, involves a shattering of such preconceptions, a breakthrough to the release-bringing realization that there is, in actuality, no separate “I” to defend or enhance, or to whose service we need to bind our efforts. (p. 184)


Where minds interact, they mutually create. (p. 186)


Our own pulse beats in every strangers’ throat. (Barbara Deming) (p. 193)


In the mutual causal paradigm, person and society appear as interdependent processes. Political structures are not fixed, preordained structures to which the person must accommodate his being, nor are they adventitious and disconnected to personal pursuits. Rather they are fluid, systemic patterns in whose unfolding we participate and by which in turn our lives are conditioned. (p. 198)


“right livelihood”…work is a vehicle for the organization and expression of that pattern we call the self…Unlike consumption, it links the person to her fellow beings in reciprocal relationship, and expresses the interdependence which underlies her existence. The value of her work then, is beyond monetary measure. (p. 206)


When economic patterns and enterprises are viewed within the larger systemic context of the ecological and social costs they inflict, the premises of John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman appear as outmoded and dysfunctional. (p. 207)


It is not a self-existent entity, but a fluid and changing pattern, a process interlinked and co-arising with the entire universe. (p. 216)


While it can be frightening to encounter a void where we thought a substantial self resided, this initially scary emptiness, if passed through like a door, opens into a greater connectedness with the phenomenal world of beings. This intrinsic relatedness, into which one then moves, becomes both the occasion and means of love…Skillful meditation can empower social action, freeing us to respond in simplicity and immediacy to our fellow beings. (p. 217)


Like roots, trunk and branches, we beings are interconnected and part of each other. Our griefs and hopes are not separate, nor can our fulfilment be private, for we are as organically linked as a tree. To act with this knowledge, and shape our lives and institutions to reflect it, requires transformations that threaten our comfort and security. It requires a dying to old ways. This is easier to accept and face when we realize that, like a flame, we are ever dying and renewing, for that is the nature of things. (p. 219)





Excerpts from Ancient Futures, Learning from Ladakh by Helena Norberg-Hodge


Especially in winter, Ladakhis eat meat (goat in particular, but also yak and dzo) presumably because it would be difficult to survive without. Fish is never eaten, as it is thought that if you are going to take a life, it is better for it to be the life of a large animal that can supply food for many people; if you ate fish, you would have to take many more lives. The killing of animals is not taken lightly and is never done without asking for forgiveness and with much prayer: Those animals which I use for riding and loading, Which have been killed for me, All those whose meat I have taken, May they attain the state of Buddhahood very soon. (p. 31)


Illness is caused by a lack of understanding. – A Ladakhi Amchi (p. 37)


One of the first things that struck me on my arrival in Ladakh was the wide, uninhibited smiles of the women, who move freely, joking and speaking with men in an open and unselfconscious way…women generally exhibit great self confidence, strength of character, and dignity. Almost all early travellers to Ladakh commented on the exceptionally strong position of women. (p. 68)


Are there special qualities that people look for when choosing a wife?

Well, first of all, she should be able to get along with people, to be fair and tolerant.

What else is important?

Here skills are valued, and she shouldn’t be lazy.

Does it matter if she is pretty or not?

Not really. It’s what she’s like inside that counts—her character is more important. We say here in Ladakh, ‘A tiger’s stripes are on the outside; human stripes are on the inside.’ (p. 71)


Everything in Ladakh reflects its religious heritage. The landscape is dotted with carved prayer stones and chortens, fluttering flags whisper prayers to the winds, and always on some high distant rise the massive white walls of a monastery. Buddhism has been the traditional religion of the majority of Ladakhis since approximately 200 BC, when it was introduced from India. Today, all sects of Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism are represented, under the overall spiritual leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The villages where I have lived are Buddhist, but in the capital almost half the population is Muslim. IN addition, there is a small group of Christians numbering a few hundred. Relations among these three groups have changed in recent years, but when I arrived they all showed profound mutual respect and an easy going tolerance, strengthened by frequent intermarriages. On the main festival days of the respective religions, people from all groups would visit one another, exchanging kataks, the ceremonial white scarves. In my first few months in Ladakh, I was invited to join in the festivities at the time of Id, a Muslim holiday. I will never forget the sense of warmth and good humor as Buddhists and Muslims sat down together. (p. 73)


One of the central elements of Buddhism is the philosophy of sunyata, or “emptiness.” I had difficulty understanding the meaning of this concept at first, but over the years, in talking to Tashi Rabgyas, it became clearer: “It is something that is not easy to talk about, and impossible to understand through words alone,” he told me once. “It is something you can only fully grasp through a combination of reflection and personal experience. But I’ll try to explain it in a simple way. When you think of a tree, you tend to think of it as a distinct, clearly defined object, and on a certain level it is. But on a more important level, the tree has no independent existence; rather, it dissolves into a web of relationships. The rain that falls on its leaves, the wind that causes it to sway, the soil that supports it—all form part of the tree. Ultimately, if you think about it, everything in the universe helps make the tree what it is. It cannot be isolated; its nature changes from moment to moment—it is never the same. This is what we mean when we say that things are ‘empty,’ that they have no independent existence.” (p. 73)


The use of the terms emptiness or nothingness to define sunyata has led many Westerners to think of Buddhism as nihilistic. It is often assumed that its followers are an apathetic lot who do not care if they live or die. Ironically enough, Tashi once expressed similar sentiments in reference to Christianity. “Everything is all laid out for you,” he said. “Everything has been determined by God and is controlled by Him. It must make people very apathetic. There seems to be no room in Christianity for personal growth in the way there is in Buddhism. Through spiritual practice we have an opportunity to develop ourselves.” (p. 74)


Buddhism does not say that nothing exists, nor does it in any way encourage pessimism. On the contrary, it teaches that once we have understood the nature of the universe, we will realize a lasting happiness that is unaffected by the transient flow of outer events. Our ignorance—our experience of the world through the senses and through conceptualization—prevents us from seeing beyond the ordinary “everyday” world of appearance, where things exist as separate and permanent things. As long as we persist in seeing things in this “ignorant” way, we are in samsara, trapped on a wheel of existence. We are being asked not to deny the “existence” of the world, but to alter our perception of it. Things do not exist insofar as we perceive them with our senses, but rather to see it in a different light. The Buddha taught that beyond this world created by our own senses and limitations, the phenomenal world dissolves into a dynamic process. The true nature of reality lies beyond the realm of language and linear analysis. Tashi would often quote the renowned scholar Nagarjuna: “Those who believe in existence are stupid like cattle, but those who believe in nonexistence are still more stupic. [Things are] not existent, not nonexistent, not both and not something that is not both.” It is said that the universe is like an endless river. Its totality, the unity does not change, yet at the same time it is in constant motion. The river as a whole exists, but you cannot say what it consists of; you cannot stop the flow and examine it. Everything is in movement and inextricably intertwined. Tashi again: “Everything is subject to the law of dependent origination. As Nagarjuna said, ‘Origin through relations is the Buddha’s rich profound treasure.’ On this level our categories, distinctions, and labels—‘you’ and ‘I,’ ‘mind’ and ‘matter’—become one and disappear. What we take to be solid and substantial is in fact changing from moment to moment. Just in the same way that the tree is ‘empty,’ the ‘self’ is empty. If you reflect on it, you too dissolve as part of everything else around you. The ‘self’ or ego, is ultimately no more separate than anything else in the universe.” The delusion that self exists independently is perhaps the greatest obstacle on the path to enlightenment. The belief in absolute, permanent existence leads to a cycle of endless craving, and the craving brings suffering. In our attachment to the notion of a separate self and separate things, we end up constantly striving and reaching for something new. Yet as soon as we have attained what we are seeking, the luster is gone and we set our sights elsewhere. Satisfaction is rare and brief; we are forever frustrated…Tashi would often remind me that knowledge and understanding were not sufficient in themselves. In fact they could be dangerous, he would say, if not accompanied by compassion. (p. 75)


Ladakhis will not think in terms of fundamental opposites, for instance, between body and mind or reason and intuition. Ladakhis experience the world through what they call their samba, best translated as a cross between “heart” and “mind.” This reflects the Buddhist insistence that Wisdom and Compassion are inseparable. (p. 82)


With so much of our lives colored by a sense of insecurity or fear, we have difficulty in letting go and feeling at one with ourselves and our surroundings. The Ladakhis, on the other hand, seem to possess an extended, inclusive sense of self. They do not, as we do, retreat behind boundaries of fear and self-protection; in fact, they seem to be totally lacking in what we would call pride. This doesn’t mean a lack of self-respect. On the contrary, their self-respect is so deep rooted as to be unquestioned. (p. 84)


I have never met people that seem so healthy emotionally, so secure, as the Ladakhis. The reasons are, of course, complex and spring from a whole way of life and world view. But I am sure that the most important factor is the sense that you are a part of something much larger than yourself, that you are inextricably connected to others and your surroundings. (p. 85)


A healthy society is one that encourages close social ties and mutual interdependence, grating each individual net of unconditioned emotional support. Within this nurturing framework, individuals feel secure enough to become quite free and independent. Paradoxically, I have found the Ladakhis less emotionally dependent than we are in industrial society. There is love and friendship, but it is not intense or grasping—not a possession of one person by another. (p. 86)


Contentment comes from feeling and understanding yourself to be part of the flow of life, relaxing and moving with it. If it starts to pour with rain just as you set out on a long journey, why be miserable? Maybe you would not have preferred it, but the Ladakhis’ attitude is “Why be unhappy?” (p. 87)


I was in Ladakh from the time tourism started, and was able to observe the process of change from the beginning. Since I spoke the language fluently, I gained an insight into the intense psychological pressure that modernization brings. Looking at the modern world from something of a Ladakhi perspective, I also became aware that our culture looks infinitely more successful from the outside than we experience it on the inside. With no warning, people from another world descended on Ladakh. Each day many would spend as much as a hundred dollars, an amount roughly equivalent to someone spending fifty thousand dollars a day in America. In the traditional subsistence economy, money played a minor role, used primarily for luxuries—jewelry, silver, and gold. Basic needs—food, clothing, and shelter—were provided for without money. The labor one needed was free of charge, part of an intricate web of human relationships. In one day a tourist would spend the same amount that a Ladakhi family might in a year. Ladakhis did not realize that money played a completely different role for the foreigners; that back home they needed it to survive; that food, clothing and shelter all cost money—a lot of money. Compared to these strangers they suddenly felt poor…Tourists can only see the material side of the culture—worn out woolen robes, the dzo pulling a plough, the barren land. They cannot see peace of mind or the quality of family and community relations. They cannot see the psychological, social, and spiritual wealth of the Ladakhis. Besides giving the illusion that all Westerners are multimillionaires, the tourist also helps perpetuate another faulty image of modern life—that we never work. It looks as though our technologies do the work for us. In industrial society today, we actually spend more hours working than people in rural, agrarian economies. But that is not how it looks to Ladakhis. For them, work is physical work, walking, and carrying things…Every day I saw people from two different cultures, a world apart, looking at each other and seeing superficial, one-dimensional images. Tourists see people carrying loads on their backs and walking long distances over high mountain passes and say, “How terrible; what a life of drudgery.” They forget they have traveled thousands of miles and spent thousands of dollars for the pleasure of walking through the same mountains with heavy backpacks. They also forget how much their bodies suffer from lack of use at home. During working hours they get no exercise, so they spend their free time trying to make up for it. Some will even drive to a health club—across a polluted city in rush hour—to sit in a basement, pedaling a bicycle that does not go anywhere. And they actually pay for the privilege. (p. 96)


For millions of youth raised in rural areas of the world, modern Western culture appears far superior to their own. It is not surprising since, looking as they do from the outside, all they can see is the material side of the modern world—the side in which Western culture excels. They cannot so readily see the social or psychological dimensions—the stress, the loneliness, the fear or growing old. Nor can they see the environmental decay, inflation, or unemployment. (p. 97)


The changing economy makes it difficult to remain a farmer. Previously, with cooperative labor between people, farmers had no need for money. Now, unable to pay larger and larger wages for farm hands, some are forced to abandon the villages to earn money in the city. For those who stay the pressure increases to grow food for profit, instead of food for themselves. Cash cropping becomes the norm as farmers are pushed by the forces of development to become dependent on the market economy…The new economy also increases the gap between rich and poor. (p. 103)


It is easy to romanticize traditional technologies, but it is also common in the West to ignore many of their benefits. Tashi Rabgyas would sometimes talk about the advantages of the old over the new, and in particular of working with animals rather than machines: “They become your friends, you relate to them. If they have done a particularly good job, if they have worked particularly hard, you might give them something special to eat. But machines are dead, you have no relationship with them. When you work with machines, you become like them, you become dead yourself. (p.106)   


The Ladakhis now have less time for each other and for themselves. As a result, they are losing their once-acute sensitivity to the nuances of the world around them—the ability, for instance, to detect the slightest variations in the weather, or in the movement of the stars. A friend from Markha Valley summed it up for me: “I can’t understand it. My sister in the capital she now has all these things that do the work faster. She just buys her clothes in a shop, she has a jeep, a telephone, a gas cooker. All of these things save so much time, and yet when I visit her, she doesn’t have time to talk to me.” (p. 106)


The world views of the lama and the engineer are very different. The old beliefs were based on a description of reality that emphasized the unity or dependent origination of all life, whereas the new scientific perspective emphasizes its separateness. It seems to say that we stand apart—outside the rest of creation. And to gain a greater understanding of the way nature works, we simply have to split matter into smaller and smaller fragments and examine the various pieces in isolation. The shift from lama to engineer represents a shift from ethical values that encourage an empathetic and compassionate relationship with all the lives toward a value-free “objectivity” that has no ethical foundation. (p. 109)


No one could deny the value of real education, that is, the widening and enrichment of knowledge. But today education has become something quite different. It isolates children from their culture and from nature, training them instead to become narrow specialists in a Westernized urban environment. This process is particularly striking in Ladakh, where modern schooling acts almost as a blindfold, preventing children from seeing the context in which they live. They leave school unable to use their resources, unable to function in their own world. With the exception of religious training in the monasteries, the traditional culture had no separate process called “education.” Education was the product of an intimate relationship with the community and its environment. Children learned from grandparents, family, and friends. Helping with the sowing, for instance, they would learn that on one side of the village it was a little warmer, on the other side a little colder. From their own experience children would come to distinguish between different strains of barley and the specific growing conditions each strained preferred. They learned to recognize even the tiniest wild plant and how to use it, and how to pick out a particular animal on a faraway mountain slope. They learned about connections, process, and change, about the intricate web of fluctuating relationships in the natural world around them. For generation after generation, Ladakhis grew up learning how to provide themselves with clothing and shelter; how to make shoes out of yak skin and robes from the wool of sheep; how to build houses out of mud and stone. Education was location-specific and nurtured an intimate relationship with the living world. It gave children an intuitive awareness that allowed them, as they grew older, to use resources in an effective and sustainable way. None of that knowledge is provided in the modern school. Children are trained to become specialist in a technological, rather than an ecological society. School is a place to forget traditional skills and, worse, to look down on them. (p. 111)


The new economy cuts people off from the earth. (p. 111)


In every corner of the world today, the process called “education” is based on the same Eurocentric model. The focus is on faraway facts and figures, a universal knowledge. The books propagate information that is meant to be appropriate for the entire planet. But since only a kind of knowledge that is far removed from specific ecosystems and cultures can be universally applicable, what children learn is essentially synthetic, divorced from the living context. If they go on to higher education, they may learn about building houses, but these houses will be of concrete and steel, the universal box. So too, if they study agriculture, they will learn about industrial farming: chemical fertilizers and pesticides, large machinery and hybrid seeds. The Western educational system is making us all poorer by teaching people around the world to use the same resources, ignoring those of their environment. In this way education is creating artificial scarcity and inducing competition. (p.112)


The yak is important in the traditional economy. It is an animal perfectly adapted to the local environment, actually preferring to stay high up in the vicinity of the glaciers, at about 16,000 feet or more. It covers vast distances, climbing up and down vertical slopes to graze, thriving on the sparse vegetation that grows in this difficult terrain. Its long hair protects it against the cold, and despite its enormous size, it can balance with remarkable grace on a ragged rock face. The yak provides fuel, meet, and labor, and hair from which blankets are woven. The female also gives a limited amount of very rich milk, an average of three liters a day. According to the modern way of looking at things the yak is “inefficient.” Agricultural experts who have received a Western education tend to be scornful of it. “The drimo [female yak] gives only three liters of milk a day,” they say. “What we need is Jersey cows—they give thirty liters a day.” The experts’ training does not allow them to see the broader cultural, economic, and ecological implications of their recommendations. The yak, as it grazed, was gathering together energy from vast distances—energy that, in addition to fuel, was ultimately being used by people in the form of food, clothing, and labor. The Jersey cow, by contrast, cannot even walk up to 16,000 feet, let alone survive there. She has to stay down at 10,000 feet or 11,000 feet, where people live, and has to have special shelter. She has to be stall fed on specially cultivated fodder. (p. 112)


Modern education not only ignores local resources, but, worse still, makes Ladakhi children think of themselves and their culture as inferior. They are robbed of their self-esteem. Everything in school promotes the Western model and, as a direct consequence, makes them ashamed of their own traditions. (p. 113)


Education pulls people away from agriculture into the city, where they become dependent on the money economy. In traditional Ladakh there was no such thing as unemployment. But in the modern sector there is now intense competition for a very limited number of paying jobs, principally in the government. As a result, unemployment is already a serious problem. Modern education has obvious benefits, like improvements in the rate of literacy and numeracy. It has also enabled the Ladakhis to be more informed about the forces at play in the world outside. In doing so, however, it has divided Ladakhis from each other and the land and put them on the lowest rung of the global economic ladder. (p. 114)


Today’s centralized economy is dependent on the use of large quantities of energy, and leads to a higher consumption of resources in general. Enormous investments in networks of new roads encourage a dependence on products from farther and farther away. In Leh these days, people provide almost nothing for themselves; food, clothing, and building materials all have to be transported into town—in a constant caravan of polluting trucks—in some cases from as far away as the south of India. Even water has to be “imported,” often at the expense of the surrounding countryside, where essential irrigation supplies are being reduced. As a consequence, the age-old system of rotational sharing is breaking down. (p. 117)


A gap is developing between old and young, male and female, rich and poor, Buddhist and Muslim. The newly created division between modern educated expert and illiterate backward farmer is perhaps the biggest of all. (p. 125)


Despite the very real problems in the traditional society and the equally real improvements brought about by development, things look different when one examines the important relationships to the land, to one another, and to oneself. Viewed from this broader perspective, the differences between the old and the new become stark and disturbing—almost, but of course not quite, black and white. It becomes clear that the traditional nature-based society, with all its flaws and limitations, was more sustainable, both socially and environmentally. It was the result of a dialogue between human beings and their surroundings, a continuing dialogue that meant that, over two thousand years of trial and error, the culture kept changing. The traditional Buddhist world view emphasized change, but change within a frameworks of compassion and a profound understanding of the interconnectedness of all phenomena. (p.136)


The primary goal of “counter-development” would be to provide people with the means to make fully informed choices about their own future. Using every possible form of communication, from satellite television to storytelling, we need to publicize the fact that today’s capital and energy intensive trends are simply unsustainable. Ultimately, the aim would be to promote self-respect and self-reliance, thereby protecting life-sustaining diversity and creating the conditions for locally based, truly sustainable development. One of the most critical failings of conventional development is its reliance on a narrow, short-term perspective dominated by quantitative analysis. Counter-development would move beyond specialization and fragmented expertise to reveal the systemic underpinnings of industrial society. It would draw attention to family and community break-up; it would show up the hidden subsidies of a society based on fossil fuels; it would place environmental damage on the debit side of the economic balance sheet. In short, it would expose the escalating costs of our industrial way of life. (p. 160)


A movement to build eco-villages is sweeping Sweden: two hundred are already planned, all of them based on renewable energy and the recycling of waste. Increasing numbers of people are choosing to buy organic food and are strengthening the local economy by buying from farmers close to home. The government has committed itself to establishing an environmental accounting system in which the destruction of natural resources will be subtracted from the gross national product. (p. 190)


Around the world, in every sphere of life, from psychology to physics, from farming to the family kitchen, there is a growing awareness of the interconnectedness of all life. New movement are springing up, committed to living on a human scale, and to more feminine and spiritual values. The numbers are growing, and the desire for change is spreading. These trends are often labeled “new,” but, as I hope Ladakh has shown, in an important sense they are very old. They are, in fact, a rediscovery of values that have existed for thousands of years—values that recognize our place in the natural order, our indissoluble connection to one another and to the earth. (p. 192)


Excerpts from A Journey in Ladakh by Andrew Harvey


There is a Ladakhi saying, ‘The greatest courage is the courage to be happy.’ It takes great courage when you are suffering to see beyond your suffering to the clear relations between things, to the laws that cause and govern your suffering; it takes great courage to be ruthless with one’s griefs. (pg. 104)


Ladakh is the land of high mountain passes; my experience of Ladakh and its people was to be, for me, a pass, into another awareness of reality. (p. 14)


Buddhism first came to Ladakh through India and not Tibet. In fact, Ladakh was Buddhist, of the Hinayana, “Lesser Vehicle” school for about right centuries before Tibet was converted. Buddhism was introduced to Ladakh in the third century BC by the missionaries of Asoka, the great Buddhist Emperor of India, whose empire included the whole of non-Tamil India, besides a large portion of Afghanistan and the valleys of Kashmir and Nepal as well. In A.D. 400 the Chinese traveler Fa-Hein observed the use of the prayer wheel and noted that there were two relics of the Buddha in Ladakh—a bowl and a tooth. Later Ladakh came under the influence of Tibet. Its form of Buddhism became Mahayana, ‘Greater Vehicle’ Buddhism, Tantric Buddhism. Fracois had said in Delhi, ‘The mountains of Ladakh have been the setting for Buddhist meditation since three centuries before Christ was born.’ (p. 21)


I began to understand that night, for the first time, the inner usefulness, the psychological value, of the Terrible Deities painted for meditation purposes on the walls of the gompas. I saw that in their frank portrayal of the horror of anger, desire, greed, and lust for power, they did not merely terrify the onlooker, they gave him an opportunity to confront those parts of his energies which he was repressing, to confront, understand and master them, to turn them, as the Oracle had turned her hysteria, into a power to heal. (p. 83)


I think that it is almost certain that we will be destroyed as a culture, and that nothing, now, can save us from that destruction. Our only chance of being remembered at all may be through being “appropriated” and “consumed” as you say, by he West, by some Westerners who have come to visit our country and have been moved by what they have found there. I am not asking for rescue, or for the sudden political and spiritual transformation of my people. It is too late to ask for that. I am asking that something of us be saved from oblivion. (p. 98)


Even our chang songs, you know, can be spiritual. We make no separations in Ladakh between the ordinary and the holy. Every action can be holy; every good pleasure can be dedicated to the Buddha. Why shouldn’t drinking with your friends be holy? (p. 104)


We believe that the whole landscape is an offering to the Buddha, the whole world has Buddha awareness—even this flower, this stone. A glacier is specially sacred because it looks like a great white scarf tied across the rocks on the mountain, and white is the color of purity for us, of purity and enlightenment. The lake too is sacred. Have you seen the seven bowls of water that are usually placed before the image of the Buddha. There are many sacred lakes in Tibet, such as Mansarovar. A lake in the mountains is like a vast bowl of shining water offered to the Buddha. The smallest lake and the smallest stream are sacred, because they flash in the sunlight some part of the Buddha-awareness, of that pure light that is Supreme Understanding. To an Enlightened man, or a man on the path to Enlightenment, the whole world becomes a revelation of his own inner nature, of the inner nature of all things. (p. 105)


The Tantric way is harder and demands a greater purity and fearlessness. It is harder to love the world than to leave it; it is harder to accept with joy and gratitude than to renounce; it is harder to work with our emotions of greed and desire and anger, to face them and transform them slowly into loving power, than it is to cut them off, to deny them. And because it is harder the rewards are greater. The Tantric Way is one of discipline without dogma, renunciation without contempt. (p. 160)


We call a man a Rinpoche, which means diamond, when he has achieved perfection…We call a man a diamond also when he has gone beyond himself, beyond his old identity and personality. He becomes not just a man, but a woman and a child as well, a Mother and a boy and an old woman and an old man, a Prince and a Yogi, a King and a beggar and a girl. A man who no longer wants to be anything becomes everything; a man who is free of desire and self consciousness enters with love into all things and all people, and all things and people come to him without fear…We call a man a diamond when his heart is a mind and his mind is a heart, when there is no separation between the two, when both are illumined. (p. 161)


If a man who is still full of anger and desire and greed tries to “help” another, what will his help be worth? It will be dirty, it will be colored, it will be a burden as much as a help. If you are serious about wanting to be of help to others you should be serious too about achieving perfection of heart and mind. Only when the heart is clear can it feel without greed or possessiveness; only when the mind is clear of all false perceptions, can it guide action. If you really love others and truly see the extent and range and depth of their suffering, and feel it in your heart, then you will want to give them strength and want to bring them peace. If you do not have strength and peace yourself how can you give it to them? If you do not have light, how can you bring light to others? If you are not free of suffering, how can you free others? (p. 163)


The man who really helps is the man who is in the world but not of it, who loves the world but is not attached to it, who lives in the world but is not stained by it. (p. 163)


To understand Emptiness is to understand that all things are contingent, that all things arise contingently, that nothing has an absolute reality, only a present, contingent reality. It is to understand that all connections are of the mind, all notions of Selfhood or Personality are fictions created and sustained by the Mind for its own purposes, for the purposes of the Ego, which is itself a fiction. It is not merely to understand these things but to live that understanding. (p. 164)


Have you not seen our paintings and sculptures in Ladakh? Have you not felt their spiritual grace and dignity? Do you imagine that they were created out of vanity? They were created, many of them, by humble and poor men, who left no names behind them, and who worked on them out of love and in worship. The most beautiful paintings and sculptures, the greatest poetry, have not always been born from torment or bitterness. Often they have sprung from contemplation, from joy, from an instinct or wonder towards all things. To create from joy, to create from wonder, demands a continual discipline, a great compassion. It demands a severity of mind towards all vanity and posturing of the Ego that loves suffering, and clings to its despairs and depressions and fears; it demands a continual objectivity of spirit, a continual looking out at, and beyond, the world created by senses, towards a spiritual reality, whose lineaments only emerge slowly, after years of experience and meditation…You will find a voice that is not your voice only, but a voice of Reality itself, and free from all delusion and stain of personality. If you can be empty enough, that voice can speak through you. If you can be humble enough, that voice can inhabit you and use you. (p. 174)


I haven’t meditated enough, I haven’t yet built in myself the kind of spiritual resources that I need. Thuksey Rinpoche has. He is an old man. He meditated many years in a cave alone. He is a rock, a mountain. He can give endlessly, tirelessly. He is always gentle, always attentive. But he can be like that because he has worked on himself, over many years. It is harder for us now. By “us” I mean the younger monks. Thuksey began his religious life in Tibet, in a world that understood the spirit, celebrated it, and allowed for its unfolding and its growth. I was brought up on the fringes of modern India; I was given a Western education, for which I am grateful in many ways. But I lost something. I lost the peace of mind that I might have had in another generation, the sense of order, the sense that I could develop in my own time and under very composed conditions. Everyone of our generation lives in a fragmented, complex, disturbing time, in which it is hard to keep one’s spiritual balance, hard to find the time to build that balance in the first place. I feel increasingly that I must go into retreat more, must meditate more, must discipline myself more…To be with him [Thuksey Rinpoche] is to be constantly reminded of what I have not yet achieved, of what I am not. (p. 179)


Many Westerners, like Brian, have “tasted every kind of food.” They have exhausted most sensations, most of the possibilities of their culture, most of the possibilities of the affluent world. They are schooled, if you like, in unillusion. And to have no illusions is the beginning of Buddhist practice: no longer to believe in any of the fictions of personality or success or desire is the foundation of all true meditation, the beginning of the Path towards Nirvana. Buddhism will flourish in the West, I believe, because the West is coming of age; it is becoming adult, able to bear the radical clarity of the Buddha, hungry for it, in fact; for a wisdom that is without any false hope or consolation, that is rooted in a practical, severe analysis of things as they are, of the mind as it is. (p. 180)


In Tantra there are no Gods, no external powers. The Gods are your inner energies. When you are invoking them and worshipping them you are invoking and worshipping yourself. Pride in one’s inner divinity without the wisdom of Emptiness leads to madness or megalomania. Everything is ‘empty,’ even one’s inner divinity. Even the Gods are ‘empty’ symbols to be dissolved in the radiance of the Void once they have served their purpose, completed their design. Tantra is alchemy, the alchemy that turns the filt of the Self into the Gold of selflessness. (p. 197)


The wisdom of Sunyata, of Emptiness, is also needed if giving is to be perfect. The only giving that is perfect is the giving by a giver that knows both giving and giver are not real, are empty, and that the receiver is empty too, does not inherently exist. This does not mean that there is no need to give on the contrary, giving becomes natural, and action so natural that you do not call it ‘giving.’ The flower does not “give;” it opens, that is all. The giver does not praise himself for giving, does not celebrate his gift, nor patronize in any way the person who is receiving. The wisdom of Sunyata reveals that you cannot give to another without hiving to yourself, and also that there is no giver, no receiver, no gift. And so you give spaciously, with freedom, claiming nothing, hoping nothing, planning nothing. The greatest happiness to is give like this. Shantideva said, “Through giving away everything you pass beyond sorrow.” (p. 207)


The heart and understanding need winter also. They need desolation, unhappiness, even sometimes death. Milarepa said, “A man who is aware finds a friend in desolation and a master in winter.” That is why spring does not dominate the whole of the tapestry. There are suggestions in it of winter—in the silver of the Empress’s cloak, in the emptiness between the rocks. The harmony of Wisdom and Compassion, Will and Awareness, is not changeless—to want it to be a sign of spiritual childishness. The spirit needs spring and winter, beauty and terror, meeting and parting, needs every experience and every energy to achieve wholeness. Milarepa saidm “Contemplate all energies without fear or disgust; find their essence, for that is the stone that turns everything to gold. (p. 219)


The West and East are not finally separated. I can speak of what I know—that my love of Eastern thought has helped me to read Western thought and philosophy with a new mind. I can even listen to Western music with a new understanding…I know many others for whom the same experience has been true—that an absorption in Eastern thought has not meant a negation of the West, but a discovery of the West’s buried and defaced spiritual identity, an awakening to those parts of our Western past that have been denied us. (p. 221)


Nietzsche wrote: It is a sign of having turned out well when, like Goethe, a man clings with ever-greater joy and cordiality to the “things of the world” for in this way he adheres to the great conception of man that man becomes the transfigurer of existence when he learns to transfigure himself.  (p. 222)


It is hard to leave a place where you believe anything is possible but that is why you must leave. To see if you were right, to see if your insights can be lived in a different air, at a lower level. (p. 223)


You must find a way of making what you have lived through believable to others. You must not refuse that challenge. Those who reject the materialism of the West, who despise it and separate themselves from it, are in danger of refusing to look at it, they are in danger of not being responsible to the facts of life as it is lived and must be lived, now. We must find a way to work within the world, within science, within industry, even within politics; we cannot simply pretend a superiority to those things, for they are the forces that largely shape mankind. To work in the world we will have to be strong, and in the world our inner strengths will be greatly tested. But that is good. That will dissolve any pride we may have, any sense of virtuous invulnerability. It will take away from us any sense that we are “special” that we deserve “special treatment,” that we are “unique.” So many Westerners who find solace in the East are coming to have their Egos healed, their shattered personalities resembled in some way. But the East is not a large convalescent home for the West, a sort of enormous recreation room where Westerners can play at being spiritual at “exploring themselves;” it is a place of power, of new power, a new kind of strength which must be used in the world. (p. 227)


Mesiter Eckhart wrote: “Your soul ought to be without ghosts, to be void of all forms and images that are ghosts. You should strive to keep it so. For if you love God as a god, a ghost, a person, you are not loving Him as He is, One, in Whom there is no duality.” (p. 230)



Excerpts from the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche


Without any real authentic faith in an afterlife, most people live lives deprived of any ultimate meaning…I have come to realize that the disastrous effects of the denial of death go far beyond the individual. They affect the whole planet. Believing fundamentally that this life is the only one, modern people have developed no long-term vision. So there is nothing to restrain them from plundering the planet for their own immediate ends and from living in a selfish way that could prove more fatal for the future…Fear of death and ignorance of the afterlife are fueling that destruction of our environment so isn’t it all the more disturbing that people are not taught what death is, or how to die? Or given any hope in what lies after death, and so what really lies behind life? Could it be more ironic that young people are so highly educated in every subject except the one that holds the key to the entire meaning of life, and perhaps to our very survival? (p. 8)


Do you believe in a life after this one? They are not being asked whether they believe it as a philosophical proposition, but whether they feel it deeply in their heart. The master knows that if people believe in a life after this one their whole outlook will be different and they will have a distinct sense of personal responsibility and morality. What the masters must suspect is that there is a danger that people who have no strong belief in a life after this one will create a society fixed on short term results, without much thought for the consequence of their actions. Could this be the major reason why we have created a brutal world like the one in which we are now living, a world with little real compassion? (p. 9)


Helping the dying, then, must include the possibility of spiritual care, because it only with spiritual knowledge that we can truly face, and understand death. (p.10)


Death is neither depressing nor exciting; it is simply a fact of life…I often think of the words of the great Buddhist master Padmasambhava: “Those who believe they have plenty of time get ready only at the time of death. Then they are ravaged by great regret. But isn’t it far too late?” What more chilling commentary on the modern world could there be than that most people die unprepared for death, as they have lived, unprepared for life? (p. 10)


In this wonderful teaching (Tibetan Book of the Dead) we find the whole of life and death presented together as a series of constantly changing transitional realities known as bardos. The word bardo is commonly used to denote the intermediate state between death and birth, but in reality bardos are occurring continuously throughout both life and death, and are junctures when the possibility of liberation, or enlightenment, is heightened. (p. 11)


From the Tibetan point of view we can divide our entire existence into four continuously interlinked realities: 1. life, 2. death and dying, 3. after death, and 4. rebirth. They are known as the four bardos: 1. the natural bardo of this life. 2. the painful bardo of dying, 3. the luminous bardo of dharmata and 4. the karmic bardo of becoming. (p. 11)


Direct reflection on what death means and the many facets of the truth of impermanence—the kind of reflection that can enable us to make rich use of this life while we still have time, and ensure that when we die it will be without remorse or self-recrimination at having wasted our lives. As Tibet’s famous poet saint, Milarepa

said, “My religion is to live—and die—without regret. (p. 12)


Realization of the nature of mind which you could call our innermost essence that truth we all search for is the key to understanding life and death. For what happens at the moment of death is that the ordinary mind and its delusions die and in that gap the boundless sky-like nature of our mind is the background to the whole of life and death, like the sky, which unfolds the whole universe in its embrace. (p. 12)

Meditation is the only way we can repeatedly uncover and gradually realize and stabilize that nature of mind. (p. 12)


The fundamental message of the Buddhist teaching is that if we are prepared, there is tremendous hope, both in life and in death. (p. 14)


To practice death is to practice freedom. A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave (Montaigne). (p. 15)


Death is a vast mystery but there are two things we can say about it: It is absolutely certain that we will die, and it is uncertain when or how we will die. (p. 15)


Perhaps the deepest reason why we are afraid of death is because we do not know who we are. We believe in a personal, unique, and separate identity; but if we dare to examine it, we find that this identity depends entirely on an endless collection of things to prop it up: our name, our “biography,” our partners, our family, home, job, friends, credit cards…It is their fragile and transient support that we rely on for our security. So when they are all taken away, will we have any idea of who we really are? (p. 16)


The pace of our lives is so hectic that the last thing we have time to think about it death. (p. 18)


Active laziness…The Eastern style is like the one practiced to perfection in India. It consists of hanging out all day in the sun, doing nothing, avoiding any kind of work or useful activity, drinking cups of tea, listening to Hindi film music blaring on the radio, and gossiping with friends. Western laziness is quite different. It consists of cramming our lives with compulsive activity, so that there is no time for confronting all the real issues. (p. 19)


In Tibetan the word for body is lu, which means “something you leave behind” like baggage. (p. 20)


We need to shake ourselves sometimes and really ask: “What is I were to die tonight? What then?” We do not know whether we will wake up tomorrow, or where…Some masters try to wake us up to the fragility of life…encourage students to imagine vivid scenarios of their own death, as part of calm and structured contemplation. (p. 22)


Human beings spend their whole lives preparing, preparing, preparing…Only to meet the next life unprepared. (p. 23)


Taking life seriously does not mean spending our whole lives meditating in a cave but we should get out of 9 to 5 tangled existence where we live without any view of the deeper meaning of life. Our task is to strike a balance, to find a middle way, to learn not to overstretch ourselves with extraneous activities and preoccupations, but to simplify our lives more and more. The key to finding a happy balance in modern lives is simplicity…In Tibetan, the term for discipline is tsul trim. Tsul means appropriate or just and trim means rule or way. So discipline is to do what is appropriate or just, that is, in an excessively complicated age, to simplify our lives. (p. 23)


The realization of impermanence is paradoxically the only thing we can hold onto. (p. 25)


Whenever we lose our perspective, or fall prey to laziness, reflecting on death and impermanence shakes us back into truth…The whole universe, scientists now tell us, is nothing but change, activity, and process—a totality of flux that is the ground of all things. (p. 26)


Have you so integrated impermanence with your every thought, breath, and movement that your life has been transformed? Ask yourself these two questions: Do I remember at every moment that I am dying, and everyone and everything else is, and so treat all beings at all times wit compassion? Has my understanding of death and impermanence become so keen and so urgent that I am devoting every second to the pursuit of enlightenment? If you can answer yes to both of these then you have really understood impermanence. (p. 27)


The purpose of reflecting on death is to make a real change in the depths of your heart…Why not reflect on death when you are really inspired, relaxed or comfortable, lying in bed, or on holiday, or listening to music that particularly delights you? Why not reflect on it when you are happy, in good health, confident and full of well being? Don’t you notice that there are particular moments when you are naturally moved to introspection? Work with them gently, for these are moments when you can go through a powerful experience, and your whole world view can change quickly. These are moments when your former beliefs crumble on their own, and you can find yourself being transformed. (p. 32-33)


Every time I hear the rush of a mountain stream, or the waves crashing on the shore, or my own heart beat I hear the sound of impermanence. These changes, these small deaths, are our living links with death. They are deaths pulse, death’s heart beat, prompting us to let go of all the things we cling to…It is only when we believe things to be permanent that we shut off the possibility of learning from change. (p. 33)


All heartache we have been through from grasping at the ungraspable was in the deepest sense unnecessary. (p. 34)


To be a spiritual warrior means to develop a special kind of courage, one that is innately intelligent, gentle and fearless. Spiritual warriors can still be frightened, but even so they are courageous enough to taste suffering, to relate clearly to their fundamental fear, and to draw out with evasion the lessons from difficulties. (p. 36)


If everything is impermanent, then everything is what we call “empty” which means lacking any lasting, stable, and inherent existence; and all things, when seen and understood in their true relation, are not independent but interdependent with all other things…Think of a wave in the sea. Seen in one way, it seems to have a distinct identity, and end and a beginning, a birth and a death. Seen in another way, the wave itself doesn’t really exist but is just the behavior of water, “empty” of any separate identity but “full” of water. So when you really think about the wave, you come to realize that it is something made temporarily possible by wind and water, and that it is dependent on a set of constantly changing circumstances. You also realize that every wave is related to every other wave. Nothing has any inherent existence of its own when you really look at it, and this absence of independent existence is what we call “emptiness.”


So when we really look at ourselves, then, and the things around us that we took to be so solid, so stable, and so lasting, we find that they have no more reality than a dream…Contemplation of this dreamlike quality of reality need not in any way make us cold, helpless, or embittered. On the contrary, it can open up in us a warm humor, a soft, strong compassion we hardly knew we possessed, and so more and generosity toward all things and beings. The great Tibetan Saint Milarepa said: “Seeing emptiness, have compassion.” (p. 39)


True spirituality also is to be aware that if we are interdependent with everything and everyone else, even our smallest significant thought, word, and action have real consequences throughout the universe. Throw a pebble into a pond. It sends a shiver across the surface of the water. Ripples merge into one another and create new ones. Everything is inextricably interrelated. (p. 39)


If everything dies and changes, then what is really true?…With continued contemplation and practice in letting go, we come to uncover in ourselves “something” we cannot name or describe or conceptualize, something that we begin to realize lies behind all the changes and deaths of the world. The narrow desires and distractions to which our obsessive grasping onto permanence has condemned us begin to dissolve and fall away. As this happens we catch repeated and glowing glimpses of the vast implications behind the truth of impermanence. It is as if all our lives we have been flying an airplane through dark clouds and turbulence, when suddenly the plane soars above these into the clear, boundless sky. Inspired and exhilarated by this emergence into a new dimension of freedom, we come to uncover a depth of peace, joy, and confidence that fills us with wonder, and breeds in us gradually a certainty that there is in us “something” that nothing destroys, that nothing alters, and that cannot die…Gradually we become aware in ourselves of the calm sky-like presence of what Milarepa calls the deathless unending nature of mind and what the Upanishads call “a turning about in the seat of consciousness, a personal, utterly non-conceptual revelation of what we are, why we are here, and how we should act, which amounts in the end to nothing less than a new life, a new birth, almost you could say, a resurrection…What a beautiful and what a healing mystery it is that from contemplating, continually and fearlessly, the truth of change and impermanence, we come slowly to find ourselves face to face in gratitude and joy, with the truth of the changeless, wit the truth of the deathless, unending nature of mind! (p. 41)


For a long moment my mind fell away completely and I was enveloped by a tremendous tenderness, warmth, confidence, and power…In that pure shock a gap opened, and in that gap was laid bare a sheer, immediate awareness of the present, on that was free of any clinging. It was simple, naked, and fundamental. And yet that naked simplicity was also radiant with the warmth of an immense compassion. (p. 43)


Since pure awareness of nowness is the real Buddha, In openness and contentment I found the Lama in my heart. When we realize this unending natural mind is the very nature of the Lama, Then there is no need for attached, grasping, or weeping prayers or artificial complaints, By simply relaxing in this uncontrived, open, and natural state, We obtain the blessing of aimless self-liberation of whatever arises. (p. 45)


Life and death are in the mind and nowhere else. Mind is revealed as the universal basis of experience—the creator of happiness and the creator of suffering, the creator of what we call life and what we call death. (p. 47)


There are many aspects to the mind, but two stand out. The first is the ordinary mind, called by Tibetans sem. One master defines it: That which possesses discriminating awareness, that which possesses a sense of duality—which grasps or rejects something external—that is mind. Fundamentally it is that which can associate with an ‘other’—with any ‘something,’ that is perceived as different from the perceiver. Sem is the discursive, dualistic, thinking mind, which can only function in relations to a projected and falsely perceived external reference point. So sem is the mind that thinks, plots, desires, manipulates, that flares up in anger, that creates and indulges in waves of negative emotions and thoughts, that has to go on and one asserting, validating, and confirming its “existence” by fragmenting, conceptualizing, and solidifying experience. (p. 47)


Rigpa, a primordial, pure, pristine awareness that is at once intelligent, cognizant, radiant, and always awake. It could be said to be the knowledge of knowledge itself…Do not make the mistake of imagining that the nature of mind is exclusive to our mind only. It is in fact the nature of everything. It can never be said too often that to realize the nature of mind is to realize the nature of all things…At the heart of all religions is the certainty that there is a fundamental truth, and that this life is a sacred opportunity to evolve and realize it…Buddha means a person who has completely awakened from ignorance and opened to his or her vast potential of wisdom…The Buddha nature is simply the birthright of every sentient being and I always say, “Our Buddha nature is as good as any Buddha’s Buddha nature.”…Buddha’s message that enlightenment is within the reach of all holds out tremendous hope. (p. 49)


For even though we have the same inner nature as Buddha, we have not recognized it because it is so enclosed and wrapped up in our individual ordinary minds. Imagine an empty vase. The space inside is exactly the same as the space outside. Only the fragile walls of the vase separate one from the other. Our Buddha mind is enclosed within the walls of our ordinary mind. But when we become enlightened it is as if the vase shatters into pieces. The space “inside” merges instantly into the space “outside.” They become one: There and then we realize they were never separate or different, they were always the same. (p. 49)


So what exactly is this Buddha nature? It is in the sky-like nature of our mind. Utterly open, free, and limitless, it is fundamentally so simple and so natural that it can never be complicated, corrupted, or stained, so pure that it is beyond even the concept of purity and impurity. To talk of this nature of mind as sky-like, or course, is only a metaphor that helps us to begin to imagine its all-embracing boundlessness; for the Buddha nature has a quality the sky cannot have, that of the radiant clarity of awareness. As it is said: It is simply your flawless, present awareness, cognizant and empty, naked and awake. (p. 50)


There is no general information about the nature of mind. It is hardly ever written about…We are actually educated into believing that nothing is real beyond what we can perceive with our ordinary senses. Despite this massive and nearly all pervasive denial of its existence, we still sometimes have fleeting glimpses of nature of mind. These could be inspired by a certain exalting piece of music, by the serene happiness we sometimes feel in nature, or by the most ordinary situation. They could arise simply while watching snow slowly drifting down or seeing the sun rising behind a mountain, or watching a shaft of light falling into a room in a mysteriously moving way. Such moments of illumination, peace and bliss happen to us and stay strangely with us. I think we do, sometimes, half understand these glimpses, but modern culture gives us no context or framework in which to comprehend them. Worse still, rather than encouraging us to explore these glimpses more deeply and discover where they spring from, we are told in both obvious and subtle ways to shut them out. We know that no one will take us seriously if we share them. So we ignore what could be really the most revealing experiences of our lives, if only we understood them. This is perhaps the darkest and most disturbing aspect of modern civilization—its ignorance and repression of who we really are. (p. 51-52)


The word of “Buddhist” in Tibetan is nangpa, It means “insid-er” someone who seeks the truth not outside but within the nature of mind. All the teachings and training in Buddhism are aimed at that one single point: to look into the nature of the mind, and so free us from the fear of death and help us realize the truth of life. (p. 52-53)


Even the idea of meditation can scare people. When they hear the words “egoless” or “emptiness” they think experiencing those states will be like being thrown out of the door of a spaceship to float forever in a dark, chilling void. Nothing could be further from the truth. But in a world dedicated to distraction, silence and stillness terrify us; we protect ourselves from them with noise and frantic busyness. Looking into the nature of our mind is the last thing we would dare to do. Sometimes I think we don’t want to ask any real questions about who we are for fear of discovering there is some other reality than this one. (p. 53)


In the modern world there are few examples of human beings who embody the qualities that come from realizing nature of mind…For all its vaunted celebration of the value of human life and individual liberty, our society in fact treats us as obsessed only with power, sex, and money, and needing to be distracted at any moment from any contact with death or with real life. (p. 53)


Underlying our whole outlook is a neurotic conviction of our own limitations. This denies us all hope of awakening, and tragically contradicts the central truth of Buddha’s teaching: that we are all essentially perfect. (p. 54)


The nature of mind is the “wisdom of ordinariness.” (p. 54)


It is meditation that slowly purifies the mind, unmasking and exhausting its habits and illusions, so that we can, at the right moment, recognize who we really are. (p. 56)


Generally we waste our lives distracted from our true selves in endless activity; meditation, on the other hand, is the way to bring us back to ourselves, where we can really experience and taste our full being, beyond all habitual patterns…To meditate is to make a complete break with how we “normally” operate, for it is a state free of all cares and concerns, in which there is no competition, no desire to possess or grasp at anything, no intense and anxious struggle, and no hunger to achieve: an ambitionless state where there is neither acceptance nor rejection, neither hope nor fear, a state in which we slowly begin to release all those emotions and concepts that have imprisoned us into the space of natural simplicity. (p. 58)


Devote the mind in meditation to the task of freeing itself from illusion, and we will find that, with time, patience, discipline, and the right training our mind will begin to unknot itself and know it eternal bliss and clarity…Training the mind does not in any way mean forcibly subjugating or brainwashing the mind. To train the mind is first to see directly and concretely how the mind functions, a knowledge that you derive from spiritual teachings and through personal experience in meditation practice. (p. 59)


The purpose of meditation is to awaken in us the sky-like nature of mind, and to introduce us to that which we really our, our unchanging pure awareness, which underlies the whole of life and death…Meditation, then, is bringing the mind home. (p.60)


Three things that make the difference between your meditation being merely a way for temporary relaxation, peace and bliss, or of becoming a powerful cause for your enlightenment and the enlightenment of others. We call them “Good in the Beginning, Good in the Middle, and Good in the End.” Good in the Beginning springs from the awareness that we and all sentient beings fundamentally have the Buddha nature as our innermost essence, and that to realize it is to be free of ignorance and to put an end, finally, to suffering. So each time we begin our practice of meditation, we are moved by this, and inspire ourselves with the motivation to dedicate our practice, and our life, to the enlightenment of all beings. Good in the Middle is the frame of mind with which we enter into the heart of the practice, one inspired by the realization of the nature of mind, from which arises and attitude of nongrasping, free of any conceptual reference whatsoever, and an awareness that all things are inherently “empty” illusory, and dreamlike. Good in the end is the way in which we bring our meditation to a close by dedicating all of its merit, and praying with real fervor: “May whatever merit that comes from this practice go toward the enlightenment of all beings; may it become a drop in the ocean of the activity of all buddhas in their tireless work for the liberation of all beings…These three sacred principles—the skillful motivation, the attitude of nongrasping that secures the practice and the dedication that seals it—are what make your meditation truly enlightening and powerful. (p 61-62)


The practice of mindfulness, of bringing the scattered mind home, and so of bringing the different aspects of our being into focus is called, “Peacefully Remaining” or “Calm Abiding.” This is the first practice on the Buddhist path of meditation and it is know as shamatha. Calm abiding accomplishes several things. First, all the fragmented aspects of ourselves, which have been at war, settle and dissolve and become friends. In that settling we begin to understand ourselves more and sometimes have glimpses of the radiance of our fundamental nature. Next the practice of mindfulness diffuses our negativity, aggression, pain, suffering and frustration which may have been gathering power over many lifetimes. Rather than suppressing emotions or indulging in them, here it is import ant to view them, and your thoughts, and whatever arises with an acceptance and generosity that are as open and spacious as possible…Only when we have removed the harm in ourselves do we become truly useful to others. (p. 62)


When I teach meditation, I often begin by saying: “Bring your mind home. And release. And relax.” To bring your mind home means to bring the mind into the state of Calm Abiding through the practice of mindfulness. In its deepest sense, to bring your mind home is to turn your mind inward and rest in the nature of mind. This itself is the highest meditation. To release means to release mind from its prison of grasping, since all your pain and fear and distress arise from the craving of the grasping mind. On a deeper level, the realization and confidence that arise from your growing understanding of the nature of mind inspire the profound and natural generosity that enables you to release all grasping from your heart, letting it free itself, to melt away in the inspiration of meditation. Finally, to relax means to be spacious and to relax the mind of its tensions. More deeply, you relax into the true nature of your mind, the state of Rigpa. The Tibetan words that evoke this process suggest the sense of “relaxing upon the Rigpa.” It is like pouring a handful of sand onto a flat surface; each grain settles its own accord. This is how you relax into your true nature, letting all thoughts and emotions naturally subside and dissolve into the state of the nature of mind. (p. 63)


Meditation is not something that you can “do” it is something that has to happen spontaneously, only when the practice has been perfected. (p. 65)


Your View and your posture should be like a mountain. (p. 66)


When you meditate invite yourself to feel the self-esteem, the dignity and strong humility of the Buddha that you are…simply let yourself be inspired by this joyful trust, it is enough: out of this understanding and confidence meditation will naturally arise. (p. 69)


Many ways to pacify and tame emotions…Use an object…Recite a Mantra…Watch the Breath. (p. 71-74 for further explanations)


What, then, should we “do” with the mind in meditation? Nothing at all. Just leave it, simply as it is. One master described meditation as “mind suspended in space, nowhere.” …Think of yourself as the sky, holding the whole universe. (p. 74-75)


As long as we remain in subject-object duality, the mind is still within the ordinary conceptual world of samsara. (p. 75)


As obscurations are gradually removed and ego and its grasping tendency begin to dissolve, Clear seeing, or “insight” dawns. This is called vipashyana in Sanskrit. At this point you no longer need the anchor of remaining in nowness, and you can progress, moving beyond your self even, into that openness which is the “wisdom that realizes egolessness.” This will uproot delusion and liberate you from samsara…Grasping at a false self, or ego, has dissolved, and we simply rest, as much as we can, in the nature of mind, this most natural state that is without reference or concept, hope, or fear, yet with a quiet but soaring confidence—the deepest form of well being imaginable. (p. 76)


In meditation there has to be a delicate balance between relaxation and alertness. (p. 76)


Sometimes people think that when they meditate there should be no emotions or thoughts but as long as you have a mind there will be thoughts and emotions…Just as the ocean has waves or the sun rays, so the mind’s own radiance is its thoughts and emotions…thoughts and emotions are the radiance and expression of the very nature of the mind…Whatever arises do not see it as a particular problem. (p. 77)


Have a spacious, open, and compassionate attitude toward your thoughts and emotions because in fact your thoughts are your family, the family of your mind. Be like an old wise man, watching a child play. (p. 78)


When the past thought is past and the future thought has not yet arisen, you will always find a gap in which the Rigpa the nature of mind is revealed. So the work of meditation is to allow thoughts to slow down to make the gap more apparent. (p. 78)


Experiences are not realization in themselves; but if you remain free of attachment to them they become what they really are, that is materials for realization. (p. 79)


What we have to learn in both meditation and in life, is to be free of attachment to the good experiences ad free of aversion to the negative ones. (p. 80)


The real glory of meditation lies not in any method but in its continual living experience of presence, in its bliss, clarity, peace, and most important of all, complete absence of grasping. The diminishing of grasping in yourself is a sign that you are becoming free of yourself. And the more you experience this freedom, the clearer the sign that the ego and the hopes and fears that keep it alive are dissolving and the closer you will come to the infinitely generous “wisdom that realizes egolessness.” When you live in that wisdom home, you’ll no longer find a barrier between “I” and “you” and “that,” “inside” and “outside”; you’ll have come, finally, to your home, the state of nonduality. (p. 81)


“Meditation Western Standard Time”…The point is not how long you meditation; the point is whether the practice actually brings you to a certain state of mindfulness and presence, where you are little open and able to connect with your heart essence…Gradually through the interplay of break and sitting, the barrier between meditation and every day life will crumble the contrast between them will dissolve and you will find yourself increasingly in your natural pure presence, without distraction…Even though the meditator may leave the meditation, the meditation will not leave the meditator. (p. 82)


To integrate meditation in action is the whole ground and point and purpose of meditation. The violence and stress, the challenges and distractions of modern life make this integration even more urgently necessary…When you do re-enter every day life, let the wisdom, insight, compassion, humor, fluidity, spaciousness, and detachment that meditation brought you pervade your day-to-day experience. (p. 82)


What really matters is not just the practice of sitting but far more the state of mind you find yourself in after meditation…The real miracle of meditation is more ordinary and much more useful. It is a subtle transformation and this transformation happens not only in your mind and your emotions but also actually in your body…The whole state of your health has a lot to do with your state of mind and your way of being. (p. 83)


Important to practice meditation in a richly inspired and creative way…in one sense meditation is an art and you should bring to it an artist’s delight and fertility of invention…You can transform the most ordinary of rooms into an intimate sacred space, into an environment where every day you come to the meeting with your true self with all the joy and happy ceremony of one old friend meeting another. (p. 84)


What is a great spiritual practitioner? A person who always lies in the presence of his of her own true self, someone who has found and who uses continually the springs and sources of profound inspiration…To embody the transcendent is why we are here. (p. 85)


Our drastically limited vision of life prevents us from accepting or even beginning seriously to think about the possibility of rebirth. (p. 88)


The main argument that establishes rebirth is one based on a profound understanding of the continuity of mind. Where does consciousness come from? It cannot arise out of no where. (p. 93)


Most people take the word “reincarnation” to imply there is some “thing” that reincarnates, which travels from life to life. But in Buddhism we do not believe in an independent and unchanging entity like a soul or ego that survives the death of the body. What provides the continuity between lives is not an entity, we believe, but the ultimately subtlest level of consciousness. The Dalai Lama explains: “According to the Buddhist explanation, the ultimate creative principle is consciousness. There are different levels of consciousness. What we call innermost subtle consciousness is almost like something permanent, like the space-particles. In the field of matter, that is the space particles; in the field of consciousness, it is the Clear Light…The Clear Light, wit its special energy, makes the connection with consciousness…The successive existence in a series of rebirths are not like the pearls in a pearl necklace, held together by a strong “the soul” which passes through all the pearls; rather they are like dice piled one on top of the other. Each die is separate but it , supports the one above it, with which it is functionally connected. Between dice there is no identity but conditionality.  (p. 95)


Rebirth is much the same: one phenomenon arises and another stops, simultaneously. So the first act of consciousness in the new existence is neither the same as the last act of consciousness in the previous existence, nor is it different. (p. 95)


If you try to subdue your selfish motives—anger and so forth—and develop more kindness and compassion for others, ultimately you yourself will benefit more than you would otherwise. So sometimes I say that the wise selfish person should practice this way. Foolish selfish people are always thinking of themselves, and the result is negative. Wise selfish people think of others, help others as much as they can, and the result is that they too receive benefit. (p. 99)


Karma is not fatalistic or predetermined. Karma means our ability to change and create…As everything is impermanent, fluid, and interdependent, how we think and act inevitably changes the future. There is no situation, however seemingly hopeless or terrible, such as a terminal disease, which we cannot use to evolve. And there is no crime or cruelty that sincere regret and real spiritual practice cannot purify. (Example of Milarepa!) (p. 99)


Normally we are oblivious to the bardos and their gaps as our minds pass from one so-called “solid” situation to the next, habitually ignoring transitions that are always occurring…Each thought and each emotion arises out of , and dies back into, the essence of mind. It is in moments of strong change and transition especially, the teachings make us aware, that the true sky like primordial nature of our mind will have a chance to manifest…If you really rest in the gap, looking into mind, you will catch a glimpse of the deathless nature of the enlightened mind. (p. 109)


Going to sleep is similar to the bardo of dying, where elements and thought process dissolve, opening into the experience of the Ground Luminosity. Dreaming is akin to the bardo of becoming, the intermediate state where you have a clairvoyant and highly mobile “mental body” that goes through all kinds of experiences. In the dream state too we have a similar kind of body, the dream body, in which we undergo all the experiences of the dream life. In between the bardo of dying and the bardo of becoming is a very special state of luminosity or Clear light called the bardo of dharmata. This is an experience that occurs for everyone but there are very few who can even notice it, let alone experience it completely, as it can only be recognized by a trained practitioner. The bardo of dharmata corresponds to the period after falling asleep and before dreams begin. (p. 111-112)


What a real practitioner seeks to do is to keep unfailing and unbroken, his or her awareness of the nature of mind throughout the day and night, and so use directly the different phases of sleep and dream to recognize and become familiar with what will happen in the bardos during and after death. (p. 112)


How will I be when I die? The answer is whatever state of mind we are in now, whatever kind of person we are now: that is what we will be like when we die. This is why bit is absolutely important to use this lifetime to purify our mind stream, and so our basic being and character, while we can. (p. 116)


What we see is what our karmic vision allows us to see and no more. (p. 116)


God Realm: no suffering, engaged in every stimulant, LA yoga scene!

Demigods: Wall Street

Hungry Ghost: Never Satisfied


For excellent 6 Realm review listen to Dharmanidhi’s Teaching again!


Human life is infinitely more valuable then the God realm because awareness and intelligence are the raw materials for enlightenment and because the very suffering that pervades this human realm is itself the spur to spiritual transformation. (p. 118)


Three wisdom tools: listening and hearing, contemplation and reflection, and meditation. (p. 120)


Excellent discussion of egolessness pgs. 120-124


Padmasambhava says “Complete devotion brings complete blessing; absence of doubts brings complete success.” (p. 141)


It is in the humble that the truth really lives.  (p. 144)


What most of us need, almost more than anything is the courage and humility really to ask for help, from the depths of our hearts: to ask for compassion of the enlightened beings, to ask for purification and healing, to ask for the power to understand the meaning of our suffering and transform it; at a relative level to ask for the growth in our lives of clarity, of peace, of discernment, and to ask for realization of the absolute nature of mind that comes from merging with the deathless wisdom mind of the master. (p. 146)


No one can die fearlessly and in complete security until they have truly realized the nature of mind. (p. 154)


Dzongchen is a state, the primordial state, the state of total awakening that is the heart-essence of all the buddhas and all spiritual paths, and the summit of an individual’s spiritual evolution.  (p. 155)


Our relative condition is that our intrinsic nature is obscured, and we need to follow the teachings and practice in order to return us to the truth. This is the Path of Dzogchen. Finally, to realize our original nature is to attain complete liberation and become a Buddha. (p. 155)


Practical training in the Dzogchen Path : View, Meditation and Action…True nature of mind is the true nature of everything; and it is realizing that the true nature of our mind is the absolute truth…This awareness has two aspects: “emptiness” as the absolute, and appearance or perception as the relative. (p. 156)


If realizing the View is realizing the nature of mind, what then is the nature of mind like? Imagine a sky, empty, spacious, and pure from the beginning; its essence is like this. Imagine that sun shining out impartially on us and all things, penetrating directions; its energy, which is the manifestation of compassion like this: nothing can obstruct it and it pervades everywhere…Its fundamental lack of any bias toward any impression is the “equalizing wisdom.” (p. 157)


What boundless spaciousness relief! This is the supreme seeing: seeing what was not seen before. When you see what was not seen before everything opens, expands, and becomes crisp, clear, brimming with life, vivid with wonder and freshness. (p. 161)


Meditation in Dzogchen is simply resting, undistracted in the View. (p. 163)


Essence of Dzogchen meditation top of page 164


The most important thing in life is to establish an unafraid, heartfelt communication wit others and it is never more important than with a dying person. (p. 177)


Two ways to release love to a dying person: First look at the dying person and think of that person as just like you, with the same needs, the same fundamental desire to be happy and avoid suffering, the same loneliness, the same fear of the unknown, the same secret areas of sadness, the same half acknowledged feelings of helplessness. You will find that when you do this your heart will open toward that person and love will be present between you. The second way is to put yourself directly and unflinchingly in the dying person’s place. Imagine that you are on that bed before you facing your death. Imagine that you are there in pain and alone. Then really ask yourself: What would you need most? What would you most like? What would you really wish from the friend in front of you? (p. 179)


Good description of Tonglen practice pgs. 197-212


Phowa Practice pgs. 218-221


At the moment of death “Enter, undistracted, into clear awareness of the teaching.” (p. 232)


As you die invoke wholeheartedly all the buddhas and your master. Pray that, through regretting all your negative actions in this and other lives, they may be purified, and that you may die consciously and at peace, gain a good rebirth, and ultimately achieve liberation…Make a one pointed and concentrated wish that you will be reborn either in a pure realm or as a human being, but in order to protect, nurture, and help others. To die with such love and tender compassion in your heart until your last breath is said in the Tibetan tradition to be another form of phowa, and it will ensure that you will at least attain another precious human body. (p. 240)


The nature of your mind is always there, sky-like, radiant, blissful, limitless and unchanging. (p. 241)


At present, our body is undoubtedly the center of our whole universe. We associate it, without thinking, with our self and our ego, and this thoughtless and false association continually reinforces our illusion of their inseparable, concrete existence. Because our body seems so convincingly to exist our “I” seems to exist and “you” seem to exist, and the entire illusory, dualistic world we never stop projecting around us looks ultimately solid and real. When we die this whole compound construction falls dramatically to pieces. (p. 245)


Outer Dissolution of senses/elements see page 255. Earth à Water à Fire à Air

Inner Dissolution page 258


When we die the three poisons (anger, desire and ignorance) also die. (p. 259)


In death we cannot escape from who or what we really are…Two aspects of our being are revealed at the moment of death: our absolute nature and our relative nature—how we are and have been in this life.


Very important discussion of Clear Light, Ground Luminosity pg. 264-265


Dharmata is the intrinsic nature of everything, the essence of things as they are. (p. 278)


Because vision and experience depend upon a dualistic relationship between a perceiver and something perceived…Liberation arises at the moment in the after-death state when consciousness can realize its experiences to be nothing other than mind itself. (p. 283)


Bardo of dharmata body of light but bardo of becoming mental body. (p. 292)


Life begins as it ends with the Ground Luminosity. (p. 302)


Heart Practice see pg. 317 Invoke, Call out, Fill the Heart with Bliss, Helping those who have died…


I am not going to run away from this suffering. I want to use it in the best and richest way I can, so that I can become more compassionate and more helpful to others… “Grief can be the Garden of compassion” (Rumi). (p. 320)


The essential and most important qualities of life are love, knowledge, compassion and wisdom. (p. 337)


Three crucial stages of death:

  1. At the culmination of the process of dying, after the dissolution of elements, sense, and thought states, the ultimate nature of mind, the Ground Luminosity is for a moment laid bare.
  2. Then, fleetingly, the radiance of that nature of mind is displayed and shines out in appearances of sound, colors and light.
  3. Next, the dead person’s consciousness awakens and enters into the bardo of becoming; his or her ordinary mind returns, and takes on a manifestation—the form of the mental body—subject to the dictates of past karma and habits. These drive the ordinary mind to cling onto the illusory bardo experiences something real and solid.

So the bardo teachings show us that death is nothing less than three phases of a process of gradual manifestation of mind. (p. 346)


Nature of mind has three same aspects: empty skylike essence, radiant luminous nature, unobstructed, all-pervasive compassionate energy which are all simultaneously present and interpenetrating as one with Rigpa. (p. 347) (open, light, love)


The buddhas and the lights of wisdom are in no sense separate from you, but your own wisdom energy. To realize that is an experience of nonduality and to enter into it is liberation. (p. 352)


Samsara is your mind and nirvana is also your mind; all pleasure and pain, and all delusions exist nowhere apart from your mind. (p. 353)


Sat-cit-ananda (manifestation, consciousness and bliss) is also nature of mind.


 I think of great works of art as like a moon shining in the night sky; it illuminates the world, yet its light is not its own but borrowed from the hidden absolute. Art has helped many toward glimpsing the nature of spirituality…art’s unseen sacred origin and its sacred purpose: to give people a vision of their true nature and their place in the universe, and to restore to them, endlessly a fresh, the value and meaning of life and its infinite possibilities? (p. 355)


An understanding of the totality and oneness of existence as an unbroken and seamless whole. (p. 356)


David Bohm – the universe manifests as matter, energy and meaning (p. 357)

A change of meaning is necessary to change this world politically, economically and socially. But that change must begin with the individual; it must change for him…if meaning is a key part of reality, then, once society, the individual and relationships are seen to mean something different a fundamental change has taken place.  (David Bohm) The vision of the bardo teachings and the deepest understanding of both art and science all converge on one fact, our responsibility to and for ourselves; and the necessity of using that responsibility in the most urgent and far-reaching way: to transform ourselves, the meaning of our lives, and so the world around us. (p. 359)


I want every human being not to be afraid of death or of life. I want every human being to die at peace and surrounded by the wisest, clearest, and most tender care and to find ultimate happiness that can only come from an understanding of the nature of mind and reality…We spend millions of dollars every minute on training people to kill and destroy, and on bombs and planes and missiles. But we spend hardly anything, in comparison, on teaching human beings the nature of life and death, and helping them, when they come to die, to face and understand what is happening to them. What a terrifying and sad situation this is, and how revealing it is of our ignorance and our lack of true love for ourselves and for each other. (p. 360)


It is crucial now that an enlightened vision of death and dying should be introduced throughout the world at all levels of education. Children should not be “protected” from death and what they can learn from it. Why not introduce this vision, in its simplest forms, to all age groups? Knowledge about death and how to help dying and about the spiritual nature of death and dying should be made available to all levels of society; it should be taught, in depth and with real imagination, in schools and colleges and universities of all kinds; and especially and most important in schools and colleges and universities of all kinds; and especially and most important, it should be available in teaching hospitals to nurses and doctors who will look after the dying and who have much responsibility toward them…Isn’t it time now that the medical profession should understand that the search for truth about life and death and the practice of healing are inseparable. (p. 361)


It is in the nature of all things that take form to dissolve again. Strive with your whole being to attain perfection (Buddha). (p. 363)


Spiritual training requires a continuous transmission, working with the master and learning, following him or her with ardor and subtle skill. (p. 366)


An effortless compassion can arise for all beings who have not realized their true nature. So limitless is it that if tears could express it, you would cry without end. Not only compassion, but tremendous skillful means can be born when you realize the nature of mind. Also you are naturally liberated from all suffering and fear, such as the fear of birth, death, and the intermediate state. Then if you were to speak of the joy and bliss that arise from this realization, it is said by the buddhas that if you were to gather all the glory, enjoyment, pleasure, and happiness of the world and put it all together, it would not approach one tiny fraction of the bliss that you experience upon realizing the nature of mind…To serve the world out of this dynamic union of wisdom and compassion would be to participate most effectively in the preservation of the planet…be reborn with one aim, that of serving and benefiting others. (p. 367)


To learn how to die is to learn how to live; to learn how to live is to learn how to act not only in this life but in the lives to come. (p. 368)


Practice is every person you meet; practice is every unkind word you hear or may be directed at you…When you stand up from your practice seat, that’s when practice really begins. We have to be very artful and creative in how we apply the practice to life. (p. 389)


You have to take real life situations and make them your practice…So happiness, self responsibility, gratitude, don’t confuse a dead, ritualistic practice of living, ongoing, changing, fluid, opening, glorious practice…When you live in your mind that is choosing between this and that, “This is good…this is bad, I don’t want it,” between hope and fear, between hate and love, between joy and sorrow, when you are actually grasping for one of those extremes—the essential peace of mind is disturbed. A Zen patriarch says: “The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences.” Because your Buddha nature is there. Happiness is everywhere. (p. 390)


The point is trust, which is faith. The point is devotion, which is surrender. That, for me, is the essence. If you can trust what the master is saying and study and try to bring the teaching back to yourself in difficult times, and train your mind not to fall into its habitual patterns, if you can just be with what is happening, with bare attention, after awhile you notice that nothing stays very long. Not even negative thoughts. Especially not our bodies. Everything changes. If you leave it in its place, it will liberate itself…I have realized that fear is not going to kill me. This is just something that is passing through my mind…Blessing is the original starting point, not a curse…So what I do now is just rest in radiance. It’s everywhere. You can’t get away from it. It is so intoxicating that sometimes I feel like I am just floating in the radiance…Death is not the enemy. Just like our thoughts are not to be seen as enemies…And life is not an enemy. Life is something glorious, because in this life we can awaken to who we truly are. (p. 392)


Nondual wisdom of the buddhas can never be harmed  or destroyed by ignorance, and can cut through all delusion and obscurations. (p. 394)


A human being is part of a whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. – Einstein


Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better. – Einstein


Assuredly the creation of the heavens and the earth is greater than the creation of mankind but most mankind know not. – Quran 40:57


The wise live without injuring nature, as the bee drinks honey without harming the flower. – Dhammapada 1:39