E-mail: bdea@buddhanet.net
Web site: www.buddhanet.net
Buddha Dharma Education Association Inc.
by David Smith

Ðavid Smith
A Buoon:s+ HaNonoox oN Coxviv+v Mvo:+a+:oN
Aiox~ Puniic~)ioxs
About Tis Book
Ðharma Mind Vorldly Mind
© 2002 Ðavid Smith.
Publishcd by Aloka Publications.
Tis spccially prcparcd clcctronic vcrsion ol thc book is oßcrcd
lor lrcc distribution and may bc printcd lor your pcrsonal usc
only. !l you wish to print morc than onc copy plcasc contact thc
author lor pcrmission.
Tis book may bc acquircd in papcrback lorm by writing
Aloka Publications
ÐharmaMind 8uddhist Group
65 Lindcn Road
Vcst Midlands
866 4ÐZ
You can acquirc thc papcrback vcrsion lrom othcr sourccs by
visiting www.dharmamind.nct whcrc you can also rcad back
ground inlormation to thc book. You can cmail inlormationC
dharmamind.nct with you qucrics.
!t is hopcd that by oßcring this book lrcc through
8uddhaNct to thc Vorld Vidc Vcb it will bc rcad by a lar
grcatcr audicncc than through normal publishing channcls, and
il lound to havc valuc by its rcadcrs may it hclp support thcm on
thcir spiritual journcy.
May all bcings discovcr what thcir hcart truly dcsircs!
Ð~vib S:i)n
Published by
Aloka Publications
¡mail: inlormationCdharmamind.nct
Vcb: www.dharmamind.nct
© Ðavid Smith 2002
Printed and bound by
Antony Rowc Ltd. ¡astbournc
8ritish Library Cataloguing in Publications Ðata:
A cataloguc rccord ol this book is availablc
From thc 8ritish Library
!S8N 09542475 0 7
Tc right ol Ðavid Smith to bc idcntincd as thc author ol
this work has bccn asscrtcd by him in accordancc with thc
Copyright, Ðcsigns and Patcnts Act 1988
Acknowlcdgcmcnts ...................................................................................................................... vi
Ðn~v:~ Mixb Vovibiy Mixb .................................................................................... ·
Ðharma Mind ..................................................................................................................................... 7
Vorldly Mind ..................................................................................................................................... 7
!ntroduction .......................................................................................................................................... 8
Spccial Mind ..................................................................................................................................... 11
Tnv 8~sics ov Pv~c)icv ...................................................................................................... +±
!ntroduction ....................................................................................................................................... 14
Tc ¡ightlold Path ....................................................................................................................... 17
Tc Trcc ]cwcls ............................................................................................................................ 20
Tc 8odhisattva ............................................................................................................................. 24
Tc Framcwork ol Practicc ................................................................................................... 27
Tc ¡ightlold Practicc .............................................................................................................. 32
1. Sila. right spccch, right action, right livclihood ............................................... 34
2. Samadhi. right cßort, right conccntration, right mindlulncss ................. 35
3. Prajna. right vicw, right rcsolvc .................................................................................. 37
4. Complctc ................................................................................................................................ 38
Practicc in ¡vcryday Lilc ....................................................................................................... 43
!ntroduction ....................................................................................................................................... 43
Ðharma Mind .................................................................................................................................. 44
Staying at Homc ............................................................................................................................ 47
Practicc in Lay Lilc ..................................................................................................................... 53
Containmcnt in ¡vcryday Lilc .......................................................................................... 58
Kindncss to all Tings .............................................................................................................. 67
Mindlulncss ....................................................................................................................................... 70
Awarcncss ............................................................................................................................................ 75
Tc Middlc Vay ............................................................................................................................ 78
No \aluc ]udgcmcnts ................................................................................................................. 80
Changc — Ðharmic and Vorldly .................................................................................. 83
Karma and Rcbirth ..................................................................................................................... 87
Scll ............................................................................................................................................................. 94
Spirituality and Faith ................................................................................................................. 99
vi 7
! would likc to cxprcss my gratitudc to both ]nanasiddhi and
Shantavira lor thcir cßorts with thcir cditorial skills in hclp
ing put this book togcthcr, and to \cssantara who hclpcd
with thc cditing also but in addition gavc mc thc support
throughout that has madc it possiblc lor my manuscript to
nnally bc publishcd. And my gratitudc gocs also to Mikc
Lconard lor crcating thc wcbsitc that is important in making
this work known.
vi 7
Jharma ´ind 7orldly ´ind
Dharma Mind
‘Mind’ is uscd as thc translation ol thc Pali and Sanskrit
word Citta. Citta mcans both thc mind that is thc thinking
laculty in thc hcad, but morc cspccially, mind that is thc
intuitivc, cmotional ‘hcart’ ol our bcing, and locatcd in our
body. !t is hcrc ‘bcyond thc thinking mind’ in thc body that
thc Ðharma Mind is to bc nurturcd, lor it is hcrc that Truth
waits to bc discovcrcd. Tc thinking mind has its part to play
in thc discovcring ol thc Ðharma, but is to bc uscd only as
a skillul mcans to hclp silt and undcrstand thc vcrbal and
writtcn Ðharma that wc all takc in on our spiritual pilgrim
agc ol discovcry.
!orldly Mind
! usc this tcrm to dcnotc our normal cvcryday mind and statc
ol bcing that is goal oricntcd and saturatcd in cgo and scll
intcrcst. Tis cgo and scllintcrcst, in its conccit, turns away
lrom thc Citta as a wholc thus making it impossiblc lor it
cvcr to know thc Truth.
8 9
Ònc ol thc grcat joys ! cxpcricnccd shortly altcr thc publica
tion ol my book · (ecord of ·.akening was cngagcmcnt in
thc qucstionandanswcr scssions at various 8uddhist ccntrcs
around thc 8ritish !slcs that lollowcd thc launch.
Tis nrst book was an attcmpt to cxprcss thc dccp spir
itual undcrstanding that arosc in mc in Sri Lanka in 1981,
though ! only wrotc thc nrst dralt somc cight ycars latcr, in
1989, whilc living in London. Òn complction, ! put thc dralt
in my dcsk drawcr and lorgot about it lor quitc somc ycars.
Ònc day, howcvcr, just out ol curiosity, ! scarchcd it out and
rcad it ovcr again, and ! was surpriscd how much ! likcd what
! had writtcn. !n thc intcrvcning ycars ! had lcarncd how to
usc a computcr and gaincd cxpcricncc in wordproccssing so
! dccidcd to clcan up my rathcr poor nrst dralt and improvc
thc gcncral prcscntation. Tis took somc timc but cvcntually
! had a prcscntablc copy, which ! thcn had ambitions to gct
Tc prclacc, writtcn by thc loundcr ol thc Fricnds ol
thc Vcstcrn 8uddhist Òrdcr, Urgycn Sangharakshita, picks
up thc story ol how it was nnally publishcd by Vindhorsc
Publications in Novcmbcr 1999. For mc this was quitc an
achicvcmcnt, to writc a manuscript that nnally rcachcd pub
lication was somcthing bcyond my drcams. Publishing a book
didn’t somchow sccm to nt thc sort ol upbringing ! had — a
vcry ordinary working class background in Òxlord, ¡ngland.
! am thc son ol a car workcr, and at thc agc ol 25 ! dccidcd to
8 9
travcl thc world just lor thc sakc ol it. !t was whilc lcading a
quitc hcdonistic cxistcncc in Sydncy, Australia, that ! lound
8uddhism — through books. Rcading thc Ðharma — thc
tcaching ol thc 8uddha — translormcd my wholc lilc, and
thc rcason lor living it.
! rcturncd to my nativc ¡ngland to scck out a Zcn
tcachcr, as this was thc lorm ol 8uddhism that intcrcstcd
mc most at thc timc. ! traincd with that tcachcr lor ncarly
six ycars bclorc bccoming a Tcravada monk in Sri Lanka.
!t is my cxpcricnccs thcrc in thc subtropics that arc thc main
locus ol thc nrst book. Altcr thrcc ycars in Sri Lanka ! dis
robcd and rcturncd to thc UK, whcrc, dcspitc rctaining my
Tcravada links in this country, ! havc on thc wholc bccn
practising on my own cvcr sincc. Tc major changc sincc thc
launch ol that book has bccn thc opportunity to transmit
somc ol my undcrstanding ol thc Ðharma to lcllow practi
tioncrs through Ðharma groups that ! lcad.
At thc book launchcs ! was struck vcry strongly by thc
intcrcst and cnthusiasm shown by thc audicncc in thc book
itscll, but also by thcir cnthusiasm and dcsirc lor knowlcdgc
about how to practisc thc 8uddha’s Path. So whilst thcrc
wcrc a lcw prcdictablc qucstions on mctaphysics, and a lcw
cvcn morc prcdictablc qucstions cxprcssing curiosity about
my own practicc, thc grcat majority ol qucrics wcrc about
thcir own practicc: how thcy should approach it and how
thcy should dcal with thc dimcultics thcy cncountcrcd.
!t has bccn this cxpcricncc abovc all clsc that has moti
vatcd mc to put togcthcr this sccond book. ! considcr it to bc
10 11
rcally a continuation lrom thc nrst publication, committing to
papcr thc answcrs to most ol thc qucstions ! was askcd at thc
book launchcs. !t also allows mc to air scvcral qucstions put
to mc during thc many pcrsonal mcctings !’vc had, and lrom
thc numcrous lcttcrs and cmails ! havc rcccivcd lollowing
thc book’s publication. ! havc also includcd onc or two cxtra
pointcrs and suggcstions which thc rcadcr may nnd usclul.
! hopc you will discovcr whilst rcading that this rcally
isn’t a book ol lists and lormulas but rathcr an cxprcssion ol
a living cxpcricncc. 8ccausc ol this ßavour you will oltcn
comc across words that try to convcy that living cxpcricncc
— which is an cmotional onc. Vc arc scnsitivc, warmbloodcd
mammals, and our lcclings and cmotions arc thc prcdomi
nant cxpcricncc ol our lilc. Troughout thc book you will
comc across cxprcssions such as ncgativc and positivc cmo
tions, and words such as lcclings, outßows, passions, ctc. All
thcsc words point to thc dißcring intcnsity ol our cmotional
cxpcricncc. ! hopc all thcsc words arc scllcxplanatory, but
just a notc on thc word ‘passion’. !t is uscd in this book to
cxprcss a morc intcnsc cxpcricncc than thc cxprcssion ‘ncga
tivc cmotion’ can convcy. !t dcscribcs thosc timcs whcn wc
arc rcally caught up in our cmotions and carricd away by an
cxpcricncc ol gripping intcnsity — lalling into an old lamil
iar habit that wc havc littlc or no control ovcr. Tc taming ol
thc passions is thc most important part ol practicc.
! havc tricd to makc my rcsponscs and rcßcctions to
Ðharma qucstions as short and to thc point as possiblc, so
that thc rcadcr can takc thcm in and rcßcct on thcm without
10 11
having to wadc through lots ol background and incidcntal
inlormation. Howcvcr, at somc points in thc tcxt ! couldn’t
hclp drawing things out morc than ! would havc wishcd, just
bccausc ! lound that ! nccdcd to construct a lramcwork so
that thc point bcing madc could bc sccn morc clcarly and
in contcxt. ! am prcsuming, howcvcr, that thc rcadcr has at
lcast somc basic knowlcdgc ol thc principlcs ol 8uddhism.
!t is my hopc that thosc who arc practising thc bodhisattva
path ol thc mahayana (thc ‘grcat vchiclc’ ol 8uddhism) will
usc this book, cspccially at thosc timcs whcn wc discovcr wc
arc lost and conluscd and whcn thc incvitablc dimcultics
arisc and wc strugglc to know what is happcning to us and
what to do ncxt:
'pecial ´ind
Tosc ol us who practisc thc Ðharma arc oltcn in thc position
ol rcading books or listcning to talks so that our knowlcdgc
has a chancc to grow and dccpcn. 8ut do wc rcally know how
to opcn to thc Ðharma during thcsc timcs: !t docs takc a
spccial typc ol mind, not thc onc wc would normally cmploy
whilc accumulating morc worldly knowlcdgc. Òur usual way
ol absorbing knowlcdgc and trying to undcrstand somcthing
is accompanicd by a proccss ol silting thoughts and notions
that arc bascd on cstablishcd assumptions and knowlcdgc
that wc alrcady havc. Tc mind is thcrclorc cngagcd in
thinking and absorbing at thc samc timc. Tc mind that wc
usc to absorb thc Ðharma should bc quitc dißcrcnt.
12 13
Vhcn listcning to thc Ðharma it is bcst to try to kccp
your mind cmpty ol thoughts and judgcmcnts, not to cngagc
with thcm and gct caught up in thcm. Tc corrcct way is to
bc likc an cmpty vcsscl. ]ust opcn and lct thc Ðharma pour
in, lct it pour into your bcing, into your hcart. Ðon’t stop it
with thoughts, don’t scrutinizc it and play it oß with what
you alrcady know — lor you cannot do this and bc lully alivc
and rcccptivc to thc subtlctics that arc always inhcrcnt in thc
Ðharma. Tc wholcncss ol thc mcssagc may wcll bc misscd.
So cmpty thc mind whilst rcading this book. !ndccd, scc it
as an opportunity lor mcditation, whcrc you arc clcaring thc
mind ol thoughts and obstructions, and stay conccntratcd on
thc Ðharma in this book.
Tc Ðharma has two quitc contradictory charactcristics:
it is immcnscly powcrlul yct, paradoxically, vcry lragilc. !t is
powcrlul bccausc it is capablc ol swccping thc world away
with a strokc. Yct unlcss you crcatc thc conditions ol opcnncss
and stillncss, and allow it to cntcr you at timcs ol lcarning,
without thc impcdimcnt ol thoughts and vicws, it will not
manilcst. ]ust a thought that comcs whcn you arc supposcd
to bc opcn, just a wrong vicw that may arisc at this timc, just
a momcnt’s inattcntion whilc you arc supposcd to bc attcntivc,
is cnough to prcvcnt its cntry, and it is dcßcctcd, gonc, and
will rcmain so until you crcatc thc corrcct conditions again.
Vhilc contcmplating thcsc two apparcntly contradic
tory charactcristics, considcr a third, and that is thc vcry
subtlc naturc ol thc Ðharma. Tis is why wc havc to ap
proach Ðharma input with this spccial mind. 8y allowing it
12 13
to cntcr without obstructions wc arc allowing it to pcnctratc
dccply into our hcart and saturatc our cntirc bcing.
Ðo not worry about suspcnding your thoughts and
opinions in this way, thc Ðharma you havc takcn in will
not bc lost, so thcrc is no nccd to chasc altcr it. !l you havc
listcncd to a talk on Ðharma, with your hands joincd, bow
your hcad at thc cnd in gratitudc to both thc spcakcr and to
thc Ðharma, thcn go to a quict placc and musc ovcr what
you havc hcard. Try not to just think about it. !l you can’t
rcmcmbcr all that has bccn said, you may indccd havc lor
gottcn most ol it. Ðon’t worry — it is thcrc, dccp within, and
it will always bc thcrc, waiting to arisc whcn thc conditions
arc ripc. 8ut il you takc yourscll oß, and arc still and opcn, it
will likcly arisc by itscll to thc surlacc ol your mind lor you
to pondcr and comprchcnd.
Vhilc thc Ðharma that you havc opcncd up to may
still only bc a conccpt, a word, a sound, it is still ablc to havc
a prolound cßcct on you il it is pondcrcd quictly and dccply.
Vhat was oncc just a conccpt can communc and conncct
with that which is bcyond conccpts, and gcnuinc insight can
arisc, insight that can bccomc a part ol your rcality, that has
strcngth lor you to draw on in your lilc. All this is possiblc
bccausc you havc lcarncd to listcn with a spccial mind.
Altcr rcading this book you can pondcr or rcturn to
parts ol it, or put it to onc sidc, il you choosc, but why not try
to bring into bcing that spccial mind whilc you takc in thc
words you arc about to rcad: Vho knows whcrc thcy may
14 15
Tnv 8~sics ov Pv~c)icv
!n ordcr to bc as prccisc and as dircct as possiblc in thc body
ol this book, ! would likc to takc thc opportunity hcrc to
crcatc a background to thc practicc. Most ol you rcading
this will alrcady bc practising in a similar way — cngaging
in this practicc that will hopclully onc day, as a rcsult ol all
our cßorts, takc you bcyond thc cndlcss cyclc ol dukkha that
wc clcarly cxpcricncc in our lilc and want vcry much to put
an cnd to.
Tosc ol us who arc attractcd to 8uddhism and its
practiccs havc cxpcricnccd thc unsatislactorincss or sußcr
ing ol lilc (dukkha) at lcast to thc cxtcnt that wc rcspondcd
whcn wc camc in contact with thc Ðharma. So now, at thc
vcry lcast, wc bcgin to undcrstand why lilc is this way. Vc
scc, and may havc sccn bclorc wc cvcn lound 8uddhism that
thc basis ol dukkha has vcry much to do with our scll or
cgo, with its pcrpctual prcoccupation with scll intcrcst and
its dcsirc to control so many cxpcricnccs in our lilc. Sccing
thosc two lacts within oursclvcs mcans wc havc alrcady rc
ßcctcd on thc nrst two ol thc lour noblc truths — thc truth
ol sußcring and thc causc ol sußcring, thc third truth bcing
that thcrc is a way out ol sußcring and thc lourth bcing thc
14 15
way ol practicc. Tcsc lour truths arc thc vcry hcart ol thc
8uddha’s tcaching and arc lound in all schools ol 8uddhism,
howcvcr thcy may bc drcsscd up or disguiscd.
Tc grcat attraction, whcn ! nrst camc across 8uddhism
was not so much thc amrmation ol thc nrst two truths. Vhat
attractcd mc was that it thcn wcnt on to oßcr mc thc third
truth — that proclaimcd thcrc was a way out ol this dilcmma,
which ! had thought lorcvcr cntrappcd mc. Ðiscovcring it
was possiblc to cnd my wocs madc mc givc up my lun lilc in
Australia all thosc ycars ago and rcturn to my homc country.
!n ¡ngland ! kncw thcrc wcrc Ðharma tcachcrs who could
tcach mc how to cxpcricncc thc lourth and last noblc truth
— thc wondcrlul wisdom and practicc ol thc cightlold path.
Tis was thc practicc that ! intcndcd to takc hold ol and nur
turc with all my dctcrmination, in ordcr to gct mc oß this
whccl ol ctcrnal bccoming.
Tat brings us to thc basics ol thc complctc practicc
ol thc 8uddhaÐharma. !n ordcr lor thcrc to bc thc changc
in oursclvcs that most ol us vcry much dcsirc, wc nccd to
undcrstand thc ccntral and most important tcaching ol thc
8uddha — thc cightlold path. Changc will only rcally bc
possiblc in a dccp and mcaninglul way whcn wc arc prcparcd
to lcarn to cultivatc thc wholc ol this Path. !n this scction thc
Path is outlincd so as to introducc it in its complctcncss. And
whilst many may nnd thc practicc ol thc wholc Path dimcult,
wc must ncvcrthclcss rcalizc that onc day wc will havc to
makc that cßort to round oß and complctc our practicc ol
thc Path.
16 17
Tis opcning scction also dcals with going lor rclugc,
which is anothcr crucial clcmcnt in changc. Going lor rclugc
is lcss tangiblc in many ways than thc stcps ol thc cightlold
path, and can thcrclorc bc morc dimcult to cultivatc, but it is
crucial in that it complctcs thc wholcncss ol practicc which is
our way lorward into thc grcat mystcry ol lilc — and thcrc
lorc nccds attcntion. Going lor rclugc posscsscs thc indis
pcnsablc quality ol laith, which is thc csscntial ingrcdicnt on
our dccpcning spiritual journcy. !t could bc said that going
lor rclugc cradlcs and supports thc cightlold path.
Tc third part ol this scction is an outlinc ol thc bodhi
sattva and how thc spirit ol this bcing is also an intcgral part
ol thc complctc practicc. Tc bodhisattva, too, is cradlcd by
going lor rclugc, so thc csscncc ol thc bodhisattva practicc
cannot rcally bc succcsslully lormulatcd in thc usual way
bccausc in this intcrprctation it is much morc to do with thc
spirit ol practicc rathcr than any lormula or conccpt. Tc
spirit is onc ol opcnncss and inclusivity ol thc wholc ol lilc
without thc discrimination ol picking and choosing as to
what you want your practicc to includc.
!n ordcr to makc it clcar what thc Path is, wc havc to
rcsort to this kind ol brcakdown — but it isn’t so casy to scc
thcsc dißcrcnt parts whcn thcrc is commitmcnt to a wholc
hcartcd practicc. Commitmcnt is thc ingrcdicnt that unitcs
and bonds thcsc apparcnt dißcrcnccs, so whilc it is csscntial
to undcrstand thc parts, unlcss thcy arc brought togcthcr
through commitmcnt, thc Path ol libcration will always
rcmain in thc rcalms ol thcorics and drcams.
16 17
Te 8ightfold (ath
Tc cightlold path, consisting ol right vicw, right rcsolvc,
right spccch, right action, right livclihood, right cßort, right
conccntration, and right mindlulncss, is thc way lorward
with practicc. Tis path can bc rcduccd to thc morc graspablc
thrcclold way ol sila, samadhi, and prajna. Sila translatcs as
cthics or conduct, samadhi as mindlulncss and conccntration,
and prajna as wisdom — wisdom that has myriad lcvcls but
that cvcntually lcads to ‘knowing thc way things rcally arc’.
Tc practicc ol thc cightlold path is oltcn taught as
somcthing that is to bc cultivatcd in a lincar lashion. Tis is
truc to an cxtcnt — in that wc havc to lcarn to idcntily thc
thrcc limbs (as thc thrcclold way is oltcn dcscribcd) and givc
thcm individual attcntion. ¡thics is considcrcd to bc prima
ry, and so wc havc initially to cultivatc our gcncral bchaviour
through words, action, and how wc makc our living. Sccondly
wc cultivatc our ability to conccntratc and bc mindlul pri
marily through mcditation. Tirdly, wc go on to dcvclop our
undcrstanding ol thc Ðharma, whcthcr by rcading, listcning
to othcr, or slowly bcginning to undcrstand oursclvcs. 8ut as
wc arc putting this convcnicnt ‘thcory’ into practicc wc soon
discovcr that it is much morc ol an actual living proccss and
can’t always bc approachcd in this convcnicnt lincar way.
!t is hard to imaginc that anyonc with thc scllawarc
ncss and scnsitivity to at lcast bc alivc to thcir unsatislac
tory human condition, and who sccks out 8uddhism and its
practiccs, will not havc mct thc basic rcquircmcnts ol thc
18 19
thrcc limbs ol thc thrcclold path: thc scnsitivity would lcad
thcm to an acccptablc dcgrcc ol bchaviour which bccomcs
thc loundation ol thcir practicc ol cthics, thc scll awarcncss
indicatcs an ability, to somc cxtcnt, to dcclutch lrom bcing
caught and blindcd and totally carricd away by thc turmoil
ol thc coarsc mind, which in turn indicatcs a dcgrcc ol con
ccntration thus lulnlling thc basic rcquircmcnt to practisc
thc sccond limb, and thc lact that thcy want to changc thcir
human condition indicatcs that thcy havc rcßcctcd, probably
to quitc a lot on thcmsclvcs, thus lulnlling thc basic rcquirc
mcnt to practisc thc third limb ol wisdom.
Vc can scc how, within normal cvcryday activity cx
pcricnccd cvcn by thc ncwlyborn practitioncr, thc wholc ol
thc cightlold path is actually bcing practiscd. Vhilst cn
gaging in our daily lilc, wc lcarn to hold on to and contain
thosc lamiliar habitual outßows ol words or actions drivcn
by thc cmotions and passions, and that causc so many ol our
problcms. Vc try our bcst to act and lunction as humanly
as possiblc. 8y doing this wc arc practising sila. 8ccausc in
thc proccss ol this containmcnt wc will bc always rcstraining
oursclvcs lrom bcing carricd away by habits — and lcarning
to stay ccntrcd within — wc will bc practising samadhi. And
within that containcd and conccntratcd statc wc will quitc
naturally bccomc morc and morc lamiliar with oursclvcs
and gain somc undcrstanding ol why wc arc caught by thcsc
sccmingly uncontrollablc habits — thc limb ol wisdom. !n
this way, it is hard to imaginc that anyonc taking up Ðharma
practicc hasn’t actually alrcady bcgan to practisc thc Path.
18 19
!ndccd, a Zcn mastcr oncc said that scllawarcncss and thc
dcsirc lor rclcasc and changc was cnlightcnmcnt alrcady.
So pcrhaps at nrst wc locus on onc ol thc limbs, thcn
anothcr, and thcn thc third. Tcn wc may bring onc com
bination togcthcr, thcn anothcr, thcn maybc onc morc
combination. Tcn wc cultivatc all thrcc limbs togcthcr.
Somctimcs wc losc that nnal thrcclold combination and lall
back into a twoway combination. Tcn somctimcs wc losc
cvcn that, and go back to just cultivating onc limb. !t docsn’t
mattcr, this to and lro, two stcps lorward and onc stcp back.
Vc kccp mindlully cndcavouring to bring all thrcc limbs to
gcthcr. Slowly, slowly wc bccomc ablc to maintain a thrcclold
practicc until thosc thrcc limbs arc stcady and consistcnt and
harmonizc with cach othcr morc and morc.
!n timc this harmonizing bccomcs so balanccd that wc
can actually scc onc limb in anothcr limb, thcn anothcr, thcn
maybc yct anothcr. ¡vcntually wc can scc all thrcc limbs in
cach limb — all pcrlcctly balanccd and in harmony with
cach othcr, until thcy mcrgc and truly bccomc just thc onc.
Vhcn this statc is rcalizcd, pcrlcction ol practicc has bccn
rcachcd and thc ultimatc balancc ol thc middlc way (thc truc
dcnnition ol thc lourth noblc truth, which is dctailcd latcr)
attaincd. Vhcn that statc ol pcrlcct balancc — bctwccn thc
pull ol oppositcs that charactcrisc our mind and cmotions —
has rcachcd pcrlcction, thcrc ariscs a sccing into thc naturc
ol mind that makcs your cntirc consciousncss, and thc wholc
world, vanish, allowing awakcning to bc rcalizcd.
Tis is thc path that wc practisc, whcthcr wc scc it in
20 21
thosc traditional tcrms or whcthcr wc usc othcr conccpts
lrom lcss traditional schools, such as Zcn, to pursuc it. 8ut
thc pursuit ol thc cightlold path has a vcry important cxtra
lcaturc to considcr, lor without it thc rcalization ol thc
middlc way will bc impossiblc, and that is thc undcrstanding
and nurturing ol going lor rclugc to thc thrcc jcwcls.
Te Tree (e.els
Tc thrcc jcwcls arc thc 8uddha, thc Ðharma, and thc
Sangha, and undcrstanding thc conccpt ol going lor rclugc
to thcsc thrcc jcwcls is absolutcly crucial to thc nurturing ol
truc Ðharma practicc. !t is thc ongoing rcnncmcnt ol going
lor rclugc ovcr thc ycars ol practicc that will bc thc lramc
work, support, inspiration, and guidc to thc rcalization ol
ultimatc truth.
Tis most basic ol 8uddhist principlcs — ol going lor
rclugc to thc thrcc jcwcls — is valid throughout 8uddhism
and accompanics almost cvcry ritual that takcs placc. !t is
said that it is going lor rclugc that makcs onc a 8uddhist,
and signincs a commitmcnt to thc practicc, so this ritual
should bc ol dccp importancc and signincancc. 8ut prcciscly
bccausc it is dcclarcd so rcgularly, thc rcßcction on that im
portancc and signincancc runs thc dangcr ol bcing ncglcctcd
or cvcn lorgottcn altogcthcr, which is vcry unlortunatc.
To takc rclugc in thc 8uddha, Ðharma, and Sangha
is ol thc utmost importancc — and should bc sccn to bc so
— to scrious 8uddhists, thosc who considcr thcmsclvcs to bc
20 21
truc and complctc practitioncrs ol thc Vay. Vhcn wc takc
our commitmcnt to thc thrcc jcwcls not just into our hcad
but into our total bcing it bccomcs alivc, it bccomcs thc cnvi
ronmcnt that thc cightlold path is nurturcd and cultivatcd in.
Vc rcamrm this commitmcnt continually by rcßccting on
thc thrcc jcwcls, and it is through this commitmcnt that wc
gathcr thc inncr strcngth that is csscntial to walk thc Vay.
Vhcn wc havc this commitmcnt wc havc all thc ingrcdicnts
wc nccd to changc our lilc.
! lollowcd Zcn lor ncarly six ycars bclorc lcaving
¡ngland to bccomc a Tcravada novicc monk in Sri Lanka.
Ònc ol thc main charactcristics ol Zcn is that it likcs to
dcscribc itscll as outsidc thc scriptural tcachings, a char
actcristic that makcs many outsidc that school qucstion its
authcnticity. !t docs not conccrn itscll with thc usual con
ccpts ol thc morc traditional approach. Going lor rclugc to
thc thrcc jcwcls is not cxprcsscd in thc usual way, but has its
cquivalcnt: thc lour grcat bodhisattva vows. Tcsc lour vows
can bc prcscntcd in various ways but this intcrprctation is thc
onc that ! havc always carricd within myscll.
Innumerab/e are sentient beings, I +o. to sa+e them a//.
Inexhaustib/e are the passions, I +o. to transform them a//.
Immeasurab/e are the 9harma teachings, I +o. to /earn them a//.
Infnite is the Juddha-Truth, I +o. to attain it.
! rccitcd thcsc rcgularly with thc group that ! practiscd
with, and took thcm vcry much to hcart and always saw
thcm as ccntral to my practicc.
22 23
My nrst cncountcr with thc morc traditional vcrsion
ol thc rclugcs took placc in Sri Lanka at thc timc ! was
lcarning my ordination ccrcmony. Tcrc is vcry littlc taught
about thc importancc ol thc rclugcs thcsc days, so lor mc, at
nrst, it was just part ol thc ritual. ¡vcn though ! was about
to partakc ol thc morc traditional vcrsion ol commitmcnt to
8uddhism and its practicc, ! rctaincd a grcat amnity with thc
bodhisattva vows ! had rccitcd lor all thosc ycars.
Vhilst contcmplating thc rclugcs ! discovcrcd that
altcr my ycars ol Zcn practicc ! tcndcd not to vicw thc
8uddha, Ðharma, and Sangha in thc way ! would il ! had
bcgun my practicc in thc Tcravada tradition. For mc, thc
rclugcs had gonc bcyond thc convcntional, dualistic way ol
looking at thcm, into somcthing dccpcr. Now thc 8uddha,
Ðharma, and Sangha wcrc sccn as somcthing that was a part
ol mc rathcr than somcthing cxtcrnal.
!n addition, ! did not always nnd it casy to pull apart
thc 8uddha and thc Ðharma — as thcy wcrc now bccom
ing onc. Tc 8uddha was not sccn as only our historical
loundcr, but as thc wondcr and mystcry ol lilc itscll, whilc
thc Ðharma was not thc tcachings ! had oncc rcad about,
but thc truth that was hiddcn within all that is, and that
cxprcsscd thc 8uddha. Tc Sangha, which was my prccious
support within thc practicc, was still an cxtcrnal support, but
thc division bctwccn it and mc was gctting morc and morc
blurrcd bccausc it was gctting clcarcr that it, likc cvcryonc
and cvcrything clsc, was a crcation ol my mind. So ! lclt a
growing intimacy, a togcthcrncss, bcyond thc convcntional,
22 23
as thc Sangha and ! not only bccamc morc and morc at onc,
but cxprcsscd both thc Ðharma and thc 8uddha as wcll.
! thcrclorc lound that it was a qucstion ol nurturing
my rclationship with thc thrcc jcwcls through a willingncss
to surrcndcr, rathcr than ‘going lor rclugc’ morc and morc,
on a dccpcr lcvcl. Going lor rclugc was, lor mc, somcthing
to bc cultivatcd, not somcthing that paid much attcntion to
lormal rccitation. !t was much morc about carrying around
thc warmth ol lccling that my wholc laith and trust could bc
handcd into somcthing that was not so much thrcc rclugcs
now, but onc. And it was thc trust that thc rclugcs would
support and carry mc through any dimcultics causcd by lcar
ol giving up thc scll and cgo, that hclpcd mc to go, littlc by
littlc, bcyond thc habits ol attachmcnts. !t would bc my laith
in thc thrcc jcwcls that ! trustcd to ‘catch’ mc as ! practiscd
turning away lrom thc crcatcd world and my attachmcnts
ovcr and ovcr again. !t was this dcvcloping intimacy with thc
thrcc jcwcls that was crucial to my ability to lct go. Lctting
go ol all thosc things that makc ‘mc’ up: attachmcnt to my
vicws and opinions — drivcn by thc passions and ncgativc
cmotions — that wcrc so vital to my scnsc ol scll and cgo and
that continually amrmcd it.
Tosc who arc ncw to thc practicc, but also pcrhaps
many who havc bccn practising lor somc timc, may not bc
ablc to rclatc to this, or nnd anything ol usc lor thcmsclvcs,
in rcading about my rclationship with thc thrcc jcwcls. 8ut
lct it bc an indication ol thc spirit ol cultivating going lor
rclugc. Maybc going lor rclugc now is much morc objcctivc
24 25
and conccptual lor you, but thc spirit ol going lor rclugc is
to bccomc morc and morc intimatc with this ‘conccpt’ until
it bccomcs your own living rcality.
Te Jodhisatt.a
For mc, onc ol thc grcat advantagcs ol thc bodhisattva path
is that this typc ol practicc can bc applicd in all thc situations
that lilc in our culturc can prcscnt us with. Tc bodhisattva
practicc cncouragcs us to takc on board all ol lilc’s cxpcri
cnccs, whatcvcr thcy may bc, and usc thcm all as ‘grist lor
thc mill’. Òl coursc, quict timcs and rcstraint nccd to bc
nurturcd, lor without thcm thcrc is littlc mcaninglul mcdita
tion, but as most our lilc is spcnt of thc cushion, this Path is
much morc appropriatc to thc nonmonastic — and thcrclorc
thc idcal practicc lor most ol us.
Howcvcr, a lundamcntal distortion can arisc il thcrc is
a bclicl that bodhisattvas arc intcrcstcd solcly in libcrating
bcings lrom samsara whilst having littlc rcgard lor thcir own
pcrsonal insight, undcrstanding, and rclcasc lrom sußcring.
A lact ol thc bodhisattva path is that it is not actu
ally possiblc to bc ol rcal spiritual usc to othcr bcings until
you nrst know yourscll dccply, and that rcquircs you to givc
priority to your practicc. Ðon’t misundcrstand mc. ! am not
saying ‘lorgct othcrs, just locus on yourscll ’. Tc bodhisattva
path is thc practicc ol thc grcat vchiclc, and that mcans wc
takc on not just oursclvcs, not just othcr bcings, but also thc
totality ol lilc. Vc cultivatc an opcnncss to cngagc with lilc
24 25
as wholchcartcdly as possiblc, bccausc truc undcrstanding,
and our truc homc, is in lilc in its totality.
Skillul practicc involvcs gctting our prioritics right,
and that mcans putting thc practicc ol knowing oursclvcs
lorcmost. Tis mcans living a lilc that allows us thc timc
and spacc to rcturn to our inncr ‘homc’ ovcr and ovcr again
during our daily lilc. Ðo not lccl that living your lilc cxclu
sivcly lor othcrs is what thc bodhisattva lilc is about. ‘Charity
bcgins at homc’: you havc to bc prcparcd to givc yourscll thc
spacc, in a consistcnt way, to stay with yourscll, cvcn whcn it
may not bc what you want to do or may cvcn bc lrightcning
lor you. Òthcrwisc you will ncvcr scc into yourscll dccply
cnough to bc ol any rcal usc to othcrs — ncvcr mind bcing
ablc ultimatcly to rcalizc thc nnal act ol thc bodhisattva and
rclcasc all scnticnt bcings lrom samsara. Rcßcct on thc lilc
ol thc 8uddha, or indccd many, ol thc wcllknown ngurcs in
thc history ol 8uddhism. Tcy all spcnt many ycars working
on thcmsclvcs alonc bclorc rcturning to thc community to
hclp guidc othcrs in thcir practicc. !’m not saying wc should
all takc to thc lorcsts or mountains. 8ut wc do nccd to un
dcrstand that thcrc is much morc to thc bodhisattva path
than a twodimcnsional imagc ol it may lcad us to bclicvc.
! wondcr how many pcoplc, altcr rcading dcscriptions
ol bodhisattvas, could imaginc thcm as ordinary pcoplc,
maybc somconc you may mcct on thc bus, or stand ncxt to
in thc supcrmarkct chcckout qucuc: Yct thc bcing that has
rcturncd to his or hcr original naturc altcr many ycars ol
practicc, who thcn is rcborn as a bodhisattva, is somconc
26 27
with morc apparcnt contradictions than thc avcragc pcrson
could cvcr possibly crcatc lor thcmsclvcs, howcvcr much thcy
may try. !maginc somconc who livcs and lunctions in thc
world, who still rctains likcs and dislikcs, but with thc dil
lcrcncc ol knowing thc ‘rcality’ ol thcsc likcs and dislikcs and
so lcss likcly to grasp at thcm and turn thc whccl ol bccom
ing. !maginc both a knowlcdgc that is dccp and unknowablc
to thc ‘worldly man’ (and is unlikcly to bc sccn unlcss askcd
lor) and somconc who is vcry ordinary and downtocarth,
somconc who is working through and translorming habit
and cncrgy in just thc samc way as thc ‘ordinary’ practitioncr
on thc Path docs.
!n this aspcct ol training thc bodhisattva is idcntical to
thc aspirant who cultivatcs thc qualitics and undcrstanding
that onc day will allow him to alight upon thc truc bodhi
sattva path that lcads to lull and complctc cnlightcnmcnt.
Tc bodhisattva is vcry much conncctcd to lilc and this world
— is morc normal and groundcd than you may imaginc. Vc
should not thcrclorc bc put oß by thc imagcs that havc bccn
crcatcd ovcr timc. Ðon’t think you arc not worthy or capablc
ol such lolty idcalism.
Anothcr advantagc ol this path is its robustncss. Tis
givcs us thc pcrlcct opportunity to work with thc powcrlul
ncgativc scllvicw that obscss and wcigh down most ol us
Vcstcrncrs. Tc allinclusivc naturc ol this Path cncouragcs
us to bring our rclationships with othcrs, as wcll as with
oursclvcs, into thc practicc, it cncouragcs us to dcvclop thc
spirit ol making lricnds with all that wc arc. Òltcn wc buy
26 27
into somc lamiliar ncgativc scllvicw that splits us down thc
middlc and crcatcs still morc conßict. Tis adds to thc hcavy
psychological wcight that so many ol us arc lamiliar with. As
undcrstanding dccpcns, wc lcarn to lovc oursclvcs morc and
morc, acccpting oursclvcs thc way wc arc givcs us a platlorm
ol cquanimity lrom which wc can movc cvcr morc dccply
into thc proccss ol Ðharmic changc.
My own cxpcricncc ol trcading thc Path ol thc bodhi
sattva journcy is that it is not rcally thc mystcry oltcn por
traycd in thc scripturcs, but a vcry downtocarth way ol
practicc — yct onc that is lorcvcr rcvcaling thc sccrcts ol lilc.
!ts spirit is not to push away what wc considcr to bc unwholc
somc but rathcr to contain it whilst it is translormcd. Vhcn
thc ‘dark’ has translormcd, it will unitc with thc ‘light’ which
by thcn wc shall undcrstand morc dccply — and go bcyond
cvcn that unity whcrc wc will discovcr thc lull wondcr ol
what wc truly arc.
Te Trame.ork of (racice
! would now likc to touch bricßy on thc lramcwork ol prac
ticc that makcs up thc path ol thc aspiring bodhisattva. Tis
lramcwork, il it is corrcctly crcatcd and nurturcd, will soon
support and carry practitioncrs to thc actual bodhisattva
path, and, bcyond thc cyclc ol ctcrnal bccoming in which
wc arc all caught up.
Tcrc arc two lundamcntals at thc hcart ol Ðharma
practicc: awarcncss ol oursclvcs in all lour posturcs ol bcing
28 29
(standing, walking, sitting, and lying down — as 8uddhism
dcnncs our physical cxpcricnccs ol bcing) and thc ability to
usc that awarcncss to look into oursclvcs and scc thc rcality
that lics bcyond thc world thc dcludcd mind has crcatcd. !n
a way, that is all. Tcrc arc no othcr lactors involvcd. !t is as
simplc as that. Tc lact that wc cannot pcrlorm this simplc
act, and nnd that wc havc to cmploy all sorts ol skillul mcans
in ordcr to accomplish it, docs not diminish thc ultimatc
simplicity ol Ðharma practicc.
!t is a lact that wc cannot stay in a statc ol scllawarc
ncss, which is ncccssary lor insight to arisc, lor morc than a
lcw scconds. Tat statc ol scllawarcncss mcans, lor cxamplc,
that whcn drinking a cup ol tca you know you arc drinking
that tca, staying with that cxpcricncc in its totality without
mcntally wandcring oß. Tis wandcring oß is, ol coursc,
what will happcn, only lor you to discovcr whcn you comc
back that you havc drunk thc tca and havc littlc rccollcction
ol thc cxpcricncc. Tis samc loss ol awarcncss applics whcn
you walk down thc road and rcalizc you arc now at thc cnd,
and you havc littlc rccollcction ol taking thc walk or any cn
gagcmcnt with thc cnvironmcnt that must havc takcn placc.
Tc samc is truc ol all thc cndlcss ßow ol cngagcmcnts with
lilc: thcrc is in truth vcry littlc consistcnt scllawarcncss.
Most ol our lilc takcs placc on autopilot, whilc wc arc
cngagcd with our chattcring mind. !t is bccausc ol this that
wc cxpcricncc a lack ol wholcncss in our livcs, and this is
thc rcason lor thc cxistcntial dilcmma ol unlulnlmcnt and
incomplctcncss that wc cxpcricncc. Tc cultivation ol bcing
28 29
with our awarcncss, and thcrcby bccoming wholc and lul
nllcd, is what thc cightlold path is lor.
Vc nccd to tamc thc chattcring mind lor surc, but wc
nccd also to tamc what drivcs it — our ‘lilccncrgy’, that
which kccps us alivc and is what wc rcally arc. !l lclt alonc
thc chattcring mind will risc and pass away sccond by sccond.
8ut this docsn’t happcn bccausc whcn thoughts arisc thcrc
ariscs an idcntincation with thosc thoughts, an idcntinca
tion that is crcatcd by thc scnsc ol scll and cgo that ariscs
in thc lilccncrgy and so distorts it. !l that scnsc ol scll and
cgo docsn’t gct its way, it will cmploy thc lilccncrgy itscll
in its cßorts to makc its will prcdominatc. Tc lilccncrgy,
that in its csscncc is our original naturc, now gcts lost in this
dclusion ol a scll and cgo which in turn bccomcs cvcr morc
harmlul. Tc warm cmotions ol thc hcart bccomc ncgativc
and translorm into thc dcstructivc passions ol grccd, hatrcd,
and dclusion, thc thrcc passions that charactcrizc thc lilc ol
thc scll and cgo. !t is lrom this that thc whccl ol sußcring is
crcatcd, and it is this that wc nccd to contain and translorm
by complctc practicc ol thc bodhisattva path.
Vc havc to work on that dcstructivc willulncss ol scll
and cgo in ordcr to attain a still mind that will givc risc
to thc awarcncss wc nccd in ordcr to scc into and bcyond
this scnsc ol scll and cgo. Vc thcrclorc cultivatc thc limb
ol cthics and conduct, a long training ol rcstraining thcsc
ncgativc outßows through containmcnt. Tis containmcnt is
not opprcssivc, nor docs it mcan wc havc to turn away lrom
our cxpcricnccs ol lilc in ordcr not to bc carricd away, lar
30 31
lrom it. Vc lcarn to contain thcsc dcstructivc outßows by
making usc ol thc ncgativc prcccpts ol not taking lilc, not
cngaging in wrong spccch, ctc. Vc also bring into our lilc
positivc prcccpts such as hclping othcrs, cngaging in skillul
spccch, ctc., actions that nurturc thc natural warmth ol thc
human hcart. Tcsc prcccpts rcprcscnt a turning away lrom
thc old habits ol dcstructivc scllintcrcst and nurturc ncw
habits. Tcsc ncwly acquircd Ðharmic skills harmonizc with
our own hcart’s natural statc, which compassionatcly uscs
thcm to hclp othcrs.
As wcll as thc support and guidancc ol thc prcccpts,
thc skillul cultivation ol an appropriatc mcditation practicc
can also bc uscd. Tc lour doctrinal conccntration practiccs,
also known as thc sublimc statcs, arc traditionally uscd lor
this purposc. Tcy arc cquanimity (upckkha), sympathctic
joy (mudita), compassion (karuna), and loving kindncss
(mctta) — and togcthcr thcy makc up what arc known as thc
8rahma \iharas. Tc loving kindncss or mctta mcditation
is thc most commonly uscd. Tc grcat valuc ol a mcditation
likc mctta is thrcclold. Firstly, it promotcs thc opcning ol thc
hcart to othcr living bcings. Sccondly, it has thc immcnsc
bcncnt ol nurturing thc mcditator’s positivc lcclings towards
thcmsclvcs, thus dcvcloping scllcstccm (lor wc Vcstcrncrs
do havc this propcnsity to dislikc our scllimagc, and carry
around such a ncgativc, hcavy burdcn ol scll, thc likc ol
which, !’d hazard, has ncvcr bccn known in thc history ol
8uddhism). Tis nurturing ol mctta through mcditation can
also harmonizc with thc loving kindncss nurturcd towards
30 31
oursclvcs whilst practising in daily lilc through our contain
mcnt practicc. Tus wc naturally makc lricnds with oursclvcs
bccausc ol this dcvcloping nonjudgcmcntal rclationship.
Vhat wc gain lrom this most important aspcct ol prac
ticc is making lricnds with oursclvcs, indccd lcarning to lovc
oursclvcs, through a willingncss to stay with and cmbracc
an cxpcricncc ol oursclvcs that wc havc hithcrto rcactcd
against. 8y staying with thosc outßows ol body, spccch, and
mind, wc arc ‘rcpairing’ our brokcn hcart by bringing back
into a wholc thc countlcss, lragmcntcd picccs that crcatc thc
conßict and ncgativity wc lccl. !t will bc truc mctta bccausc
it will bc born ol sccing and undcrstanding oursclvcs — thus
making it wisdom. Vhcn wc lovc oursclvcs wc will naturally
lovc othcrs, it will bc impossiblc not to.
Tc third valuc ol mctta mcditation is that, bccausc thc
mind is morc at pcacc with itscll, it also hclps train it in thc
stillncss ncccssary lor thc Ðharma to arisc. So this is vcry
much a training ol a positivc wholchcartcd cngagcmcnt with
lilc, so that wc comc to harmonizc morc and morc as cvcry
day passcs with our truc naturc, which is onc ol lovc lor all
that is.
Tis turning away lrom thc blinding passions, and
taming thosc ncgativc outßows, slowly clcar thc mind ol thc
incvitablc turbulcncc and allow it to discovcr its natural qui
ctncss morc and morc. Vc hclp this cultivation along with
mcditation that promotcs stillncss and awarcncss. Stillncss
and awarcncss bccomc morc and morc onc, as thc lruit
ol both is thc samc. Vith stillncss, thc awarcncss that is
32 33
now strongcr than cvcr can bcgin to look through all thosc
thoughts and activitics with skillul insight tools and scc thc
truth ol thc world that grasps us all. Littlc by littlc, as it sccs
dccpcr and dccpcr, as it journcys through thc world, littlc
bits ol ‘mc and minc’ drop oß bccausc thcy no longcr dcccivc.
Finally thc world stills and its powcr, which wc so invcst in,
ladcs. !t is thcn that awakcning will takc placc — which is an
absolutc, concrctc guarantcc. Vhcn you ‘rccovcr’ and rcturn
to lilc, you can cmbark on thc inconccivablc journcy through
thc tcn stagcs ol bodhisattvahood, until thc cnd ol thc Path
is nnally rcachcd, and your initial awakcning bccomcs nnal
and complctc — and so attain 8uddhahood.
Te 8ightfold (racice
Vhatcvcr 8uddhist tradition you lollow, and indccd what
cvcr systcm ol practicc you lollow within that tradition, you
will nnd that all traditions, without cxccption, arc groundcd
in thc noblc cightlold path, thc lourth ol thc 8uddha’s lour
noblc truths. !t is this path ol thc practicc ol thc 8uddha
Ðharma that is thc hcart ol 8uddhism. And it is this that
thosc who wish to put an cnd to thc cyclc ol sußcring and
rcbirth nccd to practisc, and nccd to practisc in its totality, il
thc noblc dcsirc to put to an cnd this ctcrnal cyclc ol bccom
ing is to bc lulnllcd.
Tc path, lor convcnicncc and casc ol undcrstanding,
is dividcd into thc thrcc limbs or scctions ol sila, translatcd
as cthics or conduct, samadhi, which mcans a oncpointcd
32 33
mind born ol conccntration and mindlulncss, and prajna,
which mcan wisdom or ‘knowing how things rcally arc’.
Sila is univcrsal to all lorms ol 8uddhism — indccd
thcrc is littlc dißcrcncc bctwccn rcligious or spiritual
movcmcnts as rcgards this aspcct ol thc path. !t consists ol
humanizing oursclvcs by containing and rcstraining scll
intcrcst and thc dcstructivc outßows — our habitual way ol
bcing. !ndccd, thc laws ol thc land dcmand that wc maintain
a ccrtain dcgrcc ol sila.
Samadhi is thc cultivation ol thc ability to stay in a
statc ol oncpointcd scllawarcncss, to know oursclvcs lrom
momcnt to momcnt in whatcvcr situation wc nnd oursclvcs.
Tc loundation ol this dcvclopmcnt is laid in our mcditation,
whcrc wc lcarn to discngagc lrom our continual mcntal chat
tcr and contain thc ncgativc cmotional outßows and passions,
thus cnabling us to bring oursclvcs back, again and again, to
thc ccntrc ol our scllawarcncss. Tc ways to dcvclop this
ability may vary lrom tradition to tradition and lrom school
to school, but thcy all lcad to thc samc stillncss.
Prajna is thc ability to look into our bcing and scc thc
rcality ol it, going bcyond our dcludcd misintcrprctation ol
that truth. Tc way to thc discovcry ol thc truth is to takc a
particular lorm ol insight mcditation — thc onc that is thc
way ol thc tradition and school wc havc choscn. All insight
practiccs will at lcast scriously undcrminc thc dclusion that
cnvclops us.
8ut what is this grcat dclusion common to us all, that
blinds us to thc truth ol thc way things rcally arc: !t is thc dc
34 35
lusion ol a scll or cgo, and thc world ol attachmcnts that this
scnsc ol ‘mc and minc’ crcatcs. Tc practicc ol thc cightlold
path will takc us to thc root ol this dclusion, and dcstroy it.
Tc 8uddha spcnt ncarly nlty ycars travclling around
!ndia tcaching thc cightlold path as thc way out ol dukkha.
Hc didn’t say that to bc cthical alonc would bc cnough, and
hc didn’t say that to pcrlcct samadhi and cntcr cvcn thc high
cst dhyanas (conccntrations) would bc cnough cithcr. And hc
didn’t say that just studying and undcrstanding all that gocs
in thc namc ol wisdom would bc good cnough. Hc taught
that to bc ablc to gct to thc root ol dukkha, and to stop lor
cvcr thc cxpcricncc ol dukkha, it was absolutcly ncccssary to
cmbracc and practisc thc wholc ol thc path. Ultimatcly, cach
ol thc cight stcps ol thc path comc into pcrlcct balancc and
mcrgc to bccomc onc.
1. Sila. right spccch, right action, right livclihood
Many practitioncrs locus much ol thcir timc and cncrgy ob
scrving thc prcccpts ol cthical bchaviour, usually thc ncga
tivc prcccpts — inasmuch as thcy scc to it that thcy don’t lall
into thc crudc actions that charactcrizc many pcoplc. Tosc
with morc roundcd practiccs obscrvc thcsc rcstraints but also
cultivatc aspccts ol what arc tcrmcd thc positivc prcccpts.
Tcsc includc cultivating wholcsomc activitics that cngagc
thcm with thc world, activitics that stcm lrom kindncss and
gcncrosity, harmonious spccch and a display ol contcntmcnt
with thcir lilc as rcßcctcd in a pcacclul occupation.
34 35
For many, it has to bc said quitc lrankly, this is rcally as
much as thcy arc capablc ol cultivating (or at lcast as much
as thcy arc prcparcd to commit thcmsclvcs to). For somc, it
is not yct possiblc to sit quictly in mcditation and cultivatc
thc practiccs within that. !l so, that is nnc, and it is good
that thcy surrcndcr thcmsclvcs as much as possiblc to thc
dcvclopmcnt ol thc cthical sidc ol thc practicc. Vhat is vcry
hclplul with this lorm ol practicc is also to cultivatc thc
morc ccrcmonial sidc ol Ðharma with puja and oßcrings to
thc 8uddhas and 8odhisattvas — thcrcby cultivating both
spirituality and laith as a lurthcr way ol opcning thc hcart.
Tis hclps nurturc laith in thc 8uddha and his tcachings,
wcakcning a habitual idca that thcir practicc is a thing to bc
graspcd at.
For thosc who dcsirc to put an cnd to dukkha, this is
not cnough. !t is not cnough to bccomc a ‘good’ pcrson. Tc
Ðharma will only rcally rcspond and show itscll to thosc
with a complctc lorm ol practicc.
2. Samadhi. right cßort, right conccntration, right
Ðccp conccntration (samadhi) is possiblc whcn onc has thc
ability to stay locuscd on a singlc objcct during mcditation.
Tcrc arc many mcthods that can hclp us dcvclop that abil
ity. ¡ach tradition usually has scvcral ways, and cach school
within a tradition has its own locus on somc ol thosc ways.
Tcsc can vary widcly. Tcrc arc thc lormlcss mcthods ol
36 37
anapanasati (thc most widclyuscd mcthod and common
to all schools, and doctrinally thc mcthod uscd by all thc
8uddhas), translatcd as mindlulncss ol brcathing, whcrcby
wc locus in dißcrcnt ways on our natural brcathing without
rcsorting to thcmcs or conccpts. Tcn thcrc arc thc many
conccptual mcthods ol traditional 8uddhism, and bcyond
thcm thc visualization practiccs ol Tibctan 8uddhism and
thc koan and huado practicc ol Far ¡astcrn schools that can
act as both conccntration and insight practiccs.
Vhichcvcr way wc choosc to go thcy all lcad to thc
samc goal, a mind that is awakc through cßort and conccn
tratcd. Tc practitioncr is thcn ccntrcd and mindlul within
him or hcrscll and totally alivc to thc prcscnt momcnt. Tis
part ol thc path takcs dcdication and lcw pcoplc nnd it casy
to still thcir chattcring minds and contain thc cmotional
outßows that continuc to lucl thosc rcstlcss thoughts and
mcntal picturcs. Tcrc arc also many who locus cxclusivcly
on this part ol thc path to thc point that thcy turn away lrom
thc busy world and cngagcmcnt with lilc as much as possiblc.
Tcy scc that to rcally dcvclop stillncss it is skillul to turn
away lrom distractions ol thc scnscs in ordcr to go dccpcr.
Tcy undcrstand that a practicc ol sila is vcry important too,
in ordcr to go dccpcr — lor a mind that is agitatcd by unskil
lul acts gcts in thc way ol thc ability to attain stillncss. So
thcsc pcoplc practisc two thirds ol thc path, but this is not
cnough to imprcss thc Ðharma, bccausc thc Ðharma will
only rcally rcspond and show itscll to thosc with a complctc
lorm ol practicc.
36 37
3. Prajna. right vicw, right rcsolvc
Tc third part ol thc cightlold path is prajna or wisdom and
‘knowing thc way things rcally arc’. !t is oltcn portraycd as
thc nnal part ol thc path to dcvclop. Vhcn ! look back ovcr
thc ycars at thc somc ol thc tcachcrs !’vc hcard, and thc prac
titioncrs !’vc cncountcrcd, it would not bc dimcult to draw
thc conclusion that Ðharma practicc is rcally morc about sila
and samadhi. ! am still mystincd as to why so many Ðharma
tcachcrs sccm to go down that routc whcn it is clcar thcy arc
lcaving out thc most important part ol thc cightlold path,
bccausc it is prajna, and only prajna, that takcs thc Ðharma
larcr bcyond dukkha. !t is only wisdom that brcaks thc tap
root ol ignorancc. Tis was thc main rcason thc 8uddha took
himscll around !ndia to tcach lor all thosc ycars. Sila was
alrcady cstablishcd in his timc, as was samadhi. !t was sama
dhi in which Shakyamuni quickly bccamc an cxpcrt in altcr
taking instruction lrom thc nncst tcachcrs ol his day, yct hc
lclt thcrc was somcthing missing lrom thc ‘wisdom’ hc at
taincd lrom thcsc practiccs. !t was thc lccling that thcrc was
somcthing missing that drovc him to scck lurthcr knowlcdgc,
cvcntually by himscll, until onc day, altcr ncarly dying in thc
proccss, hc attaincd thc middlc way and thc ultimatc undcr
standing ol lilc and dcath. !t is thc 8uddhist cxprcssion ol
this undcrstanding that scts 8uddhism apart lrom all othcr
rcligions, yct still somc ignorc this aspcct ol thc Path.
Visdom should bc cultivatcd lrom thc nrst day ol prac
ticc, and it is thc slow nurturing ol wisdom that produccs
38 39
right vicw. Right vicw is cvcrchanging and dccpcning, but
this dccpcning can only maturc il wc havc thc corrcct atti
tudc. !t isn’t an intcllcctual wisdom but dccply pcrsonal and
cmotional — and rcquircs that wc bc prcparcd to changc
and lct go ol thc old ‘mc’. !t is right rcsolvc that allows this
changc to happcn, and thc dccpcning to takc placc.
Sila will makc you an cthical bcing. Samadhi will givc
you pcacc and happincss, but it is wisdom that will makc
you a truly roundcd human bcing bccausc it is wisdom, and
wisdom only, that will rclcasc thc hcart lrom thc bondagc ol
scllintcrcst and nonundcrstanding.
4. Complete
!l wc wcrc to lay out thc path in a lincar lashion wc could
say thc Path starts with sila, and thcn whcn that is rcnncd
thc loundation lor samadhi is laid, bccausc to cultivatc a still
mind our gcncral conduct has to bc balanccd — though not
ncccssarily pcrlcctly so. !l wc arc cngagcd in crudc activitics
thc mind (which is ol coursc intcgral to thosc activitics) will
not bc capablc ol stillncss, bccausc wc can’t harncss and tamc
thc coarsc cmotional outßows associatcd with crudc activi
tics. Vhcn thc stillncss ol mind has rcachcd an acccptablc
dcgrcc, this bccomcs thc loundation lor prajna. !nsight can
shinc through bccausc thc ‘agitatcd watcrs ol dclusion’ havc
stillcd cnough lor thc innatc wisdom to risc up and shinc
through that stillncss.
Tis is thc lincar lorm that many involvcd with tcach
38 39
ing thc Ðharma sccm to lollow. 8ut thc lourth noblc truth
is subtlcr than thc cightlold path lormula might sccm at nrst
sight to suggcst, and rcquircs a subtlcr and morc roundcd
prcscntation. Tis is bccausc thc lourth noblc truth isn’t,
strictly spcaking, thc cightlold path at all, it is thc middlc
A ncwborn bodhisattva, whilst abiding in thc bliss and
wondcr at thc bcginning ol thc bodhisattva path, sccs, among
thc many insights that arc rcvcalcd, thc lour noblc truths as
a dircct sccing into thc naturc and lramcwork ol samsara.
Tcy arc not sccn as a lormulation dcrivcd lrom thc insight
— somc sort ol summary ol thc naturc ol sußcring. No, thcy
arc sccn as a dircct comprchcnsion ol thc vcry naturc ol thc
construct ol thc dcludcd mind. And whilc comprchcnding
samsara, and sccing that it is a complctc labrication ol thc
dcludcd mind, thc lour truths arc also ‘sccn’.
Tc truth is that cvcry last part that gocs to makc up
this invcntion ol thc world is complctcly and always saturatcd
with dukkha. Not onc spcck is cvcr without dukkha. From
this starting point it is undcrstood that thcrc is a causc or
crcator ol this world. Tc sccond truth tcrms this dcsirc, and
it is thc scnsc ol a scll or cgo that crcatcs that dcsirc — thus
crcating thc dualistic worldvicw with its pcrpctual drivc lor
scllgratincation and amrmation. Tus it is sccn that thc
world and dcsirc and dukkha arc rcally just onc.
Vhcn thc crcator ol thc world and ol dukkha is known,
thc third truth is sccn — that thcrc is a way out ol this mcss,
which is to dcstroy that crcator. Finally, lrom this truth comcs
40 41
thc way out ol that bondagc and cntrapmcnt. 8y rcsisting thc
pull ol oppositcs that crcatcs thc dualistic world and which
givcs risc to thc conditions lor thc phcnomcnon ol a scll or
cgo to arisc, wc can abidc on thc middlc path bctwccn thcsc
oppositcs. 8y brcaking our habitual running altcr things
— which crcatcs and cngagcs us with thc oppositcs ol want
ing and rcjccting, liking and disliking, ctc. — wc starvc that
scnsc ol scll ol its vcry lilcblood.
! would suggcst that thc cightlold path as wc know it
camc about through thc coursc ol timc, through thc 8uddha
tcaching and cncouraging thc practicc ol thc middlc way,
through mcditation and daily living. Hc would havc brokcn
down thc middlc way so that his listcncrs could rclatc to it
and cultivatc skillul ways ol practicc to achicvc that noblc
As is typical ol our dcludcd mind, thc parts which
madc up thc wholc soon camc to bc sccn as sort ol autono
mous aspccts ol thc practicc ol thc lourth noblc truth and
bccamc disconncctcd lrom that wholc. Ultimatcly, parts ol
thc wholc wcrc simply ignorcd, or at bcst givcn just thc occa
sional glancc. Tis lack ol insight is not a truc undcrstanding
ol thc lourth noblc truth.
!’d likc to strcss again that though sila and samadhi can
rightly bc sccn as thc lramcwork lor wisdom, truc practicc is
thc cultivation ol all thc aspccts ol thc path concurrcntly. !n
dcvcloping sila wc rcsist our habitual dcsircs and avcrsions
and thc troublc that this causcs lor oursclvcs and lor othcrs,
and wc cultivatc and nurturc thc qualitics ol thc unlcttcrcd
40 41
human hcart as thc way lorward. Rcsisting and containing
our habitual actions is also thc csscncc ol thc practicc ol sila
that nurturcs thc stillncss ol mind that cnablcs us to bring
samadhi into our practicc. Tc csscncc ol samadhi is thcrc
lorc idcntical to sila il it is sccn as rcsisting thc tcmptation to
wandcr oß and gct caught in thc crcatcd world ol thoughts,
mcntal picturcs, and thcir associatcd passions. Vith thcsc
two limbs in placc prajna itscll has thc spacc to arisc, as it is
only in a mind that is still that it has thc conditions it nccds.
Tc arising ol prajna thcn hclps cultivatc still morc sila and
samadhi. Cultivatcd sila and cultivatcd samadhi arc not
scparatc lrom prajna but arc prajna itscll, as any cxpcricnccd
mcditator will connrm, so thc turning to onc’s own prajna in
mcditation can oltcn bring an instantly conccntratcd mind.
So stillncss and wisdom can bc sccn to bc not just intcrcon
ncctcd but idcntical in thcir csscncc. Tc applc trcc and thc
applc itscll arc not scparatc.
Tc lourth noblc truth is thc middlc way. !t is not cight
parts but onc, which wc pull apart and dcnnc in ordcr to un
dcrstand what it rcally is, and how wc can procccd to attain
that lolty statc. !l wc gct on with our practicc with that in
mind wc will not gct trappcd into thinking that Ðharma
practicc is only about bcing good, or that Ðharma practicc
is only about bliss and happincss, or that Ðharma practicc
is only about somchow undcrstanding wisdom that wc rcad
and hcar about. !t is about thc cultivation ol thc path in cqual
proportions. !l your practicc is truly balanccd, thcn in quict
momcnts it should bc possiblc, whilc pondcring on any onc
42 43
ol its aspccts to scc that aspcct as containing all thc othcrs.
Look at any onc ol thc cight stcps and you should bc ablc to
scc thc othcr scvcn in thc vcry samc placc.
Tc ultimatc sccing ol thc bodhisattva sccing thc intcr
pcnctration ol lormations, that part ol thc doctrinc that thc
ordinary mind cannot cvcr comprchcnd. Tc doctrinc says
that any onc dharma contains all othcr dharmas through
out thc cntirc univcrsc and bcyond, and yct that vcry samc
dharma rctains its individuality and uniqucncss. !t may not
bc possiblc lor you to scc that truth lully, but il you can look
at any part ol thc path whilst pondcring your practicc and
you scc it containing thc othcr scvcn, and bcing idcntical
with thcm, you arc vcry closc to sccing that truth ol intcr
pcnctration. You will bc sccing thc middlc way, and thcrc
is only onc middlc way — not cight. Vhcn you scc and
know your practicc to bc this way, you arc on thc thrcshold
ol lulnlling and pcrlccting thc lourth noblc truth, which is
thc pcrlcction ol Ðharma practicc in thc world. \cry soon
altcr this, thc samsaric world that you havc bccn cnslavcd by
sincc timc bcgan will abruptly ccasc, rcvcaling rcality in all
its glory and majcsty.
42 43
Pv~c)icv ix ¡vvvyb~y Livv
So lar wc havc bccn looking at thc basic tcncts ol thc Path
which most practitioncrs will bc lamiliar with, but now !
would likc to oßcr you a biggcr picturc that takcs thc prac
ticc bcyond thc lists and lormulas that can so casily kccp us
trappcd insidc our hcads. Vc can kid oursclvcs with ‘!l ! can
just rcmcmbcr thcsc oltcn complicatcd lormulas ! will bc
undcrstanding thc Ðharma and thcrclorc making progrcss’.
Ònc way ! could dcscribc thc dißcrcncc bctwccn thc
nrst part ol thc book and thc sccond part is to say that
part onc was, in broad tcrms, about 7hat to do in tcrms ol
thc practicc, but hcrc in part two it is morc about (o. to
Altcr cmbarking on this ‘living practicc’ it is oltcn
good to rcßcct on how wc arc cxpcricncing our Ðharma
practicc. Vc obviously lcarn as wc movc along, wc start to
scc how wc arc so oltcn at thc mcrcy ol our cmotional statcs.
Visdom docs indccd start to dcvclop as wc bcgin slowly to
undcrstand what makcs us ‘tick’ and who wc rcally arc. Tc
lollowing rcßcctions arc to hclp us cxpand our awarcncss and
undcrstanding ol thc practicc out ol our hcads and into thc
totality ol our bcing. Vc can thcn livc it out in thc totality ol
lilc itscll. Tc rcßcctions can hclp us undcrstand who wc arc
44 45
and comc alivc to thc wholc spcctrum ol undcrstanding that
unlolds within this rcmarkably subtlc practicc.
Somc ol thosc who rcad thc subtitlc ol this book will
bc disappointcd il thcy arc hoping to rcad somcthing about
sitting mcditation. Tis subjcct is wcll covcrcd in many books
and !’m surc most who rcad this book will alrcady havc
a good idca how to sit and how mcditation works — you
don’t nccd any morc lrom mc. Òl coursc sitting mcditation
is crucial to practicc and it is thc corncrstonc ol changc, but
hcrc !’m cncouraging thc practitioncr, in cßcct, to mcditatc
throughout thc day. !n othcr words to bc at onc, mindlul
and ccntrcd, with what you arc doing, no mattcr what that
may bc. !’m pointing towards what nccds to bc nurturcd and
guardcd so that thc worldly mind docsn’t comc and grab you
oß balancc. ! hopc you will nnd usclul pointcrs hcrc on how
to practisc and brcak lrcc.
Jharma ´ind
A baby quickly rcalizcs that crying whcn it is hungry or wants
attcntion will soon lcad to thosc dcsircs bcing lulnllcd. Scll
intcrcst bcgins to arisc in thcsc vcry carly days ol lilc, whcn
an awarcncss ol scparatcncss bcgins to takc shapc, and lrom
thcn on almost cvcrything that bcing docs will bc drivcn by
this scnsc ol scllintcrcst. Almost all thc dcsircs, avcrsions,
and ambitions ol that young lilc will bc drivcn by an urgc to
bccomc somcthing — somcthing that has a scnsc ol a scll at
its root.
44 45
As adults wc would do wcll to look into our own
motivations. !l wc did wc could quickly concludc that thcrc
is hardly anything that motivatcs us outsidc ol this samc scll
intcrcst, howcvcr subtlc it may somctimcs sccm. Scllintcrcst
takcs control ol our livcs to such an cxtcnt that wc rarcly
cxpcricncc anything bcyond it.
For cxamplc, onc day wc discovcr 8uddhism and thc
Ðharma and wc dccidc to takc up a practicc ol thc tcachings
— lor whatcvcr rcason. !s this just anothcr intcrcst, likc so
many bclorc: Ònc in which wc cngagc our scllintcrcst in
ordcr to nll our timc, or achicvc somcthing, or gct a rcward
ol somc sort: !l wc approach our ncw intcrcst in Ðharma
practicc in thc usual way with this ‘worldly mind’, !’m alraid
wc will stand littlc chancc ol gaining thc spiritual maturity
wc may havc wishcd lor.
Òur habits arc dccply ingraincd, so wc may wcll start
oß with thc wrong intcntions lor our practicc ol thc Ðharma.
For cxamplc, wc may want to bccomc somconc who will bc
admircd and rcspcctcd, lor cxamplc, or bccomc so wisc that
wc can ‘savc’ pcoplc and bc admircd still lurthcr. 8ut coming
to Ðharma practicc wc nccd a totally dißcrcnt approach, and
mindsct, to anything wc havc cxpcricnccd or cngagcd in
bclorc in our cntirc livcs. Tis is bccausc thc root ol Ðharma
practicc is ultimatcly not about bccoming anything at all, but
about unbccoming. Tis mind is callcd Ðharma mind.
Tc hcart and spirit ol Ðharma practicc is about lcarn
ing to surrcndcr, and giving up our ingraincd habitual scll
intcrcsts. So rathcr than scck any rcward in our ncw practicc,
46 47
wc bcgin to cultivatc a spirit ol not wanting anything in par
ticular in rcturn lor our cßorts. ]ust cultivating this attitudc
and giving up thosc prccious attachmcnts will now bc rcward
cnough. Vith this practicc, thc onc dcsirc that is allowcd by
thc Ðharma — thc noblc dcsirc lor rclcasc lrom sußcring
— can bc lulnllcd. Tis ncw mind and its cultivation rcquirc
a scismic changc ol attitudc.
!n lact, this changc ol attitudc has to bc lcarncd and
rclcarncd, ovcr and ovcr again, as wc continually lall back
into our old habits ol sccking rcward. Toughts such as ‘il
!’m going to do this practicc, ! want to bccomc likc this and
not any longcr bc likc that’ crccp in. Tis ingraincd habit ol
scllintcrcst is so powcrlul that wc lall back into its clutchcs
ovcr and ovcr again. 8ut lcarning to givc up, to surrcndcr
all thosc scllintcrcsts, within thc practicc ol a wholchcartcd
commitmcnt to lilc, will in itscll rcmind us that this is thc
way ol thc Ðharma.
Tc way ol thc Ðharma is not thc way ol thc world.
Tc way ol thc world is to want and bccomc, thc way ol thc
Ðharma is to givc up and unbccomc. Tis cultivation takcs
laith in thc tcachings, and laith in thc thrcc jcwcls. Tc lcar
ol ‘!l ! am no longcr going to bc likc this and ! am no longcr
wanting to bccomc likc that, what will bccomc ol mc:’ is thc
lcar that brings us back, again and again, to thc scllintcrcst
ol wanting to bc somcthing. 8ut it is laith in thc thrcc jcwcls
ol thc 8uddha, Ðharma, and Sangha, laith that wc havc
nurturcd sincc thc bcginning ol our practicc, that will sup
port and carry us through that lcar. So wc will discovcr that,
46 47
lar lrom thc black holc, and cvcn dcath, that wc lcar will
ovcrtakc us il wc givc up all dcsircs, thc human hcart will
shinc through and takc thc placc ol lcar and scllintcrcst. !t
will shinc through and radiatc all around with warmth and
lovc bccausc it is now a hcart that is lrcc lrom thc bonds ol
dcsirc and scllintcrcst.
'taying at (ome
!t has bccn intcrcsting, but somctimcs alarming, at thc book
launchcs and in privatc talks, to hcar othcrs talk about thcir
mcditation cxpcricnccs. ! gct particularly alarmcd, whcn
! am told ol cxpcricnccs ol cncrgy gathcring during sits
— cncrgy that runs through thc body — pcrhaps nnding its
way to thc hcad, or into a limb, or cvcn to an intcrnal organ,
somctimcs causing violcnt jcrking ol thc body or limbs, or
just gcncral pain and discomlort. Somctimcs that cncrgy,
having nowhcrc to go, cvcn sccms to crcatc mcntal imagcs ol
dcvils and dcmons.
From thc rcports it sccms to bc ol no particular im
portancc what thc mcditation subjcct is — thcrc havc bccn
many tcchniqucs dcvclopcd ovcr thc ccnturics in 8uddhism,
but dcspitc thcir varicty thcy still lall into two basic catcgo
rics, conccntration and insight — as it appcars problcms
can arisc whatcvcr typc ol mcditation is bcing practiscd.
Conccntration, howcvcr, is a ncccssary lcaturc ol both.
Tc basis ol most ol thc problcms ! hcar brought up arc,
! am surc, bascd on thc assumption that thc Ðharma is to bc
48 49
lound in our hcads and intcllcct — through cncrgctic think
ing and working things out. And so wc ignorc thc body. Tis
is thc conclusion to which my obscrvations ol 8uddhists ovcr
thc ycars has lcd mc. Vhilst thc intcllcct docs havc a big part
to play in clarilying our undcrstanding ol thc journcy that
wc arc cmbarking upon, its truc part in thc schcmc ol things
is csscntially not to discovcr wisdom but to oricntatc us to
whcrc wisdom awaits our discovcry. Tat is in thc body.
Tosc who havc a dcsirc lor complctc undcrstanding
nccd to discovcr whcrc thc homc ol thc Ðharma lics. Vith
this knowlcdgc, wc will lully incorporatc thc body into our
practicc, to harmonizc it with thc intcllcct and so nurturc thc
intcgration ol mind and body. Vc involvc our body through
lcarning to undcrstand and cngagc with thc cmotional
cncrgy that drivcs our dcsircs. Òur cmotions gathcr and arc
cxpcricnccd in thc part ol thc body bclow thc navcl, in Far
¡astcrn 8uddhism this is oltcn callcd thc hara or ‘scat ol thc
cmotions’. Tis part ol our body is thc most crucial part to
undcrstand il wc arc rcally to intcgratc mind and body and
crcatc a complctc and wcllroundcd practicc.
!n ordcr to undcrstand thc crucial part thc hara plays
in our practicc wc nccd to locus on it as much as possiblc.
Tis was somcthing ! lortunatcly lcarncd to do lrom thc bc
ginning ol my Ðharma training. Òur attcntion is naturally
drawn thcrc during a strong cmotional cxpcricncc whcn wc
might lccl discomlort, or cvcn pain, thcrc. ! could scc that
this arca containcd grcat cncrgy that would lucl my dcsircs
and avcrsions and givc thosc cxpcricnccs thc drivc and
48 49
momcntum nccdcd to kccp thcm strong. ! lcarncd to givc
this arca much attcntion as ! could clcarly scc that it playcd
a major part in what ! rcally am. A major discovcry was that
this was potcntially an arca ol trcmcndous powcr, and that
il ! didn’t lcarn to harncss that powcr it could casily run into
thc body and causc physical problcms. Tis cmotional cncrgy
was a part ol thc ovcrall cncrgy that gavc mc lilc, and it
nccdcd to bc hcalthy and in a balanccd statc or it could quitc
casily bring physical (and mcntal) damagc.
! discovcrcd that il ! lcarncd to kccp my awarcncss thcrc
as much as possiblc, my undcrstanding ol myscll dccpcncd
vcry quickly. !t bccamc clcar to mc through that dccpcning
undcrstanding that this was in lact whcrc ! rcally was, and
not in thc hcad, ‘up thcrc’, as ! had always assumcd. Tis
rcalization clcarly showcd mc that this is whcrc thc Ðharma
ariscs too, whcrc it is to bc lound. Vith this knowlcdgc !
could scc thc prcciousncss ol staying with my awarcncss as
much as possiblc right thcrc in my body, and ! camc to scc
thc hara as my homc.
My practicc lrom thcn on was always to bc ‘staying at
homc’, as much as my chattcring and dcludcd mind would
allow, to catch myscll wandcring ovcr and ovcr again, and
thcn rcturn homc and stay at homc lor as long as ! could.
Vhat a placc to bc! Hcrc is whcrc thc driving cmotional lilc
cncrgy gathcrs. (! much prclcr to call thc cmotional cncrgy
‘lilccncrgy’ — or cvcn ‘lilclorcc’ — rathcr than just ‘cncrgy’.
To say just ‘cncrgy’ could suggcst that it is just a dcad lorcc,
somcthing that could cvcn bc sccn as coming lrom outsidc
50 51
and not rcally part ol mc at all, whcrcas in rcality wc arc so
intimatcly conncctcd with it that a division can’t bc lound.)
8y staying at homc ! soon discovcrcd that this is actually
whcrc ! am and that samc placc is also whcrc thc Ðharma is
to bc discovcrcd. So ncithcr thc Ðharma nor ! arc up thcrc
in my hcad, as my intcllcct is continually trying to convincc
mc that thcy arc.
My discovcrics continucd as it bccamc obvious that thc
world ! was crcating was drivcn by this lilccncrgy, as was
my scnsc ol scll and thc sußcring which all ol that brings.
Tc lilccncrgy wasn’t thc world or thc scll as such, but its
powcr gavc thosc crcations thc lilc thcy nccdcd. !t bccamc
clcar that thc way lorward was not to assumc that thc insight
proccss was purcly mcntal, but to scc it as physical also. !t
was csscntial to contain that lilccncrgy, so as to allow thc
maturing insight laculty to translorm thc dclusion ol scll and
othcr in a lull and propcr way.
So hcrc in thc hara wc havc thc main locus lor thc
complctc practicc ol thc bodhisattva path. Vc should makc
it our ‘homc’, as wc nccd to locus and abidc hcrc so that wc
can lcarn, through right practicc, to contain that cmotional
ßow. Tis allows thc prccious translorming proccss to takc
placc, through thc powcr ol wisdom, thus lrccing us ol thc
ignorancc that pcrmcatcs our wholc bcing.
8ccausc wc arc physically still, and morc cspccially
mcntally still, during mcditation, thc buildup ol thc lilc
cncrgy — cspccially whcn dccply conccntratcd — can bc
morc acutc than usual. 8ccausc it cannot ßow in any ol its
50 51
usual ways through our normal physical or mcntal activitics,
it crcatcs thcsc cxpcricnccs ! mcntioncd at thc start ol this
scction. !t bccomcs csscntial, through cxpcricncc, to lcarn to
contain this lilccncrgy. Vc nccd to allow thc chargcd lilc
lorcc to do its job and movc salcly through our bcing as wc
livc our lilc, rathcr likc rcstraining an untamcd horsc with a
ropc as you train it to bccomc gcntlc. Allow it to movc and
cxprcss itscll as a strong and hcalthy animal, but in a con
taincd and controllcd way. Vith this in placc wc can avoid
thc traumas touchcd on carlicr.
Tc way to work with this dangcr that all mcditators
lacc is to bc awarc ol it and train yourscll to kccp your awarc
ncss ccntrcd within thc hara. Always givc it your utmost at
tcntion, rcturn and abidc thcrc ovcr and ovcr again, right
in thc dcpths ol your body. Train yourscll to stay at homc.
8ccomc awarc ol thc wandcring lilccncrgy with your mind,
and thcn harncss it with that samc awarcncss and drag it
back to thc ccntrc and your homc — so prcvcnting it run
ning through thc body causing problcms. 8y cultivating this
awarcncss, thc cncrgy cvcntually shouldn’t impingc on your
mcditation at all and it should bc possiblc to stay ccntrcd and
dcvclop thc mcditation at thc samc timc.
So whatcvcr mcditation you may bc doing, makc thc
hara your homc. Takc yourscll thcrc whcncvcr you can. Takc
your mcditation thcrc and bring thc two togcthcr — cvcn
il you considcr yourscll to bc contcmplating somcthing
morc mcntal — don’t considcr yourscll abiding scparatcly
lrom your body and bc up thcrc in your mind. 8y staying at
52 53
homc you arc abiding in thc practicc ccntrc ol your bcing. 8y
ccntring yourscll thcrc you arc gathcrcd up in a controllcd
and balanccd statc, so that whcn thc lilccncrgy wants to
wandcr oß in its lrustration at its containmcnt you can catch
it quickly and drag it homc again.
! havc highlightcd this cxpcricncc by locusing on it
whilst in mcditation but it should bc notcd that it is cqually
csscntial to cultivatc that awarcncss and containmcnt in your
daily lilc as wcll, as ! havc cxplaincd in thc ‘Containmcnt in
¡vcryday Lilc’ scction.
Tosc on thc bodhisattva path should soon comc to
rcalizc that this Path is actually much morc ol a physical
practicc than a mcntal onc — bccausc wc arc actually trans
lorming thc crrant lilccncrgy which is whcrc thc prcscncc
ol ignorancc manilcsts, crcating thc samsaric world wc arc
all bound to. All this translormation takcs placc in thc body,
bccausc it is thc Ðharma that docs thc translorming and it
is in thc body, and in thc csscncc ol lilc, whcrc thc Ðharma
is to bc discovcrcd. Vith our awarcncss, whosc csscncc and
ccntrc is in thc body, it should bc possiblc to rcmain in con
tact with thc body at all timcs, and stay morc and morc in
thc body as our practicc dcvclops. Vc can thcn stay with
thosc powcrlul lorccs that wc nccd to contain to cnablc thc
translorming proccss to takc placc. As wc lcarn to stay at
homc, wc arc not only salc lrom thc dangcr ol bcing takcn
into thc clouds by our dcludcd mind, but also stand a much
bcttcr chancc ol not succumbing to many physical and
mcntal sickncsscs.
52 53
(racice in Iay Iife
! was oltcn askcd during qucstionandanswcr scssions il it is
rcally possiblc to practisc in lay lilc, cspccially in a largc, busy
city such as London. Vc oltcn vicw thc practicc ol a tradi
tional monk, who spcnds his timc away lrom thc hurlyburly
ol lay lilc, as in many ways morc idcal. Ðuring my short
timc in robcs in Sri Lanka ! ncvcr had to worry whcrc thc
ncxt mcal would comc lrom, or il thcrc would bc a problcm
in rcplacing my worn out robcs, or whcrc thc moncy would
bc lound to rcpair thc lcaking rool ol my hut. All my basic
rcquisitcs wcrc providcd whcn ncccssary by thc lay sangha
that so gcncrously supportcd thc ordaincd sangha. 8ccausc
! was totally lrcc lrom having to considcr thc basics ol lilc !
was ablc to locus on my practicc without distraction. For cx
amplc, ! could mcditatc lor many hours a day, which would
not bc possiblc to do in lay lilc simply bccausc ! would havc
to go out and carn my living. So wc might considcr that lay
cxistcncc not only scvcrcly impairs our practicc, but in thc
vicw ol many that ! havc mct, cspccially in thc Tcravada
sangha in Sri Lanka, rcndcrs dccp pcnctration into thc
Ðharma impossiblc. All ! can say about it is that lrom my
own dircct cxpcricncc ol ycars ol practicc that notion is not
at all corrcct.
Tcrc could bc a qucstion mark ovcr thc lcasibility ol
practicc in lay lilc il onc is pursuing typcs ol practicc that
nccd cxtrcmc stillncss and quict, and whcrc normal cngagc
mcnt with lilc is sccn as a hindrancc. 8ut thc bodhisattva
54 55
path which is thc onc that ! practisc and is thc only Path
that ! conccrn myscll with and cncouragc othcrs to pursuc, is
most dcnnitcly possiblc in lay lilc, lor thc bodhisattva path is
thc path ol totality and has no timc lor dualistic discrimina
tory attachmcnts, but takcs on all ol lilc, whcthcr it is robust
or quict, and uscs it all as grist to thc mill. Tc bodhisattva
path is thc path that lcads to 8uddha naturc, and onc ol thc
marks ol 8uddha naturc is that it is thc totality ol lilc. !l you
wish to scc 8uddha naturc thcn any thoughts ol dissccting
lilc into convcnicnt parts has to bc abandoncd. Cultivating
thc spirit that wisdom is to bc lound in all situations is thc
way lorward with this practicc ol totality.
Vhilc daily practicc is crucial, in a nonmonastic lilc
thcrc should always bc timc to gathcr up all thosc cxpcricnc
cs to rcßcct upon and digcst all thosc wccks and months ol
practicc. You can usc that ncwlound ability to dccpcn prac
ticc by taking rcgular rctrcats. Altcr all, monks takc thcm as
wcll! !l you scc thc rctrcat as a continuum ol your daily prac
ticc thcrc should bc a lccling ol scamlcssncss as you cmbark
upon this spccial timc. Rctrcats arc indccd vcry spccial on
your spiritual journcy, but thcy havc an inhcrcnt dangcr in
much thc samc way as locusing too much on sitting mcdita
tion during your cvcryday lilc. Tc complctcncss ol Ðharma
undcrstanding can only bc attaincd through consistcnt prac
ticc throughout thc wholc day, but a trap that many lall into
is thc thought that ‘il ! just pilc up my mcditation milcagc
that will bc all ! nccd lor cnlightcnmcnt.’ Tc samc trap also
applics to rctrcats. How oltcn pcoplc think ‘Vcll, il ! mcdi
54 55
tatc a bit that should bc good cnough bccausc !’m oß on rc
trcat soon so that should takc carc ol any incrtia and any lack
ol commitmcnt that ! now havc towards thc practicc.’ Tis
is vcry much a wrong undcrstanding. Vhatcvcr mcaninglul
brcakthrough may bc cxpcricnccd on rctrcat is vcry much
thc lruit ol daily commitmcnt that maturcs during thosc
prccious days ol cxtraordinary commitmcnt — commitmcnt
that is not possiblc on a normal daily basis. So makc usc ol
rctrcats as yct anothcr aspcct ol practicc that compcnsatcs lor
thc lack ol advantagcs ol a sccludcd lilc.
To contain and dclvc into thc powcr and robustncss that
charactcrizcs much ol lay lilc rcprcscnts a prccious opportu
nity to practisc. Vith this in mind, it could cvcn bc said that
lay lilc is bcttcr lor practicc than monastic lilc. !t is clcarly a
much morc robust practicc but a practicc that is thcrclorc also
lraught with many morc dangcrs. !t is robust bccausc wc ob
viously havc to dcal with thc powcrlul situations with which
lilc can prcscnt us with, lor cxamplc in human rclationships,
or just thc gcncral grind ol trying to lcad a normal cxistcncc.
!t is lraught with dangcrs bccausc wc arc continually bcing
tcstcd and tcmptcd to givc way to thc strong pull ol dcsircs
thrust upon us by thc vcry naturc ol our living in our socicty.
Tis is why it is csscntial to know how to practisc throughout
thc wholc day whilc wc arc cngagcd with lilc. Usc all thcsc
situations to dcvclop containmcnt and insight. !t bccomcs
csscntial in this kind ol practicc that wc lcarn to cultivatc
skillul mcans in our livcs — and to mc thc primary skill to
lcarn is to lcarn to takc control ol your lilc.
56 57
!t is a common cxpcricncc ol many pcoplc that with a
hcctic and prcssurcd job, plus pcrhaps a lamily to look altcr,
and othcr commitmcnts, wc scldom sccm to gct a minutc to
oursclvcs. Vc arc pullcd this way and that — hardly sccm
ingly ablc, cvcn, to takc a brcath. For thc most part wc arc
unablc to changc thcsc circumstanccs, though wc would
oltcn lovc to do so, simply bccausc ol thc prcssurcs in our
!n ordcr to practisc corrcctly it is vcry important to
bccomc mastcr ol our circumstanccs rathcr than bc pullcd
around by thcm. Vc nccd a mcasurcd day — whcrc wc can
movc lrom onc task to anothcr as casily as possiblc. 8cyond
that wc nccd to crcatc somc spacc whcrc wc can rclax and
gathcr oursclvcs up, rcßcct and bc with oursclvcs. !l wc arc
always running this way and that, it is ncvcr going to bc pos
siblc to cultivatc thc csscncc ol practicc — which is to know
oursclvcs whilst cngaging with lilc. !l our lilc is such that wc
cannot havc thc spacc and timc on a daily basis that allows
us to practisc consistcntly and cvcnly, our practicc will havc
no chancc ol maturing.
!l our work docsn’t allow that spacc wc should makc thc
utmost cßort to crcatc somc at homc. Try to rcarrangc thc
schcdulc and crcatc timc just to bc with yourscll and rcßcct
not just on thc day but gct lamiliar with your rcactions and
lcclings to it, and in many rcspccts bccomc rcacquaintcd with
yourscll. ! know thcrc is mcditation timc lor thcsc things,
but that can bccomc just a part ol thc busy schcdulc as wcll,
and just anothcr thing that has to bc donc. Find thc timc
56 57
to just quictly pottcr around, maybc do thc dusting or somc
othcr job, rcad a book, or listcn to thc radio or, darc ! say it,
watch tclcvision. 8c so that whatcvcr you arc doing you can
bc awarc ol yourscll and gct acquaintcd with thc lcclings and
cmotions that may arisc during thcsc timcs. Mull ovcr thc
Ðharma in your mind and scc your conncction with it, lcarn
to cnjoy your own company and bc still. !t is this dcvcloping
skill in taking control and making spacc that compcnsatcs
lor thc quictncss that monks cnjoy.
!t can bc that wc bccomc so uscd to intcracting with
othcrs, busy and spccding around, that thc prospcct ol just
bcing with oursclvcs alonc in our homc can bc a lrightcning
prospcct. Ycs, you may say, ‘but ! am happy to sit by myscll
mcditating quictly lor an hour cvcry day and ! do havc rcgu
lar mcditation rctrcats, thcrclorc that is not a problcm lor
mc.’ 8ut how many ol us, whcn wc discovcr thcrc is a gap in
our diary, lrcczc at thc thought that thcrc will bc nothing to
do, and !’ll bc lclt all by myscll, alonc: ]ust thc thought ol
bcing alonc lor cvcn a short timc can bring up such lcclings
ol lonclincss and lcar that it can bc vcry dimcult to bcar. 8y
not giving in to thc tcmptation to nll that timc but lcarning
to stay with that lcar, to stay at homc and opcn up to that cx
pcricncc whilst pottcring around doing nothing in particular
can bccomc a grcat sourcc ol insight.
So you can scc that taking control ol your lilc, and
building thc dctcrmination to crcatc skillul situations lor
practising thc Ðharma, not only allows us to crcatc thcsc
prccious pcriods ol stillncss and spacc in our hcctic days, but
58 59
also thc possibility lor insight to arisc.
! would say, ycs, most dcnnitcly it is possiblc to practisc
in lay lilc, to practisc in thc hcctic prcssurcd world ol noisc
and pollution and thc crazy pcoplc ol big citics, to bc ablc to
stand in thc middlc ol Piccadilly Circus and practisc. !t just
rcquircs commitmcnt and thc dcvclopmcnt ol skillul mcans
to makc it possiblc.
(ontainment in 8.eryday Iife
Ònc ol thc most plcasing aspccts ol my book launchcs and
thc qucstionandanswcr scssions that would lollow, and
indccd ol thc Ðharma groups ! bccn lcading sincc that timc,
is thc numbcr ol timcs ! havc bccn askcd to say somcthing
about containmcnt in daily lilc. To mc this is thc arca ol
practicc that is so crucial to total translormation and yct littlc
sccms to bc known about it. 8ut as lar as total translorma
tion is conccrncd — which is thc main charactcristic ol thc
bodhisattva path — it nccds to bc graspcd and undcrstood
morc clcarly than any othcr aspcct ol thc practicc.
Many ol us who comc to 8uddhism havc an imagc
ol it as a practicc ol sitting mcditation and vcry littlc clsc.
Tis wrong undcrstanding is cncouragcd as so many ol thc
imagcs associatcd with 8uddhism arc ol thc 8uddha sitting
pcacclully crosslcggcd. Most ol us thcn, whcn wc comc to
8uddhism almost gravitatc to mcditation as soon as pos
siblc and lcarn somc sort ol tcchniquc that wc work on and
dcvclop. Tcrc is so oltcn this incvitablc cmphasis on sitting
58 59
mcditation that somchow, il not quitc sccn as thc complctc
picturc ol practicc, is sccn almost as thc complctc practicc.
Somc lorms ol 8uddhist practicc sccm to lay almost cxclu
sivc cmphasis on mcditation, with an clcmcnt ol sila in thc
background to hclp crcatc thc cquanimity conducivc to good
mcditation. !t thcn rcally bccomcs a practicc ol mcditation
and cultivation ol an cnvironmcnt that will hclp with that
practicc, but thc bodhisattva path is not likc that at all.
Tc bodhisattva path is about thc total translormation
ol all that wc arc, which mcans that in ordcr to walk and
nurturc that Path thc practicc nccds to bc cultivatcd in what
is traditionally known in 8uddhism as thc lour posturcs
which charactcrizc thc cxpcricncc ol lilc. Tcsc arc standing,
sitting, walking, and lying down, all thc lour posturcs ol
bcing without sccing onc posturc as supcrior to anothcr. Tc
csscncc ol this practicc is to train oursclvcs to walk bctwccn
thc cxtrcmcs ol craving and rcjcction that charactcrizc much
ol our livcs, to rcmain in thc placc wc call thc middlc way. !n
ordcr lor that to happcn our training will havc to takc placc
and bc consistcnt throughout thc wholc day in all situations,
whcthcr good or bad, plcasant or unplcasant ctc. !t is ol no
conscqucncc what thc situation is, as thc Ðharma is prcscnt
in cvcry momcnt, and is always waiting to bc discovcrcd. !t
is our job to discovcr it.
!t has bccn intcrcsting to obscrvc ovcr thcsc past ycars,
in thc Vcst and indccd in thc ¡ast, how casy it has bccomc
to walk in oß thc strcct, so to spcak, into a mcditation ccntrc
and bc taught a tcchniquc in a lcw days. Vc can thcn just
60 61
walk out again — with littlc rclcrcncc madc to thc ncccssity
ol to crcatc a daily practicc away lrom thc sitting, so as to
support and complcmcnt thc dimcultics incvitably cxpcri
cnccd in dccpcning what has bccn lcarncd. Apart lrom an
csscntial daily practicc thcrc is also, lor cxamplc, thc nccd
lor a sangha to support this ncw practicc. Tis is not an op
tional addon, il it happcns to bc convcnicnt or il you lccl
likc it. Going lor rclugc to thc sangha is a part ol thc going
lor rclugc to thc thrcc jcwcls, and thc sidcstcpping ol onc
ol thc thrcc jcwcls takcs thc practicc outsidc thc paramctcrs
ol thc cightlold path, so gcnuinc and pcrmancnt changc is
not going to bc possiblc. ! would cvcn go as lar as to say that
a bcing ol dccp spiritual undcrstanding docsn’t cvcr rcally
go bcyond thc nccd lor sangha cithcr. To bc apart lrom likc
mindcd pcoplc could aßcct his wcllbcing as hc wouldn’t bc
ablc to sharc his undcrstanding through associating with
likcmindcd pcoplc.
Soon altcr coming to thc Ðharma wc arc gcncrally
taught that thc way lorward is through our mcditation. Vc
know that wc arc trying to rcmain in a statc ol oncpointcd
awarcncss by coming back to our mcditation subjcct thc
momcnt wc catch oursclvcs wandcring oß into thoughts
and mcntal picturcs. Vc soon discovcr this is not an casy
cxcrcisc to pcrlorm. Altcr a short whilc wc go a bit bcyond
our practicc ol coming back to our ccntrc altcr thoughts and
mcntal picturcs havc carricd us away, wc start having to dcal
with ncgativc lcclings that now bcgin to impingc. Gonc is
thc ‘honcymoon’ ol thc novclty, now ncgativc lcclings ol
60 61
rcstlcssncss bcgin to arisc. Tcsc lcclings crcatc thoughts
and mcntal picturcs to accompany thcm, so that not only do
wc gct lost in thoughts and mcntal picturcs again but this
timc thcrc is somc sort ol ncgativc cmotional powcr bchind
thcm as wcll. Vc now nnd it morc dimcult to catch oursclvcs
and bring oursclvcs back to thc ccntrc ol awarcncss, as thcsc
ncgativc cmotions makcs our loss ol awarcncss morc acutc.
So what may havc startcd out as an casy, plcasant cxcrcisc in
pcacc and quict now bccomcs somcthing that rcquircs morc
cßort, but wc mustcr up thc dctcrmination to stay with our
mcditation subjcct and soldicr on.
]ust whcn wc think wc havc got to grips with this ncw
il slightly unplcasant dimcnsion, a third lactor ariscs that
thcn takcs us to thc crossroads whcrc wc arc prcscntcd with
thc rcality ol our commitmcnt to mcditation: thc passions.
Vhcn thcsc bcgin to arisc thcy not only condition our
thoughts and mcntal picturcs to a grcat dcgrcc but cngagc
thc body much morc than bclorc bccausc thc passions arc in
csscncc morc ol a physical cxpcricncc. Now wc havc much
morc to dcal with than bclorc, and our timc spcnt trying
to conccntratc can bc almost unbcarablc. Tc naturc ol our
cvcryday mind abidcs in rcstlcssncss, just watch it and scc
how long it can stay with onc thing. Vhat that subjcct is is
not vcry important, somchow it just has to wandcr oß into
somcthing clsc cvcn il only lor a lcw scconds. Normally wc
livc with this and acccpt that thc mind spcnds just about
cvcry sccond ol cvcry minutc chattcring away to itscll about
cvcrything and nothing. Trough all this wc carry on and
62 63
livc our livcs lor much ol thc timc sccmingly on automatic
pilot bccausc ol this nonstop thinking, and conscqucntly
not rcally bcing awarc ol what wc arc doing in any givcn
momcnt. Vhcn wc dccidc to still that mind in mcditation
wc soon discovcr thc lorcc that can arisc il wc don’t givc in
and play its gamcs ol pcrpctual rcstlcssncss. !l wc do managc
to still thoughts and discovcr that prccious stillncss, ncgativc
cmotional lorccs bcgin to gathcr and arisc lrom thc pit ol our
stomach, or hara, and bcgin to inßamc our thoughts. Vc
soon discovcr that this rcstlcssncss bccomcs much morc ol
a physical cxpcricncc as thcsc cmotional lorccs run through
our body and manilcst in unplcasant ways. Vc twitch, wc
movc, wc scratch, wc look around, wc blow our nosc, wc
changc our posturc and chcck thc timc, wc nnd anything to
rclicvc that buildup ol lrustratcd cncrgy. Trough pcrscvcr
ancc and a dctcrmination not to givc in to thcsc distractions,
wc lcarn to bcar with it and carry on bringing oursclvcs back
to thc ccntrc and rcmain oncpointcd. Trough timc, cvcn il
it’s just a littlc, that ncgativc cmotional lorcc loscs its powcr
and calms down, it displays its incvitablc impcrmancncc.
Fcclings ol happincss and cvcn bliss can thcn arisc as wc
continuc to stay oncpointcd, allowing us to bathc in thc
lruits ol our cßorts to stay with it. Vc lcarn to stay with and
bcar with thc arising ol thc passions. Vc lcarn to stay with
what wc arc doing in thc momcnt, and that is staying ccntrcd
in thc coolncss ol awarcncss cvcn in thc middlc ol all this
mcntal and physical dukkha — but can wc do this in our
cvcryday lilc: Can wc stay with what wc arc doing whcn wc
62 63
arc cngagcd in somc mundanc daily activity, whcn somconc
comcs to us whilst wc arc cngagcd in a particular activity
and says somcthing unplcasant that pulls immcdiatcly at our
lcclings and cmotions: Ðo wc not straight away gct caught
up and strikc out vcrbally or othcrwisc: Òr maybc wc bucklc
undcr to what is said and withdraw bccausc wc havc hcard
an unplcasant truth about oursclvcs: Òr il it’s so unplcasant
wc may cvcn turn away and supprcss our lcclings bccausc wc
can’t lacc thc truth. Tcrc is always a rcaction, and it is in
variably drivcn by ncgativc cmotions or, worsc, thc passions,
so whcn that cxpcricncc ariscs wc losc thc ability to stay with
what wc arc doing, and gct lost in thc clouds crcatcd by thosc
8ut rcmcmbcr, staying mindlul and at onc with this
particular activity is no dißcrcnt lrom staying with thc mcdi
tation subjcct whilc mcditating. !n our mcditation wc arc
always bringing oursclvcs back to thc ccntrc. Ðo you think
that wc should bc doing somcthing dißcrcnt whcn wc arc
cngagcd in a daily activity:
!n our mcditation wc lcarn to opcn up and bcar with
thc cmotions and passions that comc up, and allow oursclvcs
to burn up insidc thcm without playing and bcing carricd
away with thc gamcs thcy crcatc through thoughts and
mcntal picturcs. To practisc thc bodhisattva path lully and
complctcly it is csscntial to scc that thc practicc is cxactly thc
samc in whatcvcr posturc and activity wc may bc in, bccausc
thc bodhisattva practicc is thc practicc ol totality.
Tis rcally is such a crucial lcaturc ol thc complctc
64 65
training ol thc bodhisattva path that wc nccd to cxplorc
and undcrstand that wc arc actually translorming habits ol a
lilctimc. Vc arc stopping thc whccl ol causation lrom turn
ing and rcturning it to its sourcc, paradoxically, putting to
an cnd thc cndlcss cyclc ol rcbirth and an ctcrnity ol dukkha.
8ccausc it is such a lolty idcal, you may lccl it nccds a lot ol
Ðharmic undcrstanding and to bc practiscd in spccial cir
cumstanccs, but it docsn’t. !n lact it is in thc ordinary whcrc
thc practicc is to bc lound, so ordinary and cvcryday that
you may lct thc prccious opportunity pass you by, bccausc
you lccl that thc ordinary is unimportant and not whcrc thc
Ðharma is. Tis is so wrong. Lct’s look at an cvcryday cxam
plc: gctting up in thc morning to go to work.
Gctting up to go to work is not somcthing most ol us
nnd casy, and wc ccrtainly do not look lorward to it most
ol thc timc. Vhcn wc arc wokcn up our practicc starts just
thcrc, whcn thc mind cngagcs and thinks ncgativcly about
having to gct out ol that warm comlortablc bcd, but wc still
do. !n doing this thcrc may wcll bc lots ol not just mcntal
rcsistancc but also physical lccling and cvcn unplcasant cmo
tional lcclings against having to do that. Maybc in thc past
wc would havc succumbcd to thosc cxpcricnccs and staycd
in thc warm and cnjoycd our incrtia, but now wc arc prac
tising thc Ðharma so wc don’t givc into thcm but do what
wc know wc should bc doing — gctting up, and containing
thosc lorccs.
Vc gct up and gct drcsscd and all thc othcr things
wc do at this timc and all thc timc contain thosc ncgativc
64 65
mcntal and physical cxpcricnccs within thc activitics wc arc
carrying out. Vc just carry out thosc activitics as simply and
as straightlorwardly as wc can, to thc cxtcnt that anyonc
around us wouldn’t cvcn bc awarc ol our intcrnal rcsistancc
and turmoil.
!n our mcditation wc comc back to what wc arc mcant
to bc doing at thc timc, which is rcmaining ccntrcd in awarc
ncss by catching oursclvcs whcn wc bccomc lost in thoughts
and mcntal picturcs, and also, crucially, containing thc ncga
tivc cmotions and passions. Now that wc arc cngagcd in a
daily activity, wc arc doing prcciscly thc samc thing. Vc
comc back through our awarcncss to stay mindlully with
what wc arc mcant to bc doing — ccntrcd in thc awarcncss
ol our activity.
8ccausc our minds arc continually cngagcd in thoughts
and mcntal picturcs it is unrcalistic to try to cxtinguish thcm,
but thc passionatc outßows arc quitc a dißcrcnt issuc. Tcsc
wc can work on, and it is thc taming ol thc passions and
ncgativc cmotions and thc translorming ol thcm that will
cvcntually takc us out ol samsara. !t is thc taming ol thc pas
sions and ncgativc cmotions that is at thc vcry hcart ol thc
bodhisattva training.
!n thc cxamplc wc havc bccn using, instcad ol giving
in to thc ncgativc cmotional dcsirc to stay in bcd, wc don’t
allow it to takc ovcr but contain it and carry through with
thc activity wc know should bc donc. Tis cmotion can build
to a passionatc intcnsity to thc cxtcnt that it bccomcs almost
unbcarablc physical pain, usually ccntrcd on thc hara — thc
66 67
scat ol thc cmotions — in thc lowcr abdomcn. 8ut rathcr
than givc in to it wc lcarn to opcn up and surrcndcr oursclvcs
right into thc hcart ol that physical cxpcricncc with a will
ingncss to burn up insidc that nrc. Tcrc will bc thoughts
and mcntal picturcs continually trying to dcßcct us lrom
our commitmcnt, but wc don’t yicld. 8ut what arc wc rcally
!n a situation such as this wc havc nnally dccidcd not
to buy into an old lamiliar situation and gct carricd away by
that ingraincd habit. Vc arc not going to gct carricd away
any morc by thc nrc ol thosc thoughthabits and attachmcnts,
to likcs and dislikcs and our opinions about what is right
and wrong and what wc want and don’t want. All thosc old
lamiliar things only givc us troublc and causc problcms in
lilc with othcrs and oursclvcs. For oncc wc arc not going to
givc into that, that which turns thc whccl ol bccoming and
all thc karma that accompanics it, that compcls us to bc thc
hclplcss participants in a world that is not conducivc to hap
pincss. Vc arc surrcndcring oursclvcs. Vc arc quitc litcrally
giving up this scnsc ol scll and ‘mc’. Giving all ol oursclvcs
up with a bright clcar mind that is awarc ol all that is hap
pcning, that rcsists thosc habitual rcactions and says ‘ycs’ to
all that ariscs lrom within thc mind and which cmbraccs and
acccpts without judgcmcnts and labcls. Tcrc is a willingncss
to acccpt what wc may not want to scc, and a willingncss to
acccpt that this is a part ol us, lor good or bad, and to bcar
with all thc lorcc that drivcs it. Vc stay with our world and
bcar with it until cvcntually, bccausc thcsc lorccs arc not
66 67
bcing allowcd to turn and pcrpctuatc thc karmic cyclc any
morc, thcy gradually changc and translorm back into thcir
truc original naturc, thc truc naturc that cxprcsscs itscll as
a gcntlc and gcnuinc human bcing, who is warm and at onc
with othcrs and thc wondcr ol lilc.
Tis cxamplc ol gctting up in thc morning is simplc,
but it applics to all our cvcryday cxpcricnccs, thc samc opcn
ncss to, and containmcnt ol, thc ncgativc outßows is applicd
to cvcrything, including thc morc complcx cxpcricnccs ol
human rclationships. To opcn and acccpt, contain, and lunc
tion in as human a way as wc can, is thc practicc. Tis will
ingncss not to play thc gamc ol spinning thc whccl ol bccom
ing translorms thc driving cmotional passionatc powcr that
oncc was owncd by thc dcsircs, back into its original naturc,
which thcn rcacts spontancously to thc nccds ol mankind
without any docr or dcsirc lor rcward.
Kindness to all Tings
Somc may nnd it strangc that not only is it part ol our train
ing to cultivatc and nurturc kindncss and considcration and
all that implics to scnticnt bcings, but it is also a skillul prac
ticc to cultivatc kindncss to nonscnticnt things as wcll. Òl
coursc this wouldn’t bc lashioncd with thc samc scnsitivity
wc would havc to othcr living bcings, with all thc considcra
tions that would naturally includc. 8ut kindncss, and cvcn
rcspcct, lor cvcrything wc cncountcr nurturcs a kind hcart
in thc samc way as kindncss to bcings. Vhcn ! nrst camc to
68 69
this practicc ! was working in Rcgcnt’s Park in London as a
gardcncr. Vc wcrc cxpcctcd to clcan and oil thc tools at thc
cnd ol cach day’s work, cvcn though thc ncxt day wc would
bring thcm out nrst thing and makc thcm dirty again. Tc
idca was that thc tools would last longcr and, thcrc was also
considcration and rcspcct lor thc pcrson who might wish to
usc thc tools thc lollowing day, but lor mc it wcnt dccpcr
than just thosc issucs. !t bccamc apparcnt to mc that to nur
turc a rcspcct lor thc tool itscll was cultivating still lurthcr a
spirit ol scnsitivity, in thc knowlcdgc that, whcthcr animatc
or inanimatc, wc arc all part ol thc wholc, bccausc Ðharma
practicc is about nurturing thc rcturn to thc wholcncss ol lilc
whcrc our original naturc is to bc lound, as it is this that wc
lost whcn wc took on a scnsc ol scll and crcatcd thc cxpcri
cncc ol objccts and scparatcncss.
Tc rcturn to our truc naturc is madc possiblc by bc
coming proncicnt in mcditation and through thc dcvclop
mcnt ol insight into rcality. As part ol our dcvcloping undcr
standing wc scc and acknowlcdgc that to arrivc at that cnd
wc nccd to dcvclop skillul mcans in our dcalings with othcrs
and thc world, through wholchcartcd cngagcmcnt, through
opcnncss and lricndlincss, bccausc wc scc this as thc cxprcs
sion ol thc hcart’s truc naturc. Vc rcadily nurturc our innatc
human virtucs, qualitics, and potcntials, so as to lulnl our
practicc. Vhat wc arc doing with this cngagcmcnt is lcarn
ing to go bcyond, not just our own scnsc ol scparatcncss
but that ol ‘othcr’ — through wholchcartcd commitmcnt to
practicc. Tis will thcn bring us closcr to our truc naturc. Vc
68 69
nccd to go bcyond cvcn that scparatcncss ol scll bccausc wc
arc part ol a much biggcr picturc. !n ordcr to bccomc truly
wholc again wc nccd to nurturc thc spirit that wc cultivatc
not just towards othcrs and oursclvcs but also to thc wholc ol
lilc, including thc non-scnticnt, bccausc it is this totality that
makcs up thc wholc, and our truc naturc.
!t is not cnough just to cngagc with mctta and dcvclop
loving kindncss towards othcrs. !l you arc rcally intcrcstcd in
thc lull rcward ol thc bodhisattva path, cxpand that practicc
ol considcration and rcspcct to cmbracc thc wholc world and
cvcrything that is in it. Clcan thc tools you havc uscd and
rcturn thcm to thcir rightlul placc. Ðrivc your car with scn
sitivity and kindncss. Ðo not throw and kick things bccausc
you arc lrustratcd with thcm or makc thcm thc objcct ol
your lrustration. Lcarn to bc opcn to thcm and scc thcm as
your lricnds, scc thcm as a vchiclc to rcality, part ol thc samc
mystcry that you arc.
!t is said that pcoplc talk to plants. Vc don’t havc to
takc this litcrally ol coursc but what is mcant by this is that
by stilling and opcning up our minds to this lorm ol lilc, our
natural intuitivc scnsitivity is ablc to communc with plant
and scc thcir nccds. Tis way ol communicating is thc rcal
‘talking’, and lurthcr cultivatcs thc rcspcct lor all that is, a
rcspcct that lcads to thc cxpcricncc ol thc oncncss ol lilc.
Vith this cultivation wc arc not just cmbracing humans
and nurturing compassion lor thcir plight, but cmbracing all
that is, bccausc wc scc that cvcrything is a part ol thc wholc.
!n thc wholc thcrc isn’t that which is alivc and that which
70 71
isn’t alivc. Vholcncss is thc 8uddha naturc itscll, and it is
within this truc naturc that all things havc thcir homc.
!’vc rcad many books in which thc tcrms awarcncss
and mindlulncss appcar thc samc and arc intcrchangcd quitc
lrccly, but, ! scc a dißcrcncc bctwccn thcm. Tcy may wcll bc
thc closcst ol lricnds and nrmly linkcd, but thcy arc dißcrcnt,
and that dißcrcncc is worth cxploring. To statc thc dißcrcncc
at thc outsct ! would say that awarcncss is lully alivc but non
cngaging and thcrclorc passivc (at lcast until thc latcr stagcs
ol thc bodhisattva path whcn scparatcncss and duality ccasc),
whilst mindlulncss is lully alivc and cncrgctic.
Mindlulncss is thc conscious act ol bringing oursclvcs
back to thc statc ol awarcncss. Vc usc mindlulncss as a tool,
it is a conscious tool that wc lcarn to cmploy with skillul
mcans in mcditation, and in cvcryday activitics, to bring our
sclvcs back to what wc arc cngagcd in. Mindlulncss takcs us
back to whcrc wc arc training oursclvcs always to bc abiding
— in a statc ol purc awarcncss. As most ol us would rcadily
admit, wc arc scldom lully conscious ol what wc arc doing
at any momcnt. How many timcs havc wc walkcd down a
long road and rcachcd thc othcr cnd to rcalizc wc havc no
rccollcction whatsocvcr ol thc journcy and thc cngagcmcnt
wc must havc had with thc cnvironmcnt along thc way:
And lor thosc who drivc a car, how many journcys
across a busy town, stopping and starting, continually
70 71
making dccisions, havc wc takcn and at journcy’s cnd had
littlc rccollcction ol it: oltcn accompanicd by thc startling
thought ‘Ðid ! drivc through any rcd tramc lights:!’ Vc arc
all lamiliar with thcsc cxpcricnccs, yct it is thc purposc ol
Ðharma training lor us to bc alivc and awarc in thc activity
— howcvcr mundanc — that wc arc doing right now. How
can wc achicvc this:
!n our mcditation wc havc a tcchniquc that wc con
ccntratc on that allows us to dcvclop thc ability to stay onc
pointcd and in a statc ol awarcncss. To always bc coming
back to it whcn wc wandcr oß in thoughts and mcntal pic
turcs — cvcn il thcy arc drivcn by thc cmotions and passions.
Vc surrcndcr to thc activity ol, say, counting thc brcath. !t
is thc surrcndcr to that activity that allows us to bc alivc to
thc momcnt. !n our daily livcs it is thc samc principlc. !l !
am brushing my tccth ! stay totally with that activity. ! am
awarc ol thc lccling ol thc bristlcs passing ovcr thc tccth and
gums, ! am awarc ol thc tastc ol thc pastc ctc. ! givc myscll
to that cxpcricncc but ! havc to bring lorth mcntal cßort to
stay thcrc, and surc cnough howcvcr much ! try to stay with
it thc mind kicks in and !’m oß again into a thought and
soon losc thc awarcncss ol thc activity. 8ut it is thc ability to
rcturn, through mindlulncss, that allows mc to catch myscll
and bring myscll instantly back into thc alivcncss ol that
momcnt. Tis coming back and wandcring oß and coming
back again can happcn scvcral timcs just within this simplc
cvcryday activity, but it is thc willingncss, through mcntal
cßort and commitmcnt, to cngagc in bcing at onc with this
72 73
that to mc is thc csscncc ol mindlulncss. !t is a proloundly
dccp cncrgctic mcntal commitmcnt to thc Ðharma. !t is
thc commitmcnt to try to bc alivc to cvcry activity. Vhcn
swccping thc ßoor bc mindlul and with that commitmcnt
bring yourscll back lrom your thoughts and bccomc alivc
and awarc to what you arc doing.
How casy it is to go through thc day and not rcmcmbcr
that wc arc supposcd to bc practising thc Ðharma and so bc
awarc and alivc to thc momcnt, all day thinking this and
thinking that and ncvcr rcally cxpcricncing thc wondcr ol
just bcing. A willing commitmcnt to bc mindlul promotcs
thc ability to train oursclvcs to comc back homc, to bc always
coming back to oursclvcs.
! havc lound, through cxpcricncc, a way that hclps
to promotc this ability. ! rcalizcd that il this mind ol minc
must always bc chattcring, it would bc bcst lor it to chattcr
about somcthing which would hclp lcad mc back to myscll
and awarcncss — i.c. thc Ðharma. ! thcn try il possiblc to
go bcyond that chattcring modc and musc or pondcr on thc
Ðharma instcad.
To musc, or pondcr, is to go bcyond our cvcryday normal
thinking and ‘look’ and bc awarc ol our subjcct with a bright,
still mind. Vith this in placc, you will nnd thc pondcring
will bcgin to takc placc much morc in thc body than in thc
mind. Tis can bccomc cvidcnt in mcditation, but try it cvcn
whilst just coming and going in daily lilc. 8y musing bcyond
thought you arc much morc likcly to bc awarc ol yourscll
and thc body. And with thc csscncc ol awarcncss bcing vcry
72 73
much in thc body, this musing or pondcring is much morc
likcly to go bcyond thc rcach ol thc scll and thc distortions
it may bring with it. Tis brings us closcr to thc Ðharma,
bccausc truth is actually lound dccp within our own bcing.
!l your Ðharma knowlcdgc is corrcct, your Ðharmic
thoughts should always promotc a tcndcncy to rcßcct on
yourscll. Vhatcvcr Ðharmic subjcct you may wandcr oß in,
it should always bc somchow linkcd to you, and bc sccn as
somcthing pcrsonal to rclatc to. Tcrc arc aspccts ol 8uddhist
wisdom and idcas on which wc can pondcr that may takc us
outsidc ol oursclvcs, oltcn into thc clouds. 8ut lor thosc who
arc committcd practitioncrs thc knowlcdgc that wc choosc to
think about or pondcr upon should always havc thc cßcct ol
turning our attcntion inwards, should always bc pcrsonal and
lcad to a conncction within. !l you arc prcparcd to pondcr
only thosc mattcrs that makc you turn inwards, thcn you arc
just a momcnt away lrom catching yourscll and rcturning to
your scllawarcncss and to what you arc doing just thcn. So
pondcr Ðharma that turns you inward, do not pondcr what
you think to bc Ðharma that only scrvcs to takc you away.
!l you arc looking lor somcthing to pondcr thcn may !
suggcst somcthing that has bccn so usclul lor mc, thc most
wondcrlul ol contcmplations, onc that can bc pursucd both
in thc dccpcst samadhi and in thc middlc ol thc busicst
high strcct, that is, to pondcr thc tilakkhana or thrcc signs
ol bcing: anicca, dukkha, anatta — impcrmancncc, unsat
islactorincss, and notscll or insubstantiality. At any timc
ol day or night, in any activity you carc to imaginc, it is
74 75
always possiblc to pondcr any ol thcsc thrcc signs, singularly
or collcctivcly, lor thcrc is nothing in thc univcrsc, whcthcr
it is your own mind and body or thc lurthcst galaxy, that is
outsidc thcsc truths. !t docsn’t mattcr at all what your mood
may bc. \icw thc world and all that is going on at thc timc,
and bring onc ol thcsc wondcrs to bcar upon somc clcmcnt
ol that cxpcricncc and pondcr it.
Vatch thc changc taking placc in lront ol you, as noth
ing cvcr stays thc samc lor long, and rcalizc that cvcrything
is in a statc ol ßux and can ncvcr ultimatcly bc indcpcndcnt.
And what happcns whcn ! think that this thing is somchow
nxcd and thcrclorc graspablc: Look outwards into thc world
in this way, but bcttcr still makc it rcally pcrsonal and look
insidc yourscll as wcll. Apply thcsc thrcc wondcrs to your
body and mind as you movc around. Look into mind and
body through thcsc charactcristics without thinking. Look
into your lcclings and dcsircs and avcrsions and cmotions and
passions in thc samc way — thcn usc thinking to continuc
whcn thinking dcmands its placc back. Any way you choosc,
lct total anarchy rcign! ]ust apply thosc thrcc prccious and
prolound tools to your cvcry minutc. Tcsc will lamiliarizc
you with thc Ðharma and takc you back ovcr and ovcr again,
with mindlulncss, into yourscll and into thc prcscnt momcnt.
Morc and morc you will bc ablc to stay with what you arc
doing. Try it. Tis is callcd ‘skillul mcans lor thc chattcring
mind, and loss ol awarcncss’.
!t is thc commitmcnt to thc cncrgctic mcntal cngagc
mcnt ol mindlulncss in thc momcnt that is thc Ðharma’s
74 75
most important tool. !t is lull ol lilc, bccausc it tcmpcrs and
cvcn stops thc inccssant karmic ßow ol thoughts that takc
us away lrom thc cxpcricncc ol thc lullncss ol lilc, and it is
this lack ol lullncss (lulnlmcnt) that is thc root ol dukkha.
!t is mindlulncss that applics thc brakc and slows down thc
whccl ol samsara, prcparing thc conditions lor thc diamond
cuttcr ol awarcncss to slicc that samsaric whccl to shrcds.
Having lookcd at mindlulncss wc can now look at its bcst
lricnd ‘that which mindlulncss is born ol ‘: awarcncss. Vc
humans not only havc awarcncss, as all scnticnt bcings must
to onc dcgrcc or anothcr, wc also posscss thc grcatcst jcwcl
ol all, scllawarcncss, that ability to know oursclvcs and, as
it wcrc, stand back and rcßcct on that knowing, which thcn
givcs us thc ability to control and manipulatc our actions. !t
is thc highcst cvolution ol awarcncss that scts us apart lrom
all othcr lorms ol lilc, and whcn uscd to its highcst potcntial
it takcs us straight as an arrow to 8uddhahood.
Vhat a wondcrlul aspcct ol our bcing to contcmplatc!
Vhcn wc rcally discovcr this mystcry ol mystcrics on all its
lcvcls, it is thc grcatcst ol insights, onc that whcn its ultimatc
undcrstanding is rcvcalcd, is discovcrcd to bc thc 8uddha
Tc wholc ol our Ðharma practicc is gcarcd towards
cultivating thc habit ol staying lor as long as possiblc in that
barc, nakcd awarcncss, whcrc wc know oursclvcs in cvcry
76 77
momcnt ol bcing. To stay thcrc lor as long as our ability
allows is truly to go bcyond thc world ol samsara, bccausc in
thosc momcnts wc arc ccasing to crcatc karma lor oursclvcs
and abiding in thc still coolncss that soon will takc us to
ctcrnal lrccdom. Tc Maha Satipatthana Sutta statcs ‘Vhcn
you stand, know you arc standing. Vhcn you sit, know you
arc sitting. Vhcn you walk, know you arc walking. Vhcn
you arc lying down, know you arc lying down’. 8ut how do
wc managc to achicvc this: Vc achicvc this by cultivating
thc cightlold path.
Tc csscncc ol thc Path is to cultivatc thc ability to
abidc in thc middlc way, that statc ol bcing that dcvclops
ovcr ycars ol practicc giving us thc ability to cngagc in lilc
to thc lull, but not to takc hold ol it and makc it ‘minc’, nor
to go thc oppositc way and turn away and rcjcct lilc. 8oth
arc attachmcnts, whichcvcr way wc want to rcact. Tcsc arc
thc cxtrcmcs ol lilc. Vhcn wc pcrlcct lctting go ol thcsc
cxtrcmcs wc arc no longcr bcing pullcd around by thcm, but
rcst in thc cool ol thc middlc — in thc middlc way. !t is
whilst in thc cool ol thc middlc that our scllawarcncss is at
its brightcst. !t shincs lorth without thc usual disturbanccs,
and its innatc ability to shinc through thc world and know
its own rcality is thcn at its pcak.
Vc arrivc at this prolound statc by cultivating our
cthical bchaviour and giving thc hcart pcacc, bccausc it
is harmonizing with its own natural goodncss. From this
stillncss wc can thcn strcngthcn our ability to conccntratc
and stay ccntrcd within our awarcncss. From this still cool
76 77
ccntrcdncss, our natural unspoilt awarcncss, wc can usc thc
insight tools ol thc Ðharma (lor cxamplc, thc charactcristics
ol impcrmancncc, sußcring, and notscll) that wc havc bccn
skillully and consistcntly nurturing to cut dccply into thc
crcatcd world ol samsara. Libcration thcn comcs lrom that
still, cool statc ol awarcncss, and nowhcrc clsc.
Somctimcs our awarcncss sccms prcscnt lor quitc somc
timc, and at othcr timcs wc losc it altogcthcr as our thoughts
and mcntal picturcs takc ovcr. !n rcality, awarcncss docsn’t
incrcasc or dccrcasc, it is consistcnt and cvcr prcscnt, but it
is likc thc cxpcricncc ol thc sun bcing covcrcd by clouds, wc
may no longcr scc thc sun but abovc thc clouds it is still shin
ing in pcrlcction.
!t is lrom awarcncss that thc blinding world ol thoughts
and mcntal picturcs is born but thcn obscurcs that vcry samc
awarcncss. Tc powcrlul lorccs that bring this world ol oppo
sitcs into bcing, that crcatc thc stagc lor thosc thoughts and
imprcssions to play on, arc also ultimatcly born ol awarcncss.
8ut that awarcncss, which is thc rcccptaclc ol cvcrything, is
always cool and miraculously ncvcr touchcd by any ol it. !t
docsn’t nccd air to brcathc nor lood and watcr to livc. ¡vcn
at dcath, awarcncss docs not dic. At cnlightcnmcnt, whcn
thc wholc univcrsc lrom hcavcn to hcll, cvcry rcalm ol sam
sara that thcrc is, dics and disappcars, awarcncss docsn’t, it
is still thcrc and not lor a singlc momcnt is it cvcr touchcd
or disturbcd. Ðo you now bcgin to scc how wondcrlul this
awarcncss that wc all havc rcally is:
!l through ycars ol dcdicatcd practicc you managc to
78 79
dcstroy thc world ol objccts and still thc uncnding ßow ol
thoughts, you will bc ablc to journcy cvcn dccpcr into thc
wondcrs ol awarcncss — whcrc docs it go, whcrc docs it cnd,
whcrc is its sourcc: You will bc going dccpcr and dccpcr,
going bcyond thc world, and bcyond that pathctic scll that
wantcd cvcrything. !s this awarcncss thcn thc rcal mc: !t
must bc. Arc that sound ovcr thcrc and my awarcncss ol it
rcally two, or arc thcy thc samc: !l thcy arc onc thcn ! am
that sound, ! am that bird, ! am that mountain.
Awarcncss thcn isn’t passivc at all, ultimatcly it is
anything but passivc. Awarcncss nnally discovcrs itscll, and
rcturns to itscll. Awarcncss is cvcrything, totality, all is onc.
Ònc is only awarcncss and thc grcat cmptincss (shunyata)
ol lovc and knowlcdgc, cmptincss bathcd in a warmth that
lovcs all that is, that is innnitc, lull ol bliss and ctcrnally lrcc
— and is thc rcal mc.
]ust stay with thc awarcncss that rcads thc words on
this pagc right now, just stay thcrc and bc still without lalling
back into mcntal chattcring, and you will soon discovcr thc
truth bchind thcsc words you havc just rcad. Truly, mindlul
ncss and awarcncss could ncvcr bc thought ol as thc samc.
Te ´iddle 7ay
Vhatcvcr part ol thc practicc ol thc noblc cightlold path wc
pursuc, thc goal is to onc day attain a pcrlcct balancc bc
twccn oppositcs. Òn thc onc sidc is grasping at our mcntal
and physical cxpcricnccs, and on thc othcr rcacting to thcm
78 79
with a ncgativc attitudc ol disintcrcst and rcjcction. Tc nrst
is ctcrnalism, bccausc it is an act ol trying to makc somc
thing minc to kccp, thus going against thc natural law that
cvcrything is in a pcrmancnt statc ol changc. Tc sccond is
nihilism, not acccpting thc irrcsistiblc rcality that wc arc part
ol lilc, and wc can ncvcr rcmovc oursclvcs lrom it, cvcn with
Tis balancc wc call in 8uddhism thc middlc way. As
this is an arca wc arc somctimcs lamiliar with in our livcs,
wc may lccl wc know cnough about it, and not givc it too
much attcntion. 8ccausc wc think it is casily undcrstood wc
may put it to onc sidc, bclicving thcrc arc othcr aspccts ol
Ðharma to study which arc lar morc dimcult to comprchcnd,
and thcrclorc must bc morc important than this doctrinc ol
thc middlc way. 8ut this is wrong.
! havc tricd to point to thc practicc in its various laccts
throughout this book, so ! nccd not claboratc on any aspcct
ol it just hcrc. !l thc practitioncr docs not grasp at thcir cthi
cal practicc in thcir cngagcmcnt with thcmsclvcs, and othcrs,
and lilc in gcncral, bc it in word or actions, and say ‘this is
minc’ — il thcy do not grasp at thcir dcvcloping conccntra
tion coming lrom thcir mcditation and cultivation ol mind
lulncss through thcir daily practicc and say ‘this is minc’ — il
thcy do not grasp at thc wisdom that ariscs whilst using thc
tools ol insight during practicc and say, ‘this is minc’ — thcn
a vcry prolound statc ol mind will soon manilcst. !t is a statc
ol mind that has ncvcr bccn known bclorc, that is groundcd
in thc pcrlcction ol wisdom ol thc ordinary mind. Tat ordi
80 81
nary mind, no longcr drivcn by scllintcrcst, bccomcs a crca
tion ol thc wisdom ol thc middlc way, as it no longcr grasps
at anything, but instcad lalls into cquanimity towards all
things. ¡quanimity mcans that thc mind allows cvcrything
that comcs to it to just arisc and pass away, without rcacting
by grasping or rcjccting. Tis is what you havc bccn practis
ing lor all your 8uddhist lilc. !t is thc pcrlcction ol practicc,
thc pcrlcction ol thc middlc way, and thc lulnlmcnt ol thc
lourth noblc truth. Vhcn your mind rcachcs this cxaltcd
statc and you do not slidc back, cnlightcnmcnt will vcry
quickly comc. Tat is absolutcly guarantccd. Tc doctrinc ol
thc middlc way may wcll bc thc simplcst ol doctrincs, but it
is also thc most prolound.
´o .alue (udgements
Vhcn wc havc committcd oursclvcs to a daily sitting prac
ticc, somc days wc arc conccntratcd whilc othcr days wc arc
anything but. Conccntration comcs in varying dcgrccs, and
our lack ol bcing ablc to conccntratc comcs in dcgrccs as wcll,
with our mind and lcclings ßowing nrst this way thcn that.
Vhcn conccntration is good wc may cxpcricncc hap
pincss or bliss that can pcrmcatc our wholc bcing. At thcsc
timcs wc couldn’t bc kccncr to sit. Òn othcr days wc may
go to our mcditation with lots ol ncgativc lcclings, thoughts,
and cmotions. Try as wc might wc simply can’t put two
scconds ol conccntration togcthcr, so that whcn wc nnish
our mcditation wc oltcn lccl worsc than whcn wc startcd.
80 81
Tis is bccausc wc assumc that wc havc lailcd, and that thc
wholc cxcrcisc was a wastc ol timc. ! am surc cvcryonc rcad
ing this will havc had thcsc cxpcricnccs lrom timc to timc,
as wc incvitably lall into valuc judgcmcnts, thinking cithcr
‘My mcditation was good today’ or ‘My mcditation was bad
today’. 8ut making thosc kinds ol judgcmcnts is wrong, and
rcally shows a lack ol undcrstanding ol thc Ðharma and how
it works. 8y all mcans say — il you must — ‘! was conccn
tratcd today’ or ‘! wasn’t conccntratcd today’, bccausc that is
a simplc statcmcnt ol lact, but don’t allow yourscll to lall into
thosc judgcmcnt traps.
! am pcrsonally convinccd that il thcrc is a wholchcart
cd commitmcnt, both sinccrc and dccp, to thc thrcc jcwcls
ol 8uddha, Ðharma, Sangha — bc it to thc arising ol thc
bodhicitta through thc bodhisattva vows, or a commitmcnt
to thc thrcc jcwcls in a morc traditional scnsc — somcthing
vcry prolound takcs placc on a dccp subconscious or cvcn
unconscious lcvcl. A mcssagc or signal is scnt right into thc
hcart ol samsara — into its darkcst, most unknown lcvcl
— saying that you arc no longcr going to bc thc victim ol
this cntrapmcnt and bondagc. Tis mcssagc is a statcmcnt
that lrom this day lorward you arc going to work with
wholchcartcd commitmcnt to translorm that darkncss until
you arc lrcc and libcratcd. !n this way you sct in motion an
irrcvcrsiblc proccss that docsn’t work lrom your consciousncss
down, but lrom your subconscious up. 8ccausc it is coming
lrom this unknown dcpth you arc ncvcr rcally in a position
to know what is good and what is bad practicc.
82 83
!n your daily mcditation practicc, which is complcmcn
tary and intcgral to an ongoing daily Ðharma practicc, avoid
making thc mistakc ol valuc judging. !l you arc cultivating
thc middlc way and your practicc is truc, thcn try to rccog
nizc that it is rcally working much morc on this subconscious
lcvcl, and is bcyond your ability to scc and know dircctly. 8y
dctcrmining to commit yourscll to a consistcnt, balanccd,
daily practicc, you arc scnding that clcar and prccisc mcssagc
dccp into your psychc that thc gamc is up. !t is a mcssagc
to thosc lorccs that you don’t rcally undcrstand, bccausc at
prcscnt thcy arc largcly unknown, that you arc now dctcr
mincd to gct to know and undcrstand thcm. You arc now
prcparcd to opcn up to thosc lorccs that hithcrto you havc
not bccn conncctcd to, or havc turncd away lrom out ol lcar.
You arc committcd to looking into thcm with undcrstanding
and cmbracing lovc should thcy arisc lrom thc subconscious.
Trough this proccss, in timc, thcy will translorm out ol
thcir prcscnt darkncss.
!t is your commitmcnt to thc practicc, and to taking
yourscll to your mcditation posturc cvcry day, that is thc
kcy to changc. ¡vcn il you arc surc it is a wastc ol timc to sit
today, still go to your cushion. ¡vcn il you wcrc corrcct and
you don’t sit at all wcll, cvcn il your mind is all ovcr thc placc
with not two scconds ol conccntration put togcthcr, still do it,
undcrstanding that what is important to changc thosc dark
lorccs is your consistcnt commitmcnt to practicc.
You will havc a sct timc lor your sitting, so stick to that.
Vhcn you arc lccling good about lilc go to your mcditation
82 83
and cnjoy it, but stay with your sct timc. Ðon’t dccidc to sit
anothcr nvc or tcn minutcs bccausc you arc conccntratcd. !l
you arc lccling bad about lilc thcn go to your mcditation
and conccntratc as bcst you can. Stay with your sct timc,
don’t dccidc to sit nvc or tcn minutcs lcss bccausc you arc
struggling. 8y bcing consistcnt you arc not judging your sit
ting — and bccausc you arc not in dircct contact with your
subconscious you arc not qualincd to judgc anyway. ]ust stick
to thc lorm that you havc takcn on, and bc as dctcrmincd as
you can in maintaining that consistcncy. !t is no usc judging
good or bad, bccausc wc arc not in a position to, nor is it our
job to do so.
!t is thc dctcrmination to bc consistcnt in all situations
that scnds rcpcatcd mcssagcs to thosc unlathomablc dcpths
ol darkncss that thc gamc is up. Tat is thc practicc ol thc
middlc way, and it is thc middlc way that translorms our
bondagc to thosc lorccs ol darkncss and ctcrnal bccoming.
(hange — Jharmic and 7orldly
! havc oltcn bccn askcd about thc changc that wc all hopc
will comc out ol our practicc, and how wc can rccognizc
it. Vc comc to thc practicc hoping lor changc as wcll as lor
many othcr apparcnt rcasons, but it is not a good idca to gct
too attachcd, bccoming goaloricntcd and wanting to turn
into somconc clsc, or cvcn to havc dcsircs lor cnlightcnmcnt
that wc thcn carry around. !t is natural cnough to want to
cxpcricncc somc sort ol changc: in oursclvcs, and in our rc
84 85
lationships with othcrs and thc world. 8ut although changc
docs takc placc as wc practisc, it is invariably vcry dimcult to
idcntily and dcscribc thc changcs that happcn.
Tcrc arc lundamcntally two typcs ol changc, onc
worldly and thc othcr Ðharmic. An cxamplc ol a worldly
changc would bc somcthing similar to an cxpcricncc ! wcnt
through whilst in my tccns. ! uscd to bitc my nails habitually.
!t not only madc my nngcrs look unsightly, it also cncour
agcd my mothcr to kccp going on at mc! Ònc day ! dccidcd
that cnough was cnough, that ! rcally must makc thc cßort
to brcak this habit. So ! summoncd up thc conscious will
and dctcrmination to locus on thc habit ol a lilctimc, brcak
it, and thus undcrtakc somc sort ol changc. For wccks, cvcry
timc ! wcnt to put onc ol my nngcrs in my mouth ! brought
lorth thc will to rcsist thc habit and tcmptation, until nnally
thc dcsirc and habit dicd. Changc had comc and ! stoppcd.
My mothcr was happy! ‘Ðavid’, shc said ‘wcll donc, you havc
brokcn a habit ol a lilctimc!’
Tis was a dclibcratc, conscious act ol will on my part.
! workcd to bring about changc by locusing on a particular
part ol myscll, working to stcm thc ßow ol an ingraincd
habit, until ! could quitc clcarly scc that it had bccn brokcn.
Tat was a simplc cxamplc, and ! am surc most ol us havc
madc cßorts down thc ycars — cspccially at thc turn ol thc
ycar whcn wc traditionally makc a rcsolution to brcak an un
dcsirablc habit, so as to changc lor thc bcttcr. 8ut Ðharmic
changc docsn’t work likc this.
!l wc havc a truc and consistcnt practicc, wc don’t locus
84 85
on a particular aspcct ol our pcrsonality at all, targcting it
as somcthing to changc. !nstcad, wc cmbracc and acccpt all
ol oursclvcs lor what wc arc, without judging, in a spirit ol
opcnncss. Tus wc avoid thc trap ol locusing on particular
aspccts ol our pcrsonality and wanting to changc just thosc
parts. Tis cmbracing ol all that wc arc, opcning up to and
acccpting it, is prcciscly thc dißcrcncc bctwccn a worldly
pursuit and a Ðharmic pursuit.
Òpcning up and acccpting without rcacting, in a con
sistcnt way, mcans bcing prcparcd to cmbark on a practicc
ol giving up all thc scllccntrcd attachmcnts that givc us
troublc. Tis nccds to bc donc in a complctc and uncompro
mising way, whilst cngaging with lilc in a wholchcartcd and
positivc manncr.
Unlikc worldly changc, which is oltcn vcry obvious,
such as my nngcrnail cxamplc, changc brought about by
Ðharma practicc will not bc so casy to idcntily in a dircct
way. Tis is bccausc thc proccss ol Ðharmic changc takcs
placc right across thc pcrsonality, not targcting any particu
lar part ol it. So it is thc totality ol oursclvcs that is bcing
touchcd by that changc.
Òl coursc somctimcs in our practicc wc may havc to
locus on a part ol our pcrsonality that may risc to thc surlacc.
8ccausc it is big and important, and intcrlcrcs with thc rcst
ol thc practicc, wc may havc to work on it spccincally. 8ut
this is not thc gcncral spirit ol Ðharma practicc. Tat spirit is
onc ol bcing opcn to all ol oursclvcs with cquanimity whilst
cngaging wholchcartcdly with lilc.
86 87
Somctimcs it is possiblc to gct an inkling ol how you
havc changcd, such as whcn you rcact dißcrcntly in a lamil
iar situation lrom how you uscd to rcact in thc past. You may,
lor cxamplc, nnd yourscll mccting a pcrson that you uscd to
havc all sorts ol ncgativc lcclings towards — to thc cxtcnt
that you lound it dimcult to lunction comlortably around
thcm. Tcn you cncountcr this pcrson again altcr many ycars
and scc much thc samc pcrson that you rcmcmbcr lrom all
that timc ago. Somc timc altcr this rcunion you may sud
dcnly rcalizc how you now lunctioncd vcry comlortably with
thcm, and scc that you must rcally havc changcd.
! think that is about as closc as you can gct to sccing
changc in an cvidcnt, dircct way. Vorldly changc is somc
thing conscious and obvious, and invariably about onc thing,
but Ðharmic changc actually takcs placc on a subconscious
or cvcn unconscious lcvcl. 8ccausc it ‘sprcads itscll ’ across
our bcing it bccomcs almost impossiblc to pinpoint and idcn
tily. 8cing vcry subtlc, it cannot bc known in thc ordinary
dircct way.
! rcmcmbcr vcry wcll that whcn ! nrst startcd to prac
tisc Zcn ! had two lists in my mind. Ònc containcd all thc
things that ! didn’t likc about myscll that ! wantcd to gct
rid ol, and thc othcr was a list ol all thc virtucs and charac
tcristics ol a good man that ! wantcd to dcvclop. ! thought
‘Right, !’ll start at thc top ol thc list and work through cach
onc ! don’t likc, thcn tick thcm oß. Tcn !’ll cultivatc all thc
dcsirablc things hcrc on thc sccond list, and tick thcm oß
onc by onc, so that ! cnd up bcing thc pcrson that !’vc always
86 87
wantcd to bc’ ! soon lcarncd to lorgct that approach, as it
bccamc clcar to mc that thc practicc and thc changc it pro
duccd didn’t work in such a clcar, obvious, (and scllccntrcd)
way. ! lcarncd to lct go ol thosc dcsircs, and to acccpt myscll
just thc way ! was. ! would suggcst that you dcvclop thc samc
attitudc towards your natural and undcrstandablc dcsirc lor
changc. Rcal changc is bcyond thc scll ’s ability to know, bc
causc it is that vcry cxpcricncc ol scll that is changcd through
Ðharma practicc.
Changc, in thc rcal Ðharmic scnsc, is actually nothing
to do with us. !t is a slow taming and translorming ol our lilc
cncrgy. Tis cncrgy is bound up and dcludcd by attachmcnts,
which arc thcmsclvcs crcatcd and drivcn by thc scnsc ol scll
and cgo that posscsscs and shapcs our pcrsonality. Vhcn
rcal Ðharmic changc takcs placc, this lilccncrgy translorms
back into its original naturc on a dccp subconscious lcvcl. !n
our original naturc, thcrc is no dcsirc lor changc.
Karma and (ebirth
Tc wholc subjcct ol karma and rcbirth is onc ol thc grcat
lascinations and sourccs ol wondcrmcnt in 8uddhism. !t
attracts attcntion possibly as much as any lacct ol thc tcach
ings, but what good is it to us in our cvcryday practicc: ! oncc
askcd my tcachcr in Sri Lanka somcthing on this subjcct.
His rcply was ‘Tcory, it’s all just thcory.’ ! don’t cxpcct lor
onc momcnt that hc doubtcd thc doctrinc. Most ¡astcrncrs
wouldn’t cvcn qucstion it. Vhat hc mcant was that thcrc was
88 89
littlc usc lrom thc point ol vicw ol concrctc, cvcryday prac
ticc in gctting caught up in thc imagcry that has bccn crcatcd
on this subjcct largcly by thc !ndian mind.
! was oncc askcd at a book launch what ! thought about
this cndlcss cyclc ol coming and going through cndlcss livcs.
Pcrsonally ! havc always thought that thc bcst way to usc this
tcaching was as a spur to grcatcr cßorts in thc practicc, so
that onc day thc karmic propcnsitics that crcatc lorm — and
yct anothcr lilc — arc translormcd, thus brcaking this ctcr
nal cyclc ol rcbirth and sußcring.
Vhcn ! nrst camc to 8uddhism and Zcn this was not a
subjcct ! was cvcr cncouragcd to invcstigatc and study. !n lact
it was onc ol thosc taboo subjccts that no onc would bring up.
Now, looking back, ! lccl this was an crror, lor to gct somc
sort ol grasp ol thc law ol karma and its implications, includ
ing rcbirth, is vcry hclplul lor practicc. As with many othcr
aspccts ol thc tcaching and philosophy ol 8uddhism, whcn
invcstigating karma wc must bc carclul not to gct caught up
with thc imagcry it crcatcs. Rathcr wc nccd to rcßcct on thc
doctrinc and takc it on board lightly, allowing oursclvcs to
crcatc a morc objcctivc ovcrall picturc ol samsara that hclps
lorm thc background to our practicc.
Likc many pcoplc in thc Vcst ! was brought up a
Christian — a Roman Catholic actually. Ònc ol thc aspccts
ol Christianity that always gavc mc troublc was thc idca that
lilc was somchow just a oncoß cxpcricncc that you had to
gct right, or you would cnd up in hcll lor all ctcrnity. ! just
couldn’t cquatc that tcaching with thc obvious incqualitics
88 89
ol opportunity to go to Hcavcn that arc prcscntcd to us at
birth, both physically and mcntally. Had God rcally crcatcd
us, with all thc incqualitics that ! could scc all around mc:
Contcmplating this, thc only conclusion ! could cvcr comc to
was that il hc had donc so hc must surcly bc vcry twistcd.
8ut whcn ! camc across thc law ol karma it madc in
stant scnsc to mc. Òncc ! discovcrcd that wc arc actually
thc crcators and hcirs to our actions, that wc havc to livc out
thcir conscqucnccs through an cndlcss scrics ol livcs, it im
mcdiatcly answcrcd my qucstions about thc incquality and
lopsidcdncss ol lilc. Tis rcalization was vcry important lor
mc. !t allowcd mc to cmbracc and scttlc into thc practicc,
bccausc it prcscntcd an acccptablc picturc ol thc naturc and
rcality ol lilc.
All rcligions havc a lcar clcmcnt within thcir doc
trinc — somc morc than othcrs — and thc lcar clcmcnt in
8uddhism is thc doctrinc ol thc cndlcss sußcring and lot
tcry ol rcbirth. ]ust to contcmplatc thc conscqucnccs ol this
rcality should bc all thc spur wc nccd to commit oursclvcs to
scrious practicc in ordcr to gct oursclvcs out ol that cndlcss
cyclc ol birth, dcath, and sußcring.
Vhcn ! was in robcs in Sri Lanka, during a pcriod
whcn insight was ßowing vcry dccply, ! was contcmplating
this vcry subjcct onc day whilst rclaxing in my hut. Vithout
any warning, ovcr a pcriod ol a lcw scconds cvcry lilc that
! havc livcd, and clcar sccing ol thc rcality ol all thosc livcs,
arosc within mc. As cvcry lilc camc up and passcd through
thc transccndcntal mind’s cyc, thc rcality ol thc bcginning,
90 91
middlc, and cnd ol cvcry onc ol thosc livcs was sccn. (Tcrc
was ncvcr a sccing ol any dctails ol thc livcs, lor this is not
ol intcrcst to thc transccndcntal mind. Ðctails ol past livcs
would bc thc domain ol thc ordinary mind that has pcrlcctcd
thc dhyanas — a practicc that has ncvcr intcrcstcd mc bc
causc it has only worldly lruits and is dcvoid ol truc wisdom.)
8ut thc numbcr ol livcs sccn was quitc ungraspablc. Tcrc
was ncvcr a dcnnablc bcginning to thc start ol thc cyclc ol
bccoming, with thc numbcr ol livcs going bcyond thc capac
ity ol cvcn thc transccndcntal mind’s ability to comprchcnd.
Tis had a vcry strong impact on mc. !t madc mc sit down
and contcmplatc this wholc busincss ol birth and dcath.
! do not considcr myscll to bc a ncgativc pcrson with a
ncgativc vicw ol lilc, but lor somc hours ! allowcd myscll to
sit and contcmplatc that aspcct. ! contcmplatcd thc ncgativc,
thc sußcring, thc lcar, and lclt to onc sidc lor thc timc bcing
thc paradox ol thc wondcr and miraclc ol lilc ol which wc all
partakc. !t is a topic that wc all could turn oursclvcs towards
and musc ovcr lrom timc to timc.
! camc into this lilc cxpcricncing thc pain ol birth, and
havc spcnt most ol my lilc trying as bcst ! can to avoid any
morc ol it. ! could scc lcar as sußcring’s constant companion.
Tcrc is lcar ol lilc’s gcncral sußcring, but also spccincally
lcar ol lonclincss, loss, and dcath, which is a much dccpcr
lcar, and a dccpcr scnsc ol sußcring. ! havc always pursucd
happincss in thc hopc ol avoiding sußcring. ! havc sought
contcntmcnt in thc hopc that ! would ncvcr havc to lacc lcar
— but somchow ! havc ncvcr quitc pullcd it oß. Somctimcs
90 91
! havc tastcd happincss and contcntmcnt, but oltcn in thosc
prccious momcnts ! havc rccognizcd that it would soon bcgin
to slip through my nngcrs, and ! would havc to start all ovcr
! havc spcnt a lilctimc pursuing this goal ol con
tcntmcnt, whcthcr consciously or unconsciously, with thc
lrustration ol knowing that ultimatcly ! am ncvcr going to
achicvc it. Tis pursuit will no doubt last throughout my
ycars. Òn top ol that, during that pursuit ! will havc to try
not to bc prcoccupicd, but rathcr to acccpt that this body at
any momcnt could givc mc pain and scrious troublc.
!t was not dimcult to scc that this body makcs mc livc
my lilc at its constant bcck and call. !t rcquircs lood and
watcr, and gcncral attcntion. Howcvcr inconvcnicnt this at
tcntion may bc at timcs, thc body still dcmands priority ovcr
cvcrything. ! can scc that, howcvcr wondcrlul a machinc it
may bc, ! am still rcstrictcd by its dcmands. Yct ironically,
dcspitc thc rcscntmcnt that somctimcs can comc towards
this compulsory cngagcmcnt, thcrc is still a curious and
vcry powcrlul attachmcnt to it, cvcn though ! am awarc that
could at any momcnt it lct mc down.
!t will not scck my pcrmission to dic and go into
changc. !t will not apologizc il ! happcn to bc in thc middlc
ol somcthing important. !t will just do it. !n that dying thcrc
will incvitably bc pain, and ! will bc thcn bc laccd with its
closcst lricnd — lcar. Tc drcadcd lcar ol dcath will nnally
havc arrivcd. All ol my lilc ! havc convcnicntly avoidcd
thinking ol this day, but now thc onc guarantcc in lilc has
92 93
nnally comc. Along with it comc thc lcar, thc cxpcricncc ol
sußcring, and thc lcar ol thc unknown that lollows. Vhilst
in my lilc ! havc always chascd thc light, now thc darkncss
comcs, thc darkncss which is thc onc guarantcc in lilc. And
just how many timcs havc ! had this cxpcricncc ol dcath:
!l you would likc to gct to grips with thc numbcr ol
livcs you must surcly havc livcd, you can cmbark on a littlc
cxcrcisc that will bring homc to you thc cndlcss cyclc ol
rcbirth and sußcring that wc all sccm willing to partakc in.
Tink ol thc numbcr onc. Now doublc it, thcn doublc thc
rcsult ol that sum. Ðoublc it again, and so on. Òl coursc you
havc things to do in your lilc, so you can’t bc doing thcsc
sums all thc timc. Ncvcrthclcss whcncvcr you think ol it, in
timcs ol borcdom or whcncvcr it’s convcnicnt, continuc dou
bling thc total. Soon you will nccd a piccc ol papcr to kccp
track, and soon altcr that a calculator. As thc numbcr gcts
cvcr largcr you will rcquirc a computcr. Pursuc this cxcrcisc
at your lcisurc, right through your lilc, and whcn thc timc
finally arrivcs to lcavc thc body that can no longcr support you,
just chcck on thc ngurc that you arc currcntly at. Vhcn you
run your cycs along that numbcr, which will bc way bcyond
your ability to grasp, rcalizc that that numbcr just scratchcs
thc surlacc ol thc numbcr ol timcs you havc cxpcricnccd thc
phcnomcnon ol dcath that you arc now about to go through
yct again.
Maybc at that timc you will rcgrct not making thc
cßort to put an cnd to this hidcous cyclc that you havc no
control ovcr. Maybc you will think that il only you had madc
92 93
thc cßort whilc you wcrc wcll, you might havc comc to this
point with a smilc on your lacc, in thc knowlcdgc that this
was thc last timc. Tc judgc ol dcath, Yama — whom you
havc cncountcrcd countlcss timcs in thc past — will comc to
you yct again as hc has donc cvcry timc at your dcath, with
his picrcing cycs and hidcous laugh. Hc thcn will grab you
by thc scruß ol your ncck and drag you into anothcr lilc,
whcthcr you likc it or not, to pcrpctuatc this cndlcss cyclc.
At that momcnt it may dawn on you that you could havc
brought this cyclc to an cnd. Tc pcoplc you havc had laith
in, thc 8uddha, your tcachcr, all thc wisc mcn and womcn
throughout thc history ol 8uddhism, told you that going
bcyond birth and dcath could bc achicvcd. !l only you had
pursucd thc Path to takc you out ol this cyclc.... Tcn, instcad
ol Yama coming and roaring with laughtcr and cnjoying his
powcr ovcr you, you could havc grcctcd him with a warm
and loving smilc. You could havc drawn thc sword ol wisdom
that you had crcatcd, a sword honcd to a nnc sharpncss by a
lilctimc ol dcdicatcd practicc, and cut him in two.
Vhilst contcmplating thcsc ncgativc rcalitics ol lilc, !
rcalizcd what good karma ! had. Not only had ! comc to
human birth whcrc libcration lrom thc whccl is possiblc, !
had also had thc good karma to bc born in a timc whcn thc
Ðharma still cxists, and what is morc, thc good karma to
hcar that Law. Tcsc thoughts madc mc rcsolvc that ! was
ncvcr going to givc up this practicc whilc ! had thc good
karma to continuc. ! am dctcrmincd that it will bc mc and
not Yama who will bc smiling thc ncxt timc wc mcct.
94 95
Ònc ol thc most lascinating aspccts ol Ðharma training is
working to undcrstand thc subjcct ol thc scll. Tis rcally is
thc grcat mystcry. !l wc obscrvc oursclvcs, and thc motiva
tions, lcars, dcsircs, ctc. that sccm to takc hold ol our livcs
most ol thc timc, wc scc that just about cvcry mcntal movc
mcnt wc makc sccms to comc lrom thc conviction that thcrc
is a nxcd pcrson somcwhcrc insidc our mind and cvcn insidc
our body. Tis scnsc ol scll, cgo, or mc, sccms to pcrvadc our
wholc consciousncss, yct 8uddhism will always dcny its vcry
cxistcncc! Tcrc docsn’t appcar to bc anothcr rcligion or spir
itual path that makcs such a statcmcnt. ¡vcn il you wcrc to
study thc mctaphysics ol thc abhidharma, a study that lcavcs
no stonc unturncd in dissccting thc human condition and its
cxpcricncc, or to study thc many commcntarics and tcach
ings ol schools and mastcrs, thcy, and 8uddhism in gcncral,
will nowhcrc amrm this cxpcricncc all ol us arc apparcntly
having most ol thc timc.
¡vcn thc sccond ol thc lour noblc truths docsn’t statc
that thc causc ol sußcring is thc scll. !t says that it is dcsirc
that is thc causc ol sußcring. 8ut what is it that is dcsiring:
Vhat is this scll that docsn’t cxist:
Tc cxpcricncc ol scll always takcs placc in a statc ol
duality. Tc scnsc ol duality, ol mc hcrc and thc world out
thcrc, is thc normal statc ol bcing lor us all. Tis cxpcricncc ol
scparatcncss allows that statc ol individuality to arisc, and it is
whilst in that statc ol individuality that thc scll will manilcst.
94 95
Toughts will comc lrom that statc ol individuality and
a scllidcntity will arisc. Tosc thoughts that wcrc ncutral in
thcir original statc thcn bccomc ‘mc and minc’, and out ol
that thc world and thc world ol scllvolition comc into bcing.
Tc strcngth ol bcing that comcs lrom a scnsc ol scll is so
grcat that it cvcn rcmains lor quitc somc timc altcr thosc
thoughts stop. Tc wholc phcnomcnon ol scll and cgo rclics
on duality in ordcr to comc into bcing. So whcn thc condi
tions arc not thcrc lor it, thc scll is not subducd, nor docs it
go into hiding, it quitc litcrally docs not cxist.
!l you dcdicatc your mcditation lor a hundrcd ycars to
thc scarch lor thc scll you will ncvcr nnd it, yct it posscsscs
us throughout our day. !t is this mystcry bcyond all mystcrics
that wc so oltcn invcstigatc with thc wondcrlul tools uscd in
insight mcditation. Vc undcrstand that it is this vcry scnsc
ol scll that gathcrs up consciousncss and bcing, and crcatcs
this dclusion ol ‘Tis is mc, this is minc’ that wc arc thcn
cnsnarcd by.
Tc ncarcst ! havc cvcr comc to dcscribing this scnsc
ol a scll to myscll is that it is as il !’vc cntcrcd a room lull ol
lurniturc and many, many things, and thc air is nllcd with
a pcrlumc. ! thcn undcrtakc thc task ol trying to nnd thc
sourcc ol this pcrlumc. ! bcgin to scarch. Vhcrcvcr ! invcs
tigatc ! only cxpcricncc thc smcll. !t is cvcrywhcrc. !t is on all
thc lurniturc and on all thc objccts ! invcstigatc. ¡vcrything
is saturatcd by thc smcll, yct ! can ncvcr nnd its sourcc or
any tangiblc ccntrc lrom which it comcs. Tis sccms to bc
similar to any scarch lor thc scll that !’vc cvcr cmbarkcd on.
96 97
!t can ncvcr bc lound in and ol itscll, as it will always nccd
an objcct, whcthcr mcntal or physical, in ordcr to arisc. Takc
away thc objcct and you takc away thc scll. And it is bccausc
ol thc scll or cgo’s noncxistcncc that wc should not takc this
dclusion too scriously.
Tc scll is not a thing in itscll but a phcnomcnon that
ariscs duc to circumstanccs. Vhcn thc circumstanccs arc
not prcscnt thc scll is quitc litcrally noncxistcnt. Vc talk
somctimcs ol rcincarnation, but that implics a scll or pcrson
or somc scnsc ol idcntity that travcls to anothcr birth, so it
would actually bc morc accuratc to dcscribc it as rcbirth, as
this is lcss likcly to suggcst somc sort ol scllidcntity doing
thc travclling. !t is a sct ol conditions that docs not dic but
abidcs mystcriously dccp within us that docs this travclling,
and is mystcriously storcd bcyond all lorms ol knowing and
consciousncss. !t is vast amounts ol karmic sccds crcatcd by
past actions that do thc migrating — until thcy nnd suit
ablc conditions to gcrminatc and takc a ncw birth. Vhcn
thosc sccdlings ripcn, unlcss wc undcrstand thcir naturc,
thc conditions arc produccd lor a scnsc ol scll to arisc oncc
Vhcn wc comc to thc practicc ol thc 8uddhaÐharma,
wc may approach it lrom any numbcr ol pcrspcctivcs, but
ultimatcly thcsc various ways arc all dcsigncd to hclp us to
scc thc rcality ol our bcing, and thus lrcc oursclvcs lrom thc
bondagc ol nonundcrstanding. At no timc in our scarch lor
truth arc wc adviscd to gct involvcd with this scll. Òn thc
contrary, wc arc cncouragcd to turn away lrom it, and to
96 97
cultivatc thc rcality that rcvcals itscll whcn wc arc not caught
up and blindcd by it.
Tis dclusion ol a scllidcntity and thc massivc burdcn it
crcatcs may not bc somcthing that nccds to bc highlightcd so
much lor ¡astcrncrs. !n thc ¡ast pcoplc don’t gcncrally carry
around a burdcn ol scll, and thc guilt that charactcrizcs it, to
anything likc thc dcgrcc wc Vcstcrn pcoplc do. Tis burdcn
that wc Vcstcrncrs carry, which is lrcqucntly thc sourcc ol
our dimculty in undcrtaking this practicc, is uniquc in thc
history ol 8uddhism. Vcstcrn culturc typically cmphasizcs
thc importancc ol thc individual, and thc virtuc ol striv
ing lor yourscll in lilc rathcr than ncgating yourscll lor thc
grcatcr good. !t is this tcndcncy that crcatcs this pcrccivcd
nccd lor a strong, asscrtivc, succcsslul scll or cgo.
Tis strong and ‘unhcalthy’ scnsc ol scll that wc
Vcstcrncrs havc bccomcs a sourcc ol ncgativity that makcs
us dislikc, or cvcn hatc, oursclvcs. Vc may vicw oursclvcs as
usclcss and no good, and scc oursclvcs in gcncrally unwholc
somc tcrms. Tcn this scll ol ours bccomcs thc unbcarably
hcavy burdcn that many ol us cxpcricncc. Tis burdcn can
bccomc so massivc that it prcvcnts us lrom cngaging in any
mcaninglul practicc at all. Vc gct stuck and wcighcd down
with it as it takcs us ovcr morc and morc.
! lccl strongly about this subjcct, and nccd to air it, bc
causc ! had a strong locus on thc scll in my carly training and
lound it to bc thoroughly unhclplul and indccd opprcssivc. !t
just pandcrcd to thc ncgativity ! was alrcady carrying around
with mc anyway. ! rcachcd a point whcrc guilt almost took
98 99
ovcr, as ! bcgan to scc cvcrything ! did as a scllccntrcd act
— all ‘!’ — that by dcnnition madc mc lccl usclcss, and was
sinlul and wrong and outsidc ol practicc. Tc burdcn ol scll
sccmcd at timcs to bc actually incrcasing rathcr than dccrcas
ing. Tcrc was such an cmphasis and locus on this ‘!’ that !
almost bccamc convinccd that it was thc sixth skandha! Tis
is not thc way ol thc Ðharma.
Ðharmachari \cssantara writcs ol thc Vcstcrn prc
occupation with thc scll in his cxccllcnt book Meeting the
Buddhas (p.142) and lcavcs littlc lurthcr to add on this prc
dominantly Vcstcrn phcnomcnon:
Buddhism teaches that to gain Enlightenment .e ha.e
to go beyond, or see through, the nxed unchanging ego,
.ith its a.ersions and predilections. Unfortunately this
sometimes leads people to take cudgels to themsel.es. In
their attempts to stamp out the ego, they bring them-
sel.es to a .irtual standstill. Sometimes they become
so suspicious of themsel.es, constantly spying on them-
sel.es for signs of ego, that they become negati.ely self-
obsessed, and fail to make any real spiritual progress.
Ðharma practicc is not cxactly to turn away lrom this scll
and ignorc it, but rathcr to turn away lrom it whilc rctain
ing a watchlul cyc, as your undcrstanding ol rcality dccpcns.
Ðon’t lccl guilty whcn you makc a mistakc and scc it as all
‘!’ — thc grcat sin ol 8uddhism — and makc a problcm out
ol it. !l you do, you arc playing thc scll ’s gamc. !nstcad,
acknowlcdgc it and acccpt it as a part ol you that you nccd
98 99
to makc lricnds with. Ðharma practicc is ultimatcly only
about making lricnds with yourscll. Òpcn to that mcntal and
physical passionatc drivc ol attachmcnt that is drivcn by thc
scnsc ol scll, and contain it. Containing it is to not givc in to
it, not to givc in to it is to acknowlcdgc its noncxistcncc.
'pirituality and Taith
! havc intcntionally lclt till last this rcßcction on spirituality
and its naturc, as ! considcr it to bc thc most important aspcct
ol our training. !l wc choosc to ignorc this aspcct, and do not
makc it ccntral to our practicc, !’m convinccd that it will not
bc possiblc to maturc our undcrstanding to any dccp dcgrcc.
To ignorc thc innatc spirituality ol practicc is to ignorc thc
hcart, and unlcss thc hcart is lully cngagcd with thc wholc ol
our practicc, it will ncvcr truly opcn. !l wc dccidc to pursuc
a ‘non spiritual’ attitudc, thc natural warmth and wisdom ol
thc hcart will not lully opcn and cxprcss itscll. !l that is thc
casc thcn thc truc wondcr and mystcry ol this miraclc that
wc all partakc ol cvcry day will ncvcr truly rcvcal itscll. 8ut
what nccds to bc known lor thcrc to bc a spiritual practicc:
! would say thcrc arc two aspccts that charactcrizc spiritual
¡thics is intcntionally nurturing wholcsomc skil
lul mcans, so this is always ongoing in our wholchcartcd
cngagcmcnt with daily lilc. ¡thics also implics bringing
lorth rcstraint, so il a habit is sccn to bc unwholcsomc and
unskillul, cvcn harmlul, cithcr to yourscll or to othcrs, thcn
100 101
cßorts should bc madc to avoid gctting caught and carricd
away by that attachmcnt. Tis, ol coursc, is nnc, but thcrc is
an inhcrcnt dangcr in making thcsc judgcmcnts, ol bccom
ing judgcmcntal and oncsidcd, so wc must bc cvcr watchlul
to guard against that tcndcncy. !l wc want to nurturc truc
spiritual practicc that lcads to complctc undcrstanding ol thc
Ðharma, wc nccd to cngagc with thc wholc ol oursclvcs. Tis
mcans cxpanding on thc common basic cthical lramcwork,
and trying to addrcss all our attachmcnts — whcthcr wc scc
thcm as unwholcsomc or not, and including attachmcnt to
our vicws — with a spirit ol inclusivity.
Tc nrst aspcct, thcrclorc, is to cultivatc thc attitudc ol
giving up attachmcnt to thc wholc ol onc’s scll, not a practicc
whcrcby wc say, ‘! will givc up attachmcnt to this bccausc it
is unwholcsomc and ncgativc’ but ‘! will kccp hold ol this bc
causc it is wholcsomc and positivc.’ !l you go down this road
thcrc is a dangcr ol dcvcloping thc cgo still lurthcr, but now
with spiritual conccit, as you attach yourscll to what you con
sidcr good and bad. ¡vcntually this may lcad you to bccomc
split, in an opinionatcd and judgcmcntal statc which brccds
intolcrancc and bigotry. !t is thc attitudc ol willingly giving
up all attachmcnt that scts Ðharma practicc apart lrom othcr
lorms ol scllhclp that arc so prcvalcnt in thc Vcst thcsc
days. !l wc dccidc to takc on somc sort ol thcrapy or psycho
analytical activity that wc think will curc our problcms, this
is a dißcrcnt approach to spirituality.
!n thcrapy wc tcnd to targct a particular aspcct ol our
makcup that wc want to changc, so wc locus on that part
100 101
and work on it, usually with somconc clsc, and try to gct to
thc bottom ol thc problcm and thcn do somcthing about
it. Vc cxtract thc problcm lrom thc wholc, or at lcast most
ol it, in ordcr to dcal with it. Many, many pcoplc comc to
thc Ðharma bccausc thcy havc problcms thcy would likc to
rcsolvc, but thc way wc dcal with thcsc pcrccivcd problcms
within Ðharma practicc is not to scgrcgatc thcm and work
on thcm individually but to includc thcm in thc wholc prac
ticc. Ðharma practicc is not about picking and choosing, it
is about opcning up to thc wholc ol oursclvcs, saying ‘ycs’ to
cvcrything thcrc, and cultivating Ðharmic skills to trans
lorm what wc havc lound.
!t is thc willingncss to opcn to oursclvcs that lor most
ol us is a rcvolutionary, indccd lrightcning, act. Howcvcr, wc
lcarn through our dcvcloping undcrstanding ol practicc that
this is thc corrcct way ol translormation. Òur willingncss to
acccpt and contain all ol oursclvcs with a spirit ol opcnncss
is thc vcry csscncc ol spirituality. Tis involvcs rcsisting thosc
lamiliar attachmcnts: our wants and avcrsions, and our cnd
lcss vicws and opinions.
!t is thc willingncss to givc oncscll up in totality that
translorms thc cndlcss cyclc ol bccoming that wc havc all
bccn bound to sincc timc bcgan, and it is only thc willing
ncss to surrcndcr oursclvcs in totality that will put an cnd to
that cyclc. Tis must not bc misundcrstood as a ncgation ol
lilc, lar lrom it. Òur practicc is to cngagc lully and wholc
hcartcdly with lilc, in a skillul way that docs not promotc
thc ncurotic attachmcnts that wc all havc anyway. Vc nccd
102 103
to nurturc a warm hcart, as a rcplaccmcnt lor thosc long
hcld habits that causcd us thc troublcs that brought us to thc
practicc ol thc 8uddhaÐharma in thc nrst placc. 8ut what
should wc bc surrcndcring oursclvcs to:
Vhcn wc comc to 8uddhism, rcad about it, and listcn
to thosc who talk about it, wc lcarn about thc 8uddha’s lilc,
and thc strugglcs that hc wcnt through until nnally hc dis
covcrcd thc truth. Vc rcad and listcn as his tcachings and
thc philosophy ol lilc that 8uddhism oßcrs arc cxplaincd to
us, thosc prccisc tcachings that havc lcd mcn and womcn out
ol sußcring lor many hundrcds ol ycars. Trough this a spark
is struck within. Vc rccognizc that what wc arc now lcarn
ing lccls right and makcs good scnsc, and is what wc’vc bccn
scarching lor, whcthcr consciously or unconsciously, lor a long
timc. ! don’t bclicvc whcn this happcns it is at all an intcllcctual
rcaction, it is an intuitivc cxpcricncc that wc lccl compcllcd to
invcstigatc. Vc may rcad morc, or wc may straight away takc
up a Ðharma practicc, but thcrc is somcthing thcrc that lccls
right that kccps us moving lorward, and that ! would suggcst
is thc sccond aspcct ol spirituality — laith.
Faith ariscs in thc 8uddha and in his tcachings. Faith
is not intcllcctual but a lccling, it is a lccling that what you
arc now lcarning is right. You don’t yct havc any dircct cx
pcricncc to connrm that lccling, but somchow you know it
is right, and you arc prcparcd to trust it and allow it to carry
you lorward. Tis trust that comcs lrom inncr laith will
dccpcn as truc practicc dccpcns.
Focus on thc placc whcrc trust and laith is ccntrcd,
102 103
whcrc thc 8uddha and Ðharma is, and you will discovcr
that it is prcciscly whcrc your hcart is. Tcrc is no ‘logic’
hcrc. Tcrc arc no systcms or mcthods cithcr, but it is whcrc
all thc paradoxcs that arisc within your practicc arc pcacc
lully scttlcd. Tc daily practicc that you arc bccoming morc
and morc lamiliar with should havc this ccntrc as a part ol
it, and it is to this ccntrc that wc lcarn to surrcndcr. Ðharma
practicc is about gathcring up and containing all ol oursclvcs,
with a willingncss to bcar with all thosc habitual rcactions
that wc arc no longcr prcparcd to play along with. Gathcr all
ol thosc likcs and dislikcs, wants and avcrsions, that arc nrcd
by thc passionatc cmotional drivc ol ‘mc’, and oßcr thcm
back into thc laith and trust with which you arc now bccom
ing lamiliar and intimatc. Unburdcn yourscll and givc all ol
it, without rcscrvation and conditions, back into thc grcat
mystcry that lics within cach ol us.
Somcthing that has bccn at thc ccntrc ol my practicc
down thc ycars has bccn thc daily cultivation ol bowing.
Tis symbolizcs lor mc what thc wholc ol Ðharma practicc
is about. !n thosc prccious momcnts ol knccling and touch
ing my lorchcad to thc ground ! will gathcr up in my mind
thc wholc ol myscll, not just ‘Ðavid’ and all thc vicws and
opinions that hc is attachcd to, but also all thc wondcrlul
Ðharma undcrstanding that has rcvcalcd itscll down thc
ycars. ! gathcr it all up, and nnally, including thc gathcrcr,
hand it all back to thc 8uddha — not thc 8uddha that is
out thcrc in that rupa in lront ol mc, but thc 8uddha that
lics dccp within. ! always bow thrcc timcs. Òn thc nrst bow
! quictly ask thc 8uddha to lorgivc mc. Maybc to lorgivc a
rcccnt cxpcricncc that !’vc lclt ! had bccn unskillul in. ! ask
thc 8uddha to lorgivc all thc vicws and attachmcnts that !
chcrish that havc brought such sußcring, not just to myscll
but to so many in thc world, that not only causc harm, but
kccp mc lcarlul and scparatc lrom thc wondcr ol lilc. Òn thc
sccond bow ! ask lor hclp in thc task ol surrcndcring ‘Ðavid’
and his continual drivc to posscss what hc wants and control
all that comcs to thrcatcn him — lor thc strcngth ol scllwill
is indccd grcat, and too powcrlul lor mc to work with on my
own. Òn thc third bow ! ask to bc acccptcd back into thc
ctcrnal mystcry that is bcyond timc and thc sußcring ol lilc
and dcath, and this imprisonmcnt to scll.
Tc thrcc bows contain my dccpcst commitmcnt to
laith. Ðown thc ycars that laith has at timcs bccn so strong
that it has brokcn thc barricr ol scparatcncss bctwccn thc
8uddha and mc, and my rcqucsts lor support — usually
in timcs ol grcat distrcss — havc bccn hcard. Ðo not mis
undcrstand mc. ! am not saying ! havc laith in a god or somc
powcr ‘out thcrc’ and scparatc lrom mc. !n thosc timcs ol
communion it is rcvcalcd that all along it has bccn myscll
that has causcd this scparation lrom all that is. !t has just
bccn my own loolish mind at play. So in truth ! am not
scparatc at all, and indccd havc ncvcr bccn. !n thcsc timcs ol
communion thc dccpcst commitmcnt to going lor rclugc is
lulnllcd, lor truc going lor rclugc is to go bcyond sußcring,
to bc truly lrcc, to rcturn to thc warmth ol thc human hcart,
and thc homc that you ncvcr lclt.

David Smith

A B H  C M
A P

About is Book Dharma Mind Worldly Mind © 2002 David Smith. Published by Aloka Publications. is specially prepared electronic version of the book is offered for free distribution and may be printed for your personal use only. If you wish to print more than one copy please contact the author for permission. is book may be acquired in paperback form by writing to:Aloka Publications DharmaMind Buddhist Group 65 Linden Road Bearwood West Midlands B66 4DZ UK You can acquire the paperback version from other sources by visiting www.dharmamind.net where you can also read background information to the book. You can email information@ dharmamind.net with you queries. It is hoped that by offering this book free through BuddhaNet to the World Wide Web it will be read by a far greater audience than through normal publishing channels, and if found to have value by its readers may it help support them on their spiritual journey. May all beings discover what their heart truly desires!

D S

net © David Smith 2002 Printed and bound by Antony Rowe Ltd.net Web: www.dharmamind. Designs and Patents Act 1988 .Published by Aloka Publications Email: information@dharmamind. Eastbourne British Library Cataloguing in Publications Data: A catalogue record of this book is available From the British Library ISBN 09542475 0 7 e right of David Smith to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright.

.................................... 17 e ree Jewels ..................... 7 Worldly Mind ...................... 99 v ............................... 44 Staying at Home .... vi D M W M ........................................................................................................................................................................................ 7 Introduction .............................. 67 Mindfulness ............................................................................... 43 Dharma Mind .......................................................................................................................................................... Sila........................ right effort.. 58 Kindness to all ings ......................................................................... 14 e Eightfold Path ...........Acknowledgements .................... 32 1............................................... right view................................................................................................................ 4.......... 43 Introduction .................................................................................................................................. 53 Containment in Everyday Life ............................................................................................................................................................ 94 Spirituality and Faith ................................................. right resolve .................................................................................................................................. 27 e Eightfold Practice ............ 75 e Middle Way . right concentration...................................... 37 Complete .......................................................................................................................  Dharma Mind ................................................................................................................................................................................................................ 38 ontents Practice in Everyday Life ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 35 Prajna.................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 70 Awareness ............................ 87 Self .............................................................................................................................. 47 Practice in Lay Life ........................................................................... 11 T B  P ........................................................................ right livelihood .................................... right mindfulness .............................................................................................................................................................................................  Introduction ...................................... 80 Change — Dharmic and Worldly .................... right action.................................. 8 Special Mind ....................... 20 e Bodhisattva ......................................................................................................... 34 Samadhi................. 78 No Value Judgements ........................................................................................................................................................................... 83 Karma and Rebirth ........... 3................................................. 24 e Framework of Practice ................................................................................................................................... right speech.................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 2...........................................

And my gratitude goes also to Mike Leonard for creating the website that is important in making this work known.cknowledgements I would like to express my gratitude to both Jnanasiddhi and Shantavira for their efforts with their editorial skills in helping put this book together. vi . and to Vessantara who helped with the editing also but in addition gave me the support throughout that has made it possible for my manuscript to finally be published.

Worldly Mind I use this term to denote our normal everyday mind and state of being that is goal. for it is here that Truth waits to be discovered. is ego and self-interest. and located in our body. emotional ‘heart’ of our being.harma ind orldly ind Dharma Mind ‘Mind’ is used as the translation of the Pali and Sanskrit word Citta. mind that is the intuitive. but more especially. but is to be used only as a skilful means to help sift and understand the verbal and written Dharma that we all take in on our spiritual pilgrimage of discovery. Citta means both the mind that is the thinking faculty in the head.  7 . e thinking mind has its part to play in the discovering of the Dharma. in its conceit.oriented and saturated in ego and selfinterest. turns away from the Citta as a whole thus making it impossible for it ever to know the Truth. It is here ‘beyond the thinking mind’ in the body that the Dharma Mind is to be nurtured.

just out of curiosity. Urgyen Sangharakshita. written by the founder of the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order. I am the son of a car worker. is first book was an attempt to express the deep spiritual understanding that arose in me in Sri Lanka in 1981. I put the draft in my desk drawer and forgot about it for quite some years. e preface. picks up the story of how it was finally published by Windhorse Publications in November 1999. For me this was quite an achievement. however. and I was surprised how much I liked what I had written.ntroduion One of the great joys I experienced shortly after the publication of my book  ecord of wakening was engagement in the question-and-answer sessions at various Buddhist centres around the British Isles that followed the launch. is took some time but eventually I had a presentable copy. One day. and at the age of 25 I decided to 8 . which I then had ambitions to get published. though I only wrote the first draft some eight years later. in 1989. Publishing a book didn’t somehow seem to fit the sort of upbringing I had — a very ordinary working class background in Oxford. I searched it out and read it over again. On completion. In the intervening years I had learned how to use a computer and gained experience in word-processing so I decided to clean up my rather poor first draft and improve the general presentation. while living in London. England. to write a manuscript that finally reached publication was something beyond my dreams.

After three years in Sri Lanka I disrobed and returned to the UK. and a few even more predictable questions expressing curiosity about my own practice. where. I consider it to be 9 . Reading the Dharma — the teaching of the Buddha — transformed my whole life. as this was the form of Buddhism that interested me most at the time. e major change since the launch of that book has been the opportunity to transmit some of my understanding of the Dharma to fellow practitioners through Dharma groups that I lead. and the reason for living it.travel the world just for the sake of it. It has been this experience above all else that has motivated me to put together this second book. the great majority of queries were about their own practice: how they should approach it and how they should deal with the difficulties they encountered. I have on the whole been practising on my own ever since. I returned to my native England to seek out a Zen teacher. Australia. I trained with that teacher for nearly six years before becoming a eravada monk in Sri Lanka. but also by their enthusiasm and desire for knowledge about how to practise the Buddha’s Path. It was while leading a quite hedonistic existence in Sydney. despite retaining my eravada links in this country. It is my experiences there in the subtropics that are the main focus of the first book. At the book launches I was struck very strongly by the interest and enthusiasm shown by the audience in the book itself. that I found Buddhism — through books. So whilst there were a few predictable questions on metaphysics.

and from the numerous letters and emails I have received following the book’s publication. outflows. and words such as feelings. I hope all these words are self-explanatory. etc. I have tried to make my responses and reflections to Dharma questions as short and to the point as possible. I hope you will discover whilst reading that this really isn’t a book of lists and formulas but rather an expression of a living experience. Because of this flavour you will often come across words that try to convey that living experience — which is an emotional one. It is used in this book to express a more intense experience than the expression ‘negative emotion’ can convey. and our feelings and emotions are the predominant experience of our life. but just a note on the word ‘passion’. e taming of the passions is the most important part of practice. passions.really a continuation from the first publication. We are sensitive. I have also included one or two extra pointers and suggestions which the reader may find useful. committing to paper the answers to most of the questions I was asked at the book launches. warm-blooded mammals. It describes those times when we are really caught up in our emotions and carried away by an experience of gripping intensity — falling into an old familiar habit that we have little or no control over. so that the reader can take them in and reflect on them without 10 . roughout the book you will come across expressions such as negative and positive emotions. It also allows me to air several questions put to me during the many personal meetings I’ve had. All these words point to the differing intensity of our emotional experience.

It is my hope that those who are practising the bodhisattva path of the mahayana (the ‘great vehicle’ of Buddhism) will use this book. not the one we would normally employ while accumulating more worldly knowledge.having to wade through lots of background and incidental information. that the reader has at least some basic knowledge of the principles of Buddhism. However. however. 11 . especially at those times when we discover we are lost and confused and when the inevitable difficulties arise and we struggle to know what is happening to us and what to do next? pecial ind ose of us who practise the Dharma are often in the position of reading books or listening to talks so that our knowledge has a chance to grow and deepen. Our usual way of absorbing knowledge and trying to understand something is accompanied by a process of sifting thoughts and notions that are based on established assumptions and knowledge that we already have. just because I found that I needed to construct a framework so that the point being made could be seen more clearly and in context. But do we really know how to open to the Dharma during these times? It does take a special type of mind. I am presuming. e mind that we use to absorb the Dharma should be quite different. e mind is therefore engaged in thinking and absorbing at the same time. at some points in the text I couldn’t help drawing things out more than I would have wished.

It is powerful because it is capable of sweeping the world away with a stroke.When listening to the Dharma it is best to try to keep your mind empty of thoughts and judgements. very fragile. let it pour into your being. not to engage with them and get caught up in them. just a wrong view that may arise at this time. don’t scrutinize it and play it off with what you already know — for you cannot do this and be fully alive and receptive to the subtleties that are always inherent in the Dharma. Indeed. is is why we have to approach Dharma input with this special mind. Just open and let the Dharma pour in. Yet unless you create the conditions of openness and stillness. just a moment’s inattention while you are supposed to be attentive. and it is deflected. Don’t stop it with thoughts. into your heart. e wholeness of the message may well be missed. gone. where you are clearing the mind of thoughts and obstructions. is enough to prevent its entry. and will remain so until you create the correct conditions again. e Dharma has two quite contradictory characteristics: it is immensely powerful yet. paradoxically. So empty the mind whilst reading this book. While contemplating these two apparently contradictory characteristics. see it as an opportunity for meditation. and stay concentrated on the Dharma in this book. By allowing it 12 . it will not manifest. consider a third. Just a thought that comes when you are supposed to be open. and allow it to enter you at times of learning. and that is the very subtle nature of the Dharma. without the impediment of thoughts and views. e correct way is to be like an empty vessel.

it is still able to have a profound effect on you if it is pondered quietly and deeply. you may indeed have forgotten most of it. But if you take yourself off. or put it to one side. What was once just a concept can commune and connect with that which is beyond concepts. and it will always be there. that has strength for you to draw on in your life. a word. bow your head at the end in gratitude to both the speaker and to the Dharma. Don’t worry — it is there. and genuine insight can arise. but why not try to bring into being that special mind while you take in the words you are about to read? Who knows where they may lead? 13 . Try not to just think about it. if you choose. a sound. with your hands joined. the Dharma you have taken in will not be lost. If you have listened to a talk on Dharma. so there is no need to chase after it. deep within. After reading this book you can ponder or return to parts of it. it will likely arise by itself to the surface of your mind for you to ponder and comprehend. While the Dharma that you have opened up to may still only be a concept. waiting to arise when the conditions are ripe. insight that can become a part of your reality. If you can’t remember all that has been said. Do not worry about suspending your thoughts and opinions in this way. then go to a quiet place and muse over what you have heard.to enter without obstructions we are allowing it to penetrate deeply into our heart and saturate our entire being. All this is possible because you have learned to listen with a special mind. and are still and open.

So now. take you beyond the endless cycle of dukkha that we clearly experience in our life and want very much to put an end to. with its perpetual preoccupation with self interest and its desire to control so many experiences in our life. ose of us who are attracted to Buddhism and its practices have experienced the unsatisfactoriness or suffering of life (dukkha) at least to the extent that we responded when we came in contact with the Dharma. the third truth being that there is a way out of suffering and the fourth being the 14 . we begin to understand why life is this way. I would like to take the opportunity here to create a background to the practice. Most of you reading this will already be practising in a similar way — engaging in this practice that will hopefully one day. Seeing those two facts within ourselves means we have already reflected on the first two of the four noble truths — the truth of suffering and the cause of suffering. at the very least. and may have seen before we even found Buddhism that the basis of dukkha has very much to do with our self or ego. as a result of all our efforts.T B  P ntroduion In order to be as precise and as direct as possible in the body of this book. We see.

ese four truths are the very heart of the Buddha’s teaching and are found in all schools of Buddhism. In order for there to be the change in ourselves that most of us very much desire. we must nevertheless realize that one day we will have to make that effort to round off and complete our practice of the Path. And whilst many may find the practice of the whole Path difficult. Discovering it was possible to end my woes made me give up my fun life in Australia all those years ago and return to my home country. at brings us to the basics of the complete practice of the Buddha-Dharma. in order to get me off this wheel of eternal becoming. What attracted me was that it then went on to offer me the third truth — that proclaimed there was a way out of this dilemma. is was the practice that I intended to take hold of and nurture with all my determination. which I had thought forever entrapped me.way of practice. e great attraction. 15 . In this section the Path is outlined so as to introduce it in its completeness. Change will only really be possible in a deep and meaningful way when we are prepared to learn to cultivate the whole of this Path. however they may be dressed up or disguised. In England I knew there were Dharma teachers who could teach me how to experience the fourth and last noble truth — the wonderful wisdom and practice of the eightfold path. we need to understand the central and most important teaching of the Buddha — the eightfold path. when I first came across Buddhism was not so much the affirmation of the first two truths.

but it is crucial in that it completes the wholeness of practice which is our way forward into the great mystery of life — and therefore needs attention. too. and can therefore be more difficult to cultivate. Going for refuge possesses the indispensable quality of faith. e spirit is one of openness and inclusivity of the whole of life without the discrimination of picking and choosing as to what you want your practice to include. we have to resort to this kind of breakdown — but it isn’t so easy to see these different parts when there is commitment to a wholehearted practice. so the essence of the bodhisattva practice cannot really be successfully formulated in the usual way because in this interpretation it is much more to do with the spirit of practice rather than any formula or concept. is cradled by going for refuge. unless they are brought together through commitment. which is another crucial element in change. It could be said that going for refuge cradles and supports the eightfold path. e bodhisattva. e third part of this section is an outline of the bodhisattva and how the spirit of this being is also an integral part of the complete practice. Going for refuge is less tangible in many ways than the steps of the eightfold path. the Path of liberation will always remain in the realms of theories and dreams.is opening section also deals with going for refuge. In order to make it clear what the Path is. so while it is essential to understand the parts. Commitment is the ingredient that unites and bonds these apparent differences. 16 . which is the essential ingredient on our deepening spiritual journey.

Ethics is considered to be primary. and prajna as wisdom — wisdom that has myriad levels but that eventually leads to ‘knowing the way things really are’. and who seeks out Buddhism and its practices. But as we are putting this convenient ‘theory’ into practice we soon discover that it is much more of an actual living process and can’t always be approached in this convenient linear way. is the way forward with practice. and so we have initially to cultivate our general behaviour through words. Sila translates as ethics or conduct. Secondly we cultivate our ability to concentrate and be mindful primarily through meditation. and prajna. irdly. samadhi. right livelihood. we go on to develop our understanding of the Dharma. samadhi as mindfulness and concentration. action. right effort. whether by reading. right concentration. or slowly beginning to understand ourselves. listening to other. right resolve. and how we make our living. consisting of right view. will not have met the basic requirements of the 17 . It is hard to imagine that anyone with the self-awareness and sensitivity to at least be alive to their unsatisfactory human condition. right action. and right mindfulness. right speech.e ightfold ath e eightfold path. e practice of the eightfold path is often taught as something that is to be cultivated in a linear fashion. is is true to an extent — in that we have to learn to identify the three limbs (as the threefold way is often described) and give them individual attention. is path can be reduced to the more graspable threefold way of sila.

within normal everyday activity experienced even by the newly-born practitioner. and that cause so many of our problems. the whole of the eightfold path is actually being practised. thus fulfilling the basic requirement to practise the third limb of wisdom. In this way. 18 . and the fact that they want to change their human condition indicates that they have reflected. Whilst engaging in our daily life. which in turn indicates a degree of concentration thus fulfilling the basic requirement to practise the second limb. probably to quite a lot on themselves. to de-clutch from being caught and blinded and totally carried away by the turmoil of the coarse mind. it is hard to imagine that anyone taking up Dharma practice hasn’t actually already began to practise the Path. By doing this we are practising sila.three limbs of the threefold path: the sensitivity would lead them to an acceptable degree of behaviour which becomes the foundation of their practice of ethics. We can see how. Because in the process of this containment we will be always restraining ourselves from being carried away by habits — and learning to stay centred within — we will be practising samadhi. And within that contained and concentrated state we will quite naturally become more and more familiar with ourselves and gain some understanding of why we are caught by these seemingly uncontrollable habits — the limb of wisdom. to some extent. we learn to hold on to and contain those familiar habitual outflows of words or actions driven by the emotions and passions. We try our best to act and function as humanly as possible. the self awareness indicates an ability.

Eventually we can see all three limbs in each limb — all perfectly balanced and in harmony with each other. Sometimes we lose that final threefold combination and fall back into a two-way combination. and go back to just cultivating one limb. is is the path that we practise. whether we see it in 19 . en we may bring one combination together. then another. and then the third. this to and fro. two steps forward and one step back. vanish. perfection of practice has been reached and the ultimate balance of the middle way (the true definition of the fourth noble truth. then another. until they merge and truly become just the one. When that state of perfect balance — between the pull of opposites that characterise our mind and emotions — has reached perfection. then maybe yet another. which is detailed later) attained. en we cultivate all three limbs together. It doesn’t matter. then maybe one more combination. allowing awakening to be realized. We keep mindfully endeavouring to bring all three limbs together. a Zen master once said that self-awareness and the desire for release and change was enlightenment already. slowly we become able to maintain a threefold practice until those three limbs are steady and consistent and harmonize with each other more and more. In time this harmonizing becomes so balanced that we can actually see one limb in another limb. then another. So perhaps at first we focus on one of the limbs. Slowly. and the whole world. en sometimes we lose even that.Indeed. there arises a seeing into the nature of mind that makes your entire consciousness. When this state is realized.

to pursue it. inspiration. and that is the understanding and nurturing of going for refuge to the three jewels. It is said that it is going for refuge that makes one a Buddhist. for without it the realization of the middle way will be impossible. such as Zen. It is the ongoing refinement of going for refuge over the years of practice that will be the framework. and signifies a commitment to the practice. which is very unfortunate. Dharma. is most basic of Buddhist principles — of going for refuge to the three jewels — is valid throughout Buddhism and accompanies almost every ritual that takes place. e ree ewels e three jewels are the Buddha. those who consider themselves to be 20 . But precisely because it is declared so regularly. support. the Dharma. the reflection on that importance and significance runs the danger of being neglected or even forgotten altogether. and guide to the realization of ultimate truth.those traditional terms or whether we use other concepts from less traditional schools. To take refuge in the Buddha. so this ritual should be of deep importance and significance. But the pursuit of the eightfold path has a very important extra feature to consider. and Sangha is of the utmost importance — and should be seen to be so — to serious Buddhists. and the Sangha. and understanding the concept of going for refuge to these three jewels is absolutely crucial to the nurturing of true Dharma practice.

nexhaustible are the passions. and took them very much to heart and always saw them as central to my practice. It does not concern itself with the usual concepts of the more traditional approach.true and complete practitioners of the Way. nfinite is the uddha-ruth. it becomes the environment that the eightfold path is nurtured and cultivated in. I followed Zen for nearly six years before leaving England to become a eravada novice monk in Sri Lanka.  vow to transform them all. 21 .  vow to learn them all. When we have this commitment we have all the ingredients we need to change our life. but has its equivalent: the four great bodhisattva vows. One of the main characteristics of Zen is that it likes to describe itself as outside the scriptural teachings. I recited these regularly with the group that I practised with. nnumerable are sentient beings.  vow to attain it. ese four vows can be presented in various ways but this interpretation is the one that I have always carried within myself. a characteristic that makes many outside that school question its authenticity. When we take our commitment to the three jewels not just into our head but into our total being it becomes alive. We reaffirm this commitment continually by reflecting on the three jewels. mmeasurable are the harma teachings. Going for refuge to the three jewels is not expressed in the usual way.  vow to save them all. and it is through this commitment that we gather the inner strength that is essential to walk the Way.

For me. Even though I was about to partake of the more traditional version of commitment to Buddhism and its practice. e Sangha. was a creation of my mind. while the Dharma was not the teachings I had once read about. it was just part of the ritual. a togetherness. e Buddha was not seen as only our historical founder. so for me. Dharma. which was my precious support within the practice. I retained a great affinity with the bodhisattva vows I had recited for all those years. I did not always find it easy to pull apart the Buddha and the Dharma — as they were now becoming one. and that expressed the Buddha. like everyone and everything else. but the truth that was hidden within all that is. into something deeper. ere is very little taught about the importance of the refuges these days. and Sangha in the way I would if I had begun my practice in the eravada tradition. Now the Buddha. Whilst contemplating the refuges I discovered that after my years of Zen practice I tended not to view the Buddha. Dharma. dualistic way of looking at them. was still an external support. So I felt a growing intimacy. In addition. and Sangha were seen as something that was a part of me rather than something external. at first. beyond the conventional. but the division between it and me was getting more and more blurred -because it was getting clearer that it. but as the wonder and mystery of life itself. 22 . the refuges had gone beyond the conventional.My first encounter with the more traditional version of the refuges took place in Sri Lanka at the time I was learning my ordination ceremony.

something to be cultivated. little by little. But let it be an indication of the spirit of cultivating going for refuge. for me. in reading about my relationship with the three jewels. but expressed both the Dharma and the Buddha as well. but also perhaps many who have been practising for some time. that helped me to go. ose who are new to the practice. Letting go of all those things that make ‘me’ up: attachment to my views and opinions — driven by the passions and negative emotions — that were so vital to my sense of self and ego and that continually affirmed it. I therefore found that it was a question of nurturing my relationship with the three jewels through a willingness to surrender. It was this developing intimacy with the three jewels that was crucial to my ability to let go. Maybe going for refuge now is much more objective 23 . on a deeper level. or find anything of use for themselves. may not be able to relate to this. It was much more about carrying around the warmth of feeling that my whole faith and trust could be handed into something that was not so much three refuges now.as the Sangha and I not only became more and more at one. not something that paid much attention to formal recitation. Going for refuge was. but one. It would be my faith in the three jewels that I trusted to ‘catch’ me as I practised turning away from the created world and my attachments over and over again. beyond the habits of attachments. And it was the trust that the refuges would support and carry me through any difficulties caused by fear of giving up the self and ego. rather than ‘going for refuge’ more and more.

whatever they may be. e bodhisattva path is the practice of the great vehicle. this Path is much more appropriate to the non-monastic — and therefore the ideal practice for most of us. but also the totality of life. I am not saying ‘forget others. and use them all as ‘grist for the mill’. one of the great advantages of the bodhisattva path is that this type of practice can be applied in all the situations that life in our culture can present us with. a fundamental distortion can arise if there is a belief that bodhisattvas are interested solely in liberating beings from samsara whilst having little regard for their own personal insight. e odhisattva For me. for without them there is little meaningful meditation.and conceptual for you. and that requires you to give priority to your practice. However. We cultivate an openness to engage with life 24 . Of course. not just other beings. e bodhisattva practice encourages us to take on board all of life’s experiences. just focus on yourself ’. and that means we take on not just ourselves. Don’t misunderstand me. but the spirit of going for refuge is to become more and more intimate with this ‘concept’ until it becomes your own living reality. A fact of the bodhisattva path is that it is not actually possible to be of real spiritual use to other beings until you first know yourself deeply. but as most our life is spent off the cushion. and release from suffering. understanding. quiet times and restraint need to be nurtured.

and that means putting the practice of knowing ourselves foremost. is someone 25 . Reflect on the life of the Buddha. Skilful practice involves getting our priorities right. or stand next to in the supermarket checkout queue? Yet the being that has returned to his or her original nature after many years of practice. I’m not saying we should all take to the forests or mountains. Do not feel that living your life exclusively for others is what the bodhisattva life is about. after reading descriptions of bodhisattvas. maybe someone you may meet on the bus. is in life in its totality. or indeed many. ‘Charity begins at home’: you have to be prepared to give yourself the space. even when it may not be what you want to do or may even be frightening for you. I wonder how many people. of the well-known figures in the history of Buddhism. could imagine them as ordinary people. because true understanding. in a consistent way.as wholeheartedly as possible. who then is reborn as a bodhisattva. to stay with yourself. is means living a life that allows us the time and space to return to our inner ‘home’ over and over again during our daily life. But we do need to understand that there is much more to the bodhisattva path than a two-dimensional image of it may lead us to believe. Otherwise you will never see into yourself deeply enough to be of any real use to others — never mind being able ultimately to realize the final act of the bodhisattva and release all sentient beings from samsara. and our true home. ey all spent many years working on themselves alone before returning to the community to help guide others in their practice.

Don’t think you are not worthy or capable of such lofty idealism. Often we buy 26 . into the practice. In this aspect of training the bodhisattva is identical to the aspirant who cultivates the qualities and understanding that one day will allow him to alight upon the true bodhisattva path that leads to full and complete enlightenment. is gives us the perfect opportunity to work with the powerful negative self-view that obsess and weigh down most of us Westerners. it encourages us to develop the spirit of making friends with all that we are. Another advantage of this path is its robustness.with more apparent contradictions than the average person could ever possibly create for themselves. who still retains likes and dislikes. e all-inclusive nature of this Path encourages us to bring our relationships with others. Imagine both a knowledge that is deep and unknowable to the ‘worldly man’ (and is unlikely to be seen unless asked for) and someone who is very ordinary and down-to-earth. as well as with ourselves. Imagine someone who lives and functions in the world. but with the difference of knowing the ‘reality’ of these likes and dislikes and so less likely to grasp at them and turn the wheel of becoming. however much they may try. We should not therefore be put off by the images that have been created over time. e bodhisattva is very much connected to life and this world — is more normal and grounded than you may imagine. someone who is working through and transforming habit and energy in just the same way as the ‘ordinary’ practitioner on the Path does.

it will unite with the ‘light’. if it is correctly created and nurtured. but a very down-to-earth way of practice — yet one that is forever revealing the secrets of life. e ramework of raice I would now like to touch briefly on the framework of practice that makes up the path of the aspiring bodhisattva. As understanding deepens. When the ‘dark’ has transformed. accepting ourselves the way we are gives us a platform of equanimity from which we can move ever more deeply into the process of Dharmic change. beyond the cycle of eternal becoming in which we are all caught up. will soon support and carry practitioners to the actual bodhisattva path. we learn to love ourselves more and more. is framework.into some familiar negative self-view that splits us down the middle and creates still more conflict. and.which by then we shall understand more deeply — and go beyond even that unity where we will discover the full wonder of what we truly are. is adds to the heavy psychological weight that so many of us are familiar with. My own experience of treading the Path of the bodhisattva journey is that it is not really the mystery often portrayed in the scriptures. ere are two fundamentals at the heart of Dharma practice: awareness of ourselves in all four postures of being 27 . Its spirit is not to push away what we consider to be unwholesome but rather to contain it whilst it is transformed.

which is necessary for insight to arise. for more than a few seconds. e cultivation of being 28 . while we are engaged with our chattering mind. Most of our life takes place on autopilot. at state of self-awareness means. that is all. is wandering off is. and find that we have to employ all sorts of skilful means in order to accomplish it. that when drinking a cup of tea you know you are drinking that tea. and you have little recollection of taking the walk or any engagement with the environment that must have taken place. for example. In a way. It is because of this that we experience a lack of wholeness in our lives.(standing. does not diminish the ultimate simplicity of Dharma practice. only for you to discover when you come back that you have drunk the tea and have little recollection of the experience. walking. It is a fact that we cannot stay in a state of self-awareness. staying with that experience in its totality without mentally wandering off. and this is the reason for the existential dilemma of unfulfilment and incompleteness that we experience. sitting. and lying down — as Buddhism defines our physical experiences of being) and the ability to use that awareness to look into ourselves and see the reality that lies beyond the world the deluded mind has created. e same is true of all the endless flow of engagements with life: there is in truth very little consistent self-awareness. It is as simple as that. e fact that we cannot perform this simple act. what will happen. ere are no other factors involved. is same loss of awareness applies when you walk down the road and realize you are now at the end. of course.

it will employ the life-energy itself in its efforts to make its will predominate. We need to tame the chattering mind for sure. We have to work on that destructive wilfulness of self and ego in order to attain a still mind that will give rise to the awareness we need in order to see into and beyond this sense of self and ego. a long training of restraining these negative outflows through containment. that in its essence is our original nature. e warm emotions of the heart become negative and transform into the destructive passions of greed. If left alone the chattering mind will rise and pass away second by second. but we need also to tame what drives it — our ‘life-energy’. and delusion. an identification that is created by the sense of self and ego that arises in the life-energy and so distorts it. the three passions that characterize the life of the self and ego. and thereby becoming whole and fulfilled. nor does it mean we have to turn away from our experiences of life in order not to be carried away. now gets lost in this delusion of a self and ego which in turn becomes ever more harmful. But this doesn’t happen because when thoughts arise there arises an identification with those thoughts. hatred. that which keeps us alive and is what we really are.with our awareness. is containment is not oppressive. e life-energy. It is from this that the wheel of suffering is created. and it is this that we need to contain and transform by complete practice of the bodhisattva path. If that sense of self and ego doesn’t get its way. We therefore cultivate the limb of ethics and conduct. is what the eightfold path is for. far 29 .

We also bring into our life positive precepts such as helping others. Firstly. etc. and loving kindness (metta) — and together they make up what are known as the Brahma Viharas. We learn to contain these destructive outflows by making use of the negative precepts of not taking life. As well as the support and guidance of the precepts. the like of which. e loving kindness or metta meditation is the most commonly used. I’d hazard. which compassionately uses them to help others.. the skilful cultivation of an appropriate meditation practice can also be used. Secondly. heavy burden of self. it promotes the opening of the heart to other living beings. also known as the sublime states. not engaging in wrong speech. thus developing self-esteem (for we Westerners do have this propensity to dislike our self-image.from it. are traditionally used for this purpose. e great value of a meditation like metta is threefold. is nurturing of metta through meditation can also harmonize with the loving kindness nurtured towards 30 . ese newly acquired Dharmic skills harmonize with our own heart’s natural state. actions that nurture the natural warmth of the human heart. it has the immense benefit of nurturing the meditator’s positive feelings towards themselves. etc. compassion (karuna). engaging in skilful speech. and carry around such a negative. ey are equanimity (upekkha). has never been known in the history of Buddhism). e four doctrinal concentration practices. ese precepts represent a turning away from the old habits of destructive self-interest and nurture new habits. sympathetic joy (mudita).

What we gain from this most important aspect of practice is making friends with ourselves. When we love ourselves we will naturally love others. We help this cultivation along with meditation that promotes stillness and awareness. and mind. By staying with those outflows of body. is turning away from the blinding passions.ourselves whilst practising in daily life through our containment practice. Stillness and awareness become more and more one. us we naturally make friends with ourselves because of this developing non-judgemental relationship. through a willingness to stay with and embrace an experience of ourselves that we have hitherto reacted against. indeed learning to love ourselves. It will be true metta because it will be born of seeing and understanding ourselves — thus making it wisdom. slowly clear the mind of the inevitable turbulence and allow it to discover its natural quietness more and more. as the fruit of both is the same. and taming those negative outflows. we are ‘repairing’ our broken heart by bringing back into a whole the countless. e third value of metta meditation is that. fragmented pieces that create the conflict and negativity we feel. it also helps train it in the stillness necessary for the Dharma to arise. So this is very much a training of a positive wholehearted engagement with life. it will be impossible not to. speech. With stillness. the awareness that is 31 . so that we come to harmonize more and more as every day passes with our true nature. which is one of love for all that is. because the mind is more at peace with itself.

little bits of ‘me and mine’ drop off because they no longer deceive. It is then that awakening will take place — which is an absolute. and indeed whatever system of practice you follow within that tradition. until the end of the Path is finally reached. is divided into the three limbs or sections of sila. e ightfold raice Whatever Buddhist tradition you follow. you will find that all traditions. and your initial awakening becomes final and complete — and so attain Buddhahood. Finally the world stills and its power. you can embark on the inconceivable journey through the ten stages of bodhisattvahood. as it sees deeper and deeper. which we so invest in. as it journeys through the world. translated as ethics or conduct. the fourth of the Buddha’s four noble truths. fades. concrete guarantee. for convenience and ease of understanding. without exception. It is this path of the practice of the BuddhaDharma that is the heart of Buddhism. and need to practise in its totality. which means a one-pointed 32 . And it is this that those who wish to put an end to the cycle of suffering and rebirth need to practise. Little by little. samadhi. are grounded in the noble eightfold path. if the noble desire to put to an end this eternal cycle of becoming is to be fulfilled.now stronger than ever can begin to look through all those thoughts and activities with skilful insight tools and see the truth of the world that grasps us all. e path. When you ‘recover’ and return to life.

which mean wisdom or ‘knowing how things really are’. the laws of the land demand that we maintain a certain degree of sila. e foundation of this development is laid in our meditation. All insight practices will at least seriously undermine the delusion that envelops us. But what is this great delusion common to us all. Prajna is the ability to look into our being and see the reality of it. going beyond our deluded misinterpretation of that truth. to know ourselves from moment to moment in whatever situation we find ourselves. again and again. to the centre of our self-awareness. and prajna. Samadhi is the cultivation of the ability to stay in a state of one-pointed self-awareness. Indeed. that blinds us to the truth of the way things really are? It is the de33 . e way to the discovery of the truth is to take a particular form of insight meditation — the one that is the way of the tradition and school we have chosen. but they all lead to the same stillness. Sila is universal to all forms of Buddhism — indeed there is little difference between religious or spiritual movements as regards this aspect of the path. It consists of humanizing ourselves by containing and restraining selfinterest and the destructive outflows — our habitual way of being. e ways to develop this ability may vary from tradition to tradition and from school to school. where we learn to disengage from our continual mental chatter and contain the negative emotional outflows and passions.mind born of concentration and mindfulness. thus enabling us to bring ourselves back.

right speech. Ultimately. each of the eight steps of the path come into perfect balance and merge to become one. He didn’t say that to be ethical alone would be enough. and he didn’t say that to perfect samadhi and enter even the highest dhyanas (concentrations) would be enough either. ese include cultivating wholesome activities that engage them with the world. activities that stem from kindness and generosity. He taught that to be able to get to the root of dukkha.lusion of a self or ego. it was absolutely necessary to embrace and practise the whole of the path. And he didn’t say that just studying and understanding all that goes in the name of wisdom would be good enough. right livelihood Many practitioners focus much of their time and energy observing the precepts of ethical behaviour. and the world of attachments that this sense of ‘me and mine’ creates. and destroy it. 34 . usually the negative precepts — inasmuch as they see to it that they don’t fall into the crude actions that characterize many people. 1. and to stop forever the experience of dukkha. harmonious speech and a display of contentment with their life as reflected in a peaceful occupation. e practice of the eightfold path will take us to the root of this delusion. e Buddha spent nearly fifty years travelling around India teaching the eightfold path as the way out of dukkha. right action. Sila. ose with more rounded practices observe these restraints but also cultivate aspects of what are termed the positive precepts.

It is not enough to become a ‘good’ person. weakening a habitual idea that their practice is a thing to be grasped at. For those who desire to put an end to dukkha. right concentration. and it is good that they surrender themselves as much as possible to the development of the ethical side of the practice. For some. this is not enough. Each tradition usually has several ways. it has to be said quite frankly. is helps nurture faith in the Buddha and his teachings. Samadhi. 2. If so. e Dharma will only really respond and show itself to those with a complete form of practice. ese can vary widely. this is really as much as they are capable of cultivating (or at least as much as they are prepared to commit themselves to). that is fine. right mindfulness Deep concentration (samadhi) is possible when one has the ability to stay focused on a single object during meditation. What is very helpful with this form of practice is also to cultivate the more ceremonial side of Dharma with puja and offerings to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas — thereby cultivating both spirituality and faith as a further way of opening the heart. ere are the formless methods of 35 . ere are many methods that can help us develop that ability. right effort. and each school within a tradition has its own focus on some of those ways.For many. it is not yet possible to sit quietly in meditation and cultivate the practices within that.

and doctrinally the method used by all the Buddhas). a mind that is awake through effort and concentrated. 36 . ere are also many who focus exclusively on this part of the path to the point that they turn away from the busy world and engagement with life as much as possible.anapanasati (the most widely-used method and common to all schools. Whichever way we choose to go they all lead to the same goal. but this is not enough to impress the Dharma. en there are the many conceptual methods of traditional Buddhism. ey understand that a practice of sila is very important too. translated as mindfulness of breathing. ey see that to really develop stillness it is skilful to turn away from distractions of the senses in order to go deeper. e practitioner is then centred and mindful within him or herself and totally alive to the present moment. whereby we focus in different ways on our natural breathing without resorting to themes or concepts. So these people practise two thirds of the path. is part of the path takes dedication and few people find it easy to still their chattering minds and contain the emotional outflows that continue to fuel those restless thoughts and mental pictures. because the Dharma will only really respond and show itself to those with a complete form of practice. in order to go deeper — for a mind that is agitated by unskilful acts gets in the way of the ability to attain stillness. and beyond them the visualization practices of Tibetan Buddhism and the koan and hua-do practice of Far Eastern schools that can act as both concentration and insight practices.

and it is the slow nurturing of wisdom that produces 37 . as was samadhi. eventually by himself. It is only wisdom that breaks the taproot of ignorance. until one day. right resolve e third part of the eightfold path is prajna or wisdom and ‘knowing the way things really are’. he attained the middle way and the ultimate understanding of life and death. yet still some ignore this aspect of the Path. When I look back over the years at the some of the teachers I’ve heard. after nearly dying in the process. and the practitioners I’ve encountered. I am still mystified as to why so many Dharma teachers seem to go down that route when it is clear they are leaving out the most important part of the eightfold path. Wisdom should be cultivated from the first day of practice. Prajna. because it is prajna. it would not be difficult to draw the conclusion that Dharma practice is really more about sila and samadhi. that takes the Dharmafarer beyond dukkha. Sila was already established in his time. It was samadhi in which Shakyamuni quickly became an expert in after taking instruction from the finest teachers of his day. It was the feeling that there was something missing that drove him to seek further knowledge. right view. It is the Buddhist expression of this understanding that sets Buddhism apart from all other religions. It is often portrayed as the final part of the path to develop. is was the main reason the Buddha took himself around India to teach for all those years. yet he felt there was something missing from the ‘wisdom’ he attained from these practices.3. and only prajna.

because we can’t harness and tame the coarse emotional outflows associated with crude activities. If we are engaged in crude activities the mind (which is of course integral to those activities) will not be capable of stillness. and the deepening to take place. this becomes the foundation for prajna. 4. but it is wisdom that will make you a truly rounded human being because it is wisdom. because to cultivate a still mind our general conduct has to be balanced — though not necessarily perfectly so. and wisdom only. When the stillness of mind has reached an acceptable degree. It isn’t an intellectual wisdom but deeply personal and emotional — and requires that we be prepared to change and let go of the old ‘me’. Complete If we were to lay out the path in a linear fashion we could say the Path starts with sila. Samadhi will give you peace and happiness. Sila will make you an ethical being. Right view is ever-changing and deepening. that will release the heart from the bondage of self-interest and non-understanding.right view. and then when that is refined the foundation for samadhi is laid. is is the linear form that many involved with teach38 . It is right resolve that allows this change to happen. Insight can shine through because the ‘agitated waters of delusion’ have stilled enough for the innate wisdom to rise up and shine through that stillness. but this deepening can only mature if we have the correct attitude.

From this starting point it is understood that there is a cause or creator of this world. But the fourth noble truth is subtler than the eightfold path formula might seem at first sight to suggest. and it is the sense of a self or ego that creates that desire — thus creating the dualistic world-view with its perpetual drive for self-gratification and affirmation. which is to destroy that creator. and seeing that it is a complete fabrication of the deluded mind. from this truth comes 39 . e second truth terms this desire. among the many insights that are revealed. us it is seen that the world and desire and dukkha are really just one. the eightfold path at all. the third truth is seen — that there is a way out of this mess. and requires a subtler and more rounded presentation. whilst abiding in the bliss and wonder at the beginning of the bodhisattva path. ey are not seen as a formulation derived from the insight — some sort of summary of the nature of suffering. sees. the four noble truths as a direct seeing into the nature and framework of samsara. Finally. No. And while comprehending samsara. they are seen as a direct comprehension of the very nature of the construct of the deluded mind. Not one speck is ever without dukkha. the four truths are also ‘seen’. e truth is that every last part that goes to make up this invention of the world is completely and always saturated with dukkha. strictly speaking. is is because the fourth noble truth isn’t. A new-born bodhisattva.ing the Dharma seem to follow. When the creator of the world and of dukkha is known. it is the middle way.

through the Buddha teaching and encouraging the practice of the middle way. etc. I would suggest that the eightfold path as we know it came about through the course of time. true practice is the cultivation of all the aspects of the path concurrently. is lack of insight is not a true understanding of the fourth noble truth. or at best given just the occasional glance. By breaking our habitual running after things — which creates and engages us with the opposites of wanting and rejecting. In developing sila we resist our habitual desires and aversions and the trouble that this causes for ourselves and for others.the way out of that bondage and entrapment. By resisting the pull of opposites that creates the dualistic world and which gives rise to the conditions for the phenomenon of a self or ego to arise. through meditation and daily living. I’d like to stress again that though sila and samadhi can rightly be seen as the framework for wisdom. — we starve that sense of self of its very lifeblood. parts of the whole were simply ignored. He would have broken down the middle way so that his listeners could relate to it and cultivate skilful ways of practice to achieve that noble end. Ultimately. the parts which made up the whole soon came to be seen as sort of autonomous aspects of the practice of the fourth noble truth and became disconnected from that whole. we can abide on the middle path between these opposites. liking and disliking. As is typical of our deluded mind. and we cultivate and nurture the qualities of the unfettered 40 .

If your practice is truly balanced.human heart as the way forward. as any experienced meditator will confirm. so the turning to one’s own prajna in meditation can often bring an instantly concentrated mind. or that Dharma practice is only about somehow understanding wisdom that we read and hear about. So stillness and wisdom can be seen to be not just interconnected but identical in their essence. If we get on with our practice with that in mind we will not get trapped into thinking that Dharma practice is only about being good. and their associated passions. It is not eight parts but one. e essence of samadhi is therefore identical to sila if it is seen as resisting the temptation to wander off and get caught in the created world of thoughts. Resisting and containing our habitual actions is also the essence of the practice of sila that nurtures the stillness of mind that enables us to bring samadhi into our practice. Cultivated sila and cultivated samadhi are not separate from prajna but are prajna itself. mental pictures. With these two limbs in place prajna itself has the space to arise. then in quiet moments it should be possible. which we pull apart and define in order to understand what it really is. while pondering on any one 41 . e apple tree and the apple itself are not separate. or that Dharma practice is only about bliss and happiness. and how we can proceed to attain that lofty state. e arising of prajna then helps cultivate still more sila and samadhi. as it is only in a mind that is still that it has the conditions it needs. It is about the cultivation of the path in equal proportions. e fourth noble truth is the middle way.

the samsaric world that you have been enslaved by since time began will abruptly cease. you are on the threshold of fulfilling and perfecting the fourth noble truth. e ultimate seeing of the bodhisattva seeing the interpenetration of formations. Look at any one of the eight steps and you should be able to see the other seven in the very same place. but if you can look at any part of the path whilst pondering your practice and you see it containing the other seven. and yet that very same dharma retains its individuality and uniqueness. that part of the doctrine that the ordinary mind cannot ever comprehend. which is the perfection of Dharma practice in the world. you are very close to seeing that truth of interpenetration. and being identical with them. You will be seeing the middle way. e doctrine says that any one dharma contains all other dharmas throughout the entire universe and beyond. It may not be possible for you to see that truth fully. revealing reality in all its glory and majesty.  42 . When you see and know your practice to be this way. Very soon after this. and there is only one middle way — not eight.of its aspects to see that aspect as containing all the others.

P  E L ntroduion So far we have been looking at the basic tenets of the Path which most practitioners will be familiar with. We can then live it out in the totality of life itself. but now I would like to offer you a bigger picture that takes the practice beyond the lists and formulas that can so easily keep us trapped inside our heads. We obviously learn as we move along. One way I could describe the difference between the first part of the book and the second part is to say that part one was. After embarking on this ‘living practice’ it is often good to reflect on how we are experiencing our Dharma practice. Wisdom does indeed start to develop as we begin slowly to understand what makes us ‘tick’ and who we really are. about hat to do in terms of the practice. we start to see how we are so often at the mercy of our emotional states. e following reflections are to help us expand our awareness and understanding of the practice out of our heads and into the totality of our being. in broad terms. We can kid ourselves with ‘If I can just remember these often complicated formulas I will be understanding the Dharma and therefore making progress’. e reflections can help us understand who we are 43 . but here in part two it is more about ow to practise.

Some of those who read the subtitle of this book will be disappointed if they are hoping to read something about sitting meditation. to meditate throughout the day. In other words to be at one. and ambitions of that young life will be driven by an urge to become something — something that has a sense of a self at its root. Almost all the desires. mindful and centred. I hope you will find useful pointers here on how to practise and break free. with what you are doing. I’m pointing towards what needs to be nurtured and guarded so that the worldly mind doesn’t come and grab you off balance.and come alive to the whole spectrum of understanding that unfolds within this remarkably subtle practice. Of course sitting meditation is crucial to practice and it is the cornerstone of change. in effect. aversions. Selfinterest begins to arise in these very early days of life. 44 . but here I’m encouraging the practitioner. harma ind A baby quickly realizes that crying when it is hungry or wants attention will soon lead to those desires being fulfilled. when an awareness of separateness begins to take shape. and from then on almost everything that being does will be driven by this sense of self-interest. is subject is well covered in many books and I’m sure most who read this book will already have a good idea how to sit and how meditation works — you don’t need any more from me. no matter what that may be.

For example. Self-interest takes control of our lives to such an extent that we rarely experience anything beyond it. is mind is called Dharma mind. or become so wise that we can ‘save’ people and be admired still further. but about unbecoming. and mind-set. Is this just another interest. 45 . If we did we could quickly conclude that there is hardly anything that motivates us outside of this same selfinterest.As adults we would do well to look into our own motivations. however subtle it may sometimes seem. we may want to become someone who will be admired and respected. So rather than seek any reward in our new practice. is is because the root of Dharma practice is ultimately not about becoming anything at all. like so many before? One in which we engage our self-interest in order to fill our time. For example. so we may well start off with the wrong intentions for our practice of the Dharma. and giving up our ingrained habitual selfinterests. for example. or achieve something. But coming to Dharma practice we need a totally different approach. or get a reward of some sort? If we approach our new interest in Dharma practice in the usual way with this ‘worldly mind’. Our habits are deeply ingrained. to anything we have experienced or engaged in before in our entire lives. e heart and spirit of Dharma practice is about learning to surrender. I’m afraid we will stand little chance of gaining the spiritual maturity we may have wished for. one day we discover Buddhism and the Dharma and we decide to take up a practice of the teachings — for whatever reason.

the way of the Dharma is to give up and unbecome. With this practice. But learning to give up. In fact.we begin to cultivate a spirit of not wanting anything in particular in return for our efforts. this change of attitude has to be learned and relearned. that will support and carry us through that fear. and faith in the three jewels. Just cultivating this attitude and giving up those precious attachments will now be reward enough. oughts such as ‘if I’m going to do this practice. But it is faith in the three jewels of the Buddha. So we will discover that. Dharma. the one desire that is allowed by the Dharma — the noble desire for release from suffering — can be fulfilled. what will become of me?’ is the fear that brings us back. 46 . again and again. is cultivation takes faith in the teachings. as we continually fall back into our old habits of seeking reward. is ingrained habit of self-interest is so powerful that we fall back into its clutches over and over again. e way of the world is to want and become. faith that we have nurtured since the beginning of our practice. within the practice of a wholehearted commitment to life. and Sangha. will in itself remind us that this is the way of the Dharma. to the self-interest of wanting to be something. over and over again. e fear of ‘If I am no longer going to be like this and I am no longer wanting to become like that. to surrender all those self-interests. is new mind and its cultivation require a seismic change of attitude. I want to become like this and not any longer be like that’ creep in. e way of the Dharma is not the way of the world.

or into a limb. From the reports it seems to be of no particular importance what the meditation subject is — there have been many techniques developed over the centuries in Buddhism. I am sure. is a necessary feature of both. or just general pain and discomfort. and even death. It will shine through and radiate all around with warmth and love because it is now a heart that is free from the bonds of desire and self-interest. however. based on the assumption that the Dharma is to be 47 . Concentration. concentration and insight — as it appears problems can arise whatever type of meditation is being practised. Sometimes that energy. to hear others talk about their meditation experiences. or even to an internal organ. I get particularly alarmed. at the book launches and in private talks. but despite their variety they still fall into two basic categories. taying at ome It has been interesting.far from the black hole. that we fear will overtake us if we give up all desires. but sometimes alarming. sometimes causing violent jerking of the body or limbs. even seems to create mental images of devils and demons. having nowhere to go. e basis of most of the problems I hear brought up are. the human heart will shine through and take the place of fear and self-interest. when I am told of experiences of energy gathering during sits — energy that runs through the body — perhaps finding its way to the head.

found in our heads and intellect — through energetic thinking and working things out. at is in the body. there. we will fully incorporate the body into our practice. With this knowledge. In order to understand the crucial part the hara plays in our practice we need to focus on it as much as possible. Our emotions gather and are experienced in the part of the body below the navel. is part of our body is the most crucial part to understand if we are really to integrate mind and body and create a complete and well-rounded practice. And so we ignore the body. Whilst the intellect does have a big part to play in clarifying our understanding of the journey that we are embarking upon. in Far Eastern Buddhism this is often called the hara or ‘seat of the emotions’. I could see that this area contained great energy that would fuel my desires and aversions and give those experiences the drive and 48 . is was something I fortunately learned to do from the beginning of my Dharma training. ose who have a desire for complete understanding need to discover where the home of the Dharma lies. We involve our body through learning to understand and engage with the emotional energy that drives our desires. or even pain. its true part in the scheme of things is essentially not to discover wisdom but to orientate us to where wisdom awaits our discovery. Our attention is naturally drawn there during a strong emotional experience when we might feel discomfort. to harmonize it with the intellect and so nurture the integration of mind and body. is is the conclusion to which my observations of Buddhists over the years has led me.

is realization clearly showed me that this is where the Dharma arises too. (I much prefer to call the emotional energy ‘life-energy’ — or even ‘life-force’ — rather than just ‘energy’. and it needed to be healthy and in a balanced state or it could quite easily bring physical (and mental) damage. I learned to give this area much attention as I could clearly see that it played a major part in what I really am. something that could even be seen as coming from outside 49 . and then return home and stay at home for as long as I could. my understanding of myself deepened very quickly.momentum needed to keep them strong. and that if I didn’t learn to harness that power it could easily run into the body and cause physical problems. where it is to be found. as much as my chattering and deluded mind would allow. To say just ‘energy’ could suggest that it is just a dead force. is emotional energy was a part of the overall energy that gave me life. to catch myself wandering over and over again. ‘up there’. and not in the head. It became clear to me through that deepening understanding that this was in fact where I really was. and I came to see the hara as my home. What a place to be! Here is where the driving emotional lifeenergy gathers. My practice from then on was always to be ‘staying at home’. as I had always assumed. With this knowledge I could see the preciousness of staying with my awareness as much as possible right there in my body. I discovered that if I learned to keep my awareness there as much as possible. A major discovery was that this was potentially an area of tremendous power.

My discoveries continued as it became obvious that the world I was creating was driven by this life-energy.) By staying at home I soon discovered that this is actually where I am and that same place is also where the Dharma is to be discovered. e life-energy wasn’t the world or the self as such. through right practice. and more especially mentally still. as we need to focus and abide here so that we can learn. Because it cannot flow in any of its 50 . but its power gave those creations the life they needed. Because we are physically still. So here in the hara we have the main focus for the complete practice of the bodhisattva path. but to see it as physical also. So neither the Dharma nor I are up there in my head. is allows the precious transforming process to take place. We should make it our ‘home’. whereas in reality we are so intimately connected with it that a division can’t be found. through the power of wisdom. as my intellect is continually trying to convince me that they are. to contain that emotional flow. It was essential to contain that life-energy. It became clear that the way forward was not to assume that the insight process was purely mental. thus freeing us of the ignorance that permeates our whole being. so as to allow the maturing insight faculty to transform the delusion of self and other in a full and proper way.and not really part of me at all. as was my sense of self and the suffering which all of that brings. the build-up of the lifeenergy — especially when deeply concentrated — can be more acute than usual. during meditation.

usual ways through our normal physical or mental activities. Train yourself to stay at home. By staying at 51 . We need to allow the charged lifeforce to do its job and move safely through our being as we live our life. to learn to contain this life-energy. Take your meditation there and bring the two together — even if you consider yourself to be contemplating something more mental — don’t consider yourself abiding separately from your body and be up there in your mind. Become aware of the wandering life-energy with your mind. make the hara your home. rather like restraining an untamed horse with a rope as you train it to become gentle. Always give it your utmost attention. right in the depths of your body. and then harness it with that same awareness and drag it back to the centre and your home — so preventing it running through the body causing problems. It becomes essential. By cultivating this awareness. the energy eventually shouldn’t impinge on your meditation at all and it should be possible to stay centred and develop the meditation at the same time. e way to work with this danger that all meditators face is to be aware of it and train yourself to keep your awareness centred within the hara. Take yourself there whenever you can. but in a contained and controlled way. Allow it to move and express itself as a strong and healthy animal. return and abide there over and over again. So whatever meditation you may be doing. With this in place we can avoid the traumas touched on earlier. it creates these experiences I mentioned at the start of this section. through experience.

as I have explained in the ‘Containment in Everyday Life’ section.home you are abiding in the practice centre of your being. where the Dharma is to be discovered. By centring yourself there you are gathered up in a controlled and balanced state. whose essence and centre is in the body. and in the essence of life. 52 . I have highlighted this experience by focusing on it whilst in meditation but it should be noted that it is equally essential to cultivate that awareness and containment in your daily life as well. ose on the bodhisattva path should soon come to realize that this Path is actually much more of a physical practice than a mental one — because we are actually transforming the errant life-energy which is where the presence of ignorance manifests. creating the samsaric world we are all bound to. With our awareness. it should be possible to remain in contact with the body at all times. As we learn to stay at home. so that when the life-energy wants to wander off in its frustration at its containment you can catch it quickly and drag it home again. we are not only safe from the danger of being taken into the clouds by our deluded mind. but also stand a much better chance of not succumbing to many physical and mental sicknesses. We can then stay with those powerful forces that we need to contain to enable the transforming process to take place. and stay more and more in the body as our practice develops. because it is the Dharma that does the transforming and it is in the body. All this transformation takes place in the body.

So we might consider that lay existence not only severely impairs our practice. All I can say about it is that from my own direct experience of years of practice that notion is not at all correct. But the bodhisattva 53 . which would not be possible to do in lay life simply because I would have to go out and earn my living. ere could be a question mark over the feasibility of practice in lay life if one is pursuing types of practice that need extreme stillness and quiet. who spends his time away from the hurly-burly of lay life. I could meditate for many hours a day. All my basic requisites were provided when necessary by the lay sangha that so generously supported the ordained sangha. Because I was totally free from having to consider the basics of life I was able to focus on my practice without distraction. especially in the eravada sangha in Sri Lanka. We often view the practice of a traditional monk. or where the money would be found to repair the leaking roof of my hut.raice in ay ife I was often asked during question-and-answer sessions if it is really possible to practise in lay life. or if there would be a problem in replacing my worn out robes. During my short time in robes in Sri Lanka I never had to worry where the next meal would come from. as in many ways more ideal. busy city such as London. renders deep penetration into the Dharma impossible. For example. and where normal engagement with life is seen as a hindrance. but in the view of many that I have met. especially in a large.

Cultivating the spirit that wisdom is to be found in all situations is the way forward with this practice of totality. After all.path which is the one that I practise and is the only Path that I concern myself with and encourage others to pursue. if I medi54 . monks take them as well! If you see the retreat as a continuum of your daily practice there should be a feeling of seamlessness as you embark upon this special time.’ e same trap also applies to retreats. but they have an inherent danger in much the same way as focusing too much on sitting meditation during your everyday life. and uses it all as grist to the mill. e completeness of Dharma understanding can only be attained through consistent practice throughout the whole day. but a trap that many fall into is the thought that ‘if I just pile up my meditation mileage that will be all I need for enlightenment. is most definitely possible in lay life. How often people think ‘Well. e bodhisattva path is the path that leads to Buddha nature. If you wish to see Buddha nature then any thoughts of dissecting life into convenient parts has to be abandoned. Retreats are indeed very special on your spiritual journey. for the bodhisattva path is the path of totality and has no time for dualistic discriminatory attachments. and one of the marks of Buddha nature is that it is the totality of life. in a non-monastic life there should always be time to gather up all those experiences to reflect upon and digest all those weeks and months of practice. but takes on all of life. You can use that new-found ability to deepen practice by taking regular retreats. While daily practice is crucial. whether it is robust or quiet.

for example in human relationships. It becomes essential in this kind of practice that we learn to cultivate skilful means in our lives — and to me the primary skill to learn is to learn to take control of your life. Whatever meaningful breakthrough may be experienced on retreat is very much the fruit of daily commitment that matures during those precious days of extraordinary commitment — commitment that is not possible on a normal daily basis. With this in mind. Use all these situations to develop containment and insight. It is clearly a much more robust practice but a practice that is therefore also fraught with many more dangers.tate a bit that should be good enough because I’m off on retreat soon so that should take care of any inertia and any lack of commitment that I now have towards the practice. it could even be said that lay life is better for practice than monastic life. It is fraught with dangers because we are continually being tested and tempted to give way to the strong pull of desires thrust upon us by the very nature of our living in our society. So make use of retreats as yet another aspect of practice that compensates for the lack of advantages of a secluded life. To contain and delve into the power and robustness that characterizes much of lay life represents a precious opportunity to practise. It is robust because we obviously have to deal with the powerful situations with which life can present us with. is is why it is essential to know how to practise throughout the whole day while we are engaged with life. 55 . or just the general grind of trying to lead a normal existence.’ is is very much a wrong understanding.

but that can become just a part of the busy schedule as well. If our life is such that we cannot have the space and time on a daily basis that allows us to practise consistently and evenly. though we would often love to do so. even. In order to practise correctly it is very important to become master of our circumstances rather than be pulled around by them. For the most part we are unable to change these circumstances. our practice will have no chance of maturing. Try to rearrange the schedule and create time just to be with yourself and reflect not just on the day but get familiar with your reactions and feelings to it. and in many respects become reacquainted with yourself. I know there is meditation time for these things.It is a common experience of many people that with a hectic and pressured job. Find the time 56 . simply because of the pressures in our life. We need a measured day — where we can move from one task to another as easily as possible. If our work doesn’t allow that space we should make the utmost effort to create some at home. it is never going to be possible to cultivate the essence of practice — which is to know ourselves whilst engaging with life. we seldom seem to get a minute to ourselves. We are pulled this way and that — hardly seemingly able. to take a breath. If we are always running this way and that. Beyond that we need to create some space where we can relax and gather ourselves up. and other commitments. plus perhaps a family to look after. reflect and be with ourselves. and just another thing that has to be done.

Mull over the Dharma in your mind and see your connection with it. ‘but I am happy to sit by myself meditating quietly for an hour every day and I do have regular meditation retreats. and building the determination to create skilful situations for practising the Dharma. freeze at the thought that there will be nothing to do. you may say. Yes. maybe do the dusting or some other job. Be so that whatever you are doing you can be aware of yourself and get acquainted with the feelings and emotions that may arise during these times. So you can see that taking control of your life. read a book. watch television. By not giving in to the temptation to fill that time but learning to stay with that fear. therefore that is not a problem for me. dare I say it. busy and speeding around. not only allows us to create these precious periods of stillness and space in our hectic days. It can be that we become so used to interacting with others. or listen to the radio or. learn to enjoy your own company and be still. to stay at home and open up to that experience whilst pottering around doing nothing in particular can become a great source of insight. alone? Just the thought of being alone for even a short time can bring up such feelings of loneliness and fear that it can be very difficult to bear.’ But how many of us. and I’ll be left all by myself. but 57 . when we discover there is a gap in our diary.to just quietly potter around. It is this developing skill in taking control and making space that compensates for the quietness that monks enjoy. that the prospect of just being with ourselves alone in our home can be a frightening prospect.

Many of us who come to Buddhism have an image of it as a practice of sitting meditation and very little else. yes. and indeed of the Dharma groups I been leading since that time. But as far as total transformation is concerned — which is the main characteristic of the bodhisattva path — it needs to be grasped and understood more clearly than any other aspect of the practice. to be able to stand in the middle of Piccadilly Circus and practise. to practise in the hectic pressured world of noise and pollution and the crazy people of big cities. It just requires commitment and the development of skilful means to make it possible. I would say. ere is so often this inevitable emphasis on sitting 58 . most definitely it is possible to practise in lay life.also the possibility for insight to arise. when we come to Buddhism almost gravitate to meditation as soon as possible and learn some sort of technique that we work on and develop. To me this is the area of practice that is so crucial to total transformation and yet little seems to be known about it. Most of us then. ontainment in veryday ife One of the most pleasing aspects of my book launches and the question-and-answer sessions that would follow. is wrong understanding is encouraged as so many of the images associated with Buddhism are of the Buddha sitting peacefully cross-legged. is the number of times I have been asked to say something about containment in daily life.

It has been interesting to observe over these past years. so to speak. pleasant or unpleasant etc. It is our job to discover it. whether good or bad. ese are standing. Some forms of Buddhist practice seem to lay almost exclusive emphasis on meditation. in the West and indeed in the East.meditation that somehow. how easy it has become to walk in off the street. In order for that to happen our training will have to take place and be consistent throughout the whole day in all situations. as the Dharma is present in every moment. We can then just 59 . which means that in order to walk and nurture that Path the practice needs to be cultivated in what is traditionally known in Buddhism as the four postures which characterize the experience of life. if not quite seen as the complete picture of practice. is seen almost as the complete practice. all the four postures of being without seeing one posture as superior to another. e bodhisattva path is about the total transformation of all that we are. sitting. e essence of this practice is to train ourselves to walk between the extremes of craving and rejection that characterize much of our lives. into a meditation centre and be taught a technique in a few days. and lying down. but the bodhisattva path is not like that at all. with an element of sila in the background to help create the equanimity conducive to good meditation. It is of no consequence what the situation is. to remain in the place we call the middle way. walking. It then really becomes a practice of meditation and cultivation of an environment that will help with that practice. and is always waiting to be discovered.

Soon after coming to the Dharma we are generally taught that the way forward is through our meditation. Apart from an essential daily practice there is also.walk out again — with little reference made to the necessity of to create a daily practice away from the sitting. the need for a sangha to support this new practice. I would even go as far as to say that a being of deep spiritual understanding doesn’t ever really go beyond the need for sangha either. After a short while we go a bit beyond our practice of coming back to our centre after thoughts and mental pictures have carried us away. if it happens to be convenient or if you feel like it. now negative feelings of 60 . we start having to deal with negative feelings that now begin to impinge. so genuine and permanent change is not going to be possible. We know that we are trying to remain in a state of one-pointed awareness by coming back to our meditation subject the moment we catch ourselves wandering off into thoughts and mental pictures. for example. and the side-stepping of one of the three jewels takes the practice outside the parameters of the eightfold path. so as to support and complement the difficulties inevitably experienced in deepening what has been learned. is is not an optional add-on. Going for refuge to the sangha is a part of the going for refuge to the three jewels. To be apart from likeminded people could affect his well-being as he wouldn’t be able to share his understanding through associating with like-minded people. We soon discover this is not an easy exercise to perform. Gone is the ‘honeymoon’ of the novelty.

ese feelings create thoughts and mental pictures to accompany them. so that not only do we get lost in thoughts and mental pictures again but this time there is some sort of negative emotional power behind them as well. as these negative emotions makes our loss of awareness more acute. but we muster up the determination to stay with our meditation subject and soldier on. e nature of our everyday mind abides in restlessness. somehow it just has to wander off into something else even if only for a few seconds. just watch it and see how long it can stay with one thing. and our time spent trying to concentrate can be almost unbearable.restlessness begin to arise. When these begin to arise they not only condition our thoughts and mental pictures to a great degree but engage the body much more than before because the passions are in essence more of a physical experience. Now we have much more to deal with than before. What that subject is is not very important. Just when we think we have got to grips with this new if slightly unpleasant dimension. We now find it more difficult to catch ourselves and bring ourselves back to the centre of awareness. rough all this we carry on and 61 . a third factor arises that then takes us to the crossroads where we are presented with the reality of our commitment to meditation: the passions. Normally we live with this and accept that the mind spends just about every second of every minute chattering away to itself about everything and nothing. So what may have started out as an easy. pleasant exercise in peace and quiet now becomes something that requires more effort.

We learn to stay with and bear with the arising of the passions. even if it’s just a little. and that is staying centred in the coolness of awareness even in the middle of all this mental and physical dukkha — but can we do this in our everyday life? Can we stay with what we are doing when we 62 . we change our posture and check the time. or hara. When we decide to still that mind in meditation we soon discover the force that can arise if we don’t give in and play its games of perpetual restlessness. If we do manage to still thoughts and discover that precious stillness. We twitch. we scratch. we look around. that negative emotional force loses its power and calms down. rough perseverance and a determination not to give in to these distractions. allowing us to bathe in the fruits of our efforts to stay with it. negative emotional forces begin to gather and arise from the pit of our stomach. we move. Feelings of happiness and even bliss can then arise as we continue to stay one-pointed. We learn to stay with what we are doing in the moment. it displays its inevitable impermanence. rough time. and consequently not really being aware of what we are doing in any given moment. we find anything to relieve that build-up of frustrated energy. we learn to bear with it and carry on bringing ourselves back to the centre and remain one-pointed.live our lives for much of the time seemingly on automatic pilot because of this non-stop thinking. and begin to inflame our thoughts. We soon discover that this restlessness becomes much more of a physical experience as these emotional forces run through our body and manifest in unpleasant ways. we blow our nose.

because the bodhisattva practice is the practice of totality. and get lost in the clouds created by those reactions. so when that experience arises we lose the ability to stay with what we are doing. In our meditation we are always bringing ourselves back to the centre. worse.are engaged in some mundane daily activity. when someone comes to us whilst we are engaged in a particular activity and says something unpleasant that pulls immediately at our feelings and emotions? Do we not straight away get caught up and strike out verbally or otherwise? Or maybe we buckle under to what is said and withdraw because we have heard an unpleasant truth about ourselves? Or if it’s so unpleasant we may even turn away and suppress our feelings because we can’t face the truth. To practise the bodhisattva path fully and completely it is essential to see that the practice is exactly the same in whatever posture and activity we may be in. Do you think that we should be doing something different when we are engaged in a daily activity? In our meditation we learn to open up and bear with the emotions and passions that come up. ere is always a reaction. the passions. staying mindful and at one with this particular activity is no different from staying with the meditation subject while meditating. But remember. is really is such a crucial feature of the complete 63 . and it is invariably driven by negative emotions or. and allow ourselves to burn up inside them without playing and being carried away with the games they create through thoughts and mental pictures.

Maybe in the past we would have succumbed to those experiences and stayed in the warm and enjoyed our inertia. you may feel it needs a lot of Dharmic understanding and to be practised in special circumstances. but it doesn’t. because you feel that the ordinary is unimportant and not where the Dharma is. but now we are practising the Dharma so we don’t give into them but do what we know we should be doing — getting up. so ordinary and everyday that you may let the precious opportunity pass you by. In fact it is in the ordinary where the practice is to be found. Because it is such a lofty ideal. We are stopping the wheel of causation from turning and returning it to its source. and containing those forces. when the mind engages and thinks negatively about having to get out of that warm comfortable bed. Getting up to go to work is not something most of us find easy. When we are woken up our practice starts just there. paradoxically. In doing this there may well be lots of not just mental resistance but also physical feeling and even unpleasant emotional feelings against having to do that. but we still do. is is so wrong. We get up and get dressed and all the other things we do at this time and all the time contain those negative 64 . Let’s look at an everyday example: getting up in the morning to go to work. putting to an end the endless cycle of rebirth and an eternity of dukkha. and we certainly do not look forward to it most of the time.training of the bodhisattva path that we need to explore and understand that we are actually transforming habits of a lifetime.

ese we can work on. is emotion can build to a passionate intensity to the extent that it becomes almost unbearable physical pain. usually centred on the hara — the 65 .mental and physical experiences within the activities we are carrying out. and also. we are doing precisely the same thing. and it is the taming of the passions and negative emotions and the transforming of them that will eventually take us out of samsara. It is the taming of the passions and negative emotions that is at the very heart of the bodhisattva training. crucially. Now that we are engaged in a daily activity. containing the negative emotions and passions. In our meditation we come back to what we are meant to be doing at the time. but the passionate outflows are quite a different issue. which is remaining centred in awareness by catching ourselves when we become lost in thoughts and mental pictures. In the example we have been using. Because our minds are continually engaged in thoughts and mental pictures it is unrealistic to try to extinguish them. we don’t allow it to take over but contain it and carry through with the activity we know should be done. to the extent that anyone around us wouldn’t even be aware of our internal resistance and turmoil. We come back through our awareness to stay mindfully with what we are meant to be doing — centred in the awareness of our activity. instead of giving in to the negative emotional desire to stay in bed. We just carry out those activities as simply and as straightforwardly as we can.

and to bear with all the force that drives it. because these forces are not 66 . We are surrendering ourselves. We are not going to get carried away any more by the fire of those thought-habits and attachments.seat of the emotions — in the lower abdomen. All those old familiar things only give us trouble and cause problems in life with others and ourselves. We stay with our world and bear with it until eventually. Giving all of ourselves up with a bright clear mind that is aware of all that is happening. But rather than give in to it we learn to open up and surrender ourselves right into the heart of that physical experience with a willingness to burn up inside that fire. that compels us to be the helpless participants in a world that is not conducive to happiness. for good or bad. and a willingness to accept that this is a part of us. For once we are not going to give into that. But what are we really doing? In a situation such as this we have finally decided not to buy into an old familiar situation and get carried away by that ingrained habit. that resists those habitual reactions and says ‘yes’ to all that arises from within the mind and which embraces and accepts without judgements and labels. ere will be thoughts and mental pictures continually trying to deflect us from our commitment. ere is a willingness to accept what we may not want to see. We are quite literally giving up this sense of self and ‘me’. to likes and dislikes and our opinions about what is right and wrong and what we want and don’t want. but we don’t yield. that which turns the wheel of becoming and all the karma that accompanies it.

but it is also a skilful practice to cultivate kindness to non-sentient things as well. To open and accept. and containment of. the negative outflows is applied to everything. who is warm and at one with others and the wonder of life. with all the considerations that would naturally include.being allowed to turn and perpetuate the karmic cycle any more. the true nature that expresses itself as a gentle and genuine human being. they gradually change and transform back into their true original nature. but it applies to all our everyday experiences. When I first came to 67 . for everything we encounter nurtures a kind heart in the same way as kindness to beings. But kindness. indness to all ings Some may find it strange that not only is it part of our training to cultivate and nurture kindness and consideration and all that implies to sentient beings. contain. is example of getting up in the morning is simple. and even respect. the same openness to. back into its original nature. is willingness not to play the game of spinning the wheel of becoming transforms the driving emotional passionate power that once was owned by the desires. and function in as human a way as we can. Of course this wouldn’t be fashioned with the same sensitivity we would have to other living beings. including the more complex experiences of human relationships. which then reacts spontaneously to the needs of mankind without any doer or desire for reward. is the practice.

As part of our developing understanding we see and acknowledge that to arrive at that end we need to develop skilful means in our dealings with others and the world. is will then bring us closer to our true nature. even though the next day we would bring them out first thing and make them dirty again. through wholehearted engagement. It became apparent to me that to nurture a respect for the tool itself was cultivating still further a spirit of sensitivity. as it is this that we lost when we took on a sense of self and created the experience of objects and separateness. and potentials. qualities. in the knowledge that. We 68 .this practice I was working in Regent’s Park in London as a gardener. because we see this as the expression of the heart’s true nature. through openness and friendliness. but for me it went deeper than just those issues. e return to our true nature is made possible by becoming proficient in meditation and through the development of insight into reality. whether animate or inanimate. We were expected to clean and oil the tools at the end of each day’s work. we are all part of the whole. We readily nurture our innate human virtues. so as to fulfil our practice. e idea was that the tools would last longer and. there was also consideration and respect for the person who might wish to use the tools the following day. because Dharma practice is about nurturing the return to the wholeness of life where our original nature is to be found. What we are doing with this engagement is learning to go beyond. not just our own sense of separateness but that of ‘other’ — through wholehearted commitment to practice.

need to go beyond even that separateness of self because we are part of a much bigger picture. In order to become truly whole again we need to nurture the spirit that we cultivate not just towards others and ourselves but also to the whole of life, including the non-sentient, because it is this totality that makes up the whole, and our true nature. It is not enough just to engage with metta and develop loving kindness towards others. If you are really interested in the full reward of the bodhisattva path, expand that practice of consideration and respect to embrace the whole world and everything that is in it. Clean the tools you have used and return them to their rightful place. Drive your car with sensitivity and kindness. Do not throw and kick things because you are frustrated with them or make them the object of your frustration. Learn to be open to them and see them as your friends, see them as a vehicle to reality, part of the same mystery that you are. It is said that people talk to plants. We don’t have to take this literally of course but what is meant by this is that by stilling and opening up our minds to this form of life, our natural intuitive sensitivity is able to commune with plant and see their needs. is way of communicating is the real ‘talking’, and further cultivates the respect for all that is, a respect that leads to the experience of the oneness of life. With this cultivation we are not just embracing humans and nurturing compassion for their plight, but embracing all that is, because we see that everything is a part of the whole. In the whole there isn’t that which is alive and that which

isn’t alive. Wholeness is the Buddha nature itself, and it is within this true nature that all things have their home.

I’ve read many books in which the terms awareness and mindfulness appear the same and are interchanged quite freely, but, I see a difference between them. ey may well be the closest of friends and firmly linked, but they are different, and that difference is worth exploring. To state the difference at the outset I would say that awareness is fully alive but nonengaging and therefore passive (at least until the later stages of the bodhisattva path when separateness and duality cease), whilst mindfulness is fully alive and energetic. Mindfulness is the conscious act of bringing ourselves back to the state of awareness. We use mindfulness as a tool; it is a conscious tool that we learn to employ with skilful means in meditation, and in everyday activities, to bring ourselves back to what we are engaged in. Mindfulness takes us back to where we are training ourselves always to be abiding — in a state of pure awareness. As most of us would readily admit, we are seldom fully conscious of what we are doing at any moment. How many times have we walked down a long road and reached the other end to realize we have no recollection whatsoever of the journey and the engagement we must have had with the environment along the way? And for those who drive a car, how many journeys across a busy town, stopping and starting, continually

making decisions, have we taken and at journey’s end had little recollection of it? often accompanied by the startling thought ‘Did I drive through any red traffic lights?!’ We are all familiar with these experiences, yet it is the purpose of Dharma training for us to be alive and aware in the activity — however mundane — that we are doing right now. How can we achieve this? In our meditation we have a technique that we concentrate on that allows us to develop the ability to stay onepointed and in a state of awareness. To always be coming back to it when we wander off in thoughts and mental pictures — even if they are driven by the emotions and passions. We surrender to the activity of, say, counting the breath. It is the surrender to that activity that allows us to be alive to the moment. In our daily lives it is the same principle. If I am brushing my teeth I stay totally with that activity. I am aware of the feeling of the bristles passing over the teeth and gums, I am aware of the taste of the paste etc. I give myself to that experience but I have to bring forth mental effort to stay there, and sure enough however much I try to stay with it the mind kicks in and I’m off again into a thought and soon lose the awareness of the activity. But it is the ability to return, through mindfulness, that allows me to catch myself and bring myself instantly back into the aliveness of that moment. is coming back and wandering off and coming back again can happen several times just within this simple everyday activity, but it is the willingness, through mental effort and commitment, to engage in being at one with this

all day thinking this and thinking that and never really experiencing the wonder of just being. is can become evident in meditation. And with the essence of awareness being very 72 . through experience. to be always coming back to ourselves. How easy it is to go through the day and not remember that we are supposed to be practising the Dharma and so be aware and alive to the moment. A willing commitment to be mindful promotes the ability to train ourselves to come back home. but try it even whilst just coming and going in daily life. is to go beyond our everyday normal thinking and ‘look’ and be aware of our subject with a bright. or ponder. you will find the pondering will begin to take place much more in the body than in the mind. I realized that if this mind of mine must always be chattering.e. the Dharma. To muse. It is the commitment to try to be alive to every activity. it would be best for it to chatter about something which would help lead me back to myself and awareness — i. I have found.that to me is the essence of mindfulness. It is a profoundly deep energetic mental commitment to the Dharma. By musing beyond thought you are much more likely to be aware of yourself and the body. When sweeping the floor be mindful and with that commitment bring yourself back from your thoughts and become alive and aware to what you are doing. a way that helps to promote this ability. With this in place. still mind. I then try if possible to go beyond that chattering mode and muse or ponder on the Dharma instead.

much in the body, this musing or pondering is much more likely to go beyond the reach of the self and the distortions it may bring with it. is brings us closer to the Dharma, because truth is actually found deep within our own being. If your Dharma knowledge is correct, your Dharmic thoughts should always promote a tendency to reflect on yourself. Whatever Dharmic subject you may wander off in, it should always be somehow linked to you, and be seen as something personal to relate to. ere are aspects of Buddhist wisdom and ideas on which we can ponder that may take us outside of ourselves, often into the clouds. But for those who are committed practitioners the knowledge that we choose to think about or ponder upon should always have the effect of turning our attention inwards, should always be personal and lead to a connection within. If you are prepared to ponder only those matters that make you turn inwards, then you are just a moment away from catching yourself and returning to your self-awareness and to what you are doing just then. So ponder Dharma that turns you inward; do not ponder what you think to be Dharma that only serves to take you away. If you are looking for something to ponder then may I suggest something that has been so useful for me, the most wonderful of contemplations, one that can be pursued both in the deepest samadhi and in the middle of the busiest high street, that is, to ponder the tilakkhana or three signs of being: anicca, dukkha, anatta — impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and not-self or insubstantiality. At any time of day or night, in any activity you care to imagine, it is

always possible to ponder any of these three signs, singularly or collectively, for there is nothing in the universe, whether it is your own mind and body or the furthest galaxy, that is outside these truths. It doesn’t matter at all what your mood may be. View the world and all that is going on at the time, and bring one of these wonders to bear upon some element of that experience and ponder it. Watch the change taking place in front of you, as nothing ever stays the same for long, and realize that everything is in a state of flux and can never ultimately be independent. And what happens when I think that this thing is somehow fixed and therefore graspable? Look outwards into the world in this way, but better still make it really personal and look inside yourself as well. Apply these three wonders to your body and mind as you move around. Look into mind and body through these characteristics without thinking. Look into your feelings and desires and aversions and emotions and passions in the same way — then use thinking to continue when thinking demands its place back. Any way you choose, let total anarchy reign! Just apply those three precious and profound tools to your every minute. ese will familiarize you with the Dharma and take you back over and over again, with mindfulness, into yourself and into the present moment. More and more you will be able to stay with what you are doing. Try it. is is called ‘skilful means for the chattering mind, and loss of awareness’. It is the commitment to the energetic mental engagement of mindfulness in the moment that is the Dharma’s

most important tool. It is full of life, because it tempers and even stops the incessant karmic flow of thoughts that take us away from the experience of the fullness of life, and it is this lack of fullness (fulfilment) that is the root of dukkha. It is mindfulness that applies the brake and slows down the wheel of samsara, preparing the conditions for the diamond cutter of awareness to slice that samsaric wheel to shreds.

Having looked at mindfulness we can now look at its best friend ‘that which mindfulness is born of ‘: awareness. We humans not only have awareness, as all sentient beings must to one degree or another, we also possess the greatest jewel of all, self-awareness, that ability to know ourselves and, as it were, stand back and reflect on that knowing, which then gives us the ability to control and manipulate our actions. It is the highest evolution of awareness that sets us apart from all other forms of life, and when used to its highest potential it takes us straight as an arrow to Buddhahood. What a wonderful aspect of our being to contemplate! When we really discover this mystery of mysteries on all its levels, it is the greatest of insights, one that when its ultimate understanding is revealed, is discovered to be the Buddha himself. e whole of our Dharma practice is geared towards cultivating the habit of staying for as long as possible in that bare, naked awareness, where we know ourselves in every

Both are attachments.moment of being. From this still cool 76 . But how do we manage to achieve this? We achieve this by cultivating the eightfold path. that state of being that develops over years of practice giving us the ability to engage in life to the full. To stay there for as long as our ability allows is truly to go beyond the world of samsara. When we perfect letting go of these extremes we are no longer being pulled around by them. When you are lying down. It is whilst in the cool of the middle that our self-awareness is at its brightest. ese are the extremes of life. because it is harmonizing with its own natural goodness. but rest in the cool of the middle — in the middle way. It shines forth without the usual disturbances. We arrive at this profound state by cultivating our ethical behaviour and giving the heart peace. know you are lying down’. know you are sitting. whichever way we want to react. and its innate ability to shine through the world and know its own reality is then at its peak. When you walk. know you are standing. e Maha Satipatthana Sutta states ‘When you stand. When you sit. From this stillness we can then strengthen our ability to concentrate and stay centred within our awareness. nor to go the opposite way and turn away and reject life. know you are walking. because in those moments we are ceasing to create karma for ourselves and abiding in the still coolness that soon will take us to eternal freedom. e essence of the Path is to cultivate the ability to abide in the middle way. but not to take hold of it and make it ‘mine’.

e powerful forces that bring this world of opposites into being. is always cool and miraculously never touched by any of it. Sometimes our awareness seems present for quite some time. Do you now begin to see how wonderful this awareness that we all have really is? If through years of dedicated practice you manage to 77 . suffering. Liberation then comes from that still. But that awareness. which is the receptacle of everything. it is still there and not for a single moment is it ever touched or disturbed. awareness doesn’t increase or decrease. the characteristics of impermanence. every realm of samsara that there is. It doesn’t need air to breathe nor food and water to live. It is from awareness that the blinding world of thoughts and mental pictures is born but then obscures that very same awareness. and not-self) that we have been skilfully and consistently nurturing to cut deeply into the created world of samsara. our natural unspoilt awareness. dies and disappears. Even at death. but it is like the experience of the sun being covered by clouds. cool state of awareness. awareness doesn’t. At enlightenment. are also ultimately born of awareness. awareness does not die. and at other times we lose it altogether as our thoughts and mental pictures take over.centredness. In reality. that create the stage for those thoughts and impressions to play on. we can use the insight tools of the Dharma (for example. when the whole universe from heaven to hell. we may no longer see the sun but above the clouds it is still shining in perfection. it is consistent and ever present. and nowhere else.

Awareness then isn’t passive at all. I am that bird. and you will soon discover the truth behind these words you have just read. mindfulness and awareness could never be thought of as the same. emptiness bathed in a warmth that loves all that is. One is only awareness and the great emptiness (shunyata) of love and knowledge. full of bliss and eternally free — and is the real me. where is its source? You will be going deeper and deeper. and beyond that pathetic self that wanted everything. I am that mountain. e iddle ay Whatever part of the practice of the noble eightfold path we pursue. Truly. all is one. Are that sound over there and my awareness of it really two. and on the other reacting to them 78 . or are they the same? If they are one then I am that sound. Just stay with the awareness that reads the words on this page right now. Awareness is everything. ultimately it is anything but passive. On the one side is grasping at our mental and physical experiences. Is this awareness then the real me? It must be. Awareness finally discovers itself. that is infinite. where does it end. you will be able to journey even deeper into the wonders of awareness — where does it go. the goal is to one day attain a perfect balance between opposites. totality. and returns to itself. just stay there and be still without falling back into mental chattering. going beyond the world.destroy the world of objects and still the unending flow of thoughts.

and say ‘this is mine’ — if they do not grasp at their developing concentration coming from their meditation and cultivation of mindfulness through their daily practice and say ‘this is mine’ — if they do not grasp at the wisdom that arises whilst using the tools of insight during practice and say. e first is eternalism. thus going against the natural law that everything is in a permanent state of change. As this is an area we are sometimes familiar with in our lives. we may feel we know enough about it. But this is wrong. because it is an act of trying to make something mine to keep. and we can never remove ourselves from it.with a negative attitude of disinterest and rejection. e second is nihilism. be it in word or actions. believing there are other aspects of Dharma to study which are far more difficult to comprehend. If the practitioner does not grasp at their ethical practice in their engagement with themselves. ‘this is mine’ — then a very profound state of mind will soon manifest. I have tried to point to the practice in its various facets throughout this book. and therefore must be more important than this doctrine of the middle way. is balance we call in Buddhism the middle way. at ordi79 . that is grounded in the perfection of wisdom of the ordinary mind. and not give it too much attention. It is a state of mind that has never been known before. even with death. and others. and life in general. Because we think it is easily understood we may put it to one side. not accepting the irresistible reality that we are part of life. so I need not elaborate on any aspect of it just here.

with our mind and feelings flowing first this way then that. so that when we finish our meditation we often feel worse than when we started. but it is also the most profound. no longer driven by self-interest. at is absolutely guaranteed. as it no longer grasps at anything. Try as we might we simply can’t put two seconds of concentration together. but instead falls into equanimity towards all things.nary mind. without reacting by grasping or rejecting. enlightenment will very quickly come. 80 . When your mind reaches this exalted state and you do not slide back. On other days we may go to our meditation with lots of negative feelings. and the fulfilment of the fourth noble truth. and our lack of being able to concentrate comes in degrees as well. and emotions. thoughts. e doctrine of the middle way may well be the simplest of doctrines. Equanimity means that the mind allows everything that comes to it to just arise and pass away. some days we are concentrated while other days we are anything but. becomes a creation of the wisdom of the middle way. o alue udgements When we have committed ourselves to a daily sitting practice. is is what you have been practising for all your Buddhist life. Concentration comes in varying degrees. When concentration is good we may experience happiness or bliss that can permeate our whole being. the perfection of the middle way. At these times we couldn’t be keener to sit. It is the perfection of practice.

thinking either ‘My meditation was good today’ or ‘My meditation was bad today’. I am sure everyone reading this will have had these experiences from time to time. Sangha — be it to the arising of the bodhicitta through the bodhisattva vows. and that the whole exercise was a waste of time. and really shows a lack of understanding of the Dharma and how it works. 81 . but from your subconscious up. or a commitment to the three jewels in a more traditional sense — something very profound takes place on a deep subconscious or even unconscious level. as we inevitably fall into value judgements.is is because we assume that we have failed. By all means say — if you must — ‘I was concentrated today’ or ‘I wasn’t concentrated today’. A message or signal is sent right into the heart of samsara — into its darkest. In this way you set in motion an irreversible process that doesn’t work from your consciousness down. Dharma. is message is a statement that from this day forward you are going to work with wholehearted commitment to transform that darkness until you are free and liberated. most unknown level — saying that you are no longer going to be the victim of this entrapment and bondage. because that is a simple statement of fact. I am personally convinced that if there is a wholehearted commitment. but don’t allow yourself to fall into those judgement traps. both sincere and deep. But making those kinds of judgements is wrong. Because it is coming from this unknown depth you are never really in a position to know what is good and what is bad practice. to the three jewels of Buddha.

still go to your cushion. avoid making the mistake of value judging. that is the key to change. By determining to commit yourself to a consistent. You are committed to looking into them with understanding and embracing love should they arise from the subconscious. or have turned away from out of fear. still do it. If you are cultivating the middle way and your practice is true. It is a message to those forces that you don’t really understand. When you are feeling good about life go to your meditation 82 . understanding that what is important to change those dark forces is your consistent commitment to practice. that you are now determined to get to know and understand them. It is your commitment to the practice. then try to recognize that it is really working much more on this subconscious level. because at present they are largely unknown. You will have a set time for your sitting. You are now prepared to open up to those forces that hitherto you have not been connected to. Even if you were correct and you don’t sit at all well. rough this process. and to taking yourself to your meditation posture every day. Even if you are sure it is a waste of time to sit today. in time. so stick to that. daily practice. which is complementary and integral to an ongoing daily Dharma practice. even if your mind is all over the place with not two seconds of concentration put together. and is beyond your ability to see and know directly. balanced.In your daily meditation practice. you are sending that clear and precise message deep into your psyche that the game is up. they will transform out of their present darkness.

If you are feeling bad about life then go to your meditation and concentrate as best you can. or even to have desires for enlightenment that we then carry around. and how we can recognize it. It is natural enough to want to experience some sort of change: in ourselves. It is no use judging good or bad. at is the practice of the middle way. becoming goal-oriented and wanting to turn into someone else. It is the determination to be consistent in all situations that sends repeated messages to those unfathomable depths of darkness that the game is up. because we are not in a position to. Don’t decide to sit another five or ten minutes because you are concentrated. and in our re83 . By being consistent you are not judging your sitting — and because you are not in direct contact with your subconscious you are not qualified to judge anyway. but it is not a good idea to get too attached. Just stick to the form that you have taken on. Stay with your set time. but stay with your set time. hange — harmic and orldly I have often been asked about the change that we all hope will come out of our practice. nor is it our job to do so.and enjoy it. We come to the practice hoping for change as well as for many other apparent reasons. and be as determined as you can in maintaining that consistency. and it is the middle way that transforms our bondage to those forces of darkness and eternal becoming. don’t decide to sit five or ten minutes less because you are struggling.

conscious act of will on my part. one worldly and the other Dharmic. It not only made my fingers look unsightly. we don’t focus 84 . break it. until I could quite clearly see that it had been broken. If we have a true and consistent practice. every time I went to put one of my fingers in my mouth I brought forth the will to resist the habit and temptation. ere are fundamentally two types of change. So I summoned up the conscious will and determination to focus on the habit of a lifetime. and thus undertake some sort of change. I used to bite my nails habitually. working to stem the flow of an ingrained habit. so as to change for the better.lationships with others and the world. it is invariably very difficult to identify and describe the changes that happen. For weeks. Change had come and I stopped. But Dharmic change doesn’t work like this. and I am sure most of us have made efforts down the years — especially at the turn of the year when we traditionally make a resolution to break an undesirable habit. An example of a worldly change would be something similar to an experience I went through whilst in my teens. it also encouraged my mother to keep going on at me! One day I decided that enough was enough. that I really must make the effort to break this habit. you have broken a habit of a lifetime!’ is was a deliberate. But although change does take place as we practise. at was a simple example. I worked to bring about change by focusing on a particular part of myself. My mother was happy! ‘David’. until finally the desire and habit died. she said ‘well done.

we embrace and accept all of ourselves for what we are. in a consistent way. such as my fingernail example. So it is the totality of ourselves that is being touched by that change. But this is not the general spirit of Dharma practice. without judging. 85 . means being prepared to embark on a practice of giving up all the self-centred attachments that give us trouble. is is because the process of Dharmic change takes place right across the personality. and interferes with the rest of the practice. targeting it as something to change. is embracing of all that we are. Instead.on a particular aspect of our personality at all. Opening up and accepting without reacting. we may have to work on it specifically. Because it is big and important. in a spirit of openness. whilst engaging with life in a wholehearted and positive manner. change brought about by Dharma practice will not be so easy to identify in a direct way. at spirit is one of being open to all of ourselves with equanimity whilst engaging wholeheartedly with life. not targeting any particular part of it. is precisely the difference between a worldly pursuit and a Dharmic pursuit. Of course sometimes in our practice we may have to focus on a part of our personality that may rise to the surface. us we avoid the trap of focusing on particular aspects of our personality and wanting to change just those parts. opening up to and accepting it. which is often very obvious. Unlike worldly change. is needs to be done in a complete and uncompromising way.

One contained all the things that I didn’t like about myself that I wanted to get rid of. Being very subtle. and see that you must really have changed. for example. Worldly change is something conscious and obvious. so that I end up being the person that I’ve always 86 .Sometimes it is possible to get an inkling of how you have changed. and the other was a list of all the virtues and characteristics of a good man that I wanted to develop. I’ll start at the top of the list and work through each one I don’t like. then tick them off. en you encounter this person again after many years and see much the same person that you remember from all that time ago. I think that is about as close as you can get to seeing change in an evident. Some time after this reunion you may suddenly realize how you now functioned very comfortably with them. I remember very well that when I first started to practise Zen I had two lists in my mind. direct way. Because it ‘spreads itself ’ across our being it becomes almost impossible to pinpoint and identify. en I’ll cultivate all the desirable things here on the second list. and invariably about one thing. it cannot be known in the ordinary direct way. I thought ‘Right. You may. but Dharmic change actually takes place on a subconscious or even unconscious level. such as when you react differently in a familiar situation from how you used to react in the past. and tick them off one by one. find yourself meeting a person that you used to have all sorts of negative feelings towards — to the extent that you found it difficult to function comfortably around them.

I learned to let go of those desires. It attracts attention possibly as much as any facet of the teachings. I would suggest that you develop the same attitude towards your natural and understandable desire for change. is actually nothing to do with us. this life-energy transforms back into its original nature on a deep subconscious level. but what good is it to us in our everyday practice? I once asked my teacher in Sri Lanka something on this subject. there is no desire for change. in the real Dharmic sense. When real Dharmic change takes place. Most Easterners wouldn’t even question it.wanted to be’ I soon learned to forget that approach. His reply was ‘eory. it’s all just theory. It is a slow taming and transforming of our lifeenergy. as it became clear to me that the practice and the change it produced didn’t work in such a clear. arma and ebirth e whole subject of karma and rebirth is one of the great fascinations and sources of wonderment in Buddhism.’ I don’t expect for one moment that he doubted the doctrine. Change. because it is that very experience of self that is changed through Dharma practice. obvious. which are themselves created and driven by the sense of self and ego that possesses and shapes our personality. What he meant was that there was 87 . In our original nature. is energy is bound up and deluded by attachments. and to accept myself just the way I was. (and self-centred) way. Real change is beyond the self ’s ability to know.

is very helpful for practice. or you would end up in hell for all eternity. As with many other aspects of the teaching and philosophy of Buddhism. Now. I just couldn’t equate that teaching with the obvious inequalities 88 . In fact it was one of those taboo subjects that no one would bring up. allowing ourselves to create a more objective overall picture of samsara that helps form the background to our practice. Rather we need to reflect on the doctrine and take it on board lightly. I was once asked at a book launch what I thought about this endless cycle of coming and going through endless lives. looking back. I feel this was an error. including rebirth. when investigating karma we must be careful not to get caught up with the imagery it creates. Like many people in the West I was brought up a Christian — a Roman Catholic actually.little use from the point of view of concrete. for to get some sort of grasp of the law of karma and its implications. everyday practice in getting caught up in the imagery that has been created on this subject largely by the Indian mind. One of the aspects of Christianity that always gave me trouble was the idea that life was somehow just a one-off experience that you had to get right. When I first came to Buddhism and Zen this was not a subject I was ever encouraged to investigate and study. Personally I have always thought that the best way to use this teaching was as a spur to greater efforts in the practice. thus breaking this eternal cycle of rebirth and suffering. so that one day the karmic propensities that create form — and yet another life — are transformed.

Once I discovered that we are actually the creators and heirs to our actions. 89 . is realization was very important for me. Had God really created us. As every life came up and passed through the transcendental mind’s eye. I was contemplating this very subject one day whilst relaxing in my hut. because it presented an acceptable picture of the nature and reality of life. arose within me. both physically and mentally. the only conclusion I could ever come to was that if he had done so he must surely be very twisted.of opportunity to go to Heaven that are presented to us at birth. It allowed me to embrace and settle into the practice. the reality of the beginning. When I was in robes in Sri Lanka. and suffering. it immediately answered my questions about the inequality and lopsidedness of life. over a period of a few seconds every life that I have lived. and clear seeing of the reality of all those lives. during a period when insight was flowing very deeply. But when I came across the law of karma it made instant sense to me. Just to contemplate the consequences of this reality should be all the spur we need to commit ourselves to serious practice in order to get ourselves out of that endless cycle of birth. death. All religions have a fear element within their doctrine — some more than others — and the fear element in Buddhism is the doctrine of the endless suffering and lottery of rebirth. with all the inequalities that I could see all around me? Contemplating this. Without any warning. that we have to live out their consequences through an endless series of lives.

) But the number of lives seen was quite ungraspable. I do not consider myself to be a negative person with a negative view of life. It is a topic that we all could turn ourselves towards and muse over from time to time. I came into this life experiencing the pain of birth. and death. is had a very strong impact on me. I have always pursued happiness in the hope of avoiding suffering. but also specifically fear of loneliness.middle. I could see fear as suffering’s constant companion. Details of past lives would be the domain of the ordinary mind that has perfected the dhyanas — a practice that has never interested me because it has only worldly fruits and is devoid of true wisdom. Sometimes 90 . and left to one side for the time being the paradox of the wonder and miracle of life of which we all partake. I have sought contentment in the hope that I would never have to face fear — but somehow I have never quite pulled it off. which is a much deeper fear. for this is not of interest to the transcendental mind. and end of every one of those lives was seen. and have spent most of my life trying as best I can to avoid any more of it. the suffering. (ere was never a seeing of any details of the lives. with the number of lives going beyond the capacity of even the transcendental mind’s ability to comprehend. ere is fear of life’s general suffering. ere was never a definable beginning to the start of the cycle of becoming. loss. It made me sit down and contemplate this whole business of birth and death. and a deeper sense of suffering. but for some hours I allowed myself to sit and contemplate that aspect. I contemplated the negative. the fear.

despite the resentment that sometimes can come towards this compulsory engagement. I can see that. whether consciously or unconsciously. I am still restricted by its demands. It will not seek my permission to die and go into change. It will just do it. It was not difficult to see that this body makes me live my life at its constant beck and call.I have tasted happiness and contentment. with the frustration of knowing that ultimately I am never going to achieve it. I have spent a lifetime pursuing this goal of contentment. is pursuit will no doubt last throughout my years. but rather to accept that this body at any moment could give me pain and serious trouble. It requires food and water. but often in those precious moments I have recognized that it would soon begin to slip through my fingers. and general attention. All of my life I have conveniently avoided thinking of this day. In that dying there will inevitably be pain. but now the one guarantee in life has 91 . however wonderful a machine it may be. during that pursuit I will have to try not to be preoccupied. On top of that. even though I am aware that could at any moment it let me down. and I will be then be faced with its closest friend — fear. However inconvenient this attention may be at times. e dreaded fear of death will finally have arrived. the body still demands priority over everything. It will not apologize if I happen to be in the middle of something important. there is still a curious and very powerful attachment to it. Yet ironically. and I would have to start all over again.

the experience of suffering. continue doubling the total. right through your life. Double it again. ink of the number one. As the number gets ever larger you will require a computer. so you can’t be doing these sums all the time. Pursue this exercise at your leisure. just check on the figure that you are currently at. Along with it come the fear. Now double it. Soon you will need a piece of paper to keep track. When you run your eyes along that number. the darkness which is the one guarantee in life.finally come. and when the time finally arrives to leave the body that can no longer support you. Maybe at that time you will regret not making the effort to put an end to this hideous cycle that you have no control over. then double the result of that sum. in times of boredom or whenever it’s convenient. realize that that number just scratches the surface of the number of times you have experienced the phenomenon of death that you are now about to go through yet again. now the darkness comes. and the fear of the unknown that follows. Whilst in my life I have always chased the light. you can embark on a little exercise that will bring home to you the endless cycle of rebirth and suffering that we all seem willing to partake in. and so on. And just how many times have I had this experience of death? If you would like to get to grips with the number of lives you must surely have lived. Maybe you will think that if only you had made 92 . Nevertheless whenever you think of it. and soon after that a calculator. Of course you have things to do in your life. which will be way beyond your ability to grasp.

to perpetuate this endless cycle. with his piercing eyes and hideous laugh. Whilst contemplating these negative realities of life. a sword honed to a fine sharpness by a lifetime of dedicated practice. all the wise men and women throughout the history of Buddhism.. You could have drawn the sword of wisdom that you had created. your teacher.. and what is more. you might have come to this point with a smile on your face. I am determined that it will be me and not Yama who will be smiling the next time we meet. He then will grab you by the scruff of your neck and drag you into another life. At that moment it may dawn on you that you could have brought this cycle to an end.. I had also had the good karma to be born in a time when the Dharma still exists. e judge of death. whether you like it or not. and cut him in two. en. 93 . the good karma to hear that Law. told you that going beyond birth and death could be achieved.the effort while you were well. instead of Yama coming and roaring with laughter and enjoying his power over you. Yama — whom you have encountered countless times in the past — will come to you yet again as he has done every time at your death. ese thoughts made me resolve that I was never going to give up this practice while I had the good karma to continue. the Buddha. I realized what good karma I had. Not only had I come to human birth where liberation from the wheel is possible. If only you had pursued the Path to take you out of this cycle. in the knowledge that this was the last time. you could have greeted him with a warm and loving smile. e people you have had faith in.

of me here and the world out there. 94 . and Buddhism in general. and the motivations. ego. fears. is sense of self.elf One of the most fascinating aspects of Dharma training is working to understand the subject of the self. etc. e sense of duality. Even the second of the four noble truths doesn’t state that the cause of suffering is the self. If we observe ourselves. or me. is experience of separateness allows that state of individuality to arise. is the normal state of being for us all. desires. will nowhere affirm this experience all of us are apparently having most of the time. we see that just about every mental movement we make seems to come from the conviction that there is a fixed person somewhere inside our mind and even inside our body. But what is it that is desiring? What is this self that doesn’t exist? e experience of self always takes place in a state of duality. It says that it is desire that is the cause of suffering. they. Even if you were to study the metaphysics of the abhidharma. is really is the great mystery. a study that leaves no stone unturned in dissecting the human condition and its experience. yet Buddhism will always deny its very existence! ere doesn’t appear to be another religion or spiritual path that makes such a statement. seems to pervade our whole consciousness. that seem to take hold of our lives most of the time. or to study the many commentaries and teachings of schools and masters. and it is whilst in that state of individuality that the self will manifest.

We understand that it is this very sense of self that gathers up consciousness and being. yet it possesses us throughout our day. ose thoughts that were neutral in their original state then become ‘me and mine’.oughts will come from that state of individuality and a self-identity will arise. Wherever I investigate I only experience the smell. and out of that the world and the world of self-volition come into being. I then undertake the task of trying to find the source of this perfume. and creates this delusion of ‘is is me. So when the conditions are not there for it. e whole phenomenon of self and ego relies on duality in order to come into being. this is mine’ that we are then ensnared by. Everything is saturated by the smell. I begin to search. is seems to be similar to any search for the self that I’ve ever embarked on. e nearest I have ever come to describing this sense of a self to myself is that it is as if I’ve entered a room full of furniture and many. nor does it go into hiding. 95 . It is on all the furniture and on all the objects I investigate. many things. and the air is filled with a perfume. e strength of being that comes from a sense of self is so great that it even remains for quite some time after those thoughts stop. If you dedicate your meditation for a hundred years to the search for the self you will never find it. it quite literally does not exist. yet I can never find its source or any tangible centre from which it comes. It is everywhere. the self is not subdued. It is this mystery beyond all mysteries that we so often investigate with the wonderful tools used in insight meditation.

At no time in our search for truth are we advised to get involved with this self. we may approach it from any number of perspectives. When those seedlings ripen. We talk sometimes of reincarnation. It is vast amounts of karmic seeds created by past actions that do the migrating — until they find suitable conditions to germinate and take a new birth. but ultimately these various ways are all designed to help us to see the reality of our being. It is a set of conditions that does not die but abides mysteriously deep within us that does this travelling. Take away the object and you take away the self.It can never be found in and of itself. unless we understand their nature. as it will always need an object. When the circumstances are not present the self is quite literally non-existent. and is mysteriously stored beyond all forms of knowing and consciousness. whether mental or physical. On the contrary. as this is less likely to suggest some sort of self-identity doing the travelling. When we come to the practice of the Buddha-Dharma. but that implies a self or person or some sense of identity that travels to another birth. and thus free ourselves from the bondage of non-understanding. the conditions are produced for a sense of self to arise once more. And it is because of the self or ego’s non-existence that we should not take this delusion too seriously. and to 96 . e self is not a thing in itself but a phenomenon that arises due to circumstances. we are encouraged to turn away from it. so it would actually be more accurate to describe it as rebirth. in order to arise.

ourselves. I reached a point where guilt almost took 97 . or even hate. and the virtue of striving for yourself in life rather than negating yourself for the greater good. We may view ourselves as useless and no good. because I had a strong focus on the self in my early training and found it to be thoroughly unhelpful and indeed oppressive. and need to air it. successful self or ego. is strong and ‘unhealthy’ sense of self that we Westerners have becomes a source of negativity that makes us dislike. which is frequently the source of our difficulty in undertaking this practice. assertive. and the guilt that characterizes it. We get stuck and weighed down with it as it takes us over more and more. to anything like the degree we Western people do. In the East people don’t generally carry around a burden of self. and see ourselves in generally unwholesome terms. is unique in the history of Buddhism. en this self of ours becomes the unbearably heavy burden that many of us experience. It just pandered to the negativity I was already carrying around with me anyway. is burden that we Westerners carry. I feel strongly about this subject. is delusion of a self-identity and the massive burden it creates may not be something that needs to be highlighted so much for Easterners. is burden can become so massive that it prevents us from engaging in any meaningful practice at all. It is this tendency that creates this perceived need for a strong.cultivate the reality that reveals itself when we are not caught up and blinded by it. Western culture typically emphasizes the importance of the individual.

In their attempts to stamp out the ego. Instead. constantly spying on themselves for signs of ego. or see through. that they become negatively selfobsessed. If you do.142) and leaves little further to add on this predominantly Western phenomenon: Buddhism teaches that to gain Enlightenment we have to go beyond. ere was such an emphasis and focus on this ‘I’ that I almost became convinced that it was the sixth skandha! is is not the way of the Dharma. and was sinful and wrong and outside of practice. Don’t feel guilty when you make a mistake and see it as all ‘I’ — the great sin of Buddhism — and make a problem out of it. they bring themselves to a virtual standstill. Sometimes they become so suspicious of themselves. as I began to see everything I did as a self-centred act — all ‘I’ — that by definition made me feel useless. e burden of self seemed at times to be actually increasing rather than decreasing. you are playing the self ’s game. Dharma practice is not exactly to turn away from this self and ignore it. with its aversions and predilections. the fixed unchanging ego. Unfortunately this sometimes leads people to take cudgels to themselves. but rather to turn away from it while retaining a watchful eye. acknowledge it and accept it as a part of you that you need 98 . as your understanding of reality deepens. Dharmachari Vessantara writes of the Western preoccupation with the self in his excellent book Meeting the Buddhas (p.over. and fail to make any real spiritual progress.

Ethics is intentionally nurturing wholesome skilful means. the natural warmth and wisdom of the heart will not fully open and express itself. even harmful. either to yourself or to others. But what needs to be known for there to be a spiritual practice? I would say there are two aspects that characterize spiritual practice. Ethics also implies bringing forth restraint. If we decide to pursue a ‘non spiritual’ attitude. then 99 . Containing it is to not give in to it. If we choose to ignore this aspect. Dharma practice is ultimately only about making friends with yourself. so if a habit is seen to be unwholesome and unskilful. and unless the heart is fully engaged with the whole of our practice. I’m convinced that it will not be possible to mature our understanding to any deep degree. as I consider it to be the most important aspect of our training. If that is the case then the true wonder and mystery of this miracle that we all partake of every day will never truly reveal itself.to make friends with. so this is always ongoing in our wholehearted engagement with daily life. not to give in to it is to acknowledge its non-existence. it will never truly open. To ignore the innate spirituality of practice is to ignore the heart. pirituality and aith I have intentionally left till last this reflection on spirituality and its nature. and contain it. and do not make it central to our practice. Open to that mental and physical passionate drive of attachment that is driven by the sense of self.

‘I will give up attachment to this because it is unwholesome and negative’ but ‘I will keep hold of this because it is wholesome and positive. It is the attitude of willingly giving up all attachment that sets Dharma practice apart from other forms of self-help that are so prevalent in the West these days. is to cultivate the attitude of giving up attachment to the whole of one’s self. is. we need to engage with the whole of ourselves. therefore. of becoming judgemental and one-sided. If we want to nurture true spiritual practice that leads to complete understanding of the Dharma. as you attach yourself to what you consider good and bad. so we focus on that part 100 . this is a different approach to spirituality. and trying to address all our attachments — whether we see them as unwholesome or not. If we decide to take on some sort of therapy or psychoanalytical activity that we think will cure our problems. In therapy we tend to target a particular aspect of our make-up that we want to change. in an opinionated and judgemental state which breeds intolerance and bigotry.’ If you go down this road there is a danger of developing the ego still further. so we must be ever watchful to guard against that tendency. Eventually this may lead you to become split. is means expanding on the common basic ethical framework. but there is an inherent danger in making these judgements. e first aspect. and including attachment to our views — with a spirit of inclusivity.efforts should be made to avoid getting caught and carried away by that attachment. but now with spiritual conceit. not a practice whereby we say. is fine. of course.

Dharma practice is not about picking and choosing. it is about opening up to the whole of ourselves. and try to get to the bottom of the problem and then do something about it. is must not be misunderstood as a negation of life. and cultivating Dharmic skills to transform what we have found. but the way we deal with these perceived problems within Dharma practice is not to segregate them and work on them individually but to include them in the whole practice. We need 101 . many people come to the Dharma because they have problems they would like to resolve. indeed frightening. in order to deal with it. usually with someone else. It is the willingness to open to ourselves that for most of us is a revolutionary. far from it. we learn through our developing understanding of practice that this is the correct way of transformation. However. is involves resisting those familiar attachments: our wants and aversions. It is the willingness to give oneself up in totality that transforms the endless cycle of becoming that we have all been bound to since time began. Our willingness to accept and contain all of ourselves with a spirit of openness is the very essence of spirituality. in a skilful way that does not promote the neurotic attachments that we all have anyway. and it is only the willingness to surrender ourselves in totality that will put an end to that cycle. We extract the problem from the whole. and our endless views and opinions. Many. Our practice is to engage fully and wholeheartedly with life.and work on it. saying ‘yes’ to everything there. or at least most of it. act.

Faith is not intellectual but a feeling. it is a feeling that what you are now learning is right. Faith arises in the Buddha and in his teachings. I don’t believe when this happens it is at all an intellectual reaction. it is an intuitive experience that we feel compelled to investigate. is trust that comes from inner faith will deepen as true practice deepens. but somehow you know it is right. for a long time. read about it. and that I would suggest is the second aspect of spirituality — faith. and you are prepared to trust it and allow it to carry you forward. but there is something there that feels right that keeps us moving forward. or we may straight away take up a Dharma practice. But what should we be surrendering ourselves to? When we come to Buddhism.to nurture a warm heart. and the struggles that he went through until finally he discovered the truth. whether consciously or unconsciously. rough this a spark is struck within. We read and listen as his teachings and the philosophy of life that Buddhism offers are explained to us. Focus on the place where trust and faith is centred. You don’t yet have any direct experience to confirm that feeling. We recognize that what we are now learning feels right and makes good sense. and is what we’ve been searching for. 102 . we learn about the Buddha’s life. those precise teachings that have led men and women out of suffering for many hundreds of years. as a replacement for those longheld habits that caused us the troubles that brought us to the practice of the Buddha-Dharma in the first place. We may read more. and listen to those who talk about it.

including the gatherer. that are fired by the passionate emotional drive of ‘me’. wants and aversions. without reservation and conditions. and you will discover that it is precisely where your heart is. Something that has been at the centre of my practice down the years has been the daily cultivation of bowing. and offer them back into the faith and trust with which you are now becoming familiar and intimate. ere are no systems or methods either. back into the great mystery that lies within each of us. In those precious moments of kneeling and touching my forehead to the ground I will gather up in my mind the whole of myself. not just ‘David’ and all the views and opinions that he is attached to. I gather it all up. but the Buddha that lies deep within. but it is where all the paradoxes that arise within your practice are peacefully settled. Gather all of those likes and dislikes. is symbolizes for me what the whole of Dharma practice is about. Dharma practice is about gathering up and containing all of ourselves. On the first bow 103 . e daily practice that you are becoming more and more familiar with should have this centre as a part of it. hand it all back to the Buddha — not the Buddha that is out there in that rupa in front of me. but also all the wonderful Dharma understanding that has revealed itself down the years. Unburden yourself and give all of it. I always bow three times. with a willingness to bear with all those habitual reactions that we are no longer prepared to play along with. and finally. ere is no ‘logic’ here.where the Buddha and Dharma is. and it is to this centre that we learn to surrender.

It has just been my own foolish mind at play. not just to myself but to so many in the world. to be truly free. Do not misunderstand me. Maybe to forgive a recent experience that I’ve felt I had been unskilful in. In these times of communion the deepest commitment to going for refuge is fulfilled. On the second bow I ask for help in the task of surrendering ‘David’ and his continual drive to possess what he wants and control all that comes to threaten him — for the strength of self-will is indeed great.I quietly ask the Buddha to forgive me. So in truth I am not separate at all. On the third bow I ask to be accepted back into the eternal mystery that is beyond time and the suffering of life and death. 104 . that not only cause harm. and the home that you never left. Down the years that faith has at times been so strong that it has broken the barrier of separateness between the Buddha and me. and my requests for support — usually in times of great distress — have been heard. for true going for refuge is to go beyond suffering. I ask the Buddha to forgive all the views and attachments that I cherish that have brought such suffering. but keep me fearful and separate from the wonder of life. In those times of communion it is revealed that all along it has been myself that has caused this separation from all that is. and too powerful for me to work with on my own. and indeed have never been. and this imprisonment to self. e three bows contain my deepest commitment to faith. I am not saying I have faith in a god or some power ‘out there’ and separate from me. to return to the warmth of the human heart.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful