The Way of Zen (Alan Watts)

Children are conditioned to accept the codes of their given society. They are reinforced with different symbol-systems from their parents, religions, schools, communities, cultures, peer groups, and so on, internalizing these systems (to varying degrees) overtime. They eventually think, feel, and act in accordance with these “reality tunnels,” despite whether they rebel against or conform with them. Ultimately, they will assimilate certain “realities” into their identities.

One of the first symbol-systems they learn is language. They learn what the agreed upon symbols to designate meaning are. Different cultures have different tacit agreements over not only what some words mean but what should be said and not said, what should be in one category and not another — essentially how their chosen realities are to be divided to make sense.

Children not only have to learn the codes of language, but they learn, whether consciously or not, many other forms of agreement.

“For the necessities of living together require agreement as to codes of law and ethics, of etiquette and art, of weights, measures, and numbers, and, above all, of role. We have difficulty in communicating with each other unless we can identify ourselves in terms of roles — father, teacher, worker, artist, ‘regular guy,’ gentleman, sportsman, and so forth.” (Watts, Alan)

People identify with the categories, and sometimes stereotypes, chosen and placed upon them. They aren’t merely one role, but a multitude of related roles. Father and son, laborer and high-school drop-out. Daughter and sister, amputee and white veteran. Son and brother and fatherless. Methodist and Japanese. Out of the innumerable roles available, people learn to identify with a conventional view of “self.” They believe that they have a persistent identity with a history, apart from everything and everyone else.

“According to convention, I am not simply what I am doing now. I am also what I have done, and my conventionally edited version of my past is made to seem almost more the real ‘me’ than what I am at this moment. For what I am seems so fleeting and intangible, but what I was is fixed and final. It is a firm basis for predictions of what I will be in the future, and so it comes about that I am more closely identified with what no longer exists than with what actually is!” (Watts, Alan)

The history of a person’s identity, of their memories of past events, is continuously selected for and interpreted (often without conscious awareness, depending on the emotional intensity and regularity of those events). Out of an infinitude of events that transpire in one’s life, some are chosen as significant while others are not. Experiences that are seen as insignificant, nonsensical, irrelevant, and so on, are discarded overtime.

People interpret the events of their lives using the different symbol-systems that they have internalized. Experiences are processed through their mental filters to make sense to their perspectives. They select one type of past and not another. One event is seen as good or bad, right or wrong, scary or pleasant, but not another. Some experiences are chopped up into familiar signs, while other experiences are forgotten. These signs represent only a narrow spectrum of “reality” out of all the information that exists.

What is represented is only a finger pointing to the moon. As Alfred Korzybski wrote, “The map is not the territory.”

Furthermore, people communicate their realities with language. Their language is an “abstract, one-at-a-time translation of a universe in which things are happening altogether-at-once — a universe whose concrete reality always escapes perfect description in these abstract terms.” (Watts, Alan)

To account for all that happens in the universe, to even perfectly describe a “a particle of dust,” would take an infinite amount of time. Thinking (communicating with ourselves), speaking (communicating with others), using a string of symbols abstracted from the past, will never fully grasp “every breath, every beat of the heart, every neural impulse.” (Watts, Alan)

“Taoism [on the other hand] concerns itself with unconventional knowledge — with knowing life directly, instead of in the abstract, linear terms of representational thinking.” (Watts, Alan)

Conventional thinking isn’t shunned, but rather, is used as a tool and not as the Truth. Taoism is based on a hunch, an intuitive state. Peripheral vision of the mind. Taoists will “feel” a situation and know it, without limiting it. While the intellect is trying to box the world into rigid categories, and grasp at the past and future, the Taoist doesn’t cling to their experiences. The intellect will exhaust itself in seeking the Tao, in its need to define it.

Chaung-Tzu once said, “The perfect man employs his mind as a mirror. It grasps nothing; it refuses nothing. It receives but does not keep.”

The mind isn’t reduced to idiocy, although those who are conditioned to accept Western systems as true may believe that to be the case. The Taoist plays with his innate intelligence, spontaneous and aware. Instead of forcing out a solution, she lets go of her mind until stilling into a pure naturalness. Then he directly knows the Tao, unconscious of good and bad, moral and immoral, black and white, up and down.

Rather than darkness or light, there are infinite shades of the Tao.
To define the Tao is to not know the Tao. To grasp it is not to grasp it.
In the doctrine of Mahayana Buddhism, as in Taoism (which heavily influenced Zen), there is no “true” division in life. Human beings, but not nature itself, are the ones to separate “things, facts and events” into categories. These categories are relative to different perspectives, but they are never truly fixed, permanent, or absolute.

“Ordinarily a human organism is counted as one thing, though from a physiological standpoint it is as many things as it has parts or organs, and from a sociological standpoint it is merely part of a larger thing called a group.” (Watts, Alan)

For a Buddhist, to describe “reality” in a fixed, linear manner with symbols, is not to know “reality.” To describe it, or the self, as permanent and separate, is to not grasp the changing ineffability of life. There is no enduring self that persists, for “the ego exists in an abstract sense alone, being an abstraction from memory, somewhat like the illusory circle of fire made by a whirling torch.” (Watts, Alan)

Every moment is a rebirth, a coming back to the present. Buddhism above all is a practice, seeing the world with clear awareness. “Such awareness is a lively attention to one’s direct experience, to the world as immediately sensed, so as not to be misled by names and labels.” (Watts, Alan)

There is a watching of sensations, feelings, thoughts, without any purpose or judgement. Like a mirror, the mind is “passively active,” purely reflecting what arises and falls away. When there is nothing to be grasped, there is no one to grasp it. When there is no one to grasp, then there is no division, no subject and object.

The Buddha did not try to create a philosophical system to satisfy the questions of restless minds. He often maintained a “noble silence” about questions dealing with gods and the origins of the universe and absolute reality, because to him, they were irrelevant when understanding the way to liberation from suffering (dukkha).

To seek such answers is to cling to abstractions again. Lost in the perpetual cycle. Many of the questions that people ask about meaning, life and death, are merely subtle ways of trying to categorize the world, turning their uncertainty and fear into familiar ideas. “Thus the world that we know, when understood as the world as classified, is a product of the mind, and as the sound ‘water’ is not actually water,’ the classified world is not the real world.” (Watts, Alan)

To be liberated is to have no intention of liberation. To try to become someone important, to achieve something outside of oneself, to adhere to some dogma of ultimate truth, is to be confused with the compulsive habit of symbolizing. The more one tries to figure out the Answer, the more frustrated he or she becomes.

“I have no peace of mind,” said Hui-k’o. “Please pacify my mind.”

“Bring out your mind here before me,” replied Bodhidharma, “and I will pacify it!”

“But when I seek my own mind,” said Hui-k’o, “I cannot find it.”

“There!” snapped Bodhidharma, “I have pacified your mind!”

To try to empty the mind is to get caught up in the mind again. To let go of the mind, of thoughts and impressions, “neither repressing them, holding them, nor interfering with them” is to free the mind. To practice no-thought is not to block all thoughts from coming in. Then one would be as good as a stone. Thoughts come and go. That is all. To let go is to trust in one’s natural spontaneity. There is no effort.

Línjì Yìxuán said, “There is no place in Buddhism for using effort. Just be ordinary and nothing special. Relieve your bowels, pass water, put on your clothes, and eat your food. When you’re tired, go and lie down. Ignorant people may laugh at me, but the wise will understand…. As you go from place to place, if you regard each one as your own home, they will all be genuine, for when circumstances come you must not try to change them.”

One doesn’t try to silence one’s feelings, thoughts, impressions. One is not trying to be indifferent or removed from the world. There is an awareness of what is. Subject and object, knower and known, white and black, arises relative to everything else. Everything depends on everything else to be.

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

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

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

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

There is no such thing as a separate self. Everything relies on everything else to be given a shape, even non-shapes. One’s mind-body gives structure to experience, while there isn’t experience without one’s mind-body. Sunlight makes sight as sight makes sunlight. The “individual” and “external universe” are simply abstract limits that one has set up. There is no “between” between the two, because the division is not truly there. People give importance to their ideas of what is “me” and “mine” in contrast to the experiences that they have, as if they are apart from them, as if they “have” them. They identify with narrowly selected memories and social roles and feel as if they are permanent. Meanwhile life passes them by and they don’t notice. They have become so fixated on their ideas of what life is rather than seeing what is happening to them.

To even get caught up in ideas about what Zen is, and what Zen isn’t, is to stink of Zen. One can be as attached to their spiritual self as to their material self, believing they are a certain type of person and not another.

“For this reason the masters talk about Zen as little as possible, and throw its concrete reality straight at us. This reality is the ‘suchness’ (tathata) of our natural, nonverbal world. If we see this just as it is, there is nothing good, nothing bad, nothing inherently long or short, nothing subjective and nothing objective. There is no symbolic self to be forgotten, and no need for any idea of a concrete reality to be remembered.” (Watts, Alan)

Once a master drank tea with his two students. Then he suddenly tossed a fan at one of them.

“What’s this?” he said.

The student opened it and fanned himself.

“Not bad,” he said.

He passed the fan to his other student.

His other student placed a piece of cake on it and offered it back to his master.

When there are no longer any names, the world isn’t “classified in limits and bounds.” While most people want to classify things in their proper places, a master trusts in spontaneity, in “no second thought.” Zen masters are not emotionless beings without pain or hunger pangs. They can be sad, jealous, angry, and so on. The difference between them and others is that they are wholehearted, neither blocking out nor indulging in what they are aware of.

Zen is not to “confuse spirituality with thinking about God while peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.” (Watts, Alan)

Thoughts fall away when they’re not necessary anymore. Muddy water is best cleared when left alone. Zen is about seeing reality concretely — undivided by labels and titles and names and numbers and right and wrong. To sit in quiet awareness is to let the distinctions of me and other, subject and object, come go and come again. Without commentary, without purpose, there only is. Zen masters are neither gods nor are they perfect. They are simply human. Nothing special.

As Ikkyu said:

“We eat, excrete, sleep, and get up;

This is our world.

All we have to do after that —

Is to die.”

One awakens to what reality isn’t. Ideas of what one is, of what the universe is, seem more nonsensical the deeper one goes into it. Reality is ineffable, despite whether someone claims that “they are nothing” or “they are something” or “they are everything.” Rather than flitting from system to system, all people are already here, their “senses fully open to receive the world.”

There is nothing to be achieved, no one to blame, no past, no future, no birth, no death.

Only here, only now.

To some Westerners, the present seems like “nothing more than the infinitesimal hairline,” dividing the past from the future. For the linear-minded, for those who only know about reality through their compulsive thinking, the world will rush past them. Their ideas seem all-important to them, but their symbolizing can never sustain their heart beating, their breath, or the operation of their muscles, glands, senses, and organs.

They believe they are consciously in charge, but their minds only grasp at slivers of experience, which they are constantly interpreting and analyzing, dividing and separating. Yet in only a moment, they can see life as it truly is. The past and future, which they are so preoccupied with, is an abstraction. There is only this moment, moving but still. it’s here for everyone. Precious and timeless.

Shi Heng Yi (释恒義) on Self-Mastery

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From www.shihengyi.online: “Shi Heng Yi belongs to the 35th Generation of Shaolin Masters and is the headmaster of the Shaolin Temple Europe 歐洲少林寺 located in Germany.”


Always take the perspective of a student, a beginner, even when you are skilled in one area of your life. There is always something to learn. Stay humble in the grand mystery of this universe.

Seek answers, but remain open to what you don’t know.

A well-known professor went to visit a Zen master. As the master served tea, the professor described his learned understanding of Zen. The master remained quiet as the professor spoke, continuing to pour.

When the tea reached the brim of the cup, the Zen master kept pouring.

The tea overflowed, spilling onto the tray, the table, and the carpet, until the professor could no longer stand it.

“Stop!” he said. “Can’t you see the cup is full?”

“This is you,” said the master, positing to the cup. “How can I show you Zen, until you first empty your cup?”

Zen Parable

How can you live in a healthy way? Pay attention to what food you put into your body, how you think and feel, how you breathe, what exercises you do. There is a strong relationship between your mind and body. You can choose where you want to develop more, where you want to expend your energy, pushing yourself beyond what is comfortable. Your growth comes from learning through discomfort. Going beyond your current limitations.


Breath is not just in and out.

It is a foundation for life, creation, transformation.


From Shi’s interview with Jean-Pierre De Villiers: “The main problem about living is… in case you are caught in any type of preference. If you’re caught in a preference or in a rejection. So that means, either you are living a life where things are always adding up, adding up, adding up. There’s nothing bad about it. The problem is, you cannot hold it. No matter what you are attaining, you cannot hold it. It is just a matter of time until you can lose all of this. Not only talking about money. You can spend a lot of your time having a very great career, a very very nice family, financial stability, absolutely everything is working perfectly for you. You live a really great life. But it’s going to end.”

Nothing will stay how it is. Nothing is permanent.

Despite this constant change, however, there is a deep stability in life.

It is within you but also outside yourself.

When you truly master yourself, there is no duality between the two.

Good Medicine: How to Turn Pain Into Compassion with Tonglen Meditation

We are often caught in a dualistic trap of desire, aversion, and ignorance. We make judgements about life, categorizing events as good or bad, pleasurable or painful, right or wrong, moral or immoral.

We desire what seems attractive and pleasurable, while we avoid or resist suffering, pain, distress, confusion, uncertainty, and hurt.

Then we ignore what doesn’t stimulate us, what seems uninteresting and boring. In many cases, we ignore what is too hard and painful to accept. Distracting our minds from what is.

Through tonglen practice, we can change our relationship to desire and aversion and ignorance.

Rather than being averse to pain, clinging to comfort, or ignoring what we don’t like, we can be mindful of ourselves, of all the energy in our bodies, without judgement, without attachment.

We can work with our suffering through being present. Instead of categorizing experience as good and bad, right and wrong, pleasurable and painful, we can simply be with what is.

When we drop our storylines, we can become friends with our pain and not cling to fleeting pleasures.

Then we can transform ourselves from our awareness of a changing, nuanced life.

We can inhale our suffering and exhale our joy. As we breathe, we can wish others to feel our joy and to not feel our suffering.

Rather than hiding from our sorrow and pain, we can directly engage with it—not in following the storylines of our sorrow and pain, or in justifying why we feel or think in a given way, but in seeing the energy behind everything.

When we look into ourselves with honesty and compassion, we can extend our view to others.

It is so easy to believe that we are the only ones who feel anger and pain, fear and depression, and so on, but we are not alone. Other people feel like us too.

Rather than reinforcing old habitual patterns of alienation and isolation, we can remind ourselves that we are all human and dependent on each other.

When we feel sadness, we can connect to the sadness of others, when we feel happy, we can connect to the happiness of others.

Our lives are the perfect material for our compassion. The more we focus on our patience, the more we realize how impatient we are. The more we focus on our anger, the more we discover how often we become angry. Every moment is a teacher, helping us to become better humans.

When we breathe in, we can imagine ourselves inhaling thickness, darkness, heat, heaviness, claustrophobia, or pain.

When we breathe out, we can release all that dark energy, transforming it into cool, bright light.

We can take in what is hard and let it go.

We can use our friends, our family, our troublesome associates, anyone, as material for our practice.

When we suffer, we can wish for others to not suffer as we are suffering. When we feel happiness, we can wish for others to feel happiness as we do. Through our practice, we can compassionately connect to all of life.

From “taking and sending,” we can awaken our compassion.

Instead of hiding from our suffering, we can learn to embrace it. We can visualize ourselves taking in pain, then sending out tenderness and care.

We can take in what is dark and send out the light. Through this daily practice, we will soon find that the distinction between what is given and what is taken, the inner and outer, life and death, good and evil, blurs.

For more on tonglen practice:

https://youtu.be/-x95ltQP8qQ

Freedom From the Known (reflections)

Freedom From the Known (reflections)

You’re not just a separate creature that lives “in” this universe for a fleeting time. You’re not merely a “part” of this universe, apart from the indescribable processes of life and death. You are this universe. Interwoven in the cosmos.

Without spacetime, without the evolutionary line of your ancestors to you, without the soil, rivers, and wind, without the sun and flowers and rain, you would not be here. They are in you.

You do not exist as a single identity, or ego, separate from everything and everyone else. Your existence is changing, transforming in its infinite relationships, right now.

With sensitivity, you can watch interdependent relationships unfold.

They are nuanced and spontaneous, arising, passing, arising, passing.

You are like a wave, calming and crashing and sparkling with light on shadows, until merging back to an endless sea.


There is no sensitivity in ideas of the past. The past is dead and you confuse yourself by carrying around its bones. Your mind is often dulled of its aliveness because it is dominated by the past.

When you lose your sensitivity, you grind out your days with unthinking habits like overeating, smoking, dwelling on your mistakes, worrying, and so on.

You must intimately know this moment. How can you know this moment when you’re filled with opinions, judgements, and values?

When you are judging, concerned with right and wrong, agreeing, disagreeing, comparing, and so on, you’re focused on a fixed interpretation of life. Instead of seeing clearly, you are projecting, distorting, manipulating reality.

The moment that you think you know who you are, you are limited by your view of yourself, and are no longer learning.

It is hard to learn, to see clearly, to be fully alive, because you have been conditioned from language, education, culture, art, politics, religion, family, custom, past experiences. You have been trained to respond in conditioned ways, to think robotically.

Most of us don’t realize we’re conditioned until there is a great disturbance in our lives. Whether from political or economic hardships, in our families or professions, through our relationships with others and within ourselves, we become disturbed.

What can we do? Can we live with so much suffering and confusion and uncertainty?

A lot of people avoid dealing with their sorrows, their sufferings, their fears of what is uncertain. They join a new group, subscribe to an ideology, shout at others, take drugs, gamble, check their social media accounts, or watch TV. They distract themselves all day with amusements.

Instead of being present with their fears and uncertainties and anxieties, they hide from them, avoid them, numb themselves from them. Their fears won’t go away, but they have desensitized themselves so much that they don’t feel alive anymore.

You must be totally aware to understand. Often you are one type of person at the office and another with friends. You talk differently to yourself than you do with your coworkers. You act out so many different roles every day.

You divide your consciousness and create conflict with those divisions, blocking out one part of yourself for another, aware of one aspect of existence and not another.

When you do try to understand yourself, you categorize and analyze and examine, spending weeks and months and years on petty personal dramas. But still, you are no further along to enlightenment.

If you could just be aware for a moment, sensitive to all of life, to trees and wind and birds and rivers and the beating of your heart, to inner and outer energies changing without division, without any purpose or method or conclusion, then you will see immediately who you are.

You can know life more deeply without the need to compare deep to shallow, right to wrong, good to bad.

All too often, you cannot see what is, what exists beyond all symbols, because you’re trapped in conditioned states of thinking, comparing, judging, and deciding.

You narrowly perceive, trained into a rigid way of being after a lifetime of chasing after pleasure, and avoiding pain, and fearing what you don’t understand.

Can you be here without trying to be elsewhere? With choiceless awareness, you can begin to see the totality of life. There is nothing to get and no reward, except for what is happening. If you can truly be without any expectation, letting what comes come until it passes away, then you will know joy.

When you seek out pleasure, to repeat an experience of the past, you will soon know pain. Pain is the shadow of pleasure. One follows the other.

When you have what you want, you often wish to hold onto it forever and fear losing it. If someone has what you don’t have, and you want what they have, then you eventually become envious and bitter.

By clinging to your memories of pleasure, you’re in conflict with yourself. Your desire to keep something or someone, to appear in a favorable way, to not lose what you already have, eventually leads you into suffering.

To be present is to no longer be afraid of losing what you desire. You are not afraid when you are just watching yourself be. At the back of your mind, however, you think about the past and future. You are scared of losing your job, your status, your kids, your health, your life. Can you watch all these fears without trying to justify them?

Do the words, images, and associations to past memories disturb you so much? Look behind the symbols at the undercurrent of energy. What is actually happening to you in reality and what is only thought, feeling, and memory?

Thoughts are not realities. For example, you may have gotten sick a few years ago. Now that you are well, you fear becoming sick again.

Your resistance to sickness is a thought, not what is happening within your body at the moment. At the moment, you are fine. Instead of being aware of how you are and tending to yourself with compassion and joy, you get lost in fears about losing your health. There is a conflict between what you think and what is. You ignore what is and dwell on ideas, which are fixed symbols. The more you think, the more you suffer about non-realities that are no longer there or not there in the future, blocking yourself to all of life.

Can you look at fear without dissecting it? Can you see fear without having to control or analyze it, without having to summon courage, without directing your mind to specific things that you are afraid of? Directly look at fear without making it intellectual. Know fear without hiding, rationalizing, trying to take it apart.

You are not apart from fear. There is no fear and then you, an observer of fear. There is only, when you notice subtly enough, fear, which is you.

Then your awareness of fear — without you trying to conclude or explain what fear is — dissolves it.

Fear is not fear alone. Fear interrelates with anxiety, hatred, jealousy, violence, and many similar states.

How can a person find peace in a world writhing with war, class conflict, murder, starvation, with many forms of injustice, perpetuated throughout the centuries?

Violence doesn’t merely stop at the events. that surround you but it is within you as well.

Violence is not just to maim or kill another person. It is a harsh word, jealousy over a friend’s accomplishments, discrimination, obeying an authority out of fear.

When you divide yourself from others and refuse to see the humanity in them, you’re being violent. All too often, you separate yourself through belief and thought. You see yourself as superior, inferior, or both. You blame and judge, rather than being present, listening deeply, and learning.

If you want to transcend violence, you cannot deny, hide, or distract from the violence within. You must be intimately aware of your anger and sadness and jealousy and anxiety and fear, neither justifying nor condemning these states.

All too often, you strive for ideals of non-violence. You tell yourself that you must be peaceful rather than violent, calm rather than angry, and so on. You think about the best ideological systems to obey to become a better person and blame others for failing to follow along.

You create dualities of good and bad, right and wrong, judging and forming opinions.

You try to be better daily. You prepare so much to be a good person because you have been taught to compare, analyze, judge, and think about every situation.

Yet there is no trying. There is only what is peaceful and what is not peaceful. Many holy books have been filled with words about non-violence for centuries and people are still angry, jealous, greedy, hateful, and so on.

When you claim that you believe in the ideals of peace, but are not peaceful within or in relationship to the world, you’re acting hypocritically.

When you separate, when you condemn others while justifying your righteousness, you’re trapped. You have not learned how to see what is.

Most people are not actually with each other. They form ideas and then act on the nuanced relationships between those ideas. They live on images, on symbols, rather than being with someone in the present. The more they cling to ideas, the more they live in a universe of abstraction.

You must be able to see totally. It is one thing to intellectually understand, to examine yourself under an analysis of symbols, but is quite another thing to completely see, to be aware of what happens within you.

You are never free until you can see what you depend on, what causes you to suffer, what brings you joy, without trying to hide or deny these things within yourself. From relationship — to yourself, to the group, to society, to all of life interconnected in the universe — you can be aware.

Insights of the Dhammapada

A mind of peace will create peace. A mind of conflict will create conflict.

Holding on to past slights, injustices, and insults will keep them alive within.

Letting go of those things will release the feelings of hatred, resentment, and bitterness.

A mind lazy with indulgences will become a slave to desire and temptation. A disciplined mind will not be affected by the greatest temptations.

Rather than living through the extremes of life, behave with open honesty, moderation, and mindfulness.

Instead of directing anger and vengeance at what one hates, loving kindness will dissolve those feelings and free one’s heart.

An undisciplined mind is consumed with fleeting pleasures, distracted by thoughts, concerned with what somebody has said or done, what’s happening around them, and so on.

The disciplined mind is mindful, aware of what’s within. The undisciplined mind is neglectful, unaware.

The disciplined mind is alive while the undisciplined mind is one of the living dead.

While the restless person seeks greater and greater pleasures, never satisfied with what they have and complaining about what they don’t have, those who are virtuous spread their message with right speech, right action, right livelihood, etc.

“Just as a sweet-smelling lotus blooms

Beside the highway upon a heap of filth,

So does the disciple of the perfect Buddha

Rise above those bound blindly

To the limitations of the world.”

A foolish person seeks status, power over others, a satisfaction of desires, craving after something more. Fools act in a way that will bring grief, regret, and suffering to themselves and others. They may not know the consequences of their deeds until those deeds eventually consume them. They are untouched by wisdom because their minds are not wise.

Those who are wise act to bring joy and harmony to themselves and others. Wise people associate with other people who are better or equal to themselves. If they cannot find anyone, they walk their path alone.

Wisdom comes from self-mastery. In mastery, there is no clinging to comfort, discomfort, praise, blame. One controls one’s senses instead of being restlessly lost in desire.

It is better to speak one peaceful word than to speak a thousand vain verses. It’s better to live in awareness for one day than to dwell forever in ignorance.

Those who commit wicked deeds may enjoy themselves until they intimately learn what their deeds have led to and what they have become as a result of their immorality.

Don’t underestimate how small choices can shape a person’s character. Just as a pot can fill, drop by drop, one can become good or bad, moral or immoral, overtime.

People who use harsh words will come to regret them. An individual must consider their own feelings and those of others. He or she should empathize with others and realize that one feels fear and anger and sadness as much as every other human. If one continues on the unethical path, one will find pain, loss, regret, grief, and the unwholesome results of their actions.

A person’s life is transitory. Body fragile, decaying overtime until death. Do not cry for a misspent youth, regretting what should have been. Treat the world with loving-kindness instead.

“Unwholesome action, hurting self, comes easily. Wholesome action, healing self, takes effort.”

To be unethical is to bring forth suffering. The foolish mock the wise for their moral teachings, while ignorant of the good and lost in wrong views. Nobody can be good for anyone else. It is up to each person to act righteously. They hold the freedom and responsibility alone.

Among the liars, be honest. Among the stingy, be generous. Practice loving-kindness with an angry person. Don’t worry about criticism or praise or the reputation of others. Always show moderation in speech and action.

Master mind-body.

It is easy to find faults in others and hide them in oneself. It is easy to be greedy and envious and bitter, comparing and judging. It’s far more difficult to live the path of peace, honesty, self-control.

Those who speak beautifully or who look pretty aren’t attractive if they are greedy, angry, and ignorant. An old man is not an elder simply through advanced age either. Only from truthfulness, loving-kindness, generosity, and non-attachment, one is truly attractive and wise.

Look deeply into the transitory nature of life. Understand the inevitability of death. Don’t cling to any ideas of eternalism or nihilism. Meditate to find a refuge within.

Now is the time to be the truth of living.

Don’t postpone being righteous anymore.

Be simple and clear. Let go of the past, let go of the present, let go of the future. Only meditate with what can be controlled in every moment: mind, speech, actions. Build confidence, meditative absorption, insight and mindfulness and right effort. Choose a path that is ethical and not something that promotes greed and restlessness, ignorance and anger.

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice (review)

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.”

When the mind is empty, everything is possible, nothing is possible.

There is existence and non-existence, not just existence, not just non-existence.

The more knowledge that one has, the more limited one is to that knowledge.

The teacup overflows unless it is empty of its contents.

With the right intention in the moment, nothing is good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant. Everything is good and bad, neither good nor bad, pleasant and unpleasant, neither pleasant nor unpleasant. The mountain shrouded in mist is nothing special, nothing mysterious to climb. There is no more wisdom high up on a peak than there is in a shit, in a nap below the bough of a tree. Enlightenment is nothing special, nothing to strive to achieve. When one is empty, there is no “I” to consider things as empty. There is no “I” apart from everything else.

One doesn’t have Buddha-nature. One is Buddha-nature. There isn’t someone or something that is apart from Buddha-nature. One doesn’t contain or not contain Buddha-nature. One simply is, despite thinking or not thinking about what is.

This way of being is so ordinary, one shouldn’t grasp after it. It is already here.

With sincere effort, be present in moment after moment. There is nothing else to attain.

There is nothing special about being what is, except that it is so easy to forget what is.

One spontaneously expresses one’s nature when one is empty. There’s no need to put on a show of being spiritual, important, or intelligent. To seek a title, special experience, or recognition from the crowd is to miss the point.

There is pain and pleasure, pleasantness and unpleasantness, rising and falling, without judgement. It is easy for the mind to remain still when sitting in meditation but harder for the mind to not wander when in activity. In activity, if the mind doesn’t wander, then that is ok. If the mind wanders, then that is ok too. Everything can be a teacher, even the rain dripping from a rooftop.

To see the change in everything is to see the divine in the mundane. There is no essential split between the divine and mundane other than in conceptualization, in a need to put life into fixed categories. But the universe itself is change, from the vibration of an atom to the leaf shaking from a tree.

To talk about this is to not reveal it. It reveals itself.

Insights of Jiddu Krishnamurti

Consciousness

What is consciousness? Is it in how you think, believe, act, react?

Does that make up your consciousness totally?

Your brain is the result of evolution. Not merely your brain alone but the brains of all people.

You go through many of the same things as everyone else. You experience fear of physical pain, fear of death, fear of what’s beyond death, anxiety in existence, psychological pain and rejection, shame about who you are. You have experienced all the psychological turmoil that goes with being human. All of this content makes up your consciousness, which is always divisive, always fragmented. But there is another way. Is it possible for the content of your consciousness to be dissolved?

Breaking the Pattern

People try to break the pattern of their thinking through different forms of drugs or sex or discipline. They may cling to an ideology, teacher, philosophy, religion, and so on. People have tried countless methods to escape from the content of their consciousness.

Is it possible for you to break through your conditioned mind?

Time will not solve this problem. There is no psychological tomorrow. There is only now.

When you begin to no longer see time as a factor, the pattern begins to crack. There is not any future notion of being awakened, no procrastination anymore. While time may be a factor of growth in the biological-technological-scientific sense, the nature of psychological time is different.

Awakening lies in perception. In perception, there already is action.

There is no need for any future time. There is no gradual progress.

Psychologically, one is already there.

Limits of Your Brain

Your brain is limited. Limited from knowledge, from specialization, from the pursuit of a discipline, from belonging to a group. Self-interest — desiring to be happy, to be successful, to gain a title, to be favored, to make a lot of money — limits the brain to that interest. Under the camouflage of peace, love, justice and so on, espoused from the knowledgeable professor or religious guru, there is self-interest. It may exist subtly, but it is there. The immense capacity of the brain is reduced through self-interest, often hidden behind an egoic illusion. Look at these illusions in their many forms: in your neurotic thoughts and rationalizations, in your allegiances to political parties and religions, in the awards and titles that you chase after.

You should investigate the depths of what you truly desire. Are you hiding behind anything?

What do you really want?

Identify with Humanity

You share the same consciousness with everyone. From all parts of the world, no matter who you are, you will experience fear, anxiety, disappointment, pleasure, pain… It doesn’t matter what nationality, religion, race, or political party that you identify with. It doesn’t matter how much you are trained by society. You are like the rest of humanity. When you separate and ignore your relationship with the world, you will create conflict. When you take responsibility for being connected to all of humanity, there will be no limits to your love.

Make No Comparisons

You are told to compare yourself to others. In your family, you fight with your siblings for the affection of your parents. In school, you try to get better marks than the other students. You are always being compared to others and then you learn to compare in turn.

When you constantly compare yourself to find out who is brighter, who is stronger, who is more athletic, and so on, you bring yourself down. You feel inferior. When you think you’re better than someone else, you feel temporarily superior.

In school, your teachers grade you to measure your progress. They give you information so that you can pass examinations. What would happen if you didn’t take those examinations, if you stopped being measured and judged? What would happen if you stopped comparing yourself to others? Have you learned anything then?

In your comparisons, you create conflict. You create a sense of “otherness” in your competition. You’ve been conditioned to seek the pleasure of superiority, to avoid the pain of inferiority, trying to cling onto what is impermanent. It is all an illusion. You are not looking at what is. Your struggle in measuring, in analyzing yourself constantly, leads to misery. When you are no longer clinging, another dimension opens up. One of joy.

Fear

You may be afraid of the uncertainty of the future. You may be insecure about what you don’t know. You may secretly believe that life is meaningless and there is no purpose. You may resist thinking too much about death.

There are many forms of fear — some rational or neurotic — but many people are still terrified of the past and the future. They’re trapped in memories of the past, not wanting to repeat what once happened to them again. Or they dread the idea of growing old, slumped over in wrinkles, becoming senile, and then eventually dying.

You have a fear of time. You think not only about the past and future, but of being someone in it. You desire to be important, to be successful, to leave your mark upon the world before you succumb to the inevitability of your demise. You may be aware of some of these fears, but there are other fears that are unexplored, hidden deep inside.

These fears cannot be resolved by sheer will.

You dwell on what has happened before and don’t want it to happen tomorrow. You project the pain that you felt from the past to the future, while not being present. Your fear breeds more fear. Through the avoidance of pain, you ignore pleasure. Through clinging to pleasure, you ignore pain.

Both are interrelated.

Thinking about how to gain one while ridding yourself of the other, constantly, engenders more fear. To analyze your pain to bring about pleasure still brings on fear, even though pleasure may be temporarily felt.

Thought makes a center of “you, you, you,” of the ego, where you create your fixed sense of “Self” through your opinions. Your ego is strengthened through your thought. You cultivate ideas about everything and how they relate to pleasure and pain. Your life, your country, your furniture, your religion, your friends, your favorite music, you, you, you.

You create a division between what is good and bad, what is pleasurable and painful. These divisions only become more subtle overtime. Separations arise within everything, causing resistance within the people who separate. With separation, there is conflict and fear. To watch these conflicting feelings in the moment and not to name them, to have the discipline to look into yourself without comparing that moment to the past and future, is to free yourself of fear. You must clearly see with your full existence. There can be no running from what is happening, only the courage to witness without any judgement.

Love is a Pathless Land

Jiddu Krishnamurti, a world-renowned philosopher and teacher, said that truth is a pathless land. He considered truth to be unconditioned, limitless, unorganized, free of coercion and tradition and ideologies.

Often, people try to organize their understanding into a system, into a creed, into dogma, and impose what they think they know on other people. Those who absolutely believe are stuck in their ideas of truth more than knowing any truths. They’re trapped in their subservience to authority, tradition, to their identities and its familiar symbols.

They perceive the world through fear, prejudice, and limited accumulations of knowledge. “They confuse the menu with the meal,” as Alan Watts said. Lost in the prism of their ideologies. Rather than looking within themselves, they look to externals for meaning and happiness, whether in the form of gurus, religions, political systems, philosophies, self-help books, or teachers. They expect answers to what is limitless, unknowable, and uncertain. They need explanations for the mysterious, but do not dwell in the questions.

Their societies reflect their minds as their minds reflect their societies. If they are greedy, selfish, competitive, and spiteful, then they will create a world of suffering, conflict and war.

It is only through self-understanding from moment to moment, an active awareness of thoughts, feelings, and actions, that there can truly be love.

“What brings understanding is love. When your heart is full, then you will listen to the teacher, to the beggar, to the laughter of children, to the rainbow, and to the sorrow of man. Under every stone and leaf, that which is eternal exists. But we do not know how to look for it. Our minds and hearts are filled with other things than understanding of what is. Love and mercy, kindliness and generosity do not cause enmity. When you love, you are very near truth. For, love makes for sensitivity, for vulnerability. That which is sensitive is capable of renewal. Then truth will come into being. It cannot come if your mind and heart are burdened, heavy with ignorance and animosity.”

To transform the world, one must transform oneself. While people are taught to search outside themselves for meaning in a profession, love in a marriage, and happiness in money, joy comes intrinsically within. Fixating on previous mistakes, hoping for an ideal future, are illusions to what’s transpiring now. As Eckhart Tolle said, “Presence is inner spaciousness.” To be with awareness, experiencing your thoughts and feelings, is to feel the emptiness beyond the symbols.

Then there comes a moment of just being.

No identification, no judgement.

Love blooms in this infinite space.

Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Master and activist, said that people are often stuck by their ideas, instead of knowing their love directly. When someone tells their partner, “I love you,” they focus on themselves and not on the quality of love. The “I” that loves is not separate from everything else, not from love, not from the one who is being loved. Flowers are made of non-flower elements, such as water, sunlight, grass, and soil. The flower cannot exist without these non-flower elements. Likewise, the one who loves is as much a part of the earth as they are of the space within the earth. Their existence depends not only on their ancestors, but on the oxygen and land and sun, on all conditions that arise and fall interdependently.

To love someone is to see them in you and to see you in them. “You are part of the universe; you are made of stars. When you look at your loved one, you see that he is also made of stars and carries eternity inside. Looking in this way, we naturally feel reverence. True love cannot be without trust and respect for oneself and for the other person.”

People often cling to ideas of “love” but not to love. They look for security in a relationship. Dreaming of ideals without looking within themselves. Beneath their need their safety, they fear losing what they have. Then they only grasp more until they suffer from what is fleeting.

Love has become a projection of the imagination. Twisted into different definitions throughout the centuries.

But as Krishnamurti said, “Love is something that is new, fresh, alive. It has no yesterday and tomorrow. It is beyond the turmoil of thought… Inwardly you are completely silent. Do you understand what that means? It means that you are not seeking, not wanting, not pursuing; there is no centre at all. Then there is love.”