Joseph Goldstein


American Vipassana Teachers, Co-Founder of The Insight Meditation Society with Jack Kornfield And Sharon Salzberg, Contemporary Author

Author Quotes

All beings are the heirs of their own karma. Their happiness or unhappiness depends on their actions, not upon my wishes.

Every time we become aware of a thought, as opposed to being lost in a thought, we experience that opening of the mind.

If you tell the truth you don?t have to remember anything.

Mind is the forerunner of all things. Speak or act with an impure mind, suffering follows as the wagon wheel follows the hoof of the ox. Mind is the forerunner of all things. Speak or act with peaceful mind, happiness follows like a shadow that never leaves.

'Skillful means' is a phrase often found in Buddhist literature referring to the particular methods and practices used to help people free themselves from the bonds of ignorance. As skillful means we can employ whatever is useful, whatever is truly helpful. For each of us at different times, different traditions, philosophical constructs, and methods may serve us, either because of temperament, background, or capacities. For some the language of emptiness may be as dry as the desert, while for others it may reveal the heart-essence of liberation.

The thought of your mother is not your mother. The thought of your mother is just a thought.

We can also strengthen the quality of ardor by reflecting on the transiency of all phenomena. Look at all the things we become attached to, whether they are people or possessions or feelings or conditions of the body. Nothing we have, no one in our lives, no state of mind is exempt from change. Nothing at all can prevent the universal process of birth, growth, decay, and death.

Why be unhappy about something if it can be remedied? And what is the use of being unhappy about something if it cannot be remedied?

All things arise when the appropriate conditions are present, and all things pass away as conditions change. Behind the process, there is no self who is running the show.

Finally, my mind just settled into the realization that accidents happen, and a mantra suddenly appeared in my mind, one that has served me well since: anything can happen anytime.

Imagine holding on to a hot burning coal. You would not fear letting go of it. In fact, once you noticed that you were holding on, you would probably drop it quickly. But we often do not recognize how we hold on to suffering. It seems to hold on to us. This is our practice: becoming aware of how suffering arises in our mind and of how we become identified with it, and learning to let it go. We learn through simple and direct observation, seeing the process over and over again until we understand.

Mindfulness also works to balance what the Buddha called the five spiritual faculties: faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom.

So it is very helpful to begin to recognize this comparing mind, this conceit of I?m better than or I?m worse than someone else. When we do not see it clearly, it becomes the source of much suffering. It makes us feel separated and apart from others; we reinforce the contraction of self.

The tremendous danger is that this belief - that genuine happiness comes only from pleasant feelings - becomes a strong motivation to stay closed to anything unpleasant. But by staying closed to all unpleasantness, we also stay closed to our own wellspring of compassion.

We can then see for ourselves the obvious truth that when we cling or hold on to that which changes, we suffer.

Why do we have this perception of solidity? Why is it so deeply conditioned as our view of reality? This hallucination of perception arises from the great rapidity of changing phenomena. When we go to the movies we cannot see the separate frames of film. They move too quickly to be noticed, and so we remain in the illusion of appearances, overlooking the reality of how the magic works. Of course, in a movie theater that is the whole idea; we go specifically for the illusion. However, when we overlook the reality of our life, it has more serious and far-reaching consequences.

An emotion is like a cloud passing through the sky. Sometimes it is fear or anger, sometimes it is happiness or love, sometimes it is compassion. But none of them ultimately constitute a self. They are just what they are, each manifesting its own quality. With this understanding, we can cultivate the emotions that seem helpful and simply let the others be, without aversion, without suppression, without identification.

For most of us, the state we're in most of the time is distraction.

In Buddhist psychology conceit has a special meaning: that activity of the mind that compares itself with others. When we think about ourselves as better than, equal to, or worse than someone else, we are giving expression to conceit. This comparing mind is called conceit because all forms of it?whether it is I?m better than or I?m worse than, or I?m just the same as?come from the hallucination that there is a self; they all refer back to a feeling of self, of I am.

Mindfulness practice begins to open up everything. We open our mind to memories, to emotions, to different sensations in the body. In meditation this happens in a very organic way, because we are not searching, we are not pulling or probing, we are just sitting and watching.

Spiritual ardency is the wellspring of a courageous heart. It gives us the strength to continue through all the difficulties of the journey. The question for us is how to practice and cultivate ardency, so that it becomes a powerful and onward-leading force in our lives.

The value of an action is measured not by its success or failure, but by the motivation behind it.

We do not know when any seed will come to fruition. We can experience the karmic results of our actions in this lifetime, in the next life, or at any time in the future. But our present actions influence which karmic seeds have the opportunity to come to fruition.

Why do we invest so much energy in acquisition? There may be many psychological underpinnings of this behavior, seeing it as compensatory action, even at times compulsion, for some deeper lack. But we can also understand the force behind this habit of accumulation in a simpler way, namely, the profound influence our consumer society has on our minds. It continually reinforces desires and wanting, often co-opting spiritual values to do so. A recent automobile advertisement shows a handsome young couple standing in front of a new car, surrounded by all the latest consumer delights. The caption reads, 'To become one with everything, you need one of everything.'

An interviewer once asked Mother Teresa what she says to God when she prays. I don?t say anything, she replied. I just listen. Then the interviewer asked her what God says to her. He doesn?t say anything, said Mother Teresa. He just listens. And if you don?t understand that, I can?t explain it to you.

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American Vipassana Teachers, Co-Founder of The Insight Meditation Society with Jack Kornfield And Sharon Salzberg, Contemporary Author