Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Stephan Bodian

American Buddhist Monk, Editor of Yoga Journal, Zen Teacher and Author of Meditation for Dummies and Buddhism for Dummies

"Give up the notion that there is a final state to attain. Spiritual life consists of ongoing practice undertaken as a lifetime work. This realization breeds humility, especially when we realize that in our initial infatuation with enlightenment, we underestimate the amount of inner work necessary to free us from our addictive patterns of thought and behavior."

"Beneath the one who is busy is one who is not busy."

"Money can’t buy happiness; it can only allow you to select your particular form of misery."

"You’re under no obligation to follow Buddha’s teachings. Just try to be a good person. That’s enough."

"According to the Zen tradition, all beings have the wisdom and virtue of the fully enlightened one. But because of their distorted views, they don’t realize this fact."

"Also, keep in mind that even suffering can have its good points. Sometimes, when things are going along relatively smoothly for you, you can more easily ignore the difficulties of others. But, when you yourself encounter these same difficulties, you’re more likely to open your heart and experience empathy. As your heart opens, your loving-compassion also grows stronger. If you can use your difficulties to help generate genuine and deeply felt compassion for others — one of the most beautiful and liberating of all spiritual qualities — then your suffering was definitely worthwhile."

"As you watch your ill will dispassionately, you’ll discover that, like all feelings, this negative emotion is not as solid as it first appears. Like a wave that rises from the ocean one minute and sinks back into it the next, the ill will rises in your heart, lasts for a short while, and then disappears again. A similar wave may rise up and take its place, but it too will inevitably subside. If you can stand back and simply observe this process (which is similar to the breath-awareness technique that we explain in Chapter 7), your negative feelings will eventually exhaust themselves."

"Because the delusions have no firm foundation in reality, they can be overcome by wisdom. (Or, to put it another way, they can be penetrated by insight.) Wisdom is the positive, clarifying mental factor that shows you the way things actually are, not the way you falsely imagine them to be. The other positive states of mind and heart, such as love and compassion, aren’t threatened by wisdom at all. In fact, they’re strengthened by it. Indeed, some traditions of Buddhism teach that wisdom, love, and compassion are inherent qualities that lie at the core of your being. These positive qualities..."

"Buddha once said, is actually quite simple: The secret is to want what you have and not want what you don’t have."

"Buddhist teachers never get tired of reminding their students that the value of their actions depends mostly on their mind and motivation."

"But Buddha, in his wisdom, realized that you can’t love others fully until you learn to love yourself. If you search throughout the entire universe, he often said, you won’t find anyone more deserving of love and affection than yourself. So begin the practice of metta by first extending it to yourself."

"Delusion and wisdom don’t coexist very well."

"In genuine spiritual awakening, you finally recognize this ego for what it is—an illusory construct held together by a sense of separateness and the need to control—and realize that you’re the looker, the silent presence, the limitless space in which this construct arises. In the wake of this transformative insight, the construct loses its hold over you, at least temporarily. But because it has developed over a lifetime and gained its strength in situations where you believed your survival was at stake, the ego has tremendous power and tenacity and doesn’t let go of control without a fight."

"Indeed, awakened people seem to function more effectively in everyday life because they act in harmony with what is, rather than in conflict or resistance. At the same time, they see the empty, dreamlike nature of reality—you could say that they awaken out of the illusion of substantiality into the reality of the empty, ungraspable nature of what is. The awakened person is in the world but not of it—or as Walt Whitman put it, in and out of the game."

"is a way of becoming so familiar with yourself — with your thoughts, sensations, feelings, behavior patterns, and attitudes — that you get to know yourself more intimately than you ever thought possible. Some teachers describe meditation as the process of making friends with yourself. Instead of turning your attention outward, to other people or the external world, you turn it inward, back on yourself."

"Let go of old habit patterns that keep you trapped in dissatisfaction and frustration"

"Many Buddhist traditions teach their followers to actively cultivate love and compassion for others — not only those they care about but also those who disturb them or toward whom they may feel hostility (in other words, enemies). In fact, some traditions believe that this dedication to the welfare of all forms the foundation of the spiritual path upon which all other practices are based."

"Of all the schools of Buddhism, Zen (one of the first to gain popularity in the West) has a reputation for questioning traditional religious assumptions — and for good reason. (For more on Zen, check out Chapters 5, 7, and 8.) When the subject is accumulating spiritual merit through pilgrimage or other good works, Zen goes against the traditional grain by teaching that anything short of full enlightenment has only limited value. The following exchange between Bodhidharma, the legendary monk who brought Zen from India to China, and the Chinese emperor is a case in point. Shortly after arriving..."

"Of thoughts, feelings, memories, and beliefs held together by a sense of identity—and no longer mistakenly take it to be the truth of who you are or feel compelled to follow its directives. In"

"Reality is constantly changing; as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, you can’t step into the same river twice. Success and failure, gain and loss, comfort and discomfort — they all come and go. And you have only limited control over the changes. But you can exert some control over (and ultimately clarify) your chattering, misguided mind, which distorts your perceptions, mightily resists the way things are, and causes you extraordinary stress and suffering in the process."

"Teachers advise you to be skeptical about teachings you receive, even if they come directly from Buddha himself."

"That makes them quintessentially Buddhist — is the importance they place on basic dharma teachings. Examples of these teachings include the four noble truths and the eight-fold path (see Chapter 3), the three marks of existence (impermanence, no-self, and dissatisfaction; see Chapters 2 and 17), and the cultivation of core spiritual qualities such as patience, generosity, loving-kindness, compassion, devotion, penetrating insight, and wisdom."

"The danger of investing your energy in seeking is that you’ll end up a perpetual seeker, without ever finding what you were looking for in the first place."

"Then, as the Dalai Lama of Tibet (see Chapter 15) often advises, If you find that the teachings suit you, apply them to your life as much as you can. If they don’t suit you, just leave them be."

"To answer these questions, you first need to recognize that your mind is always changing. A powerfully negative state of mind, such as hatred, may arise one moment, but it’s certain to subside. That’s the very nature of things: They don’t last. (As the popular saying goes, The only thing constant is change.) Furthermore, none of these negative, disturbing states of mind rests on a solid foundation. They’re all based on misconceptions. In fact, jealousy, hatred, greed, and the like lead to suffering and dissatisfaction precisely because they’re out of step with reality."

"To get a better idea of how mindful awareness (often called simply mindfulness) operates, consider the popular Buddhist metaphor of the forest pool. If wind and rain constantly batter the pool, the water will tend to be agitated and cloudy with sediment and organic debris, and you won’t be able to see all the way down to the bottom. But you can’t calm the pool by manipulating the water. Any attempts to do so will merely cause more agitation and add to the problem. The only way to clear the water is to sit patiently, watching the pool, and wait for the sediment to settle by itself."

"we seem to have developed the misconception that awakening involves assassinating the ego and dropping its body in the ocean of the Self. But the ego isn’t your archenemy, it’s merely a function, a diligent worker that goes about its self-appointed task of monitoring your survival and holding on to control. When you wake up, you see the ego for what it is—a collection of thoughts, feelings, memories, and beliefs held together by a sense of identity—and no longer mistakenly take it to be the truth of who you are or feel compelled to follow its directives."

"We’re not talking about rewards and punishments here when we talk about karma. You’re not a bad boy if you cheat on your taxes or a good girl if you help the old lady across the street. The law of karma doesn’t carry that kind of judgmental baggage; it’s much more practical and down to earth. The point is simple: If you act with ill will, you’ll experience ill will in the future. If you act with love, you’ll experience love in return. Or to continue the metaphor of the seeds: As you sow, so shall you reap."

"When you see everything as the divine expression, including what you once took to belong to you—your body, your thoughts, your feelings—you move with the flow of life instead of struggling against the current."

"But awakening, once it occurs, tends to be ruthless and uncontrollable, like a wildfire that burns up everything in its path. ?Spirituality isn?t child?s play,? warns Nisargadatta Maharaj. ?My sentences will tear to pieces anyone who listens to them.? After all, what you awaken to is the truth, which shatters the illusion of who you?ve believed yourself to be. You might want to consider whether you?re ready to have your tidy little world torn to pieces or consumed in a conflagration before you set out to discover who you are. I?ve known many people whose lives were turned upside down by awakening and who spent years learning how to live in a completely new way."

"Resist the temptation to be someone once again. Allow yourself to be no one; allow your mind to be empty of thought, unfurnished, until the identities gradually filter back in. Notice the space between your identities and the awareness of them. Notice if a similar gap appears at other times during the day, an empty space that you may have ignored before but can now lean into and prolong. Continue to open to the openness."

"When you awaken, you realize that the separate person you took yourself to be is just a contract, a mental fabrication."