Stephan Bodian

c. 1945

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

Author Quotes

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.

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.

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

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...

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

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

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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...

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

Delusion and wisdom don’t coexist very well.

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c. 1945

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