The Way to Freedom

'The Buddha is a being who is totally free of all delusions and faults, who is endowed with all good qualities and has attained the wisdom eliminating the darkness of ignorance. The Dharma is the result of his enlightenment. After having achieved enlightenment, a Buddha teaches, and what he or she teaches in called Dharma. The Sangha is made up of those who engage in the practice of the teachings given by the Buddha…

One of the benefits of refuge is that all the misdeeds you have committed in the past can be purified, because taking refuge entails accepting the Buddha’s guidance and following a path of virtuous action.’

- The Dalai Lama, The Way to Freedom.

Wonderful Becoming

'When the Buddha was asked, “What is the cause of everything? he answered with very simple words. He said, “This is, because that is.” It means that everything relies on everything else in order to be manifest. A flower has only to reply on non-flower elements in order to manifest. If you look deeply into the flower, you can recognize non-flower elements. Looking into the flower, you recognize the element sunshine. Without sunshine, a flower cannot manifest. Other elements are essential, such as minerals, soil, the farmer and so on; a multitude of non-flower elements come together in order to help the flower manifest.

This is why I prefer the expression “manifestation” to the word “creation.” This does no mean that we should not use the word “creation.”Of course we can do so, but we should understand that creation does not mean making something our of nothing. Creation is not something that is destroyed and can become nothing. I very much like the term “Wonderful Becoming.” Is is close to the true meaning of creation.’

- Thich Nhat Hanh, No Death, No Fear, Comforting Wisdom for Life.

The Circle of All Beings

'In a touching Sikh story, an aged spiritual master calls he most developed disciples to the garden in from of his hut. Gravely, he gives each one of them a chicken and instructs them, “Go to where no one can see, and kill the chicken. “One of the men immediately goes behind his shed, pics up an ax and hops off the chickens head. The other wanders around for hours, an finally returns to his master, the chicken still alive an in hand. “Well what happened?” the teacher asks. The disciple responds, “I can't find a place to kill the chicken where no one can see me. Everywhere I go, the chicken sees.”

To this man the chicken was real. It was conscious and felt pain. As we bring a kind attention to our own conscious and vulnerable being, we become more alert to how all beings are sentient, how they hurt and want to stay alive. While we may not be inclined to think we have much in common with a chicken, when we deepen out attention - we tap into the fundamental vibrancy and fragility that marks all living beings. Poet Gary Lawless writes:

When the animals come to us, 

Asking for our help,

When the plants speak to us

In their delicate, beautiful language,

Will we be able to answer them?

When the planet herself

Sings to us in our dreams,

Will we be able to work ourselves, and act?

When we know that the animals and plants are part of who we are, we can listen and respond. Ignoring the trees is like ignoring our lungs when they are congested and can’t breathe. Extinction of the songbirds means the end of our living music. When the planet herself calls to us in our dreams, it we are in touch with the truth of our mutual belonging, our hearts naturally stir with care. We remember that the web of life is our home.

The bodhisattva’s aspiration, “May my life be of benefit to all beings,” is a powerful tool for remembering our belonging and widening the circles of our compassion. In resolving to help all suffering beings, the bodhisattva is not assuming a grandiose role or holding to some unreachable idea; If we see ourselves as small and separate individuals trying to take on the world as our responsibility, we set ourselves up for delusion and failure. Rather, our aspiration to be of benefit arises from the radical realization that we all belong to the web of life, and that that happens within it affects everything else. Every thought we have, every action we take has an impact for good or for ill. An aboriginal woman from Australia speaks from this sense of relatedness in a powerful way: “If you have come to help me, then you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your destiny is bound up with mine, then let us work together.’

- Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance, Awakening the Love that Heals Fear and Shame Within Us.

The Depth of Our Inner Being

'When men look up into the space of heaven and invoke heaven, or a power that is supposed to reside there, they invoke in reality forces within themselves, which, by being projected outwards, are visualized or felt as heaven or cosmic space. If we contemplate the mysterious depth and blueness of the firmament, we contemplate the depth of our inner being, of our own mysterious all-encompassing consciousness in its primordial, unsullied purity: unsullied by thoughts… undivided by discrimination, desires, and aversions.'

- Lama Govinda, Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism.