You must…be very careful not to mistake the idea of emptiness for the actual experience. The idea of emptiness has to do with intellectual understanding, proving assumptions and drawing conclusions, whereas experience is to see it for what it is, within you, not as a theory but in actuality. You should make sure that you do not make the mistake of taking an idea for the actual experience.
To return to the root is to find the meaning,
but to pursue appearances is to miss the source.
At the moment of inner enlightenment,
there is a going beyond appearance and emptiness.
The changes that appear to occur in the empty world
we call real only because of our ignorance.
Do not search for the truth;
only cease to cherish opinions.
Meditation is a mind-activity. Everywhere the mind goes, the opportunity for meditation exists. The idea that meditation is something that we only do sitting on a cushion in a particular way or at a particular time has created a lot of confusion. Yet if we can recognize awareness anywhere, anytime, we may ask why we make such a big deal out of meditation, with our cushions and mats and seven-point posture. The answer is that we have developed a very strong identification with our monkey-mind. In order to shift our identity to our natural awareness, we need aids, supports, and methods. We all need these strategies, but don’t confuse them with the true meaning of meditation. We are not training in order to to learn about objects. We are training to learn about our mind, because our mind holds the source of all possibilities — good and bad, happy and sad, sane and neurotic. Freedom exists within our very own heart and mind.
When you try to stop activity to achieve passivity
your very effort fills you with activity.
As long as you remain in one extreme or the other,
you will never know Oneness.
The wisdom we’re looking for is not just an answer we get from a religious person or subject matter expert who tells us what to think. Real wisdom is when you find a true question. When you find it, you should not rush to answer it. Stay with it for a while. Make friends with it. We live in “instant times”—instant messaging, instant pictures, fast food—and our mind is accustomed these days to instant gratification. If we bring this expectation to our spiritual path, however, we’ll be disappointed. Some of our questions can’t be answered right away. We must be as patient as scientists are when they run their experiments and diligently evaluate and verify their findings.
Strive to accomplish the supreme unchanging goal. For life is passing, and there is no certainty about the time of death. Even if you should die tomorrow, you should have confidence and be without regret.
Wisdom is the clear seeing of the impermanent, conditioned nature of all phenomena, knowing that whatever arises has the nature to cease. When we see this impermanence deeply, we no longer cling; and when we no longer cling, we come to the end of suffering.
To understand how desire works, Buddhism offers the analogy of a silkworm that spins threads of silk to create a cocoon within which the silkworm itself gets trapped. In exactly this way, desire keeps producing more desire. Through our desire, we trap ourselves in our own webs. Desire never brings an end to desire; it only gives rise to more desire.
Beings long to free themselves from misery,
But misery itself they race to catch.
They long for joy, but in their ignorance,
Destroy it, as they would a hated enemy.
One of the great blights suffered by modern people is a lack of self-esteem or healthy sense of self. It leads some new students to ask if taking on the suffering of others in tonglen practice might cause them to lose confidence in themselves. Quite the opposite is true. The attitude we cultivate as bodhisattvas — of longing to offer the best of everything to others and willingly accept all loss, unpleasantness or difficulty — actually bolsters our confidence and completely eradicates a lack of self-esteem.