As long as you accept and practice these four truths (all compounded things are impermanent, all emotions are pain, all things have no inherent existence, nirvana is beyond concepts) you are a “practicing Buddhist.” You might read about these four truths for the sake of entertainment or mental exercise, but if you don’t practice them, you are like a sick person reading the label on a medicine bottle but never taking the medicine. On the other hand, if you are practicing, there is no need to exhibit that you are Buddhist. As a matter of fact, if it helps you to get invited to some social functions, it is totally fine to hide that you are a Buddhist. But keep in mind that as a Buddhist, you have a mission to refrain as much as possible from harming others, and to help others as much as possible. This is not a huge responsibility, because if you genuinely accept and contemplate the truths, all these deeds flow naturally.
On the clear mirror,
just a single speck of dust.
And yet, looking
closely, we see it before
all else — people thinking thus.
Empathy enables us to reach across differences and connect as equals. It does so by cutting straight through the walls that we build up around us and allowing us to touch the core of our equality: the ability to experience pain and joy
Practicing loving kindness meditation is like digging deep into the ground until we reach the purest water. We look deeply into ourselves until insight arises and our love flows to the surface. Joy and happiness radiate from our eyes, and everyone around us benefits from our smile and our presence. If we take good care of ourselves, we help everyone. We stop being a source of suffering to the world, and we become a reservoir of joy and freshness. Here and there are people who know how to take good care of themselves, who live joyfully and happily. They are our strongest support. Whatever they do, they do for everyone.
If, as in a dream, you see a light brighter than the sun, your remaining attachments will suddenly come to an end and the nature of reality will be revealed. Such an occurrence serves as the basis for enlightenment. But this is something only you know. You can’t explain it to others.
Or if, while you’re walking, standing, sitting, or lying in a quiet grove, you see a light, regardless of whether it’s bright or dim, don’t tell others and don’t focus on it. It’s the light of your own nature.
Of if, while you’re walking, standing, sitting, or lying in the stillness and darkness of night, everything appears as though in daylight, don’t be startled. It’s your own mind about to reveal itself.
Or if, while you’re dreaming at night, you see the moon and stars in all their clarity, it means the workings of your mind are about to end. But don’t tell others.
This empty nature, the lack of intrinsic existence in phenomena, does not imply a blank naught in which there is nothing at all, as we find in the view of the nihilists. According to relative truth, all phenomena arise as a result of the interdependent conjunction of causes and conditions. This enables us to explain not only how samsara is formed but also it is possible to progress toward nirvana. There is no contradiction between the absolute nature and its infinite display and, because of this, one is free from the extreme of existence and that ofnonexistence,
When a strong affliction such as anger arises, we have the unbearable feeling that we need to hurt someone or say something mean, but where is the affliction? What is its essence? When we examine it and meditate, we see that its essence is by nature empty. If we realize this, it automatically has no power and disappears.
Someone who begins to develop an interest in the teachings can tend to distance themselves from the reality of material things, as if the teachings were something completely apart from daily life. Often, at the bottom of all this, there is an attitude of giving up and running away from one’s own problems, with the illusion that one will be able to find something that will miraculously help one to transcend all that. But the teachings are based on the principle of our actual human condition. We have a physical body with all its various limits: each day we have to eat, work, rest, and so on. This is our reality, and we can’t ignore it.
Humans are set apart from other types of sentient beings by their ability to naturally connect with sharp intelligence and with nonviolence, loving-kindness, and compassion. From the moment we are born, we are constantly chasing after happiness, thinking of ways we can become happy and free from suffering, and we actively try to bring those desires to fruition. The propensities toward loving-kindness, compassion, and nonviolence we display in following this quest for happiness demonstrate what makes human beings unique.
For any species of sentient being to continue existing, the members of that species must have affection for each other and they must support each other. In order for our human community to survive, we must nurture and sustain connections of love, compassion, nonviolence, and altruism. These connections are what will allow us not only to survive, but to make our lives meaningful. If we concentrate on ensuring that these connections are present, that in itself will be enough.
All of the Buddha’s teachings are based on refraining from harming others and engaging in helping others. It is therefore of great importance for Buddhists to have these two principles as the ground of their practice. The roots of Buddhist practice are the attitudes of altruism and non-harm. In other words, the roots of Buddhist practice are loving-kindness and compassion.
I don’t like happiness, I like suffering:
If I am happy, the five poisons increase.
If I suffer, my past bad karma is exhausted.
I don’t value high positions, I like low ones.
If I am important, my pride and jealousy increase;
If I am lowly, I relax and my spiritual practice grows.
The lowest place is the seat of the saints of the past.