insights

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    Taming a Crank Paid Member

    Anger is one of the most difficult defilements to overcome; I know this from firsthand experience. When I was a young monk in Ceylon, I gave many sermons on anger and how to control it, even as my own anger caused me to lose my temper repeatedly. I’m calling it “my” anger, but that isn’t quite right. Anger would invade my mind and overwhelm me, and I let it do that, despite the fact that inevitably it made me feel miserable. When I was angry, I felt pain in my chest and burning in my stomach. My eyesight blurred, my reasoning was unclear, and ugly, harsh words came out of my mouth. More »
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    Like a Leaping Carp Paid Member

    One of the kongan (Korean; koans in Japanese) that Zen masters frequently assign their students is “What is your original face?” Would it be farfetched to think that poets, too, should question the ground of their poetry? Because the ground will determine the essence of their poetry. More »
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    The Stick Paid Member

    “About the stick at meditation: It is also used to check on your position and the job of checking is very serious. After each blow, the monk makes a prayer gesture. I have ducked my brother guide and get along by myself, but he will find me soon . . .” From the book A Voice at the Borders of Silence by William Segal with Marielle Bancou-Segal, edited by Mark Magill, © 2003 by Marielle Bancou-Segal. Reprinted with permission of The Overlook Press. More »
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    Cross-legged Buddha, Cross-stricken Christ. Paid Member

    Consider for a moment the differences between Christian and Buddhist iconography. The Buddha has spent centuries in cross-legged serenity, eyes closed, attention fixed inward, ready at any moment to slip into the contemplative oblivion of nirvana. All life is suffering, begins the Buddha’s catechism, and the goal of all right action is to escape its grip. More »
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    Roaming Free in a Small Meadow Paid Member

    At a New Year’s Eve party I attended there was a wonderful dark chocolate cake, freshly baked at a European bakery that morning. It was so delicious, I decided to have a second slice. Just as I was putting the cake on my plate, a friend approached me and said, “You’re having a second piece of cake!” Obviously my friend had been watching me and was shocked that I, the “nourishment consultant,” was taking another helping of sugar, wheat, and butter. “Yes,” I said, “I’m having two pieces of chocolate cake. Would you like some?” More »
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    Up and Down Paid Member

    Up. Down.Up. Down.Up. Down. Barely awake, I tell myself to “just do it” while stealing a quick glance back at the bed. The sleeping bag looks so inviting. Thoughts run through my head about why it would be better after it gets light out. Normally an expert procrastinator, susceptible to excuses of any sort, even I can’t get away with rationalizing in this case. At 3:20 in the morning, I am alone in the middle of the woods, but it’s not like there’s anywhere else I have to be. I continue with the bows.Up. Down.Up. Down.Up. Down. Three hundred times. Each time a bow has been completed, I move one bead on my mala to keep count while repeating the mantra in my mind. The rhythm of the movement and the sound of the mantra working in tandem soon cut through all the foggy thinking and wake me up. More »