A timely quotation every Dharma Fool will want to read

— shared from Ven. Tashi Nyima and The Great Middle Way

Iwamotoji, Kochi Prefecture, Japan. Ceiling detail.  February, 2012.

Ceiling, Iwamotoji, Kochi Prefecture, Japan.  February, 2012.

(The ceiling at Iwamotoji features 575 panels by local artists.                                          Click on image to view this section in greater detail.)


The foolish proclaim their qualifications;

the wise keep them secret within.

A straw floats on the surface of water,

but a precious gem sinks to the depths.

Those with little learning show great pride.

Grown wise, they are quiet.

Torrents always make much noise,

but the ocean seldom roars.

— Sakya Pandita, A Precious Treasury

Beyond all comings and goings

Mahaparanirvana, Shōzan-ji, Tokushima. January, 2011.

gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā

Are the Buddhas and great Bodhisattvas “out there” or “in here”?  Are they external beings or are they “us” (or we them)? A bit of both — sometimes without and sometimes within? Neither wholly without or within?  This is dizzying to contemplate, and it remains a fruitless line of thought until we realize it is a trap concocted by our own minds.

Because language is a function of conventional reality, we speak of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas as if they are separate and distinct from ourselves — and so we must speak in order to communicate with a measure of ease and efficiency.  With mantra practice, however, we evoke qualities already present in the heart and mind: the True Self of our Buddha Nature.  When we align our minds with those of the Buddhas through mantra recitation, subject-object & self-other divisions fall away, at least temporarily.  We are not separate from the Buddhas because there is no “out there” out there and there is no “in here” in here.

The Tathāgata is the One thus gone, thus come, and beyond all comings and goings.

Overcoming indifference to suffering

Leo, Battle Cat. April, 2012.

While walking on the pilgrimage (henro) in Shikoku last summer, my mind turned frequently toward questions pertaining to karma.  I don’t know about others, but the henro walk is an excellent time for me to attend to such questions.  I have not lived in Japan for decades so my speaking ability is limited to courtesy words, directions, and basic survival phrases.  I thus spend most of my time walking in solitude and silence.  I enjoy this.  It is meditative, and my questions were not so much internal dialog, but rather more like sustained mental attention.

One night, after some days of walking meditation on karma and rebirth, I had a disturbing dream, which involved me behaving with unspeakable and neglectful callousness toward one of my pets.  It was the heartlessness of the scene – the complete indifference to the suffering I witnessed, and my tacit consent – and not deliberate cruelty that stood out.  The animal in the dream was a kitten I rescued last spring.  I love him and it is impossible that I would ever do him any harm or stand by and allow him to be hurt.  But in my dream I stood by as he suffered.

The truth of the dream was that I have been neglectful and callous to the suffering of others – to those who “don’t matter” – be they people, animals, or unseen beings.  The kitten dancing around my feet as I type was, and was not, the kitten in my dream.  It represented all beings who, when kindness and warmth was most needed, have instead been treated to stone and ice.  If one loves one kitten, or person, or any living creature, and wishes them to be safe and happy and healthy, one cannot help but see that each and every other creature has the same wish to be happy and free from harm and neglect.

If caring for animals softens us, turning a blind eye toward their suffering hardens us.  Our hardened hearts bring us misery and unhappiness.  Living in this joyless state, we suffer because of who we have become.  I don’t understand the mechanisms of karma, but I get its truth as I have not before.

The usual instruction is that we not pay much heed to our dreams except when the Dharma is clear and obvious.  This dream was an extension of my waking thoughts and walking meditations.  At one point during the dream, I woke up and tried to shake it off but when I fell asleep again, I saw its nightmarish misery — a sign its substance was really on my mind.  It allowed me to see the consequences of indifference to the suffering of “the other kitten.”

We all recognize that we cannot give material aid and comfort to all who suffer – that is too much to ask of any ordinary being – but we ought not steel our hearts to the pain and anguish of others.  Even if we can do nothing, we can always spare a kind thought, and a wish for future happiness.  What we do for the beloved at our side, and learn to do for antagonists and adversaries in our midst, must also be extended to the distant and the unseen, the unknown and the unknowable.  Cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman; but do not pass by the living and the dead in callous indifference.

No enemies

Volunteer caretaker, pilgrim rest hut, Kochi. January 31, 2012

If we have been together since beginingless time,
Then we have all been each other’s companions,
Friends, enemies, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and children.
My enemy has been my friend — and my friend, my enemy.

Each of us owes an enormous debt, impossible to repay.
Our happiness is the bequest of a staggering chain of causality, the gift of the known,
But also the legacy of the unknown, the unnamed, and the unnameable.
Our happiness is the result of untold acts of kindness, generosity, sacrifice and care.
If this is so, as we know it is, then we owe everything to every other being,
And there are no enemies.

Like an elephant in the forest

Pilgrim, Kochi Prefecture, Japan. February 2012.

If a man find a prudent companion who walks with him, is wise,
and lives soberly, he may walk with him, overcoming all dangers,
happy, but considerate.

If a man find no prudent companion who walks with him, is wise,
and lives soberly, let him walk alone, like a king who has left his
conquered country behind,–like an elephant in the forest.

It is better to live alone, there is no companionship with a
fool; let a man walk alone, let him commit no sin, with few wishes,
like an elephant in the forest.

— The Dhammapada, 23:328-330


The fool who knows, knows it is better to avoid proliferating around negative thoughts…

Dharma Fool

Great Middle Way

Exaggerated expressions accentuate and intensify afflicted emotions. Don’t say “I adore this food” or “I love this car” when a simple “I like” is enough to describe your emotional relationship with a mere object. Don’t say “I hate the heat” or “I detest this music” when you simply dislike them. 

Modulate your emotions while describing them. Use language with precision, and you will discover that extreme emotions are conceptual fabrications.


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