The childish work for their own welfare
While the Buddhas work
For the welfare of others.
Look at this difference.
What is the need to say more?
What we think,
What we say,
What we do,
Our motivation, our intention,
The soft bed of air upon which each arises,
And sets them into motion,
So offer each,
Your thoughts, words and actions
With a little love.
A little understanding and compassion.
A little kindness
Toward yourself and to others.
With a little wish that each serves as the cause, eventually,
For peace, and for happiness
For self and other equally.
It doesn’t have to be a lot.
It doesn’t have to be more than we feel capable of in that moment.
A lot of times we may not feel capable of any at all.
Life can be so agonizing.
Just, somewhere, at some time, the wish.
No matter our situation
No matter how different we think things should be
Or wish things were
Or we were
Or think others should be
These are fictions.
All those shoulds.
If we could be different,
If others could be different,
We would be, and so would they.
So learn to be accepting, and forgiving.
To be where you are.
Things will change.
This is the beginning of awareness.
Being where we are does not mean that we do not wish to change.
Or that we don’t want things to be different, or others to be different.
It just means that in the course of that slow transformation
The most effective way to truly effect change
Is to also be fully present to the moment
At least to the extent that we can be.
Acting, while not acting,
In motion, while still.
To understand what is truly needed,
To effect that change,
In a meaningful and lasting way,
In which all benefit.
Like the tree
Like the snow
Like the sky
And the air,
Like the ground.
Interdependent, yet on another level,
So each thought ... matters.
Each word ... matters.
Every action ... matters.
So very much.
So very much.
You are so loved and remarkable.
So be present to those around you.
And present to yourself.
Your remarkable self
And, slowly slowly, moment by day by year,
And those around you,
And the world itself,
Become just a little better off,
For your mere, remarkable presence in it.
We know so well that in our consciousness
are buried all the wholesome seeds-
seeds of love and understanding,
seeds of peace and joy.
But if we do not know how to water them,
how can they spring up fresh and green?
When we chase after a distant happiness,
life becomes a shadow of the reality.
Our minds become occupied by the past
or worrying about this or that in the future.
We cannot let go of our anger,
and we long for what we have to be permanent,
thereby trampling on real happiness.
As month follows month,
we are sunk in sorrow.
So now we recognize our errors and begin anew,
fragrant as a breath of fresh air.
- from Beginning Anew, a longer prayer and practice by Thich Nhat Hanh
May all those whom I meet truly know peace, and may I be the cause of peace, however small or seemingly insignificant.
May I remember that all beings are not just interconnected, but interdependent, and my actions always have effects more far reaching than my eyes may see.
And thus may all my thoughts, speech and actions bring benefit to others; joy and relief from the sufferings of this world.
May I recognize in my own suffering the indelible truth of karma and the opportunity to deepen my practice without complaint or diversion.
May every day my wisdom deepen, and in doing so, may the benefit of my actions only increase, however gradual or seeming not to as I face new challenges each day.
May I bring no harm to any being, including myself, and if I should cause harm, may I recognize, regret and rehabilitate it promptly and may its effects be short-lived. May I forgive and accept fully and without judgment.
May I see all beings, my mothers, as my teachers and sacred friends always. Not just intellectually but with my heart, fully.
May I accept myself and others in each moment, and utterly without condition, and may I understand always that acceptance does not mean that I should not help to change the world for the better as I understand it.
May even in all my staggering imperfections I not shy away from following the inspiration of my ideals, or willingness to embody them however painful that may sometimes appear to be.
In other words, may I do it anyway, and may I be fine keeping quiet when that's what's called for too. And may I remember to stop and listen well, to really know the difference.
May I always remember and carry with me the foundations of my own practice, lineage teachers and my own teacher, and may I remember each new day to dedicate my actions consistent with the practices that abide. For those without teachers in this lifetime, may they know more deeply the guru in their hearts.
There will be joy, and there will be suffering. Through all of it, may I, somehow, in some way, re-devote myself to these ideals daily and always remember the reasons to be grateful.
May it be so.
May those who lose their way and wander
In the wild find fellow travelers.
And safe from threat of thieves and savage beasts,
May they be tireless and their journey light.
May children and the aged, all all those without protection
Wandering in the fearful, pathless wastes,
Who fall asleep unconscious of their peril,
Have pure celestial beings as their guardians.
May all be freed from states of bondage,
May they be possessed of wisdom, faith, and love,
With perfect sustenance and conduct,
May they always have remembrance of their former lives.
May everyone have unrestricted wealth
Just like the treasury of space,
Enjoying it according to their wish,
Without a trace of harm or enmity.
Shantideva (8th c.), Bodhicharyävatāra (The Way of the Bodhisattva)
Chapter 10, Dedication Verses 25 - 28
(Padmakara Translation Group)
Because the mind has no beginning or end, no form, it has no limitations. There are no limits upon our capacity for love and compassion. Boundless and immeasurable, whatever the scope of our love yesterday, we can love more deeply today. Whatever level of compassion we felt capable of this morning, with practice and a firm resolve, we can be more compassionate tomorrow. However fully we can offer forgiveness to ourselves and others in this moment, we can summon even greater, the next.
(Based on a prayer attributed to) St. Francis of Assisi, 1182 - 1226 by James Quinn b. 1919
Lord, make us servants of your peace;
Where there is hate, may we sow love;
Where there is hurt, may we forgive;
Where there is strife, may we make one.
Where all is doubt, may we sow faith;
Where all is gloom, may we sow hope;
Where all is night, may we sow light;
Where all is tears, may we sow joy.
For a few years now I've the good fortune of serving as a teacher and some other things at a Buddhist Center here in Philly, and with that has come the opportunity for personal writing on lots of Buddhist-y sorts of subjects. So I thought that this and other writing I've done would help when it came time to write in this particular virtual space that's such a part of my life now. Do I go confessional with a personal tale and a moral at the end? Or get teach-y and expound upon the precious dharma so near and dear to my Philly heart?
Pema Chödrön says, just Start Where You Are. But what if you don't even know where you are? Or which "you" it is that's even starting? Well, then that's where you start. Not knowing. Pick a card. Or don't pick a card. But be there. If you're at the bottom, have a look around. So I wrote.
Three half-finished blog entries, one empty ice cream container (Haagen Dazs, Mint Chip) and two bite size chocolate wrappers (Dove) later, I end the carnage. Still zip.
I come up for air. Now what?? I asked my insightful daughter. Psych major that she is, she looks at me and acknowledges my predicament with genuine caring and interest.
And returns to the iPhone. "Right answer," I think.
I walk and and shake it off. After a few false starts - but starts that I guess need to be made to get to the next "start," a decision occurs.
That's all. Just, kindness.
Be kind. So this is a blog on kindness. It may even be a meditation.
One of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso's most frequently quoted sayings is this one -
My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness
If I look back on all of my interactions over the past weeks, even the past months (to the extent I can even remember that far back), I cannot think of a time when I wish I'd been less kind towards someone. Or that I regret the kindness I showed or received. But I can easily think of times where now I see, I could have been more kind. And that might have been better.
Not even major things, because our minds and lives are formed each day by a million small events and interactions, changing us forever. This moment, then that, then the next. And endless stream of opportunities to become better people. Just a tiny bit at a time.
So be kind, I remind myself.
Kindness opens the heart.
It reconnects us with the memory of our shared human-ness where before we saw differences. So that we can become more compassionate, and connect with the wish that others not suffer in their lives either.
Because they are more like us than they are different.
So we can be kind.
Sometimes kindness flows naturally and it is easy. Other times and toward other people however, we can only cultivate it by practice sustained over months, or even many years. So it takes practice.
Try counting the number of even the tiniest acts of kindness you see around you in a day; a gesture, a nod, a willingness to even recognize or acknowledge another person, a held door; and your life will be changed forever. So many all the time!
Spirituality is the practice of making the previously invisible, visible. Learning to see the kindnesses of this world is one of these practices. Once we see them, as with anything else, we can find them everywhere. The heart can open, everything changes.
And what we learn to see, we can become; we have already, on some level, become.
Kindness changes the air in a room, then travels to the next room. Because every action, every word, every thought we have, forms an infinite causal chain of actions, words and thoughts. However unseen. So our kindness is without end.
And if we believe there's something to that karma idea, then we also are the beneficiaries of our own acts of kindness; our own kind thoughts.
Either way, kindness is its own reward.
So we should practice kindness.
Being kind transforms how we feel about ourselves and others, even if that wasn't our intention. Even if we feel incomplete in the effort. It has.
It creates the space for peacefulness, the momentary experience of "enough" -ness.
So we can exercise kindness.
It also can be subtle. Not just expressed by actions or words, but in our relationship to our interior thoughts and feelings, as well. It is not just the positive expression of holding doors and offering compliments (though those are wonderful); it can be being generous toward our own self-critical thoughts and emotions. Giving ourselves the space to simply hold them in our awareness, without engaging, without trying to change anything. Exercising patience; forbearance, allowance.
Regarding ourselves as if we were our own child.
Arising from our caring for our own well being.
These are profound acts of kindness.
Failing and getting back up. Again, and again. Forgiving ourselves. Forgiving others. Remembering that we are all struggling with our limited minds, despite the exterior polish, whatever it may look like in this life. That is a kind of kindness, also.
Kindness can be refraining from saying, or writing or doing something, even though we might enhance our position with others if we said or did it; refraining because our words or actions might cause harm to someone else, or even create the conditions for division, or false impressions in the mind of even one other person. Refraining from harsh speech then, or gossip, out of our sense of caring for for others as we do ourselves, can be a profound form of kindness. And even more so as no one will ever know what we didn't say, or didn't do.
Kindness shows us that we are more complete than we thought we were. Regardless whether anyone else can see it. Kindness is doing it anyway.
Adopting an attitude of kindness takes repetition. When we do not practice it, it's easy to forget how wonderful it is to be kind. And how different it is when we are not. So we need to apply ourselves and stay with it, and keep forgiving and forgiving.
Kindness creates space to breathe. It is a yoga, a meditation, the living activity of prayer, a practice.
It reminds us that even when we don't feel very kind, we can be kind to ourselves, and even just, try not do too much harm, and then forgive ourselves when we do.
Refraining from doing harm is a profound expression of kindness.
Sometimes kindness means allowing others to make choices that we ourselves would not make for them. It is not always rewarded, or recognized. And accepting that, and the consequences of it, that we will be there throughout because we love them, is an act of kindness from a very deep place.
Kindness in body, speech and mind. The gentle activity of human regard that recognizes some part of ourselves in each other and transcends our sense-borne illusion of separateness. The chain lightning that can light up the sky for even just a moment. Warms our heart. And moves the world just a little bit.
And as religions go, not a bad religion, either.
A few years ago, well, in the late 1980's / early 1990's, BASF, the German chemical company (they stopped making cassette tapes years ago) ran an advertising campaign with the tag line -
We don't make a lot of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy, better.
And so it is with Mindfulness. Mindfulness doesn't try to change or make anything different, or better; not the world, not us. It's far more radical than that.
The natural ingredient of Mindfulness is just about being. How to ... be, first. How to do "being-ness." as Kabat-Zinn says. In the world, anywhere.
Then, though nothing has changed, everything's different. For the better.