When you find that you are becoming respected and honoured, that’s the time to leave’

One Indian teacher, echoing his whole tradition, used to say: ‘When you find that you are becoming respected and honoured, that’s the time to leave’. Echoing this view, the Chinese tell an account of the Taoist master who has a very promising pupil who finally attains enlightenment. The enlightened pupil becomes a teacher, and a …

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It is best not to be on the heights, but to be down below where you can have things and keep them.

Bukko, who was one of the great Zen masters, said that if you get to the heights of anything, you are like a man who is on top of a mountain with all his possessions. When you and your things are on the top of a mountain you have to keep hanging on to everything …

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They were outwitted through their mpulsive greed for the food.

Hardware, more properly Haridwar, is one of the most sacred places in India. The Ganges has come out of the Himalayas and to bath in it at Haridwar is to wash away sins. James Young, the high ranking British officer who was in charge of the government force which finally defeated and captured the Thag …

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Illumined teachers are animated instruments communicating the cosmic purpose

If the mind of an aged saint to deteriorates, disciples and other devotees may be distressed. They cannot help feeling that the Buddha-light or the Yoga-jnana is weakening. Their convictions may even be shaken. They have to realise that there the basic enlightenment is quite distinct from it’s manifestation through instruments. Imperfections or deterioration in …

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A life which has been shaped and polished so that it’s true nature begins to appear

A life with a purpose has been compared to making an elaborate wooden piece of furniture, as for instance a cabinet with many shelves and draws. The pieces of wood are given to us in the shape of certain talents and abilities and events which happen to us. We are expected to cut and shape …

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The aged dictator of Spain was dying in his presidential palace

When the aged dictator of Spain was dying in his presidential palace overlooking a central square of Madrid, large numbers of his supporters came in relays to stand in front of the palace and chant their farewells: “Goodbye, Franco. Goodbye!” The sound of the voices could be heard from the sick bed in the palace. …

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The third stage of ingratitude is a couplet by the 13th century Persian poet Saadi of Shiraz

It is a pleasant feeling to make a gift to someone who is in need. It is the superior position, generally one doesn’t make oneself too short, and it is depositing a credit for the Last Judgement. It is harder to receive the gift from condescending hands. St Vincent de Paul told his charitable followers: …

Read moreThe third stage of ingratitude is a couplet by the 13th century Persian poet Saadi of Shiraz

Ikkyu was a famous Zen priest and poet , who was sometimes overwhelmed by sexual desire

Ikkyu was a famous Zen priest and poet of the 15th century, who was however on more than one occasion overwhelmed by sexual desire. He finally caught a sexually transmitted disease. When he was dying a knowledgeable friend brought him some of the remedies of the time. However he refused to take them with the …

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Dogen was the great patriarch he brought the Soto line of Zen from China to Japan in the 13th centu

Dogen was the great patriarch he brought the Soto line of Zen from China to Japan in the 13th century. He established it on a very firm ethical basis in Japan, and his great work Shobo-genzo (Treasury of the true law) carries enormous prestige even outside the Soto sect. Buddhist teachers of other sects quoted …

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In the mind when there is no control, two or three obstinate thought-feelings can become locked in a struggle

Before traffic lights were introduced, two or three strong-willed car drivers could get locked in a crossing, because no one would give way. The traffic piled up behind them, and often it was impossible to relieve the tangle by driving on to the pavement. In a busy part of the town, at a busy time, …

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Here is a battle unsought; completely unselfish, for a warrior that is an open door to heaven

Full pacifism is for monks. Lay people practice limited pacifism; they do not seek conflict but they may defend justice as they see it. Krishna says to the warrior- “Here is a battle unsought; completely unselfish, for a warrior that is an open door to heaven.” The limited Ahimsa means that the warrior or the …

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The eye races over the well-known phrases, and much is missed

“A hundred hearings are not like one seeing” is a classical Chinese saying, but it applies to what can be seen, not to abstractions or other things beyond the senses. There the hearings are worth a hundred readings, for reading is often too fast and superficial. Especially when re-reading a revered text, the eye races …

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The great Self takes on itself the illusion of the succession of bodies

II.22 As the wearer casts off worn-out clothes and puts on himself others which are new, Even so, casting off worn-out bodies, the body-wearer passes on to new ones. This great verse on reincarnation comes at the beginning of the teachings, and it refers to the great Self which takes on itself the illusion of …

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Share the beauty of your treasures and you will not regret them if they go

A rich disciple had a fine collection of Chinese jades. Then there was a financial crisis in his affairs, and it turned out that he would lose a good deal of his wealth, even perhaps all of it. The teacher mentioned this fact in conversation with a younger disciple who had, like the teacher himself, …

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To have inner voices is regarded as a symptom of dysfunction

To have inner voices telling one something is regarded as a symptom of dysfunction. There have been some notable exceptions, however. In the 1920’s there was a case where a woman went to her doctor complaining of voices in her head – voices and other noises, even including music. He referred her to what was …

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Some scholars study texts in which they have no interest whatever in the real meaning

In the early days of Hi-fi, one would be invited, sometimes, to a little concert in a room surrounded by speakers of various kinds. Listening to the music, the host would be constantly jumping up and making some adjustment, and then sitting down and listening intently. He was disturbing the enjoyment of the music, but …

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Meditation itself will take over and then it will begin to shine forth

A Japanese poem – Shizukasa ya Iwa ni shimiiru Semi no koe The translation could be – ‘Oh, the quietness. The shrill voice of the cicada Is soaked up by the stones.’ This is a temple scene. Suddenly in the quiet there is the bursting force of the shrill note of the cicada. It’s ear …

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His mind had not yet been loosened to recognise the cosmic plane

Learning a Language When we begin to learn a foreign language, we may learn a few words by the so-called Direct Method. But for anything more than simple meanings, we have to construct an English sentence in our heads, and then search for equivalents and structures in the foreign language. This can go on for …

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Bristles of egoism and pride and self-satisfaction and conceit and ambition

When someone who has a hope of getting some advantage lavishes praise and compliments on us, we feel quite unaffected, because we know that it’s simply turned on like a tap, to get something from us. It might as well be a tape recording. We think “Words, words, what do words matter? Nothing at all.” …

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A vigorous spiritual vitality is the spring that waters all the fields

In Judo there are hundreds of different throwing techniques and manoeuvres and students in the early months of training hope to learn a new one every week or so. Some teachers refuse, and tell then to keep practising away at just a couple. Other teachers do in fact demonstrate many different tricks. The fact is …

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They finally react to imaginary slights and so on.

The skin loses the power of adaptation to changes in temperature, humidity etc. Practising austerity, going without a scarf sometimes, keeps these faculties in good order, and the skin healthy. So with the mind. Those who are always protecting themselves against looking foolish or against little insults, by leading very sheltered lives, become more and …

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Old people have a significant role to play, and some of them find it.

The problem for old people in the West is not that they are regarded as junk, but they regard themselves as junk. In many countries of the East, there are not so many old people, but those there are, are often better off, not materially but in quality of life. They have a significant role …

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Life Rage

There is ‘road rage’ on being passed or obstructed, on a highway. But life itself is a series of obstructions and overtaking in every field and there is a smouldering life rage in the heart of nearly everyone. We live by artificial standards which themselves are constantly changing. Emerson once wrote that for most people …

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The Cure

Some people find that when they begin a yogic discipline their mind is not calmed but more agitated and distracted than before. They complain to the teacher about this and ask for some remedy. Let us suppose that patients go to a skilful doctor to cure an ailment caused by a common mistake in lifestyle. …

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The Cave

The Japanese Zen Master Fugai, though a talented artist and poet, often took to living in some cave, unknown to anyone. It has been thought that he did this partly to avoid fame and reputation which can easily gather round a noted teacher in a monastery. He once remarked, however, “Perhaps it is easy to …

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Falling In Love

Falling In Love In music, don’t fall in love with a particular note, however perfectly played. Don’t fall in love with any particular piece, however beautiful, with the feeling that this is enough. Don’t fall in love with a musician, however skilful. Don’t fall in love with a particular composer or composers, however wonderful. Fall …

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Samurai Poetry

When the Samurai class was established as the ruling caste in Japan at the beginning of the 18th century the warriors were required to educate themselves in practical administration. This included literary skills, culture in general and some familiarity with law. The Samurai had been, even in the early days of the 13th century, relatively …

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Free Fall

A rock, or a human being, falling from a cliff is said to be in free fall. But they are not free, because they have no choice. Similarly, those dominated by instinctive impulses often claim to be freely enjoying them, but in fact they are no more free than a falling rock. They are not …

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The ordinary man holds the seed of divinity

There was once a man, whose father left him a palace furnished with every luxury and comfort, and everything the heart could desire. He was informed in the will that there were certain conditions attached to the possessions of these things: that he must first acquit himself by studying philosophy, practising benevolence, and keeping himself …

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