there’s no need to be busy

Excerpts from “The Path to Peace: A Buddhist Guide to Cultivating Loving-Kindness” by Ayya Khema

There’s no need to be busy. We should of course fulfill our obligations and responsibilities. The Buddha always gave guidelines in that direction. But to be overly busy cannot possibly bring peacefulness. It cannot bring contentment. It cannot bring a heart full of love; it cannot bring a heart that can actually bring the mind to meditation. So, we should check our activities and see which ones are totally unnecessary. And we should see whether, with the activities that we do, we are not only trying to escape our own suffering (dukkha) but also trying to prove something to ourselves and others—that we are somebody. The more we try to prove that we are somebody, the less we have a chance to become nobody. And that’s what nirvana is all about. It doesn’t sound appealing to some people, because they haven’t had enough dukkha yet. When we’ve had enough dukkha with the somebody, we can actually appreciate the fact that there’s only one way to get out of dukkha, and that’s being nobody.

We have the wealth of absolute truth, of immeasurable love and compassion—the whole wealth of the universe within us. It’s just waiting to be discovered. But within the hustle and bustle of morning-to-evening activity, we’ll never manage to find it. It’s like a golden treasure that is lying within us, that we can actually touch upon through the quiet mind. Anyone can do it, but they’ve got to become quiet. And we’ve got to stop trying to be something special. Only then can we get at it, and then, having found it, we can share it. That’s what the Buddha did. He shared it for forty-five years. With a few thousand people. And today we’re sharing it with five hundred million. That’s the value of enlightenment.

So, we have that treasure. But if we really get busy, we have no way of unlocking that treasure chest. Unlocking it takes time, and it takes the quiet mind, the contented mind, the satisfied mind. It needs the mind which knows that there is something to be found far beyond anything at all that we can ever find in the world. And then we will make an attempt at checking out what is really necessary to do.

Whatever we do out of compassion is well done. And this should be our checkpoint: what am I doing out of compassion, and what am I doing in order to assert that I am really here and to let as many people know about it as possible, and what am I doing in order to get out of my dukkha to keep busy? But whatever I do out of compassion, that is what we should pursue.

Ayya Khema (1923–1997) was an international Buddhist teacher, and the first Western woman to become a Theravada Buddhist nun. An advocate of Buddhist women’s rights, in 1987 she helped coordinate the first conference for the Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women in Bodh Gaya, India.


Excerpts from “A Path With Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life” by Jack Kornfield (1993)

When Buddhists speak of emptiness and of no self, what do they mean? Emptiness does not mean that things don’t exist, nor does “no self” mean that we don’t exist. Emptiness refers to the underlying nonseparation of life and the fertile ground of energy that gives rise to all forms of life. Our world and sense of self is a play of patterns.

Any identity we can grasp is transient, tentative. When we are silent and attentive, we can sense directly how we can never truly possess anything in the world. Clearly, we do not possess outer things. We are in some relationship with our cars, our home, our family, our jobs, but whatever that relationship is, it is “ours” only for a short time. In the end, things, people, or tasks die or change or we lose them. Nothing is exempt.

We encounter another aspect of the emptiness of self when we notice how everything arises out of nothing, comes out of the void, returns to the void, goes back to nothing. All our words of the past day have disappeared. Similarly, where has the past week or the past month or our childhood gone? They arose, did a little dance, and now they’ve vanished, along with the twentieth century, the nineteenth and eighteenth centuries, the ancient Romans and Greeks, the Pharaohs, and so forth. All experience arises in the present, does its dance, and disappears. Experience comes into being only tentatively, for a little time in a certain form; then that form ends and a new form replaces it moment by moment.

As we open and empty ourselves, we come to experience an interconnectedness, the realization that all things are joined and conditioned in an interdependent arising. Each experience and event contains all others. The teacher depends on the student, the airplane depends on the sky.

When a bell rings, is it the bell we hear, the air, the sound on our cars, or is it our brain that rings? It is all of these things. As the Taoists say, “The between is ringing.” The sound of the bell is here to he heard everywhere—in the eyes of every person we meet, in every tree and insect, in every breath we take…

When we truly sense this interconnectedness and the emptiness out of which all beings arise, we find liberation and a spacious joy. Discovering emptiness brings a lightness of heart, flexibility, and an ease that rests in all things. The more solidly we grasp our identity, the more solid our problems become. Once I asked a delightful old Sri Lankan meditation master to teach me the essence of Buddhism. He just laughed and said three times, “No self, no problem.”

Jack Kornfield was trained as a Buddhist monk in Thailand, Burma, and India, and holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. He is a psychotherapist and founding teacher of the Insight Meditation Society and the Spirit Rock Center. His books include Seeking the Heart of Wisdom and Still Forest Pool.

Image: Giant Buddha statue under construction at the Khai Nguyen Pagoda in Son Tay, on the outskirts of Hanoi, Vietnam, on May 18, 2019

perception & reaction

Essentially what counts about our life is our kamma (karma), that is, our actions of body, speech or mind. And kamma means you have a choice: you can act wisely now rather than react compulsively. Reactions are generated by contact – that is something touches the heart. When we notice or are struck by something – it could be something seen, remembered, tasted, imagined – then something vibrates and there’s perception. Perception is the solidification of the immediate impression arising in consciousness; the light goes on, there is meaning, true or false. Then comes the reaction, the volitional quality, or cetanā – and when the mind engages with that, there is kamma.

Training is about putting a micro-pause or attentiveness, between the perception and the reaction, or, between the mental reaction and any engagement with it. And it’s also good to challenge perceptions before they land, or as they arise. So, you establish the perception of impermanence: ‘This is going to change.’ And the perception of the unattractive: ‘This too loses flavour and breaks down.’ Then there are perceptions based on goodwill: ‘Just like me, they are enriched by kindness.’ And when we practice recollection, we establish perceptions based upon awakening: ‘Freedom from suffering is possible.’ In this way, you’re changing your life right now in terms of how and when the mind jumps.

Notice: What are the most habitual jumps? Habitual reactions are about how we repeatedly jump; the ingrained impressions and reactions that become ‘myself’. ‘I’m always like this, I see things this way, I tend to mistrust, or be apprehensive, or urgent, or dismissive, or…’  Then pause; wait a minute. Check. Do you have to jump, right now? Come out of the obsessive rut.

Ajahn Sucitto

Image by Penn B: Coastal view, Phuket Island


Neti-neti is a Sanskrit expression that translates to “neither this, nor that” or “not this, not this.” This expression is used in Hinduism, mainly in Jnana yoga and in Advaita Vedanta (non-dualistic spiritual practice). Neti-neti is a form of analytical meditation that helps the individual understand the nature of brahman (absolute reality) by first understanding what is not brahman.
A “neti-neti search” is one of the key elements of Jnana yoga practice. It is an exercise in negating rationalizations and other distractions from the non-conceptual meditative awareness of reality.
Yogapedia: In Jnana yoga and Advaita Vedanta, “neti-neti” may be a chant or mantra. It is an 8,000-year-old practice that takes the focus away from all disturbances, so the practitioner may find the stillness in every movement and the formless in every form. Neti-neti meditation helps to identify all things of the world which are not the atman (the real), thus negating the anatman (the unreal).
When it’s adapted for the modern world, including neti-neti meditation in one’s yoga practice, neti-neti helps the practitioner realize that they are not actually the things that they normally identify themselves with (personalities, thoughts, feelings or jobs), nor are they merely their roles (parents, partners, friends or siblings) in life. In this way, neti-neti can also be interpreted as “beyond this, beyond that.”

the deathless citta

Ajahn Maha Bua observes the essential enduring truth of the sentient being, composed of the indestructible reality of the citta (heart/mind). But as long as there is a ‘self’ the citta is not free. This ‘self’ is the ‘Ultimate Danger’ because of its alluring radiance that causes attachment. The Ultimate Danger disguises itself as the Ultimate Virtue. When the perception of anatta (not-self) is applied, the agitated citta becomes calm and impassive with no interest in either atta (self) or anatta (not-self). The perception of anatta causes the self to be let go of and is totally destroyed, along with the ignorance that causes all beings enthralled by ‘self’ to wander in samsara.

The citta, intrinsically bright, clear, and aware, gets superficially tangled up in samsara but ultimately cannot be destroyed by any samsaric phenomenon. The citta may be caught up in the vortex of conditioned phenomena, but is not subject to destruction, It is ultimately not beholden to these laws of conditioned existence. The citta is bright, radiant, and deathless, and is its own independent reality.

The fundamental problem that besets human beings, is that they have taken untruth as their true self and unknowingly they allow the wiles and deceits of the mental defilements to generate fear and anxiety in their minds. Fear and anxiety are not inherent within the citta; in fact, the citta is ultimately beyond all such things and indeed is beyond time and space. But it needs to be cleansed of its inner defilements (the kilesas) before that truth can be realised. When the cleansing of defilements is complete, the citta remains, experientially abiding in its own firm foundation, yet ultimately indescribable.

Some of the notions found here are reminiscent of the Tathagatagarbha tradition found in Mahayana Buddhism— although the latter posits an original, primordial purity to the mind, whereas Bua sees that purity as needing to be established through mental and moral cultivation. [Re: Ajahn Maha Bua Wikipedia page: “Some basic teachings on the ‘Citta’”]

Excerpts from a talk by Ajahn Maha Bua, London, June 1974

We are here today to train our minds to be calm and cool. The normal state of the mind is such that it has no Middle Way. It continually tends to go to extremes of thinking and imagining and its moods are in confusion. What the heart (citta) is used to and likes to do, leads it away from what it should be doing. We must therefore make use of the Dhamma principles of the Buddha as a means to train the Citta to be calm — and however much or little one does this will not be without result.

Whoever makes use of any method of meditation, as, for example, paying attention to one’s breath (Ānāpānasati) or the repetition (Parikamma) of “Buddho,” “Dhammo,” or “Sangho,” should have mindfulness to control the Citta. The Citta should not be allowed to wander for if it does, one will not get results and the Citta will not get calm. In the Dhamma it says “Natthi santi param sukham,” which means “there is no happiness greater than peace.” The heart (citta) must be peaceful or calm to attain happiness, so we should try to help it to be calm. The Citta which is not calm will tend to be agitated continually and even when it is asleep it dreams of all sorts of things. If one’s Citta thinks a lot it will create fantastic dreams and talking in one’s sleep, for if one’s sleep is not deep, dreaming will occur, whereas a deep sleep is a sleep without dreams. So, one trains to make the Citta calm down, but whether the Citta becomes calm and to what degree will depend on the ability of each person. If the Citta is very calm, there will be a great deal of happiness and this is the first step of the training.

The value of the mind will then be apparent because there is nothing greater than a quiet mind. I would ask you to try to have your minds steadily overcome the difficulties and laziness, which are usually in control. We believe that we cannot overcome them because we have seen their power, but if we think we are able to challenge them, and if we really do fight them, then the time will arrive when we do overcome them. We still hear of victories in regard to such things as sports and such like, but with regard to Kilesas (defilements) we only hear of giving in to them. Perhaps this is because we fall on our faces before the Kilesas and let them walk all over us.

Citta likes to go wherever it pleases and in whatever the Citta does, it is not afraid of doing wrong, nor is it afraid of danger. If mindfulness does not restrain it, it may stray and go for unchecked pleasure seeking, possessed by Kilesas. But if the Citta is trained and controlled by mindfulness, it will slowly become disciplined and the Kilesas can then be eradicated. When it is accompanied by wisdom (Pañña) which investigates and extracts the Kilesas, the Citta will become clearer and brighter and one will discover the Citta is becoming more and more subtle and it has more strength and power. The Citta can become pure through the practice of meditation, but one cannot understand the Citta merely by reading books, for one can only come to know the real Citta by practicing the way. Then one will gradually come to see the true nature of the Citta a little more each time until one sees it clearly and all doubts vanish. Practice is therefore extremely important if one wants to know the Citta, because one can come to know the real Citta absolutely clearly and eliminate all doubts by means of practice. There is no other way in which one can come to know.


People in England study Buddhism from books. They do not know that there is a Citta and Buddhism is not taught here according to the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta. The result is that people are led to understand that the Citta is mindfulness and wisdom. I therefore think it necessary for Ven. Paññavaddho to have the Venerable Acharn give us some understanding of the Citta.

Ven Paññavaddho to the Venerable Acharn in Thai:

People here in England understand “Citta” to mean thinking and that the Citta is divided into those forms of the Citta which come from seeing, hearing, & touching; in other words, “consciousness” (Viññāṇa).


That aspect of the Citta which arises when something comes into contact with eyes, ears, nose, etc., and which knows and receives that contact is called “consciousness” (Viññana). It arises and ceases together with that contact. As for the Citta which waits and knows these things, it does not cease together with the consciousness when it ceases, it does not cease even though the body ceases, for it will go on and take rebirth in the future. There is no end to it if the “sap of the heart” which is the Kilesas and Ignorance (Avijja) are still in the heart. But when this “sap” has been removed from the heart, there is an end to continual becoming and birth, as happened with the Buddha and his arahant disciples.

Reference: The Dhamma Teachings of Acariya Maha Boowa in London:


Become love

Another one from the Irish Mindfulness blog


If you want to know God,
become love. If you want
to know others, become love.
If you want to know yourself,
become love. And if you want
to know love, forget all you
thought you knew or needed
to know, and become love

Meister Eckhart, 1260 – c. 1328, German theologian, philosopher and mystic

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Guanyin, gender-neutral bodhisattva

The Guanyin of Nanshan is a 108-metre statue of the bodhisattva Guanyin, sited on the south coast of China’s island province Hainan near the Nanshan Temple of Sanya.

Guanyin is the Chinese translation of Avalokiteśvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who chose to stay on earth as accessible examples for Buddhist faithful to follow. Originally depicted as a male or gender-neutral entity able to take on thirty-three manifestations, Avalokiteśvara is a compassionate savior who hears the woes of humankind, regardless of age, gender, or social class.

However, in imperial China, Guanyin became increasingly cemented as a female figure. Similar to the Virgin Mary, Guanyin became a popular intercessor for humanity to understand divine salvation. While there are a few different names to refer to this Bodhisattva, there are even more different forms that Guanyin can take when appearing to sentient beings in order to guide them away from suffering.

Traditionally, China was a very patriarchal society; a system reinforced by Confucian principles which put pressure on women to obey their husbands and give birth to sons (instead of daughters). As a result, women were generally the ones asking for Guanyin’s help in order to achieve these goals. In addition, it was thought that a woman must commit to one man for her whole life (even after his death), therefore it seemed more appropriate for a woman to worship a deity in female form. In this way, Guanyin starts to take on more feminine qualities such as kindness and grace and, in female form, she is seen as more accessible to women.

It is believed that Guanyin is androgynous or perhaps without gender. According to the Mahāyāna sūtras, it makes no difference whether Guanyin is male, female, or genderless, as the ultimate reality is in emptiness (Skt. śūnyatā). Guanyin can take the form of any type of God including Indra or Brahma; any type of Buddha, as well as any gender male or female, adult or child, human or non-human being, in order to teach the Dharma to all sentient beings.

This post comprises excerpts from:

Wikipedia Guanyin page

Guanyin: the Bodhisatva of Great Compassion

the timeless time

[Excerpts from an article by Loch Kelly in “When am I?” : Tricycle : September 08, 2015. The writer explains something about the present moment that’s held my attention for a long time, vis-à-vis the concept of present moment awareness as in “Postcards from the Present Moment” :]

In Tibetan Buddhism, the Now is considered the “timeless time” that includes the three relative times of past, present, and future. We know not to get caught in the past or the future, but in order to be in the Now, we also have to let go of the present. The Now is not confined by relative clock time, yet it is also not pure timelessness. The Now is the meeting place of timeless spacious awareness with the relative world and its conventional time. The Now does not come and go, but includes everything all at once. When we’re aware of being in the Now, present moments come and go, like ripples and waves in the ocean of awake awareness.

We cannot enter present moments because they move too fast and change continuously. Contemporary Tibetan Buddhist teacher Mingyur Rinpoche says, “If you examine even the present moment carefully, you find that it also is made up of earlier and later moments. In the end, if you keep examining the present moment, you find that there is no present moment that exists either.”

One of the great insights we can get from mindfulness meditation practice is that each moment of experience arises and passes. Having a direct experience of this impermanence, from observing awareness, helps us let go of the attempt to calcify any single moment of time, to try to make something stable that is not. When we really get a feeling for the coming and going of moments, it helps us break the illusion of a solid, separate self, which gives us relief from suffering.

The present time is not the Now. When Gampopa, an 11th-century Buddhist teacher, said, “Don’t invite the future. Don’t pursue the past. Let go of the present. Relax right now,” he was pointing to the fact that trying to locate yourself in any of the three relative times, including the present, can cause suffering – it’s not always a benefit to strive to be in the present. While working as a psychotherapist, I saw that the distinguishing feature of clinical depression is feeling stuck in the present. As one client said, “It feels like there is only this present, unbearable pain and no hope of it changing.”

The most important thing to know is that we are always already in the Now—however, we are not always aware of being in the Now. You can only know the Now from awake awareness. Many of us have experienced being in the Now when we were “in the zone” or in a panoramic flow state, but we can’t be aware of being in the Now from our everyday, ego-identified state of mind. We can shift through the door of the Now into awake awareness, or when abiding in awake awareness, we can begin to notice the feeling of being in the Now. The purpose of clarifying and distinguishing the Now from the present and present moment is for us to be able to shift into being in the Now and know we are here.

From Shift Into Freedom: The Science and Practice of Open-hearted Awareness, by Loch Kelly.

(Photo: Phuket coastal palms by Penn B.)

Daily prayers

Another beauty from Mindful Balance


What I know in my bones is that I forgot to take time to remember what I know.

The world is holy. We are holy. All life is holy.

Daily prayers are delivered on the lips of breaking waves, the whisperings of grasses, the shimmering of leaves.

Terry Tempest Williams, 1955 – American writer, educator, conservationist, Talking to God: Portrait of a World at Prayer.

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Creating the future

This reminded me of the Dhamma Footsteps theme, Postcards from the Present Moment: “having a lovely time, wish you were here!”


Now is the only time.

How we relate to it creates the future.

In other words, if we’re going to be more cheerful in the future, it’s because of our aspiration and exertion to be cheerful in the present. What we do accumulates; the future is the result of what we do right now.

Pema Chodron, When things fall apart

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