Thick Nhat Hanh is a famous Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk who wrote many books on incorporating Buddhism teachings in modern life. In this post, I include some quotes from the book.

The Four Noble Truths

Entering the heart of the Buddha

  • For forty-five years, the Buddha said, over and over again, ‘I teach only suffering and the transformation of suffering.’

  • The Buddha called suffering a Holy Truth, because our suffering has the capacity of showing us the path to liberation.

The first dharma talk

  • The Buddha said, ‘Dear friends, I have seen deeply that nothing can be by itself alone, that everything has to inter-be with everything else. I have seen that all beings are endowed with the nature of awakening.’

  • Three points characterize this sutra. The first is the teaching of the Middle Way. The Buddha wanted his five friends to be free from the idea that austerity is the only correct practice. He had learned first hand that if you destroy your health, you have no energy left to realize the path. The other extreme to be avoided, he said, is indulgence in sense pleasure – being possessed by sexual desire, running after fame, eating immoderately, sleeping too much, or chasing after possessions.

  • The second point is the teaching of the Four Noble Truths.

  • The third point is engagement in the world.

The four noble truths

  • The First Noble Truth is suffering (dukkha). The root meaning of the Chinese character for suffering is ‘bitter’.

  • The Second Noble Truth is the origin, roots, nature, creation, or arising (samudaya) of suffering.

  • The Third Noble Truth is the cessation (nirodha) of creating suffering by refraining from doing the things that make us suffer.

  • The Fourth Noble Truth is the path (marga) that leads to refraining from doing the things that cause us to suffer.

Understanding the Buddha’s teaching

  • When we hear a Dharma talk or study a sutra, our only job is to remain open. Usually when we hear or read something new, we just compare it to our own ideas. If it is the same, we accept it and say that it is correct. If it is not, we say it is incorrect. In either case, we learn nothing.

  • Source Buddhism includes all the teachings the Buddha gave during his lifetime.

  • The Pali canon contains the recension that originated with the Tamrashatiya school, and the Chinese and Tibetan canons contain recensions from a number of other schools, Sarvastivada being the most prominent.The Sarvastivada and the Tamrashatiya recensions were written down at about the same time. The former was written down in Pali and the latter in Sanskrit.

  • By comparing the equivalent sutras in the Pali and Chinese canons, we can see which teaching must have preceded Buddhism’s dividing into schools.

  • These three streams complement one anohter. It was impossible for Source Buddhism to remember everything the Buddha had taught, so it was necessary for Schools’ Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism to renew teachings that had been forgotten or overlooked.

  • The Buddha said many times, ‘My teaching is like a finger pointing to the moon. Do not mistake the finger for the moon.’

  • ‘For forty-five years, I have not uttered a single word.’ He did not want his disciples to be caught by words or notions, even his own.

Is everything suffering?

  • Impermanence and nonself are ‘universal.’ They are a ‘mark’ of all things. Suffering is not.

  • In several sutras the Buddha taught that nirvana, the joy of completely extinguishing our ideas and concepts, rather than suffering, is one of the Three Dharma Seals.

  • Another common misunderstanding of the Buddha’s teaching is that all of our suffering is caused by craving.

Stopping, calming, resting, healing

  • Buddhist meditation has two aspects – shamatha and vipashyana. We tend to stress the importance of vipashyana (‘looking deeply’) because it can bring us insight and liberate us from suffering and afflictions. But the practice of shamatha (‘stopping’) is fundamental. If we cannot stop, we cannot have insight.

  • There is a story in Zen circles about a man and a horse. The horse is galloping quickly, and it appears that the man on the horse is going somewhere important. Another man, standing alongside the road, shouts, ‘Where are you going?’ and the first man replies, ‘I don’t know! Ask the horse!’ This is also our story. The horse is our habit energy pulling us along, and we are powerless.

  • The first function of meditation - shamatha - is to stop.

  • The second function of shamatha is calming.

  • After calming, the third function of shamatha is resting.

  • Calming allows us to rest, and resting is a precondition for healing.

  • The Buddha said, ‘My Dharma is the practice of nonpractice.’

Touching our suffering

  • To understand the Four Noble Truths, not just intellectually but experientially, we have to practice the twelve turnings of the wheel.

  • The first turning is called ‘Recognition.’

  • The Buddha said that to suffer and not know that we are suffering is more painful than the burden endured by a mule carrying an unimaginably heavy load.

  • The wounds in our heart become the object of our meditation.

  • The second turning of the wheel is called ‘Encouragement.’

  • The third turning of the wheel is called ‘Realization’ and can be expressed as, ‘This suffering has been understood.’

  • The Buddha said, ‘When something has come to be, we have to acknowledge its presence and look deeply into its nature. When we look deeply, we will discover the kinds of nutriments that have helped it come to be and that continue to feed it.’

  • The first nutriment is edible food.

  • The Buddha said, ‘Yet many people eat the flesh of their parents, their children, and their grandchildren and do not know it.’

  • The second kind of nutriment is sense impressions. Our six sense organs - eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind - are in constant contact (sparsha) with sense objects, and these contacts become food for our consciousness.

  • If after reading the newspaper, hearing the news, or being in a conversation, we feel anxious or worn out, we know we have been in contact with toxins.

  • The Buddha offered this drastic image: ‘There is a cow with such a terrible skin disease that her skin is almost no longer there. When you bring her close to an ancient wall or old tree, all the living creatures in the bark of the tree come out, cling to the cow’s body, and suck. When we bring her into the water, the same thing happens. Even when she is just exposed to the air, tiny insects come and suck.’ Then the Buddha said, ‘This is our situation, too.’

  • Use your Buddha eyes to look at each nutriment you are about to ingest. If you see that it is toxic, refuse to look at it, listen to it, taste it, or touch. Ingest only what you are certain is safe.

  • The third kind of nutriment is volition, intention, or will - the desire in us to obtain whatever it is that we want. Volition is the ground of all our actions.

  • We need the insight that position, revenge, wealth, fame, or possessions are, more often than not, obstacles to our happiness.

  • After the farmer went off in that direction, the Buddha turned to his Sangha and said, ‘Dear fiends, do you know you are the happiest people on Earth? You have no cows or sesame plants to lose.’

  • The Buddha advised us to look deeply into the nature of our volition to see whether it is pushing us in the direction of liberation, peace, and compassion or in the direction of suffering and unhappiness. We need to be able to see the kinds of intention-food that we are consuming.

  • The food of consciousness is the fourth of the four kinds of food.

  • The Buddha offered another dramatic image to illustrate this: ‘A dangerous murderer was captured and brought before the king, and the king sentenced him to death by stabbing. ‘Take him to the courtyard and plunge three hundred sharp knives through him.’ At noon a guard reported, ‘Majesty, he is still alive,’ and the king declared, ‘Stab him three hundred more times!’ In the evening, the guard again told the king, ‘Majesty, he is not yet dead.’ So the king gave the third order: ‘Plunge the three hundred sharpest knives in the kingdom through him.’’ Then the Buddha said, ‘This is how we usually deal with our consciousness.’

  • Shariputra, one of the Buddha’s great disciples, said, ‘When something takes place, if we look at it deeply in the heart of reality, seeing its source and the food that nourishes it, we are already on the path of liberation.’

  • Some people think that to end suffering, you have to stop everything - body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness - but that is not correct.

  • Confucius said, ‘At thirty, I was able to stand on my own fee. At forty, I had no more doubts. At fifty, I knew the mandate of Earth and Sky. At sixty, I could do what I wanted without going against the path.’

Realizing well-being

  • The cessation of suffering - well-being - is available if you know how to enjoy the precious jewels you already have.

  • Don’t run away from things that are unpleasant in order to embrace things that are pleasant.

  • Many people are awakened during a difficult period in their lives, when they see that living irresponsibly has been the cause of their suffering, and that by transforming their lifestyle they can bring an end to their suffering.

  • ‘Understanding things as they are’ (yatha bhuta jnana) emerges from our life and our practice.

  • Interbeing is an important characteristic of all the Buddha’s teachings. When you touch one, you touch all.

  • The Buddha said, ‘The moment you know how your suffering came to be, you are already on the path of release from it.’

The Noble Eightfold Path

The noble eightfold path

  • When you have the opportunity to ask a teacher about the Dharma, ask a question that can change your life.

  • Ar ya ashtangika marga (‘a noble path of eight limbs’) suggests the interbeing nature of these eight elements of the path.

Right View

  • The Buddha said that Right View is to have faith and confidence that there are people who have been able to transform their suffering. Venerable Shariputra added that Right View is knowing which of the four kinds of nutriments that we have ingested have brought about what has come to be.

  • Shariputra described Right View as the ability to distinguish wholesome roots (kushala mula) from unwholesome roots (akushala mula).

  • The seed of Buddhahood, the capacity to wake up and understand things as they are, is also present in each of us.

  • At the base of our views are our perceptions (samjna).

  • The Buddha advised us not to be fooled by what we perceive. He told Subhuti, ‘Where there is perception, there is deception.’ The Buddha also taught on many occasions that most of our perceptions are erroneous, and that most of our suffering comes from wrong perceptions.

  • We believe that the object of our perception is outside of the subject, but that is not correct.

  • Perception means the coming into existence of the perceiver and the perceived.

  • It is impossible to have a subject without an object. It is impossible to remove one and retain the other.

  • We have an idea of happiness. We believe that only certain conditions will make us happy. But it is often our very idea of happiness that prevents us from being happy. We have to look deeply into our perceptions in order to become free of them. Then, what has been a perception becomes an insight, a realization of the path. This is neither perception nor non-perception. It is a clear vision, seeing things as they are.

  • Master Tai Xu said, ‘As long as the tree is behind you, you can see only its shadow. If you want to touch the reality, you have to turn around.’

  • Relatively speaking, there are right views and there are wrong views. But if we look more deeply, we see that all views are wrong views. No view can ever be the truth.

Right Thinking

  • Thinking has two parts - initial thought (vitarka) and developing thought (vichara).

  • In the first stage of meditative concentration (dhyana), both kinds of thinking are present. In the second stage, neither is there.

  • There are four practices related to Right Thinking:

    • ‘Are You Sure?’
    • ‘What Am I Doing?’
    • ‘Hello, Habit Energy.’
    • Bodhichitta.

Right Mindfulness

  • According to Buddhist psychology (abhidharma, ‘super Dharma’), the trait ‘attention’ (manaskara) is ‘universal’, which means we are always giving our attention to something.

  • The First Miracle of Mindfulness is to be present and able to touch deeply the blue sky, the flower, and the smile of our child.

  • The Second Miracle of Mindfulness is to make the other - the sky, the flower, our child - present, also.

  • The Third Miracle of Mindfulness is to nourish the object of your attention.

  • The Fourth Miracle of Mindfulness is to relieve the other’s suffering.

  • The Fifth Miracle of Mindfulness is looking deeply (vipashyana), which is also the second aspect of meditation.

  • The Sixth Miracle of Mindfulness is understanding.

  • The Seventh Miracle of Mindfulness is transformation.

  • In the Discourse on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness (Satipatthana Sutta), the Buddha offers four objects for our mindfulness practice: our body, our feeling, our mind, and the objects of our mind.

  • The first establishment is ‘mindfulness of the body in the body.’

  • We begin by noting all of our body’s positions and movements.

  • The second way the Buddha taught us to practice mindfulness of the body in the body is to recognize all of our body’s parts, from the top of our head to the soles of our feet.

  • The third method the Buddha offered for practicing mindfulness of the body in the body is to see the elements that it is made of: earth, water, fire, and air.

  • The second establishment is mindfulness of the feelings in the feelings.

  • The practice of not clinging to or rejecting feelings is an important part of meditation.

  • The third establishment is mindfulness of the mind (chitta) in the mind.

  • ‘Formations’ (samskara) is a technical term in Buddhism. Anything that is ‘formed,’ anything that is made of something else, is a formation.

  • The basic unwholesome mental formations are greed, hatred, ignorance, pride, doubt, and views.

  • The fourth establishment is mindfulness of phenomena (dharmas) in phenomena. ‘Phenomena’ means ‘the objects of our mind’.

  • When observing dharmas, five kinds of meditation can help us calm our minds:
    • counting the breath
    • observing interdependent arising
    • observing impurity
    • observing with love and compassion
    • observing the different realms
  • The conditioned realm belongs to the historical dimension. It is the wave. The unconditioned realm belongs to the ultimate dimension. It is the water.

Right Speech

  • The classical explanation of Right Speech is :
    • Speaking truthfully.
    • Not speaking with a forked tongue.
    • Not speaking cruelly.
    • Not exaggerating or embellishing.
  • The truth must be presented in ways that others can accept. Words that damage or destroy are not Right Speech. Before you speak, understand the person you are speaking to. Consider each word carefully before you say anything, so that your speech is ‘Right’ in both form and content.

  • If you are not able to speak calmly, then don’t speak that day.

  • Capable of practicing silence, we are free as bird, in touc with the essence of things. The founder of one of the schools of Vietnamese Zen Buddhism wrote, ‘Don’t ask me anything else. My essence is wordless.’

Right Action

  • Right Action (samyak karmanta) means Right Action of the body. It is the practice of touching love and preventing harm, the practice of nonviolence toward ourselves and others.

  • The First Training is about reverence for life.

  • The Second Mindfulness Training is about generosity.

  • The Third Mindfulness Training is about sexual responsibility.

  • The Fifth Mindfulness Training encourages mindful eating, drinking, and consuming.

Right Diligence

  • We may appear diligent in our practice, but if it takes us farther from reality or from those we love, it is wrong diligence.

  • The four practices usually associated with Right Diligence are:
    • preventing unwholesome seeds in our store consciousness that have not yet arisen from arising.
    • helping the unwholesome seeds that have already arisen to return to our store consciousness.
    • finding ways to water the wholesome seeds in our store consciousness that have not yet arisen and asking our friends to do the same.
    • nourishing the wholesome seeds that have already arisen so that they will stay present in our mind consciousness and grow stronger.
  • The Fourfold Right Diligence is nourished by joy and interest.

  • ‘The practice of the Way is the same,’ the Buddha said. ‘Maintain your health. Be joyful. Do not force yourself to do things you cannot do.’

  • If we lack Right Diligence, it is because we have not found a way to practice that is true for us, or have not felt deeply the need to practice.

  • If you suppress yourself, if you suffer during your practice, it probably is not Right Diligence.

Right concentration

  • There are two kinds of concentration, active and selective. In active concentration, the mind dwells on whatever is happening in the present moment, even as it changes.

  • When we practice ‘selective concentration’, we choose one object and hold onto it.

  • There are nine levels of meditative concentration. The first four are the Four Dhyanas. These are concentrations on the form realm. The next five levels belong to the formless realm. When practicing the first dhyana, you still think. At the other eight levels, thinking gives way to other energies.

  • When you use concentration to run away from yourself or your situation, it is wrong concentration.

  • The object of the fifth level of concentration is limitless space.

  • The object of the sixth level of concentration is limitless consciousness.

  • The object of the seventh level of concentration is nothingness.

  • The eighth level of concentration is that of neither perception nor non-perception.

  • The ninth level of concentration is called cessation. ‘Cessation’ here means the cessation of ignorance in our feelings and perceptions, not the cessation of feelings and perceptions.

  • The seventh consciousness is the energy of delusion that creates the belief in a self and distinguishes self from others.

  • Manas becomes the Wisdom of Equality that can see the interbeing and interpenetrating nature of things.

  • When manas loses its grip on store consciousness, store consciousness becomes the Wisdom of the Great Mirror that reflects everything in the universe.

  • The wave does not need to die to become water. She is already water.

Right Livelihood

  • Right Livelihood is not just a personal matter. It is our collective karma.

Other Basic Buddhist Teachings

The two truths

  • According to Buddhism, there are two kinds of truth, relative or worldly truth (samvriti satya) and absolute truth (paramartha satya).

  • Many people think that in order to avoid suffering, they have to give up joy, and they call this ‘transcending joy and suffering.’ This is not correct.

  • ‘A human being is not a human being. That is why we can say what he is a human being.’ These are the dialectics of the Diamond Sutra. ‘A is not A. That is why it is truly A.’

The three dharma seals

  • The Three Dharma Seals (Dharma mudra) are impermanence (anitya), nonself (anatman), and nirvana. Any teaching that does not bear these Three Seals cannot be said to be a teaching of the Buddha.

  • From the point of view of time, we say ‘impermanence’, and from the point of view of space, we say ‘nonself.’

  • It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.

  • Nirvana is the complete silencing of concepts.

  • The practice to end attachment to these eight ideas is called the Eight No’s of the Middle Way - no birth and no death, no permanence and no dissolution, no coming and no going, no one and no many.

  • In the Sutra of Forty-Two Chapters, the Buddha says, ‘My practice is non-action, non-practice and non-realization.’

  • The Buddha taught that when suffering is present, we have to identify it and take the necessary steps to transform it. He did not teach that suffering is always present.

The three doors of liberation

  • The First Door of Liberation is emptiness, shunyata. Emptiness always means empty of something.

  • Emptiness does not mean nonexistence. It means Interdependent Co-Arising, impermanence, and nonself.

  • Emptiness is the Middle Way between existent and nonexistent.

  • The Second Door of Liberation is signlessness, animitta. ‘Sign’ here means an appearance or the object of our perception.

  • The Diamond sutra says, ‘Wherever there is a sign, there is deception, illusion.’

  • ‘If you see the signlessness of signs, you see the Tathagata.’ This is a sentence from the Diamond Sutra. Tathagata means ‘the wondrous nature of reality.’

  • The Third Door of Liberation is aimlessness, apranihita. There is nothing to do, nothing to realize, no program, no agenda.

  • The purpose of a rose is to be a rose. Your purpose is to be yourself. You don’t have to run anywhere to become someone else.

  • The Heart Sutra says that there is ‘nothing to attain.’ We meditate not to attain enlightenment, because enlightenment is already in us.

  • To have happiness in this moment is the spirit of aimlessness. Otherwise we will run in circles for the rest of our life.

The three bodies of Buddha

  • Dharmakaya, the source of enlightenment and happiness; Sambhogakaya, the body of bliss or enjoyment; and Nirmanakaya, the historical embodiment of the Buddha viewed as one of the many transformation bodies sent forth by the Dharmakaya.

  • Each of us has three bodies - a Dharma body, an enjoyment body , and a physical body.

The three jewels

  • During the Buddha’s last months, he always taught, ‘Take refuge in yourselves, not in anything else. In you are Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Don’t look for things that are far away. Everything is in your own heart. Be an island unto yourself.’

  • Buddha is our mindfulness. Dharma is our conscious breathing. Sangha is our Five Aggregates working in harmony.

  • Sangha is the fourfold community of monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen, as well as the other elements that support our practice - our cushion, our walking meditation path, the trees, the sky, and the flowers.

  • In the Diamond Sutra, the Buddha says, ‘If you look for me in forms and sounds, you will never see the Tathagata.’

The four immeasurable minds

  • Love in Sanskrit is maitri; in Pali it is metta. Compassion is karuna in both languages. Joy is mudita. Equanimity is upeksha in Sanskrit and upekkha in Pali.

  • The first aspect of true love is maitri, the intention and capacity to offer joy and happiness.

  • Without understanding, your love is not true love. You must look deeply in order to see and understand the needs, aspirations, and suffering of the one you love.

  • The second aspect of true love is karuna, the intention and capacity to relieve and transform suffering and lighten sorrows.

  • The third element of true love is mudita, joy.

  • The fourth element of true love is upeksha, which means equanimity, nonattachment, nondiscrimination, evenmindedness, or letting go.

  • Without upeksha, your love may become possessive.

The five aggregates

  • According to Buddhism, a human being is composed of Five Aggregates (skandhas): form, feelings, perceptions, metal formations, and consciousness.

  • Form (rupa) means our body, including our five sense organs and our nervous system.

  • The Second Aggregate is feelings (vedana).

  • Mediation is to be aware of each feeling.

  • Looking deeply into each feeling, we identify its roots as being in our body, our perceptions, or our deep consciousness.

  • The Third Aggregate is perceptions (samjna).

  • The aggregate of perception includes noticing, naming, and conceptualizing, as well as the perceiver and the perceived.

  • The Fourth Aggregate is mental formations (samskara).

  • Feelings and perceptions are mental formations, but because they are so important, they have their own categories.

  • Since we know that all mental formations are impermanent and without real substance, we do not identify ourselves with them or seek refuge in them.

  • In the Turning the Wheel Sutra, the Buddha said, ‘The Five Aggregates, when grasped at, are suffering.’

  • Meditate on the assembly of the Five Aggregates in yourself until you are able to see the oneness of your own self and the universe.

The five powers

  • The first of the five is faith (shraddha).

  • The second power if diligence (virya), the energy that brings joy into our practice.

  • The third power is mindfulness (smriti).

  • The fourth power is concentration (samadhi).

  • The fifth power is insight, or wisdom (prajna), the ability to look deeply and see clearly, and also the understanding that results from this practice.

  • There is a sixth power called ‘capacity’ or ‘inclusiveness’ (kshanti).

  • The Three Kinds of Pride are:

    • thinking I am better than the other(s);
    • thinking I am worse than the other(s);
    • thinking I am just as good as the other(s).

The six paramitas

  • The Buddha said, ‘Don’t just hope for the other shore to come to you. If you want to cross over to the other shore, the shore of safety, well-being, non-fear, and non-anger, you have to swim or row across. You have to make an effort.’ This effort is the practice of the Six Paramitas.
    • dana paramita - giving, offering, generosity.
    • shila paramita - precepts or mindfulness trainings.
    • kshanti paramita - inclusiveness, the capacity to receive, bear, and transform the pain inflicted on you by your enemies and also by those who love you.
    • virya paramita - diligence, energy, perseverance.
    • dhyana paramita - meditation.
    • prajna paramita - wisdom, insight, understanding.
  • The greatest gift we can offer anyone is our true presence.

  • What else can we give? Our stability.

  • What else can we give? Our freedom.

  • What else can we give? Our freshness.

  • What else can we offer? Peace.

  • What else can we offer? Space.

  • The Buddha said that when you are angry at someone, if you have tried everything and still feel angry, practice dana paramita.

  • What else can we offer? Understanding.

  • The First Mindfulness Training is about protecting the lives of human beings, animals, vegetables, and minerals.

  • The second is to prevent the exploitation by humans of other living beings and of nature.

  • The third is to protect children and adults from sexual abuse, to preserve the happiness of individuals and families.

  • The Fourth Mindfulness Training is to practice deep listening and loving speech. The Fifth Mindfulness Training is about mindful consumption.

  • If your heart is small, one unjust word or act will make you suffer. But if your heart is large, if you have understanding and compassion, that word or deed will not have the power to make you suffer.

  • If you nourish your hatred and your anger, you burn yourself. Understanding is the only way out.

  • The Buddha said that if one arrow strikes you, you’ll suffer. But if a second arrow hits you in the same spot, you’ll suffer one hundred times more. When you are a victim of injustice, if you get angry, you will suffer one hundred times more.

  • The fourth petal of the flower is virya paramita, the perfection of diligence, energy, or continuous practice.

  • The fifth crossing-over is dhyana paramita, the perfection of meditation.

  • The sixth petal of the flower is prajna paramita, the perfection of understanding.

  • Non-fear is the basis of true happiness. The greatest gift we can offer others is our non-fear.

  • Prajna paramita is the mother of all the paramitas, the Mother of All Buddhas.

The seven factors of awakening

  • The First and main Factor of Awakening - the first limb of the bodhi tree - is mindfulness (smriti). Smriti literally means ‘remembering’, not forgetting where we are, what we are doing, and who we are with.

  • Investigation of phenomena (dharma-pravichaya) is the Second Factor of Awakening.

  • The Third Factor of Awakening is virya, which means energy, effort, diligence, or perseverance.

  • Energy is not the result of good health alone or the wish to achieve some goal - material or spiritual. It is a result of feeling some meaning to our life.

  • The Fourth Factor of Awakening is ease (prashrabdhih). Diligence is always accompanied by ease.

  • Sitting meditation, walking meditation, and mindful eating are good opportunities for resting.

  • The Fifth Factor of Awakening is joy (priti). Joy goes with happiness (sukha), but there are differences.

  • The Sixth Factor of Awakening is concentration (samadhi).

  • The Seventh Factor of Awakening is equanimity or letting go (upeksha).

  • In the Kakacupama Sutta (Example of the Saw), the Buddha says, ‘Even if robbers cut your limbs off with a saw, if anger arises in you, you are not a follower of my teachings. To be a disciple of the Buddha, your heart must bear no hatred, you must utter no unkind words, you must remain compassionate, with no hostility or ill-will.’

  • When we transcend our idea of a separate self, our love will contain equanimity, knowing that we and others are truly the same.

  • According to the teaching of Interdependent Co-Arising, cause and effect co-arise (samutpada) and everything is a result of multiple causes and conditions.

  • The Buddha expressed Interdependent Co-Arising very simply: ‘This is, because that is. This is not, because that is not. This comes to be, because that comes to be. This ceases to be, because that ceases to be.’

  • The one can be seen in the all, and the all can be seen in the one. One cause is never enough to bring about an effect. A cause must, at the same time, be an effect, and every effect must also be the cause of something else. Cause and effect inter-are. The idea of a first or only cause, something that does not itself need a cause, cannot be applied.

  • According to the usual explanation of the Twelve Links, there is just the desire to escape from being. This gives rise to a huge misunderstanding, and people say that Buddhism just aims at removing being in order to arrive at nonbeing, and that Buddhism is a path that teaches nihilism, so that the aim of a Buddhist practitioner is nothingness, eternal death.

  • It was after the lifetime of the Buddha that teachers more often than not began with ignorance, to help prove why there is birth and death. Ignorance became a kind of first cause, even though the Buddha always taught that no first cause can be found. If ignorance exists, it is because there are causes that give rise to and deepen ignorance.

  • Ignorance nourishes formations, but formations also nourish ignorance. The tree gives rise to and nourishes its leaves, but the leaves also nourish the tree.

  • The Buddha taught that when ignorance ends, there is clear understanding. He didn’t say that when ignorance ends, there is nothing.

  • We do not need to throw away our body in order to experience liberation, and we should not see our body as a prison and obstacle for our mind.

Touching the Buddha within

  • Confucius said, ‘What greater joy can there be than putting into practice what you have learned?’

  • We begin the practice by seeking meaning for our life.