from Mountain Record 30.3, Spring 2012


  Impermanence - by Tenzin Palmo

...Life is unsatisfactory because it is always changing. It doesn’t have this solid core which we always hope to grasp. We want security, and we believe that our happiness lies in being secure. And so we try to make things permanent. We get houses which seem very permanent and we furnish them. We get ourselves into relationships which we hope will last forever. We have children and hope they may also consolidate this idea of an identity, something which will be constant. We have children, and we love our children, so our children will love us, and this will carry on for a long, long time all through our lives. Our children are our security.

But there is no security in this, because security is very insecure. True security only comes from comfort with insecurity. If we are at ease with the flow of things, if we are at ease with being insecure, then that is the greatest security, because nothing can throw us off balance. As long as we try to solidify, to stop the flow of the water, to dam it up, to keep things just the way they are because it makes us feel safe and protected, we’re in trouble. That attitude goes right against the whole flow of life...



 Impermanence: A Founation View - by Master Shen Yen

...There is an intrinsic link between impermanence as suffering and impermanence as emptiness. Our environment and all phenomena in it exist only temporarily. They are like reflections of the moon on the water—empty, illusory forms. Not knowing that emptiness means impermanence, we cling to phenomena and bring suffering upon ourselves.

If we understand that life is impermanent, full of suffering, and void of intrinsic reality, our problems will mitigate and we will know a thing or two about “no-self.” One student told me, “It’s no use trying to avoid the inevitable, and it’s no use pursuing what is not in one’s karma. What I can get, I work for; what I can solve, I solve. The rest, I let go. If I can’t let it go, I just accept it. My mind has become much calmer.” Studying Buddhism has been very useful to him...



 How to Be Hopeful - by Barbara Kingsolver

...The world shifts under our feet. The rules change. Not the Bill of Rights, or the rules of tenting, but the big unspoken truths of a generation. Exhaled by culture, taken in like oxygen, we hold these truths to be self-evident: you get what you pay for. Success is everything. Work is what you do for money, and that’s what counts. How could it be otherwise? And the converse of that last rule, of course, is that if you’re not paid to do a thing, it can’t be important. If a child writes a poem and proudly reads it, adults may wink and ask, “Think there’s a lot of money in that?” Being a good neighbor, raising children: the road to success is not paved with the likes of these. Some workplaces actually quantify your likelihood of being distracted by family or volunteerism. It’s called your coefficient of drag. The ideal number is zero. This is the Rule of Perfect Efficiency...



 Our Real Home - by Ajahn Chah

...The Buddha said that rich or poor, young or old, human or animal, no being in this world can maintain itself in any single state for long. Everything experiences change and deprivation. This is a fact of life we cannot remedy. But the Buddha said that what we can do is contemplate the body and mind to see their impersonality, to see that neither of them is “me” nor “mine.” They have only a provisional reality. Like your house, it’s only nominally yours. You couldn’t take it with you anywhere. The same applies to your wealth, your possessions, and your family—they’re yours only in name. They don’t really belong to you; they belong to nature.

Now this truth doesn’t apply to you alone; everyone is in the same boat—even the Lord Buddha and his enlightened disciples. They differed from us only in one respect, and that was their acceptance of the way things are. They saw that it could be no other way...



 Ten Thousand Joys & Ten Thousand Sorrows - by Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle

...In keeping with our agreement to communicate openly about the experience of mental loss, Hob would often make insightful observations about his own mind. Each one was like a treasure, or sometimes a landmine depending on what he’d brought forth; but either way, his insights revealed the awareness that so far continued to be there.

“They’re all here-—the perceptions, ideas, and inspirations. They come in as before, but now they seem more fleeting. They’re here, vivid, ready to express, but like a prairie dog, suddenly they disappear down the hole and they’re gone. This is what it’s like now—fleeting experiences of mind. Now it’s here. Now it’s gone.”

What a powerful teaching on the impermanence of mind, thoughts, any solid sense of self! His thoughts, he said, were like traces on a radar sceen. Some of them made strong, emotional marks, whereas others just floated through, leaving scarcely a trace. Some of those fleeting thoughts kicked up a strong reaction; others were like gossamer or milkweed on the wind—here, then suddenly gone...



 Cultivating the Empty Field - by Hongzhi Zhengjue

...The field of boundless emptiness is what exists from the very beginning. You must purify, cure, grind down, or brush away all the tendencies you have fabricated into apparent habits. Then you can reside in the clear circle of brightness. Utter emptiness has no image, upright independence does not rely on anything. Just expand and illuminate the original truth unconcerned by external conditions. Accordingly we are told to realize that not a single thing exists. In this field birth and death do not appear. The deep source, transparent down to the bottom, can radiantly shine and respond unencumbered to each speck of dust without becoming its partner. The subtlety of seeing and hearing transcends mere colors and sounds. The whole affair functions without leaving traces, and mirrors without obscurations. Very naturally mind and dharmas emerge and harmonize. An Ancient said that non-mind embodies and fulfills the way of non-mind. Embodying and fulfilling the way of non-mind, finally you can rest. Proceeding you are able to guide the assembly. With thoughts clear, sitting silently, wander into the center of the circle of wonder. This is how you must penetrate and study...



 Poems - by Ryokan Daigu

...Another year lingers to an end;
Heaven sends a bitter frost.
Fallen leaves cover the mountains
And there are no travelers to cast shadows on the path.
Endless night: dried leaves burn slowly in the hearth.
Occasionally, the sound of freezing rain.
Dizzy, I try to recall the past—
Nothing here but dreams...



 The Simile of the Snake: Alagaddupama Sutta - Translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi

..."Bhikkhus, a well-taught noble disciple who has regard for noble ones and is skilled and disciplined in their Dhamma, who has regard for true men and is skilled and disciplined in their Dhamma, regards material form thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ He regards feeling thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.” He regards perception thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ He regards formations thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ He regards what is seen, heard, sensed, cognized, encountered, sought, mentally pondered thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ And this standpoint for views, namely, ‘That which is the self is the world; after death I shall be permanent, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change; I shall endure as long as eternity’—this too he regards thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’

“Since he regards them thus, he is not agitated about what is non-existent.”...