Edward Salim Michael : The fight to master the mind


The aspirant must realise, that, whichever spiritual path he is committed to, there can be no guarantee in succeeding to know, in a veritable way, the Infinite dwelling in him. Among all those who followed a given path, very few have attained this so out-of-the-ordinary goal. An uncompromising honesty towards oneself, a maximum of scruples, a painful sincerity and an extreme seriousness represent the only guarantee there can be in this domain – as is depicted by the life of great mystics.

         Any form of concentration, in a meditation practice, when accomplished by the aspirant with the required seriousness, implies without doubt some suffering at the outset – suffering that he cannot in any way avoid – and, according to his level of being, even perhaps for a long time.

         He will notice that, as soon as he will want to control the aimless wanderings of his mind, the force of habits being too strong, he will encounter a strong refusal in him; and the fight he will have to lead to win over this resistance will produce, at the beginning of this work on himself, suffering, until the day when he will become able – at least to a certain degree – to master his mind.

Translated from French ‘S’éveiller, une question de vie ou de mort’
(To Awaken, a Matter of Life and Death) chap 6

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Jalal-uddin Rumi : Past and future veil God from our sight

« Past and future veil God from our sight ;
Burn up both of them with fire. How long
Wilt thou be partitioned by these segments, like a reed ?
So long as a reed is partitioned, it is note privy to secrets,
Nor is it vocal in response to lip and breathing. »


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Kobori Roshi : There is a Buddha for those who do not know what he is really

kobori roshi

There is a Buddha for those who do not know what he is really, there is no Buddha for those who know what he is really

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Bhagavad-Gita : Continually, remembers Me

bhagavad-gita12-13. All the doors of the senses closed, the mind shut in into the heart, the life-force taken up out of its diffused movement into the head, the intelligence concentrated in the utterance of the sacred syllable OM and its conceptive thought in the remembrance of the supreme Godhead, he who goes forth, abandoning the body, he attains to the highest status.

14. He who continually remembers Me, thinking of none else, the Yogin, O Partha, who is in constant union with Me, finds Me easy to attain.

15. Having come to me, these great souls come not again to birth, this transient and painful condition of our mortal being; they reach the highest perfection.

16. The highest heavens of the cosmic plan are subject to a return to rebirth, but, O Kaunteya, there is no rebirth imposed on the soul that comes to Me (the Purushottama).

Bhagavad-Gita chap 8

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Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo : Virya Paramita or Effort


tenzin palmoContemplating viryaparamita, or the perfection of effort, leads us to the question of enthusiastic energy. Does the idea itself make you feel exhausted? We never can accomplish anything if we don’t really try, if we don’t have some ongoing perseverance. On the spiritual path, the two qualities most needed are patience and perseverance. For instance, many people who want to meditate do sit down but after only two or three sessions they say, “Oh, I can’t meditate. Too many thoughts.” And they give up. Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without diligence, without perseverance, without effort. When they train for the Olympics, athletes are completely one-pointed. They change their diet and give up smoking and alcohol. They get up early; they go to bed early. They train the whole day long. Everything else is sacri­ficed. And for what? To get a medal.

In Buddhism, laziness is described as being of three types. First, there is the laziness that says, “Yes, I like going to the Dharma center, I like medi­tating, but there is a really good movie on television, so sorry.” It is the kind of laziness in which we have lots of enthusiasm for something that we really want to do, but when it comes to meditation or any kind of serious Dharma reading, suddenly we find ourselves saying, “Oh goodness, I am so tired. I’ll do my practice later when I have time.” It is the kind of laziness in which we remember what a late night we had the night before, and that’s the end of that. We all suffer from this gross kind of laziness, which is easy to recognize.

The second kind of laziness is the laziness that comes when we are unable to practice because we feel so unworthy. The conviction that everyone else but me can practice and meditate and get realizations—”I can’t because I always fail at everything; I did try to meditate but I couldn’t do it because I have too many thoughts”—that is laziness. The sense that we can’t do the practice because of this or that is not regarded as humility but rather as gross laziness. We are shirking. We all have buddha nature; all we have to do is to discover it. Therefore, it is not a question of being higher or lower or unworthy. Unworthy of what? We all have the potential of being enlightened; we all have this human birth; we all have some intelligence.

The third kind of laziness refers to being so busy with mundane activities, even Dharma activities, that we have no time for inner cultivation. Whatever excuse we make to ourselves does not matter. If we find ourselves filling up our days with things to do week after week, month after month, year after year, we never have time to go inside. Even if we are like rodents on a wheel, that is still laziness. We are avoiding the real task. Our task here is first to realize our innate Buddha nature, and anything which takes us away from that is just avoidance.

Into the Heart of Life


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To those who have meditated much

Yama_tibet“To those who have meditated much, the real Truth dawned as soon as the body and consciousness-principle part. The acquiring of experience while living is important : they who have (then) recognized (the true nature of their own being), and thus have had some experience, obtain great power during the Bardo of the Moment of Death, when the Clear Light dawneth.”

“Now, if thou art to hold fast to the real Truth, thou must allow thy mind to rest undistractedly in the nothing-to-do, nothing-to-hold condition of the unobscured, primordial, bright, void state of thy intellect, to which thou hast been introduced by thy guru.”

The Tibetan Book of the Dead

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Edward Salim Michael : Practice of spiritual exercises

An earnest seeker should be deeply concerned each time he is confronted with his rebellious mind, with its lazy habits, instability, attachments, elusiveness, and slovenly ways of working. These he will have to study and try intelligently to contend with, both during his meditation and when he is engaged in doing his various spiritual exercises in outer life. He will certainly feel the great need to find means of some sort by which he can struggle to control his disobedient mind and obtain a little freedom from its incessant and meaningless wanderings, at least during the moments when he wants to concentrate on his spiritual practices.


            Just as a dancer cannot restrict himself to practicing one body movement only and hope to reach a certain standard in himself from which he can express sublime artistic sentiments, so, and to an even greater extent, a seeker needs to practice different spiritual exercises to match the different difficulties and problems he encounters in himself and the outside world—exercises that are essential to him to help him in this mysterious inner journey until he finally arrives at the discovery of his true being, that which is Divine in him. He has to be equipped with every possible means to sustain him

The Law of Attention, chapter 38

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Brother Lawrence : I feel joys so continual and so great

If we were well accustomed to the exercise of the presence of God, all bodily diseases would be much alleviated thereby. God often permits that whe should suffer a little to purify our souls and oblige us to continue with Him.

priere oratoire

Take courage; offer Him your pains incessantly; pray to Him for strength to endure them. Above all, get a habit of entertaining yourself often with God, and forget Him the least you can. Adore Him in your infirmities, offer yourself to Him from time to time, and in the height of your sufferings beseech Him humbly and affectionately (as a child his father) to make you conformable to His holy will. I shall endeavor to assist you with my poor prayers.

God has many ways of drawing us to Himself. He sometimes hides Himself from us; but faith alone, which will not fail us in time of need, ought to be our support, and the foundation of our confidence, which must be all in God.

I know not how God will dispose of me. I am always happy. All the world suffer; and I, who deserve the severest discipline, feel joys so continual and so great that I can scarce contain them.

I would willingly ask of God a part of your sufferings, but that I know my weakness, which is so great that if He left me one moment to myself I should be the most wretched man alive. And yet I know not how He can leave me alone, because faith gives me as strong a conviction as sense can do that He never forsakes us until we have first forsaken Him. Let us fear to leave Him. Let us be always with Him. Let us live and die in His presence. Do you pray for me as I for you.

I am,  Yours, etc.

Brother Lawrence (Practice of the Presence of God -  Twelfth Letter to a nun)

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Is Enlightenment just a myth ? Approaches to Enlightenment

On a meditation retreat several years ago, late one evening after the Dharma talk, a woman raised her hand and asked one last question: “Is enlightenment just a myth?” When we teachers went back to our evening meeting, we asked each other this question. We exchanged stories about the creative freedom of Ajahn Chah, the enormous field of metta around Dipa Ma, the joyous laughter of Poonja, and of our own awakenings. Of course there is enlightenment.

But the word enlightenment is used in different ways, and that can be confusing. Is Zen, Tibetan, Hindu or Theravada enlightenment the same? What is the difference between an enlightenment experience and full enlightenment? What do enlightened people look like?




Early on in my practice in Asia, I was forced to deal with these questions quite directly. My teachers, Ajahn Chah in Thailand and Mahasi Sayadaw in Burma, were both considered among the most enlightened masters of Theravada Buddhism. While they both described the goal of practice as free-dom from greed, hatred and delusion, they didn’t agree about how to attain enlightenment, nor how it is experienced. I started my monastic training practicing in community with Ajahn Chah. Then I went to study in a monastery of Mahasi Sayadaw, where the path of liberation focuses entirely on long silent meditation retreats.

In the Mahasi system, you sit and walk for weeks in the retreat context and continuously note the arising of breath, thought, feelings and sensations over and over until the mindfulness is so refined there is nothing but instantaneous arising and passing. You pass through stages of luminosity, joy, fear and the dissolution of all you took to be solid. The mind becomes unmoving, resting in a place of stillness and equanimity, transparent to all experience, thoughts and fears, longings and love. Out of this there comes a dropping away of identity with anything in this world, an opening to the unconditioned beyond mind and body; you enter into the stream of liberation. As taught by Mahasi Sayadaw, this first taste of stream-entry to enlightenment requires purification and strong concentration leading to an experience of cessation that begins to uproot greed, hatred and delusion.

When I returned to practice in Ajahn Chah’s community following more than a year of silent Mahasi retreat, I recounted all of these experiences—dissolving my body into light, profound insights into emptiness, hours of vast stillness and freedom. Ajahn Chah understood and appreciated them from his own deep wisdom. Then he smiled and said, “Well, something else to let go of.” His approach to enlightenment was not based on having any particular meditation experience, no matter how profound. As Ajahn Chah described them, meditative states are not important in themselves. Meditation is a way to quiet the mind so you can practice all day long wherever you are; see when there is grasping or aversion, clinging or suffering; and then let it go. What’s left is enlightenment, always found here and now, a release of identification with the changing conditions of the world, a resting in awareness. This involves a simple yet profound shift of identity from the myriad, ever-changing conditioned states to the unconditioned consciousness—the awareness which knows them all. In Ajahn Chah’s approach, release from entanglement in greed, hatred and delusion does not happen through retreat, concentration and cessation but from this profound shift in identity.

How can we understand these seemingly different approaches to enlightenment? The Buddhist texts contain some of the same contrasting descriptions. In many texts, nirvana is described in the language of negation, and as in the approach taught by Mahasi Sayadaw, enlightenment is presented as the end of suffering through the putting out of the fires of craving, the uprooting of all forms of clinging. The elimination of suffering is practiced by purification and concentration, by confronting the forces of greed and hate and overcoming them. When the Buddha was asked, “Do you teach annihilation? Is nirvana the end of things as we know them?” he responded, “I teach only one form of annihilation: the extinction of greed, the extinction of hatred, the extinction of delusion. This I call nirvana.”

There is in the texts, as well, a more positive way of understanding enlightenment. Here nirvana is described as the highest happiness; as peace, freedom, purity, stillness; and as the unconditioned, the timeless, the undying. In this understanding, as in Ajahn Chah’s approach, liberation comes through a shift of identity—a release from attachment to the changing conditions of the world, a resting in consciousness itself, the deathless.

In this understanding, liberation is a shift of identity from taking anything as “self.” Asked, “How is it that one is not to be seen by the king of death?” the Buddha responded, “For one who takes nothing whatsoever as I or me or mine, such a one is freed from the snares of the king of death.” In just this way, Ajahn Chah instructed us to rest in awareness and not identify with any experience as I or mine.

Jack Kornfield -  Inquirind Mind 2010

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Gospel of Thomas : When you come to know yourselves, then you will be known

(3) Jesus says:

oiseaux_ciel(1) “If those who lead you say to you: ‘Look, the kingdom is in the sky!’

then the birds of the sky will precede you.

(2) If they say to you: ‘It is in the sea,’

then the fishes will precede you.

(3) Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and outside of you.”

(4) “When you come to know yourselves, then you will be known,

and you will realize that you are the children of the living Father.

(5) But if you do not come to know yourselves, then you exist in poverty, and you are poverty.”

Gospel of Thomas

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