Compassion and Wisdom in the Zenkondo Tradition

WisdomWhen we imagine that wisdom and compassion are somehow separate qualities we develop or adopt, we are caught up in delusion, for these two qualities are the essence of the Enlightened Mind itself.

If we attempt to cultivate wisdom, without compassion, we are left with meaningless platitudes and intellectual masturbation. The Tao tells us that without compassion, “(W)isdom degenerates into an escapist entanglement in concepts, theories and dogmas.” (In other words, wisdom without compassion degenerates into religion.)


Welcoming Pain and Sadness

Welcoming pain and sadness might seem counter-intuitive for some of us, but it should become part of our spiritual practice, if we ever want to be free from the control such experiences might seem to have over our lives.

spacious-and-concentrated-awarenessWhen we begin to welcome those things we associate or perceive as “negative” into our lives, we begin to open ourselves to the lessons they bring. Welcome pain with the same openness with which you open pleasure… sadness with the heart the welcomes joy… and soon you will become more aware of how these phenomena come and go very quickly in our lives. You begin to become more deeply present, and live takes on a richer, fuller texture, which is PURE AWARENESS and LOVE itself.

This spaciousness… what we call Pure Awareness… actually raises our vibrational level, allowing us to recognise that all phenomena, including pain and sadness, are our teachers.  We slowly begin to cease striving after that which we perceive as “pleasant”, or running from that which we perceive as “unpleasant”. And in the learning to simply abide calmly in the moment, we experience everything that we missed before.



Flopping your ass in front of the television, instead of attending to your practice is a pretty good sign that your practice has degenerated.
Flopping your ass in front of the television, instead of attending to your practice is a pretty good sign that your practice has degenerated.

What is habituation, and does it have any connection with suffering and attachment?

The Buddha taught that there were two causes for suffering: the karmic actions we take, contaminated by our delusions; and the delusions themselves. Another way of looking at this is to realise that, as we read in A Course in Miracles, “Whatever is not love is fear.”

Anger, attachment, greed, desire and ignorance arise out of fear. When we seek happiness outside its true Source, then we are acting out of fear. When we experience pain, due to the consequences of external conditions, causes or past actions (karma), if we try to avoid that pain (delusional behaviour) we suffer.

Once we recognise the impermanent nature of things, we learn to no longer grasp at them, or attempt to avoid them. We see them as they are – transient experiences or conditions, which arise as a result of other interdependent causes and conditions.

In general terms, attachment arises from one of four types of grasping: grasping after opinion, grasping after sensory pleasure, grasping after rule and rite, and grasping after the theory of “self”.

In more general terms, we can say that grasping after those things we imagine to bring us happiness, and grasping to avoid those things we perceive as causing us pain are the foundational conditions, which give rise to attachments.

But there is another cause of suffering, and form of attachment that we don’t often think about — attachment to habituation. And that’s the subject of today’s Dharma video. In today’s dharma video we explore the nature and result of habituation in our lives.

Spiritual Practice

moneyWhile I am certain that there will always be those who delude themselves into believing their spiritual practice is both healthy and substantial, or those for whom material possessions, status and personal indulgence is somehow justified away, as something other than self-absorption and lack of mindfulness; our teaching is very clear about this matter.

The twelfth verse of the Tao eloquently observes:

The five colours blind the eye.
The five tones deafen the ear.
The five flavours dull the taste buds.
The chase and hunt make the mind crazed.

Wasting energy to obtain material possessions only impedes growth.

The skilful practitioner observes the world,
but trusts his inner vision.
He allows things to come and go.
He prefers what is within
to what is without.


How important is your Dharma practice?

Everyday-Dharma-Zen-Center-BuddhaHow important is your Dharma practice?

Are you satisfied that you are keeping the commitments you made as a lay practitioner, or perhaps as an ordained contemplative?

As Kyabje Thrangu Rinpoche, the senior tutor to the Gyalwang Karmapa, asserts:

It is excellent to know what the genuine Dharma is. However, if one does not meditate, the ultimate result will not be obtained, so practice is very important. Further, rather than practicing alone in a solitary place, it is better to practice in a group. Shiwa Repa said, “The basis of virtuous activity is compatible Dharma friends.” Through the encouragement of lamas and friends who truly follow the Dharma, faith and diligence will increase and laziness and discouragement be reversed.

The practice of Dharma brings with it the potentiality for situations to manifest in the life of the practitioner, which can bring about the ripening of karma, the accumulation of great merit, and the cultivation of profound understanding, awareness and compassion.

A lack of attention to our responsibilities, and a shirking of our vows and commitment to the precepts constitutes a breaking of the Samaya priniciples; which hold grave consequences for us in terms of karmic imprints. Therefore, it is wise for us to occasionally evaluate our practice, and make adjustments where necessary.

Summer Time – Where’s the Focus of Your Dharma Practice?

the big buddah and cherry blossoms

Where is the focus of your spiritual practice?

It’s almost summer time, and the evenings are filled with the sound of birds chirping and the ashram’s running brook reminds us of the constant flow of the river of samsara, and the impermanence of phenomena in our lives.

In this first segment of Dharma Wisdom, we take a look at our priorities, and examine whether or not our Dharma practice holds the place it ought to in our lives.

How about you? Where is the focus of your dharma practice? Share with us in the comments below, or join our online discussion at Google Plus.

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Contraction is a Natural Part of Expansion

Monarch chrysalis emergence 3Before the butterfly can emerge into this world, it must endure what I would imagine could be an agonising period of contraction and constriction as a chrysalis. It is a common misconception that the butterfly pupa lives within a cocoon, but in fact, the chrysalis does not emerge from a cocoon at all. It’s hard, constricted, shell-like exterior is all part of the chrysalis itself.

Life can seem, at times, like it is constricting, even contracting all around us. Perhaps our relationships, our work, the world around us seem like they are in shambles, crumbling in on all sides. We might even imagine that we’ve lost our sense of spiritual practice and inner compass.

I can clearly recall sitting in the temple, at Sarvodaya – Jaya Aśram, on that Friday night last year, staring in complete disbelief at the computer screen, at the words announcing the sad news that my Root Guru entered Mahasamadhi, and left her physical body. My chest felt tight… my stomach felt like someone kicked me repeatedly in it… and the night seemed especially dark, rainy and cold. I remember at one point stabbing the phurba deep into the earth, crying out, “MA!”

546859_10151268546062392_1104576104_nAs I write this, a couple days short of the one year anniversary of Tenzin Yangchen Ma‘s passing, the tears again flow… the chest tightens… and the knot returns to the stomach.

At times like these, we can only return to the breath, remembering that we are Pure Awareness. There, in the moment, there is no separation. There is contraction… at times, constriction… there is emptiness… groundlessness… but there is also Primordial Compassion — the pure Essence of the Mother Herself.

And just as the chrysalis is nourished, struggles through the pains of its personal transformation, and eventually breaks free to reveal its beauty, and to live out its true purpose as a butterfly, so too do we emerge from these periods of contraction and constriction, darkness and despair… stronger, more vibrant, more beautiful and more aware of our true purpose.

Speaking on this path… the lion’s path of transformation… Ma would write:

When you begin to analyse your life and you begin to ask the question “Who am I,” you realise that you are not bound within the limits of a mind and the senses.  When you realise this, you transcend unhappiness.

Unhappiness is nothing but the perception of a certain limitation within your own being.

Go beyond yourselves, my chelas.
Feel the essence of your innermost spirit.
Feel the Guru in this place.

Ramana Maharshi is and was one of the greatest teachers of His time. Our Baba and Our Swami had and have the greatest respect.

He is also one of your Guru-ji’s teachers.

“Why,” I asked this great man, “do you want so many to ask the question WHO AM I?

He answered me in this way:
“Some thoughts die from meditation.
Some thoughts die from japa.
Some thoughts die from karma yoga.
Yet all thoughts die from this wonderful inquiry.”

“Be a lion, Ma,” He said, “when you teach your children – and teach them to be of the lion lineage.
Let them ask from the depth of their souls who they are.”

And so, no matter how heavy my heart feels today… no matter how much every breath reminds me how much I miss her… I embrace this contraction for whatever time it fills the moment, knowing that this chrysalis will again emerge as a butterfly.


Jai, jai, jai Śri Mata Jaya Sati Bhagavati, Santa Maharajni. Ki Jai!


Recognising the Unhealed Healer

kundalinirising2Healing is a natural aspect of transformation. But healing cannot begin in the hands of the unhealed healer. Upon recognising the presence of the unhealed healer in ourselves, we must begin within.

When we experience someone who is ill, or who has undergone surgery or some other difficult emotional or physiological circumstance, we recognise that our experience of their condition is an opportunity for us to heal something within our own minds.

The wheezing, hacking cough of the co-worker, may be an opportunity to realise there is something we need “to get off our chest”. The emergency heart surgery of a loved one, may represent unforgiven hurts that we’re afraid to let go of. That pain our neighbour feels in her back, may be a reminder of a burden we’re carrying, that’s weighing us down.

This isn’t to say those persons are experiencing their conditions because of us. Their conditions are, for them, an opportunity for them to heal something in their own lives.

My experience of Parkinson’s Disease may be a feeling that I am constricted by rigid and inflexible circumstances, beyond my immediate control. A weakened immune system may reflect that I feel like I have lost my ability to “fight back” in the face of injustice or lazy dharma practitioners. Even the thyroid condition I experience could be a need to address the feeling of complete imbalance in my present experience of life, and the toll I imagine those circumstances to be taking on me.

562058_10150647109752972_204769565_nWhen we come to understand that all of these beliefs arise from the chaotic data, playing on the hard drive of our subconscious mind… that they are, in essence, bullshit… healing spontaneously occurs.

And so we don’t focus on healing another. For pretending to be able to do so is little more than an ego trip. All healing can only occur within.

What’s more, there’s really nothing to “heal”… it’s just a matter of forgiving ourselves, and returning to the present moment.

Honouring Our Parents & Teachers

momanddadIn the Digha Nikaya, we read the Muni’s advice concerning how we should care for our parents, when they become old and infirm:

“Once I was supported by them; now I will be their support. I will perform the duties they performed and maintain the family and its traditions. I will preserve my inheritance, and make myself worthy of my lineage.”

The admonishment above, from the thirty-first line of the text, is clear. Our responsibility and debt to our parents never ceases. It only increases, and with it, the profound understanding and gratitude we feel for what they have provided for us in this precious incarnation.