“Most people feel cozy enough in samsara. They do not really have the genuine aspiration to go beyond samsara; they just want samsara to be a little bit better. It is quite interesting that “samsara” became the name of a perfume. And it is like that. It seduces us into thinking that it is okay: samsara is not so bad; it smells nice! The underlying motivation to go beyond samsara is very rare, even for people who go to Dharma centers. There are many people who learn to meditate and so forth, but with the underlying motive that they hope to make themselves feel better. And if it ends up making them feel worse, instead of realizing that this may be a good sign, they think there is something wrong with Dharma. We are always looking to make ourselves comfortable in the prison house. We might think that if we get the cell wall painted a pretty shade of pale green, and put in a few pictures, it won’t be a prison any more.” ~Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo
“I ask you though, Harold, is it enough?” ~Maude
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
David Wilkie suggests replacing the word “love” with your own name. Read it again; how does it sound?
“When we smile, the muscles around our mouth are stretched and relaxed, just like doing yoga. Smiling is mouth yoga. We release the tension from our face as we smile. Others who run into us notice it, even strangers, and are likely to smile back. It is a wonderful chain reaction that we can initiate, touching the joy in anyone we encounter. Smiling is an ambassador of goodwill.”
~This quote has been attributed to Thich Nhat Hanh, but I’ve been unable to find an original source. The sentiment sounds like him, the phrasing does not. Regardless of who said it, though, it’s a nice thought.
“There is nothing to do. Just be. Do nothing. Be. No climbing mountains and sitting in caves. I do not even say: ‘be yourself’, since you do not know yourself. Just be. Having seen that you are neither the ‘outer’ world of perceivables, nor the ‘inner’ world of thinkables, that you are neither body nor mind – just be.” ~– Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
“There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done, nothing you can sing that can’t be sung, nothing you can say– but you can learn how to play the game. There’s nothing you can make that can’t be made, no one you can save that can’t be saved, nothing you can do– but you can learn how to be you in time.” ~Lennon/McCartney
I am in love with every church
And any kind of shrine
Because I know it is there
That people say the different names
Of the One God.
– Hafiz (1315-1390)
Agnostic author A.J. Jacobs decided to try and obey all of the rules in the Bible– even the weird, obscure ones– and document what happened. This excerpt from The Year of Living Biblically is from about four months in to the experiment:
I spend a lot of time marveling… I’ll marvel at the way rain serpentines down a car window. Or I’ll marvel at the way my reflection is distorted in a bowl. I feel like I just took my first bong hit. I feel like Wes Bentley rhapsodizing about that dancing plastic bag in American Beauty.
I’ve noticed that I sometimes walk around with a lighter step, almost an ice-skating-like glide, because the ground feels hallowed. All of the ground, even the ground outside the pizzeria near my apartment building.
All well and good, right? The only thing is, this is not the God of the Israelites. This is not the God of the Hebrew Scriptures. That God is an interactive God. He rewards people and punishes them. He argues with them, negotiates with them, forgives them, occasionally smites them. The God of the Hebrew Scriptures has human emotions– love and anger.
My God doesn’t. My God is impersonal. My God is the God of Spinoza. Or the God of Paul Tillich, the Protestant theologian who believed that God was “the ground of being.” Or the God of the Jedi knights. It’s a powerful but vague all-pervasive force; some slightly more sophisticated version of pantheism. I don’t even know if my God can be said to have a grand plan, much less mood swings. Can I keep edging toward the true biblical God? I’m not sure.
It’s a surprisingly respectful book. He talks with everyone– Hasidic Jews, Jehova’s Witnesses, atheists, Amish, creationists– and is always curious, never mocking.
I’d recommend this book to anyone of any faith.
(Or at least watch his TED talk, HERE.)