Who Has Ever Gone Beyond

The student asked the Buddha: “Why is it that wise women and men in the world—priestesses, rulers, and others—always offer sacrifices to the gods?”

The Buddha answered: “They offer things to the gods because as they get older they want to keep their lives as they are and have no misfortunes.”

“But, Buddha, does it ever make any difference to their old age by making these careful offerings?”

“Their prayers and praises and offerings and hopes are all made on the basis of possessions, rewards, and longings for pleasure. These experts in prayer are longing to continue becoming. But it will make no difference to their old age.”

“Please tell me, Buddha, if all the offerings from these experts don’t get them beyond old age, then who has ever gone beyond?”

The Buddha said: “When a person has thoroughly understood the world, from top to bottom, when there is nothing in the world that agitates them anymore, then they have become somebody who is free from confusion and fears and tremblings and the longings of desire. They have gone beyond getting old and beyond birth and death.”

—Sutta Nipata, from The Pocket Buddha Reader


We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with an impure mind
And trouble will follow you
As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with a pure mind
And happiness will follow you
As your shadow, unshakable.
Dhammapada, The Sayings of the Buddha, Thomas Byrom translation

Silence of the Buddha


The historical Buddha refrained from answering many of his students’ metaphysical questions, such as whether a self exists or not, whether an enlightened being continues to exist after death or not, or if the world is eternal or not. This is often referred to as the silence of the Buddha. The Buddha said he was silent on these questions because they didn’t lead to liberation, but instead were a distraction.

The Buddha illustrated his position in the parable of a woman who has been hit by a poisoned arrow. The woman is taken to a doctor, who wants to remove the arrow at once. But the wounded woman cries out, “The arrow shall not be pulled out until I know who the man is who shot me, to what family he belongs, if he is big, small, or of medium build, and if his skin is black, brown or white.” Just as the woman wounded by the arrow would have died before she got the answer to her questions, so the student would be laid low by the suffering of the world before solving these metaphysical questions.
—Paraphrased from the “Silence of the Buddha” entry in The Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy and Religion

Sara Weston is the author of How to Be Happy NOW…Even if Things Aren’t Going Your Way, available on Amazon.com or Amazon UKCA, FR, IT, ES and DE. A FREE excerpt of the book is available here.

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Dust Motes in a Sunbeam

The Buddha said:
“I consider the positions of kings and rulers as that of dust motes in a sunbeam. I see the treasures of gold and gems as broken tiles. I look upon the finest silken robes as tattered rags. I see the myriad worlds of the universe as small seeds and the great Indian Ocean as drops of mud that soil one’s feet. I perceive the teachings of the world to be the illusions of magicians. I look upon the judgement of right and wrong as the serpentine dance of dragons, and the rise and fall of beliefs as the traces left by the four seasons.”

—from Teachings of the Buddha, adapted from the Sutra of Forty-Two Sections, translated by Samuel Beal

Teacher Appreciation Day

Excerpted from the great book Zen Antics, translated by Thomas Cleary (also in Classics of Buddhism and Zen, Volume Four).


Once when Zen master Seisetsu was seeing to the rebuilding of part of the monastery where he was teaching, a certain wealthy merchant came with a hundred ounces of gold, saying he wanted to donate it for the reconstruction project. Seisetsu took it without a word.

The next day the merchant came back to visit the Zen master. He remarked, “Although what I gave you was not so great an amount, it was an exceedingly costly donation for me. In spite of that, you didn’t say a word of thanks. Why is that?”

Seisetsu hollered, “I am planting your field of blessings; why should I thank you?”

The merchant was very embarrassed. He apologized and thanked the Zen master.

How to Be Unhappy

(A day in the life, inspired by the use of inversion for illumination. Meant to be humorous—mostly.)

  1. Go to bed latethat way you can use the snooze button excessively when the alarm jolts you awake, have a rushed meditation, and never feel quite refreshed throughout the day.
  2. Eat foods that are convenient and tasty, but make you feel uncomfortable, whether they give you congestion, heartburn, gas, or constipation. (Or, bonus, degrade your health long-term!)
  3. Take the most obvious/congested route to work during peak commute, so you can stew in the impatience and low-grade anger of your fellow commuters.
  4. Check your phone constantly, that way you can receive small injections of bad energy throughout the day (if checking the news), or you can become numb to the true wonder and beauty of the world, like when checking Instagram to see endless photos of beautiful and wonderful things. Bonus: checking your phone constantly keeps you from having solid blocks of concentration that are foundational to meaningful work!
  5. Talk shit about others! Nothing drags you down more than criticizing colleagues, friends and family.
  6. Say yes to everything—projects and work you’re not interested in, so you (seemingly) please the boss; and social events that bore you and keep you from your true interests, so you please your family and acquaintances.
  7. Watch TV instead of exercising, or even better than TV, spend a lot of time on the Internet. Click on every article that sounds scandalous, critical or gossipy. Go down rabbit holes, and for an extra dose of anger and righteousness, read the comments!
  8. Stay indoors a lot—nothing keeps you in the same headspace as staying in the house.
  9. Ignore your “gut” and niggling feelings, and instead squash or cover them with your drug of choice: alcohol, drugs, butterfat, TV, internet, video games, etc.
  10. Play small, and give up easily. Hew to the limited mind set or agenda delivered to you by your family and upbringing. Don’t go for the thing you really want, like a big career move or Enlightenment. But if you do go for it and experience some opposition or impediments, give up quickly and take it as a sign you were never meant to change.
  11. Let your mind wander all over the place and particularly indulge in negative emotions, like hatred, anger and sadness. Pretend that negative emotions have more reality and value than love.

© 2019 Sara Weston. Sara is the author of How to Be Happy NOW…Even if Things Aren’t Going Your Way, available on Amazon.com or Amazon UKCA, FR , IT, ES and DE. A FREE excerpt of the book is available here.