Highly recommend the Three Jewels of Awakening to anyone who is a spiritual student or teacher! It’s the best, most concise book I’ve seen on how to engage correctly with the spiritual path, so that you keep your journey sacred and precious. And though it’s a small part of the book, what may be most valuable is the discussion on the traps both students and teachers can fall into. If you really hear these words, they can save you a lot of time and pain on the path!
As someone who has taught for many years, I personally chuckled in recognition at this advice to teachers: Many people will put you on a pedestal when you teach, and later, they will attempt to tear you down….Be unmoved by people’s opinion of you. You will be praised and you will be blamed, loved and hated, clung to and shoved away. Don’t fall for it! These are normal reactions of a student’s ego, especially when it’s under duress as the spiritual aspirant seeks to subdue its authority in favor of freedom. Be still either way. Let them do what they will while you remain centered.
Every year or so I reread my favs. There are many great books about the life of the historical Buddha, but A Life of the Buddha (previously entitled The Awakened One) is my favorite. It’s very clean and bright.
I have a great heart connection to Sri Ramakrishna, and read about him year round. I’ll open The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna most weekends and read a few pages. If you ever feel bad, you can read a few pages of this book and be lifted above the world. The energy in it is very powerful.
Everything on earth is of mixed character, like a mingling of sand and sugar. Be like the wise ant that seizes only the sugar, and leaves the sand untouched. —Babaji, quoted by Sri Yukteswar in Autobiography of a Yogi
Where you choose to live is extremely important. There are some places on the planet that have better energy than others. Places with good energy make you feel better, more awake and more inspired. Everything seems brighter, edges seem more defined. Places with less energy make you feel dull, sleepy, even hopeless. This may sound strange at first but when you think back on specific places you have visited and how you have felt uplifted or dulled by them, you can see how where you live affects your day-to-day energy level and happiness. With this in mind, it makes sense to spend more money for a place with good energy than to spend less for a physically similar place that doesn’t have much energy. The savings from living in an energetically low neighborhood cost you in many other ways, but primarily in that you don’t have the energy or inspiration to do whatever it is you want to do! That being said, be sure not to spend more than you can afford on your living space, since living above your means is one of the shortest paths to stress, worry and unhappiness.
To find a house or apartment that works for you, pay attention to how you feel when you are in the place. If a place has a lot of positives and fits your needs from a practical perspective, but something just doesn’t click despite it seeming right in every way, it’s not the right place. On the other hand, if you walk in and feel a smile on your face and think “Yes!,” this is a good place for you. This methodology may sound childish, but it is your non-physical body that is assessing the energy of the place. This part of you is more intelligent than your mind and is better at assessing energy. After you try this method and see how well it works, you will lose your skepticism.
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
“One of the great secrets of life that Buddhist monks have learned from their study of meditation is how to eliminate anything extraneous from their minds. If something doesn’t contribute to their happiness and well-being, or to the happiness and well-being of others, they are able to remove it from their thoughts and keep their minds focused on what does matter.”
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.”
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.