A Full Load of Moonlight

Ten Stanzas Written on Cloud-Shrouded Terrace (No. 6)

Sitting upright at the foot of clouds, too lazy to lift my head,
I have no more dharma words for the Chan practitioners.
Everything under the sun makes plain the Path—
might as well hang my mouth on the wall and shut up.

—Huaishen (1077–1132)

I’m Happy with My Way of Life

I’m happy with my way of life,
living in mountain caves amid mist and vines.
My wild moods are mostly unrestrained;
I’m carefree as my friends the clouds.
There are paths here, but they don’t lead to the world.
Emptied of illusion, what can the mind cling to?
I sit alone on my stony bed all night long,
while the full moon ascends Cold Mountain.

—Hanshan (766–779)

Coming out of Samadhi

The heavenly realm of meditation is quiet, sealed by clouds;
I sat long on my rush mat, all worries vanished.
Arising from Samadhi, I didn’t realize that evening had come—
astonished to find myself in bright moonlight.

—Jingan (1851–1912)

Moon Over Water

Watching it above the pond night after night,
the meditator sits with the moon beside him.
It is possible to grasp its empty form,
but the idea of its brightness is hard to convey.
If one seeks understanding with a vacant mind,
the moon seems full each and every moment.

—Jiaoran (730–799)

From A Full Load of Moonlight: Chinese Chan Poems, trans. Mary M.Y. Fung and David Lunde © 2014 Mary M.Y. Fung and David Lunde. Reprinted with permission of Musical Stone Culture. 

What To Do When the Anger Gets Hot

Americans think it is beneficial to “get in touch with” their anger. That’s just the first step—recognizing your anger. The second step is analyzing and meditating on your anger. The tradition to which I belong [Gelugpa] teaches that analytical meditation must be combined with concentration meditation. So analyzing your thoughts, your ideas, your emotions, is absolutely important. With this you recognize what is really hatred, what is really anger. You’re going deeper and recognizing that “I am angry, I am hating.”

This approach also depends on the mind. When the mind is at the bursting level, you don’t do anything. Just let it be. For the time being, watch a movie, see a nice view, be on the beach or the bank of a river. Try to divert the attention, because when the anger is really strong you cannot challenge it. If you try, you may get defeated, and that’s when people say, “That’s it! I cannot take it anymore!” And they hit the ceiling. What you’re really doing then is giving the OK to anger. My suggestion is never to give the OK to anger, and divert your attention when it’s really hot. Divert. When the anger’s not that hot, but still there, at that moment you can recognize it and the feelings that you get before and after. Then analyze. You’ll see all the disadvantages—personally see them; I’m not talking about believing in religious principles, but about simply seeing the disadvantages. Your peace of mind is lost. You can’t do anything you want to do. You can’t concentrate. You can’t do your job. You can’t talk to people straightforwardly. Or you have to cry. You have to do all these things and you see all the consequences of that. You really see it. Then ask: Do I still want that? Then you make a decision: “I do not want it.” It will come back. But that doesn’t matter. Keep on repeating the process. That’s how you train your mind not to get angry.

From an interview with Gelek Rinpoche by contributing editor Amy Gross in the Summer 1998 issue of Tricycle. 

The Single Thing

“I don’t envision a single thing that, when
undeveloped, leads to such great harm as the
mind. The mind, when undeveloped, leads to
great harm.”

“I don’t envision a single thing that, when developed,
leads to such great benefit as the mind. The
mind, when developed, leads to great benefit.”


“I don’t envision a single thing that, when
undeveloped and uncultivated, brings about such
suffering and stress as the mind. The mind, when
undeveloped and uncultivated, brings about
suffering and stress.”

“I don’t envision a single thing that, when developed
and cultivated, brings about such happiness as
the mind. The mind, when developed and
cultivated, brings about happiness.”

Anguttara Nikaya 1.23-24, 1.29-30. Trans. Thanissaro Bhikkhu

The Chaos Under the Hood

Chaos is the mind of the self, of selfing, of unconscious habit patterns run wild. The mind of chaos is what is referred to in Buddhism as dukkha, or suffering. It is a chronically stressed mind, a mind of taking everything personally, of constant reactivity both gross and subtle. Such a mind is the consequence of delusion, of believing that the self exists in the ways we both conceive of it and perceive it. With such a mind, we’re confined to experience within the fractured, chaotic state we create with labeling, separating, judging, resisting, and clinging.

Much of our experience of our lives is the experience of the self’s personalized reactivity to whatever is arising. This chronic clinging and defensiveness produces chaos and conflict and stress. Chaos is replete with tension, with ruses, with exhausting attempts to keep the self safe and to choreograph circumstances to optimize illusory promises of happiness or to sidestep all that we do not want.

All of our efforts in this regard are futile. We cannot secure pleasure permanently. We cannot avoid the predictable sufferings. We cannot will our bodies to stop aging. We cannot will our bodies not to die. We cannot choreograph the universe.

We tense and stress ourselves in ways both large and small. We hold ourselves, quite often, in a stance of being “opposed” to reality. We can sometimes even find ourselves feeling that we know better about how the appearance of each moment should unfold. Our thoughts, when highlighted, can be quite humbling.

A mind devoid of insight into its own nature is a chaotic mind, a mind of unease.

No matter how savvy and independent and self-controlled we may presume ourselves to be, without mindfulness, chaos is what we discover when we begin to look under the hood. The order we presume with our beliefs is a fragile order, built upon many a mental sleight-of-hand. We’ve been juggling for a long time.

Think of all we’ve juggled—occupations, relationships, family, bank accounts, priorities, needs, desires, aversions, hopes, stories, opinions, self-worth, and the tightly clinging wish that our own paradigms not be disturbed, that we can actually make two and two be five. . . .

Often, much to our dismay, when we begin to look at our own minds, we find a discordant chorus of reactions to each of the speeding, emotion-packed thoughts that race and rage through it. They chatter over and over in the same patterns, unbidden, unceasingly and exhaustingly, arising every moment. We find chaos.

From The Grace in Aging: Awaken as You Grow Older, by Kathleen Dowling Singh © 2014 Kathleen Dowling Singh. Reprinted by arrangement with Wisdom Publications. www.wisdompubs.org

No Magic, No Miracle

Purify your mind. This is how you can help society; this is how you can stop harming others and start helping them. When you work for your own liberation, you will find that you have also started helping others to come out of their misery. One individual becomes several individuals—a slow widening of the circle. There is no magic, no miracle. Work for your own peace, and you will find that you have started making the atmosphere around you more peaceful—provided you work properly.

If there is any miracle, it is the miracle of changing the habit pattern of the mind from rolling in misery to freedom from misery. There can be no bigger miracle than this. Every step taken toward this kind of miracle is a healthy step, a helpful step. Any other apparent miracle is bondage.

From the Spring 1997 issue of the Vipassana Newsletter, reprinted in The Art of Dying © 2014 Virginia Hamilton. Reprinted with permission of Parityatti Publishing. 

Being Held by the Dharma

There’s no switch that turns on enlightenment. You move toward it with your effort. It’s an effort that might be unrecognizable to those who think “effort” means trying hard. You have to try soft—to be curious and open to whatever it is that results. Effort doesn’t mean gritting your teeth and pushing through to the other side; it means sitting where you’re stuck and not running away.

From “Being Held by the Dharma,” by Nancy Thompson. Originally published on the Interdependence Project blog. Reprinted with permission of the author. 


My throat is a clenched fire,
an arson’s match. All day long I have
watched a huge porcupine
like a pile of coal or a burnt stump
move about the yard in the cold rain
eating apples, satisfying the
soft, needy underside she protects,
and I think I know what it is
to cause anguish to those who touch you,
to forage alone, and to crave
sweet mouthfuls of mercy.

“Mercy,” by Mark Hart. From Boy Singing to Cattle, © 2013 Pearl Editions. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. 

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