When we see someone whose compassionate heart is not developed, we should have more compassion for such a person, because the person is truly suffering. When people are caught up in greed or anger or delusion, they are suffering more, and they are likely to cause themselves yet more suffering by engaging in harmful actions. And since actions always have consequences, without exception, we can’t escape the consequence of our actions. We should have deep compassion for people who are caught up in negative actions, because they are making themselves a big bunch of trouble that they are bound to experience later.

We must realize that whatever actions we undertake, we will experience a result. If we undertake unwholesome acts, we will experience unwholesome results. And when we take care and act from the light of the moon, when we act from the buddha mind that is in each of us, then the result will be wholesome. And when we forget and act out of greed, hate, and delusion, the result will be painful.

When we recognize, without any doubt, that if we act from unwholesome thoughts or motives, from harmful motives, we will experience suffering, it really helps us to live a life more beneficial not only to ourselves but to everybody around us.

Are our motives altruistic? Is our intention to relieve suffering? Intention is the key to whether actions are wholesome or not. What I want to recommend to you is to see the light of the moon in every drop of water. See buddha mind, buddha heart in everyone. Connect with that part of each person you meet. Be aware of your motives, what motivates your actions. Be sure that your motivation is altruistic. The more of us who conduct ourselves in such a way, the more we’ll enjoy this life.

From Seeds for a Boundless Life: Zen Teachings from the Heart, © 2015 by Zenkei Blanche Hartman. Reprinted with permission of Shambhala Publications. www.shambhala.com. Zenkei Blanche Hartman, a Soto Zen teacher in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki, was the first female abbot of an American Zen center.


The act of apology and forgiveness is like a sacrament of human community. It is how we remember who we really are to each other.

From Remnants: A Memoir of Spirit, Activism, and Mothering, © 2015 by Duke University Press. Reprinted with permission of Duke University Press. www.dukeupress.edu. Rosemarie Freeney Harding (1930–2004) was a teacher and social worker; an activist best known for her involvement in the civil rights movement, she studied Tibetan Buddhism with the Dalai Lama and Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

p.18_BT2VIMALAMITRA (c. 8th century)

Seven Points of Training the Mind

Listen, noble children:
Like bubbles in water, all compounded things
are impermanent.
Like a ripe poisonous fruit, all samsaric
pleasures, though seemingly pleasant at
the time, are actually painful.
Like chasing the water of a mirage,
conditioned states are neverending.
Like the good or bad experiences in a dream,
all the aims of this life are utterly
Like a person recovered from smallpox, the
excellent fruition of liberation never reverts
to suffering.
Like a fine staircase, a sublime master’s oral
instructions are the path for ascending to
the palace of liberation.
Like a cultivated field, nonconceptual
meditation is the basis for the growth of

From Jewels of Enlightenment: Wisdom Teachings from the Great Tibetan Masters, by Erik Pema Kunsang, © 2003 by Erik Hein Schmidt. Originally published under the title A Tibetan Buddhist Companion. Reprinted with permission of Shambhala Publications. www.shambhala.com. Vimalamitra (c. 8th century) was an Indian master of Dzogchen [Great Perfection] teachings.


Great aims are those aims that all beings share in. So what are they? There are three:

  1. To learn about oneself.
  2. To resolve the matter of life and death.
  3. To save others.

From An Intelligent Life: Buddhist Psychology of Self-Transformation, by Koitsu Yokoyama; translated by Varghese Puthuparampil. Reprinted with permission ofWisdom Publications. www.wisdompubs.org. Koitsu Yokoyama is a Japanese professor who has devoted his career to the study of “consciousness only” Buddhist philosophy.


The healing power of the spirit naturally follows the path of the spirit. It abides not in the stone of fine buildings, nor in the gold of images, nor in the silk from which robes are fashioned, nor even in the paper of holy writ, but it abides in the ineffable substance of the mind and the heart of man. We should sublimate our heart’s instinct and purify our thoughts.

From The Dalai Lama’s Little Book of Buddhism. Reprinted with permission of Hampton Roads Publishing. www.redwheelweiser.com. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, the former political leader of Tibet, is considered by Tibetans to be the incarnation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.


MUSO SOSEKI (1275–1351)

Question: There are people who lose heart because they have had faith in Zen and practiced its teachings for many years yet have seen no results. Others would not begrudge the practice if they were certain it would lead to enlightenment before they died, but they fear that the end result may be nothing more than a lifetime of exerting themselves in body and mind, with no liberation in the next life either. Is there any basis for such thinking?

Answer: When such people say they have experienced no results even after long years of practicing Zen, what sort of results do they mean? Some people rush about the world seeking fame or coveting wealth. Some pray to the gods and buddhas in order to escape disaster and invite good fortune. Some study the Buddhist scriptures and Chinese classics in the hope of acquiring wisdom. Some engage in esoteric practices in order to acquire supernatural powers. Some practice the arts and other skills in order to become more accomplished than others. Some try various therapies in order to cure disease. In activities such as these one can speak of results or no results.

Zen practice, however, is qualitatively different. Where would one look for results? An ancient master said, “It is present in all people and complete in everyone. There is not less of it in ignorant people nor more in sages.” Another ancient master said, “The Way is complete like the great void, without deficiency, without excess.” To think we have obtained results from practicing the buddhadharma is like thinking there is excess in the void; to think we have obtained no results is like thinking there is deficiency in the void. If there were truly some excess or lack, the words of the buddhas and patriarchs that “there is not less of it in ignorant people nor more in sages” would be untrue.

Then there are those who give up on the practice before they even start, on the assumption that any practice they might do is wasted if it doesn’t lead to enlightenment. Such people are the most foolish of all. If you entertain such worries, what can you ever hope to accomplish, either in Buddhism or in worldly endeavors? After all, are there not people who, no matter how difficult the task, think through every possibility and exert every effort in an attempt to achieve success? People who quit before even giving Buddhist practice a try are those whose karmic burden has weakened their aspiration for the buddhadharma.

If worry about whether practice will ever lead to awakening causes you to avoid it for your entire life, what will you do in your next existence? Do you think that if you fail to awaken through your own efforts you can hire someone to have enlightenment for you? If another person’s practice could bring about awakening, do you think that the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the myriad universes would have allowed sentient beings to continue wandering in the realms of delusion?

From Dialogues in a Dream: The Life and Zen Teachings of Muso Soseki, by Muso Soseki; translated by Thomas Yuho Kirchner. Reprinted with permission of Wisdom Publications. www. wisdompubs.org. Muso Soseki (1275– 1351) was a Rinzai Zen Buddhist monk.

Illustrations by Harriet Lee-Merrio

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