Dec 10, 2007


je rêve d'un printemps définitif.
but when it gets too hard...
je reste dubitatif.

Négatif, by Benjamin Biolay (ending theme for the movie Pourquoi (pas) le Brésil?)

Dec 4, 2007

let's proclaim!

Float down this river…
float down in this old boat…
every river reaches the sea…
where upstream and downstream meet…
reaches the darkening sea…
is left as a crust of white salt on the shore.

So float down the river…
eyes closed… lips shut…
every scrap of dharma set aside.
Float down alone…
winds will blow…
night will fall and float down with you.
When you reach the sea…
there is no one in pain…
anywhere in this world.

Ko Un, Little Pilgrim, Parallax Press, Berkley, 2005

illustration: The Monkey Bridge in Kai Province by Ando Hiroshige, Famous Views of the 60-odd Provinces - Rokujuyoshu meisho zue, 1853 - 1856

To see more of these beautiful prints please refer to:

Nov 29, 2007

the garden of my heart

To listen to the soothing voice of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh leading a guided meditation, transcripted bellow, please click on the following link (and then again on the button at the page that will open):

May the sound of this bell penetrate deep into the cosmos
Even in the darkest spots living beings are able to hear it clearly
So that all suffering in them ceases, understanding comes to their heart
And they transcend the path of sorrow and death.

The universal dharma door is already open
The sound of the rising tide is heard clearly
The miracle happens
A beautiful child appears in the heart of the lotus flower
One single drop of this compassionate water is enough to bring back the refreshing spring to our mountains and rivers.

Listening to the bell I feel the afflictions in me begin to dissolve
My mind calm, my body relaxed
A smile is born on my lips
Following the sound of the bell, my breath brings me back to the safe island of mindfulness
In the garden of my heart, the flowers of peace bloom beautifully.

"The End of Suffering" featuring spoken word from Thich Nhat Hanh, the singing voice of Vietnamese monk Phap Niem, and music by Gary Malkin, is excerpted from the book and CD set, "Graceful Passages: A Companion For Living and Dying," which was produced by Gary Malkin and Michael Stillwater, for Wisdom of the World, published by New World Library.

To learn more about Thich Nhat Hanh, please refer to:

If you'd like to see some more photos of flower fields please refer to:

Nov 27, 2007

love, love

No coming, no going

No after, no before

I hold you close to me

I release you to be so free

Because I am in you

and you are in me

Because I am in you

and you are in me

from the Plum Village Chanting Book. If you'd like to listen to this song please refer to and click on the green button at the bottom right of your screen for No coming, no going.

Nov 23, 2007

water reflecting

Breathing in I see myself as still water. You know still water is not a wave. Sometimes you enjoy being a wave—it’s very wonderful to be a wave, coming up very high, and going down very low. But sometimes you are tired, you don’t want to be a wave anymore. You just want to be still water. To be still water is also a great joy—you feel peaceful, you feel quiet, and you enjoy the peace and the quietness that is in you. I know the young people like to be waves, but they should know that it is also wonderful to be still water. Have you seen a pond that is very still? You look into the water and you see reflected in the water the blue sky, the clouds, the trees. You can even take a picture of the sky and the clouds just by pointing your camera at the water, because still water reflects things perfectly. Still water does not distort things. When you are not still, you distort things. When your mind is not still, you distort everything. The other person did not hate you, but you believe that she hated you. That is a distortion, because your "water," your mind, is not still. Therefore it is very important to practice so that your mind becomes still water. And now you know why I asked you to draw still water. "Breathing in, I see myself as still water; breathing out, I reflect things as they are." This is very important. We should not be victims of our wrong perceptions. In order for our perceptions not to be wrong, our minds should be still, like water. And there are ways to help your mind to become like still water.


The transformation and healing we are looking for is not outside of us, it is in us. It is like the wave: if it wants to be still, the stillness should not be obtained from the outside, it is in the water itself.

We have the capacity to be a wave, but we also have the capacity to be still water. So we look for peace, we look for stability, we look for well being within ourselves, and these things are not something that we can acquire from outside. But maybe there are those of us who are only used to being waves, and we have forgotten how to become still water again. We know that we have the capacity of becoming still water again, but we have forgotten how to do it. That is why we need the practice.

excerpt from Our Appointment with Life, Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh on July 16, 1998 in Plum Village, France.

© Thich Nhat Hanh

(photo: a pond that is not still, Bahia, 2003)

Nov 20, 2007

what is true mindfulness?

Meditation isn't really about getting rid of thoughts, it's about changing the pattern of grasping on to things, which in our everyday experience is our thoughts.

The thoughts are fine if they are seen as transparent, but we get so caught up judging thoughts as right or wrong, for and against, yes and no, needing it to be this way and not that way. And even that might be okay except that is accompanied by strong, strong emotions. So we just start ballooning out more and more. With this grasping onto thoughts we just get more caught, more and more hooked. All of us. Every single one of us.

It's as if you had vast, unlimited space —complete openness, total freedom, complete liberation —and the habit of the human race is to always, out of fear, grasp onto little parts of it. And that is called ego and ego is grasping on to the content of our thoughts. That is also the root of suffering, because there is something in narrowing it down which inherently causes us a lot of pain because it is then that we are always in a relationship of wanting or not wanting. We are always in a struggle with other people, with situations, even with our own being. That's what we call stress. That's what we experience as continual, on-going stress. Even in the most healthy, unneurotic of us, there's some kind of slight or very profound anxiety of some kind, some kind of uneasiness or dissatisfaction.

teachings by Pema Chödrön. To read more from her, please refer to:

Nov 12, 2007

a house of love

One of these mornings, I sat in the living room, trying to eat breakfast mindfully... And so not only was I savoring the yoghurt, its delicate flavor and the temperature, but was also listening to the birds and the cars outside, looking at the yoghurt color, the clouded sky... And in this mood I started looking at the things in my living room... All very known to me, because I look at them everyday...

Yet, it was the first time I saw them.

The straw cushions my parents gave me, and so many others things they paid and gave to me... They were full of Love, given with Love, and I could feel the Love in them... The ceramics and a wood vase given to me by Rachel... So full of Love, given with Love... I actually felt the Love there... And the mud flowers I love so much, given to me by Alexs... And the two benches he carried all the way from Bahia, during a flight... There is so much Love in everything they gave me, and I could feel it... The orchid I bought a few weeks ago, and that is now coming to full blossom... Nature is always so full of Love, and I felt it... The painting given by James, who actually painted it... Painted with Love, given with Love, and I could feel it... The leather couch, the sisal carpet from Bahia I bought with Love, really appreciating them... I could feel Love in the stuff they were made of… The chair I was sitting on, given to me by Edith, with so much Love... So I was seated on Love!

I realized I was — I am — surrounded by Love... The Love in my eyes, when I look at these beloved things I cherish and treasure... It is not different from the Love with which these things were given to me... Love from my parents, Love from my friends and relatives... Love -- to be seen, to be felt, to be touched... Objects -- not as they are, and not important for what they are, but as a Thread of Love... I felt fulfilled, and for a moment I thought — is the world made of Love?

Of course it is not, I answered to myself. But perhaps it is... I am not a bodhisattva, so I cannot feel the Love that is there, everywhere... Even in violence, in war... No, I cannot.

But I could feel the Love that was there, before my eyes. Despite a tense relationship in my life at this moment... And that some of the gifts were given to me by former relationships, that might have ended on a sad note... There is Love. All I could see in my house was Love. Made of Love, reflecting Love. Love throughout time: Love from the past, Love in the present, Love from the future... All over the space: Love.

I felt I lived — I feel I live -- in a House of Love.

Quietly, I finished eating the yoghurt. And since then I haven’t eaten anything other than Love. How could I?!

Photo © Matthias Hammerl

Oct 15, 2007

perfect silence


WHEN I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and diagrams,
to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer
where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air,
and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892), Leaves of Grass

To read more poems by this author, please refer to:

Photo: Star Trails at 16,000 ft., Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania © Dan Heller
To see more photos from this set please refer to:

Oct 8, 2007

so many stars

The dark is filled with dreams
So many dreams which one is mine
One must be right for me
Which dream of all the dreams
When there's a dream for every star
And there are oh so many stars
So many stars

The wind is filled with songs
So many songs which one is mine
One must be right for me
Which song of all the songs
When there's a song for every star
And there are oh so many stars, so many stars

Along the countless days, the endless nights
That I have searched so many eyes
So many hearts, so many smiles
Which one to choose, which way to go, how can I tell
How will I know, out of, oh
So many stars, so many stars...

(Lyrics and music by Sergio Mendes)

Sep 5, 2007

we are our ancestors

When we hear the sound of the bell, we should open ourselves up to allow all the generations of ancestors in us to hear the bell at the same time as we do. It means we shouldn’t imprison ourselves in a shell of self – we should allow our ancestors to listen to the bell at the same time. That is our practice at that moment, because all the generations of ancestors, including our father and our mother are in us in a very concrete way - in every cell of our body. The body contains the mind – the soma contains the psyche, and we could say that the mind also contains the body. That means that the psyche contains the soma and that psyche includes feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness and we should learn to see our mental formations are made out of cells, just as the body is made out of cells. The cells of the body contain the cells of the consciousness and the cells of the consciousness contain the cells of the body.

Psyche and soma are just two sides of the same reality. There isn’t one that precedes the other, just like the particle and the wave are two aspects of the same reality. The wave contains the particle, just as the particle contains the wave. The reality of us is the reality of body and mind. We could call ourselves psyche and we could call ourselves soma, but in fact psyche and soma are two aspects manifesting from one reality. If we look into one cell of our body, or one cell of our consciousness, we recognize the presence of all the generations of ancestors in us – that is the truth. Our ancestors are not just human beings. Before human beings appeared we were other species. We have been trees, plants, grasses, minerals, squirrels and deer. We have been monkeys and one-celled animals and all these generations of ancestors are present in each cell of our body as well as our mind and we are the continuation of this stream of life. Therefore, when we hear the bell, it is not a separate "I" which is listening to the bell, but it is the stream, the vast stream of life, and this is the practice of no-self. We talk a lot about no-self. We could talk about it very fluently but we don’t practice no-self, we just talk about it. When we hear the sound of the bell and we allow all the generations of ancestors and all our descendants, which are already present in our body, to hear it also then we are experiencing the reality of no-self which the Buddha taught. No-self is not some vague idea, but it is a reality which we carry in our very person and we only need to listen properly to the bell and we can go beyond the shell of self. We can go beyond the prison of the idea of a separate self and we allow the sound of the bell to penetrate every generation of the past and the future which is in us.


When we take a step on the green grass of spring, we walk in such a way that allows all our ancestors to take a step with us. Our peace, our joy, our freedom, which are in each step, penetrate each generation of our ancestors and each generation of our descendants. If we can walk like that, that is a step taken in the highest dhyana. When we take one step we see hundreds and thousands of ancestors and descendants taking a step with us, and when we take a breath we are light, at ease, calm. We breathe in such a way that all the generations of ancestors are breathing with us and all the generations of our descendants are also breathing with us... if we breathe like that, only then are we breathing according to the highest teachings. We just need a little mindfulness, a little concentration and then we can look deeply and see. At first we use the method of visualization and we see, as we walk, all the ancestors putting their foot down as we put our foot down, and gradually we don’t need to visualize any more – each step we take, we see that that step is the step of all people in the past.

When you are cooking a dish of food - something you have learnt from your mother or your father, a dish that has been handed down through generations of your family – you should look at your hand and smile because this hand is the hand of your mother, the hand of your grand-mother. Those who have made this dish are making this dish now and that is the truth! We are not the inventors of this dish, we are just continuing. We see our mothers hand, our grand-mothers hand, and the hands of all our ancestors making this dish. When we are in the kitchen cooking, we can realize the highest teachings – we don’t have to go into the meditation hall to practice this. We have so many opportunities, the problem is – do we know how to make the most of them? We have our teacher, we have our Sangha, we have our dharma teachings, we have all the conditions that are necessary to do this and we should use these opportunities. This is not a theory, this is real experience of our daily life... it is real life.

In the past, your grandfather – did he play volleyball? No, he didn’t, because in those days they didn’t have volleyball... Did your grandmother go jogging every day? Did your grand-mother have the opportunity to practice dwelling in the present moment while she was walking... while she was running? When we are running we should allow our grandmother to run in us, and it is the truth that your grandmother is running in you. She is in each cell of your body. You carry all your ancestors in you when jogging, when doing walking meditation and when you are realizing the practice of dwelling happily in the present moment. Maybe other generations didn’t have the opportunity to practice like this. Now we have the opportunity. We have received the practice as taught by our teachers and when we do that practice we bring happiness and joy to countless generations of ancestors, whether we’re practicing walking, running, or breathing.

Thich Nhat Hanh, excerpt from We are our Ancestors and The Sutra on Measuring and Reflecting, Dharma Talk given at 26th of March 1998, New Hamlet, Plum Village, France.

To read the entire talk please refer to:

Photo: The Royal Cloister (Claustro Real) in the Batalha Monastery, Portugal © Antonio Sacchetti

Sep 1, 2007

dissolve among things

When I ask Phap An about the meaning of love, he says, “When your eyes are open, the love happens. Love is a state of mind where you are very bright, very clear. There is connectivity between you and the rest of the universe. It is a source of energy that makes you dissolve among things. Slowly a process of opening begins, your mind begins to expand, and you begin to see things much more clearly. You hear the sound of bird chirping and you see the green on the bamboo. You feel a lot of energy to be alive. That is love. It gives you the energy to serve. You feel your life is very wonderful. That is spiritual love.”

I love asking about love, now that I’m in love. I ask Sister Chan Khong what love is, and her response is so beautiful I am in tears. She speaks from such a deep place of knowing, with a sweet, soft, strong voice. Sweet as a flower and strong as a lion. She says that we need to love a person the way we love a tree – not just the surface, not just the branches or the trunk, but also the roots. We need to know all of them – their ancestors, their family, their friends, their dreams. This is all part of who they are. What is it that really matters to them? A lover always offers joy and eases suffering.

Excerpt from I Am Home by Velcrow Ripper, who reports on Thich Nhat Hanh’s historic second trip home to Vietnam, in 2007. To read the entire text please refer to:

Photo: Sister Chan Kong in a school at Buong Dang, Vietnam, March 5th 2007 ©David Nelson

Photos taken by David Nelson can be seen on

Aug 29, 2007

a practice infused with love

By the middle of the trip, I am in love. I can barely contain myself during the mindful walking meditations – it feels like mindful skipping. Fortunately, being with the Plum Village sangha is a safe place for a lover. No one thinks I’m crazy if I smile a little too widely. It feels like everything is in sync. To me, every chirp of a bird is a love song right now.

When I watch Thay as he leads the morning walking meditations, I sense that his heart is blown wide open. His brand of Zen Buddhism is far removed from the stick-thwacking, koan-churning stereotype of Zen. His is a practice infused with love, in all its dimensions. You can see it running through his students. The sangha beams with love and smiles. Even when Thay is not around, I am still imbibing his teachings, transmitted with authenticity by his students. This is not a grim, repressed bunch of monks and nuns, fearers of life hiding out in the security of the monastery. These people are engaged; they’re living fully, in this moment, freely sharing their findings with the rest of us.

Phap An, one of Thay’s senior monks, says that before he met Thay he spent years meditating on a deceptively simple koan: Who am I? It became an obsession: Who am I lifting this arm? Who am I taking this step? Who am I moving through space? Then he met Thay and discovered meditation in action. He dropped the philosophy and started living, being fully alive. There is some formal meditation at Plum Village, but not a lot. More important is how you live life. How you fully show up. It’s not about analyzing yourself into enlightenment. It’s about being, now. Now. Now. Now.

Excerpt from I Am Home by Velcrow Ripper, who reports on Thich Nhat Hanh’s historic second trip home to Vietnam, in 2007. To read the entire text please refer to:

Photos: top, Thay and the sangha just before the walking meditation at Tu Hieu, Vietnam, March 29 2007 © David Nelson; bottom, walking meditation towards Son Ha Monastery, Plum Village, France, June 2006 © Richard & Joanne Friday

To see more pictures from Thay's 2007 Vietnam pilgrimage, please refer to:

Aug 25, 2007

mirror mind

The perfect man uses his mind

as a mirror.

It grasps nothing.

It regrets nothing.

It receives but does not keep.

Chuang Tzu

if you would like to read more on Chuang Tzu please refer to

photo: Oslo, Norway, 2006 © zentobe

Aug 24, 2007

to solve the world's problems

Some people feel that the world's problems are so pressing that social and political action should take precedence over individual development. They may feel that they should sacrifice their own needs completely in order to work for a larger cause. In its extreme form, this kind of thinking justifies individual neurosis and aggression as purely a product of a troubled society [...]. If we try to solve society's problems without overcoming the confusion and aggression in our own state of mind, then our efforts will only contribute to the basic problems, instead of solving them.


If you want to solve the world's problems, you have to put your own household, your own individual life, in order first.


Slowing down any impulse is said to be the best way to begin [the warrior's path].

Chögyam Trungpa, Shambhala, the Sacred Path of the Warrior

to learn more about this book, please refer to:

photo: homeless, São Paulo, Brazil © Ennio Brauns

Aug 19, 2007

a dharma eternal is this

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Hatreds never cease through hatred;
Through love alone they cease;
A Dharma eternal is this

The Dharmapada

Photo: Vesak 2551 Celebration at Son Ha temple on May 31st, 2007, Plum Village, France

To see more photos from this set of the Sangha Activities at Plum Village, please refer to:

Aug 16, 2007

what would you like done with me?

For you I live and come to be --
What would you like done with me?

Sovereign, awful majesty,
Knowing till eternity --
Goodness, gracious to my soul,
Highness, godhead, one and whole,
Look at this nonentity
Singing of her love for thee --
What would you like done with me?

I am yours, because you made me,
Yours, because you then redeemed me,
Yours, because you suffered for me,
Yours, because you clamored for me,
Yours, because you did not lose me,
What would you like done with me?

What commands then, good my lord,
By such a creature should be done?
Or what office have I won,
Being but a slave abhorred?
Can't you see me, my sweet one?
Me, my sweet one, can't you see
What would you like done with me?

Right here is my heart, you see,
Lo, I put it in your hand,
My body, soul, all I command,
My entrails and my loving thee.
Redeemer sweet who married me,
Since I gave my all for thee,
What would you like done with me?

Saint Teresa of Avila (1515 - 1582)

If you would like to read more, please refer to:

Aug 13, 2007

holy habits

Ritual is routine infused with mindfulness.
It is habit made holy.

Kent Nerburn, Small Graces

Aug 11, 2007

sitting quietly

Sitting quietly
Doing nothing
Spring comes
And the grass grows all by itself

(this is a quotation from the zen tradition, author unknown to me)

Photo: sitting quietly at the beautiful site of the Elgin Cathedral, Scotland, May 2006

Aug 4, 2007

I am drinking cloud

Death is a very necessary condition of birth. With no death, there is no birth. They inter-are and happen in every moment to the experienced meditator. For instance, a cloud may have died many times, into rain, streams, water. The cloud may want to wave to itself on earth! Rain is a continuation of the cloud. With a meditation practitioner nothing can hide itself. When I drink tea, it’s very pleasant to be aware I am drinking cloud.


The cloud was water in an ocean, lake, river and heat from the sun gave it birth – the moment of continuation. For instance, birth – before you were born you were in your mother’s womb. The moment of birth is a moment of continuation. Is the moment of conception the start? You are half from your dad and half from your mum already, this is also a moment of continuation. When you practice meditation you can see things like that.

It is impossible for a cloud to die. It can become water, snow – it cannot become nothing. It is also impossible for us to die. Speech, action and thought continue in the future. The person who dies still continues because we are not capable of using meditators’ eyes. They continue in us and around us. All our ancestors are alive in us. Our ancestors are in our chromosomes.


Nirvana is the absence of all notions, birth and death, coming and going, sameness and otherness. According to Buddhism, ‘to be or not to be’ is not a real question.

Meditation takes us beyond to a place of fearlessness. We’re too busy, so we become victims of anger, fear. If we have really touched our nature of no birth/death, we know to die is one of the root conditions to realize oneself.


I treasure the time I have left, more for me to practice. I want to generate energy of love, compassion and understanding so I can continue beautifully. I would like you to do the same. Use your time wisely. Every moment produce beautiful thoughts, loving, kindness, forgiveness. Say beautiful things, inspire, forgive, act physically to protect and help. We know we are capable of producing beautiful karma for good continuations and the happiness of other people.

When the time comes for dissolution of this body you may like to release it easily. You aren’t to grasp – releasing body and perception. Remember the image of a cloud in the sky seeing continuation in rice and ice-cream waving to itself. You can already see your continuation. The art of living is continuation. For myself and the other beings.

excerpts from the Dharma talk What happens when you die? given by Thich Nhat Hanh during a retreat in Hong Kong on 15 May 2007

To read the complete transcription of this Dharma talk please refer to:

Image: cloud, ferryboat from Stockholm to Helsinki, August 2006 ©zentobe

Aug 3, 2007

the roof

Ever since my house
burned down
I see the moon more clearly.

(zen quotation)

Jul 29, 2007

drink your tea

Drink your tea slowly and reverently,
as if it is the axis
on which the world earth revolves
- slowly, evenly, without
rushing toward the future;
live the actual moment.
Only this moment is life.

Thich Nhat Hahn

to read more poems by Thich Nhat Hanh please refer to:

Jul 28, 2007

the voice of conscience

There are times when you have to obey a call which is the highest of all, i.e. the voice of conscience even though such obedience may cost many a bitter tear, and even more, separation from friends, from family, from the state to which you may belong, from all that you have held as dear as life itself. For this obedience is the law of our being.

The human voice can never reach the distance that is covered by the still small voice of conscience.

Mahatma Gandhi

photo © Lars Ihring

Jul 19, 2007

and yet

I've grown accustomed to her face
She almost makes the day begin
I've grown accustomed to the tune
She whistles night and noon
Her smiles, her frowns,
Her ups, her downs
Are second nature to me now
Like breathing out and breathing in
I was serenely independent and content before we met
Surely I could always be that way again
And yet
I've grown accustomed to her looks,
Accustomed to her voice,
Accustomed to her face...

(Words and Music by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe from the Broadway musical "My Fair Lady" - excerpt)

Photo © Tijen Inaltong

Jul 15, 2007

some days

Because some days living hurts more than others.

Jul 11, 2007

the elder brother

From the beginning in Colombia everything, everything remained as it was among us, the native people; the same belief, the same mask, the same dance. Everything well organised, in order, a terrace for every animal.

'Younger brother was permitted in other places, other countries. There was a dividing line, the sea. He said, 'Younger Brother that side, Elder Brother this side. You cannot cross it.' Because this Colombia was the heart of The world, Of the whole universe.

'But Younger Brother came from another country and immediately saw gold and immediately began to rob. There were golden images, golden oracles. The Mama prophesied with golden Bowls, he had a golden tuma, he had everything and Younger Brother took it all to another country.

'Now the Mama grows sad, he feels weak. He says that the earth is decaying. The earth is losing its strength. Because they have taken away much petrol, coal, many minerals.

'A human being has much liquid inside. If the liquid dries up we fall with weakness. This same thing can happen to the Earth. Weakness makes you fall, weakness.

'So the earth catches diseases of all kinds. The animals die. The trees dry up. People fall ill. Many illnesses will appear and there will be no cure for them. Why?

'Because the Younger Brother is among us, Younger Brother is violating the basic foundation of the world's law. A total violation. Robbing. Ransacking. Building highways, extracting petrol, minerals.

'We tell you, We the people of this place, Kogi, Asario, Arhuaco: that is the violation. So the Mamas say, please BBC, no one else should come here, no more ransacking because the earth wants to collapse, the earth grows weak, we must protect it, we must respect it, because he does not respect the earth, because he does not respect it.'

'Younger Brother thinks,'Yes! Here I am! I know much about the universe!' But this knowing is learning to destroy the world, to destroy everything, all humanity.

'The earth feels, they take out petrol, it feels pain there. So the earth sends out sickness. There will be many medicines, drugs, but in the end the drugs will not be of any use.

'The Mamas say that this tale must be learnt by the Younger Brother.'

from the documentary From the Heart of the World - The Elder Brother's Warning, by Alan Ereira (director), 1991 , BBC

Photo: Children from the Kogi Tribe that live in the Nevado de Santa Marta, Colombia © Oshry Chageg

If you'd like to learn more about this video, please refer to:

If you'd like to learn more about the Kogi tribe, please refer to:

Jul 6, 2007

when you reach the sea...

Float down this river…
float down in this old boat…
every river reaches the sea…
where upstream and downstream meet…
reaches the darkening sea…
is left as a crust of white salt on the shore.

So float down the river…
eyes closed… lips shut…
every scrap of dharma set aside.
Float down alone…
winds will blow…
night will fall and float down with you.
When you reach the sea…
there is no one in pain…
anywhere in this world.

from the book Little Pilgrim by Ko Un, Parallax Press, Berkeley, 2005

photo: Dead Sea Sunset

Jul 2, 2007

not pleasant yet wonderful

This is from one Question and Answer Session with Thich Nhat Hanh on 20th of July 1998, in Plum Village:

(Thay reads a question.) I hear you say that the present moment is a wonderful moment. What if the present moment is just despair... a desert of emptiness and loneliness, meaninglessness, sickness, a feeling of loss and despair? Most of the time when I stop I find myself there.

When the Buddha gave his first Dharma talk, he spoke about ill being, dukkha. Of course the feeling of loneliness, meaninglessness, sickness, despair, all belong to dukkha, ill being. The Buddha talked about it first of all. That was the first topic of his Dharma talk. According to the spirit of that Dharma talk, you should not try to run away from your ill being, try to escape, because if you do, you have no chance to get out of it. If you know how to embrace your pain and look deeply into it, and if you really care to look deeply, you will find out how it has come to be: the roots of your ill-being. And only with that kind of insight will you be able to get out of the situation. Therefore the attitude of running away from your suffering is not a wise attitude. In fact the first truth, namely, ill being, suffering, has been described as a holy truth, because the first Dharma talk given by the Buddha was about the Four Holy Truths. First of all, ill being. The second truth is the cause, the roots of ill being. The third truth is the possibility of overcoming ill being and restoring well being, and the fourth is the way out of ill being and arriving at well being. Not only are the two last truths described as holy, but also the first one and the second one. Why do we call pain and suffering a holy truth? It is because, thanks to it, we can find the way to overcome suffering and ill being.

If we know how to handle our suffering, then we can learn a lot from it and we can discover the way out. But if we don’t know how to handle it, we will be overwhelmed by it, crushed by it, and the only thing we will want is to get away from it. But how to get away? That is why even suffering is described as holy, wonderful. "Wonderful" does not mean pleasant alone. "Wonderful" means that there is a depth that we have to discover, and that looking into this, we can discover that also. The fact is that happiness is not possible without suffering. Those of us who have not experienced any kind of suffering would not be capable of identifying happiness, this is my experience. If you have never been hungry in your life, you do not know exactly the joy of having something to eat. If you have not suffered as a homeless person, you would not be able to identify the joy of someone who has a house to live in. That is why happiness cannot be identified without the background of suffering. That is why when someone says, "Come with me—I will show you a place where there is only happiness," please don’t believe him or her. Without the background and the remembrance of suffering, of pain, you cannot enjoy the happiness you are having now. That is why not only happiness is wonderful, but your non-happiness is also wonderful.

Suppose you have a depression and you want to get away from it. How can you get away from it? You have to embrace it and look deeply into it and identify the causes that have brought it to you. Then you can learn from your depression, and then you can enjoy the non-depression, the well being that you can afford to have. If you know how to cut the source of nutriment that has brought on your depression, then you are on your way to emancipation, and you begin to enjoy your non-depression. It is like your toothache. I hope that in this moment you don’t have a toothache, yet you don’t enjoy your non-toothache until you have a toothache. Suffering from your toothache you get enlightened: you say: "It’s wonderful not to have a toothache." So, how to enjoy your non-toothache? Just remember the time when you had a toothache. Suffering plays a very important role in helping you to be happy. That is why even what you call suffering, loneliness, meaninglessness, sadness, fear and despair can be wonderful, because it is thanks to them that you have an opportunity to discover what freedom, stability, friendship, interbeing and love are.

So let us not run away from our garbage; we should learn the art of making compost. Using that compost we will grow a lot of flowers. Don’t think that without compost you can have flowers. That is an illusion. You can have flowers only with compost. That is the insight of interbeing — look into the flower and you will see the compost. If you remove the compost that became the flower, the flower will disappear also. What you are looking for, freedom, joy, and stability, you know that suffering plays a very important role in it. So be aware that we cannot just run away from our problems. In fact, we have to go back to our problems. The practice of calming, of concentrating, of embracing, of looking deeply into the nature of our pain, is absolutely necessary for us to get the transformation, the healing that we need so much.

Foto: Thich Nhat Hanh portrait © Plum Village site

Jun 28, 2007

deep looking

Written as a poem, this a practice: the practice of deep looking. Wonderful to do, important to master. Will you do it?

To read more poems by William Blake please refer to:

Jun 24, 2007

eating impressions

Secondly, there is the food called "sense impressions." This food comes through our eyes, our ears, our nose, our body and our mind. When you cross the city or the town, images hit you, sounds hit you, and this is called the food of sense impression: sight, smell, touch, and thought. When you look at television you are consuming. When you read a book, you are consuming. And among the things you consume, there are poisons and toxins. You should be aware, and be able to identify poisons and toxins in what you consume, by your eyes, by your ears, and by your nose. And each time you expose yourself to images, sounds, smells, thoughts which destroy you, you are …We are always consuming by means of our six senses.

Remember how one time you talked to someone for an hour, and the conversation was so poisonous, that after talking you felt completely paralyzed? You were filled with the despair and violence expressed in that conversation, and during that hour when you listened to that person, you consumed many poisons. It was not a good consumption. In our daily lives, besides edible food, we take a lot of sense impression food, and we expose ourselves to all kinds of toxins. We read an article in the newspaper, we look at a film, and that is consuming. If you are subject to depression, if you are subject to despair, if you no longer want to live, that is because you have consumed without mindfulness. You’ve consumed just anything that comes your way. We can talk about these products as products of culture. Our children also consume violence, fear, and despair every day when they watch television. The Buddha has warned us against this: he has told us to take care of our six senses, look with mindfulness, listen with mindfulness, consume sense impressions through eyes and ears with mindfulness, and do not allow the toxins to come to you. You should look deeply to be able to recognize and to decide whether to should ingest this or not.

I have told you that the first element of Buddhist meditation is to stop, and now I am going to talk about the other element, which is called "looking deeply." When you have practiced stopping, you are really there, and you can look at the food, you can look at everything you consume with your ears, your eyes, your body, with your mind, because thoughts and ideas are also products which we consume. Looking deeply is something we can do when we stop. If we continue to run, how can we look deeply? We have to stop first of all, and then we can start looking, looking into what is facing us, what is before us, and we are talking now about the things which we consume. We allow our children to poison themselves every day with cultural products, and we ourselves consume without mindfulness. If we are depressed, if we are in despair, it is because of something we have consumed.

The Buddha said, "Look at the nature of what happens to you, and if you can identify the source of nourishment which has brought that about, then you are already liberated." And the Buddha is talking about food. It’s because you have consumed this or that, that you are suffering now, from depression, despair, and pain, and that does not come on its own, just like that, it comes from your consumption without mindfulness. To practice mindfulness is to be able to distinguish what is good for your organism, whether it is your physical organism or your mental organism, from what is bad for you. And this is something we practice on our own, with our family and with our Sangha. Looking deeply we have to say, "This is not good for me," or "This is not good for us." And that is why I said that the therapist is also a restaurateur, a cook, who should only offer healthy food to his customers. When you come to Plum Village, we are cooks at your service. We are determined to offer you only healthy food: walking meditation so that you can stop and touch the positive things in life, sitting meditation so you can cultivate more solidity, silence so that you have more time to look deeply into what is happening. Practitioners who live with us, who have a certain amount of joy, compassion and solidity, are supporting you in your practice. These are all foods that we need to help us.

A therapist needs to be a cook, a restaurateur, who can restore your mental and physical health. That is why the Buddha taught us that before eating we have to practice the Five Contemplations: "This food is the gift of the earth and the sky. It is the gift of the whole universe. I am determined to live in a way that makes me worthy of receiving this food." What does that mean, "to be worthy?" To be worthy of the food means to eat it in mindfulness, you know what you are eating. Eat, and be aware of what you are eating; that is to practice mindfulness while you are eating, and it makes you worthy to receive the food. And if you eat in mindfulness, you know exactly what you can swallow, and exactly what you should not swallow.

What is mindfulness? It is Buddha in you, it is the energy which makes you present in the moment, which helps you to see things as they really are, and that is why you will not wander into confusion, into wrongdoing towards yourself and towards others. For we who practice Buddhism, mindfulness is the Buddha himself. Each one of us has a seed of mindfulness in us, and each day we practice will help this seed of mindfulness to develop.

All of us are able to be aware of everything which is happening. When you drink a glass of water, you can always drink that in mindfulness. "I drink and I am aware that I am drinking water." When you walk, you can walk in mindfulness. You all have that capacity. The only thing is, do you want to do it, or not? It is sure that you have the capacity to be aware of everything that happens. You can breathe mindfully, you can walk mindfully, you can sit mindfully, and this will give you the energy called mindfulness, which will help you see clearly the way things are, and thanks to that, we will be able to know what we should consume, and what we should not consume.

from the Dharma Talk on Mindful Consumption given by Thich Nhat Hanh on July 17, 1998 in Plum Village, France.

Photo: brother Phap Doh eating his salad in a green ocean of peace, Upper Hamlet, Plum Village, The Breath of the Buddha Retreat, June 2006 ©Richard&Joanne Friday

Jun 19, 2007

eating with understanding

To know how to eat is to know how to live. Not to know how to eat is to die. It depends on the way you eat and the way you cook. We must offer healthy food. When you are seated at the table, breathe deeply, look deeply at what is on the table; practice mindfulness in order to recognize what is good for your body or your person, and what is not good for you, and make the decision only to eat what is going to nourish you properly, and do not make a war in your body and your mind by what you eat. The Buddha has made this point many, many times. He suggested that we should practice mindfulness of eating. The first kind of eating he spoke about is the edible food, the food we take through our mouths. We have to eat in such a way that compassion is maintained while we eat. We have to eat with understanding and compassion.


Each time we see food on the table, we should breathe deeply in order to see what kind of food we are going to eat, because there are foods which will create war in us when we have eaten them,. This body, which has been transmitted to us by our ancestors, is something we need to take care of, we should not destroy it with the food we take. If we do not eat mindfully, if we destroy our bodies when we eat, then we are eating the flesh of our ancestors, our parents, and our children. Your children are there in you, even if you are still very young, your children are already there in you, and the future generations are there in you. They are waiting for the right moment to manifest, but they are there in you. So eat in such a way that happiness can be there in you. When you eat meat, when you drink alcohol, you can continue to do these things, but do them with mindfulness. Mindfulness shows us that there are so many people dying every day because of hunger. UNESCO has said that 40,000 children die every day of malnutrition. Imagine, 40,000 children every day!

A huge quantity of cereal grains is used to make alcohol and to raise animals for meat, so when we eat these things it is just as if we are eating the flesh of our own child. We have to eat with discrimination, with mindfulness, in order to be able to see clearly, and to keep compassion alive in us. A person without compassion cannot be happy--it is something I have learned during my life. If you do not have compassion, happiness will be impossible. Without the energy called compassion, we are cut off from the world, we cannot be in touch with other living beings in the world. So eat in such a way that compassion is possible. Look at nature, look at the living beings, and let us learn how to cultivate our land, and make food in such a way, and eat food in such a way, that life around us is still possible, as well as within us. This kind of food is called edible food.

from the Dharma Talk on Mindful Consumption given by Thich Nhat Hanh on July 17, 1998 in Plum Village, France.

Photo: walking meditation on the way to the formal lunch, Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, June 2006 © Courtney Powell.

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Jun 14, 2007

pure land

This is the Pure Land;
The Pure Land is right here.
This mindful smile helps me
To establish myself in the present moment.
Look, I see the Buddha as a red leaf,
And the dharma as a cloud.
My Sangha is everywhere,
And my true homeland is just right here.
Breathing in, I see the chrysanthemum blooming;
Breathing out, I see the bamboo bending.
My mind is totally free,
And I enjoy it day after day.

The poem above was quoted in the Dharma Talk on The Nature of Self given by Thich Nhat Hanh on July 21, 1998, in Plum Village, France. And he made a few comments on the poem, one of them being:

Everything I see, I identify as elements of my Sangha--the blue sky, the clouds, the leaves, the trees, the birds, the pebbles, the path where I practice walking meditation-- everything belongs to my Sangha. I don’t have to go back to my hometown in order to find my Sangha. My Sangha is everywhere. Everything around me supports my being awake. Every sound, every sight supports and maintains me in the Pure Land. My lack of mindfulness alone can bring me out of the Pure Land, but everything else around me is supporting me in order to nourish me in the Pure Land.

Photo: pause during walking meditation on the hill at New Hamlet, Plum Village, France ©Richard&Joanne Friday

Jun 12, 2007

i am you are me

Dedicated to Tijen and Zeynep... I thank you.

©Zeynep Kanra

You are me and I am you.
It is obvious that we are inter-are.
You cultivate the flower in
yourself so that I will be beautiful.
I transform the garbage in myself so
that you do not have to suffer.
I support you you support me.
I am here to bring you peace
you are here to bring me joy.

Thich Nhat Hanh

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Jun 4, 2007

our true home

When we practice walking meditation we are walking without needing to arrive anywhere, walking just to walk, each step you take brings you back to life, because in Buddhism we say that life can only be found in the present moment. The past has already gone, the future has not yet come, there is only one moment to live, and that is the present moment. Therefore, you have an appointment with life. If you miss the present moment, you miss your appointment with life. Therefore, when you practice walking meditation, with each step you arrive in the present moment, and that is the address of our true home: life.

If someone asks you, "What is the Buddha’s address, what is the bodhisattvas’ address?" we say that the Buddha’s address is the here and the now. If you want to meet Buddhas, great beings, bodhisattvas, that is the address where you will meet them. Each brings you to the here and the now, so that you can be in touch with life as it really is. Everything you are looking for is to be found in the here and the now, because the here and now is the only place where life is available. Therefore, walking meditation is something very enjoyable to do. You can practice according to this formula: "I have arrived, I am home."

excerpt from the Dharma Talk on Mindful Consumption given by Thich Nhat Hanh on July 17, 1998 in Plum Village, France.

Photo above: Walk as a Sangha. I do not forget this magical moment, such a beautiful scene captured in a picture by Richard, taken during a walking meditation in Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, The Breath of the Buddha retreat, June 2006. Peace is beauty, beauty is peace. And our sister carries a piece of blue sky during her walking meditation, to bring with her the energy of the Sangha, and never be lonely. ©Richard Friday

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Jun 1, 2007

one year ago

Do not pursue the past.

Do not lose yourself in the future.

The past no longer is.

The future has not yet come.

Looking deeply at life as it is

in the very here and now,

the practitioner dwells

in stability and freedom.

text quoted by Thich Nhat Hanh in the Dharma Talk The Sutra on Knowing the Better Way to Live Alone, given on April 5th, 1998 in Plum Village, France.

Let's dwell in the present moment, I tell myself. And in the present moment there is this very strong, wonderful memory of my retreat at Plum Village, starting this day one year ago... A memory that gives me strength to get deeper into the practice and to live with joy.

If you would like to know more about Plum Village Practice Center, please refer to:

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Photo: glade meditation on a hill at Upper Hamlet, Plum Village, during The Breath of the Buddha retreat, June 2006 ©Richard&Joanne Friday

May 27, 2007

one art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)

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May 25, 2007

the world of truth

Not so long ago, the great patriarch Song Chol Sunim said, "Mountain is mountain, water is water." First we said that mountain is water, water is mountain. Next we went to the place where there is no mountain, no water. Now we say, "mountain is mountain, water is water." This is the place of attaining my true self. So, mountain is just mountain, water is just water. Our true self is like a clear mirror -- a great round mirror. In this clear mirror everyhing is reflected. Mountain is just mountain reflected; water comes, just water is reflected. If we completely empty our mind it's like a clear mirror. Then everything in our world is reflected in my mind: mountain is reflected, water is reflected, everything is just reflected. We call that "truth like this," the world of truth. We also say that is true form or just truth.

First, we talked about the world of impermanence. Attaining enlightenment is to lose enlightenment. Losing enlightenment is getting enlightenment. Mountain becomes water, water becomes mountain.

Next we went to the world of emptiness. Attainment is emptiness; also, no attainment is emptiness. Mountain is emptiness and water is emptiness. Complete and true emptiness.

Then, taking one more big step from the world of emptiness we come to the world of truth. Here everything is just as it is. Mountain is mountain; water is water. Attaining enlightenment is just attaining enlightenment; losing enlightenment is just losing enlightenment. We call that truth.

Now three different worlds have appeared. Of these three worlds, which one is the correct? Once again: Mountain is water, water is mountain. That's the world of impermanence. Next, no mountain, no water. That's the world of emptiness. And lastly mountain is mountain, water is water -- truth or moment world. If we have time and space, then all things exist. If we transcend time and space, then we come to the world of emptiness. Taking one more step, we come to the world of truth. In the world of truth everything we see, hear, smell, taste and touch is always teaching us. Every moment is truth. The sky is blue, the dog is barking: woof woof, sugar is sweet. This is the world of truth.

excerpt from part one of two of a talk given by Zen Master Seung Sahn to the members of Hwa Gye Sah temple in Seoul, on an evening before Buddha's Enlightenment Day. Traditionally Buddhists will stay up all night practicing meditation on this night in emulation of the Buddha before his great enlightenment.

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photo: Just sitting, somewhere in Norway, August 2006 ©parazerzen/zentobe

May 23, 2007

reaching for the moon

Mikô suigetsu o saguri,
Shi ni itaru made kyûketsu sezu.
Hôshu shinsen ni mossureba,
Jippô hikari kôketsu.

The monkey is reaching for the moon in the water
Until death overtakes him he'll never give up.
If he'd let go the branch and disappear in the deep pool,
The whole world would shine with dazzling pureness.

drawing by Hakuin Ekaku (1685-1768), hanging scroll, ink on paper.

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May 19, 2007

now and forever

May we become at all times,
both now and forever,
a protector for those without protection,
a guide for those who have lost their way,
a ship for those with oceans to cross,
a bridge for those with rivers to cross,
a sanctuary for those in danger,
a lamp for those in need of light,
a place of refuge for those in need of shelter,
and a servant to all those in need.

The Dalai Lama

in Prayer for Everyday Living, Alan Walker, Godsfield Press, Hampshire, 2003

May 16, 2007

May 14, 2007

to bow or not to bow

Thây has often said to his students, “To bow or not to bow is not the question. The important thing is to be mindful.” When we greet someone with a bow, we have the chance to be present with that person and with the nature of awake-ness, of Buddhahood, within us and within the other person. We do not bow just to be polite or diplomatic, but to recognize the miracle of being alive. When we see a person joins his or her palms to bow to us, we can do the same. Breathing in, we silently say, “A lotus for you.” Bowing our head down and breathing out, we say, “A Buddha to be.” We do this in mindfulness, truly aware that the person is there in front of us. We bow with all the sincerety of our heart. Sometimes, when we feel a deep connection to what is there in front of us- a sense of awe at the wonders of life, whether that be a flower, a sunset, a tree, or the cool drops of rain, whatever it may be- we might like to bow in this way as well, to offer our presence and gratitude.

text taken from the booklet How to enjoy your stay in Plum Village

Because often I miss Plum Village so much...

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Photo: monk and nun in Plum Village, The Breath of the Buddha retreat, June 2006 ©Richard&Joanne Friday

May 10, 2007

be with us this day

Lord, be with us this day.
Within us to purify us;
Above us to draw us up;
Beneath us to sustain us;
Before us to lead us;
Behind us to restrain us;
Around us to protect us.
Lord, be with us this day.

Saint Patrick
(387- 461)

from the book by Alan Walker, Prayer for everyday living, Godsfield Press, 2003

image: Albrecht Dürer, Study of an Apostle's Hands (Praying Hands), c. 1508, Brush drawing on blue primed paper, 290 x 197 mm, Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna

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May 7, 2007

perfectly at ease

Just get rid
Of that small mind
That is called "self",
And there is nothing
In a thousand million worlds
That can harm or hinder you.

How delightful it is
To make all space
Our dwelling place!
Our hearts and minds
Are perfectly at ease.

from Zen and Zen Classics - Volume One by R. H. Blyth, The Hokuseido Press/Heian International, San Francisco, 1982

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photo: sunset, ferryboat from Stockholm to Helsinki, August 2006 ©paraserzen/zentobe

May 4, 2007

never at ease

So, beneath the starry dome
And the floor of plains and seas,
I have never felt at home,
Never wholly been at ease.

Basho Matsuo (1644 ~ 1694)

translation by R.H. Blyth

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painting by Evard Munch, Starry Night, oil on canvas, 1893
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May 3, 2007

timelessness and nowhere

Home again. But what was home? The fish has the vast ocean for home. And man has timelessness and nowhere. “I won’t delude myself with the fallacy of home,” he said to himself. “The four walls are a blanket I wrap around in, in timelessness and nowhere, to go to sleep.”

D. H. Lawrence, Kangaroo

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painting by Edward Hopper, Sun in an Empty Room, 1963

May 2, 2007

time elapsed

A camellia flower fell;
A cock crowed;
Some more fell.


from Zen and Zen Classics - Volume One by R. H. Blyth, The Hokuseido Press/Heian International, San Francisco, 1982

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Illustration: Ando Hiroshige, Sparrows in the Sazanka in Snow (Setchu Sazanka ni Suzume),1832-34, from the series Nature Prints (O-Tanzaku), Publisher: Jakurindo
(Sazanka is the Japanese common name for Camellia)

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Apr 24, 2007

l(a... (a leaf falls on loneliness)





e e cummings (1894-1962)

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Apr 22, 2007

hasten slowly

Maintain the state of undistractedness and distractions will fly off.
Dwell alone and you shall find a friend.
Take the lowest place and you shall reach the highest.
Hasten slowly and you will soon arrive.
Renounce all worldly goals and you shall reach the highest goal.

Milarepa (1052 - 1135)

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Apr 20, 2007

the storehouse of spirit

Life, death, preservation, loss, failure, success, poverty, riches, worthiness, unworthiness, slander, fame, hunger, thirst, cold, heat -- these are the alternations of the world, the workings of fate. Day and night they change places before us and wisdom cannot spy out their source. Therefore they should not be enough to destroy your harmony; they should not be allowed to enter the storehouse of spirit.

Chuang-tzu (approximately 369-286 B.C.E.)

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