Apr 30, 2008

an elephant's lullaby

The elephant began to sing him a lullaby:

There was never a moment
When I was not wildflowers in the field.
There was never a moment when I was not water babbling.
There was never a moment when I was not birds or beasts.
There was never a moment when I was not a weary seagull
forced to fly from island to island.
There was never a moment when I was not a beggar.
I am a father, and stars, and the bright morning sun.
I am rainbow after rain.
And like all these things
There was never a moment when I was not an elephant.

from the book by Ko Un, Little Pilgrim (Parallax Press, Berkley, 2005), papercut illustrations by Jason DeAntonis

Apr 26, 2008

true compassion

D: I have another question. I find I can stop being emotional, right in the middle of a difficult interaction, but then I don't know where to go from there. Since I am studying Buddhism and learning to practice the Buddhist way, I feel I should react with more compassion. But I may not feel compassionate. Because I don't know how to go on, I go back to my old conditioning of either resentment or aggressiveness.

My dear, this is only a phase in your own progress. You have come this far. It is possible to go further. Look into the process involved in your mind right in the midst of reacting. When you are able to stop in your tracks, you are already doing quite well.

It is only when you start intelectualising again that you get into trouble.

If you have the notion that as a practicing Buddhist you should be compassionate, then you are setting up an image of yourself. As soon as that thought is allowed to come into your mind, you are not free. At that moment your mind is filled with the desire to fullfil your own image as a practicing Buddhist.

When the mind is not free, there is no chance for true compassion to arise.

It is as simple as that. Only when you free yourself of preconceived perceptions of yourself can spontaneous compassion arise. When you are free of concepts, you will act spontaneously and compassionately as well as creatively.

excerpt from Living Meditation, by Dr. Thynn Thynn. To read the whole text, or to download it in pdf document format, please refer to:

Photo ©Zeynep Kanra; if you'd like to see more of Zeynep's photos please refer to:

Apr 22, 2008

what happens to us when we die?

In order to answer what happens to us when we die, we need to answer another question – what happens when we are alive?

What is happening now to us? In English we say ‘we are’ but it’s proper to say ‘we are becoming’ because things are becoming. We’re not the same person in two consecutive minutes.

A picture of you as baby looks different to you now. The fact is you are not exactly the same as that baby and not entirely a different person either. In a picture of you as a five year old, you are not exactly the same as that child and not entirely a different person either – the form, feelings and mental formations are different.

In the middle way there is no sameness and no otherness.

You may think you are still alive but in fact you have been dying everyday, every minute, cells die and are born - for neither do we have funerals or birthdays (laughter).

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.

When you are parents, you die and are reborn as your children. “You are my continuation, I love you.” The Buddha told us how to ensure a beautiful continuation – a compassionate thought, a beautiful thought. Forgiveness is our continuation. If anger, separation and hate arise, then we will not ensure a beautiful continuation. When we pronounce a word that is compassionate, good and beautiful that is our continuation.

excerpt of a transcription from a talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh during a retreat with five hundred people in Hong Kong on 15 May 2007.

If you'd like to read the entire text, please refer to:

Photo ©nicolas valentin; if you'd like to see more please refer to:

Apr 15, 2008

discourse on love

He or she who wants to attain peace should practice being upright, humble, and capable of using loving speech

He or she who knows how to live simply and happily, with senses calmed, without being covetous and carried away by the emotions of the majority

Let him or her not do anything that will be disapproved of by the wise ones

(And this is what he or she contemplates:)

May everyone be happy and safe, and my all hearts be filled with joy

May all beings live in security and in peace, beings who are frail or strong, tall or short, big or small, invisible or visible, who are near or far away, already born or yet to be born

May all of them dwell in perfect tranquility

Let no one do harm to anyone

Let no one put the life of anyone in danger

Let no one, out of anger or ill will, wish anyone any harm

Just as a mother loves and protects her only child at the risk of her own life, cultivate boundless love to offer to all living beings in the entire cosmos

Let our boundless love pervade the whole universe, above, below, and across

Our love will know no obstacles

Our heart will be absolutely free from hatred and enmity

Whether standing or walking, sitting or lying, as long as we are awake, we should maintain this mindfulness of love in our own heart

This is the noblest way of living

Free from wrong views, greed, and sensual desire, living in beauty and realizing perfect understanding, those who practice boundless love will certainly transcend birth and death

Etena sacca vajjena sotthi te hotu sabba da
(by the firm determination of this truth may you ever be well)

Etena sacca vajjena sotthi te hotu sabba da

Etena sacca vajjena sotthi te hotu sabba da.

Discourse on Love, from the Plum Village Chanting Book (2002) adapted from a traditional Pali chant, recorded by Sister The Nghiem of Green Mountain Dharma Center. This chant is a common one in the Pali tradition of Theravadan Buddhists. The English translation was done by zen master Thich Nhat Hanh with the help of Plum Village monks and nuns. To listen to this beautiful chant please refer to:

If you'd like to see more photos like to the one above, please refer to:

Apr 12, 2008

gatha for my beloved

My beloved,
All things pass away, and time
is precious.
Let us cherish our togetherness
now –
Each moment, each smile,
each day, each embrace –
before the sun sets
and darkness falls.

On this sacred day of
Buddha’s Awakening,
Remember, my heart-mate,
your bedroom is
your zendo.
Taking care of the little details,
you take care of Life Itself.
Every day is sesshin,
and every dust particle swept
is the saving of all beings.

All things pass away
and the sun is setting.
Now is the time, my beloved,
now is the time for loving.
Time is precious
and darkness is falling.
Now is the time.
Now, beloved.

by Brother Chi Sing
(Bodhi Day, December 8, 2004)

Gatha = verse of mindfulness
zendo = meditation hall
sesshin = meditation retreat

from the Music, Writing & Poetry page of Deer Park Monastery. To read more please refer to

Photo: burning sunset ©Isaac Zilinsky

Apr 9, 2008

a journey's journal

The journey began more than 20 years ago, as the seeds of a dream to circumnavigate the globe were cultivated from a deeply personal and painful experience.

I spent a good portion of my youth in hospitals with my mother, who suffered from a degenerative kidney disease. As the disease progressed, she had made one last attempt to see the world by traveling to Europe.

Unfortunately, when she arrived, her health declined and was forced to return to the states where she died shortly thereafter. I learned two powerful lessons.

The first is to appreciate every moment of this incredible gift we call life, no matter what it brings.

The second, to live your dreams despite your fears.

Twenty years later, on July 1, 2005, after much hard work and deep personal sacrifice, my dream of seeing the world is coming true.

This journey is dedicated to the memory of my mother, Carol Ann Gunn, who was taken from this world far too early.

Now, please pull up a chair and enjoy the ride!

This is the introductory text to Rick Gunn's beautiful online travel journal, with hundreds of truly heartfelt photos like the one above. You can savour his pictures and words at:

His lessons are important ones to be learned -- which is: experienced. Life itself is the experience shared here.

Photo above: water brings bliss ©Rick Gunn

Apr 2, 2008


are we ever ready?
aren't we always ready?

(if you cannot read clearly, please click on the image to enlarge it)