Introductory Text to the Practice of Zazen (Sitting Meditation)
by Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Mar de Jade Spring Retreat, April 2011
I. PRACTICING WITH THE BODY AND THE BREATH
I think that probably everybody here can agree, especially on a day like today, that it is a wonderful life and that it is nice to be alive, especially here surrounded by such wonderful people, the sea, the beach, the beautiful sky, and the terrific food that someone else is cooking. It is hard to argue with the beauty of our life. But I think that if you worked in Mar de Jade, you would see that it is also a little bit of hard work. The beach is fine, and the sky takes care of itself, but the food, the rooms and all the other things, it takes a lot of effort and it means a lot of pressure, and you’re pretty busy, things break and need to be fixed. So if your situation is like this you realize that life is wonderful but also that it is not that easy, and that there are a lot of problems in being human. It is great but there are a lot of problems: having a body that doesn’t always work so well, and that is eventually guaranteed to break down; having a mind and a heart that can be hurt and that have been hurt and will be hurt; getting angry and upset, wanting things that you can’t have; living in a world with a lot of other people in it who are not always entirely cooperative with the things that we would like and may even sometimes cause us serious trouble (they might leave us when we want them to stay, or they might stay when we would rather want them to go away, or maybe we trusted them and they betrayed us). And as we know very well, here in Mexico but also in many other places, there are people who might do grave damage to us or that might even kill us or our friends or relatives, creating a fearful atmosphere for living.
So if we reflect about all these things, I think that we realize that no matter what our circumstances are in this moment, we would have to conclude that on one hand life is miraculous and very good, and on the other that life is not so good, with many unavoidable problems. We all know this. I think I am not telling you anything new.
Mostly our strategy for coping with this is to hold on to the things that are good and get rid of the things that are not good. This seems logical enough and natural enough, but unfortunately it doesn’t work. It often has the effect of making a bad situation worse. When you determine that bad things will not come near you, but they do, and you can’t make them go away, you can get very upset because these difficult things will come anyway and in the end we can’t go away or make them go away. So the question is: in a situation like this can we actually be happy? Can we actually find a reliable happiness? Strong enough and realistic enough to help us through our whole life all the way up to the end, and even when we are all full of trouble, is it possible even then to be happy or not? Is it necessary that we have to settle for living in some kind of a fog to not face what our life really is because we are afraid? Or do we just have to cope somehow so that we are never really completely alive? We are just kind of getting trough each day so when the end of the day has come we can sink into a deep sleep and not be living it. But no, happiness is really possible, a happiness that is lasting and has firm basis, a happiness that engages and faces the whole of life as it really is, this is actually possible, but it is not easy, it takes effort and it takes some training.
It is not sufficient to hope for happiness, and it is not sufficient to develop a belief system that makes life seem happy, because hope and belief will not last in our lives. However, if we train our mind and our heart carefully with a steady effort over time we can develop a new way of seeing our lives and a new way of living our lives. With effort over time this is possible, and that’s why we are here, why we practice. We are here to train our mind and our heart to learn how to go beyond what we think of ourselves and our lives and to see and practice a new way of living and seeing, a way that can bring us real happiness, and then when we have some basis of happiness in our lives we can actually be of some use to other people.
If we consider this possibility of training our mind and our heart we imagine that we can accomplish this by thinking it through or by way of concepts because that is how we have been taught to learn, but it doesn’t work that way because our thinking is already confused; our thinking doesn’t come from a wise heart, it comes out of our confusion and our wounds and everything we learn from a confused and wounded world. So mostly we cannot trust our thinking, it won’t really work for us to think our way through to happiness, and that’s why we practice zazen (meditation). The idea is that zazen will give us an alternative basis for our life. With meditation practice, especially when we can practice meditation intensively, we can actually begin to see how it is possible to have an alternative basis for our life. Because, what is the basis for all our thinking? The basis is oneself, our self-reference, our self-interest, what you believe or don’t believe, what you like or don’t like, what you believe about you character and so on. So naturally all thinking comes from and has reference to one’s self, but when we practice meditation we are not concentrating on ourselves, we are concentrating on the experience of the body, we are concentrating on the experience of the breath. It is not that we’re trying to eliminate our thoughts and feelings or ignore them, it’s very important that we notice them as they arise and that we’re honest about what we see, but when we’re practicing meditation that is not the commitment, that is not the point. The point is to return over and over again with a strong effort, gentle but very strong effort, to the feeling of the body sitting and to the breathing, and this is not exactly yourself, your self is your history and your sense of character and what you like and don’t like, and when you instead concentrate your effort on the whole experience of the body and the breathing, what you’re actually concentrating on is not yourself but your life, life itself: this process of life on which you of course depend on completely and which is not something different from yourself, but that is something larger than yourself, something more than yourself. In this process we are all sharing exactly in the same way, we are all participating in the process of living, we are all living because we are embodied, we are all living because we are all breathing. So when we give ourselves to our bodily processes in our living we are giving ourselves to something larger than ourselves, and in the process of meditation that is our commitment, to return to that. So we are literally shifting the basis of our life from our self to life itself. Because of this we can stand in a different place, and by standing in a different place we can literally have a new perspective. We are actually looking into our life from a different vantage point, from a different perspective, and because of this change of perspective we can actually see what is going on and we can see the pattern of our mind and end up the confusion. We can understand how our life of pain and our life of joy unfolds, and once we can see this we can make different choices, and little by little our living and thinking can come from a place of wisdom and we can be free from the patterns of thinking and feeling that hold us in bondage and confusion, and instead of living in a fog or in coping strategy we can live with the full heart completely willing to enter into life without being afraid, encountering life with all of life’s joy and sorrow. Whether you believe this or not, for now take my word for it, you’ll find out, but for now just take my word for it. And please, the reason why I’m asking you to take my word for it is so that you can find out, so you can help to support all of us. We can all support each other in this lifetime process of paying close attention to our lives, paying close attention all the time, meditating all the time, on the cushion and off the cushion.
Meditation, if you realize, is not just the time when we are sitting in the zendo (meditation hall). We are not just meditating on the cushion. Meditating on the cushion is a very easy and special case of meditation: it makes it clear what needs to be done, but then we do this on the cushion and off the cushion. Even here in the meditation hall we do sitting meditation, we do walking meditation, we do bowing and chanting meditation, then we go to the dinning hall and we do eating meditation, we do working meditation. Later we go to different places and we practice going to the toilet meditation, swimming in the ocean meditation, walking in the woods meditation, laying down meditation and sleeping meditation. This means that whatever we are doing we make the same effort to return to the body and the breathing and the immediate clarity of our activity whatever it is. We try to intensify our presence. This takes some energy, some intention, because the truth is we are “not” here, we are in some other place, and we need to gather ourselves over and over again when our mind wonders, with patience, with energy, coming back to this place and to this moment of our lives, which is the only moment we will ever have in which to live -- all the past and all the future are only in this moment.
When you practice zazen or sitting meditation you should first of all be very careful with your posture. You have to do your best to sit with your spine upright, so you want to sit on the edge of your cushion or chair and rotate your pelvis a little bit forward arching the small of your back a little bit and letting the upper part of your body be lifted so the body is open. Your body is a beautiful dignified human body and wants to resume its full beauty, so you should let it cooperate with this. We are not used to sitting upright, so it takes effort; however, it is not a forced effort, it is a gentle and kind effort. After all, if you train a child you don’t let the child do whatever it wants but you gently guide him or her.
After taking your sitting posture with awareness and ease, I want to ask you to pay attention to three aspects of this posture in particular. If you pay attention to these aspects I think it will help you to stay in the present. The first one is you lips and your teeth and your face, so when you’re sitting notice how your teeth come together. The teeth are very hard you know, like the bones, the hardest part of the body, but the lips on the other hand are very soft, so it’s a wonderful thing to be able to sit and notice the hardness of the teeth and the softness of the lips closed, and to pay attention to relaxing all the muscles of the face, so when you’re sitting every now and then check and see to these sensations on the teeth, the lips and the face.
The second point is in the chest, notice how the chest lifts up when your body is open and your heart is open. There is a kind of lifting feeling on your chest, so if you lose track of yourself and you start leaning over just remember to lift up your chest. And the third point is your hands forming the cosmic mudra. You can feel the palms of your hands resting gently on your legs and the tips of your thumbs just touching each other. It is such a delicate thing that you can feel the thumb tips just touching, not falling apart from each other just because you lose track of yourself and not pressing too hard against each other just because you are tense, but just touching. So these are three important points that will help you keep you presence. Next, pay attention to your breathing down in your belly. Just watch the breathing, the belly is rising and falling, nothing special about it, it’s just natural breathing. You might not think that there’s anything special or interesting about breathing, but the truth of the matter is that breathing is really interesting, and it is very special. There is hardly anything more moving than being present with your breathing, because breathing is the process of life. It is actually animating your body. It is your life, and you begin to realize that breathing is just like the sun coming up and the sun coming down, it’s just like the waves coming in and the waves going out, it’s just like being born and dying, breathing is very profound. It is the process of change, the process of growth, the process of letting go, and if you pay close attention to your breathing you will see this. So breathing is very important in our meditation practice. To help you to pay attention to it I will give you some pointers. There are six ways you can practice with the breathing. The first one is by counting the breathing, so when you breathe out you can say softly to yourself in your mind “number one” and “number two” in the next exhalation and so on counting up to ten or up to five and then start over again. When you get to the end and if you lose count just start over in number one, that will help you to stay in contact with your breathing. Then you can practice following the breathing, not counting but feeling the breathing when your belly rises up and falls down, so that’s the second breathing practice. The third one is to make the breathing more illuminating, the whole breathing, so you feel the whole inhale all the way in and then you feel the point when the inhale turns and becomes exhale all the way out, and then when the exhale slowly fades away and there is some quiet space then suddenly comes the inhale again. We don’t know why or how because we don’t say “come on let’s inhale”. It is a good thing that it doesn’t depend on us because by now we would all be dead. Right? Something is breathing you, we don’t know why, we don’t know how, but for some reason it just happens. It is wonderful to experience that, that is the third practice.
The fourth one is to make the breath alive throughout the whole body, so the breath becomes more bright and becomes more alive, and you can feel the breathing in the whole body and the whole body is breathing now, not just the belly and the lungs but the whole body, every cell of the body. The fifth practice is questioning, so that means that as you are breathing --you don’t necessary need to use words-- the feeling throughout is: “What is this? What is this life? What’s happening here?” Sometimes if you need to ask one question you can ask that question with the breath, for example: Who am I? Why was I born? What’s next? Like that, all with the breathing. Now, to be clear, this is not the type of question you ask where you are thinking of answers. If you get to this point in the practice you are far beyond ordinary answers. Once you begin to ask a question with the breathing, the whole world becomes the breathing and the whole world becomes the question, so you don’t answer the question with your little thinking brain. What happens eventually is that the entire world takes a giant leap into your life and answers the question for you, or no, there is just the question, that hardly matters. Finally, the sixth practice of breathing is the best of all. You don’t do anything, you don’t follow the breathing or pay attention to the breathing or anything, you just sit with an intensive presence and the meditation practice becomes whatever is happening.
So these are the six practices for breathing. Now I am not saying that you should begin and do all six. All you need is one, one is enough, any of them or maybe a couple. Probably it is best not to practice the last two until you have practiced the first four quite a bit, because if you start up with the sixth one you will think, “oh, this is good, I won’t have to do anything”. Then what will happen is that the usual thing will happen. Your mind will just go to where it usually goes, so it’s important that we actually establish some degree of concentration, some degree of concentration on the breathing and the body so that we really are paying attention and we have gone beyond the usual rough and confused mind. You will be able to tell that some concentration has arisen --because of course, you can’t judge it by your ordinary thinking mind because your ordinary thinking mind is too rough to be able to judge it-- you will know that some concentration has arisen when you feel joy. That is the identifying sign of having gained some concentration on the breathing and the body: there is some joy, the body feels light and you look up to the world and everything looks soft and beautiful, as if somehow the boundary lines between things has become softer. It feels as if everything in the world is just flowing softly and not bumping into each other and you are moving smoothly in this world, and your thoughts are not rough anymore. There are fewer thoughts and they are beautiful usually. Even if you think of something really troubling you will see beauty in it. The point, however, is not to feel these things even though it is very nice; but that is not the point. It is just that you know when you are feeling them that there is some concentration. The point is to know how to live, to have some wisdom.
This in zazen is the way we practice with the breath, concentrating on the parts of the body that I have mentioned and concentrating on the rhythmic pattern of breathing. Keep coming back to these points even if your mind wonders. Just keep persisting and come back to these points. Training takes a lot of repetition, that is what training is. Now, there is a good chance this will not be easy for you. It is even possible that you will have a hard time with it. Maybe very soon you will think to yourself: “What’s the point of all this?” Or maybe you will just feel very tired and you just won’t feel like doing it. Well, if that is the case, that is pretty lucky, that is pretty good, because it could be a lot worse than that. You could have a lot of pain in your body, like your legs or your shoulders they could be hurting a lot; but that actually is not bad compared to other things that could happen, maybe your mind and your emotions will become very active and extremely negative, and your mind will be raging and you try to count to one and you can’t even remember what comes after one! So I hope these things won’t happen to you, but especially when you are new to the practice, you should know that this is entirely possible. And I tell you now that if this happens don’t worry, this is entirely normal. When you try to train your mind it often gets very stubborn and very resistant to that training. Actually that stubbornness and that resistance is always there, but you have accommodated yourself to it and you have taken it for granted. When you now try to train your mind in a certain way these things come forth very strongly. Particularly if there is a lot of trouble and sorrow and suffering of some kind inside your mind, this will not be too unusual. I think that everyone who comes to this practice is a human being. Everyone here grew up in a society, was raised by imperfect parents and went to school, so naturally there is certain pain and suffering in your mind, and probably everything that you are feeling and thinking all the time is generated or moved by this pain and suffering. But you don’t necessarily notice until someone else tells you to sit still and breathe and then sometimes it happens, all your suffering comes out and you are shocked by it. Don’t worry, this is quite normal, and it is even a good thing. If this happens just keep on paying attention to the body and the breathing. Don’t try to push away these troubling feelings. And also do your best not to get yourself too involved in them. Here is where the breath and the body really can help you. They can support your strength to allow these things to happen if they need to. Sometimes you can have many insights, you even get to understand your whole life in one moment. But don’t think this is the main point of meditation; the main point is the body and the breathing --whatever happens you come back. In this way, when these negative feelings arise it becomes like a process of purification. This is how you purify your heart.
We all know that house cleaning is not so easy. If your house is really dirty it is a really smelly, dirty and messy job to clean up your house; but if you are willing to do this messy job then you look around and say: “Oh! what a nice clean house I have”. That lasts for a few days and then your house starts getting dirty again, and then at some point you realize you will have to keep on cleaning your house always. And then you start thinking: “Oh! If I didn’t live in such a messy thoughtless way the house would be easier to clean”. So then you stop making such big messes and house-cleaning gets easier.
I realize that already you have been given many instructions. I just gave you about half a dozen or more, so those who are new to this may think there are a lot of things you have to remember and do correctly, but all these things are meant just to help you to simply pay attention to where you are and what you’re doing, especially to the breathing and the body, and if you get confused with any of the instructions just do whatever you think is best and everything will be fine. I am quite sure that anyone who practices in this way for some time will experience something beautiful and important in their life. So I invite you to do an effort. We will all do it together. In zazen, everything and everyone in the universe is here to support you and you are here to support everything and everyone. Let us see what happens.
I want to remind you of some of the points that I have been talking about. When we practice in zazen with the posture and the breath, remember to pay attention to your face, your teeth and your lips when you are sitting. And the thumbtips, just touching. Notice how they are touching, not too hard, not too soft, and feel your chest lifting up. So if you start leaning over, just lift up. Also I was saying that you should really devote yourself to practicing with the breath. Counting the breath, following the breath in the belly and then following the whole breath all the way in and all the way out, until every breath seems like a lifetime, and then making the breath come alive throughout the whole body. So the whole body is illuminated with the breathing and the breathing is illuminated with the whole body. And then sitting with a spirit of questioning throughout the breath, bringing the whole life and the whole world into the breath and having the breath go to the whole life and the whole world and finally when you can find some concentration in your practice you can do the sixth step which is “let go of everything and just sit”. So all this is to establish the breath as your good and trustworthy friend. Imagine if your breathing and your consciousness itself were your best friends, wise and trustworthy friends. Then you could never be alone, because your friends were always there and you could really never be afraid or ever lost because your good friends are there protecting you. Imagine if you felt that way about your breath and about your consciousness which the breath illuminates. Wouldn´t that be wonderful? This would really be worthwhile --to feel that way about your own breathing. Then when you were in the dentist office you could just say --well I´m not worried, I will just practice breathing. Or if something bad happened in your life you could say, “just breathe”.
As I was saying this morning, we are trying to train our self, we are trying to train our hearts and our minds through the effort that we are making in meditation. So, meditation is the kind of skill that you can develop over time and the Buddha actually used that word “skill” to describe not only sitting meditation but the whole process of working with our mind and with our heart. He said that this was a skill. And by skill he meant something very specific. He meant knowing the difference between thoughts and actions that produce pain and suffering, and thoughts and actions that will produce happiness and wellbeing for ourselves and others. So skill is seeing the difference between these two. And also skill means having the conviction and the strength to choose to do what is good, and to refuse to do all those things that lead us to pain and suffering. So really the main point of our practice is to develop this kind of skill.
Now, maybe you think that you already have this kind of skill, and I am sure that to some extent you do. Not everybody in the world; but I bet just about everybody in this zendo knows enough not to shout and scream at your friends and your children --at least most of the time anyway-- or maybe 51% of the time. So we know, and most of us here know, that we are not going to go out and steal anything or beat somebody up or go and rob a bank or something like that. These are examples of actions that lead to suffering. So we know better than that. In a way, we do have that skill. It is not so complicated; but the problem is that in a more subtle level we are not able to see the condition of our heart. We can only see what is going on from a very rough or gross level. So even though most of us can detect the big ways of creating suffering and avoid these, we are as yet unable to see the smaller and more subtle ways, sneaky ways, in which we create trouble and pain for ourselves; all the ways that our fear and avoidance block the functioning of our heart. So far I think that our vision does not reach to that level. Therefore we need to practice, concentrating the mind and deepening the heart so that we can begin to see these things: that we can actually see the root of the clinging in our hearts.
That is why meditation practice is necessary, because meditation practice will reach this deep. Only meditation practice will help us to develop that skill that will lead us to a way of living that brings happiness. There are two aspects to this skill. One is attention and the other one is motivation or intention. In focusing on the breathing and the body and bringing the attention back to it over and over again we are trying to cultivate a stronger capacity to pay attention. From there we can see more clearly how the mind functions. You will notice how thoughts and feelings that arise will immediately produce some consequences in the mind. If you pay attention on the cushion it becomes very apparent. Some kind of thoughts and feelings lead you down a path that is very unsatisfactory and painful. Other kind of thoughts and feelings have the opposite effect, and it is very clear --if you pay attention you see this. When you really are honest and have strong attention you can see your own confusion very well. Naturally the world is confused. It is all very normal. Right now in this moment many things from the past come to greet us and we cannot prevent that. What comes in our mind right now is actually not our fault. It comes from causes and conditions from the past. If fear or anger or anxiety comes into the heart in the moment of sitting or practicing zazen, it comes from the past. Maybe something in the present activates it. But if that is so, it is because the root of it is already there from the past. Therefore, there is no blame and there is nothing to worry about. We cannot prevent that from happening. But when we pay attention we also see that the way we react to the fear and the anger and the anxiety that arise makes a big difference in what happens in the future. For example, we try to face our fear and experience it without entanglement or without resistance, instead of trying to fix it or explain it away. We just face it completely, we feel it fully in the body, in the breath. And instead of getting entangled and making more of it, we breathe out and we let go. If we do this, we can see right away that we can have a little peace. If, on the other hand, we do the opposite and we try to deny the fear and make it go away, fix it or cover it up --“ I wish it weren´t there”--or get mad at it, somehow then the fear keeps coming back and gets stronger and stronger because of our resistance. When we pay attention we can see clearly what the actual situation is. We have this situation that is coming from the past and the way we are responding in the present to that situation. We can see the results of our various kinds of action.
So this is what you can discover on your meditation cushion. But it is very important that you stay with the breathing, with the feeling of the body, the face, the thumbs, all these things. And that you do not take what I am saying as an invitation to sit on your cushion analyzing all your thoughts and feelings. Because that will not work. That only makes more problems for you. Because if you look too closely in your usual ways, you will easily get entangled. I know that all this might not make sense, but just trust the practice and you will see what I mean. Without trying to see anything you will see a lot.
This is the first part of skillfulness: knowing how to pay attention. The second part of skillfulness is motivation or intention. In other words, the question: What are we trying to do here with our lives? Most generally, everyday we do all kinds of things and we are not too aware of what our intentions are. We do a lot of things that we take for granted and we don’t really know what the point of all these things are. But when we sit in meditation for a while funny things begins to happen. Our intentions and our motivations suddenly begin to bubble up to the surface. We begin to see our own deepest intentions --and that we have forgotten about them. Maybe in everyday life, in our ordinary life, these intentions that we may have had since we were children have somehow been beaten out of us. We don´t even think about them anymore, or maybe we forgot about them, or maybe we have been so disappointed or so frightened that we did not feel we could embrace these intentions anymore. They seem silly to us. The intention to do good, the intention to be a compassionate and loving person. I think we all have these intentions naturally but we forget about them. We are so used to go on coping and just getting through the day that we don´t even think about these things anymore. Little by little we have been losing our good hearts and losing our best intentions. But when we sit in meditation usually we realize: “Oh, they are still there” and we begin to notice them and feel them --sometimes they even make us cry because our intentions are so pure and so beautiful. So this sometimes happens when we sit in meditation for a long time and we remember. Yes, we really do want to be good people. We really do want to experience a true and unselfish happiness and we really do want to be loving people and kind people. So all these things will just naturally arise in the process of sitting and paying attention. When we develop this attention and intention we begin to develop the skill that the Buddha was talking about. Attention will show us the pattern of our mind and heart, intention will shape that seeing and take us to skillful conduct. We will know our mind and heart, we will know what to think and feel and we will see: “Oh, this is skillful and this is not skillful, this leads down a bad path and this leads a good way.” Because we have good intentions we will say: “Go the good way. That is what I really want. This is what really makes me happy.”
Little by little, through our pain, through our many mistakes, we will study what is unskillful. More and more what is unskillful will hurt. Maybe we didn`t notice it before but it becomes more noticeable now, how much it hurts. The word for “unskillful” in Pali is akusala. That word comes from the name of a thick sharp grass. Maybe you have seen grasses like that around your house. If you grab a bunch of them and grasp them, they cut your hand and it is very painful. So that´s what is unskillful, that’s what is painful. Perhaps before you were thinking that people were making you mad, that other people were responsible for your fear, your anxiety: “If only they would be different, everything would be better for you.” But what this really means is that now you are completely at their mercy. You are depending on them for the quality of your state of mind. Perhaps you did not blame this on other people; maybe you thought that it was just a problem of your life. This is what has happened to your life, all these different things, and because of all these circumstances of the past you were doomed now in the present to be unhappy and damaged in some way. And you thought that you were a victim of the circumstances that could not be changed because they are in the past. However, when you sit long enough in meditation in your little black cushions you realize that all this is actually very unskillful thinking. If you look at things in that way, you are going to suffer forever and ever. Now you realize that the reason that you are suffering is because of your own mind. Because without any skill your mind was grasping at the fear, grasping at the anger and grasping the hurt; and you were caught by them. It was that entanglement and that being caught that was making you unhappy. Now you realize that. You see directly how painful that grasping is and you are not stupid: it is so painful that you let go. Right then and there on your cushion you have some peace; right then and there you solve the problem of “other people”. You solve the problem of your “bad past”. You realize that it is not necessary for you to suffer anymore, so you stop.
This is the very odd paradox of our life and of our practice. The way we learn peacefulness and skillfulness and happiness is not by getting around our problems or our troubles and making all our bad habits go away. It is the opposite. It is by experiencing these things fully. It is sitting with our pain with patience and honesty that brings us to real happiness. Whatever kind of trouble you have in this life it is very precious. It is a pass to happiness. Just trust your breath and your body, and the support that a daily practice gives you, and it will be okay. You will be able to see through these things and to the bottom and have some relief. One time the Buddha visited the Kalama people. This is a very famous incident in the life of the Buddha, and they said to him: “Many spiritual teachers are always coming around here and they all have different kinds of teachings and practices. And they all say, ‘my way is the best way --the other ones don`t know anything’. Each one who comes says this, and they all seem to make sense, so we are confused and we don´t know what to do. Do you have any advice for us, Buddha?” The Buddha replied: “Yes, it make sense to be confused about that, it is very confusing. Here is the way to discover the truth about these teachers and their teachings.” He said: “Don’t depend on logic, don´t depend on eloquent words, don´t depend on tradition and scripture, don´t depend on whether or not you agree with the teachings, don´t depend on whether you think that the teacher is someone you know and like and is a very impressive person, don’t depend on that.” He said: “Here is the only thing worth depending on. Only when you know for yourself what is skillful, what leads to happiness and peacefulness, and on the other hand what is unskillful leading to pain and suffering; only when you can see this for yourself, from your own mind, can you know what is true and what is not true.”
The point is that there is no truth that matters that you cannot find out for yourself. And the only truth that really matters is the truth of how to live with some happiness in this lifetime. When you know your own mind as it is and you accept it and you are no longer entangled in it you can find some happiness. So this is how we practice.
Transcription by Alessandra Barzizza Vignau Ruiz and Tobías Grosin, Xalapa, Veracruz, México.