Reverence for Life
by Thich Nhat Hanh

To practice mindfulness is to become alive. Life is so precious, yet in our daily lives we are carried away by our forgetfulness, anger and worries. We are often lost in the past, unable to touch life in the present moment. When we are truly alive, everything we touch or do is a miracle. To practice mindfulness is to return to life in the present moment.

Practicing mindfulness, we see the suffering that is caused by the destruction of life everywhere, and we vow to cultivate compassion and use it as a source of energy to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and minerals. When we see suffering, compassion is born in us. It reflects the Buddha’s first sermon, that we have to be in touch with suffering.

It can be said that there are two kinds of suffering. Perhaps ninety-five percent of the suffering we endure every day is not at all necessary. Because of our lack of insight, we cause suffering to ourselves and others, including our beloved ones. But the remaining five percent is born out of contact with the real suffering around us and inside of us. To be aware of this kind of suffering brings about compassion, the energy necessary to transform ourselves and help relieve the suffering of the world.

Do not lose awareness of the suffering that is going on in the world. Nourish that kind of awareness by whatever means possible: images, direct contact, visits, and so on. We have to do that in order to keep both the awareness of the suffering and compassion alive in us. But experiencing too much suffering is not good. Any medicine must be taken in the proper dosage. We need to stay in touch with suffering only to the extent that we will not forget. Then compassion will flow within us and be a source of energy that we can transform into action.

People often use their anger at social injustice as a basis for action, but that is unwise. When you are angry you are not lucid, and you can do many harmful things. According to Buddhism, the only source of energy that can be useful is compassion, because it is safe. When you have compassion, your energy is born from insight. It is not blind energy. With compassion, we practice in order to learn ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. Just feeling compassion is not enough. If we do not know how to help, we can do damage. That is why love must go together with understanding.


This ocean of suffering has no limit whatsoever. Fool, you who are mired here, why are you not terrified?

— Aryadeva










Since they lack true existence on both levels of reality, these phenomena are neither non-existent nor everlasting.

— Chandrakirti

The Life of the Buddha
by Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche

The Buddha of this age, Buddha Shakyamuni, was born Siddhartha Gautama approximately 2,500 years ago to Suddhodana and Mahamaya, king and queen of the Shakya clan in Northern India near Nepal.

When the queen was sixteen, she dreamed that a six tusked elephant entered her womb; from that time on, she was changed, feeling great peace. She wanted to go on retreat, and the king allowed her to do so. She went to stay in a great forest, and after nine months and ten days she felt something unusual. Suddenly, she grasped the limb of a tree, and the Buddha emerged painlessly from her right side. Having emerged, the Buddha took seven steps toward each of the four directions, and pointing at the sky, He said, “In this universe, I have come to purify the confused mind of all living beings.” These events prompted the king and queen to take their child to a great seer, who predicted that the child would become a universal king if He chose a mundane path, or a Buddha if He chose a spiritual one.

Determined to perpetuate the royal lineage, King Suddhodana did everything in his power to prepare the young Siddhartha for the life of a ruler. The child was schooled by carefully chosen tutors in all fields of learning and the arts, traditional to Indian royalty at that time, and He excelled to such a degree that He became a teacher to His own tutors.

At the customary age of sixteen He married Princess Yasodhara and began the life of a householder. The king, in an effort to protect his son from unhappiness, devised all sorts of entertainments and diversions, but Siddhartha was introspective by nature and often withdrew from the company of friends and family to sit quietly in the gardens surrounding the palace. Sensing his son’s growing dissatisfaction with a life of luxury, and fearing that the prophecy of His Buddhahood might come to pass, and thus the termination of the royal lineage, the king forbade Siddhartha to leave the royal compound.

His father’s efforts failed, however, and Siddhartha made four clandestine trips outside the palace grounds, where He encountered what are known in Buddhism as the four signs. During His first three ventures, He saw an old man, a sick man, and then a corpse. Profoundly affected by such distressing sights, from which He had been previously sheltered, He began to question the nature and causes of suffering. On His fourth trip, He encountered a monk who was seeking liberation. Shortly after that, Siddhartha decided to forsake His royal life.

Accompanied by his attendant, Chandaka, Siddhartha slipped out of the palace one night while everyone was asleep and rode away. After riding many hours, they stopped long enough for Siddhartha to exchange His princely clothes and jewels for Chandaka’s simple garments. He asked Chandaka to return to His family with a message of comfort, explaining that there was no reason for them to grieve for Him since He was setting out to put an end to old age and death. He pointed out that the meeting of all living beings must inevitably end in parting and that it is best to let go of all attachment. Then, with unshakeable resolve, Siddhartha said He would not return home until He had attained complete enlightenment.

For the next six years, the prince led a spiritual life, diligently studying the various yogic systems that prevailed in India at the time. In an effort to achieve a tranquil mind, He engaged in many ascetic practices, which culminated in a period of strict fasting that left Him extremely emaciated. Even though He was on the brink of death during this fast, His mind was brilliant and clear, and at a certain moment He discerned that excessive deprivation was not the way to become enlightened. He concluded that if the body is worn out by hunger and thirst, inward calm is not possible. He broke the fast by drinking some milk offered by the daughter of a local farmer. The other ascetics who had been His companions during the six years of austerities decided that He must have abandoned the holy life and expelled Him from their midst.

Siddhartha took a ritual bath in a nearby river, and thus renewed, He went on to Bodh Gaya. There, at sunset, He sat down in lotus posture on a cushion of kusha grass under a great spreading tree and vowed that He would meditate until enlightenment, even if His flesh and bones should rot away. During the night, many distractions arose. In the course of His meditative concentration, He was beset by visions of countless armies attacking Him with fearful weapons, but because His indestructible meditation could convert negativity into harmony and purity, the weapons all turned into flowers. When other visions and distractions arose, through the stability of His meditation, He remained unmoved. Sitting in a state of total absorption, He passed the four watches of the night, attaining all the degrees of realisation up to and including full omniscience. The earth shook and rain fell from a cloudless sky in response to His supreme achievement. With the dawn, He arose as Buddha.

For the first forty-nine days of His enlightenment, the Buddha remained silent, refraining from speaking because others would not be able to understand the nature of His experience. Eventually, certain beings of the god realms requested the Buddha to teach all who were capable of comprehending. In response to their request, He went to Benares, where His former companions were staying in the Deer Park. When they saw Him coming from a distance, they joked among themselves, determined to mock Him; but as He approached and they saw His radiant form, they naturally and spontaneously treated Him with great respect. When they asked for teachings, He began, at the age of thirty-five, to expound the Dharma.

Harmful beings are everywhere, like space itself. Impossible it is that all should be suppressed. But let this angry mind alone be overthrown, and it is as though all foes had been subdued.

— Shantideva



春风驱我出,骑马到江头。出门日已暮,独游无献酬。江山多景物,春色满汀洲。隔岸花绕屋, 斜阳明戍楼。人家渐成聚,炊烟天际浮。日落雾亦起,群山定在不。江柳故掩人,萦帽不肯休。风流乃如此,一笑忘百忧。随行亦有酒,无地可迟留。 聊写我心耳,长歌思悠悠。

张九成(的)不仅是北宋文学家,也是有名的佛教信徒,他自号无垢居士。四十一岁中进士以后,曾官至礼部侍郎。后来因为金人与大宋议和,张九成 因反对求和,为宰相秦桧所恨,被削职外贬到江州 (今江西九江)。秦桧死后,任温州知府。张九成在贬官之后,情绪十分低落。在百无聊赖中,他一方面通过接受佛教熏陶来消愁解忧,另一方面通过游山玩水来忘却心头的苦闷。这首诗歌就是他在贬官后出城游赏风景后所作。此时的诗人,心中满怀愁绪,但看到风景秀丽的春山,鲜花绕房的景色,以及夕阳照楼的情景,抑郁的心情变得豁然开朗。不久夜幕降临,家家升起炊烟,日落雾起,群山在夜幕中更显静谧。在这风光旖旎的夜幕中,诗人不仅感叹“风流乃如此,一笑忘百忧”。虽然有些许遗憾,但能在心绪不佳时游赏平时难得一见的美景, 一切忧愁烦恼都烟消云散了。

一个人的一生中,都不可避免地会遇到各种人生 的波折和不幸。这些不幸的生活遭遇常会使人痛苦不堪。当我们遇到挫折失意之事时,不能一蹶不振,而应当尽自己的能力改变失意的处境。若能改变命运,我们很快就能够从失意中解脱出来。但很多时候,我们虽然经过努力,可能也无法摆脱困窘的命运。在这时候,我们就应当学会像张九成这样,在悲观的生 活中看到生活的希望,在逆境中寻找生活的乐趣。




诗歌通俗浅易如白话,诗人在诗歌中提出了以笑解愁、耐心等待等处理不快之事的方法。诗人告 诉我们,在人生的旅途中,每个人都有可能遇到意想不到的挫折和不幸。当你遇到人生的大风大浪的时候,应当保持一颗平常心。不要被突如其来的灾难所吓到,更不要心慌发愁,而要以乐观的心态来解决所面临的困难。

诗人还告诉我们,即使在最悲观失望的时候, 也要相信这种艰难困苦只是暂时的,随着时间的推移,这种忧愁烦恼自然会过去。因此,诗人说,少则两天,多则三天,加在我们身上的风力就会逐渐减弱,浪头就会逐渐平静下来。你只要稳住心,耐着性,把好舵,就会迎来风平浪静的好日子。



被谢灵运称为“天下才共有一石,曹子建独占八斗”的才子曹植(192-232),曾以《七步诗》而名扬天下。他早期以才华深得曹操的赏识和宠爱,几乎被立为太子。此时的他志得意满;后期曹丕父子做了皇帝,由于前期有争为太子的经历,对他深怀猜忌,横加压抑与迫害,他虽然仍不失王侯的地位,却抑郁不得志,终于在愤懑与苦闷中死去,年仅40岁。可见,长期的心情压抑,使曹植苦闷不得释怀,最终导致了他的早逝。假使他能够心境开朗点,在失意的人生中保持良好的心态,自找生活乐趣,及时调整悲观的心态,他就能够做到“一笑忘 百忧”了。果能如此,曹植活到七八十岁的高寿也未可知。

唐代著名的文学家白居易,在为谏官左拾遗时,经常“有阙必规,有违必谏,朝廷得失无不察,天下利害无不言”。他的直言敢谏惹怒了权贵。元和十年(815)年,盗贼杀害宰相武元衡,白居易上书请捕贼,权贵们怒其越职奏事,造谣中伤,遂贬为江州(今江西九江)司马。江州之贬是白居易人生的最大打击,从此之后,他“换尽旧心肠”,不再热衷朝政,转而在佛法中寻求解脱之道。此时的白居易曾悔恨自己“三十气太壮,胸中多是非”,而力求做到“面上灭除忧喜色,心中消尽是非心”。他变得不再关心世事,而做到独善其身。他为自己安排 了一条中隐生活,并自求外放为地方官。同时,他 运用佛法的智慧来解决人生的痛苦,从而能够以乐观的心态来对待自己人生的磨难。面对沉浮不定的官场,他也能做到宠辱不惊,心境平和了,最终以75高龄而善终。