Develop a Mind Like Sky
by Jack Kornfield

Meditation comes alive through a growing capacity to release our habitual entanglement in the stories and plans, conflicts and worries that make up the small sense of self, and to rest in awareness. In meditation we do this simply by acknowledging the moment-to-moment changing conditions — the pleasure and pain, the praise and blame, the litany of ideas and expectations that arise. Without identifying with them, we can rest in the awareness itself, beyond conditions, and experience what my teacher Ajahn Chah called jai pongsai, our natural lightness of heart. Developing this capacity to rest in awareness nourishes samadhi (concentration), which stabilises and clarifies the mind, and prajna (wisdom), that sees things as they are.

We can employ this awareness or wise attention from the very start. When we first sit down to meditate, the best strategy is to simply notice whatever state of our body and mind is present. To establish the foundation of mindfulness, the Buddha instructs his followers “to observe whether the body and mind are distracted or steady, angry or peaceful, excited or worried, contracted or released, bound or free.” Observing what is so, we can take a few deep breaths and relax, making space for whatever situation we find.

From this ground of acceptance we can learn to use the transformative power of attention in a flexible and malleable way. Wise attention — mindfulness — can function like a zoom lens. Often it is most helpful to steady our practice with close-up attention. In this, we bring a careful attention and a very close focus to our breath or a sensation, or to the precise movement of feeling or thought. Over time we can eventually become so absorbed that subject and object disappear. We become the breath, we become the tingling in our foot, we become the sadness or joy. In this we sense ourself being born and dying with each breath, each experience. Entanglement in our ordinary sense of self dissolves; our troubles and fears drop away. Our entire experience of the world shows itself to be impermanent, ungraspable and selfless. Wisdom is born.

But sometimes in meditation such close focus of attention can create an unnecessary sense of tightness and struggle. So we must find a more open way to pay attention. Or perhaps when we are mindfully walking down the street we realise it is not helpful to focus only on our breath or our feet. We will miss the traffic signals, the morning light and the faces of the passersby. So we open the lens of awareness to a middle range. When we do this as we sit, instead of focusing on the breath alone, we can feel the energy of our whole body. As we walk we can feel the rhythm of our whole movement and the circumstances through which we move. From this perspective it is almost as if awareness “sits on our shoulder” and respectfully acknowledges a breath, a pain in our legs, a thought about dinner, a feeling of sadness, a shop window we pass. Here wise attention has a gracious witnessing quality, acknowledging each event — whether boredom or jealousy, plans or excitement, gain or loss, pleasure or pain — with a slight bow. Moment by moment we release the illusion of getting “somewhere” and rest in the timeless present, witnessing with easy awareness all that passes by. As we let go, our innate freedom and wisdom manifest. Nothing to have, nothing to be. Ajahn Chah called this “resting in the One Who Knows.”

Yet at times this middle level of attention does not serve our practice best. We may find ourself caught in the grip of some repetitive thought pattern or painful situation, or lost in great physical or emotional suffering. Perhaps there is chaos and noise around us. We sit and our heart is tight, our body and mind are neither relaxed nor gracious, and even the witnessing can seem tedious, forced, effortful.

In this circumstance we can open the lens of attention to its widest angle and let our awareness become like space or the sky. As the Buddha instructs in the Majjhima Nikaya, “Develop a mind that is vast like space, where experiences both pleasant and unpleasant can appear and disappear without conflict, struggle or harm. Rest in a mind like vast sky.”

From this broad perspective, when we sit or walk in meditation, we open our attention like space, letting experiences arise without any boundaries, without inside or outside. Instead of the ordinary orientation where our mind is felt to be inside our head, we can let go and experience the mind’s awareness as open, boundless and vast. We allow awareness to experience consciousness that is not entangled in the particular conditions of sight, sound and feelings, but consciousness that is independent of changing conditions — the unconditioned. Ajahn Jumnien, a Thai forest elder, speaks of this form of practice as Maha Vipassana, resting in pure awareness itself, timeless and unborn. For the meditator, this is not an ideal or a distant experience. It is always immediate, ever present, liberating; it becomes the resting place of the wise heart.

Fully absorbed, graciously witnessing, or open and spacious — which of these lenses is the best way to practice awareness? Is there an optimal way to pay attention? The answer is “all of the above.” Awareness is infinitely malleable, and it is important not to fixate on any one form as best. Mistakenly, some traditions teach that losing the self and dissolving into a breath or absorbing into an experience is the optimal form of attention. Other traditions erroneously believe that resting in the widest angle, the open consciousness of space, is the highest teaching. Still others say that the middle ground — an ordinary, free and relaxed awareness of whatever arises here and now, “nothing special” — is the highest attainment. Yet in its true nature awareness cannot be limited. Consciousness itself is both large and small, particular and universal. At different times our practice will require that we embrace all these perspectives.

Every form of genuine awareness is liberating. Each moment we release entanglement and identification is selfless and free. But remember too that every practice of awareness can create a shadow when we mistakenly cling to it. A misuse of space can easily lead us to become spaced-out and unfocused. A misuse of absorption can lead to denial, the ignoring of other experiences, and a misuse of ordinary awareness can create a false sense of “self” as a witness. These shadows are subtle veils of meditative clinging. See them for what they are and let them go. And learn to work with all the lenses of awareness to serve your wise attention.

The more you experience the power of wise attention, the more your trust in the ground of awareness itself will grow. You will learn to relax and let go. In any moment of being caught, awareness will step in, a presence without judging or resisting. Close-in or vast, near or far, awareness illuminates the ungraspable nature of the universe. It returns the heart and mind to its birthright, naturally luminous and free.

To amplify and deepen an understanding of how to practice with awareness as space, the following instructions can be helpful. One of the most accessible ways to open to spacious awareness is through the ear door, listening to the sounds of the universe around us. Because the river of sound comes and goes so naturally, and is so obviously out of our control, listening brings the mind to a naturally balanced state of openness and attention. I learned this particular practice of sound as a gateway to space from my colleague Joseph Goldstein more than 25 years ago and have used it ever since. Awareness of sound in space can be an excellent way to begin practice because it initiates the sitting period with the flavor of wakeful ease and spacious letting go. Or it can be used after a period of focused attention.

Whenever you begin, sit comfortably and at ease. Let your body be at rest and your breathing be natural. Close your eyes. Take several full breaths and let each release gently. Allow yourself to be still.

Now shift awareness away from the breath. Begin to listen to the play of sounds around you. Notice those that are loud and soft, far and near. Just listen. Notice how all sounds arise and vanish, leaving no trace. Listen for a time in a relaxed, open way.

As you listen, let yourself sense or imagine that your mind is not limited to your head. Sense that your mind is expanding to be like the sky-open, clear, vast like space. There is no inside or outside. Let the awareness of your mind extend in every direction like the sky.

Now the sounds you hear will arise and pass away in the open space of your own mind. Relax in this openness and just listen. Let the sounds that come and go, whether far or near, be like clouds in the vast sky of your own awareness. The play of sounds moves through the sky, appearing and disappearing without resistance.

As you rest in this open awareness, notice how thoughts and images also arise and vanish like sounds. Let the thoughts and images come and go without struggle or resistance. Pleasant and unpleasant thoughts, pictures, words and feelings move unrestricted in the space of mind. Problems, possibilities, joys and sorrows come and go like clouds in the clear sky of mind.

After a time, let this spacious awareness notice the body. Become aware of how the sensations of breath and body float and change in the same open sky of awareness. The breath breathes itself, it moves like a breeze. The body is not solid. It is felt as areas of hardness and softness, pressure and tingling, warm and cool sensation, all floating in the space of the mind’s awareness.

Let the breath move like a breeze. Rest in this openness. Let sensations float and change. Allow all thoughts and images, feelings and sounds to come and go like clouds in the clear open space of awareness.

Finally, pay attention to the awareness itself. Notice how the open space of awareness is naturally clear, transparent, timeless and without conflict — allowing all things, but not limited by them.

The Buddha said, “O Nobly Born, remember the pure open sky of your own true nature. Return to it. Trust it. It is home.”

May the blessings of these practices awaken your own inner wisdom and inspire your compassion. And through the blessing of your heart may the world find peace.


By cultivating in mind that this human life is so hard to find yet has no time to spare, preoccupations with this life will cease; by contemplating repeatedly the truth of karma and samsaric suffering, Preoccupations with next life will come to cease.

— Lama Tsongkhapa


有人向我请教:“我们在学佛法的时候,感觉学佛没有那种力量,不知道自己为什么要学佛?有时觉得自己过得还不错。可是,有时候突然又想到世界没有一样是恒久的, 但是真能了解世间是无常的时间也不多,而且从本性发出来的心力更是很少,觉得自己学佛很不踏实,不知如何突破?”


佛法最重视“悟”,不悟的人就会像经典讲的“煮沙成饭”,那么修行无量阿僧祇劫也不会成佛的。前几天,有人问我:“本性是常吗?”我说:“不对,本性是无常。” 他说:“奇怪,你在录音带里不是跟人家讲本性是常、乐、我、净吗?”“那本性是无常吗?”我回答:“不是,本性是常。” 他说:“师父讲话怎么颠三倒四的呢?”我说:“没有,是你自己颠三倒四,不是我。佛性是常也是无常。”没有悟的人,怎么讲都不对,悟的人怎么讲都对,都能事理圆 融。法的东西,就是这样,除非你自己去尝到法的喜悦,悟到空性、无生的道理。否则,是无法彻底了解的。要知道,事相的因果他本身是具有连锁性的,因就是缘就是果,缘就是果就是因,果就是因就是缘。连锁性本身就是空性,空性就具足有连锁的因缘法,要能体会到连锁性本身就有超越性。无常当中就具足常,不是另外去找一个常,或有一法可得。如果,在每一个事相的动点上,都能与理体相应,那么,一切都能化成自性清净心的东西。

简单的来讲,悟道的人,在每一个动点上,他都会觉得很有意义。不管他洗厕所、捡菜,或者别人批评他、赞叹他。因为他用的是真心,不是生灭的意识心,所以,面对 一切境界,他都能如如不动,安住在无量的喜悦与安祥当中,他对生命有了主宰,成为最会享受生命的人。我不是常说一句话吗?“不懂生命的人,生命对他来说是一种惩罚。”众生就是这样,因为无法透视世间的无常,追求五欲时,他就很快乐;可是快乐一过,就是更大的空虚。他不懂得无常,当然更不懂得空。整天颠颠倒倒、反反覆覆、烦烦恼恼,你如果讲他,他还会编织一大堆理由,所以佛说众生是“可怜悯者”。还有的人,认为生命是无常,佛性是常,这也是很严重的错误,这就成了“自性见”。佛性是常就成了一潭死水,没办法转凡成圣,转烦恼为菩提。佛性如果是无常,则又成了生灭的世间法,无法进入大般涅槃的境界。





佛陀以一大事因缘出现于世,度众四十九年,讲经三百余会,无非是要令众生开、示、悟、入佛之知见,什么是“佛之知见”呢?就是“觉性”,就是“如来智慧德相” ,就是“摩诃般若波罗蜜”,就是“如来藏”,“自性清净心”。如果我们一切的修行,无论诵经、拜佛、参禅、打坐、念佛、持咒,若是不能汇入不生不灭的本性,那么都还是生灭的对立法。由于众生无始以来的无明,一念不觉,因此,总是存在着能所的观念,有主客二元的对立。除非是究竟的悟,究竟悟就是绝对的法界,清净的法身。否则,如果能所仍不能断除,一再透过无明的妄想分别,透过色心二法的主客对立,而用生灭的意识心来修行,则仍然无法超越能所,于是,六根攀缘六尘与六识虚妄和合,就变现了一切山河大地、宇宙世界,以及沉沦其中的六道有情。




世间没有中庸,无相才是中庸。心无所住就是中庸,空一切法才是中庸之道。你说:“我的心要安住在哪里?”。无所住就是安住,想要安住在哪里都不对。那你又问:“无所住是什么?”。无所住就是清净心的功夫。它无法透过语言表示,无所住就是自在,无所住就是解脱,无所住就是不着相,无所住就是没有分别,虽分别不作分别想,清清净净又明明白白的这颗心,用这颗心来修行就对了。如果我们假设立场,我要到达某种境界才叫做快乐,我要某种环境才觉得舒适,那么,这个假设本身就是错误的。如果我们只是用取舍的心在期待甚么,或者妄想明天,或哪一天,情况会变好,这种透过时空假设的期望或追求,都是不对 的。因为在佛法中,所有的解脱自在,当下完成,那是你现在就可以掌握的。


If you follow any thought or emotion, major or minor, and let your mind wander outward, your work is in error and you’re no different from an ordinary person. Turn your emotion right in and look right at your mind. When you look at it, nothing is seen. Relax completely, let everything go, and rest in that state of emptiness.

— Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye

Waking Up to Happiness
by Natalie Goldberg

Last summer I was sick in bed. I could write “flu” and be done with it, but that would be a generalisation. My eyes were blood red and caked shut in the morning — the doctor said it was conjunctivitis. “Isn’t that what little kids get?” I asked. A lump was developing in the bottom of my mouth. I coughed up green phlegm. My ears were ringing and I heard things as though I were under water.

Why do I feel the need to state all this? While sick, I read The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki. The book was long, slow, magnificent, and included everything — many details about the main characters’ colds, allergies, bug bites, and intestinal problems. But as I read I didn’t cringe or back away. We are in human bodies and sickness is natural, a part of this physical life.

I took extra delight in the book’s last line. The third sister was finally going to be married — one of the strong narrative drives throughout the book — and the result: “Yukiko’s diarrhoea persisted through the twenty-sixth, and was a problem on the train to tokyo.” and so the book ends. we are left with the ginger hesitation of a woman in her thirties — late for marriage in mid-twentieth-century Japan — riding to her destiny, her body engaged and nervously pumping. Now don’t be a prude. You have to love it. The honesty alone. No one else tells us these things. Thank the writer for being honest.

While I was sick, lying in bed reading, I’d occasionally look up through my bedroom window and watch the pale green on the distant willows and near lilacs. and sometimes I’d pause to sneeze, cough, blow my nose, take a sip of tea. Friends would call to commiserate. Yes, I was awfully sick — it did seem a long time to be in bed — then I’d return to the dream of the book in hand.

The truth is I was happy. Happier than I’d been in a long, long time. Yet I knew that as soon as my energy returned I’d plunge back into mad activity, full of passion. I was lucky because I loved most of what I did in life, but as I lay in bed I realised passion was different than happiness. You don’t do happiness. You receive it. It’s like a water table under the earth. It’s available to everyone but we can only tap it, have it run up through us, when we’re still. a well that darts around can never draw water.

We misinterpret success, desire, enterprise, and the things we love as the state of happiness. Usually, we don’t even consider happiness because we’re too busy dashing after life, defending, building, developing, even fighting, asserting, arguing. we’re in the scramble—lively, engaged. so where does happiness come in? It’s a give and take, a meeting of inside and outside. even enlightenment is a meeting, a relationship of the inside and outside. The Buddha was enlightened — his whole nervous system switched gears—when he glanced up and saw the morning star. we don’t wake up in a vacuum. we can’t be at home with ourselves in a cubicle. to be at home with ourselves is to be at home in the world, in the interaction with others — and trees and slices of cheese and the broad, sad evolving of politics.

When I was sick, I was settled down. I didn’t have a lot of energy for engagement, the daily tending to a hundred details. I am not saying the ideal state is a sick body, but when I began to aggravate about something I knew I was getting better. when the bite of concern and worry snapped in, I was reentering the pale of human life. At that moment, where was my happiness? I lost my connection to home plate, to the core of reception, patience, the bottom of my belly, to the ground of well-being.

The next day I dragged myself out of bed and crossed my legs, sitting up straight for half an hour to anchor my wandering mind in the breath. To keep coming back to the present moment. To regain the contentment I’d so quickly lost.

As I sat, I was lost for a long time in a memory of Auschwitz, where I’d meditated for five days the previous summer, then I was lost in the thought of turning over the compost out back in my yard, then in considering maybe buying some granola. Thoughts have no hierarchy. The mind jumps from the serious to the mundane in a second. Then snap. I came back to myself. If I want happiness I have to understand it and then dedicate myself to it moment by moment. I can’t stay in bed sick all the time to attain it. I have to commit myself to it when I’m also well.

The thing I love about the Zen koans, those terse, enigmatic teachings from the Chinese ancestors, is that they include sickness in their presentations to realise original nature.

Great Master Ma was not well. The director of the monastery stopped in his room and inquired, “How is your health? How are you feeling?” the Great Master replied, “Sun Face Buddha, Moon Face Buddha.”

We could speculate on meaning here but the important thing right now is that sickness is included in the realm of realising peace, understanding, and happiness. Nothing left out. How can we stay connected to contentment in the dentist’s chair? How can we be with peace as we listen to the news? sometimes happiness is being in the centre of our grief.

When my friend’s husband died in his thirties and she was bereft, her therapist said, “Enjoy your grief. You’ll miss it when it’s gone.” Can you imagine that? To be in the heart of your life whatever your heart holds.

I am not saying there is a prescription for happiness. Just that the trained mind examines situations; it does not simply fall apart. If you are sick in bed, it’s an opportunity. If you continually have a hard time with a friend, look deeper than the bickering and misunderstandings. Maybe the relationship died years ago and you neglected to notice it, hanging on to old ideas of love. Maybe it will take root again — maybe not.

In college, the single class that caught my interest was an ethics class in the philosophy department. We studied Descartes, Bergson, James, Kant, Socrates, the full gamut of white dead Western men. The essence of each reading was the question of happiness. What is it? How to attain it?

When I studied with my Japanese Zen teacher he said, “Whatever you do, let it be accompanied by dharma joy.” He lifted his dark eyebrows in an expression of inclusion. Yes, you, too, Natalie, are capable of this. At the time I was thirty-one years old.

No one can hand over happiness on a silver plate — or on a doily. Especially when we don’t know what it is. Our job is to pay attention and examine it. Can we have happiness and peace at the same time as joy, fun, pleasure, anger, and aggression? How do we learn to abide in ourselves?

I ended up staying sick in bed for five weeks. That’s a long time. My ears, the Eustachian tubes, became congested. The middle of my head filled up. Finally, on a Wednesday, I had some energy and went out. Eagerly I plunged into life again. How foolish I was. I must have done thirty different tasks, including going out that night with friends. I enjoyed it all, but just as I was falling asleep, I asked myself the question, “Were you happy?” Quickly the answer came: only the half hour I was planting tomatoes and strawberries in the backyard.

The next morning I woke with the black stranger loneliness sitting beside me. Certainly I’ve been lonely before but this time it manifested heavily beside me. I’d lost paradise, my time in bed.

In the next days at different intervals I asked myself, “Are you happy?” Head-deep in my active life, I didn’t know how to find happiness again. I couldn’t make it happen. Then just seven days out of bed, standing in line at the bank, like a cocker spaniel or possum, I felt happiness, for absolutely no reason, ringing my bell. After I made my deposit, I sat in the car wondering what had happened. I was almost “bursting with happiness” as they say in romance novels but I was not particularly in love, only swimming in my own being.

Then this morning, as I dressed to go out, I again asked myself, “Are you happy?” I was darkly blue from allergies and constant may winds and a drought that made my skin almost crackle, so I growled no but I wasn’t convincing. Some defence had been smashed. Even in misery there could be happiness. and then it bubbled up, clear and full, for no reason. But there was a reason. I was paying attention.

Happiness is shy. It wants to know you want it. You can’t be greedy. You can’t be numb — or ignorant. The bashful girl of happiness needs your kind attention. Then she’ll come forward. And you won’t have to be sick to find her.

We should know that the purpose of a car is not to burn fuel but for transportation. Burning fuel is just a car’s way of living – it moves things while consuming petrol. Likewise, the purpose of man is not just eating, drinking and having fun. Eating and drinking are how man can sustain life, never the ultimate goal of mankind. What then is man’s ultimate goal in life? Those having no faith can never find the answer. However, as Buddhists, our goal is to use the opportunity we have in this life to practice the Dharma diligently so as to be better equipped to benefit all sentient beings.

— Khenpo Tsultrim Lodro Rinpoche



若是真正愛自己,真正希望自己能離苦得樂,就要取捨善惡因果,這是根本。若是你能斷惡行善,自然就快樂了,不用特意求快樂; 自然就擺脫痛苦了,也不用特意去擺脫痛苦。你斷一切惡,行一切善,快樂自然就有了,痛苦自然就遠離了。









以前也跟大家講過,一定要珍惜當下。你已經到了如意寶洲,一定要多撿一些如意寶; 你已經到了加油站,應該多加點油,把油箱加滿。這樣一旦離開如意寶洲或加油站就不用擔心,不用害怕了。不要錯過!  否則很難再有這樣的機會了,所以大家一定要珍惜百日共修,珍惜每一天的聞思修,珍惜每一座的觀修,這是很重要的!  一切都是無常的,生命也是無常的,隨時隨地都有死亡的可能;  環境也是無常的,不可能永遠不變。自己要珍惜! 否則若是你今天真正要面對死亡了,一定會後悔的,那時你將一無所有,沒有任何收獲。好比到了如意寶洲,卻空手而歸,會非常後悔:“當時我為什麼不多撿一點呢?”後悔也沒有用,你再也回不去了。我們都要面對死亡,面對死亡才是大事情,其他都不是大事情; 面對死亡才是大問題,其他都不是大問題。大家應該做好准備,否則到時候會很痛苦,很無奈,要在恐懼中離開。


In a dream there’s nothing substantial but there is the mere appearance of something substantial. Thus, its true nature transcends both existence and nonexistence. Its true nature is not something we can describe with these kinds of terms, because it is beyond any type of thing we might be able to think up about it. And so, just like a flower that appears in a dream, all phenomena that appear, wherever they appear, are the same. They all appear in terms of being a mere appearance. There is nothing substantial to them, and their true nature transcends both existence and nonexistence and any other idea. All phenomena that appear to us in this life are exactly the same.

— Khenpo Tsultrim Rinpoche

The Twelve Aspirations of the Medicine Buddha

1) In my pure land, may all beings exhibit the 32 major marks and the 80 minor marks of a Buddha. If this does not come to pass, may I not reach enlightenment.

2) May all sentient beings born in my pure land radiate glowing light – a light that dispels all dwelling in darkness. If this does not come to pass, may I not reach enlightenment.

3) Whoever is born in that pure land, may they always enjoy material abundance and be free of all worldly concerns. If this does not come to pass, may I not reach enlightenment.

4) May the beings in that pure land possess a stable vision of the pure view. If this does not come to pass, may I not reach enlightenment.

5) May those born in my pure land pay utmost attention to the purity of their conduct. May the results of negative karma due to previous actions be deferred to the time of most benefit to spiritual growth. If this does not come to pass, may I not reach enlightenment.

6) May they all emanate health and growth in body and mind. May they be relieved of any discomfort or disorder that hinders spiritual growth. If this does not come to pass, may I not reach enlightenment.

7) May my name become a mantra that heals all ailments. May the sound of my name and the image of my nirmanakaya be a balm that eases all pain. May the sound of my name or virtualisation of my image cure physical troubles and sickness. If this does not come to pass, may I not reach enlightenment.

8) May those who wish to change gender have that wish be fulfilled. May that choice lead directly to enlightenment. If this does not come to pass, may I not reach enlightenment.

9) May those who hold wrong views or beliefs regarding dharma immediately develop right view when they hear my name. As a result, may they engage in Bodhisattva activities. If this does not come to pass, may I not reach enlightenment.

10) May those who live in fear and are easily controlled, who feel threatened with incarceration and punishment, leave behind their fears of catastrophe. If this does not come to pass, may I not reach enlightenment.

11) May those whose subsistence has depended on predation and the killing of other beings have all their material needs met upon hearing my name. May their freedom result in the recognition of their innate Bodhisattva nature. If this does not come to pass, may I not reach enlightenment.

12) Upon hearing my name, may those who suffer from any kind of hunger, thirst, or cold have all their needs provided for. May their food, drink, and clothing free them from mundane concerns so that they may begin to benefit others. If this does not come to pass, may I not reach enlightenment.

After the great Medicine Buddha made these Bodhisattva vows, he kept these promises throughout all his lifetimes as a Bodhisattva. When we practice the Medicine Buddha, we should remember these commitments and aspire to do the same, for the sake of all living beings. If we do this with love, compassion, and bodhichitta, it will benefit us and all other living beings.

Throughout the day, put the teachings into practice. In the evening examine what you have done, said, and thought during the day. Whatever was positive, dedicate the merit to all beings and vow to improve on it the next day. Whatever was negative, openly admit, and promise to repair it. In this way, the best practitioners progress from day to day, the middling practitioners from month to month, and the least capable from year to year.

— Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche