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Befriending People in Dallas Who Are Homeless

Meditation and Anger September 20, 2011

Filed under: Buddhism,healing,inspiration,peace,Vietnam — Karen Shafer @ 11:12 pm

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Meditation and Anger


To sit [in meditation] is not enough.  We have to be at the same time.  To be what?  To be is to be a something, you cannot be a nothing.  To eat, you have to eat something, you cannot just eat nothing.  To be aware is to be aware of something.  To be angry is to be angry at something.  So to be is to be something, and that something is what is going on:  in your body, in your mind, in your feelings, and in the world.


While sitting, you sit and you are.  You are what?  You are breathing.  Not only the one who breathes — you are the breathing and the smiling.  It is like a television set of one million channels.  When you turn the breathing on, you are the breathing.  When you turn the irritation on, you are the irritation.  You are one with it.  Irritation and breathing are not things outside of you.  You contemplate them in them, because you are one with them.


If I have a feeling of anger, how would I meditate on that?  How would I deal with it, as a Buddhist, or as an intelligent person?  I would not look upon anger as something foreign to me that I have to fight, to have surgery in order to remove it.  I know the anger is me, and I am anger.  Non-duality, not two.  I have to deal with my anger with care, with love, with tenderness, with nonviolence.  Because anger is me, I have to tend my anger as I would tend a younger brother or sister, with love, with care, because I myself am anger, I am in it, I am it.  In Buddhism we do not consider anger, hatred, greed as enemies we have to fight, to destroy, to annihilate.  If we annihilate anger, we annihilate ourselves.  Dealing with anger in that way would be like transforming yourself into a battlefield, tearing yourself into parts, one part taking the side of Buddha, and one part taking the side of Mara.  If you struggle in that way, you do violence to yourself.  If you cannot be compassionate to yourself, you will not be able to be compassionate to others.  When we get angry, we have to produce awareness:  “I am angry.  Anger is in me.  I am anger.”  That is the first thing to do.


In the case of a minor irritation, the recognition of the presence of the irritation, along with a smile and a few breaths will usually be enough to transform the irritation into something more positive, like forgiveness, understanding, and love.  Irritation is a destructive energy.  We cannot destroy the energy;  we can only convert it into a more constructive energy.  Forgiveness is a constructive energy.  Understanding is a constructive energy.  Suppose you are in the desert, and you only have one glass of muddy water.  You have to transform the muddy water into clear water to drink, you cannot just throw it away.  So you let it settle for a while, and clear water will appear.  In the same way, we have to convert anger into some kind of energy that is more constructive, because anger is you.  Without anger you have nothing left.  That is the work of meditation.


                                                                                             ~~ Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace


Please Call Me By My True Names February 8, 2010

Monday, February 8, 2010

My good friend, Nancy Johnson, just sent me this poem by Thich Nhat Hanh, one of my two or three favorite sages, and the only one who is still living.  I want to share it with you.  The thing about Thich is, he himself has lived through hell-on-earth during the Vietnam War era, yet has always been and remains a man of peace.  What an inspiration.  KS

Please Call Me by My True Names
by Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh, Thich Nhat Hanh poetry, Buddhist, Buddhist poetry, Zen / Chan poetry, [TRADITION SUB2] poetry,  poetry

Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow —
even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope.

The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that is alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing
on the surface of the river.
And I am the bird
that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily
in the clear water of a pond.
And I am the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo,
with plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay
his “debt of blood” to my people
dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.

My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and my laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart
can be left open,
the door of compassion.



Profiting From Suffering January 24, 2009

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Profiting From Suffering

“Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, we are committed to cultivating loving kindness and learning ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants, and minerals.  We will practice generosity by sharing our time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need.  We are determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others.  We will respect the property of others, but will try to prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other beings.”

~~Thirteenth precept of the Tiep Hien Order of Buddhism (the Order of Interbeing), founded in Vietnam during the war, from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, Being Peace.

Question:  Is it profiting from the suffering of others when people are ticketed and arrested simply for being homeless, based on the theory that businesses downtown will only grow if homeless people are not around?  KS


Reflecting Upon ‘Freedom in Exile’ October 27, 2008

Filed under: Buddhism,healing,inspiration,Leadership,peace — Karen Shafer @ 8:49 pm

Monday, October 27, 2008

Reflecting Upon ‘Freedom In Exile’

I’m a little behind the times.  I am only just completing reading the Dalai Lama’s autobiography, Freedom in Exile, which came out in 1990.  I think it should be required reading for anyone interested in modern history and human rights, which ideally would be all of us.  Some things occurred to me in reflecting upon this powerful book:


~~The brutality of the Chinese Communists towards the Tibetan people, all the way back to the 1950’s, is staggering, and, while I knew there were abuses, I had no idea of the extent of them, which amounts to a holocaust.

~~Western ‘enlightened’ democracies, including the United States, turned their heads away from the problem decade after decade and allowed the decimation of the Tibetan countryside and the genocide against the Tibetan people to continue unabated.

~~While there has been some media coverage of the Tibetan situation, particularly the protests around the Olympics, I am frankly shocked that it has not been more comprehensive and urgent.

~~The United States Constitution advocates freedom of religion for all peoples, not just for Christians.

~~The People’s Republic of China is the increasingly powerful country which holds most of our national debt, and which is swiftly buying up interests in Africa.

~~Perhaps the most astonishing and moving thing of all in reading this powerful book is the extraordinary peacefulness and love towards the Chinese with which this Tibetan monk, the 14th Dalai Lama, writes of the atrocities committed against his fellow countrywomen and men.  Where does he get this ‘peace that passeth all understanding’?   How deep within must he go, with what rigorous religious training and practice, is he able to achieve this?  With what exceptional Grace (though I’m not sure this is a Buddhist term!) does he come to this exceptional place of peace and love within himself?


I think of my own struggles with judging other human beings.  For some reason, while I find it relatively easy to feel unconditional love for a friend who lives on the street and struggles with a crack addiction, I find it virtually impossible to feel this same love for a prosperous Dallasite who tells a racist joke at a cocktail party.  But, as a friend reminds me, the latter is also a virulent kind of poverty of the spirit.  And who am I to judge that as a worse sin than my own?

When I read passages like the following, I realize what an extraordinary human being the 14th Dalai Lama is.  I hope and pray that I will never be tempted to the hatred which he could so easily employ, but doesn’t.  From his Tibetan Government in Exile in India, he continues to put forth an agenda of nonviolence and what would seem to be an extremely optimistic Five Point Peace Plan for reconciliation between Tibet and the Chinese (first presented to the U.S. Congress in 1987.)

“Chairman Mao once said that political power comes from the barrel of a gun.  He was only partly right:  power that comes from the barrel of a gun can be effective only for a short time.  In the end, people’s love for truth, justice, freedom and democracy will triumph.  No matter what governments do, the human spirit will always prevail.”  

                                                    ~~(p. 263, Chapter 15, ‘Universal Responsibility and the Good Heart,’                                                         Freedom In Exile, The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama.)





Practices for Mindful Living October 13, 2008

Filed under: Buddhism,healing,inspiration,Leadership,peace,Vietnam — Karen Shafer @ 3:56 pm

Monday, October 13, 2008


A few of Thich Nhat Hanh’s suggested practices for mindful living in our contemporary world:


“~~  Do not avoid contact with suffering or close your eyes before suffering.  Do not lose awareness of the existence of suffering in the life of the world.  Find ways to be with those who are suffering, by all means, including personal contact and visits, images, and sound.  By such means, awaken yourself and others to the reality of suffering in the world.


~~  Do not accumulate wealth while millions are hungry.  Do not take as the aim of your life fame, profit, wealth, or sensual pleasure.  Live simply and share time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need.


~~  Do not maintain anger or hatred.  Learn to penetrate and transform them while they are still seeds in your consciousness.  As soon as anger or hatred arises, turn your attention to your breathing in order to see and understand the nature of your anger or hatred and the nature of the persons who have caused your anger or hatred.


~~  Do not lose yourself in dispersion and in your surroundings.  Practice mindful breathing in order to come back to what is happening in the present moment.  Be in touch with what is wondrous, refreshing, and healing, both inside and around yourself.  Plant the seeds of joy, peace, and understanding in yourself in order to facilitate the work of transformation in the depths of your consciousness.


~~  Do not utter words that can create discord and cause the community to break.  Make every effort to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.


~~  Do not say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest or to impress people.  Do not utter words that cause division and hatred.  Do not spread news that you do not know to be certain.  Do not criticize or condemn things that you are not sure of.  Always speak truthfully and constructively. Have the courage to speak out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may threaten your own safety.”


                                                                                        ~~Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step


Post Removed: Please Read Note August 4, 2008

Monday, August 4, 2008


From Thich Nhat Hanh:

       ~~Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step


[I am very sorry to report that I have had to remove this post about extreme poverty in other parts of the world because of continued and extremely objectionable spam it has generated coming into the spam blocker of this blog.  Although I never opened it, the tag words themselves were very offensive. You can read the quote that was here in Thich’s book above, under the essay entitled “Flowers and Garbage.”]   KS,  10/11/08

[Also see May 1, March 31, March 11, 2008, or click on ‘Buddhism’ under ‘Categories.’]


The Dalai Lama: Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech June 3, 2008

Filed under: Buddhism,healing,inspiration,Leadership,peace,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 8:33 pm


Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

~~by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama


As a Buddhist monk, my concern extends to all members of the human family and, indeed, to all sentient beings who suffer. I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction. Yet true happiness comes from a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. We need to cultivate a universal responsibility for one another and the planet we share. Although I have found my own Buddhist religion helpful in generating love and compassion, even for those we consider our enemies, I am convinced that everyone can develop a good heart and a sense of universal responsibility with or without religion.

With the ever growing impact of science on our lives, religion and spirituality have a greater role to play reminding us of our humanity. There is no contradiction between the two. Each gives us valuable insights into the other. Both science and the teachings of the Buddha tell us of the fundamental unity of all things. This understanding is crucial if we are to take positive and decisive action on the pressing global concern with the environment.

I believe all religions pursue the same goals, that of cultivating human goodness and bringing happiness to all human beings. Though the means might appear different the ends are the same.

As we enter the final decade of this century I am optimistic that the ancient values that have sustained mankind are today reaffirming themselves to prepare us for a kinder, happier twenty-first century.

I pray for all of us, oppressor and friend, that together we succeed in building a better world through human understanding and love, and that in doing so we may reduce the pain and suffering of all sentient beings.

(University Aula, Oslo, 10 December 1989)


Suffering and Compassion May 1, 2008

Suffering and Compassion

       “Compassion is a mind that removes the suffering that is present in the other…We can nurture the unconditional love that does not expect anything in return and therefore does not lead to anxiety and sorrow…. The essence of love and compassion is understanding, the ability to recognize the…suffering of others, to put ourselves ‘inside the skin’ of the other.  We ‘go inside’… and witness for ourselves their suffering….  Shallow observation as an outsider is not enough to see their suffering.  We must become one with the object of our observation.  When we are in contact with another’s suffering, a feeling of compassion is born in us.  Compassion means, literally, ‘to suffer with.’”

       “We have to find ways to nourish and express our compassion.  When we come into contact with the other person, our thoughts and actions should express our mind of compassion, even if that person says and does things that are not easy to accept.  We practice in this way until we see clearly that our love is not contingent upon the other person being lovable.”

                                                                                     ~~Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step  (81-83)


The Dalai Lama on the Millennium April 10, 2008

Filed under: Buddhism,healing,inspiration,peace — Karen Shafer @ 5:01 pm

Thanks to my friend, Lynn Trostel, for sending this along.

This is what The Dali Lama has to say on the
millennium, which begins 01/01/2010.

1. Take into account that great love and great
achievements involve great risk.

2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.

3. Follow the three Rs: Respect for self, respect for
others, responsibility for all your actions.

4. Remember that not getting what you want is
sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.

5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them

6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great

7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take
immediate steps to correct it.

8. Spend some time alone every day.

9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your

10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best

11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get
older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a
second time.

12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation
for your life.

13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with
the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.

14. Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve

15. Be gentle with the earth.

16. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been

17. Remember that the best relationship is one in
which your love for each other exceeds your need for
each other.

18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in
order to get it.

19. Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.


The Roots of War March 31, 2008

Filed under: and a little child shall lead them,Buddhism,peace,Vietnam — Karen Shafer @ 6:30 pm

Our youngest granddaughter, now three years old, was born in Vietnam. Knowing and loving her has given us all a special interest in this beautiful country and its history, as did coming of age during the Vietnam War.  KS


The Roots of War

“In 1966, when I was in the U.S. calling for a ceasefire to the war in Vietnam, a young American peace activist stood up during a talk I was giving and shouted, “The best thing you can do is go back to your country and defeat the American aggressors! You shouldn’t be here. There is absolutely no use to your being here!”

He and many Americans wanted peace, but the kind of peace they wanted was the defeat of one side in order to satisfy their anger. Because they had called for a ceasefire and had not succeeded, they became angry, and finally they were unable to accept any solution short of the defeat of their own country.

But we Vietnamese who were suffering under the bombs had to be more realistic. We wanted peace. We did not care about anyone’s victory or defeat. We just wanted the bombs to stop falling on us. But many people in the peace movement opposed our proposal for an immediate ceasefire. No one seemed to understand.

So when I heard that young man shouting, “Go home and defeat the American aggressors,” I took several deep breaths to regain myself, and I said, “Sir, it seems to me that many of the roots of the war are here in your country. That is why I have come. One of the roots is your way of seeing the world. Both sides are victims of a wrong policy, a policy that believes in the force of violence to settle problems. I do not want Vietnamese to die, and I do not want American soldiers to die either.”

The roots of war are in the way we live our daily lives — the way we develop our industries, build up our society, and consume goods. We have to look deeply into the situation, and we will see the roots of war. We cannot just blame one side or the other. We have to transcend the tendency to take sides.

During any conflict, we need people who can understand the suffering on all sides… We need links. We need communication.

Practicing nonviolence is first of all to become nonviolence. Then when a difficult situation presents itself, we will react in a way that will help the situation. This applies to the problems of the family as well as to problems of society.”

                                                                        ~~Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step, “The Roots of War”

[see previous entry from this author, “Meditation on Love,” 3/11/08]


Meditation on Love March 11, 2008

Filed under: Buddhism,healing,inspiration,peace,Vietnam — Karen Shafer @ 8:25 pm

‘The mind of love brings peace, joy, and happiness to ourselves and others. Mindful observation is the element which nourishes the tree of understanding, and compassion and love are the most beautiful flowers. When we realize the mind of love, we have to go to the one who has been the object of our mindful observation, so that our mind of love is not just an object of our imagination, but a source of energy which has a real effect in the world.

The meditation on love is not just sitting still and visualizing that our love will spread out into space like waves of sound or light. Sound and light have the ability to penetrate everywhere, and love and compassion can do the same. But if our love is only a kind of imagination, then it is not likely to have any real effect. It is in the midst of our daily life and in our actual contact with others that we can know whether our mind of love is really present and how stable it is. If love is real, it will be evident in our daily life, in the way we relate with people and the world.

The source of love is deep in us, and we can help others realize a lot of happiness. One word, one action, or one thought can reduce another person’s suffering and bring him joy. One word can give comfort and confidence, destroy doubt, help someone avoid a mistake, reconcile a conflict, or open the door to liberation. One action can save a person’s life or help him take advantage of a rare opportunity. One thought can do the same, because thoughts always lead to words and actions. If love is in our heart, every thought, word, and deed can bring about a miracle. Because understanding is the very foundation of love, words and actions that emerge from our love are always helpful.’

                                                                        ~~Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step, ‘Meditation on Love’

Thich Nhat Hanh, born in Central Vietnam, is a Zen Buddhist monk currently living in exile in France. He has taught at Columbia University and the Sorbonne, was Chair of the Vietnamese Buddhist Peace Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks, and was nominated by Martin Luther King, Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize.