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Category Archives: Quotes

Quote of the Week: Roshi Joan Halifax

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Roshi Joan’s bio appears in a previous Quote of the Week post. This week’s quote comes from her book The Fruitful Darkness, first published in 1993. I’ve been reading it again this week and have to tell you that many sections of it still send chills up my spine, just like it did when I first read it years ago. I believe that’s a sign of wisdom captured in the written word.

In silence and solitude, in the emptiness of hunger and the worthiness of the wilds, men and women have taken refuge in the continuum of bare truth. John Muir once wrote, “I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” Silence is where we learn to listen, where we learn to see. Holding silence, being held by stillness, Buddhists and tribal people go alone to the wilderness “to stop and see,” to renew their thruth, to return to the knowledge of the extensiveness of self and the truth of no self.

The ceremony of the vision fast and the eremitic and yogic traditions of Buddhism are not solipsistic endeavors. Often we must go outside society to confirm that we live inside the continuum of creation. One seeks solitude to know relatedness.


If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to visit my other website: The Liberated Life Project — a personal transformation blog with a social conscience.

Quote of the Week: Gary Snyder

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Gary Snyder (born in 1930) is a poet and environmental activist, and one of the pioneers of American socially engaged Buddhism.

Snyder initially taught himself Zen meditation while he was a graduate anthropology student, and later encountered the painter and writer Saburo Hasegawa, Alan Watts, and Allen Ginsburg, all of whom became dharma mentors and friends.

Snyder later spent time studying and practicing at Rinko-in Temple in Japan, where he first took refuge as a Buddhist when he was 25 years old.

Snyder has written many poems and essays, but is perhaps best known for Mountains and Rivers Without End (1997).

This quote is an excerpt from the essay “Buddhist Anarchism,”  originally published in Journal for the Protection of All Beings #1 (City Lights, 1961). It also appears in Earth House Hold (New Directions, 1969) under the title “Buddhism and the Coming Revolution.” You can access the complete essay online here.

There is nothing in human nature or the requirements of human social organization which intrinsically requires that a culture be contradictory, repressive and productive of violent and frustrated personalities. Recent findings in anthropology and psychology make this more and more evident. One can prove it for himself by taking a good look at his own nature through meditation. Once a person has this much faith and insight, he must be led to a deep concern with the need for radical social change through a variety of hopefully non-violent means….

The mercy of the West has been social revolution; the mercy of the East has been individual insight into the basic self/void. We need both. They are both contained in the traditional three aspects of the Dharma path: wisdom (prajna), meditation (dhyana), and morality (sila). Wisdom is intuitive knowledge of the mind of love and clarity that lies beneath one’s ego-driven anxieties and aggressions. Meditation is going into the mind to see this for yourself — over and over again, until it becomes the mind you live in. Morality is bringing it back out in the way you live, through personal example and responsible action, ultimately toward the true community (sangha) of “all beings.”

Quote of the Week: Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

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Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1939 – 1987) was a Tibetan Buddhist meditation teacher and the founder of the Shambhala community.

Trungpa packed a lot into his relatively short life. He received traditional monastic training in the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions in Tibet, and then later studied comparative religion, philosophy, and fine arts at Oxford University. In 1967, he founded the Samye Ling meditation centre in Scotland, the first Tibetan Buddhist practice centre in the West. He went on to found Vajradhatu, which evolved into the Shambhala organization.

His legacy includes Naropa University–the first Buddhist-based university in North America–Shambhala Publications, and hundreds of meditation groups and practice centers around the world.

A key element of the Shambhala path is peacemaking, as it manifests in the journey of the “Shambhala warrior.” While peacemaking and warrior-ship may seem contradictory, Trungpa’s “crazy wisdom” brought these apparent dualities together in a skillful way.

This quote comes from the book Ocean of Dharma: The Everyday Wisdom of Chogyam Trungpa. 365 Teachings on Living Life with Courage and Compassion.

For the Shambhala warrior, the actual, basic notion of victory is not so much that you have one-upped your enemy and therefore you are victorious. Rather, no enemy exists at all; therefore, there is victory. This is the idea of unconditional warriorship and unconditional victory. In connection with this, the concept of sacredness is that fearlessness is carried into everyday life situations, even brushing your teeth.

So fearlessness occurs all over the place, all the time. Fearlessness here is also unconditional. In this way, fearlessness becomes cheerful and very light. There’s no need for cowardice or fear at all, or any moments of doubt. Actually what we’re talking about is doubtlessness, we could say, rather than fearlessness. There’s no doubt. There are no second thoughts.

Everything is a complete warrior’s world. So here victory is not having to deal with an enemy at all. It is the notion of no enemy. The whole world is a friend.


If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to visit my other website: The Liberated Life Project — a personal transformation blog with a social conscience.

Quote of the Week: Melody Ermachild Chavis

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Melody Ermachild Chavis is a writer,  private investigator, and longtime Zen practitioner at Berkeley Zen Center. You can read more about Melody here from a previous Jizo “Quote of the Week.”

This quote comes from the essay “Seeking Evil, Finding Only Good,” from Not Turning Away: The Practice of Engaged Buddhism (edited by Susan Moon):

Many death penalty proponents believe that evil infects people like my clients, who must therefore be extinguished…

For twenty years I have searched for evil, and nowhere have I found it. I find causes and conditions aplenty, and I have found something that I wasn’t looking for: inexhaustible quantities of love.

Suddenly, in every case — and it is always a surprise — I find someone giving love against all odds, someone reaching out where it seems nothing but hatred prevails, someone finding it in themselves to forgive against storms of bitter anger. These are often unexpected people, unsung heroes and heroines who want no thanks: a man’s long-ago juvenile hall counselor who comes to testify; a former special education teacher, retired with a bad heart, who flies on three airplanes to get to the trial to ask jurors to spare her former student’s life.

Love, I have seen, is a force alive in the world.

Quote of the Week: Bhikkhu Bodhi

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Today’s quote is hot off the digital press. I just received an email today from Bhikkhu Bodhi, founder of Buddhist Global Relief as well as the translator of numerous classic Buddhist texts. You can read the full text of his email here.

Here are the words from Bhikkhu Bodhi:

Three principles of personal and social integrity are especially imperiled today, principles that underlie three of the Buddhist precepts: refraining from violence, theft, and false speech. As followers of the Dharma, we need to promote them as guidelines for social policy as well as exemplify them in our own conduct. To insist on their social expression is not a matter of playing politics but of acting responsibly as human beings; for if they should be subverted, civilization as we know it will regress and may even collapse.

The first principle is non-violence or non-injury. Just as a nation or society can flourish only when its members avoid harming one another, so the world community can flourish only when nations abide by international conventions curbing war and aggression. An especially critical aspect of collective non-violence is making a swift transition to renewable sources of energy, a crying need if we are to prevent runaway climate change from ravaging the biosphere and decimating helpless communities on the planet.

The second principle is social justice, which stipulates that all people possess inalienable human rights regardless of their race, class, gender, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation. Social justice also entails economic justice, a pillar of societal health that is being aggressively overturned. Economic justice entails equitable incomes and safe work conditions. It entails adequate housing, access to healthy food, affordable medical care, and security in illness and old age.

The third principle is commitment to truth. Truth is the guardian of the first two principles, which in troubled times makes it especially vulnerable to attack by those bent on distortion and disinformation. In certain circles it has become an axiom that if one repeats a lie often enough it becomes truth. The limits of this axiom are constantly being pushed, creating ever thicker screens of deception to promote militarism and the assault on social justice.

Quote of the Week: John Daido Loori

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This week’s quote comes from the late John Daido Loori (1931 – 2009), founder of the Mountains and Rivers Order and Abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery in New York. Loori, who studied with Taizen Maezumi Roshi, was also an acclaimed photographer. You can see some of his breathtaking photos of the natural world here.

This quote comes from the book The Heart of Being: Moral and Ethical Teachings of Zen Buddhism (which, by the way, is a wonderful book to read if you’re in the process of preparing to receive the precepts [ jukai]):

Because his experience as an astute social observer became interfused with his absolute wisdom, it is worthwhile to study [the Buddha’s] teachings about social and economic conditions in relation to spiritual practice and ethical life….

One of the central observations Buddha made about the breakdown of the social fabric is that poverty is the chief cause of immorality and crime. Theft, violence, hatred, cruelty, all result from poverty. It seems that ancient governments in India, like many governments today, tried to handle the problem of crime through punishment. They attempted to suppress it. Buddha said that attempts to control crime will ultimately be futile. This kind of control is like building a dam to hold back rising water. The barrier wil hold back the water, but the barrier will always need to be there, and there will always be the threat of the water’s spilling over or sweeping the dam away. Buddha said that if you want to eradicate crime, the economic conditions of people have to be improved.

Quote of the Week: Joanna Macy

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This week’s quote comes from Buddhist scholar and eco-philosopher Joanna Macy.

Joanna is the author of a number of wonderful books, including World as Lover, World as Self, and Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World. I was delighted to learn that Joanna is working on a new book, “The Gift of Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy” with Chris Johnstone, a British physician.

You can find this quote on Joanna’s website,, from the section on “Engaged Buddhism”:

…Everything we do impinges on all beings. The way you are with your child is a political act, and the products you buy and your efforts to recycle are part of it too. So is meditation–just trying to stay aware is a task of tremendous importance. We are trying to be present to ourselves and each other) in a way that can save our planet. Saving life on this planet includes developing a strong, caring connection with future generations; for, in the Dharma of co-arising, we are here to sustain one another over great distances of space and time.

The Dharma wheel, as it turns now, also tells us this: that we don’t have to invent or construct our connections. They already exist. We already and indissolubly belong to each other, for this is the nature of life. So, even in our haste and hurry and occasional discouragement, we belong to each other. We can rest in that knowing, and stop and breathe, and let that breath connect us with the still center of the turning wheel.

Quote of the Week: Sister Chân Không

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Sister Chân Không, who was born in 1938 in Ben Tre, Vietnam, is one of the pioneers of socially engaged Buddhism. She is best known for her collaboration with Vietnamese Zen teacher Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh.

A student of Thây’s since 1959, she assisted him in establishing the Van Hanh University and the School for Youth and Social Service (SYSS) in Vietnam.

In 1966, Sister Chân Không was ordained as one of the first members of the Order of Interbeing. Throughout the Vietnam War, she was at Thay’s side and helped him to organize the Buddhist Peace Delegation which campaigned for peace in Vietnam during the Paris Peace Talks.

Since the end of the war, Sister Chân Không has continued to be involved in support efforts for the people of Vietnam. Her autobiography, Learning True Love: How I Learned to Practice Social Change in Vietnam, was originally published in 1993 and released in a revised edition in 2007.

This quote comes from an interview with Alan Senauke and Susan Moon which appeared in Turning Wheel magazine in Winter of 1994. What I love about it is the encouragement to stay with simple steps in working toward peace and justice… a welcome reminder during our own time of so much social transition and turmoil.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed. But I try to work one day at a time. If we just worry about the big picture, we are powerless. So my secret is to start right away doing whatever little work I can do. I try to give joy to one person in the morning, and remove the suffering of one person in the afternoon. That’s enough.

When you see you can do that, you continue, and you give two little joys, and you remove two little sufferings, then three, and then four. If you and your friends do not despise the small work, a million people will remove a lot of suffering. That is the secret. Start right now.


If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to visit my other website: The Liberated Life Project — a personal transformation blog with a social conscience.

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