Dear friend of "Awakening Heart,"
Mindfulness is not a quick-fix. Mindfulness practice is a
lifestyle. It is a new habit that you need to commit to every day. It
is like eating three meals a day and getting about 8 hours of sleep
each night. It isn't anything extraordinary. And yet, for so long, we
have been living as spiritually malnourished beings; it's as if we've
only been eating one meal every few days and sleeping only a couple of
hours a week. Then, when we encounter mindfulness practice, especially
at a retreat, it feels extraordinary. But you can't just go to one
retreat or a couple of group meditations and then stop there. You
must continually commit yourself to daily practice, weekly practice,
monthly practice, quarterly practice (and annual practice, if it is in
your means). It's just like committing yourself to eating three
nutritious meals a day and sleeping about 8 hours each night. You
don't just eat one meal and sleep one night and then wait several days
before eating and sleeping again. That is not healthy at all. And yet,
that is exactly what we have been doing spiritually most of our
We don't even realize that we are spiritually malnourished because
most of us have never really known any other state of existence. Since
our parents were probably spiritually malnourished, and all of our
peers were most likely spiritually malnourished, and even our
religious leaders may have been spiritually malnourished, our own
state of spiritual malnourishment just seemed normal. But now, we
have the opportunity to change all of that. We have the amazing
opportunity now to break this ancestral cycle of spiritual
malnourishment and begin a new generation of spiritual nourishment,
transformation and enlightenment.
I encourage you to make a commitment to your own happiness, a
commitment to transforming your suffering, a commitment to realizing
enlightenment in this very lifetime, for the sake of all beings. I
encourage you to wake up from the delusions of the self-centered self,
to wake up from our collective addiction to distraction, to wake up
from the extremes of both materialistic workaholism and of
Do it today, do it this week, or do it next week, but just do it.
The next few years are critical years. What we do during this time
period will determine the future direction of our world. We will
either have a "Global Awakening" or the mass breakdown of modern
civilization as we know it. But either way, our Dharma practice today
will be greatly needed and necessary either to aid the "Global
Awakening" or to be a calm and stable light for all the people around
us who will be running around in fear, confusion, despair and chaos as
our ecological and economic systems start to fall apart.
The days of "Lone Ranger" spirituality are over. The only valid and
viable path for any of us now is the "Bodhisattva Path" — the
path of awakening in service to others, the path of community and
interbeing, the path of Sangha. And this is universal, not
restricted to Buddhism. There are Buddhist bodhisattvas, and Christian
bodhisattvas, and Jewish bodhisattvas, and Hindu and Muslim
bodhisattvas. The point is, unless we all collectively awaken
together, the future is not going to be very bright. It is up to us to
make the difference, to make the shift. We are not alone. None of us
is "an island unto himself."
And so, my sisters and brothers, let me encourage you to make this
commitment, to practice the "Sangha Lifestyle" starting today:
- Daily: Personal meditation (at least 20 minutes or more) at home and mindful living throughout the day.
- Weekly: Group meditation with others (Sangha).
- Monthly: A formal or informal "Day of Mindfulness" retreat by yourself or with others.
- Quarterly: A formal or informal weekend mindfulness retreat by yourself or with others.
- Yearly: [If you can afford it,] a formal weeklong or longer mindfulness retreat with others under the direction of a Dharma Teacher.
I guarantee you, if you practice this "Sangha Lifestyle"
faithfully, consistently and regularly over the course of this next
year, you will experience a major and pivotal breakthrough in your
life and spirituality that will be of benefit to all beings. You will
set yourself upon the Path of Enlightenment "with no regression." You
will have begun your training as a Bodhisattva. And you will find
yourself supported by all the wisdom, love, joy, peace and strength of
the Universe on your journey.
So just take 3 slow, deep breaths and simply "begin anew." In
every moment, you can start afresh and anew, right here, right now.
Every morning, you can recite this chant:
Buddham saranam gacchami --
I take refuge in the Mind of Awakening,
that which shows me the Way in this life.
Dharmam saranam gacchami --
I take refuge in the Path of Awakening,
the Way of Understanding and of Love.
Sangham saranam gacchami --
I take refuge in the Community of Awakening,
those who live in Harmony and Awareness.
And every evening, you can recite this chant:
Countless beings, I vow to save.
Ceaseless afflictions, I vow to end.
Limitless Dharma doors, I vow to open.
The Highest Path of Awakening, I vow to realize.
Or, perhaps this chant, morning or evening:
- Brahmavihara Maitri:
- May I and all beings be happy and loved.
- Brahmavihara Karuna:
- May I and all beings transform our suffering.
- Brahamavihara Mudita:
- May I and all beings rejoice in each other's joys.
- Brahmavihara Upeksha:
- May I and all beings let go, be content and at peace.
And throughout the day, whenever you remember to come back to your
breath in full awareness of the present moment, you can silently and
continuously recite within your heart the sacred mantra of:
"Namo AMITABHA Buddhaya"
or just simply: "AMITABHA"
["amita" means "infinite" and "abha" means "light" in Sanskrit]
This particular mantra of the "Buddha of Infinite Light" puts us in
touch with the many millions of practitioners in the East and in the
past who have used this to open their hearts in gratitude to the
"Infinite Light of Awakening"
in ourselves and all
beings. Through it, we flow into harmony with the energy of love,
compassion, joy and equanimity inherent in our True Nature.
affirm and express the Truth that, yes, who we really are is "Infinite
Light," and what we are here to do is to simply express that
Enlightenment and manifest the "Pure Land of Great Happiness" right
here on Earth, right here in our own lives and relationships and daily
So, Namo AMITABHA Buddhaya, and practice meditation every day.
And, Namo AMITABHA Buddhaya, participate in the Sangha every week.
And, Namo AMITABHA Buddhaya, take one day a month off for a solitary or group "Day of Mindfulness."
And, Namo AMITABHA Buddhaya, go to a few weekend retreats, and one weeklong or longer retreat, if you are able to, each year.
And finally, Namo AMITABHA Buddhaya
, whenever a day has been
skipped in meditation or a week at Sangha has been missed, just let it
go and simply "begin anew" once again, right here and right now. Our
practice is really only "Yes" and "Thank You." That's it! And that is
a deeper meaning of "Namo Amitabha Buddhaya." There's no need for
stress or struggle in the practice. "Let go and let God" or, as I like
to put it: "Let be and let Buddha!"
Namo AMITABHA Buddhaya,
dear Buddha in human drag,
let your light shine!
Let it shine,
let it shine,
let it shine!
"True Wonderful Happiness"