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Friday, December 15, 2006

Meditation Alone is Not Enough

When we practice sitting and walking meditation in ways that cause our body and mind to suffer, our effort is not Right Diligence and is not based on Right View. Our practice should be intelligent, based on Right Understanding of the teaching. It is not because we practice hard that we can say that we are practicing Right Diligence. There was a monk in Tang Dynasty China who was practicing sitting meditation very hard, day and night. He thought he was practicing harder than anyone else, and he was very proud of this. He sat like a rock day and night, but his suffering was not transformed. One day a teacher asked him, "Why are you sitting so hard?" and the monk replied, "To become a Buddha!" The teacher picked up the tile and began polishing it and the monk asked, "Teacher, what are you doing?" His master replied, "I am making a mirror." The monk asked, "How can you make a tile into a mirror?"and his teacher replied, "How can you become a Buddha by sitting?"

Thich Nhat Hanh from his book, The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy and Liberation. Page 99-100.

James: Although meditation is important on the path it seems that quality is more beneficial than quantity. As well as putting the lessons we learn from meditation into practice in our daily lives. Meditating to the point that one has no time or vision beyond meditation to put things into practice reminds me of a dog who finds a bone and buries it. Every day he digs it up to look at, protect and make sure it is still there but doesn't do anything with it other then that.

However, he is so obsessed with guarding his treasure that he has no time to enjoy it and use it to nourish his body.

So it is with us when we fall into the clinging of spiritual materialism thinking that if we meditate enough then all our suffering will magically disappear without having to actually "do" or "be" anything. Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us in this quote that marathon meditation without works is like trying to put out a fire by spitting. It is not Right Action.

PHOTO: My altar. From right to left (Picture of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, statue of Shakyamuni the Buddha and a statuette of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Kwan Yin. Avalokiteshvara is the name for the Bodhisattva's male form.

~Peace to all beings~

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trinitystar said...

James thank you for sharing your post on meditation. I have tried countless times to meditate in fact for a few years ... and still I fidget. Now I try to find a moment or two ... when I still myself & my mind ... in doing so one can capture something beautiful. For instance ... the sunsetting behind the clouds this afternoon, was sp golden that the Presence of Being was felt.
Hugs for you.

"James" said...


Great website. :)


Great comment. A sunset is a great moment of meditation. We don't always have to formally "sit" to meditate and you realize that. Such a realization is worth it's weight in gold. Thank you for the hugs...I send them right back.

seekingfor said...


great post. I appreciate you pointing out the need for our spiritual practice to be grounded in our actions.

Skillful practice is a delicate balance. We must be dilligent in order to develop all aspects of the Noble Eightfold path in a way that they compliment each other (wisdom, ethics, and meditation)

"James" said...


It sure seems like it all comes down to balance doesn't it? That's what I like so much about Taoism and Buddhism.

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