Thursday, December 31, 2009

Original Goodness, Original Sin

The beginning of a new year is a great time to remind ourselves that we can approach our lives in a fresh and open way. It's a good time to start with a clean slate, to set our calculator-minds back to zero, to erase our metaphorical chalk boards so we can get back in touch with our true nature and operate from there rather than that delusional place that believes we're all separate from everyone and everything else.

During my twelve years of Catholic school I was taught that we’re all born with original sin. Having been born essentially tainted, we're asked to search for salvation outside of ourselves even though Jesus Christ himself said that the kingdom of God is within you.

Buddhism teaches that we come into this world with what I call original goodness, or Buddha nature: a pure, perfect, loving nature that we simply need to get back in touch with. It’s always there just as the sun is always shining even behind the clouds on a stormy day. It isn’t something we need to try and get, it’s something we merely need to uncover.

If we’re going through life from the starting point of being damaged goods in need of repair from some far away and disconnected entity that judges us and our actions as good or bad, our motivations and behavior will be one way. But if we approach life from a place where we realize we’re inherently good, and we take the time to sit silently and mindfully so we can get a real glimpse of that goodness, then our actions will always be natural and right on. There won’t be any need to for over-thinking anything or following someone else’s set of one-size-fits-all rules. We can be in touch with our hearts and our true nature enough to know what the right course of action is at any given moment.

May we all attain a degree of sanity and peace of mind so we can better serve ourselves and each other.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2009


May we all appreciate each and every moment and fully recognize how precious our lives are.

May we stop grasping at outer sources of happiness and learn to sit in noble silence long enough to uncover the joy and goodness that already exists within us.

May we acknowledge the dignity and worth inherent in ourselves and every other being and thing around us.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Street Prajna

In New York City we're very used to seeing people living on the street. We're a little too used to it.

Today I walked past the same homeless man on the sidewalk twice (once on my way to the gym and once on my way home). He was hunched forward as he gestured around with his hand as if talking to someone, very dazed and lethargic. He was in that in-between place that's hard to figure out--he might have been feverish or drunk or mentally ill but without interacting with him directly it was impossible to judge.

He helped me realize today that the more thinking I do, the less helpful I am. On a good day I'll see someone who appears to need some kind of assistance and simply respond in the best possible way, without plotting or thinking or second guessing myself.

Today I looked at this man and considered the possibility that I might catch some sort of skin disease by helping him. I wondered if anyone I knew would see me and think I was trying to be some in-your-face show-off do-gooder, or even worse, think I wasn't being a "real New Yorker" by not rushing by like everyone else was.

I thought about so much while this guy may have just needed a quarter or a sandwich or some serious medical attention.

This is all assuming he wanted or even needed my help. For all I know he might have been having a better day than I was. And my fantasies about coming to his aid may have been nothing more than the rumblings of my hungry ego.

We really aren't served very well and we certainly don't serve others very well when we rely on our thoughts alone. We're so disconnected from our hearts and our fundamental wisdom by the haze of thinking that seeps into every aspect of our daily experience that we miss opportunities to be present for ourselves and each other.

My teacher Sunim reminded me last night how important it is to incorporate our practice into our everyday life, no matter how busy or crazy or challenging our lives may be. May we all find a way to do that and serve those who need us.