Author Archives: jespada

There’s a reason people do long retreats

I don’t think most working people in America even dream of going on an extended retreat. Vacations, if they’re taken at all, are more to recover energy, or to see someplace new. The idea of stepping out of society for weeks or months at a time is not thought about, or seen as desirable to most, but only because they don’t know the advantages of it…

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What kind of mind will we use

Recently I have gathered my notes on Buddhist psychology, along with what I have tried my best to include in practice over the years. I see now that the main difference between my early introduction to these teachings and how I see them now has to do with the different qualities of mind we can have…

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Untying the Knot of the Ego

One cannot rely on the dualistic, deluded mind to undo its own delusions (which is using the same kind of mind that created the problems)

Finally, it is the non-deluded, noncompounded, nondual, ultimate reality itself that has the real power to remove delusions…

– Shenpen Hookham, from The Buddha Within

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Tenets of Pure Perception

In Tibetan Buddhism, basic ignorance manifests as what they call ‘impure perception’, or ‘ordinary perception’, the mundane view of the world that we carry with us, and this is seen as the root cause of how we limit ourselves and suffer. The opposite of this is called an enlightened view, pure perception, or sacred outlook. This is a way of experiencing the world as essentially divine in nature, having great beauty and potential…

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Compassion and Self-Compassion

What we call compassion is the love we have in us, meeting suffering in ourselves, in our family, and in the world. We are closest to ourselves, and so of course we know our own suffering better than that of others. We need this one quality called self compassion to turn to what is difficult, and to keep our attention on it, and hold it tenderly until it begins to transform…

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The Knowledge of Liberation

What makes Buddhism such a great treasure to us all is that it teaches the way to freedom from suffering. When we first hear this, we may find it hard to believe, but if we investigate, test the teachings and begin to have some experience ourselves, our faith and dedication to practice naturally develop…


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Metta as the most useful method of meditation for people in the West today

Most people these days don’t have a lot of time for meditation. The week is divided between work, caring for their family, and relationships. From what I have seen, all methods of meditation can be helpful to us. There are a few ways, however, that metta, or Buddhist loving kindness meditation especially matches our needs here and now…

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Healing the World Soul

I think of where we are also as a spiritual place. There is a level to our being here that could be called the group soul of this country. On that level, there is a great deal unanswered for, legacies that only occasionally appear in dramatic ways, but that are present in our lives, in our attitudes, in our homes and games, and diet, and economics, and education.

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Knowing the World As a Sacred Place

An Invitation to the Vajrayana View

We are not here on Earth to be alone, but to be a part of a living community, a web of life in which all is sacred… this is something we each need to rediscover and honor anew…  – Llewelyn Vaughn-Lee

If we begin with the view that this world is sacred, then everything that spiritual traditions teach us follows naturally.

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The State of Wonder

Wonder is a state of mind in which we do not look at reality through the latticework of our memorized knowledge, and in which nothing is taken for granted…

Wonder, rather than doubt, is the root of all knowledge… – Abraham Joshua Heschel

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Love is the Eye That Sees Beauty

For many, the days and nights here are experienced as moving from the mundane, and the commonplace, to states of want. The usual starting place is one of ordinary life, with only brief moments of being uplifted by some heroic feat in sports, or beauty in music, or in nature, and then back to what are seen as being plain lives…

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Why compassion is the most important thing in the world

I think most people could tell you, after having lived some years on this earth that what really lasts in memory is not so much what people do, but the goodwill they share with us. When we’re treated with kindness, it stays with us. It can nurture and strengthen us for a long time. Deprived of love, we wither, or become twisted. Cared for, we are healthy and we thrive. After a while we know that love is essential for living.

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Cultivating Joy

Cultivating joy has a reputation in Buddhism for being an easy practice, one that anybody can do, and that really takes just a few moments. Just sit back and think about some of the great things that people have done, and are doing now, or the beauty that is in this world…

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Freedom of Mind – the Root of the Social Gospel

For Dr. David Hilfiker, with photographs by Frank Espada

‘We belong to each other…’

I. The social gospel defined

The social gospel is the view that we are made to care for each other; that we are here to protect, support and encourage each other; to love, nurture and celebrate every one of our family, from birth, through all the stages of life, in struggle and difficulty, and in times of ease and success.

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The Metta of Martin Luther King

Part I – love as a method of personal and social transformation; Part II – An all-encompassing method; & Part III – A world perspective

I thought it might be interesting to sketch out a few notes on the parallels between Dr. King’s ideas, and the teachings on metta. Both show us love as a method of personal and social transformation. There are a few places where they overlap, and some ways they can potentially compliment each other.

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Interdimensionalty in Buddhism and in American Cinema

If the doors of perception were cleansed,
all things would appear as they are, infinite
…” – William Blake

In a recent movie, Tomorrowland, a young woman touches a magical medallion, and is transported to another world, where it is safe, beautiful, and enlightened. When she lets go of the button, she’s back in her ordinary world. When I first saw this, I thought immediately of how it was just like the working of mantra in Buddhism – under the right circumstances, it can shift a person’s awareness immediately, and produce the vision of a Pure Land that has been right here all along.

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A Basic Method of Meditation

Meditation – the cornerstone of the contemplative life

I always enjoy reading the basic meditation instructions from noble teachers because, while they may seem simple, I know there is a great richness to them. What they are describing in these apparently simple teachings are the cornerstone of their contemplative life and practice. And they invite us with these instructions to unfold the fruit of the practice for ourselves…

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The Metta Sutta

He or she who wants to attain peace should practice being upright, humble, and capable of using loving speech.  He or she will know how to live simply and happily, with senses calmed, without being covetous and carried away by the emotions of the majority.  Let him or her not do anything that will be disapproved of by the wise ones.

(And this is what he or she contemplates:)


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Loving Kindness Practice

{In more detail}  Introduction

There is a light in the mind when we love selflessly, no doubt about it. Love is what lets us see beauty. Delighting in others is a kind of enlightenment, we could say, and that light is sustenance; it brings happiness and well being to the heart and mind…

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The Essential Characteristics of Buddha Nature

Based on the teachings in the Uttara Tantra Shastra

All beings are equally endowed with Buddha Nature. It is not something that saints and sages have in a greater measure, and ordinary people have less.In all places and times, in all cultures, for all people, this essential, perfect, true nature is exactly the same. Seeing this at once removes both self denigration, and any pride we may have.

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An Introduction to Mahayana Buddhism

Mahayana means ‘the great way’, that aims to benefit all people, and all forms of life. This word comes from one of the ways a person can practice Buddhism. The motivation for their meditation, prayers, ritual and mantra can be not just for their own sake, but for the sake of all their precious family, and for the sake of all beings

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An Introduction to Buddhist Prayer

In America, and in the West in general these days, people don’t usually associate Buddhism and prayer. We usually think of Buddhism as a tradition that teaches quiet sitting meditation, and it is certainly that. Right below the surface, however, we find that there is a great deal of prayer in Buddhism.

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Saints East and West

{A brief essay on Saints, outlining their nature and activity, written as an introduction to the prayers of the Buddhist Mahasiddha Tang Tong Gyalpo.}

“Man generally is not conscious of the power he has. When a man becomes conscious of that power, he is able to do things which people cannot ordinarily accomplish.” – Hazarat Inayat Khan

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On Mythological Time and Space

With our ordinary sense of time, events happen one after the other. Looking ahead, we make plans, and looking back, we measure how far we are now from an experience according to the clock, or calendar. Mythological time though is something completely different. In mythological time, every story that’s been told, of sacred adventures, is about what is happening now, and eternally, and in all times and places…

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The Esoteric Aspect of Connecting With a Tradition

From the outside, when we see a person connecting with a Tradition, it looks fairly straightforward, and self evident. We may see them going to church, or to a temple; on a retreat, or pilgrimage; we may find them joining a candle light procession, reading scriptures or sutras or inspired poetry in time set apart, or having a daily meditation practice. This much can be seen.

Within the experience itself however, there is a richness that is subtle, and tangible. This is less often talked about, and so I’d like to say something about it here…

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The Avatamsaka Sutra and Buddhist Tantra

There are two ways a person can go about understanding Buddhist teachings. One is to study the sutras and commentaries, to listen to teachers and try to make sense of what they are saying on an intellectual level. The other way is to practice in line with what has worked for people in the past, all the way back to the Founder of the Tradition. When someone takes this second path, and they start to get some results, their reference point is then their own experience.

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Loving your enemies – returning good for harm

The idea of responding to being insulted or abused with non-reactivity, and then even with love doesn’t come along in Buddhist practice until what they would call an advanced stage. By contrast, it’s right there, plainly spoken in the Christian teaching, as loving one’s enemies. To me, there’s something beautiful about this, in that the goal, of having a universal kindness and goodwill is taught by Jesus right from the beginning in Christianity. At the same time, there’s a great benefit to having a step by step method to work with, to cultivate such love, that would otherwise seem unapproachable. It’s like having a map through the terrain to where we would go…

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Towards Wholeness and Greater Love

A Commentary on Five Lines of Teaching by Padampa Sangye

Pith instructions are like seeds we can take and cultivate in our contemplative lives. When we find a teaching that matches where we are in our lives at a particular time, something stirs in our depths, and another step can be taken towards wholeness, fulfillment, peace, and the realization of our fundamental nature…

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Readings on Ethics – Preface

The Beautiful Path

There is a great need these days for the study and practice of ethics. The universal values of caring for each other, and for this sacred earth have always been needed, but they are especially called for when life has gotten out of balance. We turn again to traditional teachings, which are our precious inherited wisdom. By changing the way we live, they all tell us, we can restore health on personal and collective levels…

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Recollecting the Qualities of the Three Jewels, Praise, and Taking Refuge

Homage to the Founder,
the Endowed Transcendent Destroyer (of defilements),
the One Gone Beyond,
the Foe Destroyer,
the Completely Perfected, Fully Awakened Being,
the Glorious Conqueror, the Subduer from the Shakya Clan

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The Profound Practice of Taking Refuge

The practice of taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha is thought of as a basic teaching. Verses in Pali or Tibetan, and now English are recited every day by millions all over the world, before teachings. This potentially can be something that is just glossed over, or it can go deep, and serve as a foundation for the whole of our whole spiritual life…

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Oh Joy to Know At Last – There is No Happiness in Samsara!

For a mind that only knows cycling through experiences that can be described as the six realms, the search for happiness is endless, and bound to be disappointing, and frustrating, again and again and again. This is teaching us: There is no lasting satisfaction for a samsaric mind – one that clings to a self, and misperceives the nature of this life…

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Islands, and the Bridge

Islands in a raging flood – Ethics, Meditation, and Wisdom

The nature of a raging flood is that it is extremely dangerous. You can see other people losing their lives to it, as well as houses, cars, and buildings being swept away. You can lose your own life to it.

The nature of an island in a raging flood is that it is a temporary place of safety, on the way to the far shore, which is the only real freedom from danger in this situation…

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The Need for Samatha

They say that nothing moves without intention. Before we begin a project, or a way of life, or meditation, we need to know its benefits. This comes first. Once we’re convinced of these, everything else follows naturally. It may take time, and effort, but when this much is clear, there’s an ease to it as well. To that end, I’d like to say something about the need for a certain kind of meditation, that is essential if we wish to receive the fruits of Buddhist practice…

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Using the Anapanasati Sutta to Cultivate Shinay

Introduction – Tending Towards Simplicity

There are a few ways in general that we can practice with the Sutra on Mindfulness of Breathing. One is to think of the 16 steps as following one after the other, organically. We can also go briefly through the steps, or the tetrads (sequences of 4 steps) and then focus just one one part, or even just one step. As Thich Nhat Hanh has said, practicing any one of these meditations can bring insight, and freedom of mind

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Preliminary Questions for the Teachings on the Two Truths

I suspect that the teachings on what are called the Two Truths are similar to many other profound, far reaching ideas in Buddhism, in that while they may be of great value to people, they have become quite abstract, embedded as they have been in academic traditions, and seemingly removed from our lives.

Like other wisdom teachings though, nothing could be further from the truth – I suspect that they describe exactly the nature of our lives here, and can be of wondrous benefit, but that they also need to be unpacked, understood, and spoken anew…

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The Bodhisattva Thought Training Teachings

Bodhicitta, is ‘the mind of enlightenment’, the mind of freedom, happiness, and Great Love. A person who has this great heart/mind is called a Bodhisattva – one who lives to serve others with wisdom and compassion. This leads to the Thought Training teachings, that come from dedicated teachers in the past. These are ways to develop in everyday life…

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A Practice That Thrives in Difficulty – An Essay

The following is based on a Traditional Tibetan Buddhist teaching for transforming suffering into the path to freedom and peace.

‘When the world and its contents are filled with evil, transform this into the path of awakening’ 

from the Seven Points of Mind Training, by Geshe Chekawa, 12th Century, Tibet

‘Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love…’– From the Prayer of Saint Francis

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A Belief in the Miraculous – Preface

When I was in my 20’s, I had the good fortune to study teachings from the Western Esoteric Tradition.  These included, among other things, explanations of other levels of existence, psychic development, and systems of divination.  Such teachings were very helpful to me back then, as the realities they spoke of were a close match to my own lived experience

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In Praise of the Vajrayana

A Brief Introduction to Buddhist Tantra

The Skillful Means of the Mahayana

The Stages of the Path teachings cover the entire range of Buddhist teachings, from refuge, to teachings on liberation, to the Mahayana motivation and Wisdom. They conclude with reference to the Vajrayana, the ‘lightning’ or ‘diamond thunderbolt’ vehicle…

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