Bad habits, like weeds,

should be pulled out when detected.

Left alone, 

they will rapidly grow out of control.

Any gardener with bad habits would most likely find himself hard pressed to say which grows out of control faster: the weeds or his habits. Both are sown out of sight, a threat to the future but not the present. As they first appear, both weeds and habits seem so trifling that unless we are wary, and experienced, the pesky things hardly seem worth bothering about. We can eliminate them another day. No big deal. As they develop, we tell ourselves we need to do something before they multiply. But still, we do nothing. Until one day, amazed, we realize those minor irritations have not only thrived but also taken over. And worse, they are now, like Medusa’s snakes, so intertwined that we find it almost impossible to tell where one begins and another ends. Where to begin! Note to self: When such pests are spotted, pluck them out!


If you wouldn’t want others 

to hear what you’re saying about them, 

most likely it shouldn’t be said.

Don’t gossip. Okay, that’s simple. Or is it? Is saying something nice about someone gossiping? Some people might say yes, others no. So how do we decide whether to say something about another person? One simple way is to ask ourselves if we would say it in front of the person. Aside from exceptions like not discussing what we’ll be giving a child for his birthday in front of him, this guideline works well. If we’d be mortified or regretful or upset with ourself for speaking out, then we shouldn’t. If the other person might feel hurt or defensive or angry, then we shouldn’t. If there is even a chance of upsetting the other person in any way, then we shouldn’t. Notice a pattern? It’s “We shouldn’t.” Unless the person would thank us for what we just said or with twinkling eyes, smile happily, or feel the need to demur humbly, then we shouldn’t. So yes, it was simple after all.


When thrown by a horse, get back on.

Our path is the same. 

When thrown by doubt and difficulties,

get right back on.

We will always encounter obstacles. That’s our reality in samsara. The obstacles may be external: no place to practice, no teacher. Or internal: procrastination, apathy, doubt. If we linger over such difficulties, these obstacles will eventually become impassable. We may then be tempted to give up entirely. Think of this in terms of riding a horse to a distant destination. If the horse throws us, the thought of remounting can be daunting. Do I really want to climb back on a creature who seems so resolutely opposed to the idea? What if he throws me again? I think I’ll walk. Anyone who has ridden horses knows the necessity of remounting right after a fall. Failing to do so, the rider runs the very real risk of never riding again. Likewise, failing to get back on our path when thrown by obstacles, we run the risk of abandoning our practice in this lifetime. 


When you have no say or influence 

and cannot bring about any change,

accept the reality of what is.

Just as everything that happens to us is a consequence of what we have thought, said, and done, so too what happens to others are their own self-imposed consequences. And yet, knowing this cause and effect is a natural law unrestricted by time, and thus deserved, we still long to ease others’ suffering. Not knowing whether we can, we try. Aspiring to help we just need to bear in mind that while, yes, our wish to assist is the embryonic stirring of our compassionate bodhi mind, we may well lack the necessary abilities to do so. Just as those we seek to help might well lack the conditions for us to ease their suffering. This likelihood of our not being able to effect any immediate change does not mean we do not try. We do. But in all those times in which we will fail to improve the situation, we need to let go of expectations and readily accept that, regrettably, we could do little for now.


Seek wisdom, 

not knowledge.

Knowledge comprises the facts and ideas acquired from external sources through experience, observation, and learning. Wisdom, our innate prajna, is that which already lies deep within our true nature. With prajna, we simply know. Imagine getting caught without an umbrella when it suddenly begins to rain. We wouldn’t stand in the pouring rain analyzing our various options. We’d run for cover! Prajna wisdom is this natural. While knowledge comes to us from varied sources, prajna arises when the mind is tranquil. How? As our mind calms down, prajna bubbles up to the surface of our mind and functions. At first, almost at the same moment, as soon as our bubble of wisdom arises it bursts. But with continued meditation—for us, chanting the Buddha-name—wisdom will arise more often and function longer. Eventually, wisdom will no longer recede. Continuously functioning from it, we will have become a Buddha.