My Choice


Even if everyone else is not doing good,

I alone will.

Even if everyone else is doing wrong,

I alone will not.


~ Ven. Master Chin Kung in Heart of A Buddha ~ 


Paying Attention Works

Someone who heard my talk the other day on "Pay attention, Do good," called me today. She said that her sister called at 1am on the day after the talk to say that she thought her leg was broken and her husband was out of town. At 1am, my friend couldn't remember which was said first, but told her sister that she'd come right over to take her to the hospital.

On the way to her sister's house, my friend saw a young woman with a long skirt, short jacket, and no scarf walking along the road. This was on a cold night when it was snowing. But the woman was approaching a lighted gas station and not knowing her sister's condition my friend drove another mile down the road, quickly got her sister into the car, and drove back on the same road. Explaining about the young woman, my friend watched the roadside very carefully trying to spot the woman. She was hoping the woman had stopped at the gas station.

Then the woman was spotted still walking alongside the road. My friend pulled over and asked the woman if they could give her a ride. She was hesitant but then got into the car and said she was going to a gas station where her brother worked. My friend drove her there and the two sisters watched as the young woman was met by her brother.  

We had also discussed in the class what emotions could set in after paying attention and doing good. We could feel proud that we had acted. We could want to tell others what we had done. My friend said she learned another way to feel. Motivated by the good feeling of having been paying attention and doing good, she was looking for more opportunities to do the same. But the next time she would not tell anyone else about what she had done.  


Transforming Grief and Loss

Grief is a natural reaction to losing someone we loved as the pain of never again being able to be with that person takes over our heart. But as our grief begins to lessen, we can either move on to just getting back to the daily business of living or we can do something good—something special that will benefit others. If we chose to do the latter, we will honor the person we have been mourning. And with that celebration of the loved one’s existence, we will begin to heal ourselves.

What is that “something good”? What would be appropriate? Consider who the person was and what their concerns were. If they had a favorite charity, you could contribute to that charity or, better yet, volunteer to help them. Or, find an activity to participate in that reflects what the loved one felt was important.

For example, my mother was very happy with my writing and speaking about Buddhism. I never quite figured out how she managed it so well, but she could begin talking to a stranger and in her first few sentences incorporate Buddhism into that conversation. She would tell them that Buddhism is not a religion and her daughter is a Buddhist nun. She’d say a few more things, often about how so much more patient I was now, and that was it. End of Dharma talk, and back to general conversation.

So to honor my mother, her bedroom is gradually being transformed into a “Dharma propagation room.” It’s messy due to a mixture of bedroom and work furniture, but I just keep apologizing and explaining that as things settle down, I'll straighten the room.

Personally, I don’t think she would mind the crowded room. She would be happy that I was happy working again. And touched that I was honoring her existence in this way. And then she'd remind me that I need to go eat my lunch...


Golden Rule

The Buddha said, “Do not hurt others with that which hurts yourself.”

Mohammed said, “None of you is a believer until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself.”

Hillel said, “What is hateful to you, do not do to others.”

Confucius said, “What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.”

If you would not like someone to lie to you, do not lie to others. If you would be unhappy if someone took something from you, then do not take anything without the owner’s permission. If you would be upset if someone spoke harshly to you, then do not speak harshly to others.

The way to achieve world peace is to create peace within each of us. If there are fires to the north, south, east, and west of us, do not expect not to get burned. A person surrounded by fire will suffer. If we want a harmonious society, we must create harmony in our family, in our workplace, and in our communities. Instead of being consumed by the fire of our craving and anger, we need to create peace.

From Everything We Do Matters , Shi Wuling


Pay Attention, Do Good


In this morning's practice session, I gave a short talk on paying attention and on doing good. During the discussion, one of the attendees—a wonderfully kind woman—told of an event that had happened years ago when her daughter was young.

Preparing to leave the supermarket, the mother was focused on getting her daughter safely back to the car. While still in the store, she noticed another woman who was trying to check out but who did not have enough money to pay for all the groceries.

Absorbed in what she was doing, the young mother realized—too late—that if she had not been so wrapped up in what she was doing, she could have offered to help pay for the other woman's groceries. Years later, this oversight still haunts her.

As I said, this woman is wonderfully considerate and thoughtful. But in a moment of inattention, she was not mindful of what was happening around her and thus missed the opportunity to help someone. How easy it is for each of us to do this as we become so involved in our own lives that we fail to notice what is happening in the lives of others.

And so, not paying attention, we miss an opportunity to do good.