Monday, June 28, 2010

More Personal Growth Talks at Google

My friend, Sudhakar "Thaths" Chandra, compiled playlists of personal growth-related talks at Google (some of which were hosted by me).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Happiness is the default state

Life is funny.  The biggest joke in life is that, after all that has been done in the pursuit of happiness, it turns out that sustainable happiness is achievable simply by bringing attention to one’s breath.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Funny Thought: Make me look like Tom Cruise

I get a haircut about 4 times a year.  I try to time my haircuts to roughly coincide with when I need to file estimated taxes.  That way, I only have to remember one of the two.

I often found it too difficult to describe how I want the end result of my haircut to look like.  Then one day, I figured out a visual solution.  I printed out a picture of Tom Cruise in Top Gun (with short hair) and just showed it to the hairdresser and said, "Make me look like this".  It worked like a charm, and the extra opportunities for humor came free.  When the hairdresser was done, she would say, "There, now you look just like Tom Cruise", and I would say, "Good, good, all I need now is a new face".

I did that often enough that the hairdressers started calling me the Tom Cruise guy.  The last time I went for a haircut, Dana, the owner of the place, made this comment. "You know, everytime Tom Cruise comes in here for a haircut, he brings a picture of you".

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Three musketeers and one young-ish guy

I really like this photograph, not just because everybody in it is so handsome, but also the story it represents.

Once upon a time, there were three highly talented young men who wanted to serve the world and who became close friends with each other.  Their names were Danny, Richie and Jon.  When they grew up, they each became world-famous in their own unique ways, but the success of each one beautifully complemented the success of the other two and, together, their combined work may change the world.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The school of Buddhism I belong to

People who know about the different schools of Buddhism are often curious which one I belong to, so they'd ask me, "What type of Buddhist are you?"  And I would say, "A lousy one, of course."

In truth, I think I have benefited tremendously from all 3 branches of Buddhism.

I benefited tremendously from the concreteness and clarity of Theravada Buddhism.  Theravada scriptures are the closest thing we have to the original teachings of the Buddha, the greatest hero in my life.  Theravada teachings are systematic, logical, highly accessible, historically authentic, and contains minimal amount of the magic and mystery I found distasteful.  The Vipassana practice (a somewhat relaxed version of which became known as "Mindfulness meditation" in the West), which comes out of the Theravada tradition, is the single most important thing I have learned in my entire life.  Theravada teachings form both the theoretical and practical foundations of my Buddhist practice, from which I became able to understand and appreciate the other schools of Buddhism.  Theravada is my root, my foundation.  This is the body of my practice.  The body of my practice is Virtue, Concentration and Wisdom (Sila, Samadhi and Panna).

I benefited tremendously from the inspiring power of Vajrayana (Tibetan) Buddhism.  Vajrayana Buddhism is the result of at least two major rounds of evolution from the original teachings of the Buddha (either evolution or degeneration, I'm happy to argue either or both) and includes many important refinements and additions to more traditional forms of Buddhism.  In many ways, Vajrayana is Buddhism on steroids.  It has awed and inspired me.  It has given me my Compassion practice.  It inspired me to take my Bodhisattva Vows.  Vajrayana is my thunder, my power.  This is the heart of my practice.  The heart of my practice is Emptiness and Compassion (Sunyata and Karuna).

I benefited tremendously from the simple directness of Zen Buddhism, which is, in my opinion, the greatest of all the Mahayana schools.  True wisdom is simple and full of lightness and humor.  Zen embodies it.  Just be.  Enlightenment is the perfection of just being.  Zen is my no-self-ness (无我).  This is the soul of my practice.  The soul of my practice is.  Just is.

Hence, I belong to all 3 major schools of Buddhism.  At the same time, I belong to none of them.  My true Dharma is the Hahayana.  Ha ha.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Have Your Karma and Eat Cake Too

Letting go is one of the most important skills a meditator picks up on her way to enlightenment. Letting go is so important it is one of the essential foundations of meditation practice. As usual, the Zen tradition has the funniest way of articulating this key insight. In the words of the Third Patriarch of Zen, "The Great Way is without difficulty, just cease having preferences". When the mind becomes so free that it is capable of letting go of preferences, the Great Way is no longer difficult.

The central importance of letting go leads to a very important question, "Is it possible to let go and still appreciate and experience life fully?" The way I like to ask the question is, "Can you have your karma and eat cake too?"