Dharma Gleanings


cynthia rich


2016 has been, for those of us in the West who have been living a relatively sheltered life, an unwelcome blast of samsara. Many of us have experienced the terror that is described in entries of August, 2006. “The words for the terror are: ‘The rug was just pulled out from under me.’ What we know when we embrace it is: ‘There never was a rug.’” Some of us are beginning to glimpse that to shed delusion and embrace groundlessness is to discover the far more trustworthy security that comes as we bring our lives into alignment with reality.

Some of the understandings that go back to April 2, 2007 have helped to keep me steady, and the April 8, 2016 entry shares the best, though difficult, current wisdom I can bring. The two entries below, the last of 2016, though they seem simple, are what the Buddha tells us will follow when we stop denying the reality of the world’s suffering and can fully embrace "Not-Two."


Another word for compassion is love.


December 30, 2016
In the end all we have is compassion. It is all we have that is immeasurable enough to meet the immeasurable suffering of this world. Being smart won’t do it, splitting the world into good and evil won’t do it, trying to control the suffering away won’t do it. Compassion melts the fear that tells us to protect ourselves by erecting the same barriers that are responsible for our suffering.

December 31, 2016
I have two mantras these days. I wrote them on yellow index cards which I place around the apartment and recite the words to myself whenever it seems appropriate and often when it doesn’t. They seem simple, and like the gleanings of this past year, they still contain a whiff of what the Insight Meditation Society teacher, Rodney Smith in his wonderful book, Stepping Out of Self-Deception, calls the “sense-of-self.” However repetition of these phrases can be skillful means to take us to a more spacious place when we find ourselves constricting with rage or grief or fear or even slight dissatisfaction.


May I hold this suffering with compassion.


Not to wish it to be otherwise.


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When this web site began, Buddhist writings were far less widely available. It seemed wholesome to support and encourage the practice of others along with my own. Today almost a tsunami of materials, many immensely valuable, others crassly commercial, on mindfulness and Buddhism, has flooded the land. This change in society, and changes in myself, ensure that—impermanence and past promises aside—these will almost surely be the last gleanings.

I send thanks to those of you who have taken even a few minutes of your precious human life to walk with me on this fifteen-year path of practice.

And deepest thanks to all of you who preserve the intention, whatever the challenges and sufferings of the coming years, to hold yourself and the life of all sentient beings with compassion and act from that space.

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I want to thank here my wonderful web master, Elizabeth Brown (ebrowndesign.com), who is skilled in web design and also is an advanced practitioner of great patience and kindness. It has been a joy to work with her. (You can also view Elizabeth's work at oldwomensproject.org, a beautiful web site for The Old Women's Project, the lively activist group Marion Garza, Janice Keaffaber and I co-founded in the early 2000s.)