Integrated Dharma Institute

Integrated Dharma Institute The Integrated Dharma Institute provides online access to a wide range of integrated study and practice materials. The Integrated Dharma Institute provides students of all levels of interest and experience an opportunity to look closely for themselves at the classical teachings of the historical Buddha, and provides tools to help understand what the texts are saying and why they are translated as they are.

In addition, it provides guidance for investigating the meaning of these teachings in one's own lived experience, and for putting these wise teachings into practice in one's own live.

Mission: Dedicated to revitalizing the natural relationship between the study and practice of dharma.

Operating as usual


Whatever one believes, it may turn out to be “factual, true, and unmistaken,” or it may turn out to be “empty, hollow, and false.” Since one can seldom really be sure which is the case, truth is best served by recognizing a viewpoint as only a viewpoint, and refraining from taking that extra step of regarding it as true to the exclusion of all other views. In other words, all views are best held gently, rather than grasped firmly. (Untangling Self p.65)


When disputes arise the problem, as usual, is not with the content but with the process. The solution is to be found not in what we believe, but in how we hold those beliefs. The key to harmony is learning to differ in opinions without engaging the fatal move of saying “Only this is true; everything else is wrong.” (Untangling Self p.65)


It is entirely natural and even inevitable, since most issues are complex, that people will have different perspectives on them. What is utterly unnecessary, as the Buddha tells us, is that such differences need escalate to stabbing each other with verbal daggers, striking one another with fists, and worse. (Untangling Self p.65)


It is one thing to have a difference of opinion with someone else; it is something else entirely to have this difference become the basis for stoking the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion. (Untangling Self p.64)


Views, beliefs, and opinions in human beings link directly to very primitive instincts for defending what belongs to oneself and attacking what is regarded as belonging to others. The entire enterprise of creating belonging as part of our construction of reality, along with the sense of self to which it all belongs, is perceived by the Buddha to be the root cause of the suffering we inflict upon ourselves and others. (Untangling Self p.64)


Sometimes a terrible act is committed by a person who is filled with anger or hatred, and many innocent people are grievously harmed. Such cases can also release a huge outpouring of compassion and goodwill in a much larger number of people toward the victims. The overall impact is often beneficial, with the positive mind states far surpassing the negative. It is almost as if a cloud of mental antibodies swarm over the collective wound to heal it. (Untangling Self p.63)


As an optimist about human nature I like to think most human mind-moments are healthy—there are far more good-hearted people caring for one another out there than we tend to hear about. But I accept that the pessimist—sorry, I mean realist—position, that most people’s minds are filled with darkness most of the time, is a possibility. (Untangling Self p.62)


The Buddha makes a valuable contribution to human civilization by noticing that the emotional engagement with experience that occurs every moment may be either healthy or unhealthy, skillful or unskillful. Responses rooted in greed, hatred, or delusion are harmful and result in greater suffering for oneself and others, while responses rooted in generosity, kindness, and wisdom are beneficial and contribute to personal and collective well-being. (Untangling Self p.62)


The world of human experience is made of mind moments. Whatever else is really out there, our lived world consists of transient moments of knowing. (Untangling Self p.60)


If you go to a quiet place and sit down, crossing your legs, keeping your back straight, and maybe closing your eyes, and you then pay very close attention to what is actually happening—you will notice episodes of experience arising and passing away, flowing on one after another in a rushing stream of consciousness. Welcome to the real world. (Untangling Self p.60)


Our modern world tends to look at things from the outside, enhancing the objective and diminishing the subjective. The contemplative arts of early Indian traditions place more emphasis on the subjective perspective, and can help us recover and celebrate the immense value of being right here, right now. We only have one shot at this moment—let's not miss it. (Untangling Self p.60)


It is the radical transience of the world that makes it both tragic and beautiful, like the cherry blossom in Japanese aesthetics. The tragedy is that nothing actually exists—it is all passing away the instant it forms. The beauty is that we have the means to be aware of this instant—a moment to know the profound poignancy of this tiny corner of reality. (Untangling Self p.60)


We can breathe and walk without the engagement of mindful attention, in which case it is just another artifact of a removed, conceptualized world. The idea of my breathing blends in to all the other ideas that populate my conceptual world, but the uniqueness of the actual conscious experience of my taking this breath renders it—sacred. (Untangling Self p.60)


Meditation teaches us the value of every moment’s unique experience. You have never taken in this particular lungful of air before, and will never do so again. This particular step is absolutely special—when you choose to attend to it carefully with your awareness. (Untangling Self p.59)


Sport enthusiasts understand the value of the exceptional. Even though a game may consist of nothing more than hitting a ball or getting it into a hole or hoop or net, there are an infinite number of ways this can be done, and almost anything can happen at any time. It is the radical specificity of the moment that is so compelling. (Untangling Self p.59)


Conceptualization offers access to a wider world beyond immediate experience, but in its pursuit of commonalities it must abandon the compelling uniqueness of each moment. (Untangling Self p.59)


While much is gained in scope by shifting from our individual lived experience to the larger, conceptual maps provided by culture, a valuable texture is also lost. Conceptualization and language involve thinking about objects rather than being aware of them, describing something instead of experiencing it, and conceiving things rather than cognizing them directly. (Untangling Self p.59)


Every moment is a unique view of a unique territory, both of which unfold in perpetual motion. Because of the continual flux of it all, holding on to anything that has happened is futile, while being open to what is happening next is crucial. (Untangling Self p.58)


Buddhist spirituality is not a matter of getting our minds around the big picture and conceptualizing the cosmos in all its grandeur. Rather, it is about being there to experience the extraordinary specificity of what is occurring, by meeting each new event with a fresh mind. (Untangling Self p.58)


The unique thing about each person’s lived experience is, well, its uniqueness. Because everything is changing all the time, every single thing that happens is new. The entire universe is in a fresh configuration every moment. There may be patterns that repeat, but no two sets of phenomena are exactly the same, ever. (Untangling Self p.57)


Notice, in your own everyday experience, how annoyance breeds discontent, how jealousy leads to ill-will, or how anger causes suffering for yourself and others. Notice also how kindness will loosen tight emotions, how generosity evokes reciprocity, and how mindfulness improves almost any situation. Seeing this for ourselves, we can gradually learn to guide our actions more skillfully in ever more healthy directions. (Untangling Self p.57)


The quality of intention manifesting in any given moment has a direct causal influence on all that will ensue in subsequent mind moments, which is why so much care needs to be given to how we hold ourselves each and every moment. Learning how to take care of the quality of mind in the moment is where meditation comes in to the picture. (Untangling Self p.57)


Understanding the interdependence between past and future, cause and effect, seed and fruit provides a powerful tool for transforming the nature of experience. It reveals both the futility of struggling against what has already arisen, and the importance of skillfully influencing what is to come next. (Untangling Self p.56)


According to Buddhist psychology, every mind state is either planting causal seeds for future states or is the result of such effects from previous mind states. Put another way, when experiencing a resultant moment we are reaping what we have sown, and when a causative moment of experience is being constructed we are sowing what we will later reap. (Untangling Self p.56)


As we walk the path. perhaps we should not look up so much at the destination, high above in the mist, but carefully place one foot in front of the other. A path keeps us centered, guiding us from veering right or left into dangerous territory. It may also deliver us to the summit, but only if each step is well taken. (Untangling Self p.50)


A moment without greed, hatred, or delusion is an awakened moment. A person may not be considered awakened unless the toxins are thoroughly eliminated once and for all, but even an unawakened person can have an awakened moment from time to time. (Untangling Self p.50)


Life is a series of mind-moments, each one a new creation. Every moment we inherit something from our past, transform it in our present experience, and thereby seed the consequences that will unfold in our future. Each moment the toxins we encounter may be either compounded or abandoned. (Untangling Self p.50)


We have some influence on what we choose to experience from moment to moment, and can, through conscious intervention, make a healthier choice even in the presence of an unhealthy impulse. Is it such a stretch to think this modest fulcrum point might be made to move the world, given a lever of sufficient length? If we can somehow manage to be kind instead of cruel in this moment, why not the next? (Untangling Self p.49)


The Buddha's awakening consisted of so transforming his mind that toxic states rooted in greed, hatred, and delusion no longer occurred, while the full range of healthy emotions and other cognitive capabilities remained active and fully engaged. (Untangling Self p.49)


Psychological health is not unlike physical health, insofar as it can be diminished or enhanced by behaviorally adjusting the levels of toxins and nutriments in the system. (Untangling Self p.49)


In the earliest strata of Buddhist discourse, awakening is not about transcending this life as much as accessing the deepest levels of inherent well-being in this mind and body, here and now. (Untangling Self p.48)


Awakening is understood in the early discourses as a process of gradual mental purification that culminates in a profound psychological transformation. This is what happened to the Buddha while seated under the Bodhi tree. Something else happened to him forty-five years later, when he finally passed away after eighty years as a human being. The first event he describes in great detail, the second he declined to talk about. (Untangling Self p.48)


In meditation, as thinking about things is gradually squeezed out of the mind by filling the senses with awareness, and as each experience is allowed to flow through the point of focus without obstruction, we begin to get a glimpse of a profound simplicity. Everything is changing, everything is interdependent—and there is no one to whom any of it belongs. (Untangling Self p.47)


As meditation deepens, the information provided by the senses is no longer of great interest, and serves merely as a support for something far more captivating, the quality of knowing. Awareness itself becomes the most compelling object of awareness. This simple knowing, so peaceful, so clear, so open, seems diminished by and even wasted upon the narrow confines of mere thoughts. (Untangling Self p.47)


Practicing mindfulness of the body, the mind is operating just as intensively as when we are thinking, but we are not thinking. We are being aware, not of the cognitive content of our thoughts, but of the universe of micro-sensations that are bursting within the body every moment. There is so much to feel, and no time to think about what we are feeling. (Untangling Self p.47)


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Amherst, MA


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The Integrated Dharma Institute provides people of all levels of interest and experience an opportunity to look closely for themselves at the classical teachings of the historical Buddha, and provides tools to help understand what the texts are saying and why they are translated as they are. In addition, it provides guidance for investigating the meaning of these teachings in one's own lived experience, and for putting these wise teachings into practice in one's own life.

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