"The Hellenistic regimes in Afghanistan and the Indo-Greek states east of the Hindu Kush Mountains had... been familiar with South Asian traditions, especially Buddhism. Indeed, the Greek king Menander [165-130 BC] was hailed in Buddhist tradition as a great patron of Buddhism." - Xinru Liu, The Silk Road in World History (Oxford University Press, 2010), p44.
|From left to right, a Kushan devotee, the Bodhisattva Maitreya, the Buddha, the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, and a Buddhist monk. 2nd-3rd century CE, Gandhara. All carved in ancient Indo-Greek style.|
Here are key quotes from ten philosophers of the Ancient Greek Pre-Socratic period of Traditional Western Philosophy; the most ancient rational thinkers, with accompanying mindfulness philosophy quotes. Of course their philosophies were broader than these quotes, but these are the ideas most famously associated with the thinkers and which are considered to have been at the core of their own individual angle on existence:
“Water constitutes the principle of all things.”- Thales of Miletus (624-545 BC).
- "To picture the Tao in the world imagine rivers and the sea." - Daoist Sage LaoZi, DaoDeJing, 32.5.
- "Even though waves arise, the essence of your mind is pure; it is just like clear water with a few waves. Actually water always has waves. Waves are the practice of the water.. To speak of waves apart from water or water apart from waves is a delusion. Water and waves are one." - Japanese Soto Zen teacher Shunryu Syzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (1995), p35.
- "...drop below the surface agitations of the mind into relaxation, calmness, and stability. The agitation is still at the surface just as the waves are on the surface of the water. But we are out of the wind and protected from their buffeting action and their tension-producing effects when we shift our attention to the breath for a moment or two." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p52-53.
"What is infinite is something other than the elements, and from it the elements arise." - Anaximander of Miletus (610-545 BC).
- "The teachings of Interdependent Co-Arising (pratitya-samutpada), when developed to their highest level, become the teaching of infinite layers of causes and conditions." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Understanding Our Mind (2001), p314.
- "...true self - call it the infinite energy potential - knows no separation. True self forms into different shapes but essentially it remains one self, one energy potential." - American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen (1997), p98.
- "Wholeness experienced first hand cannot be tyrannical, for it is infinite in its diversity and finds itself mirrored and embedded in each particular, like the Hindu goddess Indra's net, a symbol of the universe, which has jewels at all the vertices, each one capturing the reflections of the entire net and so containing the whole." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are (2004), p230.
Just as our soul, being air, holds us together, so do breath and air encompass the whole world.- Anaximenes of Miletus (580-500 BC).
- "Our body is not limited to what is inside the boundary of our skin. It is much more immense. It includes even the layer of air around our Earth; for if the atmosphere were to disappear for even an instant, our life would end." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Step (2010), p104.
- "Without air, we cannot breathe. Each one of us is in the midst of myriads of worlds. We are in the center of the world always, moment after moment. So we are completely dependent and independent. If you have this kind of experience, this kind of existence, you have absolute independence; you will not be bothered by anything. So when you practice zazen, your mind should be concentrated on your breathing. This kind of activity is the fundamental activity of the universal being." - Japanese Soto Zen teacher Shunryu Syzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (1995), p31.
- "It can feel as if there is nothing but breath flowing freely across all the boundaries of the body. ... we let ourselves dwell in silence and stillness, in an awareness that may have by this point gone beyond the body altogether." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p77.
The sun is new every day.- Heraclitus of Ephesus (540-480 BC).
- "When one perceives with wisdom that all conditioned things are impermanent, then one turns away from suffering." - The Buddha, Dhammapada, Verse 277.
- "When we look deeply enough we can see that all material and psychological phenomena are evolving and changing in every moment. Then we see the substance of reality, and our insight into impermanence and nonself will prevent us from being caught in illusion. The fifth century B.C.E. Greek philosopher Heraclitus reached a similar conclusion when he observed that the water of the river he had swum in five minutes earlier was not the same water he was standing in five minutes later. “We can never step into the same river twice,” he said. Heraclitus’ observation was an insight into impermanence and nonself, although he did not use those terms." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Understanding Our Mind (2001), p252.
- "...on the average, every seven years all the atoms in our body have come and gone, replaced by others from outside of us. This in itself is interesting to think about. What am I if little of the substance of my body is the same in any decade of my life? One way this exchange of matter and energy happens is through breathing. With each breath, we exchange carbon dioxide molecules from inside our bodies for oxygen molecules from the surrounding air. Waste disposal with each outbreath, renewal with each inbreath." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p47
"How could what is perish? How could it have come to be? For if it came into being, it is not; nor is it if ever it is going to be. Thus coming into being is extinguished, and destruction unknown. " - Parmenides of Elea (515-430 BC).
- "...do not hang onto ‘beginning, middle, and end’. By not being hindered by ‘arising and disappearing’, you can make arisings and disappearings arise and disappear. They arise within Unbounded Space and they disappear within Unbounded Space; they arise within that which is out of focus and they disappear within that which is out of focus; they arise within flowering and they disappear within flowering, and so on..." - Japanese 'Soto Zen' Founder Master Eihei Dōgen (1200-1253), Shobogenzo (Translated by Hubert Nearman, 2007), p557.
- "Most people view themselves as waves and forget that they are also water. They are used to living in birth-and-death, and they forget about no-birth-and-no-death. A wave also lives the life of water, and we also live the life of no-birth-no-death. We only need to know that we are living the life of no-birth-no-death. All is in the word "know." To know is to realize. Realization is mindfulness. All the work of meditation is aimed at awakening us in order to know one and only one thing: birth and death can never touch us in any way whatsoever." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, The Sun My Heart (1988), p133.
- "Seeing with eyes of wholeness means recognizing that nothing occurs in isolation, that problems need to be seen within the context of whole systems. Seeing in this way, we can perceive the intrinsic web of interconnectedness underlying our experience and merge with it. Seeing in this way is healing. It helps us to acknowledge the ways in which we are extraordinary and miraculous, without losing sight of the ways in which we are simultaneously nothing special, just part of a larger whole unfolding, waves on the sea, rising up and falling back in brief moments we call life spans." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p166-167.
- "Your ears already hear, your eyes already see, your body already feels. It is only when we turn them into concepts that we de facto sever them from the body of our being, which by its very nature is undivided, already whole, already complete, already sentient, already awake." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Coming To Our Senses (2006), p66.
All things were together; then came Mind and set them in order.- Anaxagoras of Clazomenae (500-428).
- "Meditators who realize the interpenetration and interbeing of things also undergo a change in themselves. Former concepts of "one's self" and "objects" dissolve and they see themselves in everything and all things in themselves. This transformation is the primary goal of meditation. [...] The notion of inter-origination (paratantra) is very close to living reality. It annihilates dualistic concepts, one/many, inside/outside, time/space, mind/matter, and so forth, which the mind uses to confine, divide, and shape reality." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, The Sun My Heart (1988), p88.
- "One whole being is not an accumulation of everything. It is impossible to divide one whole existence into parts. It is always here and always working. This is enlightenment. So there actually is no particular practice. In the sutra it says, "There are no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body or mind. . . ." This "no mind" is Zen mind, which includes everything." - Japanese Soto Zen teacher Shunryu Syzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (1995), p114-115.
- "Nothing is separate and isolated. There is no absolute, end-of-the-line, the-buck-stops-here root cause. If someone hits you with a stick, you don't get angry at the stick or at the arm that swung it; you get angry at the person attached to the arm. But if you look a little deeper, you can't find a satisfactory root cause or place for your anger even in the person, who literally doesn't know what he is doing and is therefore out of his mind at that moment." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are (2004), p48.
- "The practice of yoga is the practice of yoking together or unifying body and mind, which really means penetrating into the experience of them not being separate in the first place. You can also think of it as experiencing the unity or connectedness between the individual and the universe as a whole" - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p101.
"The force that unites the elements to become all things is Love, ...Love brings together dissimilar elements into a unity, to become a composite thing. ...Strife, on the other hand, is the force responsible for the dissolution of the one back into its many, the four elements of which it was composed." - Empedocles of Agrigentum (495-435 BC).
- "...this mind isn’t somewhere outside the material body of four elements. Without this mind we can’t move. The body has no awareness. Like a plant or stone, the body has no nature. So how does it move? It’s the mind that moves." - The First Zen Patriarch Bodhidharma (early 5th century AD), Bloodstream Sermon.
- "Observe the colors and textures of your food. Contemplate where this food comes from and how it was grown or made. [...] Can you see the natural elements, the sunlight and the rain, in your vegetables and fruits and grains?" - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p408.
- "The energy that feeds this ongoing connectedness, of course, is love." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p224.
"The hypothesis of the many, if examined sufficiently in detail, leads to even more ridiculous results than the hypothesis of the One." - Zeno of Elea (495-435 BC).
- "...the separation of one and many is a measurement made by perception. As long as we are prisoners of that separation, we are prisoners of the arithmetical paradox. We can only be free when we see the interbeing and interpenetration of everything. Reality is neither one nor many." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, The Sun My Heart (1988), p104.
- "You are independent, and I am independent; each exists in a different moment. But this does not mean we are quite different beings. We are actually one and the same being. We are the same, and yet different. It is very paradoxical, but actually it is so. Because we are independent beings, each one of us is a complete flashing into the vast phenomenal world. When I am sitting, there is no other person, but this does not mean I ignore you, I am completely one with every existence in the phenomenal world." - Japanese Soto Zen teacher Shunryu Syzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (1995), p106.
- "...ultimately meditation...has no goal other than for you to be yourself. The irony is that you already are. This sounds paradoxical and a little crazy. Yet this paradox and craziness may be pointing you toward a new way of seeing yourself, one in which you are trying less and being more." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p37.
"Man is the measure of all things" - Protagoras of Abdera (490-420 BC).
- "Rightness or wrongness is not objective. It is subjective. Relatively speaking, there are right views and there are wrong views. But if we look more deeply, we see that all views are wrong views. No view can ever be the truth. It is just from one point; that is why it is called a "point of view." If we go to another point, we will see things differently and realize that our first view was not entirely right. Buddhism is not a collection of views. It is a practice to help us eliminate wrong views. The quality of our views can always be improved. From the viewpoint of ultimate reality, Right View is the absence of all views." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of Buddha's Teaching (2008), p56.
- "When we say something, our subjective intention or situation is always involved. So there is no perfect word; some distortion is always present in a statement. [...] Through the study of Buddhism, you will understand your human nature, your intellectual faculty, and the truth present in your human activity. And you can take this human nature of yours into consideration when you seek to understand reality." - Japanese Soto Zen teacher Shunryu Syzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (1995), p87.
- "According to David Bohm, a theoretical physicist whose work involves exploring wholeness as a fundamental property of nature, the words medicine and meditation come from the Latin mederi, which means "to cure." Mederi itself derives from an earlier Indo-European root meaning "to measure." [...] ...the concept of "measure" has another, more Platonic meaning. This is the notion that all things have, in Bohm's words, their own "right inward measure" that makes them what they are, that gives them their properties. "Medicine," seen in this light, is basically the means by which right inward measure is restored when it is disturbed by disease or illness or injury. "Meditation," by the same token, is the process of perceiving directly the right inward measure of one's own being through careful, non-judgmental self-observation. Right inward measure in this context is another way of saying wholeness." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p163.
"In truth there are only atoms and the void." - Democritus of Abdera (460-360 BC).
- "At a deeper level we are just atoms and atomic particles moving at enormous speed." - American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen (1997), p163.
- "You are not your body. Your body is made up of hundreds of millions of cells. Cells are dying and re-forming all the time. The cells are made up of atoms that are indistinguishable and are exchanging with all the atoms around you as you breathe, eat and excrete." - Mindfulness for Dummies (2010), p30.
- "Someone once calculated that, on the average, every seven years all the atoms in our body have come and gone, replaced by others from outside of us. This in itself is interesting to think about. What am I if little of the substance of my body is the same in any decade of my life?" - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p47
|One of the first representations of the Buddha, 1st-2nd century CE, Gandhara: Standing Buddha (Tokyo National Museum). Carved in the Greco-Buddhist style.|