Thoughts of Thich Minh Tri
Sensual Desires

Sensual Desires

The Buddha spoke…

“Community, people are easily caught by four traps. The first is attachment to sensual desire. The second is attachment to narrow views. The third is doubt and suspicion. The forth is false view of self. The Way Of Enlightenment helps people overcome the four great traps.

“Community, the teaching on dependent co-arising will enable you to overcome every obstacle and trap. Contemplate the nature of interdependence in your daily life – in your body, feelings, mind, and objects of mind”

The next day in the main hall, Ananda repeated the Buddha’s Dharma talk. He named it Sutra of the Lion’s Roar.

From “Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha” By Thich Nhat Hanh, page 149.

The first trap – sensual desire – is spoken about often and most of the time the understanding is somewhat incomplete.

First off, sensual desire is not simply about sex. Sensual desire is any strong wish for or wants that is received by the senses. So a soft cloth, favorite music, nacho chips dipped in cheese, all of these appeal to us as sensual desires.

When I first started the path, I recall a friend saying they could never be a Buddhist because they did not want to give up desire. But let’s be clear – Buddhism, in my practice, does not require giving up things I desire. Some practices do suggest you avoid all desires to help cultivate a clear mind. Perhaps that is a path I’ll walk someday, seeking out a cave on a hillside without any concern if there is a good wifi signal.

But when considering the four traps, remember this one is “attachment to sensual desire”. It isn’t sensual desire that is the problem, but our craving to have it. When we smell the delightful dish you just ordered and can’t wait to eat it, or hearing the voice of a loved one and knowing you are going to share an embrace, this is not a problem. The problem arises when mindfulness is forgotten.

An example of this which certainly happens for me still is a want to eat more healthy. But when I see a piece of pie, my sensual desire arises. My ego wants to tell me stories about how wonderful it will taste, how I deserve it. I become convinced that I will be somehow better for indulging in this desire. A mindful response allows me time to remember that what my body actually craves is not pie. My tongue will tell me a different story, but as I reflect, I realize that I am not hungry. I have eaten a meal and the thought to ‘top it off’ with dessert is an illusion. Marriages that end due to cheating rarely have an intent to do harm; instead, it is the trap of sensual desire that causes our rational mind, our ethical heart, to become overwhelmed. And be it pie or harm causing sex, after we indulge, how often do we realize that it wasn’t worth it.’Never again’ we proclaim, ‘from now on I am going to stick to my diet’. And time goes by and another sensual desire arises.

Now, how you can not fall into this trap comes basically in two ways.

First, take the recovering drug addict. One thing that is taught is to avoid the people and places where you will put yourself in danger. Avoid the temptation altogether. New friends, new associations. Don’t go to places where your drug of choice is common. This might include bars, concert venues, or other places where your primary connection with the place was to get high. But if the addiction is junk food, smoking, or sex, these desires are harder to avoid. Junk food is so prevalent that having an apple or a candy bar is viewed as being a health nut. Smoking is frowned up inside many places now, but it is far from invisible. And the only way you’ll avoid sexuality in modern advertising is to avoid all media. So the path of avoidance for some means the life of a monastic – or we go back to that life in a cave mentioned earlier.

So along with some reasonable avoidance, our solution to avoid this trap is mindfulness. To be aware of desire arising, to see it, to know it is there and what it is. Yes, I desire that pie. But I pause before I order it. Am I hungry? Do I desire that pie, or do I desire the feeling I once had of how good a pie was? Will that pie really taste that good? Will my body suffer from my choice? When I decided to eat better, was that a good choice, and has anything changes? How many times have I said ‘I’ll start my diet tomorrow’, and if I remember saying it once, then why am I not on it today? Because that is the trap. That is the part that takes away our choice and instead desire rules us. We know we are ethical and well-intentioned people; making decisions that are counter to this to fulfill a desire is the trap we seek to avoid. Cultivating right mindfulness in our day to day life through meditation and reflection allows us the freedom to avoid this trap.



Many of us have things we are passionate about, and many of those issues are very important, either to us personally or too many people. Passion can drive action and responsibility and positive results.

But a problem may arise when you judge someone else based on what you are passionate about.

I see that many people equate that which they are passionate about as Right and True. Once you take the stance of being Right, anyone who feels differently must, therefore, be Wrong. So even if they agree with your stance, it

isn’t enough that they believe in it or act on it. They must have the same level of passion or, barring that, express that your passion level is Right and work to correct themselves. Else, they are Wrong and worthy of negative judgment.

For example, (insert a variety of words here) Equality. Many people I know are passionate about it. They teach about it, talk about it, Facebook about it, don’t shop or support some business over it, etc. They can tell you why it is a hugely important deal and suggest to me that if I really cared about compassion, I would be equally vocal about it.

Other people are equally passionate about ecology. They teach about it, talk about it, Facebook about it, don’t shop or support some business over it, etc. They can tell you why it is a hugely important deal and suggest to me that if I really cared about compassion, I would be equally vocal about it.

And there are many things, all equally huge important deals. Politics, leftover landmines, mercury poisoning, child labor, and another thousand, down to red dye number 5, which you might scoff at until you are the one that gets cancer…

But along with that passion, can we also practice equanimity? An understanding that our passion is just that, ours. And that the sum of another person is not seen through your eyes of passion?

The Heart Sutra

The Heart Sutra

Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva,
when deeply practicing Prajna Paramita,
clearly saw ⊕ that all five aggregates are empty
and thus relieved all suffering.
Shariputra, form does not differ from emptiness
emptiness does not differ from form
form itself is emptiness,
emptiness itself form;
sensations, perceptions, formations, and consciousness
are also like this.
Shariputra, all dharmas are marked by emptiness,
they neither arise nor cease,
are neither defiled nor pure,
neither increase nor decrease.
Therefore, given emptiness there is no form
no sensation, no perception, no formation, no consciousness;
no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind,
no sight, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch,
no object of mind, no realm of sight, no realm of mind consciousness.
There is neither ignorance nor extinction of ignorance,
neither old age and death, nor extinction of old age and death,
no suffering, no cause, no cessation,
no path, no knowledge, and no attainment.

With nothing to attain a bodhisattva relies on prajna paramita; ⊕
and thus the mind is without hindrance,
without hindrance there is no fear;
far beyond all inverted views, one realizes nirvana.
All Buddhas of past present and future
rely on Prajna Paramita, ⊕
and thereby attain unsurpassed, complete, perfect enlightenment.
Therefore know the prajna paramita
as the great miraculous mantra,
the great bright mantra,
the supreme mantra,
the incomparable mantra which removes all suffering and is true not false.
Therefore we proclaim the prajna paramita mantra,
the mantra that says, [Gate Gate + Paragate Parasamgate + Bodhi Svaha. X3]

(INO – May the merit of this penetrate into each thing in all places, so that we and every
sentient being together, can realize the Buddha’s way.)
All Buddhas throughout space and time, all Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas, wisdom beyond
wisdom, maha prajna paramita!


Tuyết Sơn Thiền Tự 雪山禅寺 Mount Adams Zen Buddhist Temple

Intimacy and My Buddhism

Intimacy and My Buddhism

So as a novice monk, there are no direct rules around sexuality. But that isn’t actually true. Because part of being a novice monk is being a dharma teacher. And the rules there are…

  • Do not commit adultery, including sexual congress with a corpse, animal, or object.
  • Do not act as a go-between, for the purpose of sex or marriage, for a man and woman.
  • Do not give the appearance of a wrongdoing by going with a woman to a concealed place, or an open place, where one might speak to a woman with wicked words about unlawful sexual intercourse.

This is the part I am navigating. Part of this is really easy, part of this is not applicable to me at all, but part of this I am violating. Specifically, the dictionary definition of adultery has nothing to do with regard to consent; it is specific about a wife and marriage.

So it isn’t a problem at all – and my teacher digs polyamory and tells me to think in the spirit, the intent. But it is there and my mind dwells on it.

I love intimacy and can enjoy sex. But I am not by nature a sex-driven male. I like connecting with someone special and sex is a great way to do it. But I can also just not sex. Not attached (this is more of my bio than buddha)

How I found my teacher and my tradition

How I found my teacher and my tradition

In the early 2000’s, dawn and I were presenting at an alternative sexuality conference (some of them focused on Leather – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leather_subculture). Master Z was one of the people we often saw at Leather event. I’ve seen him present a class or two and chatted with him a bit over the years. I knew he was a Buddhist as well but we never really talked about it. During this time I took refuge in a Tibetan form of Buddhism but it wasn’t really where my heart was. I later started the path of a novice monk in a secular order of Buddhism. This too did not work out for different reasons (all of them me, not the school) and I stepped back for a while. Time passes, and I run into Master Z, who is now Thay Z, wearing robes, and a monk. And still at an alternative conference. We talk and about six months later, we start talking. And six months later, I am wearing novice robes.
Anger is an energy

Anger is an energy

I have just had my first experience in expressing anger at someone while I was wearing robes.

On an aside, I will not be talking about specifics and deleting any comments that do.

It is an interesting experience to meditate; the old patterns of post argumentive thinking (between “if they say this when I next see them I will say that” or “I should have come back with…”) filled my mind. You know how deep you are lost when 20 minutes goes by that fast.

I did not find myself trapped in negative thinking, but instead self…critique. Better said, the thought of ‘you are a bad/fake/unworthy monk’ arouse and I saw it and changed it to ‘I am a novice monk. I am a human. A monk is simply a layperson with robes. I am doing my best and can do better’. I did not pick up with invisible whiffle ball bat and beat me up.

There are people who I lock in as me having a story about them and I treat them based on that story instead of being neutral. Everyone who rubs me the wrong way is because of my problematic perception, but because they are in some way bad. And some people do act unskillfully. from a place of being more important or unaware of how they impact others. These people are sometimes simply unaware, other times aware but due to some suffering, it causes them to act out. It does not mean one should tolerate all behavior. But it does mean I should respond in compassion regardless.

This is part of the path for me. To be Dan the event co-producer, presenter, co-director, the getter of shit done, and still be compassionate in making those things happen.

The Different Forms of Buddhism

The Different Forms of Buddhism

Information pertaining to four of Buddhism’s most prominent sects. The following is some introductory information to get you started.

  • Theravada, the most ancient form of Buddhism, is the dominant school in Southeast Asia (Thailand, Myanmar/Burma, Cambodia, and Laos). Its name translates to “Doctrine of the Elders,” and it centers around the Pali scriptures, transcribed from the oral tradition taught by the Buddha. By studying these ancient texts, meditating, and following the eightfold path, Theravada Buddhists believe they will achieve Enlightenment. Strong emphasis is also placed on the monastic community and on heeding the advice of the wise.
  • Mahayana Buddhism developed out of the Theravada tradition roughly 500 years after the Buddha attained Enlightenment. A number of individual schools and traditions have formed under the banner of Mahayana, including Zen Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Pure Land Buddhism, and Tantric Buddhism. Mahayana Buddhism focuses on the idea of compassion and touts bodhisattvas, which are beings that work out of compassion to liberate other sentient beings from their suffering, as central devotional figures.
  • Vajrayana was last of the three ancient forms to develop and provides a quicker path to Enlightenment than either the Theravada or Mahayana schools. They believe that the physical has an effect on the spiritual and that the spiritual, in turn, affects the physical. Vajrayana Buddhists encourage rituals, chanting, and tantra techniques, along with a fundamental understanding of Theravada and Mahayana schools, as the way to attain Enlightenment.
  • Zen Buddhism is said to have originated in China with the teachings of the monk Bodhidharma. Zen Buddhism treats zazen meditation and daily practice as essential for attaining Enlightenment and deemphasizes the rigorous study of scripture.

Because Buddhism is a system based on practice and individual experience rather than on theology or dogma, the different forms that have emerged differ less in what they believe the Buddha’s teachings to be than in how they believe Buddhism should be practiced in daily life.

From http://www.findingdulcinea.com/guides/Religion-and-Spirituality/Buddhism.pg_00.html

Eating Gatha

Eating Gatha

In this food,
I see clearly
the entire universe
supporting my existence.

Another eating Gatha

  • This food is a gift of the entire universe – the earth, the sky and much hard work.
  • May we eat in mindfulness so as to be worthy to receive this food.

The Five Contemplations

  • This food is a gift of the entire universe – the earth, the sky and much hard work.
  • May we eat in mindfulness so as to be worthy to receive this food.
  • May we transform our unskillful states of mind and eat with moderation.
  • May we take only those foods that nourish us and prevent illness.
  • May we accept this food to realize the path of understanding and love.

Looking at your plate after eating

My plate is empty. My hunger is satisfied. May my life benefit all beings.

“I resolve not to kill — but to cherish all life”

“I resolve not to kill — but to cherish all life”

This seems like an easy one; don’t kill people. But a resolve not to kill, to cherish all life, is much deeper than that. Yet, still simple.

I can easily avoiding killing people and have done so to the best of my knowledge so far. But cherishing life is not a passive thing, but instead an active one. It requires that I am a vegetarian, as taking a life for my pleasure (which is the only reason I eat animals, the pleasure of the taste, nutrition can be gained elsewhere).  It allows for eating eggs and drinking milk if I can be confident that the life of the animal isn’t one of unnecessary suffering (the images of a egg laying machinery in the movie Samsara are not easily forgotten).

And then cherishing people. All people, the ones I judge as jerks or bigots or arseholes or whatever term I use to put myself as better than them. Can I cherish all people even if it is a situation where the person is causing harm, or unskillful, or someone that I need to avoid for my health? It helps if I know that I don’t know.  Meaning I don’t know any ones full story, and until I do, my judgement about them is based on half truths through my biased opinions.



The Heart Sutra has continued to vex me since I’ve first heard it. And the reason is emptiness.

The dictionary says emptiness is:

the state of containing nothing.
“the vast emptiness of space”

the quality of lacking meaning or sincerity; meaninglessness.
“he realizes the emptiness of his statement”

But in the Mahayana tradition, emptiness is Sunyata, which refers to the tenet that “all things are empty of intrinsic existence and nature”.


“Body is nothing more than emptiness, 
emptiness is nothing more than body
The body is exactly empty, 
and emptiness is exactly body.

The other four aspects of human existence — 
feeling, thought, will, and consciousness — 
are likewise nothing more than emptiness, 
and emptiness nothing more than they.

All things are empty: 
Nothing is born, nothing dies, 
nothing is pure, nothing is stained, 
nothing increases and nothing decreases”

From the Heart Sutra, http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/heartsutra.html