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A Handful of Leaves

In Socratic fashion, the Buddha would often ask his students obvious questions. One time, he asked his monks which was more: the handful of leaves he held in his hand, or all the leaves in the forest? The monks of course answered that all the leaves in the forest would be much greater. Then he told them, what he had taught was like the handful of leaves, whereas what he understood was like the leaves in the forest. Why did the Buddha give this teaching?

The Buddha was always interested in teaching that which would help us deal with the suffering in human life and find peace and happiness. Metaphysical questions didn’t help with that, so he didn’t say anything about such things.

What did the Buddha want us to know about overcoming our suffering and finding peace and joy? Here are a few points:

1. Learn to breathe mindfully while you are going through daily life, and not just while on your meditation cushion. This prevents dispersion.

2. Remember that everything is impermanent. Practice looking at everything with this in mind. Importantly, this includes mental states.

3. Look at everything with the awareness that nothing, including yourself, is separate from everything else.

4. Be mindful. Look clearly and deeply and everything. Contemplate it all.

5. Practice kindness.

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