Reduce Wandering Thoughts During Meditation

Living Buddha Dechan Jueren, September 15, 2000
Translator: Kuo
Transcriber: Jim Stewart
Dari Rulai Temple, Los Angeles, CA

To reduce distracting thoughts during meditation, first, do not be in judgement of anything. Whatever situations you are looking at, do not form a judgment. Do not get caught up in thinking your opinion is correct.

We often get caught in our personal opinions about things. We must be free of any attachment to our own thinking. Else we will not be able to let go of thoughts during meditation. We have to recognize our limitations and evolve to a deeper level.

In order to live in our world, we form opinions based on our experience and our desires. We create illusions of what is right and we get attached to them. Our desires put our minds into an imbalanced state because we have an insufficient priority on enlightenment. We get caught up in our worries that produce limitless fears. We stay in this state of suffering because we have developed a habit of living this way.

A second problem is we get caught in the illusion of our hope for a better tomorrow. We place our hope in our plans for the future. But our future is determined by the universe, not by our plans. When the future does not turn out according to our plans, we blame ourselves. If you are upset with what happens, look at yourself and your attitudes.

Third, helping others will be an advantage to you, but only when you watch yourself (and your attitudes) every moment. You must be helping others out of an unselfish motive.

When you do all these things I have mentioned, you will find in your dharma practice that you will have no wandering thoughts. It is very important that we develop our practice so we do not have wandering thoughts.

Q: Are you saying that when we are aware of our thoughts and act to help others, that will help calm our minds?
Yu: Yes.

Q: What happens when we take pride in helping others?
Yu: If you take pride in yourself, it will be a block for your progress. You should only help others when it feels natural, not in order to earn merits or gain any appreciation in return. You must help out of your sincerity, not out any expectation of return.

Q: I found myself being distracted by observing my breathing during mediation. What should I do?
Yu: When you notice your breathing, it is a wandering thought. Just observe that you are being distracted and concentrate on your visualization.

Q: I find myself distracted by my plans to help others in the future.
Yu: Planning to help others is not a distraction, it is just planning. You should make plans so you are able to grab opportunities as they arise. But remember that things may not happen the way you plan and that is okay.
Kuo: By practicing the dharmas, you will be able to see clearer what will happen in the future, and your plans will be more accurate.