Sit-and-Share Topics : Buddhist Core Principles

Sample Topics for Contemplation

Buddhist Core Principles

The following topics and themes are just to get you started…

As well as considering the dark side – if any – of these topics and how they may have brought suffering into our lives; it is essential to also reflect on the bright aspects that have directly affected our recovery and our being.

What do I do now?

If death is certain and its time uncertain, what do I do now?

Source: “The lamrim meditation on impermanence and death”
(adapted by Stephen Batchelor from Italian Retreat, November 2012)


Four Transforming Contemplations : (1) Precious Human Existence

This precious human existence, this lifetime, well-endowed with leisure, qualities, and opportunities, is difficult to attain, tenuous, and easily lost, so this is the time to practice spirituality with diligence.

Shantideva, the eighth-century Mahayana Indian saint (his name translates as ‘The Peaceful Angel’) and author of The Way of the Bodhisattva, wrote:

‘These human leisures, opportunities, and faculties are very rare to obtain and easily lost;

If one squanders the chance to fulfill the aim of human life, How will such an opportunity arise again?’

Source: ‘Awakening the Buddha Within‘ by Lama Surya Das (p150)

London: Bantam Books © 1997

Four Transforming Contemplations : (2) Death, Mortality, and Impermanence

All things are impermanent; our life breath especially is just like a bubble on a swift-moving stream. The time of our death is uncertain, and we depart alone from this world.

All that is born, dies, even the enlightened masters, saints, sages, and powerful leaders;

Our longevity and hour of death are uncertain, and then we sally forth alone and unaccompanied;

All constructions eventually fall to ruin;

All those who are gathered together, eventually separate.

Everything passes and dissolves;

Even the mountains and the seas;

So resolve now to realize the deathless reality and undying peace of freedom and nirvana.

In the Lalitavistara Sutra, the Buddha says:

‘The universe and its inhabitants are as ephemeral as the clouds in the sky;

Beings being born and dying are like a spectacular dance or drama show.

The duration of our lives is like a flash of lightning or a firefly’s brief twinkle

Everything passes like the flowing waters of a steep waterfall.

Source: ‘Awakening the Buddha Within‘ by Lama Surya Das (p150)

London: Bantam Books © 1997

Four Transforming Contemplations : (3) The Ineluctable Law of Karma

The law of karma follows us like a shadow follows the body, virtue and non-virtuous words, thoughts, and deeds procreate in kind.

The lawful workings of cause and effect, virtue and vice, are unavoidable.

When we die we leave everything behind, except our karma and our spiritual realization.

This karmic conditioning propels us forward according to what we have set in motion through our actions, words, and deeds.

Karmic cause and effect (interdependent origination) creates everything, and by thorough understanding of karmic causation and skillful means we can become free. The Buddha said:

‘If a king or householder shall die,

His wealth, family, friends, and retinue cannot follow him.

Wherever we go, wherever we remain,

The results of our actions follow us.’

Source: ‘Awakening the Buddha Within‘ by Lama Surya Das (p150)

London: Bantam Books © 1997

Four Transforming Contemplations : (4) The Defects and Shortcomings of Samsara

Samsara and all its contents, pleasure as well as pain, are like a public feast we are passing through on our way to the grave.

  • Birth is difficult, growing up is difficult, illness is difficult aging and death are painful.
  • Losing what we care for hurts; not getting what we want is frustrating.
  • We feel lost and powerless, anxious and insecure by a sense of being out of control, blown about by circumstances and conditions we don’t understand.
  • Being unaware and half-asleep in our own lives is wasteful and meaningless.
  • We are continually tormented by our fears of the unknown and ignorance and doubt about where we will go and why.

 These are Just a few of the myriad waves in the ocean of suffering called samsara or cyclic existence. Cross beyond this raging tide of confusion and misery to the other shore and you’ll find the joyous waters of nirvana – peace, freedom, and the everlasting happiness of perfect enlightenment

Source: ‘Awakening the Buddha Within‘ by Lama Surya Das (p150)

London: Bantam Books © 1997


In Buddhism there is a notion of liberation from suffering, but not in the sense of an escape from normal life. Nirvāna (Nibbāna) as a state of being free of suffering is not, as some consider it to be, a dimension of Heaven that is other than normal life.  Liberation comes through an insight into the nature of life, not through avoiding its reality.  It is a fundamental change in how we see life, not an escape from it. In this respect, there is little room for avoidance of what is present in our physical and emotional experience.

Source: ‘The Wisdom of Imperfection
: The challenge of Individuation in Buddhist Life’  Rob Preece (p30)
Snow Lion Publications – New York © 2006


“The realization of impermanence is paradoxically the only thing we can hold onto, perhaps our only lasting possession.

Source: ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying‘ Sogyal Rinpoche,

The Way to Reach the Attainable Measure of Peace of Mind

“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe”, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish the delusion but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.”

February 12, 1950 – Albert Einstein

Freedom from Fear

Our common human goal is happiness and our common human condition is fear. Fear is the obstacle in every moment to our happiness and our complete illumination. It is fear that holds us in a job or a relationship or a situation that we don’t like or enjoy, and it is this fear that society continually carresses.

From ‘Buttons in the Dana Box‘ by Michael Kewley


If Everything is temporary, transient and impermanent is there anything that is certain or reliable?

Sit-and-Share Topic from Vince Cullen


“Ultimately, whether taken in a public or private setting, taking refuge is a commitment we make to ourselves. If we are not committed in our  own hearts and minds, the words we speak in taking refuge will be meaningless.”

Chuan Zhi Shakya

Related Pages:

‘Sit-and-Share’ Topics for Contemplation and Sharing

Truth, Karma and Commitment to Recovery

Generosity in thought, words and deeds

Ethics (All or individual Precepts or Harmlessness-Blamelessness)

Loving-kindness, Compassion, Joy-gladness and Equanimity


Mindfulness and Meditation

Admirable Friends & Fellowship

Buddhist Core Principles & Themes