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Well, we may think that this is an easy topic to talk about when it comes to ethics in business and in life. There are stories every day about people who get caught up in their inability to resist temptation which often can result in “evil” actions. We can name them by the dozens, from big thieves like Bernie Madoff, who made off with everyone’s money and Jerry Sandusky the Penn State coach who turned out to be a serial child molester. But what about the smaller actions that we take every day in business and in life that might not create “evil” but could create hardship and anguish in our loved ones, friends, or co-workers lives. Those actions could be on purpose or by accident, but they can still create harm. Today might be a great day to look within and see the faces that we show to others though out the day.

Naming things good or bad or evil is what we do as human beings. If you look up the word on dictionary.com you’ll find 14 different definitions for the word which can be used as an adjective, noun, adverb, or idiom. Definition #10 was my favorite, “anything causing injury or harm: ‘Tobacco is considered by some to be an evil.’” Wow! The word is so broad that we can use it daily until it becomes meaningless.

Barbara O’Brien (http://buddhism.about.com/od/basicbuddhistteachings/a/evil.htm) defines evil in two ways.

First evil as intrinsic characteristic: It’s common to think of evil as an intrinsic characteristic of some people or groups. In other words, some people are said to be evil. Evil is a quality that is inherent in their being.

Second: Evil as external force. In this view, evil lurks about and infects or seduces the unwary into doing bad things. The problem with doing that Barbara says is then “it becomes possible to justify doing them harm.” Then who becomes the “evil one”? She goes on to say, “Buddhism teaches us that evil is something we create, not something we are or some outside force that infects us.”

We had a saying in Unity: “What you resist persists.” Because while we are “resisting evil” what are we doing? We are thinking about it, mulling over it, doing something “evil” to the “evil doer” and that creates more energy and “evil” thoughts and deeds. That then affects our lives in a negative way. Remember good thoughts beget good actions, bad thoughts beget bad actions. That’s the law. Look for the good in all things. If bad things are happening look for a way to turn that into an opportunity for thinking good and doing good.

A great example of this technique is Malala Yousafzai the young woman who was shot in the head for wanting to go to school in Pakistan. She is now an education advocate for girls around the globe and was awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. [1]

It is good to recognize that every day is a new day and we are given the opportunity to look a new at our thoughts and the actions that they create in our lives. As we observe we can choose to act on the negative thoughts or not. We can choose goodness, happiness, kindness, and compassion over evil thoughts and mean actions or harmful words–or not.

We can learn how to quickly identify the negative thoughts in our minds and just as quickly dismiss them and let them go. Or we can continue to give them power and harm ourselves and others. Just this…as we say in Buddhism. Or how about turning them into good like Malala? The choice is yours, which will you make today?

In gassho,
Shokai

ingassho

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66tIRTm91F8&spfreload=10)

One year ago today I was ordained a Buddhist Priest through the White Plum Order at the Southern Palm Zen Group. You can image how uncontrolled my thoughts must have been on that day. Thoughts of I’m not good enough, why did they choose me, what am I getting myself into, I don’t know enough about Buddhism, and I even thought about how big my butt looked every time I made a full bow on the floor during the ceremony! I surly did NOT have control of my thoughts. You may feel the same frequently in your life as well. Challenges may arise that you may feel you are unable to handle for various and sundry reasons, but the thoughts do arise. The problem is not that the thoughts arise, but what we do about them once we hear them in our heads!

Do we dismiss them, act on them, allow them to hinder our ability to think clearly, ruminate over them, or even get physically, mentally, and emotionally sick from them? Zig Ziegler called them “Stinkin Thinkin.” They may arrive at the door of your mind at any time and in any place.

What “Stinkin Thinkin” arrived at your door today? What did you do about it when it did?

Below are some simple tips from the great Buddhist teachers of the distant past, the recent past, and the present:

Dogen Zenji: When you wash rice know that the water is your own life (page 132). (I like to visualize my brain being washed with some gentle soap and water by loving hands removing any negative thoughts that may arise quickly with ease and compassion. I do not let them live there, I just act as though they are passing guests who have dropped by for a short visit and quickly leave and leave nothing behind when they go.)

Robert Aitken: We must cut off the mind road, so that we are collected, and not chasing out through the five senses. Not dwelling upon colors, not dwelling on phenomena of sound, smell, taste, and touch, but dwelling in nothing at all we bring forth that mind (page 134). (Sounds difficult to “dwell on nothing,” this will take practice, patience and self-love and you will not lose yourself in this process—but finally find yourself.)

Mitsunen Roku Nordstrom: What changes one’s life and what enables one to turn it around, is precisely the being one with such negative emotions [thoughts]. Or in the words of Trungpa Rinpoche, “To be deluded is to be sitting in shit, but thinking that it’s chocolate mousse. (page 21-22)” (For me it is working on taking myself and my thoughts lightly, maintaining my sense of humor, and being able to laugh at and with myself whether I’m sitting in “shit” or “chocolate Mousse.”)

Life is a merry-go round and enjoying the ups and the downs as you spin around and learning from all three is what makes life so interesting. When the merry-go round starts moving just remember the words from another of my favorite philosophers: Blood, Sweat and Tears

Spinning Wheel
What goes up, must come down
Spinnin’ wheel, got ta go round
Talkin’ ‘bout your troubles it’s a cryin’ sin
Ride a painted pony,
Let the spinnin’ wheel spin

Ya got no money, and ya
Ya got no home
Spinnin’ wheel all alone
Talkin’ ‘bout your troubles and
Ya never learn
Ride a painted pony,
Let the spinnin’ wheel turn

Did ya find a directing sign
On the straight and narrow highway?
Would you mind a reflecting sign
Just let it shine, within your mind
And show you the colors that are real.

Someone is waitin’ just for you
Spinnin’ wheel spinnin’ to
Drop all your troubles by the river side
Catch a painted pony
On the spinnin’ wheel ride…

Try it—I think you’ll like it and the lyrics may just help you “control your mind” whether you’re in chocolate mousse or something else!
In gassho,
Shokai

ingassho

 

[1]Aitken, Robert. (1984) The Mind of Clover Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics. North Point Press: NY

[2] Ibid.

[3] Mitsunen Roku (2010) Essays in Zen Daoism. Produced by Hokori-ji: Lakeland, FL

 

I received the Upaya newsletter today and they are having a Seminar on the Heart Sutra with Sensei Kaz Tanahashi, Roshi Joan Halifax, and Joshin Brian Byrnes February 17-19, 2015. The list below was included in the announcement.  I thought you would all like to have it and to be able to focus on these tenets throughout the upcoming Holiday Season when stress and tempers can get quickly out of hand.  Blessings from my home to yours.  In gassho, Shokai

. Sensei Kaz Tanahashi

10 Laws on the Art of Joyful Living: Sensei Kaz Tanahashi

1. Your happiness is more important than anything else.

2. The happier you are, the more you can help others.

3. Smiling makes you happy.

4. The more relaxed you are, the happier you are.

5. A moment of meditation can help you refresh yourself.

6. The lower your expectations are, the happier you are.

7. Happiness attracts happiness.

8. The ultimate healing is to live joyfully at each moment.

9. The more fully you face your own death, the more joyous you become.

10. You can always improve your art of joyful living.

Today we take the opportunity to think about the second of the Eightfold Path taught by Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha), “Say nothing to hurt others.” I began my day this morning thinking about an old friend whose friendship had broken up due to hurtful words that had been spoken by her that I observed. I decided then and there that she was not the person that I had grown to know and love then one thing led to another and we, to this day, have not spoken.

Sitting in dokusan [1] with one of my teachers I shared this story with him and the power that those words, both hers and mine, had had in my life. I felt sad about it and wondered what good it had done.

Today I picked up from my bookshelf this wonderful book on ethics co-authored by Norman Vincent Peale and Kenneth Blanchard entitled The Power of Ethical Management (1988). I was curious as to what they had to say about ethics and the power of the word since it had been many years since I had read the book. And to my delight the very first paragraph in the introduction were the exact words I needed to hear.

In writing a book on ethics we are reminded of the story of a young Englishman who had just been elected to Parliament. When he entered the halls for the first time, he approached one of the sages and asked, “Tell me, sir, do you think I should participate in the debate today?”
The old man looked at him with piercing eyes and said, “To be honest, young man, I would recommend that you keep silent. It’s better that people wonder why you didn’t speak than wonder why you did.”

I wonder why I had spoken all those many years ago the way I had and maybe I could have handled the situation in a different manner and we would still be friends. So the Buddha says, “Say nothing to hurt others.” But when someone says something to hurt others in front of you what should you do? How should you handle it? Once handled should you talk about them in a negative way to show how “right” or “righteous” you were to speak up and set her “straight.” I will let each of you, my dear readers, make up your own mind about that, to think about how you have handled similar situations in the past and will handle similar ones in the future.

The authors go on to say:

Both of us agree that ethical behavior is related to self-esteem. We both believe that people who feel good about themselves have what it takes to withstand outside pressure and to do what is right rather than do what is merely expedient, popular, or lucrative.

Dealing with such a topic is like untangling a fishing line. The more you get into it the more complicated it becomes.

So these blog posts I’m writing on ethics will challenge me, expose me, and help me think through what I think, believe, and know about “Zen and Ethics in Business and in Life.” It will help me think before I speak so as not to “say anything to hurt others.” I hope you will take on this assignment for the week and let me know what happens.
In gassho,
Shokai

ingassho

1. Meeting of a Zen student with his/her master in the seclusion of the master’s room. Dokusan is among the most important elements in Zen training. It provides the student an opportunity privately to present to his master all problems relating to his practice.” The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen (1991)

Browsing my email this morning I came across a discussion digest from a wonderful organization that I belong to the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education (ACMHE).  It led me to a section on their website “The Tree of Contemplative Practices” which led me back to my talks on ethics and the first of the Eightfold Path, “Know the truth.”

Below is the picture of the tree and the items on the tree reflect some of the contemplative practices “currently in use in secular organizations and academic settings.” These practices help us to “know the truth.”  And when they are integrated into our lives will help us “live the truth.” Many of the practices listed on the tree are linked to areas that are directly related to areas of ethical conduct and practice. Some of them are listed below:

  • Justice issues
  • Volunteering
  • Loving-kindness
  • Deep listening
  • Establishing a sacred/personal space for self and others

ACHME describes the tree thus:

The roots of the tree encompass and transcend differences in the religious traditions from which many of the practices originated, and allow room for the inclusion of new practices that are being created in secular contexts.

The branches represent different groups of practices.

The Tree of Contemplative Practices ACMHE

When used and contemplated they can help us know what is true for us and provide us with simple practices to help us live an ethical life.

My goal this week is to choose one area and focus on it knowing that doing this will help me maintain peace, love, and compassion in my life and hopefully make this a better place in which to live.  When you go to the link you will find a blank tree there that you can copy and print and put your personal contemplative practices on the tree.  This may help you focus on your opportunities to merge your ethical, spiritual, and practical life into one union of knowing the truth and being one with it.

In gassho,

Shokai

ingassho

Both of my parents met in WW II at Eglin Air Force base in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.  Dad said that the first time he saw mom she was selling cigarettes and newspapers in the PX.  He fell instantly in love and said, “That’s the girl I’m going to marry.” And he did. Mom was in the Women’s Army Air Corp working in the clerical pool (state side) and dad was stationed in England.  He was a belly gunner on a B-17 bomber and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for shooting down two (some say three) German fighter planes.

Mom was a Kansas Methodist and Dad was a Brooklyn Jew both of their parents said, “it would never last.”  Boy were they mistaken! They were married for 62 years when dad passed away.

Mom was a poet and this poem was the last one that she wrote.  I hope you enjoy it.

Mom WWII Military Portrait 001

I have a little scooter

That I ride down the street

I can go so fast

You can hardly see my feet

I often run a race

With my brother on his bike

And when I ask dad, who is the fastest

He says we’re both just alike

~Iona Louise Bird Bishop

Dad was a man whose mission in life was to “cheer people up and make them laugh.”  And this mission was accomplished as well.  He was an avid baseball fan as you can tell from the message below that he recorded on his answering machine at home. I found the handwritten note on which he wrote the message recently and it was fun seeing dad’s handwriting and hearing (in my head) his voice as I read it.

“It’s the top of the ninth with 2 outs and the Bishops at bat, the pitcher throws and the Bishops hit to the short stop, who throws to first and the Bishops OUT!  But they will be back shortly, so if you leave the time, your name and the phone number, they will get back to you shortly.  Thanks for calling and have a happy day with a big smile.  Wait for the beep.”

Dad WWII Portrait Military Uniform 001

In Loving Memory to my parents on this Veterans Day,

Daughter #2

Kathleen Ann Bishop

Ethics is not complicated it is simply “doing the right thing.”  It is not bound by culture, religion, or politics–it is simply doing the right thing in each and every situation, even when it’s hard.  Actually, especially when it’s hard.

Rush Kidder, founder of the Institute for Global Ethics, talks about “Ethical Fitness.”  He writes that one definition of ethics is:

“Obedience to the unenforceable.” Something is unenforceable if there is no rule or law forbidding it.  But there are some things most people would not do even though there is no law about it, such as scaring a baby or taking away a shopping cart from an older person.

A friend of mine met a person at church who had a very difficult life problem.  The person had stepped over the boundary from the “unenforceable” rule or law to the “enforceable” when the person participated in a scam to cheat Medicare and Medicaid out of 70 million dollars that was to be used to help the disabled and the poor.  The person probably should have read Rush Kidder’s book before work each day.  The person will not see the “get out of jail” card until the age of 72. Plenty of time to read now, wouldn’t you say?

So how do we keep ourselves from getting caught in this situation?  What will keep the temptation at bay, the wolf from the door, the shark from the surf board?  By living a life as prescribed in the teachings of Zen Buddhism.  You don’t have to be a Buddhist to do so.

Zen Eight Fold Path

This series on Zen and Ethics will be focused on these eight simple ideas and how to incorporate them into your life at work, at home, and at play.  Imagine what a wonderful world this would be if we all just followed these simple ideas day in and day out!

I hope you will take this journey with me and before you do anything and everything stop-think-inquire-listen-love (STILL).  Or as we used to say when I was a Unity minister, “Be still and know that I am God.”  Regardless of whether you believe in a God–God/Good only appears when we become STILL. So sit with me each day for 10-20 minutes and just be still.

Then make your decision.  Let me know what happens.

In gassho,

Shokai

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