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The mind of the great sage of India

Is intimately conveyed west and east.

Among human beings are wise ones and fools;

In the way, there is no ancestor of north or south.

These are the first four verses of this 37 verse sutra known as the “Sandokai: The Identity of Relative and Absolute.” They let us know that the mind of this great “sage of India” has no physical boundaries regardless of whether you live east or west of India. Regardless of the fact that he lived over 2,500 years ago. His teachings transcend the physical and enter into the four directions and all worlds: physical, mental, emotional, and ethereal.

As is written we are at times wise and we know when those thoughts and actions appear. They are spontaneous and kind and magnanimous, and sometimes even surprise ourselves. And we also know when we are being a fool and those are even easier to see! Just look at the expression on the face of the person to whom you are acting foolishly! And yet when we act mindlessly we may not recognize either our wisdom or our foolishness.

So this week we will work on being mindful of our thoughts, actions, and words. Let’s look out for the impact they have on others. A passing remark can either cut like a knife or heal like an antibiotic. It can empower another or disempower them.

We forget that we have the mind of the Buddha right within us and that we need not go anywhere to find it, we need not search for it by moving to India, or Japan, or Tibet. It is with us wherever we go and manifests in every word, thought, and action. If this is true why don’t we listen for those words of wisdom, love, and compassion? Why don’t we awaken to this teaching that resides in all directions—north, south, east, and west and within us? What is holding us back?

Only you know the answer to these questions. Only you can sit and find the Buddha within you. Only you can make the decision to live a life of mindfulness, of being present in every moment. Only you can set aside time to read and contemplate the simple principles beneath all the world’s great religions and philosophies. In reality they are all the same and contain one simple message: Treat people the way you want to be treated.

The Golden Rule (from some but not all of the world’s religions/philosophies):
Buddhism: “Hurt not others in ways you yourself would find hurtful.” Udana-Varga, 5:18
Christianity: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12
Confucianism: “Do not unto others what you do not want them to do to you.” Analects 15:13
Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty: do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.” The Mahabharata, 5:1517
Islam: “Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” Fortieth Hadith of an-Nawawi, 13
Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor that is the whole of the Torah; all the rest of it is commentary.” Talmud, Shabbat, 31a
Taoism: “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” Tai Shang Kan Ying P’ien

And so around the world the words of the Sandokai live in all traditions in simple and easy to understand words, and yet from moment to moment they often seem not so easy to live! Let’s make a plan for ourselves this week to live the Golden Rule in mind, body, and spirit. Be kind to yourself, be kind to others—in words, thoughts, and deeds. Then sit back and watch your world transform until you realize the Buddha and you are one in the same!

MY PLAN OF ACTION:

Once you’ve written your plan let me know how it goes!

In gassho, Shokai

ingassho

No old age and death, no cessation of old age and death; No suffering, no cause or end to suffering: No path, no wisdom and no gain.

These verses from the “Heart Sutra” remind us of The Four Sufferings in Buddhism:
1. Birth
2. Old age
3. Sickness
4. Death
When we think on these things we suffer. We all want to live a long life and be happy, healthy, and rich! But ruminating over it will not change the situation one bit. We are all born, hopefully we will reach old age, hopefully it will not be filled with sickness, and ultimately it will end in death. So why worry, be happy. Happiness may just be the antidote to that sickness and suffering.

But no matter how we try there will be times when suffering will enter our lives. Some of our family members and friends will die before we do and that will be sad and we will feel pain and suffering. But for some death may be the only escape from the physical and/or mental suffering that a person experiences. For those dying of a very painful disease they might even feel relieved that the pain and suffering will end upon their death. Thus we can live a life empty of futility knowing that there is each and both: “No old age and death, no cessation of old age and death; no suffering, no cause or end to suffering.”
The Four Noble Truths were expounded by the Buddha in his first teaching immediately after his enlightenment. He is to have said this about the “extinction of suffering:”

But what, O monks, is the noble truth of the path leading to the extinction of suffering? It is the Noble Eightfold Path that leads to the extinction of suffering, namely: perfect view, perfect thought, perfect speech, perfect action, perfect livelihood, perfect effort, perfect concentration (page 72).

The origin of suffering has been and will always be desire. If we desire things material, physical, relationships, or to undo the death of a loved one—we will suffer. If we cling to our desires that clinging adds to our pain and suffering. Remember the line is “No suffering, no cause or end to suffering.” In life we will have times of complete joy and accomplishment and times when we do not. Remember these words were spoken by someone who had already attained liberation. I don’t know about you but I have not yet done so. Maybe you have not either. So don’t beat yourself up simply do the best you can, in the moment, with what you have, where you are, and then move forward toward peace, love, and compassion for yourself and all others.

So dealing with our suffering can be a challenge, but not a mountain too high to climb if we follow the Noble Eightfold Path. Let’s live our life each day the best we can, by helping others and working for the good of all concerned. Let’s take one thing at a time. Using mindfulness and love—without clinging to anything—will help us deal with our suffering.

The next line says, “No path, no wisdom and no gain.”

Sekkei Harada writes about this idea in his book Unfathomable Depths, Drawing Wisdom for Today from a Classical Zen Poem (2014).

We also mustn’t be stuck between understanding and not understanding forever. That happens when we cannot transcend and get hung up on something because of it. . . .You have to transcend both what you understand and what you do not understand, and beyond that even transcend what you have transcended (page 175).

No path, no wisdom and no gain!

Things to focus on this week:
1. I will begin each day by sitting in quiet meditation to transcend the four sufferings if even for only a few minutes.
2. I will remind myself that doing this can help free me from suffering.
3. I release my attachment today and every day from my limited thoughts and fears.
4. Lastly, I will keep a journal of the opportunities that have been presented to me so I can keep track of my progress and my opportunities for growth.

In gassho, Shokai

ingassho

[ ] The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen (1991) Shambhala Dragon Editions: Boston, MA

[2] Harada, S. (2014) Unfathomable Depths, Drawing Wisdom for Today from a Classical Zen Poem. Wisdom Publications: Somerville, MA

Everyone has thoughts about life and death. Ethical, religious, and spiritual people all have rules, precepts, principles and laws covering their beliefs about the individuals and the society’s role in life and death, peace and war. The first of the 10 Grave Precepts in Buddhism is “Not Killing,” the last of the Eightfold Path is Respect Life. Robert Aitken writes about this in his wonderful book, The Mind of Clover.

The Hinayana view of “Not Killing” is just that. The extreme limit of such literal interpretation is not Buddhist at all, but the Jain faith, whose monks filter all water before drinking it, in order to protect the microscopic animals that might otherwise be swallowed (page 16).[1]

I would not suggest that to be an ethical, religious, or spiritual person you would need to go to this extreme. Aitken explains why such extreme beliefs can be troubling.

They must assume that a sharp distinction exists between the animal and vegetable worlds; otherwise they could not feed themselves. Strict vegetarians, too, tend to fall into this trap, it seems to me. It is not possible to evade the natural order of things: everything in the universe is in symbiosis with every other thing.
Doctrines, including Buddhism, are meant to be used. Beware of them taking life of their own, for then they use us (page 17).[2]

So what do we do about this problem—to be in this life but not of it. To use the Buddhist principles to create a life of peace, love, and compassion in us and through us each day is a challenge. Aitken suggests that first we must start with being compassionate with ourselves. Whether it is while we are sitting on the cushion, washing the dishes, dealing with others, or giving ourselves time to “chill out” first respect your own life and be kind to yourself then it will be much easier to do it with others.

Finally, spread that good will to all life, plants, animals, and ultimately planet Earth. Recycle your garbage, support legislation that protects the water, air, and ground that we need to survive. Work for fairness and equality for all people in all places around the world. Your actions in these areas will show that you are following the Eightfold Path and especially that of respecting life.

I got a bumper sticker for my car and one for my refrigerator a few months ago that says “DO NO HARM.” I just love it! Every time I go into my refrigerator I see the bumper sticker and it reminds me to respect life—mine and others! Here is the link for you to use to get one of your own. They are free so no excuses can be made! On their website they even say: Please do not send money! We do not accept monetary donations! Please support the movement by doing no harm and if you can, please spread the “Do No Harm” message. (http://www.donoharm.us/id3.html)

I hope you will take the time to go there and get yourself a bumper sticker. Then each time you get into your car or open your refrigerator door you will be reminded of the Eightfold Path of Buddhism and its teachings on “Respect Life.” Let me know how that works out for you! The results can be life changing and can potentially help save the planet and maybe even the human race.

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

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

[1] Ibid.

Although in Buddhism we don’t usually call what we do “meditation” we use the word “sitting” instead. But for the general public I guess that word would be strange and confusing since we “sit” in the car, at our desk or kitchen table, or in front of the TV in our living rooms each day. However, that may not help us much to live a life directed by the Eightfold Path–one of peace, love, and compassion. In fact, it may do just the opposite and bring in to our lives—tension, angst, and fear. Well, maybe once in a while it might bring us a smile, some joy, and some creativity—you never can tell.

As a Unity minister I taught a lot of meditation and prayer techniques one was called “Sitting in the Silence.” In Buddhism we can begin by sitting alone at home or in a park or by a river, or a mountain or we can go to a place where others are practicing and sitting together. It does not matter. What matters is having some time alone to sit quietly to “still” the mind and release any thoughts quickly and with ease, to not hold on to them or ruminate over them, but to free them.

We have a simple phrase to help us quiet the mind and free the thoughts: “Just this.” Every moment and every event in life is “Just this.” Nothing more and nothing less, “Just this.” So when that to-do list begins to roam around your mind you can say not now I am just sitting in the silence, “Just this.” Nothing more and nothing less. We learn how to release the judgment, the anger, the fear, and the thoughts and if need be go back to counting or observing our breath and soon even that will not be necessary and after a while the silence will appear on its own.

For some it may take weeks, months or even years to attain the silence, but what does that matter. It is the effort that counts and the results are optional. As we follow the Eightfold Path we internalize the path and begin to walk the talk automatically. We act ethically and compassionately instantly without even thinking about it. We design a peaceful life without even realizing what we are doing until someone might comment on it and you respond, “Really I guess my time “sitting” has begun to show in my outer life not just my inner life.”

Russell Simmons in his new book Success through Stillness Meditation Made Simple writes:

I won’t lie, it did take me a long time to get here. Years and years in fact. As I’m quick to tell people, I had to do a lot of damage before I finally accepted that I liked early-morning meditation better than late night drinking. But once I did come to that realization, there was no turning back. (pages 15-16)”[1]

We may not be rich and famous but our lives can be improved little by little each day if we decide to “practice meditation” on a regular basis. Thich Nhat Hanh author and Vietnamese Buddhist Priest recommends 10-30 minutes each morning. “Woe to those who seek far off and know not what is close at hand. They are like people standing in water and shouting for water nonetheless.” (Song of Zen Master Hakuin) If what you seek is peace of mind and body this can come with a regular practice of meditation (sitting). Why not start today—just like Russell Simmons—you’ll be glad you did.

In gassho, Shokaiingassho

[1] Simmons, R. (2014) Success through Stillness Meditation Made Simple. Penguin Books: NY, NY

Eihei Dogen [Unbroken Practice] wrote, “This life of one day is a life to rejoice in. Because of this, even though you live for just one day, if you can be awakened to the truth, that one day is vastly superior to an eternal life. . . If this one day in the lifetime of a hundred years is lost, will you ever get your hands on it again? (page 60)”[1]

So today is the only day you have to begin the practice of the seventh teaching in the Eightfold Path of Buddhism: Work for the good of others. I wonder what this world would be like if each and every day I woke up with that desire in mind. I wonder what this world would be like if each and every person woke up with that desire in mind. To change the world I must first change myself. For without that there is no path at all—no less one with only eight steps.

It does no good to chastise or wonder why others do not volunteer their time to people and organizations in need, or to wonder why they do not tithe their time, talent, and treasure to organizations and individuals who are making a positive difference in the world. It does no good for me to think critical thoughts about others actions or reactions to life—that is simply a waste of time, energy, and brain power.

So, today and every day I set out to begin the day by asking myself: What can I do or say to make this a more loving, caring, and fruitful life for another? To ask not because it will make me feel better about myself (but it will) not because it will make my community and household a more loving and caring place to reside (but it will) not because it’s simply the right thing to do (but it is) but simply because I am alive.

As Dogen said, “The life of one day is a life to rejoice in.” So to begin each day with a goal of rejoicing in life is a great way to start. I will start by rejoicing that I have been given a life and with that life comes responsibility to make something of it. To do something with it—simple or grand—does not matter. What matters is to do something that works for the good of others, and gets me out of my own way. If this were the only day I had left to live, what image would I have left in the eyes and hearts and minds of those whose path I crossed.

Why was I born anyway if not for good and love and compassion? I have been given many opportunities to love and fell short, to help and walked past, that I am sure of. But as Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Because you are alive everything is possible.” So I may not be able to undo that hurtful word or action, but I can do better today and tomorrow and the next day. How about you?

Great! Now let’s begin 2015 a new and each morning awake with the question: What work can I do today for the good of others? Let me know what you discover!

In gassho,

ingassho
Shokai

  1. Matthiessen P. (1998) Nine-Headed Dragon River, Zen Journals. Shambhala Dragon Editions: Boston, MA

Our dear teacher Reb Anderson writes about “evil” in his book, Being Upright Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts. In it he writes:

The root of all evil is misunderstanding the nature of self and other by actively ignoring the interdependence of self and other. Evil comes from turning away from the vivid world of creation, where the self can never remain separate from other beings.
To ‘practice all that is good’ means ‘to wholeheartedly live life based on freedom from the illusion of an independent self.’ It is to awaken fully to the interdependent self, and to express such a self (page 49).[1]

Begin today to free your mind of evil. If you believe that some of the thoughts and behaviors a person can have in business and in life can be evil, then learning how to free your mind of evil will help maintain an ethical stance in every situation in your life.

What do you think would happen if each time a hurtful or negative thought or action came through us and we were personally and immediately affected by it? Might we try to think before we spoke or committed the “evil” action? But unfortunately the pain we feel from these actions is usually minutes and sometimes years before we are personally affected by them.

Two of my friends Armond and Angela have a great song called “Love is a Boomerang.” The words go like this: “Love is a Boomerang-give it away and it comes right back-hear the words that set you free. So is anger so is judgment. Give it away and it comes right back”[2]. What you send out comes right back at yah! What are you sending out?

Remember we are not separate from anyone or anything on the planet. Since we live in individual bodies and think with individual brains we “feel” as though we are separate. That allows our minds to be full of evil and it is difficult to understand that we are actually all one. One mind, one body, one world in creation.

When I am cruel to you it affects me in many ways. So I might go out and spend the rest of the day thinking negative thoughts about myself, condemning myself, and demeaning myself. Or you might be the type of person who does not internalize it but takes your anger out on others, such as fostering harmful words and actions on those around you like your family, co-workers, or friends.

If people only knew at a visceral and conscious level that when one is hurt–we are all hurt. If they did then they may not say the words or act in harmful and even deadly ways. We are all capable of feeling the pain and the suffering of the victims and their families, friends, and communities.

When we can all live a life that understands “interdependence” and learns to express that interdependent self this world can be a healthier, happier, more loving place in which to live. But so long as we think that we are only hurting “the other” the world will give us plenty of opportunities to reflect on our negative thoughts and actions. Let’s begin today to live life as though love is all there is.

Let’s begin to awaken fully to the idea that we are all interdependent selves and express that in all ways and to all people, in all places, and through all things. Imagine what a wonderful world we could create!
Remember the boomerang is right around the corner!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Anderson, R. (2001) Being Upright Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts. Rodmell Press: Berkeley, CA

[2] Follow Your Dreams, Armand & Angelina. http://www.armandandangelina.com

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)

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