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Archive for March, 2013

Paramita #9 Loving Kindness…the Bodhisattva way

“The teaching of Mahayana Buddhism, the teaching of Zen, is the teaching of love, not hate.  My teacher did not teach people to hate one another, he taught people to love one another (Anderson page 178).” So writes Reb Anderson in his wonderful book Being Upright Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts. So what we are talking about here is not romantic love, but agape love, the love of humanity with all its frailties, foibles, and mistakes.  Loving kindness when it is hard, when it is not deserved, when it is well deserved, and when it is simply plain fun.

This is the way of the adept, the Bodhisattva, the monk, the minister, the rabbi, the priest, and the wayfarer. When a person is surrounded by the idea of loving kindness inside and out it can be seen on his or her face, heard in his or her voice, and noticed in the actions taken.

Are we all perfectly loving and kind all the time?  Not hardly, but to be so more often than not David Baird says, “We must learn from the past, prepare for the future, and live in the present (Baird page 161).”[1] To do so we may want to take an inventory of the times in the past when we were not practicing loving kindness, and when we were practicing loving kindness, and then look at the things we need to do to prepare for the future opportunities that may appear to practice loving kindness.  How do we do that—by living in the present!  In this very present moment when I am living mindfully I am fully conscious of my thoughts, feelings, and actions and if I catch myself being unkind I can quickly and immediately make a 180 degree turn and show loving kindness.

Sitting, meditating, and praying on a regular basis will make this happen more often, it will make it much easier to catch ourselves in the moment and ultimately improve our relationships with everyone we meet be they family, friends, co-workers, customers, bosses, inmates, or strangers.

When we do this Reb Anderson tells us there is light at the end of the tunnel.  “You practice being upright to generate love, not to generate states of mind. States of mind come and go, and happiness comes and goes; but love can be developed so that it doesn’t come and go (Anderson, page 26).”[2]  We can learn to love the person and not the actions.  We can learn to walk a mile in the other person’s shoes and thus show loving kindness for the pain and anguish they may be in.

Many people walk around with very low self-esteem, with voices in their heads that remind them of the hundreds of times they may have been put down, marginalized, or physically or mentally abused when growing up.  For these people loving kindness was never shown to them and so they have no example to pattern themselves after.  These, my friends, are people who need more loving kindness than your average Jane or Joe.

This week we will practice loving kindness when it is easy, when it is hard, and when it is fun.  We will be given many opportunities to do it I am sure!  There is never a moment when loving kindness cannot be displayed.  Keep an inventory of how many opportunities you were given each day, notice where they came from and how you responded to them.  If you were unable to respond with loving kindness do not be unkind to yourself.  Simply look at your behavior and what triggered it and determine to not let that trigger take you away from showing loving kindness in the future.

It will take practice with some people and some situations, but it will be well-worth it in the end.  You will see your triggers getting smaller, and lighter, and appearing less often.  You will find solace and peace in the action of loving kindness and just maybe you may see it returned in kind.  Keep your eyes and ears open for that! Loving kindness is on its way to you today! Namaste…


[1] Baird, D. (2000), A Thousand Paths to Enlightenment. London, England: MQ Publications Limited

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

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Determination: Paramita #8 in our series on the 10 Paramitas

“The Gateless Gate”
The great path has no gates,
Thousands, of roads enter it.
When one passes through this gateless gate
He walks freely between heaven and earth. (Mascetti, 2001)[1]

This is life in the 21st Century.  How many of us see the thousands of roads, opportunities, challenges, joys, and frustrations and get so befuddled that we freeze up and simply stop in our tracks?  The challenge feels overwhelming, too much for us to take on, too much to think about, too much to do, and we become impotent.  And yet when we do move ahead and accept the challenge we find that we can succeed and overcome even the most demanding and mind boggling life’s situations.

Once we find that gate and have the strength and determination to pass through it we see that it wasn’t as difficult as we may have thought.  Or the reward at the other end was greater than we could have imagined.  Or if we do not succeed we find that life did not end, that failure was easier to accept than we thought, or that our desire changed and we decided that we could live without the thing, the job, the person, or the possession.  We may even have reviewed what we truly value in life and found out that it was NOT it.

Determination is something that all of the most enlightened creative  people that we recognize on this planet had—Jesus, Shakyamuni Buddha, Mohammad, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore (Founders of the Unity Church), Thomas Edison (inventor of too many things to list), Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and you. Yes, you!  You would not be reading this if you were not on your way to enlightenment or have not had some wonderful enlightening experiences through your determination to pray, meditate, or sit. Some of those experiences may have even come simply by accident. That great universal AH HA can sneak up on us at any time, and many times when we least expect it…so keep your eyes open—it just may be right here, right now!

Notice the word “light” inside the word “enlightenment.”  These people saw the light in something that was greater than them, they paid attention, and they acted on the light and thus changed the world.

And yet, sometimes we simply need to be determined to let things go, to stop pushing, trying, thinking, mulling, and running the show. As Osho wrote:

Sitting silently,
Doing nothing,
Spring comes,
And the grass grows by itself.[2]

Enlightenment is knowing when, and if, and how to do it, or NOT—to simply be determined to let go and let the spring know how to grow the grass all by itself.


[1] Mascetti, M.D., 2001, The Little Book of Zen Haiku, Koans, Sayings, NY: Fall River Press, pg.69

[2] Ibid. page 24

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Mitsunen Roku (Lou Nordstrom) one of the most loveable and outstanding teachers in our linage of Zen Buddhism wrote a wonderful little book entitled Essays in Zen Daoism (2010).  In it he has a chapter entitled “On Being Honest,” and boy is he honest about being honest!  He writes, “Freud was right: human beings have an almost infinite capacity for self-deception, and nowhere is this more prominent than in the pervasive, perennial need to believe in a ‘higher, spiritual nature. (page 71)’”

For me this is a reason to continue learning, searching, and seeking that “higher spiritual nature” for it just may be there and my lower personality or human frailties may just be a temporary state of consciousness.  Whether or not we believe there is a “higher spiritual nature” is up to each of us.  We may not have the conviction of Mitsunen Roku when he writes, “We would like to think of ourselves as bodhisattvas committed to the salvation or liberation of all beings.  Honestly, how much do you really care about the suffering of others?  What sort of negative emotions do you actually feel about other human beings?  What do you honestly feel about the one you love?  Catullus said, ‘I love, and I hate; and I am torn in two.’ That’s honesty! (page 72).”

Being truthful with self is probably more difficult than being truthful with others.  At least it is for me!  My mother is one of those inherently honest people.  She would not take even a penny if it did not belong to her.  She has a vivid sense of right and wrong, truth and lies.  So I guess I got some of it from her.  But I often find myself being untruthful with myself.  I tell myself things like, “Don’t worry eating this piece of cake won’t add a single pound to your waistline if you just eat it mindfully.”  Or how about this one:  Driving over the speed limit is okay because it is more important to be on time to Zen to help set up.

He writes, “Be honest about the nature of the motivation behind your practice (page 72).” Who cares what you practice for or which practice you decide to take up?  You can be a great Catholic, Buddhist, Atheist, or Theosophists as long as you are truthful to yourself about why you practice the principles, truthful to yourself about why you believe what you believe, truthful to yourself about why you act the way you act because of those principles.

He quotes Bodhidharma who said, “Vast emptiness, no holiness!” The fantasy of a higher nature is about holiness, sacred as opposed to profane reality.  Bodhidharma didn’t speak of Buddha-nature, true nature, essential nature; he said, in a spirit of radical honesty, ‘I KNOW NOT!’ Do you honestly know who or what you are (page 71)?”  Yeah, if you do!  Yeah, if you don’t!

This week our practice is on truthfulness. Regardless, of whether we do or don’t honestly know who or what we are today is a great day to begin looking at our lives and seeing how truthful we are to others and to ourselves.  We all need to examine our lives with open eyes.  However, we need not be critical of what we find, but we do need to be open to an occasional “AH HA.”  Then decide what you want to do about it, if anything.  Sometimes it is cruel to be truthful to someone who may think they look great in that chartreuse shirt or blouse, sometimes the person may be better served if we let him or her know in a kind and loving way that this may not be his or her best color choice.  Let the person know what looks great on them and tell them why.

Life is a challenge, living a life of truthfulness is an even greater challenge.  So when the times get tough just know you are in good company with Bodhidharma and just admit “I know not!”  Then do what your heart tells you is right and honest and truthful with compassion and love and you can’t go wrong with that!

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In spring colors there is no high nor low
Some flowering branches are by nature long, some short (Harada, page 5).

 When I read this in Shodo Harada’s beautiful book Moon by the Window (2011) it reminded me of the patience of spring waiting to appear after a long and difficult winter of snow and ice and cold.  It did not push itself in before its time, but waited patiently for the earth to get in just the right position when all the elements were perfect for new birth and growth.

When was the last time we waited with patience for anything?  Our society is so filled with hurry- up and rushes and to-do lists and must-do lists we find it difficult to take even a few moments each day to sit quietly and simply observe our breath.  Or to watch a flower bloom or to see a bird as it patiently follows the wind and the sun moving north and south with the seasons, instinctively knowing what the right time is.

Daily we are given the opportunity to show patience in our lives.  Some of us lose our patience while driving down the road when the car in front of us does not move fast enough, or is moving too fast and may cut us off to get ahead of us because he or she thinks we are driving to slowly.  How many times have you rushed through a meal only to get indigestion?  How many times have you finished a meal and you don’t even remember what you ate?

Are you someone who starts out each week wishing your life away?  How many times have you said, “Boy, I can’t wait until the weekend”?  Or how about, “Will this meeting ever get over I have so many things to do”?

For some of us it is a personality type, they used to call it Type “A” behavior.  But I call it Type “P” behavior!  We are missing the “Patience” gene!  The one that allows us to simply enjoy the moment in which we are living.  The sad thing is that this moment will never appear again and we may have missed a wonderful, beautiful, or mind awakening thing in the process.

During the time I have been writing this blog post my mother has entered the room several times impatiently needing my attention and so I stopped, thought about the topic and with “patience” helped her.  Living with a family member with special needs, be it Alzheimer’s or other mental or physical disability gives us plenty of time to practice patience.  It is not easy at times and I do lose my temper or get upset, but each day as I practice the 10 Paramitas it just gets a little easier and easier.  My “P” gene is showing up more and more!  How about yours?

Many years ago I had the privilege to work in Spain doing training for a multinational firm and I was shocked about the schedule with which we did our training. It was nothing like what we do in America.  In the U.S. we start between 8 and 9 a.m. and end between 4 and 5 p.m. with two short breaks and a lunch.  In Spain they started at 10, took a coffee break at 11 and went for a two hour lunch between 2 and 4 and ended at 6 p.m.  Wow!  What a difference.  They all think American’s are crazy with the number of hours we put in at work and how few vacation days we take each year.  The Spaniards know how to have patience, relax, and enjoy life!

This week let us practice being more like them and growing the “P” Gene!  Find some time each day to practice patience with yourself and with others.  Find some time to simply sit, simply watch the grass grow, or the snow fall, or play with your kids, your dogs or your cats.  Each time that monkey mind interrupts with your to-do list just let it go by and simply keep on sitting or playing or watching the grass grow or the snow fall.  Then ask yourself how you felt in mind, body, and spirit when you gave the “P” Gene a little chance to grow.

This is just like the plant you tried to grow in the paper cup in grade school.  If you pulled out the seed everyday it would not grow, once you saw it sprouting if you pulled out the small growth you would have killed it.  You probably can hear your teacher asking you to have patience and soon enough you’d see results.  And guess what —you did!

What results would you like to see in your life today?  With patience they just might appear!

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We continue our series on the 10 Paramitas with Energy called Virya Paramita: Perfection of Energy.  The idea of the power of energy in our lives appears in Buddhism, Taoism, and metaphysics frequently.

Charles Fillmore, co-founder of the Unity movement, wrote frequently about energy. He taught that each of us has 12 powers which are related to the 12 disciples and one of them is the power of zeal which resides in the back of the head at the base of the neck and is represented by the disciple Simon who was often referred to as the zealot. Charles invited us to try a simple technique to increase our energy.  He said when you feel a lack of energy give a good massage with your fingers to the area where the head and neck meet, and it will quickly help bring back your energy.  Stop for a second and give it a try—test it out to see if it works now and anytime when you feel you need a little burst of energy.

At the age of 94 Charles Fillmore wrote this affirmation, “I fairly sizzle with zeal and enthusiasm to do the work that is mine to do.”  I sure hope I can feel that way when I am 94!

In Charles’ book The Twelve Powers of Man he wrote, “Zeal is the mighty force that incites the winds, the tides, the storms; it urges the planet on its course, and spurs the ant to great exertion.  To be without zeal is to be without the zest of living.  Zeal and enthusiasm incite to glorious achievement in every aim and ideal that the mind conceives.  Zeal is the impulse to go forward, the urge behind all things.  Without zeal stagnation, inertia, death would prevail throughout the universe.  The man without zeal is like an engine without steam or an electric motor without a current.  Energy is zeal in motion, and energy is the forerunner of every effect.”

In Buddhism we talk about energy this way: “Virya is energy or zeal. It comes from an ancient Indian-Iranian word that means “hero,” and it is also the root of the English word “virile.” So, virya paramita is about making a courageous, heroic effort to realize enlightenment. To practice virya paramita, we first develop our own character and courage. We engage in spiritual training. And then we dedicate our fearless efforts to the benefit of others.[i]

“In the case of Taoist practice, it is the effort, vigor, and diligence applied to our spiritual path. It is a kind of zeal or exertion, a fearless brave activity, which supports us in overcoming the various obstacles that inevitably present themselves — whether our practice is a martial art, qigong, sitting meditation, calligraphy, recitation and ritual … or anything else.[ii]

Each of us at some time or another may need to bring zeal, energy, and enthusiasm into our life.  It really does not matter where you live, what job you do, or situation in life you are currently in, because life without zeal, enthusiasm, and energy is flat, boring, and nonproductive.  Since we are given such a short time on this planet it might be a great thing to realize our full potential and have the mind, body, and spirit energy to do the things we have come here to do.

For some it may be living a life of work in the business world, for others it may be public service, or teaching or the medical field or being a stay-at-home mom or dad, and yet for some others they may be in unique living circumstances where their days are planned for them not by them.  Regardless of which circumstance you may be in take control of your life and direct your zeal, energy, and enthusiasm to the matters at hand.

How about doing the dishes, cooking, walking, eating, reading, studying, or meditating with an enthusiasm that sends electricity through you and fills the air around you?  I have known people like that and when you stepped into their presence you knew there was something special about them, even though you may not have been able to put your finger on just what it was!

Enthusiasm in life is catchy!  Many years ago I worked in Community Theater with a man who was so fantastic his characters were so real; his dedication to the script and the play was incredible.  He left the audience mesmerized.  And when you worked with him your acting was brought up a hundred fold.  It was fantastic!  I caught his love for live theater and have never lost it.  His enthusiasm was catchy!

Imagine what a wonderful world this would be if we did everything, even the most minute and maybe even boring thing, with zeal, energy, and enthusiasm: ZEE.  Think of the little ant that Charles wrote about—that ant can carry from 20-50 times its weight, so the scientists say.  Now that’s energy backed by zeal and enthusiasm!

Imagine if you filled your life with ZEE and you could SEE life through that lens.  How about seeing people, chores, places, and things through the lens of ZEE just think how happy you could BEE!  Remember the little ant: if he can—so can you! Try it out this week and let me know what you SEE!

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