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Archive for December, 2014

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

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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

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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)

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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

 

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