Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for January, 2015

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 others 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

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »