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Archive for May, 2015

Attributed to: Seng’tsan, 3rd Chinese (Sosan, Zen) Patriarch

To return to the root is to find the meaning,
but to pursue appearances is to miss the source.
At the moment of inner enlightenment
there is a going beyond appearance and emptiness.
The changes that appear to occur in the empty world
we call real only because of our ignorance.
Do not search for truth;
only cease to hold opinions.

 

I was sitting quietly at home after Zen on Saturday morning and was drawn, once again, to pick up this wonderful book, To Meet the Real Dragon, by Gudo Nishijima and conveniently enough he was talking about the ‘roots” of Buddhism and the many branches/schools that have come since Gautama Buddha walked on earth. He said, “We must always remember that true Buddhism is something real—something active and alive. If our teachings and institutions lose contact with that source of life and vitality, they will become a hindrance rather than a helpful vehicle on the way to the truth (page 122).”[1]

Buddhism is much more than the sutras and the tenants and the rules and the rituals that have been created over these 2500 years, much more!

So what does this phrase imply to “return to the root is to find the meaning.” For me it brings me back to a time when I knew only a little bit about Buddhism—to the reason I came to Buddhism, simply to sit quietly in time and space and to be free. To calm my body, mind, and spirit even in the midst of living a busy active life of teaching, training, writing, volunteering, and housework—to remain one with the source of life—especially in the midst of that long list.

It is an opportunity to allow myself the simple gift of “sitting in the silence” as we used to say at Unity. Unity minister, teacher, and writer Emily Cady in her empowering book Lessons in Truth wrote these words, “You need not worry. You need not be anxious. You need not strive—only let it. Learn how to let it (page 126).”[2]

As you can see Emily Cady agreed wholeheartedly with the Faith in Mind sutra even though she may have never heard of it or read it. “Truth” is eternal and everywhere present. Thus the sutra says, “Do not search for truth; only cease to hold opinions.” Just this. . .

Sitting alone or sitting with a group is a great time to NOT search, to NOT hold opinions of what a great period of sitting you had or what an awful period of sitting you had—to cease naming and labeling. To simply “let it.” We do enough naming and labeling with everything else in our lives why not take a few minutes each day to give yourself a break from it. Wow, that would be a relief wouldn’t it!

To go “beyond appearance and emptiness” to be free of them for just a moment as we sit “in the silence” and become one with it, whatever it is. I hope you’ll try it…I think you’ll like it!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Nishijima, G. (2009) To Meet the Real Dragon, Dogen Sangha Publications www.dogensangha.org

[2] Cady, H. E. (1903) Lessons In Truth, Unity House: Unity Village: MO

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Attributed to: Seng’tsan, 3rd Chinese (Sosan, Zen) Patriarch

To deny the reality of things

is to miss their reality;

to assert the emptiness of things

is to miss their reality.

The more you talk and think about it,

the further astray you wander from the truth.

Stop talking and thinking,

and there is nothing you will not be able to know.

Once again each line is a contradiction of the next line and thus it goes.  Can we deny the reality of something and yet be told that in doing so we end up missing the reality of it and yet to assert the emptiness of things is once again to miss the reality of emptiness!  This is what I love about Buddhism and its ability to make us think about life in such a way that the frustration finally brings us to a place of giving up, a place of stopping, a place of trying NOT to figure things out.

In another translation of this poem they write these words instead:

The more you think about it,

the further you are from the truth.

Cease all thinking,

and there is nothing that will not be revealed to you.[1]

So the trick is to sit and just be still and the truth will be revealed to us in a myriad of ways.  It may come from a simple Ah Ha as we are walking down the street or through the mall.  It may come to us as a hug from a long lost friend or relative or from the words of a teacher during a talk at Zen—but come it will.

Do the right thing and the right things will happen: sit quietly in the silence, quiet the monkey mind, and “there is nothing that will not be revealed to you.”

Just today I was participating in an online book study group and the subject came up about the  genius of people like YoYo Ma and Picasso and my comment to the group was “music and art comes through them not from them.”  While in the midst of the playing or the painting or the day dreaming they wandered into emptiness and all came to them in some unimaginable way. They grabbed on to it and let it come through them with patience, with vim, with vigor, and with determination, or even with not knowing or not trying it just happened.  They did not question it or fight it or hope for something different, they went with the flow.

When was the last time you went with the ‘flow.” When was the last time you gave up the idea of being “right” or “wrong” “better” or “best”  and you simply went with what was—went with the flow.  You stopped talking and thinking and all was revealed to you?

I am sure there have been many times at work or in a personal relationship when you have thought: “I just wish everyone would stop talking!”  Can’t we take a few minutes to just sit quietly and get centered, take a few breaths and open our hearts and minds to what can be?  To sit and just let something grow and blossom on its own.  Let it manifest out of nothingness.  Deepak Chopra would say it arises from “pure potentiality.”

Remember what the Third Patriarch of Zen Seng-ts’an said, “Stop talking and thinking, and there is nothing you will not be able to know.” When you do I hope you’ll let me know what wonders appeared!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

oldhousestan

This old farm house is where my mother, Iona Louise Bird, was born in 1920 and lived in until the 1940’s in Quinter, Kansas.  This picture was taken in 2013 shortly after my mother’s death by her sister Wyneta. She went there to scatter my mother’s ashes as she had requested—back to emptiness from which she came.

[1] Putkonen, E. Hsin-Hsin Ming Verses on the Perfect mind by Seng-ts’an, third Patriarch of Zen; Awaken to Life with Eric Putkonen, Minneapolis, MN http://www.awaken2life.org

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“Faith in Mind” [1]
Attributed to: Seng’tsan, 3rd Chinese (Sosan, Zen) Patriarch

When the deep meaning of things is not understood
the mind’s essential peace is disturbed to no avail.

The way is perfect, like vast space
when nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.
Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject
that we do not see the true nature of things.
Live neither in the entanglements of outer things,
nor in inner feelings of emptiness.
Be serene without striving for activity in the oneness of things
and such erroneous views will disappear by themselves.
When you try to stop activity to achieve passivity
your very effort fills you with activity.
As long as you remain in one extreme or the other
you will never know oneness.
Those who do not live in the single way
fail in both activity and passivity,
assertion and denial.

These verses may seem to be very confusing at first glance. It seems to be saying in one line that when we do not understand something our mind is “disturbed to no avail” and yet a few lines later we read we are being asked to try not to be bothered with knowing and not knowing, so which is it? Know, not know, understand, not understand? Seems to me that Buddhism is the best philosophy on the planet, knowing and not knowing are both okay. Right can be wrong, and wrong can be right on any given day. Black and white do not exist, life is filled with shades of every color on the spectrum of light.

And yet he writes, “As long as you remain in one extreme or the other you will never know oneness.” Thus many have called this path the “middle way.” That is something I can grasp. I can see that in my life when I have taken my thoughts and feelings too far in one direction or the other I have either been in “heaven” or “hell.” I may choose the heaven over the hell, but eventually even that means that I’ve decided on “preferences.” If you read my previous blog you’ll see how that can cause problems in our lives as well.

So what is the answer? Let’s go back to this line for a minute: The way is perfect, like vast space when nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess. Too much of anything can be a bad thing from too much love which can end up suffocating us or too little love which can end up creating feelings of unworthiness and self-doubt. But just the right amount like these lyrics illustrate “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, in a most delightful way,” as Julie Andrews sang so beautifully in the Mary Poppins movie. Not too much sugar and not too little, just “one spoonful” was just right. The best medicine of life is to find balance and equilibrium though the middle way: Just enough, not too much and not too little in life of challenges, love, contentment, peace, joy, happiness, and sadness.

So when you find yourself moving too far in one direction or the other remember Mary Poppins and your life will be lived “in a most delightful way.” Remember also these words of Seng’tsan, “The way is perfect, like vast space when nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.” The middle way: Try it I think, like Mary Poppins, you’ll love it!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Osho (2014) Hsin Hsin Ming, The Zen Understanding of Mind and Consciousness. Osho International Foundation

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