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Archive for August, 2015

There are hundreds of ways a person can begin to open to the spirit within them. In every religion there are prayers, and songs, and dances, and poems, and liturgies that have been created to help their followers find the divinity within them. We have been practicing out loud by chanting and singing, and creating music with percussion, string, and wind instruments or silently, through contemplation, meditation, zazen, introspection, lectio divina, dance, and more. Others have used sweat lodges, art, mind altering drugs, and ancient rituals. But all have been designed to help the individual find that mystical, untouchable, elusive thing within them called life.

Two extraordinary women have recently gifted me two things—one was a book, Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary by Kazuaki Tanahashi, and the other a journal article from Innovation Educativa which she is a co-author of entitled “The power of deep reading and mindful literacy: An innovative approach in contemporary education (Hall, O’Hare, Santavicca & Jones, 2015).” I have been moving between these pieces of writing with joy each presenting me with some fantastic ways to bring my practice into alignment with my life.

Thus I have decided to use these as a jumping off place for creating another workbook for the prison ministry in Florida of which I am one of their volunteers. The prison outreach ministry is sponsored by the Southern Palm Zen Group (Southern Palm Zen Group).

My first thought was what good I could get from the use of these techniques in my life, what I could discover about myself, and how I might even find my “true-self.” And then I read the paragraph below from Kaz’s book and discovered that what I really wanted to do was “understand” what he describes below and thus the workbook was born.

The “Four All-Embracing Vows” expresses the bodhisattva’s attitude. The first of the four vows—‘Beings are numberless; I vow to awaken them’—appears to be an overly idealistic and unrealistic promise. But if we look at it closely, we will notice that it doesn’t simply say, ‘I vow to awaken all sentient beings.’ It begins by acknowledging just how many living beings there are who need to be awakened. Thus, being kind to a neighbor, a stranger, or an animal can create rippling effects of kindness. A simple action may cause infinite results. If the ‘I’ who vows is separate from other people, what ‘I’ can achieve is quite limited. But if ‘I’ is not separate from all others throughout space and time, it may be possible to awaken all beings. This understanding is an essential ground for socially engaged Buddhism (Page 9).

My desire is to be a “socially engaged Buddhist.” My writing this workbook will help me discover new things about myself as I practice the techniques I am sharing, and hopefully, helping others do the same as they use the techniques in their own lives.

So let’s begin this adventure as Kaz did by reciting the four vows for a week as often as possible and wherever we can. Whether we’re sitting in meditation, contemplating the words, or writing them in our journal, whether we’re riding the train, or driving our cars, or making our beds–let’s chant. Chant aloud or silently as the environment allows. Let us not be separate from the words, the thoughts that follow, the sounds of the words, or the feelings and emotions that we feel as we chant. Let’s be one with everything. Let’s be accepting of what comes or does not come, no judgements or criticisms of ourselves, we’re simply chanting! The words are below as we chant them at the Southern Palm Zen Group. You are welcome to use them or use ones that you are familiar with.

The Four Vows
Creations are numberless, I vow to free them.
Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to transform them.
Reality is boundless, I vow to perceive it.
The Enlightened Way is unsurpassable, I vow to embody it.

In gassho,

ingassho
Shokai

[1]Hall, M.P., O’Hare, A., Jones L.F., Santavicca, N. (2015) The power of deep reading and mindful literacy: An innovative approach in contemporary education. Innovacion Educative, ISSN: 1665-2673 vol. 15, numero 67

[2]Tanahashi, K. (2015) Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary. Shambhala Publications Inc.: Boston, MA

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Rome Burns

Another amazing reality check from John White about the world in which we live in 2015. Where do we go next? And who is in charge? Shokai

DoubleU = W

I will fiddle while all

about me Rome burns

I will find my slumber

while derelict of my duties

I will leave the post

to which I am assigned

I will stand and shout

down all authority

I will flout the law

and the system it supports

I will howl nightly

at a gray, jagged moon

I am of the huddle mass,

the disenfranchised,

those left without, looking in

I will buck wildly

against the system

and in all of this

I will not be alone

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Fill the Space

This is a fantastic poem on “emptiness” by John White I think you’ll love it! Shokai

DoubleU = W

there is a space that exists

it stands hollow and empty

it is somewhere in your room

in a conversation

a lacking in your life

.

you rush to fill it

but not all spaces

must be occupied

.

allow for an emptiness

accept on occasion

a matter of nothingness

use the space as a respite

sometimes where there is nothing

there is the freedom

to catch your breath

to take a break

to bide your time

to contemplate

gather yourself

gain strength

place nothing where there is nothing

some spaces are meant to stand empty

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My teacher and friend Wilbur Mushin May recommended this wonderful book to me about one of our ancestors Master Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1768) called Wild Ivy translated by Norman Waddell.  In the book there is a chapter entitled “Zen Sickness” which shares several ideas about sickness and health and the ways of the ancestors to deal with life as it appears in bodily challenges.

I was especially taken by one story and meditation called “The Soft-Butter Method” (pages 90-91) it was very similar to some of the healing meditations that I learned and used while I was a Unity minister.  So I decided to try it out on myself to help me with some problems I’d had with my digestion since I got my braces on.  Wow, within a day or two I began to feel much better and the symptoms all but disappeared.  I have continued to use it once or twice a day and look forward to even more fantastic results.

I hope you’ll try it and let me know if it helps you in any way.  In gassho, Shokai

The Soft-Butter Method

“Imagine that a lump of soft butter, pure in color and fragrance and the size and shape of a duck egg, is suddenly placed on the top of your head. As it begins to slowly melt, it imparts an exquisite sensation, moistening and saturating your head within and without. It continues to ooze down, moistening your shoulders, elbows, and chest; permeating lungs, diaphragm, liver, stomach, and bowels; moving down the spine through the hips, pelvis, and buttocks.

At that point, all the congestions that have accumulated within the five organs and six viscera, all the aches and pains in the abdomen and other affected parts, will follow the heart as it sinks downward into the lower body.  As it does, you will distinctly hear a sound like that of water trickling from a higher to a lower place.  It will move lower down through the lower body, suffusing the legs with beneficial warmth, until it reaches the soles of the feet, where it stops.

The student should then repeat the contemplation. As his vital energy flows downward, it gradually fills the lower region of the body, suffusing it with penetrating warmth, making him feel as if he were sitting up to his navel in a hot bath filled with a decoction of rare and fragrant medicinal herbs that have been gathered and infused by a skilled physician.

Inasmuch as all things are created by the mind, when you engage in this contemplation, the nose will actually smell the marvelous scent of pure, soft butter; your body will feel the exquisite sensation of its melting touch.  Your body and mind will be in perfect peace and harmony. You will feel better and enjoy greater health than you did as a youth of twenty or thirty.  At this time all the undesirable accumulations in your vital organs and viscera will melt away.  Stomach and bowels will function perfectly.  Before you know it, your skin will glow with health.  If you continue to practice the contemplation with diligence, there is no illness that cannot be cured, no virtue that cannot be acquired, no level of sagehood that cannot be reached, no religious practice that cannot be mastered.  Whether such results appear swiftly or slowly depends only upon how scrupulously you apply yourself.”[1]

[1] Waddell, N. (1999) Wild Ivy, The Spiritual Autobiography of Zen Master Hakuin. Shambhala: Boston, MA

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Mu filled with love to you Stephen and Martine Bachelor on this translation!

Buddhism now

Son (Zen) Master Taego Pou (1301-1382)

Translated from the Korean by Stephen and Martine Batchelor

HUA-T’OU: (Lit. ‘head of speech’). Has a twofold meaning: (i) the essence of the kung-an, a shortened version of the story or situation; (ii) the source of thought; that which exists before one thought has arisen (thoughts being the mind’s external manifestations — the ‘tail of speech’).

Fuji from the Katakura Tea Fields in Suruga.

A monk asked Chao Chou [Jap. Joshu], ‘Does a dog also have the Buddha nature, or not?’ Chao Chou replied, ‘Mu (No).’ This Mu is not the Mu of yes or no; it is not the Mu of true nonexistence. Ultimately what is it? To reach that place from where Chao Chou said Mu one must straightaway lay down the entire body.

Do not do anything (good or bad) and do not even do this not-doing; then straightaway one reaches that place where there is no concern for…

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