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Archive for October, 2015

Buddhism provides us with the opportunity to sit in the silence and do absolutely nothing as I’ve talked about in past blogs. Buddhism also has hundreds of thousands of pages of writings for us to read, to learn, to live, and to spend time contemplating. Buddhism is considered a contemplative practice as well as a way of living. It is deep and wide and vast. There is something for everyone on every path from the beginner to the adept. All are welcome here.

Our ancestors have given us this wonderful verse that we often repeat before we begin to contemplate on some Buddhist verse or teaching or as we get ready to hear a wonderful dharma talk from one of our teachers or guest lecturers. It goes like this:

Opening the Sutra Verse
The unsurpassable, profound, subtle, and wondrous dharma
Is rarely met even in a hundred, thousand, myriad eons.
Now we see it, hear it, receive it, and maintain it.
May we realize the Tathagata’s true meaning (page 51)![1]

We say it a little differently at our sangha, but either way will work:

 

Gatha on Opening the Sutra

The Dharma, incomparably profound and infinitely subtle,
Is rarely encountered even in millions of ages.
Now we see it, hear it, receive and maintain it.
May we completely realize the Tathagata’s true meaning.

In Unity we have something we call “sitting in the silence.” We probably stole it from the Buddhists. In H. Emilie Cady’s book, Lessons in Truth (2003) she writes these words about it:

Do not let waiting in the silence become a bondage to you. If you find yourself getting into a strained attitude of mind, or “heady,” get up and go about some external work for a time. Or, if you find that your mind will wander, do not insist on concentrating; for the moment you get into a rigid mental attitude, you shut off all inflow of the Divine into your consciousness. There must be a sort of relaxed passivity and yet an active taking it by faith. Shall I call it active passivity (page 135)?[2]

I just love her term—active passivity—it is so Buddhist! And thus, Rev. Cady is giving us clear directions to help us when we are looking to “realize the Tathagata’s true meaning” in a verse, a teaching, or in our lives. Even if we are warned in the verse that it “is rarely met even in a hundred, thousand, myriad eons” go for it anyway! What have you got to lose? Find your place in that “relaxed passivity” and wait upon truth and wisdom to be revealed to you.

This is what we do when we work on a koan with our teacher. So if you are struggling or being centered in your “head” do as Rev. Cady suggests and drop into “active passivity” and be ready for nothing, or something, or anything, and simply accept what comes or doesn’t come!

But for now be open to see it, hear it, receive it, and maintain it.”

Let me know how it goes!
In gassho,

ingassho
Shokai

[1] Tanahashi, K. (2015). Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary. Shambhala: Boston and London

[1] Cady, H. E. (2003) Lessons in Truth, Unity Books: Lee Summit, Mo

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Verse of Pure Practice
Abiding in this world of endless space,
A lotus flower is not stained by muddy water.
We follow the unsurpassable one,
Whose mind remains pure and free (page59).[1]

The above is a good example of a short verse that you can use when you want to center yourself. It brings you to the idea of the power of mind and its ability to remain pure and free in any situation, even if it’s “stained by muddy water.”

Our thoughts are the prisons in which we live. Those thoughts lead us to actions of peace, contentment, anxiety, fear, or any myriad number of emotions. To release ourselves from them a wonderful place to start is with a centering verse, prayer, or song. It’s called a “pattern interruption.” When the monkey mind has hold of you it is important to interrupt that negative pattern of thinking and replace it with something else.

I recommend that you have several types of prayers, verses, sutras, or songs that work for you. Something that will help you get centered. So what does it mean to be “centered”? In Buddhism we look to become one with our breath and when we do we feel at the center of all there is. Our body responds by lowering our blood pressure, slowing down our heart beat, and calming our breath. Soon we are overcome by feelings of peace and tranquility and emptiness and fullness. We have entered the stream.

When we feel as though we have entered the stream it is because we are centered on the here and now. We are centered on the only moment that exists—this one.

One of my favorite teachers and authors is Father Robert Kennedy he is a Catholic Priest and a Zen Buddhist teacher. In his book Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit, The Place of Zen in Christian Life (2005), he used an anonymous prayer which sounded like one I had heard many times during my life as a Unity Minister. I have written it below but changed some of the words.

My name is I am,” He paused
I waited. He continued,
“When you live in the past,
With its mistakes and regrets,
It is hard because you are not centered.
My name is not I was, my name is “I am here and now.”

When you live in the future,
With its problems and fears,
It is hard. Because you are not centered.
My name is not I will be, my name is “I am here and now.”

When you live in this moment,
It is not hard because you are
Centered right here and right now.
In the only time and place that exists.
Thus my name is I am.”[2]

What name have you given yourself today? Where have you been centered—on fear, anxiety, negativity, and suffering? Have you entered the stream yet? Help your mind “remain pure and free.” Let me know when you enter the stream and I will meet you there!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Tanahashi, K. (2015). Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary. Shambhala: Boston and London

[2]  Kennedy, R.E. (2005). Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit The Place of Zen in Christian Life. Continuum: New York and London

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On my arrival at the Southern Palm Zen Group I asked the teacher, Mitch Doshin Cantor, if there was a special way to meditate here and, if so, could he give me some tips. He said, “Well as a beginner I would have you start by simply counting your breath and focusing your mind on the counting. You can count one on the in breath and two on the out breath and when you get to ten start over. Since the mind wanders you may not reach ten, but don’t worry just begin again at one. Then he said, another way might be to simply focus on your breath and feel your chest moving up and down as you breathe in and out. If your mind wanders on to your to-do list for the day, don’t worry just return your focus onto your breathing.

The next thing he said was you might want to set your intention for your time spent on the cushion. I asked how I could do that. He said we have a saying that I could use, it went like this: “Now I sit in order to save all beings.” I thought about that after saying it for a while and it came to me that our planet Gaia was a living thing as well and without working to save the planet from global climate change our children and grandchildren would have no place to live.

So I added some words to my opening: “I sit in order to save the planet and all sentient beings.”

Prayer and meditation is a process and the longer we do it–more is revealed to us. So as you can expect one day I was sitting with a guest teacher in dokusan (private meeting with the teacher) and we began talking about my relationship with my mother. She said if you want to improve that meditate on it and so I did.

I realized that dad loved people and mom loved the 10 commandments of her Protestant upbringing and followed the rules. She taught me how to live an ethical life working for the benefit of others. From there came this phrase which I added to my prayer of intention: “I sit in honor of my mother and father who gave me life and taught me to do good.”

And the last part of my intention came when I had the pleasure of volunteering with the Maitreya Project Relic Tour who were bringing their exhibit to the Unitarian Universalist Church in Boca Raton, FL, where our group meets. That experience brought extraordinary things into my life one was a prayer sheet that you got when you arrived. One of the prayers on it was called the “Seven Limb Prayer” and one of the phrases seemed to catch hold of me and stuck to me. So much so that I had to add it to my intention. It went like this: “With hands pressed together I request the buddhas of all directions to light the lamp of Dharma [teachings] for those who are groping in the darkness of suffering.”

This phrase, over time, was changed to include those who have specifically asked for prayers or those who I thought might be in need of prayers after things like the mass shootings in our schools. It now goes like this: “I ask the buddhas of all directions to light the lamp of dharma for all those on my prayer list named and UN-named, and for all those who are groping in the darkness of suffering.”

I hope that you will take the time over the next few months to go through this process yourself and to create a wonderful prayer to set your intention each time you sit in meditation. I’ll bet it will help both you and them. Let me know how it goes.

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai
My prayer of intention: I sit in order to save the planet and all sentient beings. I sit in honor of my mother and father who gave me life and taught me to do good. I ask the buddhas of all directions to light the lamp of dharma for all those on my prayer list named and UN-named, and for all those who are groping in the darkness of suffering.

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One in seven Americans face hunger on a daily basis. The statistics show that 48.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 32.8 million adults and 15.3 million children in 2014. Households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children, 19 percent compared to 12 percent (Feeding America).

The bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (Sanskrit) (Chinese: Kuan-yin) (Japanese: Kannon, Kwannon, Kanzeon) is said to perceive the cries of the world. The bodhisattva embodies two of the fundamental aspects of Buddhahood, compassion and wisdom. This bodhisattva must be especially busy trying to take care of all the people in America who are food insecure or should we simply call it what it is? Hungry.

Thus it is important for us to be the arms, legs, hearts and minds of Avalokitesvara every day in our lives. It is important to take the time each day to give thanks for the food that we have, to help those who have less, and to minimize the waste of food in our own homes, churches, and work places.

I recall a news story about a young boy who when eating at a buffet in a restaurant asked his dad what they did with the extra food at the end of the day. He said, “Dad, why can’t they give it to the people who are hungry and have no food in our town.” His dad replied, “The law does not allow it here in Florida.” So this young boy made it his mission to have the law changed. Yes, he did, and he succeeded. Now, by law, they are all allowed to give the extra food to food banks and organizations that feed the hungry. That is Avalokitesvara in action!

How many of us even do the simple thing of blessing our food before we eat it. When I would eat with the Sunday school children in Unity I would always bless the food with this fun prayer my mother taught me: Rub a dub-dub, thank you God for the grub! They loved it and they laughed and they remembered it! Start them young and they will never stop.

In our sangha we have a beautiful prayer to bless the food which we do each time we dine together.  I hope you’ll use it each time you dine with others or alone to remind yourself of the food hungry people in your community or home and to set in motion Avalokitesvara to help us provide food and laws and the channels through which we can provide food for the hungry. Laws that will ensure that no person goes hungry in America regardless of their age, status, ethnicity, or religion.

Here is our Prayer: Earth, water, fire, air and space combine to make this food. Numberless beings gave their lives and labors so that I may eat. May I be nourished so that I may nourish life.

Take the time today to share your wisdom and compassion for those who may go hungry today. Be the bodhisattva in whatever language you choose, but be one.

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

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Departing Wisdom

Source: Departing Wisdom

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