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Ying-an (d. 1163) is quoted as saying, “The way the old adepts of ancient times asked about the path was not competitive or contentious; they would inquire of anyone with some strength, even a child.  Only thus may people be called students of the way (page 96).”[1]

It is a very difficult thing to be noncompetitive in life today with the push at work to do more and make more than the person sitting in the office or cubical next to us. How about the competition of who made the best dish at the potluck supper?! It sure makes it hard to be noncompetitive!  It is almost impossible to feel comfortable asking someone for help or advice today. But Ying-an was right—it is not the way of the Buddha to look outside of ourselves for validation or even inside us for validation.  The point is simply to be living the life of the Buddha way. To be open to learning new things and growing through that process.

As an ancient Zen story goes:

After winning several archery contests, the young and rather boastful champion challenged a Zen master who was renowned for his skill as an archer. The young man demonstrated remarkable technical proficiency when he hit a distant bull’s eye on his first try, and then split that arrow with his second shot.  “There,” he said to the old man, “see if you can match that!” Undisturbed, the master did not draw his bow, but rather motioned for the young archer to follow him up the mountain.  Curious about the old fellows’ intentions, the champion followed him high into the mountain until they reached a deep chasm spanned by a rather flimsy and shaky log.  Calmly stepping out onto the middle of the unsteady and certainly perilous bridge, the old master picked a far away tree as a target, drew his bow, and fired a clean, direct hit. “Now it is your turn, “he said as he gracefully stepped back onto the safe ground.  Staring with terror into the seemingly bottomless and beckoning abyss, the young man could not force himself to step out onto the log, no less shoot at a target.  “You have much skill with your bow,” the master said, sensing his challenger’s predicament, “but you have little skill with the mind that lets loose the shot.”[2]

The young champion did not use his “Buddha Mind” that’s for sure.  Thus life is not always about competition with our coworkers or friends trying to “one-up them.”  Life is best lived when we recognize our skills and talents and use them rightly.  It is best lived when we recognize that we need help and ask for it, when courage appears miraculously right when we need it, and when we take more time to meditate/sit.  It is best lived when we allow ourselves to go deep within where all the answers really exist.  I’ve often found that when I quit looking for the answer—it pops up while I’m doing the dishes or walking the dogs. It comes when I drop my competitiveness, my panic, and my egocentric ways.  It comes when I simply focus my attention fully on the task at hand and leave the rest to my Buddha mind!  How about you?

 

[1] Cleary, T. (1998)   Teachings of Zen. New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc

[2] http://jhvonline.com/the-perfect-story-its-about-where-you-draw-the-target-p10650-147.htm

picture: Archer Fantasy Bow Free image PX edited

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Wondering what to do for Bodhi Day to commemorate the day of enlightenment for Shakyamuni Buddha?  Well I found this great information on a website called “do it yourself” and it includes lots of fun things to do beyond just meditating/sitting. Here is the link to this wonderful article https://www.doityourself.com/stry/bodhi-day

The Zen groups that I sit with do similar but different things.  In Boca Raton, Florida, the Southern Palm Zen Group website can be viewed at http://www.floridazen.com and email them at southernpalmzengroup@gmail.com to make a reservation to sit with them. They will be sitting on Saturday the 8th all day starting at 8 AM ET at the Unitarian Universalist Church on St. Andrews.  Please contact the Florida group to make a reservation and let them know you are coming so they can have a cushion or chair ready for you.

The group I sit with in Pueblo, Colorado, will be doing a two part event.  Friday night starting at 6:30 PM till 9 PM MT and all day Saturday sitting from 8 AM til 5 PM MT at the Center for Inner Peace in Pueblo (www.wetmountainsangha.org).  Contact them for additional information or to make a reservation to join them via email wetmountainsangha1@gmail.com.

I hope that wherever you are you will set aside some time to meditate on this special weekend even if there is not a group to sit with near where you live.  The Buddha just sat beneath a tree and while doing so he came up with the “Nobel Eightfold Path” and our “Four Noble Truths.”  I can’t wait to hear from you about what you discovered on this wonderful day of quiet meditation.

Or check out this great website for a place to sit near you: https://findasit.com

In gassho, Shokai gassho

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Yin-an (d.1163) is to have said, “This mind cannot be transmitted but can only be experienced in oneself and understood in oneself. When you get to the point where there is neither delusion nor enlightenment, you simply dress and eat as normal, without a bunch of arcane interpretations and lines of doctrine jamming your chest, so you’re clear and uncluttered (page 89)”[1] No picking and choosing as we often say in Zen.

Sometimes I think that people misunderstand Buddhism and think that it is the way and the answer to all of their troubles and woes.  They believe that if they can just meditate enough, chant enough, pray enough, eat the right foods enough their life will be transformed by some “Magic of Zen.”  Then when it doesn’t happen, they stop sitting, meditating, practicing, and begin to disparage the teachings as if “they” were the problem.

When they got to the point where they felt their practice did not bring them perfect health, wealth, happiness, and peace of mind they threw away their cushion and their Buddhist books and went their merry way looking for the next quick fix.  But Buddhism is not a quick fix it is a way of life.  It gives us the tools to deal with all of our challenges and joys. It offers us some time in stillness and quiet. Both of which are lacking in our society for sure. So no matter how we feel before we sit down or how we feel after we get up, we are changed by simply taking the time to go within and quiet our minds if only for a nanosecond!

Mark twain picThis mind is a dangerous thing!  Mark Twain is quoted as saying “I must have a prodigious amount of mind; it takes me as much as a week, sometimes, to make it up!” I wonder what would happen in our lives if we let our hearts be in charge instead of the silly old mind?! That can happen with the Magic of Zen…one breath at a time.

[1] Cleary, T. (1998)   Teachings of Zen. New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc

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craggy-gardensFu-jung is to have said, “A shortcut into the path is to be inwardly empty and outwardly quiet, like water that is clear and still, myriad images reflecting in it, neither sinking nor floating, all things spontaneously so (page 81).” [1]

For most Americans we are seeking and searching for the quick fix, the instant coffee, the two minutes in the microwave supper, and the long-lasting loving relationship that appears without work or dedication or commitment!  What?!

Life is not filled with shortcuts or Minute Rice or instant pudding.  All jobs, relationships, and projects grow through time with love, life, spontaneity, and talent.  The best homemade bread is kneaded lightly and slowly then left covered by a warm towel to slowly rise. Then it is lovingly placed in a hot oven where it slowly turns into the most wonderful smelling bread.  When we cut and cover the bread with butter it melts easily, and the smell of the hot yeast is unbelievable.  The smell draws us to the bread and its life-giving substance without even thinking about it.

If shortcuts are taken the bread will not rise correctly and it will be flat and hard and taste like cardboard.  Sort of like some of my personal relationships in the past that I rushed through. They were handled with harshness instead of kindness and love and ended up in disasters.  The person was unable to “rise” to the occasion because of my words, deeds, or actions.  Why? Because I wanted to take the shortcut, the easy path, the self-centered path. However, the I, Me, MY path ended at the edge of the cliff and the relationship or the job died.

Fu-jung wants us to see our path in an open-minded way inwardly empty leaves room for new things and ideas and relationships. Requires us to think spontaneously to go with the flow! To stop comparing everyone and everything to someone or something in the past, neither sinking nor floating.    What a great challenge and if worked at slowly and lovingly like our bread our lives will be filled with great adventures, loving relationships, and spontaneity! How great is that!

[1] Cleary, T. (1998)   Teachings of Zen. New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc

[2} Photo that I took of my friends house in Tellico, TN

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Cleary writes a section in this wonderful book entitled “Evaluating Teachers.”  Being a teacher for most of my life I was excited to read what he had to say about us.  I was not surprised at the wisdom that he shared from Ta-sui who lived between 834-919.  He is quoted as saying:

baby monk walkingWhen I was journeying, I didn’t choose communities on the basis of whether or not they had material provisions; I was only concerned with seeing whether their perception indicated some capacity.  If so, then I might stay for a summer or a winter; but if they were low-minded, I’d leave in two or three days. Although I called on more than sixty prominent teachers, barely one or two had great perception.  The rest hardly had real true knowledge—they just want your donations (page 28).[1]

Thus to find the right teacher for you is not easy.  There are so many people sharing their spiritual adventures, knowledge, thoughts, ideas, and feelings today on line everywhere.  There are people who offer classes and write books and profess spiritual awakening or knowledge and charge huge amounts of money to attend their classes or webinars or lectures.  I am not suggesting that they are all charlatan’s, but my mom always reminded me “buyer beware.”

I remember when my nieces were teenagers and the Moonie’s were everywhere trying to recruit members to their cult a neighbor tried to warn my sister about them.  She simply laughed and responded, “Are you kidding there is no way my two daughters would stand on the street corner for free and handout flyers!”

As a Buddhist we don’t proselytize and stand on corners or in airports handing out flyers. We spread our wonderful teaching by living it.  By providing an environment of peace, love, and compassion in our words and deeds.  Then someone might say, “Wow you have such a peaceful energy about you. How are you able to do that when there is so much negative energy in the world today?

Then and only then do I bring up my studies in Buddhism and meditation.  Their question can open a conversation at which time I offer my card for the person to check out my blog, or join us at the Zendo for a meeting, or share one of my workbooks with them.  No pressure, no proselytizing, nothing but information, compassion, and love which is the greatest teacher of all. And it’s Free!  Yes, I do donate money to my zendo to keep the lights on and the doors open but it is a gift, not a requirement and thus I give freely.

Live your truth and you’ll shine like the morning star for all to see.  You’ll be the light of peace wherever you go and unknowingly make a positive difference in someone’s life.  It’s a quietly simple yet powerful way to make a difference in the world in which we live.  Be the peace you want in your life…simply be it—that is the greatest teacher of all.

[1] Cleary, T. (1998)   Teachings of Zen. New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc

[2]Picture Gateless Gate-Page 6- Seon Buddhism http://www.buddhism.org

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Cleary quotes Pai-chang in his book who admonishes us:

buddha-quote-thinkingDon’t seek a buddha, don’t seek a teaching, don’t seek a community. Don’t seek virtue, knowledge, intellectual understanding, and so on.  When feelings of defilement and purity are ended, still don’t hold to this non-seeking and consider it right.  Don’t dwell at the point of ending, and don’t long for heavens or fear hells.  When you are unhindered by bondage or freedom, then this is called liberation of mind and body in all places. (page 17). [1]

So it seems the ancient teachers of Zen were offering us a new way of looking at our lives and asking us to trust them that this method of thinking will liberate us from our worries, anxieties, and doubts about our lives.  We have become bound by our ancestries, our schooling, and religious teachings, our political persuasions, and our 24-hour news channels.  If you are CNN or MSNBC watchers, you’d never turn on Fox News or the PBS News Hour.  Afraid that you’d be swept away by their words and ideas and they might clash with your other teachings, thoughts and beliefs.

If we decide to be free thinkers or no thinkers or to free ourselves from our picking and choosing, we can become liberated in body and mind.  To not allow other’s words or actions make us happy or sad is a giant leap into peace.  Unhinder yourself from both bondage and freedom as Pai-chang says and peace will appear.

When we stop picking and choosing, we are “unhindered by bondage OR freedom.” Just this!  So many lessons in Buddhism end in the joy of knowing that life is simply “just this” whatever it is in this moment is simply what I am experiencing.

I like to simply shrug my shoulders, shake it off, and go get myself a bowl of Rocky Road ice cream and enjoy “just this.” While I’m doing this, I am liberating my body and mind!  Care to join me?  Rocky Road is definitely the Magic of Zen!

[1] Cleary, T. (1998)   Teachings of Zen. New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc

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Kermit_the_Frog Cleary titles a section in the book “The Great Task.”  “We are swept away by memorizing sayings and living inside conceptual consciousness. Has it not been said, ‘Concepts act as robbers, consciousness becomes waves’?   If you have not mastered the great task, nothing compares to stopping, in the sense of quiet cessation, the purifying and quieting of the body and mind.  At all times avoid dwelling obsessively on things, and it will be easy to unveil this (page 42).” [1]

Boy is this a “great task.”  There is not a moment in the day that goes by that we are not swept away by some belief we hold, some information that we’ve read, some concept that we were taught in our schools, churches, synagogues, or mosques!  When we do we often end up stressed out, tired, confused, and fearful.  Not everything that we read or learned is “true.”  Some states have taken events in history out of their history books because they did not like something that happened.  Yes, as hard as that might be to fathom it is true!

So this is just another reason to practice the principles of Buddhism and not obsess over things.  It is so important when we are meditating/sitting that we clear our minds of everything.  Yes, that includes the wonderful sutras and teaching of Buddhism.  That we simply clear our minds of things and focus on the breath.  We need to give our “minds” a rest!  We exhaust ourselves day in and day out with those thoughts.  Thinking propels us toward good and bad things but either are not bringing us peace, quiet, and rest.  The Empty Mind will be our only salvation as the Christians might say!

We need to give our body and mind a rest on a regular basis each and every day.  We need to tamper down the obsessive thinking and actions.  When we do we’ll see that this peace heals our body and mind without medicine.  Brings joy into our lives.  Finds the good in others. Helps us ignore the silly things the people around us do and say. Drops our blood pressure, removes our nervous stomach, and allows us to sleep like a “baby” as my mom used to say!

Avoid obsessing about things starting today and watch what happens in your life!  Try it—I  think you’ll like it!  The Magic will reappear in your everyday life!

[1]

Cleary, T. (1998)   Teachings of Zen. New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc

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