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Archive for the ‘chant’ Category

Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha): “Do not believe in anything imagessimply because you have heard it.”

It is okay to begin your journey by reading the books and watching the videos and once you’ve done that throw it all away and discover it for yourself in your own way and in your own time.  That will enhance your knowledge, give you practical experience in the area that you are working on and make it “real” in mind, body, and spirit.

I can watch all the great ice skaters in the world on TV, and I can go see them perform live in the stadium. I can feel the beautiful music vibrating in my ears and moving down into my body and enjoy its bliss.  But until I put on a pair of skates I don’t know what skating is!

Do not believe what others tell you about skating—experience it for yourself!  When I began studying metaphysics in the 90’s I was book learned, I taught classes, and shared my knowledge from the pulpit.  But until I started to meditate daily, and create my own treasure maps, and write my own affirmations and use them daily and saw the things manifest in my life—I really didn’t know what metaphysics was.

Even though I heard and read about the power of prayer until I prayed with one of my congregants in a hospice setting and saw and heard her in prayer with me I did not really know the power of prayer.  Her belief in that prayer helped her walk out of the center a few days later healed. She moved back to the north east where she continued to live many years in good health.

Once she came back to Florida to visit her family and dropped in on one of my classes and shared this story with us. Her doctor had told her that her healing from prayer changed his belief in God. My purpose is not to try to make you believe in a God or a supreme power or the like, but simply to illustrate the teaching of the Kalama Sutra, “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.”  The doctor had seen it with his own eyes in one of his own patients.

Thus we live a life of “free inquiry” not believing in anything simply because we have heard it or read it or seen it on the internet!  Regardless if the ideas are written in any ancient scriptures and in any ancient language. We must discover it for ourselves.  Live a life of free inquiry and watch what happens in your life when you do!

Let me know how that goes.

Shokai

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Emerson: Live, let live and help live.

Zen: Evening Gatha [Prayer]

Let me respectfully remind you.
Birth and death are of supreme importance.
Time swiftly passes and opportunity is lost.
We should all strive to awaken.
Awaken! Take Heed!
Do not squander your life!

Both of these quotes are profound in so many ways.  Each tests us to live our lives fully every day and make a difference in the world in which we live.  Notice that each asks us to go beyond our “self” and to help others.  To live life fully, to let others lead their lives fully, and to help those who need help so they too can live life fully.

How have you done that today?  How about this week, month, or year?  Every time you open the door for someone with their arms full of packages, or let someone in front of you in a traffic jam, or bring a meal to a sick neighbor you are “awake.”  Awake to the needs of another.  You have taken the opportunity to think of someone other than yourself, to identify a need, no matter how small it may seem—you have helped meet that need for another.

When you are walking through life looking down at your cellphone checking your Facebook page or texting someone—you are missing life at its fullest.  You may have missed an opportunity to help a stranger or a friend.  When you are focused on self only you miss many opportunities to live.

Just the other day I was teaching at the college on the 11th floor when we had a fire scare and everyone was told to immediately exit the building.  So all 16 of my students and I walked those 11 floors down to the street. One of them needed extra attention as she was pregnant.  I rushed ahead so that I could make sure all of my students were out of the building and safe.  As one of them walked through the door I was holding for them he said, “Oh, you don’t have to do that. Why are you holding the door for all of us and the others?”  The question had never come into my mind.  “Live, let live and help live” I guess.

Think of the fireman who runs into the fire, not away from it.  To the policeman or security guard who runs toward the shooter in a mall.  Or a teacher who stands in front of the children to protect them from the bullets being sprayed in his or her classroom.

Awaken, Take Heed! Do not squander your life! Find your purpose each and every day because time swiftly passes by and you do not want to lose the opportunity to be of service to others to go beyond yourself wherever and whenever you can.  Even if it’s simply to hold the door for another. Let me know how that goes!

ingassho

In gassho, Shokai

(1) Floris, O. Inspiration & Wisdom from the pen of Ralph Waldo Emerson. www.odeliafloris.com (page 9)

(2) Southern Palm Zen Group Service Handbook, Mitch Doshin Cantor.

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OM the one sound that crosses all boundaries, all religions, all philosophies, all prayers. As Herman Hesse writes of Siddhartha:

Then, from a remote part of the soul, from the past of his tired life he heard the sound. It was one word, one syllable, which without thinking he spoke instinctively. The ancient beginning and ending of Brahmin prayers, the holy “Om,” which had the meaning of the Perfect One, or perfection (page 52).”[1]

And those who study Tibetan Buddhism have probably chanted this hundreds or even thousands of time.

Chenrezig Mantra: OM MANI PADME HUNG

I found this beautiful explanation of it on http://www.dharma-haven.org/tibetan/meaning-of-om-mani-padme-hung.htm.

The six syllables perfect the Six Paramitas of the Bodhisattvas.

Gen Rinpoche, in his commentary on the Meaning of said:

“The mantra Om Mani Pädme Hum is easy to say yet quite powerful,
because it contains the essence of the entire teaching. When you say
the first syllable Om it is blessed to help you achieve perfection in the
practice of generosity, Ma helps perfect the practice of pure ethics,
and Ni helps achieve perfection in the practice of tolerance and
patience. Päd, the fourth syllable, helps to achieve perfection of perseverance, Me helps achieve perfection in the practice of concentration, and the final sixth syllable Hum helps achieve perfection in the practice of wisdom.

So in this way recitation of the mantra helps achieve perfection in the six practices from generosity to wisdom. The path of these six perfections is the path walked by all the Buddhas of the three times. What could then be more meaningful than to say the mantra and accomplish the six perfections?”

I encourage you to chant this and see how it helps you perfect the characteristics of the Perfect One who embodies those “six practices from generosity to wisdom.” This may change the way you live and love in 2016 and beyond. So chant away!

Keep me posted on how it goes.

In gassho,

ingassho
Shokai

[1] Loori, J.D. (2007) Teachings of the Earth Zen and the Environment. Shambhala: Boston & London.

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Sharing the Merit

Showing our gratitude, practicing the way of awareness
Gives rise to benefits without limit.
We vow to share the fruits with all beings.
We vow to offer tribute to parents, teachers, friends,
And numerous beings.
Who give guidance and support along the path (page 170-71).[1]

It just happens to be 5 days before Christmas as I am beginning to think about what I will write next for my blog. The theme has been prayer and so I scoured my numerous book shelves with books on prayer both Unity ones and Buddhist ones and low and behold what did I see this wonderful book given to me by my sangha, Chanting from the heart Buddhist Ceremonies and Daily Practices by Thich Nhat Hanh and the Monks and Nuns of Plum Village in France. I noticed there was a cloth bookmark and as I lifted it to open to the page there to my surprise was a short chant entitled “Sharing the Merit.”

How perfect is that! “God is good…all the time” as my friends at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale always say. And they are right, even when it doesn’t seem so. When we say and do the right things, right things happen in our lives. So not only is it important to believe the words above in our chant it is imperative that we live our lives as the example of them. And not just at Christmas time but 365 days a year.

Whatever you do don’t turn away your good when someone showers you with gratitude by saying, “Oh, it was nothing.” That demeans their gift of gratitude, and equally as important, you are turning away your good. In Unity we encouraged our students and congregants never to do that as you don’t know what good may be coming your way and if it hears those words of rejection it may decide to bless someone else with that “good.”

And that “good” could have been prosperity, a new job, a visit from a long lost friend or relative, or a healing. So always accept your good with grace and gratitude. Use the above sutra and share that grace with others whenever you get the opportunity. Christmas is the time of giving so instead of giving material possessions try giving kind words, your help, your love, and your gratitude and watch your good manifest in miraculous ways—especially without expectation of receiving.

Give simply for the gift of giving. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1]Hanh, T.N. et.al. (2007) Chanting from the heart Buddhist Ceremonies and Daily Practices. Parallax Press: Berkeley, CA

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Here is one of the sutras that we chant frequently in our services. We begin by chanting it in Japanese several times and then in English several times it is called Emmei Jukku Kannon Gyo. This is a wonderful sutra about Kuan-yin (Chinese) or Avalokiteshvara (Sanskrit). The literal meaning of Avalokiteshvara is sometimes translated as:

He who hears the sounds [outcries] of the World. Avalokiteshvara embodies one of the two fundamental aspects of Buddhahood compassion. Avalokiteshvara is the power of the buddha, Amitabha, manifested as a bodhisattva and appears as his helper. His limitless compassion expresses itself in his wonderful ability to help all beings who turn to him at times of extreme danger. In folk belief, Avalokiteshvara also protects from natural catastrophe and grants blessings to children (page 15).[1]

We talked about Avalokiteshvara when we chanted the meal gatha in Beyond Prayer Part 4. Today we often see him in the feminine form especially when we see statues or pictures of Kuan-yin. Regardless of form this chant will help us during times of need when we wish to seek compassion for ourselves or others. I often call upon Kuan-yin when I see tragedies around the world like earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, gun violence, and terrorist attacks.

EMMI JUKKU KANNON GYO (Kanzeon Sutra)
Kanzeon Namu Butsu
Yo Butsu U In
Yo Butsu U En
Bu Po So En
Jo Raku Ga Jo
Cho Nen Kanzeon [compassion]
Bo Nen Kanzeon [compassion]
Nen Nen Ju Shin Ki
Nen Nen Fu Ri Shin

Kanzeon!
Praise to Buddha!
All are one with Buddha
All awake as Buddha
Buddha, Dharma, Sangha
Eternal, joyous, selfless, pure
Through the day, Kanzeon [compassion]
Through the night, Kanzeon [compassion]
This moment arises from Mind
This moment itself is mind

This is an especially powerful chant that when used regularly can help our world become more compassionate and loving. Imagine what could happen if all the people of the world stopped on the same day and time and chanted this sutra. I think we could heal the world and everyone in it.

Even if people wanted to change the word Buddha to Christ or Mohammad, God/Allah, or Gaia we might heal the planet and all sentient beings in one fell swoop!

A world filled with compassion what a thought!

What a dream! Let’s make it so….

In gassho,

ingassho
Shokai

[1] The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen (1991) Shambhala: Boston, MA

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The way we recite this verse/gatha at our zendo and with our prison ministry groups in Florida is as follows:

All harmful karma ever created by me of old,
on account of my beginningless, greed, anger, and ignorance,
born of my conduct, speech and thought,
I repent of it now.

This is a very powerful gatha. As I’m reciting it things come into my mind very quickly where I violated the gatha. Sometimes I feel like I’ve violated it many times during that day or week. I might have done something that may have been harmful to myself or another. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I robbed a bank or anything like that, but it can be something as simple as speaking in a demeaning tone of voice, or gossiping about someone, or even thinking a not so nice thought about him or her. How about this one, “Oh my god, doesn’t she look in the mirror when she gets dressed in the morning?”

How about you? Do these types of thoughts and behaviors keep you from practicing the principles of love and compassion for all beings?

So why is it “harmful karma?” Because as my friends Armand and Angelina sing in their song “Love is a Boomerang” the verse goes:

“Love is a boomerang, give it away and it comes right back, so is anger so is judgment, give it away and it comes right back. Love is a boomerang. When you wake up in the morning try a different attitude instead of drinking coffee fill yourself with gratitude. Try loving everything you see it will change the way you live. Love is a boomerang, give it away because it comes right back!”[1]

If you follow Armand and Angelina’s advice you’ll see that what you give out comes back at you each day so make the giving peace, kindness, love, and compassion. Now that’s the perfect boomerang for me!

Remember that boomerang runs both ways and can come back at you pretty fast! So say this gatha as often as you need to it will help remind you of the power of your conduct, speech, and thought. Good luck with that!

Let me know how that boomerang works!

In gassho

ingassho

Shokai

My dear friends Armand and Angelina

armond and angelina

[1]You can find Armand and Angelina at their website: http://www.armandandangelina.com/

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Metta
May I be happy.
May I be free from stress and pain.
May I be free from animosity.
May I be free from oppression.
May I be free from trouble.
May I look after myself with ease.

May all living beings be happy.
May all living beings be free from animosity.
May all living beings be free from oppression.
May all living beings be free from trouble.
May all living beings look after themselves with ease.[1]

Kazuaki Tanahashi, in his book, Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary, writes this:

Buddhaghosa does not recommend that the practitioners simply focus on an aspiration that they themselves be happy or attempt absorption. Instead, the meditators are urged to use themselves as an example: “Just as I want to be happy and dread pain, as I want to live and not die, so do other beings, too.” And thus when we pray the Metta we pray and chant for self and others (page 136).[2]

As we watch the news each evening and see the students on campuses around the country protesting for things that I thought would not still exist in 2015: hiring discrimination, race discrimination, hate speech, unresponsive administrations, sexual assaults, and more. Each of these protesters want for themselves the list of things we recite in the first verse of the Metta and they also want it for everyone else on planet earth. And thus, we chant for them in the second verse.

We can add those in the prison system in America and those in the Middle East who are being killed and bombed in their countries and homes, and in airplanes flying through the air after a family vacation. As a human race we need to work at learning how to live together with our diversity and cultures and religions or we will soon be an extinct species and all that will be left are the birds, the bees, and the trees.

Besides chanting this verse each and every day with love and passion, what can you do each day in your families, homes, workplaces and communities? Think small or think big but please think and then act. You just may save someone’s life. You never know.

May you be happy and find ways to share your happiness with everyone you meet.

In gassho,

ingassho
Shokai

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

[2] Ibid.

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