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Archive for the ‘clinging’ Category

Kaz Tanahashi writes: “He [Dogen] repeatedly emphasizes the interpenetration of practice and enlightenment. “Practice” here means ongoing daily activity centered in zazen. “Enlightenment” is actualization of Buddha nature through practice (page 19).”[1]

Thus Dogen img_9740believed there could be no separation between practice and enlightenment.  Enlightenment is practice and practice is enlightenment.  So if you are thinking that enlightenment is when you’re meditating, and you get the great AH HA or a bolt of lightening flashes through your brain, or you can walk on water or elevate yourself while sitting on the cushion yes it is and no it isn’t. Thus he called this “practice-enlightenment.”  And yet he kept on sitting and meditating and cooking rice while at the same time experiencing enlightenment.

He remained “non-attached” to the outcome, he held on to no particular aim he just went about doing what came before him.  Washing dishes, cooking, sitting, writing poetry, and making his bed. With each motion and action and thought he was there fully aware that this was his practice-enlightenment.  Still he stayed non-attached to whatever it was he was doing.  If the rice got burned or the flower died he did not ruminate over it, he simply let it go and started a new pot of rice and planted a new flower.

When was the last time you were able to do that?  Kaz writes, “Once a person is entirely free from attachment he experiences all things without any preconceptions. This experience is itself realization (page 19).”  This experience is not easy, but it is powerful! Once I am free of my attachments and my preconceptions I am in the field of practice-enlightenment where peace lives and grows.

Dogen wrote this beautiful poem which for me is all about practice-enlightenment:

Unusual Expression

Flowers in spring
Cuckoos in summer
Moon in autumn
Snow in winter
Serene and cool

What a beautiful picture of practice-enlightenment yet so powerfully simple. It reminds me of the famous Zen Proverb: “Before enlightenment chop wood-carry water. After enlightenment chop wood, carry water.”

 

[1] Tanahashi, K. (1985) Moon in a Dewdrop Writings of Zen Master Dogen North Point Press: New York

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Philosophers throughout time have tried to describe, discover, and analyze the “self.”  Buddhists are no different.  From the moment the Buddha began his journey toward his awakening until today we are still writing and thinking and talking about this thing we call the “self.”

Sensei Kaz TanahashiKaz Tanahashi writes about it so clearly. What an “original face” he has! Filled with joy for sure!

“A further irony is that only when a person is completely detached from himself does he find himself and realize what is common to himself and others, ‘self’ immediately opens into selflessness.  This selflessness is called ‘true self’ or ‘original face.’  It is also described as ‘something close’ or ‘what is intimate (page 17).’[1]

We talk to ourselves often and I wonder sometimes when I catch myself doing it who the heck am I talking to? Am I having a conversation with my higher self, my lower self, my giving and kind self or my grouchy and self-centered self? How can I have so many selves!? What face am I showing to others?

Which self is the real me?  You must discover that for yourself!  Yikes are you kidding?! Buddhists have been debating this forever, or so it seems.  So what do you think?  How do people see you?  What self do you show to others?  Do you pick and chose and show one self at work, one self at home, one self on the golf course, and yet another in the zendo, mosque, church or synagogue?

Do you have a list of attributes that you hold dear and hope that in even the most confusing or frightening moments that self will appear just when you need it?  Can you change yourself?  Or do you believe that it’s all baked in and are using the excuse: “That’s just the way I am! I’ve always been that way and I’m too old to change now!”

If that self is hindering you and harming others do you think you can change that idea of “self?”  Are you willing and able to look at yourself honestly and find those things that are harming you and others and change that part of yourself to someone that no longer desires to live a negative harmful life.  You can, if you want to. Why not become that loving, peaceful, compassionate, friendly, and most of all fun person to be around! It’s all up to you!  Your family and friends and your pets will be glad you are finally showing your “original face!”

 

[1] Tanahashi, K. (1985) Moon in a Dewdrop Writings of Zen Master Dogen North Point Press: New York

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timelessness

“Each moment carries all of time (page 13),”[1] writes Kaz Tanahashi in the section of Moon in a Dew Drop entitled “Timelessness of a Moment.”

Wow!  Now that’s a powerful thought for sure.

Yet throughout the  day we depend on time to be the arbiters of our life. We consider each minute, hour, day, week, and month and think and plan as to how it will go.  We have our daily, weekly, and monthly planners on line for instant access.  The new Google calendar now lets you have today’s view on the right side of your google email also! Some of us even have a paper one as well.  Okay, I confess that is me!

We are always looking toward something in the future: the next promotion at work, the birth of a child, the next vacation or holiday, our next meal, or the results of that final exam.  When we are doing this we have missed this very NOW moment.

Why is it when we are having fun time flies and when we are bored it drags on forever?  Remember that endless date or college class where the teacher just droned on and on.  I had a teacher once in college who read her lectures from a yellow legal pad and interjected 125 “ums” in there as well. How do I know?  I got so bored one day I simply made a hash tag in my notebook every time she said one and then I counted them up at the end of the class!

That teacher was my first real life experience of Taz’s quote…there was an eternity in every second of her lecture! He goes on to write, “But to one who is awakened, spring is just spring; it is not expected to turn into anything else (page 14).” [2]

Dogen illustrates it beautifully with one of his poems (page 14).[3]

 As usual
Cherry blossoms bloom
In my native place,
Their color unchanged—
Spring

So let us not fret over time or lack thereof.  Let’s bask in the joy of the timelessness of this moment, right here, right now—for now is all that really exists. I bet I just caught you looking at your watch or calendar!?

[1] Tanahashi, K. (1985) Moon in a Dewdrop Writings of Zen Master Dogen North Point Press: New York
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid

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Part 1 Introduction

Kaz Tanahashi writes this about Dogen’s teaching: Dogemoon in the dew drop picn uses the image of a dewdrop reflecting moonlight to describe the state of meditation.  He suggests that just as the entire moon is reflected in a dewdrop, a complete awakening of truth can be experienced by the individual human being (page 12).”

How do we do this as human beings with no super powers or time to mediate or desire to join a monastery?  What is the purpose of even looking toward “awakening?”  What does it even mean and why would I want to desire or seek it? This series of blogs will delve into this question.

For me I believe that most of us, including myself, “live a life of quiet desperation” as Thoreau described it.  Thoreau went on to write, “What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.”[1] We seem to be desperate about relationships, money, lack of time, finding that right and perfect job, and I could go on and on…but lucky for you I won’t.

So how can we use the principles of Zen Buddhism and the teachings of Dogen to help us move out of this life as described above and move into one of peace, love, and compassion for self and others?

In Dogen’s poem below he expands the concept of the “moon in a dew drop” even further.

The moon
Abiding in the midst of
Serene mind;
Billows break
Into light (page 13).[2]

When we decide to change the way we are living, and to discover the power of meditation we can be like the moon simply reflecting the good and the great that is everywhere present. That goodness and greatness is in us and around like the moon which is not the light itself but the reflection of light.  You and the moon are one. You have the ability to be the great reflection of all that is kind, and generous, and serene. As quietly and simply as the moon.

Be the light in someone’s life today. Be the lit side of the moon not the dark side. Find the serene mind in you that at this very moment is waiting for you to discover. The moon in a dew drop is always there. It is the “billows” that are breaking into light awakening in you as you in every moment. Do you see it…

[1] Henry David Thoreau, Walden, chapter 1, p. 8 (1966). Originally published in 1854.

[2] Tanahashi, K. (1985) Moon in a Dewdrop Writings of Zen Master Dogen North Point Press: New York

[3] picture AZ Quotes

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Sensei Kaz Tanahashi

Kazuaki Tanahashi

“The concentrated endeavor of the way I am speaking of allows all things to come forth in realization to practice going beyond in the path of letting go.   Passing through the barrier [of dualism] and dropping off limitations in this way, how could you be hindered by nodes in bamboo or knots in wood [concepts and theories] (page 105)?”[1]

I love this quote by Kazuaki Tanahashi from his beautiful book Zen Chants.  It brought to mind what often happens when I sit down to meditate.  Up come all the nodes and knots that I’ve experienced throughout the day or the week.  I focus on how hard they were to surmount or maneuver around.  When I catch these thoughts arising I think to myself, I need to let this go.  It is disrupting my meditation! And thus, the simple thought of letting go is now the catalyst for more thinking, self-recrimination, and more.

Round and round on the merry-go-round I go until my head is spinning and I’ve made myself dizzy.  So how do I “pass through the barrier of dualism?”  How about becoming one with the barrier? One with the thought, feeling, or idea.  To give it the freedom to be, to go, to sustain, or disappear without judgment, fear, or insistence.

To breath into it slowly, lovingly, and kindly.  We are so quick to provide loving kindness to a friend or family member in need.  To hold back recrimination or judgment.  To give them space to find themselves to live their life as they need to.  To respect their boundaries, dreams, and desires.  Yet, how often do we not give ourselves the space, advice, room, or love?

How often do we give ourselves permission to let go, to make mistakes, to get up in the middle of a sit when we have a cramp in our leg?  I recall some time ago when I was sitting in dokusan with one of my favorite teachers, Lou Mitsunen Nordstrom, and I told him I was going to start my own zendo and name it “If it itches, Scratch it.”  I may go to the fictious “Zen Hell” for that idea.  Luckily the only hell I have is between my own ears!  And for sure I need to “let go” of that idea!

Wow! Maybe I should start my new adventure by letting go of the idea that hell is between my own ears!  What a great ending for my workbook on The Secret to a More Fulfilling Life.

Definitely THE END!

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

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In Edward Espe Brown’s wonderful book, No Recipe–Cooking as Spiritual Practice, he writes:

 “We could do well to study how we do what we are doing—what is the most important point?—because as Suzuki Roshi mentioned, “If I tell you something, you will stick to it, but it is not always so. When you stick to something that I say, you will abandon your capacity to study and investigate for yourself (page 63).”

So, if you really want a more fulfilling life you need to discover what that means for you.  Try things out, practice, evaluate, and learn, and then decide if you want to stick to it or not.  I’ll bet it hasn’t been long since someone told you what to do and how to do it and maybe even when and why to do it.  I can see you shaking your head right now, I can hear you saying, “Yes, just 5 minutes ago!”  Like he or she knows how to do it better than you do!?

Edward does not want us to get caught in what he calls, “the realm of thinking” rather than observing for yourself how things happen in your experience and using that information to possibly make better choices for yourself.  I hear the little cogs in your brain turning around and around right now thinking of that last conversation you had with your boss, significant other, or coworker telling you how to do something.  You listen and begin to think it could be faster, quicker, more accurate and much more effective, or fun—if you didn’t do it that way!

I love what Edward says next, “When you observe closely how things happen in your experience, change comes from you, out of your experience, rather than being implemented top down from your thinking. ‘Don’t put another head over your head,’ is a Zen saying (page 64).”

500 Hats Dr. SeussOr are you like Bartholomew in Dr. Seuss’ book The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins creating the same old hat over and over!  Are you sitting in the same old chair with the same old ideas one on top of the other over and over?

I can see myself right now in the mirror with a giant pile of hats from large to small, from fancy to plain filled with my own creations, thoughts, ideas, and plans. I don’t want to be like Bartholomew with the same old hat over and over 499 times!  Once I “observe myself closely” I see myself doing the same old worn out thing over and over again. Only then can I throw away that plain old hat and create something new, innovative, exciting, and adventurous!

Maybe at onetime in the past “it was always so” but now—not so much! Now I might need to make a better or different choice for myself.  What hat are you wearing today?  What hat do you wish you were wearing today?

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Impermanence is everywhere in our lives and yet no one likes impermanence.  We all hope for our newest relationship that is going so well will be permanent, or that great new job we have will be permanent, or that new car will stay divinely perfect with no scratches or dents forever!  Oh well, they won’t!

Bhante Gunaratana writes about this in his wonderful book The 4 Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English as he tells the story of a student of the Buddha.  As he was meditating he heard the voice of the Buddha saying:

Destroy attachment to self,
As you could an autumn lily in your fist.
Cultivate the path to peace,
The Nirvana taught by the Well-Gone-One.

When he opened his eyes, the young monk saw that the beautiful lily, once so bright, fresh, and lively, had withered away.  So, he meditated on the impermanence of the beauty, freshness, and life of the lily. Reflecting that his own handsome, young, healthy, and strong body would grow old and wither just as the flower had, he attained liberation from attachment to his body, feelings, perceptions, thoughts, and consciousness (page 58).[1]

And thus, we too get all caught up in this world of attachment and impermanence even though we don’t realize it.  One of the things I learned early on in Zen was about attachment and so I began to see how long I could go without being attached to anything.  I had a new car and one day I saw a scratch on my door where someone must have knocked into my door with theirs.  My first response was to start to get mad, then I remembered my goal of “non-attachment” and so I let it go and continued to run my errands.

I was very proud of myself and as I went through the day I praised myself off and on for not getting attached to the scratch on the car until I realized that all

I had done was switch my attachment from that to being attached to my ability to “not be attached.”  Yikes! I had just attached my attachment to something else, oh boy! It ain’tKermit_the_Frog easy being green as Kermit the frog would say.  And it ain’t easy being me trying to be a Buddhist.

Wow, that Buddha guy sure didn’t make anything easy! Now I do know that my beautiful Kermit green Ford Fiesta is impermanent and after many years it will be worn out and I will have to give it up and get a new one and maybe even take it to the junk yard and watch it be torn apart or squeezed into that big car crusher and god only knows where MY car is going!

But little-by-little after 12 years of studying and practicing Buddhism I am able to be less attached to things.  I can throw out old clothes that don’t fit me anymore, I got rid of my old silverware that had nothing matching and bought a new set, and I can give up eating ice cream before I go to bed.

Okay that last thing was a lie!  But I’m working on my attachment to the Heavenly Hash ice cream (How’s that for an oxymoron?). I only eat it once or twice a week now.  Soon all attachments will be gone for it and I just hope and pray I don’t switch it for chocolate peanut butter ice cream instead!  Oh well, I guess I’m still a work in progress.  How about you?

[1] Gunaratana, B.  (2012) The 4 Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English, Wisdom Publications: Boston

[2] picture of Kermit: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/…

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