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Archive for the ‘enlightenment’ Category

basket of fresh fruitThere are many variations of the prayers that the Buddhist communities use before they eat to bless their food.  This is the one we use at the Southern Palm Zen Group.  I like it a lot as it is simple and to the point.

“Earth, water, fire, air and space combine to make this food, numberless beings gave their lives and labors so that we may eat, may we be nourished so that we may nourish life.”

Thus we focus not on the “food” but the reason that we eat: to nourish our bodies and minds.  It’s really that simple.  As humans became more social beings we began to eat for pleasure and times of sharing, fun, and celebration with our families and friends. We created reasons to eat and to give thanks before the meal to show our gratitude for the food, our families, and our friends.

Brown encourages us to do a little less “picking and choosing” when it comes to food.  He says, “So instead of picking and choosing, as students of life we might at times choose to practice acceptance, gratitude, enjoyment, thanksgiving (page 145-6).” That is easy to do by always blessing your food before you eat.

I used to teach the kids in Sunday school when we had snack time to say, “Ruba dub dub thank you God for the grub.” Some of the parents did not like it but the kids loved it and it started them off on a great practice of giving thanks for the food they had been given–even if they disliked it.  It can also be a time when you can share with them that many children have no food to eat and to be grateful and happy that they have food on their table.  To value the food that they have will help them have compassion for those who have none.

Giving thanks is something we all do at Thanksgiving with our families and friends sitting around the table, but I hope you’re doing it every day not just one or two days out of the year.  You’ll be surprised how much better the food will taste, and how much less Pepto-Bismol you’ll have to take after the meal.  Regardless of who cooked it–the  worst or the best cook in your family–giving thanks will make it go down easily!

Just remember what Mary Poppins said: Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down or Uncle Joe’s chili…well maybe not Uncle Joe’s chili…but giving thanks may help!

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Once again I opened up this wonderful book “Teachings of Zen” getting ready to write the next section of my newest blog.  It is the first week of our new year 2019 and I was thinking about what I accomplished in 2018 and what I might accomplish in 2019 and then I read these words:

book cover Teachings of Zen Thomas Cleary“You do not plunge into sentiments of the ordinary, nor do you fall into the understanding of the sage. Empty and spiritual, serene and sublime, you do not tarry anywhere but attain fulfillment everywhere.

At this time you should know there is a final statement; only then are you a mature person. Completing the task of the mature person is called transcending the world in the midst of the world, highest of all. Hai-yin (page 142).”[1]

The first paragraph resonated with me as I thought about the juxtaposition of these two ideas. The ideas that we hold in Zen Buddhism are just exactly as Hai-yin describes: empty and yet spiritual, serene and at the same time sublime.  It is exactly like all of our lives the opposites that seem to attract each other, the time on the cushion when we attempt to “empty” the mind and yet think of our spiritual character and that being the reason we are trying to “empty” the mind.  Yikes!  The juxtaposition of the conundrum of the teachings of Buddhism.

And yet Hai-yin ends these thoughts saying: Empty and spiritual, serene and sublime, you do not tarry anywhere but attain fulfillment everywhere…. Completing the task of the mature person is called transcending the world in the midst of the world, highest of all (page 142).”[2]

Your challenge of this year will be transcending the world while being in the midst of it.  Let’s not be bogged down in this process and adding to our troubles and woes.  Let us just be aware of the juxtaposition of life and stroll through it with ease, peace, and compassion for self.  Let’s look down on our selves as if we were out of our bodies simply watching and listening without judgment.  Let’s transcend our fears, likes, and dislikes and remember it’s “just this” and nothing more and nothing less.

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

[2] Ibid.

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ying and yangIn Part 8 we talked about True Speech and once we’ve mastered that we can move on to what Pei-chien (1185-1246) calls “Action and Stillness.”  Cleary quotes him as saying “Let your actions be like clouds going by; the clouds going by are mindless.  Let your stillness be as the valley spirit; the valley spirit is undying.  When action accompanies stillness and stillness combines with action, then the duality of action and stillness no longer arises (page 116).”

I just love the visual of the clouds floating by with ease and grace not caring in which direction they go as things out of their “control” move them through the sky or cause them to disappear without worry or frustration.  They simply have no clinging and once in a while they may shed a “tear” or block the sun but before we know it things will change.  Another cloud may have taken its place, or the cloud will have moved so we can see the sun shining once again. Such is life as we realize, “and this too shall pass” like the movement of the clouds and the sun in our lives.

Thus to focus our attention on the stillness, as Pei-chien says, when the action and the stillness combine, they negate each other and neither arises and both arise simultaneously as one.  We can not have success without an action.  We may have finished our college classes and graduated and got hired by a great company.

We may have married the one we love and created a wonderful life partnership.  To be successful there will be times of actions together and actions alone. There will be stillness when all you do is sit quietly in each other’s arms or in each other’s memories if you are far apart. The duality no longer arises, and we are one.

Regardless of how long the new job lasts or the relationship lasts the stillness and the actions will continue in your life. It is how we see them that determines our life course. It is how we deal with them that makes us who we are. It is where we put our focus on the actions or the stillness or both that can make all the difference.

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

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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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