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Archive for the ‘enlightenment’ Category

Avalokiteshvara is known as the person “Who hears the outcries of the World.” There are so many on this earth today who are crying out for help in war zones, from hurricane devastation, earth quakes, in draughts, and famines, through poverty, and more.

avalokitesvara B&W Foundations of BuddhismShe represents the feminine energy of the world as the “holy spirit” represents the feminine energy in the Christian triad of the “father, son, and the holy spirit.”  She represents the fundamental aspect of Buddhahood: Great compassion.  In China she is named Kuan-yin, in Japan Kannon (or Kanzeon or Kwannon), and in Tibet Chenresi. In some cultures, Avalokiteshvara is a man not a woman so which ever pronoun you prefer to use for Avalokiteshvara is perfectly divine!

As you see in the picture she is depicted with many arms. In other pictures she also has many heads. I know that some of you can relate to her very well. You see her reflection in you. Every time you encourage a child or an elderly person to go beyond their struggles and challenges you are Avalokiteshvara in action.  Every time you drop off food at the foodbank, or volunteer with a non-profit organization, or mow the lawn of a disabled vet Avalokiteshvara is moving through you as you.  I know sometimes you feel like you could use those extra arms and at least one extra head if you had access to them.  But I always say, “Fake it till you make it.”

Joan Halifax and Kazuaki Tanahashi translated the Sutra “Great Compassionate Heart Dharani” in the most beautiful way (pages 138-39).[1]  Below is a list of things for you to think about or meditate on. Are these actions appearing in your life on a regular basis?  If not, why not? How can you make these actions more alive and present in your life each and every day? If yes, think about a few examples of who, how, and when they appeared.

  • Embodies great compassion
  • Protects all those who are fearful
  • Grants all wishes
  • Overcomes obstacles
  • Purifies delusion
  • Represents shining wisdom
  • Transcends the world
  • Removes the harm of greed, hatred, and delusion
  • Removes all defilements.
  • Brings joy to others
  • Succeeds greatly in life and love

Make this your project for the year and let me know how it goes!

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

Picture: Avalokitesvara B&W Foundations of Buddhism

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Sitting Zazen facing wallThere are so many kinds of meditation from the simple Zen method of clearing your mind and counting your breath 1 on the in breath and 2 on the out breath.  Then there is the wonderful description by Frances W. Foulks in her iconic book Effectual Prayer where she writes: “To meditate on a subject is to give it attentive, earnest thought with the idea of having all its meaning revealed; that is, all the meaning that one is capable of receiving at the time (page 65).”[1]

These are different types of meditations, yet both are equally valuable in our lives.  Sometimes we simply want to go where “no” thoughts live.  Where the infinite universe and I are one.  Where no sound, or thought, or fear, or feeling exits.  Then we sit with the Buddha and become one with the breath and emptiness.

And sometimes we would like to sit as Frances describes in her chapter on meditation.

…each moment we give to meditation on the higher truths reveals to us fresh glories.  At any moment, in the night watches or in the midst of the duties of the day, in any place, on a busy street corner, at home or in the office, alone in the open field or deep in the woods, one can drop all outer things, relaxing from crowded thoughts and activities, and sink down, if for only a moment, into a holy meditation that will bring him forth filled with peace and strength, refreshed in mind and body (page 65).”[2]

She describes a “holy meditation” as something outside the ordinary and the mundane.  A place where perfect silence and love exists. Where no thoughts and all thoughts exist simultaneously.  The place outside of fear, anger, judgment, and anonymous.

Where Jianzhi Sengcan in his writing, Engraving Trust in the Heart, reveals

            One is inseparable from all.
All is inseparable from one.
If you realize this,
You go beyond thinking (page 72).[3]

This is the gift of meditation given freely to all who enter its silence, who chant the words of the teachers, and the words of our heart.  It is the giver of life and love, peace and tranquility at any time and in any place.  Regardless of the faith from which it comes we can blend our truths and our prayers and our chants and create what is right and perfect for us in the moment.  The importance is to begin a practice of prayer and meditation that works for you in that moment.  And in the next moment a different chant or prayer or breath will appear in the right and perfect time, at the right and perfect place, with the right and perfect tenor.

The thing is we have to be open and receptive to receive it and embody it and be one with it! Or expect nothing and be one with that. Are you?

[1] Foulkes F.W. (1945) Effectual Prayer. Unity School of Christianity: Lee’s Summit MO

[2] Ibid.

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

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8 fold path Bodhi TVBhikkhu Nyanasobhano writes, “Buddhism teaches that human beings are imperfect yet may become perfect by their own exertions, as long as those exertions are directed along the Noble Eightfold Path (page 89).”[1] I’ve shared this information with you in other blogs and other workbooks but it is always worth repeating especially in the times in which we are living!

So, what does it mean to be “right” and “honerable” anyway?

When you and I are in a conversation and we take different sides of a discussion or work process or relationship we will both believe that what we said, did, or expected was right, honest, and true.  And yet you may have experienced the same thing and saw it in a completely different light.  So where does honor come in this situation?

Bhikkhu goes on to write, “While everybody professes belief in ethical behavior, such belief likely amounts to very little unless backed by practical judgment, reverence for moral precepts, and a sense of honor (page 90).”[2]  Unfortunately, we don’t hear much about “a sense of honor” these days.  Do we even know what that means?  A man or woman who demonstrates honor is fair, truthful, trustworthy, and embodies integrity in their words and deeds. You can depend upon them to be there when you need them, to standup for you when you are not around, and always do the “right” thing at the right time.  Whatever that “right thing” may be at the time will be specific to the event in the moment in which it occurs.

It is often difficult to live a life of honor especially in our jobs and our relationships. However, as a Buddhist it is our obligation to do so no matter how “hard” it may be.  To uphold the Eightfold Path can be a challenge for sure; however, it is imperative to do so as it upholds our teachings and our way of life.  Bhikkhu goes on to write, “To live a life of honor is to examine and to act on the basis of timeless Dhamma [Dharma], which is universally beneficial and altogether superior to the rationalizations of the day (page 93).”[3] Day in and day out we rationalize our words and actions.  We find excuses for them by the jar full.  We try as hard as we can to “make them right.”   I don’t know about you but I always have to be “right.” Even when I’m not right!  But doing so takes me away from a life of honor.

In closing Bhikkhu writes, “The Buddha teaches us that our own deeds will be our inheritance and our refuge. They should therefore be such that we can live on and die on with a tranquil mind. By raising up a sense of honor we begin to lift our ideals and the trend of our habitual conduct from the level of perishing material to the higher, finer plane where the holy ones have stood—and where we too might someday stand (page 101).”[4]

Meet me there—won’t you?!

 

[1] Picture taken from Bodhi Television http://bodhitv.tv/article/171029a/

[2]Nyanasobhano, B. (1998) Landscapes of wonder Discovering Buddhist Dhamma in the world around us. Somerville Massachusetts: Wisdom Publications

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

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Thich Nhat HanhBhikkhu Nyanasobhano begins this section with a question, “What is the special meaning or value of renunciation (page 77)?”[1]  We are living in a society where more is better, more possessions will make me happy, and where life is a time and a place to see how many “things” I can collect.  My time in the prison ministry has been an eye opener for me.  Frequently, I have offered a book or something to one of our Zen members “behind the fence” and they’ve thanked me and refused the gift saying they only have a very small locker and it is filled to the brim already with no place for anything more.

Is your life filled to the brim already with things, ideas, emotions, problems, objects, likes, and dislikes so that there is no more room for anything more?  Or are you still trying to stuff more “stuff” into it?  And then one day you notice that you’re tired of dusting, cleaning, and taking care of all of your stuff!  Your relationships have fallen by the way side with significant others, family, and friends because of your “stuff.”  This stuff can be suffocating you and keeping you from the real important “stuff” like peace, love, and happiness.

Renunciation is a fancy word for giving something up.  How about making a list of the things you are willing to give up!  You might put some people and thoughts that are hindering you from living a life of peace, tranquility, and love on that list? Are you willing to give those people or thoughts up? I’m not saying it’s easy but it is imperative if you want to stay healthy in mind, body, and spirit. What can we replace them with? How about some inner peace, tranquility, and self-love?

He goes on to say, “Buddhism certainly does not require anyone to renounce the world entirely; rather, those who follow Buddhism with the aim of reducing present suffering may find that they are led naturally and gradually to more and more simplicity and renunciation in their everyday affairs (page 81).”[2]

Renouncing them means taking away their power. They get their power from your thoughts and those thoughts are often verbalized.  Just because I “think” something does not mean that I have to “say” something!  My mom used to tell me to “bite my tongue” when I wanted to say something mean or hurtful.  She knew it would only ruin my relationship with the person to whom they were directed. Mom was a very wise woman!

So, for today I am going to “renounce” negativity, fear, anger, and judgment. I am going to act and speak words of peace, tranquility, and love for myself and for everyone who crosses my path today. How about you?  What will you renounce today?

[1]

Nyanasobhano, B. (1998) Landscapes of wonder Discovering Buddhist Dhamma in the world around us. Somerville Massachusetts: Wisdom Publications

[2] Ibid.

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Bhikkhu writes:

This wisdom is not a mere pile of experience or a chance spark of intuition, but rather an uncovered lamp, a timeless light revealed by the removal of obstructions from the mind.  By this light perfected ones see the universe as it is and walk in confidence through perils, letting go utterly of all that causes distress or worry (page 69).

Buddha quote anger, goodness truth generosity

Buddhist words of wisdom. 

What a beautiful way to look at wisdom.  This wisdom is discovered and uncovered by our time on the “cushion” as the Buddhist meditator and student would say.  It is uncovering the power of silence and study and love.  Bhikkhu goes on to write, “Wisdom even in a lesser, modest degree is a shield against the blows of circumstance and a sustaining force amid loss and disappointment.  The Buddhist way is not to ignore troubles but to probe straight into them with a contemplative mind—in fact use those very troubles as catalysts and teachers (page 70).”

And in doing so we see our wisdom appear in our actions and words, in our faces as we grow old, in our wrinkles, and gray hair and more. Thank goodness for Miss Clairol!! He goes on to write: “All we know for sure about our future is that our hand will be less steady and our eye less keen (page 73).”

So, what are we waiting for, let’s begin our trip to enlightenment today, right now this moment, since this moment is all there really is.  Let us begin our travel toward continuous and constant demonstrations of peace, love, and compassion for self and all others through mindfulness and meditation. The catalyst that precedes all actions, of course, is our thoughts!

Bhikkhu suggests, “Rather than waiting for an unguaranteed future, we should practice now, using whatever time we have available, trying even in our busy hours to maintain mindfulness. Our business is to live now, through whatever circumstances our karma provides, as clear-headed seekers of the good and the worthy (page 73-74).”

Bhikkhu quotes the ancient King Pasenadi of Kosala in a conversation with the Buddha, “Since old age and death are coming upon me what else can be done but to practice Dhamma [the Buddhist teachings], to live calmly, to do good and to make merit? (page 75)”

Regardless of how old or young you are what does your daily practice look like? What teachings are you living by? How would others describe your daily encounters with them? Ask yourself this question: Are you making a positive difference in other’s lives uplifting, supporting, and helping them with your words and deeds. Or are you doing the exact opposite?  It all depends on you NOT them. Bhikkhu ends the chapter with these words: “…today is the moment when we must do what is needful.” Are you?

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Landscapes of Wonder book coverIn his chapter titled “Earth Tones” Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano talks about mindfulness and detachment and how they are like two sides of the same coin.

Observing the world and its changes mindfully, with detachment leads to disenchantment and peace and eventually liberation from suffering—Nibbana.  In order to restrain the reflex of greed it is important to try to stop looking at things crudely as potential enjoyments, and to see them more as means for understanding.  As long as we unthinkingly surrender to objects the power to infatuate or distract us or to force us into rash action, we live in peril, because of their inherent instability; but if we view with detachment both the repulsive and the love, if we see things exactly as they are and not as we would like them to be, then we can live safely and independently (page 64-65). [1]

When we become attached in this way what happens is the person, thing, object, or the words control us, have power over us, and thus can make our lives cold, bitter, sad, and lost. And yes, they can make us happy and feel loved, and worthwhile.  Regardless of whether we perceive these as good or bad just the naming of them tethers us to them through our thinking and our emotions. We are ultimately controlled by them.  To be free we want to be detached from them.  It is okay to observe them, recognize them, acknowledge them, and then let them go.  Detach them—see them floating away like a helium balloon.

Just this! Just this moment in time.  If the words are true of you it might be a good thing to say maybe I could have been nicer, or kinder, or more empathetic and then make a plan to do better the next time.  Then drop it!  Don’t be attached to the negative thoughts, the previous actions, or deeds.  Don’t ruminate over the past since you can’t go back and you can’t change the past!  The best thing to do is remove your attachment and move forward toward the good.

Avoid allowing others to control you by what they think, say, and feel about you.  Detach yourself from the objects you precede with the words “must have” in your life. Those are things that you have convinced yourself make you part of the team/crowd or worthy of someone’s attention or love. You were born divine and perfect regardless of how you feel today and regardless of what “they” think or say about you.  Detach yourself from their words and the names that they call you good, bad, or indifferent.

Simply observe the world without attachment. Make any changes you think are necessary.  Be the person your dog or cat things you are! Nyanasobhano says, “To be free of the tyranny of the senses—including the mind-sense—is to walk with mindfulness in the present moment, to think, act, and feel without distortion, to be unruffled and capable (page 65).” [2]  This is the person that you really are! Now act like it!

 

[1] Nyanasobhano, B. (1998) Landscapes of wonder Discovering Buddhist Dhamma in the world around us. Somerville Massachusetts: Wisdom Publications

[2] Ibid.

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Landscapes of Wonder book coverIn this chapter Bhikkhu talks about meditation as not just something to do when you are at the zendo, on your cushion at home, or in your yoga class. It is to live a life filled with opportunities to “mediate” in each and every moment to be mindful and to be present!

He writes:

To be effective in revealing truth, meditation or bhavana must include mindfulness (satti). Mindfulness means pure attentiveness, an alert, impartial function of mind that simply notes whatever appears by way of the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and mind itself.  Mindfulness does not cogitate, judge, or interpret; it only observes, naturally and without commentary, the actual character of an object or phenomenon (page 16-17). [1]

Wow!  Imagine how different your life would be if you walked around in a mindful way, without judgment, criticism, or expectation.  Without judgment!  I am not saying this effort won’t be difficult since we have been living a life filled with judgments and opinions and rules.  Yes, we need some so we won’t try to cross the street on the red instead of the green and won’t eat food that looks or smells spoiled and get food poisoning that’s for sure! But those are extremes.

I’d like for you to give this technique a try for just 5 minutes!  I’d like for you to simply go about your business focusing your thoughts on looking at things as they actually are.  This is a curb I need to step down.  Not—look at this curb it’s all busted up and the yellow paint is all chipped!  Where are my tax dollars going!?

You may be thinking I don’t have time to practice mindfulness or mediation I’m too busy!  Bhikkhu writes, “…insight meditation is not an extra duty to be piled on top of our already overburdened minds, but rather a way of looking more clearly at what is actually happening (page 18).”

He encourages us to “rouse and employ mindfulness in all situations, to perceive simply what is there, to note calmly and objectively the rising and the passing away of phenomena, specifically with regard to (1) the physical body; (2) pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral feelings; (3) mind or consciousness and (4) mental objects (page 18).”

In doing so you will see your life and the external world more clearly and yet less judgmentally.  You will see it just as it is.  He goes on to recommend that there is, “No need to comment on these; mindfulness merely notices, holding on to nothing. Likewise, the mind entertains countless ideas and perceptions.  They all come and go, come and go—and the consistent, moment by moment observations of these is meditation (page 19).

So, if you think in order to be meditating you have to be sitting on your cushion, or at the beach, or in the mountains you are wrong! When you find yourself focused on this “moment” without judgment you are meditating!  How easy is that…simply live in the now moment not in the past not in the future.  What a novel idea! Let me know how it goes!

[1] Nyanasobhano, B. (1998) Landscapes of wonder Discovering Buddhist Dhamma in the world around us. Somerville Massachusetts: Wisdom Publications

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