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Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha): “Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find anything that agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

This week we finished the Jewish tradition of observing Passover and for the Christians Easter and for the Muslims they support them both in some respects.  Within those religions there are traditions and prayers and ceremonies that are used this time each year.  The Jewish tradition of not eating leavened bread is one most people have heard of and everyone has seen the shelves filled with matzo in your grocery stores.

Thus the Buddha admonishes us not to celebrate our traditions because our parents did or our grandparents did but because there is value in doing so.  The traditions allow us to take time out of our daily chores and focus our thoughts and energy on something that will help us grow and be a better person.  They give us an opportunity to look at our behaviors and examine their purpose and outcomes and how they affect our lives, our families, and our communities.

They give us the opportunity to look at our spiritual lives and how we practice our beliefs on a daily basis.  They help us examine our ethics and morals, and our behaviors. As the Buddha said, they give us the opportunity for “observation and analysis.”  At the Southern Palm Zen Group we celebrate one thing each year Rohatsu “the day on which according to tradition Shakyamuni Buddha sitting in meditation under the Bodhi-tree at the first glimpse of the morning star attained enlightenment.”[1] Our celebration is sitting (meditating) through the night, if you can do it, if not, sitting as long as you are able.

Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”Socrates

Dr. Simon Longstaff, executive director of the St James Ethics Centre in Sydney, Australia, wrote in the New Philosopher (June 2, 2013),

“I would suggest that one can make sense of Socrates’ claim if it is understood to mean something like – those who do not examine their lives (make conscious ethical decisions) fail to live a life that allows them to experience being fully human. Thus the allure of those who offer to provide clear answers, simple directions, precise instructions (whatever) so that you may set aside examination and merely comply, or unthinkingly follow custom and practice – perhaps living a conventionally moral life rather than an examined ethical life. One can easily imagine how pleasant an unexamined life might be. ”[2]

What does “being fully human” mean to you?  When was the last time you sat down and really examined your life?  What did you find? Finally, what did you actually do with what you discovered?

Keep me posted!

Shokai

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

[2] http://www.newphilosopher.com/articles/being-fully-human/

 

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Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha): “Do not believe in anything because it is found written in your religious books.

The Rigveda is an ancient Indian text one of the four canonical sacred texts of Hinduism written between the 5th and 2nd century BCE, the first four books of the Bible Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers were written between the 6th and 2nd century BCE, the Tao Te Ching in the 6th century BCE, the Buddhist Sutras between the 2nd century BCE and the 2nd century CE, the New Testament in the 1st century CE, the Qur’an is the newest written around 632 CE.  Wow!  If you can remember all of that you’re better than I am!

 What’s my point?  The people who wrote these books were wonderful people who wanted to memorialize their beliefs and experiences for those who would come after them.  They were trying to explain, nature, birth, death, life, good and evil and more.  Science was not at the level it is today, they only had their eyes, ears, nose, and sometimes mouth to discover and memorialize their lives and how they dealt with what happened to them and in them in their waking and sleeping hours.

This is neither good nor bad—it just is.  Thus if saying a bed time Buddha at Bedtimeprayer will help keep you alive through the night—great what can you lose! If not eating meat is how you desire to live your life wonderful, go for it.  If eating meat but not pork or crustaceans (lobster, crabs, shrimp, etc.) is your choice that’s great too.  In ancient times you might have been better off not eating pork because it caused an infection we know as trichinosis, but so did lots of other foods.  Just a few more reasons “not to believe” everything found in your ancient texts.

My mom believed it about the pork and thus when we had pork chops for dinner they were so well done they tasted and acted like shoe leather!  That was one of the nights I always found a reason to eat at my best friend’s house for dinner.  Another time I bought some “free range chicken” and served it to her for supper.  I was bragging about how great they were and that all the chickens should be freed.  Once again mom told me a “farm story.”  “I fed plenty of chickens on the farm growing up and let me tell you they ate anything and everything in sight, at least this way their waste ends up far enough away that they can’t get at it.” You’ve got to love my mom!

So in this day and age with our education, science, technology, the internet, and more you have the opportunity to be your own researcher and discover about life for yourself.  If following your religious and family traditions is important in your life…go for it.  Just remember that not everything written in them is true…then move full speed ahead and live the life that works for you and spreads peace, love, and compassion wherever you go!

In gassho,

Shokai

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If you are seeking to live your life through right vision and incorporating more good into your life you’ll enjoy The Kalama Sutra and its teachings.  This teaching encourages free inquiry. It has been said that it is also “exempt of fanaticism, bigotry, dogmatism, intolerance and more.” In this new workbook and blog series I am going to share with you some ideas on how to live that life through your thoughts and actions each and every day.

The Kalamas were a group of people who lived in a town called Kesaputta during the time Shakyamuni Buddha walked the earth.  Many came to see him teach and asked him questions.  The Sutra shares the questions and the answers.  I hope you enjoy the conversation!

Many wonderful teachers, translators, and authors have divided this sutra into several different topic areas that are listed below.  We will be taking each topic and discovering what it means in our lives, how we can live it, and what will happen for us when we do. If this type of inquiry excites you I hope you’ll join me on this new adventure in Buddhism.

Buddha Do not believe in anything pic and quote

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Emerson:  “Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which animates aajahn-brahmll whom it floats, and you are without effort impelled to truth, to right, and a perfect contentment.”[1]

Zen Ajahn Brahm: “Contentment is the opposite of a faultfinding mind.  You should develop the perception of contentment with whatever you have, wherever you are, as much as you can (page 44).”[2]

Wow!  What a concept!  In America we find ourselves often in a place where contentment seems impossible.  Especially during times like Christmas.  From the time we are very little until we die we make lists all year long asking for the newest toy on TV or the bike like your best friend has, or a new car like the neighbor down the street just got.  We long for material things and money and trips and more.

When was the last time you were content with what you had?  When was the last time you spent time in meditation and prayer where your mind was not drug off into thoughts of discontent?  Discontent with your relationships, your job, your income, with your health, or the world in general.

Don’t get me wrong there are a lot of people in need all over the world. In need of food, shelter, and safety from floods and bombs and more.  And we should do all we can to help them from supporting peace not war, supporting food banks, homeless shelters, veteran’s benefits, and more.  However, we must start with ourselves and our own consciousness.  Start with the little things and work your way up to the big things!  If you need to lose weight and you create a plan to do so celebrate even the smallest improvement be it losing three pounds, exercising three days in a row, or changing your diet to healthier foods this week.

Be open to “baby steps—baby steps” as Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss) told his patient Bob Wiley (Bill Murry) in the movie “What about Bob.”  Find contentment in the little things wherever you can—whenever you can.   Longing for things that are out of reach makes you discontented with life and robs you of your contentment and your peace and joy in the present moment.  It doesn’t matter whether that discontentment is about things, places, or people.

We attract what we think about the most.  So if you want peace meditate and focus on peace and like a magnet you will draw it to you!  Remember contentment is hiding within it! If you want better health, or a different more fulfilling job, or a new relationship do the same and watch what happens!  Open your mind to receive your good by placing yourself in the middle of contentment!

Let me know how it goes!

In gassho,

Shokai

 

[1] http://www.azquotes.com/author/4490-Ralph_Waldo_Emerson/tag/contentment

[2] Brahm, A. (2014) Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond A Meditator’s Handbook. Wisdom Publications: Boston

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Emerson: “The way to mend the bad world is to create the right world (page 52).”[1]

Zen Robert Aitken: “As Yasutani Roshi used to say, the fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there (page 169).”[2]

johnglenn-14_Today is the perfect day to begin mending our world.  Yesterday December 8th we saw the passing of John Glenn. This day we celebrate his life.  He was “one of the bravest men in America he took flight as the first man to orbit the Earth in 1962 and at the age of 77 in 1998 became the oldest man in space as a member of the seven-astronaut crew of the shuttle Discovery.[3]

You may not have ever gone into outer space but the most important space and flight that you take begins every morning when you awake.  What trip will you take today?  Where will you travel? Will you expand your outlook and your reach to bigger and better places and things? Remember, as John Glenn might say, “the skies the limit.” Or will you stay on the same trajectory as your past with small thinking, fearful thinking, or will you be thinking less of the “other” who has a different religion, nationality, belief, or goal than you do?

How high can you fly today? How far can you reach to make this a better place to live for all humans, animals, and Mother Earth? As Emerson said, “The way to mend the bad world is to create the right world.”  Do you have “The Right Stuff” like John Glenn had? What “right stuff” can you create today?  Can you look at others today and see them as part of humanity in all its brilliance and color and uniqueness?

Let’s start by mending our own world with all the people and situations around us today…from the grouchy clerk at the grocery store, to the person who cut you off on the highway, to the neighbor who can’t keep his kids off your lawn.  Let’s remember John Glenn today every time we limit ourselves or others and know that if John can do it so can we!  Begin today to “create the right stuff, the right world, the right you.”

May he rest in peace….

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Dillaway, N. (1949) The Gospel of Emerson. The Montrose Press: Wakefield MA

[2] Aitken, R. (1984)  The Mind of Clover Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics New York: North Point Press

[3] http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2016/12/john-glenn/john-glenn.html#

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Dillaway, N. (1949) The Gospel of Emerson. The Montrose Press: Wakefield MA

[2] Aitken, R. (1984)  The Mind of Clover Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics New York: North Point Press

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Emerson: “The mid-world is best. (page 30)”[1]images

Zen: “It was this balanced ‘middle path’ approach, avoiding the two extremes of stagnation and excessive striving, which had enabled him [Siddhartha Gautama] to gain awakening (page 38).”[2]

The extremes of our life are what causes most of our pain and suffering.  How often have we gone to excess in even the simplest things, too much food at a restaurant or a family dinner or community pot luck supper?  How often have we spoken out of turn and thus hurt our self or another?  How often have we put so much time and energy into our work or a hobby that our family and personal lives suffered?

Many people have gone to the extreme with a way of living, eating, exercising, working, or fasting. I once had a congregant who would only eat dark green leafy things and I had a friend in college who thought that if one glass of carrot juice was good for her six a day would be even better. They both ended up with vitamin K poisoning and almost died.  Too much of a good thing can kill you!

“The Buddha pointed out that by avoiding stagnation and excessive striving he had been able to ‘cross the flood’ which similarly recommend neither going too far nor lagging behind (page 39).”  In his life he had tried every different religion or path to find “enlightenment.”  He even practiced aestheticism to such a degree that he was eating only one grain of rice a day. Needless to say he was visiting death’s door as the story goes.

“About this time a young girl came by and offered the emaciated Siddhartha a bowl of milk and rice.  At this point, Siddhartha had realized the path to awakening was a ‘middle’ way between extremes of self-denial and self-indulgence.”[3]

As Emerson says, “The mid-world is best.”  Take some time today and find your extremes and ask yourself are they helping or hindering you.  If they are hindering you decide today to begin living the “middle way.”  Whether your extreme behavior is too little or too much find the middle way and a wonderful balance will appear in your life.

Soon you will live a life where you feel fulfilled. The fruits of the middle world will appear. You will discover that life can actually be fun!

Try it I think you’ll like living in the middle world!  Let me know how it goes.

In gassho,   Shokai

[1] Dillaway, N. (1949) The Gospel of Emerson. Wakefield, Mass: The Montrose Press

[2] Analayo (2003) Satipatthana the Direct Path to Realization. Cambridge, England: Windhorse Publications

[3] http://buddhism.about.com/od/buddha/fl/The-Enlightenment-of-the-Buddha.htm

 

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healing-anger-the-dalai-lama-book-cover

Emerson: Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.[1]

The Dalai Lama: Patience cannot be cultivated in isolation from other people.[2]

As students of Buddhism we are given the opportunity in the West to practice as lay people and live at home, go to work, run our errands, raise our families, take care of our elderly parents, and more.  Each of which can cause us to—as they say “lose our patience” very easily.

When things don’t go my way, or I encounter people who don’t think like me, or talk fast enough, or clean up after themselves I lose my patience.  Thus I am given hundreds of opportunities each and every day to cultivate the principle of patience.

I suppose if I were like the Buddhist monks of old who found a cave at the top of a mountain and simply spent all day meditating and looking at a wall with the only interruption being a small curious animal that might arrive and stare in wonderment at the person sitting facing the wall—what would I have gained in the way of patience? Other then maybe cultivating the patience to reach my goal of “enlightenment” and being inpatient about its arrival.

So let’s try Emerson’s way to cultivate the art of patience by looking at nature.  Spring has the patience to wait until winter has decided to be done.  Summer has the patience to wait until fall arrives to begin its nap and get some rest.  The tulips have the patience to wait till the ground thaws just enough so they can begin pushing their way up through the earth and reach the sunlight. The beauty that comes from the tulips in your garden makes the process and the time so worthwhile for those of us who have the patience to wait for their arrival and don’t run off to the flower shop to buy some there instead.

And so when we sit and meditate we are given the opportunity to practice patience.  Patience with our body as it aches, or with our Monkey Mind as it keeps interrupting, and our breath as it moves slower and deeper the longer we sit.  It is a great place to practice and cultivate patience. With no judgment of right or wrong, good or bad, simply as they say: Waiting for Godot.

What situations in your life are arriving to help you develop and sustain patience in your life?  If we let them they can bring us great pain, suffering, anger, and annoyance.  Or we can enjoy the journey, allow the journey to reveal its “secrets” in its own time and be open to receive its gifts with joy and at nature’s perfect timing.

Good luck with that.  Let me know how it works out as soon as you can!

ingassho

Shokai

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

[2] The Dalai Lama, Translated by Geshe Thupten Jinpa. (1997) Healing Anger the Power of Patience from a Buddhist Perspective. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications

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