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Archive for the ‘old age’ Category

-Looking_for_the_Ox-,_by_Tenshō_Shūbun

In truth, the person you see in this picture is all of us searching for something in life.  We know that life is a great adventure and that for some of us it has been a very difficult and uphill battle.  For others, we’ve had some good years and some bad years, and yet most of them have been simply rather normal. Regardless of which case we were living under we still found ourselves searching for something.  There is the continuing question that appears on a regular basis, “What’s it all about Alfie?  I wrote a blog on that song sometime back, check it out I think you’ll like it.

For Alfie, it was all about seeking and searching for love.  What have you been searching for? When you wake up each morning are you searching for the ox?  A better marriage, health, job, prosperity, enlightenment, peace, or better grades in school?    The Oxherd was searching for the eternal answer in life, that ungraspable something within him—roaming the world looking down in the valley, up in the mountains, and deep in the ocean.  To no avail.  When all the time his answer was right within him. He was and is the Buddha.

However, rushing and hurrying and searching and seeking outside of yourself in a teacher, a scripture, or a text or a job or money and fame is looking in the wrong place.

Simply focus your attention on the power of your breath when sitting or standing or walking and watch what happens.  When you focus on that inbreath and outbreath you will soon find your blood pressing dropping, your monkey mind quieting down, and your shoulders dropping. You’ll soon see a dropping away of all your fears and anxieties.  You will have moved into the place we call “just this.”   No past, no future, just NOW, just this one breath, one mind, one body, one moment.  Your searching for the Ox can end because you and the ox are one. You and the Buddha are one in the same. You know this when you realize that you and your breath are one.

This may be a fleeting feeling in the beginning but each day that you sit and walk in a meditative and fully present and mindful way you drop off a small weight and soon several small weights, and sooner than later you’ll feel 10 pounds lighter, 100% healthier, happier, and more peaceful.

Live in this moment, the ox is everywhere present in you and through you and will carry you easily into a life of peace, love, and compassion.  If only you stop searching for the ox outside of you—the ox within you will appear.  The ox is powerful, strong, persistent, and always there when you need him. Let your search be over! Be one with the ox in you.

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Many years ago I went on a retreat with Father Robert Kennedy who is a Catholic priest and a Zen Buddhist teacher and the author of several books on Buddhism. He studied with both Bernie Glassman Roshi and Taizan Maezumi Roshi two wonderful Zen teachers and mentors.  I was so enthralled with his teaching during our weekend Sesshin that I bought all of his books.

His book Zen Gifts to Christians is based on the famous Ten Ox-herding pictures of Zen. It is a unique way to review and understand some of the basic principles of Zen in a fun and inspiring way.

John M. Koller in the Department of Cognitive Science at Renssaelaer Polytechnic Institute has written a wonderful paper on it as well entitled: Ox-Herding: Stages of Zen Practice.  He wrote this in his introduction:

The ten ox-herding pictures and commentaries presented here depict the stages of practice leading to the enlightenment at which Zen (Chan) Buddhism aims.  They dramatize the fact that enlightenment reveals the true self, showing it to be the ordinary self doing ordinary things in the most extraordinary way.

Wonderful! I just love that idea that Buddhism helps us discover our true self in its ordinariness and its extraordinariness![1]

I will use D.T. Suzuki’s titles for each picture:

  1. Searching for the Ox
  2. Seeing the Traces
  3. Seeing the Ox
  4. Catching the Ox
  5. Herding the Ox
  6. Coming Home on the Ox’s Back
  7. The Ox Forgotten, Leaving the Man Alone
  8. The Ox and the Man both Gone out of Sight
  9. Returning to the Origin, Back to the Source
  10. Entering the City with Bliss-bestowing Hands

I will use the version of the poem that Koller uses: “The twelfth century monk Guo-an Shi-yuan (also known as Ku-an or Kakuan Shien) revised and expanded upon the traditional Taoist story of the ox and the oxherd by creating a series of ten images and accompanying verses to simultaneously depict and narrate this well-known tale.”

I hope you enjoy this adventure as an ox-herder!  I know it seems like you’re teachers are shooting the “bull” sometimes in their desire to help you understand the Zen principles and you may think I am as well.  Regardless, I know you’ll enjoy this adventure from the past and see how relevant it is in your life in the 21st century.

Hold on to the reins as this may be a bumpy ride!

In gassho, Shokai

[1] By Tenshō Shūbun – Shokoku-ji Temple website, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2350512

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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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