Posts Tagged ‘10 commandments’

The Dharma means “the teachings” in Zen Buddhism.  When we begin to practice Buddhism we are asked to take refuge in the teachings of the Buddha.  His teachings are practical and positive and they can make a tremendous difference in your life if you put them to use.

The Dharma is filled with great ideas much like the 10 commandments from the Old Testament such as do not kill and do not steal.  Plus additional ideas such as do not speak of the faults of others and do not cloud the mind. Living by these types of teachings can make your life full of love, peace, joy, and positive relationships.  Along with that we have the Three Pure Precepts or the Bodhisattva vows to not create evil, to practice good, and to actualize good for others. If we just took one of these ideas and worked on it for a week or a month imagine how our lives could be transformed.

Norman Fischer talks about making practice your whole life in his new book Training in Compassion Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong (2013).

. . . we discover that our practice (and our life) isn’t about—and has never been about—ourselves.   As long as spiritual practice (and life) remains only about you, it is painful.  Of course, your practice does begin with you.  It begins with self-concern.  You take up practice out of some need or some desire or pain.  But the very self-concern pushes you beyond self-concern. Zen master Dogen writes, ‘To study Buddhism is to study the self, to study the self is to forget the self.’  When you study yourself thoroughly, this is what happens: you forget yourself, because the closer you get to yourself, the closer you get to life and to the unspeakable depth that is life, the more a feeling of love and concern for others naturally arises in you.  To be self-obsessed is painful.  To love others is happy (page 65-66).

So our plan for life is one which includes practicing each and every day.  For me it is sitting (Zazen) every morning from 4:15-5:00 a.m.  I begin my sitting by setting my intention.  You can create your own intention, of course, but mine goes like this: I sit in order to save the planet and all sentient beings. I sit in honor of my mother and father who gave me life and the desire to do good.  This sets the tone for my sitting in the quiet and keeping that noisy “monkey mind” at bay with love and compassion.  I often listen to a CD by the wonderful Vietnamese monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hahn, where I meditate to the sound of the bell.  It really helps me keep focused on my breath and helps to keep the “monkeys” quiet.

For me this time sets the tone for the day.  It helps me focus on my intention throughout the day and to accept any opportunity that comes my way to help save the planet and all others.  It can be as simple as giving a ride to the elderly man who works in Walgreens and walks to work each day, or to the neighbor who missed her bus when on the way to an event at the clubhouse.  It reminds me to recycle my garbage, to shut the water off while brushing my teeth, to turn off the lights and fans when I leave the room, and not to idle my car while I am in the drive-in line at the bank.  Simple things like this sound crazy and even insignificant, but if everyone did simple things like this what a more compassionate and loving world we would live in.

When we take refuge in the Dharma we begin teaching through our behavior.  Our family members, co-workers, and friends will notice the difference in no time.  They may even begin to ask you what you are doing.  They may comment about how happy, peaceful, or calm you seem these days.  They will notice that you are enjoying life more and more and losing your temper less and less.  If this is what you would like to see happen in your life then I hope you will take up the 2nd refuge and spend time with the Dharma (teachings).

Start with something simple and work your way up to the hard stuff!

Things to focus on this week:

  1.  I will begin each day with the intention of finding an opportunity to use what I am learning through the Dharma (teachings) in the “real world.”
  2. I will look for information on the teachings locally, on the internet, and through friends when I need help. Finding a Zen teacher/group is a great step toward learning and growing.
  3. Next, I will keep the self-recriminations to a minimum and know that even the Buddha took a long time to find his truth and enlightenment.


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This month in our Zen study group we are learning about Bodhidharma, the 28th patriarch after Shakyamuni Buddha in the Indian lineage and the first Chinese patriarch of Zen.  He is well known for many things and is to have said many brilliant and mind boggling things as well.  He believed in teaching without words and is quoted as saying, “The ultimate Truth is beyond words.  Doctrines are words.  They’re not the Way.”  Last night as I was leading the lesson on Bodhidharma I realized that his life was just this: learning by doing, not by studying!

Most of our religions today are based around reading, memorizing, studying, and talking, but very little of it is based upon “doing”!  Jesus was a doer he took his Judaism seriously and went out and did the work, healed the sick, fed the hungry, stopped the stoning of the adulterous, and more.  The Buddha discovered the truth through practice (sitting) and expected his followers to practice compassion, love, and hope with all people (doing)—rich and poor alike. Bodhidharma is to have spent six years sitting in a cave facing a wall—simply sitting.

He was not reading books, philosophizing or talking, his life was “doing.”  What have you been doing with your life lately?  Is it just the chores, to-do lists, and projects at work or school that are the focus in your life?  Are you preaching the 10 commandments to others, but not living them yourself.  Doing. . . that is hard!  Talking. . . that is easy!  Living your truth as Bodhidharma and Jesus did—that was hard.

It is said that Bodhidharma took two years to travel from India to China to share his Truth about Buddhism.  Now in the years around 470-543 ca, when it is believed he lived, that was NOT an easy trip.  There were no jumbo jets, no high speed rail, and no paved 6 lane highways.  But that did not deter him; he was determined to do whatever it took to spread the dream of freedom and enlightenment that comes through the simple act of “sitting.”

He was not belying the fact that he learned about Buddhism through words such as the sutras, but he learned that in his brain, enlightenment came through the experience of sitting with those words or with no words, simply sitting.  The Truth is we need not depend on words, nor do we need to throw the books in the trash, neither do we need to take the words as the “one and only” path to enlightenment as many religions profess today. 

The best answer to this conundrum is the words of a student to Bodhidharma’s question to determine their state or “non-state” of realization, “The first disciple he questioned answered, ‘The way I understand it, if we want to realize the truth we should neither depend, entirely on words nor entirely do away with words; rather we should use them as a tool on the way.”  Bodhidharma answered him, ‘You have grasped my skin.’”[1]

Do not be the preacher or teacher who spouts words of goodness and love and then follows that with words of prejudice, hatred, fear, and lies about those unlike them.  Each of us must recognize the ultimate Truth is beyond words.  It is exemplified fully in our deeds: What deeds toward enlightenment, love, and compassion have you done today?

[1] Page 24, The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen,1991

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