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Posts Tagged ‘Avalokitesvara’

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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The next lines of the Heart Sutra that I will be writing about in Part IV are below:

O Shariputra, all dharmas are forms of emptiness,
Not born, not destroyed;
Not stained, not pure,
Without loss, without gain:
So in emptiness there is no form,
No sensation, conception, discrimination, awareness;

Shohaku Okumura in his wonderful book Living by Vow A Practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts, writes this about emptiness:

When we say form is emptiness, we negate this body and mind.  When we understand that emptiness is form, we negate emptiness.  Negate means to let go.  To let go of thought means to become free from both sides.  Then we can see reality from both perspectives without being attached to either.  The wisdom of Avalokitesvara is the Middle Way that includes both sides.  It is not something in between this side and that.  From the middle path we see reality from both views, relative and absolute.  We simultaneously negate and affirm both sides.  To let go of thought means to become free from both perspectives and simply be in the middle (reality) (page 154).”[1]

Wow, for me this is a very difficult thing to do.  I have opinions about everything and live my life usually from one side, the left, and the philosophy of Emerson and Thoreau’s Walden Pond. One of my favorite pieces by Emerson was his graduation talk at Harvard that got him kicked out and was not to be invited back to the campus for many, many years.

So it is a challenge for me to be able to do as Okumura says, “become free from both perspectives and simply be in the middle (reality).”  But when we use mindfulness and meditation as a center for our lives it can become easier and easier each day.

My friend Dan Huston, has written a wonderful book that is being used in colleges to teach a different kind of communication skills, Communicating Mindfully, Mindfulness-Based Communication and Emotional Intelligence. He writes about a young student of his who found an opportunity to use what he taught her—merging mindfulness and communication skills—during a speech that one of her classmates was giving on a subject that she held the opposite view point.  The techniques worked and after the class she was able to have a very serious but mindful conversation with her classmate.

Dan wrote:

“That is an important distinction because mindfulness meditation is not about picking and choosing what we want; it is about accepting the reality of each and every moment and making a distinction between what is really happening in those circumstances and what we layer on top of it with our reactions—in this case, the circumstances of her reality were growing potentially hostile because of the addition of Jill’s [the speaker] anger and frustration.  Fortunately, she [the listener and mindfulness communication student] was able to recognize those feelings as they emerged.  She accepted them but did not encourage them with self-talk that could have fueled the fire within her; consequently, those emotions were not allowed to grow in intensity.  She noticed them, and let them go (page 239).[2]

Remember what Okamura said: To let go of thought means to become free from both perspectives and simply be in the middle (reality). So the next time you get the opportunity to listen remind yourself of what Stahl and Goldstein recommend in their mindfulness training manual A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, “We all want to be heard. It’s essential to feeling understood, accepted, and loved.  When we sense that others are truly listening, our fears and defenses tend to fade away, paving the way for greater connection, empathy, and peace in the relationship (page 164).”[3]  And it helps us live the middle (reality) way—without loss, without gain!

Things to focus on this week:

1.  I will begin listening in the “middle way” to everyone I meet.

2.  I will remind myself that doing this can help me create greater connections, empathy and peace in all of my relationships.

3.  When I get stuck I will remember that I can “negate” those thoughts, I can let them go, and free myself from “both sides.”

4.  Lastly, I will keep a journal of the opportunities that have been presented to me so I can keep track of my progress and my opportunities for growth.

 


[1] Okumura, S (2012) Living by Vow A Practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Text. Wisdom Publications: Somerville, MA

[2] Huston, D. (2010) Communicating Mindfully Mindfulness-Based Communication and Emotional Intelligence. Cengage Learning: Mason, Ohio

[3] Stahl, B. and Goldstein, E. (2010) A Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction Workbook. New Harbinger Publications, Inc.: Oakland, CA

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