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Posts Tagged ‘bodhisattvas’

ingassho

Yuanwu writes:

. . .you must not abandon the carrying out of your bodhisattva vows.  You must be mindful of saving all beings, and steadfastly endure the attendant hardship and toil, in order to serve as a boat on the ocean of all-knowledge.  Only then will you have some accord with the Path (page 28).[1]

It is written in the Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen “Earthly bodhisattvas are persons who are distinguished from others by their compassion and altruism as well as their striving toward the attainment of enlightenment (page 24).[2]  For me there are bodhisattvas in all places, in all times, and in all beliefs from religious to ethical, social workers, teachers, nurses and more everywhere in the world.  They are in your family as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and the like.  These people are there for you regardless of your challenges and achievements.

The bodhisattva looks for every opportunity to make this life easier for others, to bring peace, love, and compassion to everyone and everything.  Most do it without fanfare, they do not desire fame and fortune, nor recognition nor reward.  They quietly and consistently provide what they can, when they can, wherever they can.

They may not have great names like: Martin Luther King, Jr, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Jonas Salk, or Abraham Lincoln.  But they are all around you. They live in your neighborhood, work next to you at your job, volunteer at the church or synagogue or mosque, or for the local food bank, Habitat for Humanity, or the animal rescue shelter. They are mowing the lawn of an elderly neighbor, shoveling the snow for a disabled veteran, they come in all colors, races, and places on earth.  And yes, they are race and color blind.

The bodhisattvas are everywhere you look, if only you see with your heart instead of your eyes, if only you listen with your soul instead of your ego you will discover them. You will remember them as your favorite teacher who challenged you and supported you and encouraged you in good times and bad.  They were your band leaders, coaches, Sunday school teachers, the police officers walking the beat in your neighborhood, the cooks in your school cafeterias, and the nurses in your doctor’s office.

Or you could be like my friend Chip. As he watched Irma, a category 5 hurricane, racing toward us he decided he needed to put hurricane shutters on nine elderly neighbor’s homes. He knew he could not do it alone so he called his best friend Jimmy Esbach who owns several halfway houses and asked him if he could hire some of his residents to help with the job.  Chip willingly did the job without charging the owners and paid the workers out of his pocket. Some never even offered him a thank you after the hurricane had passed. But he did not do it for a thank you. He did it because he saw a need and filled it as any bodhisattva would have.

You don’t have to be a Buddhist to be a bodhisattva all you must do is spend your life thinking of others before self, doing good and speaking good, and living like you are already a bodhisattva. Regardless of how hard it may seem in the moment, the bodhisattva does it anyway! Don’t worry about “attaining enlightenment” it will come of its own accord when the time is right.

Good luck with that! Let me know how it goes! Shokai

[1] Cleary J.C. and Cleary, T. (1994) Zen Letters Teachings of Yuanwu. Boston & London: Shambhala

[2] The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen (1991) Shambhala: Boston. MA

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Faith is a very broad topic and means many different things to many different people.  How can I “meet” my faith today anyway?  It’s not like faith is walking down the street in a shiny new pair of shoes and a red dress or a blue suit. James Russell Lowell said “Science was faith once.”  And my favorite Unity minister and author H. Emily Cady wrote this about faith:

The word faith is one that has generally been thought to denote a simple form of belief based mostly on ignorance and superstition.  Blind faith they have disdainfully chosen to call it—fit only for ministers, women, and children, but not a practical thing on which to establish everyday business affairs of life (page 71).[1]

In the Lotus Sutra in Mahayana Buddhism it links the idea of faith to discernment.

“If any living beings who seek after the Buddha-way either see or hear this Law-Flower sutra [i.e. the Lotus Sutra], and after hearing it believe and discern, receive and keep it, you may know that they are near perfect enlightenment.

The same sutra asserts that the Dharma as a whole is difficult to grasp with mere words, and that ultimately only those bodhisattvas who believe with firm faith can penetrate its nature. The Buddha says:

This Law [Dharma] is inexpressible,
It is beyond the realm of terms;
Among all the other living beings
None can apprehend it
Except the bodhisattvas
Who are firm in the power of faith.[19][1]

And thus we see that in both Christianity and Buddhism the idea of faith is important to help us live a fulfilling life.  We all have faith in somethings and people and not in others.  How hard it is to “keep the faith” in times of trouble, stress, and doubt.  And yet if we believe in our self, in our capacity to love, to think, and to learn all things are possible.

Remember “all things are possible to those who believe.” For those who do not “believe” nothing is possible.  You can only work up to your level of belief in life whether it is in education, employment, or love.  If you cannot see yourself doing it, attaining it or gaining it –it will always be outside your grasp.

The skies the limit for those who believe and without hesitation move forward one step at a time toward it!  Think back upon a time when you had doubt—what happened?  Now think back upon a time when you had faith—what happened?   Cady writes, “In some way, then, we understand that whatever we want is in this surrounding invisible substance, and faith is the power that can bring it out into actuality to us.”

So stay “firm in the power of faith” don’t walk toward it—run toward it and it will meet you beyond the horizon of doubt and mistrust!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faith_in_Buddhism#Faith_as_refuge

[1] Cady, H. E. (1903) Lessons in Truth. Unity Village, MO: Unity Books

 

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Our thoughts today will be on the verses from the “Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra” below.  Although they sound a little crazy once we get the idea that is trying to be expressed in the sutra our lives will be filled with much less stress, strain, and worry.

No old age and death, no cessation of old age and death;

No suffering, no cause or end to suffering;

No path, no wisdom and no gain.

No gain thus Bodhisattvas live this Prajna Pramita.

Shohaku Okumura in his book Living by Vow A Practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts writes about these verses beautifully.

If our life is based on dichotomies like good and bad, we chase after good things and run from bad things.  We are concerned about whether we are good or not.  If we think we are good, then life is worth living. If we think we are bad, then life is just a mistake. This dualistic thinking makes our life rigid and narrow.

No matter what mistakes we make, we can start over because everything is impermanent.  We can change. We can change the direction of our life.  This is the way we transform our life, our thinking, and our views.  According to Dogen Zenji, sitting in zazen and letting go of everything is the key to shifting the basis of our life (p. 163).[1]

Yet, we allow the above thoughts of old age and death and suffering to chase after us each day and we allow those thoughts to upset us and ruin our day.  Or, if we choose, we can begin our day with sitting (meditation) and let go of everything good and bad, fear and happiness and more.  We can be free of the mind made chains of emotions and thoughts. We can focus on the now and the only thing important in the now when sitting is “your breath.” Allow your mind to be free of the to-do lists, the past conversations and actions, the fears and the joys. Simply wait and watch quietly for the body to become still and the mind to become quiet and the breath to become deeper and slower.

I am not tied down forever to the behaviors that have been hindering me in my life and can see them for what they really are impermanent.  The programming may be old and deep but with time and effort all things are possible.  Remember the old saying, “All things are possible for those who believe.” So begin today to let go of your fears of old age and death, suffering, and limitation or whatever else may be holding you back from being the person you desire to be, a person living a life of compassion, love, and peace.

This is a new year the perfect time to begin your life a new!  You are a Bodhisattva, whether you know it or not, so live this Prajna Paramita today and watch the results manifest in your life.

Things to focus on this week:

  1. I will begin each day by sitting in quiet meditation letting go of everything but my focus on my breath.
  2. I will remind myself that doing this can help free me from my fears and my rigid and narrow thinking.
  3. I am changing the direction of my life for good today!
  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 Texts, Wisdom Publications, Boston: MA

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Paramita #9 Loving Kindness…the Bodhisattva way

“The teaching of Mahayana Buddhism, the teaching of Zen, is the teaching of love, not hate.  My teacher did not teach people to hate one another, he taught people to love one another (Anderson page 178).” So writes Reb Anderson in his wonderful book Being Upright Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts. So what we are talking about here is not romantic love, but agape love, the love of humanity with all its frailties, foibles, and mistakes.  Loving kindness when it is hard, when it is not deserved, when it is well deserved, and when it is simply plain fun.

This is the way of the adept, the Bodhisattva, the monk, the minister, the rabbi, the priest, and the wayfarer. When a person is surrounded by the idea of loving kindness inside and out it can be seen on his or her face, heard in his or her voice, and noticed in the actions taken.

Are we all perfectly loving and kind all the time?  Not hardly, but to be so more often than not David Baird says, “We must learn from the past, prepare for the future, and live in the present (Baird page 161).”[1] To do so we may want to take an inventory of the times in the past when we were not practicing loving kindness, and when we were practicing loving kindness, and then look at the things we need to do to prepare for the future opportunities that may appear to practice loving kindness.  How do we do that—by living in the present!  In this very present moment when I am living mindfully I am fully conscious of my thoughts, feelings, and actions and if I catch myself being unkind I can quickly and immediately make a 180 degree turn and show loving kindness.

Sitting, meditating, and praying on a regular basis will make this happen more often, it will make it much easier to catch ourselves in the moment and ultimately improve our relationships with everyone we meet be they family, friends, co-workers, customers, bosses, inmates, or strangers.

When we do this Reb Anderson tells us there is light at the end of the tunnel.  “You practice being upright to generate love, not to generate states of mind. States of mind come and go, and happiness comes and goes; but love can be developed so that it doesn’t come and go (Anderson, page 26).”[2]  We can learn to love the person and not the actions.  We can learn to walk a mile in the other person’s shoes and thus show loving kindness for the pain and anguish they may be in.

Many people walk around with very low self-esteem, with voices in their heads that remind them of the hundreds of times they may have been put down, marginalized, or physically or mentally abused when growing up.  For these people loving kindness was never shown to them and so they have no example to pattern themselves after.  These, my friends, are people who need more loving kindness than your average Jane or Joe.

This week we will practice loving kindness when it is easy, when it is hard, and when it is fun.  We will be given many opportunities to do it I am sure!  There is never a moment when loving kindness cannot be displayed.  Keep an inventory of how many opportunities you were given each day, notice where they came from and how you responded to them.  If you were unable to respond with loving kindness do not be unkind to yourself.  Simply look at your behavior and what triggered it and determine to not let that trigger take you away from showing loving kindness in the future.

It will take practice with some people and some situations, but it will be well-worth it in the end.  You will see your triggers getting smaller, and lighter, and appearing less often.  You will find solace and peace in the action of loving kindness and just maybe you may see it returned in kind.  Keep your eyes and ears open for that! Loving kindness is on its way to you today! Namaste…


[1] Baird, D. (2000), A Thousand Paths to Enlightenment. London, England: MQ Publications Limited

[2] Anderson, R. (2001). Being Upright Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts. Berkeley, CA: Rodmell Press.

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Mitsunen Roku (Lou Nordstrom) one of the most loveable and outstanding teachers in our linage of Zen Buddhism wrote a wonderful little book entitled Essays in Zen Daoism (2010).  In it he has a chapter entitled “On Being Honest,” and boy is he honest about being honest!  He writes, “Freud was right: human beings have an almost infinite capacity for self-deception, and nowhere is this more prominent than in the pervasive, perennial need to believe in a ‘higher, spiritual nature. (page 71)’”

For me this is a reason to continue learning, searching, and seeking that “higher spiritual nature” for it just may be there and my lower personality or human frailties may just be a temporary state of consciousness.  Whether or not we believe there is a “higher spiritual nature” is up to each of us.  We may not have the conviction of Mitsunen Roku when he writes, “We would like to think of ourselves as bodhisattvas committed to the salvation or liberation of all beings.  Honestly, how much do you really care about the suffering of others?  What sort of negative emotions do you actually feel about other human beings?  What do you honestly feel about the one you love?  Catullus said, ‘I love, and I hate; and I am torn in two.’ That’s honesty! (page 72).”

Being truthful with self is probably more difficult than being truthful with others.  At least it is for me!  My mother is one of those inherently honest people.  She would not take even a penny if it did not belong to her.  She has a vivid sense of right and wrong, truth and lies.  So I guess I got some of it from her.  But I often find myself being untruthful with myself.  I tell myself things like, “Don’t worry eating this piece of cake won’t add a single pound to your waistline if you just eat it mindfully.”  Or how about this one:  Driving over the speed limit is okay because it is more important to be on time to Zen to help set up.

He writes, “Be honest about the nature of the motivation behind your practice (page 72).” Who cares what you practice for or which practice you decide to take up?  You can be a great Catholic, Buddhist, Atheist, or Theosophists as long as you are truthful to yourself about why you practice the principles, truthful to yourself about why you believe what you believe, truthful to yourself about why you act the way you act because of those principles.

He quotes Bodhidharma who said, “Vast emptiness, no holiness!” The fantasy of a higher nature is about holiness, sacred as opposed to profane reality.  Bodhidharma didn’t speak of Buddha-nature, true nature, essential nature; he said, in a spirit of radical honesty, ‘I KNOW NOT!’ Do you honestly know who or what you are (page 71)?”  Yeah, if you do!  Yeah, if you don’t!

This week our practice is on truthfulness. Regardless, of whether we do or don’t honestly know who or what we are today is a great day to begin looking at our lives and seeing how truthful we are to others and to ourselves.  We all need to examine our lives with open eyes.  However, we need not be critical of what we find, but we do need to be open to an occasional “AH HA.”  Then decide what you want to do about it, if anything.  Sometimes it is cruel to be truthful to someone who may think they look great in that chartreuse shirt or blouse, sometimes the person may be better served if we let him or her know in a kind and loving way that this may not be his or her best color choice.  Let the person know what looks great on them and tell them why.

Life is a challenge, living a life of truthfulness is an even greater challenge.  So when the times get tough just know you are in good company with Bodhidharma and just admit “I know not!”  Then do what your heart tells you is right and honest and truthful with compassion and love and you can’t go wrong with that!

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