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Posts Tagged ‘Buddha-nature’

I seizeOxherding_pictures,_No._4 him with a terrific struggle.
His great will and power
are inexhaustible.
He charges to the high plateau
far above the cloud-mists,
Or in an impenetrable ravine he stands.
I have abandoned the whip and ropes
 

The fourth picture shows that the oxherd has now caught hold of the ox, using the bridle of discipline to control it. This symbolizes the rigorous discipline required of the Zen practitioner. Although he now realizes that the power to transform his life lies within himself, in his Buddha-nature, all his previous conditionings are pulling and pushing him in different directions. Holding the rope tightly means that he must work hard to overcome his bad habits of the past that developed through the ignorance, hatred and craving that gave rise to all his afflictions.[1]

Abbot Zenkei Shibayama shares a Zen story in his book, A Flower Does Not Talk, that relates to Koeller’s thoughts on “working hard to overcome bad habits.”

Bodhisattva Manjusri once asked Zenzai Doji, “Bring me something that does not do any good.” Zenzai searched around, but wherever he went, everything he saw and touched was something that would do good.  He was unable to find anything that would not do any good.  Finally, he had to come back to Manjusri and report: “There is nothing that will not do good (page 190).”[2]

The conversation continued from there and Manjusri said:

“Bring me something, then, that will do good.”  Zenzai, without hesitation, plucked a blade of grass at his foot and presented it to Manjusri.  Manjusri took it up, and showing it to the congregation, said, “This single herb is both able to kill people and to give people life (page 190-191).”[3]

So, what does this have to do with you today, your life, your plans, your wishes and dreams? Everything!  For me when I look back upon my life I see that the challenges forced me to learn, to pray, to think, to discover, to step out of my fears and anxieties to move forward regardless of them. I was able to recognize that these challenges did NOT kill me but made me stronger, more resilient, more pliable and yes, more loving, caring, and compassionate.

Some might say I need to take off the “blinders” about the reality of life. Yes, war is hell and people living in war zones, in poverty, lack, limitation, and ill health need help from those of us who can help and are willing to help and have the resources to help. That does not remove our obligation to try to help minimize or eliminate the suffering of others. As Koeller said, “Holding the rope tightly means that he must work hard to overcome his bad habits of the past that developed through the ignorance, hatred and craving that gave rise to all his afflictions.”

So, let us as, students of Zen, work daily to take the discipline that we have learned in our Zen practice of sitting into the “real” world and help those who cannot, for whatever reason, help themselves.

Let me know how that goes!  Shokai

[1] Koeller, J.M. http://www.columbia.edu/cu/weai/exeas/resources/pdf/oxherding.pdf
[2] Shibayama, Z. (1970) A Flower Does Not Talk Zen Essays. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Co.
[3] Ibid.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson “We are always getting ready to live, but never living.”[1]

What does that quote mean to you?

In Zen we have a practice of sitting zazen or meditating and Katageri Roshi, one of the most recognized Zen Buddhist priests in America, wrote this about the junction of these two ideas: living and buddha-nature. He says, “Don’t attach to thoughts and emotions, just let them return to emptiness. Just be present there and swim in buddha-nature (page xiii).” [1]

Just be “present” be ready to live each and every moment.  As I found my mind wandering in meditation this morning I realized that I had just squandered away several minutes of my life!  I just gave up the “present moment.” I missed the experience of the feel of the cushion beneath me, of hearing the breath of those near me, of the sounds of the cars driving by on the road, and of the birds chirping in the trees.

I forgot to live!  What I was doing was getting ready to live later on by creating a conversation with someone in my head that may or may not even happen in the future. I was “getting ready to live” but not really living.

The Teachings of Ptahhotep tells us to “Follow your heart as long as you live (page 21).”[2] But if you are living in the future with thoughts and fears, or living in the past with memories and regrets you are not actually “living.” What is your heart telling you to do right now?  What are you doing right now? What are you thinking right now?  Are you getting ready to live or are you actually living?

“Swim in buddha-nature” means to be fully present in the now moment. I love the picture that comes into my mind when he uses the word “swim.” I can see myself in the swimming pool at my grandmother’s house and since I could not swim on top of the water I had to always swim under the water there I was surrounded by buddha-nature above, below, and around me: swimming in buddha-nature.

I was really living!  I had to be perfectly present in that moment in order to hold my breath, keep my eyes out for others swimming in the pool who might not see me below, and still keep swimming.  I had to keep my mind on how long I could hold my breath, and when I was close to running out of air, and when it was time to start swimming to the top!  One time I did not realize how deep I had gone and I panicked and thought I was going to drown! But alas, I was swimming in buddha-nature” and made it safely to the top before I ran out of breath.

Don’t be following what Emerson said, “We are always getting ready to live, but never living.” Don’t be that person! Be the one that is swimming through life with happiness and glee! Following your heart with each breath—in each moment.

Let me know how that “living” is going!

Shokai

[1] Okumura, S. (2012) Living by Vow Wisdom Publications: Boston, MA

[2] Hillard A.G. Williams, L. & N. Damali Editors. (1987) The Teachings of Ptahhotep The Oldest Book in the World. Blackwood Press: Atlanta, GA.

[1] [1] Floris, O. Inspiration & Wisdom from the pen of Ralph Waldo Emerson. http://www.odeliafloris.com

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Obey the nature of things (your own nature),
And you will walk freely and undisturbed.
When thought is in bondage the truth is hidden,
For everything is murky and unclear,
And the burdensome practice of judging
Brings annoyance and weariness.
What benefit can be derived
From distinctions and separations? [1]

Take a moment to think about the first line of this sutra. “Obey the nature of things (your own nature), and you will walk freely and undisturbed.” What is your nature and what is your TRUE nature. The dictionary says nature is the particular combination of qualities belonging to a person it is our native or inherent character our temperament. Or when used as an idiom “She is by nature a kindhearted person.” So what is your own nature? What is your own TRUE nature?

Once you have identified your nature good and bad then ask yourself “am I in bondage to it?” In reality your TRUE nature is identical to every Buddha that has ever been born. The Dalai Lama says:

“Every sentient being—even insects—have Buddha nature. The seed of Buddha means consciousness, the cognitive power—the seed of enlightenment. That’s from Buddha’s viewpoint. All these destructive things can be removed from the mind, so therefore there’s no reason to believe some sentient being cannot become Buddha.”[2]

And if the Dalai Lama says it must be true!

The essential teaching of Mahayana Buddhism is that we are already enlightened beings that is our true nature. But as it says in the sutra “When thought is in bondage the truth is hidden, for everything is murky and unclear and the burdensome practice of judging brings annoyance and weariness.” We are so bogged down in this negative thinking, this judgmental thinking, this fear thinking, that our true Buddha nature is hidden deep down in the recesses of our minds, bodies and spirits. Our ego does not give us the opportunity to see ourselves as the Buddha the enlightened being. We are plagued with negative images and negative self-talk—Who do you think you are someone special? You have fears, anger, jealousy, and you say mean and angry things. You’re surly not enlightened. Or are you?

“What benefit can be derived from distinctions and separations?” Our thoughts are like the clouds that hide the sun sometimes so much that they bring mental and emotional rain showers and even thunder and lightning storms into our lives. Our thoughts obscure the sun and our Buddha nature and yet we know intellectually that the sun has not gone away. Once we calm ourselves and sit in mindful meditation for a few minutes we will be able to calm that judgmental thinking, ego, and id and turn annoyance and weariness into calmness and peace.

Next time you catch this happening to you simply remind yourself that you are Buddha nature and move into that place of peace, love, and compassion. Ask yourself “What benefit can be derived from distinctions and separations in this situation?” I’ll bet the answer will be “no benefit at all.” If I can remind myself that I am Buddha nature I will be able to slip into a place of peace, love, and compassion for myself and all concerned.

Image what wonderful relationships you could have, what a great life you could have–a life filled with peace, love, and happiness—if you believed about yourself and everyone you meet what the Dalai Lama believes: That everyone has Buddha nature right here and right now! That your TRUE nature is Buddha nature. So let’s try to act like it right here and right now and watch what will happen our your life!

In gassho

ingassho
Shokai

[1] Osho, Hsin Hsin Ming, (2014) The Zen Understanding of Mind and Consciousness Attributed to: Seng’tsan, 3rd Chinese (Sosan, Zen) Patriarch

[2] March 9, 2010 http://www.pbs.org/thebuddha/blog/2010/Mar/9/dalai-lama-buddhanature/

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These two simple words “not killing” provide us with ample opportunity to think about their meaning and their purpose as we work on Grave Precept #1.  There is no measure long enough to take us to the end of the ideas that have been written on this subject.  Throughout antiquity all religions and philosophies have grappled with it.  But that will not stop us from embarking on this challenge for a week and seeing where it leads us.

Of course, we do not want to kill anyone or anything—that is a given.  But how does “not killing” work when we kill bugs in the house or the garden.  How does it work when we take the weeds from that same garden?  Does the precept cover killing people with our angry and hateful words and leaving them feeling as though they have been “sliced into bits” by our tongue?  Have your thoughts about yourself killed your ambition, your love for another, your attitude about life?  Does that violate the precept of “not killing”?

Some take on a life of vegetarianism because of this precept.  However, there are many sides to this precept of which we may not be aware. “The Buddha did not prescribe vegetarianism.   Buddhist monks are permitted to eat meat, for example, if it is put in their alms bowl by a lay supporter.  They are not permitted, however, to eat an animal that has been killed on their behalf.[1]  For some this may sound like splitting hairs, that’s for sure, but it is true.

So, to help us out let’s go to our wonderful teacher Robert Aitken’s book, The Mind of Clover Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics (1984), and let’s see the light that he sheds on this subject.

There are three elements that the Zen teacher uses in conveying the precepts: the literal, the compassionate, and the essential, or, as they are more technically termed: the Hinayana, the Mahayana, and the Buddha-nature views. 

The Hinayana view of “Not Killing” is just that. The extreme limit of such literal interpretation is not Buddhist at all, but the Jain faith, whose monks filter all water before drinking it, in order to protect the microscopic animals that might otherwise be swallowed (page16).[2]

So it seems that the Jain faith’s influence on Buddhism took them to a very extreme “literal” interpretation of this precept.  So how about the “compassionate” view of this subject?  What would that look like?  Is it compassionate to kill, let’s say, ants when they are taking over your kitchen?

Some years ago I went to see a monk from the Self-realization Fellowship speak in Miami.  He was a student of Paramahansa Yogananda and during his talk he took questions from the audience and so, of course, someone asked about the idea of “not killing.”  He shared a story with us about going down early one morning to prepare breakfast for the monks and all over the counter were ants.  So he chanted and he prayed and nothing worked.  He did not want to prepare the food and get ants into it so he said his last resort was the ant spray.  He illustrated what he did by making believe he had a large can of ant spray in his hand spraying it across the counter as he chanted: Ohm, ohm—You  are now going to your next level of higher consciousness—ohm …ohm.  Everyone laughed and we all got the point.  He went beyond the literal interpretation and somewhere between the compassionate (for the monks) and an essential teaching of Buddha and eating meat if offered as an Alm.

Where will you take your thoughts and practice this week on the idea of “not killing”? For some you may want to focus some time on not killing your own motivation and self-esteem, others may want to be careful of their words and actions that may be directed toward others that kills their love and affection, some may want to focus on food, and yet others may want to concentrate on working with groups that focus on getting rid of the death penalty or stopping wars and the like.  But whatever you choose be aware of what you say, do, and think on all three levels: literal, compassionate, and essential.  Keep asking yourself, “What would the Buddha say or do in this situation?”

And may the “force” be with you on your path of “not killing”!

Things to focus on this week:

Step one: Begin by deciding which area of “not killing” you will focus on first.

Step two: Set your intention to practice that one throughout the day/week.

Step three: Remember to be mindful of it by writing it on a 3×5 notecard, or by putting it in your smartphone and having it remind you throughout the day.

Step four: Remind yourself to listen to your thoughts and observe your behaviors to see if you are practicing the principle of “not killing.”

Step five: Finally, keep a journal on the precept of “not killing” and make note of how learning to embody it in thoughts, words, and actions is affecting your life. Good luck with that!


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

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