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Posts Tagged ‘Buddha’

My special friend, Dr. Davele Bursor, and I went on Sunday to the beautiful Center for Spiritual Living (formerly Science of Mind Church) in Boca Raton and when I opened the bulletin they had a little prayer card in there with this affirmation on it: Today I use kindness plentifully in every thought, act, and circumstance.

Yet, when I got home and turned on the TV there was very little kindness being projected toward people of all political persuasions, religions, ethnic groups, and professions.  It seems that we’ve forgotten the basic ideas of what it takes to make a country livable, one that will grow and prosper and be a safe place in which to grow up, raise our children, and live a happy, healthy, peaceful, and successful life.

Civility has left the discourse and simple religious and spiritual principles have gone out the window. There are “Dragons in the Trees” as one of our Zen members, Lawrence Janssen, writes in his book of poetry Zen Paradox: No Knowing.

Mara the prince of darkness
Exuberantly dances from cloud to cloud
Dragons silently wait in withered trees
No howls of approval or broken rice bowlsbridgewood-white-tree-flower.b
Only swords readied for an execution
Nobel truth twisted and distorted
With cunning argumentation
We witness the ritual of self immolation
As vultures circle endlessly
Overwhelmed by shame and guilt
The teacher raises a flower in hope
The compassionate words and nurturing spirit
Of Bodhidharma echo in the land (page 23)![1]

Too few voices “echo in the land” for kindness for our brothers and sisters around the world—so let us be the voice of reason, of love, and of kindness during this troubling time.  Begin by being kind to yourself.  Then move that energy out into your family, friends, co-workers, and strangers.  Be the voice of reason; raise the flower of hope with your compassionate words as Larry encourages us to do!

Let’s do it! You’ll meet your good today when you help others meet theirs!

In gassho,

Shokai

[1] Janssen, L.I. (2013) Zen Paradox: No Knowing. Xlibris.com

2 http://listeningwiththeeye.squarespace.com/galleries/bridgewood-white-tree-flower

 

 

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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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When deciding what to write about I had trouble coming up with something special so I turned around to my bookshelf, as usual, and a very weathered and yellowed book by Les Kaye jumped out at me: Zen at Work, A Zen Teacher’s 30-Year Journey in Corporate America.  I quickly flipped through the pages looking for that ever present yellow marker and my eyes caught a chapter entitled “True Nature.”

Wow, it would be great to meet my true nature today and thus I read on…

The point of Zen practice is to let go of ideas about boundaries and to feel our limitless true nature.  When we express our limitless true minds, we understand that there are no boundaries and no center (page 16).[1]

And so how do we live this “limitlessness?”  Kaye and I have created a list of does and don’ts.

Begin with these ideas in mind:

DON’T_jones-gap-stream-1

  • Don’t be afraid
  • Don’t grasp after it
  • Don’t look for a road map
  • Don’t cling to it
  • Don’t get sidetracked by comfort, pleasure, or desire

DOsmoky-mountain-stream-copy1 Morningjoy weblog

  • Do remember we really have “nowhere to go”
  • Do open yourself to the limitless Big Mind
  • Do let Big Mind be your guide
  • Do let your limitless true nature express itself
  • Do know that wisdom IS your true nature
  • Do realize your inherent completeness

Picture these ideas as stepping stones in a mountain stream. The first stream is filled with boulders and rushing water that keep you from crossing and moving toward your limitlessness. The second stream is filled with rocks that allow you to cross easily and discover your limitlessness.  Which stream are you in?

In gassho, Shokai

[1] Kaye L. (1996) Zen at Work A Zen Teacher’s 30-Year Journey in Corporate America. NY, NY: Three Rivers Press

[2] B&W Picture http://listeningwiththeeye.squarespace.com/galleries/recent-works-2012/ from my teacher Mitch Doshin Cantor’s work

[3] Morningjoy.wordpress.com picture Mountain Vistas Weblog

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What is love in the spiritual sense?

We see that this love is not something far-off, nor is it anything that can come to us.  It is already a part of our being, already established within us; and more than that, it is universal and impersonal.  As this universal and impersonal love flows out from us, we begin to love our neighbor, because it is impossible to feel this love for God within us and not love our fellow man (page 66-67.)[1]

~Joel S. Goldsmith

It just happens to be Father’s Day when I am writing on this topic of “love.”  Some of us have been born lucky into a family where our father was a great dad, loving, kind, sharing, supportive and more and for others not so much.  But in everyone’s life there is a person who fills that roll.  It could be a friend, uncle, grandfather, teacher, minister, neighbor, or coach.  So this blog is dedicated to everyone who has inspired someone to be the best they can be, consoled someone when they were sad or afraid, and loved someone just for who they were—a perfectly divine and lovable being. They see a person that is loved beyond their actions or words in a given situation or in spite of them.

Every time I walk into our prison sangha to share the teachings of Buddhism with our members “behind the fence” I am reminded of that truth.  If I did not know that I was in a prison and I was just dropped into the room unaware of its location I would have thought that I was in the midst of a study group of monks and priests practicing and living a life of peace, love, and compassion for all.  They are such a great demonstration of what some might term “fatherly love.”  They support each other, share, praise, and love each other as the divine beings that they were created to be.

Love is not something that you get out of a bottle or can create in a high school science lab.  It is not something that you can buy in a store or on line from Amazon.  It does not come from the US Post Office or FedEx. It comes from each individual when their hearts and minds meld together supported by feelings and actions that are loving, compassionate, and sometimes firm when need be. All the money in the world could not buy it.  It is not for sale. It does not have to be earned, nor can it be.

Love simply exists in the universe as an energy that we are born with, an energy that exits everywhere and thus in everything.  When we open our hearts and minds to this truth of our being all doors can be opened and all hearts can be repaired.  I have seen it with my own eyes in our prison ministry each and every day.

I encourage you all to meet your good today and every day by living your life through the words of Emmet Fox and watch your life be transformed!

emmet-foxs-Love

In gassho, Shokai

[1] Goldsmith, J.S. (1958) Practicing the Presence: The Inspirational Guide to Regaining Meaning and A Sense of Purpose in Your Life HarperSanFrancisco:CA

 

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“All the great prophets taught that you will find a sense of peace and purpose in stillness.  They all wanted you to be able to find peace within yourself (page 42).”

~Russell Simmons (Success through Stillness)

Stillness can be seen sometimes out my office window when not a single leaf is moving on the trees. Sometimes I see stillness in my dog Annie as she lays contentedly next to me sleeping in her little bed.  At times she is so still that I have to look at her stomach to see if she is still breathing!

I find stillness in my mind and body when I am sitting each morning meditating.  I even have felt stillness as I’ve sipped my morning coffee savoring the taste of it on my tongue, feeling the warmth of it moving down my throat while breathing in the fragrance of the coffee and the hazelnut creamer.

Stillness can be found anywhere and anytime if you are looking for it. Even at the Fourth of July fireworks celebration you can be so focused on the beauty of the fireworks and the sound of them that your entire being is one with them.  You are so connected that you don’t hear the screams of the children or the barking of the dogs.

Stillness is not a thing—it is a place that we go when our minds are focused so thoroughly on one thing that time has stopped and space and eternity is everywhere in that moment of stillness.  When I was a child I loved to read the Nancy Drew mysteries.  I was there in the stillness of the book and the moment.  I was Nancy walking, running, jumping, solving the mystery.  I sat still for hours on the couch or on my bed engrossed in the book. There were many days when my mother would literally have to walk into the room and shake me to get my attention.  She was so exasperated that I did not respond to her calling my name to come in for supper.

Stillness, what is it really?  What mysteries does it hold? Oh, the places you will go! There is no time in stillness.  Stillness can last a nanosecond or an hour without differentiation.  We welcome stillness sometimes when things are getting too busy at work, school, or home.  We crave it when we are stuck in activity, thinking, emotions, and the adrenaline rush!

Such is a time to hold up a big STOP sign in your mind.  Such is a time to take hold of your breath and breathe three times slowly simply counting one on the in breath and two on the out breath. To find stillness in the breath, to live between the heart beats, where eternity lives is divine.

Take charge of your life, find time every day, as often as possible for a “stillness break” instead of a coffee break or an ice cream break!  Meet the peace within yourself. You’ll be glad you did—so will everyone around you, I’m sure!

Let’s meet in the stillness where we will definitely find our good today! See you there! I await your presence!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

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darwin-falls mitch

 

Praise is the point in the wind
Where the sounds collide,
the trees whisper,
the water ripples,
And the fish swim with ease.
Where Suchness is all things!

 

 

You can hear suchness sung by the birds, barked by the dogs, meowed by the cats, in the laughter of the child, in the eyes of the grandparent, and in the hearts of the teachers.  Suchness does not have to be spoken, or sung, or drawn, or written about.  It is inherent in every tree, flower, and plant.  It is an integral part of every inventor, every poet, every dancer, and every composer. It is the mystery of the moment.

How are you showing praise and suchness today? What are you praising?  Where are you when you feel one with it? When was the last time you praised someone or something and felt that connection of oneness?

Do you think that praise and suchness should only be experienced by and with humans?  I hope not!  My dog, Annie, loves to hear my words of praise.  Her ears perk up, her eyes sparkle, and her tail wags so hard that sometimes she knocks things over that are near her. I feel so good along with her that my eyes begin to sparkle and a grin appears on my face and laughter and clapping begin to appear.  That makes us both jump with joy, in unison, in the moment of suchness.

Shodo Harada says “The hidden bird is playing with true suchness (page 37).”[1] Suchness or thusness in Buddhism means the way things really are.  The Buddha is to have awakened to suchness. When I praise something or someone I am seeing things the way they really are.  As the Buddha did when he awoke from sitting under the Bodhi tree and said, “I and all beings on earth together attain enlightenment at the same time.”  Remember when you experienced the suchness of a glorious sunrise over the ocean, or the mountains, or the desert? Or during the birth of your child?

We are all enlightened beings. But most of us have not recognized our oneness for more than a few seconds in our entire life.  But that does not mean that it does not exit and is not the truth of our being. Harada goes on to write:

If our mind is clear, all conditions are heaven. If we’re not angry and resentful and full of negative energy, wherever we are is always the best season.  But when our mind is full of ego and desires, we aren’t able to know this.  When we hold on to nothing, we awaken to the wisdom of prajna and widely open our original eyes of Truth.  This place, as it is, is the land of lotuses.  When we know this very Truth as it is, everything is wondrous (page 37).[2]

Suchness lives in our lives in the mystery of the moment when we praise and know that I and all things are one!

Let me know how it is!

In gassho,

Shokai

Picture: http://listeningwiththeeye.squarespace.com/galleries/death-valley-lone-pine-2010/

 

[1] Harada, S. (2011) Moon by the Window, The Calligraphy and Zen Insights of Shodo Harada, Wisdom Publications: Boston

[2] Ibid.

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In this moment what do you have to be thankful for?  If I asked you to list 10 things in your life that you are thankful for what would they be?  Would they be people, things, possessions, your health, happiness, or your job?  When was the last time you actually gave thanks out loud for a good deed received, or in your mind for something tangible, or in your heart for a person or a pet?

Rumi has a wonderful poem about “Thanksgiving”

Thanksgiving is sweeter than bounty itself.
One who cherishes gratitude does not cling to the gift!
Thanksgiving is the true meat of God’s bounty;
the bounty is its shell,
For thanksgiving carries you to the heart of the Beloved.
Abundance alone brings heedlessness,
thanksgiving gives birth to alertness…
The bounty of thanksgiving will satisfy and elevate you,
and you will bestow a hundred bounties in return.
Eat your fill of God’s delicacies,
and you will be freed from hunger and begging. [1]

In Buddhism we might think of everything being “just this.”  So if we are grateful and give thanks for whatever “that is” we might be able to receive the bounty that is lurking behind the gift.  Sometimes even a difficult event or a cantankerous person can be a blessing and bring us bounty when we least expect it. When I look back on the event I might discover that I learned something very valuable from that experience.  It could be something that may have saved my life, or my job, or a relationship.

Are you open in this moment to fill your life with delicacies, to be freed from hunger and begging?  Energy has movement and weight and measure and it all depends on the energy that you give out in this moment what you will get back in return.  Making it a habit to show thankfulness every day as often as you can will do wonders for your health both mental and physical.

So if someone slams the door in your face as you walk into the store or office you could get mad, nasty, angry, and kick the door or you could think “just this.” Just this could have been a broken nose if I was closer or I wonder what made the person so upset, distracted, or angry. It looks like they could use a little loving kindness and understanding today.

Life is painful if you let it be that way.  So today be thankful for the lesson learned from the slamming of the door, for the lesson learned when you acted with love and compassion instead of anger and hate. In this moment give thanks for the person that you are and the person that you are becoming.  Because “thanksgiving gives birth to alertness” and in that moment it kept you out of harm’s way!

I take this moment to give thanks for all of my readers, and followers, and friends, and family for each of you have given me much too be thankful for!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] https://darvish.wordpress.com/tag/rumis-thanksgiving-poem/

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I thought about what to write for my next blog on “The Mystery of the Moment”  as Merle Haggard sang: “I’ve got heartaches by the number, troubles by the score, every day you loved me less each day I loved you more.”

You can listen all day on the radio or on your iPhone or computer about the loss of love, the finding of love, the happiness of love, and the pain of love.  Endless poems, movies, songs, and books have been written about it.

Eventually the word loses its passion and meaning when we begin to say “I love my new car, new house, this food I just cooked, or the way my hair looks in the mirror.” With the presidential race going on in America I can hear more words of animosity, hatred, and vitreal than about love.  I hear hate words projected on all races, people, religions, political opponents, and more.

It’s amazing how the universe works!  I turned around to my very large bookcase behind my desk looking for something on “love” to add to my blog post and I was drawn to pull down a book by one of my favorite Zen teachers Robert Kennedy, Zen Gifts to Christians (2004).  I open the book up at the back looking for an index to see if he had anything about love in it and sure enough the page was not an index but a page with a quote on it about love!  What are the chances that in this moment I would find the perfect quote on love?!

Kennedy shares a quote by …Etty Hillesum, a Jewish woman, who was swept up by the Germans in Holland in 1941 and sent to her death in Auschwitz in 1943. Though she knew nothing of Zen, her Interrupted Life parallels the final poem of our ox herder poet and puts a modern face on Zen teaching. In it she writes (page 121):

And a camp needs a poet, one who experiences life there, even there, as a bard and is able to sing about it.

At night, as I lay in the camp on my plank bed, surrounded by women and girls gently snoring, dreaming aloud, quietly sobbing and tossing, and turning, women and girls who often told me during the day, ‘We don’t want to think, we don’t want to feel, otherwise we are sure to go out of our minds,’ I was sometimes filled with an infinite tenderness, and lay awake for hours. . . and I prayed, ‘Let me be the thinking heart of these barracks.’  And that is what I want to be again. The thinking heart of a whole concentration camp.

I know that those who hate have good reasons to do so.  But why should we always have to choose the cheapest and easiest way? It has been brought home forcibly to me here how every atom of hatred added to the world makes it an even more inhospitable place (pages 121-22).[1]

How many atoms of hatred have you added to the world today, how many of love, peace, and compassion?

What will you do in each and every moment today to make your life and surroundings “a more hospitable place?”  Keep me posted on that!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Kennedy, R. (2004) Zen Gifts to Christians, Continuum: NY, NY

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Saturday three of my dear friends will be celebrating Jukai and I am so excited for them.  The word Jukai is translated as: “receiving [ju] the precepts [kai]. It is a time for them to receive and acknowledge the Buddhist precepts and officially become a Buddhist. In that moment they will be acknowledging the Buddha within them and in all things.

To live every moment as a Buddhist is not easy.  The ceremony gives them the time to focus on the choice that they are making and the ramifications of that choice in their lives.  In each moment we realize that we are one with all things and that our goal is to live the Buddhist principles regardless of the circumstances.  To live a life of peace, love, and compassion in the eternal now moment is our life’s goal.

In this ceremony one commits oneself to be devoted to The Three Pure Precepts:

  • A disciple of the Buddha vows to cease all evil deeds.
  • A disciple of the Buddha vows to cultivate goodness.
  • A disciple of the Buddha vows to act for the benefit of others.

And The Ten Grave Precepts:

  • A disciple of the Buddha does not kill
  • A disciple of the Buddha does not steal
  • A disciple of the Buddha does not misuse sexuality
  • A disciple of the Buddha does not lie
  • A disciple of the Buddha does not cloud the mind
  • A disciple of the Buddha does not speak of the faults of others
  • A disciple of the Buddha does not elevate the self and blame others
  • A disciple of the Buddha is not possessive of anything
  • A disciple of the Buddha does not harbor ill will
  • A disciple of the Buddha does not disparage the three treasures [Buddha, dharma, sangha]

Marge, Robin, and Steve your presence in our sangha has brought to us three beautiful lights of wonder and joy.  Your work on the tenzo team and the service team have brought such love, laughter, and life to our group–we all have been blessed by your presence. I am so glad you found us. Congratulations!

I leave you with these beautiful words from Issa…Dew drops on a lotus leaf(1)

Buddha Law,

   Shining

In a leaf dew.

 

~Kobayashi Issa

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Photo: Dew-Drops on a Lotus Leaf, Margo Richter, digital album cover

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The problem with me is that in this moment I am often not mindful about what is going on in me, around me, and through me. My monkey mind is busy reflecting on the past, thinking about the future, and wandering hither and yon. Thus, I am not actually living in this “moment.” Unbeknownst to me I have lost a significant portion of my day, my life, and my joy. Whoever that “me” is has been deprived of experiencing the moment, of living a life of focus. Instead I am living a life lost and filled with grasping at the straws of the unknown.

Today my desire is to live in the moment mindfully aware of the food that I eat and its taste, texture, smell, and temperature. To be fully present as I attend a jukai ceremony for one of the men at our prison ministry. To bask in his joy and freedom as he accepts the Buddhist precepts as his way of living. To be fully present to enjoy the cookies and drinks that I will have after the ceremony and to celebrate fully and wholly with him and his friends in the Zen group where he sits each Tuesday.

McCown and Micozzi in their book New World Mindfulness wrote, “…the Buddha’s first teaching is revealed as essentially relational and experiential. It is possible to image him actually saying, “Don’t take my word for it; check it out for yourself (p. 71)!” As Walt Whitman in his “Song of Myself” wrote, “Looking with side-curved head curious what will come next, both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it (p. 78).”[1] To be present in the moment, to be there for others, for self, and beyond is what Whitman is enticing us to do.

Check it out for yourself! Be mindful of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and actions. Don’t be so quick to take other people’s viewpoint of your life. Don’t be so quick to take other people’s word for it either. Simply be honest with yourself about your life and what you like–keep and what you don’t like–change. To do that you must be mindful in the present moment!

Take time each day to sit in the quiet of your breath. Open yourself to feeling “worthy” of taking time each day to simply sit and “contemplate your navel” if that is what you want to do! Finally, simply “be,” whatever that means to you.

I learned many years ago that I am not a human “being.” I am a human “becoming.” Which are you? Be mindful of that and your life could be transformed.

Keep me posted!

In gassho

ingassho

Shokai

[1] McCown, D. and Micozzi, M.S. (2012) New World Mindfulness from the Founding Fathers, Emerson, and Thoreau to Your Personal Practice. Healing Arts Press: Rochester, Vermont

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