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Verse of Pure Practice
Abiding in this world of endless space,
A lotus flower is not stained by muddy water.
We follow the unsurpassable one,
Whose mind remains pure and free (page59).[1]

The above is a good example of a short verse that you can use when you want to center yourself. It brings you to the idea of the power of mind and its ability to remain pure and free in any situation, even if it’s “stained by muddy water.”

Our thoughts are the prisons in which we live. Those thoughts lead us to actions of peace, contentment, anxiety, fear, or any myriad number of emotions. To release ourselves from them a wonderful place to start is with a centering verse, prayer, or song. It’s called a “pattern interruption.” When the monkey mind has hold of you it is important to interrupt that negative pattern of thinking and replace it with something else.

I recommend that you have several types of prayers, verses, sutras, or songs that work for you. Something that will help you get centered. So what does it mean to be “centered”? In Buddhism we look to become one with our breath and when we do we feel at the center of all there is. Our body responds by lowering our blood pressure, slowing down our heart beat, and calming our breath. Soon we are overcome by feelings of peace and tranquility and emptiness and fullness. We have entered the stream.

When we feel as though we have entered the stream it is because we are centered on the here and now. We are centered on the only moment that exists—this one.

One of my favorite teachers and authors is Father Robert Kennedy he is a Catholic Priest and a Zen Buddhist teacher. In his book Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit, The Place of Zen in Christian Life (2005), he used an anonymous prayer which sounded like one I had heard many times during my life as a Unity Minister. I have written it below but changed some of the words.

My name is I am,” He paused
I waited. He continued,
“When you live in the past,
With its mistakes and regrets,
It is hard because you are not centered.
My name is not I was, my name is “I am here and now.”

When you live in the future,
With its problems and fears,
It is hard. Because you are not centered.
My name is not I will be, my name is “I am here and now.”

When you live in this moment,
It is not hard because you are
Centered right here and right now.
In the only time and place that exists.
Thus my name is I am.”[2]

What name have you given yourself today? Where have you been centered—on fear, anxiety, negativity, and suffering? Have you entered the stream yet? Help your mind “remain pure and free.” Let me know when you enter the stream and I will meet you there!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Tanahashi, K. (2015). Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary. Shambhala: Boston and London

[2]  Kennedy, R.E. (2005). Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit The Place of Zen in Christian Life. Continuum: New York and London

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Eihei Dogen wrote, “The body and mind of the Buddha way is grass, trees, tiles, and pebbles, as well as wind, rain, water, and fire.  To turn them around and make them the buddha way—this is the aspiration for enlightenment. (page 47)”[1] What an expansive idea this is for most people.  In Pali “Buddha” literally means “awakened one.”  To be awakened means that we see everything as a part of the whole, where no separation exists between the natural world and the human world: All is one.

This principle is taught in the metaphysical Christian churches as well where we learn that there is “no place where God is not.” That the creation or life force is the same in all things and Shakyamuni Buddha or Jesus Christ was an embodied being that recognized this and lived a life that demonstrated it.  The life force energy is within us to be co-creators of a world of peace, love, and compassion for all things.

Although we may not recognize this within ourselves Dogen goes on to write, “It is the buddha way altogether at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end.  It is like journeying a long distance; one step is within one thousand mile, one thousand steps are within one thousand miles.  The first step and the one-thousandth step are different but are equally within the one thousand miles (page47-48).”[2]  There is no need for you to go on a long journey to “find” the Buddha or the Christ within. Whether you have gone within through prayer, meditation, or sitting one time or one thousand times they are equal but different places on the journey.

I asked my mother one day if she thought that “God was everywhere present.”  She said of course.  Then I pointed to the lamp and said, “So God is in the lamp then.”  She said, “Don’t be silly God is not in the lamp.”  And, of course, I replied, “How could that be if you just told me that God was everywhere present, and the lamp is somewhere then God must be in the lamp.”  That blew her mind and she went back to her knitting.

And yet, we all try to separate the idea of oneness by dividing it into categories of animate and inanimate things; between sentient and non-sentient things.  Since we live inside these tiny bodies which have skin and bones and create separation it is hard for us to see the oneness in all things–yet it is there.

Robert E. Kennedy in his wonderful book Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit (page 57) quotes John Wu The Golden Age of Zen (page 2)[3] “When all things return to the One, even gold loses its value.  But when the One returns to all things, even the pebbles sparkle.”  When we pray, meditate, or sit we return to the one and we sparkle as well.

So our task for this week is to really look for the oneness in each other, in those animate and inanimate-sentient and non-sentient things:  To look for the fragrance in the cactus and the thorns in the rose; to find something worthwhile in all creatures, large and small and in all beings friendly and unfriendly.  And then we will be “awakened” to the oneness of all things.

Awaken to the beauty of this day, Shokai

Things to focus on this week:

1.  I will begin each day setting my intention to see the beauty in all things.

2.  I will remind myself that I too can be awakened with one step or one thousand the choice is mine!

3.  I will work each day on sitting at least 10 minutes to recognize my oneness with all things.

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] Tanahashi, K. Levitt, P. (2013) The Essential Dogen, Writings of the Great Zen Master. Shambhala: Boston, MA

[2] Ibid.

[3] Kennedy, R.E. (1995) Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit, The Place of Zen in Christian Life. Continuum: NY, NY

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