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Posts Tagged ‘Dogen’

timelessness

“Each moment carries all of time (page 13),”[1] writes Kaz Tanahashi in the section of Moon in a Dew Drop entitled “Timelessness of a Moment.”

Wow!  Now that’s a powerful thought for sure.

Yet throughout the  day we depend on time to be the arbiters of our life. We consider each minute, hour, day, week, and month and think and plan as to how it will go.  We have our daily, weekly, and monthly planners on line for instant access.  The new Google calendar now lets you have today’s view on the right side of your google email also! Some of us even have a paper one as well.  Okay, I confess that is me!

We are always looking toward something in the future: the next promotion at work, the birth of a child, the next vacation or holiday, our next meal, or the results of that final exam.  When we are doing this we have missed this very NOW moment.

Why is it when we are having fun time flies and when we are bored it drags on forever?  Remember that endless date or college class where the teacher just droned on and on.  I had a teacher once in college who read her lectures from a yellow legal pad and interjected 125 “ums” in there as well. How do I know?  I got so bored one day I simply made a hash tag in my notebook every time she said one and then I counted them up at the end of the class!

That teacher was my first real life experience of Taz’s quote…there was an eternity in every second of her lecture! He goes on to write, “But to one who is awakened, spring is just spring; it is not expected to turn into anything else (page 14).” [2]

Dogen illustrates it beautifully with one of his poems (page 14).[3]

 As usual
Cherry blossoms bloom
In my native place,
Their color unchanged—
Spring

So let us not fret over time or lack thereof.  Let’s bask in the joy of the timelessness of this moment, right here, right now—for now is all that really exists. I bet I just caught you looking at your watch or calendar!?

[1] Tanahashi, K. (1985) Moon in a Dewdrop Writings of Zen Master Dogen North Point Press: New York
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid

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Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

 In Zen Buddhism we have a practice that is called “zazen” which literally means “sitting.”  But unlike when we sit on a park bench and watch the people go by or sit in the car waiting for our food at the fast food pick-up window, “our sitting” is a form of meditation.

For the beginner I would not fret over the moment by moment challenges that may arrive as a new person “sitting.”  Nor would I want you to get upset when your thoughts interrupt your “sitting.”  With patience and dedication your sitting will produce exactly what you need for that exact moment in time.

Kaz Tanahashi writes this about meditation (zazen or sitting): “This meditation is a source of creative engagement in life.  While life is viewed as a continuation of birth, moment after moment, meditation is a total experience of this ‘birth’ at each moment. Thus a person no longer lives a moment as a segment of life or takes life passively but is fully engaged in an active and creative way.  Dogen explains this experience by using the metaphor of a boat: Birth is like riding in a boat.  You raise the sails and row with the oar… You ride in the boat and your riding makes the boat what it is (page 13).”[1] Where has your riding taken you?

There have been times in your life when you were so engrossed in a task, a book, or a movie that no one or nothing could get your attention.  In that moment you were in a “meditative” state.  You were so fully one with it that there was no separation between it and you.  It may only happen for a nano second at first, but the more you practice and the longer you sit the more often those “oneness” experiences will appear.

The goal is simple—so don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill as they say.  Simply allow yourself to take some time for yourself.  To find a quiet place to sit where you will not be disturbed (even if the only place is the bathroom) and start slowly.  Begin with 5 minutes and work your way up to 20 minutes.

Baby Steps Baby Steps. . .without pressure and condemnation! When you were a toddler just learning how to walk your parents didn’t scold you every time you got up and tried to walk and fell down!  NO…they praised you and clapped their hands and smiled at you. And if you have children that is exactly how you helped them learn to walk as well!

Be kind to yourself and let the process expand and grow at its own pace. Allow yourself to have a “total experience” of each moment of your life whether you are “sitting,” reading, walking, or doing the dishes–you’ll be glad you did!

[1] Tanahashi, K. (1985) Moon in a Dewdrop Writings of Zen Master Dogen North Point Press: New York

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Part 1 Introduction

Kaz Tanahashi writes this about Dogen’s teaching: Dogemoon in the dew drop picn uses the image of a dewdrop reflecting moonlight to describe the state of meditation.  He suggests that just as the entire moon is reflected in a dewdrop, a complete awakening of truth can be experienced by the individual human being (page 12).”

How do we do this as human beings with no super powers or time to mediate or desire to join a monastery?  What is the purpose of even looking toward “awakening?”  What does it even mean and why would I want to desire or seek it? This series of blogs will delve into this question.

For me I believe that most of us, including myself, “live a life of quiet desperation” as Thoreau described it.  Thoreau went on to write, “What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.”[1] We seem to be desperate about relationships, money, lack of time, finding that right and perfect job, and I could go on and on…but lucky for you I won’t.

So how can we use the principles of Zen Buddhism and the teachings of Dogen to help us move out of this life as described above and move into one of peace, love, and compassion for self and others?

In Dogen’s poem below he expands the concept of the “moon in a dew drop” even further.

The moon
Abiding in the midst of
Serene mind;
Billows break
Into light (page 13).[2]

When we decide to change the way we are living, and to discover the power of meditation we can be like the moon simply reflecting the good and the great that is everywhere present. That goodness and greatness is in us and around like the moon which is not the light itself but the reflection of light.  You and the moon are one. You have the ability to be the great reflection of all that is kind, and generous, and serene. As quietly and simply as the moon.

Be the light in someone’s life today. Be the lit side of the moon not the dark side. Find the serene mind in you that at this very moment is waiting for you to discover. The moon in a dew drop is always there. It is the “billows” that are breaking into light awakening in you as you in every moment. Do you see it…

[1] Henry David Thoreau, Walden, chapter 1, p. 8 (1966). Originally published in 1854.

[2] Tanahashi, K. (1985) Moon in a Dewdrop Writings of Zen Master Dogen North Point Press: New York

[3] picture AZ Quotes

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oconaluftee-river copy

Dogen’s commentary on a koan about insentient beings went like this:

Only the insentient know the dharma they speak of,

Just as walls, grass, and trees know spring,

Ordinary and sacred are not hemmed in by boundaries,

Nor are mountains and rivers; sun, moon, or stars (page 171).[1]

It is time we stop trying to categorize things and surround them with boundaries.  It is time we stop naming some things sacred, blessed, beautiful, and bountiful and the like and other things, non-sacred, limited, dead, or preceded by these types of adjectives.  Doing this allows us to pollute the world we live in and make it okay to destroy forests, and lakes, and rivers, because they are so called “insentient” things. They can’t think, they don’t have emotions, and can’t feel pain.

But Dogen saw the life and dharma in all things and gave us the wisdom in his teachings to find our inner compassion and beauty and direct it with our eyes and ears to all things on this earth.

Imagine what this world would be like if we took this viewpoint.  Every time we walked down the street and saw a stone shimmer, or a flower blow with the breeze, or admired the sounds of the birds, and we viewed this as seeing and hearing the dharma, the world would be a better place in which to live.  There would be less opportunity for anger, violence, wars, pollution, deforestation, and hatred to manifest through humankind.  We would begin to understand that “the ordinary and sacred” have no boundaries. He responded as well with this poem:

How splendid! How wondrous!

Inconceivable! Insentient beings speak dharma.

The ears never hear it—

Only the eyes (page170).[2]

So what is the dharma anyway? Buddhism recognizes these “laws” or universal truths such as the 10 Paramitas and the 16 Buddhist Precepts.  Dogen was addressing this teaching for us trying to guide us into a place where we, like Shakyamuni Buddha, could experience them.  They are not something that can be transmitted by words or actions, but must be experientially manifested while sitting and while living life with a wonderment and respect for all things sentient and insentient.

You may not hear the sound of the stone, or the sound of the orchid growing in the pot, but the eyes can see their beauty and it can permeate your consciousness and lead you to a place of serenity, compassion, and love for all—sentient and insentient.  That is the goal of Buddhism and the dharma.

How splendid!  How wondrous!

Things to focus on this week:

1.  I will begin each day looking for those “insentient beings speaking the dharma.”

2.  I will remind myself to be compassionate to them.

3.  I will remember that the ordinary and the sacred are not hemmed in by boundaries.

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

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In their book, The Essential Dogen Writing of the great Zen Master, Tanahashi and Levitt quote Dogen as saying: “In performing your duties along with the other officers and staff, you should maintain joyful mind, kind mind, and great mind (page 19).”[1]

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could practice that mindset from the time we woke up in the morning until we went to bed in the evening, regardless of where we were or what we were doing?  But sadly enough our lives have been filled with many events that have taught us to believe that the world is a dangerous, harmful, and unloving place.

I have been working as a corporate trainer for 30 years and in that time I am sad to say that probably 60% or more of the people in my classes either do not like their jobs or actually hate them but they need to work to cover their living expenses and other bills so they do not try to find other employment.  And it is especially frightening and difficult to move when the unemployment rate is as high as it is and companies are downsizing, right sizing, and closing at alarming rates.

David Xi-Ken Astor is his wonderful book Pragmatic Buddhism Reflecting Contemporary Vitality writes, “Siddhartha was not as concerned about understanding how the Universe worked as much as he was about learning how we humans worked within it (location 729).”[2]

Now that I’ve totally depressed everyone, let’s look at the bright side!

There is an axiom that illustrates how the Universe works, or at least people within our Universe on planet Earth! It goes like this: 70% of the people in the world are Reactors and so they react to the way you treat them (treat them nice and they treat you nice back, treat them poorly and they treat you poorly right back, they are reacting to the way you treat them), 20% of the world are simply Nice all the time (you know them—they make you laugh and feel good whenever you’re around them) and finally the last 10% are Nasty regardless of the time of day, day of the week, or the year.  Who knows why they are that way—maybe they had a bad childhood, or a life experience that jaded them and left them empty, cold, and unhappy.

Regardless of the circumstances what this axiom says is that 90% of the time I can have a great life, wonderful relationships with people, and even learn to enjoy my job!  Because the Nice people are always going to be nice and fun to be around regardless of what happens.  I can always decide to act in a loving, kind, and compassionate way and not get baited when the Reactor is in a bad mood or I bump into a Nasty.  And finally I can live in the “big mind” or the “small mind” the choice is mine.

David goes on to write:

 Dogen’s definition of what a Buddhist practice should be about is well known.  He said that to learn and practice Buddhism was the study of ourselves, and when we do that we come to know who we really are, and as a result of this realization we have the potential to experience how the Universe is.  We are engaged in finding useful and productive ways in making our true self free of distorted interpretations. In other words, when we meditate whatever we experience is the self experiencing the connection with the universe as it expresses true Dharma.  At that moment, we experience no disconnect between self and other (location 731).[3]

Make each activity sacred…and at that moment we become the 90%er and can more easily “maintain joyful mind, kind mind, and great mind.  Even when you are doing a job that you may not like or want to do—or are dealing with one of those 10%ers—miracles can occur if you simply change your mind and view the situation from a higher place—from the big mind.  Give it a try and let me know what happens.

Things to focus on this week:

1.  I will begin each day setting my intention to view my life from the “big mind” vantage point.

2.  I will remind myself that I too can be a 90%er or a 10%er the choice is mine!

3.  I will remember to feel compassion for the 10% regardless of his or her behavior.

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] Astor, D. (2012) Pragmatic Buddhism Reflecting Contemporary Vitality. Engaged Dharma Insight Group: Sebring, FL

[3] Ibid.

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