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ying and yangIn Part 8 we talked about True Speech and once we’ve mastered that we can move on to what Pei-chien (1185-1246) calls “Action and Stillness.”  Cleary quotes him as saying “Let your actions be like clouds going by; the clouds going by are mindless.  Let your stillness be as the valley spirit; the valley spirit is undying.  When action accompanies stillness and stillness combines with action, then the duality of action and stillness no longer arises (page 116).”

I just love the visual of the clouds floating by with ease and grace not caring in which direction they go as things out of their “control” move them through the sky or cause them to disappear without worry or frustration.  They simply have no clinging and once in a while they may shed a “tear” or block the sun but before we know it things will change.  Another cloud may have taken its place, or the cloud will have moved so we can see the sun shining once again. Such is life as we realize, “and this too shall pass” like the movement of the clouds and the sun in our lives.

Thus to focus our attention on the stillness, as Pei-chien says, when the action and the stillness combine, they negate each other and neither arises and both arise simultaneously as one.  We can not have success without an action.  We may have finished our college classes and graduated and got hired by a great company.

We may have married the one we love and created a wonderful life partnership.  To be successful there will be times of actions together and actions alone. There will be stillness when all you do is sit quietly in each other’s arms or in each other’s memories if you are far apart. The duality no longer arises, and we are one.

Regardless of how long the new job lasts or the relationship lasts the stillness and the actions will continue in your life. It is how we see them that determines our life course. It is how we deal with them that makes us who we are. It is where we put our focus on the actions or the stillness or both that can make all the difference.

[1] Cleary, T. (1998)   Teachings of Zen. New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc

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We continue our thoughts on these verses from the “Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra” below.  Remember when reading this sutra you are the bodhisattva regardless of whether you feel like it today or not.  It is an inherent characteristic of you that cannot be denied, removed, or ignored:  When we try to do so it simply finds ways to remind us.

No gain thus Bodhisattvas live this Prajna Paramita

With no hindrance of mind.

No Hindrance, therefore no fear,

Far beyond all such delusion,

Nirvana is already here.

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

This is prajna—no gain and no loss.  There’s nothing coming in or going out because there is no place where anything can come to or go from. There is no border, no separation, just a flow of energy. This is reality beyond our conceptual and calculating way of thinking (p. 194). [1]

This may be a difficult concept to grasp as we live in the physical world and we see birth and death every day in our lives and on our TV.  And yet the famous healer and author Joel Goldsmith wrote about this same idea in his book Practicing the Presence Guide to Regaining Meaning and a Sense of Purpose in Our Life, (1958)

All through the ages, duality has separated us from our good, but it is a sense of duality, not duality, because there is no duality.  The secret of life is oneness, and oneness is not something we bring about.  Oneness is a state of being.

There is no such thing as God and man, any more than there is an outside and an inside to the tumbler, separate and apart from each other. The outside and the inside are one (page 56).

The nature of our existence is immortality, eternality, infinity (page 58).[2]

Just as Okumura says, there is no border, no separation, just a flow of energy—tumbler energy appearing as a vessel for us to use when we are drinking.  Our bodies and our minds are like this vessel and thus there is no gain and no loss, there is nothing coming in or going out and when we grasp this idea we also lose the idea of “hindrance.”  This understanding relieves us of our fears and delusions.  Thus “Nirvana is already here.” Thus we are already the bodhisattva!

Yet, we keep forgetting.  Sitting is a great way to help us remember. Practicing the principles of Buddhism is a great way to remember.  Living a life of compassion and peace is a great way to demonstrate that you remember.  Simply sitting as often as possible and as long as possible is a great way to demonstrate that you remember.

And from these demonstrations come results in our lives: less fear, less delusion, less hindrance of mind. This is “reality” beyond our everyday thinking. And that is the perfect place to be today!

Things to focus on this week:

  1. I will begin each day by sitting in quiet meditation letting go of everything that is keeping me from focusing my attention on my breath.
  2. I will remind myself that doing this can help free me from my fears and delusions.
  3. I am not looking into the future for Nirvana because it is already here in this now moment!
  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

[2] Goldsmith, J.S. (1958). Practicing the Presence Guide to Regaining Meaning and a Sense of Purpose in our life. HarperSanFrancisco

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