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Posts Tagged ‘enlightenment’

As I am reading this beautiful section of the Zen Letters I am amazed that my little dog
Annie Nov. 27.15 (2)Annie decides to ask to be picked up to lay in my lap and listen to me read aloud.   I guess that is why “dog” is “god” spelled backward!  She knows the hidden treasure when she hears it.  But me, sometimes I must hear it and read it and see it many times over before I catch the drift of its meaning and move with it as I walk through my daily life.  Oh, if I was just as cleaver as Annie!

Yuanwu writes: . . .in olden times the people of great enlightenment did not pay attention to trivial matters and did not aspire to the shallow and easily accessible.  They aroused their determination to transcend the buddhas and patriarchs.  They wanted to bear the heavy responsibility that no one can fully take, to rescue all living beings, to remove suffering and bring peace, to smash the ignorance and blindness that obstructs the Way (page 30).[1]

A job not for the faint-hearted!  And yet many took on the job. Why? They understood that they would have achieved their goal if just one person was relieved of a heavy responsibility through their actions or words. If just one person was rescued from danger or suffering in mind, body, or spirit—they would have achieved their goal. And they understood to remove suffering and bring peace and transcend the buddhas, although a heavy responsibility, when taken on one step, one action, one word at a time it’s not so hard after all.

Once the ignorance and blindness is penetrated and their eyes were opened to the truth of their being their determination to rescue all living beings grew. When was the last time you took on even a silly millimeter of that vow?  Or are your vows to grow your bank account, your leverage in your company, your job, school, or city at any cost even if it affects others in a negative way?

All too often people’s lives are ruined by someone who cannot see beyond their own needs wants and desires and he or she uses all the false reasoning in the world as to why they should live the way they want to even if those actions harm those around them.  That is not the Buddha’s way! That is not an enlightened path to life.

Yuanwu goes on to write: All those who are truly great must strive to overcome the obstacles of delusion and ignorance. They must strive to jolt the multitudes out of their complacency and to fulfill their own fundamental intent and vows.  Only if you do this are you a true person of the Path, without contrived activity and without concerns, a genuine Wayfarer of great mind and great vision and great liberation (page 31-32).

Thus, is the Hidden Treasure. Not just for you but for all who cross your path! That is the Buddha’s way.  I hope you are on the grassy walk through life!

[1] Cleary J.C. and Cleary, T. (1994) Zen Letters Teachings of Yuanwu. Boston & London: Shambhala

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healing-anger-the-dalai-lama-book-cover

Emerson: Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.[1]

The Dalai Lama: Patience cannot be cultivated in isolation from other people.[2]

As students of Buddhism we are given the opportunity in the West to practice as lay people and live at home, go to work, run our errands, raise our families, take care of our elderly parents, and more.  Each of which can cause us to—as they say “lose our patience” very easily.

When things don’t go my way, or I encounter people who don’t think like me, or talk fast enough, or clean up after themselves I lose my patience.  Thus I am given hundreds of opportunities each and every day to cultivate the principle of patience.

I suppose if I were like the Buddhist monks of old who found a cave at the top of a mountain and simply spent all day meditating and looking at a wall with the only interruption being a small curious animal that might arrive and stare in wonderment at the person sitting facing the wall—what would I have gained in the way of patience? Other then maybe cultivating the patience to reach my goal of “enlightenment” and being inpatient about its arrival.

So let’s try Emerson’s way to cultivate the art of patience by looking at nature.  Spring has the patience to wait until winter has decided to be done.  Summer has the patience to wait until fall arrives to begin its nap and get some rest.  The tulips have the patience to wait till the ground thaws just enough so they can begin pushing their way up through the earth and reach the sunlight. The beauty that comes from the tulips in your garden makes the process and the time so worthwhile for those of us who have the patience to wait for their arrival and don’t run off to the flower shop to buy some there instead.

And so when we sit and meditate we are given the opportunity to practice patience.  Patience with our body as it aches, or with our Monkey Mind as it keeps interrupting, and our breath as it moves slower and deeper the longer we sit.  It is a great place to practice and cultivate patience. With no judgment of right or wrong, good or bad, simply as they say: Waiting for Godot.

What situations in your life are arriving to help you develop and sustain patience in your life?  If we let them they can bring us great pain, suffering, anger, and annoyance.  Or we can enjoy the journey, allow the journey to reveal its “secrets” in its own time and be open to receive its gifts with joy and at nature’s perfect timing.

Good luck with that.  Let me know how it works out as soon as you can!

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Floris, O. Inspiration & Wisdom from the pen of Ralph Waldo Emerson. www.odeliafloris.com (page 1)

[2] The Dalai Lama, Translated by Geshe Thupten Jinpa. (1997) Healing Anger the Power of Patience from a Buddhist Perspective. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications

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Emerson: “There is no planet, sun or star could hold you if you but knew what you are.”

Shodo Hashodo-harada-roshi-sanzenrada Roshi in his beautiful book, Moon By The Window, wrote:

“In a dualistic world we will fumble and fall. When we see with the eyes of the Buddha, we know the joy of the Dharma [teachings] in daily life. We become one with the heavens and earth, and there is no longer any division between inside and outside (page 169).”[1]

We are made up of stars and light and when we use the talent, energy, compassion, and love of which we were born all things are possible.  We have sent spaceships to Mars, found cures for diseases that in the past had destroyed civilizations, we have created music, and dance, and poetry, and literature that has moved millions.  It is possible to be one with each of these things as we travel through life on planet Earth. I know because I have done it at a Cherokee Indian Fire Walk with Unity Minister Edwene Gaines on a dark night in an Alabama forest during one of her workshops

That is who we are. That is what we are. Shodo Harada Roshi goes on to write, “We have to throw away our small way of thinking and live in a place where we hold on to nothing whatsoever. It’s here that we discover the Buddha, and there is nothing sturdier than the strength that comes from this discovery.  The Buddha discovered that he was a part of the “all” as he awoke under the Bodai tree and taught us that through our direct experience we could realize that as well (page 169).”

As Louise Howard and Chris Riddell illustrate in their book Buddhism for Sheep: “Train your mind iBuddhism for Sheept is the source of everything.”[2] As we sit in zazen (meditation) we are training our minds to “throw away our small way of thinking and to hold on to nothing.” Then and only then can we know what we are—a piece of the heavens and the earth.

As Emerson said, “know what you are.” Sheep or not sheep…that is the question.

Shokai

[1] Floris, O. Inspiration & Wisdom from the pen of Ralph Waldo Emerson. www.odeliafloris.com (page 25)

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

[3] Riddell C.,  Howard, L. (1996) Buddhism for Sheep. London, England: Ebury Press

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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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What does it mean to be free?  There will be different connotations if you live in the middle of a war zone in the Middle East, or in a job that you feel chained to that is joyless and boring, or if you are incarcerated in a prison “behind the fence” as we say.  Then there is the prison of our minds and emotions that keep us from being free of our thoughts of lack, limitation, and ill health.

As a college professor I have seen that fear in my students eyes when they enter my developmental English class and know that they will not be free to take the “for credit courses” and earn a degree in their favorite area of study if they don’t pass my class. And yet at some time during that semester I can see the light go on in their minds when they finally “get it.”  They are finally free of their negative thoughts and fears and able to move on with their education.

H. Emily Cady in her book Lessons in Truth wrote:

You may think that something stands between you and your heart’s desire, and so live with that desire unfulfilled, but it is not true.  This “thing” is a bugaboo under the bed that has no reality.  Deny it, deny it, and you will find yourself free, and you will realize that this seeming was all false.  Then you will see the good flowing into you, and you will see clearly that nothing can stand between you and your own [good/freedom].[1]

You will be free!

Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years and yet he was still able to be a powerful symbol of black resistance to apartheid. On February 11, 1990 he was released by President de Klerk and in 1991 he was elected president of the African National Congress. In 1993 Mandela and President de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work toward dismantling apartheid.

A similar story can be told in our country about Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Susan Bright Eyes LaFlesche (Omaha Native American civil rights activist.) and R.C. Gorman painter, sculptor and Native American the first Native American to be internationally recognized as a major American artist.

R.C. Gorman Native American artist

Freedom: Nothing stood in the way of their “hearts desire.” Do not let anything stand in yours either. Freedom is not a place—it is a consciousness.

Be free to meet your good today!  Let me know how that goes!

In gassho,

Shokai

[1] Cady, H.E. (1903).  Lessons in Truth. Unity Village, MO: Unity House

 

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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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“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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Today is the day that I begin to meet my good and look for the things in life, in Buddhism, in philosophy, in religion, and beyond that can assist me in this new adventure in living.  Why begin each morning with the same old thoughts, feelings, wishes, and desires?  If I haven’t attained them yet maybe I don’t need them, maybe I unconsciously don’t want them, or maybe I just haven’t figured out how to manifest them.  Maybe they were really someone else’s goal or desire that was put on me or given to me such as following the same career as one of my parents or living in the same town that I grew up in.

In this new series I am going to challenge myself, my beliefs, my life, and my dreams.  I am going to allow myself to go outside of my comfort zone and beyond my fears to take a very honest look at myself.  To decide what it is about my life that is working, what is not working, what I can release and let go, and what I desire to keep. I might even discover something about myself that I have kept submerged for days, weeks, or even years, or maybe never even recognized.

Dr. Susan Jeffers writes in her book, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, these profound words:

One of the biggest fears that keeps us from moving ahead with our lives is our difficulty in making decisions.  As one of my students lamented. “Sometimes I feel like the proverbial donkey between two bales of hay—unable to decide which one I want, and, in the meantime, starving to death.” The irony, of course, is that by not choosing, we are choosing—to starve.  We are choosing to deprive ourselves of what makes life a delicious feast (page 11).[1]

In Buddhism we talk about life being “just this” whatever this is.  So as “this” occurs I can simply deal with it and then ask myself, “How did I do?”  Did I deal with it in the same old way, did I take the time to look at in a new way, did I allow myself to experience it (I mean really experience it), and how did that feel?  No judgment—simply looking for the wisdom in each moment of my life. What did I learn about myself, the other person, or the event? If it didn’t go exactly as I had planned or it didn’t go well I might ask myself, “How could I handle it differently in the future?”  Or how could I see it differently in the future?  And yet, today I can stop ruminating over it, beating myself up over it, or putting myself down over it.

As I meet my good today and throughout the week I am going to put more trust in myself and my innate wisdom. I am going to allow myself to “feel the fear, and do it anyway.”  Why, because my good is out there—so long as I am open and receptive to receive it!

Let me know what “good” you meet today!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Jeffers, S. (1987) Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. Ballantine Books: NY, NY

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bodhi leaf from Michael's 106 bows ceremony of passingThe Bodhi Tree (Ficus religiosa) is known for its prominent place in Buddhism as the place where Siddhartha Gautama (Shakyamuni Buddha) meditated for 49 days after which he attained complete enlightenment. The leaf shown here was collected by me at the Brevard Zen Center on a silent retreat. This beautiful tree is located on the front of the property and stands as a symbol of the opportunity given to all the retreatants to experience the mystery of the moment for themselves. To discover the oneness that is everywhere present in this eternal now moment in which we live.

We stood beneath the tree in memory of our dear friend Michael who had passed quietly in his sleep the day before our scheduled retreat. It is tradition to do 106 bows in memory and to honor those who have studied with us and brought the dharma to life in the here and now.

What moment are you living in? Are your thoughts and feelings taking you into the past or projecting you into the future? How many minutes of now have you missed, forgotten, or never discovered.

As a Unity minister I found that often my congregants would come to me with their problems and say how they were unable to sleep for days because of the wandering of the mind into projections of the future. I would ask them this question: What could you do about the unpaid bill, or the job interview, or that argument with your teenager at three in the morning? Of course, there response was: absolutely nothing.

It is not easy, but it is also not impossible, to quiet the mind–it simply takes practice. Living in this moment is focusing on each breath with peace and quiet and joy knowing that you still have life within you, it is being one with all that exists with peace, love, and compassion.

In order to be there for others I have to be there for myself first. I have to keep my mind, body, and spirit healthy and loved. And then I will have the ability and the energy to be there for others.

It is amazing how much energy, love, and compassion I have when I stay in the eternal now moment! What can I do right NOW? Begin by taking three slow deep breaths to center yourself. Feel the life force energy flowing through you as the oxygen feeds your body and brain. Feel the peace that passes all understanding melt into every cell of your body as you continue to count your in-breaths and your out-breaths.

Be one with your breath in this eternal now moment and you just may awaken as Siddhartha Gautama (Shakyamuni Buddha) did underneath the Bodhi Tree! Let me know how it goes!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

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There are hundreds of ways a person can begin to open to the spirit within them. In every religion there are prayers, and songs, and dances, and poems, and liturgies that have been created to help their followers find the divinity within them. We have been practicing out loud by chanting and singing, and creating music with percussion, string, and wind instruments or silently, through contemplation, meditation, zazen, introspection, lectio divina, dance, and more. Others have used sweat lodges, art, mind altering drugs, and ancient rituals. But all have been designed to help the individual find that mystical, untouchable, elusive thing within them called life.

Two extraordinary women have recently gifted me two things—one was a book, Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary by Kazuaki Tanahashi, and the other a journal article from Innovation Educativa which she is a co-author of entitled “The power of deep reading and mindful literacy: An innovative approach in contemporary education (Hall, O’Hare, Santavicca & Jones, 2015).” I have been moving between these pieces of writing with joy each presenting me with some fantastic ways to bring my practice into alignment with my life.

Thus I have decided to use these as a jumping off place for creating another workbook for the prison ministry in Florida of which I am one of their volunteers. The prison outreach ministry is sponsored by the Southern Palm Zen Group (Southern Palm Zen Group).

My first thought was what good I could get from the use of these techniques in my life, what I could discover about myself, and how I might even find my “true-self.” And then I read the paragraph below from Kaz’s book and discovered that what I really wanted to do was “understand” what he describes below and thus the workbook was born.

The “Four All-Embracing Vows” expresses the bodhisattva’s attitude. The first of the four vows—‘Beings are numberless; I vow to awaken them’—appears to be an overly idealistic and unrealistic promise. But if we look at it closely, we will notice that it doesn’t simply say, ‘I vow to awaken all sentient beings.’ It begins by acknowledging just how many living beings there are who need to be awakened. Thus, being kind to a neighbor, a stranger, or an animal can create rippling effects of kindness. A simple action may cause infinite results. If the ‘I’ who vows is separate from other people, what ‘I’ can achieve is quite limited. But if ‘I’ is not separate from all others throughout space and time, it may be possible to awaken all beings. This understanding is an essential ground for socially engaged Buddhism (Page 9).

My desire is to be a “socially engaged Buddhist.” My writing this workbook will help me discover new things about myself as I practice the techniques I am sharing, and hopefully, helping others do the same as they use the techniques in their own lives.

So let’s begin this adventure as Kaz did by reciting the four vows for a week as often as possible and wherever we can. Whether we’re sitting in meditation, contemplating the words, or writing them in our journal, whether we’re riding the train, or driving our cars, or making our beds–let’s chant. Chant aloud or silently as the environment allows. Let us not be separate from the words, the thoughts that follow, the sounds of the words, or the feelings and emotions that we feel as we chant. Let’s be one with everything. Let’s be accepting of what comes or does not come, no judgements or criticisms of ourselves, we’re simply chanting! The words are below as we chant them at the Southern Palm Zen Group. You are welcome to use them or use ones that you are familiar with.

The Four Vows
Creations are numberless, I vow to free them.
Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to transform them.
Reality is boundless, I vow to perceive it.
The Enlightened Way is unsurpassable, I vow to embody it.

In gassho,

ingassho
Shokai

[1]Hall, M.P., O’Hare, A., Jones L.F., Santavicca, N. (2015) The power of deep reading and mindful literacy: An innovative approach in contemporary education. Innovacion Educative, ISSN: 1665-2673 vol. 15, numero 67

[2]Tanahashi, K. (2015) Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary. Shambhala Publications Inc.: Boston, MA

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