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Posts Tagged ‘Father Robert Kennedy’

Along the riverbank under the trees,Oxherding_pictures,_No._2
I discover footprints.
Even under the fragrant grass,
I see his prints.
Deep in remote mountains they are found.
These traces can no more be hidden
than one’s nose, looking heavenward.

Koller writes this about the second picture and the verse:

The second picture shows that the oxherd has now caught sight of the tracks of the ox, bringing hope that his ox is not lost forever. This could be interpreted to mean that he has recognized his distress and has begun to seek for a solution in the teachings of Buddhism or in other teachings. But he is still at the stage of thinking and talking about his problems and various possible solutions. He has not yet found a path to follow and has not yet started to practice.[1]

For each of us as we move through the days of our lives we find ourselves searching, thinking, dreaming, seeing, and planning for that perfect oneness and perfection or solution to life’s mysteries. I can reflect on my own “footprints” reliving the conversation or encounter with an old friend or family member.  Or remembering a verse I read or a course I studied at school or in the Zendo.  Or seeing the traces of my life and thoughts and actions.  I begin to search for the answer that I thought I had discovered in that study group or class or relationship.

As I begin to study the principles of Zen my “nose” begins “looking heavenward” as the poem says.  I begin to see footprints leading me toward something of which I do not know just yet.  At the same time Roshi Robert Kennedy invites me to “…let go of everything we thought we were certain of (page 20).”[2]

Let us not move toward a “fixed truth that might hinder us” but let us move each moment where the experience takes us allowing life to flow at its own pace, form, and destination.

The most exciting and important adventures in life were the ones that we least expected.  Open your mind to see what is here in the moment and remember that “truth” changes with time and experience, cling to nothing, enjoy everything—without attachment—and be ready for the next adventure in living!

In gassho, Shokai

[1] http://www.columbia.edu/cu/weai/exeas/resources/pdf/oxherding.pdf

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

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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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December 8th according to tradition in Zen Buddhism is the day celebrated when Shakyamuni Buddha was sitting in mediation under the Bodhi-tree and at the first glimpse of the morning star, attained enlightenment.  History says that when he looked up he cried out, “I and the great earth and beings simultaneously achieve the way.”  It’s probably true also that the day of Jesus’ birth, when he was slapped on his little butt, he too cried out. To the joy of his parent’s ears, I am sure!  He let them know he was alive and well and ready to live the mission for which he was born.

Whether we believe Jesus was actually born on December 25th or not December seems to be the month chosen to commemorate the birth/rebirth of these two great men or what we call in Zen Buddhism “Bodhisattvas of the world.”

One of the great teachers of Buddhism in America is Father Robert Kennedy, in his book Zen Gifts to Christians (2004), he writes these words about the Buddha’s enlightenment experience, “He exults in his realization that he and the great earth and the whole cosmos and everything in it simultaneously achieve enlightenment; he realizes that they all share the same reality.  It was this experience that launched Zen Buddhism as an international religion of wisdom and compassion (page 68).”

And for Christians we see Christ telling his followers, “I and the Father are one.”  (John 10:30) He says, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) He nor the Buddha championed war, killing, prejudice, hatred, ignoring suffering, and the like since if we are all one we are only hurting ourselves as we hurt others.  I cannot separate myself from you.  This has been proven by those who are coming back from our wars with the increased incidence of PTSD and suicide.

Christ’s life was about teaching compassion for those who were suffering, in pain, in need, and in want.   The Buddha and the Christ both said that there will always be suffering in the world.  Why should our behavior contribute to that suffering?  Let our behavior help minimize the suffering and recognize the divinity in everyone and everything.  Father Kennedy goes on to write, “. . . when we touch our neighbor, we do not only touch a friend of Christ’s, we touch Christ himself. When we touch Christ, we touch the one who sent him (page 71).

It is so in Buddhism.  When we touch the lonely, the poor, the suffering, and those in need we touch the Buddha.  What difference is there between the two: culture, geography, and calendar years.  The rest was added on by man and the writers of history books.  But what really matters is their lives and the way they lived them.  Their deeds and the way they performed them.  Their wisdom and the way they shared it with anyone who would listen.

At this time when Zen Buddhists celebrate Rohatsu and Christians celebrate Christmas we should put aside our man made differences and begin to understand what Jesus and Shakyamuni Buddha understood that we are all “one” with God, with mind, with others, with everything.  Let us break the bonds of separation and “other than ness.” Father Kennedy reports the story of the Asian Catholic bishops visit to Thailand in January of 2000 to evangelize Asia.  “…because they felt they should be sensitive to the enduring Buddhist spirituality of Asia and since they were aware that the Buddhists saw Christ and the Bodhisattva as one, the bishops offered an alternative way to evangelize Asia.  They claimed that although they did not deny the uniqueness of Christ, they believed they should not present Christ as simply unique.  They proposed to portray both Christ and the church in a way that resembled the Bodhisattva: That is humble companions and partners of Asians in their common quest for the truth (page 77).”

Both the Buddha and Jesus awoke to the knowledge that all is one.  So on these two very special days of the year let us continue the quest for peace, love, and compassion every day of every week of every year.

Namaste: I behold the Christ/Buddha in you.

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