Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness’

Dear friends, The essay below was written by one of our Zen students “behind the fence.” He has been a long time student and friend of mine.  I hope you will be enlightened by Jakuho’s writing, passion, and understanding of the teachings of Zen Buddhism.  I hope, as well, that you will take his sage advice in the last paragraph it could change your life forever.

In gassho, Shokai

gassho

================

I am reading from the book you sent me, titled, “What is Zen?.”   My simple answer is that Zen is Zen Buddhism, an Asian religion now practiced all over the world.  Broadly, there are three forms of Buddhism: Theravada, which emphasizes the earliest scriptures that seems be mostly about individual liberation; Mahayana Buddhism, which emphasizes compassion and social concern as much or more than individual liberation; and Vajrayana Buddhism (the Buddhism of Tibet), which adds detailed, esoteric, ritualistic practices.   

Zazen is very much a physical practice: the body is never an insignificant detail, as if meditation were a matter of mind and spirit apart from body.  Why do we walk so slowly during kinhin?  So slow that I often feel I will lose my balance?  The point is to pay close attention to body, breath, and mind when you are walking just as when you are sitting.    

Can you tell when a person is “more spiritually developed”?   Does it show?   I guess I have just defined an enlightened person as someone with wisdom and a good heart.   Wisdom in Zen means the capacity to see that “form is emptiness, emptiness is form,” as the Heart Sutra teaches.   What would this “wisdom ad good heart” look like?   Probably like the spiritual qualities that all our great traditions have always prized: humility, kindness love, patience, forgiveness, understanding.  

The important thing about the teaching of rebirth, the part that seems true and that matters a great deal is that life continues.   That is, there is more to our lives than the little span of time between birth and death.   The teaching of rebirth tells us that our life and death are significant beyond their appearances, more significant than we know. 

To most Zen students, at first the teachings might seem odd or nonsensical though also at the same time intriguing, because you sense that there is something to them, but after you have practiced and studied a while, they do make sense, and you can discuss and think about them reasonably.   Our lives include many paradoxical and contradictory elements.   Things are usually not just one way, they are many ways at once.

How will Zen practice affect my family relationship?  My work relationships?   The effectiveness of your practice will show up at home.  I believe and have seen much corroborating evidence, that Zen practice makes you a better husband or wife, father, or mother.   It makes you more attuned emotionally, kinder, more patient, more caring and loving, more able to be present, even when the going gets tough, even when you have an impulse not to be.

Why does Zen have such a close connection to various art forms, like haiku and flower arranging, for example?   As Zen developed in China, it co-evolved with Taoism and the Chinese arts, most notably calligraphy, painting, and poetry.   Zen priests always wrote poetry and did calligraphy.   Some experts claim that in the West, art depicts the external, while in Asia, art evokes the inner sense of things, their spirit or soul.

Doshin, I am finishing this book.   There is much work to do about the tremendous suffering in this world: poverty, social injustice, war, environmental destruction.   Isn’t it selfish to spend a lot of time just sitting and staring at the wall without helping anybody else?    Thank you for sending me this book and for your compassion, kindness, and love.   

In gassho, Jakuho

Read Full Post »

I just spent 5 days at a silent retreat (Sesshin) at the Brevard Zen Center in Coco Beach and I was surrounded by like-minded people.  People who decided to take time off to focus on their practice, on stillness, on quiet contemplation, and on quieting the mind and body.  I know that not everyone has the luxury of taking extended periods of time out of their family and work lives; however, if you can even take one day I recommend it highly.

Being around like-minded people can be an invigorating experience, or a hellish experience depending on which “mind” you are choosing to focus on.  If you feel sometimes like an angry, unhappy person with a mind that’s always focusing on the negative you surly do not want to be around “like-minded people.”  Today would be a good day to discover the happy, upbeat, positive, helpful people that you, at times, envy and sometimes dislike, and sometimes may even try to emulate.

I’ve had many people in my life ask, “What are you so happy about all the time, smiling, laughing, and joking?  Don’t you know there are terrible things going on in the world or at work or at home?” Of course, I do know that life is not always a panacea; however, I’d rather create a life like Pollyanna then a life like the Wicked Witch of the West any day!  Life is what you make it, unless of course you let outside circumstances or outside people like the Wicked Witch of the West make it for you?  The choice is up to you.

I often relate a story about one of my congregants who came home from work and found a man in her house who proceeded to rape her and stab her 62 times.  She lived and they caught the man and put him in prison.  Her life seemed to be falling apart from that day forward until, as she says, she decided to forgive him and move on with her life.  So she went to the prison, faced him, and forgave him.  From there she began to heal to be able to live a normal life.  She saved herself and spent the rest of her life living around “like-minded people” those who can forgive, and love, and reach out to others in times of need to help console and hold them up with love and compassion.

She is an inspiration to me and my role model for unconditional love.  Till that time my love came with conditions.  I have been lucky enough to have jobs like my work as a Unity minister, a hospice chaplain, a college professor, and a Zen Buddhist priest which has allowed me to be surrounded by like-minded people.

Buddha quote anger, goodness truth generosity

I hope you are surrounded by those people who will love you unconditionally and have a life filled with peace, joy, love, and happiness.  A life filled with people that lift you up and not tear you down.  This is my wish for you that you meet your good today and it is filled with like-minded people who will celebrate the uniqueness of you and see the good in your heart! Let me know how that goes.

In gassho, Shokai

Read Full Post »

At the end of Ronald and Mary Hulnick’s wonderful book Loyalty to Your Soul The Heart of Spiritual Psychology they write “. . . spiritual evolution slowly seeps into every crack and crevice of your life, and you slowly shift from saying the true answer to living the true answer (page 203).”  This adventure in living is a special opportunity to learn how to live a spiritual life instead of a material life.  It is for each of us in this New Year an opportunity to live a life of love, peace, joy, compassion, and forgiveness: Forgiving others and more importantly forgiving ourselves.

The Hulnick’s like to refer to an analogy of carrying a backpack filled with rocks on our backs every day.  These rocks are a symbol of our anger, hatred, fear, rules, rights/wrongs, must does, and self-recrimination that have built up throughout our lives.  Life is hard, just like the rocks we carry around, the rocks that are dragging us down in our jobs, relationships, health, and most importantly our ability to arise to a place of positive self-realization.

Many of us may have experiences such as Emperor Wu did when he mourned the passing of the venerable bodhisattva, Bodhidharma,  as described in Janet Jiryu Abels book, Making Zen Your Own Giving Life to Twelve Key Golden Age Ancestors (2012).

Alas, I saw him without seeing him.

I met him without meeting him.

I encountered him without encountering him.

Now, as before, I regret this deeply.

She asks us to ponder these questions:

  • Who do we see without seeing?
  • Who do we meet without meeting?
  • What do we encounter without encountering?
  • Do we regret this deeply?
  • And if we do, what are we going to do about it (page 20)?

These questions brought to mind an experience I had in Target as I was checking out one day.  I ran in for a few simple things and was so engrossed in my own thoughts and to-do list that I did not pay attention to the person who was checking me out until I saw this beautiful hand reach out to me to give me my change.  I realized I had made him “invisible.”  I had not looked at him, no less made eye contact with him.  Had I left the store before this thought came into my mind I would not have been able to tell you if the clerk was a man, woman, young, old, black, brown, or white.

So I took the opportunity to slow down, to look him in the eyes, smile, and thank him for his help and I wished him a good day.  Jiryu goes on to write at the end of this passage, “Where is Bodhidharma right now? Wake up! Bodhidharma is sitting on your cushion.”  He or she is serving you in the department stores, teaching your children; putting out your fires, answering your 911 calls, mowing your lawns, nursing your sick, or painting your house.  He or she is you and you are him or her.

I felt like I had dropped a great big rock from my backpack after that encounter.  I’d like to drop many more of them as I work my way through 2013.

This realization also helped me move in my life from just “saying the true answer to living the true answer.”  I hope that this means that each day I can actually see spiritual evolution slowly seeping into every crack and crevice of my life…that I can meet Bodhidharma on the cushion and in the grocery store.  Wish me luck!

Read Full Post »