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In our last section we’ll look at Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano’s thoughts on how we can grow into the person that we desire to be—someone who can live the beautiful principles of Buddhism on a minute by minute basis.  He gives us a template to follow with the 5 Hindrances.  He writes:

These categories and formulations are worth studying in the texts, as they not only describe from various standpoints the journey to liberation but impress on the student’s mind the dynamic and cumulative nature of the Dhamma [Dharma] so that there can be no mistaking both the existence of higher and higher levels of attainment and the advantages of reaching them.  A sound theoretical knowledge will also help steer one away from dead ends in meditation and unjustified self-criticism or self-congratulation (page 137).[1]

Thus the 5 Hindrances:

  1. Desire, clinging, craving
  2. Aversion, anger, hatred
  3. Sleepiness, laziness
  4. Restlessness
  5. Doubt

Investigating a Hindrance: The RAIN Formula

R: Recognize it
A: Accept it
I: Investigate it, what’s it like?
N: Non-identification

(This is just a passing problem that comes and goes, not who we are.) [2]

I still encounter these 5 Hindrances on a regular basis.  Some days I encounter a whole bunch of them and other times I’m only challenged by one or two. Today may be my lucky day and I might not encounter any. WoooHooo!

Because I practice the teachings of Buddhism on a daily basis I am able to recognize these 5 Hindrances more quickly. This allows me to do something right away to fix the problem that I have created.  Plus, I am less apt to demean myself or others in the process.

Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano goes on to write: To build a good house we must have proper tools.  To make a safe journey we need a map (page 138).[3]  I encourage you to take these 5 Hindrances and work on them each day to use them as your map. Before you know it, you’ll have the most wonderful home filled with peace, love, and compassion for self and others regardless of the circumstance or situation!

Let it RAIN on you each day and watch what beautiful things begin to grow in your life!

Good luck with that!  Let me know how it grows!

[1] Ibid.

[2] https://www.reddit.com/r/Buddhism/comments/6ft69t/the_5_hindrances_to_meditation/

[3] Nyanasobhano, B. (1998) Landscapes of wonder Discovering Buddhist Dhamma in the world around us. Somerville Massachusetts: Wisdom Publications

[4]  Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

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All of the world’s major religions have a Golden Rule included in them and yet the rule is not practiced by many of their followers. Today is yet another important day to send out the message of peace and love so ardently spoken about in one breath and then not practiced in the very next moment by the people who profess to practice a “religion.” Some young impressionable men who felt hopeless and helpless in a world that gave them nothing to live for conspired and perpetrated a siege on the people of Paris on November 13, 2015 in which hundreds were killed or wounded.

Where did we go wrong as a society? What were they searching for, screaming for, and ultimately killing for?

Has our world become one of simply “pagan consumerism” and money for the youth of the world? Is this what they live for? And when they do not find a job or a way to express themselves through music, dance, singing, teaching, art, or the love of a companion, their life becomes unbearable and unlivable. Thus they get radicalized by others around the world who feel the same.

We are once again cautioned to not just preach peace and love but to live it, whether we are Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, or secular humanists. Without peace humans will soon destroy the world and all the people in it.

Below are two Buddhist prayers on peace and compassion. I hope you will take them to heart for the victims and the victimizers “who know not what they do.”

Evoking the presence of great compassion, let us fill our hearts with our own compassion – towards ourselves and towards all living beings.
Let us pray that all living beings realize that they are all brothers and sisters, all nourished from the same source of life.
Buddhist Prayer

We Pray for Peace
We pray for peace in all the world;
We pray that evil may be overcome by good;
We pray for harmony in the Sangha [community],
and for the cessation of all disaster.
– From Shasta Abbey [1]

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] http://worldhealingprayers.com/3.html

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Ten-line Life –Affirming Sutra of Avalokiteshvara
Avalokiteshvara, perceiver of the cries of the world,
Takes refuge in Buddha,
Will be a buddha,
Helps all to be buddhas,
Is not separate from Buddha, Dharma, Sangha—
Being eternal, intimate, pure, and joyful.
In the morning, be one with Avalokiteshvara.
In the evening, be one with Avalokitesvara,
whose heart, moment by moment, arises,
whose heart, moment by moment, remains! [1]

In the news each day we hear of the estimated 6.5 million men, women, and children who have been displaced within Syria while more than 3 million have fled to countries like Germany, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. As we see the heart wrenching pictures of these families walking hundreds of miles in search of shelter, peace, and compassion we may feel overwhelmed and helpless. Besides being able to give our money to the many organizations trying to help them such as the The UN Refugee Agency, Catholic Charities, Muslim Charities, and the like we can use the power of prayer right now right where we are.

The above prayer is a simple example of how we as Buddhists over thousands of years have created chants, poems, and prayers to help those in need. In Sanskrit we hear the name and story of Avalokiteshvara, in Chinese Kuan-yin and in Japanese Kannon, Kanzeon or Kwannon. Avalokiteshvara whether in a male or female body represents great compassion and wisdom. As the story goes the wish to help all beings caused Avalokiteshvara to grow a thousand arms, in the palm of each of which is an eye.[2] This gives him the ability to work for the welfare of many beings at the same time.

The chant above encourages us to respond to the cries of the world with both our words and our deeds. They encourage us to take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma (teachings) and the Sangha (our community). They encourage us not to turn away from or see with a blind eye the suffering of individuals or groups. And finally they encourage us to offer solace where possible, to offer help where needed, and to offer prayers when neither are in reach of our grasp.

I say, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall inherit the Earth.” But without us that may never happen. Your help is needed today and every day to call upon Avalokiteshvara or Kuan-yin or Kanzeon for there is someone in need of your prayers, of food, or shelter, or love, or compassion, and especially for a cessation of war. Why not start each day with this chant to surround the world with peace rather than war, with love rather than hate.

If it’s to be it’s up to me to make a positive difference in the world! Be Avalokiteshvara today!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Tanahashi, K. (2015) Zen Chants, Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary. Shambhala: Boston & London

[2] The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen (1991) Shambhala Dragon Editions, Shambhala: Boston & London

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Why can’t we all just get along?

A FEW GOOD MEN
HIGH ON A HILL IN SOUTH VIETNAM,
A HANDFUL OF MEN ARE GROUPED AS ONE,
JUST A LONELY PLACE THAT WILL BRING NO FAME,
THEY HOLD A POSITION WITHOUT ANY NAME,
KNOWING VC ARE ALL AROUND,
THEY WATCH AND WAIT WITHOUT A SOUND,
HE MUST KNOW HIS JOB AND KNOW IT WELL,
EXPERIENCE IS HIS TEACHER, AND THIS WILL TELL,
EACH HAS A THOUGHT OF HIS HOME FAR AWAY,
HOPING AND PRAYING HE’LL RETURN SOMEDAY,
WHAT SLEEP HE GETS IS ON THE LAND,
A HELMET HIS PILLOW, ALWAYS AT HAND,
HIS WORK GOES ON NIGHT AND DAY,
HE DOES A MIGHTY BIG JOB FOR SO LITTLE PAY,
I THINK BY NOW YOU KNOW WHO I MEAN,
THIS COULD ONLY BE A U.S. MARINE.
Corporal, Timothy J. Ives
07/11/1946-04/30/1967

Written by a high school buddy of my cousin Art Bird a few days before he lost his life in Viet Nam in 1967.

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I am going to continue on with the Peace Pilgrim again and share some of her thoughts from Chapter 8: The Way of Peace.

This is the way of peace: Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love. . . . Only good can overcome evil. . . . One in harmony with God’s law of love has more strength than an army, for one need not subdue an adversary; an adversary can be transformed (page 97).[1]

The first Grave Precept in Buddhism is “Not Killing.” I think she just may have been a Buddhist in a past life and maybe even this life but did not know it! Her life and her words are almost identical to our teachings and if you look at what Roshi Robert Aitken wrote about it in his book The Mind of Clover Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics she was teaching these exact ideas as she walked around the United States through every hamlet and city. He wrote:

Acting upon the First Precept is also the spirit of not harming applied in the natural world. The same poisons that set us apart in families, communities, and across national boundaries—greed, hatred, and ignorance—blight the grasslands, deplete the soil, clear-cut the forests, and add lethal chemicals to water and air. In the name of progress, some say. In the name of greed, it might more accurately be said. We are killing our world… (page 20).[2]

And so in Buddhism and in life if we focus on the positive aspects of peace, love, and compassion for all beings, for the earth, and for all things on the earth we will end up with a world that is without war, and with clean air and water. But if I think that it’s someone else’s job to do it—I’m dead wrong—it all starts with me loving me! It starts with me living a life filled with inner peace, love, and compassion. It starts with me refusing to hate people because of the color of their skin, or who they love, or where they live, or what god they believe in, or even if they believe in no god at all, or what political party they are affiliated with.

Peace Pilgrim said: My inner peace remains in spite of any outward thing. Only insofar as I remain in harmony can I draw others into harmony, and so much more harmony is needed before the world can find peace. All right work and all right prayer has effect, all good effort bears good fruit, whether we see the results or not. In spite of the darkness in the present world situation I am not discouraged. I know that just as human life proceeds toward harmony through a series of hills and valleys, so a society has its ups and downs in the search for peace (page 99).[3]

What is so profound about these words is that you would think she is living right here, right now in 2014. But she is not—she died in 1981. But let us not get discouraged! She never did and so we can all live as she did with hope and goodwill and with the knowing that there will be a turning point when more people believe in PEACE then in WAR!! Some call it the tipping point, some refer to it as the 100th Monkey Theory, but whatever you call it peace is possible!   Peace in your life, in your job, in your neighborhood if only we step out on faith, if only we begin with our selves, and invite our family, friends, associates, neighbors, and everyone we meet to join us in peace, love and compassion. Then let’s watch what happens to our lives our families our jobs and ultimately the world in which we live.

As the Unity peace song goes…let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me!

Let’s start today by living the words in this poem by Emmett Fox that is simply titled “Love.”

Try it for a week and let me know what happens! I am excited to hear from you.

Namaste, Shokai

LOVE

There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer;

No disease that enough love will not heal;

No door that enough love will not open;

No gulf that enough love will not bridge;

No wall that enough love will not throw down;

No sin that enough love will not redeem.

 

It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble,

How hopeless the outlook, how muddled the tangle,

How great the mistake, a sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all.

If only you could love enough you would be the happiest and most powerful being in the world.

~Emmett Fox

 

[1] Peace Pilgrim Her life and Work In her Own Words, Friends of Peace Pilgrim and Ocean Tree Books, 2004.

[2] Aitken, R. (1984). The Mind of Clover Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics. North Point Press: NY, NY

[3] Peace Pilgrim Her life and Work In her Own Words, Friends of Peace Pilgrim and Ocean Tree Books, 2004.

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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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