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Yuanwu wrote, “If where you stand is reality, then your actions have power (page 1).[1]

Yuanwu Chinese Master2. BWjpg

Chinese Master Yuanwu

The Chinese poet Chiao Jan (730-799) wrote this poem.

If you want to be a mountain-dweller. . .
No need to trek to India to find one.
I have a thousand peaks
To pick from right here on the lake.
Fragrant grasses and white clouds
Hold me here.
What holds you there,
World-dweller (page 57)?[2]

 

When you find yourself searching for peace, love, and compassion in your life and you don’t seem to be attaining it ask yourself Chiao Jan’s question, “What is holding me here?” And my questions: What got me here? What would happen if I took a different path or thought different thoughts or acted in a different way? What if I took a different action in this situation next time? How would that look and feel? Would it help or hinder?  What if I simply let go of those thoughts and feelings and stopped the actions that are hindering me right now?

These two men were students of Buddhism and of life who understood that our reality is powerful and holds us in or allows us to expand and grow in a positive way.  Chiao Jan was held in by his beautiful mountains and the lake and the fragrant grasses and white clouds.  What holds you?  What has a grip on you?  What does “reality” mean to you anyway?  Are your day dreams real, are your night dreams causing sleeplessness?  Where did your “reality” take you today?

As you can see we create our own reality with our thoughts, behaviors, feelings, desires and more—right where we are. If our actions have power imagine what we could do with the power of “sitting.”  Simply taking time out of each day to quiet our minds and bodies. To release ourselves from the plans, goals, and pressures of life.  To be that “mountain-dweller” amongst the fragrant grasses and white clouds and allow life to “simply be.” Then watch our “reality” move into the power of peace, love, and compassion for all people, places, and things.

Imagine what your life would be like if all your actions and words made a positive difference in everyone you encountered.  What a wonderful world this would be. And you didn’t even have to be a “mountain dweller” to attain it! Try it and let me know how it goes!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

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

[2] S. Hamill and J.P. Seaton (2007) The Poetry of Zen.  Boston & London:Shambhala

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The mind of the great sage of India

Is intimately conveyed west and east.

Among human beings are wise ones and fools;

In the way, there is no ancestor of north or south.

These are the first four verses of this 37 verse sutra known as the “Sandokai: The Identity of Relative and Absolute.” They let us know that the mind of this great “sage of India” has no physical boundaries regardless of whether you live east or west of India. Regardless of the fact that he lived over 2,500 years ago. His teachings transcend the physical and enter into the four directions and all worlds: physical, mental, emotional, and ethereal.

As is written we are at times wise and we know when those thoughts and actions appear. They are spontaneous and kind and magnanimous, and sometimes even surprise ourselves. And we also know when we are being a fool and those are even easier to see! Just look at the expression on the face of the person to whom you are acting foolishly! And yet when we act mindlessly we may not recognize either our wisdom or our foolishness.

So this week we will work on being mindful of our thoughts, actions, and words. Let’s look out for the impact they have on others. A passing remark can either cut like a knife or heal like an antibiotic. It can empower others or disempower them.

We forget that we have the mind of the Buddha right within us and that we need not go anywhere to find it, we need not search for it by moving to India, or Japan, or Tibet. It is with us wherever we go and manifests in every word, thought, and action. If this is true why don’t we listen for those words of wisdom, love, and compassion? Why don’t we awaken to this teaching that resides in all directions—north, south, east, and west and within us? What is holding us back?

Only you know the answer to these questions. Only you can sit and find the Buddha within you. Only you can make the decision to live a life of mindfulness, of being present in every moment. Only you can set aside time to read and contemplate the simple principles beneath all the world’s great religions and philosophies. In reality they are all the same and contain one simple message: Treat people the way you want to be treated.

The Golden Rule (from some but not all of the world’s religions/philosophies):
Buddhism: “Hurt not others in ways you yourself would find hurtful.” Udana-Varga, 5:18
Christianity: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12
Confucianism: “Do not unto others what you do not want them to do to you.” Analects 15:13
Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty: do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.” The Mahabharata, 5:1517
Islam: “Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” Fortieth Hadith of an-Nawawi, 13
Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor that is the whole of the Torah; all the rest of it is commentary.” Talmud, Shabbat, 31a
Taoism: “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” Tai Shang Kan Ying P’ien

And so around the world the words of the Sandokai live in all traditions in simple and easy to understand words, and yet from moment to moment they often seem not so easy to live! Let’s make a plan for ourselves this week to live the Golden Rule in mind, body, and spirit. Be kind to yourself, be kind to others—in words, thoughts, and deeds. Then sit back and watch your world transform until you realize the Buddha and you are one in the same!

MY PLAN OF ACTION:

Once you’ve written your plan let me know how it goes!

In gassho, Shokai

ingassho

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This month in our Zen study group we are learning about Bodhidharma, the 28th patriarch after Shakyamuni Buddha in the Indian lineage and the first Chinese patriarch of Zen.  He is well known for many things and is to have said many brilliant and mind boggling things as well.  He believed in teaching without words and is quoted as saying, “The ultimate Truth is beyond words.  Doctrines are words.  They’re not the Way.”  Last night as I was leading the lesson on Bodhidharma I realized that his life was just this: learning by doing, not by studying!

Most of our religions today are based around reading, memorizing, studying, and talking, but very little of it is based upon “doing”!  Jesus was a doer he took his Judaism seriously and went out and did the work, healed the sick, fed the hungry, stopped the stoning of the adulterous, and more.  The Buddha discovered the truth through practice (sitting) and expected his followers to practice compassion, love, and hope with all people (doing)—rich and poor alike. Bodhidharma is to have spent six years sitting in a cave facing a wall—simply sitting.

He was not reading books, philosophizing or talking, his life was “doing.”  What have you been doing with your life lately?  Is it just the chores, to-do lists, and projects at work or school that are the focus in your life?  Are you preaching the 10 commandments to others, but not living them yourself.  Doing. . . that is hard!  Talking. . . that is easy!  Living your truth as Bodhidharma and Jesus did—that was hard.

It is said that Bodhidharma took two years to travel from India to China to share his Truth about Buddhism.  Now in the years around 470-543 ca, when it is believed he lived, that was NOT an easy trip.  There were no jumbo jets, no high speed rail, and no paved 6 lane highways.  But that did not deter him; he was determined to do whatever it took to spread the dream of freedom and enlightenment that comes through the simple act of “sitting.”

He was not belying the fact that he learned about Buddhism through words such as the sutras, but he learned that in his brain, enlightenment came through the experience of sitting with those words or with no words, simply sitting.  The Truth is we need not depend on words, nor do we need to throw the books in the trash, neither do we need to take the words as the “one and only” path to enlightenment as many religions profess today. 

The best answer to this conundrum is the words of a student to Bodhidharma’s question to determine their state or “non-state” of realization, “The first disciple he questioned answered, ‘The way I understand it, if we want to realize the truth we should neither depend, entirely on words nor entirely do away with words; rather we should use them as a tool on the way.”  Bodhidharma answered him, ‘You have grasped my skin.’”[1]

Do not be the preacher or teacher who spouts words of goodness and love and then follows that with words of prejudice, hatred, fear, and lies about those unlike them.  Each of us must recognize the ultimate Truth is beyond words.  It is exemplified fully in our deeds: What deeds toward enlightenment, love, and compassion have you done today?


[1] Page 24, The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen,1991

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