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Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha): “Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find anything that agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

This week we finished the Jewish tradition of observing Passover and for the Christians Easter and for the Muslims they support them both in some respects.  Within those religions there are traditions and prayers and ceremonies that are used this time each year.  The Jewish tradition of not eating leavened bread is one most people have heard of and everyone has seen the shelves filled with matzo in your grocery stores.

Thus the Buddha admonishes us not to celebrate our traditions because our parents did or our grandparents did but because there is value in doing so.  The traditions allow us to take time out of our daily chores and focus our thoughts and energy on something that will help us grow and be a better person.  They give us an opportunity to look at our behaviors and examine their purpose and outcomes and how they affect our lives, our families, and our communities.

They give us the opportunity to look at our spiritual lives and how we practice our beliefs on a daily basis.  They help us examine our ethics and morals, and our behaviors. As the Buddha said, they give us the opportunity for “observation and analysis.”  At the Southern Palm Zen Group we celebrate one thing each year Rohatsu “the day on which according to tradition Shakyamuni Buddha sitting in meditation under the Bodhi-tree at the first glimpse of the morning star attained enlightenment.”[1] Our celebration is sitting (meditating) through the night, if you can do it, if not, sitting as long as you are able.

Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”Socrates

Dr. Simon Longstaff, executive director of the St James Ethics Centre in Sydney, Australia, wrote in the New Philosopher (June 2, 2013),

“I would suggest that one can make sense of Socrates’ claim if it is understood to mean something like – those who do not examine their lives (make conscious ethical decisions) fail to live a life that allows them to experience being fully human. Thus the allure of those who offer to provide clear answers, simple directions, precise instructions (whatever) so that you may set aside examination and merely comply, or unthinkingly follow custom and practice – perhaps living a conventionally moral life rather than an examined ethical life. One can easily imagine how pleasant an unexamined life might be. ”[2]

What does “being fully human” mean to you?  When was the last time you sat down and really examined your life?  What did you find? Finally, what did you actually do with what you discovered?

Keep me posted!

Shokai

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

[2] http://www.newphilosopher.com/articles/being-fully-human/

 

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Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha): “Do not believe in anything Thich Nhat Hanhmerely on the authority of your elders and teachers.”

Wow!  Now that is coming from a great elder, teacher, and thinker—the Buddha!  As a teacher, trainer, and college professor for most of my adult life I am in complete oneness with this axiom.  Just because the teacher says so does not MAKE it so.  Everyone is born into a family, culture, country, and religion that has the desire to propagate themselves and their culture and beliefs.  Every culture has leaders and teachers who help share those ideas to ensure that they live on.

Whether you are an indigenous group such as the Aborigines in Australia, the Iroquois in North America, or the Mashco-Piro tribe in Peru they have believes that have been handed down by generations of elders and teachers.  Each is unique in its teachings and beliefs as we all are.  So if we move from one culture or religion to another we take on those beliefs and live by them.

As we discover new things through science and research we may look at our teachers and elders and what they taught us and say that some of their ideas might be called “superstitions” today. Thus the Buddha says we need to be curious and if need be do our own research and studies and discover what is “true” and “right” for us in our lives or in a particular situation.

I had a friend many years ago who went into the Catholic priest to ask some questions that were concerning her about her faith and she was told to just belief whatever they told her and when she refused to do so they excommunicated her.  The Buddha was way before his time in this axiom.  He understood that knowledge is fleeting and changing and that thinking too much can get us into trouble.

And thus he said, “Do not go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by rumors, by scriptures, by surmise, conjecture and axioms, by inference and analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by specious reasoning or bias toward a notion because it has been pondered over, by another’s seeming ability, or by the thought, ‘This monk is our teacher.”  But when you yourself knows: ‘Such and such things are unskillful, blameworthy, criticized by the wise, and if adopted and carried out lead to harm and ill and sufferings,’ you need to abandon them.”

This is the difficult way!  It is so much easier to let others do the research, the writing, and the teaching and follow them like lemmings then it is to think for yourself, read, research, and then practice the teachings and discover the power for yourself.   Yet, I recommend it highly. I hope you’ll try it out and let me know how it worked!

In gassho, Shokai

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Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha): “Do not believe in anything because it is found written in your religious books.

The Rigveda is an ancient Indian text one of the four canonical sacred texts of Hinduism written between the 5th and 2nd century BCE, the first four books of the Bible Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers were written between the 6th and 2nd century BCE, the Tao Te Ching in the 6th century BCE, the Buddhist Sutras between the 2nd century BCE and the 2nd century CE, the New Testament in the 1st century CE, the Qur’an is the newest written around 632 CE.  Wow!  If you can remember all of that you’re better than I am!

 What’s my point?  The people who wrote these books were wonderful people who wanted to memorialize their beliefs and experiences for those who would come after them.  They were trying to explain, nature, birth, death, life, good and evil and more.  Science was not at the level it is today, they only had their eyes, ears, nose, and sometimes mouth to discover and memorialize their lives and how they dealt with what happened to them and in them in their waking and sleeping hours.

This is neither good nor bad—it just is.  Thus if saying a bed time Buddha at Bedtimeprayer will help keep you alive through the night—great what can you lose! If not eating meat is how you desire to live your life wonderful, go for it.  If eating meat but not pork or crustaceans (lobster, crabs, shrimp, etc.) is your choice that’s great too.  In ancient times you might have been better off not eating pork because it caused an infection we know as trichinosis, but so did lots of other foods.  Just a few more reasons “not to believe” everything found in your ancient texts.

My mom believed it about the pork and thus when we had pork chops for dinner they were so well done they tasted and acted like shoe leather!  That was one of the nights I always found a reason to eat at my best friend’s house for dinner.  Another time I bought some “free range chicken” and served it to her for supper.  I was bragging about how great they were and that all the chickens should be freed.  Once again mom told me a “farm story.”  “I fed plenty of chickens on the farm growing up and let me tell you they ate anything and everything in sight, at least this way their waste ends up far enough away that they can’t get at it.” You’ve got to love my mom!

So in this day and age with our education, science, technology, the internet, and more you have the opportunity to be your own researcher and discover about life for yourself.  If following your religious and family traditions is important in your life…go for it.  Just remember that not everything written in them is true…then move full speed ahead and live the life that works for you and spreads peace, love, and compassion wherever you go!

In gassho,

Shokai

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For anything new to emerge there must first be a dream, an imaginative view of what might be. For something great to happen, there must be a great dream.  Then venturesome persons with faith in that dream will persevere to bring it to reality.

Some ideas whose time has come will spread as in a forest fire. But most need the help of a teacher.  I had the good fortune to have an extraordinary one.  He dreamed a great dream of how servanthood could be nurtured in the young, and he spent his best years in bringing it to pass (page 9-10).[1]

Where I work at Kaplan University they encourage not only the students to volunteer and make a difference in their communities but they encourage all faculty to do so as well through The Virtual Difference Makers. Here is a list of some of the things they did in 2016: ran a Spring Virtual Serve-A-Thon, hosted a Stress Management Series, a Virtual Celebration of Rio, sponsored their first annual Health and Wellness Fair, held a Fall Serve-A-Thon and more!.

I have been invited to Lynn University to participate in an interfaith dialog and will be back there again in April for another interfaith dialog.  The hall was jammed with students!  Standing room only!  They asked wonderful questions of the panel.

These were the words on the Flyer for the event: Healing the Divide: Interfaith Dialogue.

In a world where religion so often is the cause of hate and intolerance, we stand infaith-headtogether at Lynn to create a world where our religious differences are not simply tolerated but celebrated. This event is precisely that; where religious leaders from the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and Atheist traditions will come together in celebration of our diverse faith traditions.  Come and be amazed!

Imagine the great education the students are receiving at both Kaplan and Lynn and many other colleges around our country when their faculty and administration support such events.

If you are able to create similar events on your campuses I encourage you to do so.  Create a Virtual Difference Makers club for students and faculty, run interfaith dialogues, offer training for faculty on meditation and mindfulness.  Be the change you want to see in our world! Be the catalyst for peace, love, and kindness spreading around your campus and beyond!  The time has come to spread the message of servant leadership at all levels.  Change has always come from the bottom up not from the top down! Be the change you want to see in the world!

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

Shokai

 

[1] Greenleaf, R.K. (1987) Teacher as Servant: A Parable. The Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership: Indianapolis, IN

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Emerson The Gospel of Emerson:

“No truth so sublime but it may be trivial tomorrow in the light of new thoughbuddhist-boot-camp-book-coverts (page 9).”[1]

Timber Hawkeye The Buddhist Boot Camp:

I knew what they meant: focus on the teachings, not the teacher (page 51).[2]

I know you are reading and listening and googling your favorite teachers and guru’s every day.  You spend time reading their books, listening to their pod casts, reading their blogs, newsletters, and more.  Many of you are running to the current most famous guru or teacher that you’ve seen on TV or the internet.  You hope to find the answer to all of your pains, sufferings, and questions about life.  And when they don’t give you the answer you move on to the next “teacher” and the next to no avail.  Why? Because the greatest teacher is right within you!

 There is no greater teacher then one that lies within you.  One fad teacher seems to have the “sublime answer” and then the next new face or name has the newest “sublime answer or new thought.”  From the horse and buggy to the car.  From the airplane to the moon and mars.  What next? Who next?  And yet the answer is always within you.  Within your divine wisdom—if you just go within and listen.

Be open during your meditation to sit quietly, focus on your breath, and wait upon nothing.  That is when miracles arrive.  That is when you open your mind to the great mind of the universe.  In those silent moments you tap into infinity.

Then you can be open to receive the answer to all of your questions.  The answer may come later in the day while washing the dishes or mowing the lawn.  It may come to you while swimming or riding your bike.  But come it will.  It probably won’t come from focusing on the wisdom of the “teacher” but on the wisdom of your intuitive creative mind.

All great inventors and scientists learned the basics from teachers and books and then they let the rest appear.  Albert Einstein is said to have had a dream/vision of himself flying through space and came up with E=mc squared. And Thomas Edison when he could not find the answer to a difficult problem would lay down on a bench in his laboratory and hold a coin in his hand and when it dropped on the floor it would wake him from his lucid dream state and the answer to the problem was there!

This short list includes some of the great founders of the world’s religions and philosophies: Yahwists, Zoroaster, Laozi, Siddhartha Gautama, Confucius, Ezra, Jesus, Muhammad, Mary Baker Eddy, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, and Helen Blavatsky. These are just a few of the original minds that were the impetus of a religion or belief system that we have in the world today.  Each brought their own flavor and ideas to the mix. Each brought a “new thought” to the world to help them cope with the challenges of their time.

You too can use their thoughts and ideas to propel you to expand your consciousness and create your own path of wisdom, meaning, and knowledge to help you live a life of peace, love, and compassion. Be open to new ideas, focus on the teachings not the personalities.  Allow your mind to open to expand to new ideas that will challenge your beliefs and move you forward into “new frontiers.” Remember it is not the teacher that is important it is the teaching!

Let me know how that goes!  Our world really needs your new ideas!

Shokai

 

 

[1] Dillaway, N. (1949) The Gospel of Emerson. Wakefield, Mass: The Montrose Press

[2] Hawkeye, T. (2013) Buddhist Boot Camp. NY, NY: Harper Collins Publishers

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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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What Laura Rendon, author of Sentipensante (Sensing/Thinking) Pedagogy: Educating for Wholeness, Social Justice and Liberation, talks about in her book is so relevant to the situations occurring in our world today.  The actions by the militants in Libya and Egypt, the creation of a totally inaccurate and prejudice video about Islam from a nut case in California, and the threat to burn the Koran by the crazy minister in Florida, plus the “shoot from the lip” response from Romney about the crisis in Egypt and Libya are a direct result of their education being at odds with Rendon’s research and philosophy on teaching.  She writes:

               ” What does it mean to be truly educated in the world today? We are being challenged to educate students for a complex future with ever-ending, ever more difficult social, political, and cultural challenges that test our ability to make sound, ethical, and moral decisions, as well as to make the world peaceful, equitable, and survivable.  The entrenched belief system privileges separation, monodisciplinarity, competition, intellectualism, and passivity at the expense of collaboration, transdisciplinarity, intuition, and active learning, especially that focused on social change (p.135).”

Modern religious education in America and around the world frequently teaches our children to be separate, different, better “than,” and always right.  It does not teach them to be independent free thinkers but automatons, unquestioning, and rigid.  It creates death, destruction, wars, hatred, and misogyny.  It separates rather than joins, it hates rather than loves.  It fears rather than shares. It kills rather than heals.

And yet right now we see this going on here and abroad and we do nothing about it in our school systems.  We have the teachers on strike in Chicago because the politicians want to run the schools and they have had absolutely no education in teaching, pedagogy, administration, counseling, social work, or psychology.  All of which are imperative to run a classroom, a student counseling office, or a principal’s office.

We’ve even allowed them to re-write our curriculum and take “science” out of our classrooms and textbooks and teach “creationism” and “abstinence only” instead!  The nuts have taken over the nut house now they have taken over the school house as well! In Texas they have even taken Thomas Jefferson out of the history books because he fathered a child with a slave!  Yikes… What next?  Do we take Einstein out of the theory of relativity because he was a Jew?  Or how about taking Maria Curie out of our science books because she was a woman?  Even though her work included pioneering research on radioactivity, and she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the only woman to win in two fields, and the only person to win in multiple sciences.  That will be next if these types of people are given additional power in our school systems here and around the world.

Rendon goes on to say:

                “In our quest to transform the entrenched belief system, we must be willing to address questions such as: Why have I not broken out of a belief system that is oppressive in nature for many students and faculty?  How is my behavior upholding power structures in the academy? What do I believe about who can and cannot learn? How am I choosing my curriculum—what assumptions do I follow, and is the curriculum truly inclusive and multicultural in nature?  If not, what prevents me from doing this and why am I going along with this limiting view of knowledge (p. 135-6)?”

If these questions are not answered by us and by all countries and their leaders I hate to see what kind of world our children will grow up in.  What will happen with this lack of knowledge, love, and compassion for all beings, all religions, and our slowly dying planet Earth?  Sometimes I am glad that I am old enough that I will not live to see these potentially devastating outcomes.

Today is the day for each of us to BE the change that we want to see in the world….what will you do to make that happen?

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