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Posts Tagged ‘karma’

buddha-quote-thinkingAtonement is not a word we use much in America, especially today.  Yet, with what is going on in our country and around the world we sure do need more work on it, more thinking about it, and more doing something about what we need to atone for.  I don’t think we can atone for the “sins of our fathers” as they say, but we can atone for our own negative thoughts, words, deeds, and behaviors.

Atonement has been defined in many ways such as reparation for a wrong doing or making amends for your actions, words, and/or deeds.  Or even read as “at one meant.” In, Buddhism we have a gatha or chant that we recite at the end of our sitting period. It is simple yet powerful.

All harmful karma ever committed by me since of old
On account of my beginingless greed, anger, and ignorance,
Born of my body, mouth, and thought,
Now I atone for it all…

Kaz Tanahashi in his book Zen Chants reminds us that “We are in the midst of changeable and unchangeable karma in each moment.  We are bound by cause and effect, but at the same time we are partly free of cause and effect. This is the case during meditation, when we can be completely free from the chain of causation.  At this time, we can be anybody and anywhere.  We are what we meditate.  We are also the source of cause and effect (page 146).[1]

Each time I recite this chant I feel like I’ve been given a new life, and a new opportunity to get something right!  To have a “do over” as we might say today.  I may not be able to have a “do over” with someone who has passed away or no longer will take my calls, texts, or emails, but atone I must—to forgive myself for my behavior or words or deeds that harmed or hurt another.  Regardless of whether the person is someone you know or a total stranger if we have harmed then atonement is the best action to take.  If we decide not to take that action it doesn’t mean that we’re done with it anyway!

I once worked with a congregant of mine who had a very bad relationship with his brother.  Upon his brother’s untimely death, he went into a great depression for how he had left their relationship.  It came to me when we were together one day for him to simply meditate on the love that he had held back from his brother and ask an imaginary angel to deliver him a message of repentance, love, and compassion.  Not long after he said that his brother had come to him in a dream and they hugged and forgave each other, and his pain and suffering was relieved.  His love for his brother was evident in his countenance he was smiling joyfully.

He was freed from the chain of causation through atonement! How chained are you?  What will you do about it? Will you atone and be released from those thoughts and emotions?  Or do you choose to live with the pain, anger, and animosity?  The choice is yours—which will it be.

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

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The way we recite this verse/gatha at our zendo and with our prison ministry groups in Florida is as follows:

All harmful karma ever created by me of old,
on account of my beginningless, greed, anger, and ignorance,
born of my conduct, speech and thought,
I repent of it now.

This is a very powerful gatha. As I’m reciting it things come into my mind very quickly where I violated the gatha. Sometimes I feel like I’ve violated it many times during that day or week. I might have done something that may have been harmful to myself or another. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I robbed a bank or anything like that, but it can be something as simple as speaking in a demeaning tone of voice, or gossiping about someone, or even thinking a not so nice thought about him or her. How about this one, “Oh my god, doesn’t she look in the mirror when she gets dressed in the morning?”

How about you? Do these types of thoughts and behaviors keep you from practicing the principles of love and compassion for all beings?

So why is it “harmful karma?” Because as my friends Armand and Angelina sing in their song “Love is a Boomerang” the verse goes:

“Love is a boomerang, give it away and it comes right back, so is anger so is judgment, give it away and it comes right back. Love is a boomerang. When you wake up in the morning try a different attitude instead of drinking coffee fill yourself with gratitude. Try loving everything you see it will change the way you live. Love is a boomerang, give it away because it comes right back!”[1]

If you follow Armand and Angelina’s advice you’ll see that what you give out comes back at you each day so make the giving peace, kindness, love, and compassion. Now that’s the perfect boomerang for me!

Remember that boomerang runs both ways and can come back at you pretty fast! So say this gatha as often as you need to it will help remind you of the power of your conduct, speech, and thought. Good luck with that!

Let me know how that boomerang works!

In gassho

ingassho

Shokai

My dear friends Armand and Angelina

armond and angelina

[1]You can find Armand and Angelina at their website: http://www.armandandangelina.com/

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I was thinking about what to write for my next blog and seeing that New Year’s Eve was soon to be upon me I thought about what I would like to do to make 2014 a memorable year in my life.  We had a very interesting discussion at our Zen book study this morning and several of us shared stories from the past about how we had hurt or been hurt by others in our lives and how we dealt with those hurts in the past and what we could do in the future with those memories, thoughts, or actions.

It reminded me of a book that I am reading now with a most intriguing title: If You’re Lucky, Your Heart Will Break, Field Notes from a Zen Life by James Ishmael Ford. Part III of his book is entitled “Talking the Talk, Walking the Walk.”  It made me think about 2013 and if I just talked the talk, spouted the platitudes and Zen teachings in a rote manner without really living them, and what that may have done to my life, and to those who had the misfortune or fortune to pass through it with me.

In the book he writes, “What we don’t notice about ourselves is the most dangerous part of who we are (page 93).”[1] He goes on, “. . .we see that the good and ill of an individual lives on, but not in a new single body—rather, among those who that person touched in life, in the fruit of their actions as they touched the world, and in the world itself (page 96).”[2]

And so, rather than go about making a list and checking it twice trying to find if I’d been naughty or nice I read on.  And low and behold more words of wisdom jumped out of the page at me when he began to talk about the idea of karma.  “From the perspective of human experience, the universe and each of our circumstances within it just is. Karma is the observation that everything has causes and everything has consequences; rebirth is the observation that I am constantly being created and recreated by each succeeding moment (page 97).”[3]  And thus everything ends up being “just this.”

So it does not matter whether I make the list or not—what does matter is that I practice the art of being mindful of my thoughts and words and the actions that follow. What matters is that in 2014 I live a life that exemplifies the Buddhist moral discipline part of the Eightfold Path: Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood.

For me that means continuing to be an active part of our Zendo (Southern Palm Zen Group), my prison ministry, my work with Enroll America to help everyone get signed up for healthcare, and being cognoscente of the thoughts that I think, the words that I speak, and the actions that I take.  I can only do that when I focus on being mindful in body, mind, and spirit each and every moment of each and every day.

I know it is a large goal, but it is one that will help me achieve my 2014 life goal: making it memorable. I want it to be something I will be proud of when 2015 rolls around. So if you see me and I am not particularly expressing right speech, right action or right livelihood please let me know and bring me back to my 2014 goal: making the year memorable.  And I mean memorable in a good way, NOT a bad way for you and/or for me.  I’ll need your help with that, that’s for sure! I learned long ago that I cannot do it alone, but I can do it with everyone’s help—especially yours.

I hope you’ll catch me talking the talk AND walking the walk!

In gassho, Shokai

 ingassho


[1] Ford, J. I. (2012) If You’re Lucky, Your Heart Will Break, Field Notes from a Zen Life  Wisdom Publications: Boston, MA

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

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The law of cause and effect is beautifully described by Dogen when he writes about the arrival of flowers.

When the time comes, flowers open. This is the moment of flowers, the arrival of flowers.  At this very moment of flowers arriving, there is no other way.  Plum and willow flowers unfailingly bloom on plum and willow trees. You can see the flowers and know plum and willow trees.  You understand flowers by looking at plum and willow trees.  Peach and apricot flowers have never bloomed on plum and willow trees.  Plum and willow flowers bloom on plum and willow trees.   Peach and apricot flowers bloom on peach and apricot trees.  Flowers in the sky bloom in the sky in just this way.  They do not bloom on other grasses or trees (page 130).”[1]

For me this passage represents the idea of what we call in Unity “the law of mind action.”  Thoughts held in mind manifest after their kind.  You cannot think thoughts of fear, anger, jealousy, limitation, or lack and have happiness, success, prosperity, peace, and love appear in your life on the physical, spiritual, or mental plane.  As Dogen said plum flowers come from plum trees NOT apricot trees or grass.

Like creates like, love creates love, hate creates hate.  You cannot plant an apple seed and get a pear tree any more than you can plant a hate filled thought and get a loving response in return.  Thoughts create our reality and Charles Fillmore, the co-founder of Unity, said they have weight and measure.

What did he mean by that?  He illustrated this idea by an experiment that was done at a college during his life time.  They took some of the best athletes in the school and placed them on a perfectly balanced board.  While lying there they first asked them to try to figure out a very difficult mathematical problem and as they worked on the problem the board began to move slowly in the direction of their heads.  Remember when you were on a teeter totter with a friend who was a little heavier than you were it would move in his or her direction.

Next, they asked the student to picture himself running in a race and to keep running as fast as he could to reach the finish line first.  You can all imagine what happened then—the board began to tilt in the direction of the student’s feet.  Thus Charles said, thoughts “have weight and measure.”

What are you producing with your thoughts: illness in mind, body, or spirit, measurably higher blood pressure, blood sugar, anxiety attacks, or migraines?

Dogen goes on to say:

When the old plum tree suddenly blooms, the world of blossoming flowers arises.  At the moment when the world of blossoming flowers arises, spring arrives. There is a single blossom that opens five petals.  At this moment of a single blossom, there are three, four, and five blossoms, hundreds, thousands, myriads, billions of blossoms—countless blossoms (page 130)”[2]

What is blossoming in your life today, be mindful of the forest that you grow.

Shokai

Things to focus on this week:

1.  I will begin each day thinking peach blossoms and growing peach blossoms.

2.  I will remind myself that the content of my thoughts are the content of my actions.

3.  I will remember that I am in charge of the law of cause and effect.

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

[2] Ibid.

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