Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Kazuaki Tanahashi’

Buddha quote anger, goodness truth generosityIt is one thing to read something and another thing to remember what you’ve read.  How often do we read something at work and quickly forget what it said?  When we are studying the texts and the writings of Buddhism we really want to absorb what we’re reading.  We want to understand the meaning behind the words.  We want to embody the teachings in such a way as they make a palpable difference in our lives. In such a way that we generate an aura of peace, love and compassion for all things and it is evident in our thoughts, words, and deeds. We do this through contemplation of the Buddhist teachings.

These two verses are often chanted before or after a talk or lecture

The Dharma is deep and lovely.
We now have a chance to see it,
Study it and practice it.
We vow to realize its true meaning (page 150).[1]

May the merits of this practice penetrate
Into each thing in all places.
So that we can realize the Buddha’s way,
The Ten Directions, the three worlds, all buddhas,
All honored ones, bodhisattvas, mahasattvas, and
The great prajna paramita.

You can, of course, change the pronoun from we to I if you are studying alone.  There is a veritable encyclopedia of great works of Buddhism to read and digest and contemplate.  The more we study and learn and embrace the words of the great teachers from Shakyamuni Buddha to our current writers and translators the more we will be able to embody the teachings until they become a part of who we are.

Then and only then can we begin to automatically, without thinking, act in a kind, loving, helpful, and nonjudgmental way.  No longer will the questions of “What would the Buddha do” enter our minds.  Our brain will automatically know and go to that action or find those kind and loving words so quickly you will wonder where they could have come from.

Being a Buddhist is not simply putting on a robe and expecting everyone will look up to you and think you are grand or special or knowledgeable.  It is with or without a robe acting like a person with merit gained from your studies having penetrated into your words, deeds, thoughts, and actions. That lets people know you are a student of the Buddha.  It is not easy to be a “real” Buddhist.  In fact, it is very challenging in the beginning. Why? Because goodness must swell up from within you in all situations and with all people regardless of the circumstances of the moment.

I am not always the best Buddhist and I know when I have slipped away from my vows and have to begin anew.  How do I know that? –through knowledge of the teachings, through my time spent on the cushion contemplating and studying the sutras and the teachings of Buddhism through the ancients to the modern authors–that’s how.

It’s quite like the world class chefs. They do not learn how to be a great chef by eating, they learn by studying with other great chefs, and cooking, and cooking some more. Creating recipes takes a lot more time, thought, and effort then eating! What recipe are you using? Jell-O Instant pudding or one made from scratch with great ingredients, time, effort, studying, concentration, and love of the teachings?

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

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I opened up one of my favorite books by Kazuaki Tanahashi, Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary, looking for some sage advice today and sure enough I got it!

Setting Out The Bowls

We now set out
utensils of the Tathagata.
May the three wheels in boundlessness[1]
be equally liberated![2]oryoki style eating

In Buddhist monasteries you may sit and eat in oryoki style which is sitting on the floor with your bowls of food in front of you.  The word oryoki roughly means “that which contains just enough.”[1]  When you are ordained you receive these three bowls nested together with chopsticks and wrapped in a napkin. Additionally, you carry these with you wherever you travel.  This allows you to dine sitting anywhere.

When was the last time you took a meal where you focused your time and energy on the eating.  Where you did not fill the plate to over flowing and eat way too much—but just enough to be satisfied.  If you focus your attention on the food and savor the textures and the flavors and the smells your food will taste better, it will satisfy you more, and the process will ultimately have you eating less.

You will be liberated from indigestion that is caused by the ruminations controlling your mind from the day or the week of that nasty boss, or the bills, or the fears and anxieties of everyday living.  You can focus on the boundlessness of that liberation and know that through silence comes liberation, whether the silence is during a meal, during your meditation, walking the dog, or at break during your workday.

Our lives are filled with noise from the TV, radio, cellphone, traffic, people talking, children crying, or the chatter inside our heads.  Silence is a “utensil” that you can use to clear your mind and body of irritations, “stinkin thinkin,” and more.  Silence can bring you liberation from the self-talk and exaggerations that we create about our life and its circumstances.  Liberate yourself from hyperbole, and critical thinking, and see how peaceful your life can be.  See how filled with gratitude, love, and compassion it can be. Then watch your physical ails slowly disappear into nothingness.

Remember you are boundless and limitless only if you think you are! Create your own “three wheels” of peace, love, and compassion in your body, mind, and spirit then watch what happens in your life—liberation!

Let me know how it goes!

ingassho

Shokai

[1] The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen  (1991) Shambhala Press:Boston
[2] The three wheels of boundlessness:
The Four Noble Truths
Emptiness
Buddha Nature
[3] Tanahashi, K. (2015) Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary. Shambala: Boston & London

Read Full Post »

Awakening Together
All awakened ones
throughout space and time,
honored ones, great beings,
who help all to awaken,
together may we realize
wisdom beyond wisdom (page 29)! [1]
~ translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi

Today is the right and perfect day to “awaken.” The perfect day to discover the power within you to live a life of peace, love, and compassion. Wisdom is beyond knowledge and only in the quiet of the inner heart can we find it and allow it to work in our lives for good. It is important to understand that knowledge is simply information that we have gained during our life time at school, at work, at home, and at play—it is not wisdom.

The author of Thoughts without a Thinker, Mark Epstein, M.D., says there are “two essential currents of the life energy: wisdom and compassion. These are the two qualities of the enlightened mind, the two forces that are cultivated with the realization of enlightenment (page 83).”[2] The perfection of wisdom is in you already and by sitting in the silence you can awaken that which is already in you—as you.

We are all sleeping giants waiting to discover our true selves. Through zazen (sitting), prayer, meditation, and mindfulness this awakening can occur. It may only last for a second or it may last for a life time, but it is there ready to be discovered, acknowledged, and used.

Wisdom can help us cope with life, looking within our minds won’t help because wisdom is not “in” the mind. To discover it, regardless of where it is, simply take the time each day to sit in the silence and open yourself to it. When you do you’ll discover that there is enough room within you for the wisdom to appear. Zen Master Dogen writes: Now, the realm of all buddhas is inconceivable. It cannot be reached by consciousness. Much less can those who have no trust, who lack wisdom know it. Only those who have right trust and great capacity can enter this realm (page 148).” [3]

This short sutra recited daily can help you open your self to the wisdom of the universe that is everywhere present, helpful, compassionate, and powerful. Let us awaken together today and “May the force [of wisdom] be with you.” Yoda
In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Tanahashi, K. Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary. Shambhala Publications: Boston MA
[2] Epstein, M. MD (1995) Thoughts Without a Thinker Basic Books HarperCollins Publishers, Inc: NY, NY
[3] Tanahashi, K. (1985) Moon in a Dewdrop Writings of Zen Master Dogen. North Point Press: NY, NY

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

There are hundreds of ways a person can begin to open to the spirit within them. In every religion there are prayers, and songs, and dances, and poems, and liturgies that have been created to help their followers find the divinity within them. We have been practicing out loud by chanting and singing, and creating music with percussion, string, and wind instruments or silently, through contemplation, meditation, zazen, introspection, lectio divina, dance, and more. Others have used sweat lodges, art, mind altering drugs, and ancient rituals. But all have been designed to help the individual find that mystical, untouchable, elusive thing within them called life.

Two extraordinary women have recently gifted me two things—one was a book, Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary by Kazuaki Tanahashi, and the other a journal article from Innovation Educativa which she is a co-author of entitled “The power of deep reading and mindful literacy: An innovative approach in contemporary education (Hall, O’Hare, Santavicca & Jones, 2015).” I have been moving between these pieces of writing with joy each presenting me with some fantastic ways to bring my practice into alignment with my life.

Thus I have decided to use these as a jumping off place for creating another workbook for the prison ministry in Florida of which I am one of their volunteers. The prison outreach ministry is sponsored by the Southern Palm Zen Group (Southern Palm Zen Group).

My first thought was what good I could get from the use of these techniques in my life, what I could discover about myself, and how I might even find my “true-self.” And then I read the paragraph below from Kaz’s book and discovered that what I really wanted to do was “understand” what he describes below and thus the workbook was born.

The “Four All-Embracing Vows” expresses the bodhisattva’s attitude. The first of the four vows—‘Beings are numberless; I vow to awaken them’—appears to be an overly idealistic and unrealistic promise. But if we look at it closely, we will notice that it doesn’t simply say, ‘I vow to awaken all sentient beings.’ It begins by acknowledging just how many living beings there are who need to be awakened. Thus, being kind to a neighbor, a stranger, or an animal can create rippling effects of kindness. A simple action may cause infinite results. If the ‘I’ who vows is separate from other people, what ‘I’ can achieve is quite limited. But if ‘I’ is not separate from all others throughout space and time, it may be possible to awaken all beings. This understanding is an essential ground for socially engaged Buddhism (Page 9).

My desire is to be a “socially engaged Buddhist.” My writing this workbook will help me discover new things about myself as I practice the techniques I am sharing, and hopefully, helping others do the same as they use the techniques in their own lives.

So let’s begin this adventure as Kaz did by reciting the four vows for a week as often as possible and wherever we can. Whether we’re sitting in meditation, contemplating the words, or writing them in our journal, whether we’re riding the train, or driving our cars, or making our beds–let’s chant. Chant aloud or silently as the environment allows. Let us not be separate from the words, the thoughts that follow, the sounds of the words, or the feelings and emotions that we feel as we chant. Let’s be one with everything. Let’s be accepting of what comes or does not come, no judgements or criticisms of ourselves, we’re simply chanting! The words are below as we chant them at the Southern Palm Zen Group. You are welcome to use them or use ones that you are familiar with.

The Four Vows
Creations are numberless, I vow to free them.
Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to transform them.
Reality is boundless, I vow to perceive it.
The Enlightened Way is unsurpassable, I vow to embody it.

In gassho,

ingassho
Shokai

[1]Hall, M.P., O’Hare, A., Jones L.F., Santavicca, N. (2015) The power of deep reading and mindful literacy: An innovative approach in contemporary education. Innovacion Educative, ISSN: 1665-2673 vol. 15, numero 67

[2]Tanahashi, K. (2015) Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary. Shambhala Publications Inc.: Boston, MA

Read Full Post »

The other day I was invited to teach a class on Sexual Harassment and Diversity in the Workplace and as I was designing the curriculum I thought about the wonderful “Eightfold path of Buddhism” that we are encouraged to live by as Buddhists.  I thought what a great world this would be if everyone could live by these simple principles of life and how it might bring our country together in peace, love, and compassion.  So I wrote this exercise for them to complete in small groups and then I asked them to come back and share their creations with the full class.

I hope you find this exercise interesting and will try using it at your place of work, place of worship, or organization.  It stimulated lots of conversations and several AH HAs.  Let me know how it worked out!

ingassho

In gassho, Shokai

“The Wise Eightfold Path to Working with Others”

All of these actions can help us work in a diverse workplace with compassion and as a good team player and/or team leader.

Step One: Come up with a team definition for the word Wisdom.  Especially think about the difference between the word “knowledge” and the word “wisdom.”

Step Two: In your small groups make a plan to cultivate these eight items for yourself and your team. What would “Wise Understanding” look like from the perspective of your group. Come to consensus as your team writes each definition so that all team members have input.  Ensure that the definition is action oriented.  What words and actions might you use that would demonstrate “wise understanding” or “wise intention”? Do this for all 8 items. Be prepared to share a synopsis of your group’s discussion and your definitions with the full class.  How might this change your organization, your work environment, your team, and you?

Wise understanding
Wise intention
Wise speech
Wise action
Wise livelihood
Wise effort
Wise mindfulness
Wise concentration.

Read Full Post »

How can sitting upright bring peace into my life?  In our little book published by the Soto Zen Buddhism International Center, Soto Zen Introduction to Zazen (2002), they write

This kind of zazen practice teaches us to sit upright wherever we are.  Sometimes our mind is calm and sometimes our mind is busy.  Sometimes we feel peaceful, and sometimes we are in the midst of a storm.  We neither cling to nor avoid any condition, but keep sitting in an upright posture.  We try to live in this upright manner, not only in zazen but in our daily lives.  When we deviate from uprightness, we are aware of it and return to it (page65).[1]

And so, do not be deceived by the idea that you can only be peaceful when you are actually sitting, meditating, or praying and that once you’ve completed that task you go back to the chaos of your daily life.  In Zen your life is always based on the energy of sitting, the consciousness of sitting.  When walking we walk straight and tall conscious of our every step, our eyes are tuned to “seeing” all things around us from the things that are close up to the things that are far away.  We try to stay in tune with our immediate environment and in doing so it helps keep our mind from wandering into the past  where fear, anxiety, regret, sadness, and disappointment may live, or living with expectations for the future of joy, happiness, love, and peace.

As the text says, “we neither cling to nor avoid any condition.”  So when a fearful or negative thought enters our minds and disturbs our peace we do not chastise ourselves, get mad at ourselves, or criticize ourselves, we simply recognize the thought, thank it for coming, give it no power over us and move on. We do the same with the “happy” thoughts.  Do not cling to either—simply observe and then let go.

Regardless of where you are or what you are doing, driving the car, working, doing dishes, taking care of the children, or watching TV live every moment as though you are sitting zazen: focused, fully aware, patiently observant, and in the “now” moment.  And when you do you will be surprised at how creative, productive, successful, and in tune with all that is you have become.

I encourage you to walk with me on this path of Zen, try it, I think you’ll like!

 

[1] Sotoshu Shumucho, (2002) Soto Zen an Introduction to Zazen. Soto Zen Buddhism International Center, Japan

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »