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Posts Tagged ‘Lessons in Truth’

What does it mean to be free?  There will be different connotations if you live in the middle of a war zone in the Middle East, or in a job that you feel chained to that is joyless and boring, or if you are incarcerated in a prison “behind the fence” as we say.  Then there is the prison of our minds and emotions that keep us from being free of our thoughts of lack, limitation, and ill health.

As a college professor I have seen that fear in my students eyes when they enter my developmental English class and know that they will not be free to take the “for credit courses” and earn a degree in their favorite area of study if they don’t pass my class. And yet at some time during that semester I can see the light go on in their minds when they finally “get it.”  They are finally free of their negative thoughts and fears and able to move on with their education.

H. Emily Cady in her book Lessons in Truth wrote:

You may think that something stands between you and your heart’s desire, and so live with that desire unfulfilled, but it is not true.  This “thing” is a bugaboo under the bed that has no reality.  Deny it, deny it, and you will find yourself free, and you will realize that this seeming was all false.  Then you will see the good flowing into you, and you will see clearly that nothing can stand between you and your own [good/freedom].[1]

You will be free!

Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years and yet he was still able to be a powerful symbol of black resistance to apartheid. On February 11, 1990 he was released by President de Klerk and in 1991 he was elected president of the African National Congress. In 1993 Mandela and President de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work toward dismantling apartheid.

A similar story can be told in our country about Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Susan Bright Eyes LaFlesche (Omaha Native American civil rights activist.) and R.C. Gorman painter, sculptor and Native American the first Native American to be internationally recognized as a major American artist.

R.C. Gorman Native American artist

Freedom: Nothing stood in the way of their “hearts desire.” Do not let anything stand in yours either. Freedom is not a place—it is a consciousness.

Be free to meet your good today!  Let me know how that goes!

In gassho,

Shokai

[1] Cady, H.E. (1903).  Lessons in Truth. Unity Village, MO: Unity House

 

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Buddhism provides us with the opportunity to sit in the silence and do absolutely nothing as I’ve talked about in past blogs. Buddhism also has hundreds of thousands of pages of writings for us to read, to learn, to live, and to spend time contemplating. Buddhism is considered a contemplative practice as well as a way of living. It is deep and wide and vast. There is something for everyone on every path from the beginner to the adept. All are welcome here.

Our ancestors have given us this wonderful verse that we often repeat before we begin to contemplate on some Buddhist verse or teaching or as we get ready to hear a wonderful dharma talk from one of our teachers or guest lecturers. It goes like this:

Opening the Sutra Verse
The unsurpassable, profound, subtle, and wondrous dharma
Is rarely met even in a hundred, thousand, myriad eons.
Now we see it, hear it, receive it, and maintain it.
May we realize the Tathagata’s true meaning (page 51)![1]

We say it a little differently at our sangha, but either way will work:

 

Gatha on Opening the Sutra

The Dharma, incomparably profound and infinitely subtle,
Is rarely encountered even in millions of ages.
Now we see it, hear it, receive and maintain it.
May we completely realize the Tathagata’s true meaning.

In Unity we have something we call “sitting in the silence.” We probably stole it from the Buddhists. In H. Emilie Cady’s book, Lessons in Truth (2003) she writes these words about it:

Do not let waiting in the silence become a bondage to you. If you find yourself getting into a strained attitude of mind, or “heady,” get up and go about some external work for a time. Or, if you find that your mind will wander, do not insist on concentrating; for the moment you get into a rigid mental attitude, you shut off all inflow of the Divine into your consciousness. There must be a sort of relaxed passivity and yet an active taking it by faith. Shall I call it active passivity (page 135)?[2]

I just love her term—active passivity—it is so Buddhist! And thus, Rev. Cady is giving us clear directions to help us when we are looking to “realize the Tathagata’s true meaning” in a verse, a teaching, or in our lives. Even if we are warned in the verse that it “is rarely met even in a hundred, thousand, myriad eons” go for it anyway! What have you got to lose? Find your place in that “relaxed passivity” and wait upon truth and wisdom to be revealed to you.

This is what we do when we work on a koan with our teacher. So if you are struggling or being centered in your “head” do as Rev. Cady suggests and drop into “active passivity” and be ready for nothing, or something, or anything, and simply accept what comes or doesn’t come!

But for now be open to see it, hear it, receive it, and maintain it.”

Let me know how it goes!
In gassho,

ingassho
Shokai

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

[1] Cady, H. E. (2003) Lessons in Truth, Unity Books: Lee Summit, Mo

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Verse of Pure Practice
Abiding in this world of endless space,
A lotus flower is not stained by muddy water.
We follow the unsurpassable one,
Whose mind remains pure and free (page59).[1]

The above is a good example of a short verse that you can use when you want to center yourself. It brings you to the idea of the power of mind and its ability to remain pure and free in any situation, even if it’s “stained by muddy water.”

Our thoughts are the prisons in which we live. Those thoughts lead us to actions of peace, contentment, anxiety, fear, or any myriad number of emotions. To release ourselves from them a wonderful place to start is with a centering verse, prayer, or song. It’s called a “pattern interruption.” When the monkey mind has hold of you it is important to interrupt that negative pattern of thinking and replace it with something else.

I recommend that you have several types of prayers, verses, sutras, or songs that work for you. Something that will help you get centered. So what does it mean to be “centered”? In Buddhism we look to become one with our breath and when we do we feel at the center of all there is. Our body responds by lowering our blood pressure, slowing down our heart beat, and calming our breath. Soon we are overcome by feelings of peace and tranquility and emptiness and fullness. We have entered the stream.

When we feel as though we have entered the stream it is because we are centered on the here and now. We are centered on the only moment that exists—this one.

One of my favorite teachers and authors is Father Robert Kennedy he is a Catholic Priest and a Zen Buddhist teacher. In his book Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit, The Place of Zen in Christian Life (2005), he used an anonymous prayer which sounded like one I had heard many times during my life as a Unity Minister. I have written it below but changed some of the words.

My name is I am,” He paused
I waited. He continued,
“When you live in the past,
With its mistakes and regrets,
It is hard because you are not centered.
My name is not I was, my name is “I am here and now.”

When you live in the future,
With its problems and fears,
It is hard. Because you are not centered.
My name is not I will be, my name is “I am here and now.”

When you live in this moment,
It is not hard because you are
Centered right here and right now.
In the only time and place that exists.
Thus my name is I am.”[2]

What name have you given yourself today? Where have you been centered—on fear, anxiety, negativity, and suffering? Have you entered the stream yet? Help your mind “remain pure and free.” Let me know when you enter the stream and I will meet you there!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

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

[2]  Kennedy, R.E. (2005). Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit The Place of Zen in Christian Life. Continuum: New York and London

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Consider movement stationary
and the stationary in motion,
and both the state of movement and the state of rest disappear.
When such dualities cease to exist
oneness itself cannot exist.
To this ultimate finality
No law or description applies.
For the unified mind in accord with the way
all self-centered striving ceases.
Doubts and irresolutions vanish
and life in true faith is possible.
With a single stroke we are freed from bondage;
nothing clings to us and we hold to nothing.
All is empty, clear, self-illuminating,
with no exertion of the mind’s power.
Here thought, feelings, knowledge, and imagination
are of no value. [1]

Faith in Mind is filled with opportunities for us to read and contemplate on the Buddhist principle of the dangers of picking and choosing. These verses help us look at the dualities in our lives and thoughts and the bondage that is created by them.

In the Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen (1991) it says this about Seng-ts’an the author of Faith in Mind:

Hardly any details are known of the life of the third patriarch [Seng-ts’an]. There are however, many legends about him and his meeting with Hui-k’o. According to one of these legends Seng-ts’an was suffering from leprosy when he met the second patriarch. Hui-k’o is supposed to have encountered him with these words “You’re suffering from leprosy; what could you want from me?” Seng-ts’an is supposed to have replied, “Even if my body is sick, the heart-mind of a sick person is no different from your heart-mind (page191).” [2]

Which brings us right back to the importance of remembering the difficulties that accumulate in our lives when we are picking and choosing. “For the unified mind in accord with the way all self-centered striving ceases and doubts and irresolutions vanish and life in true faith is possible. With a single stroke we are freed from bondage…”

Unity minister and teacher H. Emilie Cady in her wonderful book, Lessons in Truth, named her very first chapter “Bondage or Liberty, Which?” She writes:

Every man must take time daily for quiet and meditation. In daily meditation lies the secret of power. Watch carefully, and you will find that there are some things, even in the active unselfish doing, that would better be left undone than that you should neglect regular meditation.

No person, unless he has practiced it, can know how it quiets all physical nervousness, all fear, all oversensitiveness, all the little raspings of everyday life—just this hour of calm, quiet waiting alone with God. Never let it be an hour of bondage, but always one of restfulness (pages 23-25). [3]

As you can see meditation is practiced in some form in all religions around the world. Use of a meditation practice to help us quiet the mind is a healthy self-loving process. In the quiet mind we stop the picking and choosing and are free of its bondage. Those musings have no value at all when we are sitting in the silence. As Seng-ts’an says, “Here thought, feelings, knowledge, and imagination are of no value.”

And so our lives become easier and more fulfilling. Self-love and neighborly love can be found without picking and choosing in our time of quiet meditation. As Seng-ts’an said, “Even if my body is sick, the heart-mind of a sick person is no different from your heart-mind.”

Shambhala Dictionary defines the “heart-mind thus:”

In Zen it means, depending on the context, either the mind of a person in the sense of all his powers of consciousness, mind, heart, and spirit, or else absolute reality—the mind beyond the distinction between mind and matter, self-nature, or true nature (page 118).” [4]

The heart-mind melds together in meditation without picking and choosing, simply sit and watch what happens as your “true nature” quietly appears and disappears.

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Osho (2014) Hsin Hsin Ming, The Zen Understanding of Mind and Consciousness. Osho International Foundation

[2] Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen, 1991. Boston: MA

[3] Cady, H. E. (1995) Complete Works of H. Emilie Cady. Unity Books. Unity Village: MO

[4] Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen, 1991. Boston: MA

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Attributed to: Seng’tsan, 3rd Chinese (Sosan, Zen) Patriarch

To return to the root is to find the meaning,
but to pursue appearances is to miss the source.
At the moment of inner enlightenment
there is a going beyond appearance and emptiness.
The changes that appear to occur in the empty world
we call real only because of our ignorance.
Do not search for truth;
only cease to hold opinions.

 

I was sitting quietly at home after Zen on Saturday morning and was drawn, once again, to pick up this wonderful book, To Meet the Real Dragon, by Gudo Nishijima and conveniently enough he was talking about the ‘roots” of Buddhism and the many branches/schools that have come since Gautama Buddha walked on earth. He said, “We must always remember that true Buddhism is something real—something active and alive. If our teachings and institutions lose contact with that source of life and vitality, they will become a hindrance rather than a helpful vehicle on the way to the truth (page 122).”[1]

Buddhism is much more than the sutras and the tenants and the rules and the rituals that have been created over these 2500 years, much more!

So what does this phrase imply to “return to the root is to find the meaning.” For me it brings me back to a time when I knew only a little bit about Buddhism—to the reason I came to Buddhism, simply to sit quietly in time and space and to be free. To calm my body, mind, and spirit even in the midst of living a busy active life of teaching, training, writing, volunteering, and housework—to remain one with the source of life—especially in the midst of that long list.

It is an opportunity to allow myself the simple gift of “sitting in the silence” as we used to say at Unity. Unity minister, teacher, and writer Emily Cady in her empowering book Lessons in Truth wrote these words, “You need not worry. You need not be anxious. You need not strive—only let it. Learn how to let it (page 126).”[2]

As you can see Emily Cady agreed wholeheartedly with the Faith in Mind sutra even though she may have never heard of it or read it. “Truth” is eternal and everywhere present. Thus the sutra says, “Do not search for truth; only cease to hold opinions.” Just this. . .

Sitting alone or sitting with a group is a great time to NOT search, to NOT hold opinions of what a great period of sitting you had or what an awful period of sitting you had—to cease naming and labeling. To simply “let it.” We do enough naming and labeling with everything else in our lives why not take a few minutes each day to give yourself a break from it. Wow, that would be a relief wouldn’t it!

To go “beyond appearance and emptiness” to be free of them for just a moment as we sit “in the silence” and become one with it, whatever it is. I hope you’ll try it…I think you’ll like it!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Nishijima, G. (2009) To Meet the Real Dragon, Dogen Sangha Publications www.dogensangha.org

[2] Cady, H. E. (1903) Lessons In Truth, Unity House: Unity Village: MO

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