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Posts Tagged ‘loving kindness’

one-world-family-logo-jpgIn Zen Buddhism there are so many wonderful teachers and writers that you could spend the rest of your life reading their original books and their translations of the ancient writers. Plus, we have the current teachers and writers taking a particular point of view or sutra or teaching and creating a blog or a book or a lecture from the information.  I, of course, happen to be one of them.

Today I begin my new workbook on the world of “peace” as envisioned in my head.  The current world is creating peace, love, hatred and fear at an amazingly fast pace due to the internet and social media. Regardless of where others may stand, I stand for peace and love.

Dharmachari Abhaya writes in the preface of Sangharakshite: A Guide to the Buddhist Path, these words:

A fact that is often glossed over in books on Buddhism is that there are two basic modes of conditionality, not just one: two ways in which we can act, one unskillful, the other skillful.  The first is known as the circular or, in Sangharakshita’s term, ‘reactive’ mode.  This is the mode in which we operate for much of the time, and it is the cause of all our suffering. But there is also a spiral or ‘creative mode,’ in which we can make spiritual progress experience ever-expanding states of happiness and bliss.[1]

For me bliss is the kissing cousin of peace!  I’ve never heard anyone say after a meditation where they went in to samadhi…  I felt such anger or hatred or fear!  No, they haven’t, but they sure do say I felt peaceful, alive, happy, joyous, content, and as many positive descriptive adjectives as you can think of.

It is not easy in America today to live a peaceful life.  With what is going on in our politics, wars around the world, poverty and prejudice in America increasing daily and I could go on.  It could make you mad, sad, or revengeful and thus not at PEACE!  So how do we handle this?  By balancing our lives with Buddhist principles, meditation, and mindfulness.  By living the teaching, not just by teaching it or reading about it.

Dharmachari Abhaya goes on:

…one should approach Buddhism with one’s total being. One should not just try to feel and not understand, nor just try to understand and not feel.  One should not always look within and never look without, nor, on the other hand, always look without, never pausing to look within, there is a time and place for all these things. If possible, we should try to do all of these things all the time.  As we ascend higher and higher in our spiritual development, we shall tend more and more to think and feel, act and not act, simultaneously.  It sounds impossible, but that is only because of the limitations of our present way of thinking.[2]

What way are you thinking? Will it bring you to a peaceful life and world or bring you to a world of anxiety, hatred, and fear?  It’s all up to you.  You shape your world by your thoughts, words, and actions…what shape is your personal world in? Love filled or Hate filled…or somewhere in between?

[1] Sangharakshita, (1990). Windhorse Publications: Birmingham, England. page 11
[2] Ibid. page 22
[3] The picture is the logo from an interfaith organization in Fort Lauderdale, FL to which I belonged they have merged with another organization JAM & All where I am a board member. Check out their Facebook page at JAM and All Interfaith.

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Emerson: “Man’s life is a progress, and not a station (page 51).”[1]world-peace-2

Zen: Robert Aitken “It is the peace of the self forgotten, doing the work of the world (page 24).”[2]

Life is progress, life is doing, and life is simply putting one foot in front of the other to discover the greatness of who you are.  When you move through the day focused on just this moment in time you will find great joy!  If, however, you get stuck in the past ruminating over something that did not go your way it will be like being on a merry-go-round.  You may be moving but it is not progressing!  You are simply going round and round and where it stops no one knows.

Or maybe you find yourself looking down a train track thinking of the thoughts of the past and living those thoughts and fears over and over again? Have you been stuck at a station where only the # 5 comes all day every day! Or maybe you are looking in the other direction in expectation of the future when you can see yourself riding on that train moving quickly to the next station where your good is waiting.  Maybe that perfect mate or job or health is there? Seeing what needs to be done to help move your family, community, or country into a better more peace filled and loving place is moving toward progress.  That progress only arrives when we live fully and mindfully in the present moment.

Are you progressing in life toward opportunities that arrive for good to enter your life? When we forget the “self” (ego) we find the “real” self and are automatically led to do the work of the world.  And boy it needs a lot of work! The work of spreading loving kindness is in dire need of help.

There is an old saying, “If it is to be, it is up to me.”  I hope you’ll progress in life and not stand still doing the work that the world is in desperate need of in this moment and every moment to come.

To be happy in life we must have progress in all aspects of our lives…so let me know how it goes!

In gassho,

Shokai

 

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

[2] Aitken, R. (1984) The Mind of Clover Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics New York: North Point Press

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As I was thinking about which sutra, poem, or prayer to write about in my blog today I was led to a notebook on my bookshelf filled with wonderful things on Buddhism. As I opened it up the very first page right there in front of me was the “Metta Sutra” (Loving-Kindness) by Shakyamuni Buddha.

How appropriate it is considering what we are seeing on the nightly news: Hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Syria ever day in hopes of finding safety, happiness, and love instead of hunger, anger, hatred, and fear. Many, unfortunately, are not finding loving kindness as they seek refuge in the neighboring countries. Others are lucky and have been given, food, shelter, clothing, and some loving-kindness.

Thus, this is the perfect place to go for our second sutra to chant and meditate upon in our new adventure of going “beyond prayer.” Let us do this knowing that our prayers can reverberate around the world and peace and loving kindness can prevail.

Below are the words.

May all beings be happy.
May they be joyous and live in safety.
All living beings, whether weak or
Strong, in high or middle, or low
Realms of existence, small or great,
Visible or invisible, near or far, born or to be born.
May all beings be happy.
Let none deceive another nor despise
Any being in any state; let none
By anger or hatred wish harm to another.
Even as a mother at the risk of her life
Watches over and protects her only child,
So with a boundless mind should one cherish all living things,
Suffusing love over the entire
World, above, below, and all around
Without limit;
So let each cultivate an
Infinite goodwill toward the whole world.

Let each of us take the time this week to not only use the Metta Sutra for ourselves but to share it with others as well. Put it up on your Facebook page, Instagram, link it on Twitter, upload it to your blog, and e-mail it to your family and friends. There is power in numbers and prayer has healed and turned hearts from hatred to love and beyond in the past and I know it can do it in this present moment—if we just believe it can–since this present moment is all there really is.

As Captain Jean-Luc Picard would say, “Make it so!”

In gassho,

ingassho
Shokai

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Browsing my email this morning I came across a discussion digest from a wonderful organization that I belong to the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education (ACMHE).  It led me to a section on their website “The Tree of Contemplative Practices” which led me back to my talks on ethics and the first of the Eightfold Path, “Know the truth.”

Below is the picture of the tree and the items on the tree reflect some of the contemplative practices “currently in use in secular organizations and academic settings.” These practices help us to “know the truth.”  And when they are integrated into our lives will help us “live the truth.” Many of the practices listed on the tree are linked to areas that are directly related to areas of ethical conduct and practice. Some of them are listed below:

  • Justice issues
  • Volunteering
  • Loving-kindness
  • Deep listening
  • Establishing a sacred/personal space for self and others

ACHME describes the tree thus:

The roots of the tree encompass and transcend differences in the religious traditions from which many of the practices originated, and allow room for the inclusion of new practices that are being created in secular contexts.

The branches represent different groups of practices.

The Tree of Contemplative Practices ACMHE

When used and contemplated they can help us know what is true for us and provide us with simple practices to help us live an ethical life.

My goal this week is to choose one area and focus on it knowing that doing this will help me maintain peace, love, and compassion in my life and hopefully make this a better place in which to live.  When you go to the link you will find a blank tree there that you can copy and print and put your personal contemplative practices on the tree.  This may help you focus on your opportunities to merge your ethical, spiritual, and practical life into one union of knowing the truth and being one with it.

In gassho,

Shokai

ingassho

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I am going to continue on with the Peace Pilgrim again and share some of her thoughts from Chapter 8: The Way of Peace.

This is the way of peace: Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love. . . . Only good can overcome evil. . . . One in harmony with God’s law of love has more strength than an army, for one need not subdue an adversary; an adversary can be transformed (page 97).[1]

The first Grave Precept in Buddhism is “Not Killing.” I think she just may have been a Buddhist in a past life and maybe even this life but did not know it! Her life and her words are almost identical to our teachings and if you look at what Roshi Robert Aitken wrote about it in his book The Mind of Clover Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics she was teaching these exact ideas as she walked around the United States through every hamlet and city. He wrote:

Acting upon the First Precept is also the spirit of not harming applied in the natural world. The same poisons that set us apart in families, communities, and across national boundaries—greed, hatred, and ignorance—blight the grasslands, deplete the soil, clear-cut the forests, and add lethal chemicals to water and air. In the name of progress, some say. In the name of greed, it might more accurately be said. We are killing our world… (page 20).[2]

And so in Buddhism and in life if we focus on the positive aspects of peace, love, and compassion for all beings, for the earth, and for all things on the earth we will end up with a world that is without war, and with clean air and water. But if I think that it’s someone else’s job to do it—I’m dead wrong—it all starts with me loving me! It starts with me living a life filled with inner peace, love, and compassion. It starts with me refusing to hate people because of the color of their skin, or who they love, or where they live, or what god they believe in, or even if they believe in no god at all, or what political party they are affiliated with.

Peace Pilgrim said: My inner peace remains in spite of any outward thing. Only insofar as I remain in harmony can I draw others into harmony, and so much more harmony is needed before the world can find peace. All right work and all right prayer has effect, all good effort bears good fruit, whether we see the results or not. In spite of the darkness in the present world situation I am not discouraged. I know that just as human life proceeds toward harmony through a series of hills and valleys, so a society has its ups and downs in the search for peace (page 99).[3]

What is so profound about these words is that you would think she is living right here, right now in 2014. But she is not—she died in 1981. But let us not get discouraged! She never did and so we can all live as she did with hope and goodwill and with the knowing that there will be a turning point when more people believe in PEACE then in WAR!! Some call it the tipping point, some refer to it as the 100th Monkey Theory, but whatever you call it peace is possible!   Peace in your life, in your job, in your neighborhood if only we step out on faith, if only we begin with our selves, and invite our family, friends, associates, neighbors, and everyone we meet to join us in peace, love and compassion. Then let’s watch what happens to our lives our families our jobs and ultimately the world in which we live.

As the Unity peace song goes…let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me!

Let’s start today by living the words in this poem by Emmett Fox that is simply titled “Love.”

Try it for a week and let me know what happens! I am excited to hear from you.

Namaste, Shokai

LOVE

There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer;

No disease that enough love will not heal;

No door that enough love will not open;

No gulf that enough love will not bridge;

No wall that enough love will not throw down;

No sin that enough love will not redeem.

 

It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble,

How hopeless the outlook, how muddled the tangle,

How great the mistake, a sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all.

If only you could love enough you would be the happiest and most powerful being in the world.

~Emmett Fox

 

[1] Peace Pilgrim Her life and Work In her Own Words, Friends of Peace Pilgrim and Ocean Tree Books, 2004.

[2] Aitken, R. (1984). The Mind of Clover Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics. North Point Press: NY, NY

[3] Peace Pilgrim Her life and Work In her Own Words, Friends of Peace Pilgrim and Ocean Tree Books, 2004.

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Hui-neng says: Even with a steadfast body you may be deluded and speak of the bad qualities of others as soon as you open your mouth, and thus behave in opposition to the Tao (page74).[1]

For me this one goes hand-in-hand with #6 “not discussing the faults of others” because invariably when you are elevating yourself it is usually in comparison with someone else.  Thus you end up putting the other person down, discussing his or her faults, or blaming him or her for something.

Robert Aitken writes:

If you cover your weaknesses and single out the weaknesses of others, then you are not practicing.  It is only when you can generously acknowledge your own dark side and the shining side of the other that you can be said to be truly on the path (page 76).”[2]

Each of us has special skills and talents.  Thank goodness we were not all created the same otherwise what a lopsided world we would have:

  •  Only vanilla ice cream (Ben&Jerry’s has 107 flavors, as of today!)
  • Only black cars (Henry Ford said, “You can have it in any color as long as it’s black.”)
  • Only Newtonian Physics (Albert Einstein said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”)
  • Only men Nobel Prize winners (Madam Curie was the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize in 1903 because a male mathematician insisted her name be included along with the two men she had worked with on the project.)

When we elevate ourselves and blame others we may be injuring another who might be a ground breaking inventor, scientist, business leader, artist, or musician.  He or she may have submerged his or her talents because of your words, deeds, or actions. Your words can be like a boomerang and then what happens is you lose your ability to grow and develop and become the person who manifests his or her dreams in life.

For a beautiful guide to living The Grave Precept #7 live a life as described by Torei Zenji in his Bodhisattva’s Vow:

 I am only a simple disciple, but I offer these respectful words:

When I regard the true nature of the many dharmas, I find them all to be sacred forms of the Tathagata’s never-failing essence.  Each particle of matter, each moment, is no other than the Tathagata’s inexpressible radiance.

With this realization, our virtuous ancestors, with compassionate minds and hearts, gave tender care to beasts and birds. Among us, in our own daily lives, who is not reverently grateful for the protections of life: food, drink, and clothing!  Though they are inanimate things, they are nonetheless the warm flesh and blood, the merciful incarnations of Buddha.

All the more, we can be especially sympathetic and affectionate with foolish people, particularly with someone who becomes a sworn enemy and persecutes us with abusive language.  That very abuse conveys the Buddha’s boundless loving-kindness.  It is a compassionate device to liberate us entirely from the mean-spirited delusions we have built up with our wrongful conduct from the beginning-less past.

With our open response to such abuse we completely relinquish ourselves and the most profound and pure faith arises.  At the peak of each thought a lotus flower opens; and on each flower there is revealed a Buddha.  Everywhere is the Pure Land in its beauty.  We see fully the Tathagata’s radiant light right where we are.

May we train this mind and extend it throughout the world so that we and all beings become mature in Buddha’s wisdom.

A vow to practice, remember, and share…In Gassho, Shokai

Things to focus on this week:

  •  Step one: Begin by deciding how you will completely relinquish yourself to the life of the Bodhisattva in thoughts, words, and actions.
  • Step two: Set your intention to be mindful of words of harm to self or others.
  • Step three: Accept the Buddha’s boundless loving-kindness in each situation.
  • Step four: Finally, keep a journal on the precept and make note of how learning to embody truth in all its aspects thoughts, words, and actions is affecting your life. Good luck with that!


[1] Aitken, R. (1984) The Mind of Clovers Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics. North Point Press: NY , NY

[2] Ibid.

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Paramita #9 Loving Kindness…the Bodhisattva way

“The teaching of Mahayana Buddhism, the teaching of Zen, is the teaching of love, not hate.  My teacher did not teach people to hate one another, he taught people to love one another (Anderson page 178).” So writes Reb Anderson in his wonderful book Being Upright Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts. So what we are talking about here is not romantic love, but agape love, the love of humanity with all its frailties, foibles, and mistakes.  Loving kindness when it is hard, when it is not deserved, when it is well deserved, and when it is simply plain fun.

This is the way of the adept, the Bodhisattva, the monk, the minister, the rabbi, the priest, and the wayfarer. When a person is surrounded by the idea of loving kindness inside and out it can be seen on his or her face, heard in his or her voice, and noticed in the actions taken.

Are we all perfectly loving and kind all the time?  Not hardly, but to be so more often than not David Baird says, “We must learn from the past, prepare for the future, and live in the present (Baird page 161).”[1] To do so we may want to take an inventory of the times in the past when we were not practicing loving kindness, and when we were practicing loving kindness, and then look at the things we need to do to prepare for the future opportunities that may appear to practice loving kindness.  How do we do that—by living in the present!  In this very present moment when I am living mindfully I am fully conscious of my thoughts, feelings, and actions and if I catch myself being unkind I can quickly and immediately make a 180 degree turn and show loving kindness.

Sitting, meditating, and praying on a regular basis will make this happen more often, it will make it much easier to catch ourselves in the moment and ultimately improve our relationships with everyone we meet be they family, friends, co-workers, customers, bosses, inmates, or strangers.

When we do this Reb Anderson tells us there is light at the end of the tunnel.  “You practice being upright to generate love, not to generate states of mind. States of mind come and go, and happiness comes and goes; but love can be developed so that it doesn’t come and go (Anderson, page 26).”[2]  We can learn to love the person and not the actions.  We can learn to walk a mile in the other person’s shoes and thus show loving kindness for the pain and anguish they may be in.

Many people walk around with very low self-esteem, with voices in their heads that remind them of the hundreds of times they may have been put down, marginalized, or physically or mentally abused when growing up.  For these people loving kindness was never shown to them and so they have no example to pattern themselves after.  These, my friends, are people who need more loving kindness than your average Jane or Joe.

This week we will practice loving kindness when it is easy, when it is hard, and when it is fun.  We will be given many opportunities to do it I am sure!  There is never a moment when loving kindness cannot be displayed.  Keep an inventory of how many opportunities you were given each day, notice where they came from and how you responded to them.  If you were unable to respond with loving kindness do not be unkind to yourself.  Simply look at your behavior and what triggered it and determine to not let that trigger take you away from showing loving kindness in the future.

It will take practice with some people and some situations, but it will be well-worth it in the end.  You will see your triggers getting smaller, and lighter, and appearing less often.  You will find solace and peace in the action of loving kindness and just maybe you may see it returned in kind.  Keep your eyes and ears open for that! Loving kindness is on its way to you today! Namaste…


[1] Baird, D. (2000), A Thousand Paths to Enlightenment. London, England: MQ Publications Limited

[2] Anderson, R. (2001). Being Upright Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts. Berkeley, CA: Rodmell Press.

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