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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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Emptiness here, emptiness there,
but the infinite universe stands always before your eyes.
Infinitely large and infinitely small;
no difference, for definitions have vanished
and no boundaries are seen.
So too with being and non-being.
Don’t waste time in doubts and arguments
that have nothing to do with this (page 4).[1]

In the Manual of Zen Buddhism (1960) D.T. Suzuki talks about emptiness when he is sharing his thoughts “On believing in Mind” by Shinjin-no-Mei:

In one Emptiness the two are not distinguished,
And each contains in itself all the ten thousand things;
When no discrimination is made between this and that.
How can a one-sided and prejudiced view arise (pages 78-9).[2]

In the footnote on page 79 he writes: “The Mind=the Way=the One=Emptiness.” He also explains emptiness this way:

This means: When the absolute oneness of things is not properly understood, negation as well as affirmation tends to be a one-sided view of reality. When Buddhists deny the reality of an objective world, they do not mean that they believe in the unconditioned emptiness of things; they know that there is something real which cannot be done away with. When they uphold the doctrine of emptiness this does not mean that all is nothing but an empty hollow, which leads to a self-contradiction. The philosophy of Zen avoids the error of one-sidedness involved in realism as well as in nihilism [i] (page 77).[3]

So if you are under the illusion that studying Buddhism means that you are to make your mind blank and believe in nothing and stop all thoughts completely when sitting you are mistaken. When your mind becomes “blank” you probably will soon be carried out of your house on a gurney by the EMS or the mortician!

Faith in Mind is asking us to stop trying to categorize, alphabetize, and list everything. Get rid of those boundaries, stop wasting time in the doubting and the arguing with self and others. Maybe this–maybe that? Maybe good–maybe bad. Just this! Whatever appears handle it the best you can with peace, love, and compassion. If you cannot hold it in your hand is it real?

Each and everything contains the 10,000 things. That’s just way too many things for me to judge, or compare, or juggle if you ask me! Just this apple, nothing less, nothing more…simply chop wood, carry water…nothing less, nothing more.

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Osho (2014) Hsin Hsin Ming, The Zen Understanding of Mind and Consciousness. Osho International Foundation
[2] Suzuki, D.T. (1960) Manual of Zen Buddhism. Grove Press: NY, NY
[3] Ibid.

[i] Nihilism An extreme form of skepticism: the denial of all real existence or the possibility of an objective basis for truth; nothingness or nonexistence

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Consider movement stationary
and the stationary in motion,
and both the state of movement and the state of rest disappear.

In this world of suchness
there is neither self nor other-than-self

To come directly into harmony with this reality
Just simply say when doubts arise, “Not two.”
In this “not two” nothing is separate,
Nothing is excluded.
No matter when or where,
Enlightenment means entering this truth.
And this truth is beyond extension or
Diminution in time or space;
In it a single thought is ten thousand years.[1]

As a college professor and corporate trainer I have learned that the meaning of the word educate comes from the Latin “educare” which means to lead forth or bring forth from within. It does not mean to find “knowledge” someplace outside of us like a book or a lecture or a video. These words in these verses are a great example of that. We are being told that everything we need comes directly from this “world of suchness” which is neither self nor other-than-self nor separate from self.

Our challenge is to educate ourselves on this principle and when we need to discover something to simply go within to find the “oneself” that knows all and is all. When the universe and all it entails are one and not two all of everything is available to us right here and right now in “just this moment.” Such was discovered by Albert Einstein at the age of 16 when he imagined himself rocketing through space chasing after a beam of light. This is said to have played a role in his “thought experiment” which among other things brought us the famous equation of Mass-energy equivalence E=mc2. What is your challenge?

Once again I turn to my favorite Unity author H. Emily Cady for some words of wisdom on this subject from her book Lessons in Truth: . . .no circumstance, no person or set of persons—can by any possibility interpose between you and the Source of your life, wisdom, or power (page 63)”[2]  Why? Because as the Third Patriarch Seng-ts’an wrote, “To come directly into harmony with this [or any] reality just simply say when doubts arise, ‘not two.’ In this ‘not two’ nothing is separate, nothing is excluded. No matter when or where.”

Thus perfect knowledge and answers and health and healing are already here simply waiting for my acknowledgement, understanding, awakening and faith—Faith in Mind! Faith in “not one” “not two” “neither self, nor other than self.” Just a silent ride through outer space with Einstein on a beam of light! How wonderful is that?!

In gassho,

ingassho
Shokai

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

[1] Cady, H. E. (2003) Lessons in Truth. Unity House, Unity Village: MO

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Forms differ primally in shape and character,
And sounds in sharp or soothing tones.
The dark makes all words one,
The brightness distinguishes good and bad phrases

Shohaku Okumura writes in his beautiful book Living by Vow, “The statement that unity shines in difference and difference flows in the unity is a paradox (page 221).”

We all understand that we live in a physical world where cars can crash into each other, we hit our shin on the coffee table and know that it is definitely real and physical and independent of me, myself, and I. I am not the table and the table is not me. And yet, if we read the lines from the Sandokai we hear the words in our head that say “the darkness makes all words one.” What’s that all about?

Although I am a separate person from my mother–independent. I would not exist without being interdependent with her for nine months. And of course my father was an integral part of the interdependence as well. Of which I am sure, were he alive, he would attest to that fact.

I once saw a TED Talk about a young designer, Thomas Thwaites, who was assigned to choose a project to work on at school. The project he decided on was to build a toaster from scratch. I mean from scratch! He made his iron, plastic, cooper wire and more, which he turned into parts to build the toaster. He quickly discovered that nothing could be done without help from ages of people discovering, studying, testing, building, and creating. And thus we are all interdependent generations of the world in which we live. Without them none of us would have a toaster!

And if we go on Ancestry.com we can see yet another indication that we are interdependent through our genes.

Shohaku Okumura goes on to write, “Our practice is to manifest the merging of difference [independence] and unity [interdependence] completely in every activity, including zazen.” In our practice we have a goal of becoming “one” with these two concepts not only in our time sitting, but throughout the day. When I sit in the zendo with others I enjoy that immensely. I love the peace and compassion that I feel exuding from each member and it often makes my “sit” deeper and easier. And yet, we are all individuals sitting independently and at the same time merging silently as one.

If we could just spread this idea around the world we could end wars, hatred, and prejudice. If we could live like the raindrops that fall into the ocean and become one with it we could understand the idea of interdependence in the Sandokai. Within that ocean of oneness lives millions of creatures from microscopic ones to the giant gentle blue whale whose heart is the size of a car.

Stop for just a moment, if you can, and “Imagine” what the world would look like if we knew our interdependence and lived as though we did…

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky

Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too

Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You, you may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will live as one

~ In loving memory of John Lennon

A simply perfect illustration of “soothing tones” and “the brightness distinguishing good and bad phrases.”

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1]Okumura, S. (2012) Living by Vow, A Practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts. Wisdom Publications: Somerville, MA

[2] http://www.ted.com/talks/thomas_thwaites_how_i_built_a_toaster_from_scratch

[3] Read more at http://www.lyrics.com/imagine-lyrics-john-lennon.html#22oElMRbqhRgPdh3.99

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We continue our thoughts on these verses from the “Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra” below.  Remember when reading this sutra you are the bodhisattva regardless of whether you feel like it today or not.  It is an inherent characteristic of you that cannot be denied, removed, or ignored:  When we try to do so it simply finds ways to remind us.

No gain thus Bodhisattvas live this Prajna Paramita

With no hindrance of mind.

No Hindrance, therefore no fear,

Far beyond all such delusion,

Nirvana is already here.

Shohaku Okumura in his book Living by Vow A Practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts writes about these verses beautifully.

This is prajna—no gain and no loss.  There’s nothing coming in or going out because there is no place where anything can come to or go from. There is no border, no separation, just a flow of energy. This is reality beyond our conceptual and calculating way of thinking (p. 194). [1]

This may be a difficult concept to grasp as we live in the physical world and we see birth and death every day in our lives and on our TV.  And yet the famous healer and author Joel Goldsmith wrote about this same idea in his book Practicing the Presence Guide to Regaining Meaning and a Sense of Purpose in Our Life, (1958)

All through the ages, duality has separated us from our good, but it is a sense of duality, not duality, because there is no duality.  The secret of life is oneness, and oneness is not something we bring about.  Oneness is a state of being.

There is no such thing as God and man, any more than there is an outside and an inside to the tumbler, separate and apart from each other. The outside and the inside are one (page 56).

The nature of our existence is immortality, eternality, infinity (page 58).[2]

Just as Okumura says, there is no border, no separation, just a flow of energy—tumbler energy appearing as a vessel for us to use when we are drinking.  Our bodies and our minds are like this vessel and thus there is no gain and no loss, there is nothing coming in or going out and when we grasp this idea we also lose the idea of “hindrance.”  This understanding relieves us of our fears and delusions.  Thus “Nirvana is already here.” Thus we are already the bodhisattva!

Yet, we keep forgetting.  Sitting is a great way to help us remember. Practicing the principles of Buddhism is a great way to remember.  Living a life of compassion and peace is a great way to demonstrate that you remember.  Simply sitting as often as possible and as long as possible is a great way to demonstrate that you remember.

And from these demonstrations come results in our lives: less fear, less delusion, less hindrance of mind. This is “reality” beyond our everyday thinking. And that is the perfect place to be today!

Things to focus on this week:

  1. I will begin each day by sitting in quiet meditation letting go of everything that is keeping me from focusing my attention on my breath.
  2. I will remind myself that doing this can help free me from my fears and delusions.
  3. I am not looking into the future for Nirvana because it is already here in this now moment!
  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] Okumura, S. (2012) Living By Vow A practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts, Wisdom Publications, Boston: MA

[2] Goldsmith, J.S. (1958). Practicing the Presence Guide to Regaining Meaning and a Sense of Purpose in our life. HarperSanFrancisco

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When was the last time you went on a hike and were able to actually enter into a physical stream?  When was the last time you felt the water rushing over your feet or shoes and toes and ankles?  When was the last time you heard the noise of the rush of the water over the rocks and pebbles and the cacophony of sounds that it produced?  That may just be the last time you and “prajna” were one.

So what is prajna anyway? “Prajna, consciousness or wisdom in Mahayana Buddhism refers to an immediately experienced intuitive wisdom that cannot be conveyed by concepts or in intellectual terms. The definitive moment of prajna is insight into emptiness, which is the true nature of reality (page 171)”[1]

One of my “prajna” moments occurred many years ago in the Colorado Rockies hiking with a friend—the water was so pure we could drink from it and refresh our bodies, minds, and spirits and all it seemed to take was just one cold crisp handful. For hours no words needed to be spoken as we immersed ourselves in the beauty of the forest and its insentient capacity to answer all our questions and fulfill all our needs.

Dogen says, “To dedicate yourself and take refuge in the manifestation of prajna is to see and uphold the Buddha, the World-Honored One.  It is to be the Buddha, the World-Honored One, seeing and accepting (page 65).”[2] For students of other paths it may be seeing and accepting the Christ, or Mohammad, or Krishna, or Kwan Yin all honored ones amongst their followers.  How you get there is not the point, the point is simply getting there.  As if “there” was someplace to get, which there is not. But on the physical plane we always think of it that way.

Since prajna cannot be conveyed in concepts or intellectual terms it is important for us to take time each day to simply experience the moment in which we are living.  Regardless of what we are doing in that moment: eating, shopping, bathing, singing, sitting, walking, or cleaning—be there fully, wholly, and unabashedly!

Enlightenment is not some “place” that you go to or get to—it is right here, right now. So if you are still waiting for just the right meditation, sitting, sesshin, prayer, teacher, time, or location you’re going to miss it.  You’ve taken your eyes off the ball—life—and the multitude of opportunities you will be given today to enter into the stream.

Intimate with everything I see,

Walking, sitting, and lying down are truth itself.

If someone asks the inner meaning:

“The treasury of the dharma eye in a speck of dust.”

–Dogen (page 172)[3]

Be here now.

upaya-gold-buddha-Doshin

Upaya Gold Buddha

Photo by my teacher, Mitch Doshin Cantor

http://www.listeningwiththeeye.squarespace.com

Things to focus on this week:

1.  I will begin each day being “intimate with everything I see” and everything I do.

2.  I will remind myself that prajna is not a place to go, but is an experience.

3.  I will remember that I am in charge of my experiences and not the circumstances that I find myself in.

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] Kohn, M. H, Editor, The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen, Shambhala Dragon Editions (1991) , Boston, MA

[2] Tanahashi, K. Levitt, P. (2013) The Essential Dogen, Writings of the Great Zen Master. Shambhala: Boston, MA

[3] ibid

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Eihei Dogen wrote, “The body and mind of the Buddha way is grass, trees, tiles, and pebbles, as well as wind, rain, water, and fire.  To turn them around and make them the buddha way—this is the aspiration for enlightenment. (page 47)”[1] What an expansive idea this is for most people.  In Pali “Buddha” literally means “awakened one.”  To be awakened means that we see everything as a part of the whole, where no separation exists between the natural world and the human world: All is one.

This principle is taught in the metaphysical Christian churches as well where we learn that there is “no place where God is not.” That the creation or life force is the same in all things and Shakyamuni Buddha or Jesus Christ was an embodied being that recognized this and lived a life that demonstrated it.  The life force energy is within us to be co-creators of a world of peace, love, and compassion for all things.

Although we may not recognize this within ourselves Dogen goes on to write, “It is the buddha way altogether at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end.  It is like journeying a long distance; one step is within one thousand mile, one thousand steps are within one thousand miles.  The first step and the one-thousandth step are different but are equally within the one thousand miles (page47-48).”[2]  There is no need for you to go on a long journey to “find” the Buddha or the Christ within. Whether you have gone within through prayer, meditation, or sitting one time or one thousand times they are equal but different places on the journey.

I asked my mother one day if she thought that “God was everywhere present.”  She said of course.  Then I pointed to the lamp and said, “So God is in the lamp then.”  She said, “Don’t be silly God is not in the lamp.”  And, of course, I replied, “How could that be if you just told me that God was everywhere present, and the lamp is somewhere then God must be in the lamp.”  That blew her mind and she went back to her knitting.

And yet, we all try to separate the idea of oneness by dividing it into categories of animate and inanimate things; between sentient and non-sentient things.  Since we live inside these tiny bodies which have skin and bones and create separation it is hard for us to see the oneness in all things–yet it is there.

Robert E. Kennedy in his wonderful book Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit (page 57) quotes John Wu The Golden Age of Zen (page 2)[3] “When all things return to the One, even gold loses its value.  But when the One returns to all things, even the pebbles sparkle.”  When we pray, meditate, or sit we return to the one and we sparkle as well.

So our task for this week is to really look for the oneness in each other, in those animate and inanimate-sentient and non-sentient things:  To look for the fragrance in the cactus and the thorns in the rose; to find something worthwhile in all creatures, large and small and in all beings friendly and unfriendly.  And then we will be “awakened” to the oneness of all things.

Awaken to the beauty of this day, Shokai

Things to focus on this week:

1.  I will begin each day setting my intention to see the beauty in all things.

2.  I will remind myself that I too can be awakened with one step or one thousand the choice is mine!

3.  I will work each day on sitting at least 10 minutes to recognize my oneness with all things.

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.

[3] Kennedy, R.E. (1995) Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit, The Place of Zen in Christian Life. Continuum: NY, NY

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