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Posts Tagged ‘Opening the Lotus: A Woman’s Guide to Buddhism’

I have been invited to study to become a monk in my Buddhist tradition and began wondering about the roles that women have played throughout the years.  I went to the library and found a beautiful book by Sandy Boucher, Opening the Lotus: A Woman’s Guide to Buddhism. It is filled with great tips to help with your practice and wonderful information about the history of women in Buddhism where I was introduced to the Therigatha sutras (poems). The tips and practices shared here although written for and about women, of course, can be practiced by men as well.

I searched the internet for a few minutes and found the Therigatha sutras translated there.  I began to review the topics and ideas that these nuns wrote about during the time of the Buddha. I was especially intrigued by the title and the closing line of this one.

Dantika & the Elephant

Coming out from my day’s abiding
on Vulture Peak Mountain,
I saw on the bank of a river
an elephant
emerged from its plunge.

A man holding a hook requested:
“Give me your foot.”
The elephant
extended its foot.
The man
got up on the elephant.

Seeing what was untrained now tamed
brought under human control,
with that I centered my mind —
why I’d gone to the woods
in the first place.

Although I may be petite in size my mind, for all of my life, has been much “untrained” until I began to study the principles of metaphysics through the Unity Church and found the great benefits of meditation and contemplation.  When I started my seminary to train independent Unity ministers and teachers I wanted to include a course in the curriculum on world religions and in writing that curriculum and reviewing textbooks for the course I discovered that there were many similarities between Buddhism and the teachings and writings of Unity. Serendipity led me to the South Florida Zen Group and my new life and studies as I move from an independent Unity minister toward ordination as a Zen monk.

Yet, after several years sitting and studying Buddhism I find my thoughts can still be those of fear, anxiety, criticism and the like and they overtake my life as huge as an elephant—for sure!  So the analogy was not lost on me as I read and re-read this sutra.  I especially enjoyed the last verse, it freed me from my anxiety over the intrusion that these thoughts have had on me during the day, week, or month.  It allowed me to see that the time that I spend in meditation (sitting as we call it in Buddhism) and the time I have spent in the past in meditation and contemplation have not been in vain.

Each time I sit I am like the elephant taking a “plunge” in a river of calm and cleansing with a hand reaching out to me to help me move from confusion or fear to peace and compassion.  I am like the nun who wrote the sutra who realized that her walks in the woods were a way of cleansing her mind, body, and spirit of its human pains and sufferings and that allowed her to move into a world of a centered mind—one with all there is.

And in the sutra “Uttama” the woman ends her verse thus:

For seven days I sat in one spot,
absorbed in rapture & bliss.
On the eighth, I stretched out my legs,
having burst the mass
of darkness.

If you would like to tame the mind, burst the mass of darkness, or simply live a more peaceful and compassionate life I recommend sitting.  If you desire to be more focused at work, have improved relationships at work and at home, and to have a healthy body, mind, and spirit in all ways take the advice of the nuns who penned the Therigatha poems.  If they could do it in a time where there was no dishwasher, car, train, or bus, computer, washing machine, or epidural block during delivery you can too!

Many of you reading this blog already sit either by yourself or with a group and how wonderful is that! For those who do not have either  I recommend that you find a group near where you live, if there isn’t one, you can sit by yourself  as often and as long as you can.  You can find hundreds of Buddhist websites and links for readings, information, and tips. You can find groups, teachers, and individuals like you sitting, searching, and finding a simple way to tame the elephant in their minds.  It is a lifelong adventure that will transform your life.  I recommend it highly and I hope you will join me in this great and joyous adventure today.

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