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book cover A Flower Does not talkShibayama begins by giving us the literal explanation of the phrase.

“Nature as used here is not something one has acquired after he was born, but it is the ‘true innate Nature with which one was primarily born.’  It is the Absolute Nature at the very foundation of existence (page 27).”[1]

So, when you hear someone say “it’s just my nature” to be like that or do that they are wrong.  It is their education, upbringing, culture, etc. that has made them behave like that.  And that is great!  Why?  Because that means we can change it if we want to.  Just like when growing up I learned to love chopped liver on crackers because my dad was Jewish and his mom always made it for him when he was young and so he made it for us.

Now some of you may be saying YIKES! I’m a vegan or a vegetarian or I never eat that kind of stuff, no kidneys, no brains, and no hearts!  It’s not in my nature…so what is?

Shibayama goes on to say,

Zen does not say to “know” this absolute fundamental Nature, but it says to “see” into the Nature. This religious experience of “seeing into one’s Nature” is called kensho in Japanese. By this one attains his religious personality. In Christian terminology, one is saved by God. In Buddhist terminology, it is “to attain to Buddhahood.” The fourth maxim can therefore be paraphrased: “By the fact of religious experience one attains his Buddhahood (page 27-28).[2]

He goes on to say that “the term Buddha is used in its original Sanskrit meaning, namely, ‘an enlightened one.’ In The Song of Zazen by Hakuin, the term Buddha comes in its first line where he says, ‘All beings are primarily Buddhas (page28).’”[3]  He is asking us to think outside the box.  To go beyond our ordinary consciousness to our “true/innate nature.”

Even when we do something foolish or mean or unjust that does not mean our true/innate nature has been modified or damaged.  So, we are always given a second, third, fourth or hundredth chance to get it right, to do it better, to remember our true nature is Buddha nature—loving kindness, compassion for self and others, for perfect health, happiness, and joy.

Take time out of your busy schedule today to discover your “true nature” through some time in quiet meditation.  Focus on your breath.  Let go of all goals, rules, laws, and past negative thinking and open your mind to the truth of who you are. When you get up from your meditation…act like it!!

[1] Shibayama, Z. (1970) A Flower Does Not Talk Zen Essays. Charles E. Tuttle Co.: Vermont & Tokyo Japan

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

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Shibayama’s first paragraph in this section reads:

The real life and spirit of Zen is an experiential fact.  It does not rely on letters, that is, on written or verbal expressions which function within the dualistic limitations.  From the very beginnings of human self-consciousness, human beings have been making the mistake of confounding the experiential fact and its expressions in letters which are just the conceptual shadows of the fact. We are liable to believe that the experience itself exists in letters and words. Zen, which insists that the direct, genuine experience is basic, regards letters and verbal expressions as of secondary importance (page 23).[1]

Don’t get me wrong in this part or in Part 3 I am not suggesting that you don’t read and study and learn about Buddhism and Zen in particular.  It is good to understand and know the philosophy by which Buddhists live and how they relate to the outer world in a Buddhist way. But the words we read are empty and temporary and do not in and of themselves make this a better place in which to live or make you a better person.  When we demonstrate our knowledge of the teachings by our own “direct actions” and not by reciting a koan or a sutra or something we read in a book we are demonstrating the life and spirit of Zen.

 

Peace Pilgrim

One of my favorite people that ever walked on planet Earth was life’s perfect example of living the spirit of Zen and she was not a Buddhist: The Peace Pilgrim.  From 1953 until 1981 when she died she walked around the world to share her message of peace and to stop the proliferation of nuclear arms. She did not rely on letters!  She believed “when enough of us find inner peace, our institutions will all become more peaceful and there will be no more occasion for war (page xi).”[2]  In those few years she walked 25,000 miles for her vow: “I shall remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until I am given shelter and fasting until I am given food.”  She walked those 25,000 miles without a penny in her pocket.

 

 

She was a great example of Shibayama’s teaching that we demonstrate our knowledge by our own direct actions. Her “real life” was demonstrated in her actions as she walked as a “prayer” and as a chance to inspire others to pray and work with her for peace.  Peace in all ways she suggested: within ourself, as we express it toward others, and how our peaceful actions can encourage our communities, states, and countries to work toward peace.

She was the spirit of Zen that did not rely on letters but her “direct genuine experience” of walking and sharing her peace and love with everyone she met as she walked those 25,000 miles.

Ask yourself today are you simply reading about Zen or are you living Zen and how many miles would you walk expressing your vow?  Do you even have a vow?

 

[1] Shibayama, Z. (1970) A Flower Does Not Talk Zen Essays. Charles E. Tuttle Co.: Vermont & Tokyo Japan

[2] Friends of Peace Pilgrim publication, first published in 1982, http://www.peacepilgrim.org

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Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha): “Do not believe in anything because it is found written in your religious books.

The Rigveda is an ancient Indian text one of the four canonical sacred texts of Hinduism written between the 5th and 2nd century BCE, the first four books of the Bible Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers were written between the 6th and 2nd century BCE, the Tao Te Ching in the 6th century BCE, the Buddhist Sutras between the 2nd century BCE and the 2nd century CE, the New Testament in the 1st century CE, the Qur’an is the newest written around 632 CE.  Wow!  If you can remember all of that you’re better than I am!

 What’s my point?  The people who wrote these books were wonderful people who wanted to memorialize their beliefs and experiences for those who would come after them.  They were trying to explain, nature, birth, death, life, good and evil and more.  Science was not at the level it is today, they only had their eyes, ears, nose, and sometimes mouth to discover and memorialize their lives and how they dealt with what happened to them and in them in their waking and sleeping hours.

This is neither good nor bad—it just is.  Thus if saying a bed time Buddha at Bedtimeprayer will help keep you alive through the night—great what can you lose! If not eating meat is how you desire to live your life wonderful, go for it.  If eating meat but not pork or crustaceans (lobster, crabs, shrimp, etc.) is your choice that’s great too.  In ancient times you might have been better off not eating pork because it caused an infection we know as trichinosis, but so did lots of other foods.  Just a few more reasons “not to believe” everything found in your ancient texts.

My mom believed it about the pork and thus when we had pork chops for dinner they were so well done they tasted and acted like shoe leather!  That was one of the nights I always found a reason to eat at my best friend’s house for dinner.  Another time I bought some “free range chicken” and served it to her for supper.  I was bragging about how great they were and that all the chickens should be freed.  Once again mom told me a “farm story.”  “I fed plenty of chickens on the farm growing up and let me tell you they ate anything and everything in sight, at least this way their waste ends up far enough away that they can’t get at it.” You’ve got to love my mom!

So in this day and age with our education, science, technology, the internet, and more you have the opportunity to be your own researcher and discover about life for yourself.  If following your religious and family traditions is important in your life…go for it.  Just remember that not everything written in them is true…then move full speed ahead and live the life that works for you and spreads peace, love, and compassion wherever you go!

In gassho,

Shokai

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Teaching students about simplicity is very difficult in a world where there is no example of it in their lives.  We live in a society that is complex, busy, noisy, and filled with to-do lists and projects and school, studying, and working toward promotions and more.  And this is all happening today!

But to live a life of peace, joy, and contentment we will need to slow down, increase our ability to focus on one thing at a time, and find time to meditate and be mindful about each word, thought, and step we take.  When we accomplish this we will be living in a world that is full and complete and filled with peace, love, and compassion.  Fears and frustrations will diminish and laughter will appear in their place.

dad, grandad, boy playingWhen was the last time you heard yourself or your children or students or co-workers actually laugh with a loud squeal, saw them roll on the floor, and hold their tummy because it hurt so much from laughing?  When was the last time you laughed so hard tears rolled down your face like the picture you see here?

Below is an exercise for you to share with them to help them think about simplicity and how it appears in their lives. You may not be able to use it with very young students so you may have to revise it a little bit to show them how to work on one thing at a time and finish it before they go on to the next thing. You might illustrate that idea with two pictures, one that is a very simple picture of something i.e. a glass of milk, and the other that is a very busy and complex picture such as a table full of dishes and food with a glass of milk among the items on the table.

Script for Exercise:

Pretend that you have a magic wand and that magic wand allows you to recreate your life and yourself– to invent a new you.  I am going to give you a few minutes to meditate on a word and think about what it means to you and how it appears in your life, or doesn’t appear in your life.  The word is simplicity.  (short pause)

When I ring the bell I am going to give you several minutes to create something with the art supplies that you have gathered that will illustrate what you discovered about yourself during the meditation.  Be as creative as possible in expressing what you discovered and even what the new you, both internally and externally, can look like. Feel free to draw, write, color, express yourself in your own unique way.

Keep track of the time. Give the students 3-5 minutes, longer if they have experience meditating, before ringing the bell. After ringing the bell remind them what they are to be doing for the next 10-15 minutes.  Keep track of the time because you will want to save time for debriefing the activity.

You might even try this exercise yourself.  Reflecting on simplicity might lighten up your day and brighten up your life!  Try it I think you’ll like it…

In gassho,

Shokai

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Emerson: We can only see what we are…(page51)[1]

Zen Gautama Buddha: We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.Zen Eight Fold Path

This may be the best thing you’ve read all year and I hope that it will help you in 2017: What you think is the master of your life.  If you think thoughts of peace, love, health, and prosperity you will attain just that.  If you think thoughts of fear, anger, illness, and hate that is what you will manifest in your life.

It is time that we get over blaming our parents, our upbringing, our teachers, our genes, and life for the situation we are in today.  Yes, they affected us in a myriad of ways but as adults it is our opportunity to forgive and forget.  To create a new life that is filled with goodness and love.  To create the life that we want to live instead of letting others or the past have power over us!

I read an article many years ago in a Unity publication about a woman who had a terrible childhood and so her adult life was filled with lack and limitation in all areas.  Then one day she decided to recreate her life and she began slowly by remembering one good thing that happened to her as a child.  She focused on an aunt who was kind and loving and shared that goodness with her. From there she discovered other memories that had been hidden and blocked by her anger and hatred.  She began focusing on them and little by little her life turned around.  She became a loving and compassionate person with success in all areas of her life.

She began to really be what she was born to be a happy, healthy, loving person regardless of her past circumstances.  She began to succeed in all areas of her life and it was filled with peace, love, prosperity, and happiness.  Life is like the script of a Broadway play.  Some scenes are dramatic and scary others are filled with music, dance, and love.  What is your script reading like today?  Will you create a new script for 2017?  Or will you keep playing the same drama over and over? How about writing a musical filled with fun and laughter and love?

You are what you think the Buddha said. He also said our thoughts make the world.  Let’s create a world, from today forward, that is filled with peace, love, and compassion for self and all others!  Do not be like the blind leading the blind—be like the knowing leading the knowing!  Follow The Eightfold Path above and watch what happens!

See what you truly are—a perfectly divine, loving, healthy, prosperous you!

In gassho,

Shokai

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

 

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Emerson:  “Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which animates aajahn-brahmll whom it floats, and you are without effort impelled to truth, to right, and a perfect contentment.”[1]

Zen Ajahn Brahm: “Contentment is the opposite of a faultfinding mind.  You should develop the perception of contentment with whatever you have, wherever you are, as much as you can (page 44).”[2]

Wow!  What a concept!  In America we find ourselves often in a place where contentment seems impossible.  Especially during times like Christmas.  From the time we are very little until we die we make lists all year long asking for the newest toy on TV or the bike like your best friend has, or a new car like the neighbor down the street just got.  We long for material things and money and trips and more.

When was the last time you were content with what you had?  When was the last time you spent time in meditation and prayer where your mind was not drug off into thoughts of discontent?  Discontent with your relationships, your job, your income, with your health, or the world in general.

Don’t get me wrong there are a lot of people in need all over the world. In need of food, shelter, and safety from floods and bombs and more.  And we should do all we can to help them from supporting peace not war, supporting food banks, homeless shelters, veteran’s benefits, and more.  However, we must start with ourselves and our own consciousness.  Start with the little things and work your way up to the big things!  If you need to lose weight and you create a plan to do so celebrate even the smallest improvement be it losing three pounds, exercising three days in a row, or changing your diet to healthier foods this week.

Be open to “baby steps—baby steps” as Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss) told his patient Bob Wiley (Bill Murry) in the movie “What about Bob.”  Find contentment in the little things wherever you can—whenever you can.   Longing for things that are out of reach makes you discontented with life and robs you of your contentment and your peace and joy in the present moment.  It doesn’t matter whether that discontentment is about things, places, or people.

We attract what we think about the most.  So if you want peace meditate and focus on peace and like a magnet you will draw it to you!  Remember contentment is hiding within it! If you want better health, or a different more fulfilling job, or a new relationship do the same and watch what happens!  Open your mind to receive your good by placing yourself in the middle of contentment!

Let me know how it goes!

In gassho,

Shokai

 

[1] http://www.azquotes.com/author/4490-Ralph_Waldo_Emerson/tag/contentment

[2] Brahm, A. (2014) Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond A Meditator’s Handbook. Wisdom Publications: Boston

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Emerson The Gospel of Emerson:

“No truth so sublime but it may be trivial tomorrow in the light of new thoughbuddhist-boot-camp-book-coverts (page 9).”[1]

Timber Hawkeye The Buddhist Boot Camp:

I knew what they meant: focus on the teachings, not the teacher (page 51).[2]

I know you are reading and listening and googling your favorite teachers and guru’s every day.  You spend time reading their books, listening to their pod casts, reading their blogs, newsletters, and more.  Many of you are running to the current most famous guru or teacher that you’ve seen on TV or the internet.  You hope to find the answer to all of your pains, sufferings, and questions about life.  And when they don’t give you the answer you move on to the next “teacher” and the next to no avail.  Why? Because the greatest teacher is right within you!

 There is no greater teacher then one that lies within you.  One fad teacher seems to have the “sublime answer” and then the next new face or name has the newest “sublime answer or new thought.”  From the horse and buggy to the car.  From the airplane to the moon and mars.  What next? Who next?  And yet the answer is always within you.  Within your divine wisdom—if you just go within and listen.

Be open during your meditation to sit quietly, focus on your breath, and wait upon nothing.  That is when miracles arrive.  That is when you open your mind to the great mind of the universe.  In those silent moments you tap into infinity.

Then you can be open to receive the answer to all of your questions.  The answer may come later in the day while washing the dishes or mowing the lawn.  It may come to you while swimming or riding your bike.  But come it will.  It probably won’t come from focusing on the wisdom of the “teacher” but on the wisdom of your intuitive creative mind.

All great inventors and scientists learned the basics from teachers and books and then they let the rest appear.  Albert Einstein is said to have had a dream/vision of himself flying through space and came up with E=mc squared. And Thomas Edison when he could not find the answer to a difficult problem would lay down on a bench in his laboratory and hold a coin in his hand and when it dropped on the floor it would wake him from his lucid dream state and the answer to the problem was there!

This short list includes some of the great founders of the world’s religions and philosophies: Yahwists, Zoroaster, Laozi, Siddhartha Gautama, Confucius, Ezra, Jesus, Muhammad, Mary Baker Eddy, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, and Helen Blavatsky. These are just a few of the original minds that were the impetus of a religion or belief system that we have in the world today.  Each brought their own flavor and ideas to the mix. Each brought a “new thought” to the world to help them cope with the challenges of their time.

You too can use their thoughts and ideas to propel you to expand your consciousness and create your own path of wisdom, meaning, and knowledge to help you live a life of peace, love, and compassion. Be open to new ideas, focus on the teachings not the personalities.  Allow your mind to open to expand to new ideas that will challenge your beliefs and move you forward into “new frontiers.” Remember it is not the teacher that is important it is the teaching!

Let me know how that goes!  Our world really needs your new ideas!

Shokai

 

 

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

[2] Hawkeye, T. (2013) Buddhist Boot Camp. NY, NY: Harper Collins Publishers

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