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Posts Tagged ‘Prison Ministry’

And thus, we move forward with this great teaching from Yuanwu!  He says, “Among the enlightened adepts, being able to speak the truth has nothing to do with the tongue, and being able to talk about the Dharma is not a matter of words (page 62).[1]

I spent the Sunday afternoon at my prison ministry where 14 men sitting “behind the fence” studied and sat and did kinhin for over three hours.  Their sitting was done wherever they could do it—on the floor with a small yoga mat beneath them, in a wheelchair to which they were confined, or in a chair attached to a desk like you used to use in high school.  But sit they did!

They were not in a beautiful zendo in a forest or in a church where I sit with the Southern Palm Zen Group, or a person’s home filled with love, patience, and compassion—yet their dedication to the principles and practices of Zen were deep and knowing and learning and forgetting.  As Yuanwu said “not a matter of words.”

Yuanwu goes on to write:

Anything the ancients said was intended only so that people would directly experience the fundamental reality.  Thus, the teachings of the sutras are like a finger pointing to the moon, and the sayings of the Zen masters are like a piece of tile used to knock on a door (page 62).

We were studying the story of Huineng and his opportunity to receive dharma Huineng drawing cutting bambootransmission in secret from the fifth ancestor Yuquan Shenxiu. As the story is told the fifth ancestor was getting old and looking for a successor and so a challenge was given to all the students to write a poem to show their understanding of the dharma.  One student wrote a poem which indicated that in order to reach enlightenment or awakening we had to continuously be polishing the mirror because it was always collecting dust.

Huineng on the other hand could neither read nor write so he had a fellow monk help him out and when he heard this idea he said, “. . .that is not deep enough.”  He asked his friend to write his version which ended in “Fundamentally there is not a single thing. Where could dust arise?” In Buddhism we believe that everything is completely empty thus there is no place for the “dust” to be. Shohaku Okumura says, “there is nothing to have to polish and nothing we have to eliminate. That was Huineng’s understanding (page 211).”[2]

Quantum physics agrees with this ancient teaching: “nothing really exists without the apparatus defining it.”[3] Although there is nothing to define (no dust to wipe away) our human curiosity and questioning moves us to do it anyway.  It moves us to find the answers, to investigate, to study, to learn, and to finally practice what we have learned and bring those ideas and principals into our lives. We do this by simply sitting, clearing our minds of all thoughts of “things,” and discovering that secret sacred place within us devoid of words. Truth is simply conveyed through our actions toward others and self. What “no words” have you spoken today?! What “no actions” have you taken?

[1] Cleary J.C. and Cleary, T. (1994) Zen Letters Teachings of Yuanwu. Boston & London: Shambhala

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

[3] http://www.neurohackers.com/index.php/fr/menu-top-neurotheque/68-cat-nh-spirituality/95-emptiness-relativity-a-quantum-physics-dalai-lama

[4] Picture Hui-neng Cutting Bamboo, by Liang K’ai

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What is love in the spiritual sense?

We see that this love is not something far-off, nor is it anything that can come to us.  It is already a part of our being, already established within us; and more than that, it is universal and impersonal.  As this universal and impersonal love flows out from us, we begin to love our neighbor, because it is impossible to feel this love for God within us and not love our fellow man (page 66-67.)[1]

~Joel S. Goldsmith

It just happens to be Father’s Day when I am writing on this topic of “love.”  Some of us have been born lucky into a family where our father was a great dad, loving, kind, sharing, supportive and more and for others not so much.  But in everyone’s life there is a person who fills that roll.  It could be a friend, uncle, grandfather, teacher, minister, neighbor, or coach.  So this blog is dedicated to everyone who has inspired someone to be the best they can be, consoled someone when they were sad or afraid, and loved someone just for who they were—a perfectly divine and lovable being. They see a person that is loved beyond their actions or words in a given situation or in spite of them.

Every time I walk into our prison sangha to share the teachings of Buddhism with our members “behind the fence” I am reminded of that truth.  If I did not know that I was in a prison and I was just dropped into the room unaware of its location I would have thought that I was in the midst of a study group of monks and priests practicing and living a life of peace, love, and compassion for all.  They are such a great demonstration of what some might term “fatherly love.”  They support each other, share, praise, and love each other as the divine beings that they were created to be.

Love is not something that you get out of a bottle or can create in a high school science lab.  It is not something that you can buy in a store or on line from Amazon.  It does not come from the US Post Office or FedEx. It comes from each individual when their hearts and minds meld together supported by feelings and actions that are loving, compassionate, and sometimes firm when need be. All the money in the world could not buy it.  It is not for sale. It does not have to be earned, nor can it be.

Love simply exists in the universe as an energy that we are born with, an energy that exits everywhere and thus in everything.  When we open our hearts and minds to this truth of our being all doors can be opened and all hearts can be repaired.  I have seen it with my own eyes in our prison ministry each and every day.

I encourage you all to meet your good today and every day by living your life through the words of Emmet Fox and watch your life be transformed!

emmet-foxs-Love

In gassho, Shokai

[1] Goldsmith, J.S. (1958) Practicing the Presence: The Inspirational Guide to Regaining Meaning and A Sense of Purpose in Your Life HarperSanFrancisco:CA

 

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Zen Can

Zach Zen CanAnd How to Make an Emblem

  1. This can contains 100% pure unadulterated emptiness. We must first understand emptiness in order to come to understand and appreciate the fullness of existence. Affirmation: May we all become open receptive vessels.
  2. The can hangs in the position of being poured. This represents the eternal outpouring of the dharma. Affirmation: May it’s blessings be poured upon all.
  3. The can’s surface is smooth, solid, and polished to a mirror finish. This is so that everything which comes into contact with it is reflected upon it. We must endeavor to make our minds a semblance of this. Only with an undisturbed steady and strong mind are we able to correctly meditate upon the things that come to us in life physically or mentally. Affirmation: May we all gain wisdom and understanding through our meditations and reflections.
  4. The rope that the can hangs from has 3 knots. The first represents Shakyamuni Buddha. He is holding all that which he has awakened to. Affirmation: Let us honor the memory of the awakened one “Shakyamuni Gautama Buddha. The second knot represents the dharma. It has begun to be undone. This is the unbounded and expanded comprehension that the Buddha gave to us all. Affirmation: May we study the teachings of Buddha Tathagata diligently and urgently. The third represents the sangha. It is the community of followers of the teachings and practice which the Buddha brought forth, and has passed on now for almost 90 generations. Affirmation: May each of us meditate upon them daily in good health and good spirit.
  5. The rope is symbolic of the consciousness. It passes through and around all of the rest of the symbols given above. It is a circle and also represents a never ending stream of consciousness in an eternal existence. By putting this over our head we are symbolically putting our minds, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and throat into all that we have accepted as a new way of life. No longer shall we view life the same, see life the same, hear life the same, smell, taste, touch, or think of life the same as we did prior to coming to the understanding and practice of the Buddha’s teachings. Affirmation: May each of us be strong in our resolve and efforts.

In gassho,

Kakushin

July 29, 2015

This can was made from an inhaler that someone had thrown away and Kakushin turned it into  this incredible piece of Buddhist jewelry which he calls a “Zen Can.”  Kakushin is a member of our prison sangha.  He gave this to me as a gift on my last visit as a volunteer with our prison ministry team.  Magnificent work! It took him over 8 hours to sand the paint off by hand. And even more hours of meditation to write the descriptions and affirmations that go along with the “Zen Can.”

I am blessed to be a part of this incredible volunteer project that helps over 400 inmates be able to sit and practice the Buddhist principles in the Florida prison system.

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