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Yuanwu wrote, “If where you stand is reality, then your actions have power (page 1).[1]

Yuanwu Chinese Master2. BWjpg

Chinese Master Yuanwu

The Chinese poet Chiao Jan (730-799) wrote this poem.

If you want to be a mountain-dweller. . .
No need to trek to India to find one.
I have a thousand peaks
To pick from right here on the lake.
Fragrant grasses and white clouds
Hold me here.
What holds you there,
World-dweller (page 57)?[2]

 

When you find yourself searching for peace, love, and compassion in your life and you don’t seem to be attaining it ask yourself Chiao Jan’s question, “What is holding me here?” And my questions: What got me here? What would happen if I took a different path or thought different thoughts or acted in a different way? What if I took a different action in this situation next time? How would that look and feel? Would it help or hinder?  What if I simply let go of those thoughts and feelings and stopped the actions that are hindering me right now?

These two men were students of Buddhism and of life who understood that our reality is powerful and holds us in or allows us to expand and grow in a positive way.  Chiao Jan was held in by his beautiful mountains and the lake and the fragrant grasses and white clouds.  What holds you?  What has a grip on you?  What does “reality” mean to you anyway?  Are your day dreams real, are your night dreams causing sleeplessness?  Where did your “reality” take you today?

As you can see we create our own reality with our thoughts, behaviors, feelings, desires and more—right where we are. If our actions have power imagine what we could do with the power of “sitting.”  Simply taking time out of each day to quiet our minds and bodies. To release ourselves from the plans, goals, and pressures of life.  To be that “mountain-dweller” amongst the fragrant grasses and white clouds and allow life to “simply be.” Then watch our “reality” move into the power of peace, love, and compassion for all people, places, and things.

Imagine what your life would be like if all your actions and words made a positive difference in everyone you encountered.  What a wonderful world this would be. And you didn’t even have to be a “mountain dweller” to attain it! Try it and let me know how it goes!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

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

[2] S. Hamill and J.P. Seaton (2007) The Poetry of Zen.  Boston & London:Shambhala

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The next lines of the Heart Sutra that I will be writing about in Part V are below:

            No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind;

            No color, sound, smell, taste, touch, phenomena;

            No realm of sight

            No realm of consciousness;

            No ignorance  And no end to ignorance.

These lines begin the section where we think about reality and life and what we hold onto and how that idea of clinging to things and beliefs is filled with contradictions, falsehoods, challenges, and fears.  It can destroy relationships, jobs, and our health when we are unable to see life from different points of view.  I know because it happens to me daily and when I sit zazen it relieves me from this world of illusion as Shohaku Okumura writes about so beautifully in his book, Living by Vow, A Practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts writes:

Our picture of the world is our reality, but we should understand that it is distorted.  This is the meaning of emptiness.  Our mind is emptiness. Our sense organs are emptiness.  Things outside us are also emptiness. Everything is just illusion. The fact that we live with illusion is our reality.  When we really understand this and see how illusion is caused, we can see reality through the illusion. Whatever we see, whatever we grasp with our sense organs and consciousness is illusion.  When we see this we are released from attachment to our limited view, to what we have, to what we think we own.  We may not become completely free, but we become less restricted by our limitations.

. . .This letting go is prajna or wisdom. It means to become free of our picture of the world caused by our karma. In this way our view becomes a bit broader and deeper (page 175).[1]

If you are like me and want to have a deeper broader life of peace, joy, and love let us take the time each day to practice zazen (sitting or walking meditation).  Okumura goes on to write:

We keep practicing this zazen, sitting and letting go of thought, trying to see things in the most flexible way.  This doesn’t mean we negate our delusions.  We can never negate them; they are our life.  But so long as we fail to see that they are illusory and grasp them as reality, we cannot be free.  When we really see the emptiness of subject and object, we can be free from grasping, clinging, and greed (page 174-75).

So let us take Okumura’s sage advice this week and see if we can free ourselves from our illusions about people, places, and things and live a more productive, happy, healthy, and free existence.  In the big picture life is short, even if you live to 104.  So make the most of what you’ve got.  Make a difference in your life and that will make a difference in others’ lives as well.

Things to focus on this week:

1.  I will begin each day by sitting in quiet meditation.

2.  I will remind myself that doing this can help free me from grasping, clinging, and greed.

3.  I release my attachment today and every day from my limited view of life.

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 Text. Wisdom Publications: Somerville, MA

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Once again I will attempt to unwind the mystery of the Heart Sutra this time lines three and four, “Clearly saw emptiness of all the five conditions. Thus completely relieving misfortune and pain.”  I am again helped by the authors of two wonderful books Living by Vow a Practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts written by Shohaku Okumura and Emptiness, Relativity and Quantum Physics by the Dali Lama.  So let’s begin this wonderful adventure!

Okumura writes, “In every moment we must awaken again to the impermanent reality of our lives.  Everything is always changing, and there is no substance.  In Mahayana Buddhism, this is called emptiness (page 136).” [1]

The Buddha said that “nothing is fixed, and there is nothing that doesn’t change.”[2]

The Dali Lama in his book Emptiness, Relativity and Quantum Physics wrote:

Thus, there are no subjects without the objects by which they are defined, there are no objects without subjects to apprehend them, there are no doers without things done.  There is no chair without legs, a seat, a back, wood, nails, the floor on which it rests, the walls that define the room it’s in, the people who constructed it, and the individuals who agree to call it a chair and recognize it as something to sit on.  Not only is the existence of things and events utterly contingent but, according to this principle, their very identities are thoroughly dependent upon others.[3]

And so, I could cut down the legs and cut off the back of the chair, if I so choose, and turn it into a coffee table, and when I no longer needed it for that purpose I could break it up and use it for fire wood, that would turn it into smoke and ash. Then it could be mixed into the garden compost pile and turned into fertilizer to help grow my beautiful tomatoes for the summer salad.

This clearly demonstrates the impermanence of all “things” and thus their intrinsic emptiness. So letting go of my desire to control things, people, and places I relieve myself of misfortune and pain—for their emptiness will appear to me soon enough and I will see the change in them with an open heart and mind.

Okumura goes on to say the following:

We can make a peaceful, stable foundation for our lives.  It’s called nirvana.  It is not a particular state or condition of our minds but rather a way of life based on impermanence and egolessness.  The Buddha taught that there are two different ways of living.  If we are blind to the reality of egolessness and impermanence, our life becomes suffering.  If we waken to this reality and live accordingly, our life becomes nirvana.  This awakening is called Bodhi or enlightenment (page 136).”[4]

Thus nirvana or enlightenment is not a place that you go like sitting on a cloud in heaven in a children’s story book.  It is a place to live today where our ego recognizes that all things change in body: physically; in mind: emotionally; in brain: through learning and creating new synapses; and finally, in my heart: through the wonder of wisdom.

Thus each day I am born anew. And so, I release the old ideas, ways, and limitations and am open and receptive to embrace the miracle and joy of seeing the emptiness of all five conditions and the impermanence in my life so I can be relieved of my misfortune and pain—if not forever, at least for today!

Things to focus on this week:

1.  I will begin seeing the impermanence in all things today.

2.  I will remind myself that doing this can help make a peaceful stable foundation for my life—or nirvana.

3.  I will remember to release the old ideas, ways, and limitations in my life and be open to allow new exciting things to appear.

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 Text. Wisdom Publications.: Somerville, MA

[2] Ibid.

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

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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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