Posts Tagged ‘Robert Aiken’

So far we have talked about the first two refuges (Buddha and Dharma/teachings) and today we will be working on the third: the Sangha.  Robert Aitken in his book The Mind of Clover (1984) says this, “Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha can be understood here to mean realization, truth, and harmony (page 4).” This is achieved through the harmony of the Buddha and the Dharma which is accomplished through the fellowship that comes with being a part of a group practicing, sitting, and working on the teachings (Dharma) of Shakyamuni Buddha.

I love what it says in the book Soto Zen an Introduction to Zazen (2002):

Each of us needs to make personal vows based on our talents and abilities.  We don’t need to be a Buddhist priest. We don’t even need to be zazen practitioners.  Whether we are schoolteachers, lawyers, farmers, or mechanics—through our work and through our family life, we can find a wholesome way to benefit all living beings.  Through our activities we can make this world a healthier place.  I believe that this is our practice as bodhisattvas in the modern age.  There is no secret method to resolve all the problems we face, but each of us can take vows, practice repentance, and continue to make our own small but steady efforts.  And I believe that in order to live this way, zazen practice, as taught by Dogen Zenji, is a great help (page 15).

So where do we learn Dogen Zenji zazen (meditation) practice?  First, check the internet to see if there is a Buddhist group in your area.  If not, you can sit with people online at various websites.  You can read, listen to lectures, and find Buddhist chants on line as well.  So you can sit and learn all by yourself. Then one day you may even invite a friend to sit with you if there is no community near where you live.  Start your own small group where you can encourage and support each other.   It will help to be mindful of the time spent in sitting and reading and making notes of your progress.

If you are able to go away for a day or a week you can find many opportunities to study and learn at some of the most beautiful and wonderful Zen centers right here in the United States.  One of my very favorites, beyond my home group, is the Zen Mountain Monastery in Mt. Tremper, NY.  They have ongoing programs all year long and you can find information about them at their website www.mro.org.  Your local groups may have opportunities to sit for a half day (zazenkai) or a, full day and sometimes even 3 to 10 days.

We even have groups that sit in the prisons around the country.  I am a small part of our prison ministry team where we go twice a month to sit with our men and women who are incarcerated.  There are several hundred sitting in the Florida prisons all around the state.  I know that if you want to become a part of a community of people using zazen meditation you can find the tools and groups in so many places, if you just look.

Open your mind to the possibilities!  They will appear before you know it.  Having support from people of like mind is very helpful.  It is especially helpful when you think you’re sitting is not going right, or it is too hard, or too time consuming, or too frustrating.  Having that family/community of people to talk with is so helpful.  Why, because they have had or currently have all the questions, challenges, and problems that you are experiencing and will be glad to walk through them with you.  Help is on the way when you join a Sangha, you’ll be glad you did.

Things to focus on this week:

  1.  I will begin each day with the intention of finding an opportunity to sit in meditation either with a Sangha or on my own.
  2. I will look for information on the teachings locally, on the internet, and through friends when I need help. Finding a Zen teacher/Sangha is a great step toward learning and growing.
  3. Next, I will keep the self-recriminations to a minimum and know that even the Buddha took a long time to find his truth and enlightenment.

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