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Posts Tagged ‘Sosan’

Obey the nature of things (your own nature),
And you will walk freely and undisturbed.
When thought is in bondage the truth is hidden,
For everything is murky and unclear,
And the burdensome practice of judging
Brings annoyance and weariness.
What benefit can be derived
From distinctions and separations? [1]

Take a moment to think about the first line of this sutra. “Obey the nature of things (your own nature), and you will walk freely and undisturbed.” What is your nature and what is your TRUE nature. The dictionary says nature is the particular combination of qualities belonging to a person it is our native or inherent character our temperament. Or when used as an idiom “She is by nature a kindhearted person.” So what is your own nature? What is your own TRUE nature?

Once you have identified your nature good and bad then ask yourself “am I in bondage to it?” In reality your TRUE nature is identical to every Buddha that has ever been born. The Dalai Lama says:

“Every sentient being—even insects—have Buddha nature. The seed of Buddha means consciousness, the cognitive power—the seed of enlightenment. That’s from Buddha’s viewpoint. All these destructive things can be removed from the mind, so therefore there’s no reason to believe some sentient being cannot become Buddha.”[2]

And if the Dalai Lama says it must be true!

The essential teaching of Mahayana Buddhism is that we are already enlightened beings that is our true nature. But as it says in the sutra “When thought is in bondage the truth is hidden, for everything is murky and unclear and the burdensome practice of judging brings annoyance and weariness.” We are so bogged down in this negative thinking, this judgmental thinking, this fear thinking, that our true Buddha nature is hidden deep down in the recesses of our minds, bodies and spirits. Our ego does not give us the opportunity to see ourselves as the Buddha the enlightened being. We are plagued with negative images and negative self-talk—Who do you think you are someone special? You have fears, anger, jealousy, and you say mean and angry things. You’re surly not enlightened. Or are you?

“What benefit can be derived from distinctions and separations?” Our thoughts are like the clouds that hide the sun sometimes so much that they bring mental and emotional rain showers and even thunder and lightning storms into our lives. Our thoughts obscure the sun and our Buddha nature and yet we know intellectually that the sun has not gone away. Once we calm ourselves and sit in mindful meditation for a few minutes we will be able to calm that judgmental thinking, ego, and id and turn annoyance and weariness into calmness and peace.

Next time you catch this happening to you simply remind yourself that you are Buddha nature and move into that place of peace, love, and compassion. Ask yourself “What benefit can be derived from distinctions and separations in this situation?” I’ll bet the answer will be “no benefit at all.” If I can remind myself that I am Buddha nature I will be able to slip into a place of peace, love, and compassion for myself and all concerned.

Image what wonderful relationships you could have, what a great life you could have–a life filled with peace, love, and happiness—if you believed about yourself and everyone you meet what the Dalai Lama believes: That everyone has Buddha nature right here and right now! That your TRUE nature is Buddha nature. So let’s try to act like it right here and right now and watch what will happen our your life!

In gassho

ingassho
Shokai

[1] Osho, Hsin Hsin Ming, (2014) The Zen Understanding of Mind and Consciousness Attributed to: Seng’tsan, 3rd Chinese (Sosan, Zen) Patriarch

[2] March 9, 2010 http://www.pbs.org/thebuddha/blog/2010/Mar/9/dalai-lama-buddhanature/

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To live in the great way
is neither easy nor difficult,
but those with limited views
are fearful and irresolute:
the faster they hurry, the slower they go,
and clinging cannot be limited;
even to be attached to the idea of enlightenment
is to go astray.
Just let things be in their own way
And there will be neither coming nor going.[1]

Several years ago I was watching a video recording of a Ken Blanchard book The One Minute Manager preparing to teach the principles for a training that I was doing for one of my corporate clients and I heard him say “the faster you go—the slower you go.” Having not been a Zen Buddhist student at the time I thought that was a brilliant management philosophy to take to heart. I recalled the many times that I’d hurried through an assignment in college or a project at work and in my rush I ended up making lots of mistakes and writing things that made little or no sense. Thus the negative feedback was not good—but it was well deserved.

When I began studying Buddhism I often read and heard this phrase and discovered that Ken had gotten the idea from some wonderful Buddhist or Eastern philosophy.

When was the last time you rushed through something and it ended up being not your best work, or incorrect, or even harmful? Hopefully you learned something from the experience that has helped you in your life.

So what does the first line mean—To live in the great way is neither easy nor difficult, but those with limited views are fearful and irresolute. I know when I was a Unity minister we tried to help our students and congregants to see the world in these terms: Maybe good, maybe bad. You may be wondering how the world could be this way. You may be thinking that you know what good and bad are and how they arrive in your life and what they look and feel like. But I know in my life sometimes what I thought was “definitely bad” turned out to be “good” and what I thought was “definitely good” turned out to be “bad.”

A failed job turned into a brand new adventure in a new and exciting job and a beautiful brand new car turned out to be a lemon! How about you?

The sutra even goes so far as to say we should not be attached to “the idea of enlightenment.” We should just “let things be in their own way and there will be neither coming nor going.” There will be neither striving nor staying put, neither happiness nor sadness, neither expecting the bad nor the good. Our job is to simply take life in each moment as it comes. Dealing with the good, the bad, and the ugly with equal aplomb, not grasping, clinging, rejecting, or ruminating over it. Just this in this moment: maybe good, maybe bad. Who is to tell since none of us have a crystal ball taking the world at face value, living in the moment, and making lemonade out of lemons is a great recipe for a fulfilling life.

How refreshing is that?! Try it, I think you’ll like it and if not, so what! Try making iced latte next time instead!  This is to live in the Great Way!

In Gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Osho, Hsin Hsin Ming, The Zen Understanding of Mind and Consciousness Attributed to: Seng’tsan, 3rd Chinese (Sosan, Zen) Patriarch

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Do not remain in the dualistic state;
avoid such pursuits carefully.
If there is a trace
of this and that, of right and wrong,
the mind-essence will be lost in confusion.
Although all dualities come from the one,
do not be attached even to this one.
When mind exists undisturbed in the way,
Nothing in the world can offend,
and when a thing can no longer offend,
it ceases to exist in the old way. [1]

My favorite line in these verses is “When mind exists undisturbed in the way, nothing in the world can offend, and when a thing can no longer offend, it ceases to exist in the old way.” How many of us still hold a grudge or negative thoughts about someone that may have “offended” us in the past. The past could be as long ago as yesterday or 20 years—the time span does not matter. What matters is those words or deeds are still controlling our lives.

So we end up living in the past and not in the now moment. Our lives are so fleeting and yet we still spend a significant amount of our short time on planet earth remembering and holding onto the past. Thus what we are NOT doing is living in the present moment with an open mind, clear eyes, and attention to what is going on now. We’ve missed the beauty of the trees in spring, the sound of the snow beneath our feet in the winter, the joy of the sounds of our children, grandchildren, friends and neighbors laughing and living life in the moment.

“Do not remain in the dualistic state” do not hold on to anything the sutra says, the good moment, the bad moment, or the insignificant moment. Let each pass by with a quiet mind accepting what comes, dealing with it in the moment as best you can and then letting go of any expectations for the future—Just this! Be one with the moment—for a time will come when that moment may just save your life, or bring you peace, or help you solve a problem in a future moment. Feel the pain, feel the joy, feel the expectation as you are experiencing it.

Suppressing life only brings physical and mental pain now and often again in a future moment. When you see a sad movie cry, when you hear a funny joke laugh, when you recite an affirmation do it with passion, when you feel like singing, sing! When you feel like sitting in the quiet, sit. When you feel like cursing—curse! Be one with everything and it will help you experience compassion for others both the criminal and the victim. And don’t be attached to anything! Let nothing offend you as it will cease to exist in the very next moment.

Just slip out the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan
You don’t need to be coy, Roy
Just get yourself free
Hop on the bus, Gus
You don’t need to discuss much
Just drop off the key, Lee
And get yourself free [2]

Just follow these words of wisdom from Paul Simon and set yourself free!
In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Attributed to: Seng’tsan, 3rd Chinese (Sosan, Zen) Patriarch

[2] Paul Simon, 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover Published by
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Attributed to: Seng’tsan, 3rd Chinese (Sosan, Zen) Patriarch

To return to the root is to find the meaning,
but to pursue appearances is to miss the source.
At the moment of inner enlightenment
there is a going beyond appearance and emptiness.
The changes that appear to occur in the empty world
we call real only because of our ignorance.
Do not search for truth;
only cease to hold opinions.

 

I was sitting quietly at home after Zen on Saturday morning and was drawn, once again, to pick up this wonderful book, To Meet the Real Dragon, by Gudo Nishijima and conveniently enough he was talking about the ‘roots” of Buddhism and the many branches/schools that have come since Gautama Buddha walked on earth. He said, “We must always remember that true Buddhism is something real—something active and alive. If our teachings and institutions lose contact with that source of life and vitality, they will become a hindrance rather than a helpful vehicle on the way to the truth (page 122).”[1]

Buddhism is much more than the sutras and the tenants and the rules and the rituals that have been created over these 2500 years, much more!

So what does this phrase imply to “return to the root is to find the meaning.” For me it brings me back to a time when I knew only a little bit about Buddhism—to the reason I came to Buddhism, simply to sit quietly in time and space and to be free. To calm my body, mind, and spirit even in the midst of living a busy active life of teaching, training, writing, volunteering, and housework—to remain one with the source of life—especially in the midst of that long list.

It is an opportunity to allow myself the simple gift of “sitting in the silence” as we used to say at Unity. Unity minister, teacher, and writer Emily Cady in her empowering book Lessons in Truth wrote these words, “You need not worry. You need not be anxious. You need not strive—only let it. Learn how to let it (page 126).”[2]

As you can see Emily Cady agreed wholeheartedly with the Faith in Mind sutra even though she may have never heard of it or read it. “Truth” is eternal and everywhere present. Thus the sutra says, “Do not search for truth; only cease to hold opinions.” Just this. . .

Sitting alone or sitting with a group is a great time to NOT search, to NOT hold opinions of what a great period of sitting you had or what an awful period of sitting you had—to cease naming and labeling. To simply “let it.” We do enough naming and labeling with everything else in our lives why not take a few minutes each day to give yourself a break from it. Wow, that would be a relief wouldn’t it!

To go “beyond appearance and emptiness” to be free of them for just a moment as we sit “in the silence” and become one with it, whatever it is. I hope you’ll try it…I think you’ll like it!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Nishijima, G. (2009) To Meet the Real Dragon, Dogen Sangha Publications www.dogensangha.org

[2] Cady, H. E. (1903) Lessons In Truth, Unity House: Unity Village: MO

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Attributed to: Seng’tsan, 3rd Chinese (Sosan, Zen) Patriarch

To deny the reality of things

is to miss their reality;

to assert the emptiness of things

is to miss their reality.

The more you talk and think about it,

the further astray you wander from the truth.

Stop talking and thinking,

and there is nothing you will not be able to know.

Once again each line is a contradiction of the next line and thus it goes.  Can we deny the reality of something and yet be told that in doing so we end up missing the reality of it and yet to assert the emptiness of things is once again to miss the reality of emptiness!  This is what I love about Buddhism and its ability to make us think about life in such a way that the frustration finally brings us to a place of giving up, a place of stopping, a place of trying NOT to figure things out.

In another translation of this poem they write these words instead:

The more you think about it,

the further you are from the truth.

Cease all thinking,

and there is nothing that will not be revealed to you.[1]

So the trick is to sit and just be still and the truth will be revealed to us in a myriad of ways.  It may come from a simple Ah Ha as we are walking down the street or through the mall.  It may come to us as a hug from a long lost friend or relative or from the words of a teacher during a talk at Zen—but come it will.

Do the right thing and the right things will happen: sit quietly in the silence, quiet the monkey mind, and “there is nothing that will not be revealed to you.”

Just today I was participating in an online book study group and the subject came up about the  genius of people like YoYo Ma and Picasso and my comment to the group was “music and art comes through them not from them.”  While in the midst of the playing or the painting or the day dreaming they wandered into emptiness and all came to them in some unimaginable way. They grabbed on to it and let it come through them with patience, with vim, with vigor, and with determination, or even with not knowing or not trying it just happened.  They did not question it or fight it or hope for something different, they went with the flow.

When was the last time you went with the ‘flow.” When was the last time you gave up the idea of being “right” or “wrong” “better” or “best”  and you simply went with what was—went with the flow.  You stopped talking and thinking and all was revealed to you?

I am sure there have been many times at work or in a personal relationship when you have thought: “I just wish everyone would stop talking!”  Can’t we take a few minutes to just sit quietly and get centered, take a few breaths and open our hearts and minds to what can be?  To sit and just let something grow and blossom on its own.  Let it manifest out of nothingness.  Deepak Chopra would say it arises from “pure potentiality.”

Remember what the Third Patriarch of Zen Seng-ts’an said, “Stop talking and thinking, and there is nothing you will not be able to know.” When you do I hope you’ll let me know what wonders appeared!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

oldhousestan

This old farm house is where my mother, Iona Louise Bird, was born in 1920 and lived in until the 1940’s in Quinter, Kansas.  This picture was taken in 2013 shortly after my mother’s death by her sister Wyneta. She went there to scatter my mother’s ashes as she had requested—back to emptiness from which she came.

[1] Putkonen, E. Hsin-Hsin Ming Verses on the Perfect mind by Seng-ts’an, third Patriarch of Zen; Awaken to Life with Eric Putkonen, Minneapolis, MN http://www.awaken2life.org

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“Faith in Mind” [1]
Attributed to: Seng’tsan, 3rd Chinese (Sosan, Zen) Patriarch

When the deep meaning of things is not understood
the mind’s essential peace is disturbed to no avail.

The way is perfect, like vast space
when nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.
Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject
that we do not see the true nature of things.
Live neither in the entanglements of outer things,
nor in inner feelings of emptiness.
Be serene without striving for activity in the oneness of things
and such erroneous views will disappear by themselves.
When you try to stop activity to achieve passivity
your very effort fills you with activity.
As long as you remain in one extreme or the other
you will never know oneness.
Those who do not live in the single way
fail in both activity and passivity,
assertion and denial.

These verses may seem to be very confusing at first glance. It seems to be saying in one line that when we do not understand something our mind is “disturbed to no avail” and yet a few lines later we read we are being asked to try not to be bothered with knowing and not knowing, so which is it? Know, not know, understand, not understand? Seems to me that Buddhism is the best philosophy on the planet, knowing and not knowing are both okay. Right can be wrong, and wrong can be right on any given day. Black and white do not exist, life is filled with shades of every color on the spectrum of light.

And yet he writes, “As long as you remain in one extreme or the other you will never know oneness.” Thus many have called this path the “middle way.” That is something I can grasp. I can see that in my life when I have taken my thoughts and feelings too far in one direction or the other I have either been in “heaven” or “hell.” I may choose the heaven over the hell, but eventually even that means that I’ve decided on “preferences.” If you read my previous blog you’ll see how that can cause problems in our lives as well.

So what is the answer? Let’s go back to this line for a minute: The way is perfect, like vast space when nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess. Too much of anything can be a bad thing from too much love which can end up suffocating us or too little love which can end up creating feelings of unworthiness and self-doubt. But just the right amount like these lyrics illustrate “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, in a most delightful way,” as Julie Andrews sang so beautifully in the Mary Poppins movie. Not too much sugar and not too little, just “one spoonful” was just right. The best medicine of life is to find balance and equilibrium though the middle way: Just enough, not too much and not too little in life of challenges, love, contentment, peace, joy, happiness, and sadness.

So when you find yourself moving too far in one direction or the other remember Mary Poppins and your life will be lived “in a most delightful way.” Remember also these words of Seng’tsan, “The way is perfect, like vast space when nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.” The middle way: Try it I think, like Mary Poppins, you’ll love it!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Osho (2014) Hsin Hsin Ming, The Zen Understanding of Mind and Consciousness. Osho International Foundation

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I was wondering what I should blog on next and so I sent a note to my teacher Mitch Doshin Cantor and he suggested that I begin writing on Faith in Mind a sutra (poem) written in the 6th Century because it is a great way to learn about the beliefs and tenants of Buddhism. It is vast and in the version that I will be using it contains over 1,000 words!

This is the longest sutra I have tried to create a workbook from. Needless to say, it will take me a lot of time and energy and many blog posts to do it justice. This will give my readers the opportunity to take as long as they like to quietly focus on one section at a time.

Its opening verse is among the most quoted verses of Buddhism, even so most people do not know its real origin.

The first section reads:

The great way is not difficult
For those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however,
And heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.
If you wish to see the truth then hold no opinion for or against. . .
The struggle of what one likes and what one dislikes is the disease of the mind.

This line “The great way is not difficult for those who have no preferences” has been taught and shared by spiritual leaders, seekers, philosophers, psychologists, therapists, and clergy for centuries. I first came across it as a Unity minister when reading a wonderful book by Ken Keyes, Jr., The Handbook to Higher Consciousness. It has influenced my life ever since. Little did I know at the time that he was a student of Ram Dass, Chogyam Trungpa, and Alan Watts. I guess I was a Buddhist before I was a Buddhist!

In it he talked about giving up our preferences! That having preferences about everything is the path to pain and suffering. And as the sutra says it does not matter whether those preferences are heaven over hell, love over hate, or mint chocolate chip ice cream over vanilla. Well, the ice creams not really in the sutra!

I recall going to Ken Keyes’ College in Coos Bay, Oregon, in the 1980’s for a month long work study program. The very first thing I did was organize a group of people to get the macrobiotic cook to make at least one of the pizzas with “real” mozzarella cheese and not tofu cheese for the non-vegan students! Talk about needing to learn what Ken had to teach! I was the star pupil…

After all these years it is still a lifelong process of learning to live without preferences. I still sometimes “set heaven and earth infinitely apart” and although I still like that mint chocolate chip ice cream I will eat the vanilla if you serve it–no preferences.

It may not be a quick and easy path, but it is an important one. I do “wish to see the truth” and so if you catch me showing off my preferences I hope you’ll remind me because Sosan says, “The struggle of what one likes and what one dislikes is the disease of the mind.” That is one disease I hope to avoid as often as I can! With your help I’m sure I’ll find my way.

Thanks Ken, wherever you are!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Faith in Mind: Attributed to: (Sosan, Zen) Seng’tsan, 3rd Chinese Patriarch

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