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Posts Tagged ‘Southern Palm Zen Group’

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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bodhi leaf from Michael's 106 bows ceremony of passingThe Bodhi Tree (Ficus religiosa) is known for its prominent place in Buddhism as the place where Siddhartha Gautama (Shakyamuni Buddha) meditated for 49 days after which he attained complete enlightenment. The leaf shown here was collected by me at the Brevard Zen Center on a silent retreat. This beautiful tree is located on the front of the property and stands as a symbol of the opportunity given to all the retreatants to experience the mystery of the moment for themselves. To discover the oneness that is everywhere present in this eternal now moment in which we live.

We stood beneath the tree in memory of our dear friend Michael who had passed quietly in his sleep the day before our scheduled retreat. It is tradition to do 106 bows in memory and to honor those who have studied with us and brought the dharma to life in the here and now.

What moment are you living in? Are your thoughts and feelings taking you into the past or projecting you into the future? How many minutes of now have you missed, forgotten, or never discovered.

As a Unity minister I found that often my congregants would come to me with their problems and say how they were unable to sleep for days because of the wandering of the mind into projections of the future. I would ask them this question: What could you do about the unpaid bill, or the job interview, or that argument with your teenager at three in the morning? Of course, there response was: absolutely nothing.

It is not easy, but it is also not impossible, to quiet the mind–it simply takes practice. Living in this moment is focusing on each breath with peace and quiet and joy knowing that you still have life within you, it is being one with all that exists with peace, love, and compassion.

In order to be there for others I have to be there for myself first. I have to keep my mind, body, and spirit healthy and loved. And then I will have the ability and the energy to be there for others.

It is amazing how much energy, love, and compassion I have when I stay in the eternal now moment! What can I do right NOW? Begin by taking three slow deep breaths to center yourself. Feel the life force energy flowing through you as the oxygen feeds your body and brain. Feel the peace that passes all understanding melt into every cell of your body as you continue to count your in-breaths and your out-breaths.

Be one with your breath in this eternal now moment and you just may awaken as Siddhartha Gautama (Shakyamuni Buddha) did underneath the Bodhi Tree! Let me know how it goes!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

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Buddhism provides us with the opportunity to sit in the silence and do absolutely nothing as I’ve talked about in past blogs. Buddhism also has hundreds of thousands of pages of writings for us to read, to learn, to live, and to spend time contemplating. Buddhism is considered a contemplative practice as well as a way of living. It is deep and wide and vast. There is something for everyone on every path from the beginner to the adept. All are welcome here.

Our ancestors have given us this wonderful verse that we often repeat before we begin to contemplate on some Buddhist verse or teaching or as we get ready to hear a wonderful dharma talk from one of our teachers or guest lecturers. It goes like this:

Opening the Sutra Verse
The unsurpassable, profound, subtle, and wondrous dharma
Is rarely met even in a hundred, thousand, myriad eons.
Now we see it, hear it, receive it, and maintain it.
May we realize the Tathagata’s true meaning (page 51)![1]

We say it a little differently at our sangha, but either way will work:

 

Gatha on Opening the Sutra

The Dharma, incomparably profound and infinitely subtle,
Is rarely encountered even in millions of ages.
Now we see it, hear it, receive and maintain it.
May we completely realize the Tathagata’s true meaning.

In Unity we have something we call “sitting in the silence.” We probably stole it from the Buddhists. In H. Emilie Cady’s book, Lessons in Truth (2003) she writes these words about it:

Do not let waiting in the silence become a bondage to you. If you find yourself getting into a strained attitude of mind, or “heady,” get up and go about some external work for a time. Or, if you find that your mind will wander, do not insist on concentrating; for the moment you get into a rigid mental attitude, you shut off all inflow of the Divine into your consciousness. There must be a sort of relaxed passivity and yet an active taking it by faith. Shall I call it active passivity (page 135)?[2]

I just love her term—active passivity—it is so Buddhist! And thus, Rev. Cady is giving us clear directions to help us when we are looking to “realize the Tathagata’s true meaning” in a verse, a teaching, or in our lives. Even if we are warned in the verse that it “is rarely met even in a hundred, thousand, myriad eons” go for it anyway! What have you got to lose? Find your place in that “relaxed passivity” and wait upon truth and wisdom to be revealed to you.

This is what we do when we work on a koan with our teacher. So if you are struggling or being centered in your “head” do as Rev. Cady suggests and drop into “active passivity” and be ready for nothing, or something, or anything, and simply accept what comes or doesn’t come!

But for now be open to see it, hear it, receive it, and maintain it.”

Let me know how it goes!
In gassho,

ingassho
Shokai

[1] Tanahashi, K. (2015). Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary. Shambhala: Boston and London

[1] Cady, H. E. (2003) Lessons in Truth, Unity Books: Lee Summit, Mo

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On my arrival at the Southern Palm Zen Group I asked the teacher, Mitch Doshin Cantor, if there was a special way to meditate here and, if so, could he give me some tips. He said, “Well as a beginner I would have you start by simply counting your breath and focusing your mind on the counting. You can count one on the in breath and two on the out breath and when you get to ten start over. Since the mind wanders you may not reach ten, but don’t worry just begin again at one. Then he said, another way might be to simply focus on your breath and feel your chest moving up and down as you breathe in and out. If your mind wanders on to your to-do list for the day, don’t worry just return your focus onto your breathing.

The next thing he said was you might want to set your intention for your time spent on the cushion. I asked how I could do that. He said we have a saying that I could use, it went like this: “Now I sit in order to save all beings.” I thought about that after saying it for a while and it came to me that our planet Gaia was a living thing as well and without working to save the planet from global climate change our children and grandchildren would have no place to live.

So I added some words to my opening: “I sit in order to save the planet and all sentient beings.”

Prayer and meditation is a process and the longer we do it–more is revealed to us. So as you can expect one day I was sitting with a guest teacher in dokusan (private meeting with the teacher) and we began talking about my relationship with my mother. She said if you want to improve that meditate on it and so I did.

I realized that dad loved people and mom loved the 10 commandments of her Protestant upbringing and followed the rules. She taught me how to live an ethical life working for the benefit of others. From there came this phrase which I added to my prayer of intention: “I sit in honor of my mother and father who gave me life and taught me to do good.”

And the last part of my intention came when I had the pleasure of volunteering with the Maitreya Project Relic Tour who were bringing their exhibit to the Unitarian Universalist Church in Boca Raton, FL, where our group meets. That experience brought extraordinary things into my life one was a prayer sheet that you got when you arrived. One of the prayers on it was called the “Seven Limb Prayer” and one of the phrases seemed to catch hold of me and stuck to me. So much so that I had to add it to my intention. It went like this: “With hands pressed together I request the buddhas of all directions to light the lamp of Dharma [teachings] for those who are groping in the darkness of suffering.”

This phrase, over time, was changed to include those who have specifically asked for prayers or those who I thought might be in need of prayers after things like the mass shootings in our schools. It now goes like this: “I ask the buddhas of all directions to light the lamp of dharma for all those on my prayer list named and UN-named, and for all those who are groping in the darkness of suffering.”

I hope that you will take the time over the next few months to go through this process yourself and to create a wonderful prayer to set your intention each time you sit in meditation. I’ll bet it will help both you and them. Let me know how it goes.

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai
My prayer of intention: I sit in order to save the planet and all sentient beings. I sit in honor of my mother and father who gave me life and taught me to do good. I ask the buddhas of all directions to light the lamp of dharma for all those on my prayer list named and UN-named, and for all those who are groping in the darkness of suffering.

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As I was thinking about which sutra, poem, or prayer to write about in my blog today I was led to a notebook on my bookshelf filled with wonderful things on Buddhism. As I opened it up the very first page right there in front of me was the “Metta Sutra” (Loving-Kindness) by Shakyamuni Buddha.

How appropriate it is considering what we are seeing on the nightly news: Hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Syria ever day in hopes of finding safety, happiness, and love instead of hunger, anger, hatred, and fear. Many, unfortunately, are not finding loving kindness as they seek refuge in the neighboring countries. Others are lucky and have been given, food, shelter, clothing, and some loving-kindness.

Thus, this is the perfect place to go for our second sutra to chant and meditate upon in our new adventure of going “beyond prayer.” Let us do this knowing that our prayers can reverberate around the world and peace and loving kindness can prevail.

Below are the words.

May all beings be happy.
May they be joyous and live in safety.
All living beings, whether weak or
Strong, in high or middle, or low
Realms of existence, small or great,
Visible or invisible, near or far, born or to be born.
May all beings be happy.
Let none deceive another nor despise
Any being in any state; let none
By anger or hatred wish harm to another.
Even as a mother at the risk of her life
Watches over and protects her only child,
So with a boundless mind should one cherish all living things,
Suffusing love over the entire
World, above, below, and all around
Without limit;
So let each cultivate an
Infinite goodwill toward the whole world.

Let each of us take the time this week to not only use the Metta Sutra for ourselves but to share it with others as well. Put it up on your Facebook page, Instagram, link it on Twitter, upload it to your blog, and e-mail it to your family and friends. There is power in numbers and prayer has healed and turned hearts from hatred to love and beyond in the past and I know it can do it in this present moment—if we just believe it can–since this present moment is all there really is.

As Captain Jean-Luc Picard would say, “Make it so!”

In gassho,

ingassho
Shokai

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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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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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