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Posts Tagged ‘stillness’

Now that’s a silly name for this chapter when I’ve just spent the last 5 chapters talking about “how to practice Zen!”  Kaz  Tanahashi has a great chapter entitled “Guidelines for Studying the Way.” In it there is a DO NOT DO LIST for students:

imagesStudents! Do not practice buddha-dharma [teachings] for your own sake. Do not practice buddha-dharma for name and gain. Do not practice buddha-dharma to attain blissful reward. Do not practice buddha-dharma to attain miraculous effects.  Practice buddha-dharma solely for the sake of buddha-dharma.  This is the way (page 13). [1]

I am sure you are asking yourself then why am I practicing?  I like to think it is to follow the dharma [teachings] so beautifully shared in the four vows of Buddhism.  I really love the translation that my friends at the Wet Mountain Sangha in Pueblo, Colorado use:

The Four Boundless Vows

I vow to wake the Beings of the world
I vow to set endless heartaches to rest
I vow to walk through every wisdom gate
I vow to live the great Buddha way. [2]

Practice is neither easy nor hard it depends on how you are feeling and what you are thinking in each moment. That’s why they call it practice.  They don’t call it “done” or “finished” or “fulfilled.” As a Buddhist everything we do, every thought we think, every word we speak is “practice.”  So what are you practicing: fear, anger, and animosity or peace, love, and compassion? How about some simplicity of thoughts and words and deeds?

Our practice isn’t just sitting on a cushion with our eyes lowered in the cross-legged position or on a chair, or at the top of a mountain or by a beautiful lake or stream.  It is when we are in the midst of the chaos and noise, traffic and confusion of the “real world” that our practice comes alive through our focus, our breath, and keeping our dharma-eye on the Buddha way. Begin by realizing that we are all one: the moon, the stars, the earth and the people around us are one. When we do this it is so much easier to live the life of the Buddha through peace, love, and compassion for all beings and for our planet.  There are too many preaching it and not enough living it!  Which one are you?

[1] Tanahashi, K. (1985) Moon in a Dewdrop Writings of Zen Master Dogen North Point Press: New York

[2] http://wetmountainsangha.org/

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Ethics is not complicated it is simply “doing the right thing.”  It is not bound by culture, religion, or politics–it is simply doing the right thing in each and every situation, even when it’s hard.  Actually, especially when it’s hard.

Rush Kidder, founder of the Institute for Global Ethics, talks about “Ethical Fitness.”  He writes that one definition of ethics is:

“Obedience to the unenforceable.” Something is unenforceable if there is no rule or law forbidding it.  But there are some things most people would not do even though there is no law about it, such as scaring a baby or taking away a shopping cart from an older person.

A friend of mine met a person at church who had a very difficult life problem.  The person had stepped over the boundary from the “unenforceable” rule or law to the “enforceable” when the person participated in a scam to cheat Medicare and Medicaid out of 70 million dollars that was to be used to help the disabled and the poor.  The person probably should have read Rush Kidder’s book before work each day.  The person will not see the “get out of jail” card until the age of 72. Plenty of time to read now, wouldn’t you say?

So how do we keep ourselves from getting caught in this situation?  What will keep the temptation at bay, the wolf from the door, the shark from the surf board?  By living a life as prescribed in the teachings of Zen Buddhism.  You don’t have to be a Buddhist to do so.

Zen Eight Fold Path

This series on Zen and Ethics will be focused on these eight simple ideas and how to incorporate them into your life at work, at home, and at play.  Imagine what a wonderful world this would be if we all just followed these simple ideas day in and day out!

I hope you will take this journey with me and before you do anything and everything stop-think-inquire-listen-love (STILL).  Or as we used to say when I was a Unity minister, “Be still and know that I am God.”  Regardless of whether you believe in a God–God/Good only appears when we become STILL. So sit with me each day for 10-20 minutes and just be still.

Then make your decision.  Let me know what happens.

In gassho,

Shokai

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In some ways the end of time came for me on Wednesday, September 4, 2013, when my mother passed away.  My dad had passed away six years ago and I just knew time had stopped for me then, but oddly enough mother needed more time from me since she had Alzheimer’s and, unlike dad, needed someone’s full attention to survive.  Survive and thrive she did.  Although mother had her ups and downs she was resilient and was always able to bounce back.  Not so last Wednesday the bouncing stopped and she fell into a deep sleep that sent her into eternity with dad.

Although time stopped for her on planet earth as Dogen wrote, “This is the timeless moment to attain buddha ancestors’ infinite life.  All of you aspire and practice within this timelessness.  Endeavoring to follow the way, you must actualize one phrase.  When timelessness is realized, you are powerful.  When timelessness is realized, you are alive (page 94).”[1]

Mother has reached her aspiration of timelessness and come into her real power. My mother was a Methodist who loved Psalm 23 and counted on it in times of difficulty—this is for mom.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul;: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and they staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

“[After a pause Dogen said:] The buddha ancestors’ body and mind are timelessness.  Your true face is a great jewel forming in heaven.  How long have you awaited timelessness? This auspicious day knows the increasing light of opportunity (page 94).”[2]  She waited 92 years to enter into her timelessness. I can only wonder with awe at the opportunities my mother is taking in timelessness now. She has ended the great adventure here to find her true face as the wondrous jewel formed in heaven, the perfect reflection of her heavenly work done on earth.

You too are the perfect reflection of timelessness—show it and share it every day.

Shokai

Things to focus on this week:

1.  I will begin each day trusting that “my cup runneth over” with good.

2.  I will remind myself that time is fleeting and only love prevails.

3.  I will remember to keep my eyes and ears open for any and all opportunities to use my time wisely to be a gift and not a burden.

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.

 

mom WAC hat 2009Iona Louise Bishop, Women’s Army Air Corp WWII, 1920-2013


[1] Tanahashi, K. Levitt, P. (2013) The Essential Dogen, Writings of the Great Zen Master. Shambhala: Boston, MA

[2] Ibid.

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