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Posts Tagged ‘sutras’

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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Verse of Pure Practice
Abiding in this world of endless space,
A lotus flower is not stained by muddy water.
We follow the unsurpassable one,
Whose mind remains pure and free (page59).[1]

The above is a good example of a short verse that you can use when you want to center yourself. It brings you to the idea of the power of mind and its ability to remain pure and free in any situation, even if it’s “stained by muddy water.”

Our thoughts are the prisons in which we live. Those thoughts lead us to actions of peace, contentment, anxiety, fear, or any myriad number of emotions. To release ourselves from them a wonderful place to start is with a centering verse, prayer, or song. It’s called a “pattern interruption.” When the monkey mind has hold of you it is important to interrupt that negative pattern of thinking and replace it with something else.

I recommend that you have several types of prayers, verses, sutras, or songs that work for you. Something that will help you get centered. So what does it mean to be “centered”? In Buddhism we look to become one with our breath and when we do we feel at the center of all there is. Our body responds by lowering our blood pressure, slowing down our heart beat, and calming our breath. Soon we are overcome by feelings of peace and tranquility and emptiness and fullness. We have entered the stream.

When we feel as though we have entered the stream it is because we are centered on the here and now. We are centered on the only moment that exists—this one.

One of my favorite teachers and authors is Father Robert Kennedy he is a Catholic Priest and a Zen Buddhist teacher. In his book Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit, The Place of Zen in Christian Life (2005), he used an anonymous prayer which sounded like one I had heard many times during my life as a Unity Minister. I have written it below but changed some of the words.

My name is I am,” He paused
I waited. He continued,
“When you live in the past,
With its mistakes and regrets,
It is hard because you are not centered.
My name is not I was, my name is “I am here and now.”

When you live in the future,
With its problems and fears,
It is hard. Because you are not centered.
My name is not I will be, my name is “I am here and now.”

When you live in this moment,
It is not hard because you are
Centered right here and right now.
In the only time and place that exists.
Thus my name is I am.”[2]

What name have you given yourself today? Where have you been centered—on fear, anxiety, negativity, and suffering? Have you entered the stream yet? Help your mind “remain pure and free.” Let me know when you enter the stream and I will meet you there!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

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

[2]  Kennedy, R.E. (2005). Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit The Place of Zen in Christian Life. Continuum: New York and London

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