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Posts Tagged ‘Taoism’

book cover Teachings of Zen Thomas ClearyIn the introduction chapter of the book Cleary talks about the influence that conventional religions had on Buddhism.  “On a deeper level, Zen masters sought to restore and express the living meaning of religion and philosophy; the Zen teaching was to ‘study the living word, not the dead word.’ Not only did Zen reawaken Buddhism in this way, but it also revitalized Taoism, Confucianism, Shintoism, and Shamanism bringing out their higher spiritual dimensions (page xiv).”[1]

And thus our charge today is to use these revitalized teachings in our lives so that we can live a more centered life through the philosophy of Buddhism in all its forms.   He goes on to write, “People are born with nothing but the unconceived buddha mind, but because of self-importance they want to get their own way, arguing and losing their temper yet claiming it is the stubbornness of others that makes them mad.  Getting fixated on what others say, they turn the all-important buddha mind into a monster, mulling over useless things, repeating the same thoughts over and over again (page xv).”[2]

What a sad state of affairs we have created for ourselves.  Just remember what it was like when you brought that new born baby home from the hospital.  They had no likes, dislikes, or preferences except to have their diapers changed and to be fed.  What ever you fed them they ate even if it was some nasty tasting concoction like Enfamil or Similac! Yikes!    And thus they lived in the “unconceived buddha mind” not filled with delusions.

As adults we have been deluding ourselves over and over every day, week, and year.  Where have your delusions taken you today?  Where will they take you tomorrow?  Want to turn your life around? Cleary suggests: “The most important thing is not to be self-centered; then you cannot fail to remain in the buddha mind spontaneously (page xvii)?”[3]

When was the last time you did something that was not self-centered? When was the last time you did something spontaneously—jumped in a puddle of water, or ate a fried pickle at the country fair, or ran outside without an umbrella to enjoy the summer rain?  How about stopping in the middle of a heated discussion to take three breaths and dive into your “unconceived buddha mind.”  When was the last time you did that? Remember that is where all the answers exist when you stop looking for them they will appear!

I know that everyone has been searching for a name or a number or a thing and no matter how hard you tried it would not come!  But sometime later in the middle of washing the dishes, or mowing the lawn, or eating lunch the answer popped up in your mind.  Yes, Fred that was my sister’s third husbands name!

Cleary goes on to say, “The following pages contain essential Zen teachings on realizing this original buddha mind in all of us (page xviii)”[4] I hope you take this adventure with Professor Cleary and me and discover your “original buddha mind.” Let’s bring out your “higher spiritual dimensions!” You’ll be glad you did! And so will all the people around you! And that’s the MAGIC of ZEN…

[1] Cleary, T. (1998)   Teachings of Zen. New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.

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The mind of the great sage of India

Is intimately conveyed west and east.

Among human beings are wise ones and fools;

In the way, there is no ancestor of north or south.

These are the first four verses of this 37 verse sutra known as the “Sandokai: The Identity of Relative and Absolute.” They let us know that the mind of this great “sage of India” has no physical boundaries regardless of whether you live east or west of India. Regardless of the fact that he lived over 2,500 years ago. His teachings transcend the physical and enter into the four directions and all worlds: physical, mental, emotional, and ethereal.

As is written we are at times wise and we know when those thoughts and actions appear. They are spontaneous and kind and magnanimous, and sometimes even surprise ourselves. And we also know when we are being a fool and those are even easier to see! Just look at the expression on the face of the person to whom you are acting foolishly! And yet when we act mindlessly we may not recognize either our wisdom or our foolishness.

So this week we will work on being mindful of our thoughts, actions, and words. Let’s look out for the impact they have on others. A passing remark can either cut like a knife or heal like an antibiotic. It can empower others or disempower them.

We forget that we have the mind of the Buddha right within us and that we need not go anywhere to find it, we need not search for it by moving to India, or Japan, or Tibet. It is with us wherever we go and manifests in every word, thought, and action. If this is true why don’t we listen for those words of wisdom, love, and compassion? Why don’t we awaken to this teaching that resides in all directions—north, south, east, and west and within us? What is holding us back?

Only you know the answer to these questions. Only you can sit and find the Buddha within you. Only you can make the decision to live a life of mindfulness, of being present in every moment. Only you can set aside time to read and contemplate the simple principles beneath all the world’s great religions and philosophies. In reality they are all the same and contain one simple message: Treat people the way you want to be treated.

The Golden Rule (from some but not all of the world’s religions/philosophies):
Buddhism: “Hurt not others in ways you yourself would find hurtful.” Udana-Varga, 5:18
Christianity: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12
Confucianism: “Do not unto others what you do not want them to do to you.” Analects 15:13
Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty: do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.” The Mahabharata, 5:1517
Islam: “Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” Fortieth Hadith of an-Nawawi, 13
Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor that is the whole of the Torah; all the rest of it is commentary.” Talmud, Shabbat, 31a
Taoism: “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” Tai Shang Kan Ying P’ien

And so around the world the words of the Sandokai live in all traditions in simple and easy to understand words, and yet from moment to moment they often seem not so easy to live! Let’s make a plan for ourselves this week to live the Golden Rule in mind, body, and spirit. Be kind to yourself, be kind to others—in words, thoughts, and deeds. Then sit back and watch your world transform until you realize the Buddha and you are one in the same!

MY PLAN OF ACTION:

Once you’ve written your plan let me know how it goes!

In gassho, Shokai

ingassho

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A friend brought in a bunch of books this morning to the zendo to share and for us to take if we wanted them.  One little book of poetry caught my eye, The Poetry of Zen, translated by Sam Hamill and J.P. Seaton so I took it in my hands, quickly opened it at random, and read.

When I got  home I made myself a delicious iced coffee with hazelnut creamer and sat down with great expectations.  I was not disappointed, as usual!  The poetry of the great Zen and Taoist masters is profound. I hope you enjoy this small sample as much as I did.

Shih Te

(8th Century)

Five Poems

You say, “If you want to be happy

There’s no way, but to be a hermit.

Flowers in the grove are better than brocade,

Every single season’s colors new.

Just sit by a creek and turn your head

To watch the moon’s ball roll.”

And me? I ought to be at joyous ease,

But I can’t help thinking of the people in the world.[1]

 

It seems as though if I am part of the “people in the world” and I want to be happy all I need to do is to stay in the moment, appreciate the flowers, the season’s colors, the moon, appreciate everything that comes within my vision or my grasp.  Choose to really see it, really experience it, and really let it penetrate my mind, body, and spirit.  Allow myself to be at ease and joyous.  If not, forever, at least for this moment.

Then what?  Remember that there is only “this moment” so “if you want to be happy” and have a peace filled life simply allow yourself to be happy!  Be at peace with yourself, your thoughts, and your surroundings and the happiness will spontaneously appear. Don’t try to force it or manipulate it or even hope for it, just be it.

Peace to the people in the world starts with me—right here, right now.

 

 

[1] Hamill, S. and Seaton J.P. (2007). The Poetry of Zen.  Shambhala: Boston, MA

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I have been invited once again by Rev. Barbara Lunde to be a part of the interfaith Christmas Eve Service at the Center for Spiritual Living in Boca Raton, Florida.  Each year I am privileged to read the Metta Sutra The Loving Kindness of  Shakyamuni Buddha.  I use our beautiful bells and make it a time of meditation for the people in attendance.  They leave the service feeling as though they have experienced a great calmness and peace as Jesus had asked his followers to do when he walked this earthly plain.

As a retired Unity minister I can see these words being written or even recited by Jesus himself.  Some say that his lost years were spent studying in the Far East and thus he would have been exposed to Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism. The founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama the historical Buddha was born in 566 or 563 B.C.E.[1]  Jesus of Nazareth was born  2,013 years ago. So it is clear by his age that he could well have been exposed to these teachings as he too preached love and compassion, and opened his heart to all people, rich or poor, sick or well, gay or straight, and sinners of all kinds just as the historical Buddha had taught.

You can see this clearly written in many of the verses in the Bible, start with Luke Chapter 7:

  • But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies!
  • Do good to those who hate you.
  • Bless those who curse you.
  • Pray for those who hurt you.
  • Give to anyone who asks
  • Do to others as you would like them to do to you.
  • If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even Sinners love those who love them.
  • You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.

And I could go on and on, but I won’t.  To illustrate the Christmas Spirit in the words of the Buddha pay attention to the words below with an open heart and an open mind and see that all Wisdom is from the same source which had no beginning and has no end.

Blessings from my house to yours for a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

In gassho, Shokai

 Metta Sutra: The Loving-Kindness of Shakyamuni Buddha

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 they all 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 boundless mind should one cherish all living things, suffusing love over the entire world, above, below, and all around without limit.

Standing or walking, sitting or lying down, during all one’s waking hours, may one remain mindful of this heart and this way of living that is the best in the world.

Unattached to speculations, views and sense desires, with clear vision, such a person will never be reborn in the cycles of suffering.


[1] The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen, (1991) Shambhala Dragon Editions: Boston, MA

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We continue our series on the 10 Paramitas with Energy called Virya Paramita: Perfection of Energy.  The idea of the power of energy in our lives appears in Buddhism, Taoism, and metaphysics frequently.

Charles Fillmore, co-founder of the Unity movement, wrote frequently about energy. He taught that each of us has 12 powers which are related to the 12 disciples and one of them is the power of zeal which resides in the back of the head at the base of the neck and is represented by the disciple Simon who was often referred to as the zealot. Charles invited us to try a simple technique to increase our energy.  He said when you feel a lack of energy give a good massage with your fingers to the area where the head and neck meet, and it will quickly help bring back your energy.  Stop for a second and give it a try—test it out to see if it works now and anytime when you feel you need a little burst of energy.

At the age of 94 Charles Fillmore wrote this affirmation, “I fairly sizzle with zeal and enthusiasm to do the work that is mine to do.”  I sure hope I can feel that way when I am 94!

In Charles’ book The Twelve Powers of Man he wrote, “Zeal is the mighty force that incites the winds, the tides, the storms; it urges the planet on its course, and spurs the ant to great exertion.  To be without zeal is to be without the zest of living.  Zeal and enthusiasm incite to glorious achievement in every aim and ideal that the mind conceives.  Zeal is the impulse to go forward, the urge behind all things.  Without zeal stagnation, inertia, death would prevail throughout the universe.  The man without zeal is like an engine without steam or an electric motor without a current.  Energy is zeal in motion, and energy is the forerunner of every effect.”

In Buddhism we talk about energy this way: “Virya is energy or zeal. It comes from an ancient Indian-Iranian word that means “hero,” and it is also the root of the English word “virile.” So, virya paramita is about making a courageous, heroic effort to realize enlightenment. To practice virya paramita, we first develop our own character and courage. We engage in spiritual training. And then we dedicate our fearless efforts to the benefit of others.[i]

“In the case of Taoist practice, it is the effort, vigor, and diligence applied to our spiritual path. It is a kind of zeal or exertion, a fearless brave activity, which supports us in overcoming the various obstacles that inevitably present themselves — whether our practice is a martial art, qigong, sitting meditation, calligraphy, recitation and ritual … or anything else.[ii]

Each of us at some time or another may need to bring zeal, energy, and enthusiasm into our life.  It really does not matter where you live, what job you do, or situation in life you are currently in, because life without zeal, enthusiasm, and energy is flat, boring, and nonproductive.  Since we are given such a short time on this planet it might be a great thing to realize our full potential and have the mind, body, and spirit energy to do the things we have come here to do.

For some it may be living a life of work in the business world, for others it may be public service, or teaching or the medical field or being a stay-at-home mom or dad, and yet for some others they may be in unique living circumstances where their days are planned for them not by them.  Regardless of which circumstance you may be in take control of your life and direct your zeal, energy, and enthusiasm to the matters at hand.

How about doing the dishes, cooking, walking, eating, reading, studying, or meditating with an enthusiasm that sends electricity through you and fills the air around you?  I have known people like that and when you stepped into their presence you knew there was something special about them, even though you may not have been able to put your finger on just what it was!

Enthusiasm in life is catchy!  Many years ago I worked in Community Theater with a man who was so fantastic his characters were so real; his dedication to the script and the play was incredible.  He left the audience mesmerized.  And when you worked with him your acting was brought up a hundred fold.  It was fantastic!  I caught his love for live theater and have never lost it.  His enthusiasm was catchy!

Imagine what a wonderful world this would be if we did everything, even the most minute and maybe even boring thing, with zeal, energy, and enthusiasm: ZEE.  Think of the little ant that Charles wrote about—that ant can carry from 20-50 times its weight, so the scientists say.  Now that’s energy backed by zeal and enthusiasm!

Imagine if you filled your life with ZEE and you could SEE life through that lens.  How about seeing people, chores, places, and things through the lens of ZEE just think how happy you could BEE!  Remember the little ant: if he can—so can you! Try it out this week and let me know what you SEE!

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