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Posts Tagged ‘Tathagata’

I opened up one of my favorite books by Kazuaki Tanahashi, Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary, looking for some sage advice today and sure enough I got it!

Setting Out The Bowls

We now set out
utensils of the Tathagata.
May the three wheels in boundlessness[1]
be equally liberated![2]oryoki style eating

In Buddhist monasteries you may sit and eat in oryoki style which is sitting on the floor with your bowls of food in front of you.  The word oryoki roughly means “that which contains just enough.”[1]  When you are ordained you receive these three bowls nested together with chopsticks and wrapped in a napkin. Additionally, you carry these with you wherever you travel.  This allows you to dine sitting anywhere.

When was the last time you took a meal where you focused your time and energy on the eating.  Where you did not fill the plate to over flowing and eat way too much—but just enough to be satisfied.  If you focus your attention on the food and savor the textures and the flavors and the smells your food will taste better, it will satisfy you more, and the process will ultimately have you eating less.

You will be liberated from indigestion that is caused by the ruminations controlling your mind from the day or the week of that nasty boss, or the bills, or the fears and anxieties of everyday living.  You can focus on the boundlessness of that liberation and know that through silence comes liberation, whether the silence is during a meal, during your meditation, walking the dog, or at break during your workday.

Our lives are filled with noise from the TV, radio, cellphone, traffic, people talking, children crying, or the chatter inside our heads.  Silence is a “utensil” that you can use to clear your mind and body of irritations, “stinkin thinkin,” and more.  Silence can bring you liberation from the self-talk and exaggerations that we create about our life and its circumstances.  Liberate yourself from hyperbole, and critical thinking, and see how peaceful your life can be.  See how filled with gratitude, love, and compassion it can be. Then watch your physical ails slowly disappear into nothingness.

Remember you are boundless and limitless only if you think you are! Create your own “three wheels” of peace, love, and compassion in your body, mind, and spirit then watch what happens in your life—liberation!

Let me know how it goes!

ingassho

Shokai

[1] The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen  (1991) Shambhala Press:Boston
[2] The three wheels of boundlessness:
The Four Noble Truths
Emptiness
Buddha Nature
[3] Tanahashi, K. (2015) Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary. Shambala: Boston & London

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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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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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“At the very moment of attaining enlightenment upon seeing the morning star, this is where the Tathagata eats his morning gruel (page 143).”[1]  So this morning as I sat my mind kept wandering onto my to-do list for the day and the week and the month and each time I would go back to counting and following my breath I soon was back on the to-do list.  That wandering mind led to self-recrimination and questioning myself, my practice, and my ability to sit.  Then I remembered this quote from The Essential Dogen, Writings of the Great Zen Master by Kazuaki Tanahashi and Peter Levitt and took a deep breath and remembered “nothing special.”

Zen is nothing special, sitting is nothing special.  As the wisdom of the followers of Buddha have proclaimed over and over again when asked about zazen, or the Buddha, or Buddhism it was just: chopping wood, carrying water, or just this, or thus.  Yangshan simply brought a basin of water and a towel and Xiangyan made a bowl of tea and both of these students were told by Guishan, “You two students surpass even Shariputra and Maudgalyayana with your miraculous activity (page 134)!”

And yet every moment of the day is special as Dogen wrote, “Layman Pangyun was an outstanding person in the ancestral seat.  One day he said, “Miracles are nothing other than fetching water and carrying firewood (page 135)”[2]  So today the miracle for me was just taking the time to sit, taking the time to remember that just making the effort each day is a miracle!  Taking the time to forgive myself for being human when I have a wandering mind, or when I get upset or angry with someone during the day and the like–now that’s a miracle.

Recently, I had dokuson at our all day Zazenkai with Mitsunen Nordstrom and shared this with him, he jumped for joy and said people misunderstand Buddhism if they think that they should never lose their temper or be angry at another.  That’s nonsense.  What is good is to forgive yourself when it happens, be compassionate with yourself, and then move on with your day. Don’t walk around stoically with a stiff look on your face afraid to have emotions and feelings!  Nothing special: either the good thoughts and actions or the upsetting thoughts and actions…just this.

Dogen went on to say, “Things are just as they are even when unnoticed.  Even when people do not know that fetching water is a miracle, fetching water is undeniably a miracle (page 135).”[3] Remembering and forgetting: miracles. Eating your morning gruel immediately after enlightenment: a miracle. And yet nothing special!

Being born: a miracle and yet—nothing special…

Realizing your oneness with all things: a miracle and yet—nothing special…

Miracles are happening to you and around you every moment of everyday…so guess what? Nothing special! Just eat your morning gruel…

Things to focus on this week:

1.  I will begin each day looking for those “nothing special” miracles in my life.

2.  I will remind myself to be compassionate and forgiving toward myself and others.

3.  I will remember that emotions are part of living and sitting.

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.


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

[2] Ibid.

[3] ibid

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Hui-neng says: Even with a steadfast body you may be deluded and speak of the bad qualities of others as soon as you open your mouth, and thus behave in opposition to the Tao (page74).[1]

For me this one goes hand-in-hand with #6 “not discussing the faults of others” because invariably when you are elevating yourself it is usually in comparison with someone else.  Thus you end up putting the other person down, discussing his or her faults, or blaming him or her for something.

Robert Aitken writes:

If you cover your weaknesses and single out the weaknesses of others, then you are not practicing.  It is only when you can generously acknowledge your own dark side and the shining side of the other that you can be said to be truly on the path (page 76).”[2]

Each of us has special skills and talents.  Thank goodness we were not all created the same otherwise what a lopsided world we would have:

  •  Only vanilla ice cream (Ben&Jerry’s has 107 flavors, as of today!)
  • Only black cars (Henry Ford said, “You can have it in any color as long as it’s black.”)
  • Only Newtonian Physics (Albert Einstein said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”)
  • Only men Nobel Prize winners (Madam Curie was the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize in 1903 because a male mathematician insisted her name be included along with the two men she had worked with on the project.)

When we elevate ourselves and blame others we may be injuring another who might be a ground breaking inventor, scientist, business leader, artist, or musician.  He or she may have submerged his or her talents because of your words, deeds, or actions. Your words can be like a boomerang and then what happens is you lose your ability to grow and develop and become the person who manifests his or her dreams in life.

For a beautiful guide to living The Grave Precept #7 live a life as described by Torei Zenji in his Bodhisattva’s Vow:

 I am only a simple disciple, but I offer these respectful words:

When I regard the true nature of the many dharmas, I find them all to be sacred forms of the Tathagata’s never-failing essence.  Each particle of matter, each moment, is no other than the Tathagata’s inexpressible radiance.

With this realization, our virtuous ancestors, with compassionate minds and hearts, gave tender care to beasts and birds. Among us, in our own daily lives, who is not reverently grateful for the protections of life: food, drink, and clothing!  Though they are inanimate things, they are nonetheless the warm flesh and blood, the merciful incarnations of Buddha.

All the more, we can be especially sympathetic and affectionate with foolish people, particularly with someone who becomes a sworn enemy and persecutes us with abusive language.  That very abuse conveys the Buddha’s boundless loving-kindness.  It is a compassionate device to liberate us entirely from the mean-spirited delusions we have built up with our wrongful conduct from the beginning-less past.

With our open response to such abuse we completely relinquish ourselves and the most profound and pure faith arises.  At the peak of each thought a lotus flower opens; and on each flower there is revealed a Buddha.  Everywhere is the Pure Land in its beauty.  We see fully the Tathagata’s radiant light right where we are.

May we train this mind and extend it throughout the world so that we and all beings become mature in Buddha’s wisdom.

A vow to practice, remember, and share…In Gassho, Shokai

Things to focus on this week:

  •  Step one: Begin by deciding how you will completely relinquish yourself to the life of the Bodhisattva in thoughts, words, and actions.
  • Step two: Set your intention to be mindful of words of harm to self or others.
  • Step three: Accept the Buddha’s boundless loving-kindness in each situation.
  • Step four: Finally, keep a journal on the precept and make note of how learning to embody truth in all its aspects thoughts, words, and actions is affecting your life. Good luck with that!


[1] Aitken, R. (1984) The Mind of Clovers Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics. North Point Press: NY , NY

[2] Ibid.

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