Posts Tagged ‘The Buddha’

Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha): “Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find anything that agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

This week we finished the Jewish tradition of observing Passover and for the Christians Easter and for the Muslims they support them both in some respects.  Within those religions there are traditions and prayers and ceremonies that are used this time each year.  The Jewish tradition of not eating leavened bread is one most people have heard of and everyone has seen the shelves filled with matzo in your grocery stores.

Thus the Buddha admonishes us not to celebrate our traditions because our parents did or our grandparents did but because there is value in doing so.  The traditions allow us to take time out of our daily chores and focus our thoughts and energy on something that will help us grow and be a better person.  They give us an opportunity to look at our behaviors and examine their purpose and outcomes and how they affect our lives, our families, and our communities.

They give us the opportunity to look at our spiritual lives and how we practice our beliefs on a daily basis.  They help us examine our ethics and morals, and our behaviors. As the Buddha said, they give us the opportunity for “observation and analysis.”  At the Southern Palm Zen Group we celebrate one thing each year Rohatsu “the day on which according to tradition Shakyamuni Buddha sitting in meditation under the Bodhi-tree at the first glimpse of the morning star attained enlightenment.”[1] Our celebration is sitting (meditating) through the night, if you can do it, if not, sitting as long as you are able.

Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”Socrates

Dr. Simon Longstaff, executive director of the St James Ethics Centre in Sydney, Australia, wrote in the New Philosopher (June 2, 2013),

“I would suggest that one can make sense of Socrates’ claim if it is understood to mean something like – those who do not examine their lives (make conscious ethical decisions) fail to live a life that allows them to experience being fully human. Thus the allure of those who offer to provide clear answers, simple directions, precise instructions (whatever) so that you may set aside examination and merely comply, or unthinkingly follow custom and practice – perhaps living a conventionally moral life rather than an examined ethical life. One can easily imagine how pleasant an unexamined life might be. ”[2]

What does “being fully human” mean to you?  When was the last time you sat down and really examined your life?  What did you find? Finally, what did you actually do with what you discovered?

Keep me posted!


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

[2] http://www.newphilosopher.com/articles/being-fully-human/


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Here we are finally at the last few verses of “The Great Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra,” this incredible adventure is about to come to an end and hopefully it will be one of such wonderful magnitude that your life will be better in every way from studying it and chanting it and contemplating its words and listening to the sounds that it sends through your ears into your head.

The verses are as follows:

This is no other than truth.

Therefore, set forth the Prajna Paramita mantra,

Set forth this mantra and proclaim

Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha (x3)

The last line is actually sung like a chant three times.

Shohaku Okumura in his book Living By Vow writes this about these verses.

Since this is a mantra, the words themselves are believed by some to have divine power and so are not translated.  Depending on the translator, the meaning is, “Gone, gone, gone beyond” or “Gone altogether beyond. Oh, what an awakening!” Bodhi means “awakening” and svaha means “all hail.” “Gone” points to a reality beyond our system of values, beyond the boundary of our ready-made picture of the world and ourselves.  This mantra enables us to break through our internal limitations and see a deeper reality inside us.  The Buddha taught us to wake up to this deeper meaning in our daily lives. (page 203).[1]

So when we read and chant and think about this sutra we discover our innate ability to go beyond the physical world of modern day living to go where awakening exits and all things are one living in unison and harmony.  Beyond thinking and feeling and beyond the intellect that is always trying to make things of mystery have weight and measure and answers and logic.  Beyond sight, and sound, and touch, and taste–beyond anything the human mind can comprehend.

Gate, Gate Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi SvahaGone, gone, gone beyond!  Gone altogether beyond anything I can know through my intellect.  Gone into a world of possibilities that my human mind may not be able to comprehend.  This is the place that Deepak Chopra calls “pure potentiality.” The place between this thought and the next that exists some place in quantum physics but is not seen by the human eye.  To live in this space is to be all there is to be in this life and any other.  To bath in that place where life has “pure potentiality beyond any place my human mind can take me at this moment…into the “silence” as we say in Unity Church.

This is where Shodo Harada in his beautiful book of poetry, calligraphy, and prose, Moon by the Window, writes, “The old pine is speaking prajna wisdom (page 203).”[2]

Normally we see our body and the rest of the world as separate; we live a life apart. When our world and our body meld, we experience the awakening of the Buddha, becoming a perfect whole.  Our zazen isn’t for playing around with our own thoughts. This world is filled with problems; our bodies are imperfect too. But putting everything aside and becoming one with this world, completely and totally, is what has to be done (page 203).[3]

So let us take time this week to sit and meditate while chanting the last verse of the sutra chanting until you are lost and have gone beyond the words into that perfect place of pure potentiality where the old pine, or the cushion, or the wind in the trees melds you with all things, all sounds, all sights, and all thoughts…melds you into one where you have gone, gone, gone, beyond into awakening.

You can do it…so go for it—go beyond it!

In gassho


Things to focus on this week:

  1. I will begin each day with at least 5 minutes of chanting “Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha.”
  2. Before I put my feet on the floor each morning I will remind myself that “I am pure potentiality.”
  3. I will remember that if “The old pine is speaking prajna wisdom.” I can too!
  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] Okumura, S. (2012) Living By Vow A practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts, Wisdom Publications, Boston: MA

[2] Harada, S. (2011) Moon by the Window, The Calligraphy and Zen Insights of Shodo Harada. Wisdom Publications, Boston: MA

[3] Ibid.

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