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Posts Tagged ‘Thich Nhat Hanh’

Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha): “Do not believe in anything Thich Nhat Hanhmerely on the authority of your elders and teachers.”

Wow!  Now that is coming from a great elder, teacher, and thinker—the Buddha!  As a teacher, trainer, and college professor for most of my adult life I am in complete oneness with this axiom.  Just because the teacher says so does not MAKE it so.  Everyone is born into a family, culture, country, and religion that has the desire to propagate themselves and their culture and beliefs.  Every culture has leaders and teachers who help share those ideas to ensure that they live on.

Whether you are an indigenous group such as the Aborigines in Australia, the Iroquois in North America, or the Mashco-Piro tribe in Peru they have believes that have been handed down by generations of elders and teachers.  Each is unique in its teachings and beliefs as we all are.  So if we move from one culture or religion to another we take on those beliefs and live by them.

As we discover new things through science and research we may look at our teachers and elders and what they taught us and say that some of their ideas might be called “superstitions” today. Thus the Buddha says we need to be curious and if need be do our own research and studies and discover what is “true” and “right” for us in our lives or in a particular situation.

I had a friend many years ago who went into the Catholic priest to ask some questions that were concerning her about her faith and she was told to just belief whatever they told her and when she refused to do so they excommunicated her.  The Buddha was way before his time in this axiom.  He understood that knowledge is fleeting and changing and that thinking too much can get us into trouble.

And thus he said, “Do not go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by rumors, by scriptures, by surmise, conjecture and axioms, by inference and analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by specious reasoning or bias toward a notion because it has been pondered over, by another’s seeming ability, or by the thought, ‘This monk is our teacher.”  But when you yourself knows: ‘Such and such things are unskillful, blameworthy, criticized by the wise, and if adopted and carried out lead to harm and ill and sufferings,’ you need to abandon them.”

This is the difficult way!  It is so much easier to let others do the research, the writing, and the teaching and follow them like lemmings then it is to think for yourself, read, research, and then practice the teachings and discover the power for yourself.   Yet, I recommend it highly. I hope you’ll try it out and let me know how it worked!

In gassho, Shokai

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My quote today is by Russell Simmons from his wonderful book, Success through Stillness Meditation Made Simple.  In his chapter entitled “The Heaviness of Success and Failure” he quotes this phrase from the Bhagavad Gita “You have control over your work alone, never the fruit (page 116).”[1] Then he writes

There are a lot of different ways you could interpret that passage, but to me it’s always meant “Stop worrying about how much money you make off your work (the fruit) and instead just stay focused on your work itself.” Because when you embrace the process of your work, instead of focusing on the results, you’ll always be happier, plus do a much better job (page 116).[1]

For some your work may be school, some may be working on friendships and/or relationships, or working to stay clean and straight and not use. For others you may be thinking about a paid job where you earn your living.  In life we want to be successful in all aspects of our lives not just at the so-called work that we may do for a living to support ourselves and our families.

 

I wonder what our lives would look like if we had the same definition as Russell Simmons. There are so many Thich Nhat Hanhpeople throughout history that we could point to who simply did the “work” without focusing on the outcome or the money or the fruits of that labor. In Buddhism we study people like Thich Nhat Hanh who started out as a young Buddhist student, then monk, then founded the Engaged Buddhism movement in response to the Vietnam War. From there he served as the delegate for the Buddhist Peace Delegation at the Paris Peace talks in 1969 and the Paris Peace Accords in 1973 to help end the war. Today he lives in Plum Village in France surrounded by his students and friends.[1]

Or what about those adventurous people in history like the Englishman Doctor David Livingstone who went to Africa in 1840 with two goals: to explore the continent and to end the slave trade.  In 1871 Henry Morton Stanley went to find the then “missing” Dr. Livingston.  Eight months later he found him and upon meeting is to have said these famous words, “Dr. Livingston, I presume.”[2]

Success does not mean that you have to be as brave as Thich Nhat Hanh or as adventurous as Dr. Livingston and Henry Stanley, but I hope that it does mean you look within and discover your passion and run to it. Live it. Love it. Discover it. Find it. Share it. Meet it.

How far will you go for your goals, passions, and dreams? What will you do for success? Where will you meet your success today?  Keep me posted I can’t wait to hear!

In gassho

Shokai

[1] Simmons, R. (2014) Success Through Stillness Meditation Made Simple. NY, NY:

Gotham Books

[3] http://www.lionsroar.com/thich-nhat-hanh/?goal=0_1988ee44b2-cc25a1b6a0-20869581&mc_cid=cc25a1b6a0&mc_eid=f78b7768c4

[4] http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/stanley.htm

 

 

 

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The power of a smile is incredible.  When you see a little baby grin from ear to ear it sure does warm your heart.  When you see a group of people smiling and laughing it seems contagious–kind of like a yawn!  Take a moment and simply smile. Then focus on how it feels and what it does to you physically, emotionally, and mentally.  If it feels good you might think about smiling more often.

Have you ever known someone whose mouth actually was in the shape of a frown 24/7?

Here is a quote from an article in Psychology Today by Sarah Stevenson entitled “There’s Magic in Your Smile.”  Her article helps decipher the mystery of the smile.

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

For starters, smiling activates the release of neuropeptides that work toward fighting off stress (3). Neuropeptides are tiny molecules that allow neurons to communicate. They facilitate messaging to the whole body when we are happy, sad, angry, depressed, excited. The feel good neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin are all released when a smile flashes across your face as well (4). This not only relaxes your body, but it can lower your heart rate and blood pressure.[1]

The endorphins also act as a natural pain reliever – 100% organically and without the potential negative side effects of synthetic concoctions (4). Finally, the serotonin release brought on by your smile serves as an anti-depressant/mood lifter (5).[2]

My dad was one of the happiest people I ever knew.  He smiled and laughed and joked all the time.  Even the message my dad wrote for the answering machine was filled with fun.  Here is what you heard when you called my parents up and they were not at home.

It’s the top of the ninth with two outs and the Bishops at bat, the pitcher throws and the Bishops hit to the short stop, who throws to first and the Bishops are out!  But they will be back shortly so if you leave the time, your name and phone number, they will get back to you shortly.  Thanks for calling and have a happy day with a big smile. Wait for the beep!

You can see he was a great big fan of baseball as well as smiling, joking, and laughing.  How’s that going with you?  What announcement do you have on your voice mail?

In this moment if you want to be healthy and pain free in mind, body, and spirit how about a few more smiles today!  Let me know how that works out!

In gassho,

Mom, Dad, Kathy 2009 59th wedding anniversay

Dad and Mom and Shokai (2009 59th wedding anniversary party)

Three big smiles for sure!

 

[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201206/there-s-magic-in-your-smile

[2] Abel E. and Kruger M. (2010) Smile Intensity in Photographs Predicts Longevity, Psychological Science, 21, 542–544.

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Sharing the Merit

Showing our gratitude, practicing the way of awareness
Gives rise to benefits without limit.
We vow to share the fruits with all beings.
We vow to offer tribute to parents, teachers, friends,
And numerous beings.
Who give guidance and support along the path (page 170-71).[1]

It just happens to be 5 days before Christmas as I am beginning to think about what I will write next for my blog. The theme has been prayer and so I scoured my numerous book shelves with books on prayer both Unity ones and Buddhist ones and low and behold what did I see this wonderful book given to me by my sangha, Chanting from the heart Buddhist Ceremonies and Daily Practices by Thich Nhat Hanh and the Monks and Nuns of Plum Village in France. I noticed there was a cloth bookmark and as I lifted it to open to the page there to my surprise was a short chant entitled “Sharing the Merit.”

How perfect is that! “God is good…all the time” as my friends at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale always say. And they are right, even when it doesn’t seem so. When we say and do the right things, right things happen in our lives. So not only is it important to believe the words above in our chant it is imperative that we live our lives as the example of them. And not just at Christmas time but 365 days a year.

Whatever you do don’t turn away your good when someone showers you with gratitude by saying, “Oh, it was nothing.” That demeans their gift of gratitude, and equally as important, you are turning away your good. In Unity we encouraged our students and congregants never to do that as you don’t know what good may be coming your way and if it hears those words of rejection it may decide to bless someone else with that “good.”

And that “good” could have been prosperity, a new job, a visit from a long lost friend or relative, or a healing. So always accept your good with grace and gratitude. Use the above sutra and share that grace with others whenever you get the opportunity. Christmas is the time of giving so instead of giving material possessions try giving kind words, your help, your love, and your gratitude and watch your good manifest in miraculous ways—especially without expectation of receiving.

Give simply for the gift of giving. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1]Hanh, T.N. et.al. (2007) Chanting from the heart Buddhist Ceremonies and Daily Practices. Parallax Press: Berkeley, CA

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Eihei Dogen [Unbroken Practice] wrote, “This life of one day is a life to rejoice in. Because of this, even though you live for just one day, if you can be awakened to the truth, that one day is vastly superior to an eternal life. . . If this one day in the lifetime of a hundred years is lost, will you ever get your hands on it again? (page 60)”[1]

So today is the only day you have to begin the practice of the seventh teaching in the Eightfold Path of Buddhism: Work for the good of others. I wonder what this world would be like if each and every day I woke up with that desire in mind. I wonder what this world would be like if each and every person woke up with that desire in mind. To change the world I must first change myself. For without that there is no path at all—no less one with only eight steps.

It does no good to chastise or wonder why others do not volunteer their time to people and organizations in need, or to wonder why they do not tithe their time, talent, and treasure to organizations and individuals who are making a positive difference in the world. It does no good for me to think critical thoughts about others actions or reactions to life—that is simply a waste of time, energy, and brain power.

So, today and every day I set out to begin the day by asking myself: What can I do or say to make this a more loving, caring, and fruitful life for another? To ask not because it will make me feel better about myself (but it will) not because it will make my community and household a more loving and caring place to reside (but it will) not because it’s simply the right thing to do (but it is) but simply because I am alive.

As Dogen said, “The life of one day is a life to rejoice in.” So to begin each day with a goal of rejoicing in life is a great way to start. I will start by rejoicing that I have been given a life and with that life comes responsibility to make something of it. To do something with it—simple or grand—does not matter. What matters is to do something that works for the good of others, and gets me out of my own way. If this were the only day I had left to live, what image would I have left in the eyes and hearts and minds of those whose path I crossed.

Why was I born anyway if not for good and love and compassion? I have been given many opportunities to love and fell short, to help and walked past, that I am sure of. But as Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Because you are alive everything is possible.” So I may not be able to undo that hurtful word or action, but I can do better today and tomorrow and the next day. How about you?

Great! Now let’s begin 2015 a new and each morning awake with the question: What work can I do today for the good of others? Let me know what you discover!

In gassho,

ingassho
Shokai

  1. Matthiessen P. (1998) Nine-Headed Dragon River, Zen Journals. Shambhala Dragon Editions: Boston, MA

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The Dharma means “the teachings” in Zen Buddhism.  When we begin to practice Buddhism we are asked to take refuge in the teachings of the Buddha.  His teachings are practical and positive and they can make a tremendous difference in your life if you put them to use.

The Dharma is filled with great ideas much like the 10 commandments from the Old Testament such as do not kill and do not steal.  Plus additional ideas such as do not speak of the faults of others and do not cloud the mind. Living by these types of teachings can make your life full of love, peace, joy, and positive relationships.  Along with that we have the Three Pure Precepts or the Bodhisattva vows to not create evil, to practice good, and to actualize good for others. If we just took one of these ideas and worked on it for a week or a month imagine how our lives could be transformed.

Norman Fischer talks about making practice your whole life in his new book Training in Compassion Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong (2013).

. . . we discover that our practice (and our life) isn’t about—and has never been about—ourselves.   As long as spiritual practice (and life) remains only about you, it is painful.  Of course, your practice does begin with you.  It begins with self-concern.  You take up practice out of some need or some desire or pain.  But the very self-concern pushes you beyond self-concern. Zen master Dogen writes, ‘To study Buddhism is to study the self, to study the self is to forget the self.’  When you study yourself thoroughly, this is what happens: you forget yourself, because the closer you get to yourself, the closer you get to life and to the unspeakable depth that is life, the more a feeling of love and concern for others naturally arises in you.  To be self-obsessed is painful.  To love others is happy (page 65-66).

So our plan for life is one which includes practicing each and every day.  For me it is sitting (Zazen) every morning from 4:15-5:00 a.m.  I begin my sitting by setting my intention.  You can create your own intention, of course, but mine goes like this: I sit in order to save the planet and all sentient beings. I sit in honor of my mother and father who gave me life and the desire to do good.  This sets the tone for my sitting in the quiet and keeping that noisy “monkey mind” at bay with love and compassion.  I often listen to a CD by the wonderful Vietnamese monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hahn, where I meditate to the sound of the bell.  It really helps me keep focused on my breath and helps to keep the “monkeys” quiet.

For me this time sets the tone for the day.  It helps me focus on my intention throughout the day and to accept any opportunity that comes my way to help save the planet and all others.  It can be as simple as giving a ride to the elderly man who works in Walgreens and walks to work each day, or to the neighbor who missed her bus when on the way to an event at the clubhouse.  It reminds me to recycle my garbage, to shut the water off while brushing my teeth, to turn off the lights and fans when I leave the room, and not to idle my car while I am in the drive-in line at the bank.  Simple things like this sound crazy and even insignificant, but if everyone did simple things like this what a more compassionate and loving world we would live in.

When we take refuge in the Dharma we begin teaching through our behavior.  Our family members, co-workers, and friends will notice the difference in no time.  They may even begin to ask you what you are doing.  They may comment about how happy, peaceful, or calm you seem these days.  They will notice that you are enjoying life more and more and losing your temper less and less.  If this is what you would like to see happen in your life then I hope you will take up the 2nd refuge and spend time with the Dharma (teachings).

Start with something simple and work your way up to the hard stuff!

Things to focus on this week:

  1.  I will begin each day with the intention of finding an opportunity to use what I am learning through the Dharma (teachings) in the “real world.”
  2. I will look for information on the teachings locally, on the internet, and through friends when I need help. Finding a Zen teacher/group is a great step toward learning and growing.
  3. Next, I will keep the self-recriminations to a minimum and know that even the Buddha took a long time to find his truth and enlightenment.

 

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