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Posts Tagged ‘world questions’

Enlightenment is an elusive idea spread by many religious and spiritual teachings around the world. Questions abound:  What is it?  How do I attain it?  What will happen if I do get it?  Does that mean I have to leave my family and friends and go live on the top of a mountain somewhere?

Dogen said, “Great enlightenment right at this moment is not self, not other. Great enlightenment is the tea and rice of daily activity.  Enlightenment is ungraspable (page 55).”[1]

Tanahashi and Levitt say, “Awakening to the ultimate reality of human existence is called ‘realization’ or ‘enlightenment.’ It is the actualization of our innate capacity to experience wisdom beyond wisdom (page 50).”[2]  Wisdom abounds everywhere, are you looking?

Enlightenment is knowing that you are in the present moment, doing all that you can to demonstrate your oneness with the world and the people around you.  It is living in the moment and not being drawn into future events or challenges or pushed back to the worries and woes of the past minutes, hours, days, or years.  It is being one with all in this very moment.

As Dogen said it is the “tea and the rice of daily activity.”  So if you are sitting or meditating so you can be sent to another plane of existence, or to light up like the pictures we see of Jesus, or to be relieved of your daily chores and sorrows you may or may not grasp it.  You just may be looking in the wrong place for the wrong thing.

Enlightenment to me is when you are living your life fully with peace, love, joy, and compassion.  When without thinking you act as the Good Samaritan, or Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, or the Buddha just doing and being the embodiment of those things. It is washing the dishes with care, driving the car with mindfulness for the safety of others on the road and the passengers in your car.  It is saying a prayer before you eat to bless the food and those who have made it possible for you to eat: the farmer, the truck driver, the clerk in the grocery store and hundreds more.

We have a beautiful prayer that we say before each meal at our Zendo if you are not already using it I hope you’ll try it out.   It seems to have extra added benefits like no indigestion after the meal for some reason or other!

Earth, water, fire, air, and space combine to make this food. Numberless beings gave their lives and labors so that I may eat. May I be nourished so that I may nourish life.

This prayer can be used throughout the day for everything.  Bless the clothes you wear and the people who made them for you.  Bless the car you drive and the home where you live, and the furniture that you sit and sleep on. See the “light” in everyone and everything.  That is why we call it “enlightenment.”  It is not a place to go but a place to be!

Be light about everything, look for the humor and laughter around you and bring humor and laughter wherever you go.  Life is short—too short to be living “enheavyment” every day all day long!  Be good to yourself and lighten up. When you do you see enlightenment everywhere in everyone and in everything.  Think what a miracle that would be! If this day was your last day on earth what a wonderful day it would have been.

Dogen said, “You should remember that how much you study and how fast you progress are secondary matters.  The joyfully seeking mind is primary (page 51)”[3]  So trade in your heaviness for joyfulness today!  When you do you will be face-to-face with the master’s I have named above and many more—you will be walking with them in the light.

So travel lightly, Shokai

Things to focus on this week:

1.  I will begin each day with joyfulness and lightness.

2.  I will remind myself that life is short—and not to spend time in “heaviness” but in “lightness”!

3.  I will remember to keep my eyes and ears open because wisdom and enlightenment are everywhere present.

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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