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Zen Koan #25: Parable of Three Days More – Buddhist Teaching on Attention and Awareness

Zen Koan #25: Parable of Three Days More - Buddhist Teaching on Attention and Awareness A Zen master may seem insouciant, but behind superficial appearances, there is a solid substratum. However, the important thing is that the Dharma is universal. In that moment we have let go of the pathways of stories and speculation about what is happening, and have turned our attention to what is actual and true in each moment.

The practice of renunciation is essentially a celebration of simplicity some people approach retreat as if they were a caterpillar hoping to transform himself or herself into a beautiful butterfly. If you were elected president of the United States, would that be a success? Later on, you would most likely be criticized as a failure. You will not even be reborn in the heavens, not to mention be liberated from birth and death. We have all disappointed ourselves through being impatient at some time. There are many times in our life when we have to do, to go, to act.

Patience is not always staying still, not hurrying, not rushing. Everything has to be ready on time, and patience is the discipline and training to be able to achieve that objective. If there is no object, then what about a subject? When you enter deeply into this method, even though you may not be enlightened, you will not have any sense of self.

Zen Koan: “Three Days More” Parable

Suiwo, the disciple of Hakuin, was a good teacher. During one summer seclusion period, a pupil came to him from a southern island of Japan.

Suiwo gave him the problem: “Hear the sound of one hand.”

The pupil remained three years but could not pass this test. One night he came in tears to Suiwo. “I must return south in shame and embarrassment,” he said, “for I cannot solve my problem.”

“Wait one week more and meditate constantly,” advised Suiwo. Still no enlightenment came to the pupil. “Try for another week,” said Suiwo. The pupil obeyed, but in vain.

“Still another week.” Yet this was of no avail. In despair the student begged to be released, but Suiwo requested another meditation of five days. They were without result. Then he said: “Meditate for three days longer, then if you fail to attain enlightenment, you had better kill yourself.”

On the second day the pupil was enlightened.

Buddhist Insight on Attention and Awareness

According to Buddhist culture, duty supersedes rights through attention and awareness. To be mindful first means simply to come into the present—to pay attention with our senses, with our heart, with our physical body, with our ears, with our eyes, awareness, to what is essentially here in the present; the body, the heart and the mind. Try to be mindful and let things take their natural course. The American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck writes in Nothing Special: Living Zen,

There’s an old Zen story: a student said to Master Ichu. please write for me something of great wisdom.” Master Ichu picked up his brush and wrote one word: “Attention.” The student said, “Is that all?” The master wrote, “Attention, Attention.” ..

For “attention” we could substitute the word “awareness.” Attention or awareness is the secret of life and the heart of practice.. Every moment in life is absolute in itself. That’s all there is. There is nothing other than this present moment; there is no past, there is no future; there is nothing but this. So when we don’t pat attention to each little this, we miss the whole thing. And the content of this can be anything. This can be straightening out our sitting mats, chopping an onion, visiting one we don’t want to visit. It doesn’t matter what the contents of the moment are; each moment is absolute. That’s all there is, and all there ever will be. If we could totally pay attention, we would never be upset. If we’re upset, it’s axiomatic that we’re not paying attention. If we miss not just one moment, but one moment after another, we’re in trouble.

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Chakras: Energy-collection Centers of the Body

A Buddhist Thangka painting from Nepal, showing the seven main chakras of the body

Chakras are energy-collection centers of the body that are essential for physical and mental health.

In the traditions of Buddhism and Hinduism, chakras are centers of energy that correspond to parts of the body. A non-physical life force is said to travel through the body, and each chakra is linked to a part of this force. Chakras exist in the body along a central channel and are connected to vital bodily functions, including consciousness, vision, communication, health, digestion, reproduction, and survival.

In the most common understanding of the system, each chakra is associated with a deity, color, bodily organ or set of organs, and a mantra (a transformative sound or syllable). Bringing the energy of the body in line with the central channel and the chakras is possible through meditation, and this process of alignment plays an important role in achieving fulfillment and enlightenment. Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, founder of Sahaja Yoga, said “Kundalini [a corporeal energy] will rise and always cleanse the chakras.”

The idea of chakras is an ancient one and it is found in Sanskrit documents and in oral traditions of both Buddhism and Hinduism. “Breath channels,” for example, appear in the Hindu Vedas, produced in India between c. 1500 and c. 500 BCE. The idea of a hierarchy of the chakras was introduced later, in eighth-century Buddhist teachings. There is no standard interpretation of chakras in either religious tradition, with chakra systems varying from teacher to teacher within the same religious tradition.

Chakras are essential if we are to understand the body as a system of energy. Two of the five major world religions are built on the idea that human beings are capable of making peace within themselves as a result of energy systems within the body. The chakras are key to unlocking this inner power.

The theory of chakras plays a crucial role in two age-old Indian remedial systems (Ayurveda medicine and yoga) that are well-liked today. In recent decades, though, many contemporary actions (like polarity therapy, therapeutic touch, process acupressure, core energetics, and color therapy) have likewise integrated the concept of chakras into their own prophecies of restorative healing. Diverse approaches may be used to “balance” the chakras.

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Posted in Faith and Religion Health and Fitness

Zen Koan #24: Parable of Reciting Sutras – Buddhist Teaching on Beginner

Zen Koan #24: Parable of Reciting Sutras - Buddhist Teaching on Beginner's Mind Before enlightenment, people distinguish between a quiescent state, which they call “nirvana,” and a chaotic state, which they call “samsara.” They want to leave samsara behind and enter nirvana. If you take a snapshot with a high quality camera, everything in front of the lens will be imprinted on the film in minute detail. If you can grasp a small spot, you have access to totality. Yet you must visually examine non-subsistence from the perspective of subsistence. The true practitioner is not affected by the environment. They dedicated the remainder of their lives to saving other living beings.

Though some of you have trouble concentrating, it cannot be that during the entire recede there has not been at least once when you could concentrate to some extent. Those who take up the study of Zen Buddhism before their views have expanded are subject to fears and doubts. They may be able to get into that state again, but nonetheless it is an attachment. It is simultaneously the most immensely colossal and the most diminutive.

Each day provides myriad opportunities to continue this practice. That is, they should discard the mentality of relishing and mispricing. Illusory dharma is the dharma of distinctions, of small and large, of positing one thing against another. You follow worldly conventions.

Zen Koan: “Reciting Sutras” Parable

A farmer requested a Tendai priest to recite sutras for his wife, who had died. After the recitation was over the farmer asked: “Do you think my wife will gain merit from this?”

“Not only your wife, but all sentient beings will benefit from the recitation of sutras,” answered the priest.

“If you say all sentient beings will benefit,” said the farmer, “my wife may be very weak and others will take advantage of her, getting the benefit she should have. So please recite sutras just for her.”

The priest explained that it was the desire of a Buddhist to offer blessings and wish merit for every living being.

“That is a fine teaching,” concluded the farmer, “but please make one exception. I have a neighbor who is rough and mean to me. Just exclude him from all those sentient beings.”

Buddhist Insight on Beginner’s Mind

Have you noticed, for many people, when you start to work with the breath, there’s this tendency to hurry it up, or to move it, or to change it, how it takes a little while? If that had happened before you started to teach me, I’m sure, it would have absolutely destroyed me. In Zen Buddhism, so one with a beginner’s mind has decided that spiritual practice is worthwhile for some reason. Shunryu Suzuki, the Japanese-American Zen monk who helped popularize Zen Buddhism in the United States, writes in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind,

In Japan we have the phrase shoshin, which means “beginner’s mind.” The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner’s mind.

For Zen students the most important thing is not to be dualistic. Our “original mind” includes everything within itself. You should not lose your self-sufficient state of mind. This does not mean a closed mind, but actually an empty mind and a ready mind. If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything, In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.

In the beginner’s mind there is no thought, “I have attained something.” All self-centered thoughts limit our vast mind. When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn something. The beginner’s mind is the mind of compassion, When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless.

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Zen Koan #23: Parable of Eshun’s Departure – Buddhist Teaching on Arduous Discipline

Zen Koan #23: Parable of Eshun's Departure - Buddhist Teaching on Arduous Discipline Humility in the Zen tradition additionally involves some kind of frolicsomeness, which is a sense of humor. In most religious Zen traditions, you feel self-effacing for the reason that of trepidation of penalization, pain and sin. In the Shambhala world, you feel full of it. You feel salubrious and good. In fact, you feel proud. Consequently, you feel humility. That’s one of the Shambhala contradictions or, we could verbalize, dichotomies. Authentic humility is genuineness. To be able to conquer your pain and your fear of death requires great determination.

However, you should be cognizant that this kind of interrupted practice is not the ideal approach to Zen. We can bear with greater ease those losses that we know we will inevitably face, for the reason that we identify with the thread of wakefulness that we meet in all of them. We call this retreat a Zen retreat but actually, it is just a suffering or training retreat. After all, if you are not a good practitioner, why are you still here after five days?

Your mind is still limpidly cognizant of kenning certain things but does not endeavor to bring up these recollections as criteria for comparing and judging. Using the method can be likened to pumping air into a tire.

Zen Koan: “Eshun’s Departure” Parable

When Eshun, the Zen nun, was past sixty and about to leave this world, she asked some monks to pile up wood in the yard.

Seating herself firmly in the center of the funeral pyre, she had it set fire around the edges.

“O nun!” shouted one monk, “is it hot in there?”

“Such a matter would concern only a stupid person like yourself,” answered Eshun.

The flames arose, and she passed away.

Buddhist Insight on Arduous Discipline

Conventional truth alone is the teacher of the absolute. Without arduous discipline, nobody can become perfect by merely ceasing to act. In addition, they must sometimes contemplate in their minds the thought that someday they will turn away from the transient things of the world to something better, to something more sure and lasting. I am not particularly trying to be dramatic. The Scottish Episcopal cleric writer Richard Holloway writes in Doubts and Loves: What is Left of Christianity,

The genius of Buddhism is it is a Middle Way that repudiates two extremes, the worthless life of self-indulgence and the equally worthless life of self-torture. The difference between Buddhism and Christianity is that Buddhism is essentially a practice, an arduous discipline that can deliver peace and compassion to its adherents. Christianity also has its spiritual disciplines, but it has never able to divest itself of the belief that doctrines are themselves saving and life-changing. Much of this goes back to the originating genius of Christian theology, Saul of Tarsus who became Paul. The paradox is that what was for Paul a liberating psychological experience was later to be hardened into a formula that radically contradicted his original insight and the experience that prompted it.

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Garlic Tofu and Greens

Garlic Tofu and Greens

Tofu, also called bean curd, is a gentle, comparatively bland food product made from soybeans. Tofu is an significant source of protein in the cuisines of China, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia. Tofu is made from dried soybeans that are soaked in water, crushed, and boiled. Tofu is 7% protein and is high in calcium, potassium, and iron. It is also a good resource of calcium, manganese; a source of phosphorus, selenium.

Combine with greens, a rich source of vitamin A, folate, vitamin C; a source of vitamin E, vitamin K, calcium, manganese.

Ingredients for Garlic Tofu and Greens

  • 3/4 pound firm tofu, sliced in 1-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, divided
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced, divided
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups uncooked penne pasta
  • 1 bunch kale, tough ribs removed, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method for Garlic Tofu and Greens

  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil. Toss tofu cubes with 2 tablespoons of canola oil, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and half of the minced garlic, making sure the cubes are well coated.
  3. Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly golden.
  4. While tofu is baking, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add penne pasta and boil for 10 minutes or until pasta is tender.
  5. Heat the remaining oils in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the rest of the garlic and red pepper flakes and let them sizzle for just a moment.
  6. Add the kale a handful at a time, turning frequently with tongs.
  7. Once kale turns bright green and begins to wilt, about 2 to 3 minutes, turn off the heat. Mix the kale with the baked tofu, tossing well.
  8. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over pasta.

Serving Suggestion for Garlic Tofu and Greens

'The Tofu Cookbook' by Becky Johnson (ISBN 0754833720) The toasted sesame oil and garlic add depth to this simple vegetarian dish. This meal makes it easy to get greens in your diet. Try using broccoli for the kale when broccoli’s on sale. Or leave out the pasta and top the kale with poached or fried eggs for a high protein breakfast option.

Nutritional Information of Garlic Tofu and Greens

380 calories, 18 g. fat, 35 mg. cholesterol, 70 mg. sodium, 41 g. carbohydrate, 2 g. fiber, 17 g. protein

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Marriages are Made in Heaven

Marriages: Made in Heaven and Consummated on Earth

Marriages: Made in Heaven and Consummated on Earth “Marriages are made in heaven,” said the grandmother. By this, she meant to convey to her sophisticated granddaughter the humbling yet reassuring lesson that the Lord who had given her life would also provide her with a mate.

The young woman smiled. She considered that finding a mate was the end of an active quest. She remembered the more practical wisdom imparted by one of her friends, “You have to go out to get your man.” Inevitably, she reflected on her next date, “What gown shall I wear? What cosmetics shall I use? How shall I wear my hair?”

She did get her man but not the one with whom she had had that date. It was a man she met at the florist, when both were buying flowers for their mothers on Mothers’ Day.

In a mood of self-assessment in which couples in love occasionally indulge, her man once said to her, “You know, dear, there is something about you for which my deepest self has hungered all through the years. I thank the Lord who made you as you are.”

The young woman mused a while, and said, “It is only because you are as you are that I could appeal so satisfyingly to your deepest self. I thank the Lord who made you as you are.” However, developing the heart of loving-kindness is not about over refinement, not about gritting your teeth and, though seething with anger, in some manner covering it over with an irrefutable persuasion.

“We were meant for each other,” both exclaimed enthusiastically at the same time. One way to do this is through a societal process of collective memory.

Then a smile crossed the young woman’s face. She suddenly remembered what her grandmother had told her.

When we desire not to converge on what is missing from our lives but are appreciative for the large quantity that’s present–love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature, and individual pursuits that bring us gratification –the wilderness of illusion falls away and we come into contact with heaven on earth.

Marriages: You Must Get Your Surviving by Loving

Marriages: You Must Get Your Surviving by Loving The failure of catharsis parses to assuage the condition. With mindfulness, we can be aware of what we are seeing, hearing, smelling, and touching. Its grandness, for the most part, lies in its all-important reduction of problems too complex in their old forms of statement to be solved.

This shows the air to be flexible; but it also shows, that this elasticity is very different from the elasticity of a pearl ball, or a coiled watch-spring, or any such substance, to which the air has been sometimes compared. So how do we balance and unwind our minds? There are a number of things that can facilitate our minds. The Lebanese-American scholar, statistician, and essayist Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes in Fooled by Randomness,

“Having control over randomness can be expressed in the manner in which one acts in the small and the large. Recall that epic heroes were judged by their actions, not by the results. No matter how sophisticated our choices, how good we are at dominating the odds, randomness will have the last word…There is nothing wrong and undignified with emotions—we are cut to have them. What is wrong is not following the heroic or, at least, the dignified path. That is what stoicism truly means. It is the attempt by man to get even with probability…stoicism has rather little to do with the stiff-upper-lip notion that we believe it means…The stoic is a person who combines the qualities of wisdom, upright dealing, and courage. The stoic will thus be immune from life’s gyrations as he will be superior to the wounds from some of life’s dirty tricks.

On a very basic level, all beings think that they should be happy. When life becomes unmanageable or painful, we feel that something has gone wrong. This would not be a big trouble except for the fact that when we feel something has gone wrong, we are willing to do anything to feel OK again. Even start a fight. Health consists in a good digestion of the food, and a free circulation of the bloodline. As for suffering, that also evidences itself constantly, without stopping for sleep or rest. Nevertheless, this similitude, we must consider the air as a very different kind of fluid from water, oils, mercury, or such substances, which are called particularly liquids. Actual life is, to most men, a long second best, an unending compromise between the paragon and the potential; but the world of pure reason knows no compromise, no hard-nosed limitations, and no roadblock to the originative activity.

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Zen Koan #22: Parable of My Heart Burns Like Fire – Buddhist Teaching on Wakeful Presence

Zen Koan #22: Parable of My Heart Burns Like Fire - Buddhist Teaching on Wakeful Presence Love is the ultimate transgression, bell hooks argues. Its transformative power can shatter the status quo. In Zen Meditation, we develop states of great clarity but we also develop states of cow-like ignorance, bovine ponderousness. The important thing is not to have any resentment against your suffering, or any expectations of happiness. In fact, when some people encounter trouble, it does not reinforce their practice at all.

By grasping what is selfless as a self there is confusion. Since many of you have traveled far, or have worked hard to set aside the time, you have a great deal invested in this retreat. If you can take this attitude, eventually it will go away. The practice just keeps moving like a ball rolling down a hill. Freedom is shown in according one’s life with realities. The wisdom of the Buddha is not difficult to perceive; it can be attained in the instant between two thoughts. Musing requires excruciating motivation. The ones who come have some authentic desire for spiritual, moral, philosophical, or astute uplifting.

Being free to go wherever you wish, you are outside of the cycle of birth and death. If you do not abide in duality, neither having too much nor too little confidence, then what should you do? You have not come here to get enlightened, but to practice.

Zen Koan: “My Heart Burns Like Fire” Parable

Soyen Shaku, the first Zen teacher to come to America, said: “My heart burns like fire but my eyes are as cold as dead ashes.” He made the following rules which he practiced every day of his life.

In the morning before dressing, light incense and meditate.

Retire at a regular hour. Partake of food at regular intervals. Eat with moderation and never to the point of satisfaction.

Receive a guest with the same attitude you have when alone. When alone, maintain the same attitude you have in receiving guests.

Watch what you say, and whatever you say, practice it.

When an opportunity comes do not let it pass by, yet always think twice before acting.

Do not regret the past. Look to the future.

Have the fearless attitude of a hero and the loving heart of a child.

Upon retiring, sleep as if you had entered your last sleep. Upon awakening, leave your bed behind you instantly as if you had cast away a pair of old shoes.

Buddhist Insight on Wakeful Presence

According to Buddhism, everything mental and physical ensues in accordance with laws and conditions; and if it were otherwise, chaos and blind chance would reign. Nevertheless, such a thing is intolerable and disproves all laws of thinking. In the wakeful presence of the mind, other kinds of happiness diminish and are exhausted. Most people tend to be locked into a quite dreary round of tasks, and experience little peace or harmony, according to Zen philosophy. The American clinical psychologist John Welwood, who frequently writes about the integration of psychological and spiritual concepts, writes in Ordinary Magic, Everyday Life as Spiritual Path,

Our society would have us believe that inner satisfaction depends on our success and achievement. Yet struggling to “get somewhere” keeps us perpetually busy, stressed-out, and disconnected from that essential inner resource – our ability to be fully present – which could provide a real sense of joy and fulfillment. Our life is unsatisfactory only because we are not living it fully, because instead we are pursuing a happiness that is always somewhere else, other than where we are right now…

Cultivating the capacity to be fully present – awake, attentive, and responsive – in all the different circumstances of life is the essence of spiritual practice and realization. Those with the greatest spiritual realization are those who are “all here,” who relate to life with an expansive awareness that is not limited by any fixation on themselves or their own point of view. They don’t shrink from any aspect of themselves or life as a whole.

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Ira Glass on Christianity and Religion

Ira Glass Ira Glass is an American television and radio personality who was the admired host of a radio program called This American Life.

Glass has stated on This American Life that he is a committed atheist. “It’s not like I don’t feel like I’m a Jew. I feel like I don’t have a choice about being a Jew. Your cultural heritage isn’t like a suitcase you can lose at the airport. I have no choice about it. It is who I am. I can’t choose that. It’s a fact of me … But even when I was 14 or 15, it didn’t make that much sense to me that there was this Big Daddy who created the world and would act so crazy in the Old Testament. That we made up these stories to make ourselves feel good and explain the world seems like a much more reasonable explanation. I’ve tried to believe in God, but I simply don’t.”

Atheism notwithstanding, “some years I have a nostalgic feeling to go into a shul and I’ll go in for a High Holiday service,” discloses Glass, who has fond memories of his childhood rabbi’s beguiling discourses. “Rabbi Seymour Esrog was really funny, a great storyteller. He was so good that even the kids would stay and watch him. He’d tell a funny anecdote, something really moving, and go for a big finish. That’s what the show is,” he competes, recognizing the rabbi’s effect.

In this interview with religious anthropologist Jim Henderson, Glass says he thinks Christians get a genuinely bad rap in the media. The NPR star said the way Christians are often represented in pop-culture is totally different from the way the Christians he knows personally actually are in real life. “The Christians in my life were all incredibly wonderful and thoughtful and had very ambiguous, complicated feelings in their beliefs. And seemed to be totally generous-hearted, and totally open to a lot of different kinds of people in their lives.”

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The Eightfold Path in Buddhism

Buddha Statue at Borobodur Temple in Indonesia

Having established the reality, cause, and end of suffering, in the final noble truth the Buddha taught his disciples the eight-step path to awakening. Because they represent the actions and comportment of one who lives in accord with the dharma, these eight aspects of Buddhist practice are described as “wise,” “skillful,” “correct,” or simply, “right.”

  • Right View: A true understanding of how reality and suffering are intertwined.
  • Right Resolve: The aspiration to act with correct intention, doing no harm.
  • Right Speech: Abstaining from lying, and divisive or abusive speech.
  • Right Action: Acting in ways that do not cause harm, such as not taking life, not stealing, and not engaging in sexual misconduct.
  • Right Livelihood: Making an ethically sound living, being honest in business dealings.
  • Right Effort: Endeavoring to give rise to skillful thoughts, words, and deeds and renouncing unskillful ones.
  • Right Mindfulness: Being mindful of one’s body, feelings, mind, and mental qualities.
  • Right Concentration: Practicing skillful meditation informed by all of the preceding seven aspects.

'Buddhism in Practice' by Donald S. Lopez Jr. (ISBN 0691129681) This formulation of the Buddhist path to enlightenment appears in what is regarded as the Buddha’s first sermon after his enlightenment, the “Setting Forth the Wheel of Dharma.”

The Buddha argued that the middle way is the eightfold path, which, like the four truths, he calls “noble.”

These eight steps are considered to be of three types:

  1. right view and right resolve are related to our development of wisdom;
  2. right speech, right action, and right livelihood to ethical conduct;
  3. and right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration to meditation.

The noble eightfold path receives less discussion in Buddhist literature than do the four noble truths (of which they are, after all, a constituent). Indeed, in later formulations, the eight factors are presented not so much as a prescription for behavior but as eight qualities that are present in the mind of a person who has understood nirvana.

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Zen Koan #21: Parable of Sound of One Hand – Buddhist Teaching on Awakening

Zen Koan #21: Parable of Sound of One Hand - Buddhist Teaching on Awakening Meditation teaches us how to relate to life directly, so we can truly experience the present moment, free from conceptual overlay. Whenever you make distinctions, your mind is in opposition. If your mind is free from the environment, not bounded by mental realms, then your next birth will not be dictated by karma but rather by your own decision. Does a given individual’s religion accommodate to break his will, keep him at an infantile level of development, and enable him to evade the solicitousness of liberation and personal responsibility?

On the other hand, does it accommodate him as a substructure of designation, which affirms his dignity and worth, which gives him a substructure for valiant acceptance of his inhibitions and mundane solicitousness, but which avails him develop his potencies, his responsibility, and his capacity to dote his fellow men? The only difference is that there is no obstruction or attachment in their minds. You have to be careful and meticulous. For example, if everybody were male, the label “men” would no longer be paramount, since its only purport is to distinguish men from women. The ordinary person does not know this.

Being too good might mean ending up being too bitter. However, this repose is only relative. Do not concern yourself with anything going on around you.

Zen Koan: “Sound of One Hand” Parable

The master of Kennin temple was Mokurai, Silent Thunder. He had a little protege named Toyo who was only twelve years old. Toyo saw the older disciples visit the master’s room each morning and evening to receive instruction in sanzen or personal guidance in which they were given koans to stop mind-wandering.

Toyo wished to do sanzen also.

“Wait a while,” said Mokurai. “You are too young.”

But the child insisted, so the teacher finally consented.

In the evening little Toyo went at the proper time to the threshold of Mokurai’s sanzen room. He struck the gong to announce his presence, bowed respectfully three times outside the door, and went to sit before the master in respectful silence.

“You can hear the sound of two hands when they clap together,” said Mokurai. “Now show me the sound of one hand.”

Toyo bowed and went to his room to consider this problem. From his window he could hear the music of the geishas. “Ah, I have it!” he proclaimed.

The next evening, when his teacher asked him to illustrate the sound of one hand, Toyo began to play the music of the geishas.

“No, no,” said Mokurai. “That will never do. That is not the sound of one hand. You’ve not got it at all.”

Thinking that such music might interrupt, Toyo moved his abode to a quiet place. He meditated again. “What can the sound of one hand be?” He happened to hear some water dripping. “I have it,” imagined Toyo.

When he next appeared before his teacher, Toyo imitated dripping water.

“What is that?” asked Mokurai. “That is the sound of dripping water, but not the sound of one hand. Try again.”

In vain Toyo meditated to hear the sound of one hand. He heard the sighing of the wind. But the sound was rejected.

He heard the cry of an owl. This also was refused.

The sound of one hand was not the locusts.

For more than ten times Toyo visited Mokurai with different sounds. All were wrong. For almost a year he pondered what the sound of one hand might be.

At last little Toyo entered true meditation and transcended all sounds. “I could collect no more,” he explained later, “so I reached the soundless sound.”

Toyo had realized the sound of one hand.

Buddhist Insight on Awakening

Buddhism teaches the need for clear thinking, awakening, self-control, self-help, and meditation. It’s much better to have that all happen than have it all still, solid and barricaded. The feelings of insecurity and unrest will dissolve and life will be more meaningful, happy, and interesting if there is someone who is willing to share another’s burden. Awakening is the object of abstract kindness in all beings. The American Zen priest Melissa Myozen Blacker wrote in The Book of Mu: Essential Writings on Zen’s Most Important Koan,

The natural ripening of a person on this path may be so gradual as to be unnoticed, or so sudden as to feel like an explosion. Trusting this process of awakening, we begin to taste the experience of oneness, which is frankly indescribable. No matter how hard we try, we can’t communicate this feeling, which is so unlike our previous life, our familiar construction of reality, that we may liken it to dreaming. But we have actually woken up to our true life, and we are struck dumb, wordless, in an experience that can’t be described by the ordinary words we have used all our lives. It feels impossible to talk about this new, freshly felt life of realization, which is so amazing in its simplicity and ordinariness. The subtlety of this part of the path is misleading because it is actually not at all subtle. The profundity of the shift in consciousness, when outer and inner become one, must be lived, not described – but recognized, of course, by others on the same path.

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