Blog Archives

Zen Koan #5: Parable of If You Love, Love Openly – Buddhist Teaching on New Beginnings

Zen Koan #5: Parable of If You Love, Love Openly - Buddhist Teaching on New Beginnings Nirvana is not a place, where one can expect facilities. We are deeply enmeshed in a world where materialistic postulations dominate, and it is not so facile to contravene the momentum of that paradigm. There is a way of checking through the answers of the old Zen Masters. You come to a recede with the desire to transform yourself.

In respect to its social and moral code, the German philosopher, Prof. Max Muller has said, “The Zen Buddhist moral code taken by it is one of the most perfect which the world has ever known.” This is why you should not look for something here you can take home with you. In fact, as you get into ever-deeper levels, you may be aware of the movement of your mind in the previous level, even if you are not aware of the movement at the present level. These are the highest states that can be attained from the practice of worldly dharma. It is not natural to tighten your stomach muscles or to straighten your back by protruding your chest. It is doubtful whether anyone really achieves health that does not responsibly choose to be healthy.

A person who has experienced oneness is different from a mundane person. Just do not have any doubts about the method or whether you have the “right stuff” to practice.

Zen Koan: “If You Love, Love Openly” Parable

Twenty monks and one nun, who was named Eshun, were practicing meditation with a certain Zen master.

Eshun was very pretty even though her head was shaved and her dress plain. Several monks secretly fell in love with her. One of them wrote her a love letter, insisting upon a private meeting.

Eshun did not reply. The following day the master gave a lecture to the group, and when it was over, Eshun arose. Addressing the one who had written to her, she said: “If you really love me so much, come and embrace me now.”

Buddhist Insight on New Beginnings

All men have their fragilities and new beginnings. And when you look at how authoritative our habits are, and how much we go to sleep, and how much the world really needs somebody to have the audacity to say “no” or “stop” or “wake up” or “live differently,” it becomes very compelling. The phenomenal world is the supported destructible inhabitants, sentient beings, within the destructible environment. The British meditation teacher Christina Feldman writes in The Buddhist Path to Simplicity,

Cultivating the beginner’s mind involves a leap of faith, a willingness to dive deeply into “not knowing.” The alternative is to be chained to a past we know too well and to perpetuate history in each moment of our lives. In each new beginning we learn the art of letting things be. The concepts, images, assumptions, conclusions, and judgments; we let them be. They are received, listened to, and embraced in a vastness of heart that invests no absolute truth in them. It is a great challenge, undertaken only one moment at a time. Who is more free, the person who travels through their life carrying their raft upon their head, or the person who can lay it down and walk on unencumbered? The lessons of joy and sorrow, contraction and vastness, imprisonment and freedom are learned in each moment we are willing to begin anew and be changed by those lessons. They are simple and profound. To begin anew, to see anew, is to discover joy and freedom.

Tagged
Posted in Faith and Religion

The Influence of Confucius

The Influence of Confucius

Confucianism in general is borne out by the regression that took place over the centuries. It may be characterized as follows:

  1. The idea of the unknowable One is transformed into metaphysical indifference. When Confucius declines to think about the absolute or to pray for help, it is because a certainty rooted in the Encompassing enjoins him to turn to mankind in the actual world. By living in serene acceptance of death, not asking to know what we cannot know, he leaves everything open. But once Confucius’ certainty is lacking, skepticism runs rampant and with it an uncontrolled superstition. Agnosticism becomes a vacuum, which Confucianism seeks to fill with material magic and illusionary expectations.
  2. Confucius’ simple but passionate drive toward humanity is transformed into utilitarian thinking. The result is a pedantic pragmatism shorn of any feeling for man’s independent worth.
  3. The free ethos, implied by the polarity between the li and the power that guides them, is transformed into a dogmatization of the li. Without their ground in the jen and in the One, the li become mere rules of external behavior.
  4. Openness of thought degenerates into dogmatic theory. For example, a controversy arises as to whether man is good or evil by nature, whether training in the li makes man good or only restores him to his true nature.
  5. The knowledge that was inner action degenerates into rote learning. There arose the class of scribes who distinguished themselves not by personality but by formal learning and maintained their prestige by a system of examinations. For Confucius antiquity was a norm which each man must acquire for himself. As transformed in Confucianism, this came to mean the study of ancient works, the pre-eminence of the scholar; instead of making antiquity his own, the student learned to imitate it. School learning produced an orthodoxy which lost its bond with life as a whole.
Tagged
Posted in Philosophy and Wisdom

Robert Frost’s Favorite Poem: “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”

Robert Frost

Robert Frost is a captivating poet and public figure whose approachability and mystique will assuredly engross many generations of scholars, whether their approach is biographical, cultural, or theoretical. Frost’s portions, inscriptions, and random poems will continue to surface until nearly all of the items in small, private collections find their way into shared annals. They in fact add enormously to our interpretation of how Frost worked through his ideas. Paired with poems or excerpts from Frost’s works, these repeatedly sumptuously and lavishly created greetings raise captivating questions about the interaction between the visual and the verbal in Frost’s work.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is a poem by Robert Frost, published in the collection New Hampshire (1923). One of the most famous, as well as one of the most anthologized, of Frost’s poems. It portrays a lone traveler in a horse-drawn carriage who is both driven by the business at hand and mesmerized by a frosty woodland setting. The poem is written of four iambic tetrameter quatrains, and the contemplative lyric derives its incantatory tone from an interlocking rhyme scheme of aaba bbcb ccdc dddd:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
 
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
 
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
 
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

No American poet has been more prosaic than Robert Frost—prosaic because many readers like to believe most of his poems are narrative in nature, not just the lyrical representation of an image or a feeling.

Eternity Looking through Time

'The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems' by Robert Frost (ISBN 0805069860) Frost’s poem has the back drop of a late dark wintry sundown, a harsh and bitter winter (“The darkest evening of the year”). The physical setting of the work is the deserted woods far off from the village. The significance along with physical landscapes of the poem is dreadfully isolated, bare of any living flowers or leafy trees. The narrator of “Stopping by Woods” is compelled to make a significant ethical choice, which his cherished horse does not seem to concur with. The preference that the narrator must grapple with is whether to return to the cordiality and safety of the village (where the owner of the woods lives) and his home or to stay and watch the beautiful woods filling up with fluffy snowflakes on a wintry evening. The narrator does seem to have trouble making his decision, torn between two equally enticing and delightful possibilities. This kind of persistence upon human choice is distinctive of most of Frost’s poetical works. The narrator eventually chooses to return to the village even though it seems to take his great self-control or willpower. He understands that he has some social or civic duty or responsibility to achieve before he dies.

The night, as well as the winter, is closely related to old age, pain, loneliness, and death. As stunning as snow looks, it implies the cold wintry weather, which is in turn connected with despair, disintegration, and death. Just as the woods are “lovely, dark and deep” to him, so does death look to him. Death seems not to be so unnerving, grim, or even scary—but rather fascinating, welcoming, almost a feeling of relief. The narrator is reminded of the final destination of his journey—probably to the village where his home is. The narrator’s “little horse” is perplexed by his master’s conduct —stopping by the woods located far away from any farmhouse—and thus jiggles his harness bells in impulsiveness. Impatient, the horse prompts him to resume his homeward journey.

Robert Frost Narrating and Speaking

“My Best Bid for Remembrance”

In a message to American poet, anthologist, and literary critic Louis Untermeyer, American poet Robert Frost called his famous poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” as “my best bid for remembrance.”

According to an essay by N. Arthur Bleau, Robert Frost described the poem’s back-story during a reading at Bowdoin College in 1947:

Robert Frost revealed his favorite poem to me. Furthermore, he gave me a glimpse into his personal life that exposed the mettle of the man. I cherish the memory of that conversation, and vividly recall his description of the circumstances leading to the composition of his favorite work.

'The Road Not Taken and Other Poems' by Robert Frost (ISBN 0486275507) We were in my hometown—Brunswick, Maine. It was the fall of 1947, and Bowdoin College was presenting its annual literary institute” for students and the public. Mr. Frost had lectured there the previous season; and being well received, he was invited for a return engagement.

I attended the great poet’s prior lecture and wasn’t about to miss his encore—even though I was quartered 110 miles north at the University of Maine. At the appointed time, I was seated and eagerly awaiting his entrance—armed with a book of his poems and unaware of what was about to occur.

He came on strong with a simple eloquence that blended with his stature, bushy white hair, matching eyebrows, and well-seasoned features. His topics ranged from meter to the meticulous selection of a word and its varying interpretations. He then read a few of his poems to accentuate his message.

At the conclusion of the presentation, Mr. Frost asked if anyone had questions. I promptly raised my hand. There were three other questioners, and their inquiries were answered before he acknowledged me. I asked, “Mr. Frost, what is your favorite poem?” He quickly replied, “They’re all my favorites. It’s difficult to single out one over another!”

“But, Mr. Frost,” I persisted, “surely there must be one or two of your poems which have a special meaning to you—that recall some incident perhaps.” He then astonished me by declaring the session concluded; whereupon, he turned to me and said, “Young man, you may come up to the podium if you like.” I was there in an instant.

We were alone except for one man who was serving as Mr. Frost’s host. He remained in the background shadows of the stage. The poet leaned casually against the lectern—beckoning me to come closer. We were side by side leaning on the lectern as he leafed the pages of the book.

“You know—in answer to your question—there is one poem which comes readily to mind; and I guess I’d have to call it my favorite,” he droned” in a pensive manner. “I’d have to say ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ is that poem. Do you recall in the lecture I pointed out the importance of the line “The darkest evening of the year’?” I acknowledged that I did, and he continued his thoughtful recollection of a time many years before. “Well—the darkest evening of the year is on December twenty-second—which is the shortest day of the year—just before Christmas.”

'Robert Frost's Poems' by Robert Frost (ISBN 0312983328) I wish I could have recorded the words as he reflectively meted out his story, but this is essentially what he said.

The family was living on a farm. It was a bleak time both weatherwise and financially. Times were hard, and Christmas was coming. It wasn’t going to be a very good Christmas unless he did something. So—he hitched up the wagon filled with produce from the farm and started the long trek into town.

When he finally arrived, there was no market for his goods. Times were hard for everybody. After exhausting every possibility, he finally accepted the fact that there would be no sale. There would be no exchange for him to get a few simple presents for his children’s Christmas.

As he headed home, evening descended. It had started to snow, and his heart grew heavier with each step of the horse in the gradually increasing accumulation. He had dropped the reins and given the horse its head. It knew the way. The horse was going more slowly as they approached home. It was sensing his despair. There is an unspoken communication between a man and his horse, you know.

Around the next bend in the road, near the woods, they would come into view of the house. He knew the family was anxiously awaiting him. How could he face them? What could he possibly say or do to spare them the disappointment he felt?

They entered the sweep of the bend. The horse slowed down and then stopped. It knew what he had to do. He had to cry, and he did. I recall the very words he spoke. “I just sat there and bawled like a baby”—until there were no more tears.

'Robert Frost Poet as Philosopher' by Peter Stanlis (ISBN 1933859814) The horse shook its harness. The bells jingled. They sounded cheerier. He was ready to face his family. It would be a poor Christmas, but Christmas is a time of love. They had an abundance of love, and it would see them through that Christmas and the rest of those hard times. Not a word was spoken, but the horse knew he was ready and resumed the journey homeward.

The poem was composed some time later, he related. How much later I do not know, but he confided that these were the circumstances which eventually inspired what he acknowledged to be his favorite poem.

I was completely enthralled and, with youthful audacity, asked him to tell me about his next favorite poem. He smiled relaxedly and readily replied, “That would have to be ‘Mending Wall.’ Good fences do make good neighbors, you know! We always looked forward to getting together and walking the lines—each on his own side replacing the stones the winter frost had tumbled. As we moved along, we’d discuss the things each had experienced during the winter—and also what was ahead of us. It was a sign of spring!”

The enchantment was broken at that moment by Mr. Frost’s host, who had materialized behind us to remind him of his schedule. He nodded agreement that it was time to depart, turned to me and with a smile extended his hand. I grasped it, and returned his firm grip as I expressed my gratitude. He then strode off to join his host, who had already reached the door at the back of the stage. I stood there watching him disappear from sight.

I’ve often wondered why he suddenly changed his mind and decided to answer my initial question by confiding his memoir in such detail. Perhaps no one had ever asked him; or perhaps I happened to pose it at the opportune time. Then again—perhaps the story was meant to be related, remembered and revealed sometime in the future. I don’t know, but I’m glad he did—so that I can share it with you.

Two Minds About It

'Robert Frost A Life' by Jay Parini (ISBN 0805063412) Frost’s daughter Lesley later validated the narrative and quoted her father reminiscing his weeping, “A man has as much right as a woman to a good cry now and again. The snow gave me shelter; the horse understood and gave me the time.”

For many years I have assumed that my father’s explanation to me, given sometime in the forties, I think, of the circumstances round and about his writing “Stopping by Woods” was the only one he gave (of course, excepting to my mother), and since he expressed the hope that it need not be repeated fearing pity (pity, he said, was the last thing he wanted or needed), I have left it at that. Now, in 1977, I find there was at least one other to whom he vouchsafed the honor of hearing the truth of how it all was that Xmas eve when “the little horse” (Eunice) slows the sleigh at a point between woods, a hundred yards or so north of our farm on the Wyndham Road. And since Authur Bleau’s moving account is closely, word for word, as I heard it, it would give me particular reason to hope it might be published. I would like to add my own remembrance of words used in the telling to me: “A man has as much right as a woman to a good cry now and again. The snow gave me its shelter; the horse understood and gave me the time.” (Incidentally, my father had a liking for certain Old English words. Bawl was one of them. Instead of “Stop crying,” it was “Oh, come now, quit bawling.” Mr. Bleau is right to say my father bawled like a baby.)

Tagged
Posted in Music, Arts, and Culture

Zen Koan #4: Parable of Obedience – Buddhist Teaching on the Art of Living

Zen Koan #4: Parable of Obedience - Buddhist Teaching on the Art of Living Zen is an interesting method of communicating enlightenment; however, enlightenment does not differ between the many varieties of faiths or religions. Anyhow, yes, there are enlightened people who use Zen nowadays, but none who are enlightened in Zen. For instance, this incense board is just a piece of wood. A sick person may absorb this energy and this may avail them to practice preponderant. Practicing this goodness will avail the process of their rejuvenating. However, because of incognizance and delusion, we keep following this cycle. We carry out many activities, and develop many affixments to this life.

We endeavor many incipient things in order to gratify ourselves. We chase after pleasure and we endeavor to evade or discard those things we do not relish. From this concentrated state, we can enter the mind of unity. Tibetan Zen Buddhism as we know it today was shaped in part by arguments over how best to present Zen Buddhist teachings. Great space does not refer to nothingness, but rather to a totality. No ghosts or deities would be able to find you. Some people become so overwhelmed by troubles in their practice, they end up without any discrimination, letting go of their hopes as well as their despair.

Zen Koan: “Obedience” Parable

The master Bankei’s talks were attended not only by Zen students but by persons of all ranks and sects. He never quoted sutras not indulged in scholastic dissertations. Instead, his words were spoken directly from his heart to the hearts of his listeners.

His large audience angered a priest of the Nichiren sect because the adherents had left to hear about Zen. The self-centered Nichiren priest came to the temple, determined to have a debate with Bankei.

“Hey, Zen teacher!” he called out. “Wait a minute. Whoever respects you will obey what you say, but a man like myself does not respect you. Can you make me obey you?”

“Come up beside me and I will show you,” said Bankei.

Proudly the priest pushed his way through the crowd to the teacher.

Bankei smiled. “Come over to my left side.”

The priest obeyed.

“No,” said Bankei, “we may talk better if you are on the right side. Step over here.”

The priest proudly stepped over to the right.

“You see,” observed Bankei, “you are obeying me and I think you are a very gentle person. Now sit down and listen.”

Buddhist Insight on An Art of Living

The art of Zen living requires, if you come to something that’s in the middle of the road, even if it’s not your lane, it’s a nice thing to pick it up, move it aside, because you care for the earth; not because you’re intended to, but because it brings joy. At first, it’s difficult, but if you work with it for a while, it actually starts to become interesting. The Burmese-Indian teacher of Vipassana meditation S. N. Goenka writes in The Art of Living,

By learning to remain balanced in the face of everything experienced inside, one develops detachment towards all that one encounters in external situations as well. However, this detachment is not escapism or indifference to the problems of the world. Those who regularly practice Vipassana become more sensitive to the sufferings of others and do their utmost to relieve suffering in whatever way they can – not with any agitation, but with a mind full of love, compassion and equanimity. They learn holy indifference – how to be fully committed, fully involved in helping others, while at the same time maintaining balance of mind. In this way they remain peaceful and happy while working for the peace and happiness of others.

This is what the Buddha taught: an art of living. He never established or taught any religion, any “ism.” He never instructed those who came to him to practice any rites or rituals, any empty formalities. Instead, he taught them just to observe nature as it is by observing the reality inside. Out of ignorance, we keep reacting in ways which harm ourselves and others. But when wisdom arises – the wisdom of observing reality as it is – this habit of reacting falls away. When we cease to react blindly, then we are capable of real action – action proceeding from a balanced mind, a mind which sees and understands the truth. Such action can only be positive, creative, helpful to ourselves and others.

Tagged
Posted in Faith and Religion

Confucius on Renewing Disastrous Circumstances

Confucius on Renewing Disastrous Circumstances

Confucius was once asked, “What is the first thing to be done in order to promote a renewal in disastrous circumstances?”

Confucius gave a remarkable answer: Words must be set aright.

'Confucius And the World He Created' by Michael Schuman (ISBN 046502551X) What inheres in words should be brought out. The prince should be a prince, the father a father, the man a man. But language is constantly misused, words are employed for meanings that do not befit them. A seperation arises between being and language. “He who has the inner being also has the words; he who has words does not always have the inner being.”

If the language is in disorder, everything goes wrong. “If words (designations, concepts) are not right, judgments are not clear; works do not prosper; punishments do not strike the right man, and the people do not know where to set hand and foot.

“Therefore the superior man chooses words that can be employed without doubt, and forms judgments that can be converted into actions without fear of doubt. The superior man tolerates no imprecision in his speech.”

Tagged
Posted in Philosophy and Wisdom

Zen Koan #3: Parable of Is That So? – Buddhist Teaching on Achievement

Zen Koan #3: Parable of Is That So? - Buddhist Teaching on Achievement Zen Meditation is arduous. Cogitation sanctions you to optically discern something fresh that you’ve never optically discerned afore or to understand something incipient that you’ve never understood afore. As in actual dreams, these wandering thoughts either are connected with the past, or anticipate the future. At that point, there are no more vexations.

This is not the case for mundane people. In most religions, if you reach a stage where you identify planarity with the macrocosm, it would be considered the ultimate or great harmony. Others honor the rule and refrain from speaking, but that does not mean that they are not talking to themselves. The basic thing is that they find out what their strengths are in body and mind, and how they can follow the precepts. Nor should you be concerned with anything going on inside yourself.

After practicing diligently, you will gradually resolve the problem of doubt. When practice sets in, rather the way weather does, there can be a lot of boredom and feeling clueless, so that cluelessness or plainness is something that always needs to be taken into account. This is for the reason that your mind is divided into two, or even three: a sense of yourself, of your body, and of the pleasure.

Zen Koan: “Is That So?” Parable

The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbours as one living a pure life.

A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near him. Suddenly, without any warning, her parents discovered she was with child.

This made her parents angry. She would not confess who the man was, but after much harassment at last named Hakuin.

In great anger the parent went to the master. “Is that so?” was all he would say.

After the child was born it was brought to Hakuin. By this time he had lost his reputation, which did not trouble him, but he took very good care of the child. He obtained milk from his neighbours and everything else he needed.

A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth – the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fishmarket.

The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back.

Hakuin was willing. In yielding the child, all he said was: “Is that so?”

Buddhist Insight on No Thought of Achievement

If you foster generosity, Zen kindness, awareness, and giving, you will be happy because you’ll learn that it’s pleasant, and the way that karma works is that your world will become more of a steering rather than fear and holding. Within the conventional, relative truth, individual appearances, which accord and do not, are distinguished. Therefore, there isn’t any thought of achievement. Shunryu Suzuki, the Japanese-American Zen monk who helped popularize Zen Buddhism in the United States, writes in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind,

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. Dogen-zenji, the founder of our school, always emphasised how important it is to resume our boundless original mind. Then we are always true to ourselves, in sympathy with all beings, and can actually practice.

Tagged
Posted in Faith and Religion

Zen Koan #2: Parable of Finding a Diamond on a Muddy Road – Buddhist Teaching on Creativity

Zen Koan #2: Parable of Finding a Diamond on a Muddy Road - Buddhist Teaching on Creativity Zen is not unique. All forms of Zen Buddhism point to this same authenticity. Zen just uses fewer words in this process. Still, the unfamiliar will take the moon in the dehydrogenate monoxide for the authentic moon and point their finger towards it in vain where others misunderstand the finger for the authentic thing. Sometimes it’s better to verbalize. You have an excess of what you want to be rid of, and a lack of what you want to acquire. Pretending sundry relishes and misprices severs you from the Way.

Consider the story about an inexperienced farmer who planted a field of rice. The more you drive yourself the tenser you will feel. The role of the monitor is that if they see a person sitting in the cave of the devil, in that wonderful space, that peaceful space, they knock them out of it. Thus to say that this principle is not eternal would also be incorrect. When we see the discrepancy between our good intentions and our actions, it motivates us to work with our minds, to work with our habitual reactions and our impatience.

Zen is so strict and austere, yet at the heart of its teaching is spontaneity. In Taoism, there is the verbalization that the one gives elevate to the two, and the two give elevate to the multiplicity of things.

Zen Koan: “Finding a Diamond on a Muddy Road” Parable

Gudo was the emperor’s teacher of his time. Nevertheless, he used to travel alone as a wandering mendicant. Once when he was on his way to Edo, the cultural and political center of the shogunate, he approached a little village named Takenaka. It was evening and a heavy rain was falling. Gudo was thoroughly wet. His straw sandals were in pieces. At a farmhouse near the village he noticed four or five pairs of sandals in the window and decided to buy some dry ones.

The woman who offered him the sandals, seeing how wet he was, invited him in to remain for the night in her home. Gudo accepted, thanking her. He entered and recited a sutra before the family shrine. He was then introduced to the women’s mother, and to her children. Observing that the entire family was depressed, Gudo asked what was wrong.

“My husband is a gambler and a drunkard,” the housewife told him. “When he happens to win he drinks and becomes abusive. When he loses he borrows money from others. Sometimes when he becomes thoroughly drunk he does not come home at all. What can I do?”

“I will help him,” said Gudo. “Here is some money. Get me a gallon of fine wine and something good to eat. Then you may retire. I will meditate before the shrine.”

When the man of the house returned about midnight, quite drunk, he bellowed: “Hey, wife, I am home. Have you something for me to eat?”

“I have something for you,” said Gudo. “I happened to be caught in the rain and your wife kindly asked me to remain here for the night. In return I have bought some wine and fish, so you might as well have them.”

The man was delighted. He drank the wine at once and laid himself down on the floor. Gudo sat in meditation beside him.

In the morning when the husband awoke he had forgotten about the previous night. “Who are you? Where do you come from?” he asked Gudo, who was still meditating.

“I am Gudo of Kyoto and I am going on to Edo,” replied the Zen master.

The man was utterly ashamed. He apologized profusely to the teacher of his emperor.

Gudo smiled. “Everything in this life is impermanent,” he explained. “Life is very brief. If you keep on gambling and drinking, you will have no time left to accomplish anything else, and you will cause your family to suffer too.”

The perception of the husband awoke as if from a dream. “You are right,” he declared. “How can I ever repay you for this wonderful teaching! Let me see you off and carry your things a little way.”

“If you wish,” assented Gudo.

The two started out. After they had gone three miles Gudo told him to return. “Just another five miles,” he begged Gudo. They continued on.

“You may return now,” suggested Gudo.

“After another ten miles,” the man replied.

“Return now,” said Gudo, when the ten miles had been passed.

“I am going to follow you all the rest of my life,” declared the man.

Modern Zen teachings in Japan spring from the lineage of a famous master who was the successor of Gudo. His name was Mu-nan, the man who never turned back.

Buddhist Insight on Creativity: Being and Doing

By the profound interdependence of being and doing, all anger is prompted and polluted by improper conceptuality. It’s that Zen spirit of heartfulness and creativity, of mindfulness that it comes to. However, there are other kinds of happiness that are very unpretentious and really nurturing of spiritual life, that touching them actually gives us the strength to deal with difficulties. 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,

The key to everyday life as spiritual practice lies in bringing a full, rich, quality of being and presence into whatever we do. Yet “being” and “doing” often seem mutually exclusive. The cultures of the East have cultivated being for thousands of years, while rarely, until recently, placing as much emphasis on doing. The cultures of the West have been busy doing for thousands of years – building, inventing, conquering the world – while often failing to appreciate that a healthy, fulfilling human life, depends on the quality of one’s being and presence. To find the spiritual path in our daily life, we need to bring being and doing together. This is precisely what happens in creativity, where the beauty that we love can become what we do.

Tagged
Posted in Faith and Religion

Zen Koan #1: Parable of A Cup of Tea – Buddhist Teaching on Spiritual Bankruptcy

Zen Koan #1: Parable of A Cup of Tea - Buddhist Teaching on Spiritual Bankruptcy Together with Vedanta Hinduism, Zen is an early and continuing example of the globalization of religion from the East on several levels. The reward body also appears for the sake of sentient beings; for this reason, it is limited in location. The poem encourages us to practice without attachment. It merely reflects whatever you put in front of it, as it is, without hindrance.

Once you narrow yourself down to the mental environment, there are two things you are involved with—the method, and stray thoughts. What is the difference between Buddhahood and enlightenment? Buddhahood is attaining the ultimate, whereas enlightenment is seeing Buddha nature without encompassing it fully. In Japan, it was pellucid that in the lay Zen tradition you donated to the temple, you had your memorial accommodations, you had your family plot, and you fortified the priest.

Meditation decreases experienced stress load and leads to a faster decrease in heart rate after exposure to stressful film clips, but it is not clear whether improved access to unconscious processes is mediating processes. There are sundry levels of coalesced mind—the unity of self and macrocosm, the unity of body and mind, and beyond this, just one mind remaining.

Zen Koan: “A Cup of Tea” Parable

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868–1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

Buddhist Insight on Spiritual Bankruptcy

When water is agitated by waves, reflections that may arise are not grasped. A lot of our busyness is because we’re looking for something to fulfill us. This is the root cause of spiritual bankruptcy, according to Zen Buddhism. The charters are different but the practical path towards human liberation touches both. Can you learn the basic precept of transforming your unwanted sufferings into the path of practice? The British Zen Buddhist author and psychotherapist David Brazier writes in The Feeling Buddha,

We all carry hurt within us. It is not possible to have gone through life without getting buffeted. The hurt we carry is fuel. It is one of the essential conditions for a fire. When a person, or a whole community, is spiritually impoverished, this fuel is stored up. It then becomes tinder dry.The potential for fire to get out of control is then great. This is when wars start. I asked an acquaintance from Sarajevo why he thought the civil war there broke out. He said: ‘Boredom.’ He meant that people’s lives had ceased to be purposeful and war gave them a sense of direction. People sometimes fear that religion causes wars but, although religion, patriotism, self-interest, history and many other things may be invoked by war mongers, the real root of war is spiritual bankruptcy.

Tagged
Posted in Faith and Religion

A Mandala is a Cosmic Diagram that is Symbolic of the Universe

Mandala is a ritual diagram symbolic of the universe---object of meditation in Tantra and Vajrayana Buddhism.

A mandala is a ritual diagram that serves as an object of meditation in Tantra and Vajrayana Buddhism. It is symbolic of the universe.

Around the eleventh century, mandala meditation was initiated in Tibet from India and even today, lamas pass on their knowledge to initiates in the same way.

Mandalas are fabricated at the beginning of a puja, out of grains of colored sand watchfully placed on a specially prepared platform. They are momentary structures and in a instruction of impermanence, are deliberately destroyed at the end of the ritual, their sand swept up and dispensed into a nearby stream or river.

Mandala Denotes the Mind and the Body of the Buddha

The word Mandala is derived from the root manda, essence; and la, container. Thus, a mandala is a container of essence. As an image, it may denote both the mind and the body of the Buddha. The origin of the mandala is the center, the bindu, a dot—a symbol free of dimensions. Bindu also means seed, sperm or drop—the salient starting point. It is the congregation center into which outside energies are drawn, and in the act of drawing in the forces, the devotee’s own energies unfold. In the process, the mandala is sanctified to a deity.

Monks carefully construing a mandala, mystical diagram, with colored sand

Monks carefully construing a mandala, mystical diagram, with colored sand. As is apparent, the making of a mandala is a mind-numbing process, requiring great concentration and attention to every intricate detail of color, line and form. Once the ritualistic purpose is over, the sand is swept away—one more teaching in the impermanence of things. For desire meditate on impurity, for hatred kindness, and for ignorance interdependent arising.

In its creation, a line materializes out of a dot. Other lines are drawn until they intersect, creating triangular geometrical patterns. The circle drawn around stands for the dynamic consciousness of the initiated. The outlying square symbolizes the physical world bound in four directions, and characterized by the four gates; and the central area is the deity. Appearance does not bind, attachment binds. The center being visualized as the essence, and the circumference, as clasping, a mandala thus connotes a grasping of the essence.

Mandala— The Essence of One’s Own Buddha Nature

A Buddha figure in a Tibetan temple, with a mandala on the roof overhead. The figure of the Buddha can be seen in the center of the mandala, which might be supposed to exemplify the being of the Buddha and his nirvana. Examination of such a mandala would be intended to help the practitioner grasp the essence of his own Buddha nature by following the diagram of spiritual experience laid out in the mandala.

Monks in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are required to learn how to construct mandalas

All monks in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are required to learn how to construct mandalas. They have to memories texts that specify names, lengths and positions of the primary lines outlining the basic structure of mandalas, as well as the techniques of drawing and pouring sand. By this unfavorable conditions are pacified. These texts, though, do not describe every detail of each mandala, but rather serve as mnemonic guides to the complete forms that must be learned from the repeated practice of construction under the guidance of proficient monks. However, most of us seldom recognize the karmic or ritualistic nature of our actions. Knowing only verbally, such people never accomplish anything very beneficial.

Carl Jung’s Mandala and Its Relationship to Art Psychotherapy

Carl Jung's Mandala And Its Relationship To Art Psychotherapy The Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung asserted that the mandala, or, more generally, a circular art form, had a comforting and centering effect upon its maker or observer. He wrote in 1973,

The pictures differ widely, according to the stage of the therapeutic process; but certain important stages correspond to definite motifs. Without going into therapeutic details, I would only like to say that a rearranging of the personality is involved. A kind of new centering. That is why mandalas most appear in connection with chaotic, psychic states of disorientation or panic. Then they have the purpose of reducing the confusion to order, though this is never the conscious intention of the patients. At all events, they express order, balance, and wholeness. Patients themselves often emphasize the beneticial or soothing effect of such pictures.

Jung applied the mandala in his own personal therapy too and thought it to be a visible statement of his psychic state at the moment it was created. As Jung considered the course of producing a mandala to be healing, he would also often construe symbolism appearing within the mandala. He used such descriptions as a bridge from the unconscious to the conscious. He stimulated his patients at the appropriate time in their therapy to learn to decode their own symbols, and thus used the mandala as a channel from dependency on himself, the therapist, to greater autonomy for the patient. Art psychotherapists these days often make use of the mandala as an essential instrument for self-awareness, conflict resolution, and as a foundation for various other art psychotherapeutic techniques in a variety of situations.

Art therapist Joan Kellogg describes the mandala as a still picture taken out of context from a moving picture of the life process of the person. She expounded the process of making a mandala:

Because of the intense focusing when working with the mandala, an altered state of consciousness, an almost hypnotic state may ensue. The mandala then works itself differently than one’s conscious desires. In a sort of biofeedback manner, one gives reign to that part of one’s self that is able to express the contents of consciousness. Then, on reflecting on the finished product, one participates critically.

Cognitively-oriented psychoanalysts occasionally shrink back from Jungian theory asserting that it is too complicated and difficult to understand and accordingly better left to the artistic and religious. Jung every so often has not gained the admiration he warrants among the more scientific schools of thought. The predicament of art psychotherapy has been to some extent similar to that of Jungian theory by reason of the limited amount of scientific research currently existing in such a moderately new field.

Tagged
Posted in Faith and Religion Music, Arts, and Culture

Buddha’s Doctrine Means Redemption by Insight

Buddha's Doctrine Means Redemption by Insight

The answer to the basic questions of existence is to be drawn from these deeper sources, which first lend meaning and justification to the conclusions of reason. Thus what Buddha wishes to reveal is lost in the words that can be said quickly and the abstract propositions that can be thought quickly which make up his teaching. “Deep is the doctrine, hard to behold, hard to understand, full of peace, magnificent, inaccessible to mere reflection, subtle; only the wise man can learn it.”

'How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life' by Dalai Lama (ISBN 0743453360) To this way of thinking, the truth both of the philosophical thought that takes place in normal consciousness and of experience in meditation goes hand in hand with a purification of one’s whole life by ethical action. Falsehood cannot be overcome by acts of thought alone or by the technique of the transformation of consciousness; these methods will succeed only where the soul has been purified.

What Buddha teaches is not a system of knowledge but a path of salvation, “the Noble Eightfold Path”: right views, right aspiriation, right speech, right conduct, right means of livelihood, right endeavor, right mindfulness, right meditation. This coherent picture of the path of salvation is itself a form of pedagogic system. Buddha’s truth is not based solely on meditation but also takes normal consciousness into account. The understanding is transcended, but not rejected. It is called back into use the moment the experience of transcendence has to be communicated. And it would be equally incorrect to say that Buddha’s truth is based entirely on specubtive thought, though its forms of expression are drawn from this source. Nor is it subsumed in the ethos of monastic life. Meditation, understanding, philosophical speculation, monastic ethos. all are part of the truth.

Buddha Teaches a Path of Salvation

Buddha teaches a path of salvation There is no definite relation between the stages of meditation and the ideas accessible to the normal understanding, or between the experience gained by operating with ideas and that gained by operations affecting the state of consciousness. But we find certain parallelisms. In each stage of meditation, for example, a new suprasensory world is experienced. To disregard a reality in order to transcend it is a formal operation that can be performed even without such experience.

Logical ideas create space by freeing us from our bonds with the finite. But it is only by meditation that truths are reinforced and established, that full certainty is attained. It cannot be said that the one is primary, the other a mere consequence. One is, rather, the confirmation and guarantee of the other. Each in its own way prepares us for the truth.

'Buddhism and Science' by Donald S. Lopez Jr. (ISBN 0226493199) In speculation, meditation, and ethos alike, it is the human will that sets the goal and attains it. Each man has his own power of action and conduct, meditation and thought. He works, he struggles, he is like a mountain climber. That is why Buddha is forever calling for an effort of the will. All a man’s powers must be engaged. Not all who try achieve the goal. To be sure, there are exceptional cases of spontaneous Enlightenment without effort of the will, especially under the personal guidance of Buddha. Then the goal is attained all at once, and for the remainder of the adept’s life it is merely clarified by repetition.

Meditation is not a technique that can succeed by itself. It is dangerous to gain a systematic control over one’s states of comciousness. to conjure up one and dispel another. Such methods are ruinous for those who attempt them without the proper foundation. And the found ~ition is the purity or one’s whole life. In the conduct of life the main requirement is “wakefulness,” which is carried over into meditation, where it attains its fullest scope.

Then awareness permeates the body, illumines the unconscious down to the last nook and cranny. To carry light into the depths is the principle of the ethos, of meditation, and of speculation as well. The stages of meditation should not consist of intoxication, ecstasy, or the enjoyment of strange states such as those induced by hashish and opium, but of insight exceeding all normal insight in brightness, an insight in which the thing is present and one is not merely thinking about it. The universal imperative is thus: let nothing lie dormant in the unconscious, wreaking its havoc; let perfect wakefulness accompany all your action and experience.

Tagged
Posted in Faith and Religion