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Zen Koan #13: Parable of A Buddha – Buddhist Teaching on True Love and Commitment

Zen Koan #13: Parable of A Buddha - Buddhist Teaching on True Love and Commitment Zen is simply to be consummately alive. Of course, Zen is withal a form of Zen Buddhism, but this is authentically just another way of saying identically tantamount. Zen Buddhism is the way of religious liberation, which finds its inceptions in the experience of enlightenment. It traces its history back to Shakyamuni Buddha, who lived in India twenty-five centuries ago and realized the truth of his life after a long and arduous quest. The method is another way of grasping onto thoughts, but it is a way that allows us to eventually overcome grasping.

The precedent two lines referred to Zen as being illimitable by time. Religion is whatever the individual takes to be his ultimate concern. A kind of cognizance, and for many the world behind Zen arts as well, seemed a divergent perspective from the Western and is one that has appealed to Westerners. That magnetization led to the sprouting of Zen centers in most major countries outside Asia and to a “Zen” cultural influence that has gone far beyond its formal practice, affecting art, architecture, music, poetry, novels, and even brand denominations.

This is another way of describing the totality of space. The previous thought is continually at war with the following thought.

Zen Koan: “A Buddha” Parable

In Tokyo in the Meiji era there lived two prominent teachers of opposite characteristics. One, Unsho, an instructor in Shingon, kept Buddha’s precepts scrupulously. He never drank intoxicants, nor did he eat after eleven o’clock in the morning. The other teacher, Tanzan, a professor of philosophy at the Imperial University, never observed the precepts. Whenever he felt like eating, he ate, and when he felt like sleeping in the daytime he slept.

One day Unsho visited Tanzan, who was drinking wine at the time, not even a drop of which is suppposed to touch the tongue of a Buddhist.

“Hello, brother,” Tanzan greeted him. “Won’t you have a drink?”

“I never drink!” exclaimed Unsho solemnly.

“One who does not drink is not even human,” said Tanzan.

“Do you mean to call me inhuman just because I do not indulge in intoxicating liquids!” exclaimed Unsho in anger. “Then if I am not human, what am I?”

“A Buddha,” answered Tanzan.

Buddhist Insight on True Love and Long-Term Commitment

The Buddha taught the pathway to happiness through body, through speech, through the heart, through the mind—altogether. These remain the guide through life to what is beyond life through long-term commitment, of millions of the human race. Think of the underprivileged person you have ever met, and then before acting asks if or how this act will be of benefit to that person. It is as is said here and elsewhere. Returning good for good is exceptional. That is true love. The Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh writes in Teachings On Love,

True love includes the sense of responsibility, accepting the other person as he is, with all his strengths and weaknesses. If we like only the best things in the person, that is not love. We have to accept his weakness and bring our patience, understanding, and energy to help him transform. The expression “long-term commitment” helps us to understand the word love. In the context of true love, commitment can only be long-term. “I want to love you. I want to help you. I want to care for you. I want you to be happy. I want to work for happiness. But just for a few days.” Does this make sense? We are afraid to make a commitment. We want freedom. But we have to make a long-term commitment to love our son deeply and help him through the journey of life as long as we are alive. We can’t just say, “I don’t love you anymore.” When we have a good friend, we also make a long-term commitment. We need her. How much more so with someone who wants to share our life, our soul, our body. The phrase “long-term commitment” cannot express the depth of love, but we have to say something so that people understand.

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Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #12: Judas and Matthias

Kiss of Judas (1304---06), fresco by Giotto, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy

Holy Scripture tells us that Jesus knew that both Peter and Judas Iscariot would betray him. Yet Peter repented and, receiving forgiveness went on to lead the apostles in their ministry as head of the early Christian church. However, Judas, though he too later regretted his crime against his master, could not bring himself to seek mercy from the one he had betrayed. Instead, consumed by guilt and grief, he took his own life, thus condemning himself.

The gospels give no clue for his treachery, suggesting only that the betrayer had come to be possessed by evil. The tragic events unfolded in this way: At the time of the Passover feast, the crowds in the city streets of Jerusalem hailed Jesus as a prophet, causing the corrupt chief priests in the Temple to fear for their own position of power. They wanted to be rid of Jesus, but they needed a means that would not enrage the public. Judas Iscariot, for the small price of thirty pieces of silver, showed them the way.

On a clear moonlit night, Judas led armed troops to the private Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus could be captured quietly. Judas arranged to identify Jesus with a signal, thus when he came upon his master, the traitor kissed him, saying, “Rabbi!” Immediately, the troops seized and arrested Jesus. Later Judas tried to give back the “blood money,” but the priests refused, turning their backs on him. According to tradition, Judas then rang the silver pieces down and Red. In the end, the betrayer hanged himself.

Saint Matthias, Workshop of Simone Martini

After Judas’ death, the holy apostles understood that the fellowship had to be made up to twelve again by appointing someone who had accompanied Jesus throughout his ministry. (Acts of the Apostles I: 15-26)

Two disciples out of the seventy who followed Jesus fit the requirement: Matthias and Barabbas/Justus. To decide between these good men, sacred lots were drawn for the first time by the apostles, and Matthias was chosen. Some believe that beyond the drawing of lots, a ray of light shone down from the heavens to rest upon Matthias’ head, thereby verifying that he was indeed the right choice. Judea was assigned to Matthias, and he preached there and in Armenia, performing many miracles, and went to his eternal rest in peace.

  • The symbol for Matthias is the ax.
  • Holy days: In the West, Matthias’ life is celebrated on May 14; in some Anglican churches, February 24; and in the Orthodox Church, August 9.
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Nagarjuna: Founder of Madhyamika School of Mahayana Buddhism

Nagarjuna (A. D. 200-300) was an Indian Buddhist philosopher who founded the Madhyamika School of Mahayana Buddhism. He studied both the secular and religious branches of Hindu knowledge before turning to Buddhism and spent most of his life in the great Mahayana centers of learning in south-east India. Two of the compositions credited to Nagarjuna are verses of counsel to a king, which recommends that he achieved some distinction during his lifetime. Other sources specify that he also served as abbot of a monastery and that he was the instructor of Aryadeva, the author of important Madhyamika texts.

Nagarjuna —The Most Sophisticated Buddhist Philosopher

Nagarjuna's Philosophy in the Buddhist Tradition Two texts most clearly present Nagarjuna’s views: The Mulamadhyamikakarika (Stanzas of the Middle Way) and the Vigrahavyavartani (Treatise on Averting Arguments). The former is read and studied by philosophers of all major Buddhist schools of Tibet, China, Japan and Korea and is one of the most influential works in the history of Indian philosophy.

Nagarjuna’s stature in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions is enormous and the Tibetan tradition even identifies him as a magician-alchemist. The Madhyamika School is characterized by its logical refutation and negation of all philosophical systems, —Buddhist and non-Buddhist alike—while claiming no unique philosophy of its own. Nagarjuna’s philosophical method is referred to as negative dialectics.

Nagarjuna is the Most Famous Thinker in the History of Buddhism After the Buddha Himself

Nagarjuna is the Most Famous Thinker in the History of Buddhism After the Buddha Himself Nagarjuna especially attacked the Adhidharmas, claiming that the real agenda of dharma theory, atomism, was not really momentarism, time or causality but a new form of anatta (substantialism.) It is an unfolding argument culminating in the triumphant assertion of the reality of only emptiness. Despite lacking any essence, he argues, phenomena exist conventionally, and conventional existence and ultimate emptiness are in fact the same thing. This represents the radical understanding of the Buddhist doctrine of the two truths, or two levels of reality.

Nagarjuna tried to re-establish Buddha’s middle path, affirming neither existence nor non-existence, permanence nor impermanence, identity difference, but showing the relativity of all conceptions. Even the basic elements of dharma, existence, are taken to be void of ultimate reality. The structure of ultimate transformation used by Nagarjuna requires an understanding that ideas, even ‘emptiness’, have no indispensable content. Non-attachment to mental images aids in the transformation of awareness, allowing one to perceive the arising and overindulgence of the world without interfering with it. The mind of inner cognition complete with its assertions and denials, is free from all attachment.

Nagarjuna’s Process of Ultimate Transformation

For Nagarjuna a general term simply distinguished a particular class of items from another class of items. The central organizing element in this structural process is the potency of a posture or vigilance that pervades all perceptions, sense of identity, feelings, concepts, or demeanor.

Nagarjuna, along with other Buddhists, pointed out how many people, though unaware, were being pushed by the very language and assumptions of language that they thought were helping them understand their existence. Such an interpretation utilizes a different norm for identifying authenticity than the one found in this structural process.

Nagarjuna's Process of Ultimate Transformation Similarly, the focus on a future fulfilment of a spiritual goal in one process may be inappropriate in another, for the release from evil and suffering in a context where there is a clear separation of time and eternity will be different from one where release is available only in a moment of existence by means of a shift in consciousness. The absolute is not within the sphere of mind.

The ignorance which is eliminated by insight is something more than just the lack of information or an inaccurate description of something. The realization of nirvana is not attaining a self-existent opposite to some sorrow—as was the highest reality conceived in some other forms of Indian spiritual life. Nirvana is the enlightened world, a way of being where concepts like good and evil are empty, without substance, where there is no birth and death, and where everything is totally interdependent and without abiding form.

The deepest illusions are thereby dissipated through the highest insight; these illusions are not simply faulty identification of subsisting entities, but affirming to the notion that identification of entities can insure absolute truth. The ideal authenticity, then, is not something other than what is right now; it is innate in the individual field of experiences that is indeed in fluctuation, and which can be cultivated and adroitly sensitized to other possibilities.

Nagarjuna’s Philosophy in the Buddhist Tradition

Nagarjuna: Founder of Madhyamika School of Mahayana Buddhism Meditation is a practice that has been used throughout the Buddhist tradition to de-automate habitual patterns of experience. While Nagarjuna did not advocate meditation directly in his Fundamentals of the Middle Way, there are texts that are credited to him, such as his “Letter to a Friend” which suggest that he accepted meditation as a critical part of the Buddhist path. The external world is gathered into the form of the deity. Nagarjuna states,

  • Know that there are three things that block the gate to the city of freedom, and that you must cast aside: sole reliance on rites and penance, perverted views and doubt. None of the joys of this life are desired.
  • Freedom depends upon you alone, for no one else can help you: strive in the four noble truths, with study and virtue and meditation. Their limitless qualities are a precious treasury. Similarly, within the nature there are also no path, meditation, and so forth.
  • Ever train yourself in higher virtue, higher wisdom, higher meditation, for within these three are gathered more than a hundred and fifty trainings. The subject is extinguished with the object. The wisdom of the path of meditation is called the wisdom of full attainment.

This liberation is expressed philosophically in the Buddhist tradition as the middle path between the extremes of essentialism and nihilism; it is articulated by Nagarjuna in a negative dialectic and the assertion that all phrenic, physical and emotional objects of vigilance.

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Dharmachakra and the Eightfold Path

Wheel of Konark is the same as the Dharmachakra of the Buddhists The dharma, the path to enlightenment, is often presented by a wheel, known as the Dharmachakra. Generally a dharma wheel will have eight spokes, representing each of the principles of the Eightfold Path:

  1. Right Views, which involve an accurate understanding of the true nature of things, specifically the four noble truths;
  2. Right Intention, which means avoiding thoughts of attachment, hatred, and harmful intent and promoting loving-kindness and nonviolence;
  3. Right Speech, which means refraining from verbal misdeeds, such as lying, backbiting and slander, harsh speech and abusive language, and frivolous speech and gossip;
  4. Right Action or Right Conduct, which is refraining from physical misdeeds, such as killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct;
  5. Right Livelihood, which entails avoiding trades that directly or indirectly harm others, such as selling slaves, selling weapons, selling animals for slaughter, dealing in intoxicants or poisons, or engaging in fortune-telling and divination;
  6. Right Effort, which is defined as abandoning unwholesome states of mind that have already arisen, preventing unwholesome states that have yet to arise, sustaining wholesome states that have already arisen, and developing wholesome states that have yet to arise;
  7. Right Mindfulness, which means to maintain awareness of the four foundations of mindfulness, viz., body, physical sensations, the mind, and phenomena; and
  8. Right Concentration, which is one pointedness of mind. It is defined generally as the concentration of the mind on wholesome objects.

The circle represents the perfect whole of the dharma, while the hub represents meditation, the core discipline in following the path. The rim represents samadhi, the composition of mind required by the teachings. Some wheels have more than eight spokes, often 12, 24, or 31. These numbers also have significance in more in-depth aspects of Buddhist philosophy.

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Zen Koan #12: Parable of Happy Chinaman – Buddhist Teaching on Human Dignity

Zen Koan #12: Parable of Happy Chinaman - Buddhist Teaching on Human Dignity A mind of equanimity is a mind without distinctions; in other words, there is no rest and no activity. Some people think that Zen advertises moral indifference, that Zen practitioners in general are free to ignore ethical principles. Discombobulating is the raw material of sapience. The problem of being prey to someone else’s power is reinforced, of course, by one’s own infantile desire to be taken care of. There is nothing outside of your mind.

Progress is measured in terms of time, but when faith and mind are not separate, these distinctions are abolished. However, if nothing is real or lasting, what is the point of coming to retreat and practicing Zen? The point is that during the course of practice, you may come to realize that everything around you, as well as whatever you seek out of life, is illusory. Just as fish cannot live without water, compassion cannot develop without agelessness. For the practice of Zen, you must pass the barrier set up by the ancient masters of Zen.

To attain to marvelous enlightenment, you must completely extinguish all the delusive thoughts of the ordinary mind. We run into trouble only when we close down and couldn’t care less—when we’re too cynical or depressed or full of doubt even to bother.

Zen Koan: “Happy Chinaman” Parable

Anyone walking about Chinatowns in America with observe statues of a stout fellow carrying a linen sack. Chinese merchants call him Happy Chinaman or Laughing Buddha.

This Hotei lived in the T’ang dynasty. He had no desire to call himself a Zen master or to gather many disciples about him. Instead he walked the streets with a big sack into which he would put gifts of candy, fruit, or doughnuts. These he would give to children who gathered around him in play. He established a kindergarten of the streets.

Whenever he met a Zen devotee he would extend his hand and say: “Give me one penny.” And if anyone asked him to return to a temple to teach others, again he would reply: “Give me one penny.”

Once he was about his play-work another Zen master happened along and inquired: “What is the significance of Zen?”

Hotei immediately plopped his sack down on the ground in silent answer.

“Then,” asked the other, “what is the actualization of Zen?”

At once the Happy Chinaman swung the sack over his shoulder and continued on his way.

Buddhist Insight on Human Dignity

Buddhism does not support passivity in the face of violence and evil. Beings by karma are bound to the individual human dignity. That blankness is connected with mindfulness. All of these parts are the path and bring a certain joy, certain strength to our practice. You have to relate to your country, its politics, its culture. It came to life after several hundred years of philosophical development. The British Zen Buddhist author and psychotherapist David Brazier writes in The Feeling Buddha,

Enlightenment means to experience with complete clarity the fact of dukkha – the travail of being born, working, relating to others, growing up, growing old and so on – is part and parcel of human dignity; that all attempts to run away from it are undignified and that this applies just as much to spirituality, psychologically or socially sophisticated forms of escapism as it does to worldly or primitive ones. People are not made happy by an endless supply of pleasures. many rich people are miserable. People are happy when they live noble lives. Misery is not created by lack of pleasure, but by resentment, bitterness, and the degradation of character. Rich people do not generally accumulate their wealth in order to have pleasures. They accumulate wealth because they think this will make them respectable. In this way they hope to set their minds at rest. Of course, in reality quite the opposite often results. The means by which wealth is accumulated often involves action which leaves a stain of guilt that the person never manages to live down.

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Saints Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas Vilified Women in Their Writings

You can find other disparaging remarks about women throughout the history of philosophy. Consider what seminal Catholic thinkers like Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas had to say about women:

  • “Woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from defect in the active force or from some material indisposition…”
    Source: St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, q. 92 a. 1
  • “Good order would have been wanting in the human family if some were not governed by others wiser than themselves. So by such a kind of subjection woman is naturally subject to man, because in man the discretion of reason predominates.”
    Source: St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, q.92 a.1 reply 2
  • “I don’t see what sort of help woman was created to provide man with, if one excludes the purpose of procreation. If woman was not given to man for help in bearing children, for what help could she be? To till the earth together? If help were needed for that, man would have been a better help for man. The same goes for comfort in solitude. How much more pleasure is it for life and conversation when two friends live together than when a man and a woman cohabitate?”
    Source: St. Augustine, Genesi Ad Litteram, 9, 5-9
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The Traditional Celebration of Thanksgiving

The First Thanksgiving (1912--1915) by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

Thanksgiving is a traditional celebration to mark an auspicious event.

Religious celebrations of gratitude took place among many settlers in the Americas in the 1600s. In the United States, the traditional celebration of Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November is associated with the Pilgrim settlers of the Plymouth colony in present day Massachusetts.

The most common account of the first Thanksgiving links the celebration to 1621, when the Pilgrims joined with indigenous people to give thanks for a particularly good harvest after a difficult year within the settlement. Several other settlements in the Americas around this time also have claims for celebrating early Thanksgiving.

The idea of the Thanksgiving event had its origins in England during the Protestant Reformation, when reformers were anxious to replace Catholic public holidays with feast days of their own. A tradition began of celebrating fortuitous events with a special thanksgiving meal; conversely, adverse events were marked by a day of fasting. It was hoped that giving thanks to God might bring further good fortune, while fasting might prevent additional disasters.

Even though several of the symbols and traditions of Thanksgiving are taken from the story of the Pilgrims at the Plymouth colony, the holiday is now a celebration of a spirit of gratefulness rather than a commemoration of a particular day or event. As a religious celebration, Thanksgiving is intended to remind those who celebrate it of God as the provider of all good things. Thanksgiving in the United States is also celebrated with a secular appreciation of the work ethic and perseverance of the early U.S. colonists.

Happy Thanksgiving

Here is the Proclamation of Thanksgiving by Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America. It was issued by William H. Seward, Lincoln’s Secretary of State on October 3, 1863.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,

Secretary of State

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Zen Koan #11: Parable of Story of Shunkai – Buddhist Teaching on Inner Strength

Zen Koan #11: Parable of Story of Shunkai - Buddhist Teaching on Inner Strength Your first impulse toward spirituality might put you into some particular spiritual scene; but if you work with that impulse, then the impulse gradually dies down and at some stage becomes tedious, monotonous. This is a useful message. Everything is absolute in the sense that there is no separation between you and others, between past and future. In reality, all realms lie within us. The one conveyance is the Buddha Way. She mentally conceived of an expeditious method: Afore she genuinely indicted anything down, she would first skim through the entire test to weed out the answers she did not understand. To be in bondage to your thoughts means to be influenced and carried away by various conditions in your surroundings.

Love can’t be exclusive. It is boundless, empty, open, and free. Spiritual friendship is too. One of them was rejoicing that his term was ending for the reason that the next day someone would be replacing him. Therefore, this interpretation does not hold here. At the tip of a fine strand of hair all the Buddha of the three times and the ten directions are turning the Dharma wheel. When you approach the practice with any expectations, you will not be able to sit well. Neither extreme is salutary.

Zen Koan: “Story of Shunkai” Parable

The exquisite Shunkai whose other name was Suzu was compelled to marry against her wishes when she was quite young. Later, after this marriage had ended, she attended the university, where she studied philosophy.

To see Shunkai was to fall in love with her. Moreover, wherever she went, she herself fell in love with others. Love was with her at the university, and afterwards when philosophy did not satisfy her and she visited the temple to learn about Zen, the Zen students fell in love with her. Shunkai’s whole life was saturated with love.

At last in Kyoto she became a real student of Zen. Her brothers in the sub-temple of Kennin praised her sincerity. One of them proved to be a congenial spirit and assisted her in the mastery of Zen.

The abbot of Kennin, Mokurai, Silent Thunder, was severe. He kept the precepts himself and expected the priests to do so. In modern Japan whatever zeal these priests have lost for Buddhism they seemed to have gained for having wives. Mokurai used to take a broom and chase the women away when he found them in any of his temples, but the more wives he swept out, the more seemed to come back.

In this particular temple the wife of the head priest had become jealous of Shunkai’s earnestness and beauty. Hearing the students praise her serious Zen made this wife squirm and itch. Finally she spread a rumor about that Shunkai and the young man who was her friend. As a consequence he was expelled and Shunkai was removed from the temple.

“I may have made the mistake of love,” thought Shunkai, “but the priest’s wife shall not remain in the temple either if my friend is to be treated so unjustly.”

Shunkai the same night with a can of kerosene set fire to the five-hundred-year-old temple and burned it to the ground. In the morning she found herself in the hands of the police.

A young lawyer became interested in her and endeavoured to make her sentance lighter. “Do not help me.” she told him. “I might decide to do something else which will only imprison me again.”

At last a sentance of seven years was completed, and Shunkai was released from the prison, where the sixty-year-old warden also had become enamored of her.

But now everyone looked upon her as a “jailbird”. No one would associate with her. Even the Zen people, who are supposed to believe in enlightenment in this life and with this body, shunned her. Zen, Shunkai found, was one thing and the followers of Zen quite another. Her relatives would have nothing to do with her. She grew sick, poor, and weak.

She met a Shinshu priest who taught her the name of the Buddha of Love, and in this Shunkai found some solace and peace of mind. She passed away when she was still exquisitely beautiful and hardly thirty years old.

She wrote her own story in a futile endeavour to support herself and some of it she told to a women writer. So it reached the Japanese people. Those who rejected Shunkai, those who slandered and hated her, now read of her life with tears of remorse.

Buddhist Insight on Inner Strength

In Zen Buddhism, there’s something in us, in our nature, which compels us to discover. By that, the meditation will gain the advantage of freshness and grow in inner strength. The opposite of generosity is parsimony, holding back—having a poverty mentality. Mere appearance without assertion and denial does not produce attachment. Hence their inability to see the truth. The American Tibetan Buddhist nun Pema Chodron writes in Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change,

You build inner strength through embracing the totality of your experience, both the delightful parts and the difficult parts. Embracing the totality of your experience is one definition of having loving-kindness for yourself. Loving-kindness for yourself does not mean making sure you’re feeling good all the time – trying to set up your life so that you’re comfortable every moment. Rather, it means setting up your life so that you have time for meditation and self-reflection, for kindhearted, compassionate, self-honesty. In this way you become more attuned to seeing when you’re biting the hook, when you’re getting caught in the undertow of emotions, when you’re grasping and when you’re letting go. This is the way you become a true friend to yourself just as you are, with both your laziness and your bravery. There is no step more important than this.

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Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #11: Thomas

Apostle #11 Thomas

The holy apostle Thomas is perhaps best remembered as “Doubting Thomas”—the apostle who, when told of the emergence of the risen Christ, declared, “I will never believe it unless I see the holes the nails made in his hands, put my finger on the nail-marks and my hand into his side” (John 20:25.)

Thomas’ reaction was definitely practical; perhaps the others overcome with grief were deluding themselves. He had witnessed the tragic death of his beloved master; how was he now to believe that Jesus was alive? Thomas wanted the same astonishing experience as the rest; he wanted proof. When Jesus did appear to him, and Thomas saw the same tortured body that had suffered on the cross, he was overpowered, and cried, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28) Thus, Thomas was one of the first to explicitly express Jesus’ divinity.

Apostle Thomas in India Yet Thomas was not only clearheaded, but also brave. During the winter, Jesus was forced out of Jerusalem for his teachings. Now, Jesus and his apostles were aware that if he returned, he and perhaps they would be killed. (John 11:8) Then a few months later word came that Jesus’ great friend Lazarus was gravely ill. The message spoke of illness, but Jesus knew that by the time the news arrived, Lazarus was already dead. Yet Jesus prepared to go to his friend in Bethany, some two miles from the city of Jerusalem, regardless of the risk to himself. Alarmed, the apostles argued against it; why go, they reasoned, if Lazarus was dead? It was Thomas who rallied the others, insisting, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16) Here Thomas is not a man of doubt, but of great courage and loyalty.

Several Apocryphal works have circulated under Thomas’ name. The Apocryphal works of Thomas: Acts of Thomas, Apocalypse of Thomas, Infancy Gospel of Thomas, Book of Thomas, and the Gospel of Thomas. There is much written about his fearless evangelical work and more speculation about his extensive missionary travels than any other of the Twelve. The church of the East and Assyria trace the succession of its bishops back to Thomas.

Apostle Thomas in India

Western India claims him as the founder of the early Christian church. The Acts of Thomas opens with a gathering of the apostles in Jerusalem. They are dividing the world by lot to evangelize. When Thomas receives India, he objects on the ground of his ethnicity: “How can I,” he protests, “as a Hebrew man, go among the Indians to announce the truth?” As a follower of Jesus in India, he is a minority of one, not just linguistically, but spiritually too. Eventually, his goal is to bring that huge majority of unbelieving Indians over to his side, to transform isolation into predominance, into a network to which all can belong. According to tradition, Saint Thomas was supposedly killed at St. Thomas Mount, near Chennai, in 72 A.D. and his body was entombed in Mylapore. Ephraim the Syrian states that the Apostle was martyred in India, and that his relics were removed then to Ede.

  • His symbol is a T-square.
  • Holy days: October 6 in the Eastern churches; July 3 in the West.
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Zen Koan #10: Parable of The Last Poem of Hoshin – Buddhist Teaching on Suffering and Growth

Zen Koan #10: Parable of The Last Poem of Hoshin - Buddhist Teaching on Suffering and Growth Unacknowledged emotions gradually manifested as pain, on an emotional and sometimes physical level. Turning towards them, and accepting them fully, helped to resolve them. What facilities does one get in Nirvana? Looking directly at our thoughts without further elaboration, we find that thought is like a cloud that dissolves into the sky. This source, or Buddha nature, is the ebullient manifestation of great liberation and great sapience.

Repeatedly, we would point out that what we were doing now was fun, and that to be in the present moment had its own value. If you can do this even for a split second, you will transcend the state of emptiness. This training of forbearing conscious endeavor must have exerted an impact on her poetic voice in which any kind of reaction to the happenings in the objective world is curbed, and in which vigorous personal feelings and poetic conceptions are restrained.

All these contrivances of Zen Meditation can avail to reduce the meddling and interference of the mind; in other words, they can avail to reduce the activities of one’s subjectivity. However, should you treat the method in the same way as a wandering thought—putting it down as soon as it appears? No.

Zen Koan: “The Last Poem of Hoshin” Parable

The Zen Master Hoshin lived in China many years. Then he returned to the northeastern part of Japan, where he taught his disciples. When he was getting very old, he told them a story he had heard in China. This is the story.

One year on the twenty-fifth of December, Tokufu, who was very old, said to his disciples: “I am not going to be alive next year so you fellows should treat me well this year.”

The pupils thought he was joking, but since he was a great-hearted teacher each of them in turn treated him to a feast on succeeding days of the departing year.

On the eve of the new year, Tokufu concluded: “You have been good to me. I shall leave tomorrow afternoon when the snow has stopped.”

The disciples laughed, thinking he was aging and talking nonsense since the night was clear and without snow. But at midnight snow began to fall, and the next day they did not find their teacher about. They went to the meditation hall. There he had passed on.

Hoshin, who related this story, told his disciples: “It is not necessary for a Zen master to predict his passing, but if he really wishes to do so, he can.”

“Can you?” someone asked.

“Yes,” answered Hoshin. “I will show you what I can do seven days from now.”

None of the disciples believed him, and most of them had even forgotten the conversation when Hoshin called them together.

“Seven days ago,” he remarked, “I said I was going to leave you. It is customary to write a farewell poem, but I am neither a poet or a calligrapher. Let one of you inscribe my last words.”

His followers thought he was joking, but one of them started to write.

“Are you ready?” Hoshin asked.

“Yes sir,” replied the writer.

Then Hoshin dictated:

I came from brillancy
And return to brillancy.
What is this?

This line was one line short of the customary four, so the disciple said: “Master, we are one line short.”

Hoshin, with the roar of a conquering lion, shouted “Kaa!” and was gone.

Buddhist Insight on Suffering and Growth

Beings are distracted, as if they were in a dream. That is the essence of suffering and growth—spiritually and emotionally. Therefore, with the beloved mind of enlightenment, even if you burn only one incense stick and offer the fragrance to the holy objects and so on, the merit you will gather will be gigantic. Therefore, it is useless to do harm, and certainly, it is proper to bear it. You will find that gradually and almost unnoticed, your attitude begins to change. The British Zen Buddhist author and psychotherapist David Brazier writes in The Feeling Buddha,

Every one of us has our story, and in that story there is suffering. Suffering is terrible, but a story without suffering is dull. The word ‘spirit’ has something to do with the way we encounter adversity. A spiritual life should be a spirited one. The planet on which we live is beautiful, a kind of paradise. Yet, in the midst of the most amazing blessings, grief falls like an unexpected hail storm on a summer day, or like a winter of unexpected severity. Nor is it just the moment of injury that hurts. The pain goes on. The mother who loses a child may mourn for he rest of her life. The losses and separations that we all encourage mark us and make us. Nobody is truly mature who has not suffered.

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