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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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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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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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Zen Koan #20: Parable of A Mother’s Advice – Buddhist Teaching on Love and Relationships

Zen Koan #20: Parable of A Mother's Advice - Buddhist Teaching on Love and Relationships Thought and emotion work together in receiving and processing information about the world and in guiding goal-oriented behavior. Emotions incline us toward or away from options, not simply as motivators but as identifiers of these options. They include any doubts about the correctness of your method, or whether your decision to attend this retreat was a right or a wrong one.

We can pursue scientific discovery without knowing what we are looking for, for the reason that the gradient of deepening coherence tells us where to start and which way to turn, and eventually brings us to the point where we may stop and claim a discovery. Practice is the last best hope of living up to that good-heartedness, the only thing that never hurts and customarily avails. In any activity, you have to find just the right way to do it.

Knowing the dimensions of the perception will help you determine the framing that will communicate exactly what you’ve seen. Therefore, we veraciously endeavor the method and then we work with what comes up. I’ll just put the method aside and let my mind wander a little bit. This is a wrong way to practice. There are some who admit they are not enlightened, but nevertheless refuse to recognize accepted rules of behavior.

Zen Koan: “A Mother’s Advice” Parable

Jiun, a Shingon master, was a well-known Sanskrit scholar of the Tokugawa era. When he was young he used to deliver lectures to his brother students.

His mother heard about this and wrote him a letter:

“Son, I do not think you became a devotee of the Buddha because you desired to turn into a walking dictionary for others. There is no end to information and commentation, glory and honor. I wish you would stop this lecture business. Shut yourself up in a little temple in a remote part of the mountain. Devote your time to meditation and in this way attain true realization.”

Buddhist Insight on Love and Relationships

In love and in relationships, meditation is simply a question of being, of melting, like a piece of butter left in the sun. Here there are the expression of offering and the promise to compose the text. Finally, mindfulness is essential to seeing all the precepts, and one’s constant effort to maintain the precepts in turn issues in an increase in the clarity of mindfulness. The American clinical psychologist John Welwood, who frequently writes about the integration of psychological and spiritual concepts, writes in Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships,

Imagining others to be the source of love condemns us to wander lost in the desert of hurt, abandonment, and betrayal, where human relationships appear to be hopelessly tragic and flawed. As long as we fixate on what our parents didn’t give us, the ways our friends don’t constantly show up for us, or the ways our lover doesn’t understand us, we will never become rooted in ourselves and heal the wound of the heart. To grow beyond the dependency of a child requires sinking our own taproot into the wellspring of great love. This is the only way to know for certain that we are loved unconditionally.

In emphasizing the importance of not looking to others for perfect love, I am not suggesting that you turn away from relationships or belittle their importance. On the contrary, learning to sink your taproot into the source of love allows you to connect with others in a more powerful way – “straight up,” confidently rooted in your own ground, rather than leaning over, always trying to get something from “out there.” The less you demand total fulfillment from relationships, the more you can appreciate them for the beautiful tapestries they are, in which absolute and relative, perfect and imperfect, infinite and finite are marvelously interwoven. You can stop fighting and shifting tides of relative love and learn to ride them instead. And you come to appreciate more fully the simple, ordinary heroism involved in opening to another person and forging real intimacy.

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Zen Koan #19: Parable of The First Principle – Buddhist Teaching on Qualities Within

Zen Koan #19: Parable of The First Principle - Buddhist Teaching on Qualities Within Zen mind is one of those enigmatic phrases utilized by Zen edifiers to make you descry yourself, to transcend the words and wonder what your own mind and being are. This is the purport of all Zen edifying—to make you wonder and to answer that wondering with the deepest expression of your own nature. Fixating on what’s transpiring right here and right now, which is this physical body, whatever sensations there might be, and breathing.

Someone may think, “If a good person is the same as a bad person, wouldn’t this create a lot of confusion?” This problem does not arise for one who is deeply enlightened. The experience of one’s method and body disappearing can be due to two factors. It is still on a worldly level. It is not that they will not arise, but you will not worry about them.

Hold on to one method and go into it as deeply as possible. You are all cognizant that this Zen center is not an ideal environment for practice. It’s a spirit of taking what comes to us and really working with it. You can learn from that as well as anything else. Let it be simple. However, this creates a duality of subject and object. A carefree approach does not mean not caring about how you practice; it means considering anything that happens as natural.

Zen Koan: “The First Principle” Parable

When one goes to Obaku temple in Kyoto he sees carved over the gate the words “The First Principle”. The letters are unusually large, and those who appreciate calligraphy always admire them as being a mastepiece. They were drawn by Kosen two hundred years ago.

When the master drew them he did so on paper, from which the workmen made the large carving in wood. As Kosen sketched the letters a bold pupil was with him who had made several gallons of ink for the calligraphy and who never failed to criticise his master’s work.

“That is not good,” he told Kosen after his first effort.

“How is this one?”

“Poor. Worse than before,” pronounced the pupil.

Kosen patiently wrote one sheet after another until eighty-four First Principles had accumulated, still without the approval of the pupil.

Then when the young man stepped outside for a few moments, Kosen thought: “Now this is my chance to escape his keen eye,” and he wrote hurriedly, with a mind free from distraction: “The First Principle.”

“A masterpiece,” pronounced the pupil.

Buddhist Insight on Awakening the Dormant Qualities Within

Having the good fortune of formerly hoarded merit, those of the highest powers, with the condition of the holy guru, are unshackled just by realizing that they are already liberated. By awakening the dormant qualities within, the nature of mind should be gripped as being like space, according to Zen Buddhism. Instead of being less conscious, rather than running away or deluding yourself, what brings you face-to-face with life and awakens you up—Cultivate that. The British meditation teacher Christina Feldman writes in The Buddhist Path to Simplicity,

The third of the wise and skillful efforts is the effort to encourage, inspire, and cultivate the emergence of the healing, lovely, and wise qualities of heart and mind that lie dormant within us. Vision reminds us of our capacity to listen deeply, to be aware, and to realize our own potential for greatness of heart and mind. It is wise effort to nudge those seeds of potential from dormancy into life. In the midst of our impatience in a traffic jam, we surprise ourselves by cultivating loving kindness. As we turn away with aversion from the person begging from us on the street, we pause for a moment and remember the power of compassion. As we feel ourselves becoming seduced by our inner stories of resentment or bitterness, we remind ourselves of our own capacity to find balance and calm. In the moments when feel we feel most despairing, powerless, or confused, we remember that we have the capacity to listen deeply and find connectedness. We remind ourselves of the simplicity, calm, and peace possible, and we cultivate them.

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Zen Koan #18: A Parable – Buddhist Teaching on the Heart of Compassion

Zen Koan #18: A Parable - Buddhist Teaching on the Heart of Compassion Zen Meditation should just be a part of life. Zen people verbalize about viciousness for the reason that when you arouse, the maps that hold your notions are suddenly gone. Our intention in receiving the precepts is not just to bring awareness to behavior, as one might expect, but also to explore, as the thirteenth-century Zen master Dogen Zenji suggests, who we think we are. This is why there are various levels in Zen Buddhism. However, during the vacation, their minds will scatter and their concentration will dissipate.

This is crucial to how Zen Meditation helps us, for the reason that everything we do is colored by our state of mind. For instance, if we feel good, then things seem interesting, and we want to learn; we’re intrigued. If someone needs a demon, a demon will appear; if they need the Buddha, then the Buddha will appear; if someone needs Zen practice, then Zen methods appear. Soon the snores may become hypnotic and repetitive, actually pleasant sounding. You have to hold it just right—not too tight, not too loose.

When it comes to practice, however, it is arduous for us to apply the same principle. Those who tend to talk non-stop generally have difficulty with practice, and also make it difficult for others to practice.

Zen Koan: “A Parable” Parable

Buddha told a parable in sutra:

A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him.

Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!

Buddhist Insight on The Heart of Compassion

In Zen Buddhism, the offering ends with the practitioners asking the deities to forgive them for any mistakes in the performance of the procedural, such as improperly reciting the words of the text. With a heart of compassion, a mother should contemplate carefully whether she should continue to be a working mother of a homemaker giving all the fondness and care for the well-being of her child. The American author Marc Ian Barasch writes in Searching for the Heart of Compassion,

At its root meaning of “to suffer with,” compassion challenges our tendency to flinch away from life’s too-tender parts. I know this much: when I acknowledge my own pain, I am much less squeamish about drawing nearer to yours. I see to acquire my compassion piecemeal, hurt by hurt. After a bad sprain and time spent on crutches, I became more sympathetic to the locomotion-impaired – the lame and the wheelchair bound, those who hobbled on canes and walkers.

Perhaps Thomas Aquinas was not far off when he claimed. “No one becomes compassionate unless he suffers.” I take this less as a mandate fro medieval masochism than an indecorous call to embrace our own authentic experience. If we’re not at home with the depth of our feelings, we’re likely to skirt the deep feelings of others.

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Zen Koan #17: Parable of Stingy in Teaching – Buddhist Teaching on Compassion

Zen Koan #17: Parable of Stingy in Teaching - Buddhist Teaching on Compassion The potential for Buddhahood is already within your own nature. However, for the reason that the Dharma body of the Buddha has no self, all sentient beings are identical to this body. Bearing witness has to be done by first entering the state of not knowing. However, as soon as you reach this stage, leave it behind. This uncanny fact—radical individuality within the context of shared understanding—seems to be an indelible feature of Zen.

No matter where they ambulate, they step into shit. When you first set out to practice, you will definitely have a goal in mind. However, today the sitting went very poorly. Don’t pay attention to any phenomenon that occurs to the body; if you are concerned with it, problems will arise. Your mind is at rest within activity. To him it would be ideal if they would just do their job and not have to eat. In the end, you will not have achieved a concentrated mind but an attached mind. There is no affirming, no hope of gaining something back, no probing for gratitude, and certainly no probing for control, influence, or potency.

Precisely for the reason that we want to acquire the Buddha’s insight and merits, we are unable to perceive Buddha nature. The most important thing in practice is to be natural and spontaneous.

Zen Koan: “Stingy in Teaching” Parable

A young physician in Tokyo named Kusuda met a college friend who had been studying Zen. The young doctor asked him what Zen was.

“I cannot tell you what it is,” the friend replied, “but one thing is certain. If you understand Zen, you will not be afraid to die.”

“That’s fine,” said Kusuda. “I will try it. Where can I find a teacher?”

“Go to the master Nan-in,” the friend told him.

So Kusuda went to call on Nan-in. He carried a dagger nine and a half inches long to determine whether or not the teacher was afraid to die.

When Nan-in saw Kusuda he exclaimed: “Hello, friend. How are you? We haven’t seen each other for a long time!”

This perplexed Kusuda, who replied: “We have never met before.”

“That’s right,” answered Nan-in. “I mistook you for another physician who is receiving instruction here.”

With such a begining, Kusuda lost his chance to test the master, so reluctantly he asked if he might receive instruction.

Nan-in said: “Zen is not a difficult task. If you are a physician, treat your patients with kindness. That is Zen.”

Kusuda visited Nan-in three times. Each time Nan-in told him the same thing. “A phsisician should not waste time around here. Go home and take care of your patients.”

It was not clear to Kusuda how such teaching could remove the fear of death. So on the forth visit he complained: “My friend told me that when one learns Zen one loses his fear of death. Each time I come here you tell me to take care of my patients. I know that much. If that is your so-called Zen, I am not going to visit you anymore.”

Nan-in smiled and patted the doctor. “I have been too strict with you. Let me give you a koan.” He presented Kusuda with Joshu’s Mu to work over, which is the first mind-enlightening problem in the book called The Gateless Gate.

Kusuda pondered this problem of Mu (No-Thing) for two years. At length he thought he had reached certainty of mind. But his teacher commented: “You are not in yet.”

Kusuda continued in concentration for another yet and a half. His mind became placid. Problems dissolved. No-Thing became the truth. He served his patients well and, without even knowing it, he was free from concern of life and death.

Then he visited Nan-in, his old teacher just smiled.

Buddhist Insight on Compassion Ends Separation

One of the fundamental points of the spiritual journey is to endure along the path. After the Buddha was enlightened, he was walking down the road in a very happy state. His compassion terminated the separation. Therefore, you take the attitude that you are willing to dedicate yourself to others. You’re still working with the breath, all these states come, and you try to hold them. The British meditation teacher Christina Feldman writes in Compassion: Listening to the Cries of the World,

The universe is full of beings, those you know and those who will be forever strangers. The world is made up of those you care for, those who you are indifferent to, and those you fear or dislike. With those you love and care for, your compassion is often unhesitating; you real out to console, support, and encourage without reservation. With those who are strangers, your response may vary. … You listen again to the anguish of the person you resent and find that your history of struggle with him is released, as the hardness of your heart begins to soften. Suddenly you are present in a new way – free of prejudice and fear. It is as if your heart has expanded, revealing all of life in one organism.

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Zen Koan #16: Parable of Not Far from Buddhahood – Buddhist Teaching on Reality

Zen Koan #16: Parable of Not Far from Buddhahood - Buddhist Teaching on Reality The realization of a Zen koan includes a somatic (non-verbal) constituent with variable levels of cognition, and occasionally the understanding includes some emotional aspects. Although the realization includes one or more of these three constituents, no single one of the three is essential to the experience of insight. That’s the kind of role model who embodies the warrior commitment.

Making time for friendship to develop—persevering with the challenges that relationship inevitably brings—respects the value that community plays on our path. These two lines are speaking of the limitlessness of space. But if we fail to optically discern that a merely conventional, superficial purification is very much homogeneous to groping in the dark without the erudition of the import of ease, our spiritual horizon will draw itself within narrow limits like a snail retiring within the shell, and we may lose our pristine, intrinsic, spontaneous liberation and tranquility, which belong to the mind by its own constitution. As opposed to the pure fruition, approach where it is said that primordially here is nothing to purify. We may put ourselves under a nonessential yoke, moving only within a prescribed circle.

There is a paradox here: a universal orientation and an appropriation of the essence of our particular Zen traditions. As perception is free from conception, it is unconfused.

Zen Koan: “Not Far from Buddhahood” Parable

A university student while visiting Gasan asked him: “Have you ever read the Christian Bible?”

“No, read it to me,” said Gasan.

The student opened the Bible and read from St. Matthew: “And why take ye thought for rainment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these… Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.”

Gasan said: “Whoever uttered those words I consider an enlightened man.”

The student continued reading: “Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”

Gasan remarked: “That is excellent. Whoever said that is not far from Buddhahood.”

Buddhist Insight on Reality, Practice, and Path

In Zen Buddhism, if one is to do well, it must be done in the minute particulars. It’s true about jobs too; there is not the perfect job. That is how one should think about reality. The flower engagement has no form in practice and path. This set of strategies, if it’s too strong, you can rather cool it out a little by raising energy when you feel yourself being too sleepy or dull, or by working with mercy when the anger is too strong to just witness. The American Buddhist author Claude Whitmyer writes in Mindfulness and Meaningful Work,

All of us are apprenticed to the same teacher that the religious institutions originally worked with: reality. Reality-insight says get a sense of immediate politics and history, get control of your own time; master the twenty four hours. Do it well, without self-pity. It is as hard to get the children herded into the car pool and down the road to the bus as it is to chant sutras in the Buddha-hall on a cold morning. One move is not better than the other, each can be quite boring, and they both have the virtuous quality of repetition. Repetition and ritual and their good results come in many forms. Changing the filter, wiping noses, going to meetings, picking up around the house, washing dishes, checking the dipstick – don’t let yourself think these are distracting you from your more serious pursuits. Such a round of chores is not a set of difficulties we hope to escape from so that we may do our ‘practice’ which will put us on a ‘path’ – it is our path.

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