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Zen Koan #28: Parable of Open Your Own Treasure House – Buddhist Teaching on Wise Choices

Zen Koan #28: Parable of Open Your Own Treasure House - Buddhist Teaching on Wise Choices Buddha just means awake; one who is awake. When we allow thoughts, we can create incredible stories that make us laugh and make us cry. The more you try to control your mind, the more stray thoughts will come up to bother you. At this point, we may have come to the conclusion that we should drop the whole game of spiritual materialism; that is; we should give up trying to defend and improve ourselves.

Let’s return to the opening lines of the poem, “The Supreme Way is not difficult if only you do not pick and choose.” Actually, it is not hard to reach enlightenment if you do not grasp or reject. If you carried it home with you, your bowels would be in serious trouble. They ponder over all sorts of issues. They doubt the method and whether they can reach their objective. It requires meticulous attention. Those who do not practice Zen are not aware of their deepest vexations.

Daily problems and the pain of daily life may often feel almost poisonous. However, meditative awareness can help you to convert that poison into medicine, the medicine of cheerfulness. Taking refuge in the Dharma means taking refuge in the law, in the way things are; it is acknowledging our surrender to the truth and allowing the Dharma to unfold within us.

Zen Koan: “Open Your Own Treasure House” Parable

Daiju visited the master Baso in China. Baso asked: “What do you seek?”

“Enlightenment,” replied Daiju.

“You have your own treasure house. Why do you search outside?” Baso asked.

Daiju inquired: “Where is my treasure house?”

Baso answered: “What you are asking is your treasure house.”

Daiju was enlightened! Ever after he urged his friends: “Open your own treasure house and use those treasures.”

Buddhist Insight on Wise Choices

In Zen Buddhism, these words embody an experience just as the world love embodies an experience of mind and body. All these phenomena arise dependent upon a number of casual factors. Doing so will help one to forget one’s insignificant worries and troubles, to clarify one’s thinking, and to recall the decisive values and truths upon which one should build one’s life. With wise choices, no discipline is ever needed. The British meditation teacher Christina Feldman writes in The Buddhist Path to Simplicity,

How much of the knowledge, information, and strategies of our story serve us well? In our life story we experience hurt, pain, fear and rejection, at times caused by others, at others self-inflicted. Understanding what causes sorrow, pain, and devastation translates into discriminating wisdom, and we do not knowingly expose ourselves to these conditions. We are all asked to make wise choices in our lives – choices rooted in understanding rather than fear.

The Buddha used the analogy of a raft. Walking beside a great river, the bank we are standing on is dangerous and frightening and the other bank is safe. We collect branches and foliage to build a raft to transport us to the other shore. Having made the journey safely, supposing we picked up the raft and carried it on our head wherever we went. Would we be using the raft wisely? The obvious answer is “No.” A reasonable person would know how useful the raft has been, but wisdom would be to leave the raft behind and walk on unencumbered.

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Zen Koan #27: Parable of Voice of Happiness – Buddhist Teaching on Groundlessness

Zen Koan #27: Parable of Voice of Happiness - Buddhist Teaching on Groundlessness Zen meditation was found to reduce stress and blood pressure, and be efficacious for a variety of conditions, as suggested by positive findings in therapists and musicians. Subliminal processing is frequently thought to be automatic and independent of attention. However, the present framework implies that top-down attention and task set can have an effect on subliminal processing. People respond to arduousness in different ways. Let it ache away. It is for the reason that you choose and reject that you are not free. Zen meditation increases access to unconscious information.

On completing the great supreme dharma, there is the arising of the wisdom of the path of seeing. It has the nature of sixteen moments. There are also other states that are terrifying. Meditation takes gumption. It is certainly a great deal easier just to sit back and watch television. So why bother? Simple. For the reason that you are human. Heavenly states can only be attained by performing meritorious deeds with a minimum of desire. However, the methods themselves are wandering poetic conceptions. If you are really paying attention to the method, you will be aware of a stray thought as soon as it arises. Later, there will be things to learn in other places.”

Zen Koan: “Voice of Happiness” Parable

After Bankei had passed away, a blind man who lived near the master’s temple told a friend:

“Since I am blind, I cannot watch a person’s face, so I must judge his character by the sound of his voice. Ordinarily when I hear someone congratulate another upon his happiness or success, I also hear a secret tone of envy. When condolence is expressed for the misfortune of another, I hear pleasure and satisfaction, as if the one condoling was really glad there was something left to gain in his own world.

“In all my experience, however, Bankei’s voice was always sincere. Whenever he expressed happiness, I heard nothing but happiness, and whenever he expressed sorrow, sorrow was all I heard.”

Buddhist Insight on Groundlessness

Groundlessness 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 interdependent and without abiding form. In addition, it is possible to feel that because one is proficient origin of great suffering this faculty raises one above the insensitive herd. After a little while, he was able to sit up, feeling very much better than he had felt for a long time. In addition, he began to think about why it was he had fainted, and why he was now feeling so much refreshed in body and mind. The American Tibetan Buddhist nun Pema Chodron writes in Buddha’s Daughters,

When things fall apart and we’re on the verge of we know not what, the test for each of us is to stay on the brink and not concretize. The spiritual journey is not about heaven and finally getting to a place that’s really swell. In fact, that way of looking at things is what keeps us miserable. Thinking that we can find some lasting pleasure and avoid pain is what in Buddhism is called samsara, a hopeless cycle that goes round and round endlessly and causes us to suffer greatly.

The very first noble truth of the Buddha points out that suffering is inevitable for human beings as long as we believe that things last – that they don’t disintegrate, that they can be counted on to satisfy our hunger for security. From this point of view, the only time we ever know what’s really going on is when the rug’s been pulled out and we can’t find anywhere to land. We use these situations either to wake ourselves up or to put ourselves to sleep. Right now – in the very instant of groundlessness – is the seed of taking care of those who need our care and of discovering our goodness.

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Zen Koan #26: Parable of Trading Dialogue for Lodging – Buddhist Teaching on the Eyes of Love

Zen Koan #26: Parable of Trading Dialogue for Lodging - Buddhist Teaching on the Eyes of Love In our most tenebrous times of being disoriented or inundated, there is additionally sapience in reaching out to ask for avail. The mentors, sagacious friends, and guides who treasure our celebrity, are allies to call upon in the moments of greatest pain. However, if you go one step further into no mind, you cannot even be in the present. There is a saying that is useful for practitioners: “Put down the myriad thoughts.” Even if you convince yourself intellectually that everything is illusory, you may still have a lurking concept of the reality of things and be attached to them.

The feeling of resistance to the pain, the feeling of utter helplessness, and the feeling of hopelessness disappear. To respond appropriately to any given situation, an individual must have some understanding of that situation. A practitioner should not consider his own security. However, the effort to still your mind will cause it to become more active. There might be more placidity. Originally, you had to work very hard on your method, but when you get to the second level, everything flows naturally.

This does not mean that you do nothing, but that your mind is in a state of rest. Their minds are filled with thoughts of misery and a sense of failure.

Zen Koan: “Trading Dialogue for Lodging” Parable

Provided he makes and wins an argument about Buddhism with those who live there, any wondering monk can remain in a Zen temple. If he is defeated, he has to move on.

In a temple in the northern part of Japan two brother monks were dwelling together. The elder one was learned, but the younger one was stupid and had but one eye.

A wandering monk came and asked for lodging, properly challenging them to a debate about the sublime teachings. The elder brother, tired that day from much studying, told the younger one to take his place. “Go and request the dialogue in silence,” he cautioned.

So the young monk and the stranger went to the shrine and sat down.

Shortly afterwards the traveler rose and went in to the elder brother and said: “Your young brother is a wonderful fellow. He defeated me.”

“Relate the dialogue to me,” said the elder one.

“Well,” explained the traveler, “first I held up one finger, representing Buddha, the enlightened one. So he held up two fingers, signifying Buddha and his teaching. I held up three fingers, representing Buddha, his teaching, and his followers, living the harmonious life. Then he shook his clenched fist in my face, indicating that all three come from one realization. Thus he won and so I have no right to remain here.” With this, the traveler left.

“Where is that fellow?” asked the younger one, running in to his elder brother.

“I understand you won the debate.”

“Won nothing. I’m going to beat him up.”

“Tell me the subject of the debate,” asked the elder one.

“Why, the minute he saw me he held up one finger, insulting me by insinuating that I have only one eye. Since he was a stranger I thought I would be polite to him, so I held up two fingers, congratulating him that he has two eyes. Then the impolite wretch held up three fingers, suggesting that between us we only have three eyes. So I got mad and started to punch him, but he ran out and that ended it!”

Buddhist Insight on Seeing With The Eyes of Love

In Zen Buddhism, it is quite likely that the mental faculty is most active at every crucial hour. If there’s confusion and doubt, to read something or to speak with someone—it just reminds you of another part of yourself that’s a counter to that, so then you come into enough stability to watch it. By the damp womb, it is fettered, in unbearable fearful stench. Practically anything useful can be given as a gift when seen with the eyes of love. The Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh writes in Teachings On Love,

When the energy of love is strong in us, we can send it to beings in all directions. But we must not think that love meditation is only an act of imagination – we might imagine our love as being like waves of sound or light, or like a pure, white cloud that forms slowly and gradually spreads out to envelop the whole world. A true cloud produces rain. Sound and light penetrate everywhere, and our love must do the same. We have to observe whether our mind of love is present in our actual contact with others. Practicing love meditation in the sitting position is only the beginning.

But it is an important beginning. We sit quietly and look deeply into ourselves. With practice, our love will increase naturally, becoming all-inclusive and all-embracing. As we learn to see with the eyes of love, we empty our minds of anger and hatred.

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

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

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

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

Zen Koan: “Three Days More” Parable

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

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

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

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

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

On the second day the pupil was enlightened.

Buddhist Insight on Attention and Awareness

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

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

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

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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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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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