Thursday, May 27, 2010

What does Zen teach about God?

I get asked this question a LOT, along with "Do you believe in God?"

Zen is the art of being totally immersed in the moment. This second, this breath is all we have. Everything else is illusion. In Zen we attempt to strip away all the fluff, all the unnecessary wrappings that hold us back from full awakening. So what many will call my overly simplistic response is: "We don't worry about things like that." If you knew for a matter of fact, with every cell of your body that God did not exist, would you change the way you live? So far everyone I have asked have said no. Then? The Buddha taught that all sentient beings have everything they need within them. When we seek externally, we hold ourselves back.

Developing compassion to the point where all our thoughts, deeds, actions, our very essence are ruled by compassion and wisdom is the utmost expression of our buddha nature. So I would say if someone's answer to the question above was "Yes," they have more work for the cushion, and that it is more important than the other existential questions we can become bogged down with.

Ishu Kinshu

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Finding a standpoint

I was talking to a dharma friend today. She guessed we were almost in the same standpoint regarding buddhism.

I immediately asked myself where my standplace was. When I first contacted the Boundless Way school I was making a slow attempt of transition from theravada to chan/zen. I didn't know if I would succeed and through this time I've been strongly based on the teachings of the Pali Canon. With time I've learnt to discuss, question and defend certain viewpoints, creating in this way a kind of identity, which as with all sense of identity is subject to decay and death.

Some place in the process I feel like I lost contact with something essential. Something I can only get in contact through abandoning what I've learnt, what I have, what I am... standing alone, naked and in silence, shading light into it until it reveals itself, wandering along, finding no standpoint, just as leaves do not say "my true nature is green" or "my true nature is yellow" in this boundless empty field.

It has nothing to do with buddhism or any other -ism. Becoming proficient in defending a certain view has nothing to do with it either. If it had, it would be like setting boundaries to the boundless. It cannot be done, no matter how hard one tries.

Seeking a home, seeking a refuge I was worried about where my standpoint was and thus my mouth was dry like a desert. My feet treading the boundless way, the sky as the limits of my head, where could worry find a standpoint?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Do not squander your life!

To end our evening practice at Open Gate,
we recite the following gatha:

Let me respectfully remind you,
Life and death are of supreme importance,
Time passes swiftly and opportunity is lost.
Each of us should strive to awaken,
Awaken, take heed! Do not squander your life.

What exactly does it mean to awaken?
How do we know when we are awakened?
How do we know when someone else is awakened?
Despite all our years of practice;
If we never see ourselves as being awakened,
have we simply "squandered" our lives?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Karmic Ripples

Someone who came to zazen last night said something that has bearing on the last post about service - and also on the debate we had some months ago about missionary activity.

To recap  that debate, some thought you should meditate lots yourself so you become deeply fine and that this would both set an example to others and make one better company for the rest of the planet; others (a minority on this blog) felt part of the Bodhisattva path lay in sharing those techniques with anyone who showed even the slightest willingness to listen. Spiritual hermits v Buddha's Witnesses.

Last night a lady came to meditate who hadn't sat with the group for three years. Three years ago I put on my Buddha's Witnesses hat and did a leaflet drop of the neighbourhood. She took a zazen lesson, sat a couple of times with the group, then disappeared. A-ha! Kaishin clearly a rubbish meditation teacher! He should not be teaching but still should be sitting on his own, perfecting himself!

Yeah, true about me not being up there with the Dalai Lama. BUT...
What happened is she met at zazen a vipassaana practitioner, who gave her a leaflet. Now, despite my limitations as a teacher, the taste she got of the fruits of meditation was enough to make her want more, so she took up the leaflet's offer of a free 10 day retreat. Three years on and she's been there more than once and meditation is the rock upon which her life is founded.

So you don't have to be able to levitate before you teach people to meditate. Clearly I have flaws as a teacher and/or zendo leader, or she'd have stayed with "my" group. However, the karmic fruit of introducing her to the meditation scene was very great. Just think - if I'd been terribly modest and NOT posted those "come and learn" leaflets, if I'd worried whether I was yet perfect enough - that positive change in her life wouldn't have happened.

So if you're not dipping your toe in the lake for fear you're not pure enough, think about the wonderful karmic ripples you could be setting in motion...but are not.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

At your service . . .

"We must be the change we wish to see in the world"


Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

-Margaret Mead

Many Buddhists are under the impression that they are making the world a better place through their Buddhist practice. If these people were formerly spending their time looting, raping, and pillaging, and their practice has helped them to stop doing these things, then they are right. Otherwise, their practice is, in all likelihood, only helping to maintain the status quo. But keeping the world from becoming a worse place is not the same thing as making it a better place.

While using Buddhist practice to calm and center yourself is a good place to start, truly improving the world requires moving beyond the meditation cushion, beyond the zendo or temple, and actively engaging in a life of service. The Buddha himself recognized this when, after his enlightenment, he passed up the chance to live a peaceful, reclusive life and decided instead to spread peace by helping others to wake up as well. He spent the bulk of his life in service as a teacher, counselor, and advisor, and the fruits of this service are still evident 2600 years later.

So, I challenge you to serve. Move beyond the mere intellectual understanding that we are all connected into an active realization of this fact. Pick up trash in the streets and parks. Buy a homeless person a meal. Teach meditation to prisoners. The possibilities are endless - but you have to start somewhere. In time, you may even find that an hour of service can be a more effective practice than 10 hours spent in meditation.

Be the change.

What will you do?