Thursday, December 30, 2010
I found section 5, "The Psychology of Metta" to be wonderful. If this broadens your understanding of Metta or if you know nothing of the practice but gain some insight into it from this posting that fills my heart! May you all be safe and protected. May you be peaceful and happy. May you be healthy and strong. May you experience ease of well being and except all the conditions of the world with wonder and joy.
Happy New Year!
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Meister Eckhart said "The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God's eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love."
Whether you believe in God or not is not the point...I believe in Life, Spirit....I call it the Divine. In Buddhism we say in greeting one another "Namaste" which means, "I bow to the Divine in you." I try to do that all the time because Divine IS IN YOU. If you have life in you, you have Divine in you. The Divine has been present in you BEFORE you were born. All life, everything has Divine in it. Love, peace, pain, emptiness, joy, sadness, growth are all part of the Divine. Because I am in the heart of the Ultimate Mind, the Divine, the Power, the Great Spirit, the Breath, Thought...whatever you want to call It, the Divine naturally is in my heart. If you are alive, conscious, breathing, you are part of real Life...the Divine. You are part of It and It is part of you. I am part of It, It is part of me. We are all related! "The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God's eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love." All life is Divine, trees, animals, the Buddha (all Buddhas), all spiritual masters, Jesus, my mother who passed away when I was a child....WE...
"We" kept repeating over and over in my head...through my heart. "We" is the Light that filled my being as I ran, it was the air that I breathed, it was the sun on my face....it was everyone that passed me in cars as I ran, birds flying above...You see, "We" encompasses everything. God is We. You are We, Life is We, I am We. I bow to the Divine in you because we share the Divine...we are Divine together. You are as much a part of me as my breath, my soul. "We" unites everything and makes it possible to understand how simple it is to love one another, how to appreciate how very precious life is...We is...Everything! I am comforted saying it over and over in my mind....I feel you, I feel Life, I feel Love...We are We!
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
This is a fantastic talk given by Kusala Bhikshu to students at a high school in Los Angeles. Bhikshu explains in a simple way and dispels sone common beliefs....
Do Buddhists Believe in God?
by Kusala Bhikshu
Why is it... The Buddha never talked about the One God of the desert, the Judeo-Christian God? Does this mean that all Buddhists are atheists and don’t believe in God? Did the Buddha believe in God?
These are some of the questions I would like to try and answer today.
The Buddha was born 500 years before Christ, in what is now Nepal. His dad was a king, his mom was a queen, and his dad wanted him to take over the family business (the kingdom) when he got older.
The kind of world the Buddha was born into was magical. Everything seemed to be alive. The trees, mountains, lakes, and sky were living and breathing with a variety of gods in charge. If you needed rain you asked one god, if you needed it to stop raining you asked another. The priests of India did all the religious work, and got paid for it.
In India at the time of the Buddha you became a priest if you were born into the right family, and not because of the school you went to, or the grades you got.
There were other kinds of religious people as well.
Mendicants were men who left their family, friends, and jobs to find the answers to life. They did not live in homes or apartments, but lived under trees and in caves, and would practice meditation all day long. They wanted to really be uncomfortable, so they could understand what suffering was all about.
Many kinds of meditation were practiced by these mendicants. In Tranquility Meditation for instance, you think about just one thing, like looking at a candle or saying a word over and over. When the mind becomes focused in oneness, you experience a great peacefulness.
Even if the mendicants were sitting in the rain on a cold day, they were still content. They found in their meditation practice the essence of happiness.
Renunciation is when you give up all the things that make your life pleasant. Sometimes the people with money and power in India would buy a lot of stuff to make themselves happy and their lives more comfortable, thinking that happiness and comfort depended on what they owned.
When the mendicants could see their own suffering clearly, after many years of renunciation, they understood that happiness was not dependent on the things they owned, but the kind of life they lived.
Even all the gods in India could not end the suffering of one human being.
At the age of 29, the Buddha stopped praying to the gods to end his suffering and the suffering of others. He left his family and friends, went to the edge of the forest, took off all his clothes and jewelry, covered his naked body with rags of cloth, cut off his hair and started to meditate.
He became a mendicant, and It took him six years of hard work and much suffering, but in the end he was able to stop his suffering forever (Nirvana) and help others stop their suffering as well.
Did the Buddha believe in God, the One God of the desert, the God of the Christians, Jews and Muslims?
Well... No... He didn't... Monotheism (only one God) was a foreign concept to the Buddha, his world was filled with many gods. The creator god Brahma being the most important one.
At the time of the Buddha, the only people practicing the religion of the One God of the desert, were the Jews. Remember, it was still 500 years before Christ came into the world.
The Buddha never left India. The Buddha walked from village to village... In his entire lifetime he never went any further than 200 miles from his birthplace.
The Buddha never met a Jew... And because of this, he never said anything about the One God of the desert.
There is also nothing in the teachings of the Buddha that suggest how to find God or worship the god's of India, although the Buddha himself was a theist (believed in gods), his teachings are non-theistic.
The Buddha was more concerned with the human condition: Birth, Sickness, Old age, and Death. The Buddhist path is about coming to a place of acceptance with these painful aspects of life, and not suffering through them.
Please be clear on this point... The Buddha is not thought of as a god in Buddhism and is not prayed to. He is looked up to and respected as a great teacher, in the same way we respect Abraham Lincoln as a great president.
He was a human being who found his perfection in Nirvana. Because of his Nirvana, the Buddha was perfectly moral, perfectly ethical, and ended his suffering forever.
Does that mean that every Buddhist in the world is an atheist?
No!!! I have met a lot of Buddhists who believe in God. I have met a lot of Buddhists who don’t believe in God... And a lot of Buddhists just don’t know.
All three points of view are OK if you’re Buddhist because suffering is more important than God in Buddhism.
Sometimes a student will ask me how everything in this world got started... "If you don’t have God in Buddhism then who or what caused the universe?"
When the Buddha was asked how the world started, he kept silent. In the religion of Buddhism we don’t have a first cause, instead we have a never ending circle of birth and death. In this world and in all worlds, there are many beginnings and ends. The model of life used in Buddhism has no starting place... It just keeps going and going.
Now having said that... If you’re a Buddhist it’s OK to believe God was the first cause... It really doesn't go against the teachings of the Buddha, his focus was on suffering... It's also OK to believe science has the answer… Like the big bang theory, etc... Some Buddhist’s don’t even care how it all started, and that’s fine too. Knowing how the world started is not going to end your suffering, it’s just going to give you more stuff to think about.
I hope you can see that God is not what Buddhism is about... Suffering is... And if you want to believe in God, as some Buddhists do, I suppose it's OK. But, Buddhist's don't believe God can end suffering. Only the teaching's of the Buddha can help us end suffering through wisdom and the activity of compassion.
In his whole life and in all his teachings the Buddha never said anything about the One God of the desert.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
There are many interpretations as to what enlightenment means and what the experience of the Buddha was on the day he declared as the earth was his witness that he was indeed free to love! Today, we tend to gravitate to the notion that enlightenment is some far off state to be worked at and perchance accomplished after a life time or many life times of heroic effort. The Buddha felt similarly and spent a great deal of time and energy engaged in rigorous spiritual practice and study before he finally came to rest at the foot of the bodhi tree.
Rest, a spiritual practice aligned with purity of heart, is what we do when we surrender, or more to the point, give up grasping toward some perfected and exalted state. Rest, Thomas Merton tells us, is a kind of simple "no-whereness and no-mindedness that has lost all preoccupation with a false or limited self." In other words, to rest is to be at peace in the possession of the sublime "Nothing". It is a radical yes to the presence of Loveand a dramatic shedding of the need to know, hold on to, or possess.
In these days of darkness, we are invited to rest in that which is unknown. Like the Buddha, we too may be exhausted from a life of too much, too many and too often. This may be our season to seek out a bodhi tree of our own.
May the deepening Darkness gently draw you into the silence ofLove.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Meditation for Beginners: 20 Practical Tips for Quieting the Mind
Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Todd Goldfarb at the We The Change blog.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
The First Mindfulness Training
Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivate compassion and learn ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.
The Second Mindfulness Training
Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to cultivate loving kindness and learn ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am committed to practice generosity by sharing my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.
The Third Mindfulness Training
Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.
The Fourth Mindfulness Training
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.
The Fifth Mindfulness Training
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I am committed to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
I absolutely LOVE Hanh's Fourteen Precepts of Engaged Buddhism. If I could completely I would be an enlightened soul. I hope you like them!
THE FOURTEEN PRECEPTS
OF ENGAGED BUDDHISM
By Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh (From the book Interbeing)
Do not think the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice nonattachment from views in order to be open to receive others' viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout your entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times.
Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education. However, through compassionate dialogue, help others renounce fanaticism and narrow-mindedness.
Do not avoid suffering or close your eyes before suffering. Do not lose awareness of the existence of suffering in the life of the world. Find ways to be with those who are suffering, including personal contact, visits, images and sounds. By such means, awaken yourself and others to the reality of suffering in the world.
Do not accumulate wealth while millions are hungry. Do not take as the aim of your life fame, profit, wealth, or sensual pleasure. Live simply and share time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need.
Do not maintain anger or hatred. Learn to penetrate and transform them when they are still seeds in your consciousness. As soon as they arise, turn your attention to your breath in order to see and understand the nature of your hatred.
Do not lose yourself in dispersion and in your surroundings. Practice mindful breathing to come back to what is happening in the present moment. Be in touch with what is wondrous, refreshing, and healing both inside and around you. Plant seeds of joy, peace, and understanding in yourself in order to facilitate the work of transformation in the depths of your consciousness.
Do not utter words that can create discord and cause the community to break. Make every effort to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.
Do not say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest or to impress people. Do not utter words that cause division and hatred. Do not spread news that you do not know to be certain. Do not criticize or condemn things of which you are not sure. Always speak truthfully and constructively. Have the courage to speak out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may threaten your own safety.
Do not use the Buddhist community for personal gain or profit, or transform your community into a political party. A religious community, however, should take a clear stand against oppression and injustice and should strive to change the situation without engaging in partisan conflicts.
Do not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature. Do not invest in companies that deprive others of their chance to live. Select a vocation that helps realise your ideal of compassion.
Do not kill. Do not let others kill. Find whatever means possible to protect life and prevent war.
Possess nothing that should belong to others. Respect the property of others, but prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.
Do not mistreat your body. Learn to handle it with respect. Do not look on your body as only an instrument. Preserve vital energies (sexual, breath, spirit) for the realisation of the Way. (For brothers and sisters who are not monks and nuns:) Sexual expression should not take place without love and commitment. In sexual relations, be aware of future suffering that may be caused. To preserve the happiness of others, respect the rights and commitments of others. Be fully aware of the responsibility of bringing new lives into the world. Meditate on the world into which you are bringing new beings.
From the book 'Interbeing': Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism, revised edition: Oct. l993 by Thich Nhat Hanh, published by Parallax Press, Berkeley, California
Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk, poet, peace activist, and the author of Being Peace, The Miracle of Mindfulness, and many other books. He lives in a monastic community in south-western France called Plum Village, where he teaches, writes, gardens, and works to help refugees world-wide. He conducts retreats throughout the world on the art of mindful living, and has conducted special retreats for American Vietnam War veterans, psychotherapists, artists, environmental activists and children.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
3. Right Speech
We are often judged by our words. Long after we leave this world, our words shall remain. Words can often be sharper than the blade of the sword, bringing harm to the spirit of a person which can cause wounds that are deeper and last longer than that of a dagger. Therefore, we must choose our words carefully. The Buddha realized 4 methods of speech that bring peace to our lives and the lives of those who surround us.
Words of Honesty: Speaking without truth can be a means to our end and to the end of others. Therefore, honesty is always the best policy.
Words of Kindness: Speaking words of kindness, we will never be the cause that divides hearts or puts brother against brother. We become peacemakers. Our words are cherished and valued and shall bring peacefulness to ourselves and to those surrounding us.
Words that are Nurturing: Words that comfort rather than harm the heart, shall travel to the heart, and bring long lasting peace.
Words that are Worthy: Speaking only what is worthy and valuable for the moment, our words will always be found sweet to the ears of others and shall always be considered in a peaceful manner. Words of gossip, untruth, and selfishness do not return to us with peace. The worth of our words is measured by how much they improve the silence.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
I found this helpful if you do not know the significance or even the meaning of Gassho or bowing, this article will help you immensely.
Notes on Gassho and Bowing
By Taizan Maezumi Roshi with John Daishin Buksbazen
Visitors to the Zen Center often ask about the gassho and about bowing. What, they inquire, is the meaning of these gestures? Why are they done? And why is it necessary to do them so precisely and uniformly? These questions deserve careful consideration.
Although we are Zen Buddhists, it should be noted that the gassho and the bow are common to all sects of Buddhism, both Mahayana and Theravada. These two gestures date from the earliest days of Buddhism, or even earlier than that, and they have moved from India throughout the Orient, finally arriving recently in the Western world.
When Shakyamuni Buddha's enlightenment occurred, he went to see five of his former comrades with whom he had practiced various austerities and spiritual disciplines prior to his enlightenment. These five men, who were very devout monks, felt that their companion had gone astray when he abandoned their customary practices. "Come," they said to each other, "Let's not pay any attention to poor Gautama, he no longer is one of us." They were dismayed to find that he had seemingly stopped his spiritual practices, going so far as to even drink milk and take a bath (two forbidden acts according to their tradition). They could not understand why he seemed only to sit quietly, doing nothing of any value.
But when the Buddha approached them, it is reported that these five monks were so struck by the transformation of their former friend, by his serenity and the radiance of his personality, that they spontaneously placed their palms together and greeted him with deep bows. Perhaps it is a little misleading to say that they greeted HIM. More accurately, it should be said that they were bowing not to their old friend Gautama, but rather to the Buddha
-- the Enlightened One.
What the Buddha had experienced was the Supreme Great Enlightenment (in Sanskrit, anuttara samyak sambodhi): the direct and conscious realization of the oneness of the whole universe, and of his own unity with all things. This is what enlightenment means. This very realization is actually in itself the act of being the Buddha. And it was to this enlightened state that the five monks bowed.
When the Buddha was enlightened, the first thing he said was: "Wonder of wonders! All sentient beings have the same (enlightened) nature!" What this implies is that in bowing to the Buddha, the monks were actually bowing to themselves, and to all beings. These monks were recognizing the great unity which their former companion had directly and profoundly experienced.
Let us examine the gassho and the bow more closely.
The word GASSHO literally means "To place the two palms together". Of all the mudras (symbolic hand-gestures or positions) we use, it is perhaps the most fundamental, for it arises directly from the depths of enlightenment. Its uses are many, but most commonly it is employed to express respect, to prevent scattering of the mind, to unify all polarities (such as left and right, passive and dominant, etc.) and to express the One Mind -- the total unity of Being.
Although there are many types of gassho, in the Soto sect we are primarily concerned with these four:
1. THE FIRM GASSHO. The most formal of the gasshos, this is the one most commonly used in our daily practice. It is the gassho we use upon entering the zendo, and upon taking our seats. We also use it at least sixteen times in the course of a formal meal, and during all services. It is made by placing the hands together, palm to palm in front of the face. The fingers are placed together, and are straight rather than bent, while the palms are slightly pressed together so that they meet. The elbows are held somewhat out from the body, although the forearms are not quite parallel with the floor. There is about one fist's distance between the tip of the nose and the hands. Fingertips are at about the same height from the floor as the top of the nose. This gassho has the effect of helping to establish an alert and reverential state of mind.
2. THE GASSHO OF NO-MIND. This is the next most commonly used gassho. It is basically used in greeting one another or our teachers. In this position, the hands are held a little more loosely together, with a slight space between the palms, although the fingers still touch. The elevation of the elbows from the floor is not so great as in the Firm Gassho; forearms should be at approximately a 45-degree angle to the floor. This gassho has the effect of deepening one's state of samadhi.
3. THE LOTUS GASSHO. This gassho is used primarily by officiating priests on special ceremonial occasions. It is made like the GASSHO OF NO-MIND, except that the tips of the middle fingers are held one inch apart. Its name derives from the resemblance of this hand position to the shape of a just-opening lotus bud.
4. THE DIAMOND GASSHO. This gassho is also known as the GASSHO OF BEING ONE WITH LIFE. Like the LOTUS GASSHO, it is used by officiants in services. Although the hands and arms are in basically the same position as in the GASSHO OF NO-MIND, the DIAMOND GASSHO is made with the fingers of each hand extended and interlocking, and with the right thumb on top of the left.
In each of these gasshos, we keep the eyes focused upon the tips of our middle fingers. But regardless of the style or variety of the gassho, and in whatever setting it is being used, the fundamental point of the gassho is to be one with the Three Treasures: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
Of course, we can look at the Three Treasures from many perspectives, and with varying degrees of depth and clarity. At perhaps the most superficial level, the Three Treasures are seen as external objects of supreme reverence for all Buddhists. Unfortunately, in this view, the Three Treasures tend to be perceived as something other than oneself. But as our vision opens up, we experience that each of us is, in fact, the Buddha.
We see clearly that everything we encounter in the world is none other than the Dharma -- the functioning of underlying enlightenment.
And, realizing the oneness of all beings, we come to realize that the Sangha -- the all-embracing brotherhood of practice -- is simply all composite things, including each of us.
Having this awareness we become -- or rather, we ARE -- one with the Three Treasures.
So, joining our hands palm to palm, we simultaneously create and express the absolute, the oneness which goes beyond all dichotomies. It is from this perspective that we make the gassho, and that we bow.
It is no ordinary person who bows; it is the Three Treasures recognizing itself in all things. If anyone thinks of himself as "just ordinary", he is, in effect, defaming the Three Treasures. And as we place our palms together we unite wisdom and samadhi, knowledge and truth, enlightenment and delusion.
Dogen Zenji once said: "As long as there is true bowing, the Buddha Way will not deteriorate."
In bowing, we totally pay respect to the all-pervading virtue of wisdom, which is the Buddha.
In making the bow, we should move neither hastily nor sluggishly but simply maintain a reverent mind and humble attitude.
When we bow too fast, the bow is then too casual a thing; perhaps we are even hurrying to get it over and done with. This is frequently the result of a lack of reverence.
On the other hand, if our bow is too slow, then it becomes a rather pompous display; we may have gotten too attached to the feeling of bowing, or our own (real or imagined) gracefulness of movement. This is to have lost the humble attitude which a true bow requires.
When we bow, it is always accompanied by gassho, although the gassho itself may not always be accompanied by bowing. As with the gassho, there are numerous varieties and styles of bowing, but here we will deal only with the two main kinds of bow which we use in our daily practice.
1. THE STANDING BOW. This bow is used upon entering the zendo, and in greeting one another and our teachers. The body is erect, with the weight distributed evenly and the feet parallel to each other. The appropriate gassho is made (see above). As the bow is made, he body bends at the waist, so that the torso forms an angle with the legs of approximately 45 degrees. The hands (in gassho) do not move relative to the face, but remain in position and move only with the whole body.
2. THE DEEP BOW (FULL PROSTRATION). This bow is most often used at the beginning and end of services, and upon entering and leaving dokusan. It is somewhat more formal than the standing bow, and requires a continuous concentration during its execution so that it is not sloppily done.
The bow itself begins in the same way as the STANDING BOW, but once the body is bent slightly from the waist, the knees ben and one assumes a kneeling position. From the kneeling position, the movement of the torso continues, with the hands separating and moving, palms upward, into a position parallel with the forehead. As the bowing movement progresses, the backs of the hands come to rest just above the floor and the forehead is lowered until it rests upon the floor between the hands. At this point, the body is touching the floor at knees, elbows, hands, and forehead. The hands are then slowly raised, palms upward, to a point just above the ears. Then the hands slowly return to the floor. This action is a symbolic placing of the Buddha's feet above one's head as an act of reverence and humility.
There should be no sharp, abrupt movements of the hands or arms, no bending of the wrists or curling of the fingers when executing this gesture. When the hands have been raised and lowered, the body then straightens as the person bowing gets to his feet once again and ends in gassho, just as he began. In kneeling, actually the knees do not touch the ground simultaneously, but in sequence; first, the right and then the left knee touches the ground. The same is true for the right and left hands and right and left elbows, in that sequence. In practice, however, the interval between right and left sides touching the ground may be so minute as to be unnoticeable.
In bowing, movement should not be jerky or disjointed, but should flow smoothly and continuously without either disruption or arrested motion.
Master Obaku, the teacher of Master Rinzai, was famous for his frequent admonition to his students. "Don't expect anything from the Three Treasures." Time after time he was heard to say this. One day, however, Master Obaku was observed in the act of bowing, and was challenged about his practice.
"You always tell your students not to expect anything from the Three Treasures," said the questioner, "and yet you have been making deep bows." In fact, he had been bowing so frequently and for so long that a large callus had formed on his forehead at the point where it touched the hard floor. When asked how he explained this, Master Obaku replied, "I don't expect. I just bow."
This is the state of being one with the Three Treasures. Let us just make gassho. Let us just bow.
[from ON ZEN PRACTICE, Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi and Bernard Tetsugen Glassman, ed., pp 54-61. 1976. ISBN: 0-916820-04-1.]
Reproduced in GASSO vol 1 no 1 (ISSN: 1072-2971) with permission of the Zen Center of Los Angeles, 927 South Normandie Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90006. All rights reserved.