Sunday, December 4, 2011

Just Choose Something Already!

I often feel like that guy – awash in an infinite sea of choices unable to proceed. Why do we hesitate when choices are presented to us? Sometimes I’m sure that if I wait a better choice will come along and I’ll be sad I picked too soon. Often I worry that I’ll be judged by my choice, or hurt someone’s feelings. I know that you will choose differently and seem to like your choice better than I like mine. What to do?

During our November retreat at the Red Clay Sangha, we had the opportunity to chant some different texts and translations. These chanting services were regarded by most who attended to be “really good.” Since we are in a formative process, should we adopt these? We have it on good authority that the translations were designed to be easily chanted, but so were the ones we are currently using. We are accustomed to the style and text of the SotoShu set, but we have new members joining who are accustomed to the RZC set.

A delightful little irony, the first text from RZC in the book we used at the retreat, “Affirming Faith in Mind,” begins:
The Great Way is not difficult
for those who do not pick and choose.
When preferences are cast aside
the Way stands clear and undisguised.
This describes an attitude we are trying to maintain in our practice – of meeting reality as it is without putting our opinions on it. The noise in the kitchen is simply sound until I prefer that it not be there. Even the pain in my leg is simply sensation until I consider it to a threat to my remaining healthy and alive and clearly prefer it not be there. A large part of our training is repetitively seeing those preferences arise and doing nothing based on them.

We work very hard to cultive this choicelessness, but should it apply on a broad scale? Do we solve the problem of inability to choose by declaring that we are simply going to not choose? Do we tell the kid behind the ice cream counter to pick for us? It seems to me like that is just avoiding the karma and worse making someone else responsible for it.

Mu Soeng in his commentary Trust in Mind (alternate translation of the title of the text quoted earlier), includes ten (10) side-by-side alternate translations of the text. The text that begins with the stanza about not choosing. In his translation, he even augments it with his own interpretations as:
The Great way is not difficult
for those who have no [addiction to] preferences.
When love [likes] and hate [dislikes] are both absent,
everything becomes clear and undisguised.
This addition of the simple phrase “addiction to” (or perhaps “attachment to”) helps me connect to this stanza. Not only does it have a lot of connection to the Dharma, but to me personally in my little path through this life.

I’ve spent the past year looking pretty closely at addiction, attachment and desire. A bit over a year ago, I had lobe of my lung removed due to cancer. Not smoking seemed like the better choice than continuing to smoke at the time. For a while, I was using a nicotine patch and interestingly enough, I still had cravings to smoke. This led me to look at what I was craving instead of merely satisfying it (odd, how both choosing and examining choosing were more healthy behaviors).

It is taking quite a while of making the conscious effort in the choice of not smoking to realize that I am not really craving a cigarette (in fact the smell is somewhat nauseating right now), but rather craving GRATIFICATION. Sometimes that gratification is avoidance of a situation (such as right now I am wishing I could go burn one to take a break from writing this). Usually the gratification that I’m craving is simply naked gratification.

This gratification cycle is really the preference to which we are all addicted. We want our choices to be RIGHT. We want the gratification of not only having our preferences satisfied, but in being right about them. We have, in short, attached a self to these preferences and become addicted to it.

But choices must be made regardless. We cannot let everyone be hungry because we think shouldn’t choose whether to have apples or oranges (or wait for someone else to decide). Or worse choose apples and become angry if someone says that they would rather have had an orange.

The important thing is to choose and yet not be addicted to that choice. This is one of the things we train ourselves in through meditation. I chose to meditate, I choose to practice for instance counting, I screw up, I restart, over and over and over and over again. I do not wait until I am certain about it, I just do it. If someone tells me that I’m doing the wrong practice or that I’m doing this one wrong, I calmly listen and integrate what they say.

It is also important to choose and allow that choice to attach to your self as well. Whenever I start defending my choices I know that I have allowed that choice to create a bit of self. If I can make that choice and not attach to it or let it attach to me than I might have a chance to simply have it be what it is of the moment and not create suffering. I also need to not take credit for that choice.

In this way, we can learn to choose with freedom and compassion. We can also learn to accept what we did not choose with the same freedom and compassion. Mostly we learn not to create a self from those choices.

I would like to end with something completely different, “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
 
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
 
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
 
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

Monday, November 28, 2011

Suffering Solstices

It's easy to see why there are so many religious and secular holidays and festivals occurring near the winter solstice. It is, in the northern hemisphere, simply a dark and gloomy time of year when we all need cheering up a bit. And, for most of us, the festivities do a lot of good.

The problem arises when we are experiencing seriously real suffering at a time of carefully constructed joyfulness and merriment. Especially when we are either subtly or overtly told to ignore our suffering for the sake of everyone's enjoyment of the season. It usually doesn't help that Buddha told us in the Second Noble Truth that this would happen simply by building the merriment infrastructure.

So how do we manage this? How do we understand suffering, as Buddha exhorts us to do in the First Noble Truth in this time when we would much rather understand joy? We remember that sickness, old age and death do not respect the seasons. We find our moments within the suffering. We could even invite someone to spoil our party.

If we can see past our own suffering to use this time to evoke our Avalokiteshvara sense, and open our arms to the suffering of the world, then the possibility of awakening shines through the rocks. When our own suffering joins with the stream of the world and we understand it as reality we have a chance to awaken and move towards realizing Cessation. When we retreat and try to blank it out we become mired in delusion.

Bring forth your suffering!


Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday

Choosing random images to inspire writing off the page and I got this today. On "black friday", the day of consumerism gone nutso I get a photo of the building area at the Holocaust Memorial.

Let's just say that I'm a firm believer in coincidence. That is that coincidence is just that. No superstition or anything like that. Karma is natural law of causality and all of that. If you chose to read something else into it than that's your problem.

Does consciousness, however, have the ability to interact with the universe in ways other than the animation of flesh and bones? I have been in the ICU twice (once not expected to live) and my best friend's mother had a mass said for me. A real Roman Catholic mass. The top dog in current superstitious stuff. And I lived. Is there a connection? Or did it just make her feel like she was doing something? That same time my husband came and somehow found a way though all the other tubes to put my headphones on me so I could listen to some loud rock and roll on my WalkMan (google it). Was my life saved by rock and roll (like Jenny - google it)? Or did it just make my husband feel better?

If we assume that consciousness arises and, in some way, instantiates the material form of life that we inhabit (which is buried in Buddhist philosophy fairly deeply) then shouldn't consciousness alone be able to interact with just about any arbitrary matter? The cool thing about Buddhism is that there is not a super intermediary consciousness to go through. If this sort of interaction is  possible than we can all do it. I wonder. I wah wah wah wonder.

Of course the lack of the super intermediary means that there is no governor either. So good stuff and bad stuff can happen as the result of just desire. Perhaps.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Seduction of The Cardinals


Freshly Rained,
The smell of life in the air,
I see the cardinals on the roof.

The male – 
     brilliant red and well preened with orange beak –
     so red he almost glows. 
The female – 
     subtle hues of muted red, green, brown –
     a wonderful palette.
Watching, it is clear that they are the same and yet different –
     each with their own beauty.

They peck on the roof, likely eating insects attracted by the water.
Enthralled, I just sit and enjoy their beauty,
Life refreshing before me.

I think they have yet to mate;
I see the male occasionally fly to the female – flirtatiously offering her food,
As if to prove his ability to raise her young.

Watching them I remember fledglings of the past,
And know that there will be more to come.
I am captivated.

I just sit and watch the dance of life.
Being with their glory and courting.
Until they fly away and bring me back to myself. 

Copyright (c) April 18, 1999 Cherry Zimmer

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Honoring 9/11


I'm sitting here wondering what to post for 9/11/11. I went looking for an image and if the one I chose doesn't disturb you, then you're just not right.

9/11 had a really strange impact on me.

I don't know anyone in New York. I did stay at the hotel in between the towers at the World Trade Center once during a nor'easter - we couldn't go to the "Top of the World" because of the weather. The wind howled in through the window casing at the bottom (a hotel with a window that opens oddly enough) and the temperature in the room was 10° higher at the ceiling than the floor. Miserable trip.

When it happened I was on a Zen meditation retreat out in the woods and had been doing, well Zen for several days and the whole thing was just too surreal. By a long shot. But it also was too real as well. It felt like an attack on ME. It was Hollywood spectacle to the extreme and maybe that's why. Are we all too inured to these things that it has to be gigantic to make us pay attention.

It wasn't even really a large number if you compare it to even just the number of people who died in the USA that day without it, which is statistically around 7000 (see CIA Fact Book). I don't usually mourn buildings unless they have some sentimental aspect for me (see above, NOT). But it got my attention.

So, here's what I did - I started doing prison outreach. Seems mighty strange, but it felt right to me. That got killed by the Roshi for some reason a couple of years later. I don't think he ever really liked it and I'm not sure that it was a great benefit for a large number of people. It was for me though. I not only faced a great fear of my own walking through the doors into the prison to teach felons to meditate (crazy I know), but I was forced to put my philosophy to the test and see that they were in fact human beings.

That's right. The folks we keep locked away from our sight and thoughts in prisons are in fact real live flesh and blood human beings just like us. With mothers and fathers and children and hopes and fears and well all of it.

How does this relate to terrorism? Does how we treat our prisoners make us just? Can we see that how we treat our prisoners and whether we respect even their human rights makes us who we were. Yes, we were moral cowards when we handed Saddam Hussein to the Iraqi government to be tried. Even he had human rights and we decided to let the Iraqi's ignore them for us. Think about it.

This year to honor 9/11 a large, peaceful Muslim religious organization has chosen to donate blood as a gift of peace (Muslims for Life). This is terrific. I can't donate until November, but if you can, think about it. Maybe even find a friend or acquaintance of another faith and do it together.

Volunteering would be another great thing. I just got a flyer from Hands on Atlanta. I could still do something of theirs during the week.

On Sunday, I'll be at Red Clay Sangha participating in a memorial service and then will be at Myohoji Temple chanting in remembrance.

I will not, however, be afraid. I will try to bring fearlessness to others.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Gift of Fearlessness

The virtue of the practice of giving is held in very high regard by the Buddhist Sutras, as in:
“From the Cariyapitaka Atthakatha, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi in The Discourse on the All-Embracing Net of Views: The Brahmajala Sutta and Its Commentaries (BPS, 1978), pp. 289-96, pp. 322-23.
The perfection of giving is to be practiced by benefiting beings in many ways — by relinquishing one's happiness, belongings, body and life to others, by dispelling their fear, and by instructing them in the Dhamma.

Herein, giving is threefold by way of the object to be given: the giving of material things (amisadana), the giving of fearlessness (abhayadana), and the giving of the Dhamma (dhammadana).”
It is a very wonderful practice that the Red Clay Sangha is embarking upon to allow our members the opportunity to give their own Time, Talent and Treasure to make our programs available to the community. We can look at these program gifts from all three aspects – the physical space, the ability for all to come and the availability of the dharma. We give joyfully and freely. We give without expectation of return or reward. This is great joy and gladness.

This morning I would like to speak about one aspect of giving as described by the sutra above – the Gift of Fearlessness. In talks later this month, my friends will speak about giving material things and the dharma.

Giving Fearlessness
“The giving of fearlessness is the giving of protection to beings when they have become frightened on account of kings, thieves, fire, water, enemies, lions, tigers, other wild beasts, dragons, ogres, demons, goblins, etc.”
It is this “etc…” which I find the most frightening and evident as a cause of suffering in the world today.

Burma’s Aung Sang Suu Kyi, in her riveting 1990 speech “Freedom From Fear” begins:
“It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. … With so close a relationship between fear and corruption it is little wonder that in any society where fear is rife corruption in all forms becomes deeply entrenched.”
Traditional Views of Gifts of Fearlessness
Fearlessness is a traditional concept in Asian cultures – so much so that there is a Sanskrit word for it (ABHAYA), a mudra (image top) and teachings on it in all major eastern spiritual traditions. Traditionally, this is a gift given by rulers, leaders and others in power to their subjects of assurances not only of protection, but of using their powers only as protection and not being harmful to their subjects.

This is traditionally a gift given by those such as the samurai, who promise to use their powers only to protect the weak from the strong. While most of us are not in great positions of power, we can still examine how we use the small positions of power and whether we give a strong gift of fearlessness with these positions. We also, even when not in a position of power, can give fearlessness to others by supporting places of shelter and benefit.

We can also give this gift by not appearing frightening, but by behaving in moral, ethical and generous ways. We can protect those we can (such as by watching the door and clock during meditation for our friends). We can be dependable and not make our friends and family fear for our safety.

More Expansive Views of Gifts of Fearlessness
The concept of giving fearlessness to others can be expanded, I think, far beyond these traditional protections from ogres into many categories. This gift of fearlessness is even something we can give when we do not have it this self. One place to look is at the many ways we can become this fearlessness and give it to others.

Being Love
One area to look at is “being love” and practicing loving-kindness or metta. Sharon Salzberg in Loving-Kindness states:
“To reteach a thing its loveliness” is the nature of metta. Through lovingkindness, everyone and everything can flower again from within. When we recover knowledge of our own loveliness and that of others, self-blessing happens naturally and beautifully.”
How afraid can one be when one knows love from everyone around them. Conversely, is not the lack of love one of our greatest fears?

Being Present with Fear
The gift of ones presence is also a great gift of fearlessness. Thich Nhat Hanh considers this simple gift important enough that in the section on Dana in The Heart of The Buddha’s Teaching it is all he describes. Simply being present with other people. That’s it.

This is a particularly important gift to give someone in a fearful situation from which you cannot protect them (such as awaiting medical test results or undergoing treatment). And it can be a very strong gift because giving it forces us to look our own fears in the eye and not shrink away from those in need of just a friendly face or kind word. Or maybe not even more that just another human being in the room.

When I found out that I needed surgery last fall for what was predicted to be cancer (and was) I was quite fearful. Not only because this would make the third time, but because I am the sole caregiver for my disabled husband and his condition has progressed to the point where it is quite demanding. My mother did not wait for me to say anything, but simply informed me that she would be here. How delightful.

Overcoming your own aversion and looking at fear with equanimity is a great gift to everyone else. If you don’t know how important this is and how rare it often is simply rent a wheelchair and use it for a week. Look at how people shy away from you due to their own fears of disability.

Being An Example
We can bring fearlessness to others by showing them our perseverance, resilience and survival as an example. Opening our own fears and courage in the face of suffering (especially sickness, old age and death) can be a great source of fearlessness for others.

Simply continuing to sit still in meditation next to someone even though noises occur outside and urges occur in your legs can bring them fearlessness. 

Being Peace
Another quote from Thich Nhat Hanh is that to have peace you must be peace. And in this vein, what better way to give fearlessness than to be peace. This is perhaps easier said than done. 

“Muslims for Life” Blood Drive
One way I find to “be peace” is to look at ways to turn peoples ideas of enemies around and see them as ourselves. This is often very difficult. That is why I was so happy to read Rick Badie’s column yesterday in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Local Muslims offer love and life” which describes a national campaign to retake Islam from the terrorists.

Muslims for Life” is a month-long (September 2011) blood drive by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and Red Cross which seeks to bring Muslims and those of other faiths together to donate blood to honor the 10th anniversary of 9/11. My most recent cancer is less than a year from treatment and so I’ll have to wait until November, but I find this an amazing way to give fearlessness. 

Metta Sutra
To end, I’d like us to chant the “Metta Sutra” together. There is a rather lengthy story of the way that chanting this sutra has the power to calm evil deities and to protect oneself and those around you. It does, at any rate, place one’s mind in a less fearful place.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Unexpected Adventure


I-285 (that's the road running from bottom-left to top-right) is being repaved is being repaved on weekends right now and so I had to take an alternate path to my Buddhist Homiletics class at Red Clay Sangha the past two weekends. Unfortunately, I can't seem to remember this fact in time to take the usual alternate. Last week I spent 15 minutes going one mile in Doraville which made late.

This morning I realized a little sooner (when I saw the sign saying that I-285 was going at 10mph) and so I took a much better alternate that had the added benefit of letting me drive on the highest bridge of the interchange known as "Spaghetti Junction". That would be the bridge closest to the bottom left corner in the picture. Look at the picture closely to realize just how huge this interchange is. Those little dots are cars and trucks.

It was really exciting. OK, so maybe I live a boring life. But actually I remember that interchange being built and have lived with it a long time, mostly going on pretty boring parts of it in terms of height and curves because of where I live. So this was oddly enough a real treat even though it has been sitting right here in my back yard.

How many more of these are just sitting here waiting? And we are being angry and pass right by because we are busy being angry about having to change our path.

Life is full of wonderful new adventures and I for one intend to start taking more of them. Life is simply too long to be so boring all the time.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Looking for a Zen Teacher (again)

So it seems that I'm back looking for a Zen Teacher. Life would be so much simpler if I were to just decide not to have one. But that isn't really fair to me and everyone else. So I'm in the market.

Lost the last one when I realized that I couldn't trust him. Probably never could, but that goes without saying. Didn't realize it until he became such a bully. Can't have a Zen Teacher you can't trust. Can't be around a bully.

I'm going in October to practice sesshin with another group. Don't want to post the name 'cause bullies have a knack of finding these things out. So, we wait until October.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Buddhist Homiletics 101 at Red Clay Sangha Homework

I'm attending Buddhist Homiletics 101 at the Red Clay Sangha starting this weekend. I sure hope the class is not as hard as the preparatory work we've been assigned. This looks really simple, but the instructor is not a Buddhist - pretty cool idea really, using the local seminary school folks to learn these things, but the language just doesn't match. I had something else to write about but I guess I'll do that tomorrow.

What is in your heart as you approach dharma talks: why are you a Buddhist, and why do you take on this role of speaker?
The simple answer to why I'm a Buddhist is that I learned about it and it looked like me. Which would mean explaining all of Buddhism, I guess to answer that. In many ways I am a Buddhist because it doesn't tell you the whole answer, but points you towards it and gives you the technique for finding your own answer. Buddhism also doesn't require me to believe anything. Nothing. Not even six impossible things before breakfast! Of course before I was a Buddhist I was an existentialist, which didn't require me to believe anything either, but also didn't give me a lot of anything else. Being a Buddhist has allowed by to embrace suffering, understand it fully, and see how joy dependently co-arises with it. Which is to say "no suffering, no joy".

I take on the role of speaker because I can?

What is truly in my heart is the desire to bring forth the wonder of life that this practice brings forth (and the wonder of practice that this life brings forth) as a moment by moment expression of me.


Give examples of topics that you think might be suitable for dharma talks:

  • Precepts (pretty much need to have these once a month when we do renewal), 
  • Various bits of Buddhist philosophy (such as the Four Noble Truths) if they can be related to NOW or I can offer a new perspective that I think folks will find interesting,
  • Koans,
  • Current events wrapped up in Buddhist philosophy,
  • Most sutras,
  • My life struggles,
  • Buddhist practices,

What are some of your current sources for dharma talks:

  • Whatever is giving me difficulty at the time,
  • Sutras and Koans,
  • Commentaries and talks,

Identify your personal barriers to delivering good dharma talks:

  • Lack of any formal training in doing so,
  • Lack of any feedback from my prior teacher and so having no idea whether what I was doing was good or whether anyone cared, 
  • Choosing a topic (only once),
  • Preparing the talk without tearing it up and "just winging it",
  • Thinking that most folks just want to discuss and/or don't want a lot of stuff that they could look up themselves if that want to and so skimping on the preparations,
  • Really not wanting to record myself and watch it,

What do you hope to get out of the class:
I'd like to learn how to do this right.

I'm sure there are methodologies out there that other folks use and that I could benefit from them. I'm sure that good preachers didn't just wake up one morning knowing how to do it, but so far that's all I've gotten. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Precepts as Liberation: The Freedom of Boundaries


Precepts Renewal Ceremony at the Red Clay Sangha
Please join me this morning in the renewal of the sixteen (16) Bodhisattva Precepts. Ryaku Fusatsu from San Francisco Zen Center

Precepts as Liberations
Precepts have been somewhat neglected in the early establishment of Buddhism in America (with the exception of the Thich Nhat Hanh lineage where they are paramount). This is especially true in Zen schools where they are treated as metaphysical expressions of reality and even koans, but is also true in the true in the Theravada schools, which tend to be more literal. In a recent Buddhadharma magazine discussion panel of Zen/Tibetan/Theravada on precepts it was the Theravada practitioner who replaced the words “morality” and “ethics” with “integrity” as a less menacing word. It is even common to take them only for the duration of a retreat.

Why does it seem so troubling to us in America to come upon rules in our supposed new and improved spiritual paradigm? And why should we rail against the very thought of our wonderful new spiritual power and freedom including boundaries? Perhaps it is in our very DNA to rebel against this as we all recent descendents of those who gave up everything to come here in search of a new life and way of living. The very concept of externally-imposed morality and ethics makes us cringe.

So as rebellious and revolutionary Buddhists in a Judeo-Christian society we find ourselves back in the same difficulty of having a set of rules passed down to us by an unseen master. We also have great ceremony and liturgy surrounding these to give them a sense of devotion. What gives?
Trust in the Community

If we are to trust in the teachings of the Buddha and practice together as an harmonious community we must have shared values and rules. Even the simplest actions such as walking in a circle require a rule if we are to avoid bumping into each other. We have many of these conditional rules (how to walk, how to boil water, on which side of the road to drive) and an exhaustive list would be infinite. The Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts form a compact grouping that we can use to inform our actions in accord with our intentions.

By promising to each other that we will observe these precepts (and atoning when we fail to keep them) we are free to express our humanity completely within the community. We know that, even if we make mistakes, this is our shared vow of being a refuge, a place of safety and community of intentional action. Specific atonement is especially important as it can help everyone learn more about the workings of Karma and the Precepts.

This can be particularly helpful when we seek to exact revenge for injury or create stories to justify harmful actions. Most of us know by the time we reach adulthood that revenge only makes us feel worse and creating justification simply feeds delusions and creates more suffering. This liberation from the snowball effect of karma can be wondrous if we let it manifest.

Choosing a Path
Precepts are in some ways the roadmap to the Path leading to Liberation and Cessation of Suffering. While we should not mistake the map for the territory, neither do we want to negotiate it without a map. “If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will do.” Placing bounds on our path lets us move freely within it while still making our way towards the destination.

Staying on the Path with Difficulties
Their very existence as Precepts gives us a type of liberation in knowing that they aren’t that simple (otherwise they wouldn’t need to be spelled out). Which is not to say that we can simply let them slide, but must forgive ourselves when we try but fail (and try again). Shunru Suzuki said that life is a long series of mistakes. But no one would know that they were mistakes without the aspiration.

How We Really Want to Live
If we look closely at the Bodhisattva Precepts of Zen Buddhism, we see that they are all something we actually want to do anyway. The first three – the Treasure Refuges – give us safety and protection in an unsure world and declare our direction and path. The second three – the Pure Precepts – simply declare our intention to act in the direction of goodness without leaving us stranded in indecision. And the final ten – the Grave Precepts – give us some signposts and reminders for how to manifest those intentions in reality.

When I look at any of these precepts from an abstract point of view, I can easily say “of course I don’t want to lie”. Then I do something dumb, and want to avoid looking foolish, and trip over the precept (usually compounding the error by adding in the seventh). Then I wind up needing to atone for not only the something dumb but the lie as well.

If I can allow myself to look foolish at times (as is warranted by any normal human who makes mistakes), while I cannot escape the consequence of the mistake, I can avoid the karma of the lie. Many Buddhist teachings suggest that intention does count as regards karma. So the lie creates even larger consequences than the original mistake. And who is it that doesn’t want to look foolish here?

Imagine how free you would feel if you simply had no inclination to see anyone else’s faults or praise yourself while putting them down. Imagine anger not being present. Desire removed from its pivotal point of control of your life.

By observing the precepts we can be “liberated” from ourselves, freed from the effects of ego attachment, clinging, craving, greed, anger and delusion.

Baizhang’s Fox
I’d like to leave you with a koan commonly associated with the precepts (this can be found in The Heart of Being by John Daido Lori):
“Every time Baizhang, Zen Master Dahui, gave a dharma talk, a certain old man would come to listen. He usually left after the talk, but one day he remained. Baizhang asked, "Who is there?"
The man said, "I am not actually a human being. I lived and taught on this mountain at the time of Kashyapa Buddha. One day a student asked me, 'Does a person who practices with great devotion still fall into cause and effect?' I said to him, 'No, such a person doesn't.' Because I said this I was reborn as a wild fox for five hundred lifetimes. Reverend master, please say a turning word for me and free me from this wild fox body." Then he asked Baizhang, "Does a person who practices with great devotion still fall into cause and effect?"

Baizhang said, "Don't ignore cause and effect."

Immediately the man had great realization. Bowing, he said, "I am now liberated from the body of a wild fox. I will stay in the mountain behind the monastery. Master, could you perform the usual services for a deceased monk for me?"

Baizhang asked the head of the monks' hall to inform the assembly that funeral services for a monk would be held after the midday meal. The monks asked one another, "What's going on? Everyone is well; there is no one sick in the Nirvana Hall." After their meal, Baizhang led the assembly to a large rock behind the monastery and showed them a dead fox at the rock's base. Following the customary procedure, they cremated the body. 
That evening during his lecture in the dharma hall Baizhang talked about what had happened that day. Huangbo asked him, "A teacher of old gave a wrong answer and became a wild fox for five hundred lifetimes. What if he hadn't given a wrong answer?"

Baizhang said, "Come closer and I will tell you." Huangbo went closer and slapped Baizhang's face.

Laughing, Baizhang clapped his hands and said, "I thought it was only barbarians who had unusual beards. But you too have an unusual beard!” 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sunday, June 12, 2011