Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mike and Ed Discuss Brads New Book.

Mike was but a child when his brother asked him, "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

Mike was a bright child of a precocious nature and he said to his brother Ed, are you asking me if something can exist without being perceived?

Ed, replied, “Reality is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or may be thought to be. Reality I would think includes everything that is and has being, whether or not it is observable or comprehensible.”

Mike, gave this some thought and said, “are you suggesting that there exists an objective reality that exists whether we as humans can observe and comprehend it or not?”

Ed replied, ” Are you suggesting that Heisenberg’s observer effect, the theory that there will always be changes that the act of observation will make on the phenomenon being observed, makes unobserved reality a fiction? Are you suggesting that objective reality is a fantasy?”

      " Once, at a funeral, a monk named Zengen tapped on the coffin and asked his teacher, Dogo, "Living or dead?" Dogo said, "Living, I won't say. Dead, I won't say." Zengen said, "Why won't you say?" Dogo said, "I won't say, I won't say." Later, as the two were walking home, Zengen said, "Living or dead? If you will not tell me, I will hit you." Dogo said, "You can hit me, but still I won't say." Zengen hit him. Later, after Dogo died, Zengen related this incident to Sekiso, his new teacher at the time.
      Sekiso asked Zengion to ask him the same question, to which Sekiso replied, "Living, I won't say. Dead, I won't say." Again Zengen asked, "Why won't you say?" Sekiso said, "I won't say, I won't say." At these words, Zengen became enlighted."

      The body and the mind are one and the same; the body without the mind is a dead body. It cannot move even an inch or act without the mind. In zazen the body and mind drop away, they are shed like a snake sheds its skin. The body is a material object; it is made out of matter. The mind is not a material object it has no mass and occupies no space.

      Matter is any substance which has mass and occupies space. All physical objects are composed of matter, in the form of atoms, which are in turn composed of protons, neutrons, and electrons.

      But light is made of photons and photons have no mass, so they are an example of something in physics which is not comprised of matter. They are also not considered "objects" in the traditional sense, as they cannot exist in a stationary state. Mind has no mass and cannot exist in a stationary state.
I won’t say is not the same as I don’t know!

     Ed was an old hand at confusion and spoke to mike in this manner:

“In arriving not an atom is added,
Thus life is called “the unborn.”
In departing not a particle is lost,
Thus death is called “the unextinguished.”

      Mike responded in this manner: “Nothing is more usual than for philosophers to encroach on the province of grammarians, and to engage in disputes of words, while they imagine they are handling controversies of the deepest importance and concern.” --- David Hume

     Ed was not going to take this so he said: “In Buddhist philosophy and psychology, the mind and body are not separate entities.”
     Mike asked Ed, "If all that exists is matter only, where did the natural laws that govern it come from?" Mike lost control and expressed his feelings; “spirit (from Latin spiritus "breath") is a non-corporeal substance; it is the vital principle or animating force within living things. It is the aspect of our being which animates us -- makes us live, move, change, do, be active, feel, think, interact with the world around us.

      Ed said, “Matter is described by its properties. Matter can exist in various phases: solid, liquid, gas, or plasma. Most substances can transition between these phases based on the amount of heat the material absorbs (or loses).
    Mike said, “Did Einstein not show that matter and energy are essentially the same, that matter can be transformed into energy and energy into matter?”
    Ed, responds, “There is a rumor to that effect, yes.”
    Mike snorts, “Then Energy makes change possible and is not mind a kind of energy, is thought not a kind of energy? Does mind not in fact do work, and accomplish much that is observable in the material world? ”
    Ed,” I suppose since all energy can and does change from one form into another constantly and seems not to be capable of being destroyed just converted from one form to another it might be said that mind is one form among many that energy takes from time to time.”
   Mike softly says, “And matter and energy is in fact the same thing simply existing in different states. And the body and the mind are one and the same!”
   Ed, taps his foot and smiles, “you are a crafty little devil my brother.”
“Words are our servants, not our masters. For different purposes we find it convenient to use words in different senses.” —Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker

   My buddy Brad says:

There is no rebirth!!!!
There is no such thing as a spiritual aspect to Zen!!!
Zen is not a religion!!!

   I say, Materialism cannot explain matter, you fool.

More than that I will not say!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Feed on Joy

“Let us live most happily, possessing nothing; let us feed on joy, like the radiant gods.”

 Buddha from the Dhammapada

An old Zen saying: “In matters of religion, most persons prefer chewing the menu to actually eating the food!”

a Zen master who lay dying. His monks are all gathered around his deathbed, and the senior monk leans over and asks the master for any final words of wisdom for his monks. The old master weakly says, "Tell them Truth is like a river." The senior monk relays this message on to the other monks. The youngest monk in the group is confused, and asks, "What does he mean that Truth is like a river?" The senior monk relays this question to the master, and the master replies, "O.K., Truth is not like a river."

Zen Pride…

Many Zen teachers, in their pride, vainly boast that they know nothing, but it is I alone who have truly succeeded in achieving total ignorance....

Zen Gratitude…

Student: "Why must we bow at the end of a meditation period?"

Zen teacher: "To thank Buddha it's over."

Getting hold of emptiness…

Sekkyo said to one of his monks, "Can you get hold of Emptiness?"
"I'll try," said the monk, and he cupped his hand in the air.
"That's not very good," said Sekkyo. "You haven't got anything in there!"
"Well, master," said the monk, "please show me a better way."
Thereupon Sekkyo seized the monk's nose and gave it a great yank.
"Ouch!" yelled the monk. "You hurt me!".
"That's the way to get hold of Emptiness!" said Sekkyo.

It will pass …

A student went to his Zen teacher and said, "My meditation is horrible! I feel so distracted, or my legs ache, or I'm constantly falling asleep. It's just horrible!"
"It will pass," the Zen Master said matter-of-factly.
A week later, the student came back to his teacher. "My meditation is wonderful! I feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive! It's just wonderful!'
"It will pass," the teacher replied matter-of-factly.

Mouth over Mind ---

Once there was a monk who was an expert on the Diamond Sutra, and as books were very valuable in his day, he carried the only copy in his part of the world on his back. He was widely sought after for his readings and insight into the Diamond Sutra, and very successful at propounding its profundities to not only monks and masters but to the lay people as well.

Thus the people of that region came to know of the Diamond Sutra, and as the monk was traveling on a mountain road, he came upon an old woman selling tea and cakes. The hungry monk would have loved to refresh himself, but alas, he had no money. He told the old woman, "I have upon my back a treasure beyond knowing -- the Diamond Sutra. If you will give me some tea and cakes, I will tell you of this great treasure of knowledge."
The old woman knew something of the Diamond Sutra herself, and proposed her own bargain. She said, "Oh learned monk, if you will answer a simple question, I will give you tea and cakes." To this the monk readily agreed. The woman then said, "When you eat these cakes, are you eating with the mind of the past, the mind of the present or the mind of the future?"
No answer occurred to the monk, so he took the pack from his back and got out the text of the Diamond Sutra, hoping he could find the answer. As he studied and pondered, the day grew late and the old woman packed up her things to go home for the day.
"You are a foolish monk indeed," said the old woman as she left the hungry monk in his quandary. "You eat the tea and cakes with your mouth."

"Hell was OK, until some wise guy went to heaven and came back."

-- Buddhadasa Bhikkhu


A monk asked Master Chao-chou (778-897): “What is the Buddha?” The master replied: “The one in the hall.” The monk said, “But the one in the hall is an image, a mere statue, a lump of mud.” Chao-chou agreed, “That’s true.” “So,” persisted the monk, “what is the Buddha?” Chao-chou responded: “The one in the hall!”

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Buddha and the Snake-king

          Whenever a new religion appears it must find a way to cope with the old religions that surround it. Buddhism is no exception. We all know that the religion practiced in India during Buddha’s life time was as it is today Hinduism. Today Hinduism is said to be the third largest religion in the world. But Hinduism does not have a "unified" system of belief encoded in declaration of faith or a creed but is rather an umbrella term comprising the plurality of religious phenomena originating and based on the Vedic traditions. Various schools of Hinduism may adopt beliefs spanning monotheism, polytheism, pantheism, monism, and atheism.

            One of the oldest “denominations” of Hinduism is what we would call snake or serpent worship. It is known in fact to predate the Aryan culture on the Indian continent. I think it would surprise many folks to know that the worship of snakes and/or Naga arose in India over 500 years before Buddha’s birth and is still alive and well all over India today. This cult of the serpent has been shown to have existed over the entire continent and in fact from around 1250 BC until around 550 AD Snakes were worshiped in Persia and what is now called Arabia and Egypt. It would appear that snake worship originated in India and spread across both the near, middle and Far East.

         As in all religions there were different types of serpent worship in India. In Northern India, a version of the serpent worship evolved around the Naga called Vasuki and known as the “king of the serpents” was worshipped. These were the Naga of both Buddhist and Hindu religion. Innumerable shrines containing images of the snake king Vasuki bear testimony to the influence of serpent on the social and spiritual fabric of India. In southern India the serpent cults had a tendency to simply worship actual live snakes.

        In Sanskrit the world naga simply means serpent or snake. But in both Hindu and Buddhist writings and art the nagas are serpent creatures that are depicted as having human upper torsos but are snakes from the waist down. In Buddhist iconography, nagas sometimes are giant cobras, and sometimes they are more like dragons, but without legs. They are shape shifters who can take on the form of large snakes or even humans.

         It would appear that just as there was one kind of serpent worship in northern India and another in southern India. Buddhism itself divided in what was for years called Northern Buddhism and Southern Buddhism; Mahayana in the north and Theravada in south. The way each of these schools chose to deal with the snake cults is significant and may in fact reflect one of the causes of schism between the two schools of Buddhism.

        It is clear that the Mahayana schools chose to adopt and assimilate the northern Hindu system of serpent worship into their own beliefs and myths. In Mahayana Buddhist sutras and myths, nagas usually are wise and beneficent. While one Theravadin story recounts that Sanghamitra, daughter of king Ashoka, had once to assume the form of Garuda (a bird deity and enemy to the Naga) to counteract the magic power of the Nagas who tried to snatch the branch of the Bodhi tree she was carrying with her on her way to bring Buddhism to Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. Most Theravadin stories about snakes are ways of warding off snake bites and other more particle issues.

         In Mahayana Buddhism, nagas often are depicted as water deities who guard the sutras in their palaces. For example, it is said the Wisdom Sutras were given to the nagas by the Buddha, who said the world wasn't ready for their teachings. In Mahayana Mythology it is the Naga-King Vasuki known as the “king of the serpents” That comes to Buddha in the form of a giant Cobra under the Bodhi tree and spreads his hood like an umbrella over the Buddha for seven days and nights to protect him from the monsoon rains.

            The Lotus sutra is said to be the primary Mahayana sutra and key to its development across Asia. In the Lotus sutra eight great Nagas come to hear the Buddha teach and are converted on the spot. From that day on words the Nagas were said to be the protectors of the Dharma.

              Perhaps the first Buddhist female hero was the daughter of the Naga-King whose story is recounted in the Lotus Sutra. She is said to have come to the Buddha and to have given him the famous “Wish Fulfilling Jewel” said to be more valuable than the entire earth.

      That Mahayana Buddhism was still dealing with the serpent cult’s years after Buddha’s death is clear in the story of Nagarjuna. This sage who is sometimes called the second Buddha is said to have been given his name because of his relationship with the Naga.

         The story goes that “Two youths, who were emanations of the sons of the naga king, came to Nalanda. They had about them the natural fragrance of sandalwood. Nagarjuna asked how this was so and they confessed to him who they were. Nagarjuna then asked for sandalwood scent for a statue of Tara and the nagas’ help in constructing temples. They returned to the naga realm and asked their father, who said he could help only if Nagarjuna came to their realm beneath the sea to teach them. Nagarjuna went, made many offerings, and taught the nagas.”

          The legend goes that when Buddha taught the great perfection of wisdom teachings his cousin Ananda gave a copy to the Naga king for safe keeping. The Buddha said that the people of his day were not ready for those teachings. It was Nagarjuna that requested a copy from the Naga and brought back with him The Hundred thousand verse sutra on the prajna Paramita. It is said that once while he was teaching the prajna Paramita six Naga came and sheltered him from the rain much as the Naga-King had done Buddha. From these stories it is said, he got the name Naga. And from the fact that his skill in teaching Dharma went straight to the point, like the arrows of the famous archer Arjuna (the name of the hero in the Hindu classic, Bhagavad Gita), he got the name Arjuna. Thus, he became called “Nagarjuna.”

             Historically speaking at some point the myths of the Naga and the serpents clearly allowed Buddhist to assimilate local snake cults into Buddhism and allowed the two belief systems to coexist. In most of the Mahayana stories the Nagas are either converted to Buddhism or seen as protectors of Buddha and the Dharma. When Buddhism made the trip through China the Naga became dragons as well as snakes and once again were incorporated in the Buddhist belief system. When Buddhism reached Japan The Shinto shrines to the Dragon spirits or Kami were easily incorporated into a long established mythology of the Naga. This certainly eased the relationship between the Shinto priests and the Buddhist priests.

I will end this essay with a nice little tale from Tibet about the Naga.

“According to the Vinaya or Buddhist Monastic Rule, an animal cannot become a monk. At one time, a Naga was so desirous of entering the Order that he assumed human form in order to be ordained. "Shortly after, when asleep in his hut, the naga returned to the shape of a huge snake. The monk who shared the hut was somewhat alarmed when he woke up to see a great snake sleeping next to him! The Lord Buddha summoned the naga and told him he may not remain as a monk, at which the utterly disconsolate snake began to weep. The snake was given the Five Precepts as the means to attaining a human existence in his next life when he can then be a monk. Then out of compassion for the sad snake, the Lord Buddha said that from then on all candidates for the monkhood be called 'Naga' as a consolation. They are still called 'Naga' to this day." “

Author Unknown

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Karma - for beginners

            I suppose it is not surprising that one of the things that is seen as a major obstacle to teaching Zen in the west is that most westerners have no understanding of the basic concepts underpinning Buddhism. I was surprised myself to hear from many people having traveled to the east how ignorant many easterners are today of these same basic concepts, even many of the new monks in Japan seem to have little education in their religion when they enter the monasteries there. So I decided to write this little essay.
          The purpose of this essay is to give a basic understanding to the reader of the Buddhist concept of Karma. It is not intended to be an exhaustive examination of either Buddhism or Karma. This essay is not a synopses or replacement for the thousands of sacred texts now available for the beginning reader on Buddhism. It is intended to interest the reader in the subject and give him or her the flavor for the idea, nothing more. I am sure it will not be spiritual enough for more advanced Buddhist and not scholarly enough for most Buddhist scholars. But it is not being written for advanced practitioners or scholars. If this little essay is in any way a help to your understanding just consider that it was meant for you. If it is no help to you just ignore it. I hereby give anyone who wants it to copy, distribute it. Please just don’t change it and say I did it.

                               Basic Buddha Dharma

         Any belief system, be it a philosophy, a religion, a superstition or even a culture, will have at its heart an underlying set of concepts or ideas upon which it rests. Karma is one of the basic ideas upon which Buddhism or more properly the Buddha Dharma is based. The Buddha Dharma most simply put is the truth taught by the Buddha.

     The Buddha was born in the sixth century B.C. in a grove of trees at a place called Lumbini, near the city of Kapilavastu, at the foot of Mount Palpa in the Himalayan Mountains in what was then part of northern India but is now called Nepal. His father was Suddhodana Gautama king of the Shakya Klan. The King named his son “Siddhartha”. Today Siddhartha is called Buddha Shakyamuni that means the sage of the Shakya Klan; he is also called Gautama Buddha or just Buddha.
      At around the age of Thirty-two Siddhartha was so moved by compassion for the suffering of the peoples of this world that he left behind his wealth, power and riches to seek enlightenment. Six years later he achieved his goal while meditating under a Bo tree. Once again moved by his compassion for all the suffering peoples of the world he dedicated his life to teaching what he had learned. He died at the age of eighty on a couch set between a pair of Sal trees near Sravasti the capital of Kosala India. His teachings became known as the Buddha Dharma.
      The Buddha Dharma is often seen as having a nature of its own separate from any one man or time. It can be seen as a golden thread leading the confused and lost wanderer back home. In fact most Buddhist look upon the Buddha Dharma as a truth so powerful that it provides shelter and grace for anyone who hears it?

                                     Karma Defined

                Karma or Kamma is a Sanskrit word, which has been alternatively defined in English as “action” or sometimes “intentional action”. But when used in the Dharma it would be more accurate to describe it a dynamic process involving intentional actions by sentient beings and the associated effects caused by or resulting from those actions.
               While the idea of a process called Kamma or Karma predates Buddhism and seems to begin, as far as the written records we have show, with what are now called Hindu scriptures or sutras; there is no way to determine the exact origin of the concept of Karma. It is important to understand that the basic concept of Karma was accepted as a given fact of life in the time and place that the Buddha first taught. But while the concept existed at the time of the Buddha it can be safely suggested that the Dharma of Buddha rewrote the existing Hindu concept of Karma in a fundamental way.

                                         Freedom from Fate

                  In India at the time of the Buddha “Karma” meant that each person had a predetermined destiny that was almost, if not completely, impossible to change. A persons Karma was his fate. This destiny was inherited and could never be altered for the persons and families involved. The result was the creation of a rigid Caste system where entire generations of families were doomed to be “untouchables”. It also meant that other persons and families, no matter how horrible they seemed, were destined to rule over the lower castes. This system still exists to this day in many parts of India.

                              If a person understands nothing else about the Buddha Dharma they should understand that it promises that Karma can be altered, changed and even destroyed. This idea alone has given hope to millions over the two and a half thousand years that the Dharma has been with us. The Dharma is a message of hope for a better future for anyone who understands and practices it.

                 When the sutras talk about a child of good linage it should be understood that anyone who takes refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha has forsaken his biological family and taken up the linage of the Dharma. In the time of the Buddha princes, dishwashers and merchants all abandoned their old castes and became equal in the Dharma. This was true of men and women. The Dharma was truly the first voice for equality of all persons.

                            Like any complex idea Karma has within it other equally important and complex ideas without which it becomes so obscure as to be almost meaningless. Ideas like “rebirth” “merit” and “virtue” are needed to understand how the dispelling of bad Karma works. But the basic formula is simple and almost universal in human thought. It is the belief that each person shall reap what he or she has sown. In one Buddhist text it is stated simply as “Whatever deed I shall do, be it good or evil, I shall become heir to it”.

                                        The Ethics of Karma

                  This idea of reaping what is sown has an ethical element to it that cannot be ignored by the western seeker. The initial response of many westerners is to see Karma as the great enforcer of right and wrong. Strangely enough this ethical element is often just by passed in many Buddhist teachings. To make matters worse the Buddhist then has the gall to say “and by the way, there is no such thing as right and wrong, good or evil”.
                    This creates a lot of frustration among western seekers. They are used to there being a big angry God out there who has this code or law to which you must adhere or be punished. Further, they are used to competing groups of “believers” who claim to have a monopoly on just what that law says. These groups seem to spend most of their free time trying to impose their version of the cosmic right and wrong on everyone else.
                        When westerners encounter the concept of Karma they see it as the same thing as “God’s Law”. Their first question is, “well who is enforcing this karmic law?” They want to know who is calling the shots. I will try and address these questions later on in the essay. It is at this point that many people “spin out” and lose track of the concept so I will acknowledge the question for now and move on to other aspects of Karma.
                                         Cause and Effect

                    If we peel back the outer skin of Karma what we find is an idea almost everyone in the west learned in grade school. That idea is cause and effect. Cause and effect is so familiar and we are so comfortable with it that we hardly ever discuss it. In the west cause and effect is a given just as Karma was a given in the time of the Buddha. 
                  It might even be suggested one of the real differences between the worldview of the modern westerner and the worldview of most Buddhist is that the western worldview limits cause and effect to what they call the physical world. H.E. Kalu Rinpoche states in his book “Foundations of Tibetan Buddhism” that this unwillingness to extend the law of cause and effect into the spiritual world is “actually” a separation of people who have adopted a secular worldview as opposed to a spiritual worldview rather than being a difference between east and west.
                Therefore it should be noted that the concept of “yea shall reap what yea shall sow”or“He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword” is stated in the Bible, the Torah and the Koran, yet most westerners don’t really think about applying it to the spiritual or metaphysical world as a system of cause and effect, rather they see it, if at all, as punishment wrought by God.
                 In the west the common understanding of cause and effect is that if you ignore cause and effect in the physical world you aren’t evil just stupid. In Buddhism most Buddhist would say the same for Karma. If you walk down a railroad track long enough sooner or later a train will run over you. If you drop a bowling ball on your foot it will hurt. If you do evil acts you will reap evil karma.


                 Now we come to the concept in Buddhism that is woven into the idea of Karma so tightly that they seem almost inseparable. I am speaking of the idea or concept of rebirth. This idea itself has at least two levels in Buddhist thought. One way of thinking of rebirth is as a succession of life times lived across infinite time and space. This process is sometimes called reincarnation or transmigration.

                           Another way of looking at rebirth is in understanding that what you call you is in fact a stream of awareness that is in fact being “reborn’ every second that it exists. In this process of “dependant origination” what you call “you” is born new from the ashes of the old you second by second and day-by-day and each new you is related to the old you by the actions and thoughts of the old you.
                        This stream of consciousness can be seen as a series of events rather than a continuous stream of thought. This new you is similar but not the same you as the old one; It is as if what is called you is in fact a series of separate but connected karmic actions and events.
                        For those Buddhist that accept rebirth into other lifetimes there is also a belief that rebirth can involve being reborn into other life forms. A human male can be reborn as a human women or a woman as a man. The stream of thought and Karma that is you may be an animal, a hell beast or even a god in its next reincarnation. You may even be born again on another world or in another dimension.

                                         Heaven and Hell

                         It surprises many westerners that most Buddhist believe in heaven and Hell. In fact most all do believe in a heaven and hell and several stops in between. There is always a great danger is generalizing about Buddhist beliefs. Over the last two thousand five hundred years those that take refuge from the trouble of this world in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Supreme Spiritual Community (Sangha) have had a lot of time on there hands to come up with a lot of variations on Buddhist thought. But it is generally agreed that with the exception of some those Zen rascals most Buddhist see the universes as having many worlds and several planes of existence.
          The Loki or “world” is seen as having three major divisions, 1) heaven 2) earth 3) hell. These three levels of samsara (cycles of existence) have six subdivisions. Heaven contains the 1) realm of the gods and below that the 2) realm of the jealous gods. Earth contains the 3) realm of man and 4) the Brute or animal realm. Hell Contains the 5) world of Hungry Ghosts and 6) realm of the Hell beings.
           While the above description may vary from time to time in Buddhist scriptures the important thing is that they are all part of samsara. Buddhist differ on the definition of samsara and nirvana but it is enough here to understand that each realm is karmic in nature. A sentient being may be reborn into any of the worlds as his or her karma demands. The good news for the reader, at least for now, is that most Buddhist would agree that the only way out of samsara is through the human realm.  

                                        Karmic Connections

                        Some Buddhist believe that this “Karmic” connection between the old and new life times can also extend to other sentient beings and draw them together across space and time. The image here seems to be of force fields generated by karma that surrounds each actor with each having an effect upon the other on a karmic level of some kind. It is believed that some people have a karmic connection to each other that draws them together lifetime after lifetime.
                       But despite these Karmic connections one solid rule of Karma is that while the acts of one person often have an effect on the fate of others; your karma is your own to live with. No one can free you from the results of your own actions but yourself. Buddha said he could show you the way out, but you would have to walk through the exit yourself. The good news is that Buddha said that everyone could make the trip.
                   The basis of this assurance is the belief that all of us have a Buddha nature. Each of us has a pure core of clear light that makes us fundamentally sound and capable of dispelling our bad Karma. This pure nature has many names but what ever it is called you have it and therefore have hope.
                   In simple terms humans are not fundamentally bad or flawed beings. While Karma and the way it works is seen as universally valid and a power that cannot be ignored it can be understood and through skilful means dealt with by the Buddhist practitioner. 

                                         Conditioned Existence

                      The Buddhist sees that there are conditions and states of being that impinge upon the timing of the effects of Karma other than just the action that precipitates the results. When anyone analyzes cause and effect in the physical world they soon realize that this is true and part of the process of cause and effect in our every day world.
                     One image that may help here is that of a person who throws a rock out upon the surface of a frozen lake. The rock will slide across the surface but it will not sink into the lake until the summer thaw. In other words while the intent of the thrower might or might not be to throw the rock into the lake, the rock will not fall to the bottom until conditions are right.
                   One of the most ancient analogies of this conditioned nature of Karma is that of the archer. The arrow sticking out of the target, or your chest if you prefer, is the karma that is acting on you at this moment. The arrow in flight is Karma on its way. The arrow noticed in the bow and ready to fly is Karma waiting for conditions to be right for it to take effect. And of course the arrows in the bowman’s quiver are your potential Karma.

                                    Different kinds of Actions

               In some Buddhist texts speculation as to the results of a given action is considered taboo. The Anguttura Nikaya states that the fruits of Karma cannot be know by thought or analysis and therefore should not be speculated about.
               In that sutra trying to judge peoples karma is referred to as one of the unthinkable acts. Buddha’s follower cousin Ananda is warned against judging people. The Buddha says that, “a person is destroyed by holding judgments about other people” Despite this many Buddhist scholars have tried to apply logical analysis to the subject of Karmic actions.
               In a sutra or book called the Sutta-Pittaka, Karmic actions are separated into four categories. (1) Black acts that have black results. (2) White acts, that have white results (3) black and white acts that have mixed results (4) neither black nor white acts that destroy other Karma.
                But here we encounter the universal problem with speculation. Some Buddhist schools have developed varying categories of actions and supposed results.
                There are intentional acts and none intention acts. There are acts that the actor intended to have good results and ended up having bad results. There is an old saying in the west that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It may be natural to ask if the same acts done by two different people will have the same Karmic results? But these speculations can and do go on forever.
                It is little wonder that the Buddha warned against this kind of speculation. The temptation to judge others and ourselves by such speculation is strong but can come to no good end.

                                     The Karma of Nations

                       Some Buddhist hold to the belief that the law of Karma applies to groups of people as well as to individuals. Persons bound together as a group develop karma by taking action as a group. The destruction or the raising up of one nation or another may be seen as a karmic result caused by their past actions as a group. But again one must beware of speculations that draw on a limited knowledge of a groups karma.

                      The destruction of Tibet might be seen as a disaster to Tibetans but as a boon to mankind as a whole. Driven from their country they have worked diligently to bring the Buddha Dharma to the west. Those that have encountered the dharma through them would be hard pressed to see that as a bad result. At the same time the Chinese may suffer greatly for what they have done to the Tibetans.

                                The Roman Empire persecuted the Christian church for generations. But in a mere three hundred years Rome Became a Christian empire and then fell into oblivion. Prediction of the fruits of Karma is, as Buddha said, an unthinkable task.

                                              Virtue and Merit

                       In Buddhist schools there is an almost universal belief in the concepts of virtue and merit. If you see bad karma as a debt and good Karma as a way to “pay off” that debt you will understand how these concepts work. Now it should be noted that the ultimate aim of a Buddhist is to do away with karma altogether. They see the world as a state of being called samsara. Samara is a never-ending cycle of the accumulation of good and bad Karma. In short the process of Karma is a train that they want to get off of. But while you are riding the train it never hurts to understand the rules. It is by this understanding that the Buddhist believes he or she can eventually overcome Karma and exit the train.
                    Merit in Buddhist thought can be seen as a quality you accumulate through actions usually referred to in common language as being “good”. A good deed is seen as being meritorious and a good person is seen as having obtaine virtue by gaining merit. It is often said that one can accumulate merit by doing good deeds. Simply put merit counteracts bad karma. It pays off part of your “Karmic debt” so to speak.
                    The motivation and will behind the actions called meritorious is seen as effecting the quality and quantity of merit earned. A bad person trying to buy his way out of hell may earn some small merit by building a temple or hospital for the good of others but in the end such acts done out of fear or cynicism are at best small change in your bank.
                     But keep in mind a person raised in poverty, abused by his parents and loathed by society who turns away from those influences to do a good deed may earn much more merit in the end than a saint, raised by loving parents and honored by the world for his purity when he takes the same action the next day.
                    A meritorious act may be helping the poor or sick. Helping a holy man or building a temple may also be meritorious action. The act of praying or striving for enlightenment may be a good act. Even just listing to a talk given by a holy man can obtain merit for you. All these acts can be seen as external to the person that takes the action.
                  Virtue on the other hand is an internal thing. You might even see virtue as a quality you gain by having the right motivation and doing meritorious acts. Virtue it would seem accumulates much like merit over many life times. The saying that virtue is its own reward may be seen as true. The happiness and stability obtained by developing a virtuous state of mind is an internal reward beyond measure.
                      In the Mahayana school of Buddhism the ultimate form of virtue is called Bodhicitta or “The Mind of Enlightenment”. This is the aspiration to become enlightened for the sake of helping all sentient beings to become enlightened. The cause or basis of Bodhicitta must be a universal and limitless compassion for all sentient beings. It is said that there can be no more powerful virtuous act than to cultivate true Bodhicitta. It is said to destroy karma.
                Many Buddhist believe that insight into the true nature of things automatically generates compassion. As a person grows in wisdom there is an accompanying growth in their understanding of the need for compassion and good acts in the worlds that comprise samsara. To have perfect Bodhicitta is to be called a bodhisattva.
                   The key here is how you see those people around you. It is nonsense to talk about doing a good turn for a rock or a river. In the Vimalakiti-Nirdesha Sutra a saint named Manjushri asked how should a bodhisattva see other living beings? He was told to see others as his own face in the mirror, the echo of a calling voice, a flash of lighting, or as a Buddha still suffering from the illusions of this world or even as a smokeless fire. Despite the tentative or illusory nature of others and ourselves it is clear that great understanding and compassion is needed by all of us.

                                  Skilful Means  and Meditation

                        One of the basic precepts of most Buddhists is that a true understanding of the concepts of Buddhist doctrine cannot really be understood just by hearing or reading about them; they must be experienced. The mechanism for gaining insight into reality is meditation. Meditation increases insight and insight increases compassion. True compassion destroys bad Karma.
                      Several teachings of the Buddha state that despite ineffectualness of words there can be no Buddha Dharma without words. A Zen Buddhist monk once wrote that first there was the Dharma, and then the dharma was put into words, after that those words were subject to interpretation and then came hell. This is why so many Buddhist believe that there can be no real understanding of the Dharma without meditation. It is also why most Buddhists teach tolerance of other Buddhists and other religions.
                      Not all Buddhist meditate the same way. The types and methods of meditation is a subject that has filled many a page of many a book. Some Buddhist chant mantras and call out to gods or Buddha for power and insight. They call out names and words of power to draw the power that these words contain into their selves. Other Buddhists recite sutras and do repetitive acts to gain merit and virtue. It is up to you to decide which path to follow. But all Buddhist believe that these actions have an effect upon their karma.

                                         No good and No Evil

                          For the beginner perhaps the most contradictory teaching in Buddhist doctrine is that there is no good and evil. Then the monks and gurus go on to demand that there be no end to good actions in this life. Here are these crazy Buddhist saying there is good and bad karma but then they turn around and say there is no such thing as good and evil.
                       I am no Zen master but I would like to take a stab at this seeming contradiction for those at the beginning of the path to enlightenment. Many immature people who hear that statement that there is no good or evil see it as a license to go out and do whatever mischief suites their fancy.
                      Keep in mind that the goal of Buddhism is to transcend the world of Karma or “actions”. Since all intentional actions generate or influence Karma the teaching that there is no good or evil must refer to a state of mind beyond action. I would suggest that until a person perfects perfect “non-action” he consider good and evil a working reality with which he or she must contend.
                      One of the benefits in believing in Karma is to realize that while all experiences may not be pleasant all experiences have some value. If you are suffering from the effect of bad Karma your experience is not random or meaningless. You can learn from your mistakes.
                     When my son was young he started to reach out and touch the hot eye of a stove. I saw what he was about to do and shouted “Hot” as I raced across the room. But I was to slow and he learned the meaning of hot by having a most unpleasant experience. Despite the “ugly” nature of the lesson he now had experienced “hot” and would never intentionally touch a red-hot object again.
                      Now consider the examples given earlier of cause and effect. If you walk down a railroad track long enough sooner or later a train will run over you. If you drop a bowling ball on your foot it will hurt. If you do evil acts you will reap evil karma.
                     If you believe as many in the Mahayana school of Buddhism do that eventually every sentient being will escape from the trap of ignorance in which we live you can see that some will certainly escape it before others. That being the case the lessons learned from bad Karma may eventually teach the slow learners among us to move along toward enlightenment. Many believe that no one can be really free until all sentient beings are free.
                       In any case you could imagine that an enlightened being could see evil as nothing more than stupidity. They might say that ethical behavior is nothing more than learning the true nature of reality and that the understanding of reality will necessarily destroy the stupidity or ignorance that we call evil.

                                        The Big Bang Theory

           I have saved for last the question as to who created samsara and set the process of Karma in Motion. The most current theory in science of the creation of the universe is that once the entire universe was a singularity. That is to say a single point that existed outside of space and time. Then for some unknown reason there was an explosion or imbalance in the singularity and in a Big Bang or explosion the universe, as we know it was born. They don’t mention a creator God in this event.
               When the Buddha was asked who made the world he told the story of the wounded soldier on the battle field who refused to allow the doctors to remove the poison arrow in his chest until he knew just who had shot him and what type of person he was and a dozen other questions involving the incident.
                  The Buddha observed that if the doctors stopped to find the answers to these questions the patient would be dead long before they had the answers to his questions. In the same way anyone who would refuse to follow the path until he had all the answers to the nature of the universe would die several million deaths before all the answers could be given to him.
                        It may help to observe that the basic teaching of the Buddha known as the four noble truths and the eight-fold path are presented in the form of a medical diagnosis being made by a doctor of his day. He was not trying to answer questions about God and the creation of the universe and often flatly refused to address those issues involved as having no particle value. He was presenting a cure to frustration and suffering, nothing more.
                        It is perhaps best then to ask the questioner to view the law of Karma as having the same nature as the law of gravity. The necessity to comply with the law of good and evil and the knowledge that we usually don’t is a quality held only by sentient creatures. Even my dog knows when he has done something in the house he is supposed to do outside. He doesn’t need to know who owns the house or who made the carpet to act accordingly.
                        Everyone understands that if you jump off of a cliff you will hit bottom and depending on the height of the cliff the result could be a disaster for you. Having such awareness does not require an understanding of God, just common sense. It should not be so hard then to believe that there are universal laws that govern the actions of sentient beings and whose understanding offers the advantage of limiting your suffering.
                       There are as many explanations and theories about how the world began and who made it as there are cultures and religions. Buddha’s prescription for defeating Karma is a particle one for avoiding frustration and suffering. It is based upon and provides a logical understanding of the world around us. Further it gives a meaningful basis to the world as we experience it on a daily basis.
                       Mark Twain wrote that if there is a God he is a hoodlum and a thug. People like him see the world as a meaningless caldron of senseless death and destruction. They see no way that this world was made by a loving and compassionate God. What Kind of God would allow a tidal wave to kill a hundred and fifty thousand innocent people?
                      Of course some people make themselves feel better by believing that those killed were “Bad” people. However this answer usually falls short when the victims are themselves and their loved ones. So who is calling the shots here?

                              The Ultimate Karmic Connection

                              In Buddhism it is usually accepted that the sentient beings that dwell in samsara created this world through our own actions. We sentence ourselves to hell or heaven not God. The creation of this world is our ultimate Karmic connection. Every sentient being in this “samsara” has a “Karmic” connection to every other sentient being here, as proved by their being here. Here we come to the idea that everyone has at one time or another had some relationship with everyone else. The Tibetans say everyone was at one time your Mother. You and I see the same world as we share a common Karma.
                           In the Kalachakra Tantra the cosmic karma storm created by the actions of the whole of sentient beings actually brings entire worlds into existence in order that they may fulfill their Karmic destiny. Now that is what I call a big bang theory of the universe.

PS: So many people I have met complain that rebirth dose not make sense to them because they can not remember their pasts lives, how can they learn from them, what good are they? Consider this, if the test is to test who you truly are, what you have become, then knowing your past lives would be cheating, testing what you remember rather than who you are in truth. Just a thought.

The Alaya Consciousness - ?

     As I said in my post the Tibetan  Buddhist propose six distinct consciousnesses as I stated they are:

First consciousness: "Eye-consciousness" ; seeing apprehended by the visual sense organs;
Second consciousness: "Ear-consciousness" ; hearing apprehended by the auditory sense organs;
Third consciousness: "Nose-consciousness" , smelling apprehended through the olfactory organs;
Fourth consciousness: "Tongue-consciousness" , tasting perceived through the gustatory organs;
Fifth consciousness: "Body-consciousness" ; tactile feeling apprehended through skin contact, touch.
Sixth consciousness: "Ideation-consciousness" ; the aspect of mind known in Sanskrit as manas or the "mind monkey"; the consciousness of ideation.

        These six are all identified in the Sutta Pitaka:

           But please remember that The Sutta Pitaka, the second division of the Tipitaka, consists of more than 10,000 suttas (discourses). All said to have been delivered by the Buddha and his close disciples during and shortly after the Buddha's forty-five year teaching career.  However Sutras written much later such as the Lankavatara Sutra and the Shurangama Sutra both incorporate these teachings.

           But these later writings have introduced  the so called seventh and eighth consciousnesses.
      The Yogachara School that espoused the Cittamatra Doctrine proffers these that there are two more consciousnesses:

(The Yogachara and their Cittamatra doctrine are called by the most Buddhist scholars the consciousness-only or mind-only schools)
      The Seventh consciousness: "Obscuration-consciousness" called the klistamanas = "obscuration", "poison", "enemy"; manas "ideation", "moving mind", "mind monkey" (volition?); a consciousness which through apprehension, gathers the hindrances, the poisons, the karmic formations.
    The Eighth consciousness: "store-house consciousness”; the consciousness which is the basis of the other seven. The seven prior consciousnesses are based and founded upon the eighth. It is the aggregate which administers and yields rebirth. Oddly enough this idea may be ultimately traceable to the "luminous mind" of the agamas. Which is in fact tractable to the Sutta Pitaka as well?

This Eight Consciousness as I understand it is the Alaya Consciousness.

           The Alaya Consciousness as defined by the Yogacara School,( "All three worlds are mind only") also know as the mind only school, Alaya means the "storehouse", implying that this consciousness contains and preserves all past memories and potential psychic energy within its fold; it is the reservoir of all ideas, memories and desires and is also the fundamental cause of both Samsara and Nirvana.

          Now we come to the question the Alaya Consciousness and Zen.

         According to the Lankavatara Sutra which is a major sutra used by Chan and Zen schools in contrast with the Yogachara position, the store house consciousness (alayavjnana) is identical with the tathagatagarbha (i.e., the womb or matrix of the Thus-come-one, the Buddha), and is fundamentally pure.
        From this point of view, it is because the store house consciousness, while being originally immaculate in itself, contains a "mysterious mixture of purity and defilement, good and evil" that the transformation of consciousness can take place and enlightenment can be experienced. In this analysis, mental and physical manifestations are nothing but discriminations of Mind and all aspects of the first seven enumerated consciousnesses are just the reflections of the store consciousness (Alaya) also known as the Tathagatagarba.
         In the development of Chan and later Zen the doctrines of the Alaya Consciousness and The idea of suchness or thusness seems to have resulted in the philosophical idea of the universality of Buddha nature. The Sutra most Chan and some Zen schools rely on here is the Shurangama Sutra.
          This all being said I believe that it would be incorrect to say that most modern Zen practitioners espoused the idea of the Alaya Consciousness. While there are many Chan schools that strongly espouse the tathagatagarbha (i.e., the womb or matrix of the Thus-come-one, the Buddha. All my experience and the results of my reading has been that many modern Zen masters would laugh at this idea. They see the transference of karma and aspects of memory and personality as more or less a kind of kinetic residual energy that simply gets transferred much like what happens when one billiard ball strikes another one on a billiard table. If you suggested too many Modern American Zen masters that there was a store house consciousness that was traveling from life to life they would laugh at you.  Of course many of them I think would not have a clue as to what you were talking about.
       So if this is so dose a dog have Buddha Nature? What if the dog thinks he is a Zen Master?

The Buddhist concept of Mind

            In Buddhist philosophy the mind of a sentient being is not a product of biological processes, but something primordial which has existed since beginningless time and which will be drawn into another body once the present one has died. The mind is capable of existing independently of the body, but an unenlightened mind finds this situation (known as the Bardo) unstable and is drawn into (rather than seeks) another body. In biological terms the mind and body form a symbiotic association.

   The mind is neither physical, nor a by-product of purely physical processes, but a formless continuum that is a separate entity from the body. When the body disintegrates at death, the mind does not cease. Although our superficial conscious mind ceases, it does so by dissolving into a deeper level of consciousness, called 'the very subtle mind'. The continuum of our very subtle mind has no beginning and no end....'
    The only way that the mind can escape Samsara - being endlessly captured and used by biological systems - is to escape from the recurrent process of death, attraction to a body, and rebirth. Training in the Buddha's Dharma is stated to be the path to individual liberation, which is why a mind born into a human body is regarded as extremely fortunate.
     Simply put you state that “Because if mind is consciousness, then I would argue that it does have a beginning and an end. It begins the instant the sperm meets the egg, and then grows and becomes more sophisticated with experience and as the brain develops. What we call consciousness is just the by-product of the brain organ, similar to the eyes seeing”     This is a frequently used materialist argument against the existence of the mind as a non-physical continuum. In essence it claims that mind is an 'emergent property' or 'emergent phenomenon' of the brain.

         But " modern science itself, quantum analysis to be exact, would show that the mind cannot be an emergent property of the brain or any other physical system, since emergent properties and emergent phenomena are psychological in origin, and require the pre-existence of an observer's mind in order to become manifest emergence- Properties of a complex physical system are emergent just in case they are neither (i) properties had by any parts of the system taken in isolation nor (ii) resultant of a mere summation of properties of parts of the system.

" Roberson on the nature of the mind"

     Your world is a probability wave defined by those who look for and observe it.  Werner Heisenberg developed the uncertainty principle which tells us that we (the observer) can never exactly know both the position and momentum of a particle. As every observation requires an energy exchange (photon) to create the observed 'data', some energy (wave) state of the observed object has to be altered. Thus the observation has a discrete effect on what we measure. i.e. We change the experiment by observing it! (A large part of their problem though was to continue to assume the existence of discrete particles and thus to try to exactly locate both their position and motion, which is impossible as there is no discrete particle!) Further, because both the observed position and momentum of the particle can never be exactly known, theorists were left trying to determine the probability of where, for example, the 'particle' would be observed. But it was Max Born (1928) who was the first to discover (by chance and with no theoretical foundation) that the square of the quantum wave equations (described by the Wave Structure of Matter as Wave-Density) could be used to predict the probability of where the particle would be found. Since it was impossible for both the waves and the particles to be real entities, it became customary to regard the waves as unreal probability waves and to maintain the belief in the 'real' particle. Unfortunately (profoundly) this maintained the belief in the particle/wave duality, in a new form where the 'quantum' scalar standing waves had become 'probability waves' for the 'real' particle. Thus all matter exists only once actually observed. The material world requires an observer to manifest.  Thus modern quatum theory would suggest that matter is in fact manifested by the observer, i.e. the mind. It would seem then that modern physicists are in fact members of the Cittamatra (Mind Only) School of Buddhism.
    The first Buddhist Philosopher to comment on the separate nature of mind and matter was Acharya Nagarjuna who simply expressed it in this form. " Mind and body have two separate natures. The first instant of the mind you are experiencing arose from the preceding instant of the mind in Bardo or if you will your previous life. Just as your body did not arise from a “mind” but rather from the act of fertilization of an egg and sperm from other bodies, your mind did not arise from your body. "
        To see the truth of this argument one must have done the mediation required to develop the self awareness to perceive that mind is not simply composed of those mental functions most people believe is their “mind”. This superficial conscious mind you talk to while your reading or argue with when making a decision.


       I  would like to restate that the purpose of the Buddhist science and analysis of the mind is not to give a scientific definition of the mind but to develop a functional description that allows the practitioner to observe his own mental process’s and use those observations to overcome delusion. The Buddhist science of mind is basically a system of understanding and observing mind with mind. This science has developed over a couple thousand years and there are many texts on mind as it is paramount in Buddhist practice.  Starting with the Dhammapada were Buddha states that mind is paramount to various and different schools of Buddhism mind has been at issue.

   Modern westerners refer to the mind as if it were an object, a single thing a monolithic structure contained within itself. We may see it as intellect itself or the power to reason do analysis. But essentially we see it as a unity.


  Buddhist mind science defines “mind” as “Luminous and knowing”. Another translation might be that which is clarity and cognizes. In either case Luminosity or clarity refers to the nature of mind while knowing and clarity refers to its function.


    Ok you say my mind, her mind; its mind is Luminous and knowing. STOP RIGHT THERE – dislodge you conceptual frame work of analysis – remove your underlying assumption of “THE MONOLITICH MIND”

“Mind and its types” (Sanskrit and Tibetan words from which the English is translated are in parentheses:

“Consciousness ( jnana, shes pa) awareness (buddhi, blo) and knower (sanvedana, rig pa) are synonymous: they are the broadest terms among those dealing with the mind. Any mind (chitta, sems) or mental factor (chitta, sems byung) is a consciousness, is an awareness, is a knower. These terms should be understood in an active sense because MINDS ARE MOMENTATY CONSCIOUSNESS which are active agents of knowing. In Buddhism mind is not conceived to be merely a general reservoir of information or just the brain mechanism, but to be individual moments of knowing, the continuum of which makes up our sense of knowing.”

Quote from “Mind in Tibetan Buddhism” by Lati Rinbochay

So in Tantric Buddhism the mind of clear light may be located in the central channel and other “minds” mounted on winds located at other chakra’s and the minds may be certain afflictive emotions and called a mind. One may do the practice of generating Bodhi chitta – or generating the Buddha mind --

I myself have observed that you can think but one thought at a time each of these thoughts and perceptions may be called a mind. The thought that immediately follows the last thought would be another “mind”.

Two different (but basically similar) systems were developed for the learning and study of these “minds” by the esoteric Buddhist. Remember these systems were not devised to give scientific definitions but functional ones that allow the practitioner to observe his own mental process’s and use those observations to overcome delusion.

These systems are the Sautrantika and the Prasangika .

These systems divide the process of luminosity and knowing up into different discreet types and allow you to be aware of what is happening as you cognize.

Example:  Five sense consciousnesses

Eye sense consciousness

Ear sense consciousness

Nose sense consciousness

Tongue sense consciousness

Body sense consciousness

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Gratitude and Buddism

I am writing today on the subject of Gratitude in Zen Buddhism. This subject came to my mind the other day as I was leaving a coffee shop were I had just spent an hour talking with my Sensei. I was thinking about something he said and I realized the truth of it and there was an almost instant benefit to myself as the realization happened. My next thought was not so much a thought as a feeling. I can only describe that feeling as gratitude.

Gratitude is derived from the Latin root gratia meaning grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. It is defined as, thankfulness, or appreciation, a positive emotion or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive.

      There is an old Buddhist saying: “It is more rewarding to pull a dead log from the river than to save an ungrateful man.” But on the whole Buddhist teachings on gratitude itself seem very limited. Teachings on gratitude appear frequently in religious writings mostly the religious traditions of Christianity, Judaism, Islam were it seems to be limited more or less to gratitude to their particular version of God.

       There is a rather obscure Sutra called the “Mind Ground Sutra” which deals with gratitude. This Shinjikan Sutra as it is named in Japanese was commented on by Nichiren Daishonin in a writing called “Meditation on the Mind Ground Sutra” In essence this sutra states that all Buddhist have four great debts, for which they must express gratitude. 1) The first debt is to all living beings. Without which we could not make our vows to save them and accrue merit. 2) The second great debt is to our Mother and Father for giving us birth. 3) The third great debt is to your King (this one has been used to grind some political issues from time to time). And fourth but not least are to the three jewels i.e.  the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.
          A Korean Buddhist Teacher named Sot'aesan Taejongsa's also wrote on this sutra, calling these debts the four graces. His interpretation of the sutra is very different from that of Nichiren. While Nichiren was more or less promoting both the lotus sutra and his own political views, Taejongsa’s intent was to make use of gratitude as a very particle tool for improving the individual practitioners’ quality of life. What he called a method to "change a life based on resentment into a life based on gratitude." His intent was to reform Buddhism, not unlike Nichiren, and he created what is called “Won” Buddhism in Korea.
         The Won Buddhist web site says “The practice of Won Buddhism has two aspects: realization of Buddha-nature and "time-less and placeless Zen." This means that the adherents of Won Buddhism seek to see the Buddha in all things and to live in accordance with this insight.” In short he like Nichiren reworked Buddhism, changed some basic terms and generally tried to make Buddhism more useful for the common man practitioner in his time and place in history. He did this by making the Dharmakaya the equivalent to god and following the path used by the religious traditions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam in teaching gratitude to same. He says “By awareness of Graces and Requital of Graces is meant that one should be aware of, and feel deeply, the way in which one is indebted to Graces of Heaven and Earth, Parents, Brethren and Laws; when following the way of being indebted, one is to requite these Graces.”
         Now that I have written a short history lesson on Buddhism and Gratitude I will express my own feelings on the subject for those of you who have had the patience to read this far.
           Buddhist sutras often talk about generating Bodhicitta and the underlying foundation of Bodhicitta and Mahayana is compassion. I have found in my own practice that this is almost impossible without a true feeling of gratitude. When things get rough in this life and we all take our licks compassion is often shoved over the side of our boat. It is hard to feel gratitude or compassion when it seems like the very universe is out to get you, to make you suffer.
             In Buddhism there are two main types of Buddhist meditation: vipassana (insight) and Samantha (tranquility). In Soto Zen we have a very specific style of Zen Meditation, which could be called insight or vipassana meditation. But Dogen’s style of meditation is different in that we don’t teach the student to focus or concentrate on a specific idea or object as most Buddhist schools do. I think this may be a misunderstanding; Dogen was constantly instructing the reader to “investigate” specific subjects and teachings. So while it is clear he taught his primary method of meditation without a subject or object it appears to me he took the established “wisdom” meditation used throughout Buddhism as a given. I believe That he never meant to exclude the established form of insight meditation from his students tool box.
           I think we could all use a few minutes a day generating a mind of gratitude. You can be grateful for this opportunity to work your way out of ignorance. You can be thankful to and for so much in this life, and despite it brutal nature samsara itself is an opportunity. If I were a Zen master (which I am not.), I would teach gratitude and the benefits of it often. It would be one of the first things I would ask my students to be mindful of.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Jay and Vas have tea .

Jayata said “I do not seek the way, yet I am not confused. I do not pay obeisance to Buddha, yet I do not disregard Buddha either. I do not sit for long periods, yet I am not lazy. I do not limit my meals, yet I do not eat indiscriminately either. I am not contented, yet I am not greedy. When the mind does not seek anything, this is called the Way”

When Vasubandhu heard this, he discovered uncontaminated knowledge,
Manor asked Vasubandhu, “What is the enlightenment of the Buddha’s? Vasubandhu said, “It is the original nature of the mind?”

(From – Keizan’s Transmission of Light, ed Thomas Cleary)

           Vasubandhu is considered the 21st Patriarch of Zen. He is also considered one of the first Buddhist logicians, which I find rather strange myself. His work the “Method for Argumentation” is considered one of the first attempts at developing a system of formal logic for Buddhism. He was a well known and famous teacher of Theravadin Buddhism for years when he was converted to the Mahayana school, supposedly by his half brother Asanga. But all other things aside he and his brother Asanga are said to have co-founded the Yogachara school of Buddhism.
       Yogachara literally means “one whose practice is yoga”. But this school is sometimes called the mind only school because they argued that there is nothing that people experience that is not mediated by mind. This is a teaching which is in fact taught in the Dhammapada which is one of Buddhism’s earliest texts, said to be quoted from the Buddha himself. Supposedly the Madhyamaka school of Buddhism systematized by the great Nagarjuna, the 14th Patriarch of Zen, and the Yogacharins had their differences of opinion on this and that bit of philosophy. But in the end this has usually been found, in my opinion to be a case of hair splitting by later scholars.
             In the end sitting in meditation is the yoga of Vasubandhu, the yoga of Nagarjuna, and the way of Dogen and Keizan. This practice of sitting is the way of the Buddha and always has been.
            I think When Dogen tried to cut his way through 2000 years of Buddhist teaching and philosophy, when he tried to weed out the superfluous and the petty, wade through the bickering and the name calling, he always found sitting in meditation at the core of all the teachings.

              But for me the trick has always been to get up off the cushion and carry what I found there with me through out the day. This is what I would call a “Mountain Walking”. This may not be what Dogen ment by mountain walking but it has stuck with me as its meaning. For me it is the real Zen, when I am sitting even when I am standing and walking.

Or as Jay would say:

“I do not seek the way, yet I am not confused. I do not pay obeisance to Buddha, yet I do not disregard Buddha either. I do not sit for long periods, yet I am not lazy. I do not limit my meals, yet I do not eat indiscriminately either. I am not contented, yet I am not greedy. When the mind does not seek anything, this is called the Way”
    Yes you see Cherry what I mean when I say you can sometimes win the door prize, but simply not be able to do anything with it.