Buddhism, Mindfulness, Zen, Zen practice

Turning Wrong View Right

I used to tease my little brother.  It made me happy to get him mad.  The madder, the better.  Even when I got in trouble with my father for teasing, I still felt a little bit happy that I got my brother so mad.  I thought teasing my brother was a good thing to do.   But I also knew inside of me, in my heart, in my gut, that hurting my brother was not right.

With the way I looked at it, I caused pain for those around me.  We can call this wrong view, or a wrong way of looking at it.  When we look at things in ways that cause pain and trouble, for ourselves and others, that separates us from others, we need to change our wrong view to right view.

We can say wrong and right, but right doesn’t mean that we are more and someone else is less.  Right means that we are being real, we understand how life works.  We know how to bring people together, which makes everyone feel whole and safe, and more loving.

When we do selfish things, we are looking at it wrong.   We need right view.  When we forget that we are connected to everyone and do things that cause others to feel bad, we need right view.

Right view follows Buddha’s Four Eight.  Four noble truths and all of the steps on the Noble Eightfold Path.  Understanding this about Buddha’s Path is Right View, Right Understanding.

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Buddhism, Mindfulness, Zen, Zen practice

Putting Down Roots

On August 6, I begin my sixth year teaching the Dharma to children (and their parents and grandparents) at Daifukuji Zen Temple in Kona.  The Dharma is Buddha’s teaching.  To me, this is not an exercise in religiosity.  (Religion was not Buddha’s intention.)  I am teaching children to become aware, to wake up, to themselves, to their own minds and hearts.  I believe to the core of my being that self-awareness, taught by Buddha and many others, is salvation.  In the realm of my Zen practice, the more aware we become, the more open, loving, kind, tolerant, flexible, wise, and beneficial we are.

I took Zen priest vows in 1984 and in 1990.  As one of my teachers told me, “You have vowed to dive to the bottom of the ocean of self.”  My vow also is to take and give guidance in Buddha’s example and his teaching (the Dharma), and in the community of those who practice self-awareness.

I teach the Dharma to kids who are toddlers, up to high schoolers.  Most are in the middle, four to twelve.  I try to make my lessons relatable, and i read picture books at the end of my talks, ideally running along the same themes as my presentations.  Not every child understands what I’m talking about.  But, as I have discussed with Daifukuji’s head priest, Jiko Nakade Sensei, we are putting down roots.  What the children see, hear, are exposed to, and experience during our Family Services will blossom someday into self-aware, loving, compassionate and wise human beings.  We need those people in our world.

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Buddhism, Mindfulness, Zen, Zen practice

Four Eight

 

FOUR

EIGHT

FOUR Noble Truths

Noble EIGHT-fold Path

FOUR Noble Truths

What does noble mean?  It means decent, respected, ethical, known for doing what’s right for everyone.

The noble ones are those on the Path that Buddha described.

FOUR

One

Two

Three

FOUR

FOUR Noble Truths

Number One is the Truth of suffering.  Everybody believes that life is hard.  We have problems, stress in our lives.

Truth Number Two:  We feel that life is hard and stressful because we reach for things we want, hold on to things we like, and push away things we don’t like.

Truth Number Three:  We can be free.  Our lives do not have to be hard.  We do not have to feel this constant stress of holding on and pushing away.  This freedom is called nirvana.  This is Buddha’s gift.

Truth Number Four:  The way to nirvana is The Noble Eightfold Path

 

 

 

 

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Buddhism, Mindfulness, Zen, Zen practice

Humility Hits a Homer

I stood at home plate, with a baseball bat in my hands, watching the pitcher wind up to throw the softball at me.  I heard kids from my class and other sixth graders talking and laughing as they watched me bat.  The ball rose in the air and came straight at me.  It was right there, in the middle of the strike zone.  I swung and hit the ball in the fat part of the bat. I felt the solid contact.  The ball sailed up, over the pitcher, the infielders, and the outfielders.  I ran around first base, second and third, and made it home before the ball bounced back into the infield.  My home run won the game for our team.

Everybody was cheering.  As I walked away from the field with the crowd, a couple girls came up to me and said, “Wow!  That was incredible!  You were so good!”  I looked at them, stopped, did a full bow, and said, “Thank you!  Thank you!  Yes, I was quite extraordinary.”  The girls frowned and moved away.  I knew I blew it.  I acted like a pompous and arrogant jerk.  As I made the display, I knew it wasn’t me.  I was caught up in the moment.  I was aware how silly and unnecessary my behavior was.

Being mindful, or aware, of ourselves, our actions, our thoughts and feelings, and our effect on others are part of our practice of right mindfulness.  Buddha made right (or complete) mindfulness one of the steps on the Eightfold Path.  We develop awareness by contemplating our body, feelings, mental states, and mental objects.  We practice being resolute, aware, and mindful, putting aside worldly desire and sadness.

We watch our mind and do not hold on to those things that change.  We realize that the things that we perceive through our senses are impermanent (annica), lead to dissatisfaction (dukkha), and are without a separate, abiding self (anatta).

My brief, painful experience as a baseball star helped me to develop humility as a character trait.  I discovered as I grew up that people respond better to that than to the kind of boastful fool I was during my ten minutes of stardom.

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Buddhism, Buddhist Practice, Mindfulness, Zen, Zen practice

The Practice of Meditation

I started doing sitting meditation, or zazen, at an early age.  I wasn’t a boy.  I was a young man.  I have done it virtually every day since.  Why do I sit every morning and evening?  If it wasn’t providing me something, I would not have continued all these years.

I must say that I was blessed with inherent discipline.  I might not have a lot more going for me, but discipline and perseverance are my strengths.  Sitting gives me the stillness and silence to watch my mind.  Thoughts come and thoughts go.  Scary dark thoughts (memories, recollections) arise.  I face them.  I do not turn away and I do not hold on.  I sit right in the middle of them.  I let them be.  They do their thing.  I feel the physical sensations of my emotions and let go.  I don’t dwell and I don’t identify with my thoughts.  In other words, I don’t find my identity by holding on to beliefs, opinions, judgments, or conclusions about anything that arises.  The thoughts, pleasant and terrifying, arise and evaporate, over and over.  With practice, (for me, lots of practice) I sit quietly, in silence, allowing anything and everything to present itself.

Through the step of Right Concentration on his Eightfold Path, Buddha described the development of four stages of dhyana.  Dhyana translates from Sanskrit as mental discipline, or meditation.  The Chinese called it Chan.  The Japanese called it Zen.  We call it Zen.  In our arduous practice of meditating, we move from letting go of unwholesome thoughts, desires, and doubts, rooted in anger, greed, and ignorance.  At the same time, we maintain feelings of happiness and joy.  In the second stage, we cut out intellectual activity as our reality, developing peace and one-pointed mind.  Feelings of happiness and joy remain.  In the third stage of development, said Buddha, seen through his own practice, feelings of happiness and joy dissolve as experience with the disposition of happiness and equanimity remaining.  In the fourth stage of meditation practice, we relinquish all sensation, happiness and sorrow.  We are left with awareness and equanimity.

As mentioned, Buddha described this process of Right Concentration through the discovery of his own meditation practice.  We discover the stages of mental discipline through our own meditation practice.  Buddha provided guideposts, a finger pointing at the moon.  We realize the true nature of the moon.  We realize our own true nature through meditation practice.

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Buddhism, Mindfulness, Zen, Zen practice

Flames of Truth

After the new bullish President portended profits, I decided to invest in the stock market. I withdrew savings and researched hot stocks.  A massive defense contractor was on the list. The new President also promised to grow the military.  I logged into my brokerage house and made the buy. 

I had pangs of conscience.  As a peacemaker, how could I invest in the war machine?  I practice Buddha’s Eightfold Path.  Complete and harmonious livelihood revolves around not engaging in, or supporting, the killing of living beings. 

I rationalized my actions by thinking that it was for my family.  Not everything the company marketed supported military action.  I am small potatoes:  what difference could I make in the large scheme of things?  I let the deal unfold, despite my misgivings.

Within a week, I got word from my broker that I inadvertently had failed to transfer funds from my bank account to the brokerage account.  The buy fell through. 

A wise man once said that when we take the path of truth, everything in our life that is false and inauthentic bursts into flames in front of our eyes.  That happened to me, when I took a crooked step on the path

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Buddhism, Mindfulness, Zen, Zen practice

The Revealing Path

I walked from the house in Halawa toward the cliffs overlooking the ocean, near the Kauhola Lighthouse.  I followed the main trail for about five hundred yards until I came to a crossroads.  I had been there with the group, so I knew to turn left.  At the next T, I turned right.  I walked on and came to another T.  I didn’t know which way to go.  I was out for a hike, so it didn’t matter.  I turned right.  I followed the path as it passed through shrubs and thickets of trees, and crossed other paths.  I felt nervous that I would not be able to find my way back, so I turned around.  There was not another human being in sight.  I headed back down the path, looking for familiar intersections so I could tell where to turn to get back to the house.  Every path looked the same and none looked familiar.  I walked one way, turned and walk the other way, looking for any landmark that might tell me which way to go.  I was completely lost.  Everything looked the same.  I felt panic rising.  I thought that if I didn’t come back by dark, someone in the group would miss me and come looking.  I could not imagine being out there after dark.  I heard a noise and saw a woman walking toward me on the path.  I asked her how to get back.  She walked with me a long way to an intersection and told me to go straight from there.  When I got back to the house, I felt relieved, embarrassed, and humbled.  I mentioned to the group that hiking on the paths out on the bluffs was not something to take lightly.  The paths revealed nothing.

When we find our way on our spiritual journey, we look for a path that reveals the truth, as one teacher put it, “a path with a heart.”  We seek a path that is more about where we are than where we have been and are going. We need a path that liberates us. 

After Buddha realized nirvana, he gave his first talk to his small group of fellow seekers.  He described the Four Noble Truths. (Noble comes from the Sanskrit word, arya, meaning enlightened or noble person.  Noble is more about those who follow the path than it is about the path itself.)  The Fourth and final truth, the very way, Buddha said, to end dissatisfaction, alienation and anxiety in our lives is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path.  That’s the answer.  The key.  The revealing path.

Buddha said that he taught two things:  suffering (the essence of the first two Noble Truths) and the end of suffering (the essence of the last two Noble Truths).  It is said that in every one of the thousands of talks that he gave over a forty-year period, Buddha described some aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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