Buddhism, Mindfulness, Religion and Spirituality, Spiritual Practice, Zen, Zen practice

Supremely Awakened

In the Vandana Ti Sarana, we chant, “Homage to him the Exalted One, the Enlightened One, the Supremely Awakened One.  Homage means that we show special respect and deep honor to Buddha.  He is supremely awakened.  Awakened means that we are more awake after we wake up in the morning.  When we are awake, we can see in our mind our thoughts and how they lead to the words we say and to our actions, what we do, when we are awake during the day and night, and not asleep in our beds.

When we are awake, we see the thoughts that appear in our mind.  That’s why we look inward when we meditate.  We practice with our thoughts.  When we see our thoughts as they rise up, we can decide what to do with them.  When we are doing zazen, or meditation, we watch in our mind our breaths going in and out.  When a thought comes into our head, we are aware of it and we let it be.  We don’t take it anywhere, and we don’t let it take us.  We go back to our breaths, and we let the thought come in and float on by.  When we know our thoughts like this, then we can decide what to do with them.

When a thought leads to words, we can see before we speak what words are there.  The words lead to actions, to the things that we do.  When we see what our thoughts are, we can choose what words to say (before we say them) and what actions we take (before we do them).

If we can choose our words and actions, then we can practice saying and doing kind and caring things to other beings.  We decide to stop doing things that scare, confuse, and hurt other people.  We decide to say and do things that help the world and every single being in it.  That is what a supremely awakened person, like the Buddha (and like the Buddha inside of us) does.

Buddhism, Mindfulness, Zen, Zen practice

This morning I thought about listening to a podcast on my phone as I shaved.  I usually try not to distract myself before I meditate mornings.  While I deliberated about making an exception and turning on a podcast, I thought about a moment that happened many years before.  I was at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in Sausalito, California, for a talk.  I walked into the bathroom off the main hall.  The room was bare and spotless and silent.  I wished, standing there, that I could live at Green Gulch so that my life could be as clean and simple and spacious as that.

As I raised my razor this morning, I decided to stick with my routine, with my predilection, and meditate before I jump into my media.  It was a small moment, but I realized then that having the life I want, being the person I want to be, has nothing to do with where I live, what space I occupy, or whether discipline is offered to me from the outside.  It has to do with my mind, my awareness, my choices.  I decide what my words and actions will be, in every moment.  The life I lead follows that.

Buddhism, Mindfulness, Zen, Zen practice

Finding a Fidget Spinner

If you see a spider scurrying right at you, what do you do?

If you are walking down the street and you find a fidget spinner sitting on the ground, what do you do?

If you take the fidget spinner and someone asks you if you took it, what do you say?

These are important questions!

Buddha said that to stop killing anything that is living is the right thing to do.

Buddha said that to stop taking things that are not given to us is the right thing to do.

So, even if you find a toy and take it, still it is stealing because nobody gave it to you.

We want to stop killing living things.  We want to stop taking things that are not given to us.  We want to stop telling lies.

These are the right things to do.

Buddhism, Zen, Zen practice

The Intention to Not Hurt

I do not like to kill cockroaches.  I try to not kill them, because I know that they have a life, too, just like me.  They have the same life.  They deserve to live as much as I do.  My intention–what I want to do, what I plan to do–is never to kill another cockroach.  But when they come into my house, I do spray them with poison, because they carry germs and bacteria that could make me, or my wife or my dog sick.  My intention stays never wanting to kill a cockroach.  If I keep that intention, then I might look for other ways to keep cockroaches away.  I could pick them up, in my hand or in a jar, and put them outside.  So, my good intention can make me act in a better way.

Buddha called our not wanting, and trying not to, hurt anyone or anything right, or wise intention.

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.

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.

Buddhism, Mindfulness, Zen, Zen practice

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 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