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Return to Write

After seeing an old friend today, I was reminded that I have not posted here for some time. I will return to this blog soon. I do miss the writing practice! For now, I have one thing to offer: May all those in Colorado who are suffering from these storms find time to rest before heading back into the rain.

In my tradition it is said that Samsara is Nirvana and Nirvana is Samsara. In that spirit, may this rain of suffering be equally a rain of Dharma.

I recently read an article on implicit bias and modern prejudice. If you think you are free from acting with prejudice, think again.

As the author of the article aptly puts the question: Whom are we not helping?

This is also an apt way of framing the practice question. When we stop to help in the spirit of the Great Vow – All Beings, One Body, I Vow To Liberate – may we also stop and ask ourselves: Whom are we not helping? In this way, may we avoid reinforcing norms and boundaries and patterns that harm rather than liberate.

The article can be found here: What does modern prejudice look like?

Thank you for your practice! Thank you for working to end suffering in all the obvious and subtle ways it arises!

No More Sanghas

Today we are burdened with sanghas,

Groups that parade as vehicles for awakening,

Groups that construct a space for sitting and walking, but also for inclusion and exclusion,

Groups that need members to survive, money to pay the bills, and your commitment to their way,

Groups that are numbered and distinct – the Zen group, the Tibetan group, the Secular group, the Non-Group group,

Groups that preach the way is universal, open to all, but create email lists to announce their services to a few.

You can sit with us once, twice, three times or four, but eventually we want your name and number, your hard earned dollars (anything will do, we have cookies to buy to feed those inside), your continued participation in what we do, what happens behind these walls.

Enough!

Buddhism will flourish when there are no more sanghas,

When these boundaries are laughed at,

When groups cannot form because there is no one to exclude,

When money is unnecessary because there is nothing to support,

When it is seen that no space is necessary to build for meditation, that your very body and mind is the lotus of awakening,

When there is no commitment needed, just a sincere heart, a pure mind, and a pounding question – What is it!

Some will say this is idealism, this is unpractical, this is naive:

They mistake Buddhism for a cheap trick, sowing the seeds of continued hatred, greed, and delusion.

We need only take a lesson from our fellow Christians:

When two or three come together in Meditation, the Way is revealed.

But why stop there!

When even one takes up the Path, the Way is revealed.

No members, no group, no walls – no this or that – no sanghas.

Just Sangha, Just Dharma, Just Buddha -

Just This, Just Here, Just Now!

 

They Do Not Study Meditation

Let them measure us, study us, take pictures of our brains.

Let them come close and ask us questions. Do you count? Do you close your eyes? Do you let your thoughts float by?

Let them proclaim that a new treatment is on the scene, one for anxiety, one for addictions, one for lives gone astray, for our modern disease.

Let them think and talk, write and give presentations, observe like scientists observe from the back of the room, ready to take notes.

They think they have it, but it cannot be grasped!

They think it cures, but it cannot be swallowed!

They think they found the answer, but the question still pounds at the door!

What is it!

Dhammapada, Stanza 35

Version 1

Commendable is the taming
Of mind, which is hard to hold down,
Nimble, alighting wherever it wants.
Mind subdued brings ease.

Version 2

Hard to hold down,
nimble,
alighting wherever it likes:
the mind.
Its taming is good.
The mind well-tamed
brings ease.

Version 3

Wonderful, indeed, it is to subdue the mind, so difficult to subdue, ever swift, and seizing whatever it desires. A tamed mind brings happiness.

Reflection

Throw yourself into the task at hand -
Cleaning dirty dishes, caring for a crying child.
With no separation between self and other,
Where is the mind that needs taming?

(Note: Version 1 is from the John Ross Carter and Mahinda Palihawadana translation. Version 2 is from the Thanissaro Bhikkhu translation. Version 3 is from the Acharya Buddharakkhita translation.)

Scripture

I have come here today because I have a connection of many lifetimes with you officials, clerics, and laypeople. This teaching has been passed down by the ancients. It isn’t something I discovered by myself. But if you wish to hear this teaching of the ancients, you must listen with pure minds. And if you wish to get rid of your delusions, you should understand it as past generations have.

Reflection

Recently, I was in California with a friend. We were talking practice. He is not a practitioner, but he was interested in what it means to practice. I gave him some practical advice. When you feel compelled to say no to something, use that body response to open up to saying yes instead. The more you slow down and become aware of your body (through meditation and other activities), the better you can become at noticing these body responses as they arise. And through this awareness, real change can occur – putting ourselves in the direction of the 3 Jewels rather than the 3 Poisons.

This was not my teaching. This is something I learned from Haju Sunim, one of my teachers with the Buddhist Society for Compassionate Wisdom, and her insistence to be more aware of our bodies through practice. As I heard those words come out of my mouth to my friend, gratitude arose in me for my teachers and their teachers and their teachers’ teachers and so on. These teachings are not about anyone of us in particular. It is an ancient knowledge – as fresh and alive and old and mysterious as our very body-mind.

And with this gratitude, I have had a shifting sense of what this blog should be about. For the most part, I will structure the posts this way: one part scripture, one part reflection. The more scripture I read, the more I have faith that the path of practice has already been laid out for us. We just need to practice it with our utmost heart. And so I offer reflections as an expression of gratitude for the ten thousand teachings that our teachers across the many lineages and traditions have offered us.

In the tradition in which I practice, we have something called the 6 Right Livelihood Guidelines – a practical interpretation of Right Livelihood. The third guideline is Practice Gratitude: Notice What You Have; Be Equally Grateful For Opportunities And Challenges; Share Joy, Not Negativity. This teaching of right livelihood has been given to us through numerous lineages of teachers and sincere practitioners. As Huineng says, it is not something we discovered by ourselves. I am fortunate enough to have encountered the teachings because of these numberless beings. So today I practice gratitude by reflecting on this ancient gift and offering this post to you.

(Note: The passage from Huineng is in section 12 of the Tunhuang version of the Platform Sutra, translated by Red Pine.)

As the Crow’s Path Goes

A crow takes flight from her branch. The wind carries her, tumbles her, moves her in the ten directions. Other crows and sparrows and branches come and go, sometimes in the way, sometimes helping along. Always responding to these variations in the field, continuously harmonizing with the wind, the crow finds another branch and settles down alongside other crows resting from wayward flights.

As the crow’s path goes, it is neither here nor there. From the moment she takes flight, the path comes alive. And each moment she flies, the path behind her dies. She is drawing a circle in the sand as a wave washes over. There is no invisible road she wanders. She is the road, origin and destination.

And yet her path is not chaotic, without order, without grace. Her movements are controlled by her sense of the way. Her movement is a spontaneous outpouring of devotion to the wind. And once she lands, you can draw out her path. She moved from one branch to the other. The origin and destination seem outside her, guiding her, calling her as she continues to oscillate between motion and rest.

I sometimes wonder how close the Buddha’s path is to the crow in flight. As he grew older, the teachings and practice came alive. He was the crow in flight, harmonizing with his circumstances. Then when he died, his path was traced out and recorded in the teachings handed down across the years. He was the crow who flew from one branch to another, part of a lineage of crows that stretches back many kalpas, always flying from one branch to another.

And for us, on our branch, about to take flight, do we rest in the wild faith of the invisible path that is no path at all? Or do we rest in the faith that at the end of our flight, whether in this lifetime or in a thousand lifetimes, another branch will be there, a branch beyond all branches, waiting for our arrival?

There is no answering these questions. And no dogma to make the choice and doubt go away.

As the crow’s path goes, just fly.

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