(Follow this link to see the April 2021 Priory Newsletter where this was published.)
Meditation and Compassion Are One.
One of my favorite short pieces of Zen Buddhist Teaching is Bodhidharma’s Outline of Practice. In his opening comment to his translation of this work, D.T. Suzuki says “As long as Zen appeals to one’s direct experience, abstraction is too inane for the mind of a master.” In the study of the Zen literature, there is an ongoing process of coming to see how what is talked about applies directly to our life of practice and is not just something exotic and mysterious. Of course, there is a pitfall here: the hazard of taking a thing which points to a profound truth that we do not yet fully understand, and trivializing it.
With the effort to both keep from getting mired in abstraction and keep from trivializing (bringing the teaching down to my level), I thought it would be helpful to dig into this work.
I am going to use Red Pine’s North Point Press translation from “The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma” (copyright 1987, Red Pine ) for most of this.
Bodhidharma starts with:
“Many roads lead to the Path, but basically there are only two: reason and Continue reading →
(Follow this link to see the March 2021 Priory Newsletter where this was published.)
The rarely seen (at the temple) winter blooming camellia. It made a brief showing just before the recent snow and ice. It looks like there are still more blossoms on the way, despite the cold!
Recently I found myself laughing at the thought that, again, it was just not going to be how I wanted it. I can’t even remember what “it” was that I thought I wanted; maybe it was just for things to go “my way” for a bit, but it was clear that things were not going to break my way.
Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett taught that that line, “The physical world is not answerable to my personal will,” was a law of the universe: wherever we go in the whole of existence, we will not be able to control circumstances. When we hold onto wanting to have “what we want, when we want it, the way we want it,” there is inevitably going to be suffering.
It is true that sometimes we get what we want and sometimes that might even be a good thing. But it is also true that we just can’t expect to control things Continue reading →
(Follow this link to see the February 2021 Priory Newsletter where this was published.)
Avalokiteshvara: Observing ease and listening to the sounds of the world. In this posture, the Bodhisattva calmly accepts the suffering of the world and is ready to respond as needed.
It is said the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara was first a fully enlightened Buddha (called the Tathagata of the Brightness of the Right Dharma); when she saw that it would be a help to beings, she took the form of a Celestial Bodhisattva. While this has many implications, the one I am thinking of lately is that Avalokiteshvara, in her own right, knows the complete wisdom of the Buddha. That She knows the wisdom of the Buddha, means that She sees to the heart of why suffering arises and can act accordingly to help to alleviate it. The real cause of a suffering can be different than the apparent or surface cause.
For instance, if there is a small child who conceives a desire to have a piece of candy and throws a tantrum when the candy is not forthcoming, the wise parent will make sure the child has plenty of food, but will say no to the candy. (And, I am not saying here, that candy or treats should never be given; just it is helpful to learn that we can forego satisfying our desires and we can learn to be fine with that.)
The parent says no to the candy recognizing that the real cause of the suffering – the craving that causes the tantrum – is the mistaken view, on the child’s part, that they will only be happy when they get what they want. We say no, realizing that if the desire and the mistaken view are indulged, it will set up a pattern of suffering that is difficult for the child to unlearn as it grows into adulthood. An unwise or worldly compassion will just give the child the candy to satisfy the desire.