282.


Within our strand of Buddhism, the most important sutra, by some distance, is The Lotus Sutra.

The sutra depicts a universe of unimaginable extent and duration, within which a large group of characters ebb and flow through an unimaginable number of lifetimes. The central message of the sutra, which is gradually unfolded, is that each being, at some point in the unimaginably vast future, will become a Buddha.

Think about this. Within this perspective, you are the past life of a future Buddha. Not only that, each event, each thought, each feeling in your life, no matter how apparently painful or useless, is part of the vast karmic tapestry which leads to this future Buddha. Were any of it to disappear, everything would unravel, so everything matters. Matters more fundamentally than we can properly express.

This future Buddha is holding your present, karmic self like a mother would hold a fitfully sleeping baby, and each dream, each flicker of that baby matters. Matters.

It’s a mythical presentation of the classic question in Chinese Buddhism: if everything is perfect, why doesn’t it seem so? And in its answer, nothing is excluded, nothing is to be harried into nothingness. It evokes a feeling through the creation of a magical world. The feeling is the important thing, not the myth.

What if you kept it?

 

 
281.


Practice is not the suppression of noise. Neither is it the realisation of some pictured state of tranquility.

Rather, it is the actualisation of vast compassionate space. It is “vast” because it contains everything. All the noise and silence; all the pain and beauty.

At each moment of sincere practice we are within that realm of practice enlightenment. And so are all practitioners, in all times, and so this practice is beginningless and endless.

 

 

 
280.


If we practice from the perspective of the self, there are always two persons: the person who experiences and the person who judges and assesses that experience. The sense is of incompleteness, frustration and disappointment. It is as if the Master always wishes the Servant to go through a door to a new world, but the Servant is useless, and either wanders off to nowhere in particular, or is immobile. And the door is nowhere to be seen.

If we practice from the perspective of buddha, likewise there are two persons: self and buddha, but the sense is entirely different. There is nothing to get. There is nowhere to go. The sense is of spaciousness, warmth and intimacy.

I described this as like a parent holding their sleeping baby's head, but it's important not to fixate on any particular image. It is the function of these images to pierce the heart, not to gather in the head. The needle goes in first time, or not at all.

 

 
279.


Zazen is the Dharma Gate of ease and joy.

It is not effortful. We entrust our body and mind to zazen and let everything be.

Whether the mind is turbulent or peaceful we hold it like the earth under the ocean holds the weight of the water, maintaining it so it will not seep into nothingness. We hold it like we would hold a sleeping baby's head, whatever the baby is dreaming.

If you listen carefully when the bell is rung you hear two noises.

The first, very brief, is a dull sound, the striker hitting the bell.

The second is the bell's full expression.

If we thought the striking required to continue until it matched our idea of perfection, the expression of the bell would never be realised.

We need to understand perfection is a chimera.

Because all expression is a miracle.

 

 
Posture Instructions: The Breath


When we hear an instruction to keep returning our attention to the breath, we need to unpack that instruction.

It is an instruction primarily given to people who keep having random thoughts. For these people, the instruction is quite simple. But many people have different problems. They may experience thoughts with a persistent, distressing theme - thoughts of torture, for example - or they may consistently experience a particular difficult emotion or cluster of emotions, the common ones being fear, anxiety, boredom, dissatisfaction and such like. For these people, the instruction, without further explanation, is likely to feel at best unhelpful, and at worst an attempt to ignore or minimise their experience in favour of a vacuous serenity.

So, to unpack:

It is not regarding the breath as the object of concentration. It is not as if the breath and the distracting/distressing thoughts or emotions are like two irate fat men, ceaselessly competing to sit on the one chair of attention.

It is the breath, not your breath.

It is our actual experience of the breath as a dynamic, non conceptual moving space within us. There is no barrier between that space and the greater 'external' space. Thus, the entire body is hanging in space, and both are fluid. In this way, we directly experience both 'form' and 'emptiness', and can thus access a vast compassionate space within which our distressing thoughts - along with everything else - can emerge, express and change.

 

 

 
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