Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Guns in our Hearts

This is the Dharma talk I gave on 1/20/13. It's about becoming aware of our anger, accepting it, seeing through it, and then relinquishing it. I hope you enjoy.

May it serve all beings.

Introduction and sound engineering by Tom Inzan Gartland.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Spiritual diet

Photo courtesy of flickr user: Martin Cathrae.
Last night my wife and I were talking about diets and cultivating healthier eating habits. Most of the time weight loss strategies fail because people treat their new diet like quick fixes rather than as a healthy way to eat and live. A "diet" for most people is temporary, but there's an entirely different way of understanding the word. In another sense, "diet" simply means what an organism eats. For instance, the diet of a lizard or frog is insects. A monkey doesn't eat bananas for a while until it achieves its desired weight or health level; it eats bananas. Period.

In this way, a true diet, I feel, is a new and healthy way for us to eat: smaller portion sizes, more fruits and vegetables, fewer sweets, plenty of water, etc. As my wife pointed out, that's the way we should be eating all of the time. 

But in our goal-oriented culture, a diet is all too often simply treated as a means to an ends--something we do to lose weight, and once we've accomplished our goal, we abandon it.

The end result, of course, is that eventually we put all of the weight back on because we have failed to enact lasting change. We never transformed our lives.

The same applies to meditation and spiritual practice. Just as patients only go to the doctor when something is wrong, most people only become interested in the spiritual path when something is wrong in their lives.

People come to Zen and meditation for a variety of reasons--to help concentrating, stop worrying, get over a  breakup or divorce. Basically because they are unhappy or have confronted the Buddha's First Noble Truth--life is dissatisfying (dukkha).

But the problem, as you can anticipate, is that most people will quit practicing because eventually their problems or suffering diminishes.

If we treat meditation and spiritual practice--essentially the path to awakening--as a temporary fix, a spiritual diet to be abandoned when our lives sort themselves out, then we have missed the mark entirely.

Dogen Zenji said that practice is enlightenment. I think that he was addressing this tendency--the common human impulse to treat spirituality as a means to an ends. So he short-circuited the whole process by teaching that practice is enlightenment.

Just as a monkey east bananas--not to lose weight, but because that's what a monkey eats--we practice meditation, koans, mindfulness, huatous, not to reach enlightenment, but because that's what Buddhas do.

That's our spiritual diet, our veggies, so to speak--a full-time, lasting commitment to reach our greatest potential as fully awakened, compassionate, and wise beings. In short, to become the Buddhas that we truly are.

As Zen Master Chinul, the great Korean founder of modern Seon (Zen), taught, true spiritual practice begins with enlightenment. What follows is a rich and challenging lifetime of cultivation--in the immortal words of Zen Master Seung Sahn, moment after moment after moment. 

Thank you Jackie for your teaching. Many bows.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The 'What' and 'This' of Zen Practice

Here's a Dharma talk I gave on 1/13/13 at the Original Mind Zen Sangha. I hope you enjoy. Please feel free to comment. Have a wonderful week.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sunday, January 13, 2013

It goes on

Image borrowed from Etsy shop PorcupineSpines.
I just read a magnificent quotation from Robert Frost: "In three words I can sum up everything I have learned about life: it goes on." It does. Life, by its very nature, just goes. I think about those friends of mine who have died and how life just continues. It never stops changing, changing, changing. That's the findamental signature of reality.

Bills come, people age, the wind blows, seasons change. Life goes. In fact, that's what life is--movement.

This reminds me of one of my favorite Shakespeare quotes. It's from Macbeth: "Come what come may. Time and the hour run through the roughest day." Time waits for no one. As Buddhism teaches us, we can choose to suffer by resisting the present moment, but time will pass. It doesn't need our permission. Change is indifferent to our plans, projects, and desires. Nothing is stable, not en empire or an atom.

Everything changes.

"It goes on" is Frost's way of expressing the fundamental Buddhist principle of impermanence. Lately I have been reading quite a bit of Tathagatagarbha literature, so I have heard the words "permanent," "immutable," and "unborn" a lot. But I don't think that these scriptures are asserting nirvana as some sort of timeless realm. As the Heart Sutra teaches us, form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Samsara is Nirvana.

Our true nature is not found outside of impermanence, but in the very heart of it. This life, this body, they are the Pure Land. It's our relationship to impermanence and uncertainty that determines whether we experience suffering or freedom.

To borrow the title of Joan Staumbaugh's book, "Impermanence is Buddha nature."

"It goes on," the great Robert Frost says. Life certainly does. Even when it ends for us, it just goes.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Latest Dharma talk

Here's my Dharma talk from 12/30/12, entitled "New Years Revolutions." Hope you enjoy!

Editing and introduction, courtesy of Tom Inzan Gartland.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Dharma talk - "Buddhisms" (sic)

Here's my Dharma talk that I delivered on 12/23/12 at the Original Mind Zen Sangha in Princeton, NJ; it's called "Buddhisms" (sic). I hope you enjoy it. My official podcast should be available on iTunes soon, so stay tuned for that.

Happy New Year everyone!

Thanks and credit to Tom Inzan Gartland for the introduction and editing.