Zen Blog

This blog collects various internet feeds aimed towards information, experience and technique exchange in support of our shared spiritual journey.....

”Namaste - may the light in me, honor the light in you…”

We Contain the Whole Cosmos

Posted on October 13, 2019 by Chan Niem Hy

This is a 78-minute dharma talk from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in Hanoi during the “Engaged Buddhism in the 21st Century” retreat. This is the sixth and final talk on May 11, 2008 and the talk is offered in English.

Photo by Paul Davis

The Dharma is something you need to come and see for yourself. It is experiential. Meditation holds the keys. We can unlock the door of reality. Among them are the Three Doors of Liberation. Emptiness. Signlessness. Aimlessness. These are the keys.

What are these Three Doors of Liberation?

Along with this, we take a deeper look at several pairs of opposites (in the context of signlessness).

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Indigenous Dharma

Once a month, Tricycle features an article from Inquiring Mind, a Buddhist journal that was in print from 1984–2015 and now has a growing number of back issues archived at inquiringmind.com. This month’s selection is a series of essays and interviews on the interaction between dharma and indigenous traditions, including perspectives from John Travis, Eduardo Duran, Fred Wahpepah, Lorain Fox Davis, Tsultrim Allione, Susan Murphy. The article first appeared as “Indigenous Dharma: Native American and Buddhist Voices” in the Fall 2005 issue of Inquiring Mind. Be sure to check out related articles in the archive, like “Dharma Roots” by Wendy Johnson and “Make Your Body a Sundial” by Susan Moon. If you feel so inclined, consider making a donation to help Inquiring Mind continue adding articles to its archive!

Susan Murphy

Susan Murphy is an Australian Zen teacher in the lineages of Robert Aitken and John Tarrant. She teaches in Zen Open Circle in Sydney, the Melbourne Zen Group and at her rural retreat center, Cloud Mountain. Inquiring Mind asked her to write the introduction to this series of essays and interviews on Indigenous Dharma.

“When you know the place where you are, practice begins,” says Zen master Dogen. One could say that every stage of Buddhist practice, including realization itself, forms and deepens a covenant with the Earth. We bear witness to the Earth by learning to really be here, and when reality breaks through and shakes us to the core, it is the Earth reciprocating that intimate gesture of custodianship. It is one elemental act of kindness being met by another. The testimonies that follow from Native American and Buddhist teachers bring to light some of the affinities of Buddhist practice with native traditions and their protocols for creating and maintaining good relations with the Earth, the source of life.

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Buddha Buzz Weekly: Buddhist Aliens

Nothing is permanent, everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting and otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week. 

Mindful of Melting Glaciers, Ladakh Launches Climate Change Project

A special report recently issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that 64 percent of the glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, which includes parts of northern India and the Tibetan Plateau, may be lost by the year 2100. Days after the report was released, the Himalayan region of Ladakh launched a plan aimed at curbing the glacial melt and other devastating effects of global warming. According to The Times of India, a group of NGOs backed by Chetsang Rinpoche, head of the Drikung Kagyu Order of Tibetan Buddhism, has launched the Green Himalayas project with the goal to create a green cover in the foothills of the Himalayas and a model site of sustainable development in the area of Phobrang in Ladakh. Ladakh MP Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, who was present at the launch of the project, praised the NGOs’ initiative. 

“All 257 villages in Ladakh depend on glacier-fed water resources unlike rain-fed water resources in other parts of the country. The glaciers are, however, melting rapidly. So there is a big question before us as [to] whether Ladakh will survive in 20-30 years in such a situation,” Namgyal said. “I think such initiatives will provide a solution to preserve the fragile ecosystem of the region and increase means of sustainable livelihood for the people.” Following the injunctions of Buddhist leaders, the group behind Green Himalayas had already planted 25,000 trees in Phobrang before the launch of the project. 

Related: Ladakh Brings Old Love to New Stupas

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Meditation in Public Schools: Pro or Con?

As mindfulness gains popularity and governments begin to study the impact mindfulness has on students, some people may be wondering: is teaching meditation to students a good thing?

In this video from Vox, Liz Scheltens explores how mindfulness is making its way into US schools.

Why Bring Meditation to Schools?

Harvard researcher Sara Lazarstudies how yoga and meditation impact cognitive function. After noticing how her own yoga practice calmed her, she was interested in learning whether it was a placebo response of if meditation could change the brain. She decided to study the brains of people who had never meditated—first with a brain scan before they they participated in an 8-week, 30-minute meditation program.

Lazar noticed changes in different brain regions—in particular, thickness increased in certain areas of the brain related to learning, memory, and emotion regulation (the hippocampus) as well as perspective-taking, empathy, and compassion (the temporoparietal junction).

[Kids] are more likely to take the skills home and teach the parents, to teach people in their community, and that’s how we’ve seen the biggest change we made.

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How to Meet Loss and Pain Without Fear

Mindfulness involves several attitudes of mind that are pivotal to the transformation and liberation of the mind: befriending, compassion, joy and equanimity. These qualities are seen as the foundations of all our development as we embark on a path of mindfulness practice. 

Every one of us can cultivate, train, and naturalize these four qualities, in the same way that attention can be trained and developed. In the face of great distress, though, befriending, compassion, joy, and equanimity can disappear just when they are most needed. Today, we’re going to focus on the second of these qualities: compassion.

What Does It Mean to Grow Our Compassion?

Like all capacities, our capacity for compassion grows when we tend to it and nourish it. We have all experienced moments of compassion when the heart softens in the face of pain, distress, and suffering, and when we can be open to the vulnerability that is part of the human experience. These moments can be close to home—such as when a child in our family is sick, or an elderly relative becomes increasingly frail—or on the world stage, such as when we hear about a devastating natural disaster or an innocent bystander grievously injured in an act of senseless violence. In these moments, the divide between self and other softens, the narratives of criticism and blame fade, and we inhabit, perhaps for a few fleeting moments, a world infused with kindness and compassion.

Compassion is an orientation of mind that recognizes pain and the universality of pain in human experience and the capacity to meet that pain with kindness, empathy, equanimity and patience. Its roots in Latin (compati) are to suffer with. Its affective tone is deep care, connection, and responsiveness. It is not, however, an emotion—rather, compassion is an understanding imbued with intention. The near enemy of compassion is pity, because self and other are separated and there is a sense of “I am looking down on your suffering.” Compassion’s far enemy is the wish to see someone harmed, or outright cruelty.

Compassion is central to all of the great foundational spiritual traditions, including Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam. Although it takes different forms, the intention to transcend self-centered concerns and the invitation to respond compassionately to pain and suffering is present in each. What is also present in each tradition is the notion that compassion can be trained and cultivated—that sustained and dedicated practice can educate and re-educate the heart. So, although compassion is deep in our natures—present in us even as infants—education, cultivation, training, and practice can help us bring greater intentionality and a wider ethical framework to our compassionate response.

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