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…”

Karma: Not Just Action

One of the strongest impulses we all have is our desire to experience transcendence. When we tap into transcendence we rise above all of our concerns. We are no longer dominated by fear and we are no longer caught up in the web of worldly affairs, which come with anxiety and worry. That’s why transcendence is desirable. Now and then we have moments when we rise above all of our personal issues and the worldly affairs that concern us. We have a larger, more expanded view. Everything is fine when we become one with a bigger reality.

We cannot deny what is happening in the world: war, violence, and a great deal of suffering from many causes. Even though we have amazing moments when we rise above everything and transcend reality, in the end we always have to come back to whatever is happening in our personal lives as well as in the world at large.

Many of us feel transcendence during meditation or prayer. It’s wonderful and inspiring to experience. It’s a break that we all need. Yet we cannot live forever in that realm. We have to come back. We cannot deny reality even though it can sometimes be very unpleas­ant. We might try to understand it and why it is happening.

One of the best ways to understand reality is to look at the theory of karma. It’s not really a theory or a doctrine. Rather it is a living wisdom that applies to issues on personal, societal, and world levels.

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Meditation Month 2020: Breathing with All Beings

Welcome back for the fourth and final week of Meditation Month, our annual challenge to sit all 31 days of March with Insight meditation teacher and writer Sebene Selassie.

This week, Sebene leads a guided meditation that incorporates the Buddha’s teachings on all four elements and shows us how these teachings can help us strengthen and broaden our practice on and off the cushion. Focusing first on the element of air, Sebene reminds us of our interconnectedness with all beings. The breath is a very popular object of meditation, and we can use it to tap into the sense of not-self and connect with others.

“We can experience the element of air  as an ephemeral reality that not only sustains us moment-to-moment, but also connects us through time and space to all living creatures.” 

Reflecting on these last four weeks, Sebene invites us to take what we’ve learned about earth, water, fire, and air and use this knowledge to let go and find freedom in any moment. 

Download a copy of this talk. It has been edited for clarity.

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Buddha Buzz Weekly: Virtual Buddhist Shrine

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

“It’s been a while since there were more monkeys than humans.”

COVID-19 is causing financial difficulty for people in Japan’s Kanto and Kansai regions, where their economies heavily rely on tourism, driven in part by the areas’ historical Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. For the past five years tourism has led to overcrowding and price gouging, but now some rooms in upscale hotels in Kyoto are as cheap as the local youth hostels, reports the Japan Times. To try to encourage visitors, CNN reports, merchants in Kyoto’s Arashiyama district, created a campaign promoting the empty, usually overcrowded tourist sites, hanging signs that translate to phrases such as: “There are few people around in Arashiyama” and “It’s been a while since there were more monkeys than humans.”

Kyoto’s peak tourism season occurs from February to early April, when foreign and domestic tourists flock to see the world-famous cherry blossoms. This year, however, traditional cherry-blossom events have been cancelled, museums have closed, and many have avoided traveling due to the risk it poses during a pandemic. The emptiness, though, is partly a result of China’s outward-travel ban and as well as another ban that Japan put on travelers who hold passports from certain areas of China. Approximately one third of Japan’s tourists come from China. 

Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room Goes Virtual 

The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City is now accessible for a virtual visit. The Himalayan art museum, which closed last week due to concerns regarding the rapidly spreading coronavirus (COVID-19), released a two-hour stream of the Shrine Room, featuring the sounds of Tibetan throat-chanting and flickering butter lamps that are part of the live installation. The Rubin hopes that by making this footage available to all during this period of social distancing, the Shrine Room “can continue to be a refuge in times of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty.” The museum also offers an interactive version of the shrine on their website, and an audio tour with the Rubin’s curator. 

World’s Biggest Water Fights Canceled

The world’s biggest water fights, which typically take place in Southeast Asian countries during mid-April Buddhist New Year celebrations, have been canceled due to the coronavirus, Reuters reported. Myanmar, where Burmese Buddhists celebrate Thingyan, has banned mass gatherings; Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand—home to the holidays of Choul Chnam Thmey, Pi Mai, and Songrkan, respectively—have not issued outright bans but have urged the public to avoid large groups and to instead celebrate at home with family. Bangkok and other cities in Thailand and Cambodia have cancelled events such as the water fights and street festivals. Southeast Asia seems to have less cases of coronavirus than other regions; some speculate that the lower numbers are due to a lack of testing. Kaung Sithu, an organizer of a big annual party in Yangon, Myanmar, told Reuters, “Now is the time to be concerned; we do not want to be reckless and gather people.”

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Announcing: Live Online Practice Sessions

Join teachers Sharon Salzberg, Mindy Newman, and Koshin Paley Ellison for a free series of live-stream meditations to help ease anxiety amid our social-distancing efforts.

With Sharon Salzberg, Mindy Newman, and Koshin Paley EllisonMar 16, 2020

BSIP SA / Alamy Stock Photo

In response to this time of heightened anxiety and isolation due to the COVID–19 heath crisis, we are offering free virtual meditations from some of our most beloved teachers, including Sharon Salzberg, Mindy Newman, and Koshin Paley Ellison.

Mark your calendar for these upcoming sessions:

Sharon Salzberg
Tuesday, March 17th at 1:00 p.m. EDTMindy Newman
Thursday, March 19th at 7:00 p.m. EDTKoshin Paley Ellison
Tuesday, March 24 at 1:00 p.m. EDT

The calls will be hosted on Zoom and will feature a talk and guided practice led by each teacher. There will also be an opportunity for Q&A at the end of each call. Click below to sign up for the calls and receive a link to join in at the scheduled time.

Register for the online practices here.

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Meditation Month 2020: Warming Up to Impermanence

Week 3 of Sebene Selassie’s guided meditation video series

With Sebene SelassieMar 15, 2020

Welcome back for week three of Meditation Month, our annual challenge to sit all 31 days of March. 

If you’re just joining us, our Meditation Month teacher, Sebene Selassie, is leading a series of four free guided meditation videos. Sebene is an Insight Meditation teacher and a writer who has been studying Buddhism for the past 30 years. Each Sunday, we’re releasing a new video, which builds on the previous week’s lesson. 

In this week’s video, Sebene uses a teaching on the element of fire to show us how to tune into the reality of impermanence, one of the Buddha’s central teachings.

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