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…”

Showing Up Without Burning Out 

Tricycle is offering free access to all Buddhist Justice Reporter articles for the duration of the George Floyd trial.  

After a police officer killed George Floyd last summer, large-scale protests and riots erupted through the city of Minneapolis, and violence, which was often instigated by white supremacists, spread throughout our neighborhoods. More than 1,300 properties were destroyed in the mayhem, and 100 buildings were burned to the ground entirely (including the police department’s third precinct station house). The total cost of the damage was estimated at $350 million. 

In the months that followed, community activists put together plans (such as The People’s Budget) to prevent such destruction from happening again, and many more took part in protests and other forms of direct action to make sure that the people with the power to enact change could not ignore these proposals. Yet, as the murder trial of former officer Derek Chauvin began, the City of Minneapolis, rather than investing in the community and addressing the cause of the problem, was spending public funds—with a projected price tag of more than $1 million—on fortifying government buildings and bringing in thousands of additional law enforcement officers. This plan does not protect the residents of Minneapolis; it protects the city officials who were widely criticized for their slow and ineffective response to the destruction at the time and now are seeking to avoid a similar situation during the trials. 

Those of us invested in community activism can become angry and impatient when we contemplate how much money and resources city leaders are funneling into property protections and police. We can lash out in our thoughts and actions because, despite numerous community conversations, those in positions of power still don’t seem to “get it.” But this reactive energy will not help us. Our rage keeps us focused on what could have been rather than on building the capacity to be wise, kind, and tenacious— all mind states that this work requires.

It’s not easy to let go of these afflictive emotions and move onto the next challenge. But we can begin by recognizing that our frustration is not entirely the fault of the city officials who ignored us. They bear full responsibility for the pain that they have caused and will continue to cause the community by refusing to listen to its needs. But they are only partly to blame for our frustration, which is fed by our attachments to the outcome that we had imagined. 

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The Highest Level of Samadhi

For over a thousand years, the Surangama Sutra, or the Sutra of the Indestructible, has been held in great esteem in the Mahayana Buddhist countries of East and Southeast Asia. Traditionally regarded as a practical manual for spiritual practice that will eventually lead to enlightenment, it gives instruction in the correct understanding of buddhanature, the potential within all beings to become a buddha. The sutra explains how and why this true nature is hidden within our ordinary experience of ourselves and of the world, and it shows how we can uncover this nature—and learn to recognize that it is our own true mind.

Much of the sutra consists of the Buddha Sakyamuni’s instructions to the monk Ananda, whose personal story provides a narrative frame for the entire discourse. Joined by several of his enlightened disciples, the Buddha shows Ananda how to turn the attention of his sense-faculties inward in order to achieve a deeply focused state of meditation known as samadhi. He tells Ananda that by practicing a particular form of samadhi—the aptly named Surangama Samadhi—he and anyone else who also maintains purity of conduct and develops right understanding, an element of the Buddha’s eightfold path, can gain an awakening that is equal to the awakening experienced by all buddhas. 

The Buddha asks Ananda to consider where his mind is located. Ananda says that his mind is to be found in his body, but the Buddha quickly disposes of this supposition. Ananda is left with the bewildering conclusion that his mind is neither inside his body, nor outside it, or somewhere between, or anywhere else. 

The Buddha then compounds his cousin’s confusion by stating that there are fundamentally two kinds of mind—first, the ordinary mind of which we are aware and that is entangled, lifetime after lifetime, in the snare of illusory perceptions and deluded mental activity; and second, the everlasting true mind, which is our real nature and which is identical to the fully awakened mind of all buddhas. The Buddha adds that it is because beings have lost touch with their own true mind that they are bound to the cycle of death and rebirth. 

Now that the existence of a true mind has been established, the Buddha explains  a way of practicing samadhi that leads to the true mind. He begins by bringing our attention to the simple fact that we are aware. Taking visual awareness as the paradigm, the Buddha examines awareness itself and demonstrates that, though things move in and through and out of the field of our visual awareness, the essence of our awareness itself does not move. Our awareness teems with objects but is not itself an object. In short, the essence of our sensory awareness is unchanging. It does not arise and disappear in response to objects that enter its scope, including the thoughts in our minds. 

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Buddha Buzz Weekly: Buddhist Monk Rescued After Being Trapped in Cave

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

Monk Rescued from Cave after Being Trapped for Days

Thai rescue workers said on Wednesday that they had freed a Buddhist monk trapped inside a flooded cave in Thailand’s Phitsanulok province, after he had ventured inside the cave to meditate. According to CNN, 46-year-old Phra Ajarn Manas was on a pilgrimage from another province and entered the Phra Sai Ngam cave on Saturday. An unseasonal rainstorm struck the area on Sunday and continued through Tuesday, flooding parts of the cave while Manas was inside, the local rescue unit said on its Facebook page. He was finally freed on Wednesday. Seventeen divers participated in the effort to find the monk. A similar rescue story made global headlines in 2018 with the rescue of 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in the northern Thai town of Chiang Rai. The coach and several of the boys ordained as novice Buddhist monks after their high-profile rescue. 

Tibetan Bikers Ride in Campaign to Bestow Indian Honors upon Dalai Lama 

Two Tibetans living in India, have embarked on a two-month motorcycle campaign in order to urge Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to nominate His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama for India’s highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna award. Setting off from McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, Tsering Yeshi and Chime Tamdin, plan to travel to over 40 locations in India to collect signatures and stamps in support of the nomination, according to Phayul. Yeshi, who initiated the campaign, told Phayul that this honor should be conferred to His Holiness for his “lifelong work towards peace, compassion, non-violence and to recognize the Dalai Lama’s outstanding contribution to the cause of Tibet and the world.” The first destinations for the bikers include Tibetan settlements in Tashi Jong, Bir, and Chauntra.

Communal Matcha Drinking Changes Under COVID

During this year’s ochamori ceremony, the Saidaiji temple in Nara, Japan will break its 800-year-old tradition of serving matcha (powdered green tea) in huge bowls that take multiple people to lift, according to the Asahi Shimbun. To protect against the spread of the COVID-19 virus, each participant will drink from their own bowl, each 20 centimeters in diameter. The ceremony—which began during the Kamakura Period (1185–1333 CE) and is now held each January, April, and October—originated when a priest dedicated tea to the guardian shrine of Saidaiji in gratitude for restoring the temple. Sharing tea from a single bowl is said to lead to the realization of the interconnection of all beings. The temple assured participants that the ceremony is just as meaningful with each person drinking from their own bowl.

1000-Year-Old Avalokiteshvara Statue Recovered in India

The Archaeological Survey of India has recovered a 1000-year-old statue of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, at the site of an ancient Buddhist monastery in Bahoranpur, India, reported the Telegraph India. Archaeologists estimate that the statue dates back to the Pala dynasty, which lasted from the 8th to 12th century. A smaller statue of Avalokiteshvara was recovered earlier in the site’s excavation, but, at six feet tall, this is the largest statue found in the area so far.

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Becoming Trustable

By Leo Babauta

As a husband, a father, a man … one of the things I crave most is for my loved ones to trust me. It’s something I want with my team, my readers, my coaching clients, the members of my Sea Change and Fearless Training programs.

And I’ve worked hard over the years to become more trustable.

It’s really a magical thing, when people start trusting you. When your wife and kids trust you, it can melt your heart. They can relax, and feel taken care of. When your clients trust you, you can go deeper with them. When you trust yourself, you can relax more in any activity.

There’s magic in becoming trustable.

In this article, I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned. To be clear: I am not perfect, and I don’t always do everything perfectly. This isn’t about perfection, but about being someone that people can count on — including taking responsibility when you’ve fallen short of what they were expecting.

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Best of the Haiku Challenge (March 2021)

Although there are many rules for writing haiku in Japanese, haiku in English needs only three: the 5-7-5 syllable form, the use of season words, and the requirement for an original “turn of thought.” If we wanted to imitate Japanese haiku, we would need many more rules. If we want to create haiku that capitalize on the unique possibilities for poetry in English, three is all we need.

The winning and honorable mention poems for this month’s challenges all danced within these basic parameters, breaking new ground for original haiku in English.

Freeman Ng crafts a literary allusion that gives greater depth and breadth to his haiku about love.Deborah Fass’s close observation of nature allows her to witness an inchworm ascending on a thread of evening light.Suzi Golodoff uses the looping movement of an inchworm to satirize the quest for self-discovery.Geneviève Wynand fashions an expansive metaphor to describe her child’s heart in a sonogram photo.Sasha A. Palmer experiences the bittersweet side of gardening when her spade cuts an acorn in half.Marilyn Ashbaugh’s rain-filled acorn cap offers a poignant visual elegy for the half-million lives lost to COVID-19.

Congratulations to all!

You can submit a haiku for the April challenge here.

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