Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Buddhamind has the shape of a vow.

Community Mindfulness September 2011

Buddhamind has the shape of a vow.

The open, expansive, one-mind comes into the world of form in the shape of our mental intentions. Our vows and our aspirations shape the way our future unfolds. They become the consequences of our action and our karma.

It is important to bring into our awareness what our aspirations are.  What are our broadest vows?    What are the small practices that will help manifest that vow?   Practice period clarify our intentions,  gives support in our consistency, and unifies us as a sangha.

From Katagiri Roshi: (Living in Vow chapter from “You have to say something.”)
“Habits are linked to our desires. If there is no satisfaction in a habit, you won’t continue it for long. Living in Vow, on the other hand, is to carry out your routines with no sense of attempting to satisfy your individual desires.  Under all circumstances, beyond your likes or dislikes, you have to carry on.  It’s pretty hard, but it’s very important.  The difference is total.”
Can we make doable intentions for practice period that we can do beyond our desires or our personal satisfactions?  Can we do these commitments under all our varied circumstances and beyond our likes and dislikes?

“The changes that occur through spiritual practice are not really your business.  If you make them your business, you will try to change your life directly.  If you try to change your life directly, no matter how long you work at it, you will not satisfy yourself.  So, if you truly want to change your life, you should just form the routine of doing small things, day by day.  Then your life will be changed beyond your expectations.”

A vow or intention becomes a focus.   If we are tense about our commitments – we think we have to take care of it by ourselves.  If we are relaxed about our commitments – we are acknowledging all the help visible and invisible we are getting from the universe.  When we get exhausted by our vows, we have lost sight of emptiness.  We have lost sight of our faith and our commitment to non-doing.  The non-doing that is beyond doing and not-doing, or success and failure.

We are experimenting with centralizing this fall’s practice period with an outer structure that revolves around two half day retreats:  Saturdays, 6am to noon: Sept. 17 (or Hokyoji sesshin for those of you who attend that), Oct. 22  and some participation in Rohatsu.  During each of these retreats, you will have an opportunity to discuss your practice with a practice leader.  If you can’t attend the retreats, please make an appointment with a practice leader.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Non-doing as deep silence.

Humility is a perpetual quietness of Heart.
It is to have no trouble.
It is never to be fretted or vexed, irritable or sore
    To wonder at nothing that is done to me
    To feel nothing done against me.
It is to be at rest when nobody praises me
    Or when I’m blamed or despised;
It is to have a blessed home in myself where I can go in and
    Shut the door
    And bow to the universal mystery in secret
    And be at peace.
As in a deep sea of calmness,
When all around and about is trouble.

I have great gratitude for Zazen.  Zazen has introduced me to this deep silence of non-doing and to the perpetual quietness of Buddha’s heart.  More and more, it teaches me to be and do nothing.  To let all the “pumping of life” go and to settle back into a cool deep pond of silence.  My root teacher, Katagiri-Roshi, called it “returning to silence” and he would just say, “trust the universe” or “the universe will correct.”  This is the great relief of spiritual life.  The Tao Te Ching calls it, “drinking from the Great Mother’s breasts”, our Prajna-Paramita, The Great Mother of Emptiness.

Perhaps this is the entrance into the Three Doors of Liberation:
1.    Emptiness - Shunyata
2.    Signlessness – Animitta
3.    Aimlessness - Apranihita

From the Tao Te Ching (Stephen Mitchell translation):
Other people have a purpose;
I alone don’t know.
I drift like a wave on the ocean,
I blow as aimless as the wind.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Non-doing as Serenity

The serenity of non-doing

First, one needs to understand the duality of effort and no-effort, or doing and non-doing.  We can see how our unique personality presents itself.  Do we lean towards over-achieving or being couch potatoes?  Then, in order to achieve balance in our storied life, we can direct ourselves to one side or another.  We can find a more balanced position.  A type of Right effort.

But, the non-doing that I would like to contemplate is beyond or below or something else, then our effort to become a more wise person or have a healthier balance.  This goes without saying that a humane and just society depends on each of us, striving to be as mature and as developed a human being as we can be.

But the words, “try” or “striving” or “developing” all lands us in the same place of, “I hope the future me is better then the present me” and brings us into craving and suffering.  That paradigm, in and of itself, is stressful, fatiguing, and unloving.  This is the paradoxical human predicament.  The razors edge between our karmic life story and our inherent Buddha-nature.   This is where a deeper sense of practice lies.

There is a deeper level of non-doing.  It is the awareness of the “completeness” or the mystery of each moment.  With this awareness, we do not really have to “do” anything.  It is a surrender to total dynamic working, Zenki.  Then the “I” part of the story can begin to relax.

Non-doing becomes a surrender to life as it is and cause and effect as it’s law.

A spiritual surrender is not a passive waiting surrender, but an active use of the will; a total surrender of mind (thinking) and body (doing).
            From “Drop the Rock, Removing character defects”, Hazelton
That reminds me of:
Dropping off body and mind of Dogen-Zenji.

We surrender, give up, let go, of our thinking and our doing.  We then can participate 100% in what’s actually happening in the present moment.  In order to do that, we have to have faith or trust.  In Buddhism, we have to take refuge, have faith in, let go into Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.  We then feel the spaciousness of spiritual life even in the midst of the roller-coaster of pleasure and pain.

We can see zazen as an expression of non-doing at both the surface level (actually getting our body’s to be still and stopping our activities) and at the deepest level (non-thinking, entering into the deep quiet of no perception and no non-perception).

We can let go, receive life, and do nothing.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Open, soften, listen

From Norm Fischer:
“Manas (the 7th consciousness, the ego-centered consciousness) is very convincing.
We don’t believe it would be enough to
    Open, soften, listen
We think we need
 to do, to grasp, to change
Manas says: “I’m going to get this done.”
The path of healing is to open to experience
And to feel basically rooted in a bigger experience than what we see.
Let go of the work and let something larger take over.

The above sentiment goes along with much of what I’ve been studying and practicing.  In his book, “Recovery”, Rabbi Rami Shapiro writes that our distraction to presence, awareness and nowness is basically our (everyone’s) addiction to control.  The part of our consciousness that believes we are a self, thinks, that if we try harder, do more, get it “right”, that we can change the things we don’t like about our lives so that we can be happy in the conditioned reality.  Wow!  If that were true, wouldn’t we have already done it!  If that were true, what happens when we face old age, illness and death, as the Buddha says?

We don’t believe it would be enough to open, soften, listen.
We think we need to do, to grasp, to change.

Somehow, through understanding truth, we have to find our serenity or happiness or peace underneath the ever-flowing, ever changing conditions.  It is more then intellectually understanding Truth, though.  It is in this moment, in this day, letting go of the hand of thought.  Letting go of our control.  That does not mean we are passive.  Ever tried to let go of control?  It is a very subtle and persistent mindfulness task-master.  But this task-master is not hard.  Open, soften, listen.  Let go of the work, and let something larger take over.  This is Zenki, total dynamic working.  I am a cog in the machine and I have my work to do (my unique destiny), but I am not the whole machine.  I can relax into the whole works.

This is a contemplation on right effort.  We relax and let go and yet we are responsible to the seed we are planting in this moment through body, speech and thought.  Every moment has a direction as Dogen-Zenji speaks about in Tenzo Kyokun  but we hold very lightly to the master plan.  Master plans and our control of them, change in every moment.  They need to be fluid, flexible and porous.

From the Tao Te Ching (Stephen Mitchell translation)

Practice non-doing,
And everything will fall into place.
Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.