Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Total Personality

"Practice with our total personality", Katagiri Roshi repeatedly said.  What does that mean?  How can we live our lives coming from oneness, which includes both our historic self and our universal self?  They work together, mysteriously, simultaneously and constantly.  Commonly we think, either/or.  Either I am deluded (most of, if not all, the time) or I’m enlightened.  But this kind of thinking is exactly what Dogen-zenji fought against.  We are both deluded and enlightened all the time. They work together in  every circumstance.  How could it be otherwise?

We very naturally receive the dynamism of our karmic life with all our stories and all the movements of life.  We very naturally, simultaneously, receive the whole universe- it’s stillness and it’s eternal time.  These things arise together, always and forever.

Uchiyama Roshi writes:
Right acceptance (which Uchiyama Roshi suggests as a translation for Samadhi) is to receive yourself and simultaneously the whole universe.  We have to receive the whole universe and use it.  You are you, but you are not you, you are the whole universe.  That is why we are beautiful.  We have to accept all aspects of human life whatever they are: visible or invisible, we should accept all beings.  This is called freedom.

Mindfulness practice is to live our lives with this understanding, moment to moment.  As we are dealing with the stories of our life, we see each conflict or activity through the eyes of a vast universal perspective. Then these abstract stories of what is happening, change into the alive acts that are required right here, right now.

Katagiri roshi wrote:
Maintain a pure sense of practice.  Just throw your ideas away and wholeheartedly devote yourself to what is arising right now. Do zazen wholeheartedly with careful attention.  This means to arrange your daily life, make your rooms clean and quiet, wear neat clothes, make your mind calm and then, sit.  It seems that we try to clean our lives with mud, cleaning general activity with general activity.  This doesn’t work, it makes more mud and more confusion.  So, we have to sink to the bottom of the ocean and experience pure practice, even if only once.

We don't need to or can we escape our karmic lives.  The wisdom of no escape. (Anila Pema Chodron)   We need a deeper investigation of Right View. Practice is to see our lives from the view of the pure energy of life itself.  With this Right View, we cease to “improve” life by working from our own point of view and individual desire system.   Our view becomes larger and not centralized around an "I".  Our practice becomes taking care of each being (sentient or insentient) including ourselves, that presents itself on our path.  By taking care of the present from a pure life perspective, we plant the seeds for our outcomes in the future. 

At the end of Katagiri Roshi’s life, he often said, “Just live”.   He called jijuyu sanmai, (translated as receive and use oneness) the simplicity of life.   If we can live as our total personality then we can find freedom, ease and straightforwardness with the circumstances of our life.  We can see our life from a universal telescope and treat it, in truth, as the one precious life that we receive.  Receiving and using our life for the benefit of all, becomes "just as it is" and is not obstructed by our emotional reactivity and our desires.  This simplicity is letting go and trusting the universe with our lives AND still being responsible and taking care of our actions.

I’d like to end with Okamura’s quote that I used in my last blog.  I can’t hear it enough:
We are in the Way from beginningless beginning, and yet we are deluded human beings to the endless end.  So our practice, our vow is endless.  If we practice in that way, then each activity, each practice moment by moment, is the perfect manifestation of the buddha way. – Okamura Roshi

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Circle of the way #2

“Our practice is not a kind of training for the sake of making an ignorant person smart, clever and finally enlightenment.  Each action, each moment of sitting, is arousing Bodhi mind, practice, awakening and nirvana.  Each moment is perfect and yet within this perfect moment we have a direction, the bodhisattva vows.” – Shohaku Okamura Roshi

This explanation of Dogen’s Circle of the Way is explained by Okamura roshi in his introduction to the book, which he translated for Kosho Uchiyama Roshi, The Wholehearted Way.

Gyoji dokan means circle of the way.  Gyoji means practice or protection of practice.
Do means way.  Kan means circle.  Which is:

1.     Hosshin, arousing Bodhi mind
2.     Shugyo, practice
3.     Bodhi, awakening
4.     Nirvana

Dogen’s circle is not one directional from starting point to goal.  Rather the way is a circle:

1.     We arouse Bodhi mind moment by moment
2.     We practice moment by moment
3.     We become fully aware moment by moment
4.     And we are in nirvana moment by moment

We practice all four of these moment to moment and we continue to do it ceaselessly.

“Our practice is perfect in each moment and yet we have a direction toward buddha.”

“The four bodhisattva vows are our direction within our moment-by-moment practice.  And yet each moment is perfect.  Since our delusion is inexhaustible, at no time can we eliminate all our delusions.  Still we try to do it moment by moment.  But even though we try as hard as possible to do it, we cannot be perfect.  So we should repent. And repentance becomes energy to go further, to practice further in the direction of buddha.  Our practice is endless.  Enlightenment is beginningless.”

From Gakudo Yojinshu, Dogen Zenji wrote:
Practitioners of the Way must first of all have faith in the Way.  Those who have faith in the Buddha Way must believe that one is within the Way from the beginning, that one is free from delusive desires, upside-down ways of seeing things, excesses or deficiencies and mistakes”

Each action in our day-to-day lives should be a manifestation of the Way.  We practice because we are already in the Way.

We are in the Way from beginningless beginning, and yet we are deluded human beings to the endless end.  So our practice, our vow is endless.  If we practice in that way, then each activity, each practice moment by moment, is the perfect manifestation of the buddha way. – Okamura Roshi

Friday, January 4, 2013

Intentions for the New Year

“Our present direction is clearly defined but without having a goal. When we stop projecting goals and hopes in the future, and refuse to be led around by them, yet work to clarify our lives, that is, the “direction” of the present, then we discover an alive and dynamic practice”. -- Uchiyama Roshi

Our practice is perfect in each moment and yet we have a direction towards Buddha.” –Dogen Zenji

Year after year, I had the same New Year’s resolutions. The exact same ones!  This is quite discouraging and often leads to an animosity and cynicism towards New Year’s resolutions and endless self-improvement goals.  My husband who is an avid and consistent exerciser, laughs at this time of year because, in January, the health clubs are inundated with New Year’s Resolution people.

Buddha made the 2nd limb of the 8-fold path Right Intention or, another translation, Right Thought.  This indicates the importance of our life intentions and our vows to the direction our life goes.  Dogen writes that we should have a direction of going towards Buddha even though every moment is absolutely imbued with Buddha.  We still should have a direction of going towards are vows and for Mahayana Buddhists, we can say going towards the expression of the Bodhisattva Vows in our unique life.

So every year, the Clouds in Water Community takes a day, the first Saturday in January, to have a life review.  How is it going, our intention to live towards our vows?  How did our life go last year and what is our direction this year?  I liken it to a North Star.  What is the most important thing?  What is our true heart’s desire? That is our North Star.  Even though our path is curvy, and goes off course, we can constantly adjust back to our North Star if we have clarity about what and where it is.

I have begun to restructure my idea of New Year’s Resolutions.  I have over-all vows in my life that I am constantly, moment-to-moment aligning myself with.  This is why the resolutions repeat year after year.  They’re never really finished.  The most important things are never finished or resolved.  They are our practice. 

An intentional life, a mindful life, an aware life has to have a clear and firm direction even though we don’t hold on to the results of our actions.  We have to cultivate the conditions for our goals to manifest even though they don’t show themselves in our pre-conceived way.  Life is a continuous surprise with continuous interruptions and obstacles. Each day, each present moment, we adjust and navigate towards are Right intentions.

This is the paradox:  can we have a direction to our life and yet, not hold on to the results of our actions. 

Dogen Zenji so clearly states that we should not be living our life with the intention of fame and gain.  But usually our goals all land on the side of pleasure, gain, success and praise.  Can we have a unique understanding of the direction our karmic life is going in this next year, create the most positive conditions we can for that clarity and manifestation, and then let go of the results of our actions?  With a clear mind, true sincerity and in accordance to the actual situation we are in, can we throw our life force into every situation and allow it to come to life and fruition.  Allow our self and our life to settle into itself.

So every year I develop a North Star unique to my karmic situation of the moment.  This contemplation can manifest as a few sound bytes or a few succinct themes that will keep my mindfulness and awareness focused and help me make decisions and prioritize my actions.  The clearer my mind is about my direction, the easier it is to align my actions with my spiritual intentions.  The clearer my intentions, the clearer my present moment activities.