Both the Lotus Sutra and Zen Master Dogen are saying something very similar, that what we do matters and has an effect on those around us, perhaps beyond what we are willing or prepared to notice.
First you must believe that you are already within the Way. You must believe that you are free of delusion, illusory thoughts, confused ideas, increase, and decrease and mistaken understanding. Believe in this manner, clarify the Way and practice accordingly. This is the essence of studying the Way.
Sawaki Kodo Roshi, a 20th century Japanese Zen Master, talked about Zen as the “Study of loss.” What I like about this is how unappealing this sounds on the surface. In a culture that values unending growth and gain, who wants to study about loss? Kodo Roshi, in fact, says in Japanese, “Son wa toku, toku wa son” = “Loss is gain and gain is loss.”
I grew up watching TV shows and movies that portrayed superheroes like Luke Skywalker and Yoda defeating supervillains like Darth Vader. I’m still attracted to these kinds of movies, but I also know that we don’t need to be super-human, saintly, or even to become a Buddha to be of service to others or to save the world.
Improvement or “transformation” modes of practice have their merit and may be viable for us in some ways and at some times. I genuinely respect these approaches. However, Soto Zen meditation is different from other schools of Buddhism, Hinduism and secular meditation in an important respect.
Sometimes people make the mistake of thinking meditation is going to do something for them, make them calmer or happier. There has been loads of research on how meditation does that. But without adequate preparation it really just gets us in touch with our own misery. This is why I suggest asking not what your meditation practice can do for you, but what you can do for your meditation practice.
It can be helpful to remember why we came to meditation in the first place. For many of us, anxiety and stress are big issues. Family, work, even meditation can make us stress out. The thought of carving out more time to do something else can be daunting. It’s easier to simply check out andContinue reading “What is Meditation?”
The contents of this lecture are difficult and challenging to many if not all of us. The point of this article is not to shame people for eating meat, nor to make people become vegan, but to offer encouragement to lessen meat consumption – even by one meal a week or month – and to draw awareness to the intimate connection between the humane treatment of animals and the humane treatment of human beings.
Precepts can provide a supportive system in which to live out our personal vision for what we want to contribute to this world before we die. Precepts also guide whole communities of people to act for the welfare of the planet, rather than simply for human self-interest.
With the rise of recent hate crimes targeting the Asian American community I feel it necessary to share my love, appreciation and dedication to the people that have fed me spiritually for the last 30 years. American Zen is indebted to countless Japanese Americans, Chinese-Americans, Korean-Americans, Tibetan-Americans and Indian-Americans who have over the past two centuries brought with them the spiritual teachings from their lands of origin.