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.”
The Abrahamic faiths as well as Buddhism offer ethical guidelines for how to attain their respective goals – whether it be intimacy with God or Awakening. The Hebrew Bible talks about, among other things, Commandments. But just the word, “Commandment” can be problematic if we have not properly developed our ability to choose from an early age, prior to understanding right from wrong. The 10 Commandments are really an advanced kind of practice, in my view, once an understanding of choice has been well established. If choice has not been well established during youth, in other words if a young person is consistently denied opportunities to make choices, or even consistently given things that they would never choose, then that person will not be prepared to even consider living by the 10 Commandments. I think the same can be said of the Buddhist precepts. The flip side of this is that – considering that the mental factor of choice has not been well developed – then precepts or “commandments” will most likely be followed blindly without the ability to question them.
A prejudice mind is one that is experiencing fluctuations. It is the opposite of steady. When our mind is not steady, we know we are not seeing reality as it is. But this insight into our fluctuating mind only comes if we have a practice well established. Otherwise, we filter what we perceive through our confused senses as reality. We think what we are seeing is real, when in fact we are mistaking a distortion for reality.
I was struggling with the fact that altars in my mind always had crosses on them, not Buddhas. When I approached altars in church, it was a sacred event, and it was almost always to receive the Eucharist from a priest, and to say a prayer to Jesus. Would God punish me for getting this close to a Buddha statue and a Buddhist priest? When I look back on this event today, it’s a totally ridiculous question to me now, but at that moment my fears were real and stemmed from teachings about not worshiping idols.
What is the Buddhist belief in God?
“How did you feel about transferring from one religion to another? Have you found any conflicts between the two religions? What have you learned from Zen Buddhism in contrast to Catholicism?” These were questions asked of me by a student in my World Religions class at the Des Moines Area Community College. I hope thatContinue reading ““Conversion” to Buddhism”
Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them. Children have been by far my best teachers. Jesus said that if we can learn to have the mind of a child, then we will enter the kingdom of heaven. The child’s mind is open, receptive, and sincerely curious about life. When sitting zazen, Dai-En Roshi wouldContinue reading “A Dharma Doorway”