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.
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.
Racing is what I did for a living. I raced to get to the swimming pool. I raced in the water. I raced to get my homework finished. I raced against my classmates for the best grade. When I sat down to rest, my thoughts raced. I watched fast paced movies, gorging on violence, sex, bodies crashing into each other, and the noise of gunfire. None of this was real, but it was a reflection of the reality of some parts of our world, certainly parts of my own mind, and so it felt real, and I felt connected to others through that “tele – vision.” Yet like Prince Siddhartha prior to seeing the four sights (a sick man, a senile man, a corpse and a sage), I knew there was something missing.
Guest Blog by sangha member, Keith Knapp
Logically and with all certainty the online dictionary defines normal as “…conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern: characterized by that which is considered usual, typical, and routine.”
Sangha member, Keith Knapp, has offered his musings on what it means to “self isolate”. Keith’s blog post recently appeared in Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center. Please join me in welcoming him to this blog.