Two Causes for Enlightenment

Buddhist cosmology evolved as home-leavers migrated beyond the Indian subcontinent.  In earlier forms of the practice, it was believed that Enlightenment could be obtained only after several lifetimes of much practice.  The Jataka Tales, for example, are about the previous lives of the Buddha and the sacrifices he made prior to becoming a Buddha in […]

Crossroads

Approaching the varieties of religious expression and trying to make sense of them can be daunting to the casual observer.  The World’s Religions are a peacock’s feathers display of color.  There are differences in language, ceremony, and religious attire, as well as customs and histories making it all very confusing.  Why do people do such different things and it’s all under the umbrella term, “religion.”

Not Realizing It

The Soto school of Zen is not concerned with whether we have some special experience or an “aha” moment or insight.  Shunryu Suzuki Roshi says, “These forms are not a means of obtaining the right state of mind.  To take this [zazen] posture is itself the right state of mind.  There is no need to obtain some special state of mind.”

Yin and Yang

Many are familiar with the yin-yang symbol, but few of us know what it means or how it is applied to real life.  In Zen Master Dogen’s time this symbol was taken for granted.  Not just Dogen Zenji, but all of Japanese culture connects the solstice with the yin-yang energy that fluctuates depending on the time of year.

Practice as though your head were on fire?

Is your head on fire?  I’m guessing it is not.  However, do you really want to end your suffering here and now?  I’m guessing you do, but generally we don’t believe it can be done and we may end up settling for coping with suffering.  Meanwhile, the happiness of the present moment continues to elude us. 

When Yoga Meets Zen Meditation

In the United States there is a cultural idea born in part by early commentators, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, on the Bhagavad Gita and the Buddhist Sutras that meditation is about control, that this control requires one’s own individual efforts alone, and one will eventually experience peace if practiced for long enough.  These ideas are fine but can be misleading when taken out of context. 

Transmitting Light

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.

A Belief that Changes the World

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.

Loss is Gain

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.”

Saving All Sentient Beings without Becoming a Superhero

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.