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?”
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”
“Beyond Mountains are more mountains” is a Haitian saying. This proverb does not only accurately depict the Haitian landscape, but also the inner landscape of our lives. We all have ups and downs, just like the mountains’ slopes. There is no end to the highs and lows of our lives. Haitians know this all tooContinue reading “Haiti is a Great Teacher”