Sunday, May 24, 2009

Śākyamuni Buddha

Buddhism began in the fifth Century before the Common Era (B.C.E.) when Siddhārtha Gautama spent seven years in the wilderness searching for an end to human suffering. At the age of twenty nine he had abandoned his life as a Prince and left his wife and newborn child to seek a path which would lead to the end of all human suffering. He gave up considerable wealth and power to become a sanyasi and followed the ancient tradition of the renunciation of desires and attachment to actions. Young Siddhārtha visited and studied with all of the great spiritual masters of eastern India in the region that is now present day Nepal and Kashmir, sometimes traveling great lengths and suffering tremendous hardships to find them, however not one of them satisfied his great question about life, death and human suffering. He eventually traveled to the province of Magadha where, after finding no suitable teachers, resolved to answer his own questions by adopting the practice of extreme asceticism. It was in the Uruvela Forest, which lies on the banks of the Nerajara River, where Siddhārtha vowed to himself that no ascetic in the past, present or future would dedicate himself as earnestly as he would to this practice. After seven years of debilitating and intense practice he finally realized that he was no closer to finding an end to human suffering than when he had started on his journey. Dejected and tired, Siddhārtha now gave up his ascetic practices, bathed in the Nerajara River and took food from a local maiden named Sujata. At the time, five fellow ascetics had been practicing by his side, and when they witnessed his actions they abandoned him saying that he had betrayed his oath and failed in his quest for enlightenment.

Siddhārtha was now alone and he was weak and frail from the many years of ascetic practice. Yet, after his meal he felt a renewed dedication and decided to sit beneath a bodhi tree (ficus religiosa) and vowed to remain in that very spot until he had attained enlightenment. All through the day and into the night he struggled with his own desperate and confusing thoughts. Great doubts about his direction in life would surface and with each thought about some mistake or misjudgment, he would examine them and one by one he was able to systematically let them go. As he examined his thoughts he began to realize that living as an ascetic was no different to living as a Prince, they were opposite ends of the same universal nature. He began to realize that awakening could only exist in the middle way. He sat all through the night until daybreak under the bodhi tree and as he gazed out on the horizon and saw the first star at daybreak, he finally transcended his own limitations.

Siddhārtha Gautama became the Buddha. The word Buddha in Sanskrit means “one who is completely awake.” He is also known by many other names, such as; the Perfectly Enlightened One, Śākyamuni Buddha, the Sage of the Śākya Clan, the World–honored One, and the Tathagata (the Thus–come One). Following his transformative experience Siddhārtha wondered if anyone would believe in his insight as it was so simple and obvious. After a further period of internal struggle, he overcame his own doubts and went out into the world and taught his simple practice to all he met for the remaining forty five years of his life. From this humble beginning Buddhism was born.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Seung Sahns Teaching

One morning, a student asked Daesŏnsanim, “How can one control thinking while sitting Zen?”
Daesŏnsanim replied, “If you are attached to thought, your practice and your thoughts are different. If you are not attached to thoughts, thinking is practicing; practicing is thinking. This is called only practicing.”
The student asked, “What is only practicing?”
“When you first start driving, you cannot give your attention to sights or sounds, or else you will crash. However, after much practice, you can talk, look at things, and listen to the radio without any problem. Talking and sightseeing have become only driving. Your seeing, hearing, and speaking are non-attachment. It is the same with Zen. ‘Only Zen’ contains walking, eating, sleeping, talking, and watching television. All of these have become unattached thinking. This is only practicing.”
“What is attachment thinking?”
“If you are attached to your thoughts while you are driving, you will go through a stop sign and get a ticket; you will cross the center line and have a crash; you will, thinking that you go to Boston, instead head for New York. In this way, attachment to thinking leads to suffering.”
The student said, “Thank you very much. I understand well.”
“Since you understand, I will now ask you, are thinking and not thinking different? Are they the same?”
“When I am thirsty, I drink.”
“Very good. Go drink tea.”
Then the student and Daesŏnsanim went to the kitchen and drank tea.

Red is red. White is white.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bodhisattva Kshitigarbha (Sanskrit)

Dizhang Pusa (Chinese)
Ji-jang Bosal (Korean)

Kshitigarbha literally means "earth store bodhisattva." One of the four Great Bodhisattvas in Asian Buddhism. He is venerated in folk belief as a savior from the torments of hell and helper of the deceased. Sometimes he is also regarded as a protector of travelers. He is the only bodhisattva portrayed as a monk, however also with an urna (one of the thirty-two marks of perfection) on the forehead. His attributes are the wish-fulfilling gem and a monk's staff with six rings, which signifies that Ji-jang Bosal stands by all beings in the six realms of existence.

Ji-jang Bosal, through his supernatural power, can take on six different forms in order to help the beings of the six modes of existence. In a special ceremony, which is generally held on the 49th day after the death of a sangha member, the sangha member invokes Ji-jang Bosal in front of an ancestor tablet erected on behalf of the deceased and supplicates him to guide the deceased to the pure land of the Buddha Amitabha. Then follows the recitation of a mantra through which the deceased is summoned back so that he/she can hear the teachings expounded. The ceremony ends with the invocation of Amitabha Buddha and Ji-jang Bosal.

Also Ji-jang Bosal is well known for his vow: "If all sentient beings in hell are not released from the cycle of existence, I would never attain enlightenment.

According to certain Buddhist lore or myth, when someone dies they go to the place of the Ten Kings, wherever such place may be. Every seven days the Ten Kings serve as judges at a court. Seven times seven, they go to court. The judges ask the newly deceased, “What kind of good action did you do when you were alive and what kind of bad action did you do?” According to your good or bad action, a certain kind of rebirth is attained or you may be sent to a certain realm.

Of course, there is an inner meaning to all of this. At this time after someone dies, during this 49 period, their mind opens up in an unusual way and all of their karma comes before them. So their energies lead them in particular ways and they gravitate according to their energy pull toward those things that they need yet to learn in a rebirth. That is the inner meaning of this ‘judgment’ of the Ten Kings.

The Ten Kings dwell only in one’s own mind. Perhaps they may be viewed as ten levels of awareness. So if someone has made good karma then they go to a place that is good. If someone has made bad karma, they go to a place that is bad. But, if someone has perceived the essential true meaning that there is no birth and not death, then they perceive the Mind of No Hindrance and then coming and going is all just this Bodhisattva path or Bodhicitta “Altruistic Intention.”

So, this 49 day period has several aspects to it. In a sense this is not so much a ceremony or a period for us as it is a time to try to help the person who has died to keep a clear mind during this time before rebirth. We chant certain mantras and names of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to call on the mystic powers of those Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to help the dead person wake up and get enlightenment. There are certain Dharma speeches given during this time to remind the person to keep clear mind and perceive the essential true meaning of no life, no death. Also, besides offering the service to the person who has just died, we also make compassionate offerings toward all suffering beings in tall realms who are still wondering somewhere. We transfer the merit of any good karma that comes from this to our dearly departed love ones.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Zen Essence

Our offenses have no self-nature,
but arise only from our minds.
If our minds are extinguished,
then our offenses will be likewise destroyed.
When both our minds and our offenses are extinguished,
and both are seen as empty,
this is termed true repentance.

The Four Vows

Sentient beings are numberless,
I vow to save them all.
The defilements and passions are inexhaustible,
I vow to destroy them all.
The teachings are manifold,
I vow to learn them all.
The Buddha-way is supreme,
I vow to attain it.

The Bird Hunter

One day a hunter was hiking in the mountains stalking his favorite game which was birds; however, on this particular day he saw not one bird, and eventually became hungry and tired. The sun was setting in the west, and as evening was settling the surroundings were becoming dark, in fact so dark that he lost his way. Being a man of the hills, the hunter finally decided to walk slowly in a southern direction since his house was in the south.

Suddenly, while wondering in the woods a mountain lion jumped out in front of his path and let out a ferocious roar. The hunter, who now had completely forgot about being hungry, tired, and lost, ran as fast as he could. He knew that his small gun was for killing birds and would not protect him from mountain lions. He was running wildly, completely unaware of where he was running; and just as the mountain lion was about to grab him, he fell into a deep miner’s shaft in the ground.

As he began to fall down the mine shaft he caught onto a strong vine which stopped his fall, and he thought to himself, “Oh my God, I’m safe.” He was dangling from the vine and could still see above him the mountain lion roaring viciously. Just as he had re-gathered his senses and was feeling safe, he heard a strange noise below. He looked down, and saw three huge venomous king cobras anxiously waiting for him to fall. At this point the hunter didn’t know what to do, for he could not climb up or climb down and now he was feeling desperate.

At about this time he heard very faint noises and he realized that they were coming from immediately above him where the vine was growing out of the mine shaft wall. As the hunter looked up and saw a black and a white mouse gnawing away at the base of the vine. He now returned to his feelings of desperation; yet at the same time his mind was now totally clear of all wants and desires, and he was only experiencing a feeling that he must already be dead. His mind totally emptied.

At this point he heard the buzzing of several bees flying about the mine shaft and he could just make out in the faint moonlight that there was a hive and these bees were making honey. The honey from the hive was actually dripping down the vine. The hunter tasted the honey, which was the sweetest taste he had ever experienced in his life, and his only thought was that he was hungry, and so began eating the honey. At this point he forgot about the mountain lion, he forgot about the mice, and he forgot about the king cobras. He was so hungry and so happy that he only relished in his sweet treat of honey.

The hunter is only relishing in the sweetness of the honey, even though he will soon be dead. However, there is only one path of life, what is this path to life?

Dochong’s Comments: The mountain lion represents uncertainty. The black and white mice represent past and future time. The three king cobras manifest anger, greed, and ignorance, which are the three bad karmas. The honey represents the infinite attachments of enjoying life. The hunter represents us.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Relationship of Chán and Precepts

There is sometimes confusion in Chán practice about the relationship of practice and the precepts. My Grandteacher, Zen Master Seung Sahn, would always say to know when the precepts were open and when they are closed. Yet our precepts are our guide to living a life within our correct situation, correct function and our correct situation. And if there is even a minute bit of doubt about our life, we refer to our precepts for guidance. This isn't blindly following a set of rules, it is however, understanding that our 'small ego self' can sometimes misguide us in a direction that we may have to repent for at a later time.

The three studies of precepts (vinaya), meditation (dhyāna) and insight (vipaśyanā) are the core of Buddhist practice; and this is why Sŏn Master Sŏsan said, “If the precepts are kept entirely and strongly, and the water of meditation is clear and pure, the moon of insight will appear therein.” The Buddha said, “The Way is a house. The precepts are the foundations. The fundamentals of practice are the precepts.” The Chanyuan qinggui also emphasizes that Chán practitioners must keep the vinaya and precepts.

It is dangerous for us to think it is OK to ignore the vinaya and precepts. However, because in Chinese Chán Monasteries monks and nuns had to live self-sufficiently, a separate set of regulations was also instituted which consisted of items not in the vinaya yet were necessary for the life of these Monks and Nuns. Chán Master Guishan said, “The Buddha first of all instituted the vinaya and precepts to give a lead to those who had resolved the mind (for the Way),” and so requested that Chán practitioners keep thoroughly the vinaya and precepts.
(this picture was taken at the top of Emei Shan (11,000 ft) which is the sacred mountain of Samantabhadra the Bodhisattva of Action. Behind me is Woyun Sí, a Chan nun's monestary at the peak.)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Today is Buddha's Birthday

As today is Buddha's Birthday, (Lunar Calendar) I thought I'd post our Ceremony for Buddha's Birthday.

I. Lighting of candles and incense

II. Opening bell

Please stand

III. The Threefold Refuge (recite all together in unison)na–mu bul–ta bu–jung gwang–nim bop–hena–mu dal–ma bu–jung gwang–nim bop–hena–mu sung–ga bu–jung gwang–nim bop–heHomage to all the Buddhas, who are present in their glory at this assembly.Homage to the Dharma, which is present in its glory at this Assembly.Homage to all the Sangha, who are present in their glory at this Assembly.

IV. Sogamuni Bul chanting (about five minutes)
na–mu bul–ta bu–jung gwang–nim bop–he
na–mu dal–ma bu–jung gwang–nim bop–he
na–mu sung–ga bu–jung gwang–nim bop–he

na–mu sam–gye dae–sa sa–saeng ja–bu
shi–a bon–sa

so–ga–mon–ni bul
so–ga–mon–ni bul.....(Repeat)

so–ga–mon–ni bul
chon–sang chon–ha mu–yo–bul
shi–bang se–gye yong–mu–bi
se–gan so–yu a–jin–gyon
il–che mu–yu yo–bul–cha
go–a il–shim gwi–myong jong–nye

myol–op –jang jin–on
om a–ro–ruk–gye sa–ba–ha
om a–ro–ruk–gye sa–ba–ha
om a–ro–ruk–gye sa–ba–ha

won song–chwi jin–on
om a–mot–ka sal–ba–da–ra sa–da–ya shi–bye–hum
om a–mot–ka sal–ba–da–ra sa–da–ya shi–bye–hum
om a–mot–ka sal–ba–da–ra sa–da–ya shi–bye–hum

bu–sol so–jae gil–sang da–ra–ni
na–mu sa–man–da mot–ta–nam a–ba–ra–ji
ha–da–sa sa–na–nam da–nya–ta
om ka–ka ka–hye ka–hye hum–hum a–ba–ra
a–ba–ra ba–ra–a–ba–ra ba–ra–a–ba–ra
ji–tta ji–tta ji–ri ji–ri ppa–da ppa–da
son–ji–ga shi–ri–e sa–ba–ha

na–mu sa–man–da mot–ta–nam a–ba–ra–ji
ha–da–sa sa–na–nam da–nya–ta
om ka–ka ka–hye ka–hye hum–hum a–ba–ra
a–ba–ra ba–ra–a–ba–ra ba–ra–a–ba–ra
ji–tta ji–tta ji–ri ji–ri ppa–da ppa–da
son–ji–ga shi–ri–e sa–ba–ha

na–mu sa–man–da mot–ta–nam a–ba–ra–ji
ha–da–sa sa–na–nam da–nya–ta
om ka–ka ka–hye ka–hye hum–hum a–ba–ra
a–ba–ra ba–ra–a–ba–ra ba–ra–a–ba–ra
ji–tta ji–tta ji–ri ji–ri ppa–da ppa–da
son–ji–ga shi–ri–e sa–ba–ha

bo gwol jin–on
om ho–ro ho–ro sa–ya mo–ke sa–ba–ha
om ho–ro ho–ro sa–ya mo–ke sa–ba–ha
om ho–ro ho–ro sa–ya mo–ke sa–ba–ha

bo–ho–hyang jin–on
om sam–ma–ra sam–ma–ra mi–ma–na
sa–ra–ma ja–ga–ra ba–ra–hum
om sam–ma–ra sam–ma–ra mi–ma–na
sa–ra–ma ja–ga–ra ba–ra–hum
om sam–ma–ra sam–ma–ra mi–ma–na
sa–ra–ma ja–ga–ra ba–ra–hum

chal–chin shim–nyom ga–su–ji
dae–he jung–su ka–um–jin
ho–gong ga–ryang pung ga gye
mu–nung jin–sol
bul gong–dok

V. Children offer flowers to the Buddha

VI. Meditation for five minutes (hit the chukpi three times to begin meditation.)(hit the chukpi three times to end meditation.)

VII. Short talks

Bow to Buddha
Bow to Zen Master
Bow to Sangha

VIII. Formal Dharma Speech to last approximately fifteen minutes)

IX. Original Poem

Please stand

X. The Four Great Vows (all together)

Sentient beings are numberless;
We vow to save them all.
Delusions are endless;
We vow to cut through them all.
The teachings are infinite;
We vow to learn them all.
The Buddha way is inconceivable;
We vow to attain it.

XI. Extinguishing of candles

XII. Closing announcements

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Yusuf (Cat Stevens) - Peace Train - Nobel Concert

I get great pleasure at hearing this and knowing that an old friend and poet has picked up his guitar again. May Allah bless him for his gifts.