I don't have any comments, it speaks for itself.. But I find it interesting that Eckhart has a way of not giving credit in his lectures and his books to his teacher, or the other spiritual paths that he borrows heavily from. Enjoy.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
“It is through not understanding and not realizing four fundamental truths that I, disciples, as well as you, have had to wander for so long through an endless round of births, deaths and rebirths. These four truths are the noble truth of suffering, the noble truth of the origin of suffering, the noble truth of the extinction of suffering, and the noble truth of the path that leads to the extinction of suffering.
This world is driven by pleasure, delighted with pleasure, and enchanted with pleasure. Consequently, all individuals who follow such a path based in the pursuit of pleasure will have great difficulty understanding the law of conditionality, and will not understand the dependent origination of all things in the visible and the invisible realms. It is incomprehensible to them how to end all formations of thought, and through this find the abandonment of every endless cycle of rebirth, the fading away of desire, detachment, and extinction ending in the discovery of nirvana; however, there are beings whose eyes are only a little cloudy and they may understand the truth.
The first noble truth is the truth of suffering. Birth is suffering, old age is suffering, death is suffering, sorrow, regret, pain, grief, and despair, are also suffering; not to get what you want, is also suffering; in short—these five groups of existence are of themselves suffering.
But what is birth? It is the birth of beings belonging to all order of beings, their being born, their conception and springing into existence, the manifestation of all groups of existence, the arising of sense activity—this is called birth.
And what is growing old? It is the aging of beings belonging to all order of beings; their becoming aged, frail, gray, and wrinkled; the failing of their vital forces, the wearing out of their senses—this is called growing old.
And what is death? It is the parting and vanishing of beings out of all order of beings, their destruction, disappearance, and death; the completion of their life period, the dissolution of all groups of existence, and the discarding of the body—this is called death.
And what is sorrow? It is the sorrow arising through loss or misfortune which you encounter the worrying about yourself, the state of being alarmed, inward sorrow, and inward woe—this is called sorrow.
And what is regret? It is through all loss or misfortune which may occur, wailing and lamenting, the state of sadness and worrying—this is called regret.
And what is pain? It is the bodily pain and unpleasantness, the painful and unpleasant feeling produced by bodily contact—this is called pain.
And what is grief? It is the mental pain and unpleasantness, the painful and unpleasant feeling produced by mental contact—this is called grief.
And what is despair? It is the distress and despair arising through all loss or misfortune which one encounters, distressfulness, and desperation—this is called despair.
And what is the suffering of not getting what you desire? To you who is subject to birth there comes the desire: ‘O that I was not subject to birth! O that no new birth was before me!’ Subject to old age, disease, death, sorrow, regret, pain, grief, and despair, the desire comes: ‘O that I was not subject to these things! O that these things were not before me!’ But this cannot be attained through desires; and not to get what you desire, is suffering.
The five skandhas[i] (groups of existence) are suffering. What are the five skandhas? They are form, feeling, perception, impulses, and consciousness.
All mental formations, whether internal or external, coarse or fine, high or low, far or near, belongs to the skandha of form: any feelings belong to the skandha of feeling; any perceptions belong to the skandha of perception; any impulses belong to the skandha of impulses; and all consciousness belongs to the skandha of consciousness.
Although your vision may be normal, if no external forms fall within your field of vision, and no corresponding juxtaposition takes place, then there is no formation of the corresponding aspect of consciousness. Even if your vision is normal and all external forms should fall within your field of vision, yet no corresponding juxtaposition takes place, there also occurs no formation of the corresponding aspect of consciousness. If however, your vision is normal, and the external forms fall within the fields of vision, and the corresponding juxtaposition takes place, in this case there arises the corresponding aspect of consciousness.
Therefore, the arising of consciousness is dependent upon conditions; and without these conditions, no consciousness arises. Furthermore, upon whatever conditions the arising of consciousness is dependent, after these they are called: consciousness, whose arising depends on sight and forms, is called ‘eye–consciousness.’ Consciousness, whose arising depends on hearing and sound, is called ‘ear–consciousness.’ Consciousness, whose arising depends on smell and odors, is called ‘nose–consciousness.’ Consciousness, whose arising depends on taste, is called ‘tongue–consciousness.’ Consciousness, whose arising depends on touch and bodily contacts, is called ‘body–consciousness.’ Consciousness, whose arising depends on thinking and ideas, is called ‘mind–consciousness.’
It is not impossible to explain the passing out of one existence, or the entering into a new existence, nor of the growth, the increase, and the development of consciousness, which are independent of all forms, feelings, perceptions, and impulses.
All formations are transient; all formations are subject to suffering; and all things are without an ego–entity. Form is transient, feeling is transient, perception is transient, impulses are transient, and consciousness is transient. And that which is transient, is subject to suffering and change, so it is functionally impossible to say: ‘This belongs to me; or this I am; or this is my self.’
Therefore, whatever there is that is form, feeling, perception, impulses, or consciousness, whether they are internal or external, whether coarse or fine, high or low, far or near, understand, that according to reality, and true wisdom: ‘This does not belong to me; this is not me; and this is not my substance.’
Imagine that a man with normal sight were to notice the many bubbles on the Ganges River as he is traveling along its banks; as he watches these bubbles, they will appear to him empty, unreal, and insubstantial. In exactly the same way, does the dharma practitioner behold all formations, feelings, perceptions, impulses, and states of consciousness—whether they are of the past, the present, or the future—whether they are far or near. As he watches them, and examines them, they appear empty, void, and without substance.
Those who take delight in forms, feelings, perceptions, impulses, or consciousness, also, take delight in suffering; and those who delight in suffering, will not be freed from their suffering.
Have you ever seen a man, or a woman, of eighty, ninety, or a hundred years old, who is frail and crooked as a gable roof, bent down, and resting on crutches, with tottering steps, infirm, youth long since fled, with broken teeth, gray and scanty hair, or bald–headed, wrinkled, with blotched limbs? And did the thought not arise that you are also subject to this same old age, and that you cannot escape it?
Have you ever seen a man, or a woman, who is sick, afflicted, or grievously ill, wallowing in their own filth, who was lifted up and put to bed by others? And did the thought arise that you are also subject to this same old age, and you cannot escape it?
Have you ever seen a corpse, one, two, or three days after death, swollen up, blue–black in color, and full of decay? And did the thought never come to you that also you are subject to death, that also you cannot escape it?
The second noble truth, the truth of the origin of suffering arises from desire, and leads to rebirth, which brings delight and passion, and seeks pleasure here and there, and seeks out every fresh delight—the desire for sensual pleasure, the desire for continued life, and the desire for power.
There is sensual desire, desire for eternal existence, and desire for self—annihilation. However, where does this desire arise and take root? Everywhere in the world there are delightful and pleasurable things, it is there that this desire arises and takes root. Consciousness, sense perception, feelings born of sense perception, will, desire, thinking, and reflecting, all of these are delightful and pleasurable and this is where that desire arises and takes root.
When recognizing a sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, or perception, if the object is pleasant, one is attracted; and if unpleasant, one is repelled.
So, whatever kind of feeling is experienced—pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent—if one approves of and cherishes the feeling and clings to it, lust will often arise. However, this lust for feelings, results in grasping; and grasping depends on the process of becoming; and the process of becoming (Karma–process) results in future birth. Furthermore, dependent upon birth, are again growing old and death, sorrow, regret, pain, grief, and despair. This whole mass of suffering arises once again. Feeling, desire, grasping, becoming, birth, sickness and death, these are all called the noble truth of the origin of suffering.
Due to attachment to sensuous desire, and conditioned through attachment to sensuous desire, and impelled by attachment to sensuous desire, and entirely motivated by sensuous desire: rulers fight with rulers, generals with generals, priests with priests, citizens with citizens; a mother quarrels with her son, a son with his mother, a father with his son, a son with his father; brother quarrels with brother, brother with sister, sister with brother, and friend fights with friend. Thus, given to dissension, quarreling and fighting, they fall upon one another with fists, sticks, or weapons. And thereby they suffer pain or death.
Furthermore, through attachment to sensuous desire, and conditioned by attachment to sensuous desire, impelled through attachment to sensuous desire and entirely motivated by attachment to sensuous desire, people break into houses, rob, plunder, pillage whole houses, commit highway robbery, and seduce the wives of others. Officials may have such people caught, and inflict upon them various forms of punishment, including but not limited to pain, or death. This is the misery of sensuous desire, the accumulation of suffering in this present life, due to sensuous desire, conditioned through sensuous desire, caused by sensuous desire, and entirely dependent on sensuous desire.
Some may choose the evil path in their deeds, the evil path in their words, and the evil path in their thoughts; so by taking the evil path in deeds, words, and thoughts, at the dissolution of their body, after death, they tumble into a downward state of existence, a state of suffering, into perdition, and the abyss of hell. Consequently, this is the misery of sensuous desire, the accumulation of suffering in the future life, due to sensuous desire, conditioned through sensuous desire, caused by sensuous desire, and entirely dependent on sensuous desire.
For the owner of karma[ii] are the beings who are heirs of those actions; and these actions are the birth place from which karma springs forth. With each deed they are bound up and their actions become a refuge, for whatever actions are performed either—good or evil—of this karma they will be the heirs.
This law of causality implies that wherever beings come into existence, this is where their actions will ripen; and wherever their actions ripen, there they will earn the fruits of those actions, whether in this or any other future life.
There will come a time, when the mighty oceans will dry up, vanish, and be no more. There will come a time, when the powerful earth will be devoured by fire, perish, and be no more. Yet there will be no end to the suffering of beings, which, obstructed by ignorance, and ensnared by desire, are hurrying and rushing through this round of rebirths.
The third noble truth, the truth of the extinction of suffering is the complete cessation of desire, so that no obsession remains, leaving it, being emancipated from it, being released from it, and giving no place to it. The noble truth of the extinction of suffering is the complete fading away and extinction of desire; it’s forsaking and giving up, the liberation and detachment from it.
However how does this desire vanish, and how might it be extinguished? Wherever in the world there are delightful and pleasurable things, there this desire can vanish, and there it may be extinguished. Whether in the past, present, or future, whoever perceives delightful and pleasurable things in the world as impermanent, miserable, and without substance, overcomes desire. Consequently, being released from sensual desire, and released from the desire for existence, there is no return, and this person does not enter again into existence.
Through the extinction of desire, grasping is extinguished; through the extinction of grasping, the process of becoming is extinguished; through the extinction of the process of becoming, rebirth is extinguished; and through the extinction of rebirth, old age, death, sorrow, regret, pain, grief, and despair are extinguished. Thus comes about the extinction of this whole mass of suffering. Hence, the annihilation, cessation, and overcoming of feelings, perceptions, impulses, and consciousness, this is the extinction of suffering, the end of disease, the overcoming of old age and death.”
Nirvana[iii], truly is peace, and is the highest state attainable through the ending of all formations, the forsaking of every substratum of rebirth, and the fading away of desire. Detachment and extinction, lead directly to Nirvana.
When enraptured with lust, or enraged with anger, or blinded by delusion, one aims at his own ruin, at another’s ruin, or at the ruin of both. However, if lust, anger, and delusion are let go, one aspires to neither his own ruin, nor another’s ruin, nor the ruin of both, this person experiences no mental pain and grief. This is Nirvana; immediate, and visible in this life, inviting, attractive, and comprehensible to the wise. The extinction of greed, the extinction of anger, the extinction of delusion: this, indeed, is called Nirvana.
For a disciple thus freed, in whose heart dwells peace, there is nothing to be added to what has been done, and nothing more remains for him to do. Just as the rock of one solid mass remains unshaken by the wind; even so, neither perception, sound, smell, taste, nor touch of any kind, neither desired, nor undesired, can cause such a person to waver. Steadfast is his mind, and gained is his deliverance.
He who has considered all the contrasts on this earth, and is no longer disturbed by anything whatsoever in this world, is regarded as the Peaceful One and is freed from rage, sorrow, and longing, and has passed beyond birth and old age.
There is a realm that is neither solid nor fluid, neither hot nor cold, neither stillness nor motion, neither in this world, nor any other world, neither sun nor moon. This is the realm of neither arising, nor passing away, neither standing still nor being born, nor dying. There is neither foothold, nor development, nor any basis. This is the end of suffering. This is unborn, un-originated, uncreated, and unformed. If there were no unborn, un-originated, uncreated, and unformed state of existence, escape from the world of the born, originated, created, and formed would not be possible. But since there is an unborn, un-originated, uncreated, and unformed state of existence, escape is possible from this world of the born, originated, created, and formed.
The fourth noble truth is the truth of the path that leads to the extinction of suffering. The two extremes and the middle path are to give up indulgence in sensual pleasure of common, vulgar, unholy, and unprofitable actions. Furthermore, it is important to not engage in self–mortification through painful, unholy, or unprofitable actions. Both of these two extremes, the Perfect One has avoided, and has discovered the middle way. The extinction of suffering allows one to both see and know the path that leads to peace, discernment, enlightenment, and the resulting Nirvana.”
[i] The five skandhas (Sanskrit) or skandhas (Pāli) are the five "aggregates" which categorize or constitute all individual experience according to Buddhist phenomenology. An important corollary in Buddhism is that a "person" is made up of these five aggregates, beyond which there is no "self". In the Theravada tradition, suffering arises when one identifies with or otherwise clings to an aggregate; hence, suffering is extinguished by relinquishing attachments to aggregates. The Mahayana tradition further puts forth that ultimate freedom is realized by deeply penetrating the intrinsically empty nature of all aggregates.
[ii] Karma (Sanskrit: kárma), kárman- "act, action, performance; literally cause and effect"; Pāli: kamma) is the concept of "action" or "deed" in Dharmic religions understood as denoting the entire cycle of cause and effect described in Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Buddhist philosophies.
[iii] Nirvāna ( Sanskrit: निर्वाण; is a Sanskrit word that literally means "to cease blowing" (as when a candle flame ceases to flicker) and/or extinguishing (that is, of the passions). It is a mode of being that is free from mind-contaminants (kilesa) such as lust, anger or craving; a state of pure consciousness and bliss unobstructed by psychological conditioning (sankhara). All passions and emotions are transformed and pacified such that one is no longer subject to human suffering or dukkha. The Buddha in the Dhammapada says of Nirvāna that it is "the highest happiness". This is not the sense-based happiness of everyday life, nor the concept of happiness as interpreted by Western culture, but rather an enduring, transcendental happiness integral to the calmness attained through enlightenment or bodhi. The knowledge accompanying nirvana is expressed through the word bodhi.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Ken Layne at Politics Daily posted this article yesterday, so I thought I'd share it with you. If you want to read the original article follow this link: http://www.politicsdaily.com/2009/06/12/is-barack-obama-secretly-a-zen-buddhist-master/
"From the angry fringe right of America, we sometimes hear confused yelling about how Barack Obama is secretly a Kenyan, or a Muslim, or an intellectual, or an elitist, or a talented writer and speaker, or a very successful man with a seemingly happy family life, or a rich and powerful leader, or a thoughtful man or even the important fictional space alien, Mr. Spock -- basically, everything that the rapidly aging and increasingly isolated Republican voter is not.
This is a tactic that says a lot more about the accuser than the accused, but there's no denying that in Barack Obama, the nation once again has an exceptional, almost otherworldly individual serving as president. And after two solid decades of bumbling Bushes and sleazy Clintons occupying the White House, the very idea of a president who is better than you is almost too weird to accept.
Yet presidents -- the good ones, at least -- are supposed to be extraordinary. Even if they came from humble beginnings, the great presidents were great because they transcended the petty squabbles and backstabbing of the political process and managed to do tremendous things, with dignity.
But Obama's actions and personality suggest he is something far more foreign to the common American than a Muslim or a Kenyan. He may actually be a Zen Master, operating on a level so far above regular people that we can only hope to gain a bit of enlightenment from his calm demeanor.
While most Americans have only learned from one master -- the wise green monster muppet "Yoda" in the Star Wars saga -- they may eventually learn mindfulness, conflict resolution and anger management from our own president of Zen."
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
PLANT SEED, PULL WEED: NURTURING THE GARDEN OF YOUR LIFE
In the tradition of Rick Field’s inspirational bestseller, Chop Wood, Carry Water comes Geri Larkin’s Plant Seed, Pull Weed which takes the reader through the steps of planning, planting, nurturing and maintaining a garden while offering funny stories and inspiring lessons on what plants can teach us about our lives. A sort of Zen Chicken Soup for the Soul, this book will entertain, charm and inspire the reader to get their hands dirty and get back in touch withthemselves. Plant Seed, Pull Weed
Friday, June 5, 2009
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
1. Only practice
First in the Five Mountain Sangha history is the fact that Śakyamuni Buddha appeared in this world and attained enlightenment. He taught his students that everything is impermanent, as well as form interpenetrating into emptiness, and the attainment of nirvana. He gave many dharma speeches and his disciples only practiced what they heard. There were no writings not much discussion, and not much checking. At first, Buddhism was only meditation practice with nirvana as the highest experience – “Unify my mind with the universe;” however, eventually Buddhism was to change.
2. From emptiness comes true form
Following the Buddha’s death, his disciples gathered in a series of four meetings to catalog the Buddha’s teaching. These writings, called “Sutras,” are not exactly what the Buddha said, just as the Bible is not exactly what Jesus Christ said. They are the recollections of his disciples spanning several hundred years. The conventional form of the Sutras was to start the first line with, “Thus I have heard ...” Through the ensuing years, later disciples developed and created what is now called Mahayana Buddhism. It teaches that from emptiness comes true form, which is truth. If you keep an empty mind, your mind is clear like space, clear like a mirror. When red appears, the mirror is only red. When white appears, the mirror is only white – everything perceived is perfectly reflected. This became the cornerstone of the Mahayana teaching and is contained in sutras like the Lotus Sutra and the Platform Sutra. After Mahayana Buddhism appeared, there were major debates, and many opinions about what real Buddhism was. This ten evolved into the study of Buddhism becoming more prevalent than the actual practice of it. Within the first eight hundred to one thousand years following Buddha’s death, there appeared numerous volumes written about Buddhism and intellectual dissension with other religions had given rise. Also, the sects within Buddhism were arguing about the correct approach to implementing Buddha’s teaching. During this period it became more important to study the sutras than it was to actually practice the methods laid out by Buddha.
3. Not knowing practice
In the middle sixth century ACE an Indian saint by the name of Bodhidharma is claimed to have appeared. At his own teachers request he traveled from India to China, where Buddhism had already become entrenched in everyday society some three hundred years earlier. The form that initially appeared in India was not the Mahayana Buddhism of India, it was a form of Theravada Buddhism – but the teachings centered on “praying and getting happiness, praying and getting merit in the next life.” Numerous Indian monks traveled to China teaching this very doctrine. When Bodhidharma arrived in China, he began to realize that it was not correct teaching of the Mahayana and set out to change it.
There is a famous story about Bodhidharma’s first visit to the Emperor Wu in southern China. The emperor explained to Bodhidharma that he had commissioned the building of countless temples, translated countless sutras, and given supplies to the millions of Buddhist Monks who were in China at the time. Then he asked Bodhidharma how great was his resulting merit. Bodhidharma replied, “No merit whatsoever.” This was the beginning of the decline of “praying Buddhism.” The emperor then asked, “What is holy teaching?” And Bodhidharma replied, “Vast emptiness, no sacredness.” The Emperor was completely baffled. “Who are you?” he demanded, and Bodhidharma replied, “Don’t know.” (This is when don’t know appeared in Chinese Buddhism, our don’t know is the same as Bodhidharma’s don’t know.) Bodhidharma explained, “If you are not thinking, and I am not thinking, this is don’t know mind and this is my teaching.” At that, the Emperor became his student, and eventually attained enlightenment
Then Bodhidharma went to northern China to its capital city, Chang An. At that time there were already many famous temples, but he did not stay in any of them. Instead he went to a holy cave near Shaolin and sat in meditation.
This is what we might call “hibernation practice” – like a snake or a frog going into the ground and not eating anything. Just breathing in and breathing out, very extended breathing in and out. If you practice like this, go “underground” and do this extended breathing practice, you can gain a high degree of control over your body.
4. Mind to mind transmission
After nine years Dazu Huìkě (487–592) went to Bodhidharma and said, “Please teach me what is dharma.” Bodhidharma replied, “Even if I told you, you would not believe me.”
Then Huìkě reportedly cut off his own arm. “Oh Master, the pain is terrible! My mind is in awful pain! Please put my mind at rest.”
“Give me your mind and I will put it at rest.”
“I cannot find it.”
“Then I have already given you ‘rest mind’.”
Then Huìkě attained enlightenment.
This was the first Zen teaching — only a mind to mind connection, the teacher’s mind and the student’s mind become one. The transmission of the Dharma went from mind to mind.
Here’s another example: when Dayi Dàoxìn (580–651), who was already a monk, was thirteen he became very ill. The Buddhist Monks in the temple would meet in the main building, eat together and hear dharma talks, but he was so sick that he could not attend these events. Jianzhi Sengcan (d. 606) who was the Chan Master at the temple became worried about the boy and he went to visit him.
Dàoxìn said to Sengcan, Master, I have very heavy karma. Please take it away so that I can become strong and study Buddhism.”
Sengcan replied, “Oh, you have heavy karma? I will take it away. Show me your heavy karma.”
The boy said, “I can’t find my heavy karma.”
“I have already taken it away. You are not sick.”
“Oh, I am not sick. Why should I be sick?”
All his sickness disappeared and he attained something, so he became one of Sengcan’s primary students and eventually received transmission.
5. Don’t make anything
The next change in the teaching came with Dàjiāng Huìnéng (683–713), whose primary teaching was focused on cause and effect, about “making nothing.” “If you don’t make the cause, you have no effect...... don’t make anything. Then you are nothing; and then there is no trouble.”
His poem answering the fifth patriarch was: “Bodhi has no tree, clear mirror has no stand. Originally nothing, where is dust?” When he presented this poem to Daman Hóngrěn (602–675) the fifth ancestor, he recieved transmission.
6. The beginning of kōan practice
Enlightenment stories about the ancestors and famous teachers began to be told and eventually cataloged to be used as teaching devices. For example, Huìnéng, the sixth ancestor was famous for this kōan: Two monks were watching a flag ripple in the wind and arguing over which was moving, the flag or the wind. Overhearing them, Huìnéng said, “Neither the flag nor the wind is moving; it is your mind that is moving.” This was very simple teaching.
When Nanyue Huáiràng (677–744) appeared before Huìnéng, the sixth ancestor asked him, “Where are you coming from? What kind of thing comes here?” “Don’t know.” This is where the “what am I?” kōan appeared. It was the same question that the Buddha sat with for six years. Buddha, Bodhidharma, and Huìnéng, all asked “what am I?” and answered, “don’t know.”
Huáiràng sat in his temple for eight years with “don’t know.” He would ask his visitors, “What thing do you bring here?” They might answer, “If you say it’s a thing that is not correct.” So a kind of word-play began to appear, which we call dharma exchange. At this point it was still very simple teaching.
After Huáiràng, came the eighth ancestor, Măzu Dàoyī (709–788). A country boy asked, “What is Buddha?” Măzu answered, “Mind is Buddha, Buddha is mind.” Later his answers to this question grew more complicated. For a while he would answer, “No mind, no Buddha.” And later, “Buddha is not a thing, is not mind, is not dharma, then what is it?”
There is the famous story of Măzu and Báizhàng Huáihăi (720–814), riding together in a ship and seeing the geese flying north. Măzu asked, “The geese, where are they going?” Báizhàng answered, “North.” “North?,” Măzu exclaimed, and twisted Báizhàng’s nose very painfully. Báizhàng got enlightenment. When he returned home, he cried and cried. A friend asked him, “Why are you crying?” “Go ask the Zen Master.” So the friend asked why Báizhàng was crying. Măzu told him, “Ask Báizhàng.” The friend went back and said to Báizhàng, “The Zen Master said to ask you.” Then Báizhàng began laughing. So, crying and laughing, are they the same or different?
7. Simple, one-point answers to kōans
After Báizhàng came Huángbò Xīyùn (720–850), and then Línjì Yìxuán (d. 867), and at the same time many other lines appeared: Yúnmén Wényăn (1025-1115), Caóshān Běnjí (840-901), Dàhuì Zōnggăo (1089-1163), Wéishān Linyuan (1094-1164), and many other Zen Masters. Then the answer to the question, “What is Buddha?” became “Dry shit on a stick.” “Three pounds of flax.” And Zhàozhōu Cóngshěn (778-897) gave his famous answer to the question, “Why did Bodhidharma come to China?” “The cypress tree in the garden.”
These were one point answers, very simple, very direct. After that many schools appeared, and there was some fighting between them. Many techniques also appeared, many different intellectual styles. Before, the teaching had been very simple. When these intellectual styles of teaching appeared, dharma combat also appeared. Thus we have the Blue Cliff Record and the Barrier that has no Entry. There was much discussion as the wisdom of Zen developed. Practicing was very clear, but it was considered just one of several special techniques.
8. Magic or 270o style
Zen began to look much more complicated to ordinary people. The practice of Zen, and the lay people living around the temples every day normal lives, began to diverge. With esoteric sayings like “The wooden chicken cries, the stone tiger flies in the sky,” most people didn’t understand the meaning of these kinds of statements. Zen became a practice only for the elite; in other words, your hair appears higher than your head.
“Do you see the horn of the rabbit?” Lay people didn’t understand this style of speech. Practitioners had to look into the hidden meaning behind the words, because the words themselves were not the true meaning. This style of Dharma Exchange went on for a while, but eventually a more direct style of interchange appeared. “What is Buddhism?” was answered with “Spring comes, the grass grows by itself.” “What is the true way?” “The sky is blue, the tree is green.” – direct, one sentence answers.
In the past, the answer had been a single word or action – “What is Buddha?” Hit! One point. Then the answers to this question went through many changes. One sentence answers appeared, and later, more complicated forms. But they were always teaching truth.
9. Correct function of an enlightenment experience
Truth means, how can you attain your true self, how can you attain truth? How can you attain the correct way? This is still the primary teaching in Japan, Korea, and China. Teachers start with how to attain the truth, and the true self. However, it is also very important to attain the correct way. What is the correct function of truth, the correct function of your true self? This is not commonly taught in other Zen Schools.
So the Five Mountain Sangha has appeared as a daughter Sangha of the Kwan Um School of Zen in the United States. Some schools are focused on an enlightenment experience: what is enlightenment? They want to attain this truth, but they are missing the correct function of an enlightenment experience. Attaining your true self doesn’t matter.
When we first begin, both ways are necessary: attaining enlightenment and its correct function. If we attain the correct function of our true self, we attain truth. This is correct attainment. If we want to attain our true self, a correct life is also necessary. So we say, put it all down, don’t make anything, moment to moment keep correct situation, correct function. Moment to moment, do it!
Doing it means we have already attained our true self. But we don’t understand this, we don’t believe this, so we keep on putting forth the effort. Eventually correct function and attainment appears all at the same time. That is the Five Mountain Sangha teaching. Only attaining the truth is “monk Buddhism”: only keeping your hair cut and living in the mountains to practice your whole life. Correct function is not necessary because Monk’s have no wives, no children, and no connection to society.
Most of us in the West have hair, have a wife or a husband, children, and a job. Our challenge is how do we connect this everyday life and Zen? This is a very important point. In the Five Mountain Sangha, it doesn’t matter whether you are a monk or a layperson. Each one of us just does it and at the same time we can attain our true self, and enlightenment. Correct function combined with a correct livelihood, at the same time.
10. Using kōan practice as a direction in our everyday lives
Our teaching in the Five Mountain Sangha, which was handed down to us by Zen Master Seung Sahn, is kōan practicing. In the past, kōan practice meant checking attainment, checking someone’s enlightenment. A student would be given one kōan to work on for maybe fifteen or twenty years, and when they answered this one question they would eventually become teachers or hermits as they wished. In our sangha we use kōans to understand our day to day lives. This is a divergent way of utilizing kōans which breaks with the traditional Zen approach. In the light of our teaching, some of the kōans are correct and helpful, some are merely philisophical. Whether they are correct or not doesn’t matter.
We use kōans to help us to discover a direction of compassion and awareness, also to guide our practice and direct our life. This is the teaching of the Five Mountain Sangha which was founded by Zen Master Seung Sahn. This means perceive your true self. At the same time, perceive inside and outside. Perceiving this world’s sound means perceiving that many, many people are in a state of dis-ease.
If you can hear this sound of dis-ease, then helping is both possible and necessary, this is the Great Bodhisattva way. How do we help people is our practice and our job. It is not only attaining enlightenment, it is enlightenment’s job. Enlightenment only is a monk’s job, but only someone like a Zen monk has the circumstances to do it: no family, no job, everyone giving support.
Lay practice is not like the monk’s job – our job is how to help other people. First we must connect with our family, then our friends, then our country and eventually all sentient beings: helping all of these is our obligation. If we want to help correctly, we must relinquish our opinion, our condition and our situation. If we cannot put down these things, we cannot help anyone. If we relinquish them, then true love can appear. This also means that nothing in the entire cosmos is special. Just keeping our moment to moment correct situation is very simple. The name for this is great love, great compassion, the great bodhisattva way. This is the practice of the Five Mountain Sangha.
This is a change in Zen practice and teaching from the traditions imported from Asia, yet it was sanctioned by a very wise man, Zen Master Seung Sahn. In order for us to implement his vision, we need a Sangha where all people can attend and feel welcomed. This is not the old style imported from China, Korea, Japan or Vietnam. Korean Zen has also appeared in the West without changing, but many changes have been necessary. We do kōan practice, but Korean monks looking at our Zen style have said, “That is not Zen.” Seung Sahn said, “Yes, it’s not Zen. Zen doesn’t matter. Original Zen is not Zen. Nothing is Zen. In fact, we don’t understand what Zen is.”
Ever since its beginning, Zen has undergone many changes. Zen began with Bodhidharma, yet after the sixth ancestor it changed. The Five Mountain Schools of Zen appeared in China, and they all had different styles. Various mind sicknesses appeared, especially Zen sicknesses. The Five Mountain Schools in China died. Why? Because they could not connect with everyday life, and they could not connect with society. If we do not correct this, today’s Zen will also die. If it is only monastic Zen, it will soon die. In China, Korea, and Japan there are no groups of lay people practicing in Zen centers, doing together action, meditation and practice. This grand experiment was begun in America by my grand teacher Zen Master Seung Sahn. It had never happened before – it’s new, a new Zen.
In the wake of all this understanding, it is necessary to have a new direction and new a new zen practice. It is also important that we don’t call this American style, it is just a result of our everyday life and our correct direction. Zen has always represented a revolution. In the future, what will happen? Our method of practice will be very important: how does your practice connect with your life? How does your practice help other people? If it helps you, it will help other people, and will also help this world. Then your practicing will connect with world peace.
There are many opinions in this world. Americans have American opinion. Koreans have Korean opinion. All religions have their own opinion. The fact is that everyone is attached to something. This is this world’s sickness. In the future, it will be necessary to teach our style of practice: “You must wake up!”
Then what does being human mean? Being human has no meaning, no reason, and no choice. However, if you attain no meaning, you get great meaning. That is: relinquish any kind of opinion, any condition, any situation, then your life will become complete. Our practice will help your family, your country, as well as this world. This teaching means that if we practice sincerely and share our wisdom and teach correctly, there will be less fighting among religions, among countries, and hopefully no more nuclear bombs. If we take away the weapons, the left over money can go to Africa, India and Cambodia. Then world peace is possible. This is the Five Mountain Sangha’s future.