Number 3. The Spiritual World of Work

Work as Devotion

War Horse - Chinese horse painting | Horse painting, War horse, Horses

 

Pay full attention to all action…

the Way Seeking Mind is actualized…

by rolling up your sleeves.

Any Act that Leads to Your Original Nature

 is Virtuous

Any Act That is Selfish, Self-Centered

is Not.

To pay full attention is to give from the position of kneeling down to whatever is in need right there, where we are. From the position of kneeling, we give in such a way that our giving is an offering of love from a docile and trained mind. The training here refers to giving to that which is the Source of our life.

To act unselfishly is to actualize the Way Seeking Mind.

These two quotes are often misunderstood when misused as goads to whip another or to whip oneself into shape. Goads and prods and whips are guilt-creating and shame-bashing by the unenlightened do-gooders of the world. These rich and powerful quotes are for you to contemplate and study and to examine your life actions, not the life actions of another.

What we must be willing to do is to discipline ourselves to be meek. We are to discipline ourselves in such a manner that we are able to keep our strength under control. In no way are we to use our inherent force to go after another being with a rod.

The origin of “meek” in English comes from the Old Norse mjukr, meaning “gentle,” though perhaps a fuller understanding comes from the Greek origin, praus, which is translated as “strength under control.” In ancient Greece, war horses were trained to be meek — strong and powerful yet under control and willing to submit …quote

In the most common rendition of the Cook’s Prayer (p.64) to pay full attention to all the work requires us to keep our strength under control. To concentrate and focus on what is at hand and not what another is doing.

We use our strength, which we have under control, to train in such a way that our selfishness dissipates and remains weakened to the point it no longer interferes with our actions. An image, useful to keep us contained, is to imagine ourselves giving from our knees.

Giving from our knees suggests a position of obedience and docility to the Source. The Source being that immutable, eternal, changeless beingness which is there from the very beginning. It is not some thing outside of us; it is our true original nature. If we pull all of this together, we begin to see that we need to train our wily, cunning, foxy, sly selfish nature to kneel down to that which is immutable, unchanging, eternal and get to work.

MOTIVATION

Now before we get a little deeper into this Buddhist prayer, when we hear the word work, we often associate it with some remuneration; in other words, we the selfish ego, tends to tally up some gain. We are motivated by that gain which is well-summarized in the sentiment: what is in it for me?

We need a motivation to pick up the training of meekness. An inspiration, incentive, a stimulus within ourselves to train the mind to be docile; to have our strength under control. No easy feat.

It requires our will. We use our will to make a choice. We need to use our will to turn inward towards our true original nature and to turn away from all the things that bog the mind down. In other words, those things that pull us into a swamp-mind.

There are three pointers in the prayer that help us train to be meek, like a war horse ever-trained and ready but exceptionally skilled at being able to control and focus our strength. Anyone who has ever ridden a horse knows the importance of meekness.

The three pointers here are:

  1. Give your full attention (devotion, care, responsive)
  2. The Way Seeking Mind is actualized  (strength under control, tamed)
  3. By Rolling Up Your Sleeves (performance, effort, enacting)

In short, it tells us when we give our full attention to any action, the Way Seeking Mind (Buddha Self Mind, the higher self) is present, involved, engaged and then is actualized by giving our mind and body to the action at hand. We turn and move as a well-trained war horse in battle.

This is a big deal. Simple. Clear. Giving full attention clicks us on to the path of the Way Seeking Mind, where the Higher Self is made real to us when we engage in the action at hand. The Higher Self is that which never dies; that which returns to the Source. Selfishness is the basis of our wanting something in it for ourselves.

What gets in the way, distracts us from rolling up our sleeves is an endless array of mental and physical hindrances. But here is a quote that gets to the bottom of our reluctance to roll up our sleeves and actualize the Way Seeking Mind.

A quote:

God does not give us what we want,

God does not cater to us in this way –

nor should we cater to ourselves or others in this way.

God wants us to stop being the center of desire –

making things just right for “me.”

When we drop this madness of seeking what we want,

 we have a chance to be devoted to God.

 We want our desires fulfilled, our likes and dislikes satisfied. We want to be catered to – we want to be the center of our desires; making things just right for “me.” All of this madness hinders our chances of being devoted to our spiritual path. Many of us use our spiritual path as another way to do, get, keep a just-right-comfort for “me.”

Study yourself as you meet what comes up in your day. We are all in this together. You are not being singled out.

Here is a small sample from earlier in the Covid 19 virus pandemic:

The day here began with a text message before 5 am, followed by a text message an hour later asking for help, followed by bags of groceries delivered to our front door, followed by two dogs going wild, barking and crying, followed by washing and cleaning all the food, sanitizing the packages and returning to silence after each event. Noticing the energy. Letting it pass. Washing all the food. Putting it a way. Hearing from MF’s brother in Australia, explaining to us the USA no longer is sending or delivering mail from Australia. Finding out the USA is no longer sending or delivering mail to 22 countries. Grateful for food and help. All this before 6:30 am.

These events are what asked us to give our full attention, to actualize the Way Seeking Mind by meeting what showed up – rolling up our sleeves is the way to forget the self, forget the I-ME-MINE likes and dislikes and find ourselves in reality.

To devote ourselves to what is at hand….

 Do not seek what you want,

Do not cater to yourself in this way –

nor should you cater to others in this way for gain.

Stop being the center of desire –

making things just right for “you.”

When you drop this madness of seeking what you want, you have a chance to be a devoted war horse in the Dharma.

 

To pay full attention is to give from the position of kneeling down to whatever is in need right there, where we are. From the position of kneeling, we give in such a way that our giving is an offering of love from a docile and trained mind. The training here refers to giving to that which is the Source of our life.

 

Don’t give up. Begin again and keep going. OM

Humming Bird

Author: Fashi Lao Yue

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

please contact editor at: yao.xiang.editor@gmail.com

Image Credit: War Horse

Number 2: The Spiritual World of Work

Pilgrimage to the place of the wise is to escape the flame of separation. Underhill

I know. The quote may be difficult to understand. Read it again. Look carefully. With full attention. Where is this place of the wise? And what is the essence of going there?

I recently attended a class on ‘activity’ as devotion. The group was diverse in regards to stage of life and history and lifestyle. Each participant was given an opportunity to say something about their practice. The content of what was said remained specific to each person, and yet, the content was very much the same. There was a harmony that emerged quite naturally.

The underlying revelation was effort; making an effort to escape some tendency, some habit, to change in such a way to ease up something difficult or heavy in their life situation. In doing so, they each exhibited the willingness to attempt to purify some tendency that prevented them from living in the clear circle of brightness. Yet, there was a brightness there.

The language, the word-sets used may not be words such as the quote above, pilgrimage to the place of the wise, nevertheless, each person spoke about their daily trip of doing some activity. This trip-taking happens every day all over the world.

Much of the work, especially in the beginning, is with the material world of things and inner tendencies that we have fabricated into habits. Habits, those fabrications we rely on to remain stable; are what we need to examine.

We do things, work, stay busy as a way to feel safe. In the American culture, work is a central tenet. It is a “DO SOMETHING” commandment. If we are not doing something, we feel adrift, inconsequential, unappreciated, bored, depressed, a failure…oh you see what I mean. Being useless is a sin of the worst sort.

Action is not the spark of causing the flame of separation; our desire to get something for our selfish ego is. Desire to be rewarded in some way causes us to set-up separate identities of me, my, mine.

To escape the flame of separation we need to drop this imaginary identification that we all so very much believe is real, ever-lasting, and worth fighting to keep.

In order to understand how to escape, we need instruction on devotion. To begin to see our karma, our actions as devotion.

When we devote ourselves to a thing (people, place, thing, material world) we give without reward. It is without measure. Giving without measure requires courage. Courage to relinquish our identity as a separate being of some identity which carries a boat-load of constructed rights and privileges of I-ME-MINE.

When we act for the sake of the self, we act in a quid pro quo manner; in other words we want something to show for our actions. It’s the old adage, you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.

But the quote suggests we take a journey to escape this flame of separation of I-ME-MINE.

This practice, this yoga of life is a find-out-for-yourself; are these teachings worthwhile, spiritually valuable. Finding out is not by believing anything; but tasting the Truth yourself through experience.

If you live the other way-round, the way of the world of one hand washes the other, you live bound to the other, whether the other is a friend, a mate, a boss or whomever. There is a debt. There is disappointment. There is suffering. My dear late teacher would say, friendship requires you keep track of how many cards you got and how many cards you sent. She’d say that is not a ‘true friend.’ That’s some sort of deal.

So, let’s turn the instructions of how to escape the flame of separation. In other words, instructions to help us see and know that there is no separation between one and the other, no matter how many cards you may receive or how much you owed or paid.

The Tenzo’s Prayer, an old Zen Buddhist chant, will be the main instruction. Let’s look at it with a slow and careful attentive mind. We’ll start with the first line; the first instruction.

Pay full attention to all the work, the Way seeking mind is actualized by rolling up your sleeves. Dogen

It suggests we bring our full attention to all the work – in other words, to whatever comes our way – that is the work. Paying bills, caretaking another, getting dressed, fixing a meal, going for a walk, washing the body and on and on the endless activity comes and goes. Lending a hand fully to whatever shows up.

To give without measuring and without seeking a reward. The requirements are that we must be willing to help, to give, to offer what we have to offer as a devotion. This requirement rests upon paying full attention to what shows up.

Giving attention, our full attention to what shows up is devotion; it is, to give unconditionally. It requires that our full attention is given freely without any sense of self-gain. Pretty stiff requirements.

It is, however not to be a passive, falling apart door mat. Let me give another example from my late teacher. On this particular occasion she was ill and in bed. A phone call came in and her husband took the call and explained to the caller that Ming Zhen was ill and could not come to the phone. The caller ramped up her need insisting she must speak to her. Back and forth the caller and husband went and at such time he felt the need to tell Ming Zhen of the apparent needy caller who sounded distraught. Ming Zhen hearing the urgency of the caller got up out of bed to take the call. As the caller began to talk Ming Zhen heard in the background a clattering of dishes and silverware. On hearing the noise, she inquired of the ‘frantic’ caller of what she was doing as she began to talk to Ming Zhen. The caller explained that she was filling the dishwasher with dishes. On hearing this, Ming Zhen immediately hung up the phone.

Ming Zhen was willing to get up out of a sick bed and give her full attention to the caller. It did not require any reward or quid pro quo from the caller; but once Ming Zhen was told the caller was distracted by her selfish act of filling the dishwasher, she hung up and went back to her sick bed.

Consider this story in light of giving without reward, without gain. Giving one’s full attention to what shows up. What does to pay full attention mean? Contemplate it.

To pay full attention with all activities is the Way. We do not and cannot predict what that looks like. This is where we start.

Keep going. Don’t give up.

OM

Humming Bird

Author: Fashi Lao Yue

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

please contact editor at: yao.xiang.editor@gmail.com

 

The Spiritual World of Work

 

“Whatever human existence there is; whatever freedom, rights and duties the individual has, whatever meaning there is in individual life, all are determined by society according to the society’s objective need to survival. The individual in, other words, is not autonomous.

He is determined by society. He is free only in matters that do not matter. He has rights only because society concedes them.” Peter Drucker

Briefly, very briefly, Peter Drucker the 20th century guru of work and business, a man who was erudite and savvy, spiritual and business-like, gave work a new face. It was the face of man’s need for fulfillment. Work as a means to personal and yes, spiritual fulfilment became the sentiment of the worker.  It was to be the “new” religion of the world. To some extent it may have actualized into just that…except…yes, there is an exception. The world of work did not payoff for many and I question whether or not it paid-off in any meaningful way for the very rich.

Greed is the evidence. Greed begets more greed. If you are struggling financially, everything you earn goes towards basic survival, which includes digital connections as well as a roof over your head, clothes on your back and food in your belly of yourself and family.

Before we turn and take what might seem to be a backward step in regards to work, there is a but that carries with it a shift in terms of religious affiliation and spiritual fulfillment. There seems to be another area of life that portends to be, if not the ‘new´ religion, the growing one as we head towards the end of the first quarter of the 21st century.

And that is ‘politics.’  More on this shift in another composition.

Drucker, in a talk he gave at Bennington College in 1943, which may have been a foretelling of our current situation, said, “…whatever freedom, rights and duties the individual has, whatever meaning there is in individual life, is determined by society’s…survival.” He goes on to say that the individual has “a will only if he wills what society needs” and then adds, … individual freedom is what does not disturb society.

Yet, there remains a “…trumpet voice upon the weak, the miserable and the downtrodden of all races, all creeds, and all sects, to stand on their own feet and be free…physical freedom, mental freedom and spiritual freedom…” Vivekananda

No matter how weakened this clarion is, it still is heard.

Freedom, as most of you know, is a central tenet of Zen Buddhism; not just Zen Buddhism, nay, I’d say all religions tout the need for at the very least, ‘religious freedom to practice their faith.’ But this societal freedom is being challenged by the continual rise in fundamentalism which claims to be the one and only right way. This claim might be able to stand, if and only if, it does not encroach on the rights of others to practice their faith. Oddly, the encroachment threats appear to be coming from the ‘new’ religion of politics. And it appears that if politics does not provide, taking up arms must be used.

Given the previous administration’s devotees and its final effort to gain power, by whatever means including violence, suggests that ‘freedom’ which includes ‘freedom of religious practice’ is at best being questioned and at worst being sentenced to a forceful death. Making-money and gaining-power are strident, vocal and clamorous allies.

So…I imagine those reading this rather stark beginning on the topic, The Spiritual World of Work, are wondering how these ideas from the past implicate seeing, studying and practicing our spiritual preference at work.

Here’s how.

The constant barrage of ‘breaking news’ of every sort distracts the mind.  The 24-hour cycle of bombardment of civil unrest, in both small and big ways, disturbs even the strongest amongst us. It is a tell; it betrays that many of us are more concerned about the material plane than the spiritual.  I recently heard the head of a monastery who has not voted for 50 years declare that ‘the elections’ were so potent that he could not help but form an opinion for and against a candidate. When the mind is distracted by the material world, it is unable to focus and concentrate. Focus and concentration are essential to the Way-Seeking mind.

 

Although Drucker’s work as self-fulfillment is waning, I am not taking here to revive work as religion, nor am I promising that work, just the right work for you is the road to self-fulfillment.

So, what is this all about?

 

What I am going to write about in one composition at a time, over a period of time, is a practice that will help those who are interested to see work as a spiritual practice. This includes all sorts of work. To be quite clear and honest, it does not promise any self-centered fulfillment. Just the opposite. It is to empty selfishness from having a grip on the mind.

The requirements are simple.

It requires that backward step I mentioned above which is to step back from the external, material world of work into the spiritual domain which is neither material or external. It is what Buddhism and many other traditions exclaim as without form, name, characteristics or function. It is a practice. “Yes! That is exactly right.” It is not believable. It is to be experienced in your individual life right where you are.

Drucker, interestingly repeats Kierkegaard’s understanding as seeing two planes; one material, the other spiritual. Two realms that we live in simultaneously whether we know it or not.

One of the requirements to know this – not believe it – but know it – is the backward step into the practice of karma. It is to do whatever is done with a spiritual attitude of giving and offering. It is a fearless approach. Requires everything to be given and offered over and over again without reward.

Yes. With nothing in it for “ME.” The “ME” that thinks and claims it is a separate self that deserves, strives and goes after the things in the material world for personal gain.  But say, I am getting ahead of myself. It is a practice of one step at a time. Just one step. No big flourishes. No grand sweeps. No bravado moments. Just one step at a time.

So, let’s go, shall we.

Let me begin with a quote.

It is pure arrogance to attempt to decide what is supposed to be part of our daily experience and what isn’t. Sufism

This is true for every day of our life. And yet, we get up thinking we do know and how we wish the day to go. It is arrogant to think we are in charge of what happens. Our arrogance causes suffering and takes many names and forms. After all, the world pervaded by Eternal Power is not the cause of suffering, our desire to lay claim to a thing is. We act as though we have all the power.

When we look to do, to finish, to get and to keep a thing we suffer because we are in delusion. The delusion is that we think and function as though we are the doer, finisher, getter and keeper.

Pause for just a moment and ask yourself if you are the power that put you together and keeps you together?

There is a Sufi saying, fiha ma fiha which captures the essence of our situation. It translates as it is what it is.  But when we don’t like what comes our way we suffer. But there is another Way. When we realize the Truth of It is what it is as being whatever comes our way, we have an opportunity to meet it with courage and big-open-handed generosity not with judgment and criticism. When we presuppose or wish the day to be a certain way, according to our plan in our head, we are bound to disappointment. Literally and figuratively, we bind our mind to the disappointment. And we do it habitually.

There is another Way. But for many it is too hard, too difficult, too much against all the habitual patterns built up in the mind over lifetimes. The mountain of habits is the wilderness where we must be willing to go. It is a choice. We must be willing to clear away our consistent patterns of getting angry, blaming a thing in the external world, judging and measuring and comparing what it is that is confronting us. This practice requires that we face what comes into our life as our life without complaint, but with a calm-abiding awareness within ourself. This requires a turn. A willingness to stop and clear away as though we are traveling into a wilderness.

Facing the work of our life as devotion is a practice that gives us an opportunity to relinquish our arrogance and to meet what comes as a fish swims in the vastness of the ocean or a bird flies in the expanse of the sky; not knowing what might show up we swim with the flow and fly with the wind.

With this short introduction to a series of compositions that will be posted over time,  I welcome any questions that might arise in your practice of the Dharma.

Humming Bird

Author: Fashi Lao Yue

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

please contact editor at: yao.xiang.editor@gmail.com

 

Work as Devotion; It’s All About Attention 

  

WAIT!

May I Have Your Attention?

Getting off track and daydreaming or entering a scattered mind state seems like an epidemic. From screen watching news to sports to politics to ads of every stripe and color, we find our attention has been taken hostage leaving us superficially involved in just about…well…news and sports and politics and stuff to buy.

When I think about it, I wonder how much all the constant availability online has interfered with our ability to concentrate making work as devotion a Herculean prospect.

There is data out there suggesting multi-tasking is bad for the brain. But that data is just another part of the interference. We weigh and measure and sort until the cows come home, we are left scattered and live a life of mind-jumping from one online get-together to email-checking to video watching. On and on the interest on the eternal world of stuff and others drains our energy and at times makes us anxious, fretful and lost in the sound bites.

Sound bites!

A perfect description when we emphasize the bite.  Yes, it takes a chunk out of our attention bite-by-bite leaving us worn out. This situation is especially important for spiritual aspirants who want to concentrate, focus, meditate and reflect on interior world of the spirit.

I for one want to ply a practice that will organize the scatter, end the daydreaming and end the sound bites that are so distracting. I want to offer an ancient understanding of practice; to work as devotion. That’s it. In order to practice to work as devotion we have to be able to use our mental powers to choose to stop the sound biting bug and turn our inner power to concentration and unselfish acts of work.

Much of what I am going to say comes from a 90 day retreat last year on this very subject.

Let me start with a quote.

It is pure arrogance to attempt to decide what is supposed to be part of a retreat experience and what isn’t.

We just don’t know what will show up. I don’t know what is supposed to happen but I do know that this is true for every day of our life.

And yet, we get up thinking we do know and how we wish the day to go. It is arrogant to think we are in charge of what happens. Our arrogance causes suffering. After all, this world pervaded by the Eternal Power is not the cause of suffering, laying claim to a thing is the cause of sorrows. And it can be anything.

When we look to do, to finish, to get and to keep a thing we suffer because we are in delusion. The delusion that we think and function as though we are the doer, finisher, getter and keeper.

Pause for just a moment and ask yourself if you are the power that put you together (birth) and keeps you together (death).

There is a sufi saying fiha ma fiha which captures the essence of our situation. It translates into IT is what IT is.  Whatever comes our way we meet it with courage and big-open-handed generosity not with judgment and criticism. When we presuppose or wish the day to be a certain way, according to our plan in our head, we are bound to disappointment. Really. We bind our mind to suffering.

Facing the work of our life as devotion is a practice that gives us an opportunity to relinquish our arrogance and to meet what comes as a fish swims in the vastness of the ocean or a bird flies in the expanse of the sky; not knowing what might show up we swim with the flow and fly with the wind.

Here is a chant worth repeating on a daily basis. It is quite old, a 13th century encounter by Dogen with an old Chan cook, who was a monk. I offer it as a practice. To chant it every morning. To memorize it. To practice paying full attention to all the work you do. To work as devotion.

May all beings be free of suffering.

OM NAMO GURU DEV NAMO

Humming Bird

Author: Fashi Lao Yue

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If you are interested in doing a silent retreat or for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching, please contact editor at: yao.xiang.editor@gmail.com


 

90 Days of Silence

May we with all beings realize the emptiness of the three wheels, giver, receiver and gift.

Language helps us understand but it does not take us beyond the material realm. Those who want to go beyond words, must abandon them. Language is a scheme that creates the illusory world.  To rely fully on the material realm leads to bondage and suffering. Our work is to go beyond it. Language is used to point the Way but language in itself is not the Way. Language mimics form, name, quality and utility, but language, at some point, is abandoned.

Abandon desires that come from intention. All of them. Rest in the Self.  Not in the thoughts of the self-centered self. To look a certain way, To be called a certain name, To exhibit a certain quality or To do a useful act.   Bhagavad Gita

Language creates the appearance of the movie that plays and covers the face of our original nature. When this false appearance occurs, we call it me, mine, my form, my name, my qualities and my acts.

Language, however, also helps us to unravel our self-centered insistence to create the illusion through practice instructions. We practice until we no longer create the appearance and rest in our Beloved Divine Self.

We use language to STOP the chatter of self-identification in order to see through the illusion and see who and what we really are.

Let me offer a simple teaching from Dōgen, a 13th century Zen Master of the Soto School of Zen.

You should therefore cease from practice based on intellectual understanding, pursuing words and following after speech, and learn the backward step that turns your light inwardly to illuminate your self. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will be manifest. If you want to attain suchness, you should practice suchness without delay. Fukazazengi

Dogen offers an instruction that zazen is not merely sitting on a cushion, but a practice that asks us to give up our desire to understand, pursuing words…it is much more difficult than learning meditation.

The zazen I speak of is not learning meditation. It is simply the Dharma gate of repose and bliss, the practice-realization of totally culminated enlightenment. It is the manifestation of ultimate reality. Traps and snares can never reach it. Once its heart is grasped, you are like the dragon when he gains the water, like the tiger when she enters the mountain. For you must know that just there (in zazen) the right Dharma is manifesting itself and that, from the first, dullness and distraction are struck aside.

And finally, this practice is not limited to the practice of sitting alone.

What we use of language and intellectual thought is our inquiring mind. We inquire into the thoughts and hindrances in order to let them go; to recognize the Truth and then, realize IT. Our thoughts and inquiry are, at some point, finally seen through for what they are. We use language to see through the delusion as in a Hua T‘ou or the repetition of a mantra.

We study, ask questions and seek until the inquiring reaches a point that we transcend the material minded point-of-view and experience our true original nature. We no longer are bound by anything.

May all beings be free of suffering.

OM NAMO GURU DEV NAMO

Humming Bird

Author: Fashi Lao Yue

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If you are interested in doing a silent retreat or for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching, please contact editor at: yao.xiang.editor@gmail.com


 

 

Sacrifice

Innumerable Sacrifices

A Daily Practice of Devotion

 

Let’s start with a chant, Innumerable Sacrifices.

Innumerable sacrifices brought us this food;

We consider how it comes to us.

We reflect on our virtue and practice, and whether we are worthy of this offering;

We regard it as essential to keep the mind free from excesses, such as greed;

We regard this food as good medicine to sustain our life.

For the sake of enlightenment, we now receive this food.

 

The key word, is sacrifices. An old word that is rarely used except perhaps to garner some gain or fame for oneself. Let’s start with a very brief look at the history of the word and then shift to a focus on birth and death.

The word sacrifice comes from the late 13th century., meaning “offering of something (especially a life) to a deity as an act of propitiation or homage;” by the 16th century the word came to mean an “act of giving up one thing for another; something given up for the sake of another.”

The 16th century definition is more or less how the word is used today. Sacrifice is an exchange that occurs between one person and another person in giving up one thing for the sake of another thing. In other words, a sacrifice is more or less a transactional deal.

In the 21st century, sacrifice or the killing of one thing as an offering to a deity as an act of care either a propitious care or a care offering of respect is admittedly hard to see. And here is where we shift to the focus on birth and death and the daily devotion of sacrifice.

We’ll begin with the apparent cause of death and follow it through in a bullet approach.

  • The cause of death is birth. This teaching is what Shakyamuni Buddha taught.
  • Death follows birth in the apparent world, the world of materiality.
  • The cause of birth and death in the material world is change.
  • Change is part of the nature of this world realm.
  • Everything changes.
  • To know and accept change serves our practice of devotion.
  • When we take things for granted, we think and believe and assume things belong to me, my, mine.
  • When we take things for granted, we claim them as made and owned by me, my, mine. We either claim them along the lines of a myriad of opposites such as: success-failure, good-bad, right-wrong etc.

As I hope you see, if you are stuck in this ignorance, you suffer. And there is very little, if any, capacity to live a devotional life.

Devotion would mean very little to those amongst us who think we are the “boss” – the one who makes everything happen that has happened in one’s life. This situation, my friends, is most of us since we have been conditioned to claim everything as “ours”.  

Let’s take another look at that word, sacrifice, but this time let’s use the older definition.

offering of something (especially a life) to a deity as an act of propitiation or homage

Hard to see, isn’t it?

But that doesn’t mean sacrifice is obsolete. It is not an archaic activity. It is hidden behind our ignorance of thinking we are in charge; to be more specific, the ego has been conditioned to think it is in charge. This claim by the ego is ignorance.

With that in mind, let us reckon with sacrifice in the 21st century.

Right there, where you are, sacrifice is in plain sight; but you may not see it because your vision is blurred by selfishness. Let me assure you that we have the opportunity to see sacrifice in the activities of everyday life; a devotional practice.

Preparing and cooking a meal is a good example of sacrifice

as a practice of daily devotion.

I cut up vegetables. I boil them, then roast them. I skin the avocado and dig out the green flesh inside and discard the seed. I prepare the carcass of a turkey by removing the neck and gizzards then wash it thoroughly before I season it and roast it. I pull off a leg to test to see it the bird is done. I mash potatoes which are the tubers of the plant. The tubers supply nutrition and help the potato plant survive the winter. Instead of leaving the potato on the plant we pick them and eat them. We eat the storehouse of nutrition of the potato plant. The potato provides energy to the plant as well as reproduction. The potato, the turkey, the avocado, and the vegetables are examples of sacrifice on your table. The cook and cook’s helpers are the priests; those who prepare and make ready the sacrifices to eat.

When we look closely, study what is right in front of us, we see that our entire life has been a gift. A gift that is full of sacrifice. Not the type of sacrifice that boasts or claims the victory or the ownership of the sacrifice, but a deferential respect for what shows up in our life as an opportunity to care for whatever it is in such a way that it is an offering of devotion.

Nothing is left out. And you can see this sacrifice, this practice that is a universal offering to life which promulgates devotion for all things; visible and invisible right under our collective noses.

Innumerable sacrifices, indeed, brought you your food, consider how it comes to you.

 

Happy Thanksgiving, 2020

 

Humming Bird

Author: Fashi Lao Yue

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

please contact editor at: yao.xiang.editor@gmail.com

 

 

 

Remembrance of Karma Yoga

Hell is empty…

and all the devils are here.

The Tempest, Shakespeare

This fellow Shakespeare knew a thing or two. The line comes from the mouth of the young character, Ferdinand who has just experienced being shipwrecked. Although he is unharmed, the storm was a violent and frightening experience. And he does not know that others are on board, including his father, are safe and sound though shaken up by the, dare I say, the spiritual storm. Little did he know, nay, little did anyone on the ship know that Ariel, a spirit in bondage to the magician Prospero, was following orders to bring the ship aground in a thunderous storm  without as much as harming the clothes on the backs of the passengers.

Was it all a trick or is this Shakespeare’s way of once again telling us the truth of our lives of embodied skin bags.  Is life unpredictable? Is it under the influence of invisible spirits conjured up by magicians, those long-forgotten soothsayers of magic spells and incantations.

Perhaps we all feel shipwrecked by the states of utter confusion from the global pandemic and the recent and ongoing chaos of American elections. It doesn’t look like the current resident in the White House or the mysterious COVID-19 virus will be leaving anytime soon. What magic will it take to get them to leave?

Donald Trump continues on with his incantations on Twitter which is more or less the same as Prospero’s spiritual slave Ariel, putting aground the ship of state. His magical thinking wants to change the results that make him a loser at the ballot box and a loser against the virus. Like Prospero, the resident in the White House and the prevailing virus are  grounding the ship of state. Is it fair to say both came about from our negligence?

Are we so unlike this magic man, this Prospero who lost his kingdom from his own neglect? You see, he turned to magic as his idol. He was swept away, bedazzled by what magic he could perform. Yet, Shakespeare saves him by stripping away his title and banishing him to a far-away island.

Is the bard indicating Prospero had a lesson to be learned about his karma. As the story goes, Prospero neglected his Dukedom.  Don’t we neglect our human reign? I think we do.

When a stripping away comes, which it surely will, will we come to terms with the loss, with the banishment from what was once something we thought was “ours to own?” Hell is empty leaving all the devils to disrupt us with manifold losses and unwanted changes.

Doesn’t it feel that all the devils are here and even more than all the devils are here in the world but in our very being. Isn’t that what we really struggle with – falter and rise up again and again. Some more than others fall down and get up over and over again. The devils are always at us.

We, however are headstrong. We forget about karma. We think it won’t happen to us. Yeah, sure the other guy, but not us. I am here to tell you – it will happen to you. It’s my job, you see. To tell you and to offer some consolation and then tell you to get up and keep going. Don’t give up. Pull yourself together and keep reading.

Karma, one of the Five Remembrances is often made into a yoga that seems impossible to understand or impossible to actualize. Since it is considered impossible to understand and impossible to actualize, we simplify it. In our simplification effort, karma yoga gets shrunk down into a one word description: action. That’s right. Your karma, that which you do, the actions you take is your karma; it’s a lot like a fingerprint. So let’s take a look at some of what karma is.

Karma is action. Action is all-pervading. There is nothing shrunken about it. There is nowhere, no place, no position in life that is outside of KARMA, a sanskrit word that means TO DO.

TO DO carries with it the effects of the doing. Karma is often understood as cause and effect. When we take a closer look at this pairing of cause and effect we see that effect is the same as cause and cause is the same as effect.

What? You say.

Yes, the effect is the cause as cause is the effect. The pair is an inseparable rolling wheel. Where can you find the beginning or the end of cause and effect?  At best, we make a mark and claim one thing as the cause and the other thing as the effect but in reality there is no mark there. We put it there. We mark it as either the cause of the effect or the effect of the cause. You see, they are inescapable and inseparable.

Think about the two residents in the world I spoke about above. It is quite difficult to pull apart the cause and the effect of what is happening on that front.

What we can say is that karma is both the cause and the effect of action. It is a rolling wheel; seemingly out of nowhere and endless.

Furthermore, we are confused by this rolling wheel of cause and effect and think and believe we are in charge of both the cause and the effect. Isn’t this so? The whole world seems to be under the illusion that we can get control of this wheel once and for all.

After all we are in charge, aren’t we?

Well, my friends that is the question? Much of our youth is spent thinking we can do such and such and make things happen – but it is not only our youthful invincible madness that thinks we are in charge – but our claim and attachment to power and things. We are mad to think we are in charge…in control…that we own anything at all. We are, at best, caretakers who need to bend down and bow in gratitude for what comes our way.

Before you get too disgruntled, too obstreperous with “yes, buts” here is a prick of magic.

Let me put a pinprick into this illusion of thinking we are in charge.

Are you in charge of birth and death?

Just ponder that question for awhile.

Of course we can palliate many physical sufferings – sometimes well and sometimes not so well. But birth and death? Ah, not so there. And it is a good example of karma yoga. 

Buddha was asked, “What is the cause of death?” He must’ve wanted to laugh when he gave this simple answer – “Birth is the cause of death.” This question and answer shows us in a simple way the wheel of karma, the inseparable nature of cause and effect.

So what are we to do? AH…yes, what action (karma) as spiritual devotees do we take?

It depends.

Sorry for the dither. But it depends is the clearest answer I can offer. It leads me back to you. Yes, you. It depends on your aim? If you like, your goal in this round of birth and death that you call your life.

It depends on your goal? Are you scratching your head? I hope so. I hope you give this some thought. Some contemplation.

Many, many…I might even say, most…seek things that will bring happiness and pleasure. Sorry. But it’s true. We give a short shrift to philosophy and opt instead for the lower pleasures of eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. 

Ask yourself, “How do I spend my life?” Hopefully you will see where your treasure is.

Where is your treasure?

The answer is infinite, because we are in an infinite existence even though we think, believe, live as though this body-mind complex is who we are and all we get. The answer, in general, is some thing, some person, some position, some place…and the list goes on.

OK. Don’t make a judgement for or against your treasure. It is, after all, in the infinite possibilities of our infinite existence. Please do ask yourself where does this treasure I seek come from within myself and where is it taking me?

Perhaps you want to be a father? A mother? A teacher? A financial wizard? Historian? Scientist? Surgeon. Artist. President? A bum? Wayfarer? Traveler?

The list is endless…the possibilities infinite. SO…where are you? Examine where you are and consider whether or not you had control. Has life lived up to its glamorous, glitter of promises? Let’s ask the man who has barricaded himself in the White House? Or those who have been struck by the virus? Or lost a loved one?

I know, as you know, the answer is whatever your life choice is, it comes with ups and downs. Disappointment and satisfaction. It is the nature of this realm. And it is what Shakyamuni Buddha saw as a young man – birth, death, old age, sickness and yes, karma.

His realization led to devotion to find out the Truth of this reality. We all can see what he saw, but we have to have a high goal as he did to know how to live in the midst of birth, death, old age, sickness and karma.

Let me offer some strong suggestions to those of you who have a high goal that goes beyond the vagaries of pleasure and pain. It begins with devotion. 

When we devote ourselves to a thing, a place, a person…we give without measure. To give without measure requires courage since to give without measure means to give without reward. It is to give in obeisance – what does obeisance mean. It means to give with deferential respect to what you devote your action to without looking at any result. It requires taking up the mantle, taking up the role without measure. To be a devoted father, mother, artist, scientist, surgeon, student, wayfarer. To whatever you give yourself to – give yourself without measure with deferential respect. It is after all your master. OK. It is God, the unborn, undying immutable in the form of a role, a thing, a place, a person…you get it, don’t you?

This is the Way to enter the puzzling, dazzling limitless existence beyond the body-mind complex.  Are you paying attention?

It is with this attitude, obeisance, that we realize we have been given a sword of Light which helps us meet the struggles of the spiritual and physical world. It is knowing that to abandon reward frees us to throw off that which burdens us – to cut off our selfishness. Yep, that’s it. Selfishness burdens us. when we think of our self as first, last and foremost we cannot give ourselves with deferential respect. There is simply too much pride that blocks our deep bow. This selfishness comes in infinite ways to make us think we are something special. Smarter, brighter, better. Those who suffer so think of themselves above others making the fall a bigger, harder crash. It is that old saying, pride comes before destruction and haughtiness comes before a fall. A good one to remember as we must  also remember…

Life is full of storms.

It is inevitable. But remember the sword that comes from giving up rewards, giving up results is pregnant with Light – from top to bottom. With it, we slay the devils…we bow down to that immutable, Supreme Self that does not harbor any thing against us – that which waits for our self-realization of knowing who we really are.

In some very unusual way, something bigger than a book of words or long conversation or intellectual delving, we have been given the storms, a world-wind of a virus that appears to be running unbridled over the world. In an odd-shaped way, we have also been given a world leader who appears to be doing the same. Both are hidden, out of sight, waiting to attack like unseen ghosts that can harm us all.

You say, “We must take precautions.”

Yes we do. We must remember the devils are all here. We must remember that loss and sorrows come to all of us. We must remember that our actions are both a cause and an effect and that we need to attend to our actions with devotion. An obeisance devotion where we defer and respect what comes into our life as our Work. That judging our work or the work of others is not much help – but the recognition of the infinite possibilities is. In some small way we do have the power to decide, we do have the power to practice concentration in a devotional way to our work and we do have the power to be unselfish.

May the merit of this work be beneficial to all beings in the ten directions.

OM NAMO – DEV NAMO

Humming Bird

Author: Fashi Lao Yue

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

please contact editor at: yao.xiang.editor@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Third Position: Neither Here, Nor There

The Third Position: Neither Here, Nor There

It is just a matter of hitting the bell, closing the door, lighting a candle.

In the past IT abides.

In the future IT abides.

But don’t ask, “What do you mean?”

You seek an answer with a hammer.

Pounding on the fog you think you will make a break and see through.

Stay still and turn.

Make the turn and hear the echoes of habits and wishes.

Feel the striving gut that wants something more.

Wait.

Don’t hurry away.

It is the Way.

Endless turning until

The floor of the mind collapses.

Stop the hunt for the other.

Stop the chase.

You stalk a reply.

Respond without worry.

When you smell smoke, yell, “Fire!”

When you see the table holds the cup,

See the cup hold the tea!

Look through.

See, neither here, nor there,

Neither this, nor that.

It is all around you.

When you stand or sit, it is there.

It is buoyant cheers of scorpions and pigeons,

That you kill and stuff with your conclusions.

You cry, “How do I help?”

No hands, no harm.

You cry, “Have I gone too far?”

Neither far, nor near.

You cry, “What is the point?”

The sun, the moon and the stars.

When you give up the wish for something else, something more

You are home.

Then, once and now

There is nothing that escapes the past, the future, the present.

Your plans show the hidden tenants.

“Me. My. Mine.”

Safety boxes and storage houses overflow with false ideas.

You pound your hammer with great desire and fail to hear the wondrous voice.

When you realize the heart drums without a score and the ear hears without direction

You sit near the edge of the flowing river.

When wishes for and against subside

And the nose smells without form

The bees suckle the flowers and gestures of life wave

To awaken the unfulfilled.

Humming Bird

Author: Fashi Lao Yue

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

please contact editor at: yao.xiang.editor@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

Someone Asked. And the Answer is: Right Understanding

 

Right Understanding.

Let me begin with a definition of right understanding. It is a teaching of the Eightfold Path and is considered the root in the ground of the Lotus. It is embedded in the mud of the world of being. In each and every one of us this root is there. We are asked to discover the truth of it for ourselves. In the simplest language it means everything comes to awaken us.

How generous life is when we realize this truth. Everything? Yes, everything comes to awaken us. It is the recognition of being in the infinite possibilities of Our Supreme Nature. In the image of the Lotus it is the nutrients of the stem that grow and rise up through the water as a Lotus blossom.

All of this process occurs in us. It is not something just in a book. It is to be realized. Our first hurdle is to overcome our unwilling nature. Below is a common example of our unwillingness to practice the infinite possibilities of realizing everything comes to awaken us.

_____

A few days ago, someone came to me and complained. The complaint consisted of protests and gratitude; the protests of boredom and feeling stifled and stagnated and the gratitude for the teachings that brought him out of the burning house of suffering.

I listened. I knew this student. I knew he was and may still be unwilling to follow a teacher; to sit down in front of someone who is ahead of him on the path and bare his sense of helplessness.

Instead, he complained.

I wondered what was happening inside the heart of this person; in the place where the invisible presence of being exists. The speech, all those words that came up were words of protest and dissatisfaction coupled with a conditioned sense of gratitude for past offerings.

How did the wind blow this dust together for this student?

My response was simple but ineffective and dismissed.

I told the person that he needed to find someone ahead of him on the path; someone who he was willing to follow under all circumstances. In other words, someone he could bow down to before their feet and surrender his need to be independent and right and smart.

You see, this fellow lacked humility and reverence.

Pride and arrogance and probably many other intellectual and emotional conditions held him captive in his complaints. His odd-shaped gratitude of self-interest was an exterior excuse to cling to his pride. He could not imagine that he could find someone to follow in the way of humility and reverence. It was anathema to him. He did not admit it but it appeared to be that he felt superior to most and to all those he had met.

Perhaps I needed to say what I am about to say now.

This fellow is not ready to commit to his practice. Not able to relinquish his complaints and his conditioned gratitude. You see, he is not able to see how he is stuck in the conditioned selfish self – which is the part of his being which wants things to be different…wants things to satisfy him…wants something more or less. His difficulties are boons but he is unable to work with them in such a way that he can find the Way.

His habit of protesting and thanking is long-lived – and he gets incensed when someone suggests he needs to follow someone from the position of humility and reverence. How dare anyone who might suggest he follow in the footsteps of another!

There are many, many, many who are in this position. Not many want to take up the role of student. Fewer still want to take up the aim of god-realization, satori, nirvana, kenshō; of coming to his immortality.

Perhaps this fellow is familiar. Perhaps he is you. If you do not have the willingness to surrender in humility and reverence, you are not ready to head towards that aim of knowing that which is invisible, unborn, undying, and immutable; that everything comes into your life to awaken your true nature.

Yes everything! This is Right Understanding. When we realize this reality, we surrender. We become supple. We recognize we need help. We become willing to bow down.

I am ever grateful for Ming Zhen Shakya. For all those who walk ahead on the Way of enlightenment. For the teachings of the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha; for all teachings of Wisdom. I am grateful to be able to realize that everything comes to awaken us; to show us the Way.

May we, with all beings, realize the emptiness of the three wheels, giver, receiver and gift.

Humming Bird

Author: Fashi Lao Yue

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

please contact editor at: yao.xiang.editor@gmail.com

 

 

Old Age is a Boon

Remembrance of Aging


The Four Boons of Aging.

My hope is to pull the door open, even if it is just a crack, on what is beneficial in the truth of aging. I’ll begin by listing out the boons, followed by a short explanation and example of each.

  1. Aging gives us an opportunity to awaken to who am I.
  2. Aging gives us an opportunity to discover wisdom.
  3. Aging gives us an opportunity to witness the arc of time.
  4. Aging gives us an opportunity to surrender.

_____

The date and time vary but the mirror tells the tale of aging. Hair graying and thinning, bones aching, toes and fingers changing shape and not in a pretty way; hip replacements and even yellowing teeth. The mind is slower. You’re more forgetful. Not as fast or as strong as you once were. If you stop running, you’ll forget how to – skipping and jumping become dangerous activities. You’ll need jar lid removers, hand rails in the shower and walkers to keep you from falling.

Aging comes upon us all; that is, if we are lucky.

There’s no use in shrinking away, trying to shirk off the inevitable losses of power. It seems like an end of the era of you and the beginning of mortification that ends with death. But let me repeat the line above.

Aging comes upon us all; that is, if we are lucky.

There is little if any hope of restoration of the past. All the dishonorable and glorious parts of being embodied as a human being; being human gone.  So what do we do?

We molt. Yes. Try to take to it. Molting is shedding all the old feathers, sloughing off the old skin, shedding skin to begin a new era…but most of us are not prepared. The culture frowns at aging. The culture smiles at youthful vigor. Even middle age is uncomfortable for those who are waiting to retire into some fantasy of rest and fun. To travel, to join an active community of aging birds.

Where’s all the boons, you ask? This picture, that old face and crooked body, is dismal.

Aging comes to us; that is, if we are lucky.

Aging gives us an opportunity to awaken to who am I.

The first boon of aging comes when we live a long life, say to 100. If we are given this, we have been given an opportunity to awaken to consciousness – to the knowledge and recognition of WHO AM I.

Not that worldly constructed “I” that plays a role, that worries about the outcomes, who seeks satisfaction from the world. Who bears the troubles and struggles of duty and performance. Not that “I” that can’t sleep at night. That frets and measures and is disturbed in body and mind. It has nothing to do with the “I” that has a bucket list of things you want to do or get before you die.

It is the “I” that is a spiritual seeker. To that “I” old age is a boon.

Aging comes to us; that is, if we are lucky.

Aging gives us a chance to discover the immutable…that “I” that has never had a notch on time, which we call a birth date, followed by another notch which we call a death date. No. But the real, immutable existence in consciousness that is beyond the realm of suffering. Beyond birth and death. The “I” that is beginningless.  The you that is not a victim to any of your senses.

So…pray for a long life that will give you this chance to know your true nature. Let that freedom and realization be an aim. Not more stuff. Not more money. Not more prestige. Not more status. Not more information. Go with the change of loss. Let go. Be a nobody, going nowhere. 

It may sound like a doomed existence; it isn’t. It is freedom from bondage of things that come into existence, appear, and then vanish. It is a life without clinging and craving.

THAT is wisdom.

Aging gives us an opportunity to discover wisdom.

This second boon, wisdom gives us a chance to discover and  know one’s true nature. A long life helps us see and know and understand the arc of life in an intense and deep way as did Guanyin, who is the embodiment of the virtue of compassion and prajna. Both high ground on the spiritual path.

Wisdom changes our senses in such a way that we speak from the depth of wisdom and not from our personal, selfish self. Love, which is unselfishness, which is unconditional is discovered and lived.

We live seeking no gain. There is no concern for the constructed illusion of a separate self. Position, propaganda and the proper hierarchy of institutions no longer traps us; no longer arouses the madness of right and wrong, getting and having, having and keeping and on and on. We see through the illusion.

In order to explain the third and forth boons, I need to set the context with a short history lesson on WWII.

During WWII it became clear to the Allied Powers that they needed one another in order to stop the global threat of the Axis powers. The Allies were Great Britain, the United States, China, and the Soviet Union. Surprising allies in today’s world view, but allies nonetheless. The leaders of the Allies were Franklin Roosevelt (the United States), Winston Churchill (Great Britain), and Joseph Stalin (the Soviet Union).

The Axis Powers, those that represented the global threat, were: Germany, Italy and Japan. The leaders were Adolf Hitler of Germany, Benito Mussolini of Italy, and Emperor Hirohito of Japan.

These were the countries that were considered the combatants of WWII. Many other countries suffered but were not considered the ‘fighters.’  There were, however, ‘resisters.’ The French Resistance (French: La Résistance) was the collection of French movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and the collaborationist Vichy régime.

The “official” period of WWII is September 1, 1939 – September 2, 1945. This WW began 81 years ago when Hitler invaded Poland and when two days later France and Great Britain declared war on Germany.

The “official” end of the war came on September 2, 1945, almost exactly 6 years after Germany’s invasion of Poland which makes it 87 years ago that WWII ended. A lifetime for some.

Japan at the time was in turmoil, with major military massacres and the invasion of Manchuria in the Northeastern region of China. Japan joined the Axis powers in 1940 by signing a protectionist pact against the Allied Powers with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. A little more than a year later in 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

Approximately 85 million people died directly and indirectly from the war and war-related damages.

Aging gives us witness to the arc of time.

Now, my friends, what does this short history lesson have to do with the third boon of aging? In a very pointed way, it helps us be patient, to be not so quick to act or react, it helps us give guidance to those who are younger. To help ourselves and others not to take what is arising too seriously for whatever it is, will change.

Aging, living or having lived through a long arc of time may give one wisdom that does not come so easily to those of us who are still on the upswing of the arc of time. Those, however, who live long, even on a material plane, if they are inclined even a little beyond a sense of personal, selfish interest, see that everything, whether it be the body-mind complex or the worldwide politick played out before our eyes, changes. In other words, they see the long arm of change in small and big ways making it possible to see the illusion of peace and the illusion of war. Long life provides the opportunity to see the deceiving nature of the things of the world which includes our body-mind structure.

Change is quite forceful to the aged. Loss of position in the world, loss of loved ones, loss of body-mind ability, loss of self-sufficiency, loss of expansion…and so the losses go as Shakespeare clearly puts it.

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
Shakespeare

But along with these changes, there can come a firsthand bird’s eye view that the material world comes and goes and is an illusion. The world as Shakespeare wrote, is a stage. It does not last. It changes. And this suggests, with the help of history, that peace does not last nor does conflict.  In fact, may we bold as to say “Peace on Earth” is as changeable as “War on Earth.”

But there is a boon that Shakespeare misses, that most of us miss, and that is exemplified by the actions of the Japanese in WWII. It is the fourth boon.

Aging gives us an opportunity to surrender.

I say what follows in modesty and humility, since I do not know if this story is true in the sense of historical verification or a legend. In either case, it does not matter. But there is evidence that Zen Buddhist Roshi’s in Japan were involved in the militarist stronghold in Japan before and during WWII. So…forgive me for my supposition, but I think it might be worth at least hearing the story whether it is true or not. Fiction, as we all know, does point to truths.

Let us remember that there are many, many suppositions to why the Japanese signed the unconditional surrender of the Potsdam Declaration.  There is, apparently, a contentious debate on why the Japanese signed the Potsdam Declaration.

The leaders in Japan at that time were undecided as what to do in the midst of great and devastating chaos after the atomic bombs were dropped. Some considered an all out war on the US no matter what the cost to the Japanese people; others were counting on the Soviets to broker a peace deal with the Allies but instead of a peace deal, the Soviets attacked Japan. There were other scenarios but all seemed put the decision to surrender in limbo.

The legend goes that being at their wits end the Japanese sought out assistance from a Zen Master of high regard. Now, we must remember that Zen Buddhist masters and followers were involved in this military rampaging. So it is not too far afield to think that the leaders of Japan would seek out a Zen Roshi for advice on what to do. And in this supposition they did seek out the council of a very old Roshi on what to do who responded with one word, “SURRENDER.”

This Zen Buddhist Roshi, although most likely involved in the engagement of war, saw something from his arc of time that surrender was the only response much like raising one finger or giving the student a sudden slap.

Surrender.

Aging is a boon, especially for spiritual seekers. It is an opportunity to turn inward, a grand opportunity to surrender.  And on that we will end. 

Humming Bird

Author: FaShi Lao Yue

Image Credit: A. Holmberg

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

please contact editor at: yao.xiang.editor@gmail.com

The Arthur Sermon

Escape from Hell

We named him Arthur which is a name derived from the word bear. In Medieval Latin Arthurus/Arturus, usually said to be from Welsh arth means “bear.” In sanskrit, artha means wealth, the wealth that is so full it is complete. So, Arthur endures the complete wealth of life. He is so very much like the rest of us.

He came from Michigan. The first we saw of him was a picture of him sitting in a proper sit-stay with a little blue Michigan jersey on and at that time, he was called Kyle, which means lucky. He came by car at 8 weeks with a history of an early injury to his mouth. He recovered well except he does not like his mouth touched.

That is all we knew of him but we have learned many things from him since he has been with us for 1 ½ years.

His is presence both as a teacher as well as a student. To be with him is to experience the mutual co-dependent arising of knowing the reality of this game of life. Let me explain.

For much of the time he is with me. When I move, he moves. When he moves, I move. Together we experience this mutual, co-dependent arising. We, he and I, influence each other. This influence is true for each thing. There is nothing in reality that is separate.

As I was in the zendo sitting, Arthur was with me. Our 5 ½ year old named Harold Godwin. named after an ancient King, was asleep on the floor next to where I was sitting. Arthur, our lucky treasure, was pacing.

Pacing, pacing, pacing. He was restless. He could not settle. He’d go from one side of the room to the other and flop on the floor. Then, he’d get up. Then, he’d jump on the bed. Then, get up. Then, he’d pace. Then, flop against the wall. Up again and down again. Restless. Pacing.

I remained still. Silent. Eyes-half-closed. I watched him. Intermittently he’d come and stand in front of me trying to make eye contact. I closed my eyes. Then, he moved closer and sat down in his perfect sit-stay and stared at me. I did not make eye contact. But I could sense his stares.

When stares did not work, he cranked it up and placed his head on my thigh. I still did not move. Then, he nudged and nudged my arm. I remained still. I did not respond to him. I did not react to him. I did, however, notice him.

I was aware that he wanted something and his wanting something made him restless, unsettled and yes, anxious. Throughout all of this restlessness he would periodically go over to the window and look out at the squirrels; those tormenting rascals who run along the fence.

Arthur is a predator. His instincts of being a predator were in high gear, but I did not move. I knew what he wanted. He wanted to go out and give chase. And then, after he chased the unsuspecting squirrel he would come back and jump on the screen door to come back in. To do it all over again. Pace, up, down, restless!

But I did not give in. I remained still. Quiet. Watching. Seeing his agony which comes because he is not trained. He’s not tamed his instincts. He is out-of-control and restless.

This behavior is a pattern.

He wants to go out and chase the squirrels. I resisted and did not move. He was confined in such a way he had to deal with his instinct differently.

BUT…you say…that is Arthur’s nature…why didn’t you let him out and let him chase the squirrels. LOL I laugh because this giving-in act is what we do with ourselves and one another.

Yes, I know it is Arthur’s nature to be a predator but he needs to tame that down. He needs to calm down. I do not want to give way to his instinctual drives. Just as I do not want to give into my instinctual drives.

AH…I hear you saying, “he’s a dog.” Yes. He is a dog. And dogs are able to tame their instincts with some help from us. He can learn to be calm and quiet and rest. But he needs our help to let go of his instinctual drives to attack and kill.

Furthermore, I know Arthur to some extent, created his own hell with his desire to get out and chase the squirrel. Just as we create our own hell with desires to get what we want.

But desire held in silence and in watching awareness, in time, protects him and allows him to give up his restless desire. He gave it up. He got himself out of hell through the door of resolve.

I acted as his guardian or what I prefer to call ‘Mother.’ Not a mammal mother but an immutable, unchanging ‘mother’ energy that protects and teaches and watches and holds back and is resolved to awaken us. Parental Mind is part of our nature.

Many of us need help to tame and train our instincts. To be resolved to stop going after all the many desires that fill the mind. We, like Arthur, think if we get such and such then all will be hunky-dory. In fact, however, desires are endless until we have experienced samadhi, union with the Divine Self.

We have to be able to STOP…citta vrtthi narodha….the uptick of thoughts of desires by not acting on them. How do we do that?

We watch our desires in stillness and silence whirl around and whirl around in our head making every effort to get satisfaction by some action. Action to hold still, to be resolved to let the desire whirl away.

Just as I watched Arthur, but did not act. Thoughts come and go, come and go, and it is our work not to give in to the endless desires that come up. Don’t believe them. Doubt your thoughts by watching them and watching them in such a way you see how they want you to act in such a way that will result in returning to this whirl of restlessness. When you give in you return to hell.

Our situation boils down to surrender and trust…which requires that we do not measure ourselves along the lines of success and failure of getting what we want. In fact, it is far better for us not to measure ourselves at all since measuring disturbs our mind. Instead of trying to get what we want, we’d be far better off if we use that restless energy to pay attention to the what is at hand right in front of our nose and give our excellence to what is required. To give our finest to whatever we do, rather than be swept up in the whirl in our head that drains and dulls our brilliance.

Arthur, our lucky treasure, counts on us to awaken and finally nudges us to help him even though all along he was being helped but didn’t know it. Am I not the same – Mother Buddha watching until I finally nudge her to help me having forgotten she has always been there helping me with whatever is haunting me with mental formations.

Humming Bird

Author: FaShi Lao Yue

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

please contact editor at: yao.xiang.editor@gmail.com

 

The Five Remembrances: Birth. Aging. Sickness. Death. Karma.

 

The body and mind are of the nature to grow old.

The body and mind are of the nature to get sick.

The body and mind are of the nature to die.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change.

My actions are my closest companions.

I am the beneficiary of my actions.

_____

 

My dear friends,

All over the world the Five Remembrances in some form or another are chanted on a daily basis. The daily chant is to remind us of the changing nature of all things. This teaching is not the highest teaching but it is a teaching that is available to all of us. It is an ever present condition of the form of existence.

Forms come into existence, appear for awhile and then vanish. That, my friends, is nothing new under the Sun. It is self-evident for those who will glance at what is going on for even just a moment.

We may fight against it, but it is a universal truth which concerns the body and mind. We share the same inevitable truth of it. No matter where we live, what gender, what species, what race…all the what’s of diversity. All of us face these Truths on some level.

In the Art Pieces 1: On Death…we were given a glance at the third remembrance, Death, from three different artists: a painter, a poet and a writer. We will now take a step backward in order to understand that one of Zen Buddhism’s charters is to help us remember our conditions in form, that is the body and mind.

It reminds us that the body and the mind are things and like all things, they suffer birth, time and death. This remembering is to help sober us to our condition and to know the body and mind suffer birth, time and death; to know all things suffer birth, time and death. That nothing stays still, nothing settles for good, for all time because the nature of things suffers birth, time and death.

For those of us hard-wired with the tendency for perfection, we may feel the heft and weight of this fact since we tend to fight to settle, to fix and perfect things continuously. With this tendency our suffering can and does reach monumental proportions.

To some extent we all suffer from the nature of things. To remember the condition of the body and mind is subject to birth, time and death and will disappear, makes this truth skin-deep personal. But we need to be reminded of our nature.

This Truth, my friends, is an initial step which we must understand in such a way that we see the suffering that comes from clinging to body and mind. The aspiration is that the reminder will help us see this truth and realize the consequences of not paying attention to it. This reminder is priceless.

Because, my friends, we are hard-headed and ignorant of Reality, we ignore this Truth and are taken by surprise by it again and again.

It is understandable.

Our body and mind look real. In fact, most forms look real. And what I mean by real is that which is immutable, without beginning or end, and is the ground of being. A new thing often fools us into thinking THIS NEW THING is IT. It isn’t.

The enlightened sages saw something beyond name and form and were not taken in by the look of name and form. No one is saying that forms do not look beautiful, or appealing, or alluring…certainly they do. And no one is saying that forms do not look ugly, or disquieting and repulsive…certainly they do. But as we all know “looks can be deceiving.” (Dividing the world of form is yet another spiritual milestone which needs to be seen through – but that is another Truth we must take up at another time.)

The five remembrances are remarkable recollections that remind us that all names and forms age, fall apart, and vanish. Forms return to the elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether.

Now this may sound disheartening especially to those who cling to forms for solace and certainty. Those, however, who are sincere in their pursuit of spiritual Truth study these five remembrances within themselves.

When we are sincere in our spiritual practice we begin to see for ourselves the nature of form as unreliable. When we reckon with the nature of form we begin to stop taking disappointments and loss personally and study our disappointments and losses as a factor of our conditions and not as an assault.

When we are spiritually anchored we begin to see disappointments and losses and all things as things that come to remind us that relinquishment of attachment is the better part of valor.

We may stumble and sometimes even fall down in the vagaries of our embodied life but we do not give up. We get up. We face the tiger. We continue towards the summit.

Humming Bird

Author: FaShi Lao Yue

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

please contact editor at: yao.xiang.editor@gmail.com