Always, give the mind what it needs to enter the gateless gate.’
Zen is Action, Action is Karma! Wake Up!”
This is an ancient method used in Chan practice. It is a question asked over and over again and in all circumstances, such as “Who am I?” The question, if done with sincerity, generates doubt and shifts the mind away from selfish mind content. Let us say, as an example, we are in a sticky situation, where the stress is on the rise and confusion is mounting. This type of scenario tends to cultivate self-protective and self-interest strategies making the mind vulnerable to various sorts of harmful errors. To move the mind to the hua t’ou provides a method of letting go of the dusky content in the mind that is gathering (making) the stress and confusion into a storm.
The method takes the mind on the path with words in the form of a question towards the Source of the situation at hand. It is a move backward towards the head of the river (the Source) and inhibits the mind from taking a leap into the rush of defilements and tendencies in the mind. In plain language, it interrupts reactions and habits leaving the mind uncertain.
It is used to generate doubt, an uncertainty of the nature of what is rising. In meditation the mind often travels along a path of self-interest and gathers steam around the particulars of self-interest where the hua t’ou acts as a detour and a return towards the Source. The doubt creates a gap which allows for the possibility of seeing beyond and through the dust of selfishness. The gap allows for a glimpse into what is the true nature of mind by clearing off the clouds of dust allowing a reflection of things as they are to rise even if it is for just a moment. This glimpse is wisdom that runs through all things which lifts up the mind heavenward.
A hua t’ou has the capacity to break up delusive thoughts and ideas about the value and tenacity of selfishness, in whatever form and by whatever name it may appear. It stops the grasping, reaching and clinging of the confusion in the mind as though the confusion is real and inhibits the tendency to make things permanent and fixed.
The Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun: Zen and The Martial Arts isn’t a blog. A problem that could use some Zen elucidation will get the needed attention. Contact us at email@example.com.
Remember, the Path’s two important rules: Begin and Continue.
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ShenHai (James Kavajecz)
ShenYin (Yuri Reis)
The Order of Hsu Yun and Dharma Winds Zen Sangha / Zen Order of HsuYun are delighted to announce the ordination of ShenHai and ShenYin,
Deep Ocean and Profound Seal
They have received Novice Chan / Zen Priest Ordination in the Linji / Yunmen Z in Lineage of the Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun, ZBOHY-ZATMA
Through Dharma Winds Zen Sangha / Zen Order of HsuYun,
A Zen Priory of the Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu-Yun in Namur, Belgium
During a ceremony performed this month in Dharma Winds Zen Hermitage, Namur, Belgium
by YaoXin Shakya, Transmitted Priest and Co-Prior of the Zen Buddhist Order of HsuYun-ZATMA
As we approach the 20th anniversary of our humble zen order, I see more and more brothers and sisters on both branches of ZBOHY developing their sanghas and sharing the teachings of our Founders and Lineage. !
May they all study the way with Great Openness
Newton said it best. Actioni contrariam semper et æqualem esse reactionem:”
Try arguing with….for every action there is an equal an opposite reaction.
Perhaps the proliferation of those little social network logos – that line of little boxes we find at the top of texts or superimposed upon them – is telling us that we’ve reached the point of diminishing returns – more and more is required to achieve less and less. When the saturation is complete and the movement ceases, Newton’s Third Law of Motion will kick in. And then we can scrape the name off our inboxes, set our filters to a stratospheric level, change all those addresses that made targets of us, and give ourselves cryptic monikers, preferably numbered ones that give no hint of any exploitable affiliation, Seven-of-Nine comes to mind. We will crave privacy, a space of our own around which we can create a ring of fire or a moat.
What we first perceived as a good thing – our own page that would function as a showcase for our excellence as an individual or a family, a site that would be an efficient way to show a multitude of strangers two hundred photographs of our daughter’s wedding – did not produce the kind of envy and admiration that we expected. We looked forward to receiving a host of original comments, but instead we got a few snide remarks from anonymous persons who had posed as friends to let us know that a white bridal dress was supposed to indicate purity. A few well-chosen shots of our little princess baring her breasts in a wet T-shirt extravaganza, or winning first prize in a “¿Quién tiene el castor más espeso?” contest had made some people think that it seemed somewhat improbable that she was eligible to wear white.
Some of the comments were so hurtful, that the bride of whom we were so proud had now become the object of scorn, amusement, and, if we were lucky, pity. How did we react? Did we quit the battlefield and become incommunicado pacifists? Were we made “kinder, gentler” folks who turned the other cheek? Or did we retaliate, responding to one mouthful of anonymous, vitriolic spit upon Right Speech’s sacred ground with our own poisonous lunges, spewed wherever we could aim them?
As to our own comments about other people’s offerings, did we sacrifice honesty just to avoid nasty retaliations and become so bland that we could assert a claim to stasis. Things we hated we called, “interesting.” Boring shit became, “thought provoking.” “Adorable,” we commented on ugly stuff. “You must be so proud.” (If we said anything else, someone might note that we’ve added another cliché to our collection of knee-jerk platitudes.)
And now we find that we check the site less for positive news and more for negative rebuffs. Things that we might have preferred to discuss in a private conversation, are being compressed in toneless type. All in all, the investment in wasted time – not to mention in anger, hurtful feelings, or the malaise of unrelenting dishonesty – is proving to be not worth the effort.
Maybe we thought we could cut back – that belonging to five social sites was a tad too much. We excised ourselves from a few but our happiness did not return. We learned what recovering alcoholics know: “One is too many and a hundred’s not enough.”
The pendulum swings back. A ball thrown straight up in the air will reach a point in which its upward thrust cannot overcome the force of gravity. The ball stops and reverses course with a vengeance. Jung called it enantiodromia – Greek for running towards the opposite direction. It is the natural decay that follows the embrace of the limit. When there’s nowhere else to go, we collapse in a great fall, implode, or dash to the other side.
If we’re unhappy, or anxious, or experience loneliness instead of solitude, we’ll likely consider the world a cruel place; and the irony is that we may still continue to look for approbation from things outside ourselves – out there in the material world – which is the last place we ought to look for approval. We might have tried so hard to be admired and to belong to some coveted group that we maxed-out our credit cards and became a stranger to those who did want and need us. Us… not our status at the club or workplace… just us… tall persons who play pinochle, chess, catch, basketball, video games, tennis, swimming, hiking….and such. We turned up the volume so that we wouldn’t hear the voice inside our head that told us that an excess of material goods and troublesome people is ever the antithesis of Elegant Simplicity, Zen’s Wabi Sabi.
Some of us may feel that those electronic gadgets have become part of our anatomy… that we’re bionic men and women who’d be lost and helpless without them. No. No. We’d be lost and helpless without our “better half” and the kids. Maybe the dog. Ultimately, without our faith and spiritual center we’d truly be lost and helpless.
Perhaps we need convincing.
All right. A quarter-century ago, when this electronic revolution was in full-swing, we put our faith in science. Hey… it got us to the moon. Consider the universal euphoria experienced when mankind was first presented with cyberspace’s possibilities. We assumed that only light would come from that screen, that only good could come from non-face-to-face interactions. While the good did arrive on schedule, nobody allowed for the inevitable dark side of human nature to show itself.
For example, we were told that we’d make our kids safer by giving them cellphones and smarter by giving them computers. U.S. kids became the most electronically pampered kids in the world. In an international test of 15 year old students, the U.S. came in at #36, below average, and even below Viet Nam. Hmmm… well… definitely not smarter. Safer?
The leading cause of teenage death and injury in the U.S. used to be driving under the influence. 2700 deaths and 282,000 injuries annually. Now cellphone use by teenaged drivers results in over 3000 deaths and 300,000 injuries annually. Hmmm… well… definitely not safer, either.
And what else came in addition to this? No, we won’t go into wholesale hacking of personal information, identity theft, or worms, viruses, or spyware. That’s another problem.
Between 2004 and 2008 State and local law enforcement task forces reported a 230 percent increase in the number of documented complaints of online enticement of children. In those same years, they reported a more than 1000% increase in child sex-trafficking complaints.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported that as of June 2014, they had reviewed and analyzed more than 115 million child pornography images since the organization was created in 2002.
What are our children studying on that laptop? Genghis Khan or Genital Piercing? Face it. We don’t have a clue. Yet we let the gadgets replace us and think we’ve met our responsibilities by paying for the stuff.
We also never figured that we’d squander the small amount of time we had to spend on our spiritual life on the venom and the drivel of social networking. It is not merely a question of time lost; it is a question of spiritual deprivation. Are we happier at work, at home, at play?
If we’re not, and we notice that we feel chained to our desks like an animal whose foot has been caught in a trap, and now know why animals sometimes gnaw off their foot to get free, perhaps we’re ready to step back and consider ourselves survivors.
Those of us who fell victim to being baited by the nasty element out there in cyberland – whether or not we posted it – may have to be reminded about the Lex Talionis. Here is noted psychiatrist Karl Menninger on the subject:
There are certain laws governing the activity of the conscience with which we have come to be familiar from clinical experience. One of them is that the ego must suffer in direct proportion to its externally directed destructiveness. It is as if that part of the destructive instinct retained within the ego had to carry on within the microcosmos of the personality an activity precisely comparable to that which the ego is directing toward the macrocosmos outside. If the individual directs an attack of a certain nature upon some person in the environment, the conscience, or super-ego, directs an attack of the same nature upon the ego. This formula is well known to us in social organization in the form of the lex talionis, the intuitive basis of all penal systems.” He later adds, “One more fact or ‘law’ about the conscience: a sense of guilt may arise from other than actual aggression; in the unconscious a wish to destroy is quite equivalent to the actual destruction with regard to exposing the ego to punishment.”
What to Menninger is a “super ego” is to us is our interior Buddha Self or Buddha Amitabha, yes, the Buddha of Infinite Light. This says, then, that what we sow we reap: we’ll get dark deed for dark deed, and dark thought for dark thought. And we won’t necessarily get them back in the same form. We won’t ever know why we tripped over something, or depressed the accelerator in a known speed-trap, or put our keys where we couldn’t find them, or forgot to mail something important on time. We’ll get paid back for the nasty little things we do or think. If we can understand it better by calling it Karma, then let’s call it Karma.
But we can also aim for good results and share a good laugh, a good meal, a good game or movie with people who really do care about us. We can have a mind that doesn’t seethe with resentment and jealousy, but rather smiles to itself about how good life is.
Heaven and hell exist and they exist here and now, inside our own mind, and we can choose to live in one place or the other. So, unless we’ve been decapitated, we carry our heaven and our hell with us wherever we go. We can cease these blindfolded interactions and instead come face-to-face with a little self-imposed discipline. We can set an example for spiritual indomitability.
The first rule: Don’t have “friends.” Just be friendly to everyone. Maybe we can argue with Sartre when he said, “Hell is other people.” But why argue? Let it go. If we don’t accept invitations, we don’t have to reciprocate. We can have our own picnic with our own family and if others drop by, we can welcome them. And we shouldn’t think we’d be hurting someone’s feelings by not specifically inviting them.
Years ago there was a candidate for Congress who sent out invitation-threats. He did very well indeed when he said, “If you send me a donation of $25.00 I promise not to invite you to my political fund-raising dinner.” Twenty-five dollars was a lot more money in those days than it is now. Evidently, people thought it would have been cheap at twice the price. He didn’t have to serve anybody tough chicken and reconstituted mash potatoes.
Fear drives us to attend most social gatherings. Fear, anxiety, pride, or networking greed… pride at wanting to show off or talk about material-world accomplishments; fear that our absence may occasion gossip or all sorts of terrible suspicions. This is no way to live.
So….sign off, shut down, and come back to Zen. We don’t need to use our spiritual practice as an excuse to withdraw. Just by announcing that we’ve initiated a spiritual program, we will cause a multitude to step back and do all the withdrawing that is necessary. When people can’t influence and control us… when something bigger and more powerful than they is in our lives… they bail out.
Now, literally, for the love of heaven, we can tell our fellow employees that our work-day ends when we leave our place of employment, and then we need to find the guts to leave our cellphone in the glove compartment when we park our car at home. Whether we’re a bachelor or the head of a family, we have certain rights to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
If we prefer to get our happiness at work rather than at home, we need to get our priorities examined. It may require a period of adjustment to sit at our table and watch all those strange faces look at each other; but after a week or so we’ll know the name that goes with the face, and also when small people say, “Hey, Dad!” we’ll know who they mean.
Each reader is now clamoring for information! “How am I to get started in a real (not phony) Zen regimen? Ok.
Start a small morning routine. If you want to do it in private, go into your bathroom ten minutes earlier. Start with the Sun Salute.
Learn one of them well enough to laminate the text and take it into the shower. (Don’t bring a CD player into the bathroom and don’t try to learn the chants while driving.)
Spend a few quiet minutes reading about Zen. Try: The Seventh World of Chan Buddhism
The pdf file can be downloaded from various sources on the web. Just look up, “The Seventh World of Chan Buddhism” by Ming Zhen Shakya.
Above all, learn the Healing Breath given in Chapter 10. Secondly, watch the diet. Get in shape.
And if anyone has a problem he or she wants to kick around privately, write to any of our priests. We have no fees or dues or charges of any kind. ZATMA does not accept donations; we ask only that nobody supposes that what is given freely is also worthless.
The Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun: Zen and The Martial Arts isn’t a blog. A problem that could use some Zen elucidation will get the needed attention. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember, the Path’s two important rules: Begin and Continue.
Image Credit: Fa Ming Shakya
Every time we act, we practice and we cannot help but act which means we are always practicing. This realization is priceless for the spiritual adept. Everything becomes worship and we become devotees adoring the Divine morning, noon, and night. Let me offer an example.
In our household we wash the dishes by hand in the kitchen sinks, one side for washing, the other for rinsing and stacking. Recently we switched to a new eco-friendly dish detergent which lacks both the aromatic scents of fruits and flowers and does not suds up. There are no foamy bubbles. After many days of noticing my inner longing for the missing scents and the foamy bubbles I decided to read the instructions on the back of the dish soap. Here they are.
TO USE: A little goes along way. Squirt a quarter-size drop of formula on sponge and wash dishes. Increase amount for heavy grease. Works beautifully as a hand soap, too.
The instructions are delightfully clear and precise. An instruction of how to use beginning with an axiom for life, a little goes along way. Much of the time, much wants more. Remember I came to read the instructions from a place of wanting the missing scents and foamy bubbles.
The direction on the dish soap went on to offer me a common image of how much is really needed to wash the dishes, a squirt the size of a quarter. And under certain conditions, i.e., heavy grease, I was directed to increase the amount. These instructions indicated that the squirt the size of a quarter was to be put on a sponge and was not to go into a sink full of water. How about that? Don’t dump the dish soap in the water put a squirt on a sponge. Remarkable! It makes sense. I need less soap on a sponge than in a sink full of water especially if I want those soapy bubbles. I’ll need to dump in a lot more soap than a squirt to get what I want in my mind’s eye. But when I am not attached to what shows up in my mind I am able to let it go and learn to follow instruction.
Reading and following the instructions on the soap bottle gave life to the axiom; a little goes a long way. This example is an act of humility and devotion at the altar in the kitchen called the sink. Learning and an open willingness to learn and change is a mark of humility. It requires a capacity to attend to what is at hand which includes attending to the instructions.
Everything, the simple daily acts of life and the more difficult, extraordinary arduous acts are the stuff of our worship. There is no special work that is better than or less than another. The hierarchy of the material world does not apply to the heavenly realms. Everything we do is our spiritual work. There is never a time when we veer off the path of spiritual awakening and take a rest from it. There are no hideouts because even in a vain attempt to hideout the requirements are the same: attention and the need for instruction; an open willingness to learn; humility.
To learn watch this 3 minute video on Everything Comes to Awaken Us by Lao di Zhi
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Karma Yoga: Get Out! Get Out!
By Fashi Lao Yue Xiang Shakya
Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
The mind is covered with dust; the dust of the concerns of the world. The ego is attached to those concerns and has become a stumbling block to self and others.
My teacher once told me a story about her practice. She was a disciple in a Ch’an Temple, the only woman amongst a group of male disciples. Her teacher was both beloved and tough. During one of the times she was with him and her fellow disciples, her teacher began to holler at her, “Get out! Get out!” At first she thought he was kicking her out of the Temple, as though she was not worthy to be there but then it dawned on her he was telling her to wake-up. Get out! Get out! referred to her attachment to her ego. Instead of being annoyed with her, he was encouraging her to wake-up.
The story “Get out! Get out!” reminds me of what Christ said to Peter when Peter challenged Jesus who had just revealed he was going to suffer, die and rise again with strong wake-up words as well; Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
When we merely focus on human concerns we are overcome by the dust in the mind; the dust of resentment, worry, greed, and the whole swamp of delusion. And when in this condition we are unable to see and hear the concerns of the Divine. Our ears are laced with the poison of self-concern and involvement with the disquiet and bottomless pit of human unease.
In both admonitions, Get Out! Get Out! And Get Behind Me Satan! An alarm is given, a warning that there is danger. Jesus makes it clear what the danger is when he says “those who want to be my disciples must deny themselves….” THAT is plain language to forget about the ego, about the disquieting and upsetting accuser, the hindering meddler.
Both these teachers instruct their disciples to get out. Another way to understand this rebuke is to stop whatever is blinding the Truth and to take actions that protect the clarity of the Truth; but we first have to know that the Truth is ever-present.
My teacher knew the Truth, which she endearingly called ‘The Boss’ and I have little doubt that Peter saw Jesus as the embodiment of the Truth on some level; that he knew that profiting from the world leads to the loss of his soul. He was, as many have described him, an impulsive man who was misguided by his desire to save Jesus. It is a common misdirection with spiritual insight and practice which rises in the shape of a desire to save others.
In the essay, Work: Karma Yoga by Ming Zhen, karma yoga, the union of action with the Divine rests parenthetically on one word, non-attachment. Peter’s misguided desire appears to be saturated with attachment for his teacher. His ambitious act towards his teacher is one of countless examples of attachment and entanglement with human concern.
In the same essay we learn karma yoga is the most difficult to practice and when we are negligent the consequences are quite severe as Jesus’ words exemplify. Calling Peter Satan was no small scolding and it shows that even a moment of human concern, even one that sounds genuinely consoling and caring of another person we may be subject to the ruthless effect of karma yoga. It is sobering and at the same a stern eye-opener.
At each moment the (individual soul) is subject to innumerable influences which from all quarters of the universe pour upon him.”
—Sir John Woodroffe
We don’t know what all the influences were for Peter, but we do know he did not like Jesus’ announcement of his impending suffering and death. Ming Zhen never mentioned specifically the influences pouring on her life at the time but we can be sure that they fell into the category of human concern and attachment to the self.
The strict and stern reproach given by these teachers to these disciples speaks well of both the teacher and the disciple. The teacher was aware of something that at the time the disciple did not see and was able to strike a blow strong enough to stop the disciple from grave mistakes. Both Ming Zhen and Peter trusted their teacher and were strong enough to hear the sword of truth in the words spoken. Both the disciple and the teacher need to be willing to stay, no matter what arises which is no small task. It requires strength and commitment on both sides. If one side falters, it falls apart. The teacher is aware that the soul faces innumerable influences and tells the disciple over and over again and in myriad ways to Get Out! of attachment to the drenching that comes to all.
The mind needs to be trained and in order to train the disciple he needs to be willing to guard the mind. When the disciple sees the influences of the world pouring upon him and arising from within he needs to avoid getting involved with the things that cause emotional upset and a straying mind. The disciple needs to shift away from the troubled world of human concern and keep the eye of the mind on the Divine. This requires non-attachment to make such a shift.
The contents of mind, thoughts, images, perceptions, feelings, impulses are power and we must look after this power.
When the mind perceives an object it is transformed into the shape of that object. So the mind [that] thinks of the Divinity which it worships is at length, through continued devotion, transformed into the likeness of that Divinity.”
—Sir John Woodroffe
Icons and images of the Divinity which are perceived in the mind serve to help this transformation. It is akin to Ming Zhen’s suggestion to discover or create a personified force (the Divinity within) i.e., kuan yin as the guardian of the mind.
We have to be able to concentrate so thoroughly that we can hold an inner dialog with this personified force (the Divinity), and we have to possess enough faith and trust to obey the wisdom that is imparted to us. This is no place for superficial Zen men. This is a place for believers, for devotees.”
—Ming Zhen Shakya
Her edict amounts to the same edict as given in Proverbs.
So as a man thinks in his heart, so he is.”
— Proverbs 23:7
This pronouncement is a watch ward directing the disciple to contemplate what is in the mind and to clean it up when it is full of dusky involvement with worldliness. If the disciple is looking at a mirror of self-interest, whether it is worry about a loved one dying, so he will become….a self-involved, worried man. Peter exemplifies this as he thought to save Jesus from dying making him into the savior.
We have to avoid the causes of turmoil, protect the mind from the distractions in the world which weaken our concentration and disconnect from the concerns of the world. This requires non-attachment. Each moment we detach we are free to discover the Divine, to look at and turn to the personified force i.e., kuan yin and not to the self-involved ego. The wise disciple knows the folly of worldly concern and disentangles himself, tout suite.
The disciple is not left adrift to flounder, but is given oodles of instruction. Jesus apparently gives an added correction immediately when he says, ““If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself….” Strong medicine.
Here is another….
Set your minds on things above, (the Divine) not on earthly things (the transient).”
—Colossians 3:2 New Testament
When the disciple is able to see and hear these admonitions, he recognizes the words of these teachers, “Get out! Get Out!” “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world….” as real. In other words, the disciple, when instructed, makes the turn away from the mess in the mind and looks immediately to the Divine within.
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