Who is in Charge?

Spiritual life is a battlefield. 

Over time, the battle worsens for the serious spiritual adept – threats along the path are more ominous. The path narrows. The dangers more perilous. Hazards multiply. The demons of ignorance, of lust, hate, self-doubt, of pride, power, envy, jealousy assemble against the spiritual adept. The climb to the summit appears out of reach. The world of ignorance becomes enticing. Practice weakens, pleasures arise and the adept believes he is more awake, more powerful, more knowledgeable than others. He claims to know – claims to be a leader – ignorance claims jurisdiction of the adept’s mind.

Assumes power over others. Asserts himself as important. Disguises himself as superior. Becomes the ranking official. The demons have vanquished the adept. He becomes unreachable. Smug. Certain. Above others. No longer able to hear or listen. Blows off the Truth. He becomes certain. Assured and out of control. Lost in ignorance.

The adept has become unreachable and unteachable. Hardship is his only hope. Thinking he is in charge is his worst enemy. Being a spiritual seeker is not a career, a hobby, a secondary interest – it is all and everything that matters. There is nothing else.

Often, we find ourselves playing tiddlywinks with spiritual teachings – not realizing that spiritual teachings are potent in a way nothing else is. There is no aim of winning, no aim of getting ahead or getting anything at all. There is nothing to get. Nothing to lay claim to as the “me” and “my” so insistently try to do.

It seems the odds are stacked against us – that one lifetime is not enough time to defend our spiritual life and destroy the battalions of ignorance, lust, pride, greed, envy, jealousy and the many hindrances that we seem to face again and again and again. The enemy of our own desire seems to be upon us before we are able to stop it and vanquish it in such a way that we are free.

But all is not lost.

The spiritual gods assemble in the form of hardship. The ignorance becomes anxiety, the lust, dry and empty, the hate requires more and more harshness and self-doubt is bolstered by sycophants and drugs. The demons relish their victories and amass their forces while the spiritual gods seek help.

Defeated, the spiritual gods confess they need a higher power and a return to order; a return to discipline and practice. They need the energy to slay the demons that have taken them over. They need a powerful weapon against ignorance in order to see how they have capitulated to the fleeting pleasures of impermanent things.

For those who want to reach the summit, there must be a willingness to renounce greed-of-attachment and hatred-of-aversion. And this requires heavy lifting – a thirst for the Boss, the One beyond understanding. The thirst is big – big in the way one fights for a breath when drowning. YES. That’s what it takes. A fight for the face of the True Self as one fights for life. The Divine Eternal – Godliness – THAT which never was born and never dies. THAT. Life offers each one of us a chance at liberation – to find union with THAT by whatever holy name.

We need weapons. Yes. Weapons. Those things or ways that give us an advantage over the demons of greed, hate and delusion. AND, we need training on how to find and use the weapons – from a Master. It is as simple as that.

Let us for a moment return to The Bow & Arrow. Please read it as spiritual instruction. It shows the action of a Master; one who trained with a master archer. Trained his mind in discipline and practiced.

Did you read it?

Spiritual life is demanding and we have to be willing to give it time to master. You may ask, “How is the tale of the Bow & Arrow an instruction for me in my spiritual life?”

Actually, I hope you do ask that question.

The basic answer is twofold: The Bow & Arrow exemplifies the use of a weapon and a weapon that requires commitment and discipline in order to master it. The weapon needs to strengthen the student in such a way that it is an advantage against the demons of ignorance, greed, hate & delusion. The weapon does not need to be deadly in a worldly sense; it does need to be able to destroy the sloth & torpor of disinterest which means it must be challenging to the sloth & torpor of ignorance. AND…it must be able to slay the resistance to giving up ignorance.

Choose your weapon wisely. The Master in The Bow & Arrow,  selected the Bow and Arrow and all that goes with it. He found a Master to hand down the ways of the bow & arrow. In order to learn, he had to commit himself first and foremast to the work. The commitment must be there.

Your weapon need not be a weapon such as a bow and arrow, but it must be challenging and greater than ignorance. It might be gardening, the tea ceremony, sewing, writing, spiritual study or one of any number of actions. Being father, a mother, training a dog, a marathon athlete and such. What is important is that the chosen weapon is able to call you to devotion – again and again and again. An action that requires discipline and training. In other words, it requires a willingness to become a disciple – a follower of the discipline.

In Zen Buddhism someone does not receive a diploma stating he or she is a master; it is much more difficult because one is a master through the difficult-to-understand process of working with a master.  One does not go to a seminary for four or six years and graduate receiving a diploma; no. In Zen, one lives the teachings and realizes THAT Truth spoken about above.  There are many means; nothing is left out of living the teachings.

In the The Bow & Arrow, the man placed the arrow of his life on the bow of teachings and shot at THAT truth which is not a single target downfield; but is the ever-present mysterious Truth of the Tathagatha.

The man in The Bow & Arrow trained in such a way that he is called a master – not a dilettante or a spiritual shopper but a master. It’s not a casual commitment.

 

With this under our belt let’s take a closer look at the The Bow & Arrow.

This man, at some point in time, chose the bow & arrow as his weapon that would teach him the Truth and from the looks of what he did on the field, it did indeed teach him in a way expressed in action. The spontaneity of his action is the hallmark, the gold standard of a master. The reason is simple – we all know how to deceive ourselves and others with robes, pretty words and high-fallutin’ teachings and all sorts of spiritual paraphernalia. Our intellect, after all, can be the ally of phony baloney spiritual rhetoric.

But what action exactly shows this gold standard? Very hard to understand and pinpoint. Not looking for a reward is one. Not giving a rat’s ass about opinions of others is another. Devotion to the weapon. Offering free all the teachings to those that are sincere.

Zen is full of stories of slaps, fly swatting, sudden claps, blowing out candles given in a sudden burst to awaken you. Zen Buddhism is not trying to be nice – which is a word that comes from the French, meaning stupid – Zen Buddhism is punchy, provocative, evocative, potent, powerful, forceful, fierce training because the foes of ignorance, greed, hate and delusion are mighty. We all need a weapon in which to cut away, strip, flay, slay ignorance.

Ignorance is quite powerful. Its power has kept us cycling through lifetimes of karma. We need a thing greater than it to slay it.  Loss, some great, terrible loss is at times needed for some to awaken.

The Archer who showed up on that field was a master who did not care whether the crowd liked what he did or not – he shot the arrow in such a way it pierced the desires of wanting a performance. He sent the arrow flying into the heavens of Truth.

A true Master is not someone who is nice, but is able to strip away the ignorance of how you or I want or wish things to go. A true Master exhibits a wholeness (holiness) that no longer cares about the opinions of others but is concentrated on the Eternal Mark, the impenetrable Mark of existence. THAT. True. Self.

I ask once more, what weapon have you chosen or will you choose to master in order to pierce ignorance; to tear off the veil and see who you really are?

 I know I have said this many times, but I must say it again – a teacher is essential – a holy teacher who is willing to not give a rat’s ass about your self-centered feelings and thoughts and who has the skill to pierce the veil of ignorance again and again until you are able to do it for yourself. 

What weapon are you willing to devote your concentration, your mind, your heart to?

 

Humming Bird

 

Author: FaShi Lao Yue

Image credits: Fly, 2020

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

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

 

Images by Fly

Cooped Up? A Good Time for the Eight Awarenesses – First of Eight

Have Few Desires

 

In late winter the sugar ants arrive, uninvited.  We first notice one or maybe two walking across our counter top, scouts checking, we are not sure just what they are checking.  Then, a few days later there are a few more boldly walking on spoons and cups waiting to be washed.  A dollop of jam left on a knife is soon covered with ants.  And when at night we are too tired to clean-up the kitchen, the morning reveals lines of marching ants…going back and forth with their booty.

The arrival of the ants is very much like the arrival of desire in our mind.  We notice a small desire…wanting more sunshine, fewer clouds, warmer weather.  These are scouts that lead to more and more desire…moving to a warmer climate, which means a new house (renting or buying) and then selling or renting the one we have and finding a moving company and giving away furniture or selling it.  On and on it goes.  Our desires swarm around things, forms, feelings, perceptions, impulses, memories, experiences, fears.  This is how we think…wanting and not wanting.  Our desires just like the ants keep coming.  And soon we are miserable.

Over the past few years we’ve tried many strategies with the ants. Most of them involved killing lots and lots of ants. The ant problem eventually gets solved with great sorrow and regret at killing so many ants, which really aren’t causing any harm.

This year, thinking about the arrival of ants and the arrival of desire in the mind we are working with a practice of simplicity and persistence.  With the ants, it is obvious:  put all food away, leave nothing on the counters.  Rinse off all silverware, dishes, cups, glasses.  Wipe the counters down every time food is prepared.  Do this all day, every day.  The ants can scout around but they won’t find anything to message home about.

Simplicity and persistence can also work with desire.  We can physically begin to simplify our life, so example:  put away everything we take out.  If what we take out doesn’t have a “home” clean out drawers and closets until there is a place to simply put away what we take out.  Do this all day every day.

With mental desires, a key is to simply catch it when it comes up…see it scouting around for other desires to latch onto.  To begin with maybe we won’t see the scout desires, we will only notice desires when they become swarms…entangled thoughts.  Persistent practice can help here…when you notice a desire filled thought,  just say “STOP” and move the mind away from the swarm.  It takes persistence to pay attention to what our mind is up to.  In fact, if we want to have few desires we must pay attention all the time…minute by minute, hour by hour.

 

PRACTICE

Memorize. Repeat. Practice.

 

Humming Bird

Author: Lao di Zhi Shakya

Old Earth

Zen Contemplative Priest of the Order of Hsu Yun

 

Image credits: Fly, 2020

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

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

 

Study THIS – and Realize the Dharma Work.

 

These teachings are for your sake. Trees and weeds, tables and doors expound and exalt the Dharma for your sake. You, in turn, expound and exalt the Dharma for the sake of trees, weeds, tables and doors. This expounding and exalting is how Dharma work is. The work is not limited because Dharma work cannot be measured or comprehended. Measuring and comprehending disturb the mind. All things help you to cut off disordered and defiled thoughts and views coming from the measuring and comprehending. The Dharma work is infinitely numberless and universally performing. You might wonder what the characteristics of realization are and what are the causes of realization that lead to self-awakening and awakening others?  THe promise of cause and effect is inescapable. If you put your hand into a pot of boiling water, you burn your hand. The boiling water fulfills its Dharma. This is the nature of cause and effect. This nature is true of the mind. The teachings of realization promise and follow this law. If you put your mind on the non-essential, you will cycle endlessly in suffering and you will not be blessed with the characteristics of realization. The non-essentials are when you are given over to likes, dislikes and indifferences. Likes, dislikes and indifference are not essential causes of realization. If you put your mind on the essential, you will realize the Dharma work.

 

Service, Automobiles & Unselfishness

Awakening before dawn,

I cover my eyes and think of serving;

giving little services throughout the day.

I think of those who died –

over 150,000 others died during the night.

I bow before the feet of Divine Mother.

I take refuge in Divine Mother;

who reigns over birth and death. 

Service

The image above illustrates the image of service. It says it quite beautifully in the visual image and is reflective of the bodhisattva vow. 

When, I a student of Dharma,

Look at the real form of the universe,

All is the never-failing manifestation

Of the mysterious Truth of the Tathagata.

The Bodhisattva Vow

To take refuge in the never-failing manifestation is the Way to break through the ignorance of our pervasive self-centeredness. And it is to take refuge everywhere all the time in any event, in any moment and in any place. The reason is clear – None can be other than the marvelous revelation of ITS glorious Light.  Nothing is left out. When we know and realize this mysterious truth ,we see the world as One Bright Pearl.

And, we follow the realization of our virtuous ancestors who extended tender care, with a worshipping heart – to all things.

Those services given freely, without an agenda, without strings, and yes, without cash are tender care. There is no merit to get, no fruit to ripen, no result to be cherished. Giving seeks no reward. It is empty of self-grasping. No trace of self-ego. When we take refuge in this never-failing manifestation, we know the merciful incarnation of Buddha.

But I get ahead of myself – let me go to what might seem to be a hard digression. So hold on tight as we make a sharp turn to automobiles. Yes, automobiles, especially new ones. But first a definition.

 

Definition

 

“Unselfishness is God *”  

 

 

Consider this quote. It is simple and points directly to the nature of the Divine – that Divinity which  is never apart from you, right where you are. Unselfishness is the state of being that Divinity, moment by moment by moment. One way to recognize we are not living there – WAIT – let me give an example of how we know we are NOT taking refuge in the Divinity of existence. As promised – in a short vignette on “automobiles.”

_____

Image result for images of automobiles

Automobiles

The new automobiles are computerized to such a degree that the dashboard tells the driver when the tires need air. Sounds pretty good?

Stop. Be careful.

Whatever looks like a boon always comes with disadvantages; the dashboard alert is no exception. Yes, it tells the driver the tire pressure is low, get air. But this boon is filled with what appear to be many difficulties.

The driver is alerted to check air pressure, but this boon of an alert creates the problem of locating a gas station which has a functioning air pump. Finding a station with an air pump is just the beginning of the what some feel are hardships. Finding a gas station with a working air pump is not easy. It takes time. If we get the boon of finding such a gas station, we discover the air pump contraption is “out-of-service.”

But wait!

Before we are able to test the air pump for functionality, we have to deal with the weather. The signal on the dash that alerts the driver often occurs when the temperature drops to bitter cold degrees. Gone are the days when air used to be part of the service in a gas station along with filling the tank, cleaning the windows and paying in cash. They were givens. Services such as these are rare if not extinct.

Self-service-with-a-fee is the new normal. It exemplifies our current culture of we must pay for services even when we are the one who does the servicing. As most of us know, we are a culture that charges for just about everything; including AIR; even when we are the attendant.

The boon soon is seen as a curse.

The dashboard alerts require deep breaths, patience and yes, fortitude. If we are lucky enough to find a gas station that has an air pump, we button up our coat, find our gloves and climb out into the chill of winter in hopes of inflating the tires.

But the AIR isn’t free.

And those difficult machines in gas stations take coins.  Who amongst us carries coins? And – do we have the right coins? Enough of them? OK. The driver feels unlucky and needs to calm down. When the coins are gotten the air pump looks menacing.

If the coin slot is not broken or frozen or bent out-of-shape we remove our gloves and pay to turn the contraption on and hope that it actually works. All of this is done after we have unwound the frozen air hose and have taken a guess at which tire actually needs air. The boon is surely seen as a curse at this point. 

All for the want to shut off the dashboard warning icon. If we are unsuccessful, the icon turns into a compulsion because we are compelled to shut off that now glaring light. Usually this event from beginning to end is seen as demonic and the driver wants to kick the tires and to hell with the air. 

What…you ask, does this have to do with seeing unselfishness as DIvine.  The first glaring relationship is that we are taking the event personally – I sure hope you can laugh at yourself. It’s not personal. It’s — well, BIGGER than that self-interest. All along it is the mysterious Truth of the Tathagatha. Now – I hope you are smiling.

_____

The person who reacts with annoyance, agitation, irritation to the light on in his dashboard, is apart from the Divine existence of the Buddha Self, to the never-failing of Buddha. He does not see everything as Divine manifestation but rather reacts to things as for him or against him, as good or bad, as right or wrong, as a pain-in-the-neck or as a blessing for him. Selfish interests abound. Ignorance of what to take refuge in continues. 

This reactive self is a manifestation of the selfish-ego which is what we mostly take refuge in. We want to fix, repair, correct, and get rid of what we see as a problem…and this reactive delusion thinks there is a right way to do it. I have found that impatience is often the General that leads the army of Mara (any internal demon that blinds us). The driver in the car gets frustrated and impatient to kill the dashboard light – to heed the warning.

Imagine if the driver knows and realizes the dashboard light, like everything, is the merciful incarnation of Buddha; of your Divine nature. The reaction is an illusion that leads to samsara. A henchman of Mara that leads us to split the things of the world according to our self-interest. In the case of the car – the driver splits the world between easy and hard.

As we continue to split the world, which whatever shows up in life, as good or bad  or right or wrong  we are looking at the world according to our self-interest. 

 

 

YOU WILL SEE EVERYTHING AS RIGHT OR WRONG UNTIL YOU SEE EVERYTHING AS DIVINE

 

Those of us who continue to be reactive get a chance to see we are reactive and instead of arguing about it, or covering it over with “well, I am right, there is right and wrong” we get a chance to take refuge in the True Self – by whatever name you know it.  This turn requires that we study the self to such a degree we can forget the self. In other words, we practice unselfishness – not putting our self first again and again and again. Not seeking reward or credit. Not wanting praise or blame. Being free.

We respond or react to life according to our knowledge of the True Self. Until we take refuge in THAT, we continue to split the world according to our self-centered views.

May this teaching benefit all beings in every direction.

OM. OM. OM.  

_____

Quote Unselfish is God – *Vivekananda. 

DEFINITION of UNSELFISH: “not putting yourself first; being generous with what you have; generosity with time, money and effort.” 

Humming Bird

*I was once dubious about working with a teacher,

but after a lifetime of practice, and working with Ming Zhen

I see the need and recommend to you

that you find a teacher.

 

Author: FaShi Lao Yue

Image credits: Fly, 2020

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: Wang zi-won; Meditating Mechanical Machinery

Car Image credit