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

These Bones!

After the test showed that my bones now officially qualify as osteoporotic, (bone density low enough to cause potentially serious hip and vertebral fractures) I sat with a nurse to learn my options. I asked many questions, took notes.

Then I walked home, my mind spinning with so many questions. What should I do? How will I treat this new threat to my well-being as I age? Was there a natural way to increase bone density I could trust? Or should I follow the medical model of treatment using powerful drugs? Drugs promise to increase bone density but at such a high cost with their numerous down-sides. On the other hand are my memories of my grandmother in acute pain from spinal fractures, she who did not have drug treatment options for her crippling osteoporosis thirty years ago.

I stayed up late, reading online to learn more. Sleep, when it came, was not restful.

Gratitude abounds for the morning practice of sitting meditation. Once again, out of the silence and stillness: Wisdom. I recognized that I was picking and choosing, my mind adrift in a sea of potential options I must evaluate, eliminate, advocate. The aversion to past and future pains and sufferings fell away. So did the desire to know the perfect strategy that would protect me from harm.

It all let go into the here and now, such a relief. From HERE, I could rest into the great unfolding. I could trust that the next right step would emerge, one that wasn’t up to this picking and choosing “me.” HERE, there is trust that each step in this new journey of osteoporosis is taken without attachment to the outcome, without clinging to any particular direction, every choice, every move emerging from a unique moment in time and space, no static correct treatment to hold on to.

The only unchanging truth is this: these bones and the body that houses them will ultimately fail completely. No treatment options for that medical truth.

We take care of the bodies as well as we can. Our hearts and minds however are where the real work lies. There, the most effective treatment is spiritual truth. We remind the mind over and over to realize the changing nature of all things, to remember its own impermanence and to submit to the light of impermanence. We remind the mind to submit every experience of change, aging and sickness to the wise scrutiny of no picking, no choosing. No right, no wrong. No wanting, no knowing. Trusting each moment to show us the way.

Humming Bird

Lao Huo Shakya

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

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Image Credit: Howie Hearn from Flagstaff, AZ.  Sculpture:  “I Told You We Would Win That War.”

Playing at Paste…Until Qualified for Pearl – PART 2

Notice – Two Points.

  1. Please read PART 1 first, then come back and read this, PART 2. Thank you.

2. Before we jump in further, it is important to ask a question. Don’t skip the question. And I advise, don’t advance without knowing your answer.

Here’s the question: WHAT DO YOU WANT?

A simple enough question, but it determines the whole direction of your life. It turns your ship towards whatever answer you put forth. The reason the question, as well as the answer is important, is that for the most part we get whatever it is that we want. It is true, even though it may not be exactly what you wanted, but it is some form of what you wanted. Look at your own life. You’ll see that you do get what you want – or some facsimile of it.

If you did not answer the question in some way that suggest you want liberation, I wouldn’t bother reading further. This is not what you want. But, if you did answer, I want to be liberated, then carry on. If you are not sure of what you want, continue to spend time with yourself in solitude and see what bubbles up.

 

The Story of the Monk Running for His Life

This story is about ignorance. Although, it is often a story about being in the “now” – picking the strawberry, enjoying the sweetness of ignorance, it is ultimately about ignorance. The central ignorance of not knowing who you are. 

It is essential that you understand this central question: WHO ARE YOU?

For most of us, we identify our self as a character on the world stage who has a body and mind and a life. In other words, we identify our self according to the body, the mind, and all the constructions of our family and culture and zeitgeist. As an example, I am a man, middle-aged, balding, brown eyes, six feet, a pharmacist, married 2 kids, educated, Spanish, and need to lose a few pounds. On and on this list may go. This list exemplifies the relative, impermanent conditions of the world and it is who this man thinks he is.

If you identify yourself according to the world, you are guaranteed suffering. Suffering’s root is not knowing WHO YOU ARE. It is as if you have identified yourself as a table or a cup, or an automobile which many actually do. The house they live, the car they drive, the clothes they wear, the hairdo, their height, their profession, their history make them who they are. But all of these things disappear and POOF! you lose them and it feels life-threatening because you think these things are YOU.

This YOU comes about through ignorance. And in this story of the monk we see him running for his life out of ignorance.

A Brief Recap

This spiritual adept, (those who want liberation) is said to have escaped the man-eating tiger and the devouring lion, but is soon to be done in by a few hungry mice. We meet him in a rather desperate moment. But despite his facing an impending death, he reaches for a sweet strawberry. Ming Zhen points out that going for the strawberry is playing with paste and that there is more work to be done especially when the monk realizes Layman P’ang’s truth – “the present doesn’t stay – don’t try to hold it.” Nothing lasts, not even the taste of that sweet strawberry.

When you begin to recognize all those things you identify yourself as will not last – and you decide you want liberation beyond the momentary sweetness of a strawberry – you dig in and start the climb up towards the Summit.  In Dickinson’s words, you practice until you qualify for pearls.

Sweet Ignorance

Wanting the sweetness of the strawberry is wanting the sweetness of ignorance. How do we know that? The monk is running for his life; defending against his impending death. We all tend to opt for the sweetness of ignorance rather than do the higher work of putting our foot into a cranny and getting out of ignorance altogether.

The direct path is to know and realize birth and death are illusions. Yes. That’s right. They are illusions. The tiger chasing the monk, the cliff, the branch, the mice, the lion and yes, the strawberry. The monk is fearful. He does not want to lose his body and mind and all the sweetness of ignorance. Yes, the sweetness of ignorance as in the old saying, ignorance is bliss. To some degree, ignorance itself is blissful – for awhile. Not in an eternal sense. For awhile – we enjoy the sweet honey of life until we realize otherwise. Often we get stuck in ignorance. Taking the ups with downs in stride and sing that very old song by Peggy Lee, Is This All There Is – if your answer is YES, this is all there is then, you’ll go along with her refrain – then bring on the booze and let’s keep dancing. This is being stuck in the honey of ignorance until you suffer change enough that you scream for help.

When we mistake the body and mind to be who we are, we are in ignorance. We suffer from fear, loss, and every imaginable form of suffering when it comes. The Heart Sutra is an antidote to this ignorance, especially when it is taken in and contemplated. We chant the emptiness of every aspect of body and mind as a reminder of these things are not who we are.

All of the things in the world are subject to decay and death. When you identify with this illusion you get scared. Who wouldn’t? What do you mean I AM SUBJECT to decay and death? You struggle, struggle, struggle with doubt, fear, hopelessness, helplessness and many, many other miseries that come.

The Truth is simple. You are NOT the body. You are not the MIND. YOU are not all those conditions and constructs you put together which you say you are. They are part of the role you play in the illusion like a costume – put on and then taken off.

Ming Zhen suggests getting out of there. Get out of the illusion; if you don’t survive, you can’t prevail.  Prevail for the spiritual adept requires you face the beasts – the tiger, the mice and the hungry lion. You face the illusion of the body and mind. You see through it. You face the momentary enjoyment of sweet ignorance and look to know who you are.

The Path

First, find out where you are. Are you a pleasure hog? A monger of the commodities of the world? Going after things for pleasure, pleasure, pleasure, comfort, comfort, comfort?

Most of us have been conditioned to seek comfort and pleasure in the things of the world. Look around you. What do you cherish?

In order to get onto the path, you need to have a glimpse, to see through the illusion. Suffering is your greatest ally to make a hole into the veil of ignorance ;allowing you a glimpse through the illusion. This takes time.

It is no wonder Eastern religions claim rebirth and reincarnation as our lot. We need time to see through this illusion. Along with the notion of reincarnation comes the ever-present encouragement not to waste time. Life and death are of supreme importance. This story shows us the importance to dig in and climb above the illusion.

You are born this time as a human being – a great boon – a platform on which to climb upward to the Summit. Don’t waste this opportunity. Don’t let the piddly, petty things of this world distract you. Fight off the demons of the ego. Find a teacher.* Climb upward.

 

Humming Bird

*I was once dubious about working with a teacher, but after a lifetime of practice,

I see the need and recommend you find a teacher you can work with face to face.

 

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

 

 

Zen Through the Camera’s Lens

 

The film 1917 tells the story of two British soldiers in the trenches of France who are ordered by their superiors to travel on foot to a distant part of British-held territory with written instructions from the General in charge of operations to not attack the Germans the following morning. The Germans have set a trap. If the British attack, it will be a slaughter and a defeat for the allies.

The two soldiers leave immediately and travel overland, through an encampment the Germans only hours previously abandoned, through disputed territory where lone German soldiers hide and skirmishes between bands of Germans and British are a constant threat.

The audience watches as the two men negotiate many dangers, from rats to explosions to enemy bullets. We see them stumble, run, fall, creep and claw their way through varied terrain, all of it scourged by the horrors of war. As day becomes night becomes morning, the men continue on, their primary objective to keep going, in the right direction.

This ever-changing panorama of challenges and dangers was filmed in one continuous camera shot. The camera never stops rolling through the two hour drama, the lens never breaks from its singular focus on the two soldiers moving, always moving. It is a breath-taking feat of cinematography and film production. This no-stop approach to filming gives the story an essential and potent immediacy. Along with the camera itself, neither the audience nor the two young soldiers ever shift focus from the moment they are in. There is no time for such indulgences, there is only NOW…NOW…NOW…and NOW. There are no flashbacks to the childhoods of the characters, or to the families that wait for them, no cutting forward to old men as they remember their long-past heroics. No secondary story takes place in some other part of the war-torn landscape. The ever-changing scenery through which the two men travel in their quest to complete the given task the only truth.

The effect of the film on this student of Zen was to highlight and honor that which can be easy to overlook as we walk through the varied terrain of our lives: Each moment of time and space we inhabit is a dynamic creation in which everything is arising and falling away. The continuity of time and space are an illusion and 1917 shows us this in stark relief. When we keep attention

focused on this universal principle, as does the film, we can see more clearly that nothing stays the same, nothing lasts, every moment is new, brand new. Everything the two soldiers experience dissolves to make way for the next experience. They can only remain present, keep moving in the right direction and keep their wits about them.

Our minds, not nailed to the present by life-threatening dangers, can grow complacent, causing us to grasp at experiences to opine about them, yearn for more of them, get angry at them, evaluate our performance of them, grieve for the losses within them—and in doing so, we lose the moment that has newly arisen before us. We, like the soldiers and like all sentient beings, exist solely in the present, but our internal camera lens looks backward and forward, at this and that, here and there, always veering off, stealing our attention and veiling this truth. Over and over again, we find we are no longer here.

1917 shows us life being fully inhabited in the now. Through its continuously trained camera lens, it offers a view of life as a journey in which the imperative is to see the threats and opportunities arising in this moment with a singular focus so that one can navigate them with wisdom. To indulge in reactions to that which has come before or that which lies ahead are delusions and as such they lead us toward dangerous distractions. The young Brits know their lives and their mission depend on this such clear concentration.

Zen students too are on a quest to complete a given task; we too are running for our lives. We too must remain aware of the dangers lurking everywhere as we encounter life, for we also have enemies that threaten our task’s fulfillment. Our enemies are not sentient beings but conditioned beliefs and feelings, old habits of body, speech and mind that can catch us in their cross-fire, that hide in dark corners to kill and maim. We too must keep going in the right direction, toward the possibility of freedom and safety, paying full attention to the moments when these internal enemies show their shadowy faces. They lie in wait for our attention to flag. Inattention creates the perfect conditions for the traps they set.

Emotions and thoughts, all conditioned behavior thrives on our mind’s undisciplined flights of fancy into yesterday and tomorrow, likes and dislikes, distant lands and dramas. It is so easy to forget! It is so easy to relax into self-satisfaction that feels like peace. Before we know it, some deep discord within us is exploding forth and we are again at war. Our inner world and the outer

world it reflects are both battlefields where the delusions of winning and losing, love and hate play out their dark story of opportunity lost and truth mired and muddied, buried in the trenches of suffering and ignorance.

Like the two young Brits in 1917, our task is to keep going, pay full attention and remain vigilant, knowing that our lives depend on it.

 

Humming Bird

Lao Huo Shakya

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

What Do You Turn to When You Need Help

Bleary Doubled 2020 by Fly

 

This is often known as your source of refuge. It comes when you are at your wits end and you need to refer to something or someone wiser than your ego-self. It comes with power, a power to decide between one thing or another. In spiritual life, it comes through the realization of renunciation.

Stop and ask yourself: “What do I rely on?”

In science and business and all the many things of the world we call it a “reference.” What do I refer my will to when I need assistance?  The question itself determines action – what action you will take with body, speech and mind.

When something occurs, some event or series of events in your mind – which is where all events are reflected – what do you do? And, where do you go for help?

Let me relieve any anxiety that this question may bring up by adding – there is no “right” or “wrong” answer. The answer, whatever it is, is illumination. The answer tells you what you have “faith” in. It will tell you your reference. And knowing your reference will tell how you measure and evaluate your life. It may even help you see how your reference hinders your spiritual journey.

So, let me ask the same question in another way.

What for? When you do something what do you do it for?  You get to fill-in the blank.

This particular practice is preliminary, but it nevertheless may yield gold if you are sincere in your quest to know that which is ineffable.

Another way to understand this “reference” is to look at a habit since habits are actions for something or for another. The bedeviled alcoholic shows us in bright painful lights how a habit works. The person is in pain and takes action for some pain relief where alcohol is the reference of choice. It is available, convenient, and offers a false degree of reliability. It works. But, as we know, over time this reference turns into dependence and then turns into a demon. With this in mind, notice how what we turn to as a reference follows this pattern of a habit. We want an available, convenient and reliable reference. One we can trust.

Dare I say that all habits built on things that fall apart are unreliable. Despite this truth we often continue to turn to them as though they are not unreliable. I note this as an encouragement to seek a “reliable” reference; one that is ever-present, ever-powerful, and ever-reliable.

In Zen Buddhism, it is called the True Self – or your True Nature. IT is called by many names but has the same nature across traditions. IT is who you are and not the other way around. You are not IT. We proceed from the unborn, undying, eternal being.

In short, watch what you put your faith in.

God alone is real. All this is apparent and proceeds from God, the unborn, undying, eternal.

“When a Saint was practicing deeply, the teaching of Wisdom, she perceived that all this – name, form, body & mind, feelings, impulses, perceptions, and consciousness are empty of an abiding ego-self…and realized the Truth.”

Om Namo Holy Mother God

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

ALL MR. PATHAK EVER WANTED WAS PEACE, AND IT SEEMED AS IF HE SPENT ALL HIS FREE TIME TRYING TO FIND IT.

The title of this essay  is a line from a novel, The Death of Vishnu, by Manil Suri. It comes early on in the novel from a man, a Mr. Pathak who feels beaten down by the everyday demands and complaints from his wife. She, Mrs. Pathak, is in a constant, many year battle with her neighbor, Mrs. Asrani. The battlefield is twofold; a shared kitchen space and a landing (the place between staircases in the building). The conflict is rooted in fairness. Both the Pathak’s and the Asrani’s feel as though they are doing and paying more than their fair share. The treasury at stake is water in the kitchen and revenue and expenses regarding the landing.

Water is scarce and is a sought after commodity collected and distributed in the kitchen. The landing, which was a source of rental revenue is currently occupied by a dying man named Vishnu who is in dire need of human kindness. Vishnu, amongst the poorest of the poor, is an alcoholic. No longer able  to tend to certain small things in the building  or pay his small rent for sleeping on the landing he has become  a medical liability to the Pathak and the Asrani families.

 

As we might imagine, squabbles abound from both sides. Both couples want an even-handed distribution of water and a fair-minded, equal payment for Vishnu’s care. Neither seems to be possible.

Not only do the couples dispute the unfairness between the pairs but the partners find themselves bickering over who will tell the other couple what they need to do or not do. With Vishnu’s greater need for assistance, skirmishes between them ensue on a regular basis. Common enough.  We might even say, to be expected. Whether you live in a shared apartment building in India or in a two-flat in Europe, getting along with others is often difficult. 

When we first hear of Mr. Pathak’s desire for peace, he is sitting in an Iranian Hotel drinking tea and eating a biscuit. He goes there to escape the conflict. This scene gives us a glimpse into what he does that keeps him far from finding the peace that he seeks. Initially, he feels good. He’s gotten away from the bickering. He enjoys his tea and biscuit. Soon enough, however, the noise of the recent quarrel with his wife is defended against with two flamethrowers; fault-finding and blame. He defends himself to himself with these against the others only to descend into self-pity.

His tea and biscuit are no match against the secretions of his mind.

 

 

It was not his fault that Mrs. Arani was so unreasonable. It was not his fault that Vishnu was sick. It certainly not his fault Usha (his wife) had arranged the kitty party for today. Nothing was his fault, yet he knew he would be blamed for everything. A wave of self-pity swept over Mr. Pathak, and the Gluco (biscuit) turned chalky in his mouth.

 

 

He can’t help it. His mental formations come up in his mind much like a well-developed habit of checking a sore on the inside cheek in the mouth. The tongue curiously checks the sore again and again only to make matters worse. Mr. Pathak’s peace is swept away, leaving him bereft of the peace he wanted.

Sadly, Mr. Pathak is unable to realize how he contributes to his misery. Blinded by the flamethrowers of fault-finding and blame he falls into the vat of self-pity opening the door to despair leaving him prey for his instinctual side to take charge. With his instinctual side he plans to retaliate against his wife. The retaliation, unbeknownst to Mr. Pathak’s wish to satisfy himself,  fuels the flames of the household discord, setting him on fire. 

The importance of Mr. Pathak’s ever-seeking hunt for peace is he is us. Mr. Pathak represents our mind state before enlightenment. He is ignorant. He shows us, so very clearly, that he contributes to the discord leaving him longing for peace. Yep. He ain’t found it, yet. Mental gymnastics is not the Way. 

I hope you are laughing. Not at Mr. Pathak. But at seeing his mental deliberations as hindrances which negate any chance for lasting peace. 

The work is not with Mr. Pathak or his wife. Or the other couple. Or with the situation of scarcity of water or the dying man on the landing. The work is with ourselves.

We need to be able to recognize the ego-self and how it calls upon various aspects of the mind to get control and keep it. We need to be able to see how we hoist our mind on our own petard (small exploding bomb). If we just get this first step, we will limit and avoid doing harm to others and ourselves by stopping the plot against another or our self before we blow ourselves up in double suffering. 

If we examine this short paragraph, we see that we, too ,defend ourselves by finding fault with others, the situation, ourselves. We enter into the wicked realm of the unreasonable. We mark others as unfair. Life itself is seen as unfair. We criticize and judge whatever we deem as the problem. None of this helps us get free enough to find peace; to limit and end suffering. As Mr. Pathak we fall into leaking any good sense we might have and take no responsibility for our acts. With a final sachet we declare ourselves “innocent.” Oh what a fool we make of ourselves. Thinking and hoping these tactics will set us free we come to find out, if we are lucky, that we have detonated our selfishness of our ego and bombed ourselves with self-blame. Without drawing blood or even raising a stink, we have succumbed to the enemy, and the enemy is “me, my, mine.”

 

And so, we and Mr. Pathak continue to

ever want peace…

spending time trying to find it in all the wrong places and things.

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

THE FRONT FELL OFF

Below is a link that I wholeheartedly recommend watching;

especially for advanced students.

It is both brilliant in its execution and spiritually illuminating.

It may take some illumination to see the wisdom –

but the wisdom is there.

Enjoy!

THE FRONT FELL OFF

 

 

 

 

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

A personal note from Fashi Lao Yue.

 

The video link was sent to me by a dear friend in the UK.

A devoted Franciscan brother who is steadfast in his work. I thank him for his constancy of devotion and for this hilarious link. My dear, late teacher is laughing with joy.

Monk to Householder, Householder to Monk

 

Thoughtful to Thoughtful

 

When spiritual energy arises we need substantial direction.

Long Ago

Long ago spiritual travelers sought out some community or some solitary place to find their spiritual heart. It may have been a monastic group or a desert which offered the opportunity of time and freedom from household responsibility.

Householder responsibilities of getting an education, earning a living and rearing offspring requires enormous commitment of time, energy and monies. Solitude and silence are rare and spiritual practice seems to fade into a secondary place. The householder may feel so burdened by everyday responsibility and dismayed by the steepness of the climb. They may give up. It may feel unfathomable.

Those in monastic settings where structure and rule surround the spiritual traveler receive the benefits of guidance and constant watchfulness. Though different, the spiritual traveler in a household needs structure and rule that offer guidance and allows the spiritual traveler to be watchful within commerce, family and the world politick. Nothing is hidden from spiritual practice.

The spiritual burden of a householder is the same today in the 21st century as it was 2600 years ago. The same load is required for the householder as is required for a monastic. The yoke may be different, more complex but the same afflictions of ignorance bear upon all human beings. The same view of dividing the world lives in the mind of the human being.

Time and place do not alter this truth.

The overburdened life, whether it be within a structured spiritual community or in a household, hampers the structure and rule needed to awaken. Lessening the burdens of life and placing the mind on the spiritual journey is what is required.

The requisites or fundamentals are the same for all those who seek spiritual awakening whether one is a monk or one is a householder. The belongings are different.

The Fundamentals

  • All need to provide for shelter, food and water, clothing and medicine.
  • All need to study and practice.
  • All need to receive the bits and pieces of teachings.
  • All need a daily practice routine.

Excerpted from an Upcoming FREE E-Book

Humming Bird

Author: FaShi Lao Yue

Image credits: Fly, 2019

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

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

 

World Wide Xenophobia

 

All One Cloth

Our death and rebirth come in every moment but we may miss it because we attend to silly things. We hurry and worry about in reckless wishes that we will go on here forever. We flop into a hazy, laziness unbidden by the Holy One simply because we forget to listen to the beckoning. We condemn the differences and want to claim some rightness that will not, does not hold. We think the pieces, those bits of differences that divide us, are worth dying for.

Arguments of every sort and kind fly up into harmful skirmishes and we bang about loudly with pots and pans and trumpets of victory that we have beheaded the difference forever. We want, after all to be victorious over others. We like to stomp our feet and pound our fists against something and something different certainly seems threatening enough to make it a perfect enemy.

And all of this foolishness happens over and over again. The repetition makes it look real. It’s a drama played on the screen of the real.

Humming Bird

Author: FaShi Lao Yue

Image credits: Fly, 2019

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

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

Ulterior Defenses by Ming Zhen Shakya

 

Janus, the Roman God

 

FOREWARD by Fashi Lao Yue

When I would grumble about something to Ming Zhen, she would inevitably get to the point where she reminded me “everyone has sinned, and has been sinned against.” It was her way of telling me to be quiet – to stop complaining or thinking I am better than or less than any other being. This knowledge, although simple to read and even memorize, is not easy to practice. In this essay, Ming Zhen asks us to study the ego-self before the ego-self grabs hold with either attraction or aversion. A hard task indeed! For a very long time, we spiritual seekers find ourselves in a mess after we have grabbed something with the energy of attraction or aversion. These two energies are the harbingers of the three poisons of the soul – namely, greed, hate and delusion and all the various concomitants; the endless array of associated collateral. (i.e., worry, resentment, pride, envy, jealousy…)

Ming Zhen calls it being buried in our egos. I understand her to say as she says in Beckett’s quote, a dead mind. Dead in the sense its shape has taken on a name and form of becoming a such and such which we all know is deadly for any spiritual adept. To continue to see the sins of others is a fool’s view – and to worry about the other’s view of you is equally foolish. I can hear Ming Zhen laugh as she once again reminds us, “everyone has sinned, and has been sinned against.” Amen.

I have taken the liberty as editor for ZATMA to edit this essay towards a focus of helping us all to look at our ulterior defenses and to remember her way of telling us to be quiet.

 

Everyone has sinned, and has been sinned against.”

 

__________

 

Say what you will, you can’t keep a dead mind down.”
Samuel Beckett, More Pricks Than Kicks

People buried in their egos – victims of their own poisonous anger, lust, or ignorance – find release only when they can spew that venom onto others. It’s the only catharsis they get. We hear them on moonless nights, stalking the land, targeting anyone within spitting range.

We need to remember this is us each and every time we find ourselves spewing venom.

To avoid the mess during these Nights of the Living Dead, the rest of us have to find a Refuge – and wait for sunrise. We are able to avoid the mess when we stop ourselves from discharging our own poisons. Then, if we are disciplined, we are able to seek Refuge. The Big Spiritual refuge of turning towards the Precious Buddha Mirror of our true image.

 

It helps to understand – if not the source of others venom – at least the display of it. Sometimes we encounter it “in kind” and sometimes “in degree.”

 

The “degree” is easier to see. We all feel that we’ve imposed ethical limits upon our behavior, limits that constitute a boundary between acceptable and unacceptable actions. “He is a terrible man. He beats his wife for no reason at all. (Pause) I beat my wife, too, but I make sure she deserves it before I strike her.”

In prison ministries we often see a rationalized hierarchy of crime. “I may be guilty of armed robbery, but I’ve never raped anybody!” Sometimes the hierarchy stumps us. A man who is serving three life sentences for multiple murders can say, with perfect equanimity, “If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s a thief.”

 

Often, we find ourselves declaring such nonsense, as “I’d never do such a thing.”

No, it is difference in “kind” that gives us trouble. It is a matter of identity. Identification with a false self; a made-up identity. A change in kind is an apparent change in genus and species. We think we’re seeing one kind of animal, but in reality, we’re seeing its natural enemy. This is not quite the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” motif. The wolf knows he’s a wolf and the woolly garments are a conscious disguise. If caught with his toes or his tail showing, he knows he’s been busted. The wolf is not deluded enough to growl and bare his fangs and insist that his accuser is a vicious sheep hater – the only reason he could possibly have for calling him a wolf. This kind of response is a purely human one.

In such a self-absolving defense tactic, the person unconsciously assumes an identity opposite to that of his true victim, i.e., the person he can righteously accuse of having the very same faults as those that got him buried in the first place. If he is a fearful coward – one that would betray his country at the slightest inconvenience, he may emerge from his interment as a martinet, swaggering with stick and sneer, exhorting his subordinates to commit acts of cruelty upon some ‘cowardly’ enemy, deriding his men as wimps and unpatriotic pansies, and punishing them harshly if they are in any way reluctant to inflict such injuries. If there’s one thing he hates, it’s a coward.

Have any of us ever made such statements – in a ridiculous piety. Or perhaps its opposite?

Again, it is in the exaggerated response that we find a clue to the nature of this inversion.

It is when we do take time to reflect upon moral issues that we need to consider the motivation of those who so vehemently question other people’s morality – and this includes our own outcries as well.

Buddhists who’ve been buried in their own egos often get their disinterment passes by shouting that somebody in the vicinity is violating a Precept. It never occurs to them that they are shifting a burden of guilt onto someone else. Whether the transfer is hissed or shouted, the theme is always the same: the assumed superior stance of one person over another.

THE REFRAIN COMES AGAIN –

Everyone has sinned, and has been sinned against.”

Pointing accusingly at other people’s offenses requires scrupulously clean hands. This is a universal principle in law except, perhaps, in the judicial proceedings of the Cosa Nostra. When two men rob a bank, intending to split the loot, and one of them runs off with all the money, the victimized robber cannot charge him with theft or seek redress of his grievance in the civil courts.

Seeing that our hands are dirty requires a degree of self-awareness that we usually don’t possess.

 

As the Buddha said,

The faults of others are easily seen, but one’s own faults are seen with difficulty. One winnows the faults of others like chaff, but conceals his own faults as a fowler covers his body with twigs and leaves.”` (The Buddha, Dhammapada, XVIII, 252.)

 

Reminds us of Adam and Eve who made a poor effort to cover their shame with a leaf.

Ordinary flaws, those convenient hypocrisies we devise to get out of uncomfortable positions or to gain personal advantages, are far easier to recognize than the ones that are not just covered by twigs and leaves but are buried beneath them.

If we haven’t yet used a defense mechanism to dig ourselves into a pathologic hole, we can try routine Buddhist self-help techniques. Success depends on luck and on having attained a certain proficiency in meditation. There is a line that is crossed when fascination becomes emotional involvement. Whenever we notice that we are aroused – by either attraction or aversion – we can try to analyze our response. Unfortunately, by the time we are emotionally “hooked” we have passed the point of disinterested observation and our conclusions are likely to be prejudiced.

 

Hsu Yun noted that the best time to become aware of our connection to a person or object is at the very beginning, when fascination has not yet progressed to emotional involvement. Initial actions and reactions are rather like the experience of seeing a dog pass a narrow window. By the time we’re aware that a dog is passing, we note only the dog’s body and then its tail. In order to identify the dog, we have to put a head on it… to go into our subliminal data banks and retrieve information of which we originally were not quite conscious. This task is referred to in the mondo concerning the master and the novice who asks when he will achieve enlightenment.

 

When you came here tonight,” the master asks, “on which side of the door did you leave your slippers?”

 

Naturally, the novice does not have the meditative proficiency necessary to recall details that his brain recorded, but which he made no conscious attempt to remember. Just as a journalist learns to ask the relevant questions, “Who?”; “When?”; “Where?”; “Why?”; “How?” and so on, we have to try to connect various stimuli, to establish a causal link, and try to determine the critical point – the point at which our interest was aroused. We often find that we make the same kind of mistake over and over. We can never “catch” ourselves before we fall into the trap. We need to be able to reconstruct the chain of impulses, the actions and reactions, the events that led us into the troublesome situations.

It’s only when anger, lust, and ignorance progress, unimpeded by constructive and corrective review, that we find that the defensive foxhole becomes a trench, and the trench a spiritual grave.

__________

 

The Take-Away by Fashi Lao Yue

In order to clarify the teaching, we need to call upon the Roman god, Janus. As many remember, Janus is the god of many things: beginnings and gates, transitions, time, duality and endings symbolized by having two faces.

When conflicts arise, Janus is the god involved; when conflicts end, he is the god involved. Making him the god of war and peace. It is safe to say that he represents the god of all duality which is the heart of this teaching. We have a tendency to split things along the classification of good and bad.

When we set ourselves in a position for one-side, we have lost half our face.  We act out one side of Janus’s faces, forgetting the other side is true as well.

Most of the time we do not want to be reminded that we are dualistic; we hide one side of the face in favor of the other rather than recognize we have two faces. We dislike this so much we find it a real insult to be called ‘two-faced.’

We want to be single-faced – pure. Not knowing that purity is our real nature, we wish for it and pretend we are it. But time and time again we split towards a preferred tendency.  Some of us prefer, for example, to begin something rather than end something or the other-way-round. There is an endless slough of how this plays out in our daily life.

In order for us to realize our real nature, we must recognize our tendency to split and make efforts to integrate our awareness. When we are far enough along on the spiritual path, we see the oneness in such a way that everything is our real nature and we surrender our human tendency in humility.

Humming Bird
Author: Ming Zhen Shakya

If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

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

 

Demons in the Garden, Weeds in the Mind

 

                               

“Demon” is an old word, an ancient idea conjuring up images of devils and other fiercely intimidating embodiments of the forces of evil. Perhaps you, like I, instinctively recognize your own demonic nature. We all have within us the capacity to think speak and act in ways that are harmful. What we do with these demons, our demons, is a central project of the spiritual path.

Many of my demons thrive in the growth medium I nourish with generous doses of pride and arrogance. In this fertile soil, judgement blossoms like the first green clover in the open fields, popping up everywhere right now, no additional cultivation needed.

Other of my demons also find homes in soil enriched with arrogance: Resentment, strong opinions, angry impatience. Noxious weeds, every one.

Noxious is a word that sounds like what it describes: Anything toxic and harmful. Noxious weeds, like my demons, aggressively multiply, are harmful to the environments they inhabit, were introduced by ignorance or mis-management and are difficult to eradicate.

The very first of Buddhism’s Three Pure Precepts is, “Do No Harm.” My demons are the blossoms on the plants that orient toward more and better, toward like and dislike, push and shove. These are noxious weeds I use to over-run whatever seems in “my” way. Such poisonous, aggressive demons tend to rub off most painfully on those with whom I am the closest. Like stepping on a thistle plant in bare feet, or getting the juice of a wild parsnip flower on one’s skin, my demons HURT.

It is heart-wrenching when I see clearly the harm my toxic negativity has caused to the environment, to beings both near and far, those who I love and even those who I barely know. My

poisonous words and actions spread out in ever-widening circles from their origin in my tight, grasping heart/mind. Why do I choose to add poison to this world? This negative energy like invasive garlic mustard, steadily taking over the fields and woodlands, choking out native wildflowers and grasses.

My son once worked on a 400-acre biodynamic farm in New York, a farm which is legendary for the enlightened practices of its farmer-owners which have all but completely eliminated the insect and plant pests that typically plague farmers. This feat was accomplished not with herbicides and pesticides but with decades of environmentally thoughtful farming practices: organics with the addition of spirituality, a cosmology with nature at its heart.

Similarly, my stubborn demon weeds invite me to cultivate the spiritual purity of uncritical satisfaction, humility, kindness and self-control. I wonder what stops me from choosing that? I recognize that with this question, couched in horror at my failings, I risk falling into the ego’s shadowy underbelly of self-blame. Like seeding a new invasive species, this is an additional form of mis-management. Harmfulness, like garlic mustard, thistle and purple loosestrife will not be eradicated through the application of additional forms of harm.

My gardening mentor teaches that the gardener’s way involves some sharing of the land. We accept that for now, some noxious plant varieties will be our neighbors, but in the meantime, we work to create spaces free of these harmful varieties for crops, flowers and indigenous species. To share my world with my demons, I can take my remorseful heart into the garden of my life with clear eyes, an open heart and all my tools, intent on making more space for harmlessness.

The peace and beauty of a garden in mid-summer belies the hard work that begins in early spring

as plants, both wanted and unwanted, thrust themselves forth into a new life cycle. With spring now warming our world, I will direct my own quickening energies toward noticing the poisons emerging from my pushy small mind. In every step, in every thought and in each interaction, I will attend to pride and judgement with my caring and curiosity and with my deepest love for the Buddha Way.

This Way asks of me that I surrender, that I bow down to a path through my life that I do not control or shape, except with my commitment to follow the truth of the Dharma. Buddha-Dharma asks of me that I get out of the way, that I put behind me all the likes and dislikes, all the judgements. Thus, I make way for that which is naturally arising, the indigenous plants, species, circumstances, events and unfoldings of this time and place. The natural arising, the flow of existence through time and space, all of it emerges from vast purity, from the eternity of creation’s deepest truths. Even thistle and wild parsnip have a place in this great unfolding. Finches gorge on the seed of the thistle flower, bees hibernate in the hollow stems of the wild parsnip plant. My demons also have their place, here in the vast Mystery, as they teach me how to share my life with all beings, how to stay open and caring even towards the poisons I cultivate in my own craving heart.

Humming Bird

Author: Lao Huo Shakya

ZATMA is not a blog. If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

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

Image credit: Fashi Lao Yue

Spring Forward

Vows by Fly 2019

 

This week has been particularly difficult. The daemons of the mind sometimes take us by surprise – trouncing our good sense and our eyesight that sees the danger always creeping outside the door. We go blind. Then, we get in trouble.

We must be constant in our vigilance or risk being taken captive by the patterns of selfishness that come disguised as wounds, history, psychological mumbo-jumbo, rights and privileges – any one of a numberless set of costumes that come to deceive us. But there is THAT which is beyond compare – beyond all the nonsense of the mind constructions, THAT which is ONE and the main principality of existence, THAT which has no second. Some call it love, others emptiness, or cosmic consciousness – by whatever name, it is present even when our selfishness crouches at our door and we get sucked into it with open arms. 

What must we turn to?  What must we know and practice to protect our wily coyote mind? What must we do to protect the play of the road runner who is always ready to lure us into a chase – a chase that always ends in harm.? Foolish harm.

A foolish harm that, fingers-crossed, leads us to remorse and forgiveness; if we are lucky (winds of grace). The luck that aids our awareness enough, that we realize we were caught in the road runner’s race and that we need to stop our coyote mind. Stop running after lures in the mind that harm ourselves and others. If we are able to stop, we are lucky.

Stopping provides time for reflection. Reflection to forgive ourselves. Courage to ask for forgiveness from others who were in the wake of our dust. 

And then – we take refuge in THAT – the singular principle that sustains the universe. We take refuge as a student of the Dharma in the knowledge that we are the ever-present manifestation of the mysterious expression of the Truth. Not by a clinging path of having and getting; of trying to rearrange the external material world, but by our realization that all that we are is the expression of this Truth. The sureness which illuminates all of existence. The illumination that helps us realize we share the same consciousness.

THAT, the existence of all the myriad things is strung on the same thread. If the thread is cut, all the myriad things experience the lacerated wound. Our practice is to practice for the entire world – knowing THAT and not me, not the selfish little me, but THAT which is beyond compare. THAT which is birth and death, the cause for all effects, the light and heat of the Sun, the power that generates all things.

As I sat this morning, aware and humbled by my mistakes, I looked for THAT – for God – for all the Buddhas in the three worlds, for all those who surround us in the ten directions – for all the myriad things that are given in unimaginable generosity. 

I realized this Presence of the high bird comes in the form of heat from the fire that warms my legs, the Sun’s light that shines through the doors on my back, the sound that never goes away, the strength that comes in the form of a Peace Lily. Whatever intelligence I may have, I realize it is not mine – but is a borrowed knowledge from an inexplicable Source. A gift!

My ability to walk, talk and move is not my strength – but given by the ineffable Source.  I must be watchful for the obstacles I build, like a child building sand castles, thinking and acting on them from ignorance.

When I fail to keep my mind on suchness, on this sureness,  I challenge the wild road runner to a race and uh oh harm is sure to follow.

It is a breakthrough to know my true refuge is in suchness, THAT which holds this unsettled world, beyond the temptations of winning and losing and all the opposites (worldly winds) and mysteriously rest in reality. This clear knowing comes as an answer to a menacing question – how do we settle in an unsettled world?  

The answer is – we keep our mind – all of our being – on knowing the Truth and being with expressions of THAT Truth all around us, right where we are over and over again.

How do we keep our mind on the Truth?

We don’t give up. We practice wisdom.

Where? Right where you are in the middle of life as it is.

What helps?

May you not give up. May you keep going. May you practice suchness – right where you are.

Renew your vows. Let the Truth awaken you right where you are.

 

Vows by Fly 2019

VOWS

May we with all beings realize the emptiness (love) of the three wheels,

Giver, receiver and gift.

Beings are numberless, I vow to save them.

Greed, hatred and ignorance are inescapable.

I vow to abandon them.

Dharma gates are boundless,

I vow to enter them.

Buddha’s Way is unsurpassable,

I vow to know it.

OM NAMO GURU DEVA NAMO

Humming Bird

Author: FaShi Lao Yue

Image credits: Fly, 2019

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

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