What Identity Does the Mind Dwell On?

Yao Xiang Shakya

Yao Xiang Shakya

There are preliminaries or what might be called the first rounds of being alive where we learn different identities about who we are.  Birth brings us into the world in ignorance where we begin to construct many false, temporary, changeable identities that we grasp and attach to thinking each one is real. As we might imagine it begins with gender, as in it’s a boy!— it’s a girl! But is this gender who we really are? Thereafter we are labeled many other names—healthy, good, sleepy, fussy, colicky, small, big, strong, sweet, pretty, cute….the list is endless. Over time the list of labels are put together to form a personality with traits which we begin to believe are true and real. We take on the personality as an identity and become somebody with a name and a particular form.

There is no doubt this happens….but is it your true identity? There is no doubt that the name and form with traits acts a certain way in the world….but it is a temporary, changeable and therefore false identity. Yet, we seem to get attached to our false identity as though it were true and real….as though it was everlasting and permanent and unchanging.

We know when something is false by the very nature of it being temporary and changeable. It rises, appears and then vanishes which makes it unstable and unreliable. It is apparent and not true very much like the character in the film Truman. The main character thought he was in a real world, as a real person, with a real life until he found out he wasn’t. It is the same for us. We think we are in a real world, as a real person, with a real life. We believe I am a doctor, lawyer, teacher, mother, father, daughter, male, female, educated, uneducated, black, white….and on and on the list goes. These labels are roles and functions in the apparent world….not your true identity.

All false identities begin with I am and we fill in the blank with all the myriad possibilities from gender, to age, to beauty, to occupation, to relationship and so on. It is natural to do so. In fact, the community in which you live fosters the construction of a false identity by asking…. who are you…. over and over again…name, age, social security number, gender, race, sexual orientation, marital status, occupation, nationality, education….these labels (names) are functions in the temporary world and will never be complete or completed because they are changing. They come and go, are unstable, are measured differently depending upon the one who is measuring.

A step on the spiritual path is to realize for yourself that these labels (names) are not your true nature.

Do you think you are these functions?

There is no doubt that these functions are taken quite seriously to the point it determines worth and value and status for one’s life. But taking something seriously and declaring value and worth does not make something true.  As an example, many if not most cultures say men, being of the male gender makes one  more valuable than women, being of the female gender. We can take each function and do a similar measurement….youth more valuable than age, beauty more valuable than plainness, one occupation more valuable than another, blood relationships more valuable than unrelated relationships and legal relationships more valuable than non-legal.  And to be honest even in a spiritual community this question arises in terms of lineage, master, practice and such. In fact, in any community measurement seems to float up in some form or another based on the functions, based on the persona or role of a living being. We want to know your name and the form and shape of your life in order to peg you as someone, somebody who might be important to us or not. In other words, we divide the apparent, temporary world along the lines of name and form.

This phenomenon is coming from ignorance. When either you or the other believe that the filled in blank is true in the sense of your true identity you place a variable value on the answer and on the person responding. You do it in regards to yourself as well as others.

When you believe these false, temporary, changeable identities you suffer and so do others.

The external, apparent temporary world is appealing, insistent, alluring and seductive because it offers us a chance for the winds to blow (1) pleasure and pain, (2) gain and loss, (3) status and disgrace, and 4) praise and censure our way. Of course we are gamblers by nature because we think we will be able to roll the die and get pleasure, gains, status and praise which will offset pain, loss, disgrace and censure to such a greater degree that we will find happiness. Time and time again we throw the die, spin the wheel and bet on one side over the other. When it doesn’t come up as we hoped, we suffer. And this happens time and time again. But we keep gambling….some of us until we die. This process is also ignorance…. we believe we know how to win and control the world based on what we know and control. The more we know, the more we control the better the odds.

When we know the world is rigged we recognize the winds blow both pleasure and pain and we begin to see where we are and have an opportunity to stop gambling. We sober up. We begin to investigate and study what is really going on here. We see no matter what we do, we can’t quite hit the mark.

Most of us know this by experience. It’s pretty easy to see it. Take any experience in life and examine it. If we identify with the name and form of the experience, we are dependent on an unstable, temporary and unreliable world. And in this place we think we can get the results we want….results that will bring lasting happiness.

Here is a concrete example. Let’s say there is a person whose main aim in life is to belong, belong to what, god only knows. But they have an inner yearning to belong…to fit in….which they feel will mean they are in the right place, feeling good. They may find a place that feels right, giving a sense of feeling good and they join up. It could be with a partner, having a family, an organization, a job….and for some period of time they may indeed feel as though they belong, and they may feel right. But when things change or don’t go the way they need for them to feel as though they belong….or….fit in….they are in danger of losing the sense of feeling right and good and things go south. In fact they risk depression, despair and brokenness.

I once knew a woman in her 80’s who came to see me in despair, depression….she was broken because she had lost her place in the world….her husband had died and her daughter moved away….and without them she didn’t belong and didn’t fit in. Her age, although she did not think so at the time, was a blessing….because at her age it was difficult for her to conjure up and imagine finding another husband or adopting a daughter. Left bereft she had to face the suffering of the worldly winds, face her false identification as a wife and mother and look elsewhere for who she really was. As one might guess, it was one hell of a battle for her.

All of this whirling in suffering comes when we carry our self forward, the ME-somebody in some false identity which we ignorantly believe is the be-all and end-all that will bring contentment and happiness. Falling in love or starting a new project often is full of promise and we think this time, this lover, this program will bring satisfaction and peace. But what happens is we experience the attachment of hope for a better love, a better body, and a better job….putting aside the truth that the blush of the blossom falls and weeds pop up no matter how much you are attached and no matter how much you dislike something.

As long as we identify ourselves as separate from the Divine, as free wheelers who can do anything, who wield the knowledge of good and evil as the way to the Divine we will suffer the blossoms falling and the weeds popping up. Just about everything rankles us when we are in this condition.

The story of Adam & Eve is all about misidentification as being somebody separate from God and separate from each other. Prior to this false identification they were with God; not separate from God or each other.  In Zen the same principle holds true. We misidentify as being somebody or a know-it-all body which may take on the name and form in an attempt to make it stable and solid.

The with of Zen may be experienced as Buddha nature or emptiness or as Ayya Khema states, being nobody, going nowhere. In each of these realizations no matter what label is used it is not the free-wheeling ego that is with God….the ego is the one that goes after the false identities over and over again.

We experience the realization of our true identity when we no longer rely on the false ones.

The ego identity is a function of the mind. It helps you go to the market, to the bank, dress yourself, tie your shoes, speak a language….and it also gets you in trouble with greed, hate and delusion. When the ego grabs a false identity it is akin to Adam & Eve eating the knowledge of good and evil. The ego is up to being a bad apple or polishing the apple to look good.

Now you may not agree, which of course is not a problem; because whether we agree or not, our true nature continues with or without our agreement. And it continually tries to make us aware of itself.

Each of us is called, pulled, bonked on the head to see our true nature, but as we know not all of us listen, turn and follow it. This condition is important to consider. And we can start on two levels to find out for ourselves. The first level is to examine our aim in life.

What is your aim in life?

This requires time and honesty.

Many have been conditioned to go after the good life. If this is you, then you might want to go to the second level and see if you are actually living out the life with the knowledge of good & evil as your guide or if you are living out your life with the eyes of Buddha, God or Clarity (poor, empty)….eyes where there is neither attachment or aversion, eyes not looking for something for the me.

The second level is to examine pleasure and/or pain. Anytime you experience pleasure contemplate what the mind is dwelling on. And secondly, anytime you experience pain contemplate what the mind is dwelling on.  And who is it that is dwelling on the pleasure, who is it that is dwelling on the pain?

In order to know who we are, we must know our aim and we must know the root of our pain and pleasure.

To summarize what are some steps to take….

Do you think you are the functions of life? Study and examine this in your own life.

What is your aim in life? Study and examine this in your own life.

When you experience pleasure or pain what do you do? What is the mind dwelling on? And who is that is doing the dwelling?

The Good Fortune of the Contemplative Path

Yao Xiang Shakya

Yao Xiang Shakya

Many might well question, as some often do, the solitary life….a life that directs itself towards the heights of Nirvana….in a singular way….towards the emptiness of not needing anything in particular. Many seem to worry that this Way is not the Way to know much more than loneliness and misery of wanting the company of others.

A solitary, contemplative path of an inner insistence towards knowing often begins in some unsettled place coming from the recognition that the material world is disappointing as well as disenchanting. This recognition is a good fortune, if one is able to withstand the constant but fading pull to try once again to fill the inner yearning with something tangible, concrete….material.

If one defers the need to go after some thing, one has a chance to enter deliverance.

Deliverance comes with a stop gap. A temporary, sometimes makeshift ability to reel in yet another of an umpteen attempt to find satisfaction in things that are of the nature to decay, fall apart and disappear. It is a precarious place. Deliverance often feels as though the material world is on the other end of a tug of war where the material world will be declared the winner. But this feeling is a ruse.

But….it may become a haunting ruse….in the myriad shape of a distraction…promulgated by the propaganda of the conventional world….to get involved and do something.

The effort to flee the grips of this propaganda one must study and relinquish any form of pride and hate. In this case, pride may take the form of worry, wanting regard, concern for a reputation, fear of loss….just to list a few. And since hate is a familiar pal to greed it stokes up dislike, fretting, fear and loss.

When we are prideful we tend to defend our position with decrees: this is how I am…. I am the type to….I can’t stand the way things are going. We want to alter the world….have things my way rather than relinquish the ego-lord that is spearheading this attack on anyone or anything that dares to challenge it.

The ego-lord has to be forgotten as a conventional character who can never make the climb to the summit. It is to be studied….forgotten….deemed incapable….surrendered.

The first surrender is to realize the ego-lord is not capable and never will be capable of liberation. Liberation requires leaving the world of the ego-lord for a higher transcendent ground of being. For the being of Shi Ke’s harmony.

We must want to accept that the material world will be forever dissatisfying, disappointing and disenchanting. We get a chance to accept everytime we experience the changing nature of the material world….but we miss the opportunity when we keep trying to get Samsara out of some thing that will never give it….it’s when we realize in our experience that trying to get blood out of a stone is a delusion.

In Zen it is often expressed in two words: Leaping Clear. But many times we don’t know what this means. What is in need of the clear leap? In the Genjokoan it speaks of Leaping Clear of the Many and the One….again this may be fuzzy as to what the many and the one are….it is referring to the clear leap from the ego-lord (one) and the material world (the many) the stuff the ego-lord gets attached to and deems valuable.  Together, the many and the one form the delusional world.

We already know there are good days and bad days….we already know the unreliability of the material world. But when the ego-lord is in charge, untamed….still fighting….it keeps trying to get blood out of a stone. It does not leap clear. It keeps arranging and rearranging the many things in the world to get liberated, to find paradise, to be at peace, to find happiness….to live a simple life….but not the higher ground of being explained in Ming Zhen’s On Samsara.

Please see Ming Zhen’s essay on Samsara here

(Drawings on this essay were painted by Yao Xiang Shakya)

Dharma i Karma II

Ming Zhen Shakya

Ming Zhen Shakya (Author)

Fa Yin (Translator)

Dharma i Karma Część II: Karma Autor: Ming Zhen Shakya Tłumaczenie: Fa Yin Karma jest kolejnym ze słów, które najwyraźniej świetnie funkcjonują podlegając werbalnym nadużyciom. Zniekształć je, wypacz, użyj do najohydniejszych celów, a dodasz mu tylko żywotności i siły oddziaływania. Poddaj je torturom upychając je w metempsychotyczny kontekst, a ono zajaśnieje tylko większym blaskiem. Nie jestem pewna czy gliny mi pomogą czy raczej mnie aresztują widząc jak się z nim obchodzę. Żyjemy w naprawdę skomplikowanych czasach.

Zacznijmy od stwierdzenia, czym karma nie jest w kontekście Zen. Karma nie jest ani boską daniną bądź odpłatą, ani też nagrodą czy też karą za czyny popełnione w poprzednim życiu. Nie mieliśmy żadnego poprzedniego życia. Nie, w Zen nie ma czegoś takiego.

Zen wymaga od nas życia w chwili obecnej oraz tego, żebyśmy pozbyli się iluzji odrębnego istnienia w formie niezależnych, samostanowiących o sobie ego. Musimy zrozumieć, że w ostatecznej instancji ego nie istnieje, a stąd wynika, że my jako jednostki też nie istniejemy, nie istnieliśmy także w przeszłości oraz nie zaistniejemy w przyszłości.

Z jednego należy wreszcie zdać sobie sprawę: wszystkie religie na swoim podstawowym poziomie są jedynie środkami cywilizującymi. Zbierają do kupy najróżniejsze grupy dzikusów i narzucają im prawo i porządek, czy im się to podoba czy nie. Zmuszają nas, abyśmy postępowali względnie moralnie, kusząc nas obietnicą nieba czy też coraz to lepszych reinkarnacji, których zwieńczeniem jest urodzenie się bogatą, piękną i naprawdę inteligentną osobą mieszkającą w prestiżowej dzielnicy Filadelfii. Nie stronią również od gróźb wiecznego potępienia czy też coraz to gorszych reinkarnacji, które poprowadzą nas przez dzielnice biedy aż do czegoś najstraszniejszego, co znajduje się na samym dnie Zatoki Delaware.

To oczywiste, że system kar i nagród działa. Któż z nas bowiem wydałby choćby złotówkę na romantyczną kolację nie licząc przy tym na następujące po niej rozkosze, lub też płaciłby podatki nie obawiając się zaproszenia do więzienia wysłanego przez Urząd Skarbowy?

Fakt, że przeczymy możliwości przyszłego życia wypełnionego zasłużoną przyjemnością lub bólem, nie oznacza jednak, że nie doświadczamy któregoś z tych odczuć w życiu obecnym. (Co ciekawe – wielu obserwatorów i jeszcze więcej komentatorów wydaje się wierzyć, że osoby praktykujące Zen zabiegają o całkowite wyzucie się z odczuć przyjemności i bólu. Nirwana wydaje im się stanem podobnym do katatonii, a człowiek doskonały statystą w filmie Georga Romero. Bierzemy takiego Szczęśliwego Buddę, odchudzamy go do 40 kilogramów, jego uśmiech redukujemy do lekkiego grymasu – i tadam, mamy to.) W rzeczywistości my, buddyści Zen, jesteśmy przekonani, że już zwykłe życie może stać się piekłem pełnym goryczy i bólu, a zatem celem praktyk Zen jest przeniesienie nas do błogości Nirwany jeszcze zanim przestaniemy oddychać. Niebo i piekło istnieją, i to istnieją tu i teraz w naszych umysłach. O ile zatem nie ucięto nam głowy, zabieramy nasze niebo i piekło ze sobą, dokądkolwiek się udajemy.

Powiedzmy to zatem wyraźnie. Nasza szkoła Zen może nie uznawać doktryny reinkarnacji, ale to nie znaczy, że sama ta doktryna jest zupełnie nieskuteczna. Każda Ścieżka posiada swój własny kodeks etyczny oraz zasady, które nadają jej znaczenie oraz kierunek – o ile akceptuje się dany system w całości. W tym sensie doktryna reinkarnacji, kiedy bierze się ją jako jeden z elementów konkretnej drogi zbawienia, jest właśnie w obrębie tej drogi doktryną skuteczną. Każda jednakże religia, która zakłada wiarę w reinkarnację, stwierdza jednocześnie, że skoro tylko, dzięki zadanym praktykom, człowiek osiągnie Nirwanę, to od razu zostaje wyzwolony z konieczności kolejnych wcieleń. Czyli, krótko mówiąc, nawet doktryna o reinkarnacji jest używana tylko jako tratwa, pomocna w przeprawieniu się przez rzekę, tracąca jednak całkowicie wartość, kiedy uda się osiągnąć drugi brzeg Wyzwolenia.

Każda z wielkich religii świata mówi o mistycznej drabinie, a ci, którzy po niej się wspinają, nie należą raczej do kasty przestępczej; w ten sposób, unosząc się ponad pospolitymi podnietami nie potrzebują już wcale gróźb czy też obietnic pośmiertnej nagrody. To wcale jednak nie oznacza, że osoby nie zainteresowane ścieżką mistyczną swojej religii, nigdy nie wzniosą się na mistyczne wyżyny. Wznoszenie się zależy od Łaski. Postęp zwyczajnej osoby jest podobny do trudnej trasy wspinacza górskiego. Nie osiągnie szczytu ten, kto okrąża podstawę góry, albo przeskakuje z jednej ścieżki na drugą. Osiągnie go natomiast ten, który trzyma się jednej ścieżki, podążając nią od początku do końca, decydując się kroczyć nią z pełną wiarą, akceptując zarówno wszystko, co już rozumie, jak i to, czego pojąć jeszcze nie potrafi. Wszystko i tak w końcu stanie się jasne, o ile nie ulegnie pokusie wplatania własnych interpretacji pomiędzy dogmaty i zasady doktryny, albo nie porzuci ścieżki idąc za pseudo-naukami New Age jakiegoś Nattiego Bumppo – jednego z owych wygadanych poszukiwaczy prawdy, którzy, jak tylko uda im się przypadkiem natknąć na jakiś jeden prosty odcinek drogi, od razu gotowi są poprowadzić całe tłumy na samiutki szczyt.

Zen jest alchemicznym zwieńczeniem procesu integracji archetypów. Osiągnięcie tego celu jest tożsame z ekstazą boskiego zjednoczenia, która z kolei przekłada się na najwyższy spokój płynący z odczucia pełni – bycia całkowicie niezależnym i odpornym na manipulacje innych. Zen nie jest terapią grupową ani cieplutkim, milutkim poczuciem wspólnoty pod okiem jakiegoś przypadkowo boskiego mistrza. Zen to nie klub. Zen to religia.

Nieobecność w Zen pojęcia karmy jako zadośćuczynienia za przeszłe błędy bądź zasługi nie oznacza jednak nieobowiązywania przysłowia: „Jak sobie pościelesz, tak się wyśpisz”. Wprost przeciwnie, wydaje się, że problemy zwalają się na głowę właśnie problematycznym ludziom. W podobny sposób, działania płynące ze szczodrości często odpłacane są w bardzo przyjemny i najmniej oczekiwany sposób. Potoczne rozumienie słowa karma jest zatem użyteczne i, jak się wydaje, trafne. Czyny egoistyczne, ukierunkowane na własną korzyść, charakteryzują ludzi, którzy nie znają innego sposobu na współżycie, jak tylko manipulowanie innymi dla osiągnięcia znaczenia społecznego. Ich machinacje zawsze gdzieś się załamują, bądź wymykają się spod kontroli, wpędzając ich samych w poważne tarapaty. Z kolei czyny płynące ze szczerej życzliwości nie potrzebują motywacji w postaci obietnic przyszłej nagrody, a posiadając taki Nirwaniczny charakter powodują namnażanie się kolejnych aktów dobroci – zgodnie z prawem mówiącym, że duchowa dobroć jest zaraźliwa. Nie ma zatem nic złego w przywoływaniu pojęcia karmy jako namowy do postępowania zgodnie z maksymą: „Nie czyń drugiemu co tobie niemiłe”. To jest po prostu zdrowy rozsądek zastosowany do moralności.

Podsumujmy zatem nasz wywód o tym, czym karma nie jest, stwierdzeniem, że ludzie, którzy nadal mają skłonność do zabijania, gwałcenia, rabunku czy też pretendują do obejmowania ważnych stanowisk w strukturach duchowych, powinni trzymać się z dala od świętych przybytków Zen. Jeżeli natomiast chodzi o wymądrzania amatorów, to naprawdę słyszeliśmy już zbyt wiele, począwszy od mylenia świerzbu w kroczu z rozbudzeniem energii Kundalini, poprzez przyrównanie nagłego wyrwania ze snu na jawie do Satori, aż po przekonanie, że Zjawisko Purkiniego jest tym samym co poświata auralna w stanie Kensho. Naprawdę za dużo już tych głupot.

W porządku – jeżeli karma tym wszystkim nie jest, to czym zatem jest?

Pomimo, iż już pisałam o karmie w wielu moich innych artykułach, spróbuję podejść teraz do tej kwestii nieco inaczej.

Karma to działanie – ciągłe, niemające końca działanie, które w każdym momencie współtworzy samsaryczną sieć przyczyn i skutków. A każdy z tych momentów to zwykłe „teraz”. Wszystko płynie, powiedział Heraklit – i wiedział, co mówi. Tak jak nie ma żadnych trwałych, niezmiennych rzeczy, tak też nie ma dających się wyodrębnić konkretnych skutków, które mogłoby być przypisane danej konkretnej przyczynie. Na każdy skutek składa się nieskończona liczba przyczyn. A ponieważ wszystko nieustannie jest w ruchu, nie ma czegoś takiego jak czas zero. Tabliczka nigdy nie jest tabula rasa. Jedną z najtrudniejszych do pokonania przeszkód w Zen jest zrozumienie, że czyjekolwiek działania w jakiejkolwiek chwili nie płyną z wolnej woli. Dodatkowo, nie jest możliwa zasadna ocena czynu jako dobrego lub złego, ponieważ zawsze pozostaje otwarta kwestia „w stosunku do czego”, której nie sposób ostatecznie rozstrzygnąć. Lis zabija zająca i zabiera zdobycz do swojego legowiska – co jest dobre dla lisiątek, którym uda się dzięki temu uniknąć śmierci głodowej, a złe dla zajączków, którym się to nie uda. Idąc dalej tym tropem, nie jesteśmy w stanie stwierdzić, jakie inne zdarzenie miałoby miejsce gdyby właśnie to jedno się nie wydarzyło.

Na pewno zgodzimy się, że zabicie ośmioletniego dziecka jest okropieństwem, ale nie da się tego stwierdzić bezwarunkowo. Dla zobrazowania tej kwestii przytoczmy kawał z okresu II Wojny Światowej:

Adolf Hitler, zdeklarowany miłośnik astrologii, radzi się astrologa z pytaniem, na kiedy gwiazdy przewidziały jego śmierć. Astrolog, mając słuszne powody obawiać się swojego klienta, bada jego horoskop i stwierdza” Gwiazdy mówią, że umrzesz podczas żydowskiego święta”. „Kiedy jest to święto?” pyta Hitler. Astrolog jąkając się mówi: „Nie wiem”. Hitler wyzywa go od głupców i żąda natychmiast podania daty. „Mój Fuhrerze,” wyjaśnia łagodnie astrolog, „którykolwiek dzień, w którym umrzesz, będzie żydowskim świętem.”

Jak ktoś świadomy okropieństw II Wojny Światowej poczułby się, gdyby jednak miało się okazać, że Adolf Hitler został zabity w strzelaninie podczas swojej codziennej drogi do szkoły? Ale któż mógł to wszystko wcześniej przewidzieć? Nikt. Co więcej, któż może zgadnąć co jeszcze mogłoby się wówczas wydarzyć, co mogłoby mieć nawet gorsze konsekwencje niż dojście Hitlera do władzy? Nieskończenie wiele przyczyn składa się na każdy skutek, a ten ze swojej strony, stając się samemu przyczyną, wnosi swój wkład w wywołanie nieskończenie wielu kolejnych skutków. Nie istnieje sposób na dokładne wydzielenie pojedynczego zdarzenia, aby je pochwalić lub zganić, na usunięcie choćby jednego węzła z całej sieci bez wywarcia wpływu na pozostałe jej elementy. Nie możemy być nawet pewni tego, czy dane zdarzenie jest tak naprawdę dobre czy złe, gdyby patrzeć na nie nieco spoza bezpośredniej perspektywy. Czy istniała tylko jedna przyczyna II Wojny Światowej? Nie. Przyczyn było nieskończenie wiele.

Historia jest zapisem samsary. Usiłuje ona wyizolować i przebadać przyczyny danego zjawiska, pojedynczo bądź w grupach, co w ostatecznej instancji nie tylko, że jest niemożliwe, ale w obliczu faktu, że każde pokolenie i tak wszystko na nowo przerabia, jest zwykle stratą czasu. I Wojna Światowa ani nie zapobiegła ani nie przyczyniła się do II Wojny Światowej. W samarze rzeczy nie są tak proste.

W Zen celem jest to, żeby znaleźć się w tak dobrym miejscu, w tak duchowo satysfakcjonującym miejscu – co w praktyce może oznaczać jedynie transcendentne doświadczenie Nirwany – że jeżeli dano by nam możliwość przeżycia naszego życia ponownie, to nie zmienilibyśmy w nim ani jednego detalu, bez względu na to, jak bolesny detal by to był. Zmiana choćby jednego wydarzenia mogłaby bowiem uruchomić lawinę innych wydarzeń, które w konsekwencji mogłyby wyrzucić nas poza obręb ścieżki, która przecież tak czy inaczej doprowadziła nas do tego tak bezpośredniego i jednoczącego kontaktu z Bogiem.

Data gwiezdna 3134.0. Z powodu wypadku w zakrzywieniu czasoprzestrzeni, doktor McCoy zostaje teleportowany na ziemię w momencie Wielkiej Depresji lat 30-stych XX wieku. Kirk i Spock przybywają z misją odszukania go, a Kirk zakochuje się w młodej, słodkiej pracowniczce socjalnej Edith Keeler. Kiedy Edith zapada na zdrowiu, McCoy usiłuje jej pomóc, jednak Kirk uświadamia sobie, że jeżeli ona przeżyje, to rozkręci ruch pacyfistyczny na tak wielką skalę, że USA włączą się do II Wojny Światowej zbyt późno, co z kolei da nazistowskim Niemcom wystarczająco dużo czasu na skonstruowanie bomby atomowej i wygranie wojny. Gdyby zmienić przebieg choćby jednego życia, jedno malutkie wydarzenie, to historia mogłaby przybrać całkowicie inny obrót. McCoy nie może usunąć jednego węzła z karmicznej sieci, nie wpływając jednocześnie na jej wszystkie pozostałe elementy. Linia życia Edith Keeler jest już bowiem wpleciona w sieć wielu innych żyć.

O ile wspaniale było przyglądać się młodziutkiej Joan Collins w roli Edith, to o ile wspanialej mógłby wyglądać scenariusz (ale któż by to zrealizował?), w którym Kirk, mając te wszystkie złe przeczucia, sam załatwiłby młodego Adolfa (może Joan mogłaby wtedy grać jego Mutter).

Właśnie – dlaczego zatem nie zdecydował się sięgnąć w ten sposób do samego źródła zła? Ano z tego właśnie powodu, że gdyby nie Hitler i jego przesądność, to nie doszłoby do obrony Normandii, a Enterprise nie odbywałby teraz swojej misji. Tylko, że wówczas inny Fuhrer mógłby zainwestować jeszcze więcej środków w Wernera von Brauna i Peenemunde, a wtedy cała zachodnia półkula mogłaby wznosić okrzyki „Sieg Heil”. (Zrobię teraz mała dygresję i przywołam artykuł z Harpera, z okresu mniej więcej Sputnika i naszego żałosnego programu rakietowego Vanguard, w którym bardzo chwalono stację ABC, która jako jedyna przekazała informację o tym, że na przylądku Canaveral, przed obiadem dochodziło z głośników słowo „Achtung!”). Tak, sprawy mogłyby potoczyć się całkiem inaczej dla Spocka, Kirka, McCoya i wszystkich innych nas, wielbicieli Star Treka. Trudno to sobie wyobrazić, ale mogłoby być naprawdę jeszcze gorzej.

Karma jest siecią przyczyn i skutków… samsarycznej gry akcji i reakcji, w którą jesteśmy uwikłani. Z danego powodu wydarza się jedno, z innego powodu wydarza się drugie, i nie ma sensu osądzać czy któreś spośród przyczyn bądź skutków są dobre czy złe. Pewne jest to, że istniejemy tu i teraz. Udało nam się przetrwać aż do momentu, w którym jesteśmy w stanie zastanowić się nad swoim położeniem. Inny bieg wypadków mógłby spowodować, że w ogóle nie byłoby nas pośród świadomych ocalałych. Pozostaje zatem jedno pytanie: „Czy jesteśmy wystarczająco zainspirowani, żeby odwrócić uwagę od świata i poszukać schronienia w Buddzie?”

Osobie praktykującej Zen wystarczy prosta akceptacja faktu, że wszechświat jest mechaniczny, a Bóg pogrywa sobie z nim w kości. Nie jesteśmy w stanie zapragnąć czegokolwiek duchowego nie będąc do tego uprzednio zainspirowani. Ci z nas, którzy maja wystarczająco dużo szczęścia, znajdują się w odpowiednim miejscu o odpowiednim czasie… Duch w nas wstępuje i zostajemy uniesieni. Powstajemy jak kwiat lotosu z zastałej wody i rozkwitamy, nieskalani przez paskudne doświadczenia poprzedzające moment, w którym szczęśliwie doznaliśmy inspiracji – tę cudowną szansę.

Podkreślmy – rodzimy się już z pewnym skłonnościami, pewnymi odziedziczonymi tendencjami i talentami, silnymi i słabymi stronami, które zrealizują się bądź też nie, w kolejach naszego życia. Wiele rzeczy z otaczającego nas świata może nam albo pomóc albo nam zaszkodzić. Dorastamy nie będąc świadomi, kiedy proces kształtowania się kończy. W którym momencie przestajemy być uczniami a stajemy się czeladnikami czy też mistrzami? W dniu, w którym budzimy się stwierdzając, że dziś są nasze 18-ste bądź te 21-sze urodziny? Nie…to wszystko jest raczej nieustającą, mechaniczną grą przyczyn i skutków, w dziedzinie możliwości i faktów; i nic się tu nie może zmienić aż do momentu, w którym poczujemy w sobie obecność czegoś boskiego.

Wola jest wolna tylko dla tych, którym udało się wyzwolić i uzyskać przez to wolność w kierowaniu nią. Wszyscy inni łudzą się sądząc, że są panami swojego losu. Są oni bowiem uwikłani w sieć karmy, tego uwarunkowanego z każdej strony świata ciągłej zmiany, w którym zmienia się nie tylko otoczenie zewnętrzne, lecz zmieniają się także oni sami, obserwatorzy tego otoczenia.

A teraz ostatnie słowo dotyczące dwóch praktycznych zastosowań nauki o karmie. Pierwszym jest pewna technika medytacyjna, w której osoba koncentruje uwagę na swoich własnych myślach czy doświadczeniach i stara się prześledzić wstecz różne przyczyny, które do nich doprowadziły. Pomijając już fakt, że praktykujący może dzięki niej wpaść w głęboki stan medytacji, może on także odnieść przy okazji wiele etycznych korzyści. Jeżeli odczuwa on dumę z tego, co udało mu się kiedyś dokonać, to powinien medytować nad wszystkimi warunkami, składającymi się na ten jego sukces – nad wszystkimi sprzyjającymi okolicznościami, które w sposób istotny go umożliwiły. Nawet jeżeli było tak, że człowiek działał w sposób naprawdę niezależny i na przykład ukończył uniwersytet oraz uczelnię medyczną, to i tak znaczną część zasługi musi przypisać dobrym genom, zdrowemu odżywianiu czy też właściwemu wychowaniu, które sprawiły, że nie był tak dalece jak mu się wydaje panem na własnej zagrodzie. Podobnie też, jeżeli czuje głęboki wstyd za coś, co kiedyś zrobił, to może spróbować wrócić myślą do powodów swojego postępowania i ujrzeć dokładniej wydarzenia, które go do niego przywiodły. Już choćby częściowe zrozumienie przyczyn danego zdarzenia jest w stanie rozwinąć w człowieku ogromną ilość wyrozumiałości, wdzięczności czy empatii. Drugie zastosowanie nauki o karmie polega na podejściu do samego działania jako praktyki i ofiary. Prosta, ale zdecydowana zmiana w nastawieniu jest w stanie przemienić niewdzięczny obowiązek w szansę nabrania pokory, umniejszenia dumy i nabycia łagodnego, duchowego stosunku do innych. Wykonuje się wówczas daną pracę nie po to, żeby na nasze konto wpłynęła pensja, albo też aby uniknąć krytyki lub zyskać uznanie, ale jako budującą praktykę, ofiarę złożoną Dharmie. Kiedy rezygnujemy z lgnięcia do owoców naszej pracy i poświęcamy tęże pracę w ofierze na ołtarzu Buddy, przyczyniamy się tym samym jeszcze bardziej do jakości naszego wytworu. Jak to mówią architekci, „Bóg tkwi w szczegółach.”

Dodatkowo, skupienie na samym zadaniu sprawia, że czas upływa szybko, a my, nie odczuwając nudy i rozproszenia, pracujemy dużo wydajniej. Nieważne przy tym, jak podrzędna jest to praca – praktyka tej medytacji wymaga skupienia uwagi na samym działaniu, przy jednoczesnym starannym odrzucaniu towarzyszących jej zewnętrznych myśli i bujania w obłokach. W ten sam sposób wykonuje się także medytację chodzącą. Medytujący ogranicza swoja uwagę do samych tylko kroków, na przykład uświadamiając to sobie w taki sposób: „teraz przenoszę ciężar ciała na lewą stopę i podnoszę równocześnie prawą stopę, którą z kolei przenoszę do przodu i stawiam na podłodze…” i tak dalej.

Karma joga wymaga od nas jedynie, abyśmy pracowali wyłącznie dla przyjemności, która płynie z samego faktu możliwości jej wykonania, a także bezinteresownego odcięcia się od jej owoców. To oczywiście nie znaczy, że odmówimy przyjęcia zapłaty, kiedy zapłata się nam należy, lecz że dodamy do naszych czynności pewną duchową wartość, a samą pracę uczynimy „modlitwą w ruchu.”

Nasza praca jest przecież tylko tym, co robimy. Nie jest tym, czym jesteśmy.

Dharma i Karma I

Ming Zhen Shakya

Ming Zhen Shakya (Author)

Fa Yin (Translator)

Żadne inne słowa z leksykalnego magazynu buddyzmu nie grzmią równie donośnie co Dharma i Karma. Militarne skojarzenia nie nasuwają się przy tym przypadkowo: my, buddyści, jesteśmy zewsząd atakowani przez legiony sprzecznych definicji, które zmuszają nas do angażowania się w bezsensowne spory o dharmę oraz problematyczną karmiczną grę akcji i reakcji. W obliczu braku spójności znaczeniowej na modłę kodeksów prawnych, nawet najbardziej niepozorne analizy sutr mogą obrócić się w słowną agresję. Religia tak pokojowa jak buddyzm zasługuje chyba na lepszy los.

Zdaję sobie sprawę z tego, że każdy ma własne definicje większości terminów, i że kiedy zbierze je do kupy, zwykle wystarczają mu one na wytłumaczenie wielu podstawowych faktów. Nie chodzi mi jednak o niedostatek informacji. Problem polega raczej na tym, że zestawy definicji, którymi posługują się różne osoby rzadko się ze sobą pokrywają.

Oczywiście, że zawsze zaczynamy od własnego rozumienia terminów – co znaczy, że kiedy zabieramy się do formułowania jakichś konkretnych definicji, robimy to nie oglądając się na ogólne przyzwolenie. Jeżeli nawet nie osiągamy przy tym pełnej zgodności, to przynajmniej udaje nam się ustalić reguły gry.

Dharma jest wielowymiarowym wyrazem. Może być pisana wielką i małą literą, występować w liczbie pojedynczej i mnogiej, oraz być częścią zbitek słownych. Dla celów niniejszej rozprawy ograniczymy się do następujących definicji: Dharmakaja jako kosmiczne ciało Buddy; Dharma jako umysł Buddy; dharmy jako procesy fizjologiczne bądź zdarzenia; Dharma jako buddyjskie prawo; dharma jako obowiązek przestrzegania buddyjskiego prawa przez odczuwające istoty; oraz dharma jako „rzeczywistość” lub naturalne cechy wszelkich pozbawionych inteligencji gatunków.

Opis bóstwa nie przebiega w ten sam sposób, w jaki przypisujemy cechy zwykłym stworzeniom czy rzeczom. W buddyzmie Zen, przynajmniej w naszym ujęciu, rozpoczynamy od boskiego ciała Buddy w jego totalności, które nazywamy Svabhavikakaja. To ciało totalne jest później dzielone na trzy inne ciała – kaje – w zależności od sposobu bądź też stopnia duchowego rozwoju, na którym się je spotyka: Nirmanakaja, Sambhogakaja oraz Dharmakaja.

Nirmanakaja przejawia się jako zachwycające wizje w pierwszej i drugiej osobie, „ja” i „Ty” – „ja” będące samym medytującym jako obserwatorem, natomiast „Ty” będące symbolem napotkanego bóstwa (osobą, zwierzęciem bądź przedmiotem nieożywionym). W Zen tymi boskim postaciami mogą być buddowie, bodhisattwowie, lub też ich wysłannicy nazywani buddami medytacyjnymi, którzy w terminach jungowskich są tożsami z przejawami archetypicznej jaźni. Wizje Nirmanakai nie są ograniczone do form antropomorficznych – wiele pełnych znaczenia wizji zawiera postaci świętych zwierząt, takich jak koliber, orzeł, wąż, byk, niedźwiedź, tygrys, koń czy nawet pies. Dodatkowo także Ci, którzy faktycznie mieli do czynienia z historycznym Siddhartą jako Tathagatą (istotą ludzką, której osobowość została całkowicie przemieniona, i która z tego powodu przejawia się jedynie jako Natura Buddy), mieli przez sam ten fakt udział w doświadczeniu Nirmanakai.

Sambhogakaja jest najbardziej ezoterycznym ciałem Buddy – ciałem radości – doświadczeniem najwyższej medytacyjnej, androgynicznej ekstazy, która dana jest nam za pośrednictwem Wielkiego transseksualnego Dzieła Alchemicznego – zjednoczenia przeciwieństw, inaczej boskich zaślubin, owocujących nieśmiertelnym płodem/boskim dziecięciem lub inaczej – lapisem/perłą. W tym ekstatycznym stanie medytujący wkracza do niebios Tuszita, domostwa przeróżnych buddów i bodhisattwów – co w przełożeniu oznacza wiele lat praktyk duchowych. Wiele buddyjskich kompleksów klasztornych posiada specjalnie wydzielone pomieszczenia dla adeptów, którzy osiągnęli ten etap boskiego zjednoczenia. Każdy spośród owych szczęśliwców może przebywać w takim odosobnieniu przez okres trzech lat. Przynoszone są mu posiłki, a on dzięki temu może je spożywać nie będąc w żaden sposób rozpraszany przez intruzów. W nocy natomiast, kiedy na zewnątrz jest już spokojnie, może on wyjść ze swojego pokoju, żeby posiedzieć pod gwiazdami i pogawędzić z innymi, którzy przechodzą przez podobne doświadczenie. Chcę wyraźnie podkreślić, że ta transseksualna/androgyniczna tożsamość dochodzi do głosu tylko podczas przebywania w sferze Sambhogi i w żaden sposób nie znaczy, że medytujący stał się homo-, czy też biseksualny w codziennym życiu. (W rzeczywistości nie prowadzi on w ogóle żadnego normalnego życia seksualnego.) Ten egzaltowany stan znajduje potwierdzenie w miłości, którą Rumi żywił do Szamsa, a także w fakcie, że wielu świętych mężów stawało się wybrankami Chrystusa, itp. Szczegóły tego doświadczenia wykraczają jednak poza ramy niniejszej analizy.

Dharmakaja: na początku nadmienię że jest to jeden z tych tematów, które są szczególnie upodobane przez amatorów filozoficznej dyskusji. Tak, wiem – ja także do nich należę. Kilka tygodni temu, w telefonicznej rozmowie z Chuan Zhi, webmasterem Nan Hua, wypłynął temat Dharmakai. Praktykujący Zen łatwo dają się wciągnąć w dziwne dyskusje – stąd fakt, że on i ja, siedząc po przeciwnych stronach półkuli, rozmawialiśmy o Dharmakai, nie jest, jak mi się wydaje, aż tak dziwny. Tak jak mówiłam – jest to gorący temat „Widzisz”, paplałam, „co dziś jest żołędziem, jutro jest już dębem, a pojutrze korkiem do wina”. „Tak,”, Chuan Zhi łagodnie potwierdził. „Zatem”, kontynuowałam, śmiało zmierzając do celu, do którego, jak mi się wydawało, żaden śmiertelnik jeszcze dotąd nie dotarł, „jeżeli weźmie się sumę materii i energii wszechświata, wszystkie te dharmiczne zdarzenia i interakcje, otrzymuje się tę ciągle zmieniającą się masę materiału. Co dzisiaj jest molekułą, jutro jest kilkoma atomami, a pojutrze garstką protonów i neutronów.” „Tak”, Chuan Zhi łagodnie potwierdził, „…i elektronów”. „Tak, tak”, powiedziałam przechodząc na prędkość kosmiczną, „Iluzja – Maja! – polega właśnie na postrzeganiu czegokolwiek jako stałego i nieuwarunkowanego. To, co arbitralnie, dzięki samemu jedynie doświadczeniu zmysłowemu, uznajemy za trwałą ‘rzecz’, posiada ‘rzeczowość’ tylko w przelotnym, zmysłowym sensie. „Tak”, Chuan Zhi łagodnie potwierdził, „.. i kwarków… i leptonów.” Musiała minąć chwila, zanim zorientowałam się, że rozmawiam przecież z kimś, kto ukończył fizykę na uniwersytecie. ”Bystrzak”, podsumowałam, próbując wydostać się z dołka, który pod sobą wykopałam.

Potem przeszliśmy do innych tematów, odnośnie których mogłam już wypowiadać się jako autorytet – jeśli nawet nie jako znawcy, to przynajmniej entuzjasty.

Pozwólcie jednak, że porzucę ten wątek, żeby zastanowić się nad intuicyjną mądrością jednego spośród wielkich hinduskich mędrców. Czy Siddharta przewidział rozwój fizyki jądrowej? Odpowiedź twierdząca na to pytanie byłaby niedorzecznością. H.G.Wells przykładowo wątpił czy Budda w ogóle potrafił pisać. Świat Buddy nie był światem skomplikowanych technologii. Trudno jest wyobrazić sobie, że on, Śiariputra i Ananda, mimo iż zasadniczo bardzo bystrzy, kiedykolwiek zabawiali się mechaniką kwantową. Budda jednak był świadomy faktu, że, jak to także zaobserwował współczesny mu Heraklit, „wszystko płynie”. Co więcej – właśnie stwierdzenie ciągłej zmiany uczyniło Buddę sławnym. Widział on bowiem, że zdrowi zapadają na choroby, młodzi starzeją się, a żyjący umierają.

Doświadczenie Dharmakai jako takiej jest tożsame z wkroczeniem w bezosobową Pustkę, duchowy obszar, do którego prawo wstępu mają wyłącznie Ci, którzy już przeszli przez obszar pełni, tj. Nirmanakai oraz Sabhogakai.

Jedynym wyjątkiem jest nieuchwytne i fragmentaryczne doświadczeni Satori, które jest jakby przedsmakiem Pustki, w tym sensie, że gdy się pojawia, to człowiek przez krótką chwilę postrzega świat oczami i uszami swojej Natury Buddy. Przeciwnie do obiegowej wiary, Satori wcale nie jest naszym ‘codziennym’ umysłem – oczywiście za wyjątkiem sytuacji, kiedy ten codzienny umysł należy do kogoś, kogo słusznie można by nazwać Tathagatą.

Starożytni uwielbiali posługiwać się pojęciami mikro-/makrokosmosu do opisu Wielkiego Dzieła Alchemicznego. Ta opozycja przewija się w większości dawnej literatury ezoterycznej. „Jako i w niebie, tako i w pojedynczym człowieku.” Trzymając się tych pojęć, można porównać wielką Dharmakaję do ciała ludzkiego w całości. Jako, że sama Dharmakaja składa się z atomów itp., tak i ludzkie ciało składa się z komórek itp. Szczególnej uwagi wymagają komórki, które składają się na różne organy zmysłowe. Te „skandy’ czy inaczej – złożenia – to oczy, uszy, język etc., których rola polega na przekazywaniu danych do naszych mózgów, które z kolei także są elementami sieci skand – tak samo jak i świadomość ego. To są właśnie dharmy egzystencjalne czy fizjologiczne. Ponieważ składowe Dharmakai są w ciągłym przepływie – przybierając coraz to nowe kształty – przeto i dane przekazywane przez dharmy łączą się w niekończący się ciąg uwarunkowanej informacji, który sam także ciągle się przeobraża, podporządkowując się zwykle dyrektywom dochodzącym z ego. Mimo, iż samo ego zbudowane jest na obraz kosmicznego Boga, tj. jako czynnik porządkujący chaotyczne bodźce docierające z zewnątrz, jest ono jedynie jednym spośród wielu dharmicznych zdarzeń. W rzeczy samej jest ono ułudą, tak jak żołądź, dąb i korek do wina są jedynie chwilowymi stop-klatkami nieustającego procesu starzenia. Ponieważ w nieskończonym samsarycznym czasie nie można dokładnie uchwycić momentów, w których jedne formy przechodzą w drugie, nie istnieją zatem stałe czy nieuwarunkowane wydarzenia psychiczne. Nie da się usunąć choćby jednego splotu z karmicznej sieci, nie powodując tym samym zmiany całej sieci. Wszystkie postrzegalne istoty i wydarzenia składają się na Samsarę, czyli Maję – świat ułudy. Sutra Serca, sumiennie recytowana codziennie przez miliony buddystów, wyraźnie stwierdza, że „wszystkie dharmy mają naturę pustki”. W dalszych fragmentach zapewnia się nas, że dharmy nie pojawiają się ani nie znikają, nie są skażone ani czyste, nie zwiększają się ani nie zmniejszają. Trzeba przyznać, że jasność nie jest mocną stroną tych zapewnień; a wielu spośród je recytujących zapewne zastanawia się co tak naprawdę znaczą słowa, które recytują. Pomocne może być zrozumienie, że tym, co czyni dharmy pustymi, jest nieobecność substancjalnego „Ja”. Ego jest zasadniczo nieistniejące, tak, jak i nieistniejące są wydarzenia, które to ego postrzega.

Wkroczenie zatem do Dharmakai i ujrzenie czystości i nieruchomości – cichej muzyki sfer – jest tożsame z doświadczeniem Nirwany, Ostatecznej Natury Pustki, Siunjaty. Na tym polega zjednoczenie natury Buddy pojedynczego człowieka z uniwersalną Naturą Buddy, inaczej Dharmą, gdyż jako że Dharmakaja jest uniwersalnym Ciałem Buddy, tak uniwersalnym Umysłem Buddy jest Dharma.

Buddyzm jest religią. W całej tej układance jest miejsce na Boga. Istnieje Jeden wielki kosmiczny zarządca, Jeden Byt Absolutny, Jedna Ostateczna Rzeczywistość. Ten Byt Absolutny zamieszkuje we wszystkich odczuwających istotach. Jest on naszą Naturą Buddy, czy też Umysłem Buddy. Sprawy zaczynają się komplikować kiedy temu Umysłowi Buddy przypisujemy inteligencję oraz jakości.

Oczywistym wydaje się fakt, że w momencie gdy ten sam Umysł jest w każdym z nas, to ten sam Umysł nie może kierować się jakimiś preferencjami. Jest on zatem taki, jaki musi być: „nieosobisty” i całkowicie niezaangażowany. Umysł Buddy jest biernym obserwatorem. Możemy zaczerpnąć nieco z jego mocy, ale nie angażuje się on celowo w nasze życie. Nie mści się on na naszych wrogach (w których, o dziwo, także mieszka), i nie jest jakoś wybiórczo łaskawy w obdarzaniu nas ziemskimi faworami. W buddyzmie światem Prawdziwym jest Nirwana. Umysł Buddy egzystuje w prawdziwym świecie i jako taki jest trwały, nieuwarunkowany, a zatem wieczny, tj. poza czasem. Gdzie nie istnieje czas, tam nie może być także mowy o przestrzeni. Ponieważ Umysł buddy „stacjonuje” w każdym z nas, nie musimy udawać się w podróże międzygalaktyczne, żeby spotkać Dharmę. Jedyne co musimy zrobić, to zwrócić się do wewnątrz, gdzie możemy spotkać Umysł Buddy w medytacji czy w samadhi. Nie trzeba donikąd się wybierać. Mówi się zatem, że Samsara i Nirwana egzystują w tym samym miejscu – z tym tylko, że Samsara jest światem widzianym oczami ego, natomiast Nirwana jest światem widzianym oczami Natury Buddy. Doświadczenie Dharmakai polega zatem na wkroczeniu w wymiar bez ego – wymiar, który jest poza dobrem i złem, słusznym i niesłusznym, oraz innymi osądami tego rodzaju. Nie istnieją żadne baśnie, które by o nim mówiły. Jest on poza historią, która z kolei jest terytorium Samsary – świata ułudy.

W buddyzmie Zen mówi się także o współzależnych, uzupełniających się jakościach Yin i Yang. Całość materii i energii to element Yin. To materialne, fizyczne ciało nie działa jednak bez ograniczeń. Jego struktura i dynamika kierują się prawami fizyki, które to prawa z kolei tworzą element Yang. Yin/Yang. Shakti/Shiva. Eros/Logos. Moc i Prawo, któremu Moc podlega.

W tym przypadku ‘Dharma’ będzie oznaczać normy etycznego postępowania (zasady i prawa), które Umysł Buddy narzuca wszystkim odczuwającym istotom; ‘dharmą’ natomiast określimy obowiązek podporządkowania się tym zasadom i prawom; bądź, jak w przypadku istot nieinteligentnych – posłuszeństwo naturze lub typowe zachowanie.

Nie wolno nam działać w sposób niepohamowany, pobłażając sobie w czym tylko zapragniemy, i załatwiając sprawę poprzez przypisanie później całej winy naszej arcyludzkiej naturze. Wiadomo, że istoty ludzkie są zdolne zarówno do wielkich cnót, jak i do wcale niemałych wad. W momencie jednak, gdy taka istota ludzka zdarza się być buddystą, ma ona obowiązek dostosowania swojego zachowania do Buddyjskich Wskazań.

Istnieje taka stara przypowieść o skorpionie i świętym który objaśniał Dharmę: święty siedzi na brzegu rzeki, do której wpadł skorpion. Skorpion miota się w wodzie, zaczyna tonąć, a święty, widząc jego agonię, wyciąga go z wody i stawia na ziemi; w tym momencie skorpion go kąsa.

Po czym skorpion znów wpada do wody, i znów święty go ratuje i zostaje przez niego ukąszony.

Sytuacja powtarza się po raz kolejny…a koleś stojący nieopodal nie wierzy własnym oczom. Nie może zrozumieć dlaczego święty bierze udział w takiej przewidywalnej, paskudnej grze. W pewnym momencie żąda wyjaśnień.

„No więc”, zaczyna święty, „To jest kwestia dharmy. Dharmą skorpiona jest kąsać , natomiast dharmą ludzkiej istoty jest pomagać potrzebującym.”

Tak, jak materialne ciało Buddy kieruje się prawami fizyki, tak duchowe ciało moralnego człowieka kieruje się prawdami i prawami zawartymi w tejże Dharmie i objawionymi przez Buddę Siakjamuniego – w Dharmie buddyjskiej. Zyskanie takiego wyczucia dharmy rzadko kiedy jednak przychodzi samo z siebie. Potrzeba nieraz sporo wysiłku, jednak Bóg jest miłosierny i spotyka nas wpół drogi. Dla zobrazowania tego problemu i jego rozwiązania, Budda dał nam przypowieść o kupcu i jego krnąbrnym synu:

W niewielkim mieście niedaleko Benaresu żył sobie kupiec ze swoim synem, którego bardzo kochał. Jako, że biznes dobrze prosperował, kupiec nie mógł doczekać się dnia, kiedy mógłby go przekazać synowi. Chłopiec jednak stawał się coraz bardziej niespokojny, zbuntowany i niezadowolony z życia. „Nudzę się i pragnę podniet oraz przygód,”, oznajmił, jak i wielu z nas zapewne kiedyś oznajmiało, „opuszczam zatem dom, żeby szukać szczęścia.” Opuścił zatem swojego ojca i poszedł w świat, gdzie wkrótce popadł w tarapaty. Tak długo napadali go złodzieje i inni rzezimieszkowie, aż on sam stał się taki jak oni. Z biegiem czasu został włóczęgą, szukającym pokoju wszędzie, a nie mogącym znaleźć go nigdzie.

Ojciec ciągle się za niego modlił i wypatrywał jego twarzy wśród tłumów. Smutek kupca wzrastał z dnia na dzień, majątek również. Kupił piękny dom w Benaresie, mając przy tym nadzieję, że jego sława przywiedzie chłopca z powrotem. Lata jednak mijały i kupiec postarzał się z rozpaczy, że nigdy już nie zobaczy swojego ukochanego syna. A wtedy, pewnego dnia, kiedy spoglądał przez okno, ujrzał jego twarz. „Czy to naprawdę mój chłopak”, zastanawiał się, wątpiąc czy po tylu latach oczy go nie mylą. Natychmiast wysłał służących, żeby wypytali chłopaka. „Zapytajcie go o imię i o to, gdzie się urodził”, powiedział. „A jeżeli także wam wyda się, że to mój syn, zaproście go do domu a wtedy ja z nim porozmawiam. Czekałem na niego całą wieczność.” Służący zbliżyli się do chłopca, lecz kiedy poznali jego tożsamość i zaprosili go do domu, chłopak zrobił się nerwowy i podejrzliwy. „Czy drwicie z mojego ubóstwa?, zapytał. ”Lub czy może raczej chcecie mnie zwabić w jakąś zasadzkę?”. Wtedy chłopak odwróci się na pięcie i zaczął uciekać. Gdy służący wrócili i powiedzieli panu co się stało, on nakazał im pobiec za chłopakiem i potraktować go jak obcego. „Powiedzcie mu, że źle was zrozumiał – przecież chcieliście mu tylko zaproponować pracę w stajni”, rzekł kupiec. To wydało się chłopcu bardziej sensowne i tym razem się zgodził. Kupiec bacznie przyglądał się postępom czynionym przez syna, codziennie dając mu nieco więcej obowiązków, a gdy syn nabrał już pewności siebie, został mianowany zarządcą stajni. Wtedy ojciec przekazał mu także nadzór nad trawnikami i ogrodami, a kiedy syn i tego już się wyuczył, ojciec uczynił go zarządcą całego domu.

Kiedy syn odzyskał już w pełni szacunek do samego siebie oraz stał się prawy i opanował wiele umiejętności, ojciec w końcu wyjawił mu jego prawdziwą tożsamość i przekazał mu cały swój majątek.

W trakcie naszego życia, zarówno my grzeszymy przeciwko innym, jak i inni grzeszą przeciw nam. Ciągle wydaje się, że a to jesteśmy małą rybką, na którą poluje wielka ryba, a to, że z kolei my jesteśmy wielką rybą polującą na małe rybki. Wcześniej czy później męczymy się jednak całą tą walką i okropieństwem tego polowania. Pragniemy pokoju i wtedy właśnie spotykamy tę bezpieczną przystań podaną nam w schronieniu Buddy.

Wtedy też zaczynamy zwracać się do wewnątrz.

Żadne omówienie Dharmy nie byłoby pełne bez odniesienia do Mahabharaty (z której wywodzi się Bhagavad Gita). W następującym akapicie przytoczona jest swoista wersja przypowieści o kupcu:

Bóg Dharma ma syna, Judhiszthirę – prawowitego władcę królestwa, które przegrał w hazardzie, a później odzyskał w straszliwiej bitwie, w której jednakże stracił wszystko, co kiedykolwiek kochał. Judhiszthira, opuszczony i przybity, błąka się po opustoszałych ruinach, przyglądając się ogromowi zniszczeń. Widząc to, Dharma przybiera postać psa i zostaje jedynym towarzyszem Judhiszthiry, chodząc przy jego nodze i dzieląc jego los bez osądzania i skarg.

Po wszystkich zmaganiach, wszystkich popełnionych błędach, wszystkich trudach i cierpieniach, które zmuszony był przeżyć, Judhiszthira otrzymuje w końcu możliwość wejścia do Nieba. Bóg Indra zniża się na swoim rydwanie i zaprasza Judhiszthirę do środka. Weźmie go ze sobą do nieba…tylko, że…nie może wziąć też psa.

Judhiszthira odmawia wejścia do rydwanu, jednocześnie błagając Indrę, „Proszę, mój Panie. Ten pies był mi jedynym wiernym towarzyszem. Musi pojechać razem ze mną.” „Nie,” mówi Indra. Nie wchodzi się do Nieba z psami. Pies jest nieczysty. Pies nie ma duszy!”

Judhiszthira protestuje. „Ten pies jest mi wierny i całkowicie zdany na moją łaskę. Jeśli go tu zostawię, to zdechnie. Ale Indra się nie ugina. „W Niebie nie ma miejsca dla psów. Psy są nieczyste. Nie weźmiemy go!”

„No cóż, skoro tak musi być”, odpiera Juddhiszthira. „Nie opuszczę tego psa.”. Na co Indra grzmi. „Nie rozumiesz? Zyskałeś dostęp do Nieba! Nieśmiertelność, wszelka pomyślność i szczęście są Twoje! Zostaw tylko to zwierzę i jedź ze mną! Zostawienie go tutaj nie będzie okrucieństwem. Mogę go zaraz uśpić, bezboleśnie.” I wykonując tajemniczy gest mówi kusząco, „Nikt się nie dowie.”

Judiszthira rozgląda się wokół. „Czy nadal jesteśmy w moi królestwie?” pyta. Indra potwierdza. Wtedy Judhiszthira mówi, „Zatem to ja muszę zdecydować co począć. Nie odprawię tego psa. Odprawię natomiast Ciebie.” Odwraca się na pięcie i ponawia swoja smutną włóczęgę, kiedy nagle jego mały pies znika a na jego miejscu pojawia się bóg Dharma… który jest naturalnie bardzo dumny ze swojego syna. Judhiszthira natychmiast zostaje przyjęty do nieba. Dharmą króla jest dbałość o królestwo, ochrona wszystkich, którzy żyją pod jego panowaniem, niezależnie od tego czy są wielcy czy mali. Król nie poświęca swoich poddanych swoim zachciankom. Poświęca swoje zachcianki swoim poddanym.

Każda ścieżka ma swoją Dharmę, swoje święte powinności, swój Kodeks Etyki, swoje Wu Szi Dao (Buszido), swoją przysięgę Hipokratesa. Dharmą buddysty jest żyć w zgodzie ze Wskazaniami i naśladować Przebudzonego, który pierwszy objawił te Wskazania.

Przy odrobinie szczęścia, może i nam uda się wkroczyć do sfery Dharmakai.

Nothing in Life Has Lines Around It We Draw the Lines

Yao Xiang Shakya

Yao Xiang Shakya

What is true everywhere, for everyone…all the time?

We are born, we appear, we get sick, we grow old and we die. That is true everywhere, for everyone…all the time. It is the cycle of life. Yet, in the propaganda of the mind, the ground of fabrication, we are drawn away from the true line of events over and over again.  Instead, we look at the lines we draw, those imaginary lines drawn in the shifting sands of the material world of the mind.

We spend most of our time drawing these lines, pulling on them, reeling them in, darkening them, and continuing them in order to maintain the ignorance of our puny view.  We insist. We prolong. We protract. We believe.

“Look! Look! Look!” says the sage.

We ask. Is this admonition enough?

“Look! Look! Look!” says the sage.

But our puny view wants more when we look, we want to look for some entertainment, we want to look like somebody, and we want to look acceptable.

“Look! Look! Look!” says the sage.

We look for more.

“Look! Look! Look!” says the sage.

No matter what the circumstances, we are advised to look, look, look.

“Look! Look! Look!” says the sage.

There is no direction given, no proposition, no hint of what to look for or what to look at.

“Look! Look! Look!” says the sage.


Here is a story of a man in misery who goes to the sage for some advice.

“I am so sad and unhappy,” the man declares as he looks into the face of the sage.

The sage nods his head and whispers, “I see.”

“Yes. I am miserable.”

Again the sage nods his head and repeats. “I see.”

The man decides to define and draw out his sadness.

“I am miserable because I want to go into business.”

“Look! Look! Look!” the sage begins.

The man is uncertain, does not know what the sage means for him to do. The man decides to further explain his situation.

“I am miserable because I want to go into business, but I have no money.”

“Look! Look! Look!” says the sage again.

The man wants to clarify further.

“I am miserable because I have no money to go into business. If I had money, I could go into business.”

“Look! Look! Look!” says the sage.

The man takes a deep, coarse breath and begins to feel anger in his misery.

“I don’t think you are listening to me. I am sad and miserable because I have no money to go into business and I have no way of getting any money to go into business.”

“Look! Look! Look!” says the sage.

Now the man begins to forget about his sadness and misery of having no way to get the money to go into business and begins to raise his voice at the sage.

“You are not listening to me. I am telling you I have no way to get the money to go into business!”

“Look! Look! Look!” says the sage.

The man begins to feel a burning in his body and in his mind. His sadness and misery begin to be overtaken by the fire of anger and hate. He wants to yell and scream at the sage.

“Look!” the man shouts. “Listen to me! You are not listening to me! All you keep saying is this stupid thing….look, look, look…what in hell does that have to do with the fact that I am miserable because I have no way to get the money to go into business.”

“Look! Look! Look!” says the sage.

The man crumples over in an agony of rage, sorrow and misery. He begins to weep. His hands are on the floor in fists. He wants to pound something. He is as the saying goes, beside himself. The sage looks at him and touches the top of his head and says,

“Look! Look! Look!” says the sage.

This is the Way to have a simple life. This is the Way of simplicity.

“Look! Look! Look!”

What is true everywhere, for everyone…all the time?

Reference for Nothing in Life Has Lines Mike Sibley, Drawing from Line to Life.

I looked too hard for things that aren’t there

Yin Cai Shakya

Yin Ts’ao Shakya


while practicing deeply with

the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore,

suddenly discovered that

all of the five Skandhas are equally empty,

and with this realization

he overcame all ill-being.’

‘Listen Sariputra,

this Body itself is Emptiness

and Emptiness itself is this Body.

This Body is not other than Emptiness

and Emptiness is not other than this Body.

The same is true of Feelings,

Perceptions, Mental Formations,

and Consciousness.’

-The Heart Sutra Thich Nhat Hanh

The greatest thing the late Ming Zhen Shakya taught me was the importance of living in a productive, fulfilling way in daily life. This teaching helped me overcome my tendency to cling to metaphysical thinking. Eventually it became the vehicle for my ongoing awakening. I owe her a tremendous debt of gratitude for it!

Like so many others, I “looked too hard for things that aren’t there” not only in my spiritual practice, but also in life. And after finding nothing, I abandoned the superfluous “looking” altogether. Allow me to illustrate with several antidotes from my daily life.

At Work


I had a challenging day at work. It was one of those days where there were several things on my To-Do list. While working diligently to complete every last item on the list, in a timely and efficient manner, my boss, without warning, calls and tells me to drop everything immediately.

The Executive VP needs something done and he needs it to be done now!

You know what I mean, an urgent request with an alarming deadline followed by the inevitable question, ‘can you make this happen before the end of the day?’ My answer? Well, my answer is always yes, maybe a bit quixotic but still a yes. It comes from my desire to do my best and to do it on time.

And heaven, by god I soldiered through it and delivered the goods with enough time left over to for my boss to review the work. Before he handed it off to the executives he made sure that human beings would actually be able to decipher it.

Voila! It was on time and it worked. Yahoo!

At Home


By the end of the day when good-old Miller Time came around, I went outside, sat down in one of our big, plastic Adirondack chairs on the porch, cracked-open a cold one, and watched my dog frolic in the yard.

Sure, it was a challenging day, with unreasonable deadlines, but I got the job done and enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment. As I sat outside in my chair, watching my dog chase the squirrels that are forever zigzagging and whizzing by her, I thought, I worked hard today. We can pay the rent, and am enjoying a rest in my backyard where I imagined my twins to come will play. I felt good. 

When Miller Time was over, I went back inside to cook gumbo for me and my wife, and our two babies who are growing inside her tummy. That took me from feeling good, to feeling great (it always does).

On Facebook®


After dinner my wife and I retired to the living room sofa, to relax and catch-up on what we’d missed on Facebook® while we were both at work.

That’s when I went from feeling great to feeling like I wanted to choke people.

A friend of mine had posted a link to an article on Vice.com, entitled “Millennials On Spirit Quests Are Ruining Everything About Ayahuasca” and it caught my eye as I scrolled-through my newsfeed. I should’ve just chuckled and continued scrolling, but I didn’t. Nope. Like a jackass, I clicked on it and started reading. I won’t go too deeply into the details of the article here, I’ll just give the premise and leave it at that-

 Apparently, upwardly-mobile young adults who feel unfulfilled in their lives are traveling to South America to hang out with Native Peoples and drink the hallucinogenic brew Ayahuasca, with the hopes of having spiritual visions. This, in-turn, has brought a lot of unwanted attention to the afore-mentioned Native Peoples, and such attention is becoming a threat to their culture.

 Like Cain, the anger rose up, and from that anger I formulated a comment which I left on my friend’s post. It read something like this-

“What’s this vision quest bullshit? Really? These people need a vision quest? What sheer stupidity! Let me tell you something. There is nothing, nothing more to life than working hard, raising your family right, exercising, and fly fishing (or whatever task you prefer to master). If you’re looking for anything more out of life than that you’re a rube, because it doesn’t exist. Period. Full-stop.”

Ugh! I know, the less a man makes declarative statements the less likely he is to look foolish in retrospect. But as no one fully understands the workings of karma I was blessed with an experience while washing the dishes not long after I’d posted the comment.

In the Kitchen Holy Place


It’s no accident that I enjoy spending time in the kitchen, cooking and cleaning. I suppose I could be described as “Old School” in the sense that yes, I believe the old adage that “a man’s home is his castle,” but I take it to include my wife and my forthcoming twins. I do my very best to make it our castle. But there’s one stipulation: The kitchen is where my best Dharma work is done.  This translates into the kitchen is my holy place.

It’s where everything is cooked up, eaten, washed, dried and put into place. It’s a place of refuge where my consciousness is cooked, chewed, washed, dried and put straight. It’s a mortar and pestle where cause and effect, karma, and the whole universe are ground down and changed in the ordinariness of cooking, eating, and cleaning.

Everything is fine, there.

Those words came to me, after I finished doing the dishes, while I stood there looking at the clean countertops and the empty sink, which all seemed to glow in absolute perfection in the evening sunlight which beamed through my kitchen window. I knew the sink wasn’t perfect because I washed all the dishes that were in there, and the countertop wasn’t perfect because I wiped it clean.

I saw they were perfect because washing the dishes washed me off, and wiping-off the countertop wiped me clean.

I stood there, giddy…giggling as the experience occurred.

My consciousness, indeed, me, arises just the same as dirty dishes arise from cooking and serving dinner. And for some ineffable reason, this realization makes me suffer less, and gives me a deeply-abiding peace and joyfulness unlike anything I’ve ever felt.

Zen, lovely in its inherent simplicity, gives everything in the here-and-now to experience this joy. The beloved Heart Sutra is a lens to contemplate and follow the Eight-Fold Path in a life in-which to practice.

What more is needed?


Equanimity comes from the experience of keenly discerning that without dirty dishes and dirty countertops, a clean kitchen cannot exist, and if your kitchen is clean, sooner or later the need to eat, along with literally everything else, contributes to the arising of a dirty kitchen.

It’s life… and it’s all fine… this not looking for things that aren’t there.

Don’t Lament Death, Watch Your Step

Yao Xiang Shakya

Yao Xiang Shakya

Last week I was asked to speak at a memorial service for one of the members of our small community here. It was a talk for a woman who had many friends, friends that supported her at the end of her life with daily phone calls, body massage, meals delivered…friends that helped her manage and navigate the medical system…with appointments and medications, with surgery and rehab, from diagnosis through treatment and prognosis. Helping her every step of the way… from the first, unexpected fall in her backyard to her last breath.

In the middle of a heavy duty diagnosis…in the middle of the hard work of dying…this woman gave her dog away, arranged schedules for others to visit her, managed her bill paying, transportation to and from doctor visits and hospital; ate chocolate, drank coffee, complained, laughed, argued, cried and talked on the phone and let others see her in the most vulnerable situations. She allowed others to see her body diminish, her feelings come and go, her impulses push and pull, her dreams disappear until her consciousness ended and her breath returned to the One.

Life goes on…even though she knew she was dying…the material world, the everyday world made demands on her…even though she knew she was dying. Perhaps the BIG difference between her and us is in awareness. She did not lament death, she watched her step. As her body weakened, she began to know she was dying while her life continued. She was given a glimpse into what we often ignore. She began to know firsthand the material world makes demands on us in the middle of our dying.

She hit the jackpot. Her diagnosis gave her the treasure of time and awareness to know she was dying. She could tie up loose ends, make amends and let others love her.

Early on she told me “I am not afraid to die, I am afraid to suffer.” Her words suggest a real and present insight into the human condition, into her human condition, into our human condition.

We all are going to die and we don’t want to suffer. We are all going to die and life continues to make demands on us even though we are dying. It’s no use lamenting death. It’s still required we watch our next step.

We all are faced with this condition, but not all of us are aware of it.

When someone we know, someone we admire and respect, someone we care about dies we are given a small pot of gold. The death is a small glimmer into our human condition. It is a reminder, another chance to reflect on where we are and what is going on here.

As all things come to awaken us, death comes to awaken us.

We can’t stop death. We continue to respond to life as it comes. We do our very best knowing we are going to die. We meet the demands of our life in every circumstance. We remember this earth is a temporary situation for each one of us. It’s not a time to mourn, but a time to remember and awaken.

In the face of loss, we are given another chance to see close-up where we are.  It’s a time to see clearly, to know directly what it means to let go, to relinquish everything, to see the impermanence of the material world and to know the insubstantial nature of the human condition.

Don’t lament death. It comes to awaken. Don’t take life too seriously. Do your best, your very best knowing you are going to die. Take the pot off your head and see for yourself what’s the next step.

A Quick Course in Zen Theology

Ming Zhen Shakya

Ming Zhen Shakya

There are few things as disconcerting to a Zen Buddhist as having to respond to someone’s assumption that doctrines held by other schools of Buddhism are also held by him. The confusion would easily disappear if all Zen Buddhists held to a common doctrine; but we have our differences, too. We are mostly independent groups, and no consensus rises to fill the void of hierarchical control. Additionally, we hold ourselves “outside the sutras” and are not constrained by the written word – which, even if we were, presents another problem.

The Divine Word that was conveyed by Christ or through Mohammed was memorialized immediately in print; but it was not similarly recorded in Buddhism. Writing may have been known in other areas of India, but it is assumed that five hundred years before the common era it had not yet come to the Buddha’s east India kingdom. Regardless of capability, only in a listener’s memory was anything the Buddha taught ever recorded; and for several hundred years after the Buddha’s death, the routine way to transmit the Dharma was by a bard-like recitation of memorized lines.

Then as now – as, for example, in the case of Catholicism and Santeria, an introduced religion invariably is altered to some degree by the native beliefs and practices. As Buddhism spread, doctrines were skewed according to the differing memories of those who proselytized, to the translation problems of foreign languages, to cultural accommodations, and to the accretions of native gods and religious practices. In China, Daoism and Confucianism influenced the message; in Tibet the Bon religion altered it; in India and neighboring southeast Asian countries, Jainism and Hinduism intertwined its lines with theirs. Buddhism, however, also benefited from its encounters with alien philosophies. By 250 BCE, India’s great Emperor Ashoka, a Buddhist convert, established missions as far away as Syria, Egypt, Persia-Iran, Greece, Italy, and Turkey. In Bamyan, Afghanistan, the ancient cliff-carved Buddhas dynamited by the Taliban are a sad reminder of the Faith’s westward movement.

The Mahayana School, which was created within a hundred years, plus or minus, of the birth of Christ, expanded Buddhist theology to embrace a Trinitarian godhead: Buddha, Bodhisattva, and Future Buddha, the latter being named for Persia’s Mithras/Maitreya, the divine hero of Rome’s legions. Persian-Iranian religious influence was extensive, both east and west. Bodhidharma’s country of origin, we recall, has never definitively been determined. The Chinese merely identified his alien status as “aryan” the root of “noble,” cognates of which are Erin, Iran, Aryan, and aristocratic. As a matter of convenience we usually accept the “aryan” that they applied to him as being aryan-Indian. He was, however, also called “the blue-eyed demon” by the Chinese. In the year 520 CE, when he entered China, there were probably many more blue eyed Iranians than Indians. Maitreya’s Iranian origins is not such a stretch as we might suppose.

Wikipedia: Mithras and the Bull
This fresco from the mithraeumat Marino, Italy (third century) shows the tauroctony and the celestial lining of Mithras’ cape

Mithraism had been the dominant religion of Rome until the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in 313 CE. Accommodations, which were merely liturgical and in no way compromised the Christian message, were made to reduce the trauma of transitioning to the new “state” religion. Many Mithrasian holidays and practices were retained. Christians had originally worshipped on the Sabbath; but Mithras, being associated with the sun as Sol Invictus, was worshipped on Sunday. Sunday, then, was adopted as the day of worship. Mithras’ birth was celebrated on December 25th, which, owing to the earth’s precession, used to be the winter solstice. Jesus’ birth was believed to have occurred sometime in the spring or early summer – given the activity of the shepherds, but December 25 was agreed upon. The Persian Magi “kings” who had attended the mithraic birth, were retained for Jesus’ Nativity.

Mithraism had both a water communion ritual and a bread communion ritual. It had always been a “mystery” religion that functioned as a kind of exclusive club – if you weren’t a member you couldn’t attend any sacred rite. Christianity, too, followed the practice of “dismissing the catechumens,” i.e., persons who were not baptized were not members, and while they could stay for the first half of the Mass, they were dismissed before the Eucharistic services could begin. This is the reason the Mass is still called the Missa in much of the Catholic world. Curiously, Zen Buddhism also “dismisses” all persons who are not ordained in the Dharma before our sacred Water Communion ritual can begin. (In antiquity it was believed that amniotic fluid nourished the fetus. The water, then, is consecrated to allow us to participate in the generation of the Divine Child.) In our Communion ritual, altar boys pour water into a chalice; and a priest who has dedicated himself to the adoration of Guan Yin, recites mantras, conforms his hands in various mudras over the chalice, dips willow sprigs into the water, and the miracle of transubstantiation occurs. The willow is then used to sprinkle those in attendance with sacred water; and depending on the number of priests present, the chalice may be passed around for all to sip.

Guan Yin as the androgynous Bodhisattva “Hibbo Kannon” by Kano Hogai, 19th Century Japan

Zen also has a ritual involving bread. In this, tiny loaves of bread are tossed into the congregation for the purpose of feeding “Hungry Ghosts.” (When Grandmaster Jy Din conducted this ceremony he wore an elaborate rose-colored headdress similar to this, except it had long gold embroidered bands hanging down the sides.) The priest who conducts our Water Communion ritual is also dressed differently; but I was standing too far to the side to get any of the details of his elaborate garments. Also, although this priest was in residence at Nan Hua (Ts’ao Chi) Temple, we never saw him walking through the courtyards or in company with other priests. Both rituals are conducted only on special occasions

The wisdom of the Hellenic Sophia inspired the wisdom of the Prajna Paramita. Salvation was no longer the province of the individual arahat; but with the accessibility of the new written word, a more interactive, non-ascetic priesthood, the immediate popularity of the rhythmic Mahayana chants, and the opportunity to seek the intercession of the new Bodhisattva (a deity not recognized in older Buddhist Schools), salvation was suddenly within the reach and grasp of the ordinary man and woman

Wisdom Goddess Sophia
Photo credit: www.northernway.org

When the various schools had finally committed to print their versions of the Buddha’s teachings, much of what they attributed to him was in fact authored by individuals or committees that were deemed to be inspired – by whom is yet another problem. And even then, it continued to be a common practice for monks to enter a sutra and insert clarifying remarks or anecdotal material that they thought would amplify the message. (The general rule has always been “the shorter the version, the older it is.”) Even the Platform Sutra of Hui Neng, written at Nan Hua Temple in the last quarter of the 7th Century, has many versions. The one declared to be closest to the original by Philip Yampolsky of Columbia University and by my first master, the Venerable Wei Yin, Abbot of Nan Hua Temple, is the relatively short Tang Dynasty version found in the caves of Dun Huang in the 20th Century.

Individual schools and sects ignored certain scriptures and chose instead to regard others as authentic renditions of the Buddha’s words. All sects, however, accepted without question The Four Noble Truths; the Eightfold Path; the verses in theDhammapada; and his dying exhortation.

Zen groups, regardless of whatever other scriptures they may favor, embrace these four accounts as well as two relatively short sutras from the Mahayana Canon: The Heart and The Diamond. Additionally. the chanted Dharani of the Great Compassionate One, is commonly included in our liturgies.

Wikipedia: A statue of Prajnaparamita, from Singhasari, East Java

Zen, which by definition means Meditation, is the last step of the Eightfold Path; and, as such, concerns itself mainly with the various methods of attaining transcendence. Zen is not bereft of answers to theological questions – they are surely contained in the Mahayana’s more scholarly sutras; but searching these old, repetitious, and interminable texts for answers can be somewhat less than rewarding. Edward Conze did a remarkable translation of one of the Prajnaparamita expositions, The Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom in 18,000 Lines, but it is one of those tomes that tend to melt the eyes and turn the brain to stone. (I recall one sentence that ran for nearly an entire page.) And so, while we Zen Buddhists are fairly certain about what doctrines we don’t subscribe to, what we do subscribe to is not exactly well defined; and when theological topics present themselves, considerations of mental self-defense usually leave us staring blankly or shrugging our shoulders in bewilderment.

It is a simple matter to brush aside the fanciful Jataka tales which are, after all, children’s stories (to save the life of an innocent bunny the Buddha changed himself into a rabbit and jumped into the frying pan); or the account of his mother’s non-vaginal impregnation by a sacred white elephant; or that he was born possessing the locomotive advantages of ruminant animals – immediately at birth he began to walk (and flowers sprang up wherever his feet touched the ground).

Zen is content to believe the Buddha’s self-description: “I am just a man who awakened,” he said. His choice of the title “Buddha” means exactly that – as the root “budh” in Sanskrit affirms.

Yet, underlying the nonsensical accounts are serious questions that cannot be dispensed with so easily. Can a god become a mortal man, or can a mortal man become a supernatural being… a god? We can smile about Alexander the Great’s response to his mother’s attempt to confer divinity on him. When asked, “Are you a god?” Alexander replied, “Ask the man who empties my chamber pot.” King Philip of Macedonia ridiculed his wife’s claim that not he – but Zeus – fathered her extraordinary son, but it is another matter entirely to consider Joseph’s acquiescence to Mary’s claim of Jesus’ divine paternity. Buddhist temples contain effigies of apparently divine beings. We certainly go through the motions of worship. What is it that we are worshipping?

Given that religion “binds” us to a code of conduct that imposes civilization on us whether we like it or not, it can come as no great shock that all great world religions proscribe murder or violent aggressions, lying and deceitful actions, stealing and cheating, and dissolute behavior involving alcohol, drugs, and sexual misconduct; and Buddhists, most assuredly, are so constrained. This code emphasizes the individual’s actions towards others and promotes peace in the community. The Seven Deadly Sins cover the same territory but focus more upon the person who commits the unacceptable behavior: pride, greed, anger, lust, gluttony, jealousy, and sloth.

There must, of course, be a carrot and stick mechanism that moves us to conform to these civilizing codes. Who among us would pay taxes if it were not for the looming presence of Fort Leavenworth?

Zen Buddhists may not believe in additional lives or in the posthumous rewards of Heaven or the punishments of Hell, but we cannot find it entirely sufficient to say, “The reward is gaining Nirvana and the punishment is simply not gaining it.”

Modern science verifies what humanity has always suspected and The Buddha specified in his Four Noble Truths: Life is bitter and painful and the cause of this bitterness and pain is desire. Desire, as we know, is a wish or thought process – one of those Skandhas that are products of the illusionary material world. In his book, Man Against Himself, noted psychiatrist Karl Menninger informs us:

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.

Buddhists who don’t believe in after-life karmic judgment, know full well that karmic retribution by way of bad luck, bad health, miscalculation, or a victim’s revenge, always seems to follow the person who egotistically indulges in unethical conduct. “What goes around, comes around,” we say. “You reap what you sow.” Or the wise but unintelligible, “He got his comeupance.” Sentimentally motivated largesse, extended by impulse or with the anticipated quid pro quo of love and respect, are usually regretted with varying degrees of bitterness. On the other hand, a beneficial action taken without expectation of reward is usually taken by an enlightened person who, by definition, is sustained by faith and a deep understanding of human nature. Such a person is not easily felled by misfortune.

Still, while Buddhist ethics are clear, or at least should be, theological fundamentals manage too often to elude us. Finding so little help within the great Mahayana Canon, some Zen groups, including ours, look to another source in the Buddha’s India for answers.

In 1957 – the very beginning of Zen’s popularity in the U.S., Paul Reps wrote one of Zen’s most popular books, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones – the last part of which was his version of a Kashmiri Shaivist text, the Vijnanabhairava Tantra. Reps was a lifelong haiku master and devotee of Zen Buddhism; yet, he also was a disciple of Swami Lakshmanju of Kashmir.

In his book’s introduction to the Kashmiri scripture, he writes:

Zen is nothing new, neither is it anything old. Long before Buddha was born, the search was on in India, as the present work shows…

“Wandering in the ineffable beauty of Kashmir, above Shrinigar I come upon the hermitage of Lakshmanjoo. It overlooks green rice fields, the gardens of Shalimar and Nishat Bagh, lakes fringed with lotus. Water streams down from a mountaintop.”

Here Lakshmanjoo – tall, full bodied, shining – welomes me. He shares with me this ancient teaching from the Vigyan Bhairava and Sochanda Tantra, both written about four thousand years ago, and from Malini Vijaya Tantra, probably another thousand years older yet.

Reps translated the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra twelve times before he and Swami Lakshmanju settled on the version he published. Throughout the centuries, numerous translations of this valuable work have been made. Many are wildly different from others, some in the stilted language of their time. We sorted through a collection of these translations and offer below what we determined would best suit our Zen objectives.

A further hint of the connection between Zen and Kashmiri Shaivism comes in the common appellation of Shiva and Avalokitesvara that we find in the Dharani of the Great Compassionate One. We usually chant this Dharani in one of the oriental versions of it, nearly all of which appear on the internet and Youtube. One of our Sangha members has posted the Chinese version. The one I learned first at the Zen Center of San Francisco is the Japanese version, Dai Hi Shin Dharani, which begins, “Namu kara tan no tora ya ya…” Until D. T. Suzuki reconstructed the original Sanskrit, no one had the slightest idea of what the syllables meant. We now know that Avalokitesvara had been accorded one of the names traditionally given to Shiva, Nilakantha, which means The Blue Necked One (his neck is blue since, to protect humanity. he holds the poisons of the world in his throat).

Rather than remain lost in a theological maze, we have followed the line of thought that leads out to the Right Hand (Dakshina Marga) Path of Kashmiri Shaivism. The Right Hand version of any oriental religion is that version that does not include sexual practices – either partnered; in groups; or as a master’s teaching method. The Vajrayana of Tibet has both Paths, but the Dalai Lama is a member of the Right Hand Path, as are all legitimate Zen or Chan Buddhist sanghas. Left Hand (Vama Marga) versions, with their often bizarre sexual rituals, receive much negative publicity that frequently is extended to the rest of us. In Daoism, the two Paths are known as Single Cultivation and Dual Cultivation.

Kashmiri Shaivism is also filled with holy writ, but since Zen is outside the Buddhist scriptures it follows that a serious Zen Buddhist is not going to gravitate to the Canon of another religion. Each Shaivist scripture has many versions and it is easy to become mired in words, especially since the Left Hand Path is also a thriving part of the religion.

It sometimes seems peculiar, particularly to atheists who subscribe to the notion that Buddhists are their non-spiritual brothers, that we support such a large and apparently unemployed pantheon. This accumulation of heavenly creatures, being largely due to the natural affects of proselytization, is admittedly confusing.

The Mahayana’s Trinity may have different names; but most Zen versions essentially compare to the better known Christian Trinity: God the Father would be our Buddha Amitabha or Amitayus (the same Buddha with two names, Infinite Light and Infinite Time). ( In Shaivism this position is usually occupied by Brahman, or by Paramashiva and the feminine Paravach. Shiva means “Auspicious One and Vach (pronounced Vash – as in Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s cosmic girlfriend) means, as in the Latin version, “vox,” means voice.

Samantabhadra as a courtesan and as a warrior. The iconographic identifying “seat” is the elephant

The Holy Ghost equates to the androgynous Bodhisattva, a being whose visionary presence is encountered after the meditator attains Enlightment (Satori). Bodhisattva means “enlightenment being” the spiritual state in which the divinity is encountered. It is the Bodhisattva who delivers the fluid medium of the Child’s conception. Throughout the world there are effigies that represent what the person has seen and experienced during his profound meditative states. For most iconographic purposes, the figure may appear as a single sexless individual – such as an angelic creature; or as a subtly androgynous individual; or as a “married” brother and sister pair, such as Zeus and Hera, who do not, for obvious reasons, have children by each other; or the same divinity in two distinct forms, such as the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra who may be depicted either as a warrior or as a demure courtesan; or by two different names, as our more familiar Bodhisattva may be seen as the male Avalokitesvara or the lovely Guan Yin.

Avalokitesvara, National Museum; Sri Lanka Guan Yin, Penang Island, Malaysia

There are also animal representations of the Bodhisattva as Queen Maya’s White Elephant or Zeus’ swan as in Leda and the swan, or as a dove – Guan Yin is often depicted holding “the dove of fruitfulness.” (Hinduism has many sacred pairs, but the one favored in Shaivism is Shiva and his Shakti consort, Parvati, who address each other in theVijnanabhairava Tantra as Bhairava and Bhairavi.)

Christ, The Son member of the Trinity, is our Maitreya or Mithras, our young Future Buddha. Whereas Christians, Daoists, and spiritual alchemists, among others, believe that it is possible for a spiritual entity to penetrate the material world – as a “Spirit made flesh” i.e., to incarnate, and some Buddhists believe that divine beings may, through reincarnation, assume the bodies of living persons, Zen holds that while this may or may not be possible, it has not happened in our case. Our “Son” exists as a spiritual entity whom we may access spiritually, but who does not substantively emerge from our body through the standard spiritual exit, the fontanelles, to appear materially in the temporal world. That event is slated for an unspecified future time. (In Shaivism, the Son is often represented as Skanda or Murugan.)

Zen holds that (to use a Christian assertion which had its origins in the Vedas) “the kingdom of God is within.” And the divine inhabitants of that kingdom are precisely those whose effigies we see in our temples. The Buddha we bow to is the Buddha within. Korea’s beautiful allegorical film, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring, elegantly shows the relationship between our ego (the child who grows to manhood, making many mistakes along the way) and our interior Buddha Self (the master who cares for him) and to the Master’s Triune identity. In the film, the veiled Lady and the Child she delivers represent the Bodhisattva and the Future Buddha, as the main character in the film prepares to attain Buddhahood.

Photo credit: www.kaalita.com
Skanda on his iconographically identifiable peacock “seat”

Human beings, then, have these two identities. The ego identity and the Buddha Self in all its Triune splendor. The relationship is also beautifully stated in the Mundaka Upanishad

Like two birds of golden plumage, inseparable companions, the individual self and the Immortal Self sit side by side on the self-same tree. The former tastes of the sweet and bitter fruits of the tree; the latter, tasting of neither, calmly observes.”

Zen’s goal, then, is to eliminate or, at least, to diminish the ego-bird’s appetite for worldly fruits, so that when even little is as surfeit, it will be possible to live out the life of the calm Immortal Observer. We do not overly concern ourselves with celestial topography. A cosmic “t – 1” may be an occasion of significance to astro-physicists, but it is of no value to a man who is trying to recover from a drug dependency, a destroyed marriage, or the venoms of greed or lust.

Detachment and transcendence constitute salvation and bring us to a direct experience of Nirvana, which accords with the Buddha’s dying instruction: “Work hard to break the bonds of worldly passions. Pursue your salvation with diligence.” Fortunately, the same divine Buddha Self exists in each of us; but if an ego-self has not accepted the Four Noble Truths’ directive to discipline himself by following the Eightfold Path or any other religion’s code of ethical self-control, that ego-self is likely to get lost this side of Nirvana.

The ascendancy to salvation occurs in each person’s lifetime, or we, as individual conscious persons, die without knowing Nirvana’s heavenly bliss, but with, unfortunately, more than enough of earthly heartaches. Again, no system of reincarnation or life after death gives us other opportunities. Dead means dead. Those who believe that dead does not mean dead have a right to disagree; and it is a right that we must respect – and never argue about. The burden of proof is not upon us.

It need not be said that the Buddha of Infinite Light and Infinite Time into whom we merge when we attain “the origin” or Empty Circle, continues on eternally without requiring any of our ego’s advice or assistance.

Kashmiri Shaivism outlines in ways that are clear and, as we might expect, decidedly non-scientific, the creation of the material world and the individual’s physical progression through it until he at last returns to its spiritual origins. There are thirty-six stages of development, called Tattvas. Laid out on a number line, only the Tattvas that extend from zero through to, but not including ,#6, are of particular interest to Zen Buddhists. The negative side of the abscissa constitutes The Void.

Nevertheless, going backwards from the first group: Tattvas 36, 35, 34, 33, 32 account for the five physical orders which all obey the laws of force that govern the vibrating “hairs of Shiva.” These are related to the energy chakras: Earth; Water; Fire; Air; and Ether or Space.

Tattvas 31, 30, 29, 28, 27 empower the individual to function in the material world: he must be able to communicate; handle things; move about; perform normal bodily functions such as those of nutrition: eating, digesting, assimilating, and eliminating his food. He must also be able to sleep and keep his body in working condition.

Tattvas 26, 25, 24, 23, 22 provide for those material world qualities which can be perceived: material things have sound, texture, temperature, light and color, flavor and odor.

Tattvas 21, 20, 19, 18, 17 constitute the capacity to perceive. The individual needs to hear; touch; see; taste; and smell.

Tattvas 16, 15, 14 enable the mind to be aware of the perceptions, and to perform those functions which elucidate and govern both the conscious mind and the impulses and intuitions that arise from his unconscious psyche: imagination; memory; thought; judgment; willpower; and so on.

Tattva 13 enables a person to choose among actions that provide for undefiled purity, or for troublesome emotional excitement, or for defiled sluggishness and emotional depression.

Tattvas 12, 11, 10, 9, 8 give to objects those facts of existence by which they can be known. Objects must have position or location; they must exist at a specified time; they must have characteristics that can engage the attention; they must differentiate themselves from the one who is observing them; and they must yield to the observer’s desire to change them as, for example, the farmer oversees the planting of a seed, the irrigation of the plant’s soil, and the harvesting of a crop. New life must be produced just as all life must end.

Tattvas 7 is the individual’s awareness that he is a creature who can transcend the material world and directly access his spiritual center, i.e., his Buddha Self.

Tattva 6, “Maya” (called in Japanese “Makyo”), is the matrix or the initial state of materiality, the fulfillment of divine fiat. Our familiar example of this would be, “And God said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light.'” In Oriental religions it is usually the mantric sound of “Om” that initiates the process. According to the Vedas, “In the beginning was the Word; and the Word was with God; and the Word was God.” This establishes the union of male speaker and female voice; and the divine command that once uttered, actualizes that which was named. “Om” said with a prolonged, vibrating “m” sound is the transformation of spirit into materiality. A scientifically oriented translation of Kashmiri Shaivism’s Spanda Karikas (Yoga of Vibration) covers this originating point.

These “things” of creation, which include the conscious mind, are regarded as being in constant flux and, by definition, are illusionary. In Zen, in order for a thing to exist it must be real and true, and, more, it must be unconditionally true; it must universally true; it must be immutable; and it must be eternal. (It can’t be true here but not there. It can’t be true today but false tomorrow, and so on.) These are the attributes of the real or spiritual world, and, perhaps because it is a genetic code that we all share just as we share the tendency to have two eyes, one nose, two ears, etc., experiences of the spiritual world are virtually identical around the globe.

Religions, at their base level, are wildly different from each other. But each religion has a mystical ladder that the spiritually motivated may climb. As each aspirant reaches the top and looks around, he sees absolutely no difference between himself and the other fellows perched atop their religion’s ladder. At the base level people will torture and kill each other over an interpretation of a line of scripture. At the top of the ladder there is no dissent. The splendor of the spiritual world frees an individual from the curse of pedantry and religiosity that afflicts base-level habitues. Since everything in the material world is in constant flux, including our ego-conscious minds, only those divine laws which govern the material world are real. (Physicists and Chemists should be the natural high-priests of religion since they know these laws better than the rest of us. Unfortunately too many of them assume that their high IQ’s make them more superior to the average man than the average man is to the ape, and they find, therefore, no need to seek a higher interior Self. There are, of course, notable exceptions. Einstein knew that he had a internal spiritual “other,” as did the Reverends George LeMaitre and Blaise Pascal, among others.)

When the individual seeks his salvation, he must pass from Tattva #6 through to Tattva #5, the state of meditation. This is transcendence. It is not a warm, fuzzy feeling or the ephemeral sensation of peacefulness. This is the end of the drab chaos of the whirling material world, an end to conflict, romantic vicissitudes, jealousies, broken promises, grudging duty, and having our happiness depend upon other people. A door opens into brilliantly colored, still perfection. “Toto, we’re not in Kansas, anymore.”

It is in Tattva 5 that we encounter the Platonic Ideal Forms laid up in Heaven. The chosen meditation object will be seen suspended in space in glorious perfection. No matter how prosaic or how complex the object is, it alone in its aura and immensity – yet however much we previously knew about its structure and dynamics, we are left with the profound sense of understanding it as we have never understood it before.

We may experience other visual phenomena, usually a repeating geometric design of related colors. If we are sufficiently rapt, we will ascend into Tattva 4, Samadhi, which is a breathless, prolonged, non-visionary, full-bodied orgasmic experience usually called the Divine Embrace.

Hypnosis, bio-feedback, drugs, sex, and other mind-control frivolities cannot get us there. Humility is a non-negotiable requirement which no doubt accounts for the absence of so many of our scientific brethren.

After a few years, perhaps the time needed to prove ourselves even more worthy and of use to the Dharma, we enter into the Trinitarian experience, Tattva 3. Satori. In this brief encounter, our ego is completely extinguished, and our identity recedes to a vanishing point in the horizon and we look out at the world through the eyes of our Buddha Self. Everything is still there… the sun is shining and the cricket outside the window is still chirping, but everything is suddenly pristine and exquisitely beautiful, and we know that despite the apparent insanities of the material world, all the laws are being faithfully obeyed. As Browning put it, “God’s in his heaven; all’s right with the world.” It is exactly as it should be. And then, Amitabha closes his eyes and our egos return. Usually we can’t shut up about the experience and are considered to be afflicted with “Zen Disease.” We enter a euphoric state that abates in a matter of days, weeks, or sometimes months.

The “big” experience of Tattvas 2&1 has various names: the Mysterium Coniunctionis, Divine Marriage, the Union of Opposites, or the Rebis experience of spiritual androgyny. This is the Divine Visionary Drama in which we are both a participant and a passive observer. This experience is possible only, in Jungian terms, when the Anima or Animus is fully and contentedly integrated and is therefore not projected outside the meditator onto some human being. Being “in residence” the Anima or Animus is free to subsume the ego identity; the male meditator is subsumed by his Anima (Tattva 2, the female Bodhisattva); the female meditator by her Animus (Tattva 1, the male Bodhisattva). This trans-sexual identity is realized only during meditation and does not, in any way, alter the meditator’s normal demeanor. The honeymoon period lasts for a couple of delirious weeks until it finally settles down into a few years’ worth of indescribable bliss during visionary meditation. Again, the meditator functions in society without anyone’s being aware of what is going on inside his head.

And then comes the dreadful “Dark Night of the Spirit” a wretched series of meditations that the meditator cannot seem to be able to stop. (This experience is detailed in Assault on the Summit which is on our website.)

In the orient, contained within each monastery complex are little one room dwellings reserved for those monks or nuns who attain Tattvas 2 & 1. They may come and go as they please, but no one is permitted to disturb them. Usually only at night do they exit their dwellings to sit under the stars and chat with each other. Their meals and their laundry are cared for by the monastery staff, and the privilege of such care and privacy lasts for up to three years.

Once the Dark Night meditations are concluded, we finally get to the tattva that lies between Zero and Tattva 1. This is the appearance of the Hero archetype, the Mercurial Child/Man, who will subsume our identity during meditation for years to come. The visionary meditations end when the meditator crosses the origin and enters the Void.

The Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, a dialogue between Shiva (Bhairava) and Parvati (Bhairavi) is to be read slowly and the techniques it recommends are to be practiced without expectation and with gratitude for the instruction. The lessons learned will assist the Path Climber who is ready to proceed at this level of instruction. At the very least the instructions will leave foot prints in his mind that he can follow when he is ready to advance.

Vijnanabhairava Tantra (Divine Consciousness)

Bhairava and Bhairav?, in union and in unity, engaged in a dialogue for the benefit of all who seek liberation.

The lovely Bhairavi spoke:

Lord, by your command the universe came into existence as a grand illusion that hides the splendor of your reality. Many souls have sought the contentment that can come through you, alone. Many are the ways they mistook false for real and brought themselves to bitter regret. How may they free themselves from such painful errors? How may they find the bliss that lies beyond the shifting shapes and names that so confuse them? How may they dispel illusion and see your glorious presence? Teach me so that all may learn. Let all doubt be cleared away.

Bhairava answered:

Beloved, we are eternally bound. As I am the laws that command, you are the energy that moves at my command. The various forms you take are ephemeral and are merely perceived as substantive. Indeed, your forms, in all their manifestations, are illusions.

I will impart to you the hidden truths. Those who see a form and think that they can possess it are trying to embrace a ghost or hold the fog in their hands. All forms are in constant change, and the man who desires to possess the forms, he, too, is constantly changing. Rituals, scriptures, titles and robes of office cannot influence the intrinsic nature of the changing forms, just as they cannot produce a path to salvation’s Reality, a path that lies beyond the forms.

Men, driven by lust and greed, search endlessly to satisfy their cravings. In their folly they do not understand that the greatest wealth and the greatest bliss are contained within their own body.

The Mystical Path leads mankind into the realm of Reality, where there is neither space nor time, and all that is encountered in that realm – the people and things and our interactions with them – follow the outlines of a story which I have written in the stars.

To read that story a man must learn the language of the Real. He must close his eyes to the deceptions of material illusion and turn his attention inwards, upon himself. There he will learn the way. Since you have inquired on man’s behalf, I will give you the instructions.

1. Radiant One, with concentration, the Real may be experienced between the space of a single breath. After breathing in, as the breath is held, feel the beneficence of God. And let all cares escape as the breath flows out.

2. Again, as your breath enters and curves down and as it begins to leave and curves up, through both of these turns, experience the Real.

3. Or, at the precise moment that your in-breath changes into out-breath, feel a pulse beat in the long hollow tube that lies directly in front of your spine and that now waits to be filled.

4. Or, when your breath has gently flowed out and before you breathe in again, pause, and in that moment your illusionary self will disappear and you will glimpse the Real. This will be difficult only to those who are guilty but who feel no remorse.

5. Beloved, think of your True Self as a light that is glowing at the base of the hollow tube. With concentration you will feel a pulse beating at the base of that hollow tube. With each pulse beat, that light will grow brighter and its illumination will rise; and with it will rise the warmth of Eternal Life.

6. Or, in the time and space between the pulse-beats, feel lightning strike the base.

7. Goddess, you may instead imagine a trail of your alphabet’s letters, each in black ink, waiting to enter the hollow tube and to slowly rise to your throat before the next letter enters. Do not hurry.

When you have mastered the sight of each letter rising, select the letters L and M. Place between them the vowel sound of “uh” and see this syllable LuM printed in bright red. Let it enter the hollow tube at the base, and let it strike the base with the sound of a musical note from a scale of your choosing. Let that syllable rise slowly to your throat and when it reaches your mouth, softly sing that sound, letting your barely parted lips vibrate as you pronounce the sound of Mmmmm… which will then trail away into infinity with your escaping breath.

When you have mastered the sight and sound of LuM, select the letters V and M and place between them the vowel “uh” and see this syllable printed in orange. Let it enter the hollow tube at the base, and let it strike the base with the next higher note on the scale you have chosen. Let that syllable VuM rise to your throat and as it enters your mouth, softly sing that sound, letting your barely parted lips vibrate as you pronounce the Mmmmm. That sound will retreat into infinity with your escaping breath.

When you have mastered this, repeat the instructions for each spectral color: Yellow paired with R and “uM” and the next higher note; Green paired with Y and “uM” and the next higher note; Blue paired with H and “uM” and the next higher note; Indigo paired with O and “m” and the next higher note. And finally, in violet, let the pure Ahhm enter, strike the next higher note and rise up to your throat. When it enters your mouth, softly sing the sacred syllable.

Do not hurry. Only those who are angry and have not vowed to forgive will have difficulty.

8. Radiant Goddess, place your attention between your eyebrows. See there a light that glows softly and with each breath grows brighter until it fills your head so completely that it bursts, showering sparkling light in all directions.

9. Or, imagine each of the spectral colors to be a small sphere in space. See each, in turn, shimmer like a star and then slowly fade, dissolving into the vastness of the sky. See Red, then Orange, then Yellow, then Green, then Blue, then Indigo, and finally Violet.

10. Devi, With your eyes closed, see your divine beloved as living inside your body. Study your beloved. Learn the details of face and form.

11. Imagine that all your thoughts twist into a fine thread that circles your body. Let it start at the space between your eyebrows, run over your head, down your back, curve under you, and ascend, passing your abdomen, chest, neck, and face until it reaches its starting point. Twist each worldly thought that arises into a thread that will circle your body until it forms a cocoon of finest silk.

12. Perform the mudra that closes the seven gates. Raise your elbows outwards, place your thumbs tightly in your ears, your index fingers gently on your eyes, your middle fingers against your nostrils, and your fourth and fifth fingers on either side of your mouth, pressing your lips together as a child’s kiss. Listen intently to the silence.

13. Or, when you touch your closed eyelids as lightly as a feather, waves of undulating shapes will form. Study these shapes. These will open your heart and from your heart they will enter the firmament.

14. Recall a sound… a distant bell… or a waterfall.. or as if you have placed coiled sea shells against your ears. Listen intently to the recalled sound.

15. Inhale and as if you are chanting aloud, hear the single sound “Om” in your mind. Hear it clearly and prolong the sound as if you are expending one breath.. Then add to it another harmonious voice and let the two voices chant Om for as long as one breath would last. Then add another harmonious note as if three voices are singing. Then add a fourth voice and when you have heard that chord clearly, add a fifth and a sixth, singing that one chord more loudly, clearly, and harmoniously until it seems as if a heavenly choir is singing that chord and filling the cosmos with its rapturous sound.

16. With each addition of a voice to the original sound, awaken to its beauty.

17. While listening to an orchestra, focus your attention on one instrument and trace its path through the composition.

18. Aloud, hum a single note, then reduce the sound to a whisper and then to the point that it is inaudible; and as it fades, sink into a silent harmony with that note.

19. Imagine that your body has become a spirit and then imagine that all around you cease to be material until the world is filled with spiritual beings.

20. Bhairavi, enter the space that is above your own form. Observe yourself from above and see that your form is not different from mine.

21. Experience the bliss of mystical union with that form.

22. As that form of your other self, live your spiritual life among the spiritual persons that fill your universe. This life will be real and you will understand the illusions of earthly life when you return to them.

23. Consider your body as expanding into infinity, embracing all of the cosmos.

24. Consider your body as shrinking down to the size of a mustard seed.

25. The Beloved is revealed when one breath has been exhaled but the next breath has not yet begun. So, between two breaths, feel the Beloved fill your body.

26. Withdraw all your senses into your heart. Feel that you touch, taste, smell, hear, and see from a place inside your heart and that the rest of your body is lifeless.

27. Let your breathing slow down until your sense of self disappears and then your other Self will reveal itself.

28. When your body has completely relaxed and you are unaware of your breath, forget your thoughts and perceive your heart and see all the sensory energy scintillate and crackle with life. Into all this activity your Beloved will enter and calm your heart. It will be as a sea that knows no wind.

29. When you are working in the world, you will keep your thoughts on your work; but when you have a free moment, focus your attention on the space between two breaths. If you practice this relentlessly, within a few days, you will be reborn.

30. When lying on your bed, imagine that an electrical charge, like a enveloping grass fire, starts at your toes and spreads up your legs and up to your skull… consuming your body while yet leaving your ghost-like, spirit-filled body intact.

31. When lying on your bed, imagine that waves are lapping at your feet and then are gently traveling up your legs, abdomen, chest, hands, and arms, until the undulations lap against the inside of your eyes. The Shakti will fill you.

32. When you are sitting in sunshine, breathe deeply and slowly and gently close your eyes and see geometric shapes form like a kaleidoscope on the inside of your eyelids.

33. As you exhale, direct your breath to fill the space between your eyebrows before you allow it to pass through your nostrils.

34. With the space between your eyebrows filled with energy, send it down to your heart and then take control of your dreams.

35. Create a make-believe world in your mind, walk through it and learn its details, then burn it down to ashes and watch the wind blow the ashes away.

36. If you are directing anger towards someone or something, or if someone’s anger is directed towards you, imagine that you are sitting on a beach as the tide is coming in and that you are writing the word “calm” in the sand. Watch the word disappear as the tide comes in. The anger given or received will disappear as the word crumbles into the tide. Remember this when you sit down to meditate, and as you recall the water erasing the word, erase your sense of ego-self and be filled with your spiritual other.

37. Smell a flower or a perfume so that you know its scent and then, later, as you sit in meditation, recall the scent.

38. Hear the sound of a chord and understand its notes and later, as you sit in meditation, recall the chord.

39. Run your fingers over soft velvet or a coarse stone, learn how it feels, and later, as you sit in meditation, recall the touch of it.

40. Taste a tart fruit like a lemon or a grapefruit, memorize the effect it has upon your mouth, and later, as you sit in meditation, recall the taste of it and the effect it had upon your mouth.

41. Look at a bowl that contains a substance and visualize the bowl as being empty, and later, when you are sitting in meditation recall the bowl as being full and then again as being empty. See it clearly as though it were in front of you.

42. When you sit in meditation imagine that you are alone in the universe. Let everything around you disappear, one object at a time. The pressure of “things” will disappear.

43. When you are in meditation imagine that you are sitting where you are and then imagine that you have vanished and that the space is empty.

44. When feeling a caressing breeze, imagine that you, as your beloved, are caressing you through the breeze.

45. When feeling an insect such as an ant crawl across your foot, concentrate upon the feeling and make it vanish even though you can still see the ant.

46. When feeling sexually aroused, feel it as a fire that eternally burns without becoming embers.

47. When in this excitation your senses quiver as shaking leaves, enter this shaking.

48. Even while only recalling an embrace, remember the moments of transformation and then relive them.

49. Imagine that the inner channel which lies before your spine is the stem of a lotus flower. See it as red inside and blue outside. Meditate on its internal emptiness and you will feel the emptiness of space.

50. When you eat or drink, become the taste of the food or drink, and be filled with it.

51. Oh Lotus Eyed One, whatever you see or taste or touch or smell, be aware of that sensation and understand that it is now part of you.

52. Whenever you act, be aware of your actions and let no other activity intrude upon your awareness.

53. In a hypnogogic or hypnopompic state, at the moment between these two states of sleep and wakefulness, and observe your mind and you will be rewarded with glimpses into the Real.

54. When you see the cloudless sky on a sunny day, stop and enter its clarity.

55. In your mind create a home for yourself, a perfect dwelling in a place that you consider beautiful. Create a protective zone around this setting and when you are beset with the illusions of the material world, repair to your perfect dwelling and there sleep peacefully or walk along the secret paths.

56. Look lovingly at an object that you often see but rarely consider the manner in which it is made, and then, close your eyes and piece by piece, take it apart and lay the pieces side by side. Note the color and texture of each piece.

57. Sit and face a white blank wall or a sand dune and stare into the light and you will see and feel the presence of your spiritual other.

58. On nights on which there is no moon, stare into the darkness and let your entire being dissolve into the darkness.

59. Waves are born of the ocean and get lost in it, flames arise and die, the sun appears then vanishes. So does everything find its source in spatiality and returns to it.

60. Dance until you are exhausted or spin rhythmically until your mind can no longer think clearly, and then stop and retreat into your exhaustion and confusion and suddenly you will feel the essence of Bhairava.

61. Feel as if you are lifeless, unable to move, totally without energy. Having no resistance let Bhairava enter you.

62. Stare into a well as a fortune teller stares into a crystal ball and see the surface of the water become a screen upon which pictures move.

63. Make no judgments or criticisms about the practices of other people. Do not try to determine sacred and profane.

64. Be careful whenever you refer to yourself as a substantive being. When you say, “I am” or “I want” know that neither you nor the object of your desire is real. Knowing this cease your desire and your ego awareness.

65. Remember that the universe is a shifting illusion. Happiness lies in realizing that the false is false. Seek always the real.

66. Beloved One, anger, jealousy, contempt, vanity, pride, embarrassment, love, hate, lust, fear… these are all forms of bondage to those who are tricked by Maya into believing the ephemeral is permanent, that paste is pearl, that self-interest is generosity, or that casual promises are sacred vows. In ignorance, pleasures found quickly will end quickly; but the pains they cause seem endless.

67. If you should awaken to reality through one of the senses or through thought, quickly send your joy down into your heart and you will feel the boundlessness of space.


Sudden School Zen and Gradual School Zen

Ming Zhen Shakya
Ming Zhen Shakya

Sudden School member, Yun Men (Ummon) Lineage

It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
Of all things physical and metaphysical,
Of all things human and all things super-human,
Of all true manifestations of the head,
Of the heart, of the soul,
That the life is recognizable in its expression,
That form ever follows function. This is the law.

Louis Sullivan, Architect. The Tall Office Building Esthetically Considered

When the purpose of a Quest is to attain insight into the nature of the material world’s “emptiness”; to acquire a self-mastery of body and mind; to be mindful always of one’s balancing center; and to be non-judgmentally aware of every moment’s thoughts – understanding how and why they have arisen; and to enter a contemplative void, what form does the method and setting take?

When the purpose of a Quest is to attain the spiritual summit’s ecstasy; to crown the top of mountain and mind with the Future Buddha’s effigy; to know even for a single moment what it is to be one with the Buddha Self; to replace loneliness with solitude; and, while in meditation’s transcendent reality, to mingle in androgynous rapture with the Bodhisattvas; what form does the method and setting take?

Generally speaking, the former is usually called the Path of Gradual Enlightenment or The Northern School, while the latter is usually called the Path of Sudden Enlightenment or The Southern School.

Few things in life are carved in stone, and certainly the form that Zen temples take to accommodate their diverse aims is not one of them. Yet it is interesting to see how Louis Sullivan’s dictum, Form follows function, does, as a general rule, apply to the settings in which these Quests occur.

As the term Gradual suggests, the methods of the Northern School usually consist in long periods of disciplined adherence to a daily practice of sitting in strict concentration – upon either eliminating thoughts or analyzing thoughts objectively. Visionary experiences are eschewed and pejoratively termed “Makyo” the Japanese version of “Maya.” Attendance is compulsory.

To insure that there will be no disruptive activities, such as snoring or restless posture adjustments, a monitor may be employed. He quietly patrols the aisles, carrying a stick, which he does not hesitate to use.

Breathing practices require either observing the breath or counting it: “a long breath being a long breath and a short breath being a short breath,” as it is colorfully put.

Practitioners sit on a hard kapok-stuffed Zafu (cushion) which provides the needed raised platform-edge for the practitioner’s spinal base to attain a 15 or 20 degree angle with the floor. In this way the body’s weight is distributed in a three pointed position: the knees and tailbone. When the spine is so elevated, it is much easier to take the full lotus posture.

Since such focussed attention is aided by silence and the absence of distracting decoration, temples favor the simplicity that we find in traditional Japanese interior design – clean lines, natural wood and stone, opaque window coverings with dark rectangular mullions, and only one or two flowers in an ikebana arrangement. Practitioners face the wall; and when there is insufficient wall space, they sit in precise linear arrangements.

As the term Sudden suggests, the methods of the Southern School are intended to detach ‘archetypal’ instinctive ties from the people, places, and things of the material world, and then to integrate these archetypal or divine characters into the individual psyche. These experiences have a revelatory nature and occur without warning.

Since this process is not aided by protracted introspections, the practice of disciplined periods of sitting in order to concentrate is disdainfully regarded: “You can make a mirror polishing a brick sooner than you can make a Buddha sitting on a cushion.” A variety of seed-engaged concentrations is employed to achieve meditation’s altered state of egoless consciousness; and deep structured breathing exercises, such as the Healing Breath, Alternate Nostril breathing, and the breath visualized as an object that is pushed through the various meridians are followed.

To aid in the process of detaching and then integrating archetypal projections, Southern School temples are more cathedral-like, ornate and filled with dramatically posed statues; wall decorations; elaborate altar pieces, enameled wood, bouquets of flowers; bells, chimes, and drums; and voices chanting. The reverberation of a temple drum entrains the heartbeat, the aorta, and the spinal cord that runs beside it. (No person who has ever heard the drummer at, for example, Yun Men (Ummon) Temple in China will ever forget the sound.)

In a meditation hall, Southern school participants come in and sit, and if they fall asleep, nobody bothers them. If someone snores, concentration upon the sound of snoring may be practiced. If a practitioner wants to stay awake, he signals the Tea Monk who brings him a cup of strong jasmine tea. Attendance is desired but not compelled – although on nights when the Abbot gives a Dharma talk, it is wise to be present.

The practitioner sits on an inclined-plane bamboo-slatted bench. His knees generally do not touch the floor. The bamboo slats are spaced apart so that air can circulate around them.

In the dining room, Northern practitioners sit in complete silence during meals and keep rigid postures and rules of etiquette; ‘Southern’ practitioners laugh and talk during meals and aside from saying Grace at the start of the meal, keep no other rules except to clean up after themselves.

Commentators from both schools often claim the exclusive Right of Way to the Path that leads to the Buddha Realm; in fact, although it cannot be denied that a certain amount of enmity occurs between the two groups, elements of each regimen are frequently compounded with elements of the other.

When a practitioner falls away from the Path, he may have fallen victim to the hazards within each system. An old fencing instruction describes a frequent source of failure: “Holding a saber is like holding a bird. If you hold it too tightly you squeeze it to death; if you hold it too loosely, it flies away.”

The Southern School’s loose approach to rules contains the risk that the practitioner will fly off, following some tangential interest, or he may experience an unrelenting euphoria. The Northern School’s strict application of rules may squeeze to death the practitioner’s spiritual enthusiasm, or he may succumb to robotic self-hypnosis.

The institution’s teaching staff may contribute to failure by not fully understanding the reasons behind some of the practices. For example, the Northern School favors facing the wall; the Southern school favors facing the center of the room. The reason for facing the wall is said to be Bodhidharma’s nine years of wall gazing at Shao Lin Ji. What is often overlooked is that those years were alleged to have been spent while he sat facing a whitewashed wall. This practice would constitute a pursuit of “The Ganzfeld Effect.” Science has discovered that when a person sits and stares at a bright, blank visual field that is devoid of features, such as a white wall or a sand dune, the light will be reflected back into his eyes, serotonin will be released, and he will enter an alpha rhythm state. Without that bright blank wall, a person sits in vain in front of a wall.

(Note: anyone who wants to experience the Ganzfeld Effect can take a ping-pong ball that has no writing on it, cut it in half along its seam, smooth the edges of each half with a file, take clear tape and tape each half over an eye, and then turn to face a bright light source. In record time, undulating grey or iridescent shapes will form and reform and the Alpha state will be attained.)

As to maintaining order in a meditation hall, in an established Southern School monastery in China, there are monks and nuns of all ages. Older monks and nuns often tend the sick during the night and, in the morning, come to the meditation hall where the restful atmosphere lulls them to sleep. Other monks and nuns have been working in the kitchen all night preparing breakfast. Most monasteries are in remote areas where the water is not potable and a huge vat of water intended for the day’s tea consumption must be filled and then boiled over a wood fire. Beating these people for the crime of falling asleep tends to seem uncivilized.

When a teacher restricts breathing exercises to the simple counting or observing the breath, he deprives the practitioner of the benefits of the Healing Breath or the breath-object circulation through the meridians. The Healing Breath, using the time-proportion of 4:16:8 for inhalation, retention, and exhalation, requires the practitioner to sit upright and inflate the chest to its absolute maximum and then to hold the breath steady and release it, first by letting it seep out of the nostrils and then by contracting the abdomen until it seems that the navel is touching the spine. This practice forces much marginally residual air from the lungs – air that is laden with bacteria and particulate matter from dust or other air pollutants. The body’s immune system is relieved of the burden of fighting off the effects of these unwelcome intruders. Additionally, the prolonged retention of the breath, acts exactly like the stretching of a muscle during a yoga exercise. When a muscle is under the tension of a gentle stretch, and then that tension is suddenly released, the muscle produces serotonin.

As to the strict requirements of maintaining the three-pointed Zazen posture, to whatever degree a practitioner experiences pain, he has gone 180 degrees away from where he wants to go. One of the reasons Southern School Zen does not particularly care to meditate in a group setting is that to enter a deep alpha state is to salivate profusely, a result of activating the para-sympathetic nervous system. To sit in a group, lost in sweet oblivion, with the mouth hanging open and drooling is to create an image most of us would like to forget. But this is the wonderful result of true meditation. Pain, however, induces the sympathetic nervous system to initiate the secretion of adrenalin in a fight or flight response. The mouth gets dry (think about standing up in front of a group and giving a speech when one is not used to speaking publicly). As the mouth dries, teeth stick to lips, the heart beats wildly, the blood pressure rises, epinephrine and Cortisol are released and as blood is withdrawn from the skin, hands feel clammy. The practitioner is as far away from alpha states as it is possible to get. Once that adrenalin is released it may take as much as 90 minutes for it to wash out of the system.

The full lotus posture is the best posture to take – and using a long meditation band or cloth to circle the small of the back and the knees is a marvel of comfort. But Lotus must be learned gradually so that no pain is ever felt. As the rule in Yoga states: “If you feel pain, you are doing it wrong.”

People who succeed in crossing the transcendental barrier and in achieving meditation’s altered state of egoless consciousness often push on into Samadhi, which is orgasmic ecstasy and, as such, is a valid reason for absenting oneself from a room full of Questors.

The presence of so much elaborate artwork in Southern School temples requires an explanation. A statue supplies an image which connects with an emotional counterpart within the observer, releasing and channeling its expression. In the making of Star Wars, for example, George Lukas famously discussed creating this vital cast of “engaging” characters with mythologist Joseph Campbell. Carl Jung first presented this pantheon of fundamental characters – “archetypes of the collective unconscious” – whose genetic templates influence and direct the emotional life of human beings. Literature and film succeed according to how well they invoke the counterparts of these characters within the psyche of the observer or reader.

When a practitioner sees a statue in a great temple and stops to “engage” it, he responds to it in a deep level of his psyche – a level that he does not consciously consider. At the beginning stage, he may need the comforting expression of the compassionate Guan Yin; or the reassurances of a Bodhisattva’s benign smile. He may need to respond internally to the allurements of the androgynous Bodhisattva Samantabhadra in her demure courtesan identity, or he may need to gain the brave resolve and inspiring courage of Samantabhadra in his heroic warrior identity. He may find spiritual fortitude in the fearsome sword-wielding Manju. As he nears the goal, he will recognize in them the characters he has come to know while he has been in the true meditative state.

buddhaflower.jpgPhoto credit: mysticalchrist.org

The phenomenon of emotionally interacting with a work of art is not new to us. No mother of any religion can view Michelangelo’s Piet‡ with indifference. No soldier, regardless of the gear he carries, can see the great sculptor’sDavid, and not know how naked and alone he is when he stands and faces what is always to the single soul, an immense adversary. The image replicates itself deep in his psyche. He will not know how he had the strength to do it, but while he was in that adversary’s presence, he, like David, stood and held his ground. A Christian has an emotional response that accords with the image he reflects upon: Christ as the suffering figure on the Cross moves him to understand the pain and betrayal he, himself, has felt and also the forgiveness he is inspired to give. He may see Jesus as the gentle teacher whose heart is revealed in his Sermon on the Mount and he will strive to become a better person, one to whom someone could say, “I was hungry, and you fed me; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was in prison, and you visited me.”

Buddhists experience similar emotional responses upon seeing an effigy of the gentle Buddha who preached, in thunderous silence, the Flower Sermon and challenged us to transcend the material world and be one with that lotus. He will look upon the sacrificial suffering of the emaciated Buddha and see how despite losing everything else in the material world, his faith will sustain his serenity.

buddhafast.jpgFasting Buddha
Photo credit: neatorama.com

We engage these archetypal figures because they comfort and inspire and in doing so facilitate detachment and integration. The goal demands that we cease depending upon the people, places, and things of this material world to give us an identity and to define for us who we are. Foolishly we fail to realize that an attachment has two ends. While we fulfill our ego’s needs by tapping into what it has connected to, that entity has needs too, and it will draw from us whatever it needs to fulfill its clamorous demands.

In the Gospel of Luke 14:26 we read: “If a man come to me and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” Christian mystics understand. Everyone else tries to tickle the lines in an attempt to lighten the mood of what they perceive to be an oppressive state. The instruction does not lead to oppression, it leads to freedom.

In Zen we have the mondo: The master instructs the novices, “You must kill your father, and your mother, and your friends, too. Destroy them all if you want to attain Zen.” One novice asks, “And you, Master. Must we kill you, too.” And the Master replies, “There is not enough of me left for you to get your hands on.” The master knows that the ego’s attachments are the umbilical cords through which it parasitically feeds, thickening the veil that it places between the interior Buddha Self, Amitabha, and the world. When the ego’s veil is thinned to a mirror’s reflection, we, at last, may see the world and all that’s in it, through the Buddha’s eyes.

Detachment is not easily accomplished. It requires enormous self-discipline.

We cannot purchase the bliss of Integration. We cannot put a price on Freedom.

Beginner’s Question: What is Zen?

Answer: A cauldron of boiling oil over a roaring fire.

A Flash of Fiction about the Furniture People

Yao Xiang Shakya

Yao Xiang Shakya

The scarf wasn’t enough to cover up David’s hollowed cheek line. It merely reminded him of what he used to prize. Sarah touched her thumb along the tip of each of her fingers when she decided to speak.

“I’m not…” she sighed. “No. That’s not it”

David, alarmed by Sarah’s stammering to speak, faltered. The beauty, hers, his, waned.  “It’s better to be a chair,” he said rather convincingly. Sarah grimaced. “Are you kidding me?” she said accusing him of doing it again.

He choked before he answered. “I know. I know. You don’t like it when I say the obvious.”

“First it’s NOT obvious. And secondly, if you knew that, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.” Sarah sunk her teeth into a piece of dead skin along her thumb and tore it off.

David, with his hands in his pockets moved towards Sarah to deliver more of the same. “Say what you will. It’s true. It is better to be a chair. Like that one, the one we paid big bucks for…or the couch, or the goddam rug.”

Sarah shook her head as she mocked wiping something away in-between them. “You’ll never change. Everyone…”

David interrupted. “Everyone? Really? Everyone? If you didn’t blow things out of proportion and listen for a change, I wouldn’t have to say shit like it’s better to be a chair.” He’d drawn his hands out of his pockets as though he touched something in the space between them. When he turned away to the side he let his head slump towards one shoulder then whispered.

“And no matter what you say, I know I am right!”

Sarah sighs. She tries again to speak what she came to tell him.

“I’m not…” she stammers.

He turned round and looked at her.

Sarah took in a deep breath and shrugged. Shaking her head from side to side she began again.

“Ok. OK. I’ll bite. Why…Just tell me why you think it is better to be a chair.”

“Not until you tell me who told you I’ll never change?”


The Chairs

Photo Credit: Yao Xiang Shakya (2016)

Fighting a losing battle with dignity

Yao Xin of Knoxville
Yao Xin of Knoxville


Suppose you’re on a soccer team. (Forgive me, I’m an American; forgive the barbarism “soccer.”)

Your team is awful. And you’re playing against the best team in the country.

You’re going to lose. You know it. Your teammates know it. The opposing team knows it.

The opposing team scores again and again. They score so often and so easily there’s no elation in it. They’re bored. A couple of the players even stop to smoke a cigarette midfield. It makes no difference: except that the remaining players are now momentarily entertained to see if they can still dominate with the handicap. They can; they continue to score.

But there’s something different about your team. It has pride. It has said “f— you” inwardly to the other team (though not outwardly, as its members are gentlemanly); it’s said “f— you” to the universe itself; its pride is its “Ground of Being”; it knows no metaphysics other than its own integrity. What does this mean?

This means your team keeps playing. It keeps trying. It sweats, but it never becomes shamefaced; it never stops running. It never throws in the towel. It never asks for mercy; it never asks to be the exception.

At the end of the game, after being shut out, it asks for a rematch with a straight face. In so asking it gains the respect of the other team. The other team senses no bitterness in your team: your team was glad to have had the opportunity of playing for the sake of playing; was glad to feel its muscles tensing and releasing; was glad to inhale the scent of the grass; was glad to have gotten out, on a Saturday, and been in the sun. Your team fought a losing battle and it knew it; yet it fought.

Life is like this. In the end we die and everything is smashed to pieces. We know this. And yet we bravely behave as though it weren’t true. I say “bravely” non-ironically. There are times when it’s wise to laugh at our foibles, wise to laugh at the foibles of others. But there are also times when it’s wise to marvel at human integrity, human courage: especially those in defense of lost causes—and our mortality is certainly a lost cause.

It’s as if we were boxers, assured of our ultimately losing the fight; and yet, we come out swinging: every punch we throw has our full weight behind it. We are determined that if we’re to lose, we’re going to demolish the face of our opponent as much as we can, while we can: and we’ll be damned if he isn’t bruised and bloodied.

So we make our mark on the world, or attempt to. We carve out a place, we leave children behind; we publish books; we say, “I was here.” And we mean it. Even if there’s no echo, we scream our presence. The sound waves travel where they may: lost in the atmosphere, dispersed. But we were here; we sounded ourselves.

And isn’t that glorious?

O vegetarianismo e o budismo

Jiaoyuan Fa Shakya
Jiaoyuan Fa Shakya

Para muitas pessoas, quando nos convertemos ao budismo, devemos nos tornar vegetarianos. Isso não é verdade. Para ser budista não há necessidade de ser um vegetariano. Então, por que muitas pessoas acreditam neste fato? Há uma razão histórica para tal crença. Sakyamuni (Buda histórico) era um príncipe que se tornou ascético e sua vida ascética teve uma forte influência dos jainistas, que levam ao extremo o princípio da não-agressão, conhecido como Ahimsa. Por exemplo, alguns jainistas usam uma máscara ou pano sobre o nariz e a boca para evitar perturbar os insetos com sua respiração

Embora Shakyamuni tenha sido fortemente influenciado pelo jainismo, há muitas interpretações sobre o consumo de carne pelos budistas. No Zen Budismo às vezes é recomendado que o vegetarianismo seja praticado como um ato simbólico de compaixão. Mas não uma obrigação, exceto nos mosteiros onde os monges fazem um voto de não consumir carne. Para os praticantes ou sacerdotes que vivem fora de mosteiros, o vegetarianismo não é necessário.

Muitas pessoas estão a tornar-se vegetariano (ou, ainda mais, veganos) por acreditar que desta forma serão pessoas melhores. É uma boa atitude a pensar nos animais com a mesma compaixão que se pensam nas pessoas. Mas em algumas situações, muitas pessoas caem na armadilha do ego e se entitulam “seres humanos mais evoluídos” (Aliás, sabia que Adolf Hitler era vegetariano?). E como é possível deduzir, os vegetarianos não são pessoas melhores do que os não vegetarianos.

Não quero dizer que não devemos nos preocupar com o bem dos seres vivos, como eu disse anteriormente, a compaixão é um princípio ético do Zen Budismo. É comum para os budistas, no final de suas práticas meditativas dedicar os méritos da prática para o benefício de todos os seres. Mas precisamos entender uma verdade: Não há vida sem morte. É possível consumir carne de forma consciente e respeitando todos os seres. Por exemplo, devemos entender que a carne veio de um animal particular (que certamente não queria morte) e que não devemos desperdiçar.

Desperdiçar não é simplesmente jogar fora sobras de carne. Comer mais do que o necessário (por exemplo, para satisfazer o apetite desordenado e não para alimentação) é uma forma de desperdício. Definir a necessidade fisiológica para o consumo de carne é um trabalho para um profissional capacitadi (jovens e adultos têm necessidades diferentes de acordo com seu biotipo, ocupações, etc.), mas, em média, um adulto pode comer 300 gramas de carne vermelha por semana . Assim, se a população mundial de consumir apenas as suas necessidades nutricionais, muitos animais estariam a salvo da morte.

Uma prática viável é abster-se de comer carne uma vez por semana. No primeiro dia, seria possível observar as opções de alimentação vegetariana e ingerir uma dieta diferente do resto da semana. A prática do vegetarianismo é muito nobre, mas não é acessível a todos. Em algumas situações, a rejeição de um determinado alimento pode causar um sério desequilíbrio para nós e para os outros. Há casos de mulheres veganas que durante a gravidez sentem a necessidade de comer carne, e assim elas fazem. Eu acho que é a coisa certa. Muito mais importante do que uma escolha pessoal é a responsabilidade que têm para com a nova vida que está por vir. Vegetarianos que são julgados pessoas melhores do que os não-vegetarianos, honestamente, não são de todo respeitosa da vida, e o inverso também é verdadeiro.

Que os méritos da nossa prática beneficiem a todos os seres!