Sacrifice

Innumerable Sacrifices

A Daily Practice of Devotion

 

Let’s start with a chant, Innumerable Sacrifices.

Innumerable sacrifices brought us this food;

We consider how it comes to us.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hard to see, isn’t it?

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

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

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

Preparing and cooking a meal is a good example of sacrifice

as a practice of daily devotion.

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

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

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

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

 

Happy Thanksgiving, 2020

 

Humming Bird

Author: Fashi Lao Yue

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

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

 

 

 

Remembrance of Karma Yoga

Hell is empty…

and all the devils are here.

The Tempest, Shakespeare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What? You say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you in charge of birth and death?

Just ponder that question for awhile.

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

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

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

It depends.

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

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

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

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

Where is your treasure?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life is full of storms.

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

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

You say, “We must take precautions.”

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

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

OM NAMO – DEV NAMO

Humming Bird

Author: Fashi Lao Yue

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Third Position: Neither Here, Nor There

The Third Position: Neither Here, Nor There

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

In the past IT abides.

In the future IT abides.

But don’t ask, “What do you mean?”

You seek an answer with a hammer.

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

Stay still and turn.

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

Feel the striving gut that wants something more.

Wait.

Don’t hurry away.

It is the Way.

Endless turning until

The floor of the mind collapses.

Stop the hunt for the other.

Stop the chase.

You stalk a reply.

Respond without worry.

When you smell smoke, yell, “Fire!”

When you see the table holds the cup,

See the cup hold the tea!

Look through.

See, neither here, nor there,

Neither this, nor that.

It is all around you.

When you stand or sit, it is there.

It is buoyant cheers of scorpions and pigeons,

That you kill and stuff with your conclusions.

You cry, “How do I help?”

No hands, no harm.

You cry, “Have I gone too far?”

Neither far, nor near.

You cry, “What is the point?”

The sun, the moon and the stars.

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

You are home.

Then, once and now

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

Your plans show the hidden tenants.

“Me. My. Mine.”

Safety boxes and storage houses overflow with false ideas.

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

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

You sit near the edge of the flowing river.

When wishes for and against subside

And the nose smells without form

The bees suckle the flowers and gestures of life wave

To awaken the unfulfilled.

Humming Bird

Author: Fashi Lao Yue

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

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

 

 

 

 

 

Someone Asked. And the Answer is: Right Understanding

 

Right Understanding.

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

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

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

_____

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

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

Instead, he complained.

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

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

My response was simple but ineffective and dismissed.

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

You see, this fellow lacked humility and reverence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humming Bird

Author: Fashi Lao Yue

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

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

 

 

Old Age is a Boon

Remembrance of Aging


The Four Boons of Aging.

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

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

_____

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THAT is wisdom.

Aging gives us an opportunity to discover wisdom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aging gives us witness to the arc of time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aging gives us an opportunity to surrender.

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

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

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

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

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

Surrender.

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

Humming Bird

Author: FaShi Lao Yue

Image Credit: A. Holmberg

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

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

Welcome Our New Member

A Single Thread, The Zen Contemplative Order of Hsu Yun Welcomes Old Heart Mountain, 老心山, Lǎo xīn shān shakya aka Arakawa Mitsugi to our Order.

Old Mountain, as he likes to be called, is previously a Monk (Sohei) of the Chinese Chen Yen Mikkyo Order of Monastics. He has been part of a “Warrior Monk” practice since 1995.

He has participated in the Science of Martial Arts for 37 years. He studied several Ryu ( Art of Martial Science) under the direction of Arakawa Nobumasa, his sensei until his passing in 2017.

Old Mountain has found many parallels of Spiritual embodiment that opens the door to Yoga Sadhana (samadhi) through Meditation & Physical practices. He exclaims that Martial Arts is Yoga  and Yoga is Martial Arts.”

It is my honor to welcome Old Mountain to our sangha.

Fashi Lao Yue

 

 

The Arthur Sermon

Escape from Hell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This behavior is a pattern.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humming Bird

Author: FaShi Lao Yue

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 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

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Dogen’s 8th Awareness:  Not Engaging in Vain Talk

 

Flee the chit chat with others,

except as an act of charity.

Love people very much.

Talk with few.

Talk with moderation.

Put nothing or no one between

you and the Source.

Do not let the love for the creature

get in the way of love for the Source.

 

Love, in a Disciplined Way.

Compilation of Zen Buddhism and Katherine of Siena, 14th C.

_____

This advice is at the heart of love, discipline and fleeing vain talk. If only we could remember, that vain talk aggravates the mind and leads to suffering. AND that…fleeing the chit chat of vanity is an act of charity. Chit chat gets in the Way of love for and from the Source.

What would it be like to speak from the Source, from the immutable, Supreme eternal?

When I contemplate this Awareness, I imagine Dogen’s 13th century world.  I imagine it to be very quiet.  No planes overhead, no background traffic sounds, no pushing a button to get a movie or TV show, no phones to call someone anytime day or night to talk to.  It sounds wonderful, the silence which quiets the mind.

During this pandemic, however, many of us are struggling with staying put; not jumping into our cars to go somewhere.  In Dogen’s time most people lived their whole lives not leaving the place where they were born or if they went somewhere, they walked.  So, in this ‘silent’ world, what was the vain talk Dogen wanted people not to engage in?

I don’t think he was saying ‘don’t talk.’  I think he was saying don’t engage in gossip, demeaning or condemning talk. Don’t get caught up in opinions or judgments.  This kind of talk must have been as present in the 13th century as it is now.  This talk is all about ‘me-my-mine.’  This kind of talk engages us in picking and choosing…right or wrong…good or bad, making judgments, reaching conclusions.  We take a stand and make our mind small and stingy. We speculate about the future and yearn for past that lives only in our minds.

What I think Dogen is encouraging us to do, is to talk from awareness.  Pay attention to the words that come out of our mouths.  To paraphrase a line from the movie Bambi:

‘…if you can’t say something

inspiring, comforting, encouraging,

sobering, enriching, unselfish,

informing, clarifying, questioning,

wise or nice,

don’t say anything at all.’

This is where we start, better to step away from ‘me-my-mine’ talk, than be a blow hard of opinions. We stop the worrying about whether it is the right thing to say…the worrying about what someone else thinks about what we say.

It releases us from wanting to look smarter…wanting to impress…wanting to have the last word.  We are free to concentrate and focus on what is right in front of us…not looking backward to defend or to the future to protect.

In this last Awareness, Dogen is doing what he did in his seven other teachings. He is encouraging, exhorting us to be aware. Right here, right now.  He wants us to have few desires, be content, enjoy quiet, be diligent, remember, meditate and concentrate, be wise and watch how we talk.  Unless or until we do this, we are stuck in the material world.

Without continually practicing these Awarenesses there is no ‘jumping clear.’  Without practicing these Awarenesses we cannot begin to study the self in order to forget the self to be awakened by myriad things.

Dogen shows us eight ways to know deeply that whatever comes into our lives comes to awaken us. It is a simple teaching. Flee the chit chat, the vain talk with others, showing off what we know or how to do something, blowing our own horn, or lording it over someone else with the latest news or the most entertaining gossip.

It is love to stop our babbling. We stop the babble and love in a disciplined Way not in the way of the material realm of fascinating subjects or juicy gossip, or the latest bad news.  We keep our nose out of others business. We offer succor when asked. We offer our words from the higher source of knowledge and not from our puny ideas and beliefs.

It’s a practice. A disciplined practice which is difficult to do, but not impossible. Discipline, our restraint of our mouth, is needed to do this practice. My encouragement is for each of us to consider it and begin to use our self-control. To watch how we often jabber needlessly and feel sickened afterwards. This is love – and to love in a disciplined Way.

Humming Bird

Author: Lao di Zhi Shakya

Old Earth

Zen Contemplative Priest of the Order of Hsu Yun

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 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

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Being Resolute

Personal Note

When I first came in contact with Ming Zhen Shakya, our late founder and my teacher, I had read this particular essay written by Ming Zhen. I read it several times and after each reading I said the same thing to myself, “this woman knows something I don’t know.”

It is, in my humble opinion, a brilliant essay on karma…on taking action…decisive action. It is about being resolved and about follow through on being resolved. It is also a prelude to several other essays that will follow this one.

I also want to add that Ming Zhen and I did not always readily agree but we were both willing to stay in the room with whatever was arising until one or the other or both of us saw the Dharma that was at that time our field of interest.

I recommend reading this essay even if you have read it before. It offers us all the wisdom of resolution and the missteps of irresolution. And as already mentioned it is the first essay of more essays on karma. 

I used this image below as a recognition of the high bird from which Ming Zhen lived and still holds influence for those of us who are her heirs in Dharma. Thank you, Ming Zhen, our old Sun.

Om Namo Guru Dev Namo

Fly

 

THE BOOK OF THE SAMURAI
Part 9: Being Resolute
by Ming Zhen Shakya

(Taken from commentary on the Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai translated by William Scott Wilson)

Perhaps the most deceptively simple verse from the Hagakure is 1:41, quoted fully near the conclusion of the film, Ghost Dog:

“There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.”

Ideally, in Samurai or Zen culture, whenever a man has the authority to act and is required to make a decision – not a guess, but a decision – he considers both the positive and the negative consequences of his choice, and, weighing them, decides accordingly. He does his best to secure a good result, but he is not affected by the outcome or by the responses of others. In any case, he stands behind his decision. This is being resolved from the beginning.

Often, even in the simplest affairs of men, a person will take a course which he has not fully considered. Influenced, perhaps, by those who are conflicted by their own self-interests, he makes a choice, sanguine in the expectation of success. When a good result follows, those who influenced him will claim their share of the credit; but when a bad result follows, all the blame will be his, and the others will abandon him. He is confounded in either case. This is the perplexing aspect of irresolution.

How, then, does a man become “resolved from the beginning so as not to be perplexed.”? For the man who has already achieved the egoless state, indomitable resolve is a simple matter. But achieving that necessary selfless state is not so simple. Zen and the martial arts traditionally have been connected because a student in either discipline requires a master’s spiritual and psychological insights to guide him through the difficulties.

When a student begins training, regardless of his age, his new Code of Conduct requires that he develop a self-reliant character – with the specific goal of attaining the egoless state. He learns how to accept responsibility for his decisions and for his reactions to unexpected calamities. When the rain comes, he walks boldly through it, not seeking to mitigate its effects by running through the drops or hiding under eaves. He learns to recognize the true nature of praise and blame and to understand that both are meaningless. Whenever he allows them to have value, in either case, he will get soaked.

The student is taught to be constantly aware of his actions. He may not shift the burden of his errors onto others; but this discipline requires that he understand that it is his own nature that he must struggle against. It is not enough to stand up and admit to error; for what the outer man admits, the inner man may deny. It is in his own inner nature that a man unconsciously shifts the blame for his actions onto others. In his own unconscious mind, using psychological defensive tactics, he shapes that blame into a missile and then projects it into his environment onto some unlucky target. If left unchecked, such tactics will curtail his progress.

Although the Hagakure relates numerous anecdotes in which a leader’s egoless resolve is illustrated, the definitive text on the subject is a film made fifty years ago, Abandon Ship. No film, before or since, has come close to documenting the exigencies of ego-less resolve in leadership. We’ll take a moment to discuss the film because, though long out of circulation, it is still an important work.

Ten years after he gave his transcendent, 1946 portrayal of Larry Darrell in Somerset Maugham’s, The Razor’s Edge, Tyrone Power decided to make, at his own expense, Abandon Ship, a film about a disaster at sea. (The film was cheaply made, proving that throwing money at a project has no relationship whatsoever to the quality of its art. It was shot in black and white and, despite being about a disaster at sea, was filmed entirely in a studio in England.)

In The Razor’s Edge, Power had portrayed a man who sought spiritual liberation, the vaunted egoless state, and found it, finally, in India. Acclaimed for this role, he was disappointed to be cast subsequently in a series of swashbuckling films, popular at the time with movie audiences. Believing that a man of character, under any circumstances, could find within himself this selfless dedication to purpose, Power grasped the opportunity to portray a young lieutenant upon whom command had been suddenly thrust.

Abandon Ship’s reality-based plot details the events of the post WWII sinking of a cruise ship, The Crescent Star, which had carried 1076 passengers.

As the film opens, we see the ominous presence of a derelict mine floating in the Atlantic. It strikes the ship and detonates. There is a chaotic churning of the water, the screams of victims, and then the quiet bobbing of flotsam, a few gasping survivors, and a circling shark. The Crescent Star has required only seven minutes to sink.

Only one small boat, the Captain’s personal ship-to-shore row boat, meant to accommodate no more than nine people, remains to pick up survivors. Twenty-seven people and a large dog have crowded into it or are hanging onto a rope that circles the boat. The excessive weight makes the boat sit impossibly low in the water, and the sea laps over its gunwales.

The Captain, mortally wounded, gives command to young Lieutenant Holmes (played by Tyrone Power) with the order to save as many people as possible. Holmes accepts the command. When a nurse, with whom Holmes has a romantic relationship, confirms the Captain’s death; they lower his body over the side.

Holmes has never before commanded any kind of vessel. Instinctively he tries to reassure the passengers as he assesses the situation. The ship’s radioman is traumatized, and in his confusion gives the impression that he had sent an SOS signal to a ship some two hundred miles away. According to this information, rescue should take no more than seventy-two hours. Aside from floatation collars and life preservers, the little boat contains a pound of biscuits, some sugar and cream, a gallon of water; a flare gun and a small first-aid kit. Holmes orders the supplies to be rationed. He also orders the able-bodied men to take shifts in the water, hanging onto the rope which circles the boat.

Six of the passengers are critically injured. A woman whose upper arm had been badly cut during the explosion, has had a tourniquet placed on it; but no one has thought to loosen it. After remaining tied for three hours, her arm is swollen and in the incipient stages of gangrene. As the nurse tends to her, the radioman regains his composure and reveals that no signal whatsoever had been given. They are fifteen hundred miles and weeks away from the nearest land.

Another critically wounded officer tells Holmes that they are so over-weighted they cannot possibly make landfall. To reach land, they must row, and the boat is too low in the water. He advises Holmes to”evict” some of the passengers who are either feeble or critically injured and unlikely to survive. Holmes rejects the advice. The officer tells him that it is better to save half their lives than it is to lose them all. He stands and tells the others that the weakest of them must be cast adrift for the salvation of the others, and then he leaps overboard. His advice has obviously had no self-serving motive.

When the woman whose arm is now gangrenous wants more water, Holmes refuses, realizing that it is pointless to waste water on someone who is going to die anyway. His refusal is called “outrageous” and”heartless” by the passengers who mostly fail to appreciate the desperate position they are in. They persist in their demand that he”do something!” But having more than two dozen people and a seventy pound dog in a row boat does not give a man many options.

Their situation is made clearer by the presence of the dog. One man who has been in the water begs to be taken aboard in place of the dog. Holmes says no. The passengers object to his refusal; but Holmes is adamant: the man must stay in the water until his shift is over, and the dog will remain on board. One passenger, an officious retired general, demands that he explain such an inhumane decision, and Holmes replies simply, “We’re likely to be at sea for a long time. We can eat the dog.”

An approaching gale forces Holmes to reconsider the “eviction” action. Laden as it is, the little boat cannot withstand the fury of an Atlantic storm. The waves splash into the boat, and it is no longer possible to allow the men in the sea to hang onto the rope since they are dragging the boat even lower.

Aside from the woman with gangrene, a few passengers are sick from having swallowed petroleum or inhaled searing smoke. A few have broken bones. One, the dog’s owner, is too seasick to take his turn in the sea or even to bail. Against everyone’s objections, Holmes orders that they be given the floatation collars and “in God’s hands” to be cast adrift. The passengers call Holmes a cold blooded murderer and try to impose their “civilized” philosophy on him. They remind him that it is the responsibility of the strong to care for the weak. He counters that the extremity of their situation favors the strong who can row, since rowing and keeping the bow pointed into the waves is their only chance to keep from capsizing. No one supports him in this action. Only at gunpoint does the crew obey his order; but in the mutinous confusion, the dog jumps into the water and several able-bodied men fall overboard and are lost.

The gale is quickly worsening and Holmes orders the remaining passengers to row or bail; but one passenger who is armed with a knife, continues to object and irrationally insists that they go back and retrieve all the people in the water, clearly an impossibility. Frantic, he stabs Holmes in the chest. Holmes shoots him and he falls overboard. The boat’s occupancy is now down to fourteen.

Throughout the harrowing night of fierce wind, lightning, and huge waves that break over the boat, Holmes, despite his wound, continues to man the tiller and to direct the actions of the terrified passengers.

In the morning, with the sea calm again, the exhausted passengers are jubilant to see that they’ve all survived. Unanimously they credit Holmes with saving their lives, congratulating him profusely for having the courage and foresight to make his grim but necessary decision.

Of all people, it is the nurse – the woman he loves – who begins to second-guess him. Perhaps they would have made it with the others still aboard, who is to say? Perhaps the storm would have edged past them. Something else could have happened. Holmes says, “But the storm did happen. I did what was right.” She responds, “I don’t know what was right or wrong.” He sees even more clearly how alone a leader is. He also understands that his wound has so weakened him that he has become a liability, and he calmly accepts the same fate that he decreed for the others. He transfers his command to the radio operator and then drops himself overboard. A few passengers jump in after him and pull him back aboard. In another moment an ocean liner is seen on the horizon.

Now that rescue is imminent, the passengers begin to fear that their effusive praise has made them complicit; and one by one they recant their commendations, claiming that from the outset hey had vehemently opposed his action. As to whether or not he was right in doing what he did, that, they hasten to remind him, is for the courts to decide. Holmes has been as abandoned as his ship. When asked if he requires assistance to board the liner, he says, as stoically as a samurai warrior, “I can make it alone.”

A voice-over commentator discloses that once they were safely back in England, Holmes was tried for murder. (He was found guilty but in consideration of the circumstances, given only a six months’ sentence.)

The question of his guilt or innocence, while interesting, is not at issue here. It is his previously untested indomitable and selfless resolve that concerns us. Whether by talent or training, Holmes avoided the psychological traps that often ensnare those who strive to become enlightened.

The first trap that the Zen master or Samurai mentor eliminates is one that other teachers frequently encourage: displacement of aggression. In an unconscious shift, a person who is frustrated by his inability to strike back at an antagonist will release his anger by hitting or kicking a helpless individual, a wall, or punching bag. Instead of using a surrogate victim, the samurai student is taught to acknowledge his own inabilities; to consider the situation from all aspects – including his antagonist’s; to seek to resolve the conflict honorably; and to increase his martial arts’ training in order to meet the next challenge.

The second one is projection. In this trap, the student is guilty of some objectionable behavior… lying, perhaps. Instead of trying to understand why it was that he felt obliged to lie and to set the matter right, he internally and unconsciously shifts his guilt onto his Enemy Shadow archetype (Seventh World of Chan Buddhism – psychology section ). Once there, it is quickly projected onto someone else who is a likely target for the attack. The student, unaware of the dynamics of this shift, feels genuine contempt for the innocent scapegoat. “If there is one thing I can’t stand, it’s a liar.” The teacher, recognizing that all emotional displays indicate one form or another of projection, meets privately with the student and counsels him accordingly.

Rarely does a person comprehend that his contempt manifests unconsciously. In our Zen prison sangha, as we discussed these traps, one of the men suddenly realized why he despised a poor old man who couldn’t work and who was reduced to picking up discarded cigarette butts and smoking them. He called the man “a cockroach.” (It is the Shadow’s function to make a perceived enemy sub-human so that he may be destroyed with impunity. Usually we refer to our enemy as a creature that steals our food or fouls our den… “a rat, a snake, a skunk, a bitch, a roach,” etc. We never refer to him as a panda or a giraffe.) The man in our Zen sangha had been trying unsuccessfully for years to kick the truly dirty habit of chewing tobacco. He immediately understood why he hated the old man and had constantly referred to him in such disparaging terms. He felt so bad about shifting his own guilt onto him that he bought the old man a few packs of cigarettes.

The third mechanism the ego uses to defend itself is one of the most difficult to deal with: Reaction Formation. The mechanics of this trap are well concealed. Freud studied anti-vivisectionists (persons opposed to using animals for medical experimentation or surgical practice) and found that they were uncommonly cruel individuals. This peculiar shift is seen often in anti-abortion demonstrations in which some protesters are so motivated to end abortion in the name of the sacredness of human life that they approve of murdering the doctor and other medical personnel. When a Zen or martial art’s master encounters this kind of exaggerated “conviction” in a student, he generally has long, private talks with him – not the usual “darshan” (interview with the master called dokusan in Japanese) but gentle reflections in which he offers the points of view of the despised persons. The master’s aim is to get the student to see that he, too, shares some of the traits he so vehemently despises. He does not tell him “to use” his anger on the mat.

The fourth trap is regression. In this shift a person who is going through a difficult period in his life reverts to an age in which he was free of such problems. For example, a man who is entering middle-age and cannot face his increasing signs of physical deterioration, may suddenly turn to the martial arts as if he were a young man again. Usually, he harms himself trying to perform the various physical exercises in the dojo. The master recognizes his true motivation and, while welcoming him into the group, assigns him less strenuous exercises until he can gain the required ability. He talks to the man, accentuating the wisdom of maturity and gets him to look at his problems more objectively. He does not encourage him to believe that youth is a quality that can be had by associating with the young.

The fifth trap is repression. In this tactic, the person simply buries a grievous insult or injury so deep in his mind that he forgets it completely. He honestly cannot remember the incident. He may, however, in response to the repression, exhibit great disdain for something he associates with the subject. If, for example, a person had nearly drowned as a child at the beach, he may grow up completely forgetting the incident but being a radical proponent of saving the wetlands and prohibiting ocean-front development. Whenever a student demonstrates strong emotion, the Zen master suspects that he has fallen into a trap. With gentle private talks he can gauge the depth of the pit and try to help the student to extricate himself by remembering that long forgotten injury.

The sixth ego trap is rationalization. In this, the student simply invents a justifying cause for his contemptible behavior. He is open about his actions and may ever exaggerate them, but he excuses them automatically by casting blame upon others. For example, after hitting a child with his car, he may say, “If the kid had been properly supervised, he wouldn’t have been playing in the street ” or, “If John hadn’t called me on my cellphone, I wouldn’t have taken my eyes off the road.” If he has been particularly brutal in a fight, he may claim that he taught his victim a lesson for having insulted his Master or his school, a claim that he invented but nevertheless believes.

The seventh trap is somatization: Guilt and fear easily transform into physical symptoms. The ego finds it easier to deal with a sick body that can quickly gain sympathetic attention than it does to deal with guilt that it prefers to hide. The martial arts’ master soon learns which students frequently attempt to excuse poor performance by claiming illness. If the student is young and believed by his parents, the master is not likely to succeed in counseling him.

The stoicism of the resolute samurai was also well depicted by Forest Whitaker in Ghost Dog. Vowed to protect his master, he would not even defend himself when his master decided to kill him.

A leader must be as one-pointed in his determination to fulfill the duties of his commitments as he is prepared to accept their consequences. In order to do this, he must remain free of emotional projections. It was the belief that his only real enemy was the one he harbored within himself that enabled a samurai to commit Seppuku with such indifferent coldness.

See: Those Who Serve

NOTE: Some of this explanation is dated and perhaps a bit too reductionist. It, however, serves us as a recognition that when we are over-emotional, over-heated, over-wrought we, in a general sense, are working out our inner conflicts and wounds. A teacher is an essential and priceless gem especially before the student reaches the ego-less state.

The key point is to know that the work of Dharma is always with oneself as discussed in the piece Those Who Serve.

AND…the Five Remembrances must be clear, alive recollections that are part of one’s understanding; this essay being about karma.

Om namo guru dev namo

Humming Bird

Those Who Serve & Risk Life & Limb for Others Are Heroes

So much talk in the US about soldiers these days…bashing them, calling them “names” – misunderstanding what and why someone volunteers to serve as a warrior. To willingly put themselves in harms way for the sake of freedom for others.

Here is a short reminder of what the mightiest warrior is…it includes all that serve.

The Mightiest of Warriors

But the mightiest warriors enemies are not common foes of flesh and bone.

Then what is the enemy?

The fight is with the inner delusions, the afflictions of self-cherishing and ego-grasping…those most terrible of demons that catch living beings in the snare of confusion and cause them forever to wander in pain and sorrow.

What is the mission of the mightiest warrior?

The mission is to harm ignorance and delusion…never living beings. Look upon living beings with kindness, patience and empathy…cherishing them like a mother cherishes her only child.

This is the karma of sacrifice.

The mightiest warrior is the real hero….calmly facing any hardship in order to bring peace, happiness and liberation to the world.

Humming Bird

Author: FaShi Lao Yue

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

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

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

 

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

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

The body and mind are of the nature to die.

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

My actions are my closest companions.

I am the beneficiary of my actions.

_____

 

My dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is understandable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humming Bird

Author: FaShi Lao Yue

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

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

 

 

Art Pieces 1: On Death. A Painting, A Poem & A Scrap from A Letter

Death and the Maiden

By Egon Schiele


Egon Schiele died in 1918 of the Spanish flu at the age of 28.

__________

Hiding 

By Sophia Meyers-Green

A poem written some 20 years after the death of a beloved husband.

I am hiding behind a chair.

No elaborate music,

Is playing.

There is that great stone over my heart not allowing me to feel

what is on the other side of the door.

I know it is love and I am hiding.

I loved and lost.

I am alive.

This is my birthday.

You smiled at me today.

Although I felt the warmth of that smile,

I turned away . . .  afraid you would touch me.

Tears would come to my eyes . . .

I would remember.

Then, I did hear the beginning of music,

sounds, soft, almost murmurs, like breathing,

like the running of water over blue stones.

Dare I dip my foot

ever so quickly just for one moment.

__________

Death Can Cause People to Stop Living (50-53)

By Henri Nouwen 

Written Six Months after the Death of his mother.

We have both seen how some of our friends could not accept unforeseen changes in their lives and were unable to deal with an unknown future. When things went differently than they had expected or took a drastic turn, they did not know how to adjust to the new situation. Sometimes they became bitter and sour. Often they clung to familiar patterns of living that were no longer adequate and kept repeating what once made sense but no longer could speak to the real circumstances of the moment.

Death has often affected people in this way, as we know too well. The death of husband, wife, child, or friend can cause people to stop living toward the unknown future and make them withdraw into the familiar past. They keep holding on to a few precious memories and customs and see their lives as having come to a standstill. They start to live as if they were thinking, “For me it is all over. There is nothing more to expect from life.”

As you can see, here the opposite of detachment is taking place; here is a re-attachment that makes life stale and takes all vitality out of existence.

__________

More on Death to follow.

Humming Bird

Death and the Maiden (Tod und Mädchen)  Painting by Egon Schiele

Death Can Cause People to Stop Living A Letter of Consolation by Henri Nouwen

Author: FaShi Lao Yue

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

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