· About Kannon Zendo: Press Release
· Elements of Meditation
· Mindfulness Meditation Instruction
· Ken Wilber, “What is Meditation?”
· What is “Spirituality?”
· Meditation Checklist
· Meditation Retreats at Kannon Zendo
· Recommended Readings
· The Four Noble Truths
· The Buddhist Precepts
· The Ten Buddhist Paramitas
· The Noble Eight-Fold Path
MEDITATION SPACE OPENS IN LOS ALAMOS
The Kannon Zendo in Los Alamos is now open to the public at selected times for Zen meditation. Weekly sittings are held on most Wednesday evenings starting at 6:45. There are two thirty-minute meditation periods with ten minutes of walking meditation in between. Tea is served afterwards. Meditation instruction for beginners is available on request by calling Henry Chigen Finney at 505-661-6874.
Protocols observed at Kannon Zendo are a gentler version of those observed at the Zen Center of Los Angeles. If willing to follow these, mediators in any tradition (or no tradition) are welcome. The Kannon Zendo is located at 35 Barranca Road in Los Alamos. Directions to the zendo may be found on its’ web site at www.kannonzendo.org .
Kannon Zendo also offers occasional day-long meditation retreats on Saturdays in Los Alamos. Please consult the web site (above) for up-coming retreats, classes and workshops. Beginners wishing to join a day-long meditation retreat should contact Chigen.
Mr. Finney holds a Ph.D. in sociology from UC Berkeley and an MFA in painting from Pratt Institute in New York. He taught at the University of Vermont for twenty before moving to Los Alamos in 1995. He began his Zen studies in 1984 with Roshi John Daido Loori, Abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery in New York State. He was ordained a Zen “senior” in 2000, and he currently studies with Roshi Gerry Shishin Wick at the Great Mountain Zen Center in Lafayette, Colorado (www.gmzc.org).
ELEMENTS OF MEDITATION
People turn to meditation for a variety of reasons; at Kannon Zendo, as at other centers, two stand out. The first is to better cope with stress and strain. We know medically that meditation can be very effective in reducing stress, and therefore in significantly improving immune response and the various harmful and uncomfortable physical symptoms of stress. Meditation is relaxing and healthy. Calmness, improved concentration, heightened perception and the gradual dissolving of destructive emotions are also among its pleasant benefits. These benefits together constitute an entirely legitimate goal in meditation and are probably the most common reason for starting.
However, as the enclosed passage from Ken Wilbur emphasizes, there is a second, much more ancient “goal” of meditation, one that is spiritually transformative. Among those engaging meditation for this reason, the intention is to transcend the suffering of ego by looking deeply inwards in order to see the true nature of our being. Wisdom, compassion and service to others are common outcomes of such insight.
Whichever reason draws you to meditation, it may be helpful to note a few misconceptions and likely developments. For one thing, meditation is not about stopping or getting rid of thoughts. What one learns in meditation is how not to be entrapped by thoughts, how to acknowledge them but not be led around or possessed by them, like a bull with a nose ring.
Beginners should also understand clearly that meditation has its stages. These can be (over)simplified into two. The first is development of the power of concentration. For this, one focuses on an “object” of concentration with the promise that every time one is distracted, they will return their attention, without self-condemnation or commentary, to concentrating on the object. At Kannon Zendo that “object” is the breath.
The second stage of meditation, in the Vipassana tradition, is “insight meditation.” (Kannon Zendo welcomes both Zen and Vipassana approaches.) This process requires having developed strong enough concentration that one can “watch” all of one’s thoughts and sensations arise and pass away without being distracted by them. (In Vipassana, this practice is called “choiceless awareness,” while in Zen it is called “Shikantaza.”) This is an edifying process, not only because it is a route to deep insight, but also because before that becomes possible, all of one’s unresolved and painful “issues” and problems will arise into awareness along with everything else. This is one of the points at which many practitioners quit; meditation isn’t all bliss and relaxation; eventually it can lead to facing all the pains of one’s life. Meditation is not a New Age escape. The eventual reward, however, is gradual liberation from such suffering.
It is important to remember this fundamental Buddhist teaching -- that meditative awareness is a method for transcending or resolving suffering. Accordingly, with strong concentration, we learn simply to observe and let be all of this painful unfinished business. This way we can gradually free ourselves and learn who we really are.
Many beginners are astonished to discover how much chatter continually goes on in their minds. Many months of practice are often required to develop enough concentration to not be always distracted by these chattering monkeys (to use an ancient Indian metaphor). Discouragement at this discovery marks another point at which some leave their meditation practice.
Also, for meditation to be effective, it cannot be casual. It is important to sit every day for some period of time, starting modestly with however long a period one can handle. In addition, meditation practice needs to be long-term in order to be effective. Maintaining steady practice is very challenging, and for this reason most serious practitioners find it helpful, even essential, to frequently sit with a community of others. This usually strengthens one’s meditation, offers support, provides answers to inevitable questions, and helps avoid the high likelihood that one will quit the practice without group support. This is the reason for Kannon Zendo’s existence.
Eventually, serious meditators will discover the importance of
engaging longer meditation retreats. While such prolonged times of silence may
appear to newcomers as escapist, in truth, when engaged courageously, meditation
is a path for returning to and serving the world, liberated from those personal
and ego constraints that used to interfere. In any case, longer retreats are
essential for deeper breakthroughs. Many local opportunities are available for
MINDFULNESS MEDITATION INSTRUCTION
By Peter B. Williams
Mindfulness Practice Center
Center for Health & Wellbeing
University of Vermont
(Edited by Henry Chigen Finney)
Mindfulness meditation is very simple, but not necessarily easy. Mindfulness is simply knowing what is happening in the present moment. If you are drinking a glass of water, it is feeling the hardness of the glass as you pick it up and feeling the coolness of water in the back of your mouth. However, because we are so habitually caught up in thinking, we are rarely aware of what we are doing. Meditation is a practice that simplifies our activities in order to increase our chances of being aware. We start with training wheels by sitting still and being with the breath, but eventually we can expand our awareness to include all activities in our lives.
The instructions that follow are non-sectarian and can be practiced by anyone without regard to religious or spiritual beliefs. They are derived from insight meditation, which comes out of the Theravadin Buddhist tradition. I gratefully acknowledge the teachers at the Insight Meditation Society and Spirit Rock Meditation Center whose wisdom and clarity underlie these instructions.
Awareness of Breath
Correct posture is a strong support for meditation. The key is to find a posture that is erect yet relaxed, one in which you can stay relatively still during your meditation period. Sitting in a chair, kneeling on a bench, or sitting on a cushion are all fine. Make sure you are sitting so that the spine is in its natural position, with the lower back curved inward. The back is erect and the chin slightly lowered. You can either close your eyes or leave them open. If you prefer them open, lower your gaze, focusing on a fixed point on the floor we bring to every situation is our minds, changing mental habits is a very effective route to happiness.
As stated above, we can broaden our awareness to include all aspects of our lives. We start to do this in our formal meditation practice by bringing mindfulness to sensations in the body, to hearing, and even to emotions and to thinking. It is best to keep this process simple by starting with one object, such as body sensations. Notice sensations wherever they are prominent in the body. What are they like - buzzy, tingly, warm, cool, heavy, or light? Do they change? You may find it helpful to make occasional, light mental notes of the experience, like "tingling or tightness." If the mind images the body, or if you find yourself thinking about the sensation instead of feeling it, just notice this and come back to the sensation itself. If you are getting distracted, return to breathing until you feel your attention has stabilized. The breath acts as an anchor or home, a simple place we can return to when our minds are lost.
You can expand your awareness further by including sounds. Let the sounds come to you. You do not have to go out and find them. Hearing happens automatically just by staying undistracted. Notice how changeable the field of hearing is, with sounds arising and falling away all around you. Use the mental note "hearing" if it helps.
When your mind feels very quiet, you can start to be aware of emotions. Emotions are combinations of thoughts and body sensations. In working with them, it is best to ground your attention in the body and pay attention to the thoughts peripherally, much like gazing at the moon but peripherally seeing stars in the sky. Bring a curiosity to your emotional life. What does fear or joy feel like in the body? Where is it located? Is pleasant or unpleasant? What are your reactions to it? How long does it last? Are there repetitive thoughts associated with the emotion? No need to analyze the thoughts and figure out where they came from, just notice them. Mental notes like "fear or joy" can be very helpful in working with emotions. If you get Iost, return to the anchor of breathing until your attention is settled again. It can be an amazing discovery to realize that emotions come and go all by themselves if one does not get lost in the story line associated with them. The power of emotions over us begins to lessen with this realization.
When your mind is especially quiet, you can also be aware of thinking. This can be quite tricky, as thoughts are very seductive. Make sure your awareness is grounded in your breath, and then makes sporadic efforts to be aware of your thoughts without actually following or getting caught up in them. Keep returning to breathing to make sure you are not getting lost. Those mindful of thinking have consistently found that thoughts happen all by themselves. They just arise and dissipate on their own, one thought conditioning the next. This can be a profound insight and gives us tremendous freedom. If "I" am not my thoughts, then I do not have to be run by them. I can just watch them come and go, and choose which ones to act on. No longer am I defined by my job, my body type, my age, my personality. All these exist, and yet, they do not have to limit me, because awareness is larger than all of it.
Finally, when your concentration becomes strong, you can just let it all hang out and be aware of anything that happens in experience - the breath, body sensations, sounds, emotions, and thoughts. In this choiceless awareness, just let the attention go to where it is drawn, but without following or identifying with anything that comes into view. Stay with it as long as you are aware and not distracted, otherwise return to breathing until the attention is more stable.
Bringing Awareness into Our Lives
We can expand meditation even further by bring it into our daily lives. Meditation is often called practice. What are we practicing for? For living. fully. Ultimately, the point of mindfulness is to bring it into our lives, into our relations with others, our jobs, our playtime, our household chores. There are many ways to do this, and it takes lots of trial and error. You can be with the breath when you are sitting down, or the sensations of your feet on the ground when you are walking or standing. Some people find that their emotional life is the best mindfulness object, that they are often aware of their emotional state, and can ground themselves in the body sensations of their feelings.
Effort is also a consideration. For many, it is too much of a strain to try to be mindful all day. Maybe for you it is best at first to pick a few short periods during the day where you try to be present, or a simple activity you do every day, like eating a meal or going through a door. Noticing your breath while waiting at a stoplight is a favorite. Some people use the telephone ring as a mindfulness bell, and always let it ring at least twice before answering.
The most important point is to have fun with meditation in daily life. If it is a burden or a feeling like it is something you should do, your efforts probably will not last long.
What Is Meditation?
There are many ways to explain meditation, what it is, what it does, how it works. Meditation, it is said, is a way to evoke the relaxation response. Meditation, others say, is a way to train and strengthen awareness; a method for centering and focusing the self; a way to halt constant verbal thinking and relax the body-mind; a technique for calming the central nervous system; a way to relieve stress, bolster self-esteem, reduce anxiety, and alleviate depression.
All of those are true enough; meditation has been clinically demonstrated to do all of those things. But I would like to emphasize that meditation itself is, and always has been, a spiritual practice. Meditation, whether Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, or Islamic, was invented as a way for the soul to venture inward, there ultimately to find a supreme identity with Godhead. "The Kingdom of Heaven is within" - and meditation, from the very beginning, has been the royal road to that Kingdom. Whatever else it does, and it does many beneficial things, meditation is first and foremost a search for the God within.
I would say meditation is spiritual, but not religious. Spiritual has to do with actual experience, not mere beliefs; with God as the Ground of Being, not a cosmic Daddy figure; with awakening to one's true Self, not praying for one's little self; with the disciplining of awareness, not preachy and churchy moralisms about drinking and smoking and sexing; with Spirit found in everyone's Heart, not anything done in this or that church... Meditation is spiritual; prayer is religious. That is, petitionary prayer, in which I ask God to give me a new car, help with my promotion, etc., is religious; it simply wishes to bolster the little ego in its wants and desires. Meditation, on the other hand, seeks to go beyond the ego altogether; it asks nothing from God, real or imagined, but rather offers itself up as a sacrifice toward a greater awareness.
Meditation, then, is not so much a part of this or that particular religion, but rather part of the universal spiritual culture of all humankind -- an effort to bring awareness to bear on all aspects of life. It is, in other words, part of what has been called the perennial philosophy.
The Essential Ken Wilber
WHAT IS “SPIRITUALITY?”
What it is NOT: interest in spirits, ghosts, soul, new age, the merely aesthetic or formally organized religion.
Albert Einstein’s Definition:
“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Relevance to Meditation Practice:
Life practices like meditation can lead to such insight by enabling transcendent experience and perception beyond the confines of one’s conditioned ego or self. Such experience goes far beyond conventional rationality and logic to experiencing and expressing the wholeness of things, the “ground of being,” the ultimate and fundamental quality of mind, existence and universe. Much of the “spiritual life” concerns practices that break thru one’s familiar ego conditioning In order to experience this. It is by this means that people can liberate themselves from suffering – the central focus of Buddhism.
Buddhism, in particular, is a 2500 world religion that offers a practice to accomplish this. It is also a set of ethical and daily practices to guide & direct one’s life for one’s own welfare and that of others. Although the branches of Buddhism differ, both Zen and Vipassana are non-theistic; the figure on the alter represents an historical figure, as well as your basic nature, not a god. Finally (and very important), Buddhism is a practice, not merely a belief system. Without practice, the belief system alone isn’t Buddhism.
1) Sit on the forward third of your zafu (round cushion).
2) Arrange your legs – full or half lotus, Burmese, kneeling or chair. Choose a position you can sustain most comfortably for the entire period without moving. There are physical advantages to sitting cross-legged, but these postures have no spiritual advantage.
3) Center your spine by swaying in decreasing arcs.
4) Straighten and extend your spine and align your head (by pushing up toward the ceiling and then relaxing, chin in). The origin of thrust is at the small of the back; belly and buttocks both protrude slightly.
5) Head should not tilt forward or backward, nor lean to either side.
6) Ears should be directly above the shoulders.
7) Tip of nose should be directly above the navel.
8) Chin is tucked in slightly, but without leaning the head forward.
9) Eyes can be closed or opened slightly. A disadvantage of closing the eyes is getting sleepy. If the eyes are open slightly, the gaze should be approx. 45 degrees downward, unfocused, looking toward the floor 3 or 4 feet head.
10) Mouth, lips and teeth are gently closed. Place the tip of the tongue against the roof of the mouth, just behind the front teeth. Swallow any saliva and evacuate air pockets so there is a slight vacuum. This inhibits salivation.
11) Place hands in either of two positions:
A) Hands folded on lap or resting palms down on top of thighs.
B) The “cosmic’ mudra:
12) Make certain your whole body is arranged before each period begins.
13) Keep as still as possible during meditation. If the body moves, the mind moves.
14) To start, take a deep breath, exhale fully, then take another deep breath, exhaling fully. Let you breath settle into its natural rhythm. With proper physical posture, your breathing will flow naturally into your lower abdomen. Consciously let the belly soften.
15) Keep your attention on your breath. When your attention wanders, bring it back to the breath again and again and again – as many times as necessary, without self-criticism or commentary. Remain as still as possible, following your breath and returning to it whenever distracting thoughts arise.
16) Be fully, vitally present with yourself. Simply do your very best, but without any self-deprecating or self-enhancing evaluations. Likewise, when thoughts or distractions arise, simply let them go without evaluation and return to the breath.
17) At the end of the sitting period, gently swing your body from right to left in increasing arcs. Stretch out your legs and be sure they have feeling before standing.
Practice this everyday
for at least ten to fifteen minutes, increasing the time as concentration allows
and aspiration directs. You will discover for yourself the treasure house of
timeless meditation – of your very life itself.
AT KANNON ZENDO
Throughout its history, meditation retreats have been the heart of Buddhist Training. They are essential for self-insight. Therefore, periodically (traditionally, once a month), “students” gather for one to seven days of daylong continuous practice. In Zen, one-day retreats are called “zazenkais;” multi-day retreats are called “sesshins.”
"As soon as a person meets a true teacher, he should cast off all the myriad
conditions and, without wasting a second, vigorously study the Way."
The schedule during retreat is specifically designed to eliminate any and all distractions from the study of the “Self.” The emphasis is on sitting, but there is also walking meditation, practice in caretaking (work on the building and grounds), talks on Buddhist practice topics, and daily personal encounters between teacher and student, and at Zen retreats in particular, chanting during services. Except for the talks and meetings with the teacher, the rule of silence is observed, and any socializing, even normal eye contact, is discouraged. Students are urged to avoid any reading or writing during the retreat, and of course, radio, TV, videos, cell phones and CDs are set aside (& turned off). The time is to be used in the constant probing and exploration of one's own depths, and the rule of practice is to do whatever the schedule calls for in unison and silent harmony.
The Zen word Sesshin itself is revealing, for it literally means "to collect" or "to regulate the mind." This refers to the individual's experience of going deeper and deeper into his or her own inner silence, past the noisy chatter that normally fills the mind, and on to an arising sense of great spaciousness and quiet as concentration deepens and the sense of integration gets stronger.
Another meaning or implication of the word “sesshin” is "to join or link minds." This aspect of retreat is a reflection of the group practice, for even as the group is made up of individuals with seemingly minimal contact with each other, still, as the hours and days pass, there arises a pervasive sense of group identity and solidarity, within which personal idiosyncrasies and peculiarities are at once subordinated and expressed.
the present time, The Kannon Zendo offers occasional day-long retreats. Longer
retreats are available at many other nearby centers. Announcements of these are
placed on the information table when they become available.
SELECTED READINGS ON MEDITATION
Henry Chigen Finney
* Most highly recommended.
*Aitken, Robert, Taking the Path of Zen, North Point Press; Farrar, Straus & Geroux.
*Beck, Charlotte Joko, Everyday Zen, Harper & Row.
Dumoulin, Heinrich, A History of Zen Buddhism, Beacon Press.
*Kappleau, Philip, The Three Pillars of Zen, Anchor Books/Doubleday.
Katagiri, Dainin, Returning to Silence: Zen Practice in Daily Life, Shambhala.
Loori, John Daido (Ed.), The Art of Just Sitting: Essential Writings on the Zen Practice of Shikantaza,
*Loori, John Daido, The Eight Gates of Zen, Dharma Communications.
*Merzel, Dennis Genpo, The Path of the Human Being: Zen Teachings on the Bodhisattva Way, Shambhala,
*Nhat Hanh, Thich, The Miracle of Mindfulness, Beacon, 1996.
Sekida, Katsuki, Zen Training: Methods and Philosophy, Weatherhill, 1975.
Suzuki, Shunryu, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Weatherhill, NY.
*Brach, Tara, Radical Acceptance, Bantam, 2003
*Goldstein, Joseph, The Experience of Insight, Shambhala, 1987.
*Gunaratana, Bhante Henepola, Mindfulness in Plain English, Wisdom, 2002.
Kabat-Zinn, Jon, Wherever You Go There You Are, Hyperion, 1994.
*Kornfield, Jack, A Path with Heart, Bantam New Age.
*Levine, Stephen, A Gradual Awakening, Anchor, 1989.
Rosenberg, Larry, Breath by Breath: The Liberating Practice of Insight Meditation.
Salzberg, Sharon, Loving-Kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, Shambhala, 1997.
Chodron, Pema, The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times.
*Chodron, Pema, When Things Fall Apart, Shambhala, 1997.
Dalai Lama, How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life.
Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Harper Collins.
*Trungpa, Chogyam, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, Shambhala.
*Trungpa, Chogyam, The Essential Chogyam Trungpa, Shambhala, 1999.
Batchelor, Stephen, Buddhism Without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening.
Batchelor, Stephen, Living with the Devil, Riverhead Books, 2004.
Dass, Ram, Journey of Awakening, Bantam, 1978.
*Fields, Rick, How the Swans Came to the Lake, Shambhala .
Gach, Gary, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understand Buddhism.
Goldstein, Joseph, One Dharma: The Emerging Western Buddhism, Harper, 2002.
*Hesse, Hermann, Siddhartha, Bantham, 1951.
Loy, David R., A Buddhist History of the West: Studies in Lack, State Univ. of New York, 2002.
Mackenzie, Vicki (Ed.), Why Buddhism? Westerners in Search of Wisdom, Thorsons, 2003.
Morreale, Don (Ed.), The Complete Guide to Buddhist America, Shambhala.
Nhat Hanh, Thich, Old Path White Clouds, Parallax Press.
*Nhat Hanh, Thich, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings.
*Rahula, Walpola, What the Buddha Taught, Evergreen.
*Wilber, Ken, No Boundary, Shambhala, 1979.
Wilber, Ken, The Simple feeling of Being: Embracing Your True Nature, Shambhala, 2004.
SOCIALLY ENGAGED BUDDHISM
Brazier, David, The New Buddhism, Palgrave, 2001.
*Dass, Ram, & Mirabai Bush, Compassion in Action: Setting out on the Path of Service, Bell Tower, 1992.
Eppsteiner, Fred (Ed), The Path of Compassion: Writings on Socially Engaged Buddhism, Parallax Press.
*Glassman, Bernard, & Rick Fields, Instructions to the Cook: A Zen Master’s Lessons in Living a Life that
Matters, Bell Tower, 1996.
*Glassman, Bernie, Bearing Witness, Bell Tower, 1998.
Jones, Ken, The New Social Face of Buddhism: A Call to Action, Wisdom, 2003.
Kaza, Stephanie & Kenneth Kraft, Dharma Rain: Sources of Buddhist Environmentalism, Shambhala,
*Nhat Hanh, Thich, Being Peace, Parallax, 1996.
BUDDHIST APPROACHES TO PSYCHOLOGY,
HEALTH AND ILLNESS
*Bennett-Goleman, Emotional Alchemy, Harmony Books, NY, 2001.
*Benson, Herbert, The Relaxation Response, Morrow, NY, 1975.
Dalai Lama & Daniel Goleman, Destructive Emotions: How Can We Overcome Them? (A Scientific
Dialogue), Bantam, 2003.
Epstein, Mark, Going to Pieces without Falling Apart, Broadway Books.
*Finney, Henry C., FIRE GATE OF HEALING: A Father’s Journey from Suicide to Service,
Goleman, Daniel, Narrator, Destructive Emotions: How Can We Overcome Them?, A Scientific Dialogue
with the Dalai Lama, Bantam, 2003.
*Greenspan, Miriam, Healing Through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear and Despair,
*Kabat-Zinn, Jon, FULL CATASTROPHE LIVING: Using the Wisdom of Your Body And Mind to Face
Stress, Pain, and Illness, The Program of the Stress Reduction Clinic at The University of
Massachusetts Medical Center, Delta Paperbacks, Dell, NY, 1990.
*Levine, Stephen, Healing into Life and Death, Anchor, 1987.
Levine, Stephen, Guided Meditations, Explorations and Healings, Anchor, 1991.
*Levine, Stephen, Unattended Sorrow, Rodale, 2005.
Levine, Stephen & Ondrea, Who Dies?, Anchor, 1982.
Lief, Judith, Making Friends with Death, Shambhala, 2001.
Nhat Hahn, Thich, The Blooming of a Lotus: Guided Meditation Exercises for Healing and Transformation,
Perez, Ilya Shinko, & Gerry Shishin Wick, The Great Heart Way, Wisdom, 2006.
ZEN KOAN COLLECTIONS &
Aitken, Robert (Translator), The Gateless Barrier: The Wu-Men Kuan (Mumonkan), North Point Press,
Cleary, Thomas & J.C. Cleary (Trans.), The Blue Cliff Record, Shambhala, 1992.
Cleary, Thomas (Trans.), Secrets of the Blue Cliff Record: Zen Comments by Hakuin and Tenkei,
Glassman, Bernie, Infinite Circle: Teachings in Zen, Shambhala, 2002.
Miura, Isshu & Ruth Fuller Sasaki, The Zen Koan, Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1965.
Red Pine, The Heart Sutra, Shoemaker & Hoard, 2004.
Reps, Paul (Editor), Zen Flesh, Zen Bones A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings, Doubleday Anchor,n.d.
Shibayama, Zenkei (Trans), Zen Comments on the Mumonkan, Harper & Row, 1974.
Sekida, Katsuki (Trans.), Two Zen Classics: Mumonkan (The Gateless Gate) and Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff
Records), Weatherhill, 1997.
Wick, Gerry Shishin, The Book of Equanimity, Wisdom, 2005.
Yamada, Koun (Trans.), Gateless Gate, Center Publications, 1979.
*BUDDHADHARMA: The Practitioners’ Journal.
*TRICYCLE: The Buddhist Review, www.tricycle.com. Catalogues and links to U.S. centers are available
at this site.
SUN; more oriented to practitioners experiences than the above.
THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS
THE FIRST NOBLE TRUTH – Impermanence & Suffering
CORE IDEA: Life is essentially transient and impermanent, and therefore fraught w. suffering. Loss is inevitable.
SECOND NOBLE TRUTH -- Desire as the Cause of Suffering
CORE IDEA: The inevitable frustration of the numerous needs and desires of ego, or self, cause suffering. Relief through constant striving cannot permanently bring peace.
QUESTION: How does Buddhism Deal with Suffering?
ANSWER: 3RD & 4TH Noble Truths
THIRD NOBLE TRUTH: There can be an end to suffering once the Bodhi Mind is “raised”(via initial insight). Nirvana is possible.
FOURTH NOBLE TRUTH: The 8-Fold Noble Path is the way to accomplish liberation from suffering.
1) right view (i.e., understanding 4 Noble Truths)
2) right resolve (intention to follow 8-fold path)
3) right speech (kind speech, not lying, avoiding slander & gossip)
4) right conduct (avoiding harmful or morally destructive actions)
5) right livelihood (avoiding work that harms others)
6) right effort (working hard to accomplish the Way)
7) right mindfulness (concentration, attention, mindful awareness)
8) right concentration (meditation)
The Buddhist Precepts
Robert Aitken, Roshi
(Downloaded at www.zenmonthly.cjb.net)
Shila is the mnemonic listing of precepts, and by extension it is Vinaya, the moral way. Vinaya is the first of the "Three Baskets" or Tripitaka, the Buddhist canon, the others being Sutra and Abhidharma, the teachings and the commentaries. Formally becoming a Buddhist is a matter of accepting the precepts in the ceremony called Jukai. To understand how morality and Buddhism go together, it is probably best to review the Buddhist teaching itself briefly:
The basic teaching of the Buddha is that there is no abiding self. Our being is made up of and constantly depends upon other people, animals, plants, soil, water, air, the planet earth, the other planets, the sun, moon and stars. Our very genes are programmes provided to us by our ancestors and from unknown sources back to the earliest green slime and before. Nothing is my own and everything makes me up: my parents, grandparents - the birdsong, portraits by Rembrandt, the scent of the Puakenikeni, and the laughter of a friend. Also forming my being are death in the family, the danger of biological holocaust, misunderstandings, and malicious gossip.
This formation that is me, flowing along, eating and adapting and adopting, is the same formation that is you, with very small variations in our combination of genes and experience that give us our uniqueness. This uniqueness is our own personal potential, and we depend upon each other for sustenance to fulfill it.
Each centre in our multi-centred universe is dependent in this way. Nothing abides and we find that everything is fundamentally insubstantial -- shunyata, emptiness. It is not a vacuum that we perceive, but the absence of a fixed self in ourselves and in the multitudinous things of the universe. With this perception, or with an understanding that such an experience is possible, we glimpse the Dharma: the peace of the fathomless void and the harmony of the many centres as they flow about and through each other - out there and as this 'me'.
We also perceive misuse of harmony as habitats are destroyed, nations threatened, children and spouses abused and friends slandered.
The Ten Grave Precepts, which make up Shila for the Zen student, are ten ways to prompt our awareness of the Dharma, the peace and great harmony of life and death that is our universe. They not only prompt our awareness, they are expressions of perfection in the Dharma. Each precept is a paramita.
The Ten Grave Precepts.
l. I TAKE UP THE WAY OF NOT KILLING. This First Precept echoes the first of our Great Vows for All, "Though the many beings are numberless, I vow to save them." The Precept is specific and negative in wording; the Vow is universal and positive. The emphasis in the Precept is upon protection and nurturing: the emphasis in the Vow is upon spiritual encouragement. Both are expressions of perfections: both enhance the process of perfection.
Usually, nurturing a specific being is clearly also a matter of saving the universe, but sometimes options of abortion, spraying bugs, and trapping rats seem to offer ways to keep the world organism thinned and healthy. Such issues can become agonizingly difficult, and it is tempting to make decisions on the basis of persuasive arguments that are over-simple and reductive. They are koans and must be faced with a clear sense of proportion.
Decisions about the quantitatively larger issue of war and peace have been clarified by the unprecedented technological capacity for killing which science has achieved. There is no longer an argument for a "just war", or for "mutually assured deterrence" (or…”destruction”). Incredibly murderous weapons are prepared to destroy all human life and almost all animal and plant life. The koan here is how to speak out appropriately and take action that is instructive in opposition to such weapons and their so-called rationale.
Less obvious, but no less dangerous, is the probability of biological disaster through the destruction of forests, meadows, wetlands, lakes, rivers, seas, and the air. I vow to moderate my lifestyle and reduce its demands, and to encourage you to do the same, for the protection of all beings in their infinite variety.
2. I TAKE UP THE WAY OF NOT STEALING. This and all the subsequent Precepts are variants of the first, "Not Killing". "I take up the way of not stealing" means I will respect the order of things - the paramita of harmony.
Peasants who occupy unused private land in Central America are demonstrating their view of the fundamental order. "We are taking what is rightfully ours", they say. The landlords say they are stealing. The question is, which view kills? Which view gives life?
3. I TAKE UP THE WAY OF NOT MISUSING SEX. Sexual intercourse is misused when it is an addiction rather than the peak experience of love between a committed couple. All the Precepts point to addictive behalviour, stealing, lying, using alcohol or drugs, slandering, even killing. Addiction reveals a lack of confidence, a need for something from others, the interdependence of all things inverted for just one being. It is no good condemning promiscuity as immoral behaviour, for it is only a symptom of general immaturity. Like anybody else, the addict needs guidance to find a way to forget the self.
4. I TAKE UP THE WAY OF NOT SPEAKING FALSELY. Speaking falsely is also killing, and specifically, killing the Dharma. The lie is set up to defend the idea of a fixed entity, a self image, a concept, or an institution. I want to be known as warm and compassionate, so I deny that I was cruel, even though somebody got hurt. Sometimes I must lie to protect someone or large numbers of people, animals, plants and things from getting hurt, or I believe I must. What is the big picture? "Buddha nature pervades the whole universe." 1
5. I TAKE UP THE WAY OF NOT USING DRINK OR DRUGS. This can be extended to anything that clouds the mind: silly conversation, noisy music, most TV programmes. But Buddhism is not absolute. A little wine warms my bones and relaxes my inhibitions, and casual conversation enhances my humanity and the humanity of others. This Precept is warning against addiction and dependency. When I am completely honest at the very source of my thoughts, what is the path of the Buddha?
6. I TAKE UP THE WAY OF NOT DISCUSSING FAULTS OF OTHERS. Again, this Precept too deals with an aspect of killing. More people get hurt by gossip than by guns. The point is that nobody has a fixed character. Everyone has tendencies, and those tendencies can be used or misused, read or misread. The tendency to be accommodating can be seen negatively as passivity, and positively as patience. Encourage the tendency, and it will find its own perfection.
7. I TAKE UP THE WAY OF NOT PRAISING MYSELF WHILE ABUSING OTHERS. The reason I praise myself and abuse others is that I seek to justify and defend myself as a certain kind of rather superior being.
Actually, I am not superior or inferior. My actions and words are appropriate or inappropriate to the needs of people, animals, plants and things, including myself. If I am authoritarian and put myself up and others down, then I am not meeting their need to grow and mature or my own to listen and learn. The Buddha Dharma is obscured. The world suffers.
8. I TAKE UP THE WAY OF NOT SPARING THE DHARMA ASSETS. The Dharma assets are all phenomena in their precious uniqueness, the interdependence of everything in perfect harmony, and the absence of any abiding self. When I am not stingy with the Dharma assets, I conduct myself and say things that enhance my own understanding of uniqueness, harmony and peace - and understanding on the part of others, so that my family members, friends and everyone and everything can maintain their path of perfection. Another way to say this is: I conduct myself so that the original perfection becomes more and more clear to all beings.
9. I TAKE UP THE WAY OF NOT INDULGING IN ANGER. You and I have had the experience in sesshin of bathing in anger. Something unreasonably tiny, perhaps something you don't even notice, punctures a nasty bubble of angry gas, and you sit there playing out scenarios of retribution. Perhaps you blame yourself for this condition, but it is needless blame, and it only adds to the confusion. Even such a nightmare of anger is not a violation of this Precept, because if you are sincere, you return to the practice whenever you possibly can. Anger itself is the field of your practice, and you pursue the little puck Mu on that field.
Blake says, "the tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction." Kwan-yin hurls a thunderbolt of anger from time to time. Indulgence in anger is the addiction, and it rests upon pain. What is it that troubles you?
l0. I TAKE UP THE WAY OF NOT SLANDERING THE THREE TREASURES. The Three Treasures are the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. These are variously the Historical Buddha, his teaching, and the fellowship of his followers - and realisation, the path to realisation, and the harmony of all beings. Slandering such Treasures is belittling them, and the grossest kind of belittling is conceptual analysis that reduces and quantifies - obscuring the unknown and unknowable source, the marvellous subtlety of the Buddha's words and the words of his great followers, the synchronicity and symmetry of experience, and the precious nature and aspiration of each individual person, animal or plant.
I take up the Ten Precepts of the disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha, and I invite you to join me.
THE TEN BUDDHIST PARAMITAS
TRANSLATION: “Paramita” = “perfection” or “virtue” (Sanskrit: “that which has reached the other shore”)
1) Giving (Dana): Voluntary giving of money, material, energy or wisdom to others: regarded as one of the most important Buddhist virtues.
2) Morality (Shila): The ethical guidelines that in Buddhism determine the behavior of monks, nuns and laypersons and that constitute the pre-condition for any progress on the path of awakening.
3) Patience, Forbearance (Kshanti): Includes patience in bearing aggression and injury from others, in bearing adversity without being drawn away from the spiritual path; and patience in following difficult points of Buddhist doctrine through to comprehension.
4) Energy, Zeal (Virya): Exertion, energy, will-power, indefatigable exertion.
5) Sitting Meditation (Dhyana): Meditation, absorption; the state of mind (samadhi) brought about through intense concentration.
6) Wisdom (Prajna): Buddhist consciousness; the immediately experienced intuitive wisdom that cannot be conveyed by concepts or in intellectual terms.
7) Skillful, Compassionate Means (Upaya): A bodhisattva’s ability to teach or lead others; skill in expounding the teachings; teaching in a manner appropriate to both learner & circumstances.
8) Aspiration, Intention (Pranidhana): The Bodhisattva vow; firm resolution to attain enlightenment for oneself and for all sentient beings.
9) Spiritual Power (Bala): The spiritual powers or faculties of faith, exertion, mindfulness (through the four foundations of mindfulness), samadhi (elimination of passions through meditation), and and prajna.
Knowledge: (Jnana): Intellectual knowledge concerning phenomena and the
laws governing them; mastery of the rational contents of the Buddhist teachings.
THE EIGHT-FOLD NOBLE PATH
The Noble Eightfold Path describes the way to the end of suffering, as it was laid out by Siddhartha Gautama. It is a practical guideline to ethical and mental development with the goal of freeing the individual from attachments and delusions; and it finally leads to understanding the truth about all things. Together with the Four Noble Truths, it constitutes the gist of Buddhism. Great emphasis is put on the practical aspect, because it is only through practice that one can attain a higher level of existence and finally reach Nirvana. The eight aspects of the path are not to be understood as a sequence of single steps, instead they are highly inter-dependent principles that have to be seen in relationship with each other.
1. Right View
Right view is the beginning and the end of the path, it simply means to see and to understand things as they really are and to realize the Four Noble Truth. As such, right view is the cognitive aspect of wisdom. It means to see things through, to grasp the impermanent and imperfect nature of worldly objects and ideas, and to understand the law of karma and karmic conditioning. Right view is not necessarily an intellectual capacity, just as wisdom is not just a matter of intelligence. Instead, right view is attained, sustained, and enhanced through all capacities of mind. It begins with the intuitive insight that all beings are subject to suffering and it ends with complete understanding of the true nature of all things. Since our view of the world forms our thoughts and our actions, right view yields right thoughts and right actions.
2. Right Intention
While right view refers to the cognitive aspect of wisdom, right intention refers to the volitional aspect, i.e. the kind of mental energy that controls our actions. Right intention can be described best as commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement. Buddha distinguishes three types of right intentions: 1. the intention of renunciation, which means resistance to the pull of desire, 2. the intention of good will, meaning resistance to feelings of anger and aversion, and 3. the intention of harmlessness, meaning not to think or act cruelly, violently, or aggressively, and to develop compassion.
3. Right Speech
Right speech is the first principle of ethical conduct in the eightfold path. Ethical conduct is viewed as a guideline to moral discipline, which supports the other principles of the path. This aspect is not self-sufficient, however, essential, because mental purification can only be achieved through the cultivation of ethical conduct. The importance of speech in the context of Buddhist ethics is obvious: words can break or save lives, make enemies or friends, start war or create peace. Buddha explained right speech as follows: 1. to abstain from false speech, especially not to tell deliberate lies and not to speak deceitfully, 2. to abstain from slanderous speech and not to use words maliciously against others, 3. to abstain from harsh words that offend or hurt others, and 4. to abstain from idle chatter that lacks purpose or depth. Positively phrased, this means to tell the truth, to speak friendly, warm, and gently and to talk only when necessary.
4. Right Action
The second ethical principle, right action, involves the body as natural means of expression, as it refers to deeds that involve bodily actions. Unwholesome actions lead to unsound states of mind, while wholesome actions lead to sound states of mind. Again, the principle is explained in terms of abstinence: right action means 1. to abstain from harming sentient beings, especially to abstain from taking life (including suicide) and doing harm intentionally or delinquently, 2. to abstain from taking what is not given, which includes stealing, robbery, fraud, deceitfulness, and dishonesty, and 3. to abstain from sexual misconduct. Positively formulated, right action means to act kindly and compassionately, to be honest, to respect the belongings of others, and to keep sexual relationships harmless to others. Further details regarding the concrete meaning of right action can be found in the Precepts.
5. Right Livelihood
Right livelihood means that one should earn one's living in a righteous way and that wealth should be gained legally and peacefully. The Buddha mentions four specific activities that harm other beings and that one should avoid for this reason: 1. dealing in weapons, 2. dealing in living beings (including raising animals for slaughter as well as slave trade and prostitution), 3. working in meat production and butchery, and 4. selling intoxicants and poisons, such as alcohol and drugs. Furthermore, any other occupation that would violate the principles of right speech and right action should be avoided.
6. Right Effort
Right effort can be seen as a prerequisite for the other principles of the path. Without effort, which is in itself an act of will, nothing can be achieved, whereas misguided effort distracts the mind from its task, and confusion will be the consequence. Mental energy is the force behind right effort; it can occur in either wholesome or unwholesome states. The same type of energy that fuels desire, envy, aggression, and violence can on the other side fuel self-discipline, honesty, benevolence, and kindness. Right effort is detailed in four types of endeavors that rank in ascending order of perfection: 1. to prevent the arising of un-arisen unwholesome states, 2. to abandon unwholesome states that have already arisen, 3. to arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen, and 4. to maintain and perfect wholesome states already arisen.
7. Right Mindfulness
Right mindfulness is the controlled and perfected faculty of cognition. It is the mental ability to see things as they are, with clear consciousness. Usually, the cognitive process begins with an impression induced by perception, or by a thought, but then it does not stay with the mere impression. Instead, we almost always conceptualize sense impressions and thoughts immediately. We interpret them and set them in relation to other thoughts and experiences, which naturally go beyond the facticity of the original impression. The mind then posits concepts, joins concepts into constructs, and weaves those constructs into complex interpretative schemes. All this happens only half consciously, and as a result we often see things obscured. Right mindfulness is anchored in clear perception and it penetrates impressions without getting carried away. Right mindfulness enables us to be aware of the process of conceptualization in a way that we actively observe and control the way our thoughts go. Buddha accounted for this as the four foundations of mindfulness: 1. contemplation of the body, 2. contemplation of feeling (repulsive, attractive, or neutral), 3. contemplation of the state of mind, and 4. contemplation of the phenomena.
8. Right Concentration
The eighth principle of the path, right concentration, refers to the development of a mental force that occurs in natural consciousness, although at a relatively low level of intensity, namely concentration. Concentration in this context is described as one-pointedness of mind, meaning a state where all mental faculties are unified and directed onto one particular object. Right concentration for the purpose of the eightfold path means wholesome concentration, i.e. concentration on wholesome thoughts and actions. The Buddhist method of choice to develop right concentration is through the practice of meditation. The meditating mind focuses on a selected object. It first directs itself onto it, then sustains concentration, and finally intensifies concentration step by step. Through this practice it becomes natural to apply elevated levels concentration also in everyday situations.