Saturday, February 19, 2011

Diamonds Are Forever

I have recently read the Diamond Sutra and it has taken my mind for a spin.  Not only does it discuss the Six Paramitas, but some other hefty stuff as well.

I'm gonna discuss the more hefty stuff in this post, like the arbitrary-ness of everything.  After reading this sutra, I don't even know if adjectives are relevant.  It expresses that everything is a phenomenon and that base-reality holds no ideals. Opinions and describing words or adjectives, are all arbitrary and based on Ego.

In absolute reality there is no ugly, no pretty, no bright, no dark. Everybody's opinion is different. These are all comparative words relating to the opinion of ego.

The Buddha tells us in The Diamond Sutra that all of these phenomena are merely expressions, and in absolute reality, these expressions are actually non-existent.  We, like all phenomena, are empty, and must realize this to cross to the other shore.

I believe this is the meaning of "being empty."  Disregarding ego and opinions. In doing so, we can truly see absolute reality. If we toss out bias and opinion, accept, and truly "empty our cup." This also gives rise to equanimity and loving everybody for who they are,  (which of course can be difficult sometimes).

It's not that we can't express our opinions, but we shouldn't hold onto them.  If we realize it's only phenomena and holds no substance, then we can see everything at its base, in absolute reality. Diamonds are the hardest and toughest substance, which have the ability to cut through any other substance.  We need to forge our minds in the way of a diamond to cut through illusion and that which is arbitrary, to view the universe and life in its true state; absolute.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Yang, Yin, Interdependency

I would like to discuss in detail the symbol of the "Yin-Yang" and how it's more that just a symbol for opposites. Many believe or have been told that the Yin Yang represents opposites, i.e.  Heaven & Earth, dark & light, male & female, etc.  If the symbol only suggested and represented only opposites, it would be like this:

 But the Yin Yang, (actually pronounced "yeen yongh"), is distinctly characterized by it's curved lines.  This takes the symbolism to a whole new level: Interdependency. Nothing in the universe is only just Yin or Yang.  Yang contains Yin, and Yin contains Yang, and that's why the lines are curved.
Buddhism and Taoism teach us that every thing co-arises.  You couldn't have the egg without the chicken and you couldn't have the chicken without the egg.  The Buddha himself spoke,
"This is because that is, that is not because this is not, this comes to be because that comes to be, that ceases to be because this ceases to be."  There is no cause and effect, there are no opposites, everything is part of everything else, everything is condition.
The Tao-Teh-Ching also states in Chapter Thirty-Six:
"Before one can contract a thing, it must first be extended; before anything can be weakened, it must first be made strong, before anything can be wasted, it must be present; before one can take a thing by force, someone else must give it up."

As we can see, all of the circumstances mentioned in Chapter Thirty Six, (and in many other chapters of the book), are all interdependent.

On another note of interdependency, you are reading this because the universe produced the earth, the earth produced oil, the oil was drilled and made into plastic, the plastics were molded into shapes, a technician put the plastic shapes together to make a computer, you purchased the computer, etc.  If we look deeply enough into anything we see that it is all connected.  Even the chair you may sit on was once a seed from a tree, given light from the sun and water from the clouds with rain, turned into a tree, cut down by a logger, a carpenter took the wood and furnished it into a chair, with his saws and nails deriving from iron ore found in the earth, which was hardened into the ore millions of years ago by the earth orbiting the sun.  It's a full circle.

Now going back to the Yin Yang, the Yang of the sun wouldn't be without the Yin of space to give light, producing photosynthesis to grow the tree, the Yin of the cutting the tree down, and the Yang of the fire in the furnace to harden the wood, etc.

Even in martial arts, the Yin Yang is very applicable.  When we strike, that is Yang, when we evade that is Yin.  You cannot only be a forward moving Yang, you must yield and advance.

In conclusion, everything is essentially a lot more than what it seems to be.  I hope this gives a better representation of the Yin Yang than just opposites.
The original symbol had arrows signifying the interweaving of energies, made popular again by Bruce Lee with Jeet Kune Do. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What's Wrong?

What's wrong?
I'm sure we've all heard this question before when somebody notices we are upset.  But is anything really wrong?  Just because we are upset by something doesn't mean that emotion is technically wrong.  We have to accept and acknowledge all of our emotions.  If we never suffered, how could we learn some important life-lessons?

Also, the phrase "What's wrong?" can invalidate another's emotion.  Try to be mindful of what the other is feeling and suffering from.  Most of the time there is a reason they are suffering which we could possibly learn from or offer our compassion and mindfulness to the matter to help them heal.

By accepting, acknowledging, and being mindful our unpleasant emotions, it helps us heal them faster.  We recognize the cause of the suffering, and the remedy.  I like to think of our joy as a flowing stream.
A flowing stream turns and encounters obstacles in its course.  The rocks and turns are like unpleasant emotions and suffering. They don't completely  block the stream. The water just acknowledges something is in the way, accepts that it cannot change it, and finds a way to flow around.

Why be unhappy if you can change the problem?  What's the use of being unhappy if you cannot change the problem?  Accept it, fix it if you can, and return to being.

Thich Nhat Hanh states in The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching that, "Our feelings are formations, impermanent and without substance. We learn not to identify ourselves with our feelings, not to consider them as a self, not to seek refuge in them, not to die because of them."  Clinging to our emotions is a high risk action.  It can elevate our suffering when we don't have joy, or by letting our unpleasant emotions fester by not letting them pass.
So is something wrong when you are upset?  Or is it just the course of things?  Nothing is technically wrong, it just is, and we need to accept that.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Why Divide When You Can Add?

Lately, I've been focusing a lot of time on reading a variety of Buddhist literature and scriptures from different traditions. I used to think I was purely a "Zen" Buddhist, but the more I read from the other traditions and sects, I am confronted with this thought:
All of the Buddhist traditions have many lessons and valuable practices.  Why choose only one?  Why divide when you can add?

Division of Buddhist Traditions
Honestly, I cannot choose only one.  I have learned so much from studying all of them.  Some of the practices are different, sure, but I think all of them holds a piece of the pie to crossing to the other shore.
Do you think the Buddha divided his enlightenment into sects?  Of course not. 
Theravada Monks
I'm sure language and culture most likely play a role in the early development of Buddhism and the different traditions, but I think it's more important to learn everything we can from all of the different traditions.  It's the 21st century. We have access and ability.  We can order books that have been translated from other languages in other lands, ride airplanes to go on retreats to other places, visit monasteries, etc.

There is only one Dharma.  And many paths may lead the way. With so many traditions holding such an abundance of wisdom, why wouldn't you want to take advantage of all of them?  There are the similar key points of course, (Four Noble Truths, Noble Eightfold Path, etc), but the different sects and interpretations can have distinct meanings and advice which others may not possess.
Japanese Zen Monk

Tibetan Monks
It is not my desire to push beliefs upon you.  I only wanted to share my ideas on the subject. My main point is, if the knowledge is there for the taking, why not grab it?  And I appreciate all of the traditions, otherwise we wouldn't have such a vast array of teachings.

So what do I call myself?  A Buddhist, A Disciple of the Dharma.

 I guess it's the colors that make everything beautiful.  Amituofo

Shaolin Monk