Thursday, July 21, 2011

Was Yoda a Zen Master?

I'm sure that I may not be the first to make this connection. Every time I hear the words of Yoda in a Star Wars film, I can connect them to some Buddhist or Taoist teaching.  Here are just a few:

“Do or do not... there is no try.”

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

Luke: "What's in there?"  Yoda: "Only what you take with you.”

“Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. Attachment leads to jealously. The shadow of greed, that is.”

“Only the Dark Lord of the Sith knows of our weakness."

“Strong is Vader. Mind what you have learned. Save you it can."

The "Dark Side" and "Sith/Vader" can represent Mara. The "Force" can represent the Tao. When I have these points in mind and read the quotes, I can see the correlation.  Just thought I'd share this little tid bit.  Enjoy the many lessons of Master Yoda. :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Eating Bitter

The phrase "Eating Bitter" is a term commonly used in China, particularly in practing Gung Fu or martial arts.  Its definition lies in the belief that through hard work and pain, success and strength are the result.  There is a Chinese proverb which states, "You cannot know sweetness until you have eaten bitterness."

Learning martial arts, especially in a traditional sense, is not easy.  The body and the mind are often pushed to limits which are quite uncomfortable.  The teacher may break you down to rebuild you into something new, and your body will be bruised, bleeding and sprained.  Through this we may know discipline and end up befriending it, learning from it, and using it in our daily life. Not unlike what the military does to us.

In Gung Fu and Taiji, the forms are meant to be "moving meditation," entering what is known by Buddhists as Samadhi. Samadhi is becoming one with the practice, focusing the entire mind on one thing.  This is not easy, but that's why it is a practice.  The martial arts, I understand, are not for everybody, but there are many lessons from the practice that can be applied to life.

We as people "eat bitter" often in our daily lives.  Our jobs may become intensely difficult, our home life may become stressful, and so forth.  We learn from suffering, and value the sweetness of the lesson.  Suffering brings enlightenment.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

To Suffer Is To Practice

When I was taught that suffering and enlightenment are one in the same, it was hard for me to accept immediately.  I looked at it more deeply, over time realized how true it is.

Lotus Flowers
Everyone suffers daily.  To practice is how to handle the suffering, and work towards the end of that suffering.  I was listening to a Dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh, and he said, "Suffering is to enlightenment as mud is to the lotus flower.  Without suffering we cannot know enlightenment, without mud a lotus cannot bloom."  This makes sense why the lotus is such an icon and major symbol in Buddhism.

We can never truly stop suffering, it is a holy truth.  It's the manner in which we accept it and work with it that defines our practice.  From my own practice, much of my suffering stems from my desires and ego.  To each person it may be different in their practice.  This is also why enlightenment/Buddhism is a very personal experience and why the Buddha tells us to "Find our own light."

Having learned this personally, my practice has taken on more meaning.   To live is to suffer, to suffer is to practice, to practice is joy.  We are all enlightened beings and we all suffer. All we need is to practice with our lives to realize this and then we can know peace.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Slow and Steady is the Way

In life, martial arts, Buddhism, anything, "slow and steady is the way."  This realization came to me from a friend teaching me the movements and philosophy of Taiji (Tai Chi).  He explained that the reason Taiji movements are so slow is to focus on the body movement and Qi (Chi) flow.  When you master the flow and movements in a slow manner, you can apply them in a martial aspect by speeding them up, making Taiji a very useful martial art and discipline.

Tranquility, Peace
But why not apply this so-called relaxed practice when practicing any martial art (i.e. Karate, Shaolin Kung Fu, Tang Soo Do, etc)?  This is what I have been doing for the past week or so. I have already felt a difference.  I feel the my movements are much more stable, form is held, and focus is totally centered.  Then when I speed up to "combat speed," my movements are much more accurate and powerful.

It doesn't stop at martial arts though.  What about meditating, or Buddhist practice?  We cannot rush enlightenment.  Our mind in meditation and practice is almost like our limbs when practicing martial arts.  The mind is a weapon but also a reservoir.  When we rush anything in life we feel exhausted, stressed, and incomplete.  But if we take things one breath at a time, focus on what we're doing, and don't rush for results, we very often will find the the outcome is much more rewarding and qualitative.

So I'd like to remind everybody (including myself), to breathe, center, and take things one step at a time.  Slow and steady truly is the Way.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Prayer and Zazen

It's commonly known among Buddhists that we don't worship a higher being.  For we are all a part of the universe and this is what the Buddha tells us.
I recently read a line from a great book titled "Returning to Silence" by Dainin Katagiri which opened my eyes to something.  Katagiri states:

"Though Buddhism doesn't seem to have prayer, it does have dhyana.
Dhyana means zazen (meditation), and dhyana is exactly the same as prayer."

How true is this? When we sit down and still our minds and hearts on the teaching of the Dharma, we are essentially asking for the truth from the Buddhas and the universe.  Katagiri Roshi goes on to say:

 "Buddhism is not a revealed religion [i.e. Christianity], but an awakened religion- it is awakening to the self or to the Truth."

So with that in mind, our mediation/sitting (whichever we prefer) is our own exploration into the universe and the Dharma.  Why do Buddhists meditate?  To reveal our minds to the Dharma and to reveal the Dharma to our minds.  With a compassionate heart and a still mind, we can see wit our "Buddha Eye."