Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Relic Tour

This past Saturday, I attended the Maitreya Relic Tour.  I was kind of skeptical and wasn't sure what to expect.  All of the flyers and brochures just showed rocks and hair.  But when I watched the video which they had playing, something profound hit me.

When beings are enlightened and have deep compassion, during their cremation, they produce relics.  One of the Lama's relics was of his heart, and as the story goes, his whole heart was untouched by flames and his ashes were in the shape of various Bodhisattvas.
EVEN THE ORIGINAL BUDDHA'S RELICS WERE THERE!  I was moved to tears when I looked over them before I even realized what I was looking at.  So after viewing the video, I had to take another round of observing the relics.
Here are some pics:
Main Relic Table Display
Relics of Buddha's Disciples, including Ananda and Shariputra
Relics of Shakyamuni Buddha, himself!
Relics of other Lamas and Teachers
These relics are going to be placed in the heart of a 500 ft statue of Maitreya in northern India, where the Buddha passed away.  This was definitely a once-in-a-life opportunity and I am forever grateful.  If the tour comes by your way, I strongly recommend you attend.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Book Review: Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind


Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki is a wonderfully insightful book into Zen practice.  Do not be fooled by the title, "...Beginner's Mind," for it's contents are for the experienced practitioner as well. 

The book was originally published forty-one years ago, and to this day is one of the essentials to any Zen library.  It's written from recordings of Suzuki Roshi's talks he gave to his students.  The grammatical style reflects this by rarely editing the structure of how he spoke, which gives you the feeling that Suzuki is talking right to you.  In fact, Shunryu Suzuki himself said, "Nice book, but I didn't write it."  It was actually edited by one of his long time students Trudy Dixon.

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind talks about the essence of Zazen practice, the Zen mind, and other very insightful Zen/Buddhist matters.  I'm definitely not getting rid of this book, as I foresee myself referencing back to it many times in my practice.

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I and many other Western practitioners have. 

Shunryu Suzuki
 Suzuki Roshi (1904-1971) was a Soto Zen priest from Japan who established the popular San Fransisco Zen Center in 1959, and the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center.  He stayed in America until his death, and is seen as one of the most influential people to bring Zen and Buddhism to the West.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

From the Heart

The Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra is said to contain the essence of Truth realized by all Buddhas and Bodhisattva-Mahasatvas.  In it's message, it discusses the realization of emptiness, form, etc. As Soto practitioners, and I'm sure in other practices, we chant this every day.

Below are Japanese and English translations, as well as an accompanying video of the chant.  May this sutra help you along your path.

Maka Hannya Haramita ShingyoKan ji zai bo satsu. Gyo jin han-nya ha ra mi ta ji. Sho ken go on kai ku. Do is-sai ku yaku.
Sha ri shi. Shiki fu i ku. Ku fu i shiki. Shiki soku ze ku. Ku soku ze shiki. Ju so gyo shiki. Yaku bu nyo ze. Sha ri shi. Ze sho ho ku so. Fu sho fu metsu. Fu ku fu jo. Fu zo fu gen. Ze ko ku chu. Mu shiki mu ju so gyo shiki.
Mu gen ni bi zes shin ni. Mu shiki sho ko mi soku ho. Mu gen kai nai shi mu i shiki kai. Mu mu myo yaku mu mu myo jin. Nai shi mu ro shi. Yaku mu ro shi jin. Mu ku shu metsu do. Mu chi yaku mu toku. I mu sho toku ko.
Bo dai sat-ta e han-nya ha ra mi ta ko. Shin mu ke ge mu ke ge ko. Mu u ku fu. On ri is-sai ten do mu so. Ku gyo ne han. San ze sho butsu. E han-nya ha ra mi ta ko. Toku a noku ta ra san myaku san bo dai. Ko chi han-nya ha ra mi ta. Ze dai jin shu. Ze dai myo shu. Ze mu jo shu. Ze mu to do shu. No jo is-sai ku. Shin jitsu fu ko. Ko setsu han-nya ha ra mi ta shu. Soku setsu shu watsu. Gya tei, gya tei, ha ra gya tei. Hara so gya tei. Bo ji sowa ka. Han-nya Shin gyo.

Heart of Great Perfect Wisdom Sutra

Avalokiteshavara Bodhisattva, when deeply practicing prajna paramita, clearly saw that all five aggregates are empty (ku) andthus relieved all suffering.

Shariputra, form does not differ from emptiness; emptiness does not differ from form. Form itself is emptiness, emptiness itselfform. Sensations, perceptions, formations, and consciousness are also like this. Shariputra, all dharmas are marked by emptiness; they neither arise nor cease, are neither defiled nor pure, neither increase nor decrease. Therefore, given emptiness, there is no form, no sensation, no perception, no formation, no consciousness; no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no sight, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no object of mind; no realm of sight… no realm of mind consciousness. There is neither ignorance nor extinction of ignorance… neither old age and death, nor extinction of old age and death; no suffering, no cause, no cessation, no path; no knowledge and no attainment.

With nothing to attain, a bodhisattva relies on prajna paramita, and thus the mind is without hindrance. Without hindrance, there is no fear. Far beyond all inverted views, one realizes nirvana. All buddhas of past, present, and future rely on prajna paramita, and thereby attain unsurpassed, complete, perfect enlightenment.

Therefore, know the prajna paramita as the great miraculous mantra, the great bright mantra, the supreme mantra, the incomparable mantra, which removes all suffering and is true, not false. Therefore we proclaim the prajna paramita mantra, the mantra that says:

"Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha."
(Text from International Zen Association)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Flowing Water Never Goes Stale

"Flowing water never goes stale" is an old Chinese proverb.  This statement reflects many meanings.  The more we learn, the more we can advance.  We as humans change day to day, whether it be in mood or even on a cellular level.

The Buddha taught that we are not the person we were yesterday.  We learn, we grow, our body changes, our mind changes, etc.  Holding onto the past is attachment  to something that physically does not exist.  Ideas and attitudes are mere phenomena which hold no form. Attachment to ideas, attitudes, and expectations only creates more suffering.  When we don't get what want, what we think is right, what we think should happen, we get upset.  When something negative has happened in our past and we keep "going back" to it, that is also attachment.

The past is meant for reflection, not to be "lived-in."  It's already gone, forever.  We can definitely learn from the past, use those lessons in the present, and see what may manifest itself in the future.  A pond has many forms of algae and bacteria in it because it is stagnant. Our minds are very similar.  When we ponder and attach to things, we grow ideas and attachment, which to the mind are just as bad as bacteria and algae.  Keeping the mind fresh and moving within the moment is a way to avoid going stale and accumulating these "growths."

Even as a flowing stream encounters a rock or obstacle, it doesn't cease its movement.  Our minds and ourselves should act as such.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

More Than Just Compassion

The place I currently work at has me on a mixed schedule.  I often don't know when I'm supposed to show up for work, and sometimes (like the other day) I get up at 4 a.m. to show up at 5 a.m. (like my schedule says) and nobody is there.  So I go back home and receive a call informing me that I'm supposed to go in at 8.

This incident got me thinking as I sat in contemplation.  I was getting angry at my supervisors when I realized I should have compassion for them. Now the dictionary definition of compassion is: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.  Those who practice Buddhism know that "dictionary definitions" do not always pertain to the terms used in our practice. As such, I find that compassion has many more meanings.

To me, out of compassion comes sincerity, patience, acceptance, and unbiased love.  So practicing this compassion helped me accept the fact that even though I got up so early for work when I didn't need to, I was able to subdue my anger and frustration.

Dogen Zenji states that when we understand one aspect of practice, understanding of all other aspects will follow.  I believe compassion is a good example of this.  With reflection on what is causing our suffering, when we look at it with a compassionate mind, we are able to see the many sides of the cause of that suffering without bias.  We can accept, gain patience, and work out obstacles in a calm and more productive manner.