Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fuel for the Fire

I was pondering the importance of ritual, ceremony, chants, etc.  My best idea is that it's to keep us on the path.  Kind of like adding tinder and fuel to a fire we have started, so that it wont extinguish itself.  This is also true of our sitting Zazen or meditation.

Why do we chant sutras and repeat things we have said over and over in front of our altar?  To remind us of our practice.  We are human and we get side-tracked, involved in worldly affairs and such that can often draw our attention away from The Way.

I don't think we do it out of dogmatic obligation.  When we want to delve into our spirituality and the practice of Buddhism, we do things such as rituals, chants, and meditation to keep a base.  The base can be seen as a foundation for living our lives or handling our affairs according to the Dharma.

My guess would be that it's the similar situation of people of other faiths going to church and the like.  They go to hear the pastor's, reverend's, or priest's words to keep in touch with their faith and remind themselves of the teachings.

When we can realize the meaning of what we do and why, it gives a deeper dimension to the practice.  So keep chanting, prostrating, and meditating to keep the course. :)


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Conformity of Form

Very often while studying Buddhism we hear two words, "FORM" and "EMPTINESS."  What exactly do these words mean?  I've had many conversations on the topic of Form and Emptiness.  It can be a heavy topic, because it is one that challenges much of how we have been taught for most of our lives.

I will attempt to do my best (from what I have found through my teachings and studies) to explain exactly what form and emptiness are, in hopes that it will enlighten others who may not exactly know what the two are (or are not).

Let's start with Form.  Form (like many other terms in Buddhism) has a double meaning.  Our eyes, ears, tongue, nose, sensations, and mind (namely the Five Aggregates and imagination or mind) create form.  It is how we function in the world.  As the Dhammapada and many sutras say, "With out thoughts, we make the world," or, "Our perception of the world is merely a manifestation of our minds."  This doesn't mean we create the world with our minds, it means our interpretations and imaginations create a biased reality by our senses and minds, which is not true reality.

Why is it not true reality? Because form is emptiness......let me explain. Form is a what our mind grasps to for the purpose of interpretation.  We create words, opinions, and ideas based on interpretations of form. 

In the Lankavatara Sutra, the Buddha tells us that because of our ignorance and biased ideas of words and ideas of forms, we develop a false reality.  In absolute reality, words and forms are empty.  Now emptiness is another confusing term.

Emptiness doesn't mean that things are unsubstantial, invalid, or without purpose.  Emptiness is another word for "that which is without form or self."  The tree has no self because it is part of the the dirt, sun, rain, and wind from which it grows.  Just as we are without self because of the many elements and ancestors which have come together to create us.

Also, form implies another thing.  We may see a pond as a nice piece of scenery or fishing-hole.  What of the fish?  The fish, tadpoles, frogs and dragonflies see that pond as home.  Just as you may see your house as home, termites see that as food, and so on.  So form is only implied by the mind.

The Buddha also says in the Lankavatara Sutra that when we can achieve the stage of imagelessness and egolessness, we will be emancipated.  Images and egos are nothing but implications of form.  So in absolute reality: style, language, perceptions, feelings, false-imaginations,  and things of the like are only empty and subject to the mind.

This is merely a brief description of the terms in mind, there of course, is much more to it, I pray this post has made sense and helped those to may not have previously understood.  Many Blessing and Gassho.