Friday, November 20, 2009
From the perspective of our own Zazen practice, we looked at the Four Noble truths like this:
1. We considered 'Dukkha' as meaning more than just 'suffering'. We looked at the other meanings on it such as 'stress', 'tension', 'unease' etc that most modern people can likely identify with. We considered what 'Dukkha' might mean to us.
2. We looked at our habitual modes of thinking and behavior as the cause of 'Dukkha': our making of the 'me' versus 'other' situation that can cause conflict or friction between 'me' and 'other'; how we often split the situation and set up this sort of scenario with our likes and dislikes, our making things 'good' and 'bad' etc.
3. We looked at Zazen as an opportunity to stop the sort of activity as outlined in 2, as a break from it where we can learn that there's a freer alternative to our habitual activities. We considered how we can just let our reactions and habits go for a while and learn what they really are.
4. We looked at this truth as the traditional means to a balanced life as formulated by the Buddha.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Tonight we talked about the Four Noble Truths. This is said to be the first teaching the Buddha gave after he became awakened or realised under the bodhi tree.
The Four Noble Truths may seem a bit formulaic or abstract; and they have often been adopted in a sort of abstract philosophical or intellectual way. But maybe the original intention of the teaching was to point out something which is real and true about our lives. We can apply these truths to our own real lives and experiences and see if they hold up, if they are realistic and helpful.
These Truths are not discussed much in Japanese Zen Buddhism and are generally more associated with Theravada Buddhism. But they are a nice way to get a feeling for the original teachings of Buddhism and to relate to the Buddha's own life story. Also, we can consider how our own conduct/practice might relate to these four revelations.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
The closing section of Fukanzazengi begins:
so accustomed to images that you are dismayed by the real dragon.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
At our meeting last night the topic of guilt came up. The conversation quickly turned to Ireland's experience of Catholicism and how the Christian belief that we are originally tainted or sinful was used as a justification for all sorts of horrific acts against vulnerable people: People in positions of religious authority in Ireland (in church/State institutions etc) were able to act cruelly and degrade others using this sort of belief system as some sort of justification or rationale. Obviously this was, and is, very wrong and it seems Ireland has not yet fully managed to address the wounds caused by this negative culture of spiritual domination.
Buddhism does not really posit that we are originally sinful or tainted as such as Buddhism does not accept sin in the same sort of metaphysical way that Christianity does. Buddhism does accept though that we do have the potential to be deluded at all times, but it also teaches that, via our own efforts/practice, we can realise this and stop our habitual deluded activity at any moment: it presents us with that freedom, and so it is really a matter of our own conduct.
One of the Bodhisattva vows reads: Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to end them.
We can establish this for ourselves in our own practice: when we are sitting zazen allowing our thoughts and feelings to just come and go we are not engaging in the habitual activity of accepting that 'self' as some sort of substantial reality (to do so is delusion). Instead we can realise it and experience it as just what it is (realisation). But the 'stuff' of delusion doesn't cease (thoughts and feelings will just keep coming), instead we realise them for what they are... or we don't! (It's up to us). Practicing zazen regularly helps us develop a deeper and more direct understanding of how we are deluded, of how we make our deluded self.
We can see that there is a sort of mutual relationship between 'delusion' and 'realisation' in Buddhism then and that they are not abstract, absolute, opposing values. 'Realisation' and 'delusion' do not exist outside of our own real and actual conduct at this very moment... and when we're fully engaged in really doing something then at that moment where is realisation and where is delusion?
Heaping the painful delusion of guilt on top of our general deluded state is obviously not considered good practice from a Buddhist perspective: the fact that we have done wrong in the past does not prohibit us from realising and actualising what is right at this moment.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Heavens and of the Eastern Lands, all similarly maintain the Buddha’s posture,
and solely indulge in the custom of our religion. They simply devote themselves
to sitting, and are caught by the still state.
should just practice [za]zen and pursue the truth.
body: we must never pass time in vain. We are maintaining and relying upon
the pivotal essence which is the Buddha’s truth: who could wish idly to enjoy
sparks [that fly] from flint? What is more, the body is like a dewdrop on a blade
of grass. Life passes like a flash of lightning. Suddenly it is gone. In an instant
it is lost.
Impermanence is a universal theme in Buddhism; our lives are short when looked at from a broader perspective. Buddhist masters often seek to encourage us to use our time to realise the Great Matter of our life.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Do not choose between clever people and dull ones. If we singlemindedly
make effort [in zazen] that truly is pursuit of the truth. Practice-and-experience
is naturally untainted. Actions are more balanced and constant.