Awakening Space and Time

Forest as far as the eye can see.

Forest, for as far as the eye can see.

These past days, or is weeks now, I’ve had the space and opportunity to do some spiritual reading. This book fell off the shelf at me: Visions of Awakening Space and Time – Dogen and the Lotus Sutra by Taigen Dan Leighton. Zen Master Dogen quotes from the Lotus Sutra regularly in the Shobogenzo and clearly he holds this sutra in high esteem. For example it was Dogen, apparently, who added The Lotus Sutra at the end of the recitation of the Ten Buddhas which is spoken during formal meals and during a number of other ceremonies we do. The Lotus Sutra is included as a Buddha.

A few weeks ago while walking in the Lake District a woman asked about how I regarded the ‘flowery language’ of the Lotus Sutra and to be honest I’d never really applied myself to thinking about it. Off the top of my head I’d said I regarded such writing as helping the reader/listener to expand into a wider and deeper frame of mind, beyond the opposites, from where we are able to receive the teaching that follows. From my recent reading I understand the language of the Sutra and also the language of Dogen and where our Soto Zen emphasis of locating ‘practice’ in everyday living comes from. I’m so grateful for the chance to study a little.

Here is a verse Dogen wrote which appears in the last volume of Eihei Koroku (talks given to his monastic community). This verse is the first in a series called Fifteen Verses on Dwelling in the Mountains.

How delightful, mountain dwelling so solitary and tranquil.
Because of this I always read the Lotus Blossom Sutra.
With wholehearted vigor under trees, what is there to love or hate?
How enviable; sound of evening rains in deep autumn.

And spring rains here in this Black Forest valley are pretty wonderful too.

Holy Days Of Obligation

Roof Tiles1It being a VERY Holy Day and this being Germany we can hardly draw a breath. Certainly not lift a finger. So what else to do but sit still and then sit still some more. And it is raining after all.

Drip, drip. Much needed rain

Drip, drip. Much needed rain

Having a day/time scheduled into ones days/year for ‘religious observance’ is not half a bad thing. That’s considering how the bustle of life tends to fill every nook and cranny to the point when one can actually believe there is no time left to do anything other than….fill every nook and cranny with activity. You could describe formal meditation as ‘deliberately deciding not to do anything’.

Arriving at a full and complete STOP is easier said than done. May body and mind find suitable relaxation – every day.

Donde Esta the Master?

Donde estar, where is? That’s a small morsel of Spanish retained from the early 1970′s when I attempted to learn the language. Where is the Master, Where is the Teacher? The problem is in the question. Seeking inwardly or outwardly and one is no closer to finding the answer in the deepest sense.

Contemplating Who is the Master. we seek and we search, and honorably too. As we go on the Way seeking mind invariably alights here and there and in that there is not a problem. Not a problem if the basic Buddhist endeavour is honoured. That’s to keep ones eyes open, yet not grasp with them (or any other of the senses.) while keeping to the sixteen Precepts as compass and guide. Love, Compassion and Wise Discernment flower naturally through this non grasping.

In small glimpses, and sometimes not so small, there is the dawning of a realization that the Teacher/Buddha/Master is identical with oneself. What’s more the rocks, trees, rivers and grasses are Buddha, identical with oneself. When we say all things teach that’s what I understand the teaching to be. Non separation. Not a whisper of a gap.

The verse previously quoted says:

You are your only master.
Who else?
Subdue yourself,
And discover your master.

When I read the word ‘subdue’ I think of the horses, ponies, donkeys and goats etc. I’ve soothed into cooperation. A number of those creatures have tested me with their stubborn, flighty, ornery ways. When looking within oneself all those characteristics are present to some degree.

Compassion/acceptance for animals is essential as is kindness, gentleness, tenderness all exercised with a firm hand and mind too. As with animals so too with ourselves. The master in this sense is the one who exercises these qualities with a loving heart. Over time, and now, one becomes ones own kindest master. One that wont let you down. Donde esta the master? Now!

The Ten Decisions – Scripture of Brahma’s Net

So as not to neglect my thought, which is still there, to talk about the Ten Decision here they are for your Sunday contemplations. The idea is not to measure oneself up against them. Please! More take them into your heart and make them your intention, which is a decision in itself. Renewing ones intention each day goes a very long way.

See the two previous posts referencing The Scripture of Brahma’s Net. The text within these two posts prepare the ground for Vairochana to state The Ten Decisions listed below. 1) )The Devas Also Felt Apprehensive and then 2) What Caused This Radiance?

Then Vairochana Buddha, enthroned upon His lotus pedestal which contains all worlds, responded in detail to what the ten billion Shakyamunis of the thousand Shakyamunis had asked concerning the various aspects of the Foundations of Training, saying, “Buddhas know that, within a disciple’s patience and equanimity born from resolute faith, the Ten Decisions will point the Buddhist trainee towards the fruition of Buddhahood, namely making the following decisions:

  1. to renounce everything worldly,
  2. to observe the Precepts,
  3. to practice equanimity,
  4. to make a diligent effort,
  5. to concentrate the mind through meditation,
  6. to cultivate wise discernment,
  7. to be resolute,
  8. to be protective of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha,
  9. to be bright-minded,
  10. to strive towards That Which is the Highest

The Scripture of Brahma’s Net, Buddhist Writings, Shasta Abbey Press. With thanks.