Category Archives: Teachings

Endless Training – Peaceful Life

25th October, 2017 at Shasta Abbey. As it would happen tomorrow is the day the community settles down for a ceremony called  Renewal of Vows. Part of it is to recite the Bodhisattva Vows, and there are bows and the reading of the Precepts too.

I’ve been thinking about vows, in particular the Bodhisattva Vows. (See the formulation we use within the OBC at the end of this post.) Looked at in a certain kind of way they are an expression of the aspiration to continue practice and to make one’s life, all that one does, an offering for the benefit of the world and all beings. BIG vow.

While looking for references to the Bodhisattva Vows I came across this poem, below, by Katagiri-roshi. The final words of the poem This is living in vow. Herein is one’s peaceful life found are touching and telling. Endless training, living by vow/religious commitment is where fulfillment can be found. The poem is part of an article titled, Living a Life of Vow By Zenkei Blanche Hartman. It is well worth a read.

In 1988, two years before he died, Dainin Katagiri-roshi, founder and abbot of the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, wrote this poem:

Peaceful Life

Being told that is impossible,
One believes, in despair, “Is that so?”
Being told that it is possible,
One believes, in excitement, “That’s right.”
But, whichever is chosen,
It does not fit one’s heart neatly.

Being asked, “What is unfitting?”
I don’t know what it is.
But my heart knows somehow.
I feel an irresistible desire to know.
What a mystery “human” is!

As to this mystery:
Clarifying,
Knowing how to live,
Knowing how to walk with people,
Demonstrating and teaching,
This is the Buddha.

From my human eyes,
I feel it’s really impossible to become a Buddha.
But this “I,” regarding what the Buddha does,
Vows to practice,
To aspire,
To be resolute,
And tells myself, “Yes I will.”
Just practice right here now,
And achieve continuity,
Endlessly,
Forever.
This is living in vow.
Herein is one’s peaceful life found.

The Bodhisattva Vows
However innumerable beings may be, I vow to save them all
However inexhaustible the passions may be, I vow to transform them all
However limitless the Dharma may be, I vow to comprehend it completely
However infinite the Buddha’s Truth is, I vow to realize it.

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Moving On – The Great Matter

Some years ago a woman shared an insight she had on the day she moved house. This is the gist of what I remember she said. I watched the removal van disappear out of sight at the end of our road. I felt calm. The van was filled with all my possessions, all that had been my life up to then. My life with my late husband for so many years, my life bringing up two children and much more. It contained our memories. At that moment I knew it didn’t matter if I ever saw the contents of that van again. On the brink of a new life, always a potent time for insights, she saw into the fundamental impermanence of existence. And most importantly, I believe, she saw past or through impermanence as it was impacting her, to know a peace that comes from acceptance – while at the same time she was preparing to follow the van!

In this post titled Slow Change I talk about feeling oneself to be up against the wall, stuck and unable to move on. Of necessity, and the way things seem to work, times of turmoil, tears and self-doubt (to mention but a few emotions) often precede changes that can be seen and known. As is the case when deciding to and then preparing to move house. But that’s not the end of it. After a brief respite to unpack and settle in the fact that tears and turmoil re-emerge should not be seen as a mistake or a wrong direction taken. Anybody who has navigated the complex network of footpaths in Britain will know there are an infinite number of options to choose from and most paths will take you to more or less where you intended. Which one was the RIGHT path?

Birth and death, the Great Matter, or the truth of impermanence is ever-present. It is however easy to take this truth personally because it impacts us so very personally. The very understandable and human response is to think, Life is doing this to me and it hurts, Q.E.D. I need to solve this problem so my life becomes stable and fulfilling (again). The temptation to rush to solutions and in so doing miss the steps in between, is huge. Most often what is called for is to sit out the bumpy ride and allow what’s next to show itself. For most of us what happens in practice and what makes the road bumpy is second guessing oneself. By that I mean getting caught up in mental turmoil while at the same time lurking in the dark is a ripe knowledge of what’s right…but, but, but… Is it? The solution? Mentally step away from the wall, whatever that might mean in any particular moment or circumstance. Remove your back from what is known. This is a constant movement.

The Bodhisattva Vows are coming to mind so that’s the next thing to think/write about. And with that thought I’m removing my ‘writing back’ from against the wall where it has been resting for far too long.

This post, the merit of writing it, is offered to several people I am in touch with who have made huge changes to their lives in the past couple of days, and for those who are about to make a move. Oh, and not to forget the woman mentioned at the start of this post. Last time we met, and I saw into her current life circumstances, I said ‘you are indeed a Bodhisattva’.

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Upholding The Dharma

If one perceives the Dharma with one’s own body. This quote is in support of #AlexanderTechnique awareness week.
rooves

One does not uphold the Dharma
Only because one speaks a lot.
Having heard even a little,
If one perceives the Dharma with one’s own body
And is never negligent of the Dharma,
Then one is indeed an upholder of the Dharma

The Dhammapada – Teachings of the Buddha.

Making the truths and teachings of Buddhism ones own, to live fully in that, could be understood to mean ‘to perceive the Dharma with one’s own body’.

Added October 16, 2017. Merit to all those who are facing surgery, who are suffering with mental/emotional trauma.

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Great Master Bodhidharma – Remembered

Republishing this from 2013. Tomorrow, October 15, 2017, at Shasta Abbey we celebrate the Festival of Great Master Bodhidharma. How time does fly.

1Bodhidharma

Beyond this mind there’s no Buddha anywhere. The endless variety of forms is due to the mind, but the mind has no form and it’s awareness no limit. Unaware that their own mind is Buddha people look for a Buddha outside the mind. To seek is to suffer. When you seek nothing you’re on the path. To give yourself up without regret is the greatest charity.

Words drawn from: The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma, Translated by Red Pine

Today we remembered Bodhidharma during a ceremony dedicated to him and his teachings. The above was read out at the start of the ceremony for all to hear. It struck a chord.

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Exercising Faith – The Bodhisattvas’ Path (Dharma Talk)

Today at Shasta Abbey, Northern California, we celebrated the Festival of Bhaisajya-guru Tathagata, the Healing Buddha. I was honoured to be asked to give the Dharma Talk after the ceremony. The title is:  Exercising Faith – The Bodhisattvas’ Path.

Towards the end I mention three people by name: Michael Stone (who died mid July), Will Pegg and Rev. Master Meiten all from (or near) Vancouver Island  British Columbia Canada. I dedicated the merit of the talk to them, and although I didn’t say it at the time, the merit extends to all those who have supported them, learnt from them and continue to be inspired by them. All three clearly exercise faith and walk the Bodhisattva Path. The world is full of people, Bodhisattvas’, who each in their own way inspire others to live a life of faith and generosity.

That is enough for tonight.

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